Unless you have been living under a rock and turned your head completely on international wrestling, you are aware that New Japan Pro Wrestling is currently having what most wrestling pundits call one of, if not the, best wrestling tournaments of all time. The G-1 Climax is a traditional round-robin tournament in New Japan each year that features their biggest stars. Due to the business of real life and participation in other wrestling projects, I was sorely behind on the G-1 watching footage but couldn’t take the hype any longer. I had to watch this stuff. Follow me as I try to binge through all 11 shows before the final show on August 10 (Happy Birthday to me).
8/3/14 5:32 P.M.
Bad Luck Fale vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Ishii is my favorite wrestler in New Japan and I think it was extremely clever to put him out there as the first match of the entire tournament. While I don’t think Fale should be the Intercontinental Champion of the company (treated as a 1-A title), I can tolerate him more than most New Japan hardcore fans can. This was a good back and forth match as Ishii’s selling and working from underneath can complement nicely against Fale’s power moves. Ishii even escaped out of the Bad Luck Fall and hit a release German and lariat for a near fall. A strike exchange mixed in with some headbutts allows Fale to gain the advantage and Fale wins with the Bad Luck Fall. Good start to the tournament. **1/2
8/3/14 5:51 P.M.
Doc Gallows vs. Shelton Benjamin
I wasn’t looking forward to this much at all but I am a committed reviewer. Yeah, I should have skipped it. Dead crowd, boring crowd brawling, lack of emotional impact for the finish. This hopefully will be one of the ten worst G-1 matches in the entire tournament. Shelton was worked over for most of the body of the match and then makes his comeback and takes the match with Paydirt in a minor upset for me. *1/2
8/3/14 6:14 P.M.
Karl Anderson vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Another match I wasn’t exactly clamoring to see. This match did a lot better job than the previous one at proving me wrong as the action here was perfectly fine. Anderson does some basic work on Tenzan’s leg that while not that engaging, it also wasn’t atrocious. Tenzan makes his comebacks and there were some good teases along the way like the missed moonsault. Tenzan is able to put Anderson away with his Anaconda Vice submission. **1/2
8/3/14 6:45 P.M.
Satoshi Kojima vs Yuji Nagata
Two grizzled veterans going at it on Night 1. This match had a huge “been there, done that” feel. Vet vs. vet matches can work well (Tenryu vs. Mutoh from 2001) but this didn’t have an overarching story to tie the individual moves together. Both guys weren’t mailing it in and were working hard but you got a feeling the crowd felt the same way I did. Kojima put this one away with a big time lariat. **
8/3/14 7:08 P.M.
Minoru Suzuki vs Toru Yano
These two have had an endless feud that at times could make you remember the fond days of The Gang Wars in 1997 WWF. Anyone that is not familiar with Yano should envision a sleazy looking Japanese guy. You probably won’t be that far off. Suzuki attacks right at the bell and they surprisingly start brawling on the outside (not a surprise at all given their feud). Suzuki removes the turnbuckle pad and sends Yano in. Suzuki pays for bringing in a chair by getting kicked in the balls. Yano then rolls him up for the fluke win. This is not the first time that has happened and Yano gloats gloriously to the back. ½*
8/3/14 7:15 P.M.
Yujiro Takahashi vs Tetsuya Naito
This is the first match of the second half of this show. Yujiro is fresh off becoming a Bullet Club member and dethroning Ishii as the NEVER champion (boo). Naito won last year’s G-1 and has had an unsuccessful box office year where the crowds rejected him. However, in-ring wise he has actually been one of my favorites in New Japan this year, having really good to great matches with Okada, Ishii and Fale. This match opened with a rudimentary start and then things turn scary when Yujiro botches a front suplex on the ropes and lands on his dome. Yujiro works Naito over on the outside and firmly takes control of the match. I have some issues with Yujiro on top in this segment. It was not inspiring or focused at all and none of his moves seemed to have a lot of impact. Naito makes a comeback and the pace picks up quickly. He hits his in-ring senton and a missile dropkick from the top. Yujiro is able to recover the advantage with a top rope belly to belly suplex. Fisherman buster gets the closest nearfall so far. Naito fires back with a great German. Naito misses a huge twisting splash and we are at a stalemate. A strike exchanges ends in Yujiro hitting another big boot. Impressive move as Naito is caught in mid-air and reversed into a German suplex. A powerbomb into the turncbuckle pad is followed up by his finisher (Miami Shine) giving Yujiro the big win. I had big issues with Yujiro on top here and something hasn’t clicked for me since his turn to the Bullet Club. **
8/3/14 7:36 P.M.
