Hey, it’s New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s G1 Climax, day seventeen! And we’ve made the step up into Tokyo’s prestigious Sumo Hall – where NJPW once got banned from because the fans threw seat cushions into the ring!
So the tournament is almost done but the prelims have to continue! First out are The Bullet Club, in the shape of Tama Tonga, Yujiro Takahashi & Karl Anderson. They’re fighting Mascara Dorada, Satoshi Kojima & Tomoaki Honma, fresh off his first EVER G1 win on day sixteen.
Honma and Takahashi start out but before they can get into it Tonga & Anderson rush the ring and wipe out the babyfaces. Honma, though, ain’t going out like that, and fought off all three Clubbers until Takahashi started biting him.
Honma made a brief comeback and missed his falling headbutt, but the Bullet Club ran in en masse again to restore the status quo. They kept the heat on Honma, until Anderson had a Stun Gun blocked and Honma hit the headbutt.
Kojima came in and hit his tiny chops and his shitty elbow drop but only got a nearfall. Kojima stayed on top, and wobbled his pecs, but Anderson hit a neckbreaker to make a comeback. He tagged in Tonga, and Kojima tagged in Mascara Dorada, and things got a bit flippy.
Before Dorada could get too comfortable, The Bullet Club did a spot of triple-teaming once more and Tonga made a cover. Honma tried to break it up with a headbutt but hit Dorada instead. Tonga hit the Headshrinker DDT for the win and Honma had afters with Takahashi on the outside. Decent enough match.
The second match had a de facto Team ROH versus more Bullet Club. It was Michael Elgin & reDRagon – Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly – versus Cody Hall & The Young Bucks – Matt & Nick Jackson. The Bucks badmouthed Jim Cornette before the match. Jim Cornette was not there and probably not even watching at home. WRESTLING! The Bucks’ beef with Cornette stems from his criticism of them as business-exposers. That I can’t pinpoint any particular thing Cornette might be angry about – BECAUSE THERE’S FUCKING LOADS OF IT – says it all.
O’Reilly and Nick Jackson started out and did some fast comedy, before Fish and Matt Jackson came in and did some more. They did a sweet spot where Nick was on Cody Hall’s shoulders outside and Fish sidestepped Matt, who dropkicked Hall in the gut, sending them all down. Then all three babyfaces did dives to the outside.
Back in the ring, Elgin did his stalling suplex spot on Nick Jackson, even surviving Cody Hall kicking him to herk Jackson back up, and then they did an innovative double-suplex spot: Elgin suplexed both Bucks and reDRagon teamed up to suplex Hall. I liked that.
Kyle O’Reilly got the heat put on him by The Bullet Club – though not for long because parity, right? – and made a tag out to Elgin, who destroyed both Bucks, even using them as a weapon to hit Hall. Hall and Elgin then went at it, with Hall getting a big reaction for toppling the man who the crowd have come to see as a monster. Then he blew falling out of the ring. Ah well.
reDRagon did their double team stuff on Nick Jackson and Elgin came in to get a nearfall with a bridging German suplex, which Cosy Hall broke up. Hall took out reDRagon but Elgin came back and had to be superkicked by the Young Bucks. He fought back and tried to hit his inside-out herking suplex on Nick Jackson but Hall blocked it and set up the Razor’s Edge. reDRagon blocked that and everyone went back and forth for a while. Eventually, Elgin hit a powerbomb and an Elgin Bomb on Hall for the win. Spotty, unrealistic, and exhausting, but not unentertaining.
Having run out of Bullet Club, Ricochet was out next to face KUSHIDA in a tag-team match to set up a match on day nineteen for the latter’s IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship. Ricochet is, of course, Prince Puma from Lucha Underground, as well as Ricochet from loads of other places.
Teaming with KUSHIDA were two old fellas, Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi, whereas Ricochet got Captain New Japan & Hirooki Goto. Hey, even as a descendent of the ancient Aztec tribes you’ve still gotta team with a shitarse like the Captain sometimes…
Nagata and Goto started out in the usual strong-style way, Goto targeting Nagata’s bum ribs. He tagged out to the Captain who immediately got kicked over and Nakanishi came in.
