The last night of A block was a hard hitting affair and while some matches were predictable, the overall ending was a surprise to almost everyone. Tenzan lost his final match, only amassing 4 points with 2 victories through out. The final G1 for the former Mr. G1 as this was his 20th and he’s won 3. He had a moment with his friend Kojima who gave up his spot for the man to try and have one last ride. Honestly the story was good until it went nowhere which started with his third match in and just spiraled into a losing streak. Still, the live audience was invested. Makabe and Ishii fought it out continuing their overdone feud with Makabe hoping to get a win after going from 4 straight wins to 4 straight losses while Ishii, despite being block MVP in many Western fans eyes, had a terrible win/loss record.
Then on to the matches that really mattered. Bad Luck Fale had a shot at the finals, he just needed some people to lose and to win his match against stablemate (maybe cousins?) Tama Tonga who was eliminated. Tonga decided not to lay down and the two went at it with Tonga spoiling Fales chances and tying him up in 4th place with three others. Then we got to Goto and Marufuji which threw me off. I originally picked Goto to spoil Marufuji’s chances at the finals but with the five way tie I figured the smart money would be to go with Marufuji. He keeps superstar Tanahashi in play and if Okada wins, Marufuji goes to the finals with a lot of buzz. Why would Goto win? He lost to both Tanhashi and Okada so he’d need a draw. Plus he has not had the best year and he already did the New Japan Cup finals which he lost. In fact, while I rated a few matches at **** or more he’s under-performed. Yet, Goto pulled it off. He beat Marufuji in an excellent encounter, easily his best match.
The last match up was the feud of the decade renewed. Ace Hiroshi Tanahahsi versus the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. The feud was suppose to be over but with NJPW working to fight off any drop off from audiences after the exit of several stars they booked these two in the same block, last time was in 2013 where they went to a draw. My prediction throughout this was Tanhahsi vs Naito in the Finals with Tanahashi one win ahead of Okada and then darwing in this match with Tanahashi advancing. Well-I got the draw right, but not the overall outcome. Besides that… GOD DAMN! While not on the level of their encounter at this years WrestleKingdom 10 it was among the three best matches of the tournament. The oepning stretch was incredible with Okada looking to end it early. To prove once more he is the man. These guys know each other so well so we got counters to counters. We got big moves that left me speechless. These two are gold, you see their hate for one another. This was brilliant. Yet, when the dust settled, the pair went to a draw. Right as Tanahahsi hit his finish and even though the bell rang during the count-Okada kicked out! The audience could not believe it. One of the best matches of the year and definitely the tournament. Some guessed Goto with their eyes toward his former partner Katsuyori Shibata or rival Tetsuya Naito who he beat at WrestleKingdom but lost to at the NJC finals. However his road here was a complete surprise. Who will he face?
Day 17 Match Ratings-SANADA vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan ***1/2, Togi Makabe vs Tomohiro Ishii ***1/2, Tama Tonga vs Bad Luck Fale ***3/4, Hirooki Goto vs Naomichi Marufuji ****1/4, Okada vs Tanahashi ****3/4
Final scores: Hiroyoshi Tenzan at 4, Tama Tonga at 8, SANADA at 8, Togi Makabe at 8, Tomohiro Ishii at 8, Bad Luke Fale at 10, Naomichi Marufuji at 10, Hiroshi Tanahashi at 11, Kazuchika Okada at 11, Hirooki Goto at 12.
Last write up there were two more Block B nights. Night 16 set up a three way tie at for second place, just on the heels of block leader and overall fave Naito. Of the three at his heels he beat Elgin, lost to Shibata and was yet to face Omega as the two would headline night 18. Basically a few things had to happen for Elgin, Shibata or Omega to win but this block was Naito’s to lose.
Day 16 Match Ratings-Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Kenny Omega ***3/4, Toru Yano vs EVIL **, Tetsuya Naito vs Yoshi-Hashi ****, Yuji Nagata vs Katsuyroi Shibata ****, Michael Elgin vs Tomokai Honma ***3/4
The last Block B day rolled on and we got those who were mathematically eliminated. After a hot start that put him briefly on top of the block, Nagata went on a losing streak. Honma had an almost similar path. Two years ago he won no matches, last year got won a single match towards the end of the tournament, but this year started off with two victories until the losing streak. This was about pride and Honma pulled an upset and tied on the bottom of the block. Next up Yoshi-Hashi hoped to go out with a win but stablemate and friend Toru Yano did his normal set of tricks to pull off a win and end with an impressive score.
