NJPW G1 Climax 27 Night Fifteen
August 6 2017
We’re in Hamamatsu, Japan as the G1 starts to accelerate towards its conclusion. In Block B action last night the field was trimmed down to a mere three names. Okada, Omega and EVIL. No one else can win that Block now. This happened due to a night of upsets turning the Block on its head and making sure SANADA and Minoru Suzuki could no longer top Block B. We’re back over in Block A tonight and the penultimate night of action from this group of wrestlers. Block A has proved to be far tighter than Block B and of the ten G1 participants seven can still win Block A. Only Makabe, YOSHI-HASHI and Nagata are eliminated.
Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Tomoyuki Oka & Katsuya Kitamura
Juice has Yano next but Toru is backing up Okada against the masses of Suzuki-gun later. That leaves poor Juice to get overpowered by a popular Kitamura in the opener. Kitamura was somewhat late beginning his pro career, being well known around Japan as an amateur wrestler. His nickname in the amateurs was “Wrestling Monster”. Given his muscular improvements the term “Muscle Monster” might be more appropriate now. Oka’s background is also in amateur competition. He’s competed in judo, karate, sambo, kickboxing, jiu jitsu and has a 1-0 MMA record. That doesn’t help him overcome Finlay but their collective background would be mouth-watering for someone like Jim Ross. If only they’d played on the Gridiron too!
Final Rating: **1/4
Michael Elgin & Hirai Kawato vs. EVIL & Hiromu Takahashi
Elgin vs. EVIL is taking place on Tuesday. It’s not an important match for Big Mike anymore, as he’s already finished in G1 but for EVIL it’s vital. He has a genuine shot at upsetting the Okada-Omega Block and coming out as the winner. It’s the exact position that Elgin would have hoped to be in when the tournament began. It’s still an exciting bout as Elgin is still motivated and they’re two big lads. The meaty collisions in this throw-away tag are evidence a singles match, even with nothing on the line, should be good fun. I look forward to that match. Also having fun is Kawato, who’s grown in stature during the tour and looks competitive against a star like Hiromu. The fun ends with Hiromu tapping out Kawato with a Boston crab. My hopes remain of a Young Lion win on one of these undercards, just to randomly shake things up. EVIL and Elgin don’t brawl after the finish but a stare down is sufficient to sell their match. Two large intense men are going to do battle.
Final Rating: **3/4
TenCozy vs. Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi
Kojima finally got off the mark against an unexpecting SANADA and now has Tama Tonga in his sights. There’s no reason why Kojima can’t rack up a second win. Tama decides the imitation gimmick is working well for him so he steals Kojima’s coat and poses with it on. He is quite adept at stealing other wrestlers shtick. Tenzan looks absolutely goddawful here. He’s sluggish and his running/falling headbutt is so bad. Tama takes over for him, lifting the Mongolian chops and Tenzan’s mask. Tama’s tomfoolery over the past few shows has been his best work on the entire tour. Once fully warmed up Tenzan starts to look competent and this turns into a nice little battle. Tama catches Tenzan with the Gun Stun for the pin and that shows how far Tenzan’s stock has fallen over the past year. Based on his work at the front of this match it’s not a shock.
Final Rating: **1/2
Kenny Omega & Chase Owens vs. SANADA & BUSHI
Omega is fairly selective with who he gives Wolfie kisses to, allowing people wearing no merch but immediately refusing anyone wearing rivals merch. Omega vs. SANADA has become a big match on Tuesday with Kenny needing a critical win. Unless Okada chokes against Suzuki. Chase is far better at the throwaway Omega undercard tag than Yujiro was last year. He works harder in between the comedy bits with Kenny. There’s also a little time to showcase SANADA’s athleticism, which will challenge Omega when they wrestle. BUSHI torpedoes Omega with a tope to allow SANADA to submit Chase with Skull End. It’s hard to get a read on Omega based on these tags as he deliberately goofs around in them. SANADA didn’t exactly bust a gut either.
Final Rating: **1/4
Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & Gedo vs. Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & El Desperado
At least by having all of Suzuki-gun in the match they can’t interfere from the floor. They should just make this match for Okada-Suzuki’s points tally. Suzuki struggles with a few Okada’s trademark moves, which is troubling because he’d previously shown almost no signs of aging but earlier in the tour botched a reverse rana against Kenny Omega. Is he starting to rely on outside interference because his in-ring is coming apart? I hope not. I’m still hopeful that Suzuki-gun will be disbanded and Suzuki will merely roam the landscape in search of a fight. Occasionally beating the piss out of a wrestler. Yano wins by running Taichi into the exposed buckles, pulling off his stripper trousers and getting the roll up pin. Glorious stuff from the Sublime Master Thief. The tags have taken up a lot of time on today’s show.
