1st August 2015.
We’re in Osaka, Japan.
It’s a sad today as the wrestling world has lost one of the all-time greats; Roderick Toombs, better known to the universe as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. His untimely death, at the age of 61, leaves the world without one of the icons of wrestling. A man who helped introduce me to the world of American wrestling. Without the big personalities like Piper and Randy Savage, I may not have fallen so in love with the business as a kid. I never liked Hogan, but I always loved Roddy Piper. He came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. When we thought we had all the answers, he changed the questions.
Rest in Peace, Roddy.
The G1 continues today after a two day absence, during which the condition of Shinsuke Nakamura has been fiercely debated. If you had any doubt which side of the fence I was on, I pretty much thought it was a work from the first time it was announced. His match against Yuji Nagata was relatively uneventful and missing dates, and a match from the tournament, gave favourite Nakamura a bigger hill to climb. It’s classic booking. Nakamura returns tonight to face his CHAOS team-mate, and close friend, Tomohiro Ishii. What a story they’ll have ready for us later on. Before we get underway here are the Blocks:
Tetsuya Naito 6
Bad Luck Fale 6
Katsuyori Shibata 6
AJ Styles 4
Hiroshi Tanahashi 4
Kota Ibushi 4
Togi Makabe 4
Hiroyoshi Tenzan 2
Toru Yano 2
Doc Gallows 2
Tomohiro Ishii 6
Kazuchika Okada 6
Karl Anderson 4
Hirooki Goto 4
Yuji Nagata 2
Satoshi Kojima 2
Shinsuke Nakamura 2
Yujiro Takahashi 2
Michael Elgin 2
Tomoaki Honma 0
Tonight’s line up sees Block B under the microscope and has the most fascinating line-up of matches since Block B started. Every match has something going for it and at the top end of the card, there is so much at stake. After Nakamura vs. Ishii, which has massive ramifications on the Block, is Goto vs. Okada. The two principle singles champions of NJPW. The IWGP champion, Okada, facing off against the man who wants to unify their belts; the IC champion Hirooki Goto. Already there have been suggestions this won’t go like their normal matches; Goto is plucky but ultimately can’t overcome Okada. Plus Honma is in action, attempting to get his first ever G1 victory, and indeed his first ever major singles win for New Japan.
Bullet Club (Doc Gallows & Cody Hall) vs. David Finlay & Jay White
Doc is wrestling Bullet Club buddy AJ Styles tomorrow night so he doesn’t require a hype match this evening. Instead paired up with a young lion against two young lions. It speaks volumes about his spot on the roster and makes you wonder why he got booked into G1 in the first place. Being partnered with Cody gives the Bullet Club duo a big size advantage and they provide a very different match to the usual Young Lions contest. Jay White embraces his underdog status magnificently. I’ve said this before, but he’s shaping up to a splendid talent. Finlay is working on his beefy uppercuts too and he’s getting popped for hitting strikes, which is great for a Young Lion. Cody is easily the roughest of the Young Lions but his genes give him a massive natural advantage and he’s starting to carry his size well. It’ll be interesting to see how all the Young Lions develop as time goes by. They certainly seem like a good crop at the moment though. Cody has trouble selling and bumping for smaller guys but that’s normal. Gallows finishes Jay off with the Mehshugganator and this was actually pretty good.
Final Rating: **1/2
Kota Ibushi, Tetsuya Naito & Mascara Dorada vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Togi Makabe & Yohei Komatsu
More setting up of bouts for Day Nine here with Ibushi scheduled to meet Tenzan and Naito competing against Makabe. In terms of line-up’s, tomorrow’s is one of the weakest on the tour. The biggest single potential moment of excitement is that Togi Makabe might tee off on Naito in spectacular fashion. No suit for Naito this evening but he actually looks motivated and TAKES HIS FUCKING SHIRT OFF! Holy shit. Way to sell the Makabe match! Then he immediately bails when Togi tags in. One of the, many, things that grate at me about New Naito is that he wrestles in a t-shirt. Dorada and Komatsu are in this match to bring the workrate and thrills and that’s what they do. The surprising best moments come from Ibushi, who decides to sell for Komatsu, reminding us it’s not that long since he was a killer junior. One day someone just casually announced KOTA IBUSHI IS NOW A HEAVYWEIGHT and he stopped being fodder for the bigger guys. Even though he was still junior heavyweight champion. Togi also brings the goods, absolutely pounding Naito and not taking any shit from him whatsoever, happily blindsiding the punk bastard when he’s playing to the crowd. It seems Tenzan fucking hates Naito too, at one point shoving the ref over so he can stomp Naito in the head. I like that the old guard hate Naito’s mentality as it’s entirely in line with my old school mentality. As I mentioned earlier, the match is at its best when it’s Dorada vs. Komatsu, with the Young Lion busting out some cool roll ups for near falls, making me briefly think he’ll win, before Dorada scores the victory.
