24th July 2015.
We’re in Kyoto, Japan.
Yesterday saw Block B kick off. After the wins and losses were tallied here’s how the Block looks:
Karl Anderson 2
Kazuchika Okada 2
Yuji Nagata 2
Hirooki Goto 2
Tomohiro Ishii 2
Satoshi Kojima 0
Yujiro Takahashi 0
Tomoaki Honma 0
Michael Elgin 0
Shinsuke Nakamura 0
Nakamura’s defeat, in the main event no less, was a big upset but the plan must surely be to have Nakamura on a slow burn. It’s likely he’ll lose again before he starts on the road to redemption. That’s how Gedo usually books. Seeing as we’re going back over to Block A, here’s a reminder of how that looks.
Hiroshi Tanahashi 2
AJ Styles 2
Tetsuya Naito 2
Hiroyoshi Tenzan 2
Togi Makabe 2
Doc Gallows 0
Toru Yano 0
Bad Luck Fale 0
Katsuyori Shibata 0
Kota Ibushi 0
Tonight’s big matches have Tanahashi against Tenzan. Both winners on Day One. Shibata vs. Naito, with Shibata anxious to kick Naito’s ass after their tag contest on Day Two. The other matches expose the weakness of Block A with Gallows, Fale and Yano all in different matches. With the exception of Yujiro Takahashi, the three weakest wrestlers in the G1.
Like Day Two this a show with no commentary, presumably being added later when it airs on Samurai TV, but unlike Day Two it’s a proper shoot with multiple cameras and it looks like someone is actually paying attention to the broadcast.
Michael Elgin, Mascara Dorada, Jay White & David Finlay vs. Satoshi Kojima, Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask IV & Yohei Komatsu
Elgin vs. Kojima is one of the Block B matches tomorrow, so they face off amongst a bevy of juniors. Both men had a decent showing but lost. They’ll be keen to set down a few markers to try and get inside their opponents head for their second bout tomorrow. There’s a good sign right off the bat; the crowd is rowdy and there’s a buzz around the venue. This was not the case at all during Day Two. It’s a pity last night’s card didn’t get this night’s crowd but on paper last night was better. Tiger Mask employs some totally weird psychology and hits the finish he used on Jay White last night in the first sequence in this match. That makes no sense, at all. He stays down selling afterwards, perhaps aware he’s erred. Liger is crazy over. The same way he is in America and the UK. Kyoto must not get to see him too often.
The juniors always get multiple man tags during G1 but rarely get booked into the tournament. How’s about this for an idea; winner of the Super Juniors gets a spot in G1? That would certainly give that tournament a bit more weight. And also, we’d get KUSHIDA all over these shows. There’s no downside to that. As Kojima and Elgin start to leather each other the crowd erupts, they’re going to be wonderful tonight. I love a good crowd. Elgin gets put over big time, double suplexing TM and Liger and making Komatsu look like a small child. If his pedigree was in doubt, in Japan, before this tournament that’s certainly changed already. Kojima gets the better of him with the Koji Cutter and Finlay takes the lariat for the loss. Elgin and Kojima looked seriously motivated here, which means good things for their match tomorrow night.
Final Rating: **3/4
Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Cody Hall) vs. CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI)
If anyone can get a good match out of Yujiro it’s Ishii, who worked wonders during their NEVER title feud last year. They’ll be working a Block match tomorrow night, hence this tag. For those who don’t follow NJPW all that closely, Yujiro used to be in CHAOS before defecting to Bullet Club during AJ Styles IWGP title victory. CHAOS have not been fans of him since and he’s worked series with Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI. The only good thing about Yujiro is he can make it believable that anyone can beat him. Cody works the match like he’s Yujiro’s bodyguard and that’s an ongoing angle I could get behind. Cody didn’t get the memo where you’re not supposed to get over on anyone who’s in the G1 and tries to bully Ishii a bit, which gets him a kicking. Cody is showing signs of improvement, one of the benefits of working in New Japan where the standard is so high. He’s still making mistakes, big ones at that, but his persona is coming across much better than before and he’s gaining in confidence. I don’t think the Japanese fans get the Razor Ramon references so much but they tickle me. Cody’s blunders continue with a botched spot with YOSHI-HASHI, which he forgets to kick out of. YOSHI-HASHI finishes moments later with a corkscrew senton, which makes me think Cody just forgot what move the finish was. This wasn’t very good. Ishii vs. Yujiro should be better tomorrow.