Togi Makabe vs Hirooki Goto
This is another battle of two guys not at the bottom rung but not New Japan’s current priority either. Goto has shown some great promise throughout his career but also been cursed as being the Lex Luger of New Japan when it comes to big matches and never being able to win the big one. Makabe is someone they have strapped their rocket behind before (he won the 2009 G-1) but his role is better fleshed out as a gatekeeper. This started hot and heavy with rolling around on the mat exchanging strikes. I thought this was pretty compelling and heated for two guys that have matched up numerous times before. Makabe maintains the advantage and throws Goto into the guardrail on the outside. I am used to repetition when you have this many singles matches in one night, but the amount of Irish whips into the guardrail is starting to reach an excessive level. Goto gains the advantage and guess what? He throws Makabe into the guardrail. I was as shocked as you guys were. Goto improves things by beating the crap out of Makabe in the corner with some nice forearms. Goto does a nice variant of the elbow by scraping the eyes before delivering it. After a few moments of damage, Makabe is able to take over with a stern lariat. After some jostling for position, Goto regains control again with a spinning back kick. Makabe has some choice words for Goto and gets the DVD onto Goto’s knee to pay for his words. Makabe regains control of the match with a monstrous powerbomb. Makabe looks to have Goto where he wants him but Goto utilizes the headbutt as an equalizer and hits the Shouten Kai to gain the victory. This was the best match of the show so far but I still struggle to call it necessarily “good”. **3/4
8/3/14 9:33 P.M.
Tomoaki Honma vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
After some Mexican food and Big Brother watching, I was ready to check back in and finish up this show. Honma got the call when an injury forced Kota Ibushi to resign from the tournament. Many fans were disappointed at this news as Ibushi has been poised to gain a big victory against the top guns in New Japan based on recent booking. I was pretty delighted as Honma has my favorite Ishii match of 2014 and is a guy that has a journeyman type charm that I can easily relate to. Tanahashi is of course the big name of the promotion but his booking in this tournament was very intriguing based on his placement on recent cards and speculation that his days as the tip top guy in the company are over. This match starts with a strong wrestling base, which is refreshing given the opening to most of the other matches tonight. Good, basic control stuff that sets the table for themes that can carry a match. Honma avoids a chop and start stomping away. Tanahashi’s first dominant spot is really good at showing Honma being able to avoid some damage. Tana turns the favor by making Honma miss a diving headbutt attempt. Middle rope front somersault dive earns Tana a nearfall. Dive to the outside on top of Honma has him looking in rough shape and Tana is doing some semi-heelish mugging for the crowd. Honma needs a big move and tries a suplex to the floor but this is blocked so he has to settle for one inside the ring. This allows him to get back into the match. Honma pounds away on Tana, hits a facecrusher and now gets that diving headbutt. A DDT and sitting neckbreaker earn him his first nearfall of the match. A lariat and brainbuster has Tana on the ropes and a big upset is brewing. Honma scales the top rope as the crowd chants his name. He missed the diving headbutt allowing Tanahashi a window of opportunity. Mid-ring strike exchange is won by Tanahashi and transitions into a capture German suplex. Honma keeps powering up out of the heavy artillery Tanahashi has unleashed, but the High Fly Flow (frog splash) is enough to put him away. Upsets do happen in the G-1 and I thought this match and Honma in particular did a great job of foreshadowing the fact that one could occur. Tanahashi also had a good match feeling like the established star on the ropes. Best match by far on the show so far. ***1/2
8/3/14 9:50 P.M.
