NJPW’s huge G1 Climax is a week in. If you don’t know what its is, whose in it, or why I care check out this WRITE UP from a few weeks back.
So, its been a week and we’ve gotten five shows. So whats going on? Warning-spoilers ahead…
I actually submitted to Voices of Wrestlings Pick’Ems contest, and night one I scored 4 out of 5. I guessed one obvious upset, but not another. I shrugged, still started out good. Night two? One out of five. Night three? Two out of five. These last two shows been getting threes. I could not have guessed NJPW booker Gedo would have this many upset and surprise victors.
Night one, Block A, started off strong but the first big upset was a surprise when it probably shouldn’t have been. Sure the main event had Marufuji go over the heavyweight champ decisively, but even though Marufuji is a guest competitor he is still a star of a promotion that is partially owned by the owners of NJPW, of course he’d be booked well. Night two, Block B, and I guess the big main event upset, Honma over NEVER champ Shibata only because they had a title match a couple weeks prior. In three of the other four matches they let had their bigger stars lose. Kenny Omega might have lost some luster but he’s a veteran and popular with Western fans, and he drops to Yoshi-Hashi, who is generally a fall guy but now is playing the fan fave underdog. The IC champ Elgin loses to EVIL whose win loss record in singles leaves a bit to be desired. But the biggest sensation in NJPW, the odds on fave to win, Niato dropped to grizzled vet Yuji Nagata? WOW!
Each night after has featured at least one upset. Maybe night night 4… But night 5 had the biggest upset which leads to…
SANADA, Togi Makabe, Tama Tonga-the three men who beat NJPW’s long time ace, megastar, and 2015 G! winner Hiroshi Tanahashi. Tanahashi has a bad shoulder, was out for about two months, came back to be a part of this grand tournament. He’s delivered in his matches but he’s lost all three of his first matches. SANADA was a surprise, but in retrospect-shouldn’t have been. SANADA has everything NJPW wants in a star-good looks and excellent technique. Plus him and Tanahashi share a mentor in the legendary Keiji Mutoh except SANADA is the new model.
Makabe’s win only comes as a surprise when you see where Makabe is currently. He’s not in his prime and has not had a lot of good matches in the last year. But he is a vet, a former champ and G1 winner, and as he said at the press conference he is mroe famous than his Block A opponents as he hosts some sort of segment on a popualr variety show where he eats sweets. Go figure… But Tonga! Tama has been around for years, Bullet Club fall guy. 2016 got his push and its been lackluster. Looked to be the bottom of the block in Block A but gets on the board before Tanahahsi in a win that left the crowd fucking speechless. No one saw it coming. Tonga will probably still be on the bottom but damn!
SURPRISE BLOCK CAPTAINS!
Togi Makabe, who many picked would score only a few wins (I had him at 8 points or 4 wins) leads block A with 6 points. Everyone else has 2 or 4 points, except Tanahashi as the lone man with zero. Amazing! No one could have seen this coming. I expect when he gets to Okada or Marufuji we’ll seem him spiral.
Over in block B another long time NJPW, with 5 years on Makabe, Yuji Nagata leads with 2 wins, 4 points. He beat block fave Naito in his first night out and defeated Naito’s stablemate EVIL making a clean sweep of the blocks LIJ members. I expect Nagata to maintain top spot until at least Elgin, who right now is having a bad G1. The IC champ lost his first two matches but I’m sure he’ll turn it around. Nagata is very good at 48 and is putting on some good matches. Not great matches though but he’s still got fans fired up.
TENZANS FINAL RIDE
He’s not the oldest guy in JPW but he looks like it. In his 20th G1, Tenzan got a spot thats to his partner and looks to have one final big tournament. So far, he’s been the most consistent performer just behind Marufuji. I’m not a big Tenzan fan. I’m just not and in the companies current state he’s not in the right shape to keep up with the young’uns like Kojima, Nagata or even makabe but he’s been excellent thus far. Plus the crowd loves him.
THE BEST MATCH OF THE WEEK WAS NOT G1
Damn, that Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn match from WWE’s Battleground was the match of the month! Even with what looked like a botch half way through, it was brilliant.
LOTS OF GOOD, LITTLE GREAT? MATCH RATINGS
I actually don’t like giving match ratings, they don’t quite translate my feelings about a match. The ratings are useful. 1 star means bad, 2 stars means below average, 3 stars means good, 4 stars means great, 5 stars means classic. There are halves and quarters in there before you hit the 5 star range. So here’s my star ratings and for a few a quick write ups.
Day 1 Block A-Hirosyoshi Tenzan vs Tomohiro Ishii ***3/4 (strong opening match for the tournmanet), Tama Tonga vs Togi Makabe **, Hirooki Goto vs Bad Luck Fale ***, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs SANADA ****1/2, Kazuchika Okada vs Naomichi Marufuji ****3/4 (last two matches of night one really set the standard. Have not been touched IMO)
Day 2 Block B-Toru Yano vs Katsuhiko Nakajima **, Kenny Omega vs YOSHI-HASHI ****, Michael Elgin vs EVIL ***1/2, Yuji Nagata vs Tetsuya Naito ***3/4, Katsuyori Shibata vs Tomoaki Honma ***3/4
Day 3 Block A-Hirosyoshi Tenzen vs Tama Tonga ***3/4, Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii ****1/4, Naomichi Marufuji vs Bad Luck Fale ***3/4, Kazuchika Okada vs SANADA****, Togi Makabe vs Hiroshi Tanahashi ***3/4
Day 4 Block B-Tomoaki Honma vs YOSHI-HASHI ***3/4, Yuji Nagata vs Evil ***, Kenny Omega vs Toru Yano ***1/2, Katsuyori Shibata vs Katsuhiko Nakajima ***3/4, Michael Elgin vs Tetsuya Naito **** (Block B’s first great match of G1 for a lot of people. I didn’t rate it as high but if I did like it just a little more than the only other Block B match I gave 4 stars too.)
Day 5 Block A-Bad Luck Fale vs Tomohiro Ishii ***1/2, Togi Makabe vs SANADA ****, Hirosyoshi Tenzan vs Naomichi Marufuji ****, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Tonga ***3/4, Hirooki Goto vs Kazuchika Okada ***3/4 (last years G1 match with these was 5 star but this did not come close, but better than their February match)