Friday, August 12, 2016

NJPW G1 Climax 26 Night Seventeen Review

NJPW G1 Climax 26 Night Seventeen
August 12th, 2016 | Ryogoku Kokuhikan Sumo Hall in Tokyo, Japan

It is the final show for the A Block. There are five possible outcomes. Bad Luck Fale wins the block if he beats Tama Tonga, Okada beats Tanahashi and Marufuji beats Goto. Goto wins if he beats Marufuji and Okada/Tana ends in a tie. Okada wins if he beats Tanahashi, Tonga beats Fale and Goto beats Marufuji. Marufuji wins if he beats Goto, Okada beats Tanahashi and Tonga beats Fale. Lastly, Tanahashi wins if he can just beat Okada. Still, it’s Gedo boking so it’ll come down to Okada or Tanahashi. As usual, I will just be reviewing the G1 Climax matches.

A Block: SANADA [8] def. Hiroyoshi Tenzan [4] in 12:22
I’ll say it one last time, but Gedo mishandled the Tenzan final G1 story. Could you imagine the crowd if he would have come in today with a shot at winning the entire thing? Even so, they were still way into this. SANADA couldn’t overpower Tenzan so he stepped on his foot, which got a small laugh out of me. He also resorted to using his bat on the outside. They did battle back in the ring and it was really good, with the crowd adding a lot to it. SANADA got two on a German and went for the dragon sleeper. Tenzan countered into a tombstone variation as Kojima cheered him on at ringside. Tenzan missed the moonsault, so it was Mongolian chop and headbutt time. I thought he had it after the Koji lariat and Anaconda Vice but SANADA kicked out. Tenzan then survived a dragon sleeper and moonsault before finally tapping to another dragon sleeper. This was better than I expected it to be. They went at it for the entire twelve minutes and never bored me. I was expecting Tenzan go win his final G1 match but he kudos to him for going out and putting over SANADA. Thank you Tenzan. ***½

Hiroyoshi Tenzan got a standing ovation and hug from Satoshi Kojima after the match. It was an emotional moment for the legend.

A Block: Tomohiro Ishii [8] def. Togi Makabe [8] in 12:34
You’ve got the guy who started 4-0 and lost four straight against the MVP of the G1 Climax. I saw these two wrestle enough in 2015 to last a lifetime, but hopefully this is one of their stronger matches. Similar to Tanahashi/Okada later, you pretty much know what you’re going to get when these two square off. Right on cue, they just started wailing on each other in the middle of the ring. They traded signature stuff like ten punches in the corner and a powerbomb from Ishii. Ishii began to lean into the shots that Makabe threw. Despite moments like that, Ishii always finds a way to sell so well. He dug deep on those but on other strikes, he looked ready to fall over and die. Makabe looked for the spider German and nailed it, but missed the big knee drop. They started in with the headbutts and lariats before Ishii won with the Brainbuster, handing Makabe his fifth straight loss. Not their best work together but certainly not their worst. It was the hard hitting battle I knew we were getting and that was fine. ***½

A Block: Tama Tonga [8] def. Bad Luck Fale [10] in 8:53
Oh man, it’s the worst of the worst for the Bullet Club out there. Fale and Tonga, and then at ringside was Tanga Roa, Yujiro Takahashi and Hangman Page. They teased Tonga laying down for Fale but he went back on it and rolled him up. It made more sense to try it here than it did last year when both Fale and AJ Styles were alive if I remember right. This led to an actual match where the guys did stuff that I could never really get into. Tonga worked hard to cut the big man down to size, but Fale was ready for the Gun Stun a few times. Tonga escaped the Bad Luck Fall and started to use his speed and elusiveness. From out of nowhere, he hit the Gun Stun and ended Fale’s chances to win the block. As good as it probably could have been. Tonga was largely a disappointment in this G1. He had a few good matches but nothing that stood out. Fale was Fale in this match and throughout. **¾

