Cubed Circle Newsletter — G1 Climax 2013 Part II
We are back this week with our second part of our G1 Climax coverage, covering the sixth, seventh, eighth and final night all in-depth. Plus the 2013 G1 Climax as a whole, a SummerSlam preview, the SummerSlam go-home, the ratings, NXT with Ben Carass, iMPACT with a world title change, SmackDown with Ben Carass and more! And with all that out of the way I hope you enjoy the newsletter and have a great week!
–Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter Editor
G1 Climax 2013 — Tremendous Spectacle Wraps Up
It was slightly over one week ago today that the finals of the 23rd G1 Climax tournament got underway from Sumo Hall in Tokyo. It was during that final where we were treated to a great wrestling show, as we came to expect from the G1 this year, but we were also treated to something even more special — the culmination to one of the best wrestling tournaments in years, and perhaps one of the best tournaments of its kind ever booked.
It was a tremendous eleven day ride, spanning nine shows, and close to one-hundred matches involving twenty participants. It was as a part of those nine shows that we were able to witness classic after classic, night after night, in a way that I can’t recall ever seeing during my time as a fan of pro-wrestling, and if I had, I certainly didn’t have live access to it. Performers like Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura, Kazuchika Okada, Katsuyori Shibata, Tetsuya Naito, Minoru Suzuki and Tomohiro Ishii were on top form; and even looking away from the performers that everyone expected to tear the house down, there were a couple like Satoshi Kojima, who at the age of 42 pulled off one heck of a tournament.
It wasn’t just the sheer volume of great performers and great performances that inspired such awe during these eleven days, but also the variety of styles that those matches were performed in, and the pace that all but two of the twenty participants were able to maintain. On night two we were given a classic between Tanahashi and Ishii, two days later we were presented with not only one classic, but two in the styles clash of Kota Ibushi and Shinsuke Nakamura, and the wrestling equivalent of a world war in Shibata and Ishii. From there the tournament kept rolling on with another pair of classics on night eight from Sumo Hall with the bizarre, but incredibly entertaining battle between Kota Ibushi and Minoru Suzuki, and then the next chapter in a never ending story between Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi — this time a thirty minute draw. Finally, when rolling into the final night we were given a match of the year candidate in Tetsuya Naito’s G1 Finals victory against Hiroshi Tanahashi. While these feats were amazing, what adds an extra layer of shear magnitude to this tournament, was that for each one of these classics we were given a handful of matches that were perhaps not as good, but still as good if not better than most pay-per-view mainevents in 2013.
Still, even with the incredible job that New Japan did with this tournament, it was lightly criticized by some, and heavily by others. Some of the points that people have brought up regarding this tournament are valid, but others I am not so sure about.
One of the two major concerns heading out of the G1 Climax this year was the matter of the finish, or rather who finished where. Tetsuya Naito as mentioned above won the tournament after besting Tanahashi at Sumo Hall, marking his first G1 victory. There were people that I spoke to that were very happy about this occurrence, and you could have simply listened to the Sumo Hall crowd to know that they were happy about it too. However, with the thought of what can only be described as a mouth watering potential final between Shibata and Nakamura, some were disappointed; and this disappointment came from different places. For some, those being people who have only really caught on to the New Japan product in the last few months, it was a matter of Naito being a person who has been okay during his post ACL surgery run, but nowhere near the heights that he had reached in 2011/2012 (until the G1). And for older fans it is the idea that Naito lacks star power, presence, working ability, or any mixture of the three. To be honest I don’t agree with either points of view.
When looking at the potential winners of the G1 earlier last month we highlighted three possible winners, the bottom pick at the time was Shibata, the second Naito, and the first Nakamura. My original idea was that Nakamura was going to win the tournament in order to face Okada at the Tokyo Dome next year, as I thought, and still do think, to a certain extent that a Nakamura/Okada match would draw really well as a Tokyo Dome mainevent. However, in hindsight there are a number of reasons why having Naito win the G1 was a better move. For starters they have elevated a younger star, one that is very solid and often times great in the ring, into a potential major star with the help of the G1 and the prestige that it brings to the table. The second is that Nakamura doesn’t need to the G1, since he has already won a tournament, and is a big star that they could slip into the world title picture whenever they wanted, and he would be able to draw well, with or without the G1; and the same goes for Shibata. It is a similar kind of prestige that the Rumble use to have, where the WWF/E went through a stage where young/non-top wrestlers won the Rumble in order to elevate them. That’s what the G1 is and has done throughout this period. And as for the “Naito can’t work” argument, I believe that his match with Okada, and BOSJ heavyweight six-man tag matches with Tanahashi from last year speak for themselves, together with his 2011 matches with Tanahashi and company.
The second big topic brought up when it comes to this year’s G1, and this issue is definitely far bigger than the issue of Naito winning, is the matter of parity booking. There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to parity booking in the G1. There are the people that believe that parity booking destroys all the potential of the G1 to elevate new stars apart from the finals, while there are those that believe that the parity booking method that Gedo and Jado delay now is simply a means to an end in order to accommodate for their meticulous and intricate booking schemes for the G1. I find myself somewhere in the middle here, although when it comes to the current New Japan environment I find myself leaning towards the positive end.
I see the argument against parity to a certain extent, after all you have most people going through each round with similar scores, and many of the matches are very predictable when you look at the scores of the people involved (a night five match between someone with a 3-1 and 1-3 record is probably going to be an obvious one to pick), but if you are going to book the tournament in this way it is a necessity. It is ironic that some of the matches during the tournament have to have some of their meaning stripped in order to give some of the final matches meaning, but that’s what happens. In order to create a situation where three or four favourites are in matches to decide who makes it to the finals in the last night, you have to book matches in this way, otherwise the numbers simply don’t work out. I would of course advocate more draws, like in the Devitt/Okada match, but those are small details. What they can correct however is the actual layout of the tournament, and it does need some tweaks, but huge shifts aren’t necessary when the tournament is doing so well. An important factor to also consider is that unlike in company’s like WWE or TNA, parity booking isn’t an important part of the everyday booking structure of the promotion, so when going into the G1, parity booking will have far less detrimental effects. The one thing that you really have to look at is that when you have so much quality in there, from an in ring perspective and from a booking perspective, it is sometimes okay to do things like this, as the stories told in the match and throughout the matches as a whole can serve to break some of tournament’s symmetry so to speak.
One of the great things about the G1 isn’t just the fact that we get so many great matches in such a short period of time, but the presence of great matches that it sets up for the future, and we have those in great quantity. From the final night where Shibata went too far with Tanahashi attempting to finishing him off with the GTS (and Tanahashi cutting a very fiery promo that you should definitely read) we are given a potential big Shibata/Tanahashi program down the line. From the Kojima win over Okada we get a championship match later on. With Naito we get a NEVER run and so on. And that isn’t even factoring in matches that haven’t even been touched at this point, matches like Shibata/Suzuki, Shibata/Naito, Shibata/Nakamura, Nakamura/Suzuki, Nakamura/Okada, Nakamura/Ishii, Naito/Ishii and so on. So the idea that the G1 has burnt out potential matches is also not all too accurate, especially when the majority of these matches only went fifteen minutes at their longest.
Two more very important issues to address for this year’s G1 were injuries and overexposure, both of which are very valid. I understand that many people have been worried about the talent due to the rate that everyone worked at this year, and while I think that is certainly a worry, I will say (for what it’s worth), that this has been going on for at least the last three years if not longer. Of course, the G1 is oftentimes a collection of samplers, depending on the year that can change, and this year it was far from that. However, were most of the injuries caused by the working schedule of the tournament, or was the issue that a lot of the wrestlers were coming in hurt? I would say that the problem was a mixture of both, but the later is definitely a bigger issue. Guys like Nagata, Nakamura, Tanahashi, Tenzan, and Kojima all came in hurt, and given that the G1 is known for, and pretty much has always been known for, being one of the most physically taxing tournaments in wrestling it is a surprise that more people weren’t pulled during the course of the tournament. Whether that means that some should have, but weren’t, I don’t know, but most people weren’t seriously injured.
The matter of Shibata, Goto and Ishii is a different story, as all three of them take far too much punishment for my liking. Ishii in particular was just destroyed in this tournament, not in every match, but he was in a war with Shibata, worked physical matches the whole way through, and then was dropped straight down on his head (accidently), by Makabe on night eight, and that can’t be good for anyone’s health. The same is true for Goto, as he and Ishii both over do it with the headbutts, and while I also worry about Shibata, he tends to take less punishment than he gives a lot of the time.
An issue of overexposure did arise for some people who decided to watch all nine shows. I was one such person, and while I didn’t experience any of this mystical “overexposure”, I did find myself getting tired of a couple of gimmicks. The main gimmick that got old very fast was Devitt’s, but then again I have been sick of Devitt’s heel matches for the past few months, given that every single match is the same, and it is so difficult to get into most of them given how comedic things become when that much interference is thrown into one match. I thought that I would get sick of Yano too, but Yano actually did a good job at diversifying his routine, something that I haven’t seen from him in a long time. I always complain about Yano, but he grew on me (it has taken quite a few years it seems) in this tournament with his babyface antics in a lot of the matches, which is far more than I can say for Devitt. I got a little tired of the standard Archer gimmicks towards the end too, but that was to be expected and everyone else did a really good job at diversifying their usual match structures.
I did have a few pet peeves throughout the tournament, and yes one of them was Shelton Benjamin’s bridge, but apart from that I wasn’t a big fan of the one counts at all. Don’t get me wrong, one counts are great and make so much sense in Japanese pro-wrestling, but I don’t know if I would like to see them as often as I did during this tournament. Already by the end of night four we had seen about half a dozen, and that number only grew throughout the tournament. I have always viewed the one count as a great rarity that is usually the mark of a big time match and immediately gets the crowd hot, which we saw up until night five or so. After that point the crowds started to die down for it, and that I didn’t like. I also think that they should put a higher emphasis on getting the scores out to the fans during the shows in order for them to fully understand what is going on, because I know that very few people in the crowd knew what was going on the final night when it came to who would advance to the finals and who wouldn’t, and that is a negative when it comes to booking a tournament in this manner.
Originally I wanted to close this off by talking about my favourite moments of the tournament, but the reality is that I can’t pin down a single favourite, or even handful. When I think of the 2013 G1 Climax, a few images pop into my head, two of the first are the Ishii reverse headbutt and enzuigiri in the Tanahashi match, a sequence that I will remember for a very long time. Another is the opening sequence to the Shibata/Ishii match, which was simply insane, as I am sure you, dear reader, are well aware due to the many Frye/Takayama references have been made. There are also images of the one counts in the Nakamura/Ibushi match that stick out a whole heck of a lot. From there on out things are a blur up until day eight, where the Suzuki/Ibushi battle pops up, together with Tanahashi/Okada…oh, and Ishii getting dropped on his head. And then finally switching to the finals the most bizarre trio ever, Akebono, Sakuraba & Ibushi, stick out very clearly. Shibata and Tanahashi at around the same resolution, particularly the finish, and then finally clearer than anything else in the last week or so of the tournament is the image of Naito posing with the trophy.
It is these collection of images that truly highlight what I loved about the 2013 G1 Climax, and even more than that they highlight so many of, not all, but many of the things that I love about pro-wrestling.
WWE SummerSlam 2013 — An Important Show
This Sunday WWE runs its annual SummerSlam show for the fifth consecutive time at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and it is set to be a rather important night for a number of reasons. For starters, the show is headlined by John Cena defending his WWE championship against Daniel Bryan, which is a match that could have some strong consequences for the company short term. What is perhaps an even bigger match is the other mainevent headliner, a very intriguing Brock Lesnar versus CM Punk match.
The finish to the Daniel Bryan and John Cena match is interesting, given the fact that Cena may very well be out for a while due to elbow surgery, and there are a number of directions that they could go with the finish. The most predictable move at present is to have Bryan win the title, and then have Orton cash in; however they have teased that finish so many times that it seems quite unlikely that they will actually go along with it. What seems like a more likely scenario, and for the sake of the next few months worth of programming I hope I am wrong, is a Triple H heel turn to cost either Bryan or Cena, or both the WWE title.
