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NJPW G1 Climax (Part 14)
August 4, 2018
-So, when the G1 Tournament first started, I felt like I had to either review the entire thing (which was never going to happen) or none of it. I feel like recapping some of the later shows in the tournament might be a good compromise. Full disclosure, I'm skipping ahead of several shows in the tournament because it started while I was away and I have been unable to catch up, so it's getting to the now or never portion of the summer.
-From Osaka, Japan. Our hosts on the English broadcast are Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero.
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale and Tanga Loa) vs. CHAOS (SHO and YOSHI-HASHI)
YOSHI-HASHI's shoulder is taped up so he's an easy target for Fale and has to fight an uphill battle. He has a better time against Loa, who suffers combination offense from CHAOS. Loa regains his composure and hits a delayed vertical suplex on SHO. Loa remains largely in control of the match until he hits his modified piledriver, eloquently known as "Apeshit" for the win at 5:33. Not much to this opener, as the CHAOS guys were presented as too banged up or inexperienced to hang, *½.
Winners: Bad Luck Fale and Tanga Loa
Suzuki-gun (El Desperado and Minoru Suzuki) vs. Bullet Club (Hangman Page and Chase Owens)
Bell rings and Suzuki immediately attempts to choke Page out with his own noose. Desperado goes for Owens by the hair but gets reversed into a nifty backbreaker. Suzuki leaps up to put Owens in an armbreaker hanging over the rope. Suzuki brutalizes Owens with a chair and serves him up for Desperado. Owens appears dazed but manages to hit a superkick and make a hot tag to Page (with only 4 minutes gone). Page counters a flying Desperado with a big boot and plants Suzuki for a standing SSP for 2. Suzuki retakes control and dares Page to hit him, resulting in a slugfest. Suzuki moves Page's hair out of the way for a stiff shot and wins the exchange. They block finishers and Page nails a big lariat. Owens returns and tries to put Suzuki away with a leg lariat. The match breaks down and Suzuki catches Owens with a package piledriver for the win at 8:08. This was good enough for an exhibition match to build up Suzuki vs. Page, **½.
Winners: Minoru Suzuki and El Desperado
CHAOS (Jay White and YOH) vs. Togi Makabe and Toa Henare
The White/YOH tag team has been fun to watch in this tag team, as White does horrible things to opponents that seem to disturb YOH. When they lose, it's usually because YOH doesn't want to cheat at White's command. Bell rings and White immediately throws the referee into Makabe to gain the upper hand. The second Makabe connects with any offense, White tags in YOH. Henare, playing a wildman sort of gimmick, runs wild through YOH. Just as YOH starts to gain momentum, White drags Henare to ringside and repeatedly thrashes him into the apron and guard rail. White is happy to make a tag now, but Henare comes back with a Samoan drop. Makabe gets a needed tag and unloads on White, who manages a desperate side suplex. Henare returns and hits a spear, but YOH breaks the cover. White pulls Henare off the top turnbuckle and delivers his neckbreaker for the win at 7:03. It's easy to want to skip all these preliminary tag matches, but there's some grade-A character development going on, **.
Winners: Jay White and YOH
-White urges YOH to beat up their opponents with a chair, to which YOH refuses. White mouths off to the camera that he doesn't understand why YOH is upset, he just wanted them to win.
Michael Elgin and David Finlay vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shota Umino
Tanahashi has a feeling out exchange with Elgin, who places him on the top rope for the sake of sizing him up. Finlay and and Umino make quick tags, and Umino seems eager to make a name for himself at Finlay's expense. Elgin returns and hilariously no-sells a series of shots from Umino before knocking him over with a single chop. Tanahashi returns and catches Elgin with a dragon screw leg sweep but Elgin retaliates with a power slam. Tanahashi ducks an enziguri and drives Elgin's leg into the mat. Elgin catches him by the belt for a German suplex! Finlay tags and tries to take advantage of the situation, but Tanahashi counters with a slam. Umino returns, almost slips, but hits a missile drop-kick and applies a Boston Crab. Elgin nonchalantly walks over and casually punches Umino until he legs go of the hold. Umino runs into a Uranagi by Finlay for a good 2 count! Stunner by Finlay ends it at 8:19. Another good exhibition match that made me feel like I understand who all these characters are just a little better, **¾.
