Monday, August 8, 2016

NJPW G1 Climax 26 Night Fifteen Review

NJPW G1 Climax 26 Night Fifteen
August 8th, 2016 | Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan

Things are heating up with the G1 Climax wrapping up soon. Time has flown by actually. Anyway, we’re back to the A Block, which isn’t as close as the B Block. There are only a few guys in play and it still feels rather obvious that Tanahashi will beat Okada on the final day to win the block. If something else happens, I’ll be very surprised. This is Gedo we’re talking about here. For this review, I’m making an exception. Normally, I only review the tournament matches. However, this undercard features Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. David Finlay, which I had to check out and review. So it’s a little bonus for everyone.

Katsuhiko Nakajima def. David Finlay in 5:05
Finlay was a replacement in the Best of the Super Juniors Tournament and was one of the top performers there. Nakajima is from NOAH and has been one of the top performers in the G1 this year. Nakajima kicked at the leg and applied an early figure four that Finlay got out of. Finlay scored a near fall on a backbreaker variation and got some of the crowd to chant for him. Nakajima got tired of that shit and started lighting him up with kicks. Finlay kicked out of a backdrop driver before losing to the Brainbuster. A fun little sprint here. I need Finlay to graduate from young lion status because the dude is talented. Nakajima shook his hand after the match. ***

Onto the actual G1 Climax matches.

A Block: Naomichi Marufuji [10] def. Tama Tonga [6] in 10:55
Marufuji currently holds one half of the GHC Tag Team Titles, while Tonga held the IWGP Tag Titles earlier in the year. This started off with Marufuji lowering and trying to combat Tonga’s weird crawling and movements. Surprising “Tama Tonga” chants were heard. They traded stuff for most of the match, giving this a very even feel. Tonga did his “run off the ropes and be elusive” gimmick, but Marufuji nearly out eluded him. Tonga caught him with an ugly looking headshrinker DDT for two. Then Tonga’s roll of the dice came off incredibly sloppy as well. They blocked each other’s finishers and traded blows until Marufuji won with the Shiranui. Outside of those botches, this was pretty good. After starting out like total garbage, Tonga has gotten better. Solid effort from both men. ***

A Block: SANADA [6] def. Tomohiro Ishii [6] in 12:20
Ishii has solidified himself as the tournament MVP, while SANADA has been good, despite taking a lot of losses. People really sleep on the fact that Ishii is one of the best wrestlers on the planet. He chopped away at SANADA early, so SANADA went for a quick dragon sleeper. Ishii reached the ropes but was already selling the effects. That, combined with SANADA’s size, came into play when Ishii couldn’t do his stalling superplex. He had to fight him off before finally nailing it. SANADA showed off his skill when he was tossed into the corner, but quickly flipped over and springboarded back in with a dropkick. He slapped on the dragon sleeper that Ishii survived. He fired up and nailed a German but SANADA was right back up only to be put down by a headbutt. SANADA kicked out of some powerbombed and they countered each other’s finishers. Ishii hit another headbutt but ran into a TKO for two. SANADA then locked in the dragon sleeper again and Ishii tapped out. Ishii does it again. Another stellar outing from the “Stone Pitbull”. SANADA looked great here too and these two put on a great match. Things were set up early, they built off of it and it lead to an awesome finish. ****

A Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi [10] def. Hiroyoshi Tenzan [4] in 11:18
Instead of the incredible story of Tenzan’s last G1 stand, Gedo chose to give us the overdone “start slow and reel off wins” rally story for Tanahashi. Pretty much the same story Will Ospreay had to win the BOTSJ. These two had Tenzan’s best G1 25 match last year. Tanahashi worked the leg and did Mongolian chops back to Tenzan, getting booed most of the way. Again, Tanahashi seems to love these opportunities and does well when subtly going heel. He missed High Fly Flow and the door was open for Tenzan to mess his chances at the finals up. He hit the Koji lariat and the uranage for two. Tanahashi came back with the slingblade and won after High Fly Flow. This was good (not on the level of their match last year). The crowd was into it and everything done was fine. I can’t help but feel that, again, this would have been better if Tenzan was still somewhat alive in the standings. I think the crowd would have been even more interested. ***¼

A Block: Bad Luck Fale [10] def. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada [10] in 11:16
I fully expected Okada to go into the final night with two losses and then lose to Tanahashi. However, seeing the results of this show so far and the three guys who won to make it to 10 points, I realized Okada was going to lose here to create a huge logjam up top. Gedo loves that shit too. The ring announcer was wise enough to slide out of the ring to avoid Fale kicking his ass. They fought outside and Fale tossed Okada into some chairs, leading to the usual countout tease. This was pretty much what you’d expect from a match where Fale takes on one of the top stars. He does his power stuff for a while until the big rally. Okada did his stuff, Fale did his stuff and it was nothing special. Fale blocked the Rainmaker and hit the Grenade before winning with the Bad Luck Fall. This will most likely set up a Fale title shot at one of the Destruction shows in September. It’s the Fale booking special, where he beats a top star before losing to them later on. **¾

A Block: Hirooki Goto [10] def. Togi Makabe [8] in 14:13
The winner of this would join the tie for the top. Makabe started 4-0, but has lost three straight since. Right from the start, something about this didn’t really click. The crowd wasn’t as invested as expected considering the two guys involved are very popular. Makabe got a busted nose early, which I believe was our first sign of blood in the G1. It took about ten minutes before I found myself interested in this. Makabe hit a German and then nailed the spider German. However, he missed on the King Kong Knee Drop, opening the door for Goto. Goto slapped on the sleeper, but Makabe got free and connected on a vicious lariat. He signaled for the end but ran into ushigoroshi for a near fall. Goto pounced and won with the GTR to little reaction. Goto has had three main events in the G1 and they were all very lackluster. This wasn’t bad but was kind of just there and didn’t pick up until the final few minutes. **¾

Overall: 6.5/10. A lot of this show is pretty good and only one thing is great. SANADA and Ishii stole the show for sure. Tonga and Marufuji had a solid match, as did Tanahashi and Tenzan. The final two matches are kind of just there and felt like they were missing something. There a lot of possibilities on the final A Block show coming up and I’ll explain them all at the start of that review.

Bad Luck Fale10 (5-3)Tetsuya Naito10 (5-2)
Hirooki Goto10 (5-3)Katsuhiko Nakajima8 (4-3)
Hiroshi Tanahashi10 (5-3)Toru Yano8 (4-3)
Kazuchika Okada10 (5-3)Michael Elgin8 (4-3)
Naomichi Marufji10 (5-3)Katsuyori Shibata8 (4-3)
Togi Makabe8 (4-4)Kenny Omega8 (4-3)
Tama Tonga6 (3-5)YOSHI-HASHI6 (3-4)
SANADA6 (3-5)Yuji Nagata6 (3-4)
Tomohiro Ishii6 (3-5)EVIL4 (2-5)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan4 (2-6)Tomoaki Honma4 (2-5)