From there we got the big matches. EVIL looked to spoil Shibata’s slim chances at the final. Shibata had a win over EVIL’s LIJ stablemate Naito. This was one of only two losses he took thus far. EVIL came out swinging and the pair had a great match, possibly the best of both their runs. The fans dug and EVIL continues to impress as he builds a reputation as a guy who can deliver strong performances. EVIL scores the win and Shibata, who is many fans top choice year in and year out, once more does not make the finals. Then Elgin was coming in with the hope of a three way tie at top. If he won his match, he needed Omega to beat Naito so it go to some weird tiebreaker. His opponent was Nakajima who had a strong run in his guest stint for the company and looked to end high. This was a hard fought match with the last seven minutes pulling the fans in. In the end, Nakajima pulled the upset defeating Elgin. He bowed to Elgin in respect and Elgin rose his hand. Nakajima ties Elgin, Shibata and Naito for second place.
Here its is. Los Ingobernables de Japon leader Tetsuya Naito comes in with 12 points and at the top. He’s the favorite to win the block, the tournament and go on to main event WretsleKingdom 11. Kenny Omega, leader of the Bullet Club, steps in with 10 points. If he could beat Naito, he ties for points but goes to the finals because of the victory. Its do or die time and Omega tried killing himself and Naito. This match over delivered. It ran like a big FUCK YOU to Tanahashi vs Okada. The two superstars delivered a brilliant main event the previous night and people had been eye rolling B block a snot delivering as many great matches. This was a great match, an amazing main event and arguably better than the previous nights main event. Both guys are heels but Naito is more beloved, playing the apathetic jerk. Omega is the video game villain, occasionally over the top. While respected and loved, not to the level in NJPW as Naito. The start of this match had me a little worried that it would not deliver as the two played up their gimmics and heel nature, but it just started to build and got wilder and wilder. In the end-to everyones surprise, Kenny Omega defeated Naito.
Day 18 Match Ratings-Tomoaki Honma vs Yuji Nagata ***3/4, Toru Yano vs Yoshi-Hashi *1/2, EVIL vs Katsuyori Shibata ****1/4, Michael Elgin vs Katsuhiko Nakajima ****1/4, Kenny Omega vs Tetsuya Naito *****
Final Scores: Yuji Nagata at 6, Tomoaki Honma at 6, Yoshi-Hashi at 6, EVIL at 8, Toru Yano at 10, Katsuhiko Nakajima at 10, Katsuyori Shibata at 10, Michael Elgin at 10, Tetsuya Naito at 12, Kenny Omega at 12
THE FINALS & THE FINAL NIGHT
I admittedly skipped the first two matches as they looked to have no reason or bearing on future feuds. Starting with GBH taking on the CHAOS tandem of Tomohiro Ishii and Yoshi-Hashi. Ishii and Makabe have been feuding on and off for over a year. This match also could lead to a tag title match down the line as NJPW needed to put more focus and effort behind that division. A pretty good match with a strong ending saw Yoshi-Hashi and Ishii win, making me hope for a match against Briscoes but we’d have to see how they do. Nexy up NJPW vs Pro-Wrestling Noah as Nakajima brought his buddies. A pretty hot 8 man match with an even hotter post match collision. Teasing more Noah vs NJPW in the future. While the crowd was hot, the match was just okay but GOD DAMN the headbutt Shibata gave Nakajima! It busted himself open.
Next up a pair of title matches. The tag scene, both heavyweight and junior, have never been that great since I started following. On this show the Briscoes made their first defense of the Heavyweight tag straps and once more showed the energy and impact the division has missed. They won the titles of G.O.D. who faltered fast with NJPW brass. The Briscoes had good match with Bullet Club tandem Hangman Page and Yujirio Takahahsi. Page can hang, Takahahsi is an example of someone with a good gimmick, look and moveset being pretty boring. Though here he was mostly inoffensive. The prospect of Briscoes vs Yoshi-Hahsi/Ishii sounds great. We also had Ring of Honor World champion Jay Lethal defend against legend Satoshi Kojima in a another very good match, that would have been great if a couple minutes longer.
