G1 Climax 27
July 17 2017
We’re in Sapporo, Japan for the opening night of the G1 Climax. The past two years I’ve been obsessed with G1 and deeply involved in reviewing the tournaments. I’ve not missed a single match, tournament or undercard, since 2014. I’ve not had the chance to fill out a full set of predictions but I boldly suggest that it’s a Naito vs. SANADA final. I’ve heard Omega vs. Ibushi but that feels like something they’re building toward at another time. Doing it here would be too quick. There’s also an outside shot of Okada in the final, as he has stated he wants to win G1 while holding the IWGP title. There are a couple of long shots who could make the final (Minoru Suzuki or Hiroshi Tanahashi) but basically it comes down to either Naito or Omega winning with a possible outside chance of Ibushi. That won’t stop the tournament being fun to watch! It always is. I expect upsets and teases galore in this opening round of bouts.
The undercard tonight has gotten people talking as they’ve thrown up two bizarre faction battles, normally avoided in previewing Block matches, with LIJ and CHAOS battling each other in tag matches. Gedo keeping things fresh. The A Block are in action tonight with five opening matches in that contest. It’s headlined by Naito vs. Ibushi (the two potential money winners). English language commentary here comes from Kevin Kelly and Don Callis.
Michael Elgin, Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Jushin Liger
Only three of these guys are in the G1. Tenzan had his final G1 last year, ending on a sad note as he repeatedly failed to win matches. Kojima vs. Juice is the match being hyped up here. Juice will be looking to lay down a marker as he hunts his first ever G1 victory in his G1 debut on Thursday. Kojima meanwhile stepped out of G1 last year, to allow Tenzan a chance, and he’s going to want to make sure he doesn’t repeat Tenzan’s poor record. There’s a secondary issue at stake with Elgin being supportive of his two younger partners and that gaijin vs. established veterans story. Juice manages to get cut around the ribs, which is bad news on the first night of an intense nineteen show tour. Speaking of intense; these lads all go balls out for a tour opener! Finlay gets clobbered with the lariat for the pin but even the tournament guys were out here busting a gut. Good news for the tournament.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Bullet Club (Kenny Omega, Tama Tonga & Chase Owens) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & El Desperado)
This, on any other card, would be a hard pass. Yes, even with Omega vs. MiSu potentially happening. Omega doesn’t give a shit about these G1 undercard tags and neither does anyone else here. Omega vs. Suzuki is headlining Night 2 anyway so we only need to wait one more show to see it properly. Suzuki gives us a wee teaser by going after Kenny and brawling all through the crowd.
“Yer fucking what pal?”
MiSu sells the next show sublimely with his mixture of aggression and facials. Omega just takes him too lightly, thinking MiSu will behave like this is unimportant, like Kenny does. The Bullet Club actually work face here, with Chase trying to elicit reactions for his athleticism. This is met by Taichi’s usual garbage. The awful ring-bell hammer shot. The stripper trousers. Omega-Suzuki is where the match gets exciting, even if they’re clumsy with their counters and the lack of chemistry is worrying ahead of Thursday. Chase is here to take the three spot, courtesy of the Gotch Piledriver, but he looks solid beforehand. Lots of intensity from Suzuki made this.
Final Rating: **1/2
Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & BUSHI) vs. LIJ (EVIL & Hiromu Takahashi)
Interesting how this has been split. The match they’re hyping is SANADA vs. EVIL in Block B but normally factions never interact like this to preview G1 matches. Not so this year, we’re getting a hype up match. The split interests me because SANADA is paired with BUSHI, another outsider, while EVIL is paired with Hiromu, as they were together in the New Japan dojo. It’s the two different approaches to being LIJ. From the outside and from the inside. Hiromu brings Daryl with him, because he’s a nutcase. Daryl, if you’re not keeping score, is Hiromu’s stuffed cat.
The split is part of the reason why I’m thinking SANADA might pair off against Naito in the final. They were very deliberate in keeping them apart in the blocks last year, for example. There’s loads of familiarity stuff here and general dickishness, which is expected and countered. EVIL submits BUSHI with a trapped arm crossface. This was more about the character involved than the actual action, although the action was good. LIJ pose together afterwards, putting on a united front. It’s still EVIL vs. SANADA on Thursday though.