Final Rating: **1/2
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Zack Sabre Jr  vs. Yuji Nagata 
On paper this is a whitewash with Sabre having picked up surprising wins and Nagata being blanked on his farewell to G1 tour. However the same was true of SANADA vs. Kojima yesterday and we know how that turned out. The difference between Nagata and a host of other G1 participants is that he has that amateur background in spades, which helps him to combat Sabre’s technical game. It’s the first time Sabre has struggled to get a foothold in a match. Nagata has obviously been studying tape on Sabre too as he recognises a lot of Zack’s standard counters and holds. Nagata has a range of counters of his own at the ready and when something harder comes along Yuji sneaks into the ropes. Who’d have thought the eldest man in the tournament would be the most prepared for the challenge of something different? Sabre’s arsenal is so varied that even Nagata falls prey to it. Caught by several armlocks and strikes to the exposed limb. However Nagata’s defensive technique includes slapping Zack in some submissions of his own including Nagatalock’s II and III. The switches from one gentlemen’s submissions to the others are truly awesome and a show of defiance from Nagata against Father Time. The fact he takes Sabre to the limit when all of Sabre’s other opponents have struggled to get going at all is proof that Nagata still has it. He’s choosing to go out while he’s still good. Nagata’s skill leaves Sabre forgetting his opponents true strength and he leaves himself open for a Backdrop Driver. That’s the beginning of the end of the Backdrop Hold finishes for Yuji, ensuring he’s not blanked in the tournament. This was fucking great. Both guys have had a very good tournament. Nagata on his way out, Sabre on his way in.
Final Rating: ****1/4
MATHS: Sabre’s loss, his first big shock defeat in NJPW, has ramifications on his standing within Block A. He now has one match left, versus Ishii, and even if he wins he can only tie with Naito, who beat him. However with Naito vs. Tanahashi taking place on the final day either Tanahashi will move clear of Sabre’s reach or Naito will. This means Sabre cannot win Block A. He’s eliminated. Nagata’s win means he doesn’t finish on zero points, which is something that would have hurt his pride. Nagata has one match left, versus Fale, and if he wins that he can tie YOSHI-HASHI and not finish dead last.
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Kota Ibushi  vs. YOSHI-HASHI 
Kota has been on the road to glory in this tournament after a mixed bag of early results. YOSHI-HASHI has hardly troubled the scoreboard and has looked like one of the weakest participants in either Block. Especially without the excuse of old age. He can make amends by winning his last two matches and finishing with eight points. The suggestion from the match line up on the last day for Block A is that Ibushi and Goto are likely to still be involved in the decision making. As a result, it wouldn’t surprise me to see both win tonight. I would be shocked if Ibushi wasn’t alive going into the last night, given the possibility of him facing Omega in the G1 final, something Omega alludes to during his G1 speech before every show. YOSHI-HASHI continues to feel like a non-event. It takes him time to show fire during his matches and I find the wait irritating, rather than a tease. All of YOSHI-HASHI’s control period feels like an aimless drag. His performances during this G1 have been routinely disappointing. Ibushi’s comeback is shiny by comparison, although both have explosive moves in their locker. It’s all a question of timing. Sadly both guys work better as underdogs, mounting comebacks and they don’t click into a good match together. Ibushi creates the finest visual in the match by grabbing both of YOSHI-HASHI’s hands, looking for the Kamigoye. It’s then that YOSHI-HASHI produces his best work, desperately trying to avoid a knee in the mush. He’s right to be desperate to avoid it too as Kota eventually wins with it to advance to ten points. Trying to suspend my disbelief was hard in this match. I felt sure YOSHI-HASHI had no chance and he never made me believe otherwise. He was at his best avoiding defeat, rather than attempting victory.
Final Rating: ***1/4
MATHS: This win gives Kota Ibushi the magic ten points. It means no one can escape his range going into the final day. If Tanahashi wins, Ibushi can tie him with a last day win. If Naito wins, the same is true. Naturally Kota will be happier with a Tanahashi win tonight than a Naito one. If Naito finishes level with Ibushi, ahead of everyone else then Naito wins the Block.
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Hirooki Goto  vs. Bad Luck Fale 
This is another key bout with both guys really needing to win if they have any chance of capturing the Block. Fale feels like an afterthought this year. His wins haven’t been prominent, just sufficient to bolster his points tally and keep him in contention. Goto has a winning record against Fale in G1 but in this kind of spot that makes no difference. Both guys are desperate to win. Fale dominates the early going with his natural size. This immediately makes me think Goto is winning, given the nature of almost all G1 matches this year. Neither guy really holds my interest although giving Goto a hill to climb in Fale’s size at least gives the match some structure. It sure is dull though.
The finish is abrupt with Goto getting caught with the Grenade and that’s it. Wow. This might be the most underwhelming G1 match this year. I didn’t hate it but that’s because there was nothing to hate, or like. It just went through the motions and then finished.