Final Rating: **3/4
Tangent: Naito vs. Old Lions is a brilliant storyline and better than anything he’s done in this heel turn. Makabe and Tenzan both looked suitably wound-up by Naito’s antics. I’d love to see a protracted feud there, unlike the rest of Naito’s interactions where he spends too long stalling and taking the steam out of super-workers. I could totally see a Tenzan, Kojima or Makabe program working beautifully.
Bullet Club (AJ Styles, Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga) vs. Katsuyori Shibata, Captain New Japan & Tiger Mask IV
This is to hype up Shibata vs. Fale on Day Nine. Shibata has been outstanding so far in the G1 but is starting to run out of quality opponents. His only remaining shot at a wonderful match is Hiroshi Tanahashi and they’re friends nowadays, removing a lot of the rage from the match that was so good last year. Fale isn’t an interesting opponent for him, whatsoever, so it’s an uphill struggle to get me into that match. Captain New Japan is such a jobber he gets announced before the junior Tiger Mask, which confuses the cameraman, ready to zoom in on Tiger Mask before having to rapidly change direction. Shibata reveals his tactical plans for Fale early; lots of leg kicks. I find it hard to care about any of this as AJ gets paired off with Captain fucking New Japan and that just seems like a complete waste. AJ amuses himself by destroying Tiger Mask’s knee but he’s just too good to be wasted in a match like this. I appreciate him putting effort into what is, essentially, a rest night but the only thing that’s really cool about it is seeing him work Tiger Mask. It makes me excited for Rev Pro putting on AJ vs. Liger in October. The eventual back and forth with Shibata is brilliant, making it unfortunate that their Block match took place before Shibata was 100% recovered from his elbow injury. While they accomplish nothing toward the Shibata-Fale match, AJ Styles is terrific throughout, as always. Tama gets the pin on Captain fucking New Japan with his Headshrinker DDT, showing NJPW wanted to give him some love for not booking him in the G1.
Final Rating: **
Tangent: Tama Tonga is an idiot. Having been given these little moments to prove himself, he then goes and does something monumentally stupid. In this case, throwing the referee out of the ring. Thus merely mimicking the actions of Tetsuya Naito, rather than giving Bullet Club their own persona. Something the group has permanently struggled with as it’s always been seen as an nWo knock-off. The referee assaults should definitely be kept to a bare minimum as that kind of thing can be overdone in a hurry.
CHAOS (Toru Yano, Gedo & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA & Ryusuke Taguchi
This merely exists to shill the Tanahashi-Yano main event on Day Nine. Not that it needs shilling as they’ve wrestled each other constantly since Yano knocked Tana out of the New Japan Cup. Taguchi needs to stop aping Shinsuke Nakamura. Either that or NJPW need to hire Chinsuke Nakamura for him to work with. If you’re unfamiliar; Chinsuke is a Nakamura impersonator who DDT hired to wrestle Kota Ibushi earlier in the year, because DDT thinks that kind of thing is funny. To be fair, it is. They worked most of their match in slow motion. Worryingly the best wrestling here comes from KUSHIDA, starved of action so far in G1. I persist KUSHIDA would have been a good guy to have in the G1 itself. Who cares if he’s a junior? Most of the match is Taguchi being Taguchi and I’m not interested in that. The crowd seem to find him amusing and it gives them a break in the seriousness so at least there’s that. Plus KUSHIDA goes over by hooking Gedo in the kimura. Needed more KUSHIDA!
