Monday, July 31, 2017

NJPW G1 Climax: Nights Six Through Ten

Once again, Zack Sabre, Jr. had a standout match
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
On most mornings when the G1 is happening, I wake up around 6 AM Central Daylight Time and I'm like, "Yeah, I could get back to sleep and not be dead-ass tired the rest of the day, buuuuuut no thanks," and then I log onto NJPW World (again, less than $10/month, so get on that!). When the best pro wrestling in the world is going on, it almost feels selfish to sleep.

Before telling you about the best of the best, here are a few notes:
  • Kazuchika Okada just barely didn't make it into this list, but I highly recommend you check out his matches from this past week with SANADA, Satoshi Kojima and Juice Robinson. It's especially fascinating when you discover that Okada can work just as well as a prickish heel as he does a babyface.
  • Kota Ibushi lost to both Togi Makabe and Bad Luck Fale. This is less believable than The Great Khali shaking a cage enough for Randy Orton to lose his balance.
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi is out here putting in great performances with a torn bicep, at the age of 40. Once again I am reminded that I am a pathetic worm of man.
And now, the five matches from Nights Six through Ten you should seek out first (and then watch everything else if you have time):

Kenny Omega vs. Toru Yano (Night 6, 7/25)
If you ever wanted to see a Three Stooges short film turned into a wrestling match, you got your wish on this night. The match opened with the ol' "Powder in the DVD Trick." Trust me. And you know how NJPW matches often have that spot where guys exchange punches for about a year? Omega and Yano did that but with hair pulling. They also tied each other's ankles together with tape, and then did an Irish whip into a shoulder block that made Lance Storm's Bullshit Detector go off. No, it wasn't an artfully constructed piece of genius. But it was really funny, and we occasionally need to be reminded that pro wrestling is ridiculous.

EVIL vs. Minoru Suzuki (Night 8, 7/27)
This was two mean bastards just being awful to each other in any way they could think of. They brawled outside and smashed each other with chairs. They gouged and punched and screamed at each other. When EVIL tried to do his throat-cutting taunt to Suzuki, the old man acted as if he'd never been so offended in his life and tried to break EVIL's thumb. Some dastardly interference by members of Suzuki-gun, followed by heroic saves from BUSHI and Hiromu Takahashi, only ratcheted up the excitement of an already intense fight.

Michael Elgin vs. Kenny Omega (Night 8, 7/27)
Having just put on a show-stealing match at the G1 Special in Long Beach a few weeks ago, the pressure was on for Elgin and Omega to come in the same ballpark as that one. And they absolutely did. For as much as we might fawn over Kenny Omega's knee strikes and Dragon suplexes, the underrated aspect of him as a performer is his ability to look as if he has been destroyed. In this match, Omega flopped around perhaps harder than I've ever seen. Elgin already is a beast, but when he's in the ring with Omega, he appears to be unstoppable.

Hirooki Goto vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (Night 9, 7/29)
A brutal match that moved very fast and wasted no time, this once again proved to everyone why Zack Sabre Jr. deserves to be in the G1 Climax, despite being outweighed by literally everyone in his block; Sabre is a constant threat to his opponent. A strong dude like Goto should be able to easily dispose of Sabre, but when a guy moves around so quickly and doesn't stop trying to break your arms, it becomes a bit more difficult. Goto and Sabre fit the drama of a 20-minute heartstopper into a 10-minute sprint.

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tetsuya Naito (Night 9, 7/29)
The true thrill of watching Ishii wrestle Naito is that Naito loves nothing more than to piss off Ishii and then smile at him. This usually doesn't go well for Naito, but he does it anyway because he can't help but be an asshole. While this might not quite have lived up to their match at the G1 Special, it still was a very entertaining spectacle of huge moves, huge spots, and Ishii getting so angry and red that he nearly exploded.