Hey, it’s New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s G1 Climax, day nineteen! It’s finals day and we’re still at the Sumo Hall! The final of the G1 is between long-time adversaries Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi – both men had barn-burners in getting to the final and I’m super STOKED to see it!
But first, the prelims, and – being a special super show – the prelims include a ton of title matches! No more random teamings in pleasant, accomplished house show outings! Well, some of those, too, but more besides!
Before the show started, Ring of Honor Booker Delirious was in the ring, and they announced a series of Ring of Honor shows in Japan in 2016, in association with New Japan. I think Delirious’s gimmick is that he’s had a stroke. Or he’s actually had a stroke. Either way, he was more stroke than Jeff Jarrett.
Anyway, in with the matches! First out were Ryusuke Taguchi, David Finlay & Mascara Dorada. Taguchi’s had the last two days off and I kinda missed him. But, hey, you gotta have the Young Bucks, right? Their opponents were Jushin Liger, Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu, the old boy and the Young Boys.
Komatsu and Mascara Dorada started out, but we missed the opening exchanges to watch the commentators talk. They did lucha it up a bit, though, which was brave for Komatsu, and then Finlay & Tanaka tagged in.
They did a more traditional start before Tanaka tagged out to Liger, who did his usual spots to pop the crowd. Taguchi interfered, breaking a submission with his bum, and Tanaka came back in.
Finlay made a brief comeback on Tanaka and then managed to hit a sweet, high dropkick and tag in the Funky Weapon. He bummed wild but Tanaka cut him off before he could do his Randy Orton but and took over for a (nominal) rudo breakdown.
The babyfaces came back and had a breakdown of their own, triple-teaming Tanaka and getting a nearfall with a bum off the top. Tanaka got a nearfall of his own with a quick roll through but Taguchi came back with a bumming for the win. Good opening match stuff.
Next up was Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi & Jay White (poor Jay, eh?) versus Captain fucking New Japan, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima. I can state right now that the only interesting thing about this match will be whether White or the Captain eats the pin.
Kojima tried to shoulderblock Nakanishi early doors but failed, repeatedly. Nakanishi took him down and then Tenzan came in to help. Tenzan Mongolian chopped Nagata out of the way and then TenCozy double-teamed Nakanishi and brought in the Captain.
Nakanishi, predictably, ran over the Captain and tagged in Jay White. He kept the heat on the Captain and wobbled his pecs to taunt Kojima. Taunting done, he tagged in Nagata, who went to Kick Town.
The Captain made a diving headbutt comeback and tagged in Kojima, who hit his tiny chops and went to hit his shitty elbow drop on old pudgy face. Nagata, though, blocked it and they went back and forth – Exploder and Koji cutter – until Tenzan came in and he & Nagata did the same, only with the Mongolian chops and Shirome armbar. House show stuff, you know?
Tenzan got isolated and triple-teamed for a nearfall and it all broke down, leaving White alone with TenCozy. They kind of hit a 3D and then Tenzan locked on Anaconda Vice for the submission victory. Dictionary definition of “just a match” there.
An odd singles prelim was scheduled next, as Michael Elgin – the hit of this tour if not the MVP – took on YOSHI-HASHI. I don’t know why this match was happening and I’m not sure I care, as long as Elgin throws a motherfucker around the ring a ton.
They went back and forth at the start, until Elgin went outside and YOSHI-HASHI slingshotted out onto him. Elgin caught him and ran him into the ring post, then slammed him on the mat. Let the beating begin.
Back in the ring, Elgin hit his stalling suplex for an early nearfall, and a huge forearm which dropped YOSHI-HASHI for another. Loonpants fought back and hit a running neckbreaker, the followed up by putting Elgin over the ropes and kicking him to the mat.
They fought over a suplex in the centre of the ring, and YOSHI-HASHI reversed a scoop into an inverted DDT for his first nearfall. He retreated to the corner but Elgin caught him there and hit rolling, herking German suplexes. YOSHI-HASHI backdropped his way out of a piledriver attempt and they traded strikes in a way that was better than I’m describing it.
