Sunday, August 12, 2018
It all comes down to this. After eighteen block shows, we’re left with Kota Ibushi against Hiroshi Tanahashi. Does Ibushi pull out the improbably or does the Ace get one final ride into the Tokyo Dome main event? With so many shows, I only focused on tournament matches leading up to this. Today, I cover it all.
Great to see Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma back together again. This also marks the main roster debut for Yoshida. Nagata sent his kids to attack quickly. It worked somewhat, but they quickly found themselves in trouble. Honma surprisingly hit Kokeshi on his first try! He’s a new man. Give him the title, Gedo. Commentary noted that Yoshida was at the top of the Kaientai Dojo. Makabe and Nagata got to hit their stuff. I’ve missed Nagata, man. His sendoff in the G1 was great, but he’s so damn good still. The G1 could’ve used him this year. Anyway, Yoshida ate the pin on a King Kong Knee Drop at 7:12. Your standard NJPW opening tag. Fire from the young guys, the dads and Honma were fun, and Elgin existed.
Fale wasn’t pinned and didn’t submit during the entire G1. The only guy who can make that claim. His six losses came via DQ. Henare brought a TON of fire to attack Fale. Fale weathered the storm and hit the Grenade, followed by the Bad Luck Fall to win at 1:49. That certainly went quickly. Fale could’ve sent similar messages in the G1 but instead chose to have dumb DQ finishes that accomplished nothing.
As much as I missed Nagata, I’d say the opposite for Iizuka. According to commentary, some people wanted Taichi in the G1. I don’t think that, but he couldn’t have been worse than Tama Tonga, Fale, or YOSHI-HASHI. The best part of this match was seeing the fire Taichi brought because he feels wronged by being left out of the G1. Other than that, Iizuka was his absurd self, while Goto and YOSHI continued their tournament trend of kind of just being there and doing a lot of nothing. Taichi used a head kick and nailed a powerbomb to beat HASHI at 8:03, the guy people felt he should’ve replaced in the G1. Mostly lethargic. When Taichi is the best part of a match, you’re in trouble.
Our first look at Cody since the loss to Omega. He sided with the babyface Bullet Club guys, yet was still acting heelish here. The fans gave a lot of thumbs up for David Finlay, who got a tiny trophy of the same pose for winning the “C Block.” The crowd also seemed ready to cheer for Cody. The Cody/Juice interactions were probably the highlight. Both teams have experience as partners, so the chemistry was there. Juice wrestled without his cast, free to use the left hand as he pleased. He got the hot tag of sorts of this, though only Cody seemed to be working as a heel. He mocked Juice’s signature punches and it backfired. In a surprise finish, Cody countered Pulp Friction and hit Din’s Fire to win at 8:56. With Juice already taking SIX G1 losses, you’d think his plate was full (though Omega and Ishii won’t ask for shots at his title, I suspect). I get him struggling with the bad hand, but after removing the cast, he should’ve done better. The match was mostly fun, with good action throughout.
Post-match, Cody cut a promo saying Juice hadn’t improved and is just doing a bad impersonation of Kairi Sane. He held the US Title and said he’d be the next champion.
Originally, this wasn’t a title match, but Tama demanded the champs put them on the line. The way the Firing Squad has handled things and how mad NJPW was with them, you’d think they’d prevent this. Ishimori was handpicked for the Bullet Club by Tama Tonga, so he seems to have sided with them. At least he should be a fun member of the group. Hearing Matt call his team the best wrestlers in the world was comical. The match was about what you’d expect. Ishimori was the highlight and his stuff against Marty was strong. The Bucks and G.O.D. were kind of just there. They did their usual thing and wasn’t that interesting to me. In the end, Marty wanted the crowd to hush for his finger snap spot and got hit with the Gun Stun to give us a title change at 11:26. Like the rest of the Bullet Club feud, this was meh. Ishimori and Marty saved it from sucking, and there’s just little reason to be interested in any of it.
Wrestle Kingdom 13 was announced and, as always, it falls on January 4th.
