We want to thank Matt Ederer for all of his contributions during the G1. You can follow him on Twitter @MattEderer and all of his blog postings here: https://medium.com/@TheSpoilerRole
The definition of a one match show. The undercard was fine, if a little weaker than last night’s. The first four G1 matches were mostly good, but nothing spectacular or above 4*. Omega/Okada III is the one we were all waiting for. Did it deliver? Let’s find out.
El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taka Michinoku & Taichi vs. Tiger Mask, Jushin Thunder Liger, KUSHIDA & Hirai Kawato
Your typical NJPW tag team opener. I’m a big fan of KUSHIDA, and Ol Despy’ is awesome when he gets the chance. A long match or short program between those two guys could be pretty good. They have some chemistry.
Solid NJPW tag team opener,. If you’ve seen them before, you’ve seen this before.
WINNERS: Suzukigun- 2.5*
Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Chase Owens, Tanga Loa & Yujiro Takahashi
Commentary: “A finalist last year, Goto achieved a positive win-loss record of 5–4, but this year lost to Naito and Tanahashi. YOSHIHASHI debuted in last year’s competition with 3 wins, but could only manage 2 this year. Ishii had a negative 4–5 record, and suffered an insulting loss via referee stoppage to Zack Saber Jr. After a disappointing few weeks, all three men will be looking to take out their frustrations in this tag match tonight.”
“Tanga Loa was upset that he wasn’t in this year’s G1. He thought he was a guaranteed pick after winning the tag belts this year. With so many wrestlers wanting a coveted spot in the G1, it just goes to show how prestigious the competition is.”
Awesome. NJPW is a sport.
Hard to go wrong with Ishii vs anybody, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Goto’s best use might actually be as the token mean dude in a tag team. Also, gotta say, I am always OK with the Tokyo Pimp Yujiro Takahashi getting some undercard time.
There was enough going on here that I would call it good. Fine match, straightforward undercard tag, you won’t miss anything if you don’t see it, but if you like three-quarter-naked women and absolutely shameless camera angles, you’ll love this.
Which I do! 10 stars!
No just kidding.
WINNERS: CHAOS- 3*
Takashi Iizuka & Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Yuji Nagata & Togi Makabe
Iizuka is an old crazyman, who comes to the ring through the audience, shouting gibberish. He looks like Japanese Mad Dog Vachon with a belt around his neck. His partner here was Zack Sabre Jr, the fanciest wrestler. Great dynamic there. I want to see them win the tag team titles to add to Zack’s title monopoly.
Problem is, those matches would not be “great” per se. Solid when ZSJ was in, pretty dire when Iizuka was in. I hope Nagata gets one last run of some kind after his amazing G1 this year.
What the fuck is the iron finger btw?
WINNERS: Suzukigun- 2*
Cody, Young Bucks, Hangman Page & Bad Luck Fale vs. War Machine, Ricochet, Ryusuke Taguchi & Katsuya Kitamura
Kitamura is a beast. He’s Japanese Brian Cage.
Not as good as last night’s Young Bucks match, but something of a screwier sequel to it? Some Young Bucks matches are classics because they’re like an amazing action movie. Some Bucks matches are classics because they’re like an amazing comedy movie. Last night’s Bucks match was not a classic movie. But it was an entertaining movie. It was like, say, Scary Movie.
This match was Scary Movie 2. Good for a chuckle but not quite as charming as the original.
WINNERS: Bullet Club- 3*
David Finlay, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI
A fine wrestling match this was. Again,a pretty basic tag team match, it was good, but they didn’t blow the roof off. 70% speed six man.
The people really do love Tetsuya Naito now, which is awesome considering how they felt about him 4–5 years ago:
Commentary: “After overcoming the Texas Cloverleaf that defeated him in Osaka-jo Hall, Naito defeated Tanahashi to secure a spot in the G1 Final. It’s been four years since he last reached the final. When he won in 2013, he couldn’t enjoy the victory at all. The fans rejected him, he formed LIJ in response, and will be back tomorrow to relish the victory he desperately wanted.
Tanahashi was so close. Just one win away. Just one win away to to the final. He’s been battling for his spot as the Ace of the company — against the passing of the torch. Tanahashi may not be the centerpiece anymore, but he battles to stay in the spotlight each and every day!”
An eventual full-blown Tana heel turn would be so great.