YOSHI-HASHI sought refuge on the apron but Elgin hit his inside-out herking stalling suplex for a very near fall, and the crowd popped big. Elgin went for a piledriver again but YOSHI-HASHI fought it and hit a Codebreaker and then went to clothesline the Canadian, but Elgin blocked it. He did hit it shortly after but Elgin kicked out.
Looking to end it, YOSHI-HASHI set up the senton off the top but Elgin popped up and smacked him in the face. YOSHI-HASHI, though, hit a Sunset Bomb but then missed his senton! Good match, this.
They traded shots in the middle of the ring and Elgin hit a Buckle Bomb. One Elgin Bomb later and Elgin picked up the win. That was surprisingly engaging – good work fellas!
Conspicuous by their absence so far, The Bullet Club slinked out next, led by Yujiro Takahashi and his stripper, Mao. She was dressed as a leopard. Yum yum yum. Also out for the Mike Yarwood nWo (ask your dad) were Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga, my best and worst Clubbers, although not in that order. They were fighting Chaos, another chapter in their ongoing war, who were represented by Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii & Kazushi Sakuraba. I’ve seen far too much Yano versus Fale on this tour.
Ishii and Takahashi started out, matched in height if not in girth. Takahashi tried to take it to Ishii with predictable results but found eye-taking more effective. The camera showed Mao on the outside and zoomed in on her praying hands but coincidentally got a shot of her cleavage, too. Heh heh.
Fale and Yano went at it next, although it was more Yano being a cowardly dick at the start. Fale caught him, though, and clumsily put the hurt on before tagging out to Tama Tonga, who confused the simpleton by turning him in circles.
The Clubbers kept the heat on Yano but he managed to outwit them (imagine that!) with some turnbuckle pad-based hi-jinx and tagged out to Sakuraba. Saku came in and took Takahashi to pain town but Takahashi bit back – literally. Sakuraba, in a really odd outfit, hit back but Takahashi took him down and made the tag to Tonga. Ishii came in on the other side.
Tonga and Ishii went back and forth, until a rudo breakdown ensued, and Ishii got triple-teamed by the Bullet Club. Ishii fought back by dragging Tonga in front of an onrushing Fale but it was short-lived. However, Sakuraba popped up on the apron and grabbed Tama Tonga and his interference was enough for Ishii to hit a brainbuster for the win. It was what it was.
The final match before the interval was another six-man tag, as Tomoaki Honma, Togi Makabe & Tetsuya Naito – shoved in these things even though no-one wants anything to do with him – versus Hirooki Goto, Katsuyori Shibata & Kota Ibushi.
Ibushi took on Makabe at the start, in a clash of styles not seen since I borrowed that jumper off your dad. After a quick stalemate, Shibata tagged in and stared right through Naito but got Honma instead. They did the respectful rope release deal but Naito broke that by clubbing Shibata from behind. Shibata no-sold it and Naito didn’t look bothered.
Honma missed two falling headbutts in quick succession and Shibata tried to kick Naito off the apron, before Goto tagged in to go on with Honma. They went back and forth and Honma tagged in Naito, who slowly got into the ring. Still wearing his t-shirt, he hit a low dropkick and did the Los Ingobernables pose. The crowd booed.
Naito shoved Shibata off the apron and returned to Goto. However, that quick distraction allowed Goto to hit back and tag in Shibata. Shibata could not wait to lay it into Naito and was facewashing him in no time, really scraping those boots off his face. He hit the dropkick to Naito’s FACE and a suplex for a nearfall, and Naito finally started to look bothered.
Shibata locked in an Octopus, which was broken. By Honma, who got kicked for his trouble. Naito came back at Shibata and took him down, then rolled over to tag Makabe, but Makabe didn’t want to let him off the hook. Naito slapped him, giving him no choice, and Makabe rushed in to fight Ibushi, who had tagged in on the other side.
Makabe hit his ten punch deal, and scored a nearfall with a German suplex. He went for another but Ibushi blocked it and they had a forearm battel which Ibushi won by introducing kicks. Heh. Makabe came back with a big clothesline for the double down and crawled over to tag in Honma, who hit the bulldog and the falling headbutt on Ibushi. A snapneck only for a nearfall, though, and Ibushi got one of his own with a rana.
