With ten shows in the books, the end of the G1 Climax is rapidly approaching. Some things have gone as expected (the B Block being the Omega/Okada show, the A Block being the more consistent and versatile block), some stuff has surprised (Sabre’s gotten over in a big way, Juice being a top performer) and some stuff is flat out disappointing (having Nagata and Kojima lose every match so far). August 1st tends to be a good day for the tournament, with the classic AJ Styles/Minoru Suzuki match happening in 2014 (on one of the best G1 shows ever), an awesome Tanahashi/Ishii match from 2013 and more. This card looks like one of the better ones on paper, so I’m hoping this continues that trend.
Jushin Thunder Liger and Michael Elgin def. Katsuya Kitamura and Shota Umino in 7:08
El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki and Taichi def. Hirai Kawato and TenKoji in 6:53
BUSHI and SANADA def. David Finlay and Juice Robinson in 4:35
EVIL and Hiromu Takahashi def. Chase Owens and Kenny Omega in 5:20
Kazuchika Okada and Toru Yano def. Tama Tonga and Yujiro Takahashi in 6:47
Tacos is mathematically eliminated, but came in looking to play spoiler. It was clear early on, that Fale was more aggressive and seemed to have more energy tonight than in some recent matches. He threw HASHI into chairs in the audience like he tends to. HASHI beat the countout, but continued taking a beating inside. HASHI fought back, showing more fire than you’d expect from a guy who has no chance of winning the tournament. He countered the Bad Luck Fall into a sleeper hold, sending Fale to the mat. He turned it into the Butterfly Lock, but Fale began to rise. HASHI pulled him into a small package, scoring the upset in 10:21. This was solid and told the story it had to. Fale was a monster, but got too overconfident at times. That allowed the resilient YOSHI-HASHI to surprise him.
I was worried about the G1 27 due to injuries to guys like Shibata and Honma. However, Ibushi has filled the Shibata role nicely, while Sabre’s been a vast improvement over Honma, who didn’t have a strong G1 26. Makabe’s a hard hitter, but Sabre was not intimidated. He took it right to Togi from the opening bell. Makabe took out Zack’s best friend, El Desperado, but it opened the door for Sabre to take control with a dropkick to the knee. That set some Sabre leg work in motion. Makabe would find an opening, but Sabre would cut it off by trying to wear him back down. When he finally did make his comeback, there was a little extra “oomph” that he sometimes lacks. He missed the King Kong Knee Drop, which excellently put him in position for Sabre to tap him out with a modified figure four at 9:30. More of this, please. Makabe worked a different style, which I appreciate. Sabre always comes in with a size disadvantage, but wrestles with such great confidence. The knee work made sense and came into play in a smart finish.
These two had great matches in the G1 24 (****¼) and G1 25 (****), so I had high expectations. This was about what I’ve come to expect from them. They traded blows instantly and fought like two MEN. After the strikes, Ishii took control and started hitting suplexes, including the stalling one off the middle rope. Nagata fought back and applied the armbar to a pop. Ishii survived, but it was Nagata’s turn to pull out his best suplex. He busted out a super exploder for one of the better near falls of the night. We got another fun exchange between them, with Nagata once again refusing to die. His counter of a brainbuster with one of his own brought the crowd to their feet. That was his last real shot though, as Ishii hit a sliding lariat and brainbuster to win in 13:59. While not quite on par with their previous G1 matches, this was still a banger and the match of the night so far. Two manly men having a manly fight. I still have issues with the booking of Nagata (doing the same story with Liger and Kojima devalues it), but again, he put in a quality performance.
We almost always get really good stuff when they meet, but never quite great. Whether the G1 24 (***¾), the New Japan Cup Finals (***¾) or Wrestle Kingdom 10 (***¼), something seems to be missing. Goto holds a 2-1 advantage in those matches. Naito jumped him early and worked Goto over. The crowd was rather dead for this, only mustering a few “Naito” chants. Goto’s comebacks felt uninspired. Naito cut him off, as expected, to remain in control. Goto had Destino well scouted, countering it twice, and scoring with USHIGOROSHI (shout out to Mauro). Naito sold some lariats well, before escaping GTR. He hit Destino and got two, which is greatly annoying. Why are only three moves protected in NJPW? If it’s not the Rainmaker, Bad Luck Fall or One Winged Angel, it takes two to put your down. Why even call it a finisher? It keeps happening in Naito matches, which is lame. A second one kept Goto down after 13:30. Nothing technically wrong with this, but it felt flat. Not the best effort from either man, but at least Naito tried. Goto seemed to sleepwalk through this.
Their G1 25 match (****¼) ruled. Kagoshima is Ibushi’s hometown, so they LOVED him. Tanahashi called to the crowd at the bell, but they just chanted Ibushi’s name. That response opened the door for the heel Tanahashi that I love. He delivered cheap shots instead of clean breaks, setting the tone. Tanahashi attacked the leg and neck, stopping to trash talk the fans or play some air guitar. It made for a great reaction each time Ibushi got something going. He hit the Golden Triangle Moonsault, but Tanahashi cut off the apron German with a dragon screw. Ibushi eventually did nail the deadlift German, which nearly killed Tanahashi. The desperation in Ibushi’s scramble to cover Tanahashi showed how badly he wanted to stay alive in this tournament. Tanahashi went for High Fly Flow, but Kota got his knees up. However, he couldn’t take advantage due to the knee work. After a brutal kick, he nailed the Golden Star Bomb for an insane near fall. Not wasting too much time on disbelief, he delivered a brutal knee to pick up the win at 20:40. One of the better recent main events. It was a compelling match that told a great story, made better by heel Tanahashi. I would’ve liked a bit more selling of the leg from Ibushi to put this over the top though.
Overall: A two match show, though nothing is bad. HASHI/Fale told a good story, but the action lacked. Sabre/Makabe was a better matchup than I expected, with a smart layout. Goto/Naito was one of the bigger disappointments of the tournament, as neither man brought their best. I enjoyed a lot of Ishii vs. Nagata and the main event ruled. The A Block again provided a versatile, superiorly booked show, even with some guys not being at their best.
|Tomohiro Ishii||8 (4-2)||Kazuchika Okada||10 (5-0)|
|Tetsuya Naito||8 (4-2)||Kenny Omega||8 (4-1)|
|Zack Sabre Jr.||8 (4-2)||EVIL||8 (4-1)|
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||8 (4-2)||Minoru Suzuki||6 (3-2)|
|Bad Luck Fale||6 (3-3)||SANADA||6 (3-2)|
|Togi Makabe||6 (3-3)||Tama Tonga||4 (2-3)|
|Kota Ibushi||6 (3-3)||Michael Elgin||4 (2-3)|
|Hirooki Goto||6 (3-3)||Juice Robinson||2 (1-4)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||4 (2-4)||Toru Yano||2 (1-4)|
|Yuji Nagata||0 (0-6)||Satoshi Kojima||0 (0-5)|