Cubed Circle Newsletter – 147: G1 Climax Mania!
We have a giant issue for everyone this week, covering nights six through twelve of the G1 Climax, an overview with Bryan Rose, the tournament’s place in history, that RAW thing that isn’t the G1, Ben Carass also covers things that aren’t the G1, NXT, SmackDown and more! And, as some may be aware, this is the final issue that I will be manning for a while, due to looming exams. But, there is little to fear, with Ben Carass and Bryan Rose steering the ship for a few months, the newsletter will be a tad bit lighter than usual, but will continue chugging along, and should still be a lot of fun. For now, however, I hope everyone enjoys our monster G1 issue!
– Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter
G1 Climax 2014, Knocking on the Door of Legendary Status?
The question a top many a New Japan fans’ mind upon the conclusion of last year’s G1 Climax tournament on August 11th was of how New Japan, and any other promotion for that matter, would be able to put on a tournament of the same, or greater, in-ring pedigree, with as great a match catalog, and with the same diversity. Was it the single greatest wrestling tournament of the era, or perhaps even all time? And here we are, a year later to the day, and the same questions are being asked on the same message boards, on the same radio shows – will the G1 Climax of 2014 be remembered in ten or twenty years time, as the apex of this era of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and as some gold standard for pro-wrestling tournaments in the future, just as shows and groups of shows like ‘When Worlds Collide’, the 1994 Super J Cup, and WrestleMania X7 are remembered today?
That final question is one, of course, heavily stooped in pro-wrestling fan culture, and the evolution there of, with the first two shows being remembered for what they innovated and introduced many to, and the second as the last show of one of pro-wrestling’s major peaks in America. But, judging by the resounding support, and near-universal acclaim for this tournament, as universal as you will find in a niche community, the answer may be yes; and whether or not that answer is just, we will soon get into.
Firstly, if this year’s tournament were to be considered one of the greatest of all time, what would that say for last year’s tournament, and was the G1 Climax of 2014 somehow intrinsically better than that of 2013? Whilst subjectively, I did find this year’s G1 to harbour a higher volume of great matches, than that of 2013, I am still engaged in an internal debate as to whether or not the peaks of 2014 were as high as those of the year prior 2013. On the one hand, last year’s tournament featured the very first Ishii/Shibata match, one that the company has tried numerous times to replicate, they attempted on the tenth night of this year’s tournament. The original still stands, for me personally, as one of the best matches of 2013, and certainly that of its type, perhaps in history. Consequently, I don’t believe any match in 2014 have yet matched it, and very few came close to Nakamura/Ibushi from last year’s Bodymaker show – and the same can be said for Ishii/Tanahashi. In the same vein, I don’t believe any single show of this year’s tournament to be as spectacular as that of the Bodymaker show of August 4th 2013 – again, a show that on its own, sits on a very short list of my favourite of all time.
Whilst last year’s tournament did have a single match that was one step above everything on this year’s show, and a show that was beyond even the seventh and eighth nights of its 2014 counter-part – this year’s G1 possesses much of what last year’s tournament lacked, and this mainly comes down to coherence. The parity booking of the G1 has become somewhat of a given in the Gedo & Jado era of New Japan. It was the most effective tool they had when working with the traditional layout of the tournament, that is, the finals only being decided on the last night of the tour. This model was however, modified this year, and for the better. Instead of having the winners of both the A and B blocks decided on the final night, which would require most everyone to be on equal footing heading in, there was a two day gap between the end of the block stages and the finals at the Seibu Dome, this year. Meaning, that the finals were known heading into the very last show of the tour, allowing Jado & Gedo to forego, not only the cheaper final night of booking, but also parity all together.
What this meant for the tournament was that instead of having predictable patterns emerge with the leader of the block never being more than two or so wins behind the bottom, interesting win/loss streaks could emerge with no effect on the proceedings of the final night. Not only that, but big upsets meant more this time around, even if there were far fewer, as the top stars were, in general, only defeated by other top stars.
Aiding too, in the overall coherence of the tournament, and the manner in which it was built, was the performance of Okada and Nakamura in the finals at the Seibu Dome, which felt, in terms of match quality and general aura, the true zenith of the tournament, which may not have been the case for Naito’s victory over Tanahashi, and the underwhelming crowd reactions he received.
Conversely, the choice of placing Nakamura and Okada in the finals, with Tanahashi and AJ Styles and their battle for third place in the second spot on the card, may not have been the best idea for the company’s long term creative direction. It was by far their biggest fresh match on offer, slowly building for months, only to be booked with two days build. Of course, an ever-present possibility, is that Okada’s victory over Nakamura with an incredibly excessive, albeit uber climactic, trio of three Rainmaker lariats in succession, could lead to an even bigger match down the road. But, their first meeting since the G1 of 2012, which very few probably remember, certainly had a marquee value all its own.
The most bizarre booking decision of this year’s tournament was however what transpired after the semi-main-event, with Jeff Jarrett and Scott D’Amore, of all people, turning on Tanahashi following a Bullet Club beat down, joining the stable. Jarrett was part of the shows earlier proceedings signing a contract relating to his Global Force Wrestling group, which has even reached as far as the South African WWP promotion. What is most frustrating about the move is not that Jarrett will be appearing on New Japan programming, but rather that the Bullet Club, who with a year plus presence in the company, finally began connecting with the audience due to phenomenal individual performances, will be severely diluted by the inclusion of Jarrett & D’Amore – a pair who could offer very little to the stable in return. If this was a mid-card act it would be acceptable purely as a political move, but when it becomes a major angle involving the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and a man who has proven himself to be one of the best performers in the company, AJ Styles, I begin to worry.
Styles had, what may have very well been, the best single run of his career on this tour, with very little Bullet Club interference to obscure the working ability of a top five worldwide worker. And it was Styles’ performances with the likes of the beaten down Hiroyoshi Tenzan, or Minoru Suzuki, that speak to what made this year’s tournament unique. The G1 Climax of 2013 was indeed peppered with great performances, the fast majority were between pairs of good and great workers, and less so by the Hiroyoshi Tenzan’s of the world, who are incredibly beaten down, or even Toru Yano, who had an hilarious comedy bought with Karl Anderson – although Yano did have a fairly good tournament last year, where fans consistently got behind him as the lovable heel. Likewise, clearly frivolous matches, were kept short, and hardly ever overstayed their welcome. It is the performances of the Archer and Tenzan types, putting on surprisingly great matches, that speaks for the coherence of this year’s tournament. As does the reception that they received in lesser buildings like those in Aichi or Hamamatsu.
The big shows and matches of the 2013 G1 will most probably always hold a high status, especially given that it was the first opportunity for fans outside of Japan to watch the tournament live in its entirety. But it is because of factors like the great crowds, performers working as hard as they possibly could, days off, and a far more functional booking plan that, as a cohesive tournament body 2014 surpassed 2013. Whether that means that this year’s tournament was better than last is purely subjective.
Bryan Rose on the 2014 G1 Climax & It’s Legacy
Two weeks ago I was wondering if the rest of the 24th G1 Climax tournament would surpass last year’s tournament as one of the best tournaments I’ve seen on a live timescale. After watching the finals last night, I can safely say…yes! Surpassing the G1 Climax tournament from last year was tough as that tournament had some of the best matches of the year. But this year’s tournament had more. At the end of the day, countless ****+ were had, and 3 of them got **** ¾ or better, something that, in most years, happens maybe once, if at all.
Continuing our look at individual days, Day 5 had some great matches in AJ Styles vs. Hirooki Goto and Kazuchika Okada besting Tetsuya Naito. Match of the night, however, went to Tomoaki Honma and Shinsuke Nakamura in a **** ½ insanely heated match. This probably would have been on a whole other level if there wasn’t a major botch towards the end of the match. I believe Honma tried to do a bridging pin on Nakamura, it didn’t work, and they both just kind of rested for a while, unsure of what to do. That deflated the match a ton, even though people were into the eventual finish with Nakamura winning. It sucked that a match with so much insane heat (probably the best out of any match excluding the finals) would get marred with a badly botched spot, but that’s how wrestling goes, I guess.
Day 6 had a bevy of excellent matches as well, but on the grand scheme of things there wasn’t one match that stood out. Satoshi Kojima beat Katsuyori Shibata in a hell of a match with one of the scariest spots of the show: Shibata nailing a gruesome penalty kick to Kojima’s chest for the win. Karl Anderson and Hirooki Goto followed, having a great match with the last few minutes being excellent with quite the memorable finishing stretch. Tenzan and AJ Styles had a tremendous match. A lot of people want to rag on Tenzan for being too banged up, and thus many people questioned why he was in the tournament in the first place. I was one of those people. But the performances Tenzan gave shut me up. While he still looks like he’s in pain, he still worked his ass off and most of his matches in the tournament were great, if not better. Day 6 finished with Hiroshi Tanahashi scoring the win over Tomohiro Ishii in a **** ¼ match that was just excellent. Not as good as their G1 match from last year, but still one of the best matches on the show.
Day 7 had the best match on the card. There are two others I’ll get to in a bit that I think stood out above the rest, but in terms of building to submissions, transitions, and actual wrestling I believe Minoru Suzuki and AJ Styles had the best match in the tournament. Just phenomenal work (no pun intended) from these two with some of the best submission work from Suzuki that you’ll see around. If you have to see one match in this tournament, it’s this one. I gave it *****, some others didn’t, but look, snowflake ratings are subjective. I give them out so other people know whether or not to watch a match. This one is extremely recommended. Togi Makabe and Tetsuya Naito had a great match, and the last two matches were excellent with Nagata beating Shibata and Nakamura beating Ishii in a **** ½ match. This is probably going to get a ton of votes for card of the year, and I don’t blame anyone who does.
I say probably because Day 8 had the most snowflakes of any show of the tournament, with 6/10 getting **** or better. The top two matches on the card were the ones people were talking about in the end, however. Shibata beat Honma in the co-main, the best match of the show at **** ½. It was just an exceptionally stiff match, with heat off the charts. Thinking about it now, this was probably the most heated match of the tournament, not Nakamura/Honma. It’s funny how Honma gets the best reactions out of anyone, but didn’t win one match the entire tour. It’s bizarre.
Day 9 doesn’t stand out to me. This despite there being two ****1/2 matches between Suzuki/Naito and Okada/Goto. They were excellent matches that, if you want to see anything from Day 9, there you go. But it’s so weird. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything to say about them other than they were excellent with great heat.
Day 10 didn’t have anything extremely special other than Ishii and Shibata. This is where Ishii came in injured. He had a great match with Davey Boy Smith, where, at the end, he separated his shoulder. This would take most men out of the tournament. But, lo and behold, Ishii was here and had an excellent match with Shibata with tons of stiff shots and spots that were amazing to witness – Shibata’s work on Ishii’s bum shoulder, even mocking him in some spots. This was an amazing match, but that wasn’t even Ishii’s best performance in the tournament, which is mind-boggling if you think about it.
That would take place on day 11, when Tomohiro Ishii and Yuji Nagata had one of the best matches in the tournament at ****3/4. Just a mind-boggling match given the stiff shots and Ishii’s injury that really should have rendered him barely able to compete. But Ishii gutted through and had an amazing match with some extremely well timed, fun spots. The last match of the actual tournament, Okada beating Suzuki to advance to the finals, was another awesome match at **** ½. Suzuki again stole the show with his submission work, but Okada was excellent here too. When Suzuki punched him blatantly with a closed fist, Okada’s face and movements leading to the end of the match were plain awesome. A great way to close the overall tournament.
Then we go to the finals. I don’t know if the Seibu Dome is a great place for wrestling or anything in the future. I know why they decided to go there, because they wanted more people to go to the finals. NJPW reported 18,000, which was they number they wanted, but visually…I dunno. The actual setup looked great, and it felt like a big time show. A lot of empty seats were visible, however, and when Iizuka came out for his match and roamed around the arena it was quite apparent entire sections were left empty. But the mentality over there, it was explained to me, is that as long as they get the number they wanted, it’s fine with them that there were empty seats everywhere. It’s not the same mentality North American promotions share in that cameras can’t show empty seats.
As for the actual matches themselves, well…a lot of the undercard was lacking. The multi man tags were fine for what they were. The six man, with Sakuraba, Yano, and Yoshi Hashi taking on Suzuki, Iizuka and Shelton Benjamin was one of the worst matches on the tour. When Sakuraba and Suzuki were in there, things got interesting. Everything else was boring or just plain sucked. The DQ finish, with Suzuki refusing to let go of Sakuraba on the ropes, did not sit well with fans. But it’s going somewhere at least, and maybe in a good direction as Nagata and Sakuraba are probably due for a battle soon. Better than Suzuki and Yano, I’d imagine.
