It’s here. The highly anticipated G1 Climax is back. I’ve seen every G1 since 2013 (I’d rank them 24, 26, 23, 25) and they’re usually full of great matches and lots of drama. Like I did last year and with the Best of the Super Juniors, I’ll only be reviewing the tournament matches, with a few exceptions. For example, some undercard tags this year are honestly intriguing and I’ll check a few out.
Jushin Thunder Liger and TenKoji def. David Finlay, Juice Robinson and Michael Elgin in 7:48
El Desperado, NEVER Openweight Champion Minoru Suzuki and Taichi def. Chase Owens, Kenny Omega and Tama Tonga in 7:04
Jado and Toru Yano def. Gedo and IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada in 7:49
Night one and I’m already reviewing a non-G1 match. Despite the tournament matchups, this is one of my most anticipated matches on the tour. The best stable in wrestling (by a wide, wide margin) going at it. Also, this match went on before the Okada tag I posted the results to. EVIL and SANADA started by circling each other and you almost worried they’d pull a Taichi & TAKA and not touch each other. Then SANADA went right for the Skull End. From there, it was a good back tag. Hiromu took the heat until he snapped off a belly to belly in the corner on SANADA. EVIL came in hot and did his thing. The final stretch moved at a wild pace until EVIL made BUSHI submit to a modified chicken wing at 6:52. Oh, a new submission for EVIL. Fun match with fast paced action and four of the best out there. You know your stable rules when BUSHI is the weakest link and he’s awesome.
The group all put their fists together after the match, showing things are still cool. EVIL and SANADA did have a staredown though, as they meet on night two.
It’s the beginning of Nagata’s final G1 Climax run! Both men finished with six points last year. They started with mat work before moving outside. A bit of floor brawling is a G1 staple. YOSHI targeted the back and had control, but got too cocky. He disrespectfully slapped Nagata, who gave him a “DO YOU NOT KNOW WHO THE FUCK I AM?” look, before kicking the hell out of him. This is what happens when you piss off your dad. YOSHI came back with the swanton and applied the Butterfly Lock. Nagata survived and did his trademark armbar, but YOSHI also withstood it. Commentary did a good job selling how YOSHI may have wanted to tap to preserve his arm for the rest of the tournament. They battled back and forth, with HASHI kicking out of a saito suplex. He finally hit Karma, which also beat Omega in last year’s opener, to win after a grueling 16:26. Great way to start the tournament. Second best G1 opener (behind Ishii/Tenzan) of the past few years. They told a great story and Nagata gave it his all, but just couldn’t get past his younger opponent. Reminiscent of Liger in the BOTSJ. Better than their ***¼ match last year.
Easily the most uninteresting match tonight. Can you believe this was a Wrestle Kingdom match a few years ago? They’ve also met in the last two G1s (**½ and **¾). They had the expected hoss fight, brawling through the crowd for a bit. Makabe got in a trademark “FUCK YOU” before eating a Samoan drop for two. Makabe escaped the Bad Luck Fall a few times. He went for the King Kong Knee Drop, but Fale caught him with a Tongan Death Grip like move. He hit the Grenade and got the two points at 9:25. About what I expected from these two. Decent hard hitting stuff, but nothing to write home about. Makabe was mildly motivated here, so he brought some effort.
In 2015, they had one of the best matches of the tournament (****½) and their match last year was damn good (***½), but not on that level. This got off to the right start, as they just charged at each other and delivered big blows. They had some great exchanges of vicious strikes and running the ropes to see who would hit a lariat. Goto won out in that regard. Speaking of lariats, we got an exchange of them where neither man would fall down until Goto finally hit one hard enough. Ishii used headbutts to stop Goto’s momentum, but it ended up hurting him too. Goto targeted the head with some of his offense, which was different and I liked it. Ishii refused to die, as always. At one point, they just hammered each other with forearms in a war. Ishii kicked out at one and dared Goto to bring more. Goto knocked him loopy, hit a kick to the chest and two GTRs to win at 13:43. Wow. This was a goddamn war, which is just what I want from these two. Who could outlast the other? That’s what this was built around. No bullshit or fluff here. Just two bad motherfuckers doing what they do best.