Winners: Michael Elgin and David Finlay
-Tanahashi and Elgin jaw at each other as they'll be meeting in the G1 soon.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI and EVIL) vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada and Gedo)
BUSHI is a bit cocky in the early going, prompting Gedo to trip him up and go after his mask. Bushi rakes the face and chokes Gedo with his t-shirt. Tag is made and EVIL holds Gedo in place for BUSHI to hit an ax handle into the face! EVIL and Gedo both do a trick where they block kicks by handing each other's legs to the referee, before restarting the match with Okada quickening the pace. Okada delivers his modified neckbreaker on EVIL. Gedo and BUSHI tag, and Gedo unloads with jabs. BUSHI recovers with a missile drop-kick but Gedo rolls him onto his shoulders, but EVIL breaks the cover. Gedo is overwhelmed and eats a backstabber. Okada returns by EVIL blocks the Rainmaker! BUSHI's Codebreaker finishes Gego at 6:16. This wasn't nearly as interesting as the other exhibition tag matches, the work on Gedo's face didn't go anywhere either, **.
Winners: BUSHI and EVIL
G1 Climax Block B Match:
Sanada vs. Toru Yano
Yano amusingly throws a drink and attacks Sanada from behind during his entrance. Yano ties Sanada's legs together with a shirt and tries to win via count-out (because I guess the match started), but Sanada hops to the ring in time. Yano is a goofball, but he's capable of upsetting better opponents and tries to gain a quick pinfall, but Sanada rolls him around on his shoulders to put him in a daze. Sanada puts Yano in the Paradise Lock on the floor and fittingly tries to get the count-out win. Rocky Romero frees Yano from the hold just in time. Yano immediately removes the turnbuckle padding and connects with a blind shot. Yano tries to tape Sanada to the guard rail, but Sanada ends up putting him in the Paradise Lock around a rail and then tapes the rail to the ring post. Romero tries to make another save, but Sanada dispatches him and wins via count-out at 5:00. Not a "good match" but highly entertaining throughout, **.
-Kevin Kelly grills Rocky Romero about interfering in the match. Romero pleads that Yano had asked him for help, and he had no choice, because Yano is his friend! Makes sense to me.
G1 Climax Block B Match:
Tama Tonga (with Tanga Loa) vs. NEVER Champion Hirooki Goto
They lock up and exchange clean breaks. Goto works a side headlock and reverses a hip toss. Loa pushes Goto off the top turnbuckle to shift the momentum for Tonga. Tonga takes his time administering a methodical beatdown, except he doesn't look lost the way big man heels in WWE tend to. Goto rallies, and aggressively pummels Tonga on the top rope, but Tonga counters into a powerbomb. Goto sort of lands on his feet and catches Tonga off-guard with a clothesline. Tonga shoves Goto in the referee (who was distracted with Loa) which allows Loa to put Goto down with a jackhammer. Goto manages to fight off both guys and has to outmaneuver Tonga in a cool countering sequence before catching him with with Ushigoroshi and GTR, but Loa prevents the referee from counting, and the match is thrown out at 10:30. This had it's moments, but was mostly defined by sluggish offense and interference, **.
Winner via DQ: Hirooki Goto
G1 Climax Block B Match:
Zack Sabre Jr. (with Taka Michinoku) vs. IWGP United States Champion Juice Robinson
They lock up and ZSJ quickly goes after the wrist. Clean break and ZSJ palms the face, prompting Juice to slap him down. The tone quickly shifts as ZSJ throws uppercuts but Robinson doesn't back down. ZSJ outmaneuvers and stomps Robinson's hand into his elbow. Juice is unable to connect with the Juice Box and Sabre just toys with him by kicking the bad wrist and slapping him around. Juice jabs with his good arm and connects with a springboard crossbody to the floor. ZSJ blocks a spinebuster and wraps around Juice for a wristlock. Juice is able to knock him off and hit a running cannonball. Juice's powerbomb is no good as ZSJ goes after the arm, but he recovers with a jackhammer. ZSJ blocks the Juice Box and goes after the arm again in sickening fashion, but Juice counters into the Juice Box at last. Juice is too hurt to capitalize and ZSJ applies a triangle choke variation with a wrist lock, but Juice counters into a powerbomb. Juice removes his tape and punches ZSJ square in the face with the bad hand. Pulp Friction is countered and ZSJ kicks the bad hand. Juice nearly steals the win with a pinning reversal, but Sabre delivers a nasty armbar, including pretzeling the legs. I've never seen a submission like this as Sabre pulls Robinson's leg over his own head and the referee calls it at 13:37! Quite an interesting finishing sequence and dominating performance by Sabre. Juice continues to shine as a resilient babyface, ***½.
Winner: Zack Sabre Jr.
-ZSJ poses with Robinson's United States title, as well he should as he just made the champion look like a total punk.
