NJPW G1 Climax Night 14
Watch: NJPW World
August 7, 2016
Act City Hamamatsu – Hamamatsu, Japan
It’s been a week since my last G1 Climax review, and things have certainly changed since then. Naito and Elgin have emerged as the leaders of the pack, though a six-way tie for second place, with everyone only a win behind the frontrunners, ensures that everything is still up in the air for the B Block. Interestingly, most of these B Block matches are first-time meetings, and the ones that aren’t are simply the second matches in a series, which is quite a nice change of pace. When Los Ingobernables partners collide in the main event, and when the IWGP Intercontinental Champion comes face-to-face with NJPW’s resident trickster for the first time, who will come out on top as the G1 Climax begins to draw to a close?
KUSHIDA, Ryusuke Taguchi, & David Finlay vs. Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask, & Captain New Japan:
An opener six-man tag with Captain New Japan: surely the sign of quality. All jokes aside, what is quality is the song Taguchi sang for his entrance. Beautiful little tune. We need less wrestling and more Taguchi in New Japan. The veterans work over Taguchi to kick things off before letting CNJ have a go, and CNJ sadly is immediately overcome by his opponents and beaten down for a while before Liger makes the save. You’ll get ‘em next time, Captain. Everyone runs around a bit and gets their spots in before Liger turns a European uppercut from Finlay into a sweet backslide for the win. A solid little opener, too short to bore or offend, but long enough to get in some fun spots.
Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii vs. BUSHI & SANADA:
Now, I made a joke about the last match looking great, but boy howdy does this sound like something I’d enjoy. Right off the bat, it delivers LIJ looking suave as all get out in their masks, so I’ve got that if nothing else. During his entrance, Ishii punks out a few fans who are clamoring to touch him, so hey, there’s that too. Lots to love here, even before the bell rings. The ungovernable lads quickly take control of the match and isolate Ishii, both in and out of the ring. The Stone Pitbull doesn’t stay down for long, though, and is able to make a comeback and tag out to Goto, who is himself quickly taken down by LIJ and their superior teamwork. When BUSHI spends too much time showboating on the middle rope, CHAOS is able to even things up, and Goto quickly hits the Ushigoroshi and GTR for the pinfall. Certainly not the match that I was expecting, but I can’t say that it was fair of me to expect much from a lower card tag match in a small venue, and there were still a few enjoyable elements in this match’s short runtime.
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, & Juice Robinson vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, & Manabu Nakanishi:
The Dads on Tour take on the slightly younger dads and dad-in-training, Juice Robinson. On the last show I reviewed, we were able to hear Kojima’s wonderful theme, and tonight we’re privy to Tenzan’s theme, which is itself pretty solid. Also solid: this match, sort of surprisingly. It’s one of those bouts where everyone plays to their strengths well and does their thing for a crowd that eats it up. No one tried to do too much and so no one was overexposed or stumbled in their ambition, and everyone let their personalities do most of the work. Sure, it’s more than a little paint-by-numbers, but for a meaningless midcard tag match from which I asked nothing, I received ample enjoyment. Especially enjoyable was Kojima kicking the ringside camera while going for his “ICCHAUZO BAKAYARO” elbow drop. In the end, Makabe picked up the win with his King Kong Knee Drop in a match that I wouldn’t tell you to go out of your way for, but one I had fun watching all the same.
Kazuchika Okada, Gedo, & Naomichi Marufuji vs. Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, & Yujiro Takahashi:
Ok, I’m done with the jokes, folks: this match looks straight up bad on paper. Bad Luck Fale has surprisingly been a highlight in this tournament (perhaps THE highlight), and despite his shortcomings I usually like seeing Tama Tonga, but I’m not sure if they alone are enough to sway my opinion of these other four men. Unsurprisingly, they don’t manage to do it, though god bless ‘em, they try. The Bullet Club lads spend most of the match on top, which thankfully includes a Marufuji/Tonga sequence I quite like. Okada and Gedo briefly turn the tide in their favor towards the end, but Yujiro was quickly able to isolate Gedo and floor him with the Pimp Juice DDT for the win. Blessedly short, but a match that did nearly nothing for me. Hopefully it finds favor in your eyes, dear reader, for mine are cold and pitiless.
