NJPW G1 Climax 26: Days 3 & 4

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Two for the price of one! Let’s get to it.

If you’re late to the party, here’s my Primer and reviews of Day 1 and Day 2.

Here we go…

A Block – Round Two

July 23rd, 18:30 from Machida Municipal Gymnasium, Tokyo

Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Tama Tonga

Tenzan     Tonga

For those keeping up, Tonga was wearing a dollar bill variation of his terrible new tights. The crowd were way into Tenzan, who picked up the win with the moonsault, and bless him, Kojima was like the proud father cheering his son at ringside. Tonga got some cheap heat by ripping off Tenzan’s Mongolian Chops, but no-one buys him as a threat and he desperately needs a big performance in this tournament. **

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hirooki Goto

Ishii     Goto

Despite being CHAOS brethren, these two hammered each other, laying in the strikes from the opening minutes. Their match at last year’s tournament was a highlight for me, but on that occasion they were main eventing the show and had more time to let things unfold. This was a sprint, with next to no downtime, which didn’t seem to do either guy any favours, since by the closing stretch both appeared to be struggling. Goto took the honours, dropping Ishii across his knee a couple of times before hitting the GTR. Can’t fault the effort. ***1/2

Naomichi Marufuji vs. Bad Luck Fale

Marufuji     Fale

Fale took the win here with the Grenade to get himself on the board. As I said before the tournament, Fale usually gets a couple of big wins, and with Marufuji coming off a dominatant performance against Okada that’s definitely what this was. The match was okay, typical of Fale’s efforts against all but Tanahashi, but succeeded in getting over Marufuji’s strikes a devastating weapons. Those chops and kicks – oof. I like to think that because Marufuji has no opponents of Fale’s heft in NOAH he’d have no frame of tactical reference, and despite his striking power, ultimately his lack of experience against a monster of Fale’s size cost him. **3/4

Kazuchika Okada vs. SANADA

Okada     SANADA

Given Sanada’s stoic non-expression, I feel he’s going to need to be matched with fiery babyfaces for the sake of his development. Tanahashi and Okada are a favourable start to the tournament in that regard, and whereas I’d previously felt Okada’s strengths lay in working on top, his opening two matches of the G1 have shown he’s increasingly capable of fighting from underneath. Here, he found ways to slip out of Sanada’s Dragon Sleeper and took the win with German suplex into the Rainmaker. From a booking point of view, it made sense that Sanada would be able to beat a not-fully-fit Tanahashi, but not the current IWGP champion. Particularly one who was pissed at being dominated in his previous match. A really solid thirteen-minute match, just a notch below their match at Wrestling Dontaku. ***1/2

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Togi Makabe

Tana 2     Makabe

The big news out of this one was that Tanahashi lost again. They’re making out that he’s still not 100% (probably true) and that he’s a little rusty (also probably true). Makabe controlled much of the match, frustrating Tanahashi by countering he Dragon Screw attempts and reversing the Sling Blade to a German suplex. Makabe dumped Tanahashi with a Spider Suplex (why Tana, why?) and followed with the King Kong Knee Drop for the three-count. It was fine, but I’m not a fan of Makabe and although I appreciated the story being told, it was not a particularly exciting main event. ***

B Block – Round Two

July 24th, 18:30 from Korakuen Hall, Tokyo

Tomoaki Honma vs. YOSHI-HASHI

Honma     YOSHI-HASHI

Battle of the Underdogs. Although I’m not sure we can call it that given both men won their matches in Round One. I might be projecting this, but Yoshi-Hashi seemed to have spring in his step, and his level of poise is increasing. Honma made the comeback after Yoshi had controlled much of the middle section of the match, and – of course – hit the Kokeshi. The Fire Thunder Driver got a near-fall, but the top-rope Kokeshi missed the mark. Honma reached the ropes from the Butterfly Lock and managed to block Karma then pulled out the Pillar Crash once again and this time connected with the diving Kokeshi Kai for the win. It took a while, because they didn’t seem to know who to cheer, but the crowd did eventually come, and the last couple of minutes picked up significantly – to the point where the sound was distorting! Two wins for Honma – what sorcery is this? ***1/2

