Monday, August 7, 2017

NJPW G1 Climax: Nights 11-15

Ibushi reveled in wrestling in his home prefecture
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
My good friend Mike decided this would be his first G1 Climax where he actually watched all of the matches. A few days in, and understandably, he was not able to keep this goal. I can't blame him! It's so much pro wrestling to be watching while also trying to live a life where you actually do things in the outside world. So if you're in the same boat as Mike, don't despair. I have five matches here from the recent days of the G1 that you should check out at your earliest convenience:


Kota Ibushi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (Night 11, 8/1)
Ibushi was in his home prefecture of Kagoshima for this one, so as if he wasn't already the golden boy of the G1, this crowd was fully on his side. This allowed Tanahashi to step up his dickish heel tendencies, which he did gladly. It needs to be said that Ibushi's German suplex from the apron into the ring is one of the most impressive things any wrestler on the planet can do. I'm once again reminded that we are so blessed to have him here in NJPW for now, and not locked away on 205 Live slumming it with Noam Dar or some shit.

Juice Robinson vs. Kenny Omega (Night 14, 8/5)
As has been Omega's problem in various matches throughout this tournament, he entered here with way too much confidence, in no way taking Juice seriously as a threat. What he didn't expect was for Juice to find so much resolve within himself, partially thanks to the Osaka crowd. Known for being very picky with whom they decide to cheer for, Osaka was fully on board with Juice Robinson, desperately wanting to see him take down Omega. And that he did, with a flash roll-up pin. As he scooted away from Omega, Juice yelled, "OH FUCK!" He spoke for all of us.

EVIL vs. Kazuchika Okada (Night 14, 8/5)
In his match with Omega three days earlier, EVIL was quite clearly knocked loopy at the end. He may have had a concussion. Going by the assumption that he was medically cleared afterwards, this is made even more impressive when you look at this fantastic match against Okada. Similar to Omega's nonchalance, Okada walked to the ring in a goofy, jovial mood. EVIL immediately put an end to that by taking things to the outside where he threw a chair in Okada's face, and then did a huge slam onto a pile of chairs. After an excellent closing stretch in which you still expected Okada to hit his Rainmakers and get out of there, EVIL abruptly reversed into his STO finisher, and pinned the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Almost a year to the day since his last pinfall loss, Okada proved that he is indeed mortal. What this might mean for his B Block final with Omega, we'll have to breathlessly wait and see.

Yuji Nagata vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (Night 15, 8/6)
Having announced that this would be his final G1 Climax, Nagata seemed to be a victim of NJPW's booking of veterans in their final tournaments - have them lose a whole bunch, and maybe win their last match. But Nagata the character, and presumably Nagata the person, aren't going out quite like that. Nagata took the fight to Sabre by turning the clock back to early 2000's NJPW, when Antonio Inoki wanted matches to be 90 percent MMA-style grappling. Nagata matched Sabre move for move, and took every last submission hold Sabre had in his bag of tricks. But the Fighting Spirit is still strong in this 49-year old psycho, and he proved to be too much for the Neoliberalism Destroyer.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii (Night 15, 8/6)
Here we had a clear divide in personality and aesthetic. Tanahashi, the pretty gentlemen who puts his sweat on towels for ladies, going against Ishii, the human oil drum who may or may not have ever known the touch of a woman. At one point Ishii was pulling Tanahashi up by his man-braids, yelling at him in Japanese what I can only assume was something like, "YOUR HAIR IS STUPID AND I'M GOING TO MURDER YOU." They went more than 20 minutes and fought as hard as they possibly could. This was probably the match of the week, but as usual with the G1, there are like six other valid candidates for that spot.