On Monday Triple H was made the special guest referee for the title match at SummerSlam, which seems like a rather unnecessary move. However, when you factor in Vince’s wish for both Bryan and Cena to burst into flames, from an angle perspective, I would say that it’s pretty likely that the McMahon family angle will pop up in some way during this match. I have read that the plan at one point was to have the family unite as a heel unit, presumably with a Triple H heel turn and Orton cash-in, leading to a Vince face turn of all things for WrestleMania.
Even though a Randy Orton cash-in will work from the perspective that it will give Bryan a program over the next few months while Cena is out, pushing him into the mainevent mix for an even longer period of time, it just doesn’t seem like the right move to me. What I would think would be the most effective move would be to have Bryan either lose or win cleanly to Cena in a very good match, because short title reigns before a cash-in have been done to death, and I don’t see how anything of the sort will contribute in a positive manner to how the general viewing audience perceives Bryan. They could always swerve everyone and do the cash-in on RAW, but even then the title reign will be cut short by a very large margin. Another issue that arises from an Orton alignment with the McMahon family, either Triple H, Vince, Stephanie or all three, is that Orton was the bane of their existence in 2009. Obviously that was a long time ago, and in the end this is pro-wrestling, and from a storyline aspect it doesn’t bother me, but the point is that we have already seen a ton of McMahon family/heel Orton interactions that I don’t want to see more of.
The key moment in the Cena/Bryan Miz TV segment from RAW this week, which was legitimately one of the better promo segments of the year, even on par with the stellar Heyman/Punk and Henry promos from this year, was when Bryan brought up the matter of slapping in Japanese pro-wrestling. He said that in Japan, to make sure that the younger wrestler, the challenger, fights with all of their heart, their opponent will slap them before the match. This led to Cena slapping Bryan in the end, but Bryan refusing to slap Cena stating that he wasn’t a pro-wrestler. While this made for a great culmination to a stand alone angle, in the context of a match this setup could be even more important, as the exchange of two slaps, one from Cena and the other from Bryan, either at the start or towards the end of the match would mean so much. And it is the potential for moments such as these, due to the momentum that Bryan has at the moment that harbour the potential to make a new star. And that makes it seem like a waste to have Triple H or anybody else for that matter interfere in the finish.
I have also heard the idea of a Daniel Bryan heel turn thrown about, which for my money seems like a very misguided idea, as Bryan is hot as a babyface, so turning him heel would make no sense, especially when it clearly isn’t what the people want to see. No, what I believe the people want to see is a Bryan championship win, and while they could take the route of giving the people just enough of what they want, in order to know how badly they need it, only to take it away at the last moment would work as a heat generator, I don’t know if it would really further Bryan’s career in the long run.
The other big match on the show is obviously the CM Punk/Brock Lesnar match, which up until Monday felt like the mainevent of the show. It is a compelling match due to the Punk/Heyman involvement, together with the huge contrast between Punk and Brock in pretty much every single way imaginable. When they first started the Punk/Heyman break up I wanted a longer more well built turn, but in the end they wanted to do this match at SummerSlam, and it works because Lesnar is only really going to make a difference on a big show anyway, and the angle would have probably overstayed its welcome had they built it over the summer and into the latter stages of the year.
The booking ideas behind this match are going to be interesting, as you can make the case for either man winning depending on what school of thought you come from. You could argue that with Punk losing so many big matches this year against people who aren’t there full time that they should beat Brock and put Punk over here. However, if you are looking at it from the other end, Brock seems like the right choice, as he has been weakened over time losing to Cena and Triple H. This can be seen in Lesnar’s drawing power on each pay-per-view that he headlines, although it is difficult to count this year’s Extreme Rules or WrestleMania due to the fact that the former was very much a rehash of something that most people weren’t all too interested in, and the match at WrestleMania wasn’t drawing many extra buys to the show regardless.
If I was booking I would book Lesnar to win the first match, after all they can build Punk up strong during the time that Lesnar is absent, and then they can build to an even bigger match down the road where Punk will get the victory. Plus, you have to consider the fact that Punk and Heyman are both such good promos that Punk could easily feud with Axel in the interim, and they could extend it even further by incorporating a group like the Shield into this angle, which probably wouldn’t be a bad thing, as the Shield really have fallen from grace over the past few months or so. It is for all of these reasons that I would expect Lesnar to win this Sunday.
There is also a World Title rematch from a recent edition of SmackDown on this show, baffling I know, with Alberto Del Rio defending the world title against Christian. The really strange thing here is that they gave away a clean fifteen plus minute match for free on SmackDown a few weeks ago, which would lead me to believe that they are not going with a clean finish here. In a way a dirty finish would make sense, given that Del Rio is running short on challengers, and although they can go with Van Dam at Night of Champions, Del Rio has already bested Van Dam, and RVD is locked in a US title program with Ambrose right now, so Christian seems to be the only choice. Of course, they do have Sandow waiting in the wings, and he is working Rhodes on this show, but I expect that program to continue on for at least the next month or so in order for Rhodes to land up with the case. They could always keep the title on Del Rio here and then switch it to Sandow on SmackDown, but I see no reason to not go along and extend this World Title run for a few more shows until you hand the title off to Sandow or Rhodes.
In a rather strange match, Bray Wyatt, in his re-debut match, goes up against Kane in a ring of fire match. Believe it or not the match does not involve Johnny Cash in anyway, but what it does involve is some backwards booking on their part. The match is basically an inferno match without the objective being to set your opponent alight. Therefore it is a regular match with a ring surrounded by fire. I would be fine with the stipulation, and it would make complete sense, if the two had been in a set of interference ladened regular matches in the past, but this is the debut of the Bray Wyatt character in a singles match so they shouldn’t be rushing to a match such as this. The real reason for the rush is justified in some way however, as they are in fact starting the production of May 19th…no….’See No Evil 2’, which means that Kane is going to be out for a while. The product is PG, but under these stipulations it would be great to have the Wyatt Family somehow storm the ring, through the fire, in order to get to Kane, but in the end that just may be a wacky booking idea on my part. What is not a crazy booking idea however is to have Wyatt win this match, as it seems to be the only logical direction for the match and the Wyatt Family angle as a whole.
Rob Van Dam won a number one contender’s battle royal for the US Title on RAW this week, so he will be challenging Dean Ambrose for the US Title. The match will be on the SummerSlam kick-off show, which marks the second straight pay-per-view that a Shield match has been relegated to the kick-off show. And in fact, Reigns and Rollins aren’t even on this show as tag team champions, so that should tell you something right there. In a normal world I would say that Ambrose would go over clean without a shadow of a doubt, but with the way that they have been booking the Shield as of late I am not so sure.
Finally, two matches that most definitely won’t be as good as a Shield match, against, well, anybody. Dolf Ziggler & Kaitlyn go up against AJ & Big E. Langston in a mixed tag match that doesn’t have my interest at all. And speaking of no interest, in a Total Divas themed match, Natalya will be facing Brie Bella, and these two matches take the place of a Shield match, everybody.
As a show from top to bottom SummerSlam is looking good, the Staples Center hasn’t been the hottest of crowds over the past few years, but when something hot comes along they are into it, and given that there are two big matches on the show I am sure that we will get some decent crowd heat for those. I don’t know what the Miz’ job is as host, but hopefully we don’t get any Brad Maddox segment like on the last show, because nobody wants those on a show that they paid for. It is looking like a very good show though, as the top three matches all look like they will be able to deliver in big ways, with the mainevent being one of the most intriguing matches that the WWE has put on in the last few months.
New Japan Pro-Wrestling G1 Climax 23 Night 6 August 7th 2013
Sendai Sun Plaza Hall, Sendai, Japan
Night six of the G1 this year from Sendai was far from the best show of the tournament, but when looking at nights such as night five from Ishikawa or the next night’s show from Yokohama it was probably what you could call a middle of the line G1 show for 2013 — in other words it was a very good show. The situation with this year’s tournament was that there were so many good matches and outstanding shows, that a show such as this, one that featured many very good matches, but none that were truly great, won’t really be remembered at all, when in actual fact it was above the level of your average WWE B-show.
Night six kicked off with a B Block match between Kota Ibushi (4-1) and Shelton Benjamin (2-3). Like in many of Ibushi’s other matches throughout the tournament, Benjamin was able to play the bully mauling Ibushi out on the floor, throwing him between the guardrail and the ring apron. They had a series of fast exchanges at one point, but Benjamin got his knees up off of an attempted moonsault from Ibushi. Ibushi landed a big highkick and went for a springboard, but was caught in a very Randy Orton esque manner with the paydirt for the win in 10:20; the match was nothing special, but I really liked the finish as it is something that you don’t see all that often in New Japan. (*** ¼)
Next up was a heel battle in the B Block with Karl Anderson (2-3) taking on the sublime thief himself, Toru Yano (1-4). Like Devitt did with Tanahashi during the tournament, Anderson wore Yano’s jacket and proceeded to strangle him with it before taking him out to the floor. Yano responded by tearing off the turnbuckle pad, whipping Anderson with it, and then proceeding to throw it at Anderson. I found this quite humorous, as this is a presumably soft pad meant to protect people, being sold as a lethal weapon. Yano was back in at 19, and Anderson attempted to bite the head of the referee. Yano was sent into his own exposed buckle numerous times building to a spot where Yano finally got the chance to throw Anderson into the buckle himself. Anderson attempted to take a chunk out of the referee’s head again, but Yano landed his low blow and grabbed the cradle for the win as a result in 07:24. Yano is very fun in the babyface role (** ¾).
In the first A Block match of the night Davey Boy Smith Jr. (2-3) with Taka Michinoku, took on Tomohiro Ishii (2-3). This match was similar to Ishii’s match with Archer from earlier in the tournament in that Smith had the significant size advantage. Smith used his power to get control over Ishii, until Ishii landed a last ride style powerbomb out of the corner, which looked great considering the size discrepancy between these two. There was a double headbutt spot at one point. Ishii landed elbows, but was killed with a knee followed by a powerbomb for two. Smith kicked out of a lariat, and Ishii the tiger suplex. However, Smith then landed the sitout powerbomb for the win in 11:17 (*** ½).
Minoru Suzuki (2-3) took on Yujiro Takahashi (3-2) in an interesting B Block style clash. Takahashi was in the middle of cutting one of his sleazy promos when Suzuki rushed forward killing him, which I just found tremendous. Yujiro took Suzuki down to the floor and made some lewd crotch gestures, which resulted in Suzuki making faces of absolute fury and disgust. Suzuki tried to yell “baka”, but was strangled to the mat. Yujiro got out of the sleeper, and was killed with slaps, before being placed back in the sleeper for the Gotch piledriver and the win in 10:31 (*** ¼).
Togi Makabe (2-3) and Lance Archer (2-3) with Taka Michinoku were up next in a A Block bout. Archer was throwing around expletives left and right, and there was a ton of referee abuse. Makabe landed the spider suplex and knee drop for the win in 09:07 (** ½). In the match that put Hiroyoshi Tenzan (3-2) out of the tournament, he went up against Tetsuya Naito (3-2). This was yet another part of the Naito/veteran battle story.You could tell that Tenzan was already hurt and was quite limited. Naito came off with a mundane cross body off of the ropes, not even from the top, and landed back first against Tenzan, breaking his ribs. He was clearly in a ton of pain, but still ran through some anaconda vice spots. He then landed his anaconda slam and the moonsault, yes, with broken ribs! For the win in 12:20. You have to respect Tenzan for helping to keep everything together even when he was clearly in a lot of pain, although I don’t know how wise that moonsault was (** ¼).