Final Rating: ***
CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Gedo) vs. CHAOS (Toru Yano & Jado)
This is another preview match as Okada vs. Yano is happening on Thursday. Don’t be surprised if Yano flukes a win there. Again, normally the factions don’t do preview undercard tags but we’re freshening shit up this year. Gedo vs. Jado is tremendous fun, with them trying to out-cheat each other and goof around. Yano shows Okada a few of his cheapest tricks, any of which could score a fluke pin on the champ come Thursday evening. Gedo is the recipient of a low blow and Yano rolls him up for the win. This was fun but short. It was four mates mucking about.
Final Rating: **1/2
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Yuji Nagata vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Nagata is the big story here. This is his final G1 tournament. His recent G1 outings have been middling and he keeps finishing in the bottom half of his block. He only had 6 points last year, coming in joint last in Block B with perennial loser Tomoaki Honma and his opponent here; YOSHI-HASHI. Tacos has always been regarded as a lower card talent, until last year where he was pushed into G1 contention and managed a couple of surprising performances. He’s worthy of the spot but like Nagata, nobody is expecting a big run. Hence the positioning here. Poor Y-H gets himself into a slugfest, which he’s unsuited to. This is typical Japanese psychology where all young talent feels it has to go toe to toe with the veteran. Which is why so many young guys have poor win/loss records. Nagata’s intensity is a half-step off here and YOSHI-HASHI isn’t good enough to push it. When he does, slapping Nagata, the veteran’s comeback is uneven. Sometimes sensational, sometimes bland.
The match becomes a story about Nagata’s toughness and experience versus YOSHI-HASHI’s youthful exuberance. The crowd want Nagata to put in a good showing, which puts Tacos in a tough spot. Nagata takes his arm, which tells an interesting story. YOSHI-HASHI thinks he can’t come back from one loss so won’t tap to preserve his shoulder. As the match progresses both guys take an absolute beating and it becomes clear that Nagata’s final run is going to be worth seeing. Karma puts Nagata away and that’s likely to be the first of many losses for Uncle Yuji on his way out of G1 history. If he puts this much effort into every round it’s going to be one hell of a run though.
Final Rating: ***3/4
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Bad Luck Fale vs. Togi Makabe
Fale has a G1 pedigree. He’s always in contention and regularly ruins my pre-tournament picks. These are two guys who I don’t enjoy watching, which is a rarity in New Japan. They do a lot of aimless clubbing and it’s not my thing. They also do the laziest of all G1 spots; the teased count-out, which has no hope of being a count-out. Fale dominates with his size and Makabe gets a lot of sympathy. Togi struggles to kick out sometimes due to Fale’s size advantage. There is effort here, it’s not a total bore but there are better exponents of the same style in this company. They make a hash of a missed King Kong Kneedrop, with Togi setting it up too far away, and that botch leads right into Fale hitting the Grenade. This was a mess.
Final Rating: *1/2
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Apparently Ishii is being tipped by some insiders this year. He’s my pick every year but I’m always disappointed. Both these guys are from the CHAOS stable. Ishii has lived that stable for a lot longer than Goto though. That doesn’t stop some familiarity stuff from happening, where Ishii reads Goto’s rope-running. Ishii brings some new next-level selling, dropping off the top rope, face first into the buckles, like dead weight. It wouldn’t be a tournament without Ishii having a bad neck and Goto works the neck over with visions of the GTR dancing in his head. While some of the selling in this is great, some of it is comical. Ishii does a staggering, “I refuse to fall over” sell off a clothesline that’s almost embarrassing. When they stop giving a fuck and just wallop each other with the tasty strikes the match takes on a different context. It’s pure magic and the crowd respond accordingly. I could live without the headbutts, which shouldn’t happen in a post-Shibata world and it’s notable the crowd aren’t keen on them happening at all. Goto finds his way to victory by a reverse GTR and then the GTR itself. I still hate that move and it’s so tame compared to all the abuse that preceded it. There was a notably higher level of violence and intensity in this bout. Even from two faction buddies.
Final Rating: ****
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Kelly makes a sound argument that it’s best to draw Tanahashi early as he tends to start slowly. Suzuki-gun, who are turds during tournaments, manage to send El Desperado out here during the G1. That’s not acceptable.