Though it was Sabre who spoiled Naito’s hopes of winning the G1 again, Naito and Suzuki were the focal point of the match. They picked up where they left off the IC Title. You remember that title, right? Naito was a placeholder with it so some dude in makeup could win it. Anyway, at one point, everyone got off the apron to watch Naito vs. Suzuki. As always, LIDJ are the masters of the multi-man tag. They’re so fluid with the in and out, while having chemistry with almost anyone. Even the eternally dull Kanemaru was kind of fun in this one. Following some great action, a staple of LIDJ stuff, SANADA got the win via Skull End on Kanemaru at 10:41. A fun match with some strong interactions. I also dug SANADA getting the win as a reward for a great G1.
It would seem this is here to build to Ishii’s eventual shot at Omega’s title. Jay White normally doesn’t come out with his CHAOS mates. He did here, maybe because Ishii kind of scares him. In better news, YUJIRO BROUGHT OUT PIETER! Yujiro is the Bullet Club GOAT. Interestingly, Jay was a team player here. He cheered on his guys and seems to want to hammer home the idea that he’s the new CHAOS leader. There was a fun spot where the BC guys did a group row boat spot while PIETER danced in the middle. Everyone stopped to get mesmerized by her, except Kenny. Great stuff. Owens kind of played the underdog babyface I didn’t expect and did it well. He couldn’t hit the Package Piledriver and Ishii wrecked him with a lariat and Brainbuster at 9:40. A good blend of light hearted fun and serious moments. I enjoyed this quite a bit.
After the match, Ishii made it clear that he wanted his shot at Omega. The champion seemed to accept.
Sengoku is just a wacky masked character played by Ryusuke Taguchi. This was mostly just here so we could get a Rey Mysterio Jr. appearance. KUSHIDA rode a Hoverboard to the ring. It started with Mysterio against Okada, hyping it as a dream meeting. It isn’t for me. Commentary and the wrestlers had gun with Sengoku’s identity. They went after his mask and got some fun spots involving him using Taguchi’s moveset. In the end, Rey won with the 619 and springboard splash at 12:27. Nothing special. Just a Rey appearance in a decently fun match.
Tanahashi beat Kota in the G1 25 (****¼) and in an IC Title match last year (****½), but Ibushi beat him in last year’s G1 (****¼). A win for Kota makes him the first man to win the G1, BOTSJ, and New Japan Cup. As expected, Omega cornered Ibushi. However, in massive news, KATSUYORI SHIBATA cornered Tanahashi! There was so much to love about this match. They had each other scouted fantastically. I loved how Tana expected the Golden Star Moonsault, which Kota already expected and had a counter ready for his counter (leap and double stomp to avoid a low dropkick on the apron). Tanahashi knew how much the Lawn Dart affected him last year and avoided it this time, following up immediately with a Shibata like corner dropkick. Awesome. For everything that made Ibushi/Omega great last night, this was great in a different way. It wasn’t about the high impact moves, though there were several. It was more about Tanahashi’s usual game plan battling against Ibushi’s penchant for the unexpected and the impactful. The fatigue set in and led to a strike exchange that was fantastic. Tanahashi should theoretically lose that, but he seemed to channel Shibata and hung tough. It’s such an intense battle that continues even after both men fall out. Ibushi threw A TON at Tana near the end, including a sick Lawn Dart, deadlift apron German and Last Ride, only for two. That was excessive. Tana fought back with THREE High Fly Flows after avoiding Kamigoya and won at 35:01. A stellar main event, but one that did have some flaws to keep it from the full five. For one, like a lot of NJPW main events, it went overboard near the end. A bit too much on the big spots and kick outs. For another, Kota could’ve sold the leg better, especially after all the dragon screws and such. That being said, again, this is a stellar way to close out the tournament. It’s a beautiful match that played so well off their history and had great moments like the Shibata dropkick.
I know some people were upset about Tanahashi’s win, but I don’t get that. Kota’s not under contract, so I couldn’t see him winning. Now, we get one of two things happening.
1) Tanahashi loses the briefcase. I suspect Jay White (who beat him) gets a shot and probably Okada (who went to a draw). It would be a way for Gedo to get Okada back in the title match without having him win a G1. And he’d get to do Tana/Okada again. He’d love it!
2) Or, the scenario I’m hoping for, Tana/Omega headlines the Dome. It’s the only “big four” match we’ve only had once. Tana wants his spot at the top back and to show he can beat Omega. Omega bests him, giving us the one final hurrah for the “Ace.”
Overall: Most of that show was wildly average. The undercard has nothing you need to see other than the Ishii/Omega challenge and a bit of the LIDJ tag. You came here for the G1 Finals and that delivered in a big way.