Monday, July 24, 2017

The G1 Climax: Nights 1-5

Ibushi is the belle of the early ball
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
It's G1 Climax Season, y'all! Get the coffee steaming, put the oatmeal in the microwave (or on the stove if you have more patience), and wake up at like 5 AM in July because that's what normal human beings do! If you're not like me and you're not looking to see every single match from the 2017 G1 Climax (which will end up being 91 matches, GOOD GOD), then I'll use this space to help you use your time wisely and watch the five best matches of the G1 so far.

But first, a few notes:
  • Kenny Omega is not on this list yet. He had solid contests with Minoru Suzuki and Tama Tonga, but neither of them were quite up to Omega's recent standards. And that's okay! He has plenty more matches to go, and of course he'll have a rematch with Okada at "Omega vs. Okada III: The Quest for One Billion Stars From Meltzer," so I think he'll be fine.
  • YOSHI-HASHI finally has trunks that say his name, instead of his old trunks on which the words "LOOSE EXPLOSION" were printed on his butt. One can only assume that in NJPW's expansion into the States, an American finally took Gedo aside and was like, "Dude, gotta tell you something."
  • Bad Luck Fale put himself on the FBI's Most Wanted List with his unwarranted and cold-blooded murder of Darryl, the beloved stuffed kitty who gave so many loving hugs to Hiromu Takahashi. The next day, Los Ingobernables de Japon leader Tetsuya Naito had a chance to avenge this crime in his match with Fale, and Fale beat him. I find this unacceptable. I demand justice.
And NOW, the five matches to seek out (either on NJPW World for less than $10/month, or on whatever illegal streaming sites are out there, you criminal):

Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi (7/17, Night 1)
Probably the best match of the G1 so far, this was your classic "five-star New Japan match." It had all of the necessary drama and kickouts, with screaming Japanese commentary and a feverish reaction from the crowd. Ibushi did a piledriver off the top damn rope, and though it looked like it literally killed him, Naito still kicked out. By that point, I was rolling around on the couch, which is how I know I'm watching a five-star match.

SANADA vs. EVIL (7/20, Night 2)
These Los Ingobernables de Japon stablemates faced off for the first time ever, and only toward the beginning did they even pretend to be wary about this. They fought hard and put on a smoothly-sequenced match. You could tell that each guy was highly invested in making their friend look as good as possible. I expect great things from both for the rest of the tournament, but especially SANADA.

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Togi Makabe (7/21, Night 3)
Makabe gets ragged on for his limited style and his frequent refusal to sell pain. Luckily, he can wrestle Ishii every now and then in order to make himself useful. These guys essentially smashed each other over the head with sledgehammers for about 15 minutes. Not for the faint of heart.

Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (7/21, Night 3)
Or as I call it, the Battle of the Dreamboats. Too much handsome for one ring to contain, am I right, ladies (and some gentlemen)?? Sabre was up to his usual bendy tricks again, but he was even more versatile and surprising with his counters for Ibushi's offense. This was really genius stuff, and it got brutal toward the end. (Ed. Note - I too watched this through, ahem, less than ethical means, and I think all of you should too. - TH)

Kazuchika Okada vs. Michael Elgin (7/22, Night 4)
Okada's first bout of the G1 was against Toru Yano, which precluded him from having a "good" match. But he got right back to his wheelhouse of putting on classics on this night by going hard and heavy with Big Mike. I thought Elgin didn't have a prayer going into this, but it got so close with some near falls that I was fully buying Elgin as the winner. In the end, the IWGP Heavyweight Champion had enough Rainmakers in his pocket to finish the job (sorry, delayed spoiler alert).