It’s never a pleasure to see Nakanishi and it was no exception here. In fact, with the exception Bad Luck Fale, this is probably the worst match-up on the entire roster. Nakanishi ran slowly wild and tagged Nagata back in, and he continued to work on the Captain, before bringing KUSHIDA in.
Ricochet begged for a tag on the apron and finally got it to speed things up in anticipation of that title match. I missed seeing him live earlier this year because he fucked up his visa application but what he lacks in admin skills he makes up for in flipping, flopping, and flying.
They went back and forth, trading moves and MOVES~! until KUSHIDA locked Ricochet in a keylock and he had to make the ropes to break it. Reset, they traded again for a double down, and both made tags.
Nagata and Goto came back in to resume their battle and exchanged forearms in the middle of the ring. They, too, traded to a double down and Goto made the tag to Captain New Japan. He missed a diving headbutt off the top and Nagata locked in a crossface that Goto had to break.
Nagata got a couple of nearfalls – one with the aid of the worst top rope move from Nakanishi you’ve ever seen – and it all broke down. When things cleared, Nagata had the Captain in the Shirome armbar for the submission victory, while Nakanishi racked Goto and KUSHIDA and Ricochet fought on the outside. Solid, unspectacular work.
The other side of the faction coin, Chaos, came out for the last match before the interval, with Shinsuke Nakamura leading YOSHI-HASHI, Tomohiro Ishii, and Kazushi Sakuraba, making a rare appearance. Maria Kanelis led out The Kingdom – Matt Taven & Michael Bennett – to face them, and they were joined by IWGP Heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada and Gedo – who are both Chaos, too! Weirdsville.
The reason, of course, is to give the Okada versus Nakamura match on day eighteen that little bit of sizzle, although as a decider it really doesn’t need it. Okada decided he was starting for his team and none of the Chaos lads seemed keen to take him on. Eventually, Ishii stepped up but by that time Bennett had taken the lead for his side.
Ishii fought off a double-teaming from The Kingdom early doors and got a quick nearfall on Bennett. He tagged out to YOSHI-HASHI who didn’t fare as well and Taven came in to keep the heat on the loon-panted fool.
Gedo stepped in and eye-raked YOSHI-HASHI, which Ishii did NOT like, and then tagged out to Okada. Further shenanigans ensued and Ishii got angry again. YOSHI-HASHI made his own comeback and tagged out to Nakamura, who went after Okada and did the vibrating leg thingy. He hit his knee spots and got a nearfall, and Okada fought back after the reset.
They traded forearms but Okada hit Heavy Rain and his team rushed in to clear the apron. Nakamura got quadruple-teamed, and Okada got a nearfall with an uppercut. Suddenly, Chaos rushed in and helped Nakamura hit a running knee for a nearfall broken by Bennett. Nakamura got up, and called for Bom A Ye but Okada met it with a dropkick for a double down.
Gedo and Sakuraba tagged in, and kicked the shit out if Gedo before getting cradled for a nearfall. Gedo tried kicking from the reset but Sakuraba blocked it and applied a sleeperhold. Maria got up on the apron and distracted him with her sluttiness and Gedo hit back, but Sakuraba locked on the Sakuraba Lock for the win. Fun, interesting match.
After the interval, which because it was a proper show actually had stuff for people to watch (still no raffle, though), the G1 tournament resumed with the final Block A matches. There were only two possible winners of the Block – AJ Styles and Hiroshi Tanahashi – and they meet in the main event. Everything else was just window dressing…
That’s a poor way to describe to Doc Gallows, unless you want a shitty window, but he was out first to fight Katsuyori Shibata, who will kick a man where it hurts and it hurts EVERYWHERE when Shibata kicks a man. Seeing Shibata, in his plain gear, made me realise I didn’t get any Young Boy action – I blame the Young Bucks.
Shibata tried the Inoki start, on his back trying to lure Gallows in, but stood up for a more traditional start. He soon had Gallows on the mat, though, with a Figure Four leglock within the first minute. Gallows reversed it, Shibata turned it back again, and Gallows made the ropes.
Shibata kept the heat on, facewashing Gallows in the corner until Gallows had had enough and stood up and overpowered him. He knocked him to the outside and went out after him, during the usual ringside brawl stuff and leaving Shibata out there, hoping for a count-out. Shibata made it back up to the apron but Gallows chokeslammed him on the ring and left him outside again.
