16th August 2015.
Here we are, the final day of G1 25. It’s been an exhausting review experience and one I’m not sure I’m ever likely to repeat. But seeing as I put the hours in, here’s some G1 Round-up stuff. First up is a comparison between the Blocks as I predicted them and the Blocks as they finished up.
Here’s my pre-tournament Block A:
1. AJ Styles 12
2. Hiroshi Tanahashi 14
3. Kota Ibushi 8
4. Katsuyori Shibata 8
5. Togi Makabe 8
6. Hiroyoshi Tenzan 6
7. Tetsuya Naito 10
8. Bad Luck Fale 10
9. Toru Yano 8
10. Doc Gallows 6
As you can see I got this quite badly wrong in places. AJ and Tana were up top and Gallows was bottom but the middle of my Block is all wrong. I didn’t realise what Naito’s gimmick change meant for him, in terms of push and I rather stupidly didn’t expect Fale to get any joy out of this year’s tournament. On the flipside, here’s my Block B:
1. Shinsuke Nakamura 14
2. Hirooki Goto 12
3. Kazuchika Okada 14
4. Karl Anderson 12
5. Yuji Nagata 6
6. Tomohiro Ishii 10
7. Satoshi Kojima 6
8. Michael Elgin 8
9. Tomoaki Honma 2
10. Yujiro Takahashi 6
I got the top end of this pretty close. My top four and the G1 top four were all the same guys. Some of the booking regarding the old timers surprised me in both Blocks and I had Tenzan, Nagata and Kojima all higher than they actually finished. Another fun statistic to follow those; the total stars I’ve handed out to G1 participants during the G1. Not including the tags, sadly. Otherwise I’d be here all night. Seeing as both Elgin and Nakamura missed a night each I ended up doing the table based on average snowflakes. I can’t punish #BigMike. So here are the wrestlers from G1 ranked according to average snowflake rating…
1. Tomohiro Ishii **** (4.13)
2. Kazuchika Okada **** (4.00)
3. Michael Elgin ***3/4 (3.78)
4. Hirooki Goto ***1/2 (3.69)
5. Yuji Nagata ***1/2 (3.63)
6. Tomoaki Honma ***1/2 (3.61)
7. AJ Styles ***1/2 (3.58)
8. Shinsuke Nakamura ***1/2 (3.56)
9. Karl Anderson ***1/4 (3.36)
10. Katsuyori Shibata ***1/4 (3.47)
11. Hiroshi Tanahashi ***1/4 (3.41)
12. Tetsuya Naito ***1/4 (3.30)
13. Satoshi Kojima ***1/4 (3.25)
14. Kota Ibushi ***1/4 (3.22)
15. Hiroyoshi Tenzan **3/4 (2.83)
16. Togi Makabe **1/2 (2.66)
17. Yujiro Takahashi **1/4 (2.48)
18. Doc Gallows **1/4 (2.27)
19. Toru Yano ** (2.13)
20. Bad Luck Fale *3/4 (1.80)
Some staggering results there. Ishii averaged, AVERAGED THAT IS, over **** and Okada was on **** dead even. That’s damn impressive for an average over nine matches. #BigMike had a hugely impressive G1, finishing third with an average snowflake rating that was pushing ****. You can see a clear cut advantage for those in Block B where there was less dead wood. Even Yujiro benefitted from this by being dragged up above guys he’s normally on a par with for match quality, like Fale. The one that really shocked me was Kota Ibushi coming in at #14. Considering how often he stunned the crowds and had great matches that position looks extremely low. But the average is cut into by his unrated sub-60 second bout with Yano. Take that one fluke out and he averages 3.62, enough to beat AJ Styles and be the best performing wrestler in Block A.
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at the Ryogoku Kokugikan for the final night of the G1 Climax 25. It’s been a rare old tournament and one that’s eaten into puro fans lives for the past month. Before we kick off Delirious is here and there’s an “ROH” chant. Here’s here to shill Ring of Honor and get the crowd into their agreement to work together with NJPW. It’s very odd. Just hearing Delirious speak coherent English is quite startling. It would have been better if he’d been incoherent and the Japanese translator, translated it into coherent Japanese. Delirious promises ROH will tour Japan next year. Not quite as big as last year’s announcement of co-promotion with GFW, which resulted in Jim Ross calling Wrestle Kingdom. They need to do that again. Indeed New Japan could benefit from having an English language commentary team for their PPV events. Puro is becoming very popular outside of Japan and would be more so if an English language option was available. I know this from personal experience where I’ve tried to get people into New Japan and the language barrier stops them.
