So, it’s Thursday July 26 and we are on Night 4 of B Block, which almost brings us to the halfway point of G1 Climax. What have we seen thus far?
A Block: I have paid less attention to this one, because it has fewer wrestlers I enjoy (Minoru Suzuki being the obvious major exception)
The group is currently being led by Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jay White and EVIL.
Jay White started leading the block, but the two others caught up to him. It is unusual in G1 Climax for the person to be ahead at first to regain the lead later on. However, Jay White is also the most likely of the 3 to win the block. He is a hot, new heel, who time and time again goes against most Japanese heelish convention: is not particularly friendly to the rest of his stable, very cowardly and avoids getting in the ring–in many ways he is more like an American heel, but yet very much a Japanese wrestler. A match between him and Okada at the end of the A Block makes quite a bit of sense.
B Block: The only person, who has stayed undefeated, in either block, is Kenny Omega. I expect this to crumble on the last day, when he faces Kota Ibushi, his best friend, and to have Naito or, maybe, even Ibushi or Zack Sabre Jr to take the lead. It doesn’t make sense for the champion to win a block, he is not getting a title shot, nor should he win the block, depriving a chance to give another guy a big push.
So, with this recap, let’s go on to the matches:
1. Minoru Suzuki and El Desperado vs Michael Elgin and Ren Narita.Elgin has been delegated to opening round tag team with the Young Lions (Japan’s young trainees, who get their first matches and usually lose all in which they are going against main roster). I wonder what Elgin has done to deserve the demotion (not that I think he doesn’t deserve it), to teaming with Young Lions, a position most commonly has been reserved to veterans, like Yuji Nagata or Manabu Nakanishi (Kurosawa of WCW). Shota Umino, who is at the forefront of smaller Young Lions right now, deservedly, has been in most of these matches during G1. Suzuki and Elgin brawl outside a lot during this match, until eventually Desperado hits Pinche Loco (lightly spinning facebuster out of power bomb position) and pins Narita. Suzuki and Elgin brawl some more, because, guess what, they have a G1 Climax match tomorrow.
2. EVIL and Bushi vs Adam Page and Chase Owens.
Not a particularly good match, but decent. Each of these wrestlers is just awkward enough for the overall product to suffer. Bushi and Owens are the most likely pin candidates to take the pin, with EVIL eventually STOing Chase (think Russian leg sweeping with the wreslters facing in opposite directions).3. Bad Luck Fale and Tanga Loa vs Jay White and YOH
The storyline with Jay and YOH has been that YOH is unwilling to cheat and Jay lets him lose as result. Firing Squad, after destruction of the Bullet Club, on the other hand, has not had too many victories. Tanga Loa pins Yoh with Tombstone, but I didn’t see too much of this match.
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi and David Finlay vs Togi Makabe and Toa Henare
I hate Dave Finlay with the passion. He doesn’t look like a wrestler, he doesn’t act like a wrestler, in short, he is a wannabe who irritates me with every move, a complete opposite of his father, Fit. These four men are all part of Taguchi Japan. As Toa Henare is the youngest, I expect him to lose. Finlay stunners him to get the pin. Tanahashi and Magabe get into a confrontation afterwards, so you can guess who they face in A block match tomorrow.
5. Kazuchika Okada and Gedo vs Yoshi-Hashi and SHO
Another in-group tag match–these always sound better on paper than in real life. However, there is an upset in this one, as SHO package piledrives Gedo for the pin. It’s good to see Rappongi 3K get pins–IMO, YOH was the break-out of the Super Jr Cup earlier this year.
And now for what we are all really here for.
The tag matches that kick each night of the Climax off and that consist of guys from whichever block is not fighting tonight, are usually pretty unimpressive. These guys are having 30 minute singles matches, on TV, almost every night, and they need to conserve energy and endurance. But, here the G1 Climax portion of the show kicks off:
6. Hirooki Goto vs Toru Yano.
If you don’t know Toru Yano, he is in the same camp gimmick-wise as Santino Marella and James Ellsworth in WWE–comedic relief, he usually frantically runs away from initial staredown to take off a turnbuckle pad, tries to hawk a DVD and tries to win with low blows. However, he is actually funny, and, in the somewhat distant past, has made it far in G1 Climax. The story of this cup has been that Yano is actually trying to wrestle and win. He is getting huge chants from the audience as he is doing this. Here, however, Goto hits the GTR shortly after 2 minute mark. GTR is essentially clothesline downward to a guy held in reverse neckbreaker.
7. Tetsuya Naito vs Tama Tonga
Naito is the most popular wrestler in Japan right now. When he faces Kenny Omega, who gets huge support against everybody else, all you can hear is Naito chants. He is, maybe was, one of the two favorites to win the Climax (along with Okada).
Tonga, on the other hand, is the leader of the group, who just had the biggest angle of the year, after the Tongans betrayed the Bullet Club right after its reunion at the San Francisco show in July. And since? Since, they have barely won a match. Unlike WWE, almost all of New Japan wins/losses are very planned and justified, presenting a coherent picture when all are put together. For example, wrestlers who have had losses during this year got them back early on in G1, like Ibushi on ZSJ or Omega on Naito. But the Firing Squad? Almost no victories. Loss after loss, after I expected Tonga (most athletic man in BC, besides Kenny Omega) to compete for the Climax win, has resorted to not very successful cheating for both him and Fale.
Here Tonga comes out with Tanga Loa, who interferes towards the end of the match. As the ref is down, they beat down Naito. Bushi makes the save, but Bad Luck Fale also appears to turn the odds in Tongans’ favor, until EVIL clears the ring. I guess Sanada, who is in the main event, was saving energy for his match. Makes sense–but I will have some doubt about this later, as you will see. Naito tries for a couple of Destinos and eventually pins Tonga.
8. Zack Sabre Jr vs Tomohiro Ishii
Classic submissions vs power match. Tonight, however, Ishii matches ZSJ hold for hold. About twelve minutes in, he does hit two vertical suplexes and a power bomb. This should be it, but Sabre threatens him with a series of octopus holds, abdominal stretches and leg scissor armbars to seize the initiative back. The end comes as Zack slides out and nails the Fujiwara. Ishii taps at the end of a very good match.
9. Kenny Omega vs Juice Robinson
World champ vs US champ. Kenny is 3-0 in the climax, Robinson is 0-3. Seems like a good time to turn this around for both guys. Juice tries to hit Pulp Friction (double underhook facebuster with the guy behind you) but Omega escapes to end up on Juice’s shoulders, in time for One-Winged Angel (electric chair position pile driver) but Juice escapes and Kenny has to hit it again for a 4-0 record.
10. Kota Ibushi vs Sanada
Sanada has done really well in this Climax, both for quality of matches and fan support. Ibushi was in the co-lead until Yano taped his hands together and schoolboyed into a pin last time. This time? One of the best matches of the year ensues. Fans applaud and are, surprisingly, not on Omega’s best friend’s side, but on charismatic, talented, midcarder’s. Sanada doesn’t even do the usual mid-match Paradise Lock, so serious in this one. I thought at one point we were going to get the first G1 30-minute time limit draw. But, twenty minutes in, Sanada latches his usual finish, Skull End (dragon sleeper with body scissors) but there is no tap from Ibushi. Sanada then sprints, very quickly, into the corner, onto the top turnbuckle, and moonsaults onto Ibushi for a very satisfying 3-count. Second-best match of the G1 Climax so far. Sanada gets a huge pop, and it looks like we have a breakout star.