Final Rating: *3/4
G1 Climax Block B
Yujiro Takahashi vs. Satoshi Kojima
Pre-Match Pick: Kojima. Mainly because I don’t want Yujiro to get any more points. I’ll be wrong at some point but seeing him job is fine by me. Still no Mao, and Yujiro’s latest tour babe looks bored in a pink two-piece. My guess is she’s a stripper. I’m not keen on Yujiro’s tour girls. Mao has far superior personality. Yujiro is so dull the crack production crew, so called because of their obsession with ladies backsides, focus on Takahashi’s escort for the evening who he’s set up on a ringside chair. Like with most Yujiro matches I find my attention wandering during the contest. Kojima looks tired and unprepared to push the pace. Kojima still works in his trademark spots but the match is dominated by Takahashi and his pacing is not entertaining to watch. Block B has suffered because of Yujiro being in it, generally dragging down the pacing and excitement of every match he’s involved in. Kojima takes his sweet time on a comeback, batters Yujiro with a lariat and Cody Hall pulls the ref out. WHY ARE THESE NOT DQ’S? Fucking Bullet Club. Yujiro hits a low blow and the Miami Shine finishes. Again, why is it not a DQ for blatant outside interference? Total logic failure and a gaping storyline hole. I’m not just saying that because it’s already wrecked my predictions for the evening.
Final Rating: *
G1 Climax Block B
Karl Anderson vs. Yuji Nagata
Pre-Match Pick: Anderson. Time for him to get back into the mix after a high profile loss. Hopefully without outside interference as the Bullet Club cheating is starting to cast a shadow over this tournament, which is completely unwelcome. It’s perhaps predictable this match is a little sluggish, by design, with three big marquee matches following it. Nagata is still selling his ribs so that gives Karl a target. Nice to get some body part continuity between shows. Nagata is great at selling and the injury gives Karl a chance to slow things down and taunt the veteran. It’s what he does best. His mocking salute is quite wonderful. Especially as he can’t stop doing it once Nagata recovers and he’s left saluting and in shock. Luckily the match is built around logic and Nagata, limited by his inability to hit suplexes, instead focusing on his super ground game. Karl’s counters are all nicely logical too, timed escapes when Nagata’s ribs slow him down. Nagata keeps trying for big moves but gets flattened with the Gun Stun for his troubles. This was far from exciting but made sense throughout. Nagata’s rib injury has produced two fine selling displays and pretty much taken him out of contention.
Final Rating: ***1/4
G1 Climax Block B
Michael Elgin vs. Tomoaki Honma
Pre-Match Pick: Elgin. This is Honma’s biggest chance at a win in the tournament so far. You sense if he does win it’ll be during a big show and Osaka is pretty big. These guys are both big hitters, in terms of striking and charging into each other. It’s a good match up. They try and mimic each other’s spots a bit with Honma lifting the stalling suplex, which looks horrifically dangerous but nobody dies. Elgin mostly overpowers Honma including his ridiculous suplex from the outside in, where Honma gets jacked up over the top rope. It’s moves like that which have gotten Elgin over. Where he’s impressed me is going toe to toe with the likes of Honma and not looking out of place. It usually takes gaijin a few tours to get used to the striking. Elgin is right in there. When they get into the strike duels the match is not unlike the Honma-Ishii match from earlier in the year, which was so outstanding. There’s an excellent spot where Honma attempts a Kokeshi, gets caught in mid-air and thrown by Elgin. It’s virtually hardway and sensational stuff. From there Elgin overpowers Honma on his way to victory. I feel bad for Honma but surely they’re saving a big win for later in the tour.
Final Rating: ****
KOKESHI COUNT – 2 missed. 3 hit.
SUPER KOKESHI COUNT – 1 missed.