Jushin Liger, Yohei Komatsu & Sho Tanaka vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, Mascara Dorada & David Finlay
It’s too goddamn early for Taguchi’s bullshit. At least there are a wonderful crop of Young Lions out there to keep things civil. I’ve seen a lot of a multiple person tags during this tour and a lot of the guys in this match have been highlights. The Young Lion’s especially but Dorada has also been entertaining with his love of flippity high spots. Liger gets mentioned that he’s off to WWE after this show. Liger is the one guy in wrestling who gets bored during his own submission attempts. Why does he keep giving up on the Surfboard? Everyone has plenty of energy in this so they keep tags going and the action fresh. My favourite part is Komatsu recognising the set up for Dodon and nearly pinning Taguchi. That would have got me marking out on a Sunday morning. Butta Ye wins it for Taguchi. Damn it.
Final Rating: **3/4
Tangent: At this point my friend Redje turned up to watch his first New Japan PPV so my report might get a bit sketchy as I wasn’t taking notes. I was spending more time explaining who people were and their history with each other. This is the kind of experience that helps him into a puro show, which an English language commentary team could achieve. I’m sure if I just told him he had to watch this show he wouldn’t, because of a lack of experience of the promotion. Not everyone can find the right jumping on point. I’m hoping this will work as his.
Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi & Jay White vs. TenKoji (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) & Captain New Japan
Jay White continues to amaze during his move up the card. He slotted nicely into this contest, easily outshining the good Captain. The effort levels were no lower from the veterans with Nagata and Kojima both looking suitably energised. Perhaps the weakest of the final day undercard tags though with Tenzan looking a little on the tired side. He still had enough to put Jay away with the Anaconda Vice. I must admit I spent most of the match explaining elements of NJPW and G1 so I didn’t go into much detail on recapping. Redje knew Nagata from WCW and was pleased to learn he was still good after all these years.
Final Rating: **1/4
Michael Elgin vs. YOSHI-HASHI
YOSHI-HASHI put up a really good fight and it was a solid match. Elgin bossed it with power and won with the Elginbomb. YOSHI-HASHI has been pimped during this tour, winning undercard tag pins left, right and centre. That continued by being the only undercard guy to get a singles match on the final day and showed how highly NJPW rate him, despite YOSHI-HASHI’s frankly abysmal singles record over the last two years. Having Elgin win was definitely the right decision as #BigMike had a killer tournament, culminating in a worldie against Ishii yesterday but the fact TACOS came so close to scoring a pin, only due to a missed Loose Explosion senton, puts him over big time too. I would love to see Elgin back and I’m sure New Japan will book him again. I can’t think of another gaijin who’s paid off so well and so quickly. Even AJ Styles took about three months to bed into NJPW and he was the fucking champion at the time. Top performance from Elgin and great showing from Y-H as he continues to press for a claim to be involved in G1 next year. Just put him in for Gallows…or Fale…or Yujiro.
Final Rating: ***
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. CHAOS (Kazushi Sakuraba, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano)
Disappointed that both Sakuraba and Ishii were wasted here. Most of the match was Yano making everyone laugh with his fantastic trolling and Ishii finished Tama with the brainbuster. Fale and Yujiro are a recipe for disaster. If I see them both in the same match I usually run screaming. This contest was largely saved by Tama, who’s been excellent during G1 and indeed has been showing improvements as a tag guy over the summer. His personality tweaks and weird mannerisms were winning me over and will continue to do so. Interesting to note this was basically Redje’s introduction to Yano and he was cracking up along with me for the silly spots. I pre-warned him about the turnbuckle spot and marvelled at Yano whipping that sucker off in about three seconds again. Basically everyone on the CHAOS team was brilliant here. I wish they’d been better utilised. Who was Saku going to tease a ***** match with on the other team? There’s no one worthy of his time.
