NJPW G1 Climax 27 Night Eleven
August 1 2017
We’re in Kagoshima, Japan and we’re officially into the home stretch. Just eight shows remain after today, which means each wrestler has only four Block matches remaining on this tour. With the exception of Juice Robinson hobbling around and Yuji Nagata’s back looking an absolute state, everyone seems to be in decent shape. I have sadly fallen a day behind, again, but the schedule gets a little more drawn out at this point with back to back shows but no four-days-in-a-row horror to be found. We’re getting into the mathematical conclusion of the tournament so I’ll be doing lots of assessing of what victories and defeats mean for the individuals concerned.
Katsuya Kitamura & Shota Umino vs. Michael Elgin & Jushin Liger
Liger joins the tour today! His scheduled opponents are nowhere to be found though. Jado is injured but Yano? Can’t be bothered, mate. Elgin vs. Yano is scheduled for Wednesday. We’ll have to wait another day for those shenanigans. Instead it’s Liger vs. bby lions. Umino seems very excited about it. Elgin seems to fancy a grapple with big man Kitamura. That’s some serious beef! Elgin looks like a giant side of beef. Kitamura looks like the same beef only thinner with better definition. Elgin out-beefs Kitamura for the pin and a geared up Kitamura accidentally kicks out, wanting more! Please book a singles match for the last night of G1 New Japan! Thanks!
Final Rating: **1/2
Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & El Desperado vs. Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Hirai Kawato
TenCozy have a pet young lion in this one. Kawato is the pick of the litter, even if Kitamura looks so much more startling. Kawato is going to have a long, successful career if he can stay fit. Kojima has Suzuki tomorrow so they’re at each other’s throats from the bell. Or slightly before the bell if you’re a jerk (I’m looking at you, MiSu). Taichi genuinely entertains me, showing he is capable of such a feat, by stealing Kojima’s moves and then laughing at the crowd for shouting out “ichibakayero” on cue. Sheep! Kawato shows terrific fire here and I almost, almost, buy into him beating Desperado. He even takes it to Taichi but MiSu shuts that down and Despy gets the pin.
Final Rating: **1/2
SANADA & BUSHI vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay
SANADA has Juice tomorrow. For Juice his chances of winning are over but he still has four matches left in a highly prestigious tournament and it’s all a good learning experience. He’s given a good account of himself and gained a lot of crowd support for his efforts. He’s throwing himself into these undercard tags too, which means further aggravating his already injured knee. The smart man would let Finlay do the legwork and hang on the apron a la Tanahashi. Instead BUSHI has to wipe him out with that awesome tope and SANADA taps Finlay with the Skull End.
Final Rating: **1/4
EVIL & Hiromu Takahashi vs. Kenny Omega & Chase Owens
One of the biggest, most important matches on Wednesday is Omega vs. EVIL, with both guys on the same number of points and both a win behind Okada. It’s a massive test for EVIL. Omega seems almost casual by comparison. It’s just another day at the office for our Kenneth. Every day is Casual Friday when you’re in the undercard tags, baby! Kenny and Chase enjoy antics, with the boot in the corner and assorted fun and games. Unlike a lot of Omega undercard tags (like last years where Omega & Yujiro stunk) there is sufficient effort here and that’s largely down to EVIL & Hiromu being such a strong pairing that Omega doesn’t want to be exposed as inferior to them. Hiromu wipes out Kenny with a ‘no fucks given’ suicide dropkick off the apron and EVIL hits the STO for the win. This was just a shade over five minutes but it was very good. Omega symbolically removes his shirt after the match and chokes EVIL out with it. When attempting One-Winged Angel he’s countered into the STO though! So EVIL not only wins the match but also leaves his mark on Kenny afterwards.
Final Rating: **3/4
Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano
Gedo must be tired. He’s allowing Yano into his regular spot. CHAOS have been looking more and more like a collective that’s on the same page as this tournament has progressed. They’re united behind Okada.