As for matches that were actually good, there were three. The Jr. tag title match, with Timesplitters beating ROH’s reDragon to retain, was excellent with tons of high spots and tag team combo spots. These four have great chemistry with one another and I hope we see more of reDragon in New Japan. The co-main, with Hiroshi Tanahashi and AJ Styles, was also awesome, although both had better matches throughout the tournament. There were still some great spots and great storytelling, with Tanahashi escaping the Styles Clash every time, eventually scoring a pinfall after one final attempt by AJ Styles.
This is probably where I should mention the Bullet Club stuff. Everyone ran down and attacked Hiroshi Tanahashi once the bell rang. Jeff Jarrett, who was there to sign an agreement with the totally happening Global Force Wrestling, came out with Scott D’Amore, who was there because…umm…I have no idea. Anyway, they come out like they’re ready to help Tanahashi. D’Amore gives him a guitar, but it has the Bullet Club logo on it. So yes, Jarrett whacked Tanahashi with the guitar and now both he and D’Amore are with the Bullet Club. I thought the segment itself was fun, but then again it’s like the equivalent of Horace Hogan and Brian Adams joining – the Bullet Club is becoming over-inflated, perhaps it’s becoming too much like the nWo they borrow a ton of their mannerisms from. But let’s see where it goes. I can still say that in NJPW and more often than not, at least these kind of angles actually go somewhere.
In the finals, Kazuchika Okada beat Shinsuke Nakamura to win the G1 for the second time. It was a pretty good match at the start, but towards the end it was just incredible. Okada went for the rainmaker, but Nakamura did one of the best counters of all time, turning it into an armbar that nearly had Okada tapping. Lots of finisher spamming, yes, but it was awesome, with Okada hitting three rainmaker clotheslines in a row to win the tournament. At **** ¾, it was another incredible match that you must see, and well worth your time in doing so.
I can understand that there’s backlash when people say that this the best tournament of all time, and so on and so forth. And it’s definitely a subjective statement. There might have been other G1 tournaments that were better (which is hard to believe in my eyes) that were not shown in full form on TV and whatnot. But in terms of what I’ve seen in a live capacity since 1999, I can safely say this is the best tournament that I’ve seen live. A lot of questions remain for New Japan in terms of booking, and where they’re going with things like the Bullet Club, but even if they have a spotty fall and winter, they remains one of the best promotions on the planet.
RAW Was Pretty Fun, But By No Means the G1
The road to the 2014 Summer Slam pay-per-view continued this week with what was quite the unremarkable edition of Monday Night RAW, baring a couple of segments. The main talking point for most people heading out of the show seemed to be the John Cena/Brock Lesnar hype video, which was strikingly similar to the video promoting their first match at Extreme Rules 2012, which in-turn was based on UFC promotion. It aired twice on the show, with the line that stuck most coming from the mouth of Brock Lesnar who vowed to leave Cena broken, in a pile of his own “blood, urine and vomit”.
Before watching the show I happened to come across a couple of posts relating to people’s overall opinions on the show, and when I saw mentionings of blood, urine, and vomit, specifically the latter two, my expectations on the show were grim, after all, I was expecting to witness some outrageous illustration of the WWE’s often times grotesque, and childish sense of homour. Of course, when it was Brock Lesnar mentioning these things as part of one of the best hype videos that the WWE has done this year, I couldn’t help but smile. Neither Cena, nor Lesnar or even Heyman were directly on the show however, which led to, for the third week in a row, the Stephanie McMahon angle with Brie Bella taking the main event spot on the card. Given that Cena and Lesnar weren’t on the show this week, and there had to be a marquee angle in the final segment of the show, Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella were fine candidates to go on last. However, as has been the case for the past three weeks or so, they, in my view, undelivered. They had a contract signing in the main event spot on the show, which was pushed as a major segment even though most people watching, as is evident by the numbers of a three week span, didn’t see it that way. Stephanie ended up pedigree’ing both Bellas, getting away with a pedigree on Nikki whilst Triple H restrained Brie in the corner, with Stephanie and Hunter kissing to close out the show. I don’t know if I would have had an, admitted, non-wrestling performer be able to pedigree a fresh, trained professional member of the roster, but that’s just me.
In other big news coming out of this week’s edition of RAW, Hunter attempted to spark Network interest in a very modern and creative way. Clearly taking not of the meme-like nature of chants in modern pro-wrestling, he managed to get his own going in a matter of minutes by professing that the Network was only $9.99, repeatedly, to the point of comedy. The crowd caught along fast, however, and soon began finishing the phrase for him – “for just…$9.99”. As has been seen with numerous catchy gimmicks, like the singing of Fandango’s theme song, it is quite common for something to catch on with the fans on a visceral level that will in no way translate into additional business. However, when a person in a position of power wants to create a gimmick of that sort from the start, specifically when it relates to a topic of heavy interest, in this case the Network, it won’t have its legs cut off. What is more, is that by having the crowd develop the chant themselves, albeit with major coaxing, the power relations between fan and promoter changes. Throughout the past few months it was the WWE attempting to shove the Network down the throats of its audience, where as it is now a matter of the crowd going along with the idea and empowering it, with illusory free will over the topic. At the same time, the idea of Hunter attempting to rally the fans behind an idea is rather strange, given that he is supposed to be the hated authority figure – even if, in recent months, the Authority angle has tended towards cartoon villainy more that anything that most could take seriously.
They also handed Ambrose a recycled Alicia Fox angle, of all things, as he distracted Rollins by throwing sloppy popcorn and JBL’s hat into the Money in the Bank briefcase, leading to a HEATH SLATER upset. Whilst Ambrose was, this time around, a larger distraction than that of your standard goof in half the matches on the card, the fact that Rollins got pinned by Heath Slater, no matter how big of a distraction Ambrose may have been, seems to be a profoundly stupid idea. It was a booking decision that brought Ambrose and Rollins from bring a strong semi-mainevent level act for Summer Slam, down to that of the upper midcard (if that still exists). It is something that they can, and most probably will, come back from, but that doesn’t change the fact that creative should be nurturing their stars, and not attempting to derail them. This is unless they thought that this would put added heat on either man, which is quite frankly beyond me.
Reigns and Kane had a last man standing match early on in the show, a match that Reigns should of and did win. The more intriguing element of the match, for me at least, was that after it occurred, Kane handed his mask back, which hopefully means that he will be stepping out of a full-time wrestling role. Ziggler and Cesaro had a match that was largely a waste, with Ziggler defeating Cesaro in two minutes, which I presume is going to lead to a Cesaro face turn down the line; a mentality that makes very little sense in 2014. The Swagger/Rusev program was progressed some, although a strange way of doing it was to have Zeb Colter display stock imagery of “Real Americans” on the tron, a military photo did get an expected pop though. Mark Henry, who is indeed VERY BIG made his return against Damien Sandow in his home-state.
RAW was pretty fun this week, a good 25%, and had a very worth while video package, as well as some smart marketing, it just wasn’t fun as some other things this week, namely hours upon hours of the 2014 G1 Climax – go watch that instead.
NJPW G1 Climax 2014 Night 6 July 31st
Act City Hamamatsu, Hamamatsu, Chubu
1. G1 Climax A Block Match: Doc Gallows (1-3) vs. Bad Luck Fale (3-2)
This was a match reminiscent of the KES showdown in last year’s G1, only not as good. They went back and forth with shoulderblocks and forearms with little serious heat. Similar spots reoccurred throughout, with patches of Gallows or Fale dominance wedged in-between. Gallows grabbed a surprising flash pin on Fale off of, of all things, a front kick. — Perhaps the dullest match of the tournament thus far. 26-25
2. G1 Climax B Block Match: Davey Boy Smith Jr (2-2) w/ Taka Michinoku vs. Yuji Nagata (2-2)
Smith landed a high-speed kick to the side that I wouldn’t have expected from a man his size. It could be stated that, as of late, the forearm exchange is a terribly overused tool in puroresu. Where once a ten second exchange could elicit an outstanding reaction, exchanges tending towards a minute are often what is needed to elicit a reaction of equal amplitude under the same conditions in 2014 — that is, except in the case of Yuji Nagata. The bigger, at times faster, younger Smith was in control early. He landed a leg-trap exploder and tiger suplex, both for two. On the topic of spots that don’t mean as much, Smith took and no-sold a German suplex, before being pinned with a backdrop for the win. — From this point on it was clear that this was going to be a tough crowd to please. 27-25.
3. G1 Climax B Block Match: Yujiro Takahashi (1-3) vs. Togi Makabe (2-2)
Takahashi attacked Makabe, and targeted his legitimately injured jaw. A Makabe come-back was spurred on by some slaps to the top of the head from Yujiro. Yujiro looked to take Makabe down with forearms and lariats, clearly this wasn’t an effective game-plan. Makabe missed the King Kong Knee. Both men collided with lariats. There was an inexplicable ref-bump, with Yujiro landing a low-blow, buckle-bomb and Miami Shine for the win. 28-25
4. G1 Climax A Block Match: Katsuyori Shibata (4-1) vs. Satoshi Kojima (1-4)
Kojima took Shibata down with a lariat and jiggled his pecks, which Shibata was clearly not a fan of. As a result Shibata had himself a stiff slap on the outside, but Kojima was back in control with a DDT on the ring-apron. A battle over a suplex on the outside ensued, with the winner looking to win via count-out, the announcer already on fourteen or so. Shibata won the suplex battle, but Kojima made it back in with a second or so left. Bludgeoning fun with Shibata was cut short by a Kojima lariat when Shibata went for his flying dropkick. A by the numbers no-sell backdrop spot followed. Shibata successfully landed his flying dropkick. Shibata posed a unique counter to Kojima’s lariat with a kick to the arm, immediately caught with another. Shibata busted out an actual pro-wrestling move, the dropkick, leading to a double down. Shibata landed his new backfist, and got Kojima up for the GTS and kick of doom for the win. This may not have been on the level of their match from Korakuen last year, but it was close. 28-26
5. G1 Climax B Block Match: Hirooki Goto (2-3) vs. Karl Anderson (1-4)
Karl Anderson has developed dramatically in the charisma and presence department since joining the Bullet Club. They had a good athletic exchange to open things up. There was another count-out finish teased here with Goto making it back into the ring at 18. Old-school heat followed, with Anderson rubbing his forearm into the face of Goto, stomping the head, and selling heavily for all of Goto’s major offence. Goto kicked out of the jumping powerbomb. A headbutt won Goto a forearm exchange. Goto landed his sun-set flip from night five, it looked all the more impressive this time around. Anderson kicked out of the over-the-knee-fireman’s-carry-neckbreaker. A main event counter sequence followed, with Anderson picking the win up with a gun stun. 28-27
6. G1 Climax B Block Match: Minoru Suzuki (2-2) vs. Lance Archer (2-2) both w/ Taka Michonoku
Suzuki-gun heartbreak once more. Suzuki went after one of his beloved underlings’ legs in the guardrail, and only days after Suzuki-gun triumph too. Suzuki rained down the headbutts and locked in a figure four, with Archer making it to the ropes. Archer fired up with his comeback, and was caught in a sleeper. Suzuki went for the Gotch-piledriver, as is the natural progression from the sleeper, which the crowd were ever so into. Suzuki then flipped Archer over for his newer finish! Suzuki-gun fist-bump of brotherly love followed! 28-28
7. G1 Climax A Block Match: Shinsuke Nakamura (3-1) vs. Shelton Benjamin (4-1) w/ Taka Michinoku
Nakamura was, at least within the context of New Japan, Benjamin’s best ever opponent in their past matches. He attacked Nakamura before the bell, targeting his leg, and therefore the Boma Ye. Nakamura, after landing an enzuigiri, began his comeback with the expected gyrations and knee in the corner. Shinsuke grabbed his reverse suplex, and looked for the Boma Ye, but Benjamin responded with his flat-looking German suplex. Nakamura locked in his armbar, but Benjamin transitioned smoothly to an ankle lock. Nakamura landed his jumping Boma Ye, as well as the regular Boma Ye for two in a nearfall that didn’t garner so much as a minor pop — only fuelling the argument for the dilution of that move. Nakamura finished Benjamin moments later anyway with the Boma Ye. 29-28.