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Shibata is the enigma going into this G-1 and someone that many people pegged to win this whole thing based on the fact that he seemed poised to have a huge dome show main event. The same could be said of Nakamura as a showdown of him vs. Okada feels like the one money match that New Japan has that hasn’t happened since both guys became main eventers. This match starts off even more tentatively than the previous one which I can appreciate given the dangerous nature of both men. Shibata gives a clean break on the first exchange and Nakamura is the most shocked person in attendance at that development. Nakamura gets a chance to return the favor…and does. Shibata comes firing out and they narrowly miss some high kicks and the fight is on. A big knee by Nakamura is the first high impact move of the match. Nakamura misses a running knee in the corner and Shibata locks on a chokehold that drags Nakamura out of the ring and onto the floor. IRISH WHIP into the guardrail. This is at least followed up by a running knee from Shibata. Shibata follows up with a suplex on the floor. Back inside the ring, Shibata locks on a figure four which play up Nakamura’s wild facials well. Nakamura gains the advantage for a bit by hitting that running knee he was angling for in the early going. The little skip Nakamura does before he delivers this is tremendous. Shibata retreats to the outside and Nakamur follows him out with a running knee with Shibatas head dangling from the ring apron. Back inside, Shibata is able to regain control and he lays a ferocious onslaught of elbows the wears Nakamura down in the corner. He follows this up with a brutal dropkick into the corner. They no-sell one big suplex a piece from the other and Nakamura locks on a choke. Shibata reverses quickly but Nakamura reverses again and then releases him in a suplex. Nakamura goes for the kill but eats a dropkick. The back and forth reversals are too numerous to name but Nakamura hits a jumping kick and again looks to finish. Shibata is there to thwart that again with a dropkick. Shibata then hits a Go 2 Sleep and Penalty kick to pick up the duke. This was a slugfest but felt epic in proportion and a grueling battle where neither man was willing to give an inch. This show has turned around a good bit with these last two matches. ***3/4
8/3/14 10:19 P.M.
AJ Style vs. Kazuchika Okada
These two guys are developing quite the rivalry in 2014. AJ took the IWGP belt from Okada in curious circumstances with added help from his Bullet Club mates. He then won the three-way at the ROH show and had an impressive showing beating Okada in the return match cleanly. Okada had a lot to prove heading into this match. In the opening moments, this is prepped to be the longest match of the night. AJ gets some insane air on the first back body drop Okada delivers. Okada’s opening offense is fine but AJ is the one displaying the flashy offense and his dropkick to gain the advantage was gorgeous. They go to the outside. Will someone get thrown into the railing? No whammy, no whammy. AJ throws Okada back into the ring. AJ just jumped three spots in my wrestler of the year ballot by avoiding that trope. Styles locks on a chinlock as Gedo rallies the crowd behind Okada. Okada mounts some offense and AJ goes careening to the outside from a dropkick with him sitting on the top rope. Okada tries to throw AJ into the railing. AJ refuses to fall for that and jumps the railing in impressive fashion. Okada follows suit with a crossbody in an impressive looking spot. Okada works over Styles for a minute with a submission. Style regains his position with a suplex into the turnbuckle and spinning style powerbomb. Styles wipes out big time on a 450 splash and has a nasty landing on the mat. AJ has been real resourceful in this match as he comes back after every flurry of Okada and any mistake he makes. Styles Clash gets teased for the first time but is escaped by Okada. Referee gets bumped and Okada looks to have the match in hand. He raises his arms towards the heavens signaling The Rainmaker when Yujiro comes in. After some Yujiro offense, Okada hits a ferocious dropkick sending him out. Bullet Club interference can plague a lot of matches, so that being the extent of the interferences is refreshing. Now, AJ hits a leaping dropkick and has the advantage. Back spinning kick sets up another Styles Clash attempt. This gets reversed into a tombstone and German suplex for a big time near fall that had the crowd buzzed. Okada hits The Rainmaker out of nowhere and is able to avenge some of the previous loses he has to Styles. This was another really good match to end the show although I liked the Yokohoma match a tad better. ***1/2
Overall, the first half and even the first couple of matches of the second half didn’t do a whole lot for me. The last three matches saved this show from being grossly overrated and featured three separate but intricate good stories. I look forward to night two.
Show finished at 8/3/14 10:53 P.M.