WINNERS: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, David Finlay- 3*
Michael Elgin vs. Juice Robinson
“IT’S TIME TO DRINK SOME SAPPORO AND GO BALLS DEEP IN SOME BEAUTIFUL JAPANESE WOMEN” -Juice Robinson, today, unfortunately.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Elgin finished up with NJPW soon, or at least slowed down with them. Pure speculation, but he’s been talking about getting more involved with the Canadian indy scene (at least, like, that’s what he says when he appears on Canadian indy shows).
Awesome little #Merican style match here. Our future IWGP US champion Juice Robinson has come a long way this month. Great tournament for the kid.
Commentary: “Mr Liger, Juice left WWE NXT to start from zero again at the dojo. He must have gained so much experience in his first G1.”
Liger: “That is true. Juice has grown so much at a frightening pace.”
Pretty much covers it.
WINNER: Juice Robinson- 3.5*
Tama Tonga vs. SANADA
Commentary: “Sanada’s plancha is in the style of his mentor, Muta. He jumps so high that it looks like he stops in midair.”
Liger: “How in the world does he do that? That’s definitely not natural.”
Haha, awesome. No it is not.
This match should have had the old Martel/HBK “they are not allowed to hit each other in the face, these heels are too pretty” stipulation. I digress.
Tama Tonga looks far more confident right now than I’ve ever seen him. I think he’s probably hit his ceiling in NJPW, but boy is he ready for the WWE. Once SANADA can get to that point, we will have a new Japanese star on our hands. Very good match.
WINNER: Tama Tonga- 3.5*
Minoru Suzuki vs. Toru Yano
Cue the Benny Hill music. Yano tries to get one over on Minoru Suzuki. And succeeds 😦 Unfortuantely this means that revenge is surely in the works for young Toru Yano (he’s probably old actually, Old Toru Yano).
The straightjacket tape spot was interesting at least.
WINNER: Toru Yano- 2* would rather see Suzuki murder fools but what can you do
EVIL vs. Satoshi Kojima
Yugi Nagata has gotten a lot of hype over this tournament, but Kojima has had a hell of an old-man run in the G1 too. Nagata has been more consistent, but don’t think there was a Nagata match quite as good as Kojima/Okada from Day 8.
Commentary: “In the lead-up to his match, Kojima spoke that he knew EVIL before everything became evil. He’ll show him tonight that Everything is TenCozy!”
lol, sure ya will, Dad.
Solid match, the door stays open for Kojima to come back for one more old-ass G1 run next year. This didn’t even touch the emotion of Yugi’s powerful farewell, which makes me think Kojima’s own farewell may be coming down the road and that this wasn’t quite the end for Kojima.
Very solid wrestling match and one that we may see again down the line. EVIL has gone from random lower-midcarder to a real star genuinely on the map in New Japan.
WINNER: EVIL- 3.5*
Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada
Incredible professional wrestling.
You might like this one the most of their trilogy. It was definitely the fastest-paced of the three matches. Okada/Omega III does not requite a humongous time commitment, or even any knowledge of the backstory. Okada’s neck is hurt. You can see the tape on Okada’s neck for yourself. Kenny has yet to beat Okada. Winner goes to the final. We’re up to speed.
Kenny Omega brings the fight to the injured champion immediately, utilizing a very clear game plan of “hm I’ve noticed that tape there pal, I’m just gonna try to break your neck real quick thanks”.
Kazuchika Okada’s 2017 has been a war of attrition. There was his first best match ever vs Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom in January, the famous six-star match. Then the brutal, disgusting striking match v Shibata, where poor Katsuyori Shibata literally ended his own career (for real) by headbutting Okada (uh, for real).
Then came Minoru Suzuki, and 45-minute long dissection that Okada was lucky to escape from. Another match, and a 30 minute draw, with Minoru Suzuki would be forthcoming. That’s Minoru Suzuki, angry sadist. Those two Suzuki matches alone should be enough to end a title reign/lesser man’s career. Not to mention, another 60 minutes with Kenny Omega in between. Then came matches vs. the Giant Bad Luck Fale, and another vs. the crafty Cody Rhodes and his entire Bullet Club.
The G1 Climax is itself the ultimate war of attrition, with 9 main event matches (well, 8 and Yano) lined for the champ Okada in under a month. Okada took the absolute best shot his opponent could dish out, every night. He withstood the best effort of Juice Robinson’s career. He took Kojima’s last truly great shot. He took SANADA’s first truly great shot. He took about a hundred thousand powerbombs from Michael Elgin. Tama Tonga took him to the limit. His own partner Yano even almost stole one on him. Finally, Okada ran into somebody who was EVILLLLLL enough to straight-up just use weapons. Okada couldn’t stand up to the wear and tear and constant abuse anymore, and he dropped one to EVIL and EVIL dropped him on his head outside the ring. Then came the draw vs. Minoru Suzuki. The chinks in the armor were now plain to see.