8. G1 Climax B Block Match: AJ Styles (2-2) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2-2)
Styles did the standard “heel does the Mongolian chop” deal, but got a huge reaction doing so. Tenzan screamed in response, Styles unloaded with seemingly as many as he could muster, which Tenzan brushed off, dropping Styles with one of his own. Styles was the third subsequent person to look for a count-out win tonight. Styles landed a dropkick — the proudest man in the world he was of this feat. They exchanged chops, and Styles dropped Tenzan with the Pele. Styles looked for repeated Styles Clashes, but in turn moved himself closer to the ropes, setting up for a Tenzan backdrop to the outside. Tenzan kicked out of a lionsault from Styles following a strike flurry. Tenzan went to the top for a diving headbutt, Styles kicked out, and was locked in the anaconda vice. The anaconda vice slam followed, but Styles made it to the ropes. Tenzan missed his moonsault, as he always does. Styles then landed the safest Styles Clash you ever did see, and it isn’t even a dangerous move (unless you’re Roderick Strong), for the win. — This was nothing short of a masterful carry-job for Styles, not only performing with Tenzan at the position expected from this spot on the card, but perhaps even reaching beyond that. This was even shot brilliantly, with Styles barely visible during the second vice spot, creating the illusion of a tap, fueling tension. Who was I to question New Japan, El Dandy? Styles is the man. 30-28.
9. G1 Climax B Block Match: Kazuchika Okada (3-2) w/ Gedo vs. Toru Yano (3-2)
Okada did his standard rainmaker pose off of the clean break, but was met with Yano’s confused pose and a goofy smile — the best comedy figure in wrestling today. Gedo prevented Yano from grabbing a chair, at least temporarily, but when Okada went to attack Yano from behind, he was sent hurtling into Gedo…Yano grabbed the chair anyway. Standard Yano crowd-brawling and turnbuckle antics ensued. Okada landed the belly-to-back-over-the-knee-neck-breaker, diving elbow, and went for the lariat. Yano, however countered, whipping Okada into the exposed buckle. A precision drop kick to the gut of Yano from Okada, but Yano resorted to using Red Shoes as a human shield. BIG POP for a Yano low-blow nearfall; there was an attempted Red Shoes spot again, but when Yano came running Okada caught him with a lariat for the win. This was another match that was better than it had any right to be. 31-28
10. G1 Climax A Block Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi (3-2) vs. Tomohiro Ishii (3-2)
This was, of course, a rematch from one of the best matches of last year’s G1, and the year of 2013. Tanahashi started with his subtle heel antics by attempting to land an elbow on Ishii in place of an anticipated clean break. These two exchanges some vicious chop, an exchange Ishii got the better of. Ishii slapped Tanahashi, screaming for him to come back at him. Tanahashi obliged, unloading with many a strike in the corner. Ishii took it all, and came back, but was then dropped with a couple more. Tanahashi locked in a high-angle clover leaf. Ishii locked in a sharp-shooter of his own. Tanahashi escaped and was lifted up top for a delayed vertical superplex. A heated forearm exchanged followed. Tanahashi slapped Ishii to death. Tanahashi landed a release dragon suplex. Ishii was walking around the ring like he didn’t know where he was, and was caught with a sling blade for two. Tanahashi landed the high-fly-flow to a standing Ishii, but Ishii avoided one on the mat. Ishii landed a sliding D for two. Tanahashi then kicked out of a strong lariat. Ishii landed yet another head butt, but was caught with a sling blade. Ishii called for Tanahashi to bring it again. Tanahashi responded with repeated slaps. Ishii kicked out of a Michinoku diver and then took the high fly flow for the win. — This certainly wasn’t as good as their match last year, but was still an outstanding main event in front of one of the least vocal crowds of the tour thus far. 32-28
Tanahashi, still heavily selling his neck after the Shibata match came back in for a promo, and air guitar(s).
NJPW G1 Climax 2014 Night 7 August 1st 2014
Korakuen Hall, Bunkyo, Tokyo
1. G1 Climax A Block Match: Satoshi Kojima (1-5) vs. Shelton Benjamin (4-2) w/ Taka Michinoku
After some miscellaneous back and forth in the ring, Kojima was unceremoniously back-dropped on the steel guard-rail. This put Benjamin in control until the point where he missed a Stinger’s splash, allowing Kojima to unload with a flurry of chops and land a DDT out on the floor. The pair exchanged chest slaps, but Benjamin grabbed hold of Kojima landing many an ugly suplex. Kojima was caught in an ankle lock, but willed to the ropes by this Korakuen crowd. Benjamin took a lariat to the back of the head, but met Kojima with a well-placed superkick, as Kojima ran forward looking to another. Benjamin landed his whip-roundhouse, amongst other things, but was then caught with a lariat for the win. — Kojima, even at 43 years old is able to lead a strong match which is a testament to his overall working ability. 32-29
2. G1 Climax B Block Match: Lance Archer w/ Taka Michinoku (2-3) vs. Toru Yano (3-3)
Archer gave chase to Yano around the ring. It looked as if Yano had out-smarted Archer, but Archer had Yano scouted as it were, and threw him into his own exposed buckle. This led to the greatness of a “Lance-Ar-Cher” taunt, which this crowd played along with, only to be met with a middle finger. Yano threw a chair into Archer’s hands, looking to steal a victory with a low-blow, but Archer ended up punching the chair into the face of Yano before landing the Killer Bomb for the win. — Yano’s annual G1 tear of fun continues. 32-30
3. G1 Climax B Block Match: Karl Anderson (2-4) vs. Yujiro Takahashi (2-3)
So much for Bullet Club Brotherly Love, which should be on a t-shirt or album cover in all honesty, as Yujiro and Anderson resorted to eye-rakes, eye-pokes, and biting amongst other things pretty early on here. This crowd got lightly behind Anderson during the Takahashi heat. Takahashi blocked the Gun Stun, Anderson leap-frogged over Anderson, but was caught with a German suplex. Yujiro looked for the Miami Shine, but was caught with a Gun Stun for the win. Much like the Suzuki/Archer match from the July 31st show, the pair hugged it out in the post-match. 33-30.
4. G1 Climax A Block Match: Davey Boy Smith Jr. w/ Taka Michinoku (2-3) vs. Doc Gallows (2-3)
A standard shoulder block test of strength started the proceedings — Smith won. Smith had Gallows up in a delayed vertical suplex for a good 30 seconds; very impressive. In the ensuing moments, however, Smith was body slammed on the outside, and had a chair thrown on him a couple of times. They exchanged right hands. Smith kicked out of a Gallows Bomb. Gallows went for his Fale-vanquishing boot, but was met with a leg-capture exploder. Smith locked in the sharpshooter and pulled Gallows through to the center of the ring for the submission. 33-31.
5. G1 Climax B Block Match: Hirooki Goto (2-4) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2-3)
The battle of 2013 G1 Climax casualties. As to be expected, Tenzan was the clear babyface here, selling for the bout’s majority. Tenzan began his comeback with a top-rope assisted bulldog. Tenzan landed a headbutt and locked in the anaconda vice – Goto made it to the ropes. Tenzan took part in a surprisingly smooth and main-event-level, finisher/counter exchange. He thankfully didn’t explode when taking the fireman’s-carry-over-the-knee-neck-breaker and blocked the Shouten Kai a number of times. A forearm battle followed, one that Goto won with the headbutt. Tenzan blocked a PK and fired back with a head butt! Tenzan landed the Tenzan Tombstone, Goto kicked out, but was caught with an anaconda buster for the submission. – Tenzan, due in large part to phenomenal crowd reactions, has experienced somewhat of an in-ring career renaissance – blow away by expectations. 33-32.
6. G1 Climax A Block Match: Tomoaki Honma (0-4) vs. Bad Luck Fale (3-3)
Honma for NEVER champion! Honma was overpowered early, but landed a Kokeshi to a standing Fale on the outside, which worked out better than expected. Things were looking up for Honma, even landing his falling headbutt. The real test, however, would be if he could execute the Kokeshi later on. Honma grabbed a quick sunset flip for two and a great near fall. He then successfully chopped the big tree down with headbutts. Test time — fail. Korakuen didn’t care however, as they still cheered Honma on loudly, as both men charged at each other from opposite corners, Fale catching Honma with a lariat. Honma kicked out of the spike chokeslam, but then took a terrifying border toss landing on his neck for the Fale victory. — Another outstanding performance from Honma, and new best match of Fale’s career. Honma got the Tanahashi treatment, being helped, piggy-backed to be specific, to the back. 33-33.
7. G1 Climax B Block Match: Togi Makabe (2-3) vs. Tetsuya Naito (4-1)
As hard as it may have been to believe a year ago, this crowd was split at the start of this match! I was expecting Naito, after initially being busted open by Yano with a chair, to be the new early/mid-80s Fujiwara, and bleed in every subsequent match for years — this was not the case. Whether this is good or bad for Naito is up for debate. Naito stood toe-to-toe with Makabe in terms of striking, and looked to out maneuver. Naito landed his dropkick, which suddenly garnered vocal boos. Naito landed another dropkick variant, and some boos were heard once more — weird. Makabe then busted out the RAINMAKER! Naito kicked out of a powerbomb, leading Makabe to attempt the King Kong Knee. This required Naito to be perched on the top rope however, which Naito wasn’t simply going to take. Naito fired off on Makabe, grabbed a high leverage roll-up for two, before being murdered with a lariat. Makabe went for the spider German, Naito fought it off, was shoved into the ring post, but still resisted. However, he was then damn-near-exploded against the post for the spider suplex, king-kong-knee and win. 33-34!
8. G1 Climax B Block Match: AJ Styles (3-2) vs. Minoru Suzuki (3-2) w/ Taka Michinoku
There was a prolonged face-off to start things. Suzuki began with an emphatic strike, but was sent to the outside with a dropkick from Styles, who then landed a springboard forearm off the guardrail. Suzuki kicked out of a Styles brain buster at one, a spot that they have thankfully cut down on in recent nights. Suzuki countered Styles’s springboard flying forearm with an armbar in the ropes, before landing a Davey Richards-esque punt from the ring apron. Suzuki then took Styles into the crowd, working the arm over further. In-ring the arm-work was great from Suzuki, this did generate little sympathy for Styles however. Styles was sent into Red Shoes who he tried to revive. TAKA attacked from behind, which led to run-ins from the Bullet Club and KES, who brawled to the back. Styles and Suzuki both unloaded with their signature strikes at the same time for a double down! In classic Suzuki fashion, he responded by working over the finger of Styles, such was his displeasure. He caught Styles mid flying forearm in an armbar, at the same time working the finger over. Styles was locked in a sleeper. Suzuki went for the Gotch piledriver, Styles blocked, was caught with a knee, but then picked Suzuki up in a powerbomb, which he turned into a Styles clash. Suzuki however, countered this into an ankle lock, Styles countered, but then it was Suzuki, who went back to an armbar! Suzuki wrenched back, but Styles picked Suzuki back up for the Styles Clash! Another double down. Suzuki spat at AJ, and a slap battle ensued, but Suzuki targeted the finger and punched Styles closed fist in the mouth. This, after all the dastardly deeds of the match, turned Suzuki, made Styles face, and allowed him to win with the Styles Clash in one of the best singles performances of Styles’ career. 34-34
9. G1 Climax A Block Match: Katsuyori Shibata (5-1) vs. Yuji Nagata (3-2)
I’m salivating after all these two went through in their match of the year level tag team match with respective tag team partners Hirooki Goto and Tomoaki Honma. The ever-violent Shibata slapped the top of Nagata’s head voiding the clean break and erasing any chance of an amicable ending to this match. They kicked each other hard in the face out on the floor as a result. An elbow battle out on the floor so fierce that both men almost got counted out followed. Shibata kicked Nagata really hard and slapped him many a time in the face, Nagata responded with a single slap, but was caught with a barrage of forearms in the corner before receiving adequate time to respond. Shibata went for his running dropkick, but was caught with a kitchen sink. Nagata and Shibata exchanged brutal forearms, with Shibata probably taking more than he was giving, surprisingly, in this instance. Shibata landed his head popping dropkick in the corner for a two count, with a very forceful kick-out. Nagata ducked the PK and landed an exploder, Shibata of course no sold, and landed a backdrop for a double down. Shibata landed his back-fist and a slap, selling his elbow. Shibata locked in a side headlock, which required all of Nagata’s strength to break. Nagata locked a Demon Armbar in, but Shibata made it to the ropes. Shibata landed another backdrop. Shibata no sold a release German, blocked a front kick and landed one of his own for another double down. Shibata bludgeoned Nagata and unloaded with slaps, when it just took one from Nagata to level Shibata. Shibata landed a slap, which begat a slap war. Nagata won, landing his least safe backdrop of the tournament, followed by the new least safe backdrop of the tournament for the win. — This is a match, much like Ibushi/Nakamura from last year, that will be remembered far better out of context, with Shibata’s ever-present no-selling throughout this tournament out-of-mind. 34-35
10. G1 Climax A Block Match: Shinsuke Nakamura (4-1) vs. Tomohiro Ishii (3-3)
Both men had their respective clean breaks, Nakamura resting his head on Ishii. Nakamura offered a handshake, Ishii responded with a slap — a furious exchange of attempted finishers ensued. Nakamura attempted the vibrations, but had his foot lifted off of Ishii’s chest. Nakamura landed a big highkick and DDT. They sized each other up leading to a forearm exchange, Ishii dropping Nakamura with a headbutt. Ishii landed a slightly suspended vertical superplex, and powerbomb. Ishii took one of his very scary bumps for Nakamura’s inverted suplex. Nakamura looked to be winding up for the Boma Ye, but was met with a flying dropkick. Ishii out struck Nakamura and landed his Boma Ye from the top. Ishii fired back with a super-lariat for a double down. Nakamura took his own reverse powerslam, thankfully not bumping in a manner akin to Ishii. Nakamura spun Ishii into his armbar. Ishii made it out, laying Nakamura out with a pair of lariats, the second of which Nakamura did in fact bump, as safely as can be done, on his head. Ishii side stepped a Boma Ye, and followed with a headbutt and sliding D for two. Nakamura enzuigiri and backcracker followed for a Boma Ye and double down. Both men selling their fatigue and head-droppy-ness exchanged strikes. An Ishii bombardment followed. Nakamura survived, landed a strike to the eye, and was caught with one from Ishii. Ishii kicked out of a Boma Ye at one. Nakamura landed his Boma Ye from the top, but Ishii kicked out again! Ishii caught the next Boma Ye attempted, went for a lariat, but was caught with another for the win! 34-36!