Final Rating: *3/4
Bullet Club (Karl Anderson & Tama Tonga) vs. Hirooki Goto & Captain New Japan
Karl Anderson is the talk of the puro world after beating Shinsuke Nakamura in Day Two’s main event. It’s a logical upset, as Nakamura will always contend and Gedo’s booking always sets out with the intention of sewing seeds of doubt. Next for Anderson is another favourite for Block B; Hirooki Goto. The current IC champion and 2008 G1 winner. Goto has spent most of his career hitting his head on the glass ceiling so there will always be question marks as to whether he can hang with the top guys. Beating Nakamura twice recently seems to have removed the stigma I always felt Goto had. Tagging with Shibata, he always looked like a weak link. Interesting to note that despite his transformation into confident main eventer, he’s carrying an injury and has taped ribs. Will that come into play as the tournament progresses? Anderson has been stuck in the tag ranks for some considerable time but come G1 he’s always able to hang with the big stars. Anderson has too much for Captain New Japan and batters him into submission before finishing with the Gun Stun in short order. In the early stages of this year G1 he’s been a big deal.
Final Rating: **1/4
Tomoaki Honma, Yuji Nagata & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura & Gedo)
This is in the spot where so far in the tournament we’ve had our best tag team matches. The line up for this one is great, apart from the insufferable Taguchi who seems to have wheedled his way into teaming with people who are genuinely good. Nakamura, if he wasn’t already a favourite of mine, would go up in my estimation by booting the foolish Taguchi in the stomach for fucking around during the King of Strongstyle’s introduction. As if to try and out-do that Honma puts Okada on notice! Honma’s intention is to claim his first G1 win by beating the IWGP champion tomorrow night. It’s not impossible and it would be a magnificent result…but I can’t see it happening. Okada is brilliant in opposition, slipping by Honma when he sets up for the Kokeshi and catching the confused opponent in the Rainmaker, only for Honma to duck under it. That match headlines Day Four with good reason. It will be quite sensational. Honestly, the only part of this match that isn’t great is Taguchi and how much of my time he wastes with his butt-based offence and stupid mannerisms. He is quite dreadful. Honma more than makes up for it, with perfect reactions to everything. The Nakamura-Nagata stuff is a bit muted as they had a feud for the IC belt earlier in the year and already laid any groundwork for a rematch. When they do clash, Nagata dominates Nakamura. Perhaps suggesting a Nagata victory is imminent to give Nakamura a proper uphill struggle, going 0-2. Increasingly Block B is the place to be. It has the better stories and the better matches. Seeing as Okada comes in with bags of confidence, as IWGP champion and having beaten Elgin on Day Two, he takes a knock or two. He gets trapped in Nagata’s armbar and gets whacked with Kokeshi too. Speaking of which; Honma’s Kokeshi connection rate is insane during G1 and he hits the Super Kokeshi on Gedo for the pin. A marked contrast to the million misses last year.
Final Rating: ***1/4
KOKESHI COUNT – 1 missed. 3 hit.
SUPER KOKESHI – 1 hit.