Kazuchika Okada went 351 days without a 1 v 1 loss, and has now gone winless in his last three. Two losses and a draw. All of these battles have finally caught up to Okada. Where does that leave him? Will Naito or Omega be the one to get the shot?
New Japan is beautiful f’n professional wrestling.
This was their second best match in my eyes, but the story pushes it to 5*.
The original match, Okada/Omega I (6*) felt a little too cute to me. Omega was cutting promos for months about how he wanted to have the best match ever at WK, and then he visibly went out and tried to. Especially in the first 15 minutes, that match couldn’t quite grip me. It felt like two performers trying to have a perfect match rather than just a great match, as though you could see their wheels turning. It was a dance more than a fight. Just not my tastes. Still incredible, pro wrestling done spectacularly well. A 4.75* match, one that would have blown the doors off of everything in a lesser year.
The second match (6.25*) from Dominion was simply brilliant. An easy, no doubt 5* and an absolute master class of pro wrestling. It was the height of Okada’s awesome title reign, the height of Omega’s entire storied, well-traveled career, and it was just non-stop, dramatic, intense, perfect wrestling. The greatest compliment I can give it is that it does not feel an hour long. It was paced and built in such a way that the time flies by. Even the outside drama with the Bullet Club only enhances the overall presentation of the match.
The third match was not legendary on the level of Omega/Okada II from Dominion. But it was absolutely state-of-the-art wrestling with a story worthy of the main event, and a definitive, straight forward conclusion. Incredible professional wrestling match.
WINNER: Kenny Omega- 5*
THE TOP TEN
- Okada/Omega III — Day 18–5* — A fitting Part III to this generation’s Steamboat/Flair, this is now three legendary matches in one calendar year for Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada. Much like Flair and Steamboat, Kenny and Kaz only needed about 6 months to forever hammer out their place in professional wrestling history. Can’t wait to see the 4th match, whenever that may come. If Kenny wins tomorrow, we’ll (probably) see it January 4th at the Tokyo Dome.
2. Ibushi/Naito — Day 1–4.75* — BOMB FEST~!
3. Kojima/Okada — Day 8–4.75* — Great story-driven match. Okada is on record saying that the old men shouldn’t be in the G1 Climax anymore. Kojima is already eliminated, but a win v. the champ would guarantee a title shot and basically be a tournament win of its own. No extended finisher sequence either, it was awesome without being over the top. Probably the last great match of Satoshi Kojima’s career.
4. Elgin/Okada — Day 4–4.75* — Big Mike’s matches sometimes feel like too much. Between the apron moves, the powerbomb fests, and the insane backfists, stuff always tends to get lost in the shuffle. This was an amazing Elgin match though, perhaps my favourite performance of his career. Every move meant something, everything felt like it was sold and it advanced the plot of the match, and Big Mike’s power came into play for some unique and spectacular counters.
5. Okada/Suzuki — Day 16–4.5* — The rematch to their awesome human chess match from earlier in the year. Where that match was slow and scientific, this was brutal and in-your-face. Minoru Suzuki has a history with this building, which added some pretty interesting stakes to the main event. An all-out war.
6. ZSJ/Ibushi — Day 3–4.5* — The CWC final we needed, but not the one we deserved.
7. Tanahashi/Naito — Day 17 — A Block Final — 4.5*
8. Elgin/Omega — Day 8–4.5* — They have had superior matches to this one. Recently. This summer, in fact. Still, awesome stuff here between two good Canadian boys here in the G1 there, eh?
9. Ibushi/Nagata — Day 13–4.25 * — Nagata is not willing to go down easy, but father time is unbeatable. Awesome little match, loved the display of sportsmanship after the fact, and the look on Nagata’s face post-match. Just really good stuff here. This is what the G1 is all about.
10. Nagata/Tanahashi — Day 5–4.25* — The best Nagata matches are those where it feels like old man Nagata is a threat. We got a nice taste of Heel Tana!~ here as well. Awesome match. Still want to rewatch this one.