Nakamura helped Ishii’s corpse to its feet for a handshake before collapsing again. Nakamura cut a short promo after the match.
NJPW G1 Climax 24 August 3rd 2014 Night 8
Osaka Bodymaker Coliseum, Osaka
1. G1 Climax A Block Match: Tomohiro Ishii (3-4) vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr. (3-3) w/ Taka Michinoku
Ishii rushed out of the gate to Smith forearm strikes. He went for his brainbuster early, as he usually does against big opponents, but was, of course, overpowered. Ishii slapped Smith, but Smith responded with a few strikes knocking him to the mat, making a stick breaking motion with his hands – good heat this got. Ishii landed another slap, and this time got Smith up for a straight vertical suplex! Smith delivered another vertical suplex, getting this Osaka crowd even more behind Ishii, who powered out of a powerbomb. A release German suplex from Ishii soon followed. The pair covered extraordinarily well for, what would have otherwise been, a sloppy foot-slip from Smith on the top rope before an Ishii superplex. Smith kicked out of the sliding D at two. Ishii took a lariat and powerbomb! Ishii looked to fire back with elbows, but was put down with a knee, yet still kicked out of a tiger suplex. Ishii then countered a second powerbomb attempt with a hurricanrana, still managing to land on his head! Smith kicked out of a monster lariat, but couldn’t survive a brainbuster, which Ishii landed for the win. 34-37!
2. G1 Climax B Block Match: Toru Yano (3-4) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (3-3)
Tenzan attacked Yano head on before the bell. Yano landed some comedic Mongolian chops, but was still able to get some heat from a spot that all but guarantees it. Tenzan landed a diving headbutt, and looked for a standing variant, but the ever-scheming Yano threw the referee into the ropes, avoiding it. Tenzan locked in the Anaconda Vice, Yano made it to his feet, was anaconda bustered and tapped, but the referee had already taken a bump. Tenzan ducked a chair shot, and punched it into Yano’s face, landed a low block of his own and locked the anaconda vice in for the win. – This was a match between two of the most limited performers in the entire tournament, but thankfully their limitations are well known, and as a result this didn’t overstay its welcome. 35-37.
3. G1 Climax A Block Match: Yuji Nagata (3-3) vs. Shelton Benjamin (4-3) w/ Taka Michinoku
They traded strikes early with Nagata sent to the outside for some of the usual Suzuki-gun antics. Then came the standard, albeit heated beyond average, Nagata forearm exchange. Benjamin got the better of a second, and despite being caught with a release belly-to-belly suplex, grabbed an ankle lock, which Nagata broke, making it to the ropes. Thankfully, Nagata kicked out of a close and ugly German suplex. A third exchange followed, which Benjamin looked to have won, before being caught in the Demon Armbar, also making it to the ropes. He then immediately latched on with another ankle lock. A sequence of submission and pin attempts followed. Nagata grabbed a crossface, which Benjamin inevitably tapped to. 35-38, I’m not doing very well, am I?
4. G1 Climax A Block Match: Satoshi Kojima (2-5) vs. Doc Gallows (2-4)
After moments of unremarkable work, Kojima attempted a plancha to the floor, was caught with a Gallows uppercut, and from that point on the unremarkable work was fit to continue. Kojima pinned Gallows with his lariat. 36-38
5. G1 Climax B Block Match: Tetsuya Naito (4-2) vs. Hirooki Goto (2-4)
What a difference a year makes, with Goto and Naito getting loud evenly distributed chants to start. Naito delivered a chest slap off of a clean break, which turned this man complete heel for large portions of the match, which Naito was fantastic at playing to. Goto took Naito into the crowd, which worked, but for what they were attempting to do with this match, and the type of dynamic that these two had together, was very much unnecessary. Goto worked over Naito some from that point – I would have expected the opposite. Naito landed his flying senton and missile dropkick, a move that, for whatever reason, always gets heat, regardless of the crowd’s temperament. Goto landed his over the knee neckbreaker, which in an even stranger turn of events, led to more Goto/Naito mixed reactions. A heated forearm battle followed, an exchange that Naito won with a headbutt. Naito landed a beautiful frankensteiner and Gloria, but the stardust press was avoided. Naito grabbed a cradle. A furious exchange of attempted big moves followed, one that Goto won with his dominater into the knee. Goto won with the Shouten Kai soon after – the crowd and work was a tad bit erratic here, but at the same time, highly entertaining. 36-39.
6. G1 Climax B Block Match: AJ Styles (4-2) vs. Lance Archer (3-3) w/ Taka Michinoku
A group of fans attempted to get “Let’s go Archer” chants going in English; it didn’t catch on. Logically, Archer worked the majority of this match, and as the heel, given the size discrepancy between the two. Styles locked in his figure four around the post and began to work over Archer’s leg, switching roles. Archer went for the crucifix bomb, but was chock-blocked for his trouble. Archer charged, and Styles avoided sending Archer into the post and setting up for his strike flurry. He was however caught mid-way in an Archer chokeslam. Archer went for his finish again, AJ remained on his shoulders for quite some time, but then landed a pele and Bloody Sunday for two. Archer hit his chokeslam. Styles avoided the moonsault/ Archer caught him mid flying forearm, but Styles somehow managed to turn that into the calf-killer for the win. – On paper this doesn’t look like the greatest of match-ups, but boy is Styles ever making all of these matches work. 37-39.
7. G1 Climax B Block Match: Minoru Suzuki (3-3) w/ Taka Michinoku vs. Togi Makabe (3-3)
Suzuki “stabbed” a couple of blunt objects into the head of Makabe at ringside, and , in his usual condescending manner, worked over Makabe, which of course Makabe didn’t take too kindly to, leading to a heated comeback. Suzuki looked for his armbar in the ropes, but Makabe punched his way out of it, and lariated Taka over the guardrail for his troubles, before targeting Suzuki’s knee. This led to a variant of the figure four from Makabe, who engaged Suzuki, and his awesome facials, in a strike exchange – combine Suzuki, Ishii, and Reigns and you have a near-perfect pro-wrestler. Makabe looked for his powerbomb, but Suzuki countered, looked for the sleeper, but was thrown off. Suzuki, much like in his match with Styles, busted out a right hook, and sped things up ten times with a kick and sleeper – this sudden impulse seems to be the new key spot in puroresu, much like the one count last year. Makabe refused to tap and passed out. 37-40.
8. G1 Climax A Block Match: Tomoaki Honma (0-7) vs. Katsuyori Shibata (4-2)
Shibata/Ishii II here we come. DEATH EVERYWHERE AGAIN. Shibata took Honma out to the floor and kicked him against the barricade. Honma responded with a lariat over the opposite side. Honma landed strike after strike on Shibata who remained unmoved and almost knocked Honma out with a single strike. Shibata went for his kick, was caught with a flying clothesline, landed a flying knee, but was then caught with another huge lariat to chants of “Honma”. Honma went up top, not signaling for the Kokeshi, but was kicked off and assaulted with elbows against the post before taking Shibata’s big flying dropkick. Some offense Honma was finally able to stage, landing a flying headbutt and brainbuster for the count of two. It was time for the Kokeshi, but Honma was caught in a rear-naked choke, made it to the ropes and then caught the PK. Shibata responded with a flurry of hard slaps, but was dropped with a single one from Honma! Honma hit the Bernard driver, also for two! Real Kokeshi time. Good news is that he didn’t miss, the bad is that he collided with Shibata’s boot. Shibata kicked out of a kitchen sink at one, another kick followed – another one count! Shibata kicked out of a lariat at two. Honma was stunned with a back-fist and was lifted up for the PK, Honma attempted to fight his way out, but was caught with the GTS and PK for Shibata’s victory. – Did Honma ever take a beating tonight. 37-41.
9. G1 Climax B Block Match: Kazuchika Okada (4-2) w/ Gedo vs. Yujiro Takahashi (2-4)
Yet another match on this show began with someone being taken out during their entrance and assaulted on the floor – Okada in this case. What followed in the ring, after quite the long bought of work on the outside, was rather un-dynamic until Okada got going on his second comeback. Yujiro landed Tokyo Pimps, leaving Nogami screaming “masaka, masaka”, but of course, Okada kicked out. They went back and forth with forearms, and Okada landed a tombstone and rainmaker for the win. – Pretty unremarkable stuff here, but at least Okada got his revenge on Yujiro for costing him the title. 37-42.
10. G1 Climax B Block Match: Shinsuke Nakamura (5-1) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-2)
Regardless of what I thought of this match, it should be prefaced that I was far from a major fan of their previous matches, which I found extraordinarily underwhelming, especially from January 4th. They did a few fun athletic exchanges early, with Tanahashi’s taunts getting to Nakamura, who rushed. Nakamura missed his knee in the corner after a heated strike battle, allowing Tanahashi to grab a flying forearm, and senton that he came down on Nakamura hard for. Tanahashi then attempted Nakamura’s vibrations, which was too much for Nakamura to bare, leading into a comeback with a display of his own vibrations. This comeback was however halted with a dragon screw. Nakamura locked in his gogoplata. This was transitioned into a clover leaf, with Nakamura making it to the ropes. Nakamura looked for the Boma Ye, but was met with a sling blade. Nakamura however, avoided the High Fly Flow and landed a couple of knees, looking for a second Boma Ye – again countered with a high-fly flow. Forearm battle. Nakamura looked to have won the battle, but it was a pair of slaps that fired his opponent up, allowing Tanahashi to target the leg. A face first sling blade and standing High Fly Flow followed. Nakamura, however, got his knees up on the second,. landing a leaping Boma Ye to the back of the head for two. Tanahashi landed a dragon screw off of the attempted usual variant, was caught with another, but again Tanahashi kicked out! Tanahashi then grabbed the pin with a wacky bridging cradle, interesting considering the amount of punishment both men took here – this would strongly point to New Japan at least keeping a future match handy for the next year or so. 37-43
As has been the case since his match with Shibata, Tanahashi acted as if he was going to walk off, but was then called back by the fans. The guitar solo was just as big of a crowd-pleaser as ever.
