Tuesday, August 19, 2014

G1 Climax 24 Finals Review

He's not just the winner; he's THE MAN
Photo Credit: njpw.co.jp
I try my best to come into any show from a completely unbiased perspective. By that I mean I steer clear of any opinions that may sway my levels of hype before I actually watch what I'm reviewing. I think it's a good idea too because had I listened to other online wrestling critics, I would have never watched a minute of ECW in my life. Now in regards to the G1 Finals, I screwed up a little. I was out of town for a few days without Internet and when I came back my first instinct was to look up some wrestling news, inadvertently coming across some pretty negative reviews for this show. So yeah, my buzz for the G1 finals was killed before I ever sat down to watch it, which is almost certainly going to affect the quality of my writing. Sorry for that in advance, but hey some interesting things happened of this pay-per-view. One event in particular that everyone thinks is terrible but probably isn't that much of a big deal. Although under different circumstances it could be disastrous. Mildly intrigued? Then read on.

1) Suzuki-gun (Davey Boy Smith Jr, Lance Archer, El Desperado and Taka Michinoku) vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Ryusuke Taguchi and Tiger Mask IV:
This was your typical New Japan, multi-man preliminary. Just a bunch of guys doing their trademark moves that are guaranteed to get a pop. None of it gelled. Someone would just come in, get their shit in and wait for shit to be gotten on them. Rinse and repeat for about six minutes.

2) Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi and Doc Gallows) vs BUSHI, Manabu Nakanishi and Yuji Nagata:
No effort here, whatsoever. Also, Jesus Christ, Nakanishi is atrocious. I mean he was always bad but he's gotten so much worse in recent years. He doesn't sell. He bumps like the guy in the Godzilla suit. He may be the worst performer in a major wrestling promotion today. Hard to believe he was IWGP heavyweight champion only a few years ago.

3) Chaos (Toru Yano and YOSHI-HASHI) and Kazushi Sakuraba vs Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Shelton Benjamin and Takashi Iizuka): 
Thankfully this was the last in the "all these guys are eliminated from the tournament so lets just throw them together in tag matches" trilogy. Poor Minoru Suzuki, my heart truly goes out to him. He's an awesome performer and perhaps the best mat wrestler in Japan if not the entire world. But fuck me if he's not only ever given garbage to work with. Just look at the five other guys in this match. It's pretty much a who's not who of New Japan: Perennial jobber YOSHI-HASHI, "man of a thousand matches with Suzuki" Toru Yano, "I'm bored because this isn't MMA" Kazushi Sakuraba, Shelton Benjamin who was a main event prospect ten years ago and Japan's answer to modern day Scott Steiner, Takashi Iizuka. I imagine that when Suzuki came back from his five star match with AJ Styles, Jado was waiting for him holding the list of his matches for the next year with a big, shit eating grin on his face. The words "you've had your fun" were probably uttered too.

4) Adam Cole and Mike Bennett vs Jushin 'Thunder' Liger and Captain New Japan:
Cole and Bennett are apparently members of a tag team called "The Kingdom". I had no idea because I haven't watched Ring of Honor in so long. When I was watching though I recall liking Cole but not so much Bennett. I think he put too much time and effort into transparent attempts to "work" wrestling fans instead of being a great overall performer. It was especially futile in a place like ROH where the fans are emotionally invested in nothing and are just there to pop for big moves. Unsurprisingly, the one time I ever felt that Bennett's schtick really worked was in front of the only great live wrestling audience left in America at Chikara's King of Trios back in 2012.

The match itself was fine. Total formula and not much else. The Kingdom have a horrible faux punk entrance theme that says "for the first time" over and over again. Also, I've never really thought about it before but Liger has one of the most beautiful outfits in wrestling, now or ever. It used to scare the hell out of me when I was a kid though.

5) Time Splitters (Alex Shelley and Kushida) vs redDRagon (Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish):
This was the first fun match of the show and not a minute too soon to be perfectly honest. Although that's not to say it was great because it kinda wasn't. There was just a lot missing from it; like a good crowd for starters. It could be that Tokorozawa just isn't that into light heavyweights, I don't really know. The only guy who was really over with them was Kushida. As long as he was doing something, they were interested but when someone else took over, the noise died down. Also, it just didn't go far enough in any direction. There wasn't enough MMA inspired offence or ridiculously overly-choreographed flippy shit. A good match in the end but I know these teams could do more together.

6) Tomoaki Honma vs Tetsuya Naito:
Honma is a perfect babyface. I wouldn't go as far to say he's the "quintessential good guy" or anything because you have to have some manner of success for that to be the case. No, he's just a guy who shows up to work every day, never complains, never cheats, tries his hardest, but always comes up short. He's the living embodiment of all our failed ambitions and unfulfilled dreams. How could you not want to cheer him? He is you. All the parts of you that you're disappointed with. Naito is also a personification of your lesser qualities. He's the part of you that makes you repeatedly hit your head off the wall because no matter how hard you try NOBODY APPRECIATES A FUCKING THING YOU DO.