Yuji Nagata vs. EVIL

Nagata     EVIL

Evil continued his habit of utilising a steel chair, much the referee’s ambivalence. Seriously, does he pay them off? He targeted Nagata’s leg, playing off the work Naito had done in the last match, and that kind of attention to detail warms my heart. Still, Nagata found openings with his superior striking ability, but Evil wisely went back to the left knee of his opponent if things got too hairy. The Darkness Falls fireman’s carry bomb earned a two-count, before Nagata grabbed the Shirome armbar which had Evil desperately scrambling for the ropes. A back-and-forth closing sequence culminated in Nagata hitting the backdrop then the Backdrop Hold for the three-count. It would’ve been odd if the protege had succeeded where the mentor failed, so I had Evil to lose here, but I’m sure Nagata’s knee will be an ongoing concern and eventually the wins will dry up for him. Strong effort. ***1/4

Toru Yano vs. Kenny Omega

Yano     Omega

Information about Yano’s t-shirt and DVD is included as part of his introduction – you’ve gotta love him. Omega’s experience in DDT was evident here and the comedy really worked for me. Yano used the turnbuckle pad like a chair and Omega demonstrated his prowess with the cold spray. Late on, both men caught the other with a low blow, then they slugged it out as each was holding their groin! Omega nearly got rolled-up, but struck with his variation of the Boma Ye for the win. Very enjoyable. ***1/4

Katsuyori Shibata vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima

Shibata     Nakajima

Shibara’s shoulder was taped up, and after a few minutes of Shibata being on top, that’s exactly what Nakajima targeted. He lifted Shibata’s elbows + corner dropkick sequence to the crowd’s disapproval and it seemed to piss The Wrestler off too, because he fought back and responded with the real thing. After being locked in the Octopus Hold, Nakajima reached the ropes in a display of manliness, then fired away with kicks. A diving dropkick nailed the shoulder, then Shibata shrugged off a backdrop to hit a German suplex, and both caught the big boot simultaneously. A tit-for-tat strike battle led to a German suplex into the turnbuckle from Nakajima, but the brainbuster was avoided. Three side kicks from Nakajima landed, but a running kick was caught and Shibata transitioned to the Sleeper, putting his opponent to the mat before striking the Penalty Kick for the three-count. A good old fashioned wrestling match in the strong style mode. I’m digging Nakajima’s deliberate pace and there was some strong chemistry with Shibata. ****

Michael Elgin vs. Tetsuya Naito

Elgin     Naito

Big Mike’s strength vs. Naito’s smarts was the story here. The LIJ leader went after the Canadian’s tree trunk legs, which was a slow-burn tactic, and didn’t stop Elgin doing damage with slams and suplexes, but it did eventually see results. Naito kept stomping away and cinched in the cross kneelock to further the damage. The constant smirking frustrated Big Mike and he channelled it into a comeback, slingshotting Naito in and catching him with a powerslam. A spot from the top-rope was messed up, then a back-and-forth led to Naito getting DVD’d into the turnbuckle. Ouch. Elgin hit the Big Mike Fly Flow for two, and moments later a second-rope sit-out powerbomb, also for two! The bucklebomb connected, but the Elgin Bomb was countered into an inverted ‘rana for the double down. Main Event Elbow Battle, then Elgin nailed a huge lariat. Naito flipped out of the Elgin Bomb, Elgin blocked Destino, but Naito rolled-through into the scissored kneebar! Elgin powered Naito up for a suplex and Naito countered into Destino! Destino once more and the three-count was academic. That one little botch aside, this was tremendous and had great heat as well as consistent selling, and if you have some love for Big Mike your rating will be higher. ****1/4

A Block standings after Round Two

  • Goto – 4
  • Makabe – 4
  • Tenzan – 4
  • Fale – 2
  • Marufuji – 2
  • Okada – 2
  • SANADA – 2
  • Tonga – 0
  • Ishii – 0
  • Tanahashi – 0

B Block standings after Round Two

  • Honma – 4
  • Nagata – 4
  • EVIL – 2
  • Naito – 2
  • Nakajima – 2
  • YOSHI-HASHI – 2
  • Omega – 2
  • Shibata – 2
  • Yano – 0
  • Elgin – 0

Final thoughts: The crowd heat on Day 3 was tremendous and helped lift what was an otherwise unremarkable show. Ishii/Goto and Okada/SANADA were decent, but nothing you need to go out of your way to see. B Block had them soundly bested in this round. Korakuen was much more responsive today than on Friday and it made for a consistently good watch. Two great matches to top Day 4 make it an easy recommendation.

Back tomorrow for Day 5 which sees Makabe and SANADA face off, as well as a CHAOS alliance tested when Okada meets Goto. See you then. 

Four down, fifteen to go.