NJPW G1 Climax August 4th 2014 Night 9
Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, Nagoya, Aichi
1. G1 Climax A Block Match: Tomoaki Honma (0-7) vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr. (3-4) w/ Taka Michinoku
Smith had control pretty much from the onset, although was caught with the Kokeshi down to the floor, which, unlike in Honma’s match with Fale, was far more of a low-impact body-press than anything else. Back in the ring, and Smith looked to finish Honma off with a powerbomb. Honma resisted, and landed a lariat, as he had yet to miss the Kokeshi in this match. He did just that, and countered a powerbomb into a sunset flip for two. However, he was then caught with a powerslam and powerbomb for the finish, in what was most likely Honma’s most disappointing match of the tournament. 38-43.
2. G1 Climax B Block Match: Yujiro Takahashi (2-5) vs. Lance Archer (3-5) w/ Taka Michinoku
Much like in Archer’s match against Yujiro’s Bullet Club stablemate, AJ Styles, Yujiro chose to work Archer’s leg over tonight. Styles, whilst more effective on a technical front against Archer, as well as putting on a far better overall match the night prior, did not come across as the unlikable character that Yujiro did here, at least to me personally. On the other show, perhaps due to the size discrepancy Styles and Archer shifted roles as heel and face, but on this night Archer was working pretty much complete heel from start to finish. He yelled for Yujiro to “come on” following a couple of strikes. Archer kicked out of the Olympic slam and landed a unique F5-driver. Yujiro avoided the crucifix bomb, and landed a pair of low-blows off of a referee distraction for the win. –- This is fairly obvious observation, but boy is the NEVER title picture bound to go down with Yujiro on top. 38-44
3. G1 Climax A Block Match: Yuji Nagata (4-3) vs. Doc Gallows (2-5)
Gallows’ heat was dull both before and after he did the Yuji Nagata salute, but certainly not for the couple of second during. Nagata switched his usually, fake a dropkick, and strike the knee, shtick up with a slap to the face, and then dropkick to the leg. That spot, is one much like the Ibushi double moonsault, Benjamin roundhouse and Michaels bump in the corner, in which I see no purpose. There was a clever little spot where Nagata just glanced Gallows knee with a kick, but then moments later was unable to run the ropes. Nagata locked the Demon Armbar. Gallows pinned Nagata with the Gallows Bomb. 38-45, I’m dying here.
4. G1 Climax B Block Match: Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4-4) vs. Togi Makabe (3-4)
In spite of the generally stiff nature of Makabe’s work, his lariats on Tenzan were quite tame here. This crowd was less energetic for Tenzan’s “hulking up” spots than crowds of previous nights have been. And that isn’t to say that they were nonreactive, but should rather stand as a testament to how good those last few crowds have been – still, without that heat, this match lost a lot of it allure. Makabe fought out of an Anaconda Vice leading into a strike battle. Makabe pinned Tenzan with the King Kong knee, avoiding the spider suplex for obvious reasons. 39-45.
5. G1 Climax B Block Match: Minoru Suzuki (4-3) w/ Taka Michinoku vs. Tetsuya Naito (4-3)
Suzuki slapped Naito ever so hard off of a clean break. Michinoku then held on to Naito’s leg from the outside setting up for a Suzuki punt from the apron. Suzuki also used Taka’s trusty Suzuki-gun flag as a weapon in a number of weird ways. Suzuki’s under estimation of Naito led to glimpses of the cocky-young Naito full of angst from last year’s G1 matches with Nagata and Suzuki. Suzuki countered Naito’s usual Sasuke-esque dropkick in the corner, into a second rope assisted Boston Crab. Suzuki grabbed his RINGS-style leg lock, which Naito attempted to slap his way out of, but was only freed from the hold after making it to the ropes a second time. Naito looked for a frankensteiner, but Suzuki leaped from the top rope, with Naito’s arch trapped, down to the mat for an armbar. Naito’s bridging pin was countered into the sleeper and attempted Gotch piledriver in a very slick sequence. There seemed to be some degree of miss-communication. Suzuki avoided the stardust press and pulled Naito up by the hair for a headbutt, knee to the face and sleeper for the submission. – If this was the main event of a bigger show, in front of a better crowd, people would be talking about it as a potential match of the year level match with two of the most creative in-ring minds in the business going at it. 40-45
6. G1 Climax A Block Match: Katsuyori Shibata (5-2) vs. Bad Luck Fale (4-3)
As per usual, the majority of Fale’s offence, and long stretches there of, left much to be desired. But, due to the way that both men have been portrayed, as well as Shibata’s physicality, a forearm exchange between the two worked very well. Shibata grabbed a sunset flip into the turnbuckle, countering the Bad Luck Fall. This set up for his brutal flying dropkick and elbows. Shibata countered again, and grabbed a side headlock. Fale caught the PK and landed the Samoan drop, but Shibata escaped an attempted Bad Luck Fall to the outside, booting Fale to the floor. Fale landed his spike chokeslam on the apron! Shibata looked to be making it back in, but was lariated back out to the floor for the Fale count out victory, which got amazing heat. 40-46
7. G1 Climax A Block Match: Shinsuke Nakamura (5-2) vs. Satoshi Kojima (4-4)
Kojima sporadically targeted Nakamura’s leg working him over early, but mostly ignored it. The pair exchanged some vicious, animalistic, forearms, which Nakamura won. Nakamura sold like he had some obtuse neurological disorder tonight. Nakamura kicked out of a top rope cutter and landed his middle rope Boma Ye, which never seems to finish anyone, for two. He looked for another, but was met with a lariat for a double down. Nakamura took the brainbuster, blocked Kojima’s big lariat, was caught with it regardless, but then kicked out! A Kojima bombardment followed, but Nakamura landed his leaping Boma Ye for the win. 40-47!
8. G1 Climax B Block Match: AJ Styles (5-2) vs. Karl Anderson (3-4)
They teased the Finger Poke of Doom that most had at least thought about, but Anderson pulled Styles in for a small package for two. Some huge arm drags, and comedy that worked even in a semi-serious environment followed. There was a spot where both men grabbed each others’ legs, which the crowd popped big for – one of the biggest comedy orientated pops you will hear this year. Styles was caught mid-barricade-springboard-forearm, in a powerbomb from Anderson on the apron. A fluid exchange followed, with both guys going back and forth. Styles kicked out of a top rope reverse Gun Stun, Anderson Styles’ float-over inverted DDT. They fought on the top rope with Styles then kicking out of a top-rope fireman’s carry gun stun. A slow-paced forearm exchange ensued, which eventually broke down into a strike battle, leading to a double clothesline spot. Styles countered an attempted powerbomb with the Styles clash, which Anderson kicked out of. Styles however, then grabbed the Calf Killer, with the hold being relinquished before Styles switched to the other leg. Styles had a busted open nose at this point and kicked out of the Bernard Driver. Styles countered the Gun Stun and landed the Bloody Sunday, and then in rapid succession, the Styles Clash. 40-48.
9. G1 Climax A Block Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi (5-2) vs. Shelton Benjamin (4-4) w/ Taka Michinoku
Standard Suzuki-gun assault on the floor opened. Benjamin, in a reference to Tanahashi’s October 2012 match against Minoru Suzuki, one of my favourite matches of all time, played the air guitar over Tanahashi’s ribs. Both men skinned the cat, which got the standard “oohs” that you would expect, but there was something about this dynamic that wasn’t connecting on the usual Tanahashi level. Tanahashi landed a slap or two, but was met with a super kick for two. Tanahashi missed a high fly flow, which Benjamin capitalized on for two, but moments later Tanahashi landed the sling blade and hobbled to the top rope for the standing and usual High Fly Flows. 41-48.
10. G1 Climax B Block Match: Kazuchika Okada (5-2) w/ Gedo vs. Hirooki Goto (4-4)
Goto had some of Okada’s best IWGP Heavyweight Title matches in the past. Okada executed a draping DDT on Goto on the outside – he was back in at 19. Goto landed a big lariat and a forearm battle ensued, with Okada reaching out for Goto, but then falling down to his feet, even failing to run the ropes at times, which was a very believable touch – it’s too bad it played no further part in the match. Okada landed his belly-to-back-over-the-shoulder-over-the-knee-neck-breaker, followed by his top rope elbow. Goto shot back with his over the knee neckbreaker. Both men battled over the tombstone. Okada wore Goto down with uppercuts, but Goto telegraphed Okada’s dropkick allowing him to land a lariat for two, which brought the crowd up very high, which I’m sure is also a credit to Gedo. Goto landed his facebuster over the knee, again Okada kicked out. Okada finally landed his dropkick for a double down. Goto was lifted up to the top for Okada’s dropkick, he fought Okada off, but Okada countered the sunset flip with a back drop. Okada then landed his tombstone, but Goto ducked the rainmaker, landing the rainmaker headbutt! The crowd rumbles! Okada landed his German suplex, Goto kicked out, but was brought back up for the rainmaker and the win. – Okada and Goto received superstar reactions tonight. 41-49.
NJPW G1 Climax 2014 August 6th Night 10
Takamatsu Prefectural Gymnasium, Takamatsu, Kagawa
1. G1 Climax A Block Match: Tomoaki Honma (0-8) vs. Satoshi Kojima (4-5)
There were mixed Kokeshi and Kojima chants early, quite astonishing given Honma’s position of the card, and the status Kojima holds. Honma took oodles of punishment, looked to be wilting after a series of Kojima forearms, but then popped up and fired back to a great reaction. Kojima cut Honma off with a vicious lariat counter, Honma however responded with a running headbutt after kicking out of a brainbuster. He missed the Kokeshi and grabbed a cradle off of a spear for two. Kojima then landed a big lariat, and took his time making it to the cover for the win. – Honma isn’t getting the time that he did at the start of this tournament. 41-50.
2. G1 Climax A Block Match: Davey Boy Smith Jr. (4-4) w/ Taka Michinoku vs. Bad Luck Fale (5-3)
They had a long stare down before locking and up collar-and-elbow. Despite the comparable size of both men, Fale controlled the bulk of the match here. Smith’s almost entire offensive run consisted of a sharp-shooter with Fale pinning him shortly after with his spike chokeslam. — Fale is still awfully clumsy. 42-50
3. G1 Climax B Block Match: Tetsuya Naito (4-4) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4-5)
The current Naito crowd dynamic is quite bizarre, as not only does it vary from night to night, but he seems to always have the crowd on his side, but for whatever reason, they often times turn during the course of the match. Naito began a comeback on Tenzan, and ended up landing quite the strange looking neckbreaker. He landed his missile dropkick, which often times turns the crowd, but that wasn’t the case in Takamatsu. Naito whilst in the anaconda vice, rolled Tenzan up for two. A mild strike battle followed. Goto kicked out of a bridging German suplex before being caught with the stardust press for the win. – This match didn’t work as well as some of Tenzan’s other matches against great workers in this tournament, one of the reasons being that he got the wealth of the match’s offense. 43-50.
4. G1 Climax B Block Match: Minoru Suzuki (5-3) w/ Taka Michinoku vs. Karl Anderson (3-5)
Seconds in, and Suzuki already had a submission locked in on Anderson’s arm. An assault then followed, both in the ring and on the out, with Suzuki attempting to detach Anderson’s arm. Taka and Suzuki had an intricate referee distraction planned, resulting in a light chair shot on Anderson. Interestingly, Anderson worked as the face tonight, despite being a member of the company’s main heel group, a group more generally heelish than Suzuki’s. Anderson and Suzuki fought in and out of Gun Stuns and sleepers, with Anderson landing a gun stun out of nowhere for an abrupt finish. 43-51
5. G1 Climax B Block Match: Togi Makabe (4-4) vs. Toru Yano (3-5)
Yano attacked Makabe before the bell — a bad idea. Yano landed a low-blow behind the referee’s back, Makabe punted him back, but Yano returned with another for another swift victory. 44-51.
6. G1 Climax B Block Match: AJ Styles (6-2) vs. Yujiro Takahashi (3-5)
Much like in his match with Anderson, Yujiro and AJ shook hands and did their “too sweet” after the bell. Styles was thrown into the barricade sprinting back in for the count of 19. Yujiro was the squirming heel begging for mercy, catching Styles off-guard with a forearm. Yujiro took control. Styles landed a strike flurry and pulled Yujiro in for the Styles Clash, Yujiro escaped, but was caught with a Bloody Sunday and Styles Clash for the win. 45-51. Styles lifted Yujiro to his feet and they did their Bullet Club deal. Surprisingly, this match was cleaner fought than Anderson/Styles.