Final Rating: **1/2
Hirooki Goto, Katsuyori Shibata & Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma
Best undercard tag of the show. Shibata wanted to murder Naito, big time. They had a few sequences but nothing compared to the post match brawl where Shibata kicked the absolute fuck out of Naito and boot scraped his face. Wonderful stuff. The Naito-Shibata storyline is quite sensational. Shibata hates Naito for being such a slacker and Naito’s response is to tell him to chill out. Gedo implied during this match that Shibata and Naito have never liked each other and the Tranquillo business was enough to make Shibata lose his shit. Shibata feels like the guardian of all things pure in NJPW. If you don’t live up to his ideal of puroresu strongstyle then you will face his wrath. The secondary story was Makabe and Ibushi, where Togi seemed genuinely hot about Kota working his knee and kept going after the Golden Star. Kota’s response, again after the match was over, was to high kick Togi in the head and KO him.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Tenryu, on his retirement tour, comes out to challenge Okada for the November PPV. Gedo tells him no but Okada comes out to accept. “As long as you accept the consequences”. The suggestion being that if Tenryu realised he was going to die, Okada would be ok with killing him. Tenryu is on his retirement tour but he’s 65 years old. This is not going to be a good match. I’ve been saying Tenryu needs to stop wrestling for years. He can barely stand let alone wrestle. People marking out for this announcement clearly haven’t been watching Tenryu wrestle recently. It’ll be a spectacle though. No doubt about that.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
The Young Bucks (c) vs. reDRagon
The Bucks never fail to deliver on the entertainment stakes. There are still those who don’t warm to their hijnx and spotty nature but for me they’re always so much fun that I can overlook any failings on their part. Putting them in with reDRagon, again, is a shrewd move as Fish & O’Reilly are savvy technicians and capable of covering up the spotty nature of the Bucks, turning a spotfest into something more delightful and easier to consume, with a better flow and feeling to it. Don’t get me wrong, I dig a spotfest and there were times when this resembled one as they couldn’t be bothered with tagging in and out, but reDRagon’s execution made this feel like a more coherent version of the Bucks normal multi-person clusterfucks. Interesting bout from Redje’s reaction too, as he hated the Bucks but hadn’t seen them in New Japan where they’re a little more carefree and fun to watch. He enjoyed this one. Fish & O’Reilly’s victory here gives them their second IWGP Junior tag title run. The first one lasted three months with only one successful title defence. The Bucks latest run also featured only one successful title defence. In fact there have only been two successful title defences of the junior tag straps all year. That’s less than Time Splitters managed during their run with the belts in the second half of 2014 put together. Are the belts jinxed?
Final Rating: ****
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
KUSHIDA (c) vs. Ricochet
I expected big things of this match, due to the general lack of big matches on the card. A surprising lack, compared to last year’s G1 Finals where the card was significantly heavier in terms of big matches. They certainly delivered on a lot of the ambition, although never quite at the level of their Super Juniors final from 2014 (****1/2). I appreciate KUSHIDA doing so much work to set up the Hoverboard Lock by going after the arm throughout the contest and using a combination of strikes, grappling and attempts at his finisher to put Ricochet on notice. Ricochet brought the kind of excellence we’ve come to expect from him. Lots of high flying, flipping and insane dives, like the dive over the ring post to the floor. There was a tidy piece of accidental psychology in that spot, even, as Ricochet hit his wrist on the guardrail when he landed. It could easily have broken the wrist and he spent the rest of the match in discomfort. It helped Ricochet to remember he needed to sell that arm and brought an incredible focus to proceedings. Both guys worked a clean, crisp match that delivered plenty of thrills and spills and speaks volumes of both men when I was a smidge disappointed with a ****1/4 match. That’s where the bar was set coming in. They certainly delivered on the vast majority of the promise in a pressure filled situation. Why isn’t Ricochet booked more frequently? I know he’s in demand but surely he’s good enough to be a NJPW regular.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Bullet Club (AJ Styles, Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows) vs. Kazuchika Okada & The Kingdom (Michael Bennett & Matt Taven)
I was hoping AJ and Okada weren’t going to tag out at all during this match, thus giving us an unofficial third place tiebreaker that New Japan seemed reluctant to book this year. I sort of got my wish as they took the majority of the match. AJ looked to be on top form but Okada also delivered a sensational performance at times. The best work from the others came from the usual Karl Anderson reaction to Maria Kanellis but with an added twist where AJ tried to get Karl to stop only to become mesmerised by Maria as well (after Karl brushed AJ’s hair out of his eyes = a brilliant piece of business). AJ Styles has had such a wonderful G1 tournament, becoming more playful when working with his Bullet Club buddies and taking the edge off his serious persona. However when it came to the business end of this match it the serious AJ who tackled Okada head on and pinned him clean with the Styles Clash. So AJ comes in third overall and sets himself up to challenge for the IWGP title at some point between now and Wrestle Kingdom. Most likely at King of Pro Wrestling in October with Okada already busy during November, accepting the challenge of Genichiro Tenryu. This match was a lot better than I was expecting but that was largely due to a minimal involvement of the secondary tag teams that made up the six-man format.