Shibata made it back in on eighteen but Gallows didn’t let up, giving Shibata his own facewashing in the corner. Shibata fired up and they traded, before. Shibata dropkick put Gallows in the corner, ripe for the low dropkick in the FACE. Shibata got a nearfall from that.
From the reset he locked on a sleeper but Gallows powered out. Shibata went for another and Gallow fought it again, this time to the ropes. He hit a gutwrench suplex and they both went down. Gallows was up first and lifted Shibata up for a suplex but Shibata reversed it into a sleeper. When Gallows fought out, Shibata kicked him to the mat for a nearfall but Gallows came back with a sitout powerbomb for one of his own.
Gallows tried to score a lazy pin with a choke press but Shibata turned it into a gogolplata. When Gallows wouldn’t quit, Shibata kicked him for a nearfall. Gallows got up from the pin attempt with fire and hit Shibata with some big boots before hitting the Gallows Pole for the win. Poor old Shibata, losing to Gallows AND Fale. Decent match, though.
Speaking of Fale, he was out next, to the joy of absolutely no-one. And his opponent, in a match I’ve been dreading ever since these line-ups were announced, was Toru Yano. Bullet Club versus Chaos, then, but – more importantly – shitarse versus shitarse.
Fale jumped Yano before the bell, clubbing him in the corner, before splashing him for a nearfall. Yano rolled outside but Fale continued his attack out there, smashing Yano with his own DVD. Tama Tonga stood by, looking like he wanted no part of this.
Fale climbed back into the ring and Yano made it back on eighteen, worst luck. Fale continued the assault but Yano managed to remove the turnbuckle pad and lured Fale in. Fale hit the bare turnbuckles but got right back to beating in Yano and threw him into the turnbuckles. He then tossed him outside, where Tama Tonga beat on him.
Fale joined Yano outside and went to hit the Bad Luck Fall into the announcers’ table but Yano wriggled out and hit twin low blows on Fale & Tonga. He scurried back into the ring and Fale failed to make the count, handing Yano a count-out win. Christ. Well, it was a lot better than I’d feared.
Onwards, and hopefully upwards, with the next Block A contest, Hiroyoshi Tenzan versus Tetsuya Naito. Naito has been a JOY to watch in the G1, though his apathetic rudo act hasn’t been for everyone. Tenzan is as Tenzan does.
Naito sauntered to the ring in his Los Ingobernables get-up, the sharp suit and silver skull mask. What does it mean? Who cares! While Tenzan made his entrance, Naito stood, still as a statue, and still wearing his suit and mask. Tenzan ordered him to take it off and Naito simply blinked at him. God, I fucking love him. Tenzan got increasingly angry but Naito remained unmoved, and the crowd began to boo. HEAT. Eventually, began to disrobe and the bell rang…
Naito took his jacket off and waved it, like a bullfighter waves his cloak, and Tenzan charged in and attacked him. They spilled outside and Naito got ran into the ringpost and then stomped aplenty. Tenzan laid in some headbutts and threw Naito back in the ring, and Naito simply rolled out the other side.
Tenzan went after him but Naito was waiting and ran him into the barriers and threw him into the front row. Naito returned to the ring and finished undressing, while Tenzan made his way back.
Naito, undressed, exploded after Tenzan and knocked him out of the ring. He faked diving out after him but instead lay in the middle of the ring, like a dick. Tenzan got back in again and Naito put the boots to him, then locked in headscissors to start the wear down. Tenzan made the ropes.
Naito spat at Tenzan and hit a low dropkick. He stood on Tenzan’s face and did the Los Ingobernables pose as Red Shoes sadly shook his head. Naito put Tenzan across the ropes and I noticed that Tenzan seems to have dyed one of his eyebrows. Odd.
Tenzan fought back and Naito spat again and stole Tenzan’s Mongolian chops. The crowd didn’t like that. Tenzan hit back with a HUGE headbutt, leaving Naito writhing on the mat, and then put the boots to the rudo. He hit his Mongolian chops and more headbutts, and Naito lay there, imploring him to hit some more. What a dick!