Prince Devitt (3-2) and Satoshi Kojima (3-2), in the A Block, had just about every heel Prince Devitt match you have ever seen. Kojima went for his winning lariat, but Fale was in for the Samoan drop. Devitt landed his chair assisted footstomp for two. Devitt followed this with a chair shot to the head, something that New Japan doesn’t usually do, for the win in 09:02 (** ¼). In a match that some would find disappointing, although realistically they couldn’t really go all out, Kazuchika Okada (2-3) went up against Katsuyori Shibata (3-2) in the A Block. Shibata fired off with some shots, but Okada showed that he could trade. Okada ducked the PK and rolled out to the floor. Shibata kicked Okada’s chest, he sat up, and there were more kicks; great stuff here. There was a phenomenal figure four spot. Okada did the rainmaker pose, Shibata slapped him, but Okada kept the hold steady! They traded forearms, Okada was placed in the tree of woe and kicked in the face in the most petite manner that you will ever see from Shibata. This was of course before Shibata murdered him with a running dropkick. Shibata locked in a Boston crab, Okada yelled, and Shibata mocked the rainmaker pose and landed a rainmaker knee! Okada then landed the rainmaker and tombstone for the win in 09:13. Okada’s reaction to winning this match was so good, and although it could have gone longer it was still a very good performance from both men (*** ¾).
Yuji Nagata (3-2) went up against Shinsuke Nakamura (2-3). Nagata took the Boma Ye after Nakamura survived the demon armbar. However, Nagata soon landed a brainbuster for two. Nakamura grabbed one of his martial arts kicks, but was caught with an exploder. He landed another Boma Ye, which Nagata kicked out of (I thought that they did too much of this throughout the tournament). Nakamura then landed the second Boma Ye for the win in 13:55 (*** ¾).
In the mainevent Hiroshi Tanahashi (2-3) faced Hirooki Goto (4-1). Tanahashi landed the high fly flow out to the floor and worked on Goto’s leg. They had a great sequence of punches and elbows culminating in a Tanahashi sling blade. Goto attempted to fight Tanahashi off, but was caught with a straight jacket suplex for two. Goto avoided the high fly flow and landed a lariat to the back of the head. There were tons of counters, but Goto killed Tanahashi with a headbutt, causing Tanahashi to collapse to Goto’s knee. Tanahashi hit a dragon suplex for two, and followed it with a powerbomb, styles clash and high fly flow for the win in 15:30. Somewhere in here Goto broke his jaw, but I couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment (****).
New Japan Pro-Wrestling G1 Climax 23 Day 7 August 8th 2013
Yokohama Bunka Gymnasium, Yokohama, Japan
Out of all the G1 shows this year this was probably the second weakest. Whilst the fifth night of the tournament had the better line-up, this show had the better crowd, even if they weren’t anywhere remotely close to some of the better crowds of this tournament. There wasn’t really anything of much note here.
Kobashi was on commentary for the entire show, which was interesting given the fact that it was treated as no big deal. The show kicked off with a bonus match given that Tenzan and Goto were out of the tournament by this point. Tomoaki Honma, who would have been great in this year’s G1, and Captain New Japan versus Takashi Iizuka & YOSHI-HASHI. Honma really was the only decent one in here, and it showed. Iizuka landed the iron fingers on New Japan before HASHI landed the senton for the win (* ½). The first G1 match of the night was a B Block match between Kota Ibushi (4-2) and Yujiro Takahashi (3-3). Ibushi flipped out of a German suplex, but took another German and Tokyo Pimps for the win in 08:45 (***).
Karl Anderson (2-4) and Yuji Nagata (3-3) were out next. The lights went out before the match started, which was a little weird. Anderson worked over the arm of Nagata. Anderson did a solute and middle finger, which sent Nagata into a complete rage. Nagata landed a top rope exploder, and countered an Irish whip into a demon armbar! Anderson in turn countered the exploder into the gun stun for the win in 10:09 (*** ¼). The first Block A match of the night was up next with Prince Devitt (3-3) going up against Katsuyori Shibata (3-3). Devitt wore boxing gloves and boxed the turnbuckle before the match, to which referee Tiger responded “no boxing”! This of course cued Shibata violence. Shibata chased Devitt around the ring, but was taken down by Fale. Devitt landed chops, which made Shibata angry after a bout of indifference. Shibata then landed the PK before getting Devitt up for the GTS for the win in 06:56. The finish was of course a reference to Shibata’s much publicised friendship with NOAH’s KENTA, but it also played heavily into the final night.
Next was by far the best match on the show when CHAOS stablemates, Tomohiro Ishii (2-4) and Kazuchika Okada (2-4) went at it in an A Block match. It was an important match for both men. Okada stomped Ishii, but Ishii screamed back in Okada’s face! Ishii landed his enzuigiri and fired back with elbows, and a quick lariat for two. Okada a dropkick and Gedo screamed in approval. Okada went for the rainmaker, but Ishii was the one landing the lariat, followed by a second for two. Ishii ducked a second rainmaker attempt and landed a headbutt, but was caught with the tombstone and rainmaker for the win in 11:21, finishing a great performance from both men (****). Hiroshi Tanahashi (3-3) went up against Lance Archer (3-3). Archer at one point went for the high fly flow, but missed, which was very much unexpected. Tanahashi landed his dragon screw at one point, which looked really good on the long legs of Archer. Tanahashi won with his high fly flow to a standing Archer followed by the regular high fly flow in 10:56 (*** ¼).
Tetsuya Naito (3-3) went up against Toru Yano (2-4) in a Block B match. Some of the low blows here were quite clunky, Naito missed the stardust press and was caught with a low blow for the win in 09:26 (** ½). What came next was a battle of Suzuki-gun partners, with Minoru Suzuki (3-3) versus Shelton Benjamin (3-3). Benjamin dominated while Suzuki yelled in Japanese. Suzuki was caught in the ankle lock, after landing many kicks. However, Suzuki still managed to hit his delayed Gotch piledriver for the win in 08:42 (*** ½). After the match Suzuki pointed to Benjamin’s chest and Taka hung the Suzuki-gun banner for a fist bump…a good feel good moment this was.
In the mainevent, Togi Makabe (3-3) faced Satoshi Kojima (3-3) in a Block A match. There were tons of forearm exchanges back and forth. Both men were down on the floor, but Kojima made it back in at 19. Kojima kicked out of a powerbomb, but was caught with the spider german and king kong knee for the win in 15:40 (*** ½).
New Japan Pro-Wrestling G1 Climax 23 August 10th 2013
Tokyo Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan
You could make a strong case for this show being the best of the tournament, and while it wasn’t my personal favourite, it was my second or third favourite show of the year, which should tell you how great this tournament was. This crowd at Sumo Hall was hot for everything and the last four matches were all great to excellent with the mainevent marking yet another tremendous match in a long line from Okada and Tanahashi. Ibushi and Suzuki put on a match close to the same level, which hasn’t received as much recognition, and Makabe and Ishii, not surprisingly, had a war. Top to bottom this was a show that somehow blew away expectations — watch it now! Also, the opening was indescribable levels of wonderful, from the wacky nicknames given to the competitors, to the production snafus and spelling errors, it was a rolling spotfest of tremendous entertainment, so don’t skip through that.
1. KUSHIDA & Captain New Japan vs. Takashi Iizuka & YOSHI-HASHI
Iizuka looked to snatch poor Nogami away again, but Nakanishi who was on commentary was his knight in shining armor. He brawled with Iizuka for less than a minute before KUSHIDA flew in with a Moonsault off the top rope. After the brawl Nogami was very happy to remove his jacket to reveal a matching, green ‘Nakanishi Land’ t-shirt. The usual Iizuka spots followed, he used a chair, strangled New Japan with the turnbuckle string, strangled the referee with the same string, and so on. As usual KUSHIDA fell into the trap of tagging in New Japan. New Japan landed the chokeslam on HASHI, but KUSHIDA was taken out by Iizuka, who went for the iron fingers. This set up a pole shot from HASHI, and a pole assisted leg sweep for the win in 08:04. The moral of the story is don’t tag in Captain New Japan! After the match Iizuka laid New Japan out with the claw, and went for a shot on KUSHIDA, but Sakuraba of all people came in with his MMA gloves on. I couldn’t understand much, but he basically said that he had the open fingers from hell to combat the iron fingers from hell.
2. G1 Climax A Block Match
Prince Devitt (3-4) w/ Bad Luck Fale vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr. (4-3) w/ Taka Michinoku
Unlike in Devitt’s match with Archer, Smith had the advantage early, but they soon began to trade sequences back and forth. That was of course until the first ref bump of the match, where Devitt held onto the referee out of a powerslam. This brought Fale in, Michinoku tried to make the save, Smith saved him, but Devitt came in with the chair. Smith then took the chair assisted double footstomp for two, so essentially that was similar to the Archer match, but Smith is far more sympathetic than Archer. Smith pushed Devitt into Fale and landed his tiger suplex for two followed by the sitout powerbomb for the win in 07:26. This put Smith in a good spot.
3. G1 Climax B Block Match
Yujiro Takahashi (4-3) w/ Scantily Clad Women vs. Karl Anderson (3-4)
I have no idea what one of the scantily clad women said, but she used the word “sexy” and “echi” together with an expletive or two numerous times. Takahashi tried to get Anderson at his own game by biting his hand. Anderson went for the Gun Stun, but was caught with the Olympic Slam for two. Yujiro went for a German, Anderson got out, was caught with a boot, but then landed a gun stun for the win in 07:00.
4. G1 Climax A Block Mach
Satoshi Kojima (4-3) vs. Lance Archer w/ Taka Michinoku (4-3)
Kojima was taken down to the mat after landing his machine gun chops in the corner. Archer landed a big delayed vertical suplex on Kojima; he held him up for around 25 seconds. Kojima responded by landing his version of the delayed vertical suplex, that being the machine gun chops in the corner. Archer took a lariat and rolled out to the floor, as he has been one to do during this tournament. Archer threw expletives left and right. Kojima then landed a DDT on the apron. Kojima unloaded with elbows leading to a double down. Archer landed a big chokeslam, only for two. Archer then landed a frogsplash of all things and landed an inverted DDT for two. Kojima landed a brainbuster for two, removed his elbow pad, blocked an Archer lariat and landed one of his own. Kojima went for another, but Archer lept back up for an F5. Kojima had his foot on the ropes. Archer then landed the crucifix bomb from the top for the win in 12:38. Both men worked really hard here for a match that really exceeded expectations.
5. G1 Climax B Block Match
Shelton ‘X’ Benjamin (3-4) vs. Toru Yano (3-4)
Once again, for what must have been the third night of the tournament, Yano was attacked from behind and made the babyface going in. Benjamin wore Yano down on the outside, at one point it looked like Benjamin was going to be sent through a table. Benjamin continued the assault in the ring, until Yano removed the buckle and sent Benjamin crashing into it. Yano did his RVD taunt, and was knocked back down again. He managed to send Benjamin into the buckle again, but did his taunt and was superkicked for his trouble. Finally, he tugged at the ears of Benjamin allowing him to get his full taunt in. Expletives flowed from the mouth of Yano; a lot of swearing on this show. Benjamin was sent into the buckle for a rollup, but kicked out. Benjamin landed a bridging German suplex, but in the process killed the referee, which allowed him to land the low blow. He also threw a chair at Benjamin, but he too grabbed a low blow. Benjamin grabbed an ankle lock, Tiger was back up, Yano tried to grab the chair, but Tiger pulled it from his grasp and Benjamin grapevined Yano’s legs for the submission in 07:35. This wasn’t a great work rate match, but boy was it tons of fun, and Yano has been fun throughout the tournament. Yano is a surprisingly good babyface in peril, and to be honest I enjoy ref bumps and cheap shots in this context, far more than in the Devitt ones.
Shibata, who was supposed to face Goto that night, but because of a broken jaw wasn’t able to make it out grabbed a mic for a promo. For some reason he was in his ring gear and many people in the crowd were crying. I read later that he basically said that he loved wrestling again.