G1 Climax Block A
Doc Gallows vs. Kota Ibushi
Pre-match pick: Ibushi. His opening night loss was to Tanahashi but he looked like a genuine threat to one of the favourites. It’s unlikely Ibushi will win the whole thing but you’d want him to be a contender at least. Gallows is there to make up the numbers. The story they go for is an obvious one; Kota’s agility vs. Gallows sheer mass advantage. Gallows is very deliberate, throwing big hands in the corner in particular, reminiscent of the Undertaker. Ibushi isn’t used to working against bigger opponents and doesn’t really modify his approach to wrestling to suit. Hopefully this match will give him some ideas for the Fale match. Gallows certainly tries hard here, in a better showing than Day One, and throws in a combination of strikes and big spots. Some of the ideas are perhaps a bit ambitious and the set up to Ibushi winning with a sunset flip is all a bit contrived. At least the right guy went over.
Final Rating: ***
G1 Climax Block A
Bad Luck Fale vs. Togi Makabe
Pre-match pick: Makabe. I think they’ll keep Makabe strong to start with. His third match is against Shibata, which is where the Block will start to get really intriguing. Fale offers very little by comparison, and lacks the conditioning he had last year. Togi’s idea of getting the match over is to take an enormous amount of heat, which Fale is ill equipped to dish out. He really is in horrible condition and the difference between Gallows effort in the last match and Fale’s total lack of effort in this one is noticeable. Several spots don’t work at all, even worse than the last match, and Togi’s answer to everything is a big overhand punch. Fale wins with a surprisingly safe Bad Luck Fall. I couldn’t get into it at all. Will probably end up being the worst match in the G1 this year. Unless Gallows vs. Fale is even worse.
Final Rating: *
G1 Climax Block A
Toru Yano vs. AJ Styles
Pre-match pick: AJ Styles. Yano will probably win some matches here and there but surely AJ is going to be kept strong all tournament long and be there or thereabouts at the end. Even if it’s just as a target for someone else to overcome. Losing to Yano isn’t part of those plans. Surely. Yano goes into the ropes to start with. “BREAK. BREEEEEAAAAAAAAAK. BREAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKK. BREEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAK”. Yano’s whole gimmick is making fun of people who take themselves seriously. AJ’s certainly a contender for that and he eats a chair doing the rail hurdling spot. AJ probably feels he’s too good to get suckered by Yano but Yano’s magic has worked on everyone. Red Shoes isn’t keen on AJ’s muscle pose pin and won’t count it. “I’m trying to be entertaining here!” – AJ. Yano somehow has this ability to be faster when he’s cheating, and his timing is uncanny. AJ plays along with all the spots, including Yano’s RVD style pointing, smacking Yano in the back of the head with the springboard elbow after being made to look foolish one time too many. AJ’s block of the low blow into the Pele Kick is outstanding business too. Yano is a creative guy, who always seems to be one move ahead, usually illegally. For AJ to match him, he has to get creative. Yano gets caught in the Calf Killer, bang in the middle of the ring, and that’ll do it. This had several memorable moments and Yano definitely shouldn’t have gone over AJ. He’ll upset somebody in this tournament but when the time is right.
Final Rating: ***1/4
G1 Climax Block A
Tetsuya Naito vs. Katsuyori Shibata
Pre-match pick: Shibata. This is the most intriguing match of the night and easily the hardest prediction. I ended up flipping a coin but basically Naito has started strong and Shibata is injured so that would be the logical call. However, logic goes out the window with Shibata and myself. I keep picking him to win everything. I still secretly hope he wins G1. The reactions to Naito’s new Ingobernables character have been indifferent so far but he gets booed soundly in Kyoto (which is near Osaka, a typical hotbed of Naito hatred). The tag match last night did a good job of building to this match as Shibata got some genuine hatred going and he jumps Naito before he’s taken off his mask and suit. Part of the tactic is defensive as Shibata is carrying that arm injury and doesn’t want to get into trouble. If he dominates, he protects his arm. When Naito does get into the match he doesn’t just go after the arm, he uses the arm to set up the leg, which Shibata had worked over by AJ Styles on Day One. A lot of the folks on Twitter seem really into Naito’s new character but it does nothing whatsoever for me. I just find it frustrating that one of NJPW’s more entertaining workers now has weird ticks that make him look lazy. Shibata knows how to please me, and Kyoto, and destroys Naito’s face with the sole of boot. Then he refuses to go down for Naito’s corner legsweep spot, by holding the ropes and double stomps Naito when he slingshots in. It’s good stuff, using Naito’s trademark spot and Shibata’s wrestling ability. He’ll have prepared a game plan for all of Naito’s spots. It’s Naito who kills the spirit of the match with his usual glassy-eyed stare into the middle distance. If he doesn’t give a shit, why should I? Shibata puts the wanker in a sleeper and then finishes with a PK. Good! Some decent limb work from Naito but his character is the worst. People who don’t care about anything are impossible to care about.