(G1 Climax Block B) Michael Elgin vs. Toru Yano:
This is an interesting match, in that Yano probably poses Elgin’s biggest obstacle to winning this block. His wily antics have played the spoiler to many a hopeful G1 winner, and even considering Elgin’s status as Intercontinental Champion, Yano can squeak a victory out of nowhere. The match begins as your typical Yano affair, though Elgin’s strength (and lack of hair, for that matter) adds a new wrinkle to the proceedings and prevents Yano from getting the advantage right off the bat. Still, the Sublime Master Thief can’t be outfoxed for long, and Yano hits a pair of low blows and cinches in a tight cradle to steal the win in a manner of minutes. With wins over the reigning IWGP Intercontinental and NEVER Openweight Champions in this tournament, Yano clearly deserves an IWGP Heavyweight title shot, preferably at the Dome. Who’s with me?
(G1 Climax Block B) Katsuyori Shibata vs. YOSHI-HASHI:
While not a first-time meeting, this is a fresh matchup I’m very much looking forward to, though I can only imagine it ending one way. It certainly can only start one way, and that’s with these guys hitting each other a bunch, and lo, it is so. Try as he might, YOSHI-HASHI just isn’t able to overcome the NEVER Openweight Champion in a striking battle, and thus receives the brunt of the offense in the opening minutes of this contest until a desperation clothesline turns the tide. After he misses his signature Loose Explosion, YOSHI-HASHI manages to catch a chest kick from Shibata and reverse a snapmare into his butterfly lock, showing some tremendous recent growth, as this sort of sequence from him was unthinkable just a few months ago. Connecting with the Loose Explosion earns YOSHI-HASHI a great nearfall, but Shibata quickly recovers with a knee to the face and a butterfly lock of his own, topping it off with a sleeper hold and a penalty kick for the win. A pretty ok little match, I guess, one that didn’t waste anyone’s time and provided some good hard-hitting action.
(G1 Climax Block B) Tomoaki Honma vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima:
Speaking of hard-hitting, here’s this. That certainly wasn’t a fancy segue, but nothing was much too fancy in this match either. Things started fairly evenly until Nakajima took to the apron and the floor, utilizing a DDT, penalty kick, and boot to the face with great efficacy. Back in the ring, the NOAH native kept control until Honma muscled his way into a suplex and managed to hit the Kokeshi on his first attempt! Nakajima was able to turn things right back around, though, and looked to neutralize Honma’s arm with a series of kicks before Honma said “bollocks to that” and put the kid down with a clothesline. After some striking back and forth, Honma connected with an enzu-Kokeshi and a fire thunder driver for a nearfall, but Nakajima was able to avoid a top-rope Kokeshi to even things up again. Unable to gain the victory with a belly to back suplex and a trio of kicks, Nakajima finally strung together a penalty kick and a brainbuster for the W and two points. With this loss, Honma has mathematically been eliminated from the tournament. After the match, the younger man helped Honma to his feet, and they both shook hands and embraced in a show of friendly sportsmanship. Hardly a blow-away match, but hey, if you’re anything of a fan of these two, I’m sure you’ll dig this.
(G1 Climax Block B) Yuji Nagata vs. Kenny Omega:
The ace of the Third Generation takes on someone who is very much the embodiment of current NJPW. I’m actually sort of worried about how this will turn out, considering the style clash, but I’m sure that these two will pull out something that I’ll like. During his entrance, Omega talks to the camera about enjoying the Pirates of the Caribbean intro to Nagata’s theme, so we’re off to a good start. The match begins rather hot and heavy, with Nagata really taking it to his younger opponent until Omega simply outwits and out-speeds the old man. Although he’s got more than enough experience to know how to stay in the game, Nagata simply can’t match Omega for speed, especially when the Canadian begins to target his legs (with the original Nagata Lock no less). Even when Nagata turns the tide back in his favor with a kitchen sink, it does enough damage to his leg that he can barely follow it up, and it’s not long before the Cleaner is back on top again. A pretty vicious knee strike earns Omega a nearfall, and a second sends Nagata out to the floor, but when Omega goes to retrieve Blue Justice, Nagata catches him in a makeshift Exploder Suplex off the apron. As you can guess, it leads to the tease of a double countout, as both men make it back in the ring at the count of 19. Once inside, both men hit some big signatures before Nagata turns his attention to Omega’s arm with the Demon Armbar and a series of armbreakers. An exploder suplex off the top goes bad for Nagata, though, and Omega connects with the One-Winged Angel for the win. Not a bad match by any means, but quite a plain one, and one I’m not sure the crowd was terribly into either. A real middle of the road affair, which sort of seems to be the theme for this particular show.