They traded some more and Naito spat again, and then exploded into action, getting a nearfall after his inside-out dropkick deal. Naito thought it should have earned more and pushed Red Shoes out of the ring. The abuse of refs in this tournament has been SHOCKING.
Tenzan fired back with a Samoan Drop and Red Shoes laid a stomp in, earning the cheers of the crowd. Tenzan hit a falling headbutt for a nearfall, and some Mongolian chops, earning a spit in the face from Naito, before hitting a spin kick for another nearfall.
Tenzan locked in Anaconda Vice but Naito stood it up and fought out, hitting an enzuigiri and a bridging German suplex for a nearfall. He glared at Red Shoes but feared the wrath of the ref, and instead hit a reverse Atomic Drop and locked in a Koji Clutch, which gave us a close-up look at his sweet boots. Tenzan broke out with headbutts and they both looked fucked.
Standing up, they traded forearms and Naito went wild with slaps, kicks, and spit, but Tenzan fought back with a lariat to take Naito down. Tenzan locked on Anaconda Vice again and prevented a standing Naito breaking it by headbutting him to the mat, falling himself. He locked on Anaconda Vice again and this time Naito submitted. Good match, that. Oh, and it wasn’t a dyed eyebrow, it was a sticking plaster. Presumably because of all that headbutting.
And so to the semi-main event – some people’s tournament MVP, Kota Ibushi, versus Togi Makabe, possessor of the most METAL music in New Japan.
In complete contrast to the last match, they nodded respectfully to each other across the ring… and then Makabe laid in some heavy forearms, knocking Ibushi into the corner. Ibushi exploded back out with kicks and tried to speed things up but Makabe knocked him right back down to STOP again.
They reset and Ibushi got to kicking Makabe again, taking him off his feet, the big man clutching at his strapped thigh. Ibushi went to work on the leg and Makabe made the ropes, forcing a break. Ibushi laid in the kicks and stomps again, Makabe’s selling top-notch here, and carried on that tack until Makabe stood up, urging further beating. Then he did it some more.
Suddenly, Makabe exploded with a lariat, taking Ibushi down and roaring at the crowd. He attacked Ibushi with punches and a bridging German suplex for a nearfall. Ibushi tried to fight back but Makabe bulled him into the corner and hit the ten punch deal – only he didn’t make ten before Ibushi slipped out and flip-kicked Makabe off the top, following up with another kick to send him to the floor. Ibushi followed up with the quebrada off the turnbuckles and they both went down outside.
Back in the ring, they traded forearms, until Ibushi introduced kicks to his advantage, and a standing moonsault for a nearfall. We got a shot of Young Boy Jay White watching very intently at ringside.
After the reset, Makabe got on top with some clubbing forearms and a clothesline, and then hit a powerbomb for a nearfall. He took Ibushi up top and tried to hit his super German suplex but Ibushi fought out and flipped out and hit a running kick to the prone Makabe in the corner. Ibushi laid in some kicks and went up top himself, hit the Phoenix Splash and covered Makabe for the win. A good match.
Hey, it’s our main event! It’s Hiroshi Tanahashi versus AJ Styles, and the winner goes through to the G1 Climax Finals! Unusually for such a big match, Styles came out on his own with no Bullet Club back-up. Tanahashi is always on his own because he’s New Japan’s John Cena and doesn’t have need any friends.
Styles started strongly, wearing Tanahashi down with a long headlock which defied Tanahashi’s attempts to break it. And even when Tanahashi did break it, Styles put it right back on. Tanahashi eventually reversed it into a headlock of his own and Styles fired him off into the ropes for the deadly INTERNATIONAL~! and a reset after Tanahashi rolled through another Styles headlock.
They taunted each other in the middle of the ring and Styles rushed in to be armdragged into an armbar. I’m guessing these guys are going long. Styles stood the armbar up but Tanahashi took him right back down again. They traded some and Tanahashi took Styles down with a backdrop. All Tanahashi at this point.
Tanahashi went to work on Styles’s leg, preparing for the Dragon Screw that would inevitably follow, and hit a splash on the leg for a nearfall. Styles fired back and they traded some more, and Styles threw Tanahashi out of the ring. Tanahashi skinned the cat but Styles caught him and shoved him to the floor. He went out after him and dropped him into the barriers for a mouth-ouch.
