It’s become a tradition. The G1 Climax ranks towards the top of the list for my favorite times of the year to be a wrestling fan. Sure, not every show is great, but there’s a barrage of wrestling matches to enjoy and we usually get some bangers. The B Block looks way stronger than the A Block this year, which was the case in previous years and in the BOTSJ. We start with the A Block, though. Night one usually gives us at least one great match (Shibata/Nakamura in ’14, Shibata/AJ & Ibushi/Tanahashi in ’15, SANADA/Tanahashi in ’16, Sabre/Tanahashi and Ibushi/Naito in ’17) and an upset (Marufuji over Okada in ’16, SANADA and Sabre over Tanahashi in ’16 and ’17). As always, I’ll only be reviewing the tournament matches.
Hirooki Goto and Jado def. Ren Narita and Toa Henare in 6:23
SHO and Tomohiro Ishii def. Toru Yano and YOH in 7:15
The Guerrillas of Destiny def. David Finlay and Juice Robinson in 6:13
TAKA Michinoku and Zack Sabre Jr. def. Kota Ibushi and Yujiro Takahashi in 5:29
SANADA and Tetsuya Naito def. Chase Owens and Kenny Omega in 5:45
Let’s get this out of the way. I don’t mind Togi, but he’s not interesting anymore, while HASHI is probably the worst guy in the tournament. He had momentum in 2016 for the tournament. He’s done nothing of value or note since other than beating Yuji Nagata in a good match to open last year. Makabe beat HASHI on the final night last year (**¾). It seemed like HASHI was out to prove he belonged in the tournament after being mocked for his selection. He brought aggression to this, hitting Makabe as hard as he got hit back. HASHI kept trying different things, from aerial stuff to the Butterfly Lock to throwing strikes. Seeing him pop up from a German was a cool moment. Makabe got him up top and hit the Spider German, followed by the King Kong Knee Drop to end it in 11:06. Better than I thought it would be. HASHI brought more fire than expected, but it just wasn’t enough against the former IWGP Champion.
It’s the G1 debut for Page. However, it’s also the debut of a slimmer Fale. He typically does well in the G1, averaging 11 points. Fale jumped Page during his entrance, kind of showing that he’s siding with Tama Tonga and the Firing Squad in the dull Bullet Club feud. Fale pounded on Page in the crowd for a bit. Page worked as a face, getting in some high flying hope spots. While he got in some of those, Tonga Loa strolled to ringside for a closer look. Page took them both out with a big moonsault that the crowd seemed to enjoy. When Page went for the Rite of Passage, Tama Tonga ran out and attacked him. Tama shoved the referee for the DQ finish in 8:05. Surprised at that finish, but it helped build the Firing Squad angle. I just can’t buy into throwing potential points away in a tournament that means so much. Anyway, the match was fun while it lasted.
Kenny Omega, Chase Owens, and Kota Ibushi hit the ring to send the Firing Squad packing.
EVIL is awesome. Elgin? Not so much. These two have met in the last two years, with both matches getting ***½ from me. They split those. Also, this is a battle of the two shortest reigning NEVER Openweight Champions. This was the typical HOSS FIGHT we’ve come to expect from these two. EVIL put a target on Elgin’s arm, which may seem random to some, but was a sound strategy as it would logically take away some of Elgin’s power based offense. With the bad arm, it felt like Elgin was unsure what to do. At points, he tried different things like a tope suicida, but at other moments, he just used the arm like nothing. Throwing all sorts of clotheslines and doing stalling Germans. It cost him on a press slam attempt and EVIL went back to the arm. EVIL came close with Darkness Falls, but Elgin went back to hitting moves that used his arm, like another German, Falcon Arrow, superplex, etc. I know adrenaline plays a factor, but goodness. They went into a counter battle late that Elgin won with Splash Mountain and the Elgin Bomb at 16:08. They went out and tried for an epic. It didn’t work. The match was good, but a severe lack of the arm work coming into play killed things. Elgin mostly shrugged it off, making it useless. EVIL was awesome.
This is a big match considering Minoru beat Tanahashi for the Intercontinental Title in February (****½). They also had one of my favorite matches ever at King of Pro Wrestling 2012 (*****). Suzuki came out looking to hurt Tanahashi. He laid into him with slaps and strikes, before going to the knee like he did earlier this year. He grounded Tanahashi with all sorts of leg based submissions for several minutes. Whenever Tanahashi got something going, it was out of desperation. When he missed something, it felt like a huge blow that would put him back in major trouble. A desperate Tanahashi evened the score a bit with a brutal looking inverted dragon screw. Minoru screamed in agony in a way we hadn’t heard before. Tanahashi used that advantage to nail two High Fly Flows and surprisingly pull this out in 13:59. That was awesome. I love the G1 because it gives us great matches that don’t typically go the NJPW route of being overly long. They kept this short but packed a lot of story into it. Minoru was his vicious self and Tanahashi had to fight from behind. He got dominated, but did the one move that completely changed everything and Suzuki was done. It was such a cool change of pace for a guy like Minoru. I’m intrigued by where this goes next.
Since joining CHAOS, White has barely been involved with the group and seems interested in splitting them from within. Okada is a broken man with a bad new hairdo, stupid long pants, balloons, new theme, and no title. White also lost his title recently, but is young, hungry, and coming into his own as a villain. Interesting that Okada went from shell shocked during Kizuna Road, but came out more carefree tonight. That attitude carried over into the early stages of the match. Things got serious once White avoided his guardrail cross body. From there, he was the vicious White we saw in San Francisco. He threw Okada into guardrails and wore him down with all sorts of aggression. Okada’s back became the focus and near the end, White suplexed him into the guardrail. Commentary getting upset at his tactics was great, especially from fellow CHAOS member Rocky Romero. Okada seemed to get back on track with the Rainmaker, but White brilliantly clocked the referee as he was hit, so he wasn’t able to make the count. White hit a low blow and threw a chair at Okada, before nailing Blade Runner to win in 25:37. It went a bit long, but I dug it. There was submission spot that lasted forever and nobody bought into. However, the story of carefree Okada getting it taken to him by the vicious and rogue CHAOS member was great.
Post-match, White cut a promo saying it was now his CHAOS and we could do nothing about it. I said it coming into the tournament, but I’d rather Okada lost and have it be because of White, leading to a personal rivalry to take him into the Tokyo Dome. Sounds more interesting than another Okada Dome title match. I can dream, can’t I?
Overall: As is usually the case, the tournament gets off to a strong start. Fale/Page was the worst match and even that was solid. HASHI/Makabe was a surprisingly fun match, while Elgin/EVIL was good despite flaws. Tanahashi/Suzuki was excellent, while White/Okada told the story it needed to and gave us the upset win we needed.
|Jay White||2 (1-0)||Hirooki Goto||0 (0-0)|
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||2 (1-0)||Juice Robinson||0 (0-0)|
|Michael Elgin||2 (1-0)||Kenny Omega||0 (0-0)|
|Hangman Page||2 (1-0)||Kota Ibushi||0 (0-0)|
|Togi Makabe||2 (1-0)||SANADA||0 (0-0)|
|Kazuchika Okada||0 (0-1)||Tama Tonga||0 (0-0)|
|Minoru Suzuki||0 (0-1)||Tetsuya Naito||0 (0-0)|
|EVIL||0 (0-1)||Tomohiro Ishii||0 (0-0)|
|Bad Luck Fale||0 (0-1)||Toru Yano||0 (0-0)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||0 (0-1)||Zack Sabre Jr.||0 (0-0)|