(G1 Climax Block B) Tetsuya Naito vs. EVIL:
For the first time, Los Ingobernables de Japon members meet in singles action. I’m disappointed by how poorly EVIL has faired in this tournament, but he could certainly turn his luck around here by pinning one of the B Block leaders and a former IWGP Heavyweight Champion. The lads start things off real slow, faking out the crowd a few times by going for a lockup before turning away at the last second. When they finally do collide, though, it’s all business, or as much business as the Tranquilo one and the King of Darkness can get to. Insofar as EVIL seems to be the one who is more down for said business, he takes control of the match with his usual chicanery and some well-placed elbows to the face. The crowd seems pretty split about who to back here, and if anything, EVIL appears to be the fan favorite. Quickly recovering from a small, but apparent, botch, Naito turns things in his favor with a neat tornado DDT and more of his usual offense. A dropkick to the knee really takes the best out of EVIL and Naito is quick to capitalize, having no qualms about going after his partner’s bad wheel. It’s sort of amazing how slow this match is, though I suppose that’s the Ingobernables standard, and it’s not like they’re exactly losing the crowd along the way, though they’re certainly not on fire either. They pop when they’re supposed to, such as when EVIL takes control with a fisherman buster and a big clothesline off the top rope. Naito eats a half and half suplex and another clothesline that both fold him in half, but neither those moves nor a fireman’s carry spinebuster can find EVIL the win. As EVIL is clearly going for the kill, Naito hits a flash victory roll and traps him in a sort of cross kneelock for roughly half a century before EVIL finally makes it to the ropes. Going for the kill himself, Naito sits his partner up on the top rope but quickly finds himself in a precarious fireman’s carry and has to Frankensteiner his way free in a nice spot that Hamamatsu pops big for. Naito follows it up with a Gloria that I bought as the finish, but only finds a two count with it and turns instead to the Destino. EVIL, bad wheel and all, stays upright and reverses the Destino into a big powerslam that puts both men down for the count. Back on their feet, they trade strikes back and forth, really knocking each other loopy before hitting some other big, albeit sloppy, signatures. Eventually, EVIL goes for the STO but just barely misses it, as Naito slips free and uses the momentum to hit the Destino for the win. A sort of a slow match, but the crowd sticks to it all the way through, and the second half is suitably bomb-worthy. With this match, Naito solidifies himself as the frontrunner in the B Block, and EVIL has mathematically been eliminated.
It’s sort of hard to judge this show on the whole. On one hand, nothing bored me to tears or made me wish I was asleep instead (well, not any more so than usual, that is). But on the other hand, nothing stood out as a great match, even when compared to other nights of the G1. Everything was situated in a fairly average middle zone, a perfect shade of beige, a holding pattern of “eh, pretty ok”. I can’t pretend like this was an overtly bad show, but I think it’s fair to expect more from this promotion and from one of the better tournaments in wrestling history, and as the G1 Climax winds down, I certainly hope we get it.
Kazuchika Okada (10), Hiroshi Tanahashi (8), Bad Luck Fale (8), Hirooki Goto (8), Togi Makabe (8), Naomichi Marufuji (8), Tama Tonga (6), Tomohiro Ishii (6), SANADA (4), Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4)
Tetsuya Naito (10), Michael Elgin (8), Katsuyori Shibata (8), Katsuhiko Nakajima (8), Toru Yano (8), Kenny Omega (8), YOSHI-HASHI (6), Yuji Nagata (6), EVIL (4), Tomoaki Honma (4)