Here are my notes from each day of the NJPW G-1 Climax Tournament. These are for people new to NJPW and current fans. So don’t get too annoyed if I keep explaining who certain people are – it’s for the benefit of those annoying noobs. I’m kidding, I love you NJPW noobs too. Also, I’m only watching the tournament matches and not the undercards. I’m sure there’s some fun tag matches on these shows, but I want to focus on the tournament itself.
Day 5 are all Block A matches. Rejoice, it’s a multi camera shoot and we’ve got commentary!! Praise the Lord! I can’t stress enough how annoying those one camera, no commentary G-1 shows are. I get there’s a lot of shows, that it’s early days in the tournament, and all the other reasons why NJPW do this. But on the flip side – IT’S THE FUCKING G-1!!! It’s big time important shit. Let’s treat it that way, yeah? Anyway, enough bitching. We’ve got G-1 matches to get to, so let’s do it!
As if having commentary on this show wasn’t enough, we’ve also got the LEGEND Jushin Liger joining the team for the tournament matches. Even though I can’t understand 99% of what he says, he’s still a better commentator than anyone in WWE. Why? Emotion and excitement. This guy is into everything. He laughs, marks out, freaks out, gets annoyed. He’s fucking great. Liger enhances matches in a way that JBL and Jerry Lawler could only dream of, and the guy doesn’t speak English. TREMENDOUS.
Bad Luck Fale vs. Doc Gallows
Just as Liger brings me up and puts me in a great, positive mood, here come these two useless fucks to ruin it. Ok, bit harsh on Doc, he’s not that bad. But Fale? Fucking hell. What a waste of a spot in this tournament this big lug is. This match was between two guys I don’t like, who are in the same stable, who both work a slow, plodding, uninteresting big man style. YAY! Call me cynical but I didn’t have high hopes for this one going in.
Those lowly expectations were matched as this match was both crappy and boring. It doesn’t need much more analysis than that. Liger seemed to enjoy big dudes slowing hitting and bumping into each other. So at least there was that.
The finish came when Doc escaped the Bad Luck Fall (razors edge), hit a superkick of sorts, came off the ropes and got hit with Fale’s deadly thumb to the throat finisher. Move along people, nothing to see here.
WINNER: Bad Luck Fale
Toru Yano vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
If you’re playing the Yano drinking game at home, you’d have been smashed after this short match. Use of water bottle? Take a drink. Use of chair? Take a drink. Choking opponent with tape? Take a drink. Removing turnbuckle pads? Take a drink. Do a cheeky smile and shrug three times during the match? Take a drink. Wobbly white belly jiggling uncontrollably? Take a drink. Yano matches are what they are – fun if you like him, annoying and samey if you don’t.
The only thing of real note happened when Tenzan misjudged his diving headbutt off the top and FUCKING NAILED Yano. He busted them both wide open hard way, with Yano hitting a gusher. He was leaking blood everywhere and immediately NJPW marks began clocking up the blood loss on the famous Muta scale. They went right to the finish as Yano looked FUCKED up. Yano went for a backslide, hit a mule kick low blow and finished the backslide for the win.
WINNER: Toru Yano
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Togi Makabe
After two pretty uninspiring matches, this one brought me back into the show. There was a good buzz from the crowd before this one. This was everything I thought it would be going in – two dudes kicking the shit out of each other in various nasty ways. Some might call this a clash of styles but I felt they worked really well together. No finesse, no complicated spots and counters. Just two dudes, beating the shit out of each other. Duckman approved.
There were all the vicious kicks, forearms, slaps and lariats you’d expect from these two. Shibata throws every forearm shot like the dude opposite him owes him money, fucked his Mum and killed his childhood pet. It’s glorious.
The finish came after Shibata kicked out of a big powerbomb from Makabe. He hooked on his rear naked choke, put Makabe to sleep and then nailed him with his running PK kick to the chest. The only thing lacking from this match was time, they could’ve given them another 5-8 minutes and really allowed them to put together something great. As it was, the match was good, stiff and fun, but a little on the short side.
WINNER: Katsuyori Shibata
AJ Styles vs. Kota Ibushi
If it was possible to marry and then make love on a daily basis to a wrestling match (is that gay?) then I think this match might be it for me. This was two of the best workers in the world, proving why they are just that. It was the best match of the G-1 so far and I can’t do it justice in the written form. You fuckers need to take the time to go find this and watch it. It’s beyond awesome.