This match was pretty slick, albeit short. Like I said, Honma is impossible not to cheer (even though I made him out to be Paranoia from Red Dwarf) and his ongoing quest for a single victory is ample fuel for any fun loving wrestling crowd. As this match was going on I was totally fantasy booking the finish. I imagined Naito winning, getting angry when the crowd cheered Honma over him afterwards, attacking Honma from behind and cutting a heel promo somewhere along the lines of "Why the fuck are you applauding him? Applaud me, I won the god damn match, I'm fed up with this world". It didn't happen but it should. It really really should have.

7) Tomohiro Ishii vs Karl Anderson:
I don't have a whole lot to say about this match but I doubt anyone would. Ishii dislocated his shoulder, which was the only injury of the entire tournament, so basically the whole thing revolved around that. Props to these guys for having a decent match while working around that limitation but that's really the only comment I think of. The only other thing of note I guess was YOSHI-HASHI who did a run in at one point for some reason. I swear to God if he gets pushed over Honma...

8) Hirooki Goto vs Katsuyori Shibata: 
Both guys looked tired and hurt which was pretty understandable. This tour must be fucking exhausting and these two in particular like things pretty stiff so I don't blame them for having a underwhelming match here. You could tell the crowd wanted to see a bloodbath but it must be hard to get motivated for such a match when you're in a filler position with nothing to gain. I love both these guys and I hope they rest up well because I expect them to be kicking heads off shoulders the next time I see them.

9) AJ Styles vs Hiroshi Tanahashi:
I kinda feel like AJ Styles is the alternate universe Tanahashi. Hear me out. He's a guy with a similar wrestling style. He's super athletic. He incorporates a lot of high flying offence along with moves that wouldn't hurt in the real world but are flashy enough to make a crowd pop for them. He was the face of a relatively big wrestling company but not as big as WWE. He was beloved by the fans and seemed to always put on exciting matches. However, here's the difference. Whereas Tanahashi was consistently booked well and put into positions to draw money, Styles was treated like a piece of shit by the booking committee. He was tossed aside for over the hill stars of the past, given joke title runs where he was made to look like an idiot, slapped with gimmicks that couldn't possibly have suited him, and finally asked to take a pay cut by the company he put on the map. On another Earth somewhere; there's a Tanahashi who was forced to become Tatsumi Fujinami's protege.

The match itself was great (although not the best either man has had in the tournament by a long stretch) but was totally overshadowed by the post match antics. If you didn't see it; I'll explain what happened briefly. *Deep breath* Jeff Fucking Jarrett with Scott D'amore came to the ring after the match, play acted around for a while as if we didn't know what he was going to do, revealed he was a new member of The Bullet Club and hit Tanahashi with a guitar because he's Jeff Jarrett *exhale*. Okay let me get "why this might suck" out of the way first. Jarrett is one of the most overrated wrestlers of the modern era. While he's had a handful of memorable encounters in his entire career thanks to being in the ring with the likes of Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle, everything about him, for the most part is the opposite of fun. His character and promos are tedious, 90% of his matches have the same finish, he's been doing the same shit for fifteen years, and somehow people always end up looking worse coming out of a feud with Double J then they did going in. Make no mistake, if New Japan's relationship with Global Force Wrestling has led to Jeff Jarrett being a regular performer on shows, you're going to see a lot more interference and a lot more smashed guitars.

Now with that being said, you have to take into account the company he's going to be appearing in, New Japan Pro Wrestling. It is the best wrestling promotion in the world, and it has quite a track record for taking things that are crappy and making them great. Remember when Kazuchika Okada first won the belt? People reacted to it like it was a joke. Even Maffew of Botchamania was taking the piss out of the decision on Twitter. Okada was a guy who'd bounced around different companies for years, never did anything in particular to stand out, and was best known to everyone in the west as Samoa Joe's little kung fu buddy. But then they give him the title, everyone shakes their head and he turns out to be the greatest thing in the world. Same deal with AJ Styles. I was never in love with him before but after a few months in New Japan; he's having my favorite matches of the year. Now I'm not saying that Jarrett is going to be on the same level as those two but just bear in mind that this is a company that really has its shit together. Who knows, maybe there's a little charm to Jeff Jarrett that we've never seen before. I doubt it but maybe.

Also, even if Jarrett does turn out to be as insufferable as he always is, remember that New Japan likes to compartmentalize their product. Wrestlers only have one specific spot on the card and they won't overlap until a feud ends or someone switches divisions. This basically means that Jarrett only has the opportunity to ruin one segment per show. Feel better now? I don't but it's good to get these things out in the open.

Main) Kazuchika Okada vs Shinsuke Nakamura:
This was the best G1 Climax final in years. These two went to war with each other and featured an incredible counter of a Rainmaker lariat into an arm lock by Nakamura and ended in the most painful looking execution of said finisher by Okada. The crowd ate up everything, they loved both guys, just bloody brilliant from beginning to end. I really did expect Nakamura to win this whole thing but after some thought I realized that Okada is the guy. He's the most popular star in the company and ain't no one headlining Wrestle Kingdom but him.

Overall thoughts:
A disappointing show to cap off what is probably still the greatest G1 Climax of all time. There were some good matches interspersed with some clunkers, but a spectacular main event made the whole thing worth while.