NJPW G1 Climax Day 17 (11th August) Review.

Work the leg. Credit: NJPW

And A Block comes to a close with the return of the English commentary team and a final day where everything came down to Tanahashi vs. Naito. The winner goes to the final, and in hindsight, that was always going to be the case. On the closing stretch it feels appropriate to go back to reviewing the undercard because you know, we haven’t watched enough wrestling in the last month. Let’s do this!

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi and El Desperado) defeated Katsuya Kitamura, Tomoyuki Oka and Hirai Kawato

You poor fool. Credit: NJPW

Minoru ‘Young Lion Killer’ Suzuki is much better than Minoru ‘needs multiple interferences to win a match’ Suzuki. This crop of Young Lions are brimming with potential and these three are at the head of the class. Kitamura is a beast who is improving in the ring while Oka is solid in every single way. It’s Kawato that screams star power, though. I think I’ve said this before, but I’d be happy to see him try to feud with Suzuki. Have him challenge Minoru to a bunch of singles matches and get the shit beaten out of him every time. People would love it. This was hardly a classic, but Suzuki killing Kawato gets it a pass mark from me.

Verdict: Three Stars

Guerilla’s Of Destiny (Tanga Loa and Tama Tonga) defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (Sanada and Bushi)

This match definitely happened. Credit: NJPW

The match result might be longer than the review. This was fine, but it was a five-minute tag match so saying anything more than that feels excessive.

Verdict: Two Stars

Juice Robinson and Satoshi Kojima defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi and Evil)

A power shift. Credit: NJPW

This was also a five-minute tag match (it’s almost like reviewing the undercard is a bit pointless on these shows) and was once again fine. This one had at least one point of interest. Seven months ago the idea of Juice Robinson getting a decisive clean victory over Takahashi would have been unimaginable. I know the focus is on the heavyweights at the moment, but there needs to be a plan for Takahashi (beyond his beautiful friendship with Daryl) in the months ahead.

Verdict: Two Stars

Taguchi Japan (Rysuke Taguchi, Ricochet, Michael Elgin, Raymond Rowe and Hanson) defeated Bullet Club (Nick Jackson, Matt Jackson, Cody, Chase Owens and Hangman Page) 

What a team. Credit: NJPW

I would be perfectly happy if the long-running LIJ vs. Taguchi Japan feud were followed up by one between Bullet Club and Taguchi’s pals. Much like all those multi-man tag matches, this was a whole load of fun. War Machine and Elgin being on the same team is incredible and few teams do comedy better than Bullet Club. On a pretty nondescript undercard, this is the one to watch.

Verdict: Three Stars

CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada defeated Toru Yano) defeated Bullet Club (Kenny Omega and Yujiro Takahashi) 

Yano does Yano stuff. Credit: NJPW

We got a hint of Omega vs. Okada here but not enough to make this worthy of your time. It was mainly Yano doing Yano stuff which as anyone who has been following my reviews of this tournament will know, is something that I used to enjoy but now kind of hate. Okada and Omega had much bigger fish to fry over this weekend.

Verdict: Two Stars

Bad Luck Fale defeated Yuji Nagata

Be more Yuji Nagata. Credit: NJPW

If you’d told me at the start of the tournament that Nagata’s final match would see him lose to Fale, I’d have got angry. It feels wrong for him to go out on a defeat to a guy who could swallow the loss. However, this worked. Once again, Nagata went out there and gave it his all. He has so much heart, but his body won’t keep up and against a monster like Fale that becomes even more apparent. It showed that it doesn’t matter how much you care, sometimes you’re not good enough. The cherry on the cake came at the end, when the Underboss, a man with no respect for anyone not Bullet Club, stood across the ring and saluted a legend. I don’t have the context of having watched Nagata’s entire career, I’ve only seen him since January, but during this tournament, I fell in love with his drive to prove he was still good enough to be out there. On top of that, there has been a whole host of stories floating around about the man behind the wrestler. In an industry that is so often a cold and downright nasty place, it sounds like Nagata was one of the good guys. On his way out, we should maybe all aim to be a bit more like Yuji Nagata.