Ok, I said I can’t do it justice here, but I’ll try. We had quick paced mat work early on. They ramped things up with Ibushi landing big kicks and AJ selling them perfectly. AJ hit a fucking Rock Bottom on the guard rail – that should’ve killed Ibushi but this is NJPW and it takes more than that to stop these crazy fuckers. I also now firmly believe that AJ Styles has the best backbreaker in all of professional wrestling. The spots these two worked have to be seen. Every big move was built to, had great counters and crossing up, before the move was hit with maximum effect. Perfect pro wrestling. They did a spot where Ibushi went for his dead-lift German suplex from the ring with AJ on the apron, AJ countered it and looked go for a tombstone on the apron, but Ibushi countered that with a hurricanrana off the apron! INSANE.
AJ countered a hurricanrana off the top, went for a diving one off the top of his own, Ibushi rolled through with it, AJ countered, lifted him up for the Styles Clash, Ibushi kicked his way out, AJ ducked an Ibushi kick on the feet and fucking KILLED him with a lariat and then hit a Style Clash tombstone and Ibushi kicked out!! The traded striking combos, both hit Pele kicks, AJ hit a NASTY Bloody Sunday DDT and Ibushi kicked out!! The crowd lost their shit, I lost my shit, Jushin Liger lost his shit. SHIT WAS LOST!!
The finish came after Ibushi blocked a Styles Clash attempt when they were both standing on the top turnbuckle, he hit a big hurricanrana off the top, followed up with a powerbomb and then a Phoenix Splash for the three count!! It was insane. I needed a cigarette after. These two guys are what makes NJPW so damn good. A big win for Ibushi and another incredible performance from two incredible performers.
WINNER: Kota Ibushi
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito
So then this match had to follow AJ and Ibushi and I thought they had no fucking chance. How wrong I was. This was a completely different match to the last. While that was all insane athletic moves, innovative spots and gravity defying shit, this match was all about telling a story, building tension and emotion and it was so fucking great.
We know what Tanahashi does – he’s the best in the world. But Naito? Where in the past he’s felt a step below the top guys, with this heel turn he’s turning that perception around. This was Naito’s coming out party and he was dressed to the nines, busting moves on the dance floor and making out the hottest girl there. In other words – he fucking OWNED this party.
For a start he took nearly 3 minutes to take of his suit, just to be an annoying dick. Then he’d do this cool thing of acting all pissy and disinterested in the match – almost bored by what Tanahashi was doing. Then he’d suddenly fire up, get all aggressive with strikes and then bail when the going got tough. He would waste time at ringside, push the camera man, all to bait Tanahashi into making a mistake. Then when he would, he’d kill him to fuck – like he did early on with a neckbreaker on the time keeper’s table. That shit wasn’t gimmicked either and it looked like the kind of bump Tanahashi probably shouldn’t be taking too often.
As the match went on Naito kept the great heel work going. Tanahashi would get pissed off and start really trying to hurt him, they really gave the sense that the match could break down at any minute. I LOVED it. Naito even spat right in Tanahashi’s face at one point and got slapped to fuck for it, only for Naito to just stare at him vacantly and then spit in his face again! Then spat at each other and Naito got fucking folded in half with a sick German suplex. It looked like Tanahashi lifted him extra high and dropped him extra quick onto the back of his head, just because he’d been such a dick!
The finish came after Naito got his knees up on a High Fly Flow (frog splash), they did the whole forearm and spit deal, but then Naito out of nowhere countered a slingblade with what looked like a Sliced Bread Number 2 for the shock pin! It came out of nowhere and the crowd were pretty stunned. A huge win for Naito and this was his best heel performance since the turn started a month back. He even beat up Red Shoes (legendary NJPW referee) after the match and cut a promo with his boot on Tanahashi’s chest. This was such a different match to the AJ/Ibushi one, but in some ways I enjoyed it more. The story told and the work of both guys was utterly compelling to me.
WINNER: Tetsuya Naito
There were only two matches that really mattered here, but what a two matches they were! Different styles but both brilliantly worked. You’ve got to see Styles/Ibushi and I’m giving that match of the night. It was so great to have full a camera shoot and Liger on commentary. The G-1 so far seems to be following the same pattern with tournament matches. They kick off with the worst match, then build to a main event, but usually the semi-main event is the best match. It was close tonight and really both matches were excellent. Check this show out! Up next, surprisingly enough, Day 6!