Tama steals all Okada’s gear for laughs and posing purposes. Bullet Club decide to treat Yano like Gedo and bully him during a heat segment. Tama also steals Yano’s gear. That could be a gimmick now. Stealing other people’s shit and posing in it. Okada takes this match quite easily, by his own high standards, leaving Yano vs. Yujiro for extended periods. That should be a pile of shit match but Yano’s shtick is more entertaining when it’s aimed at someone I genuinely dislike. He nut shots Yujiro for the pin. Tama seems angry about the nut shot. Presumably because he still has to face Yano in block action.
Final Rating: **1/4
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Bad Luck Fale  vs. YOSHI-HASHI 
Fale is in the hunt. YOSHI-HASHI is virtually done. If he loses this match he’s officially eliminated as he can only gain six points and that equates to a tie with Tanahashi, who beat him already. YOSHI-HASHI looks a bit down. The prospect of facing a monster like Fale has dumped him into a funk. He looks like a dog who’s misbehaved and knows he’s going to get a beating for it. Fale is in no mood to give YOSHI-HASHI anything and one of the first spots in the match is a severe Brookesing for the Head Hunter. Fale’s total dominance gives them an easy ‘underdog versus monster’ storyline to tell. The execution of it is slightly clumsy but the dynamic works regardless. Fale is able to overpower anything YOSHI-HASHI attempts, occasionally clubbing him with a big right clothesline to cut off comebacks.
So Tacos has to get creative, including a nice counter to escape Bad Luck Fall, right into a sleeper. YOSHI is unfortunately a bit dim and consistently attempts the Butterfly Lock, which Fale is too powerful for. However when he powers out of it a second time Tacos pulls out a counter and gets an inside cradle for the pin!
Final Rating: ***1/4
MATHS: YOSHI-HASHI had to win or he was eliminated. His win ensures he continues in the tournament. He can now finish on ten points. This requires him to beat Goto, Ibushi and Makabe. Not out of the realms of possibility. You could argue his largest challenge, both literally and figuratively, was overcoming Fale. YOSHI-HASHI’s biggest obstacle is Tanahashi. If the Ace wins one more match it effectively dumps Tacos, regardless of what achieves on his own.
Fale now finds himself on six points rather late in the game. With three matches left he can still reach twelve points but that requires him beating Goto, Ishii and Nagata. Again, this is not an impossible task for the big man. He’s beaten them all before. The biggest threat is arguably Nagata, regardless of his current blank slate. In fact enhanced by it. If Nagata goes into the last day on zero points his motivation to defeat Fale will be even greater.
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Zack Sabre Jr  vs. Togi Makabe 
Both these guys are in a similar spot. They’ve been fine up to this point but now they have to get serious about acquiring points over their run-in. Makabe is usually a threat down the stretch. Sabre is an unknown quantity in New Japan, which has caused him to snag a few upsets. Togi is unlike anyone he’s faced on the tour so far. He is a capable wrestler but tends to lean towards brawling, where he’s achieved he’s celebrity through toughness and Westernisation. Sabre, as he has done all tournament long, puts Makabe through his paces, switching from limb to limb and changing submission attempts. Even when Sabre has lost during this tournament he has dominated matches with his technical excellence. He’s been booked a lot stronger than I was expecting.
Zack’s weakness is an inability to adjust to other people’s styles. So when he’s required to take a lariat he stumbles in there with arms by his sides with nonsensical body positioning. More often than not whoever he wrestles merely adopts the style of Sabre. Allowing him to dictate the pace and work an array of holds. Makabe is surprisingly fine throughout with this change of pace. Shockingly he even drops the fall, missing with the King Kong Kneedrop and getting caught in Figure Four anklelock that won the Cruiserweight Classic for TJP. The tournament Zack was supposed to be winning (if you believe such things). Now the move resurfaces in Sabre’s arsenal during another, more prestigious tournament. Makabe has no choice but to submit. Makabe’s surprising adaptability made this match work but the outcome shocks me and Kagoshima. Sabre continues to have a very strong tournament. Good news for the British grappler.
