August 14th, 15:00 from Ryogoku Kokugikan (Sumo Hall), Tokyo
It’s the final, and Kenny Omega vs. Hirooki Goto is the main event to determine the winner of the G1 Climax. This is the 19th show since the tournament started on July 18th and somehow I’m still pumped. Let’s get to it!
Here we go…
Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Ryusuke Taguchi & David Finlay
A fun and incredibly fast-paced opener. A couple of quick heat segments on Tiger Mask gave way to a minute of mayhem and Tiger Mask was the man to pick up the win over Finlay with a double undertook suplex from the top. **1/2
Jado & Gedo vs. Captain New Japan & Yoshi Tatsu
Forgettable stuff. Jado and Gedo heeled it up and Captain took most of the offence. Yoshi Tatsu made a heatless comeback, but Jado got the submission by forcing Captain to tap out to the crossface. *1/2
YOSHI-HASHI & Tomohiro Ishii vs. Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma)
Headline news: Honma’s first Kokeshi attempt landed! The smile was priceless. He was otherwise imperilled for the opening minutes until catching Ishii with the deadlift suplex, then Makabe was tagged in and ran through his usual routine. Ishii and Makabe slugged it out, then Yoshi-Hashi was tagged in and briefly held his own. Honma missed Kokeshi Kai, naturally, then got double teamed for a near-fall before Yoshi-Hashi claimed the win by hitting Karma. Decent match, and I’m pleased to see Yoshi-Hashi pick up a deserved win after his G1 exploits. If there’s no room in the singles picture for him right now then a tag team run with Ishii isn’t the worst idea.
Katsuhiko Nakajima, Maybaych Taniguchi, Masa Kitamiya & Go Shiozaki vs. Katsuyori Shibata, Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan
We got a little of Nagata/Kitamaya, then Tenzan came in to a big reaction and faced off with Taniguchi before the NOAH team rushed the ring. Shiozaki was next, and Tenzan struck some Mongolian Chops to bring in Shibata, who hit a few corner dropkicks before he and Nagata landed stereo suplexes. Big strike battle and Shiozaki scored a left-handed lariat. Nakajima was tagged, and he hit the Penalty Kick for a two-count. Shibata fired back with a disgusting unprotected headbutt that left him bleeding (“you made me bleed my own blood” to quote Nelson Muntz), then Nakanishi came in and the New Japan guys laid into Nakajima. Team NOAH evened the numbers and Nakajima delivered the brainbuster to Nakanishi for the win. A huge post-match brawl followed and it took several attempts to separate the teams. Enjoyable match with palpable heat. A NOAH vs. NJPW feud definitely has juice. ***1/2
IWGP Tag Team Championship
The Briscoes (c) vs. Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi (Bullet Club)
The Briscoes struck immediately, Jay with a suicide dive and Mark with a moonsault from the top-rope to the floor. In the ring, Page hit Jay with a title belt and the Bullet Club representatives took control. The tag was made and Mark scored with a run of offence including a diving elbow from the apron onto Page on the floor. Page replied with a slingshot clothesline over the barrier and rolled Mark back in for a one-count. Takahashi did a bunch of stuff, so did Page, and the crowd barely reacted to any of it. A suplex allowed the tepid tag to be made. More stuff happened, including a DVD on the apron to Page, and they were working hard, but the virtual silence was embarrassing. The Bullet Club boys hit a big double team move for a near-fall, then the Briscoes delivered the Doomsday Device for the win. Maybe if you watched without sound it would seem okay, but to me, this was a waste of a title match. The division is a heatless mess of foreigners and no-one cares. *1/2
They teased a ‘time bomb’ going off in 1991 hours (83 days – Power Struggle on November 5th). Let the speculation begin.
Ring of Honor Championship
Jay Lethal (c) vs. Satoshi Kojima
Lethal spent most of the opening five minutes wearing Kojima down, then started chopping Kojima, which was a mistake. A charged was missed and Kojima fired off the machine gun chops and landed a diving elbow for two. A rolling elbow was ducked by Lethal and he hit a couple of back suplexes, a backbreaker/facebuster combo (sort of), and a diving elbow for two. Kojima then avoided the Lethal Injection and used Tenzan’s Mongolian Chops and Anaconda Vice! Brainbuster – two-count only. A left-handed lariat landed and the crowd was willing Kojima to finish the job, but he was knocked to the floor and Lethal delivered a couple of suicide dives. The Lethal Injection was blocked again, this time with a lariat, but Lethal grabbed the referee and hit Kojima with a low blow before finally delivering the Lethal Injection for the win. Perfectly acceptable wrestling. ***
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, KUSHIDA & Michael Elgin vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón
LIJ took their sweet time and Naito/Tanahashi was teased, but Sanada came in instead and hit his leapfrog dropkick within moments. Juice and Kushida quickly exchanged tags to stay on top of Bushi, and Kushida, of course, targeted the arm. The match broke down and LIJ took advantage. I noticed Sanada was using LIJ-branded wristbands to keep his elbow taping in place – that’s how you merch! Naito entered the fray to hit the slingshot corner dropkick, but Kushida nailed a straight punch (and a handspring elbow to Evil) and made the hot tag to Elgin. Big Mike ran wild, delivering a double Oklahoma Slam to Evil and Naito and combination slam to Bushi and Sanada. Falcon Arrow to Naito for two. Elgin slung Tanahashi onto Naito for a splash that earned another two-count, then Naito hit back with the rope-assisted tornado DDT. In came Evil and Juice, but Bushi interfered with a Codebreaker and Evil connected with a fisherman buster for two. Things got crazy and finishers were landed all over the place before Evil delivered the STO to Juice for the three-count. A typically fun multi-man tag. Lots of potential directions for Los Ingobernables and I’m digging the unpredictability. ***1/2
Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & Naomichi Marufuji vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Guerillas of Destiny)
It was good to know that Yano’s fear of Tama Tonga extended to his brother Tanga Loa too. He was posted crotch-first as the ref was distracted, then Fale tagged in to step on him. Yano was eventually able to make the tag after a hair pull and Marufuji ran wild chops, but Tonga ducked the kicks and did his rope-running thing before landing a dropkick. Moments later it was Okada being tripled teamed and the ring was cleared to leave him alone with Loa. The Dropkick connected, as did the diving elbow, and the Rainmaker was signalled. Okada got rid of Fale, then nailed Loa with the Rainmaker for the win. Fine. **1/2
Post-match, Okada challenged Fale and Marufuji!