6. G1 Climax A Block Match
Togi Makabe (4-3) vs. Tomohiro Ishii (2-5)
Ishii was essentially out of contention at this point, and was more of a spoiler for Makabe than anything else. Makabe still had the lower back taped, and Ishii went after it with elbows and stomps. This time around Ishii was the overdog delivering hard shots and chops to Makabe at the start of the match. Both men landed lariats at the same time and went down. Both men landed lariats, neither would go down, but Ishii went down after a third. Ishii landed a German; Makabe followed with a lariat. Makabe went for a powerbomb, but Ishii never went up properly and was dropped right on his head. I actually paused to sit and recoil in absolute horror. It was the exact same powerbomb that Lesnar gave Hardcore Holly when Holly wouldn’t go up for him, only Ishii wasn’t dead weighting Makabe here. Ishii proceeded to kick out of a German suplex; I was worried. Makabe went to the top rope, but Ishii met him for a delayed superplex which was not a good idea at all…super scary. Ishii attempted to knock Makabe down with lariat after lariat, but could not and they traded blows. Ishii landed a big headbutt… concussions and broken necks…no! Ishii landed a big powerbomb, but Makabe responded with a Samoan drop. Makabe went for his spider German, he never hit it, and Ishii landed a spectacular lariat sending Makabe into the tree of woe, and setting up for a big buckle bomb. Ishii stormed in with a lariat and enzuigiri only for two! Ishii tried to get Makabe up for a suplex, but ended up just dropping him. The two exchanged overhead chops. Makabe kicked out of a lariat, and then another at one; they really should save that spot. Makabe landed a dragon suplex for two. Ishii kicked out of a lariat at one next. Makabe landed two more lariats…another one count…here it worked but they have just done far too many of these. Elbow exchange and Makabe landed a hammer and went up top for the king kong knee for the win in 14:00. Very good match, but I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn’t so terrifying.
7. G1 Climax A Block Match
Minoru Suzuki (4-3) w/ Taka Michinoku vs. Kota Ibushi (4-3)
Out of all the matches in the tournament, this was one of the most intriguing to me when looking at the card. Both started off in shooter stances. Suzuki went for a knee to the gut and stomp, but Ibushi rolled out of the way, which brought a smile to Suzuki’s face. Ibushi landed a dropkick, and guess what? A one count. Why? Ibushi had two unfortunate slip ups on the ropes, one where he fell onto the apron. And the other when going for a frankensteiner and not getting the legs around Suzuki’s neck. Luckily he didn’t hurt himself, and Suzuki was there to cover up and grab an ankle lock while laughing. Suzuki took Ibushi to the floor and elbowed a young lion. Suzuki worked over the leg, but was taken to the floor with a hurricanrana and caught with a springboard moonsault. They had an awesome exchange where Ibushi ducked a kick on the mat, and caught Suzuki with an upkick into his usual standing Moonsault spot. Ibushi landed a flurry of shots, and Suzuki responded with a series of his own. Ibushi unloaded with slaps and they got into an all out slap battles. Ibushi landed a highkick, followed by another on the mat for two. Suzuki kicked out of a German at two. Suzuki avoided the Phoenix splash and laughed uncontrollably at Ibushi. He landed a slap, which fired Ibushi up and a super hard slap battle ensued — it was awesome! Suzuki began ducking Ibushi’s strikes wearing him out, he laughed, was caught with a high kick, and Suzuki responded with a dropkick. They rolled in and out of the sleeper and Suzuki landed the Gotch piledriver for the win in 13:37. The story that they told here was awesome, even with the botches. After the match Suzuki looked like he was going to give Ibushi the handshake, but didn’t.
8. G1 Climax B Block Match
Shinsuke Nakamura (4-3) vs. Tetsuya Naito (3-4)
The Sumo Hall crowd was behind Naito early on. Nakamura was playing the subtle heel early pressing Naito up against the ropes. This was the perfect scenario for grouch Naito to pop out, and he did landing slaps and stomps to the back of Nakamura’s head. Nakamura landed a knee to Naito’s head sticking out on the apron, and then came crashing down with a guillotine kneedrop to the back of Naito’s head. Nakamura landed some kicks to the chest, Naito sat up, and was caught with some teasing blows to the face. Naito just had the greatest facial expressions staring blankly with rage building up. The big story here was that Nakamura was dominating a large portion of the match, and using that time to toy with Naito. Naito avoided a knee and landed a springboard dropkick. Naito went for the stardust press, but was dropped down for the knee in the corner. A forearm exchange ensued. Naito took the jumping Boma Ye, but countered the usual Boma Ye into a rollup for two. Naito started to build momentum, but Nakamura avoided the stardust press and landed a leaping front kick for a double down. Naito slapped Shinsuke, he responded with a kick, Nakamura ran for the Boma Ye, but was caught in a small package. Naito slid out of the Boma Ye again and landed a German suplex bridge for two; Nakamura kicked out. Naito held on landed a dragon suplex, Nakamura kicked out again, and Naito held on still and landed what was a modified side walk slam and stardust press for the win in 14:50. Very creative finish.
9. G1 Climax A Block Match
Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-3) vs. Kazuchika Okada (3-4) w/Gedo
This is the fifth match in the long standing rivalry between the two. Okada went for the rainmaker early, but was caught in a rollup for two. Okada went for a dropkick to the knee, but Okada saw it coming. Much like in their most recent match from Invasion Attack, Tanahashi worked over the arm. Tanahashi did his pose up on the top rope, which gave Okada the opportunity to land one of his big dropkicks knocking Tanahashi down to the floor. Okada grabbed the three quarter facelock, but waited a while to break, even after Tanahashi had made it to the ropes, which got some boos. Both men had a battle of strength within an abdominal stretch until Okada decided to break. Okada attempted to roll out of the way of a Tanahashi senton, but wasn’t quick enough and was caught on the side of his back, which looked like no fun. Tanahashi clipped the back of the leg, and landed a dragon screw, dropping Okada out to the floor. Okada was then caught with an high fly flow on the floor. Tanahashi went for a cloverleaf, which was in and of itself a test, and Okada made it to the ropes before Tanahashi could get all of it. Tanahashi proceeded to stomp at the leg repeatedly in an incredibly vicious manner. Tanahashi went for an Irish whip, but Okada collapsed. However, he managed to grab a flapjack, as Gedo rallied the crowd behind him. An elbow battle ensued, Okada collapsed due to his knee, and looked to run forward repeatedly, but collapsed each time. He finally grabbed a flurry of forearms and uppercuts, and followed with a spike DDT. He landed heavy rain, but continued to sell the leg. He limped up to the top landing an elbow. Tanahashi ducked the rainmaker and landed the straight jacket German for two. Okada landed his belly to back over the shoulder over the knee neckbreaker and both men collapsed again. Okada landed some shots and went for the dropkick, but was caught with the dragon screw in midair, which led to Tanahashi grabbing the clover leaf! Tanahashi really leaned back, but Okada willed himself to the ropes. Tanahashi did his pose in place of the rainmaker pose to boos. Okada threw Tanahashi to the floor, and sold the knee, but Tanahashi skinned the cat and landed the sling blade. Okada avoided the high fly flow. Okada grabbed red ink, but Tanahashi made it to the ropes pretty quick. Tanahashi countered the tombstone and dropkicked the leg. Okada then landed a dropkick and a tombstone. Tanahashi ducked in and out of the rainmaker and landed a rainmaker of his own! Okada kicked out of a dragon suplex as the time was announced on the house mic. Tanahashi went for the high fly flow after the styles clash, but Okada got the knee up, which led to some great selling on Okada’s part. Both men attempted to lean on each other, but both collapsed. Okada went for the rainmaker again, Tanahashi countered, and was caught with a dropkick again. Okada went for the rainmaker, but Tanahashi collapsed for the time to expire.
New Japan Pro-Wrestling G1 Climax 23 Finals August 11th 2013
Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan
While not as good as the fourth night from Osaka, or the first Sumo Hall show from the preview night, this was still a tremendous show, with some great matches and a satisfactory finals match that served to rap the G1 up incredibly well. Well worth the $30.
1. G1 Climax B Block Match
Yujiro Takahashi (4-4) w/ Scantily Clad Women vs. Yuji Nagata (4-4)
This crowd was not happy with Yujiro and the women in the ring, and they got some light boos. Of course I have no idea what they were saying…although I am sure it was lued. Takahashi landed a very cheery slap to Nagata early on, which lead to a beating. Nagata landed a few elbows, but was soon taken down by an eye rake from Takahashi. Nagata fired back with a big belly to belly suplex, and ran wild. Takahashi landed his Olympic slam for two. Takahashi then landed a moonsault, and like Tenzan missed, only this time completely. Nagata kicked out giving a look like somebody had just woken him out of bed. Nagata blocked Tokyo Pimps and grabbed the Demon Armbar, which the crowd was super into. Takahashi landed another slap, but was killed with a release German suplex and to Nagata’s delight he realized that his mouth was split open, and he had a great time spitting blood all over the place before hitting the backdrop driver in 09:06 for the win.
2. G1 Climax B Block Match
Minoru Suzuki (5-3) vs. Toru Yano (3-5)
Yano was really shilling his DVD hard on the way to the ring, so hard in fact that he tried to sell to Suzuki — bad idea. Suzuki start to beat on Yano, and grabbed the DVD. Yano pleaded for him to not hurt his dear DVD, but Suzuki booted it into the crowd. According to WH Park and Chris Charlton over at Japanese Audio Wrestling, the fan who caught it actually gave it back, which I find tremendous. This sent Yano into a rage, once again using the turnbuckle cover as a weapon. Suzuki laid Yano out with a kneebar and kicks to the knee out on the floor. Suzuki continued the knee work with another knee bar, this time in the ring. Yano was absolutely delighted at getting a hair pull, Suzuki landed a shot or two, but was whipped into the exposed buckle. Suzuki locked in yet another knee bar and waited to the last possible moment after Yano made it to the ropes to break. Yano went for a low blow, but was caught in, yes, a knee bar. Suzuki went for the sleeper. But Yano held onto the referee. Suzuki, went for the piledriver not realizing any of this, but Yano still had a grip on the referee. Suzuki pushed the referee in response, but as one point Yano grabbed a low blow and rollup for two. Suzuki went for another piledriver, but was rolled up by Yano for the win in 09:26. People are going to think that I am crazy when I say this, but when it comes to this kind of match, Yano has out performed Devitt in this year’s G1 — really fun stuff. Suzuki killed a couple of young boys on the way out to ease his sorrow.
3. G1 Climax B Block Match
Shinsuke Nakamura (4-4 vs. Shelton Benjamin (4-4) w/ Taka Michinoku
Benjamin attacked Nakamura from behind, Shinsuke fought back with elbows, but Benjamin clipped the leg. Benjamin locked in an Indian death lock, and Nakamura landed some chest slaps before making it to to the ropes. Nakamura landed his big guillotine legdrop off of the apron. He followed with four of his big knees in the corner for two. Benjamin landed a superkick and bridging German for two, and then rolled through into a second German. Benjamin averted a Boma Ye, but was caught with the jumping variant for two. Nakamura went for a second, but was caught with a top rope throw from Benjamin. Shelton ducked two highkick attempts, and landed his legs whip before going up to for the float over neckbreaker for two. Benjamin grabbed an ankle lock , Nakamura almost made it to the ropes, was pulled back, but landed an enzuigiri. Nakamura attempted to land his Boma Ye, but was caught with the pay dirt for the win in 10:34. This was a big surprise, and while it wasn’t as good as their match for the IC title it was still a very good match.
4. G1 Climax B Block Match
Karl Anderson (4-4) vs. Tetsuya Naito (4-4)
Naito was out wearing one of those awesome New Japan/Tezuka Productions shirts. Anderson kicked Naito right in the face and then mocked his eye taunt. Anderson took Naito out to the floor, and brought him back in, so things at least in the early portion were kept clean. Naito landed his running senton and was able to gain some momentum. Naito landed his highkick in the corner, and a sit out powerbomb for two. Naito looked like he was going to come off of the ropes, but slipped, which Anderson covered like an absolute pro. Naito landed a big German and went for the star ust press, but Anderson rolled out of the way. Anderson and Naito engaged in a strike battle, and Anderson landed a big single leg dropkick before going up top. Naito met him and clubbed him with the inside of his elbow. He went for the frankensteiner, but Anderson bit the leg, landed another single leg dropkick, and a fireman’s guy stun for two. Naito took the Bernard driver, but still kicked out! Anderson went for the gun stun, but Naito grabbed a rollup for two. Naito grabbed a three quarter facelock of all things and made Anderson tap out to cap off an awesome match and send Naito to the finals 13:11.