PROBABLY WATCH AT SOME POINT IN YOUR LIFE
Omega/Suzuki — Day 2–4.25* — Style clash, but one that really worked for me. This was a really nice mix of the typical Omega match and the typical Suzuki match, maybe heavier on the Suzuki side. Trying a reverse rana on ol’ Minoru was maybe not the best idea.
Ishii/Tanahashi — Day 15–4.25* — The standard NJPW main event, which is a compliment when it’s that high a standard. Ishii and Tanahashi aren’t going to have a bad match. love Hiroshi Tanahashi, Dillusional Ace. Okada is the clear #1 man in the company, and one of Naito or Omega are probably the safe #2/3. Tanahashi is only the “Ace” in his mind (and in his theme song).
EVIL/Okada — Day 14–4.25* — EVERYTHING IS EVILOO
Ishii/Ibushi — Day 5–4.25* — They have had superior matches, but I could watch Ishii v Ibushi on every show ever and not tire of it.
Ishii/Nagata — Day 11–4.25* — Nagata is awesome. Just still a mighty fine worker at 49 years of age. A really good “I am tougher than you//I DISAGREE SIR, IN FACT I AM THE TOUGHER” back and forth match.
Omega/EVIL — Day 12–4.25* — PLZ DONT BE DEAD EVIL 😦 If I were booking NJPW, I would send EVIL home for the tournament and maybe the summer. After that blow to the head, with the losses of Shibata and Honma this year, I think it paints a pretty bad picture about NJPW to have him wrestle. He was on the next show in an undercard tag! Why? But I’m not a doctor, what do I know? With how EVIL’s next show turned out, I guess I understand why he had to stick around.
ZSJ/Nagata — Day 15–4.25 * — Yugi Nagata is one of those guys who can write a novel with his face. Some wrestlers, you look at and go “he looks mean”. Nagata, you look at and go “he’s mentally preparing himself for a match against a technical chess master, he’s confident that he can beat him but not taking him lightly”. It’s art, not science. Nagata is an artist.
Ishii/Makabe — Day 3–4.25* — Surprisingly great brawl. Makabe is a brawler, and only a brawler, but he can have a good match with the right opponent. Usually, a brawler.
Juice/EVIL — Day 4–4.25* — Best match of either guy’s career up to this point. They may have both topped it later in the tourney, depending on how you feel about Juicey v Okada. But this was that G1 match that comes out of nowhere to surprise you.
SANADA/Okada — Day 6–4.25* — The Ace vs a true up-and-comer. SANADA is not quite there yet, but he’s close. He has all the tools, but hasn’t quite built the shed. The champ Okada also has all the tools, and has built a beautiful mansion atop Ace Mountain. Or something.
Ibushi/Tanashi — Day 11–4.25* — Victim of my own expectations here. I expected match of the tournament and maybe year, got a really decent match that was a little disappointing. Tanahashi’s selling and heeling is always a treat though. Worth watching.
Naito/Ishii — Day 9–4.25* — If you like this one, you’ll love their match from Feb 2016.
Omega/Kojima — Day 10–4.25* — Really solid match, just wish that it wasn’t so one-sided. The “old ass man” story that NJPW likes to tell is much more effective when the old ass man in question is a threat.
Tanahashi/Makabe — Day 13–4* — Hot hot take: Hiroshi Tanahashi is a good pro wrestler. Makabe as a pure worker, in terms of timing, presence, execution, etc etc, kicks the pants off of the Big Cass-types of the world. So even though most of Makabe’s stuff isn’t exactly exciting, he hits it with such impact, and it is sold so well and presented at such times of the match, that Makabe looks like a real threat. Also, the guy throws a hell of a powerbomb, and the Spider Suplex is one of the coolest moves in the history of wrestling. I digress.
Tanahashi/ZSJ — Day 1–4* — Awesome technical chess match, classic example of “working the arm”.
Ishii/Fale — Day 13–4* — Perfect length, great closing stretch, awesome display of what makes Tomohiro Ishii one of the most underrated wrestlers in the history of the business. Best Fale match I have ever seen, but that is an extremely low hurdle to clear. I have yet to see Fale v Okada from earlier this year, and missed pretty much every Fale v Nakamura match.
Tanahashi/Fale — Day 3–4* — Not as good a match as Ishii v Fale, but maybe the best count-out in the history of pro-wrestling?
Omega/Yano — Day 6–4* — While we are hyper-bowling, maybe the best comedy match in the history of pro-wrestling?
For the full rankings of every match, check out parts 1–16 and/or stay tuned for the final tomorrow.