Sabre’s G1 debut and it’s against THE GOD. Kevin Kelly noted that the best time to draw Tanahashi is night one, where he traditionally hasn’t done well. Tanahashi still had his arm wrapped up. Right from the start, Sabre took Tanahashi to the mat with relative ease. That was a great way to showcase how good he is on the mat to unfamiliar fans. After a bit of mat work, Tanahashi may have gotten too cocky. He stopped to do his air guitar taunt and almost immediately after, Sabre caught a senton attempt into an armbar. Tana reached the ropes, but now Sabre had a target. The joint manipulation here was great, as was Tanahashi’s selling. Tanahashi’s comeback saw him quicken the pace and target the leg with dragon screws and the Texas Cloverleaf. Tana hit one High Fly Flow, but Sabre got his knees up on the second (after a Desperado distraction) and locked in a sick looking submission. In a great moment, he ripped the tape from Tana’s arm and Tana had no choice but to tap out at 17:18. I loved that this wasn’t CWC Sabre, who did submissions for the sake of it, this was all done with a purpose and he was a great asshole. Like he did on night one with SANADA last year, Tana put over someone in a big way to start this year’s tourney. Perfect booking for Sabre’s G1 debut. Great work, top notch selling, a hot crowd and a big win for Sabre. I’m thinking they top this if we get a rematch for the IC Title.
Post-match, Sabre posed with the Intercontinental Title.
I know we have Okada, Tana, Nakamura, Shibata, Ishii, etc., but these two have been my favorite Japanese wrestlers for years. It’s great having Ibushi back. These two had three matches between 2013 and 2015 (****, **** and ***¾), with only the last one coming after Naito’s heel turn. Ibushi was having none of Naito’s antics, leveling him from behind after he avoided a grapple. Naito went to work on Ibushi’s neck, which has been injured in the past. He sure loves taking bumps on it though, for those who remember him taking a Burning Hammer in the CWC last year. A great moment came when Ibushi had Naito’s corner dropkick scouted, so Naito used a rare sweep to get him in the corner and hit the dropkick to the back of the neck. Ibushi retaliated with brutal kicks and a sick fucking lariat. They fought up top, where Naito hit a goddamn super reverse rana, continuing the neck work for a near fall. Ibushi countered Destino with a wild lawn dart into the corner. It was Ibushi’s turn for a close call after his dead lift apron German. Both men were exhausted, but Ibushi dug deep for a Pele kick before hitting FUCKING MIDDLE ROPE PILEDRIVER! Are you serious? Naito somehow kicked out. Naito weathered a storm of strikes and nailed a running Destino for another crazy near fall. A second one was enough to end Ibushi at 24:41. Holy shit. That was incredible. The fans were heavily invested in everything and they loved Naito, making for a great atmosphere. The neck work was magnificent, with both men doing the little things to make this special. They didn’t go the overdone finisher kickout route, with only one such instance. Maybe I’m coming off the high of seeing it live and it featuring my two favorites, but fuck that was outstanding. This is the first match I’m giving this score to in 2017.
Overall: A spectacular start to this tournament. This had everything you could want. The LIDJ tag was wild fun, but the tournament shined. Nagata/YOSHI told a great story of the veteran who gave it his all. Fale/Makabe was a solid hoss fight. Goto/Ishii was two men going to war in a strong style battle. Tanahashi/Sabre solidified the latter, with a tremendous battle on the mat. Ibushi/Naito is my current MOTY and an absolute must see outing. Wow.
|Tetsuya Naito||2 (1-0)||EVIL||0 (0-0)|
|Zack Sabre Jr.||2 (1-0)||Juice Robinson||0 (0-0)|
|Hirooki Goto||2 (1-0)||Kazuchika Okada||0 (0-0)|
|Bad Luck Fale||2 (1-0)||Kenny Omega||0 (0-0)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||2 (1-0)||Michael Elgin||0 (0-0)|
|Kota Ibushi||0 (0-1)||Minoru Suzuki||0 (0-0)|
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||0 (0-1)||SANADA||0 (0-0)|
|Tomohiro Ishii||0 (0-1)||Satoshi Kojima||0 (0-0)|
|Togi Makabe||0 (0-1)||Tama Tonga||0 (0-0)|
|Yuji Nagata||0 (0-1)||Toru Yano||0 (0-0)|