Things broke down, and Shibata and Naito fought on the outside, while back in the ring Ibushi almost pinned Honma with a sitout powerbomb. He went up to, hit a Phoenix Splash, and got the pinfall, as Shibata and Naito continued to fight at ringside. Young Boys dragged Shibata away, and had to break up Makabe and Ibushi in the ring, and I quite enjoyed that.
During the interval, Japanese wrestling legend Genichiro Tenryu came out to the announcers’ table and started arguing with gedo, mentioning IWGP champion Kazuchika Okada. Okada came out and told Tenryu that he should be happy he wasn’t around when Tenryu was, or he’d have beaten Tenryu. This is all heading for a match between the two as part of Tenryu’s retirement tour…
Once that was out of the way, they got on with the first title match of the night, the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag-Team title match between The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) and reDRagon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly).
I don’t get the Young Bucks. Plenty do, and that’s fine, but they do zero for me. That’s not to say they don’t occasionally make me smile or pop me, but the overall thing is just not there. Ditto for Kyle O’Reilly, but I do like Bobby Fish, who looks like a surly sailor, and he started out with Matt Jackson, getting the better of their early exchange before they both made tags.
So this was for the Bucks’ titles, and reDRagon were certainly fired up for it. It’s hard to tell how up for it the Young Bucks are because they’ve got stoner gimmicks but they took a beating well early doors. They all did a ton of stuff in one bit, that I can’t possibly start to describe, and it ended with reDRagon posing in the ring. Nick Jackson tried to interrupt their posing but tripped stepping through the ropes, and it looked like a shoot, brother.
reDRagon laid in some kicks to the hapless Buck, O’Reilly and his rapist beard making a cool-looking cover across Jackson’s face, and then the match fell into another one of those “too much is happening” periods, although it did include Cody Hall picking up Kyle O’Reilly and scarpering backstage with him.
Back in the ring, Fish felt the brunt of both Bucks’ fury, but survived a nearfall and some stomps to the head. The Bucks hit some more convoluted double-teams but Fish fought back with salty sailor spirit and looked for tag out to O’Reilly. Who, of course, was somewhere backstage.
Confused, Fish fell to the Bucks’s double-teaming once more, but they couldn’t put him away and he fought back again, causing Nick to career into Matt in the corner. Fish hit a Samoan Drop and O’Reilly reappeared, making the tag and taking out both Bucks. He ran wild on Matt Jackson but Nick came back at him. Both ended up in submissions and had to make rope breaks.
O’Reilly, his dander still up, took out Nick on the floor and turned back to Matt in the ring. Fish joined him and they hit Chasing The Dragon for a nearfall. The Young Bucks came back – after O’Reilly had to wait an age for them to get in position – and did more overcomplicated double-teams for a nearfall of their own. Slow it down, Young Fucks!
Matt Jackson got trapped in submissions by O’Reilly and almost fought his way out of them but Fish appeared and stopped a double-team. O’Reilly hit Rolling Double Underhook Suplexes which ended in a double-team for a nearfall. So many double-teams in this brave new tag-team world.
Nick Jackson broke the pin and dragged his brother over for a tag, and came in to get smacked around by O’Reilly. They traded a little and O’Reilly did the rebound clothesline deal, before locking on a cross armbreaker. Jackson wouldn’t let his arm get fully extended but Fish made him by hitting a diving headbutt. Then Matt Jackson broke the submission with a top rope elbow drop. Why??? The front row looked bored, by the way.
Fish came in and went at it with Nick Jackson. Jackson pulled the referee in the way to stop a Fish attack and, when Fish shoved the ref out of the way, Jackson punted him in the balls. Fish, not the ref. His brother slid a title belt into the ring and distracted the ref, and Jackson hit Fish with the belt, taking him down. O’Reilly got a smack, too, and the crowd booed.
Nick tagged out to Matt and they hit the Meltzer Driver but Fish kicked out! Matt looked shocked, because who does that?!? O’Reilly shoved Fish out of the ring and spat at the Young Bucks, then got grabbed by Cody Hall. The Bucks rushed in for superkicks but O’Reilly moved and Hall was knocked to the floor. O’Reilly, still not the legal man as far as I can remember, took out both Bucks but they came back and set up a Melzter Driver on the floor. Fish appeared and stopped it and reDRagon hit Chasing The Dragon out there instead.