Final Rating: ***1/2
MATHS: Sabre’s victory takes him to eight points, level with Tanahashi. Which puts Zack in a commanding position as he defeated Tana in the opening round of matches. That leaves him with Ishii, Nagata and Naito. Nagata should be easy enough, as he’s been losing to everyone, but Ishii is a tougher prospect who rarely ever taps out and Naito is one of the companies biggest stars. I see Zack going 1-2 and finishing on ten points, which is an excellent return on his first G1.
Makabe has been here before. He’s not going to be in the conversation as a potential winner but the crowd buy him as a victor over anyone in the field. His role now is probably to play spoiler, even if he’s only one win off the top. This seems to be a major issue for him as his remaining opponents include Naito and Tanahashi. As with Sabre he’s likely to go 1-2 in his remaining bouts and finish on eight points.
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Tomohiro Ishii  vs. Yuji Nagata 
Nagata, in his final G1, has been battling through the tournament having good matches but losing. Ishii is one of his best opponents due to their similar aggressive, strike-heavy style. I’ve enjoyed their matches over the years but this is the last hurrah for Nagata in G1. They might never get another singles match. Naturally they spend most of this one hitting each other. Nagata sells the effects of this more than ever, showing his age and reduced resilience. However every man has his limit and when Ishii starts paintbrushing him in the corner, Uncle Yuji says “no more”.
It’s a punishing match as these two only know one way of wrestling and it’s pretty goddamn intense. Nagata in particular is keen to leave a mark with his slaps and kicks but my favourite moment is him absorbing a series of forearms before dropping Ishii with one of his own. Nagata’s Last Stand! I’m pleased he’s opted to go out this year, when he could still consistently performance. Last year Tenzan’s evident decline in fortunes was almost painful to watch. I don’t get the same sense of failure from Nagata. He’s not going out because he’s too old. He’s going out because he feels next year he’ll be too old. It’s a glorious departure. This is arguably his best G1 match this year. The Goto one was really good but this is a little more intense with Nagata looking more desperate to win. If anything Ishii is a shade too nice. Especially on the finish, giving Nagata a flat back bump off his signature brainbuster. The striking was great and I loved the characterisation here. Nagata at his best. The win catapults Ishii up to eight points and a share of the lead.
Final Rating: ****1/4
MATHS: Ishii’s eight points puts him a tidy position going into the last three matches. He just needs to beat Fale, Tanahashi and Sabre. What could be easier? Except those three are vastly different wrestlers. Giving Ishii a powerhouse, legend and technician to overcome. It’s hard to say if Ishii will win any of those but he did beat Naito already. I am excited for his three final matches. Could this be Ishii’s year? Well, no, but here’s hoping.
Nagata remains blanked. He’s 0-6. Now the only question is whether he can score any wins by the climax of the G1. He’s still the only man who’s officially eliminated in Block A. The standard of his matches is what impresses though. He’s going out on a high. Recommended viewing: vs. Goto, vs. Naito, vs. Tanahashi and vs. Ishii. I had all those at ****+. 4/6 is pretty fucking good for a 49-year-old on his way out. He still has Sabre, Ibushi and Fale.
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Hirooki Goto  vs. Tetsuya Naito 
There is a ripple of excitement at the arrival of Naito. The camera pans around the crowd and my word, there’s a lot of LIJ merch out there. This is Naito Country! Naito’s lack of respect for Goto is refreshing to me. If Goto deserved respect I’m sure he’d go ahead and earn it. The crowd is rampantly pro-Naito, perhaps suggesting that out in the provinces (Kagoshima is closer to North Korea than it is to Tokyo) they’ve been more accepting of Naito’s anti-authority ways. The wrestlers certainly don’t mess around. Both guys take enormous neck bumps with little concern for their own wellbeing. After an early burst of Naito offence the match is taken over by Goto, who looks hungry. Perhaps he was insulted by Naito’s comments about him in the press this week. Someone needs to light a fire under Goto that’s going to stay lit. He can’t keep being great for twenty minutes a month and boring as shit the rest of the time. Perhaps predictably Goto fades badly after being unable to hook his finisher and Naito beats him clean with Destino. Oh, Hirooki, always the bridesmaid.