Final Rating: **
MATHS: Fale’s win takes him up to ten points. Having a loss to Tanahashi on his books, Fale will be hoping for one of the others to take him down a peg or two. He’s beaten fellow contenders Ishii, Ibushi and Naito. His last match is against Nagata, which before today looked like a banker for the big Kiwi but now, with a refreshed Yuji on the board it might not be so easy. As for Goto, with only one match remaining he still trails both Tanahashi and Naito. He’s lost to them both. With the added loss to Fale he’s got no hope. Plus either Naito or Tanahashi are guaranteed at least one point more than they already have. Goto can only gain two. He’s done here.
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Togi Makabe  vs. Tetsuya Naito 
Makabe is eliminated already but Naito’s attitude angers up his blood so this should still serve as a competitive match up. Togi will not want to lose to the punk Naito and he looks mad as hell at the start. Naito clearly triggering him yesterday with sublime banter. It looks as if Naito’s antics have backfired when Makabe channels that aggression and for the most part dominates the early going. It becomes evident that Naito is holding back, wanting to retain energy for the harder matches to come. He’s been smart throughout the G1, alternating between taking it easy and stealing the show. Like with Kota I wish he’d ease up on the neck bumps. He gets hurled off the buckles here, for the Spider German, and lands on his neck/shoulder. Too many wrestlers right now are taking bumps that will come back to hurt them when they’re older. It’s a shame because the potential for a killer match was here after last night’s interaction. Instead Naito shrugs off Makabe’s dominance and hits Destino to advance to twelve points. On his own! A few of Makabe’s matches have turned out like this. Lots of promise and then a ‘meh’ outcome. The best part of this match was Naito getting in Honma’s face afterwards.
Final Rating: ***1/4
MATHS: Naito’s win simplifies the Block somewhat. Now he’s already on 12 points it sets a new benchmark. I’m sad to say, his win effectively puts Kota Ibushi out because Kota lost to Naito in their Block match. Even if Ibushi pulls level he can’t surpass Tetsuya. Meanwhile Fale is fine, because he beat Naito. As did Ishii, who is now within striking distance if he can upset Tanahashi.
G1 Climax 27 Block A
Hiroshi Tanahashi  vs. Tomohiro Ishii 
If Tanahashi wins here then it’s Tanahashi vs. Naito for the Block on Friday. If he loses it opens up the Block and Ishii and Fale can also win. As Tanahashi emerges to “Go Ace” I’m reminded that Okada just passed his longest IWGP reign of 404 days. Okada is now at #3 on the all-time list for time spent carrying the IWGP title and closing in on Muta. In 150 days he’ll pass Tanahashi, although the ‘ace’ can still lay claim to seven IWGP titles to Okada’s four. He’s also had more title defences (28 vs 20). Ishii is almost acting as Okada’s gatekeeper; stopping Tanahashi from winning the G1 and getting the Wrestle Kingdom title shot. Ishii must feel like this is a personal challenge too. A chance to prove he’s a main eventer. One who only doesn’t get title shots because his mate is champion and he doesn’t want to disrupt CHAOS.
He’s a match for Tanahashi, superior in striking and giving Tana a lot of high impact abuse. He goes through a tremendous phase of refusing to let Tanahashi get over on him. This includes shrugging off all his strikes and popping up after a suplex. It forces Tanahashi to work harder. There’s less downtime with less selling. Both guys utilise this increased pace to tell an enigmatic tale of two warring fighters. Tana’s solution to the Ishii’s problem is to take his legs and look for a submission, which is unlikely to work but it also slows Ishii down. There’s a lot of logic involved. Ishii’s matches do generally make sense, which is weird considering his main tactic is to smack his opponent in the face as hard as he can. Instead here he opts to go limb for limb and slow Tana down, as Tana did to him. Before too long Ishii is strapping Tanahashi in the Sharpshooter. It’s easy to forget Ishii is an accomplished grappler. Just because the bulk of his matches are smashmouth doesn’t mean that’s all he is.
Tanahashi is equal to the challenge, as he always is, and the match becomes a war. Both guys determined to not let the other get the better of them. It’s as manly as it is beautiful. Eventually Tanahashi comes out on top and in the process turns the Block into exactly what Block B has been all along; a two-horse race. It’s Naito vs. Tanahashi and the winner goes to the final.
Final Rating: ****1/4
MATHS: Tanahashi has made this straightforward. Whoever wins between Naito and Tanahashi wins Block A. No one else can win despite Ibushi and Fale trying to put themselves into the mix with wins tonight. We’ve gone from seven down to two in five matches.
BLOCK A Standings
Tetsuya Naito 12
Hiroshi Tanahashi 12
Kota Ibushi 10
Bad Luck Fale 10
Zack Sabre Jr 8
Tomohiro Ishii 8
Hirooki Goto 8
Togi Makabe 6
Yuji Nagata 2
Two very good matches (Tana-Ishii and Nagata-Sabre) and lots of very tired looking guys, no doubt thinking about their summer holidays. Tuesday in Kanagawa is the final night of the tour before we return to Tokyo and the smoking hot three final days. Various talents will be added to the undercard for those shows thus freshening up the samey undercard structure.