I’m well-rested (well, as well-rested as one can be trying to tame two insane puppies all day and night) and ready to recap the second day of the G1 Climax! This one aired at the more reasonable time of 1am Central Time but I was still a bit too wiped from getting up at 4am for Day One that I crashed before the show started. Catching up on it in the morning, though, there is quite a bit to cover in both the tournament and non-tournament matches.
Shota Umino and Mike Elgin started things out with a losing effort to Bullet Club mainstays Hangman Page and Chase Owens. To be honest, I have a hard time getting into most of these guys. Elgin is a human trash fire, Page hasn’t had that breakout match for me that really grabs me, and while Chase is entertaining as all get out on commentary he doesn’t blow me away in the ring. I do enjoy Young Lion Shota, though, and he showed some nice fire in this match. He wound up taking the loss here in still an impressive showing while things ended as they always should – Mike Elgin looking dejected and upset as he walked away.
LIJ were in full force as EVIL and Bushi took out SHO and YOSHI-HASHI. EVIL was able to tap out SHO here to close out a match that was fine but nothing to write home about. I’m looking forward to EVIL getting past YOSHI on the 16th before he can move onto some more interesting opponents.
Minoru Suzuki and El Desperado were up next against Togi Makabe and Toa Henare. Suzuki put this one away with the Gotch Piledriver on Henare before getting nose to nose with Makabe after the bell. These two are set to meet on the 16th and I’m sure it’s going to be nothing short of a slugfest with these two burying forearms and knees into one another before, bless my bracket, Suzuki puts Makabe away. If you haven’t taken the time to watch Best of the Super Juniors I would urge you to work that into your schedule as well – it gave me a whole new level of appreciation for El Desperado who put on some amazing performances including a high-drama mask-ripping battle with Dragon Lee.
Bad Luck Fale and Tanga Loa picked up the win against Okada and Gedo with Gedo taking the pin from Loa. After the match Fale nearly hit Okada with the Bad Luck Fall on the floor but the former champion was able to escape. These two will meet on July 16th when A Block is back in tournament action.
Finally, Tanahashi and David Finlay squared off with Jay White and Yoh. The dissension within Chaos was evident from the very beginning here as Yoh put some distance between himself and Switchblade during their entrance even looking over his shoulder to keep eyes on him as they made their way to the ring. In the end, White reached under the ring for a chair for the second time this tour and nailed Tanahashi with it on the arena floor to the displeasure of the crowd. He handed the chair to Yoh in the ring and instructed him to hit Finlay with it; Yoh refused and found himself on the receiving end of Prima Nocta from Finlay for the finish. Yet again tempers flared in Chaos as Switchblade told Yoh that he should have listened to him before walking away without him. Even while playing the Japanese commentary the disappointment in what had transpired on Rocky Romero’s face was evident.
In the first tournament match of the night Toru Yano, attempting to reform his cheating ways, took on Tomohiro Ishii. The story here was that YTR was ready to wrestle and stand toe-to-toe with Ishii which he did to the delight, and often the surprise, of the crowd. He held his own against the Stone Pitbull but eventually fall to his old tricks. With an eye rake and removal of the protective turnbuckle pad the YTR of old was on display. Neither of these actions led to a victory but did get him close despite having two low blows stopped before they could make their marks. In the end it was Ishii connecting with a mule kick low blow before rolling Yano up for the three in a fun twist.
IWGP US Champion Juice Robinson would take on Tama Tonga in the next match where Juice’s broken left hand still came into play. Tama would unsuccessfully try to smash Juice’s digits in the ringside barricade gate before finally attacking it in the ring with kicks and stomps. Tanga Loa would play a role on the outside of the ring distracting Juice to allow Tama to gain an advantage and almost a count-out victory. Juice would rally back until Tanga would insert himself into the match once more prompting Juice to pull him into the ring and connect with the big left hand. Juice’s earlier attempt to connect with the punch on Tama would be thwarted under threat of disqualification. There was a scary moment near the end where Juice brought Tama up for either a suplex or brainbuster and brought his opponent down awkwardly on his head in a crumpled pile. Both men would bounce back leading to Juice attempting the Pulp Friction only to be reversed into a cutter from Tama for the three.