His hair like a scruffy provincial teenager, Styles rolled back in the ring, where Tanahashi joined him, holding his mouth. Styles laid the boots in and went to work, kneedropping Tanahashi’s face for further mouth-ouch.
Styles kept the heat on Tanahashi, attacking his knee (because I guess you can’t work a submission on the mouth?), until he missed a splash in the corner and Tanahashi came back, hitting a flying forearm to take Styles down. He then shined until he missed a flip senton from the top rope, allowing Styles to pop up and try to hit the flying forearm. However, Tanahashi was too quick for him and knocked him to the floor, and hit a High Fly Flow onto a standing Styles on the outside.
Tanahashi made it back inside and Styles joined him on nineteen, where he hit a neckbreaker on the apron to buy some time. Styles then hit a moonsault off the second rope into an inverted DDT, which looked sweet, if a bit clumsy.
Styles looked for the flying forearm again but Tanahashi caught him in a fireman’s carry. Styles fought out but Tanahashi went behind and hit a German suplex for a nearfall. After eating a jawjacker from Styles, Tanahashi caught a kick and hit a Dragon Screw legwhip which left Styles in agony. Tanahashi looked wiped out, too.
Tanahashi got up and charged into the corner but Styles pulled Red Shoes in front of him and the ref took the brunt of it. With Red Shoes down, Styles hit a low blow and set up the Styles Clash, but Tanahashi hit back with a low blow of his own. Both men lay on the mat, holding their nuts. Quite a visual.
They stood up – Red Shoes, too – and started a forearm battel. An exhausted, staggering forearm battel. Styles laid in the kicks and took Tanahashi down, but Tanahashi hit back with punches to Styles abdomen, and they resumed their forearm battel on their knees. The battel took them to their feet again and they traded more blows. Styles retreated to the corner and, when Tanahashi came after him, rolled him through into the Calf Killer. Red Shoes did his ear-cupping deal, trying to hear any submission, but Tanahashi wouldn’t give it up and made the ropes.
Styles tried to drag Tanahashi back into the middle of the ring but Tanahashi wouldn’t let go of the ropes. Red Shoes made him stop pulling and he shoved Red Shoes down. Didn’t he watch the last match? Tanahashi got up and went after Styles but Styles hit a kick and went for the brainbuster. Tanahashi blocked it and hit a rolling cutter and, reader, it was all so smooth that I nearly G1 Climaxed myself.
His dander up, Tanahashi ran off the ropes but Styles caught him and hit that ace facebuster that Dean Ambrose has been using for a nearfall. Styles retreated to the apron once more, and hit the flying forearm, but still only got a nearfall, his irritation palpable. He set Tanahashi up for the Styles Clash but Tanahashi blocked it and he had to let it go and Tanahashi hit back with the slingblade.
For the ultimate win, Tanahashi set-up a Styles Clash of his own but Styles escaped and applied an ankle lock. Tanahashi rolled through and sent Styles into the turnbuckle and then did hit the Styles Clash for a very nearfall. Looking to end it, he went up top for the High Fly Flow but Styles got his knees up and THIS MATCH MUST CONTINUE!
Styles went to the top himself and hit High Fly Flow but couldn’t quite get the three count. He hit Bloody Sunday and signalled for the Styles Clash but Tanahashi hit another Dragon Screw legwhip and THIS IS AMAZING.
They fought to their feet, Tanahashi slapping Styles and catching a Pele Kick, which he turned into another Dragon Screw. Going back up top, he hit High Fly Flow on a standing Styles and then another for the pinfall after TWENTY SEVEN minutes. Incredible match, possibly the best of the tournament so far, and it’s been a tournament with some fantastic matches.
This was a Good Show. The introduction of some new fellas in the prelims actually took away from the matches for me, weirdly, because I’d rather watch the regulars that missed out instead, but the G1 matches were mostly good and the last match was freaking GREAT. Just two more shows to go in this most marathon of marathons!
Block A Final Standings: Tanahashi 7-2, Styles 6-3, Fale 5-4, Naito 5-4, Ibushi 4-5, Makabe 4-5, Shibata 4-5, Yano 4-5, Gallows 3-6, Tenzan 3-6