Back in the ring, Fish & O’Reilly went to work on Nick Jackson, and Fish got a nearfall with a sloppy slam off the top rope. They teamed for another Chasing The Dragon, and Fish covered Jackson for the win and the title change. That was exhausting and not particularly good. Against Modern Wrestling.
Another title match up next, with KUSHIDA putting his IWGP Junior Heavyweight title on the line against Ricochet. The English-language announcer pronounced Ricochet as Rick O’Shea, which is always fun.
I’m not sure what Ricochet is, in terms of character, other than a fucking good aerialist and wrestler. Does it matter? I don’t know!
KUSHIDA’s entrance video shows him as a child, flipping around even then. I guess some people know what they want to be when they grow up.
They exchange holds to start, KUSHIDA working the headlock, and then they did an outrageous series of flips that just said, “look what we can do,” in a way that felt cocky but not flashy.
KUSHIDA grounded his challenger and worked his arm over, softening him up for the inevitable keylock. Ricochet made the ropes each time KUSHIDA locked anything on, so he changed tack and tried to whip him across the ring. Ricochet blocked it and hit a spinning Blue Thunder Bomb, and KUSHIDA rolled outside for a break.
Ricochet, though, wasn’t going to give him one, and flip plancha’d over the turnbuckle to the floor, taking out KUSHIDA and smacking himself in the barrier. Back in the ring, Ricochet hit a slingshot senton and went to work, laying in kicks and chops.
Ricochet hits uppercuts and kicks and a standing moonsault for a nearfall, and the crowd popped for that. The replay showed the height he got, which was INCREDIBLE. Ricochet trash-talked KUSHIDA and laid in some kicks and the champion came back with some forearms. Ricochet blocked them but KUSHIDA came back again and knocked the gaijin out of the ring, and then flip dived off the top turnbuckle out onto him, just about getting there.
Back in the ring once more, they went back and forth, and Ricochet got another nearfall with a Zig Zag and a standing Shooting Star Press. They traded flips in the corner and Ricochet caught KUSHIDA on a moonsault attempt – KUSHIDA rolled through into a keylock but Ricochet made the ropes.
Back in the centre of the ring, KUSHIDA hit a suplex which he transitioned into another keylock but Ricochet stood it up and put him in a Fireman’s Carry. KUSHIDA wriggled out and hit a kick after Ricochet missed one, but got hit with a forearm and they reset.
Ricochet charged into the corner and hit a springboard dive but KUSHIDA caught him in mid-air and applied a keylock. Ricochet picked him up and hit a one-arm powerbomb and they both went down. They fought on their knees, throwing forearms as they stood up, and Ricochet got the upper, erm, arm with some uppercuts. KUSHIDA blocked a kick, wrung the arm and then hit an armbreaker over his shoulder, and they exchanged kicks for another double down. Odd pacing, this, but it draws you in.
KUSHIDA laid in some kicks on the ropes until Ricochet whipped him across the ring. KUSHIDA did the upside-down-rope-rebound-thing but Ricochet caught him and hit rolling Northern Lights Suplexes for a nearfall. Huh, that’s a new one on me.
Ricochet went outside and went for a springboard dive but KUSHIDA avoided it. Ricochet did hit a spinning kick, however, but KUSHIDA came back with a HUGE punch, which took the challenger down. KUSHIDA hit a Dragon suplex for a nearfall and then went up top, hitting a quick moonsault for another. Ricochet wouldn’t go down.
KUSHIDA applied a keylock from a tilt-a-whirl and escaped Ricochet’s reversal into a Fireman’s Carry, but got caught with a double knee drop and a Shooting Star Press off the top for a nearfall. Ricochet was determined now and hit a Go To Sleep variation for another nearfall, both men exhausted by their efforts.
Ricochet dragged KUSHIDA into the corner and hit a 630 Splash but KUSHIDA moved and he hit nothing but canvas. KUSHIDA applied the keylock and Ricochet tried to make the ropes but the champion rolled him into the middle of the ring and Ricochet tapped to keep the belt around KUSHIDA’s waist. Good match, oddly paced like I said, but a decent watch.