5. G1 Climax A Block Match
Davey Boy Smith Jr. (4-4) vs. Lance Archer (4-4)
This was another of the more interesting matches of the tournament. The two teammates shook hands before the match and had a long face off. Both had big smiles on their faces, and Smith yelled “let’s great crazy” as they tried to took each other down with shoulder blocks. They went back and forth with slams and boots until both went tumbling over the top following an Archer clothesline. Both men stepped back up over the rope at the exact same time queuing a forearm battle. Archer then hit an old school, which was impressive. Smith locked in a sharpshooter, both men went for chokeslams and started to fade. Archer got Smith up, but Smith countered and landed a chokeslam of his own for two. Archer slipped off of a backdrop and landed an inverted DDT for two. Archer landed a moonsault right onto the knees of Smith for two. Archer went for the crucifix bomb, but Smith countered into the tiger suplex. They went to a lariat exchange next, and both men went down. Archer kicked out of a Smith powerbomb and was perched on the top rope, but Archer countered and went for a powerbomb from the top. Smith countered into a backdrop, and signaled for a headbutt, but was hung up. Smith headbutted Archer and simply discarded him out to the floor, they teased a dive, but Archer shot back up for some hard shots to Smith on the top. Archer then landed the crucifix bomb for the win in 14:37. This match was slow, maybe even lumbering at times, but it was the match that they needed to have, a big, monstrous match between two rough and tough gaijin stars. Still, given that they were just that, big gaijin the match didn’t need to go this long, especially when the crowd wasn’t all that into it. The two stood together as a team after the match and hugged.
6. G1 Climax A Block Match
Prince Devitt (3-5) w/ Bad Luck Fale vs. Togi Makabe (4-4)
Devitt came in with the severed head of some kind of stuffed beast on his hand. He then proceeded to place aforementioned head on his own head, it turns out it was a king kong head, to continue the outlandish series of gimmicks that Devitt has used to toy with his opponents. Once Makabe got a hold of Devitt, Devitt simply said quietly “I’m sorry” over and over again. Devitt got the advantage for most of the match with the help of Fale and their usual antics. It looked like Devitt was going to grab a chair shot, but Makabe punched it into his face and landed a shot or two before knocking Fale of the apron. Makabe missed the King Kong knee, and Devitt caught him with a double foot stomp. Makabe went for a dragon suplex, but Devitt kicked the ref bringing Fale in for his Samoan drop. If one chair across the chest wasn’t enough, Devitt piled three across the chest of Makabe and landed the footstomp for two –the referee took forever to come in. Devitt was thrown into the referee with a spear, and Makabe landed a powerbomb for the visual pin as the referee was carted off. Fale came in, Makabe couldn’t fight off the spike and was laid out, leaving both men down. Red shoes made it down, and Devitt landed the Bloody Sunday to thunderous boos 08:43.
7. G1 Climax A Block Match
Kazuchika Okada (3-4-1) w/Gedo vs. Satoshi Kojima (4-4)
Much like in many of the opening matches Kojima was built as a symmetric veteran at the start of the match. Kojima landed his signature spots in the corner, but Okada was soon back in control. Okada signaled for the rainmaker, but Kojima fired up with Mongolian chops to Tenzan chants, which was a marvelous spot. Okada looked to be going for his closing sequence, but was caught with a brainbuster. Kojima removed the elbow pad, but was caught with a dropkick. Kojima fought out of the tombstone and landed a cutter. Kojima ducked the rainmaker numerous times and landed his lariat! Kojima then landed his big one for the win in 11:56. This was another Kojima feel good story.
8. G1 Climax A Block Match
Katsuyori Shibata (5-3) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-3-1)
Tanahashi slapped Shibata to kick the match off and trigger an elbow exchange. Tanahashi ducked two PK attempts and rolled to the floor. Tanahashi and Shibata did some really super fast and slick mat work to the feet. Shibata locked in the figure four and they had a slap exchange. Shibata landed some hard elbows in the corner until finally being forced to break and was caught with a crazy dropkick. Tanahashi caught one of Shibata’s big kicks. Shibata unloaded with slaps to the face, but Tanahashi landed a dragon screw. Shibata and Tanahashi exchanged big elbows and Tanahashi landed a headbutt, which was awesome! Shibata wouldn’t be out done and landed one of his own. Tanahashi landed a sling blade and Shibata got the knees up off of a high fly flow and went straight to a sleeper. Shibata landed a neckbreaker over the knee and went back to the sleeper again. Shibata landed the PK, but didn’t make the cover attempting to put Tanahashi away in the flashiest way he could. He got Tanahashi up for the GTS, but Tanahashi grabbed a small package that Shibata immediately turned over at 3.00000001 for the win in 10:56. I would have liked Shibata/Naito, but they played it up really big in a manner that would build to a bigger Shibata/Tanahashi, Shibata/Naito match down the line.
During intermission they aired a trailer for the Yano DVD, featuring he, Ishii, Takahashi, Gedo and Jado at a theme park –I need this!
9. Kazushi Sakuraba, Kota Ibushi & Akebono vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Takashi Iizuka & YOSHI-HASHI
I would have loved to have seen an Ishii/Ibushi singles match, but this was the kind of match needed before the finals, besides whoever thought that we would see Japanese national hero Sakuraba on the same team with Ibushi, and AKEBONO against IIZUKA AND YOSHI-HASHI, absolutely bizarre match. Things got more bizarre as Nogami was spray painted silver by Iizuka…he was very upset about this. Iizuka was biting Sakuraba, Sakuraba was unloading with strikes…what in the world? Ibushi did a dive, but killed the cameraman. Ibushi and Ishii had a battle in the ring, meanwhile Iizuka was killing silver Nogami. Ishii scratched his stubble and landed some elbows, Ibushi then did the same, only he doesn’t have stubble and he took Ishii off his feet. Ibushi was strangled with a microphone. Ibushi was in the heel corner, but still went after Ishii. Akebono was tagged in and he ran wild. The big spot was of course where Sakuraba countered the iron fingers with his “open fingers”. Sakuraba then submitted YOSHI-HASHI to cap off a bizarre affair. Ibushi and Ishii were still killing each other out in the floor, I cannot wait for that as what we saw here was great.
10. G1 Climax 23 Finals
Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
I was actually pretty happy with this, as they were seemingly building to a match between the two in 2012 with some great BOSJ six-man matches, where Naito showed some tremendous fire. Early on Naito felt his injured leg to check if it was okay, which was either a brilliant move, or actual pain, either way it fit into the story. Tanahashi played the subtle heel landing shots to the guy following a lockup. Naito went for an up and over, but Tanahashi clipped the injured leg. And so began Tanahashi’s onslaught on the injured leg. Tanahashi just landed stomp after stomp on the leg. Naito attempted to enter into a slap exchange, but was in the end beaten down with a flurry of slaps in the corner. Naito slapped the leg attempting to wake it up before landing a big senton. Naito went for a kick of some sort, but was caught with a dropkick to the knees setting up for the high fly flow on the outside. Tanahashi then landed a big dragon screw in the ropes. Naito landed a highkick off of a small package. An elbow battle followed. Naito missed a cross body either due to miscommunication, or selling the leg injury. Tanahashi landed kicks to the leg, Naito responded with big slaps, but was caught with a beautiful straight jacket suplex. Naito avoided the high fly flow, Naito rolled out of the way. Naito went for that German series that he landed earlier, but couldn’t get it. He landed his backbreaker, but Tanahashi avoided the star dust press, which led to huge selling of the knee, just terrific selling. Tanahashi locked in the clover leaf again, and was pulled to the center for the super high angle variant, but he still made it to the ropes; bent like a pretzel. Naito grabbed the three quarter facelock . Tanahashi began to fade, but got one foot on the ropes. Naito landed a frankensteiner, but Tanahashi transitioned into the styles clash and landed the high fly flow to the back, but Naito got his knees up on the one to the stomach. Naito landed a sling blade and dragon suplex for two! Naito then landed his new backbreaker and stardust press for the win! This may not have been the best match of the tournament, but it was a great final.
WWE Monday Night RAW August 12th 2013
Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, California
For the most part this go-home edition of RAW was a rather lackluster show, and pretty boring to be honest. However, it would be difficult to give the show a thumbs down, as the one segment that truly mattered on the show, the Cena/Bryan segment, delivered in a big way. It was the kind of promo segment, in large part due to Cena, that took Cena/Bryan from being the secondary mainevent behind Lesnar and Punk, to the number one match on the show without a doubt. It was most likely the money promo of the year. The closing with Lesnar, Punk and Heyman was also good, but it had its annoying logical flaws despite great performances across the board. All in all this was a mediocre show with one outstanding segment that pretty much took the show from a failure as a go-home show to a success.
The show opened with Bryan making it out for a match with Barrett, no intro or anything. Brad Maddox made it out as special guest referee, and there was no explanation for this whatsoever. Barrett got the heat for a while, Bryan landed a tope and ran wild, but Barrett shot in for a small packages resulting in a fast count from Maddox. Bryan wanted to go after Brad, but Maddox quickly slid out to “no” chants. Sandow made it out with his new leather Money in the Bank briefcase, which he chained to the ring post, for a match with Randy Orton with Rhodes on commentary. Lawler and Cole questioned Rhodes like he was the heel in this angle, and you know what? Cody said nothing to convince the viewer otherwise. Orton pinned Sandow off of a Rhodes distraction in a match that felt like it went on forever. Van Dam was shown doing the splits backstage. It was just then when they announced a 20-man battle royal for the US title number one contendership. Ambrose was talking to Rollins and Reigns backstage. Rollins cut a promo saying that they were better and hungrier than the older generation. Reigns issues an open challenge for their tag titles, Ambrose said that his title may as well be the WWE championship, unless the ghost of Andre the Giant was somehow in the battle royal. A UFC style backstage, black and white video with Lesnar from SmackDown aired — tremendous. Punk was asked why he took a match with Heyman so close to SummerSlam. He basically said that he knew that there was something else behind Heyman’s challenge, but the best was the best.
Khali & Nattie together with Hornswoggle went up against Langston & AJ. So Natalya and Khali are still an item even after Total Divas? AJ slapped Khali before Natalya was brought in. AJ and Natalya worked the entire match, which I thought was for the best, until Natalya let go of the sharpshooter thinking that AJ had tapped, when in fact she had not. This led to Natalya having to apply the sharpshooter again, and AJ tapping when the move wasn’t even applied — just terrible. Langston attacked after the match, but Khali cleaned house; so they botches the finish and made Langston look bad. Vince made it out and called Maddox down asking him to explain his reasoning behind his appointment as special referee. Maddox swore that he did the best that he could. Vince said that everyone makes mistakes, and Maddox asked for a second chance and wanted to be the special guest referee at SummerSlam. Vince asked if he would play it fair, and Maddox promised multiple times. Vince was about to make Maddox special guest referee, but right on que Triple H made it down. Triple H basically made himself special guest referee, pedigreed Maddox, and Vince walked off. This will probably lead to a Triple H turn at SummerSlam, which is a real shame since Bryan and Cena have an opportunity to tell a great story. Kane walked out for a match with Titus ‘O Neal before the airing of a Wyatt/Kane video package. Basically the gimmick of the ring of fire match, as opposed to the inferno match is a ring surrounded by fire with no intention to set anyone alight. Kane squashed ‘O Neal pretty quickly bringing the Wyatt’s out. The lights went out, but Kane was already up on the ramp to let off his pyro to the delight of Wyatt.