Final Rating: ***1/2
G1 Climax Block A
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Pre-match pick: Tanahashi. I’m pretty much picking him to win every match he’s in as I’ll be right 90% of the time. Tenzan won his opening match but he’s not on Tanahashi’s level, despite having three times as many G1 wins as New Japan’s ace. The crowd get Tana all pissed off during the opening exchanges by loudly chanting for Tenzan. Don’t they know they only get a star like Tanahashi once in a hundred years! It says so on his knee pads. It must be true. Tenzan gets lots of love for the Mongolian Chops and Tana starts getting a bit of heat. Tanahashi throws the kind of strop about it that you wish John Cena would do every once in a while. He gets so angry he stops off to play some air guitar. Have you ever gotten that mad? That’s Kevin Bacon anger dancing in a barn from Footloose levels of pissed off. Tanahashi wisely keeps the pace slow so Tenzan can keep up and not drop dead from exhaustion. Tanahashi never really seems in trouble and Tenzan’s domination of certain sequences seem to be Tana simply biding his time. Tana is content to simply wear Tenzan out by drawing the match out and hooking holds that cripple Tenzan’s cardio. The one spot that feels like Tenzan might get somewhere is when he hooks the Anaconda Vice bang in the middle of the ring and Unno is all over it, checking that Tanahashi hasn’t quit or passed out. Red Shoes has phenomenal false finish teases on submissions. He hints at ringing the bell, as if he heard an audio submission and then goes back to check again. It’s the work of a master. When the finish comes there’s a hint of inevitability. Tenzan is worn out from his attempts at getting a tap out and gets caught with the Slingblade. He kicks out of that but gets beaten with the High Fly Flow moments later. The crowd were really hoping for a Tenzan win but, despite the lengthy Anaconda Vice spot, it was never really on the cards.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Picks: 10/15. Best night yet for me on picks as I went 4/5. Only that son of a bitch Fale wrecked everything.
Before we go, here’s the new Block A standings.
AJ Styles 4
Hiroshi Tanahashi 4
Tetsuya Naito 2
Hiroyoshi Tenzan 2
Togi Makabe 2
Kota Ibushi 2
Bad Luck Fale 2
Katsuyori Shibata 2
Doc Gallows 0
Toru Yano 0
No hopers Gallows and Yano are the only two blanked after two matches, which will make absolutely no difference come the end. As predicted it’s AJ Styles and Hiroshi Tanahashi that are setting the pace. Expect those two to go to the wire. Shibata and Ibushi both picked up their first wins after losing to AJ and Tana, respectively, on Day One. I suspect both will still be in the running come the last couple of shows.
Summary: The least thrilling G1 show so far this year. A couple of decent matches but even the better matches didn’t deliver like the best matches on the other nights. Some of the undercard tags were quite fun but there’s a definite feeling that Block B has the better matches lined up. Still it worked fine as a show and kept me interested throughout. It was quite pleasing that they whole thing ran three hours instead of the bulging three and half hours of the other two shows. Avoid that awful Makabe-Fale match like the plague though.