G1 Climax Block B Match:
Tomohiro Ishii vs. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega
Omega has been working through a fracture ankle, but is undefeated i n the Gi, and still feels cocky enough to pat Ishii on the head and slap him in the face. Omega continues to poke the bear and Ishii makes him pay with a suplex. Ishii throws some mean chops, but Omega rakes the face and delivers a spike DDT. Rolling Samoa Drop and moonsault by Omega sets up a chinlock. Ishii flashes a sinister grin while Omega puts the boots to him and shoots up for some chopping. Omega's chops are just as brutal, but Ishii whips him into a power slam. Back suplex by Ishii gets a 2 count. Omega slips out of a powerbomb and hits a snap hurricanrana, followed by a rather elegant running swanton bomb dive to the floor. Ishii is selling a shoulder injury as Omega botches a leg lariat for a 2 count. They exchange defiant shots and Omega spits in the face. Ishii hits a back suplex into the turnbuckles! Top rope brainbuster gets a believable near fall for Ishii. DDT counter by Omega but Ishii blocks a dragon suplex with a reverse headbutt. Ishii hits the German suplex and a pair of lariats for a quality nearfall. Omega rallies with the V Trigger and sit-out powerbomb for a solid 2 count. Omega viciously knees the head, Ishii pops up anway, and Omega has to quickly hit the V Trigger, snap dragon suplex, and another V trigger for an urgent nearfall. Ishii answers with a snap dragon suplex of his own and they both go down. They continue the fight on their knees, which never gets old, and stumble to their feet in a daze. Ishii throws a series of shots but Omega cuts him off with a reverse hurricanrana! Omega V Triggers Ishii onto the apron for a double stomp! Omega follows with a missile drop-kick to the head and neckbreaker for another 2 count. Ishii is bleeding from the mouth, blocks One Winged Angel and V Trigger but Omega lands on his feet in a German and kicks the head for another 2. The J-Driller still isn't enough to put Ishii away! Ishii kicks out after another V Trigger (which is starting to feel redundant) and reverses One Winged Angel into a crucifix powerbomb! They trade more stiff shots and Ishii wins the exchange with a hard lariat for a nearfall that the fans popped for. Omega hits a powerbomb, but Ishii kicks out at ONE, which is all kinds of bad-ass. Ishii absorbs some more shots before hitting a brainbuster for the win at 22:37! They certainly managed to tear the house down despite some sloppy moments and Omega's offense getting a little stale at times (so many V Triggers). This is the sort of match that critics of New Japan will point to when criticizing the dangerous ring style, and there might be something to that, but still stands as a great match and big time Ishii victory, ****¼.
Winner: Tomohiro Ishii
G1 Climax Block B Match:
Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi
Naito takes a comically long time to remove his entrance attire and you get the sense that the crowd burned themselves out on Ishii vs. Omega. They keep a quick pace in the early going, until Naito poses in a mocking relaxation pose. Naito stalls, prompting Ibushi to want to suplex him off the apron, but Naito blocks and drop-kicks the back of the leg. Naito hangs Ibushi by the leg on the guard rail and it looks like we have our story for the match. Ibushi gets picked apart for several minutes before countering with a desperate double stomp to the chest. Ibushi no-sells the hurt leg to hit some fast kicks and a standing moonsault. Naito counters with a neckbreaker but Ibushi answers with a hurricanrana. Ibushi isn't even trying to pretend to be hurt as he sprints up to the top rope for a moonsault to the floor. Naito blocks Ibushi's German and hits a springboard drop-kick before locking up the allegedly injured knee of Ibushi in a figure four. Ibushi sits up in the submission and they trade slaps. Naito looks for his finisher but Ibushi hits a suplex and they both go down for a rest. They resume the fight on their knees, which is a spot they absolutely have not earned yet. Ibushi throws lots of kicks, but Naito blocks one and spits in his face. Naito counters with a really dangerous, nearly botched Styles Clash variation. Naito hits a patented side slam and drapes Ibushi on the ropes for a reverse DDT for 2. After a rest, Ibushi charges but gets tossed into the turnbuckles, but recovers with a Pele kick. A long struggle on the top rope results in Naito hitting a super reverse rana, but Ibushi lands on his feet and nails a lariat. Ibushi delivers his special dead lift German suplex over the ropes and Naito lands square on the back of his head. Last Ride sit-out powerbomb by Ibushi gets 2. For some reason Naito is the first up and looks for Destino. Ibushi recovers and drops Naito on his head again for a nearfall that the fans in the building totally popped for. Ibushi hits Kamigoye for the win at 25:05. Talk about a wasted effort as Ibushi not selling the leg work just threw a wet towel over everything they tried to do, which included some spectacular spots, as well as some dangerous, sloppy spots too. It's hard to get sucked into a match when I'm annoyed with everything one guy is doing and fearing for the life of the other guy. I'm going to give this **½, which I'm aware is likely a wildly unpopular position to take, but I had too many issues with it to shower it with the same praise it's getting from other parts of the internet.
Winner: Kota Ibushi
Final Thoughts: I know my feelings on the last match will probably be unpopular, but I don't care. Otherwise, this was a fun show with lots of good character development in the undercard and a handful of really good G1 matches. That main event kind of deflated my mood so I'm going Thumbs in the Middle.
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