The NEVER Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto and SANADA were up next in a match that absolutely did not disappoint. This was a fairly back and forth affair especially at the end where each man was trying to put the other away with anything they had at their disposal. With the Skull End locked in it looked like Goto would fade and either tap or pass out, but SANADA broke the hold (perhaps unwisely) in an attempt to land a moonsault which did not connect. This left him open to Goto staging a comeback though he did still leave some openings in his attack. SANADA would have two more opportunities to tap Goto out with the Skull End, one coming after delivering his own Ushigoroshi to Goto. In the end, though, Goto would pick up the victory in a match that really reminded me of some of the NEVER Openweight battles with Ishii and Shibata that helped hook me on NJPW in the first place. Was disappointed to see SANADA fall here but I still have a soft spot for Goto and the match was too good to feel too bummed about. Still, though, give SANADA all of the belts.
Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre, Jr tore each other apart and slapped each other silly in a match that threatened to outshine the main event. The story here became Ibushi’s right knee which Sabre began to focus on after catching Ibushi in the act when attempting to hit the Golden Triangle. Sabre would lock Ibushi in submission after submission which, for me, is sometimes frustrating in a Zack Sabre match. He’s obviously incredibly talented and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad match of his, but it can be a bit much for me when he moves from submission to submission seemingly every other second. It just feels like the moves don’t get a chance to breathe or carry their own weight and you’re just watching him transition from hold to hold without the fear of an actual tap out coming. Still, Sabre would keep himself mostly zeroed in on the right knee throughout the remainder of the match. The final sequences of the match saw several near-falls on both sides as well as a ridiculous slap fight where both men looked like they could be knocked flat with each blow. Ibushi would eventually lower his knee pad and connect with a straightjacket German suplex before driving his knee into Sabre’s chest with the Kamigoye to pick up the win. Go back and watch this one if you missed it or rewatch it if you’ve already seen it once to catch all of the great facial expressions thrown by Ibushi as his annoyance grows by Sabre laying strike after strike into him. I especially loved the exasperated look on Ibushi’s face before burying his fist in Sabre’s lil tum tum. Next up is Kenny Omega and Testuya Naito, so we’ll see if Kota is the only Golden Lover to walk out with points on the B Block’s opening night.
Omega and Naito had some ground to cover to compete with Ibushi and Sabre, in my opinion, but they covered that ground and then some. The match had a bit of a slow start with each wrestler feeling the other out and even mocking one another’s mannerisms early on. Naito’s double-fakeout of a suicide dive on Omega was great as was watching Omega recoil in fear at the thought of being driven through the barricade. There were some fun spots outside of the ring with Omega planning to use the unprotected arena floor to deliver more impact but being caught with a Naito dive as he struggled with the ringside mats as well as a massive springboard splash into the crowd from the newly-crowned IWGP Heavyweight Champion. The last ten minutes or so of this match really need to be seen to be believed. Omega hit several V-Triggers, each one somehow more devastating than the last, with Naito coming back time after time and nearly closing out the match on two separate occasions with Destino. After several failed attempts to hit Destino a third time Omega countered into an inverted sitout piledriver followed by a double underhook sitout piledriver, both of which looked insane and sickening. At this point, Omega was able to hit the final V-Trigger leading into the One Winged Angel for the win. Instant classic. I’d love to see this one go twenty more minutes in the Tokyo Dome in January if I’m being honest.
Tomorrow we get Tanahashi and Jay White and Makabe taking on Suzuki amongst others. Like I said before, A Block is definitely not as stacked as B Block so there aren’t as many can’t-miss matches and we’ve already seen one in Suzuki and Tanahashi. When B Block is back on July 19 we’ll see three matches that could steal the show easily – Omega vs Goto, Naito vs Ishii, and Ibushi vs Juice. I may also be secretly pulling for YTR to tap out Zack Sabre without having to resort to underhanded tactics. Only time will tell!
What do your brackets look like for the G1 Climax this year? Who do you see in the finals and who do you see heading to the Tokyo Dome to challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Title? Let me know in the comments below!