G1 Climax Block B
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Pre-Match Pick: Nakamura. He simply has to win all his remaining matches if he’s to contest G1 this year. His entrance seems to hold more gravitas in this match, everyone safe in the knowledge that Nakamura is back. His potential tournament ending injury is nowhere to be seen and he throws his arms around like a lunatic just walking to the ring. I think it’s safe to say that was a work. They’ve taped his arm up but all the wrestlers in G1 have something taped up by Day Eight. I notice it’s the left elbow, which won’t interfere with a single spot that Nakamura does as he’s all knees and right elbows. Ishii doesn’t work the injury as that’s not in his tactical wheelhouse. Ishii’s tactics involve battering the opponent until they can’t stand anymore. Limb work doesn’t suit him. Nakamura is generous to his friend, and CHAOS running buddy Ishii, by selling his strikes huge and allowing Ishii to virtually no sell all Shinsuke’s offence. Apart from the knees, of course. Nakamura’s knees are the hardest substance on earth. They slowly build toward a war with both guys taking moderately big bumps and a constant barrage of strikes. As per usual Ishii crumples to the mat complaining of an injured shoulder. It’s the story of almost every Ishii match and he’s so convincing it’s always hard to tell if he’s selling or he’s hurt. Even though he does it in literally every match. I think a lot of it stems from last year’s G1 where Ishii legitimately injured his shoulder and had all manner of problems with it. Nakamura sells as if he’s fatigued and yet he should be quite fresh coming in. He catches Ishii with a high kick and a pair of Boma Ye’s but Ishii KICKS OUT! That felt like a total finish. To the point where I was ready to summarise the match. From there they head into dramatic counters, keeping the audience guessing and teasing near finishes. Ishii looks to have it only for Nakamura to counter one more time and hit Boma Ye to end Ishii’s 100% record and begin his comeback. Very good match but last year’s was a lot better.
Final Rating: ***3/4
G1 Climax Block B
Hirooki Goto vs. Kazuchika Okada
Pre-Match Pick: Goto. In my pre-tournament picks I’ve only gone against Okada twice. I think he’ll probably have to lose again somewhere else but this one certainly has the feeling of a contest it wouldn’t kill him to job in. Okada looks mildly disinterested, suspecting his big match record against Goto is too good for the IWGP champ to lose. He’s not lacking in confidence. There’s a reason for that and when they spill outside Okada hits a frankly ridiculous dive over the rail. I know AJ Styles has been doing that guardrail jump for years but Okada is much bigger and it makes for an impressive visual. Moments like that make amends for every moment where Okada doesn’t appear to be giving it the G1 effort. By making the tour so long New Japan may have shot themselves in the foot, causing the effort levels to suffer due to the sheer amount of wrestling that’s expected of the talent. Either that or this match is going to a 30 minute draw and they need to kill time. The sequences in the match are quite familiar, as if I’ve seen it before, and Goto doesn’t seem in a terribly creative mood. Although Okada does, finding counters for almost everything Goto throws at him once the pace increases. It’s almost as if they’ve gone out of their way to prove that Goto isn’t on Okada’s level, no matter how hard he tries.
Naturally that’s countered, into Ushigoroshi. As smooth as I find Goto during strikes and counters, I find his big spots to be unusually cumbersome and overdone. Apart from Shouten Kai, which is why it’s brilliant as his finisher. Okada goes after a second Rainmaker attempt, which earns him a HEADBUTT TO THE JAW. That looked pretty sick. Okada gets out of Shouten Kai, but another Rainmaker misses, and another headbutt rattles Okada. SHOUTEN KAI! Goto wins! This was a wee bit slow to get going but the last five minutes were magic.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Picks: 27/40. 4/5 tonight with only the bastard Yujiro ruining things and he should have been DQ’d so that’s bullshit. Here’s the updated Block to take us out.
Tomohiro Ishii 6
Kazuchika Okada 6
Karl Anderson 6
Hirooki Goto 6
Shinsuke Nakamura 4
Yujiro Takahashi 4
Michael Elgin 4
Yuji Nagata 2
Satoshi Kojima 2
Tomoaki Honma 0
The Sword and Guns wins brings parity to the top of the table. With Nakamura besting Ishii, Okada had to be kept in check. It keeps the group tight and unpredictable. Although Nakamura is still the firm favourite.
Tangent: A headache beset me during this, making it doubly tough to write up. Add that to the list of G1 injuries. What’s next, Carpel Tunnel?
Summary: All four of the main events delivered, to differing degrees. The undercard was mostly disappointing and I was particularly enraged with the bullshit finish on Takahashi-Kojima. Those Bullet Club interference moments need to be addressed before they get out of hand. They’ve been doing this for years! It was frustrating around the IWGP title but doing it during G1 effects an entire tournament. Not that I was keen on Suzuki-gun doing the interference thing either.