Two multi-man matches to heat up feuds and future feuds. Los Ingobernables de Japon had the whole gang togetehr to take on Elgin, Tanahashi, Junior champ KUSHIDA and Juice Robinson. This teased a possible Elgin/Naito feud as Elgin owes naito an IC title match (him and his partner EVIL). They also teased Naito and Tanahashi, as it was their match at last years G1 Climax that was really the start of Naitos ascension to the upper echelon of the promotion. Also the continuing tension between KUSHIDA and Bushi, as Bushi is owed a title match after beating the champ in BOSJ tournament. All these possible feuds and more in a very fun 8 man match. Followed up with an okay 6 man between CHAOS with Marufuji and a Bullet Club trio. Okada, the champ, attacked Fale because Fale was one of three men who beat him during the tournament. He was teaming with one of the others, Marufuji. Why? Cause CHAOS stablemate Toru Yano is one half of the NOAH heavyweight tag champs with him. The match was fine, Tanga Roa who has been heavily criticized by Western fans and not getting over in NJPW was decent. Okada cut a promo, ready for Fale and Marufuji. The Noah rep offered a handshake but the champ refused.
But lets talk main event, shall we? Kenny Omega vs Hirooki Goto ****1/2. That’s my rating. Not the best of the tournament but definitely top 10. Goto once more comes up the bridesmaid. He’s won this before, hell he’s won the New Japan Cup multiple times, but this year he lost in the finals of both. Omega was just to good, too determined, and pulled out all the tricks. Call backs to his former partner/rival Kota Ibushi who is currently turning heads in WWE through both the Cruiserweight Classic and NXT. He threw back to the former leaders of the Bullet Club. Prince Devit, now Finn Balor who is a WWE superstar on the rise. Then AJ Styles himself. Goto is a talented wrestler, sometimes rigid in sticking to his moveset and while he did not pull anything new he did pull some old faves including his former finisher the Shouten Kai. I been not the most impressed with Goto though he’s put in several good to great performances but he went out there and gave it his all. The crowd? Thats hard to say, there was a portion pro-Goto and a section pro-Omega. The Omega side probably louder as Goto pulled some boos from cutting off some favorite Omega moves and going to work on the leg Naito did the night before. Goto still needs a new direction but is still positioned as a tough opponent. Omega? After speculation he was headed to Orlando (code for WWE’s NXT developmental) its clear Omega is NJPW for much longer. He even cut his first Japanese promo for NJPW, a sure sign there is more to come.
For statistics, the last time that a first time G1 competitor went to the finals was 2012 and that was current IWGP Heavyweight Champ Kazuchika Okada. Before him it was Goto in 2008. Both won those tournaments, and now Kenny’s name is added to that list. This is the first finals since 2008 where neither man has been IWGP Heavyweight champion. The first time since 2009 that neither Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi or Shinsuke Nakamura (currently in NXT) would be in the finals. Also, and possibly more importantly, Omega is recognized as the first foreigner to win G1 Climax. There had been Westerners who won the annual summer tournament before it was rebranded as G1 Climax. Two foreigners in Masa Chono and Riki Choshu won but are both generally recognized as Japanese natives. Chono is American born Japanese while Choshu is Korean-Japanese born in South Korea.
TOP 15 MATCHES
Top 15 Far…
15. Katsuyori Shibata vs Tetsuya Naito Day 8 7/30/16
14. Hirooki Goto vs Naomichi Marufuji on Day 17 8/12/16
13. Tomohiro Ishii vs Naomichi Marufuji on Day 7 7/28/16
12. Katsuyori Shibata vs EVIL on Day 18 8/13/16
11. Michael Elgin vs Katsuhiko Nakajima on Day 18 8/13/16
10. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Naomichi Marufuji on Day 13 8/6/16
9. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs SANADA on Day 1 7/18/16
8. Michael Elgin vs Tetsuya Naito on Day 4 7/24/16
7. Hirooki Goto vs Kenny Omega at G1 CLIMAX FINALS 8/14/16
6. Hiroshi Tanahahsi vs Tomohiro Ishii on Day 11 8/3/16
5. Kazuchika Okada vs Naomichi Marufuji on Day 1 7/18/16
4. Michael Elgin vs Kenny Omega on Day 8 7/30/16
3. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada on Day 17 8/12/16
2. Tetsuya Naito vs Kenny Omega on Day 18 8/13/16
1. Kazuchika Okada vs Tomohiro Ishii on Day 13 8/6/16
8 from A block, 6 from B block, plus the finals. My MVP for block A is Ishii. My MVP for block B is Omega.
All photos © Yahoo Sports Japan