Friday, July 20, 2018

NJPW G1 Climax: Nights One Through Five

Surprising almost no one, Okada is one of the standout performers of the first set of G1 matches
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
We're doin' it again, friends. The G1 Climax is back. 91 matches in less than a month. Can you handle all 91? Can you do it?? No, probably not, right? That would be nuts. That would be something an idiot (like me) would do. But do you want to hear about the stuff you should seek out and watch so you can live your life and do things other than watch guys forearm each other in the face? Of course you do. Now, last year I put five matches in each of these recaps, but man, there was just too much good stuff over the first few days for me to whittle it down to five. So let's talk about ten matches, because trust me, they're all great.

Switchblade Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada (Night 1, July 14)
White is using this tournament to fully develop his character and be what he should have been the whole time, a conniving jerk who uses every possible way to cheat and explicitly tells the audience he's not interested in showing them the classic NJPW "Fighting Spirit." (Ed. note — He's also a Knife Pervert. — TH) When he won the match by "accidentally" backfisting Red Shoes the Referee in the head and then low-blowing Okada, the crowd lustily booed him in a way they do to almost no one else. White's response? "Fuck all of you."

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Minoru Suzuki (Night 1, July 14)
Suzuki worked over Tanahashi's leg just like he did back in February at New Beginning, almost to a psychotic degree. Check this out to see exactly how a wrestler should go about looking like a murderer, and also how to be the consummate babyface making a hot comeback. These old professionals make magic together without really having to try.

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kota Ibushi (Night 2, July 15)
In what might be an early winner of the Horniest Match of the G1 Prize, Sabre and Ibushi were locked in a test of strength that saw them rolling around in all types of ways and locking eyes in fierce anger, with just a touch of sexual hostility. Ain't nothing wrong with a little homoeroticism in the G1, folks. But horniness aside, this match was absolutely brutal and even better than their G1 match from last year.

Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito (Night 2, July 15)
These two haven't met since the finals of last year's G1, which saw Naito take the trophy. They almost picked right up where they left off, putting on an instant classic that felt more like the end of the tournament rather than the beginning. Must-watch stuff.

Hangman Page vs. Michael Elgin (Night 3, July 16)
I know the current rap on Elgin, and I share similar feelings to many of you. I don't want to like the guy, but he really is putting in some good work so far in this tournament, and if nothing else, you should watch this to see Page rise to previously unseen levels. I've always been lukewarm on him, but The Hangman is becoming my dude.

Minoru Suzuki vs. Togi Makabe (Night 3, July 16)
Your first match of the G1 so far that can truly be classified as "Two Dudes Killing Each Other." We all love Suzuki, but if you wonder why Makabe exists and is in his 15TH consecutive G1, this match is why.

Toru Yano vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (Night 4, July 19)
The Merry Prankster of NJPW has changed his ways and made a promise to be a serious fighter in this year's G1. He has largely kept his word so far, and it has produced tremendously entertaining results. You didn't think Yano could go hold-for-hold with Sabre, did ya? Well, he did! And fine, he did take off the turnbuckle pad and tried to do a low-blow, but his Noble Brain can only go so long without reverting to its usual ways.

Kota Ibushi vs. Juice Robinson (Night 4, July 19)
A solid match, but check this out just for Ibushi's rana off the apron, followed by a moonsault off the ringpost. You heard me, the actual post. I have no clue how this nutjob does it.

Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii (Night 4, July 19)
No one pisses off Ishii worse than Naito. And when Ishii gets pissed, he will chop you in the chest until it is bright red, and then he will chop you in the throat until you almost die. All of that happens here, and it's so fun.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Hangman Page (Night 5, July 20)
Okada's descent into cheery madness after losing his IWGP Heavyweight Championship came to a temporary end here, as he picked up his first win of the G1. But noteworthy was Korakuen Hall's 50/50 reaction during the match, as many of them were won over by Page and his fiery athleticism. He took this big opportunity and made the most of it, almost popping all of Okada's happy balloons in the process.