Matthews was standing by with the Bellas, and a clip of last week’s slap aired. Natalya challenged Brie to a singles match and Eva Maria and the Funcadactyles came by. Brie slapped Natalya. I hate these segments so much. Del Rio made it out for a match with Kingston. Kingston tapped to the cross armbreaker in a fun little match. They aired a very good video package making The Christian/Alberto Del Rio match feel important. Christian was backstage with Young. He said that all he needed was one more match, but Del Rio came by and said some stuff in Spanish. Cesaro, Swagger and Colter made it out and ran down California, saying that America would be a better place if California floated into the Pacific. The Usos made it out as their opponents. Jimmy Uso grabbed an unexpected rollup on Swagger for the win. Miz was in the ring for Miz TV with Daniel Bryan and John Cena. Both men were asked their thoughts on Triple H as referee, and both were all for it. Miz asked about the personal issues between the two. Cena said that there was no issue, they were fighting over the WWE title. Miz stirred the pot like a complete heel. Bryan shushed Miz and then yelled at Cena. Bryan said that he didn’t watch TV because of people like Cena, in it for the fame and glory, not the wrestling. Bryan explained how his shirt was a parody of Cena’s shirts, and Cena was a parody of wrestling. Cena removed his shirt, but then calmed down and explained that he was not a parody, and the shirts aren’t just shirts, they represented loyalty. He explained how he worked so hard every day, for the kid in the front row, and for the make a wish kid that he saw that day with the child’s father thanking him for telling his kid to never give up. Cena was proud of what he became, and for the last 12 years he was there against the biggest names in the business holding the title. He went through the list of men that he had beaten; guys like Rock, Michaels and Batista. Bryan said he talked about them like they were better than he was. Cena said that it was the case, Bryan was not on their level. If he walked in on Sunday he would earn his respect. Bryan said that Cena didn’t understand his drive, he wanted the title just once, this was the biggest match of his life. He talked about the tradition in Japan where one wrestler would ignite the fighting spirit in the other by slapping them as hard as humanly possible. Bryan wouldn’t do it to Cena, he wasn’t a wrestler and he didn’t deserve it. There was then a spot just out of the G1 with Cena slapping Bryan, Cena wanted one, but Bryan wouldn’t give it to him. This was one of the best promo segments of the year, just tremendous stuff here from Cena and Bryan with the closing stretch really kicking it into high gear. Triple H made it out followed by Orton. The segment just ended, which really begs the question of why they needed Triple H and Orton to come out; they really could have just ended it with Cena and Bryan in the ring.
R-Truth came out for a match with Fandango, a match that I just saw live very recently. A dance off ensued before Fandango attacked Truth before the bell. Fandango was knocked to the floor and the segment just ended. And we needed this why? Axel was backstage with Heyman and asked if he was nervous. Heyman was having second thoughts. The battle royal was next with RVD, Ryback, Henry, Fandango, Truth among others. Truth eliminated Fandango and Fandango eliminated truth I guess building off of what we saw earlier. They had a battle royal, and it was not very good at all. Henry and Ryback cleaned houses it looked like they were the only ones there, but RVD was still in. He shot in helping Henry to eliminate Ryback. This left the two in the ring with huge RVD chants from the crowd. Van Dam ended up low bringing Henry for the win for a gigantic pop. This wasn’t a very good battle royal, but both live and when it came to the ratings it performed well, so who am I to judge. After the match Ambrose and the Shield came out. Henry watched Van Dam’s back, which brought the Big Show out who looks fantastic losing a ton of weight and gaining muscle; really looking in shape. Paul Heyman was brought out and grabbed a mic. Heyman claimed that the fans took Punk away from him, and he would take Punk away from the fans. Heyman said that it was a trap. He then brought out Lesnar. Shouldn’t this have been a little more inconspicuous? Heyman played a Lesnar video package. He then revealed his evil scheme, he would fight Punk, but only if Punk would fight Lesnar two on one. All CM Punk would have to does disappoint the fans. This brought Punk out, but he came from the crowd and nailed Lesnar with a camera. Heyman’s facials on the outside were marvelous. Punk landed his tope and grabbed a chair laying Brock out. Punk ran after Heyman, Axel ran out and threw him into the tron before landing a GTS on the stage. The show closed with Punk standing tall on the ramp leading into SummerSlam.
RAW Ratings for August 12th 2013
Monday’s edition of RAW raked in a slightly lower rating and overall viewership number than last week, but in the end, for all intents and purposes, the rating was almost exactly the same. The show deviated from the usual pattern with the second hour being the strongest, in favour of viewership numbers that built throughout the show. However, while that is a positive and the the third hour did really well, a lot of people are hailing it as a revelation, which is strange to me given that it isn’t the first time that we have seen this pattern in 2013. not by a long shot. Plus, the show started off lower than usual, so it wasn’t all positive, as a lot of the gain came from making it back up to normal levels.
The opening match, which was Daniel Bryan versus Wade Barrett with Brad Maddox as special guest referee opened very low at a 2.6, which isn’t surprising given that viewers are usually accustomed to tuning in to a big opening promo spot and then a match, plus this match had a very poor build. It was because of this that it wasn’t surprising that the Khali/Natayla versus AJ/Langston disaster gained 140,000 viewers. The Triple H, Vince and Maddox segment for the SummerSlam referee spot gained a very good 560,000 viewers to a 3.2 quarter.
The 20:00 to 21:00 hour drew 3.74 million viewers (a 1.24 and 1.579 million viewers in the 18-49 demo, placing it tenth for the night on cable behind Family Guy, the Big Bang Theory, the second hour of Love & Hip-Hop, and another episode of Family Guy).
In the post 21:00 segment Alberto Del Rio versus Kofi Kingston lost 300,000 viewers. The Usos versus Swagger & Cesaro lost a further 140,000 viewers. The stellar Cena/Bryan segment gained 560,000 viewers to a 3.3, which was another good top of the hour performance.
The 21:00 to 22;00 hour drew 4.27 million viewers (a 1.53 rating and 1.934 million viewers in the 18-49 demo and fifth for the night on cable, behind ‘Marrying the Game 2’, which was a great increase).
The Fandango/Truth dance off then lost around the same amount of viewers that the big 22:00 segment gained. Then in a real surprise, in a segment that usually doesn’t perform well, with a stipulation that historically isn’t the greatest draw in the world, the battle royal to decide the US title number one contender gained 400,000 viewers. The CM Punk, Heyman, Axel and Lesnar mainevent segment then gained over that amount to a 3.5 overrun, which I would consider good.
The 22:00 to 23:14 (they went long this week) drew 4.32 million viewers (a 1.64 and 2.055 million viewers in the 18-49 demo, third for the night on cable, behind ‘T.I & Tiny’ and the first hour of ‘Love & Hip-Hop’). The show drew a 2.4 rating males 18-49 and a 1.0 in females 18-49.
WWE – NXT
August 14th 2013 – Full Sail University, Florida.
Paul Heyman walked down the ramp and claimed it was time for him to start scouting for the newest “Heyman guy”. Paul said he was blown away by everything he had seen in NXT and stated that somewhere in the back, there was not just the next Paul Heyman guy, but there was the next Paul Heyman and the next Brock Lesnar. Heyman added that there could also be the next Intercontinental Champion, which was Curtis Axel’s cue to hit the ring. Paul said the two were there to just say “hello” and Curtis wouldn’t be defending the strap, because there was nobody man enough in Florida to take it from him. Big E. Langston appeared to a huge babyface reaction and he declared he was man enough to beat Axel for the belt. Axel accepted the challenge, but said he wanted the match booked on Thanksgiving or Christmas; E told Curtis the if he didn’t defend the title tonight he would prove to everyone that he was not man enough to hang in NXT. Axel symbolically laid down his championship and told Big E. to bring it.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Big E. Langston vs. Curtis Axel (C) w/ Paul Heyman
Big E. dumped Axel over the top with a clothesline and was still in control after the break. Axel landed a kick to the knee then drilled E from behind with a clothesline to start the heat; he hit a dropkick and his father’s old rolling neck-snap to get a one count. E fought up from a front chancery and started his comeback with clotheslines then delivered his running body check. E set up for the big ending, however Heyman jumped in the ring and nailed Langston in the back.
Big E. Langston defeated Curtis Axel via disqualification, at 4:30.
Big E grabbed Paul, but Axel attacked him from behind then tried to nail him with the IC title. E avoided the belt shot and dropped Curtis with his big ending finish. The people chanted “five” and Langston covered Axel then administered his phantom five count.
This was ok and the finish was understandable given both guys position on the main roster. The pre-match promos were better than the actual action; Paul was tremendous as usual and him putting over NXT was a nice touch, Axel seemed more confident on the mic, most likely because the Full Sail crowd has always had a soft spot for him, plus Big E proved he is far more suited to being a babyface than his main roster heel role.
Sami Zayn was with Renee Young in the back. He laughed off the accusations from Zeb Colter and Antonio Cesaro about his real identity then reminded everyone he beat Cesaro in his debut. Sami challenged Antonio to a two-out-of-three falls match and claimed he would expose Antonio for the coward that he is.
This was better than most of Sami’s other promos, mainly because he was serious and not goofing around or flirting with Renee. I am sad that we aren’t going to see Zeb and Antonio investigating the “mysterious” past of Sami. There could have been come priceless vignettes with Zeb heading down to Mexico to try find the orphanage where El Generico apparently went to help out.
Mason Ryan made his entrance then Sylvester LeFort hit the stage. Sylvester said in order to make some money, you have to spend some money and claimed he made an investment that brought him a lot of cash then he introduced Scott Dawson.
Mason Ryan vs. Scott Dawson w/ Sylvester Le Fort
Ryan landed a clothesline and started to dominate Dawson. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady came out; their arrival distracted Ryan long enough for Dawson to hit a chopblock and get in a few shots. Ryan scored with a boot to the face then delivered his cobra-clutch slam for the finish.
Mason Ryan defeated Scott Dawson via pinfall, at 1:25.
Ryan fought off an attack from Enzo and Big Cass then he dumped Dawson on the Jersey boys with a military-press over the top.
Another week and another dull Mason Ryan match. I’m not sure it was necessary to make the three heels look like total geeks in order to try get him over, as Enzo possesses more charisma in his sleep than Ryan will ever have. I would also like to know just how Dawson is making all this “money” for Sylvester; I mean he defiantly isn’t raking it in with those NXT spot show pay-offs. There is literally nothing to the Dawson character, so perhaps some zany money making schemes with LeFort is a place to start.
Paige appeared to make her first defence of the NXT Women’s title; Summer Rae made her entrance after she earned the championship bout by beating up the real number one contender last week.
NXT Women’s Championship: Paige (C) vs. Summer Rae
Paige shone early, however Summer blocked a kick and whipped the leg, causing Paige to face-plant the mat; this was the transition to the heat and it didn’t do Paige any favours in the stupid babyface department. Summer delivered her wacky rolling DDT thing and Paige fought from underneath; Summer countered an armdrag into a side headlock then Paige fought up to start her comeback with back elbows in the corner. They repeated the heat spot, only with the roles reversed and Summer ate the canvas after a leg whip; so everybody is as stupid as each other. The finish saw Paige throw some knee strikes on the apron and hit the lightening spiral to get the squeaky-clean win.
Paige defeated Summer Rae via pinfall, at 3:42 to retain the NXT Women’s championship.
This was fine. I could have done without the corresponding spots that put the workers in the same intellectual universe; for me the babyface should 99% of the time out smart the heel, unless there is some shenanigans involved, which there was not here. I liked the decisive finish though and admire their attempt to book Paige as a credible champion.
AJ Lee joined Renee in the back. The two joked about who would be facing AJ next week for the Diva’s title then AJ said it could even be Renee who gets the shot. Bayley charged in and hugged AJ with an unnatural enthusiasm. Bayley finally let go of her Muay-Thai-like clinch and bumbled her way through asking the champ for a shot at the title. AJ told Bayley she could have the match and Bayley stated that she didn’t know why everybody calls AJ crazy then said they could still be friends after she beats her for the title. Bayley again hugged AJ, who did her “crazy” facial expression as the camera zoomed in.