Final Rating: ***1/2
G1 Climax 25 Final
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Pre-Match Pick: Tanahashi. I want Nakamura to win but as with the Block stage, betting against Tanahashi is just foolish.
What a story these two gentlemen told in their pursuit of G1 glory. Pre-tournament the feeling was that one of them would win but it was really hard to tell which one NJPW were going for and what their reasoning would be. A lot of the building blocks of this match were traditional Tana-Nak match traits like Tana working the knee or Nakamura throwing his iron-clad knees in response to that. I enjoyed Tanahashi’s work especially as he was keen to stay face and didn’t lift Shinsuke’s Vibration taunt like Okada did. The moment where he teased it showed what his personality was like. He considered it but dismissed it. The building during the match was leading into an epic conclusive sequence where the near falls began to mount and the tension became unbearable. Tanahashi’s focus on the leg allowed him to work in the Texas Lion Tamer and Red Shoes did a sterling job of making me think Nakamura wanted to quit. However a submission was never likely with Nakamura having battled through the “hell” of a damaged elbow just to get into the final. He wasn’t going to let a few dragon screws get the better of him after all that struggle.
Once they got into the hot streak towards the conclusion this bout entered into another gear. Nakamura has been accused of not building well towards his epic conclusions of late and just delivering the final five minutes. Well, this match delivered a stretch that was way over five minutes and more like fifteen. The Boma Ye’s came from all angles, the High Fly Flow was delivered in every conceivable fashion (to the floor, to the back, the press, the normal kind) and Nakamura even worked in the flying armbar that beat Okada. The match was emotionally draining for the fans and during the contest I could see Tanahashi fans crying, then afterwards the Nakamura fans experiencing the same pain. Another key element to the match was the ties to the history of the feud. Tanahashi at one point using the dragon suplex, the move he beat Nakamura with when they first met. A sign of how much they’d changed, and improved. Nakamura used the Landslide. Tanahashi’s kickouts were just incredible. The one was so late that it had to be over. This wasn’t just a match. This was a vital step for one man to claim he’s better than the other. When their careers are over, they’ll look back on this match and call it a win for Tanahashi. One that catapulted him into legendary status. Only his second G1 win but it sets up yet another WK main event between Okada and Tanahashi. They’re destined to do this forever, it seems.
Final Rating: *****
Summary: I think yesterday blew me away more than the Final day of G1, because the expectations were a little lower. Plus I was less keen on today’s line-up. Most of my favourites were squandered in meaningless tag bouts, or in Shibata’s case a meaningful tag bout. The focus switched a little alarmingly across to the juniors, and while they delivered, the build of the last 18 shows was surely worth more of a pay-off than just one singles match pitting G1 guys against each other? Perhaps the worry was a lack of focus on the final, but it didn’t hurt Nakamura vs. Okada last year, and that it was preceded by AJ vs. Tanahashi. Or any of the solid singles matches on last year’s undercard. Throwaway tags have been a staple of this year’s G1 undercard (and indeed virtually every NJPW undercard) but did there have to be so many of them today? Perhaps a minor nagging irritation when the show delivered six matches over *** and three above the **** barrier, including an definite MOTYC in Tanahashi vs. Nakamura. Hell, it might even be their best singles match, ever.