Monday, June 8, 2015

Michael Elgin in the G1 Climax, Proves Pandering to Bookers Online Works

Look who's doing the G1 this year
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
The Best of the Super Juniors tournament concluded this past weekend in New Japan Pro Wrestling. KUSHIDA took center stage winning the tournament and presumably setting himself up for a marquee singles junior heavyweight run, one that NJPW sorely needs since its singles junior division is Kenny Omega, Ryusuke Taguchi, and uh, hey look over there! However, during the show, the field for the annual G1 Climax Tournament, the massive round-robin that dominates the NJPW landscape in the summer, was announced. The field included a lot of Bullet Club guys, quite a few big main eventers, a lot of the same dudes from last year, and only one major gaijin addition, Michael Elgin.

The addition of a Ring of Honor North American wrestler is not a surprise given the working agreement between the promotions. Non-Japanese wrestlers have competed in the G1 and its forebears for years, and have even won a bunch of times. But Elgin as the only one in feels a bit odd, especially since this entrant into the tournament feels like a reward for pestering NJPW officials on Twitter to get into the tourney last year. Everyone had a good laugh when Elgin didn't make the trip over, but Matt Taven and Michael Bennett did (albeit for the final, supercard show in a tag match rather than for the tournament proper).

I have no opinion on his entry into the tournament the way he seemingly got into it; whatever works works, I guess. I just think it's funny for two reasons. One, Elgin's star in ROH has declined so much over the last year that he seems like maybe the fourth or fifth best option in the company to send over. At this point, Roderick Strong, RODERICK STRONG, has undergone a career renaissance that he would have been the better choice to send over.

Second, it gives wrestlers a big heaping portion of schadenfreude to be had at Gabe Sapolsky's expense. Sapolsky has repeatedly made it clear that if you want to get booked for him, and for anyone worth their salt in wrestling, you'd have to pay dues and do menial shit and be respectful and all that other jazzy jaded veteran talk that pervades wrestling locker rooms everywhere. Remember when he publicly bitch-fitted Aaron Epic for getting fans to tweet him in his ivory tower of Twitter? Good times, good times.

To be fair, Elgin now is a far bigger name than Epic was then, but also, New Japan Pro Wrestling's name cache dwarfs anything Sapolsky has ever booked in his lifetime, and that includes first and second-wave ROH before he got shitcanned. Elgin basically canvassed Twitter like a thirsty rando looking to get into someone's pants, and the fucking funniest thing was that it worked. For that reason alone, I can't be too mad here. Elgin might be between mid-Aughts Triple H and Sid Justice on guys I want to see work a match, but the dude made Sapolsky look like the pompous douche he is. So I gotta give him credit.

Anyway, regardless of Elgin's participation in the tourney or not, the G1 will still probably provide enough great wrestling to sustain people on a mix and match basis for months after it occurs. The best thing about the G1 is the sheer volume of matches it produces, and even if one night has a bunch of stinkers, odds are another night will have a grand slate. For every potentially terrible reenactment of the trainwreck in Toronto between Elgin and Hiroshi Tanahashi, at least five other marquee matches could take place, some that are expected, some that shock. I mean, did anyone else see AJ Styles vs. Minoru Suzuki garnering as much critical acclaim as it did last year before it happened?