The good news is Bayley didn’t come across like a pill freak this week, however she did come across as someone pretending to have some sort of handicap, which quite frankly is even worse in my opinion.
A promo hyped Dolph Ziggler for the show next week then they showed footage from “during the break” of Emma running down and attacking Summer from behind. The Shield came through the crowd for the main event six-man then Corey Graves, Adrian Neville and Xavier Woods made their entrances to take on the heels.
NXT Tag Champions (Adrian Neville & Corey Graves) & Xavier Woods vs. The Shield
The babyfaces got their shine in and controlled early; Graves countered an armdrag with a seoi nage type throw, Neville caught Rollins with a pair of basement dropkicks and Xavier pulled out a tilt-o-whirl headscissors. Rollins missed a knee strike in the corner and Graves took him over with a Dragon-screw off the second rope then tried for the Fuller-lock; Ambrose and Reigns pulled Rollins to safety, however Neville and Woods took them out with a pair of summersault planchas. After the break the Shield had the advantage; Dawson told us that Reigns hit Woods with a clothesline to turn the tide, but they didn’t bother to show us. The Shield got the some false heat on Xavier, who I’m positive Ambrose called “Creed” at one point then Graves got the tag and made a comeback on Ambrose. Graves applied the Fuller-Lock, but Reigns broke up the hold and the Shield started to get the heat on Corey, who fought from underneath only to be shut down by a knee to the face from Rollins. Graves got a sunset-flip in for a hope spot, however the Shield kept Corey in their half of the ring and Reigns was able to tag in for the cut off. Corey showed some fight and dropped Rollins and Ambrose off the apron then he avoided a spear, which caused Reigns to take the dreaded ring post spot for the transition. Neville got the hot tag and ran wild on Ambrose with his rapid comeback, however Dean countered the British Airways by getting his knees up then Rollins tried for a German; Neville landed on his feet, in his own corner and Woods tagged in. Xavier got a near-fall off a high-cross from the top then got a second with a running downward spiral, before hitting his handspring clothesline and inverted face-breaker. Reigns prevented the three count, but Neville took him over the top with a hurricanrana; Ambrose dropped Graves over the top with a vertical suplex. The finish saw Xavier go for a superplex and Rollins countered into a powerbomb position. Reigns made the blind tag and Rollins landed a buckle-bomb then Reigns hit Woods with a spear to get the pin.
The Shield defeated Adrian Neville, Corey Graves & Xavier Woods via pinfall, at 12:35 (TV Time).
The Shield posed with their championship belts and the crowd chanted “that was awesome”. Suddenly, Renee Young appeared again with Antonio Cesaro. Antonio said he was the greatest American to ever walk the earth then he accepted Sami Zayn’s challenge. Sami attacked Cesaro from behind and some refs quickly appeared to break it up. Antonio yelled, “ZAYN!” and the show went off the air.
The main event was very good; I’ve missed these Shield six-man tags. The action was fast-paced throughout and things really picked up from Xavier’s hot tag to the finish, which the people were hot for. There have been many Shield six-mans better than this, but it’s been a while and this match was a reminder just how fun these things can be. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the six-man on SmackDown; but we’ll get to that.
In terms of in-ring action, this week’s show wasn’t great; other than the main event, there was nothing else worth your time. However, the promos from Zayn and Cesaro were good and the angle they closed the show with was nice way to set up their 2-out-of-3 falls match, which reportedly is one of the best matches in NXT history; for me, it is going to have to be something very special to top Regal vs. Ohno, but if anyone can do it, it’s Sami and Antonio.
TNA iMPACT Hardcore Justice August 15th 2013
Ted Constant Convocation Center, Norfolk, Virginia
As far as notoriety goes for one of these TV specials Hardcore Justice was quite a few notches below the Destination X show, which is funny given that this show also featured a title change. As expected Bully Ray won the world title back from Chris Sabin, which in the end makes the entire Sabin title win feel pretty meaningless. He won the title with the thought in mind that they would elevate him by giving him the title, but I see no evidence that they have really done that, given that he didn’t do much with in this reign. Plus, in the end all they really did was split the Ray title run into two, which not only weakened the title, but also the prospect of somebody winning the TNA title off of the BFG series. Another issue that I had, not really with the show itself, but with the BFG series as a whole, is just how disjointed it feels. Tonight they did a couple of stipulation matches, with one being a tables match and the other a ladder match for twenty points, and while that is fine and good, it makes the tournament as a whole feel very disjointed. At no point can you see how something is going to build to Bound for Glory, or see how a person’s points play into where they are going in the series, because everything just feels like it has been made up from week to week. And that shouldn’t be the case with a tournament like the BFG series, given that TNA, with all of its flaws, tends to stick with their long term booking ideas. Then there was Tito turning on Rampage after accepting a partnership with the Mafia, which makes sense, although it is more than a little strange that these two men who are going to be having a REAL FIGHT are WORKING TOGETHER for this FAKE WRESTLING ANGLE weeks before they are actually going to fight.
Hardy was in the back saying that there was a ladder match later on. Aries came by and basically did his “I don’t do ladder matches gimmick”, and they bickered back and forth into the Hardcore Justice intro. Aries, Kazarian, Styles and Hardy made it out for a BFG series ladder match with the winner getting 20 points. It would have been great if they had actually announced this match last week. At one point Aries murdered Styles with a full force running dropkick right to the face in the corner. Towards the closing minutes of the match Roode and Daniels came down to the ring while Aries and Styles were climbing. Hardy began to climb, but Roode grabbed his leg. Roode was laid out, but Kazarian climbed and “threw” the appletini into the eyes of Hardy missing by a country mile. Regardless, Kazarian grabbed 20 points. Sabin was interviewed backstage, and talked about how the Dudleys put a man (I believe it was Balls Mahoney) through a flaming table covered with thumbtacks. Dixie Carter was in the ring with the Mainevent Mafia to announce truthfully that Angle was in rehab. It was very brief, just as it should have been. The Aces & Eights made it out, with the five on five match now moved to next week. Anderson went through how they could end the careers of Joe, Rampage, Sting or Magnus. Magnus said that they could choose somebody from the audience…the guy dressed as Joe Park was incredibly enthused. Anderson struck Magnus and a brawl broke out; the Mafia was laid out. Ortiz was shown making his way into the arena.
Mickie James, Gail Kim & ODB were out for a hardcore triple threat match. They used a kendo stick, nothing too stiff. ODB removed here brasier having terrible trouble getting it loose, I have no idea what the point of this was. ODB spat some of her alcoholic beverage in the face of James, and landed her fireman’s carry spinout neckbreaker on the chair for the win. This match was a bit of a mess with ODB acting a little weird, but it was a fine TV triple threat match with expectations going in. Sting was talking to the Mafia about a replacement, and all of a sudden they cut to Sting in the lockeroom of Aries…isn’t this supposed to be live? Sting wanted to team with Aries, they needed Aries. The entire gimmick of the Mafia is that Sting needed people that he could trust, so it made no sense for him to ask Aries of all people for help, even if they weren’t going to team at the end. Roode said that he had a shot at 20 points for later on and walked off. Rampage, Joe and Magnus were talking in the back, and Sting walked in, must be small hallways. Sting simply said that Aries didn’t want to join, and Rampage and Joe said they were going to call somebody out and walked to the ring. Ray was on the phone talking to Brooke about their relationship, and how they were going to celebrate his world title win. So, they are back to this on again off again relationship gimmick, which to be honest isn’t working well at all.
Rampage and Joe made it down. Rampage grabbed the mic saying how MMA fans called him a sell out for doing pro-wrestling. Rampage needed help from an old training partner, Tito Ortiz, came down in a “wrestling is real” t-shirt. Rampage said that Ortiz owed him one favour to help him take out the Mafia next week. Both men were so mechanical and stiff here, and really you can’t blame them; still Rampage was the better of the two. They were in the middle of talking when Ray came down to Ortiz’ music, which they really could have changed since iMPACT isn’t completely live anyway. Ray said that he would destroy both of them. Ray said that he would make Ortiz his “Huntington Beach B****”, and walked off while Ortiz was held back by Joe and Rampage. Next was a tables match between Roode, Magnus, Joe and Anderson also for 20 points. This time around Daniels was the one who ran down and threw appletini into the eyes of Magnus allowing Roode to land the powerbomb through the table. Sting was asked his thoughts on Ortiz, and he said that he thought it would work. Anderson was talking to Ray backstage and they bickered back and forth for no apparent reason. It all came down to Anderson asking if Ray could beat Sabin. Anderson said that they were there for Ray, but Ray was still very upset.
Sabin and Ray made it down for their TNA world title match. They were telling a similar story to the first match with Sabin taking punishment for the entire match and getting almost no offense in due to his size. Sabin managed to get Ray up for a death valley driver that he had been going for for the entire match. He then began to whip Ray with his own leather jacket. Both men fought on the top rope, Sabin almost made it out, but was pulled back in for a ref bump. First Hebner took Sabin’s feet to the face and then a Bully splash against the cage. Sabin got a visual pin off of a dropkick and crawled towards the door, but Anderson slammed the door in Sabin’s face. This brought Rampage and Ortiz out, but Tito clocked Rampage with a hammer and Ray landed a powerbomb for the win to regain the title and close off the show.
WWE SmackDown – August 16th 2013.
HP Pavilion: San Jose, CA.
After the titles, Michael Cole welcomed us to the go-home show and hyped The Shield vs. Mark Henry, Big Show and Rob Van Dam, plus Daniel Bryan vs. Wade Barrett in a No DQ match for later on. The Wyatt Family made their spooky entrance then they showed a video package of the Wyatt/Kane feud.
In the ring, Bray sat in his rocking chair with his two followers behind him. Wyatt said he and his brothers had been misunderstood then he began to tell a story about a little boy that was different from all the other children and was beaten up despite being bigger than all the other kids. Bray said this little boy was labelled a “freak” and one day he found a mask which allowed him to be whatever he wanted to be; the little boy’s name was Kane and he lived a lie everyday behind his mask. Wyatt stated enough was enough and he was here to end the lie then he declared he would prove to the monster in the city of angels that one man’s hell is another man’s paradise. Bray fell to his knees and told us to follow the buzzards; Kane’s pyro shot out of all four ring posts and his music hit. The Wyatt’s stood facing the entrance, however Kane appeared from behind and sent Rowan into the post then Harper into the steps. Kane and Bray had a stare-down; Kane did the “cut-throat” sign then Wyatt charged, but Kane took over with a series of right hands. Harper and Rowan tried to save their leader, only to be tossed outside then Bray finally dropped Kane with a big running forearm to the face. Harper and Rowan mauled Kane some more then Bray hit his swinging reverse STO; the Family did their signature pose over Kane’s corpse and the segment ended with the abrupt cut they use in all the Family’s vignettes.
This was fine, it didn’t really get over the idea of the “ring of fire”, nor did Michael Cole or JBL try to explain that the fire would prevent it from being three-on-one at SummerSlam. Wyatt was excellent in his delivery and Kane getting a few shots in only to be laid out again is a decent concept for the go-home angle. The idea of going straight into a gimmick match still is dumb to me, however since Kane is going to be filming See No Evil 2 (yes, you read that right), maybe they had to rush this programme and jumped straight to the end of the feud.
Damien Sandow was at ringside; he handcuffed his new briefcase to the ring post then Christian appeared as his opponent.
Christian vs. Damien Sandow
Christian shone briefly and came off the second rope with a dropkick; Sandow dropped him across the top rope then landed a big knee that sent Christian to the floor. Sandow got the heat and whipped Christian into the steps as the pre-commercial high-spot; when we joined things again Damien was still in control and he scored with some knee strikes from the floor while Christian was on the apron. Christian went for a sunset-flip and Sandow rolled through, however this was the transition for the comeback and Christian got a two count off an Edge-o-matic to start the near-falls. Damien got a two count with a summersault neckbreaker then Christian did his diving sunset-flip off the second for another two. For the finish Sandow countered the killswitch, did a cartwheel, hung Christian up on the second rope then hit a Russian leg-sweep and set up for his fancy elbow-drop. Christian rolled out of the way, so Damien walked over to try again but he got caught with an inside cradle and Christian got the three.