A Block: Hirooki Goto [12] def. Naomichi Marufuji [10] in 13:21
Right out of the gate, both guys brought it. It instantly felt like I was watching two guys fighting for the chance at winning the entire thing. With Fale out, a Marufuji win and Okada win would put the NOAH star in the finals, while a Goto win and main event tie puts Goto in. They played this match evenly throughout, with neither gaining a clear cut upper hand. Marufuji hit his plancha to the outside and chopped Goto a ton, while Goto fired back with some vicious kicks. Marufuji did his sneaky spot where he avoids a guardrail bump and nails a springboard dropkick inside. Just as Goto really got going, Marufuji delivered a stiff knee to the jaw, causing him to crumple. Goto got a near fall on ushigoroshi and then Marufuji came close with kicks and knees. Goto blocked Shiranui and applied a sleeper hold. Marufuji fought it but Goto kept hold and won with the GTR. Really good match that was the best work from Goto so far in the tournament. They built to some good drama despite most people thinking Goto would win here. ***¾

A Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi [11] and IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada [11] went to a time limit draw in 30:00
Coming into 2016, I never gave one of the matches between these two less than ****¼. Then Wrestle Kingdom 10 happened and that was easily their worst outing, so I came in hoping for a return to form. Unlike a lot of their past matches, this got off to a quick start with Okada hitting the trademark elbow and doing the Rainmaker pose within minutes. Tanahashi avoided it and used a small package for a near fall. Following that, it started to be the more traditional Okada/Tanahashi match we’ve all come to know. Yes, that means Tanahashi did High Fly Flow to the outside. I always expect him to hit the guardrail or something but he never does. Tanahashi nearly won by countout but broke the count to send Okada back in. Okada instead dropped him with a tombstone on the outside and they both beat the count back in. After more back and forth, Tanahashi missed High Fly Flow and Okada struck with a dropkick to the back of the head. Tanahashi countered the Rainmaker into a Rainmaker variation of sling blade. In typical Tanahashi form, he went to the leg, hitting a dragon screw over the top rope. He hit High Fly Flow but Okada got his knees up on the second one. The finishing stretch here was great, since both men excel at that aspect of a match. They called back to WK10 when Okada kept hold of Tanahashi’s wrist through the fight. Okada hit the Rainmaker, Tanahashi hit a dragon suplex, Okada hit a tombstone and there were more Rainmaker counters. Just when Tana hit two High Fly Flows, he covered and time expired right before Okada kicked out, leading to a draw. Much better than their WK10 effort. They built the match around the time limit draw threat and the drama it created led to an excellent atmosphere. I did feel like the draw was coming, especially as the match wore on and I wasn’t a fan of Tana trying two finishers when he knew time was running out. Other than that though, this was spectacular. ****½

With the tie, Hirooki Goto wins A Block. I appreciate that it is the first G1 Final since 2011 to not include Tanahashi or Okada, but it feels like Goto backed in since he lost to both. It feels less like Goto won and more like Okada and Tana lost the block.

Overall: 9/10. Like last year, the performances ramped up as the tournament came to a close. Tanga/Fale was as good as possible and is the only skippable match. Tenzan/SANADA and Ishii/Makabe were both really good back and forth matches. Goto/Marufuji was the best Goto match for sure and had nice added drama throughout. The main event proved to be one of the best matches of the tournament. It was nice to see Okada put in actual effort. A strong, mostly dramatic night to end the A Block.

Hirooki Goto12 (6-3)Tetsuya Naito12 (6-2)
Hiroshi Tanahashi11 (5-3-1)Michael Elgin10 (5-3)
Kazuchika Okada11 (5-3-1)Katsuyori Shibata10 (5-3)
Bad Luck Fale10 (5-4)Kenny Omega10 (5-3)
Naomichi Marufji10 (5-4)Katsuhiko Nakajima8 (4-4)
Tama Tonga8 (4-5)Toru Yano8 (4-4)
Tomohiro Ishii8 (4-5)Yuji Nagata6 (3-5)
Togi Makabe8 (4-5)EVIL6 (3-5)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan4 (2-7)Tomoaki Honma4 (2-6)