7. G1 Climax B Block Match: Kazuchika Okada (6-2) w/ Gedo vs. Lance Archer (3-5) w/ Taka Michinoku.
Okada looked for his standard Rainmaker pose off of the clean break, but was met with a kick to the gut – he fitted it in, within the next few moments though. Okada had his head rammed against the barricade repeatedly, which would have perhaps been more effective if we hadn’t seen it so many times earlier on in the show. Archer, whilst working over Okada, landed an unrecognizable move, which left Okada to spin freely in the air, almost landing on his head. Okada signaled for the Rainmaker, Archer blocked the tombstone and hoisted Okada up for one of his own. They transitioned in and out of holds a couple of times before Archer landed his F5 driver. A large evil laugh Archer gave when release belly to belly suplexing Okada on the floor. Okada was tremendous in his selling, stumbling back and forth teasing a count out. Okada kicked out of a chokeslam – big pop. Okada avoided the moonsault. Archer stormed Okada, but was met with a dropkick, setting up for an attempted rainmaker that was almost countered into a crucifix bomb. Okada managed to land another dropkick, this time to the back of the head, and hoisted Archer up for a tombstone and landed the Rainmaker for the win. 46-51. Enough credit isn’t given to Archer for his improvement over the years.
8. G1 Climax A Block Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi (6-2) vs. Yuji Nagata (4-4)
These two had a fantastic, and very much under-appreciated, match during Tanahashi’s epic 400+ day title reign back in 2011. They had an automatically heated Nagata forearm exchange early. Nagata locked in an excessively long fought figure four leg lock, whose pressure was ultimately reversed. Tanahashi took Nagata down, and with a blank look on his face waved at the crowd to make some noise, which somebody needs to make a looping GIF of. Nagata locked in his Demon Armbar — Tanahashi made it to the ropes. A slap exchange followed. Nagata caught Tanhashi with a rough-looking German suplex backed by a brainbuster. Then, in another very abrupt finish, Tanahashi caught Nagata with a roll-up out of nowhere — another disappointing anti-climax on this show. 46-52.
9. G1 Climax A Block: Tomohiro Ishii (4-4) vs. Katsuyori Shibata (5-3)
Slaps! Many slaps! A quick double down followed two headbutts, they went straight to a forearm exchange. Ishiil, who had his shoulder taped after SEPERATING IT in his match with Smith, yelled something into the face of Shibata whilst landing elbows in the corner. Both men wouldn’t take the other man’s sitting down, until they repeatedly sat down on the mat waiting for the other to strike. I hope poor old Les Thatcher wasn’t watching this. Ishii took forearm after forearm, before dropping Shibata with a single blow, selling his shoulder. Shibata landed what were, by the standards set by these men in the past, tame elbows in the corner. Shibata landed his flying dropkick, but Ishii shot back up immediately for a lariat – another forearm exchange, this time with Shibata’s elbows directed at Ishii’s shoulder. Ishii kicked out of a lariat and forearm at one. Shibata locked in his sleeper. Ishii was slapped back down to the mat, where Shibata locked in an armbar. Ishii “sold” his arm big time out on the floor. Shibata threw him back in the ring, but Ishii rolled back out, still selling the arm, as a doctor checked on him. Again Shibata threw him back in. Shibata kicked Ishii straight in the arm, and as a consolation offered up his face to Ishii, he obliged still selling the arm! Shibata worked with one arm behind his back in honour of Ishii for this exchange! Shibata kicked out of a lariat before one, PK’ing Ishii in the arm. Ishii landed a lariat for two. Shibata remained unmoved from a lariat and landed his back-fist, followed by a kick to the chest — another one count. Headbutt battle! Shibata killed Ishii with another back-fist. Ishii took the GTS and PK for the win in what was far and away the match of the night. 46-53
10. G1 Climax A Block: Shinsuke Nakamura (6-2) vs. Doc Gallows (3-5)
May as well end the show now. Gallows may not be the best wrestler for my tastes, but he sure is a fun character to have, making it out with props and face paint. Nakamura called for Gallows to bring it and was thrown to the outside. The heat was unnoteworthy. Nakamura kicked out of the Gallows Bomb and landed his jumping kick from the middle rope. Gallows looked for the hangman bomb, Nakamura transitioned into an armbar, but it was blocked by Gallows who landed a powerbomb, also for two. Nakamura landed his middle rope Boma Ye and a second for the win. 47-53.
New Japan Pro-Wrestling G1 Climax 2014 August 8th Night 11
Culture Gymnasium, Yokohama, Kanagawa
1. G1 Climax A Block Match: Tomoaki Honma (0-9) vs. Shelton Benjamin (4-5) w/ Taka Michinoku
Honma landed the Kokeshi to a standing Benjamin on the floor, again it was a different variant to the last, this time circumventing the majority of Benjamin’s body, as well as missing the headbutt portion. Benjamin backdropped Honma on the barricade, much like he did to Satoshi Kojima earlier on in the tournament. Honma was back in at 19. Honma hulked up after a series of elbows, teeing off on Benjamin. Honma landed a jumping and falling Kokeshi, but of course missed the standard move. Benjamin landed repeated splashes. Honma grabbed a roll-up, but was caught with a pin-point superkick before taking the Pay Dirt for the win. – Hopefully this losing streak leads to something for Honma, perhaps a run for redemption, as to not capture a single victory in the entire tournament is pretty rough. 48-53.
2. G1 Climax B Block Match: Yujiro Takahashi (3-6) vs. Toru Yano (4-5)
There was some heel comedy early, with Yujiro stomping on Yano’s DVD, and almost low-blowing the referee. Yano however, ended up landing a low-blow and grabbing a cradle for a count of one. The referee took a bump leading to a stomp to the groin from Yujiro for the win! — I wasn’t expecting this to end as quickly or abruptly as it did, but that is by no means a complaint. 49-53.
3. G1 Climax B Block Match: Hirooki Goto v(4-5) vs. Lance Archer (3-6) w/ Taka Michinoku
Goto busted out an unexpected plancha after being over-powered early. Archer took his frustrations out, both on Goto, as well as the barricades, which he unceremoniously threw about. It was after this that Archer continued to over-power Goto, until he was caught with a monster lariat. Goto hoisted Archer up for the over-the-knee-neck-breaker. Archer blocked the Shouten Kai and superplex. Goto went for his sunset flip, but was backdropped from the top. Goto kicked out of a chokeslam, but then took the crucifix bomb for the fall. 49-54.
4. G1 Climax B Block Match: Karl Anderson (4-5)vs. Tetsuya Naito (5-4)
Things escalated quickly, with Anderson pulling Naito to the floor for a powerbomb on the apron. Naito looked to be making his way back in the ring, but was thrown against the ring post for a near count out. Anderson mocked Naito’s eye-pulling gimmick, but consequently missed a back senton. Naito survived a firman’s carry Gun Stun. Naito dropped Anderson with both a rana out of a powerbomb, as well as a frankensteiner. He set up for the stardust press; Anderson avoided it. A forearm exchange followed. Naito kicked out of a Bernard Driver. Naito blocked a Gun Stun and garnered a two count from a roll-up, Anderson however caught Anderson with a Gun Stun off of the ropes for the win. 49-54.
5. G1 Climax A Block Match: Tomohiro Ishii (4-5) vs. Yuji Nagata (4-5)
Ishii bombarded Nagata with headbutts, but was overcome by Nagata kicks. Nagata looked to bully Ishii, but was met with numerous slaps and headbutts. Nagata slapped back — Ishii took it all and responded with fury! Huge slap battle, one that Nagata won, knocking Ishii down to the mat! Ishii the Sponge absorbed some heavy kicks and then unloaded with chops and forearms in the corner. Ishii no-sold an exploder out of the corner, but was then backdropped soon after. Ishii came back with a suspended superplex. The roles were then reversed with Nagata taking many a forearm, firing back with a slap, and then wrenching the taped arm of Ishii, to some stupendous Ishii selling. They battled on the top rope, with Nagata repeatedly willing himself back up before being powerbomb for two. Nagata ducked the sliding D rolling Ishii over into the Demon Armbar! Another strike battle! Ishii was dropped with a leg lariat. Ishii had his arm kicked, but continued to fire back with headbutts and elbows, catching a high kick and dropping Nagata with a lariat for two. Ishii then landed a brainbuster off of a sliding D to the back of the head for a well-deserved victory, and another great match to cap off his G1. 49-55.
6. G1 Climax A Block Match: Katsuyori Shibata (6-3) vs. Doc Gallows (3-6)
Both men attempted to bully one another. Shibata booted Gallows out to the floor, which Gallows played to his advantage with the usual Bullet Club tactics. They teased yet another count out tonight, which made perhaps the most sense, seeing as how Shibata lost to Fale via count out. Gallows got his hands up for the corner dropkick — a smart man. Gallows landed his always surprising high kick, was met with a back fist, but then landed the Gallows bomb for two followed by another for the victory, knocking Shibata out of the finals! 49-56.
7. G1 Climax A Block Match: Shinsuke Nakamura (7-2) vs. Bad Luck Fale (6-3)
Fale powered out of the vibrations in the corner, knocking Nakamura to the floor for yet more ringside antics, this time involving Fale whipping Nakamura with his belt. Fale took control of Nakamura early, which was, even with Nakamura involved, as non-Ishii as ever. Nakamura landed his flying boot, an enzuigiri, and the vibrations and running knee in the corner. Fale looked for the grenade, but Nakamura countered with a knee to the face, and looked to hoist Fale up and eventually landed a knee to the face. Fale however side-stepped the Boma Ye and landed the Grenade for two! Met at the top with a high kick was Fale, who was then superplexed down to the canvas. Nakamura took a spear, but countered the border toss, locking in a sleeper. Fale used the ropes to scratch Nakamura off, but was met with a Boma Ye to the back of the head. Nakamura avoided another Grenade, and landed a couple more Boma Yes, but Fale kicked out! This allowed Nakamura to land his leaping Boma Ye for the win, in another match that may very well be touted as the best match of Fale’s career. 50-56.
8. G1 Climax B Block Match: AJ Styles (7-2) vs. Togi Makabe (4-5)
As hard as this may be to believe, there were dueling chants early! Styles called for more power from Makabe, but was overpowered. Makabe was dropped to the floor, where he did his leap over the guard rail and springboard forearm to the delight of the swooning hearts of some women at ringside. Makabe called for strike after strike to the face, before landing some strong fists, which Styles sold like a good-bumping 80s style Southern worker. Makabe countered the Bloody Sunday with a northern lights suplex, and landed a big lariat. Makabe blocked the Styles Clash, was met with a knee, before landing a powerbomb for two. The King Kong Knee signal came. Styles blocked the spider suplex, but Makabe cracked him open, Styles folded in half, but was too far away for Makabe to land the King Kong Knee, Styles then rolled out of the way of a second, which was a pretty strange sequence. Styles landed a pele to Makabe on the top rope and then pulled him off into a Styles Clash for the win. One of the reasons that Styles is getting the positive reactions he has to be that his work can be nothing less than respected. 50-56
9. G1 Climax A Block Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr. w/ Taka Michinoku
If Tanahashi won this match, he would go to the finals ahead of Nakamura. Reminiscent of Eddie Guerrero, Tanahashi lay back and posed on the top rope. Smith worked Tanahashi over some, but was head scissored out to the floor, where he avoided the high fly flow, but was met with a baseball slide and plancha. Tanahashi kicked out of a leg-trap exploder, as well as a bridging German suplex. Tanahashi looked to pin Smith with the roll-up he pinned Nakamura and Nagata with, but Smith kicked out and landed a powerbomb for the win! Nakamura in the finals! 50-57.