Christian defeated Damien Sandow via pinfall, at 6:16 (TV Time)
Sandow tried a sneak attack after the bell, however Christian out-smarted him and delivered a spear. Alberto Del Rio ran down and jumped Christian from behind; he cut a promo saying this was the end of the road for Christian and he would never be the World Champion ever again. Del Rio tried to apply the cross arm-breaker, but Christian escaped and planted Alberto with the killswitch.
Christian more often than not has good to great matches and here with Sandow, everything was decent. The match felt a little formulaic, but if that kind of thing bothers you then I have no idea why you would watch WWE. Christian also used an inside cradle when he went over Del Rio last week, so they have at least given us a false-finish spot for the PPV match, plus with Christian laying out Sandow and Alberto they tried hard to make us believe he has a shot at winning on Sunday. But given that they had a near 15 minute match last week, who knows what they have in mind; maybe they will just put on another good match, or perhaps there will be some kind of wacky angle involving Sandow trying to cash in his briefcase. Although, if they have Randy Orton appear during Cena/Bryan then the latter will certainly not happen.
Rob Van Dam was with Renee Young in the back; he said it had been a while since he had gold around his waist, because the TNA World Championship is beyond worthless, and stated he would beat Ambrose on Sunday. Renee asked if he was concerned about the other members of the Shield; Rob looked up and said he wasn’t worried then Mark Henry and Big Show were revealed standing next to RVD. Renee wanted to know what brought Show back; he said he had unfinished business with the Shield then Henry declared Van Dam had nothing to worry about at SummerSlam. Rob claimed the three of them would teach the Shield about justice then a blatant ADR line from Cole informed us there would be a six-man later on.
Kaitlyn and Natalya came out for a tag team encounter; Cole hyped the mixed tag for SummerSlam and Nattie vs. Brie Bella, which is also on the PPV. I haven’t had a problem with Total Divas other than the obvious issue of it not being a very good television show, but the fact that Nattie and Brie are on the main show while RVD and Ambrose are bumped to the pre-show is more infuriating than the phony drivel they spew out on their drudging reality show. Layla and AJ showed up as the opponents for the babyfaces.
Kaitlyn & Natalya vs. Layla & AJ (Diva’s Champion)
Cole wittered on about Total Divas and said Nattie would have the Funkadactyls in her corner at SummerSlam, while Brie would have Nikki and Eva Marie in hers; keep that in mind when you put down your $45, you’re not just paying for Punk/Lesnar or Cena/Bryan. You are paying to see a bunch of unlikable women, including Eva Marie, who is not only detestable but completely not ready to be on the main roster, in a match that will inevitably break down into a schmoz that will lead to some more horrendous segments on Raw. Anyway, I’ve used up my sentence quota for this match already with that little rant; all you need to know is, it was boring and AJ pinned Kaitlyn with a shining wizard, which Cole actually called, after Layla landed a cheap shot.
AJ & Layla defeated Kaitlyn & Natalya via pinfall, at 4:12.
A completely useless match here, that did nothing for to build for the mixed tag or Nattie vs. Brie; the crowd also were dead throughout.
Renee introduced Ryback, who was wearing his Skip Sheffield waistcoat, for an interview backstage. She asked if he wasn’t on the PPV due to his “recent brutality”; he made fun of her stupid question then claimed he wasn’t booked at SummerSlam because people were afraid of him. Ryback looked off-screen and asked, “what are you looking at?!” He beat up a stagehand and tossed him over a table then went back over to Renee and stated that’s why people were scared of him.
Ryback was actually ok here, even though he came across a little like a cut-rate Bully Ray.
An awesome promo package recapped the Paul Heyman/CM Punk relationship; they appeared to use out-takes from Punk’s DVD documentary then the video told the story of Brock Lesnar showing up to destroy the ungrateful Punk.
The Shield came through the crowd for the six-man then after a break, Mark Henry, RVD and Big Show made their way out. Footage of Show returning on Raw rolled.
Big Show, Mark Henry & Rob Van Dam vs. The Shield
The babyfaces controlled early; Henry gave Rollins a big bodyslam and Van Dam took him over with a monkey-flip; Ambrose caught RVD with a clothesline from behind to start the heat. Reigns dropped Henry off the apron with a cheap-shot and Van Dam landed a spin-kick, which led to the hot tag to Big Show. Show ran wild on Ambrose and dumped Rollins over the top, however Reigns low-bridged the giant, who crashed to the floor. Henry tossed Reigns over the announce table then Rollins took him out with a summersault plancha. Finish saw Show beat the ref’s count at nine and he drilled Ambrose with his KO punch; Van Dam tagged in and hit the five-star to get the win.
Big Show, Mark Henry & Rob Van Dam defeated the Shield via pinfall, at 4:45
This was depressing; if there was any doubt as to the Shield’s push being cooled off, this more or less proves that the trio are not in as good a standing with management as they were a few months ago. This loss meant absolutely nothing as they didn’t even bother to advertise the match ahead of time and had hardly any build whatsoever, other than what they did on Raw. Since they didn’t announce Show & Henry vs. Rollins & Reigns, why did this match even need to take place? Van Dam could have worked, say, Rollins then a brawl could have broken out and Ambrose wouldn’t have been pinned. When you have six guys at your disposal, it is hardly rocket-science to build to a big six-man; you could even have Van Dam take the US Title for all I care, but the fact that they rushed this six-man and beat the Shield in 5 minutes really bothered me.
The Miz was in the ring after the break; Jack Swagger appeared with Antonio Cesaro and Zeb Colter. Zeb did his usual promo and said nobody likes Miz because he is a phony that hangs around with Hollywood celebrities and has no idea what is going on in America. Zeb stated that Hollywood should make a movie about the Real Americans, as it would be “real”, unlike the fraud that Miz is.
Zeb was fantastic here, but everything he said was pretty much right on the money with Miz and the last thing Miz needs is for the people to be given more reasons to hate him.
Miz vs. Jack Swagger w/ Antonio Cesaro & Zeb Colter
Miz went to work on the knee early with a dropkick, but Swagger landed his high single-leg and got the briefest of brief heat with some tackles. Miz landed his neckbreaker and started a comeback then got a two count off a DDT. Cesaro distracted Miz from the floor, which allowed Swagger to drop him off the apron into the barricade; the ref then threw Cesaro and Zeb out. Miz slid under the bottom rope and stacked up Swagger to get the pin.
Miz defeated Jack Swagger via pinfall, at 3:10
You might be asking yourselves: What did this achieve? And the answer would be absolutely nothing. Poor Swagger, even Miz is getting wins on him now. With any luck, his punishment will end soon and the Real Americans can receive a real tag team push.
Zack Ryder still managed to smile while he was waiting to be slaughtered. Curtis Axel came out with Paul Heyman to face the beyond-hoper.
Non-Title Match: Zack Ryder vs. Curtis Axel (IC Champion) w/ Paul Heyman
Zack hit an armdrag and worked some arm-ringers. Mark Harris was the ref and JBL joked about his twitter response to the botchfest that happened on Raw. Zack landed a flapjack and Axel tried to do the old chase and cut off spot, but Zack came back to land a dropkick off the second rope then went for the broski boot. Axel rolled to the floor, but ate a baseball slide, however Zack missed a crossbody from the top and Axel finally began to get some offense in. The finish saw Axel deliver a snap belly-to-back suplex then the mind trip for the pin.
Curtis Axel defeated Zack Ryder via pinfall, at 2:53.
Paul Heyman got in the ring; he said CM Punk outsmarted him and Brock on Raw, which proved what Paul had been saying for years, that Punk was “the best”. Heyman claimed the marketing ploy for SummerSlam was smart, in that CM Punk is fighting for revenge against the beast, however now Punk had become the target of revenge and vengeance will come in the form of Brock Lesnar.
Zack sure did get in a lot of offence during the match, which was nice to see. Maybe the agent in charge of this thing took pity on Ryder and gave him as much as possible without making Axel look like a geek. Like always Paul’s promo was good, but didn’t anything new to the story and is unlikely to encourage anyone that is on the fence to buy the PPV.
Daniel Bryan made his way down for the main event. After the break, Wade Barrett came through the curtain and they showed Brad Maddox fast counting Bryan on Raw.
No Disqualification Match: Daniel Bryan vs. Wade Barrett
Bryan took it to Wade early; Barrett landed a knee to the gut, but Bryan came back to dump Barrett over the top with a clothesline. Wade avoided a baseball slide and whipped Bryan into the barricade then went for a big boot; Bryan avoided the shot and drilled Wade with some kicks while he straddled the rail. Bryan slid a table into the ring and Wade took advantage then sent him into the steps. Back inside, Barrett worked over Bryan with a kendo stick; Bryan got control of the cane, however Wade rolled to the floor. Bryan took him out with a tope then landed a dropkick off the top; Vince McMahon’s music hit and Vinny Mac made fun of Bryan’s height and beard while he strutted down the ramp. After the break Wade had the heat and he drilled Bryan with some chair shots; Vince cheered on the Brit, but Barrett missed an elbow drop with the chair off the second rope for the double down. Bryan began to fire up and started his comeback with his running dropkicks in the corner then nailed Wade with kicks and kendo stick shots. Barrett got a roll-up in for a two count and Bryan rolled through into the “Yes”-lock; Vince pulled Mike Chioda out of the ring and Wade tapped out. Bryan yelled “No” at McMahon and Wade capitalised on the distraction to hit the bullhammer; Barrett made the cover and Vince called for another referee. Brad Maddox ran down to make the count, but Bryan kicked out at two; Vince and Wade were unhappy with the cadence of Maddox’s count. Bryan countered a pump-handle slam to land a head-kick and Maddox refused to make the count. Bryan backed the Raw GM into the corner, however Vince handed Wade a kendo stick; Barrett went to nail Bryan, but he ducked at Wade caught Maddox in the head with the cane. Bryan delivered a running dropkick in the corner and Maddox spilled to the floor; Barrett countered the “Yes”-lock and went to powerslam Bryan through the table. Bryan escaped and sent Wade through the table. Vince was enraged and he ripped off Chioda’s shirt and declared himself as the ref; Triple H came down in the zebra print and Bryan hit Wade with a diving headbutt off the top. Trips made the count and raised Bryan’s hand right in front of Vince.
Daniel Bryan defeated Wade Barrett via pinfall, at 13:21 (TV Time).
Triple H did the “Yes” gimmick along with Bryan then he raised his hand again. Bryan celebrated, but Randy Orton showed up on the stage and held his briefcase in the air.
The main event was entertaining with the dog and pony show aspect of everybody getting involved and could be a precursor of things to come during the WWE Title match on Sunday. I’ve heard rumours of a Triple H heel turn at SummerSlam, which would make no sense at all and after this I would be surprised if they went in that direction; after all, I thought we were seeing the initial stages of Triple H trying to take the company away from the senile old fool, Vince. After consideration, the only way I see Bryan winning is with the small package of death and even then I think Orton will cash in and leave with Vince. If Cena needs surgery on his elbow then he surely has to drop the belt and with no other opponent lined up for Bryan, logic dictates that Randy ruins the biggest night of Bryan’s life and off they go with that. Of course, being the freak that he is, Cena could work on his injury for a few more weeks, so it’s all conjecture at this point.
If you take away Bryan/Barrett, the rest of the show was a little flat, although they did cover most of their bases with the important angles: like the stuff with Bray Wyatt & Kane, Christian standing tall and plenty of hype for Punk vs. Lesnar. However, none of the angles they shot here are likely to add any buys; maybe they will get a few extra people tuning into the pre-show to see Van Dam, but all the money angles were pretty much shot on Raw. Overall, an average show with a good main event and some semi-decent go-home angles.