After almost a month of near nonstop shows, with some being awesome and some lacking, the end of the G1 Climax is upon us. The A Block will be decided here, coming down to just two men, in Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tetsuya Naito. I’ve expressed my disappoint in this booking strategy, but I hope the show can get past those issues. Are we getting closer to Naito getting the WK main event he deserves or are we a step closer to potentially yet another Tanahashi/Okada outing?
El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki and Taichi def. Hirai Kawato, Katsuya Kitamura and Tomoyuki Oka in 6:18
The Guerrillas of Destiny def. BUSHI and SANADA in 5:22
Juice Robinson and Satoshi Kojima def. EVIL and Hiromu Takahashi in 5:14
Michael Elgin, Ricochet, Ryusuke Taguchi and War Machine def. Chase Owens, Cody, Hangman Page and The Young Bucks in 11:22
Kazuchika Okada and Toru Yano def. Kenny Omega and Yujiro Takahashi in 5:54
It’s a bittersweet time as this was the final G1 match in Nagata’s legendary career. There were tons of signs to support him in the crowd. I love the symbolism of him wearing the same torn up Blue Justice shirt throughout the entire G1. Their only singles match I’ve seen was in the G1 24 and it was good (***¼). They fought outside and Nagata nearly got counted out, which would’ve sucked. Fale wore him down until he rallied with leg kicks. Fale fought him off, but his leg gave out and it opened the door for a Nagata exploder. When Nagata’s armbar wasn’t enough, he went old school to the NAGATA LOCK! Excuse me while I mark out. Nagata then survived some of Fale’s best offense, before falling to the Bad Luck Fall in 11:56. That was awesome and emotional. Nagata got a great sendoff and looked awesome in defeat. Busting out the Nagata Lock was a great moment too.
Post-match, Fale threw up the “Too Sweet” for Nagata. Yuji responded with the Blue Justice salute and Fale bowed before leaving the ring to him. An emotional Nagata, filled with tears, basked in the crowd response and exited.
Since winning the G1 in 2009, Makabe has finished with either 8 or 10 points each year. A win here keeps that trend going. HASHI went right at Makabe, but got his ass handed to him for it. After a strong run in his first G1 last year, this year was a disappointment for Tacos. He got free of corner punches with a powerbomb, only to eat one from Makabe. He avoided the King Kong Knee Drop, showing some life. Makabe fought free of the Butterfly Lock and they went to a strike exchange. Surprisingly, HASHI floored him with a slap. Makabe won their next exchange and hit the King Kong Knee Drop to win the match at 11:28. That was solid, it just felt rather hollow. They both brought the effort and I liked that HASHI tried matching Makabe’s intensity, but there was nothing to make me care.
Ishii won their G1 Special in USA match, which was fantastic (****½). Sabre made him wrestle his style early, but it progressed to striking, where Ishii had a clear advantage. Sabre avoided a shot, kicked the arm and that set the tone for him targeting it. He wrapped Ishii into some brutal looking submissions but his kicks weren’t very strong. Ishii leaned in with the arm on some of the kicks, because he’s a badass. Sabre stopped him by dropkicking his bad leg. Ishii sold Sabre’s submissions very well, but we got some of the CWC Sabre, where he seemed to just switch between submissions for the sake of it. I did like how Sabre escaped Ishii’s ankle lock rather easily, showing his superiority in that department. Sabre finally trapped in aa submission too hard to describe and Ishii passed out at 15:52. I kind of wish Sabre went after the leg first, and then when Ishii stopped him, he’d change to the arm. I get wanting to work the arm to add to Ishii’s weaknesses but mostly ignoring the bad leg early wasn’t bright. Despite that, this was another high quality match from two of the best tournament performers and I’m ready for the tiebreaker.
Surprisingly, this is a match I’ve never seen before. Goto quickly got in control, cutting off Ibushi’s signature moonsault and working him over outside. Once inside, Kota turned it around with a series of kicks. The pace quickened from there. They battled up top, where Ibushi got free, hit a Pele to the back of Goto’s head and a leaping super rana. The finishing stretch saw some stiff shots, counters and near falls. Ibushi avoided the GTR and USHIGOROSHI, while Goto stayed free of the brutal knee strike. He connected on two GTRs to finish with 10 points after 11:03. Similar to Makabe/HASHI, this was a good match that lacked drama. There was nothing on the line (like Nagata’s final match or the Ishii/Sabre rematch), but there was a good amount of intensity.
It all came down to this. Four years ago today, they met in a super disappointing G1 final (**¾), won by Naito. Since then, I’ve seen them wrestle four times. Tanahashi won two, at KOPW 2015 (***¾) and Dominion 2017 (****), while Naito won in the G1 25 (****) and Wrestle Kingdom 11 (****½).
Rocky Romero noted that Naito is, without a doubt, the most popular Japanese wrestler on the roster. They also talked about how Naito got screwed out of the WK main event in 2014. The fans were SUPER behind Naito. Tana played right into it as Naito gave a clean break on the ropes, but he slapped him twice when he got the chance. He also interrupted Naito’s signature taunt, to massive heat. Naito attacked the arm, while Tanahashi cut him off and went to the leg, which is how he won the IC Title. They both kept that focus. Tanahashi was great at having counters ready for Naito’s best stuff. Naito avoided High Fly Flow, but took a top rope dragon screw and got placed in the Texas Cloverleaf. That’s how he lost the IC Title at Dominion. He sunk deep but Naito desperately made it to the ropes. Putting so much pressure seemed to take it out of Tana’s bad arm. Naito hit a Destino variation for two and Tanahashi countered his next attempt. Naito fought him off and nailed tow more Destinos to win the A Block in 26:41. Excellent match that was better than their Dominion outing and just a bit below their WK11 showing. Great callbacks and a molten hot crowd. I loved Tanahashi playing up the heel stuff, while the arm and leg work was top notch.
Nothing against Kenny Omega, because he’s been fantastic this year, but I think they HAVE TO give Naito his WK main event. He reinvented himself, is now insanely over, became one of, if not the top wrestler in NJPW, and got cheated out of that spot a few years ago. It all needs to come full circle. I really, really hope it does. Naito deserves it.
Overall: A strong way to end the A Block. Three of the five matches were great, while the other two were solid. Those two would’ve benefitted from having something at stake, which I expected coming in. Ishii/Sabre was a quality sequel to the G1 Special in USA match, while Nagata’s sendoff was emotional and must see. Tanahashi/Naito delivered the way it needed to and we’re hopefully one step closer to the Naito win I’ve wanted for so long.
|14 (7-2)||Kazuchika Okada||13 (6-1-1)|
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||12 (6-3)||Kenny Omega||12 (6-2)|
|Bad Luck Fale||12 (6-3)||EVIL||10 (5-3)|
|Hirooki Goto||10 (5-4)||Minoru Suzuki||9 (4-3-1)|
|Kota Ibushi||10 (5-4)||SANADA||8 (4-4)|
|Zack Sabre Jr.||10 (5-4)||Michael Elgin||8 (4-4)|
|Tomohiro Ishii||8 (4-5)||Juice Robinson||6 (3-5)|
|Togi Makabe||8 (4-5)||Tama Tonga||6 (3-5)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||4 (2-7)||Toru Yano||6 (3-5)|
|Yuji Nagata||2 (1-8)||Satoshi Kojima||2 (1-7)|