10. G1 Climax B Block Match: Kazuchika Okada w/ Gedo vs. Minoru Suzuki w/ Taka Michinoku
This was a rematch of the Wrestling Dontaku match from last year which I, and few others, had in their top 10 matches of the year at **** 3/4. If Okada won here, it would set up Nakamura/Okada in the finals, if not, it would be Styles/Nakamura, with an Okada/Tanahashi semi-main. Suzuki looked to bully Gedo, whilst taking care of Okada, working over his Rainmaker arm, on the outside. Okada called for Suzuki to go after the arm, Suzuki obliged, but was met with an Okada forearm, with the injured arm, which Okada sold phenomenally. Okada had devious moves of his own on the outside, landing a draping DDT on Suzuki. Okada landed a diving elbow and signaled for the Rainmaker, but Suzuki kicked his arm. An strike exchange followed, which Okada had clear difficulty in, still selling his arm. Suzuki locked in a Fujiwara armbar, which he held for an awful long time. Okada battled for Red Ink with his bad arm, eventually grabbing it moments before Suzuki made it to the ropes. Okada began a jump for a dropkick, but Suzuki tumbled to the mat before landing a drop kick out of nowhere like against Tanahashi in 2012, the only difference being that Okada hadn’t been working over Suzuki’s leg for the whole match. Suzuki grabbed his beloved sleeper and went for the piledriver, Okada blocked, and Suzuki landed a kick to the face. He lifted Okada up again, but Okada responded with the natural counter, a belly-to-back-over-the-shoulder-over-the-knee-neck-breaker. Another strike exchange! Okada collapsed but then responded with an uppercut, all selling going out the window for a short while. Suzuki blocked a tombstone attempt and unloaded with headbutts before going back to the arm. They battled for the tombstone piledriver, but Okada, like in his last match with Suzuki, landed a gotch style tombstone. Suzuki blocked the rainmaker and landed a right hand to the face! Still not a single nearfall or pin attempt in this entire match! Okada then busted out his dropkick and rainmaker, which Suzuki bumped on his head for, for the win. OKADA – NAKAMURA SEIBU DOME 2014! 51-57
An interesting note here is that you could clearly see people leaving the building during Okada’s promo, not that the majority of people did so. It isn’t something that you see with Tanahashi however.
NJPW G1 Climax 2014 Final August 10th
Seibu Dome, Tokorozawa, Saitama
There was an awesome montage of some of the tournament’s most memorable moments to open the show. It’s difficult to say with an arena that I am not familiar, but in the opener the Seibu Dome looked looked to have a decent amount of full seats, although were some large blocks of empty seats slowly filling up, and there were too some large, disconcerting gaps between the seating blocks — perhaps it was the fact that the floor of the arena was green.
1. Davey Boy Smith Jr., Lance Archer, Taka Michonoku & El Desperado w/ Taichi vs. TenCozy, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask
This was the unceremonious return of Taichi, who was suspended for publicly cheating on his girlfriend, a member of AKB48. The match itself was essentially what you would expect from a house show eight man, and that’s perfectly fine, offering a good break from the kind of action we have seen as part of the G1. Taka was good for the amount of time we got to see him, and was pinned with Taguchis chicken wing facebuster.
2. Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi & BUSHI vs. Bad Luck Fale, Doc Gallows & Yujiro Takahashi
The stock music that was sadly piped over Nagata’s iconic Pirates of the Caribbean theme, was better than most everything Jim Johnston has put out over the past year or so. Ah, that Nakanishi guy, he wasn’t in the G1; and for reasons quite apparent in this match — the man is as immobile as ever, and didn’t do much here thankfully. Gallows got a lot in here, and whilst he did try hard, wasn’t really all that functional. What the match was really building towards was Nagata’s comeback. Nagata grabbed his Demon Armbar – the Dome erupted, but it was broken up by Yujiro. Yujiro pinned BUSHI with the Miami Shine.
3. Minoru Suzuki, Shelton Benjamin & Takashi Iizuka ( :( ) w/ Taka Michinoku vs. Kazushi Sakuraba, YOSHI-HASHI & Toru Yano
Since when was Sakuraba a member of CHAOS? As thrown together as this may seem, it does help to build to Sakuraba/Suzuki, which is a much bigger match than many people realize. What is not a big match, in case you were unaware, is Iizuka/Yano. Five minutes of boring nothingness led to a big slap battle between Sakuraba and Suzuki followed by some mat work. The other four men spilt to the floor, as Suzuki fought out of an armbar. Obviously this was the go-home stretch, and as it turned out Tiger Hitori was thrown aside, as Suzuki held a sleeper on Sakuraba in the ropes, with officials, and even Taka Michinoku attempting to pull Suzuki off. Hyped!
4. Jushin Thunder Liger & Captain New Japan vs. Adam Cole & Mike Bennett w/ Maria Kanellis
New Japan seem to be confused as far as the legality of Liger’s theme go, as ROH used it on Ustream and nothing came of it — they dubbed over it again this time around. Throwing Captain New Japan in here feels like somewhat of a waste, although Cole and Liger work very well together, and this crowd was very much into Liger. The announcers repeatedly said “Captain Cole”, hopefully suggesting a gimmick change for Adam. Maria pulled the Captain against her chest, leading to a distraction and the heat, which was sadly quite unremarkable. The Captain fought out of the heel corner making the hot tag to Liger, who busted out his frankensteiner. Cole superkicked Liger out of the air for two. Bennet & The Captain were in, and of course after watching Honma steel his gimmick for weeks, New Japan decided to miss his diving headbutt. Maria took off her pants and began to strip for a Captain distraction and the Bennett tombstone victory.
5. IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match:
The Time Splitters vs. reDragon
KUSHIDA & ‘O Reilly had an athletic exchange to start things off. Perhaps one of the stranger features of the Seibu Dome is that foliage from the building’s exterior is visible from the ring, due to this show taking place in day light – far too much green for my liking. The glass roof of the Doom is however quite spectacular. Shelley when coming in for a slingshot plancha was caught in an ‘O Reilly triangle. KUSHIDA ran wild, with KUSHIDA landing a highly choreographed body press onto reDragon on the outside. KUSHIDA was taken out by ‘O Reilly with a flurry, Shelley out in a chair. Shelley was drilled with a backbreaker/diving knee combo. ‘O Reilly followed with an axe kick to the back of KUSHIDA’s head. ‘O Reilly had an armbar extended for a tad too long. In the meanwhile Fish sentoned over the post onto Shelley. KUSHIDA, whilst in a guillotine, set up for a Shelley flying knee to break the hold. KUSHIDA kicked ‘O Reilly in the ribs and spun into an attempted Kimura. He locked it in full, and Shelley shot out with a tope for the submission victory.
There was a Global Force Wrestling partnership signing. Jarrett, alongside Scott D’Amore thanked everyone with great reverb on the mic.
6. Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomoaki Honma
The building looked much better when the lights were dimmed for the second half — certainly not as green, thankfully. Naito looked to turn on Honma off of a clean break, but Honma intercepted it. Naito continues to point towards a hell turn, with him mocking the Honma headbutt slapping gimmick. Honma landed the falling Kokeshi, Honma a powerbomb, followed by a stiff brainbuster. Honma then went up for the Kokeshi, which he came ever so close to landing, but still missed. A heated forearm battle ensued. Honma took a stiff Naito slap, but then laid him out with a flying headbutt. Honma no sold a German suplex, and grabbed a two count with his wacky roll-up. Honma survived another German suplex. Naito then pinned Honma with a Stardust press. In a strange development, Naito offered Honma a handshake, but it was Honma who slapped Naito’s hand – This could have gone longer, pretty disappointing.
7. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Karl Anderson w/Yujiro Takahashi
Seeing as how Takahashi had already appeared earlier on in the card, they appeared to me to be little reason to include him here, other than to get a bit of added heat. But, it was Anderson’s work over Ishii’s injured arm and fish hooking of the bloody nose and mouth of Ishii that drew the heat anyway — it was a running forearm that busted Ishii open. Ishii, bandaged, bloodied and broken took a flurry of Anderson forearms, landed one in return, Anderson went after the arm, but Ishii dropped him with another. Takahashi got in the way again. There was a crazy spot, where Ishii looked for a superplex from the top, but lost his balance, ricocheting Anderson off of the top rope – it could have ended very badly. Anderson landed a fireman’s carry Gun Stun for two. Ishii pushed him off of a second attempt and landed a sliding D to the back of the head. There was a woman lightly crying for Ishii that they focused on in the crowd. Anderson went for it again, but was met with a headbutt and second lariat for two. Ishii grabbed a visual pin on Anderson off of a brainbuster when Takahashi pulled the referee to the outside. Takahashi then targeted Ishii’s arm, sending HASHI bolting out, leaving Ishii to take care of Anderson! Ishii kicked out of the Bernard driver. Anderson attempted to headbutt Ishii and collapsed on Impact. Ishii lifted Anderson up for a brainbuster, but was caught with a gun stun in mid-air for the win!
8. Katsuyori Shibata vs. Hirooki Goto
It’s that time again, time for our six-monthly great Shibata/Goto match. Shibata slapped Goto off of a break, similar to the Ishii/Nakamura match. Goto did the same. War of forearms and kicks ensued. Goto landed a leg lariat in the corner, but instead of sinking down, Shibata stomped Goto in the back of the head. Shibata killed Goto with a flying dropkick in the corner – no hands to be seen tonight. Goto no sold a backdrop, Shibata no sold a backdrop, and again it went for a double down — that spot is most certainly over-down. Shibata rolled out to the floor, slid back in at 18, but then immediately back out, similar to how Ishii sold his arm in their match earlier in the tournament. Shibata landed a GTS to the jaw (well, duh), but couldn’t make it to the cover in time still selling his non-specific, which apparently lies near his heart somewhere. Goto landed a Shouten Kai, but he too couldn’t make it to the cover in time. They had another strike exchange, with Shibata dropping Goto with a back-fist. Goto caught the PK, bit was slapped. Goto then landed a headbutt and the Ira Shouten for one! Shibata locked in a sleeper and then got Goto up for the GTS and PK for the victory. Shibata let Goto lean on him to the back, but he collapsed, so it was Goto who then had to help Shibata to the back.
9. G1 Climax 3rd Place Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi (A Block 2nd Place) vs. AJ Styles (B Block 2nd Place) w/ Bad Luck Fale & Doc Gallows
I believe Styles told Fale & Gallows that he didn’t need them at ringside – yay! The Dome made a lot of noise to start. They had a very entertaining athletic exchange — Tanahashi played some air guitar. Styles had Tanahashi straddling the top rope and shook it up and down getting heat without the help of the Bullet Club. Tanahashi countered the springboard reverse DDT, and then pushed Styles down to the floor when looking for the springboard forearm. Styles did his usual dive over the barricade, but was met by a Tanahashi flying body-press on the other side. They exchanged forearms. Styles landed a roundhouse, Tanahashi a slingblade. Styles went for the same Styles Clash that he finished Makabe off with; Tanahashi resisted. Tanahashi blocked a second attempt, dropping Styles on the apron setting up for the AJ flying springboard forearm. AJ landed on his feet off of a German, landed a strike flurry, but was then dragon suplexed. Styles landed a massive frankensteiner, looked for the clash again, and ended up dropping Tanahashi with what was essentially Kawada’s Gonso Bomb! Again that could have ended badly. Styles then went for the frogsplash, Tanahashi got the knees up, and they repeat the same sequence for Tanahashi. Styles ended a forearm exchange with a pele and dropped Tanahashi again on his head, this time for the Bloody Sunday. But, he didn’t make the cover and instead looked for the Styles clash. Tanahashi again busted out the small package for the victory. This led to a shot of hundreds of people running around the building. A Bullet Club beatdown after the match ensued. Styles landed a Styles clash standing tall with the Bullet Club. Then Jeff Jarret of all people made the save with his guitar. D’Amore struggled to open the guitar case, which left the Bullet Club standing on the apron for an awkwardly long time. Jarrett busted the guitar over Tanahashi’s head and revealed a Bullet Club shirt – well that sucks. This match could have been **** ¾ + had it not ended so abrubtly, it was great none the less.
10. G1 Climax 2014 Finals: Kazuchika Okada (B Block Winner) w/ Gedo vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (A Block Winner)
I have just watched 19 successive matches, but am I ever ready for this. They started things off really slow leading to a face-off. Okada did his usual clean-break, and Nakamura let him get by with the Rainmaker pose. Okada wore Nakamura down some on the outside, posing with his foot on Nakamura’s chest. They exchanged some forearms with Nakamura vibrations in the corner and a diving front kick. Nakamura landed his guillotine knee-drop, which is a move he may very well regret introducing in five years. Okada’s dropkick sent Nakamura tumbling to the outside for the draping DDT. Okada did the rainmaker pose, Nakamura ducked the rainmaker and landed a backstabber. Nakamura countered the Red Ink into a sleeper. Nakamura locked an armbar in, which urged Gedo to yell from the apron in a non-distracting manner. Okada avoided the Boma Ye landing the belly-to-back-over-the-shoulder-over-the-knee-neck-breaker, stomped Nakamura in the head repeatedly, and fought for the tombstone. He side-stepped a mule kick landing a dropkick to the back of the head in return. Okada landed the tombstone, and looked for the Rainmaker, but Nakamura wrapped himself around the arm transitioning to an armbar in the most spectacular rainmaker counter I have ever seen. Okada broke it, but was caught with a Boma Ye to the back of the head whilst selling his arm. The crowd was hot, but dampened some by the acoustics of the building. They battled back and forth with forearms — this was a good old-school elbow battle that meant something. Nakamura kneed Okada in the chest. Okada responded with a dropkick. Nakamura collapsed when whipped into the ropes, MiniSuzu style. Okada looked for the dropkick, but was caught with a Boma Ye while on the mat — Okada kicks out! Okada then took the leaping Boma Ye! Nakamura went for it again, but was dropkicked! Nakamura kicked out of a German, Okada went for the rainmaker, but was kneed in the face! Okada caught the Boma Ye, but was punched in the face. Okada grabbed a backslide for two and then hit THREE RAINMAKERS for the win! I have no idea what that just was. It made no sense. But, it made me ever so happy. A big graphic reading “Victory” then popped up. I came very close to giving this five snowflakes.