Obviously Tanahashi needs no back up because he has the best hair in professional wrestling. This is an intriguing mixture of talents as Sabre is a mat technician, but so is Tanahashi and Tana is also a ‘big match’ talent. I’m excited to see not only this bout but future clashes between the two. Tana comes in hurt, as always, but Sabre doesn’t go after the arm, instead targeting the leg, which is Tanahashi’s usual tactic. When Tanahashi tries to use his injured arm Sabre makes a point of dismantling it. The idea behind his early tactics is misdirection. After the opportunity arises Sabre’s assault is purposeful and aggressive. Tanahashi’s vulnerability and explosive offence make for an excellent duel-pronged approach to the match. Sabre’s fluid countering and even dodging of spots is clinical. At times the Japanese fans don’t know what to make of him but anyone who knows wrestling can see he’s doing great work in this match. As does Tanahashi, nailing most of his timing against a fresh opponent. The leg vs. arm storyline makes for great psychological sense and the execution is tremendous. Very few guys can tell that emotional story like Tanahashi and likewise nobody has the technical skill of a Sabre to attack someone with. Desperado’s involvement leaves a foul taste in the mouth but at least Sabre pulls out a counter to block the High Fly Flow and busts out evil arm manipulation.
Sabre pulling off the protective tape and cranking the shit out of Tanahashi arm for the submission is majestic stuff. A wonderful finish to a cracking match, which immediately cements Zack as a threat in this tournament while simultaneously setting the table for Tanahashi and his bad arm. Great work all round.
Final Rating: ****1/4
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito
Kota is nuts. He keeps walking away from rich deals because he doesn’t want money, he wants a different career. New Japan have finally talked him into doing G1 again, which is huge. Especially with Shibata missing. They needed someone who could come in and be a legitimate contender. Kota looks super emotional before we start. This is very important to him. The great part of having the blank canvas of Naito across the ring. Naito couldn’t give a single shit about Ibushi, doesn’t believe he deserves any kind of special treatment.
Normally Naito can get away with being a dick because he’s one of the faster wrestlers in New Japan. However Ibushi might be a smidge quicker. One of Kota’s most endearing traits is his steadfast hatred of his own neck. He’s determined to shatter his own vertebrae’s in horrific fashion before he reaches middle age. Sometimes he does this by flipping onto his own head in front of 200 people. Sometimes he does this by allowing his opponents to do sickening things to him. This match is the latter. He sacrifices his own body to ensure Naito looks like a miserable prick. Kota feels like a special attraction here, rather than throwing away Triangle Moonsaults in Full Sail. At this point in his career, everything he does has the potential to be sensational so it has to be somewhere that matters.
The combination of selling and incredible spots here is beautiful. Kota whacking Naito with a huge lariat is gorgeous. Naito’s response is to systematically drop Ibushi on his neck for minutes at a time. The match hits a higher gear again when Naito attempts Destino and gets countered into a javelin into the buckles. Someone is getting badly hurt during this tournament. Based on this match; it’ll be both of these two for starters. Thanks to spots like the reverse super rana, the German suplex from the outside back in and a piledriver off the ropes! None of which finishes the contest. Both guys murdering each other for our amusement and to convince the world that Kota can not only win G1 but also be a fucking star throughout it. Kota headspikes a pair of Destino’s for Naito to actually win the match and get the two points. Two points be damned though. This was all about the match quality and insanity of both men.
Final Rating: ****3/4
BLOCK A Standings
Bad Luck Fale 2
Hirooki Goto 2
Zack Sabre Jr 2
Tetsuya Naito 2
Yuji Nagata 0
Togi Makabe 0
Tomohiro Ishii 0
Hiroshi Tanahashi 0
Kota Ibushi 0
Obviously G1 is almost always great but there’s always that fear that ‘maybe this year’ is when it cracks and doesn’t live up to the hype. So far NJPW is 1/1 with a fantastic opening night. The main is a genuine MOTYC and the two matches before that were both excellent. The proposed undercard shenanigans didn’t measure up so much but when your top end is delivering like this…who cares? Main is must see, G1 is my favourite time of the year.