Verdict: Four Stars

Togi Makabe defeated YOSHI-HASHI

This move is awful. Credit: NJPW

The problem with these semi-final shows coming down to the two main-events is that most of the tournament matches now mean nothing. It takes something special (like Nagata’s final match) to make an audience care about a fight for pride. This didn’t have that something special. It was fun, and the spider suplex, King Kong Knee Drop combo was cool, but it ultimately failed to be anything more than just a match.

Verdict: Two And A Half Stars

Zack Sabre Jr defeated Tomohiro Ishii

Zack is a slippery chap. Credit: NJPW

The emotion that Makabe and YOSHI-HASHI failed to garner was no problem for Ishii and Zack Sabre Jr. This is the feud I never knew I wanted but after their match at the G1 Special and now here I hope we get the rubber somewhere down the road. The grappler versus the brawler, it’s a simple story, but it works. Both men dip into the other’s area of expertise, but as a rule, Ishii wins when they exchange blows and Zack wins on the mat, and it’s on the mat where the match ends up. I spoke about Ishii’s incredible ability to play the underdog in his brawl against Makabe and that talent shone here. On paper, the idea of that lump of granite working from underneath shouldn’t work but it does, and as Zack twisted him up you were desperate for him to tap. Yet, Ishii is not a man to give up. He’s a man to cling on until he can cling on no more and the ref was forced to call for the bell. This was exquisite. The G1 has confirmed Ishii as a top three wrestler in the world behind Omega and Okada and has unveiled Zack as a star. Lovely work.

Verdict: Four And A Half Stars

Hirooki Goto defeated Kota Ibushi

Please don’t leave Kota. Credit: NJPW

This match has slipped under the radar of a lot of fans. It was nestled between two show-stealers and once again struggled with a lack of consequence. However, Goto and Ibushi both finished this tournament on a high. Goto has been unremarkably great throughout, putting on some fantastic performances but ultimately failing to get up there with the very best while Ibushi has been Ibushi. If he doesn’t stick around in New Japan, it will go down as one of the biggest lost opportunities of all time; think of the matches we could get from him. In the ring together they clicked seamlessly. A story of this tournament has been Ibushi falling back on his striking skill when he needs to (which plays into his new finisher), and he did the same here. The problem is, that’s where Goto shines and eventually, he proved too much for The Golden Star.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Tetsuya Naito defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi

Incoming Ace. Credit: NJPW

It feels like we say this about a lot of things, but in a year without Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi is the best feud going. Three matches have equalled three classics and quite frankly you get the feeling these guys could do this forever. Once again, we got cocky Tanahashi here, he doesn’t change too much when he does it, but the air guitars and the flamboyant offence are tweaked just enough to come across as arrogance rather than fun. Combined with a pretty ruthless attack on Naito’s leg and this was a full-blown heel, Tanahashi. His tactics climaxed in the Cloverleaf spot which got him the win at Dominion. History didn’t repeat itself, though, as Naito had a plan of his own. The plan everyone has had against Tanahashi, go after that arm. It might not be original, but it’s been shown to work, and once again it did exactly that as Naito booked his place in the finals. We’re running out of hyperbole for these two so let’s keep it simple. Watch this match.

Verdict: Four And A Half Stars

Overall Show

Probably best not to ask what’s going through Zack’s mind here. Credit: NJPW

An uninspiring undercard and a few matches that lacked weight meant this show can’t go down as an all time G1 classic. However, it was still terrific. The main event is the obvious highlight, but if you scratch below the surface, there is a lot more going on. Nagata’s emotional bow out was a tear jerker while Zack and Ishii went out there and blew the house down. You also wouldn’t be wasting your time tuning into Goto vs. Kota. This was a fitting end to A block and a fantastic tournament from all involved.

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