The commentators discussed the G1 finalists and we got a nice video package of the highlights of the tournament.
G1 Climax 26 Final
Hirooki Goto (A Block) vs. Kenny Omega (B Block)
Omega struck the first significant blow with a hurricanrana, but Goto ensured the suicide dive didn’t happen and went to Kenny’s knee with a kick. Big boos from the crowd for that. Figure-four, Omega made the ropes, and Goto sent him to the floor. Omega kissed the G1 trophy then hit an Asai moonsault off the barrier! He followed with a slam to the apron and an apron powerbomb (after threatening to throw Goto to the crowd) and Goto just made it in before the count. Rude Awakening back in the ring and a modified chinlock until Goto made the ropes. Chops from Omega and the leapfrog bulldog for two, before Goto fired back with chops of his own and a lariat to get back into it. Spinning heel kick, diving elbow, two-count. Split chants from the crowd, and Kenny unleashed a spitwad and hit the Finlay Roll/Moonsault combo. Goto invited Omega to use elbows, but he used an eye rake instead, and followed with a snap Dragon suplex to send Goto to the floor. Tope con hilo! Missile dropkick to Goto’s back, but a charge was countered to the Ushigoroshi and both men were down. Goto delivered a lariat to Omega on the apron, then lifted him onto the top-rope and delivered the super Ushigoroshi for a near-fall! Sleeper locked in, reversed, then locked in again, and Omega flipped out of a German suplex (tweaking his knee) to hit the fisherman Ushigoroshi. V-Trigger! One-Winged Angel countered to another Sleeper, but Omega climbed to the top-rope carrying Goto and fell back onto him – the crazy bastard! Main Event Elbow Battle time and Kenny busted out Ibushi’s Golden Star powerbomb for a near-fall! Up top went Omega, but the Phoenix Splash missed! Huge kick from Goto for two, then headbutts and the spin-out facebuster for another near-fall. Omega kneed out of the GTR and hit a snap Dragon suplex for two, then Goto caught the jumping knee and delivered a lariat to put Omega down. Shouten Kai! 2.9! Bloody Sunday from Omega!!! Styles Clash!!! 2.999!!! ONE-WINGED ANGEL!!! ONE, TWO, THREE!!! Yes! Yes! Yes!
The match started slow but picked up tremendously, with both men pulling out moves from their past, and in Kenny’s case paying tribute to his former partner and the former Bullet Club leaders, but crucially ending the match with his own move. Credit to Goto, too, who absolutely held up his end. This was a very good match with a fantastic closing stretch. And that ending. That f------ ending. ****1/2
Kenny Omega wins the G1 Climax 26
Kenny refuses to fly the G1 flag, flies the Bullet Club one instead, and says they’re anything but done because Bullet Club is 4 Life. He tells all the wrestlers – even the guys in Orlando – he’s better than them. He then delivers a promo in Japanese and challenges Okada and the crowd love it! Goodbye and goodnight. The confetti falls and we’re out.
Final thoughts: So, so happy for Kenny Omega, who becomes the first foreigner to ever win the G1 Climax. I was nervous ahead of the main event, which is a testament to how invested I was in the result – I even worried that Omega was getting too much offence in the first half! But he pulled it off and I couldn’t be happier.
The NOAH/NJPW and CHAOS/LIJ tags both had tremendous heat and suggest those feuds will be ongoing, but this was a one-match show and that match delivered. More than that, it demonstrates New Japan’s willingness to move forward, try new things, and push new stars. This G1 was a more consistent and, crucially, unpredictable tournament than last year and I loved it.
There will be one more G1 Climax post coming tomorrow – a round up of the whole tournament – then I’m back next Sunday for the Super J-Cup.
See you then.
Nineteen down, none to go.