The cameraman’s favourite moment was next, with Maria Kanelis leading out Matt Taven & Michael Bennett, The Kingdom, to team with IWGP Heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada against The Bullet Club’s AJ Styles, Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows. I smell future matches being set up here…
Watching Styles is like turning into my dad because all I can think is, “get your bloody hair cut!” but I’ve warmed to him a little with continued exposure. I still think he has trouble emoting but I guess it’s too late to change that.
Anderson and Okada went to start out but Styles tagged in before the bell had rung. They traded holds early doors, neither man on top, and Okada rejected Styles’s offer of a handshake with a Too Sweet to the forehead. That didn’t go down well.
Taven and Gallows tagged in and Taven was on top until he let himself get distracted by Anderson, when Gallows took over. The Bullet Club kept the heat on Taven, who has terrible hair, and triple-teamed him after disposing of his teammates but only got a nearfall.
Anderson got distracted by Maria Kanelis’s sluttiness until Styles came in to remonstrate with him. Anderson tried to point out her hotness to him but Styles couldn’t see it until Anderson brushed the hair out of Styles’s eyes and he, too, fawned. Funny. Then Gallows came over and went to attack Kanelis but the other two held him back because they were in lust and by that time Bennett, Taven, and Okada were back.
Taven ran wild in Anderson for a while, with Kanelis looking super excited about it, but could only get a nearfall. The Bullet Club cheated to make the transition but The Kingdom came back with some double-teaming if their own and restored order. Things switched around again and again and ended with Okada and Styles coming together to the delight of the crowd.
Okada hit a quick Heavy Rain and went up top for his elbow drop, but kissed when Styles rolled out of the way. Things broke down and everyone brawled in the ring. Anderson and Gallows got rid of The Kingdom but were taken out by Okada, who went back at it with Styles.
Okada blocked the Styles Clash and Styles blocked a Tombstone, but Okada managed to hit one and went for the Rainmaker. Styles ducked and hit a Pele kick and fought through to a Styles Clash for the win. Good match in parts, but totally there to set up Bullet Club versus The Kingdom, and Okada versus Styles. After the match, Styles draped Okada’s title belt over his prime body…
Hey, it’s our main event! It’s Hiroshi Tanahashi versus Shinsuke Nakamura for the G1 Climax tournament championship! The winner gets a briefcase which he can use to cash in for a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight championship – sound familiar? Yeah, well it is and it isn’t, because that shot usually takes place at the same show each year – Wrestle Kingdom at the Tokyo Dome in January – and it has to be defended at the bigger shows if it isn’t cashed in.
So this is it, the culmination of a month of wrestling: nineteen shows, one hundred and seventy matches, featuring over forty different wrestlers. All down to this. And you know what? I’m going to do things differently. Because this will be great, there’s no question of that. And I write these reviews en lieu of you watching these matches with the hope that you’ll watch the ones that sound good. I don’t need to do that here, so go and watch it and I’ll see you in the next paragraph…
Back? Well, that was a WAR. Yeah, Nakamura was off a little at times (working injured will do that, sometimes) but they told a hell of a story that sucked the crowd – live and watching at home, however delayed – into their world, their struggle, their battle. Industry guru Dave Meltzer gave it five stars on his vaunted scale and, while I’m not sure I’d give it the full set, it’s hard to disagree that it’s a Match of the Year contender.
And that’s the show, and the tournament. It was a Good Show, long and tiring at points (I’m looking at you, Young Bucks!) but engaging and exciting throughout. The tournament, the first time they’ve done an expanded version with split days for the different blocks, was long and contained some stuffing as a result, but it was an interesting experiment and spending a month, watching every show, gave you an inkling of what they go through every year.
New Japan is in healthy shape at the moment. It has a strong, charismatic, and accomplished champion, and a string of worthy challengers lining up for a shot at his title. The undercard is stuffed with intriguing match-ups and the prospect of a working agreement with WWE, however remote, is mouth-watering. If you’ve not watched much New Japan before, and have just followed this tour through these reviews (unlikely but you never know), then there’s no better time to jump in and get on board, with the Road To Destruction about to begin. You won’t regret it.