RAW Ratings for August 4th 2014
Monday’s edition of RAW brought with it a similar pattern to last week’s show, that is, a healthy second hour, followed by a drop in overall viewership in the final hour. An interesting not about this week’s viewership, however, is that the first hour only drew 1.645 million viewers in the 18-49 demo, which is down quite a bit from what that hour has been doing recently – the lowest since June 23rd. The down swing in viewership heading into the third hour, with no anomalous competition to speak of, would, in my view, indicate a lack of captivating content. The first hour drew 4.08 million viewers (1.645 million viewers and a 1.4 rating in the 18-49 demo), the second 4.19 (1.784 million viewers and a 1.41 rating in the 18-49 demo), and the third and final hour, with a thirteen minute overrun dropped off to 3.88 million (1.708 million viewers and a 1.35 rating in the 18-49 demo). It is weeks like these when segment by segment viewership would be incredibly useful.
As always credit for the 18-49 data goes to @STD_85 on Twitter.
WWE NXT – August 7th 2014.
Full Sail University: Winter Park, FL.
#1 Contenders Tag Team Tournament 1st Round: Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady vs. Jason Jordan & Tye Dillenger – Enzo & Big Cass over in 5:10. The fans played sing-along with Enzo before the match and knew virtually every word of his promo. Jordan had cut his hair and looked like a wellness friendly Alistair Overeem. The faceless duo eventually cut off Big Cass and got the heat; Enzo got the hot tag but was immediately superkicked by Dillenger. Finish was wacky, Enzo was in the corner getting worked over and Cassady threw his own body in the way of a shoulder block from Jordan. Dillinger came in to complain at the referee then Cass nailed Jordan with a big boot behind the ref’s back and Enzo collapsed on top of Jordan for the win. Enzo and Big Cass celebrated like Shawn Michaels and Diesel afterwards. – Match was fine. The story they told was basically that Enzo is a geek and would get killed without Big Cass backing him up, which is fine as Enzo’s promos are enough to get him over and it makes for a ready-made storyline should they ever breakup.
Sami Zayn joined Renee in the back. He said he had no partner for the tag team tourney then Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel showed up. They mocked him for having no friends and Sami stated that he had wins over both of them. Adam Rose and his carnival of geeks rolled in; he told Sami he would be his partner then offered him a lollipop. Sami was reluctant at first, but after reassurance from Renee he ate it and walked off with Rose.
CJ Parker vs. Xavier Woods – CJ got the pin at 7:58 (TV Time). CJ had a sign that said “Stop Frickin Fracking” and tried to cut a promo but was quickly interrupted by Woods. Xavier was aggressive early, but nobody cared then CJ got the heat and they cared even less. The people died during the heat, but they got them back with a couple of near-falls that saw CJ kick out of Xavier’s signature moves. Woods did a coast-to-coast elbow drop for absolutely no reason then got pinned with the safest Death Valley driver you have ever seen. – This went way too long and was kind of dull until they started doing the unexpected big near-falls.
Eden told the fans that Tyler Breeze demanded they all turn their attention to the tron and he appeared on the screen. Breeze said it was time for him to challenge Neville for the NXT title and claimed he would wash the “ugo” off the belt. He also debuted a new catchphrase and referred to his fans as “Wanna-Breeze.” The new fad of derivative word forms in pro wrestling continues.
Bayley vs. Eva Marie – Bayley downed Eva with the belly-to-Bayley in 3:50. For her entrance, Eva was sat atop a large platform and posed like a far less talented Dita Von Teese. Eva was despised and got “you can’t wrestle” chants right away. Poor Bayley tried her best, but the match stunk the joint out. The fans chanted, “worse than Batista” then were overjoyed when Bayley won and chanted “thank you Bayley” like it was a loser leave town match. – Boy was this rough. I have seen blow-up dolls, ACTUAL BLOW–UP DOLLS look more natural and confident in the ring the Eva. Other than the obvious, I have no idea what they see in her. There are plenty of good-looking women out there that have actual athletic ability and at least a semblance of a personality; one on their books at the minute is Dana Brooke (Ashley Sebera), who coincidentally enough was one of the Rosebuds on this very show. If it wasn’t for Total Divas I have to believe that Eva would be one of the people axed in the Tsunami of cuts that are going on right now.
#1 Contenders Tag Team Tournament 1st Round: Sami Zayn & Adam Rose vs. Tyson Kidd & Justin Gabriel – Zayn & Rose advanced in 9:18 (TV Time). Sami got in some of his signature shine spots on Kidd then Rose did some goofy comedy before being cut off and the heels worked him over for the heat. Sami ran wild off the hot tag and took out both heels with a huge summersault plancha then Rose came off the top rope with a cannonball onto the pile, which the people went nuts for. Finish saw Sami pin Gabriel with the Yakuza-kick. Rose and Sami celebrated with the Rosebuds to, as Tony Schiavone would say, end the telecast. – Basic fare with a couple of big dives at the end. With that horrible Occulus segment on Raw, it is easy to forget that Rose has yet to become a complete joke to the NXT audience and as a result it is much easier to get into his matches down here.
A couple of weeks ago I urged anyone that is not watching NXT to start, mainly due to the imminent arrivals of KENTA and Devitt, but most of the time it is a very good, easy hour of wrestling to watch. Well, not this week I’m afraid. We got an unusually uninspired show, with an average at best main event, a snoozer with Parker/Woods and a debacle with Eva Marie. The “big” news in NXT land is that Tyler Breeze officially announced he was cashing in his title shot against Neville, but by no means do you need to go out of your way to see that. Apologies to those who took my advice and recently started watching NXT, I promise it will get better.
WWE SmackDown – August 8th 2014.
Laredo Energy Arena: Laredo, TX.
Dean Ambrose hit the ring for a promo. They showed him vandalising Rollins’ briefcase and costing him the match on Raw. Ambrose listed a bunch of goofy stip matches he could choose from, including: JBL’s hat on a pole match, a coal miner’s glove match, a good housekeeping match and a loser has to wash Triple H’s car match. Seth Rollins came out onto the stage and demanded to know what the stipulation would be. Ambrose announced it would be a Lumberjack match then swore to God that he would make sure Mr Money in the Bank went broke at SummerSlam. Rollins told Ambrose that the Authority had given him the power to choose his opponent tonight and booked him against Randy Orton. – A lumberjack match. Sign up /renew now everybody! Goodness knows what they are thinking. Lumberjack matches are almost never very good and how on Earth it plays into the storyline is beyond me. Why wouldn’t Ambrose ask for a No DQ match with the briefcase on the line? Not a bad opening segment, both guys delivered their lines well but it made little sense overall.
Big Show & Mark Henry vs. Rybaxel – Show & Henry over at 3:30. They stalled forever then Rybaxel worked over Henry for the heat. Show made the comeback and they both hit their finishes at the same time on the heels for a finish right off the house shows. – Dull match. Yet again Show and Henry are thrown together because they have nothing better for them to do. They might as well have kept both of them off TV a bit longer, because they mean nothing at this point and nobody cares about them as a tag team.
Dolph Ziggler was backstage watching Ambrose ruin Seth’s briefcase from Raw and he was making jokes to Adam Rose and a bunch of Divas about Seth being an idiot. Rollins walked in and said the real joke was Ziggler’s career; Dolph had an awful line about Rollins looking like Catwoman in his ring gear. Rollins then booked himself against Ziggler and Dolph accepted.
Sin Cara vs. Damien Sandow – Sin Cara won with a senton. Sandow was dressed as US Border Patrol agent and cut a promo about Sin Cara and the fans being illegal immigrants. It was no good at all.
They showed the awesome Brock Lesnar/John Cena video package.
Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler. – Rollins over in 8:59 (TV Time). Rollins got the heat right away and virtually took the entire match until it was time for Ziggler to make his comeback. Dolph got a few near-falls, including one off a DDT and another with the fameasser. Rollins sent Ziggler’s shoulder into the ring post then tossed him into the barricade and the steps. For the finish, Rollins hit the curb-stomp and got the pin in the middle of the ring. – A perfectly acceptable pro wrestling match, nothing more nothing less. I have no problem with Dolph losing, however he is the #1 contender for the IC title and Rollins absolutely dominated him. It wasn’t like a babyfaces selling for sympathy, it was just Dolph looking like a geek.
Randy Orton was with Renee in the back. He said Ambrose would find out that he was the most sadistic superstar in the WWE just like Roman Reigns did and that was that.
Paige vs. Natalya. – Paige via submission at 2:01. Nattie quickly hit a butterfly suplex and caught Paige in the sharpshooter; Paige got to the ropes then stalled on the floor. She hit Nattie with a terrible looking lightening spiral on the floor then put her away with the scorpion cross-lock. – Not much to this one. At least Paige looked strong going into her title match, as opposed to Ziggler who got beaten up like a chump.
Rusev w/Lana vs. Big E. – Rusev CRUSH in 1:59 .They messed up the ST-Joe spot out of the corner, so Big E had to make his comeback without a transition. Rusev avoided the Warrior splash and won with the camel-clutch. – This wasn’t in the same league as their match at Payback and was basically an enhancement match for Rusev. What happened to the NOD 2014? They can’t possibly have dropped that idea already, could they?
Backstage, Chris Jericho was with Tom Phillips. He talked about banishing the Family from ringside at SummerSlam then talked about having the whole WWE Universe in his hands. He did the cringe-worthy “let’s get crazy” line again to close the promo. – I think they just had Jericho tape one promo on Bray and are constantly replaying it. Just as I suspected, the follow up to all the 3-on-1 beatings Jericho took when he came back have been followed up with nothing but the same promos over and over again, plus booking that made no sense whatsoever, with Jericho for some reason given the chance to ban Harper & Rowan from ringside. So far this feud has been a big disappointment.
They recapped the Stephanie/Brie contract signing then it was time for the main event.
Dean Ambrose vs. Randy Orton – No contest when Seth Rollins interfered at 9:35 (TV Time). Ambrose shone early and took out Orton with a slingshot plancha. Orton worked over the shoulder after landing a belly-to-back on the announce table for the heat spot. Ambrose landed a DDT for a double-down and made his comeback; Orton cut off a tope then tossed Ambrose into the steps a couple of times. Ambrose countered the hangman DDT and finally scored with his tope; he followed up with the jawbreaker lariat then Rollins appeared on the apron. Ambrose knocked him off then planted Orton with his finish, but Rollins dragged him outside for the DQ. Ambrose got the better of a brawl with Rollins, however Orton laid him out with an RKO and Seth pounded on him some more. Rollins poured a “fan’s” soda all over Ambrose then finished him off with a curbstomp. Show closed with Rollins standing over the corpse of Ambrose. – I’ve seen arena reports that claimed this went nearly 30 minutes and others that put the time closer to 20, all I can tell you is that it was a decent TV main event that must have been edited significantly if it really did go that long.
There was so little content on this show, you could get through it in about 45 minutes if you really wanted to. They padded it out with a million video packages and had Cole and JBL do a bunch of recapping. Other than the Ambrose/Rollins stuff, the show was virtually all filler. A Big Show & Mark Henry tag team again? How lazy can creative be? Speaking of Ambrose/Rollins, this is the one time I am actually hoping Vince goes on one of his warpaths and changes the Lumberjack stip; it won’t do the buys or Network subs any good, but it would certainly lead to a better match. I’d avoid this show like the plague if I were you.
Next Week’s Issue:
Next week’s issue is the first of many hiatus editions, with Bryan Rose looking at the week in wrestling, as well as Ben Carass’ coverage of NXT (which should be getting good any week now) and SmackDown!
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