Final Rating: ***1/4
MATHS: Naito advances to eight points. He faces Makabe, Sabre and Tanahashi in his three remaining matches. Logically the Block is going to end in a straight shoot between Naito and Tana but I thought the same last year re: Okada and Tanahashi and New Japan pulled a fast one. With six points left on the board, I wouldn’t be shocked if Naito got them all. He’s been my pick to win Block A all along, although if he’s not winning the tournament I can see him dropping a weird fall somewhere to let someone else in. Naito losing in the final would not compute.
Meanwhile Goto is left with YOSHI-HASHI, Fale and Ibushi. He can still, potentially, reach 12 points but Kota’s need will surely be greater on the last day. If Goto wins there it is pure spoiler material to try and convince us he’ll sneak in the back door, like he did last year.
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Kota Ibushi  vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi 
A win for Tanahashi would re-establish his two point lead in Block A. However Ibushi is in a desperate spot. Should he lose here, his G1 is effectively over. Surprising losses to Makabe and Fale have left him in this spot. When listing injuries at the start of this I neglected to mention that Tanahashi has worked the whole tournament with a torn bicep. He’s getting to that point where I don’t feel I need to mention Tana’s injuries because he’s always injured.
For Ibushi this is the mountain he must climb if he’s to be relevant this year. He has to beat the legend that is Tanahashi, and his perfect hair. Tanahashi is aware that Ibushi needs all the help he can get and resorts to being a complete jerk, playing air guitar when he should be paying attention to his opponent and refusing clean breaks. When he wants to be Tanahashi is one of the best heels in wrestling. He’s also one of the greatest babyfaces of all time so he usually just does that.
His usual tactic, especially with Kota, is to work the leg and keep him grounded. Here he intersperses needless posing and pushes the five count. The crowd become split because of it. There are those who love what Tanahashi is doing (look at the response Naito got) but the majority want the plucky white-meat babyface of Ibushi. Even though Kota abandons logic by filling his comebacks with kicks and flips. Tanahashi isn’t willing to be out-done and inserts his High Fly Attack to the floor, almost destroying what’s left of his bicep in the process. He’s going to end up with an atrophied arm like Paul Orndorff. Ibushi is going to end up with an atrophied neck, the crazy bastard. He takes far less bumps directly on his C4 vertebrae than usual but it’s only a matter of time before that disc is jelly. Like jam coming out of the side of a doughnut when you take a bite. Necks are overrated anyway. Ishii doesn’t have one and he’s fine. Kota’s attempts to murder Tanahashi in this match include an obsession with the javelin move. Normally aimed into the buckles he throws Tanahashi under them, scaring the shit out of the 1/100 ace. Tanahashi makes the match feel epic with his structure (reflecting other epic bouts with the likes of Nakamura and Okada) but Ibushi is able to intensify this vibe by taking his bumps in ridiculous fashion. The Slingblade one is up at the top of the neck. You can tell they’re going for big time epic when Tana kicks out of the Last Ride. Kota’s face is a picture. You’ll have to do more to beat Tana! But he does, moments later with that knee strike he’s been using to set his finish up. This was awesome. A proper ‘big match’ contest between two of the tournaments most exciting figures.
Final Rating: ****1/4
MATHS: Tanahashi would have gone clean away from the pack with a win and Ibushi would effectively have been eliminated so the result is not a surprise. It keeps the pack tight and it keeps Kota alive. Ibushi’s next two matches are YOSHI-HASHI and Nagata so he’s winning both of those. That will put him on ten points and in with a shout. His final match is the intriguing one. Does he beat Goto, or is Hirooki the spoiler? Does the winner of that match stand a chance at being in the final? All to come. Tana should be there, or thereabouts, at the finish of the tournament. He has Ishii and Makabe before the final match against Naito, which will decide who wins the Block. Either because they draw and let someone else in, like last year, or because one of them wins and takes the Block. Time will tell.
BLOCK A Standings
Hiroshi Tanahashi 8
Zack Sabre Jr 8
Tomohiro Ishii 8
Tetsuya Naito 8
Togi Makabe 6
Bad Luck Fale 6
Hirooki Goto 6
Kota Ibushi 6
Yuji Nagata 0
I like wrestling.