NJPW G1 Climax Days 3, 4 and 5 (21st, 22nd and 23rd July) Review

RAAAAIIIINMAAAAKKKKEERRR! Credit: NJPW

The matches are coming thick and fast and keeping up with the G1 now feels as much like a challenge as a pleasure. Thankfully, it’s far from a chore as New Japan continue to deliver a sensational in-ring product. This is a catch-up as we round up days 3, 4 and 5 and it’s also going to be the moment where I tap out on the undercard. I did watch it, but it all blurs together and one tragic incident aside, I don’t have much to say. Anyway, on with the puro!

Day 3 (21st July)

Hirooki Goto defeated Yuji Nagata

Don’t piss off the veteran. Credit: NJPW

I am no expert on what defines strong style, but if this wasn’t it, I don’t know what is. There was something delightfully simple about this encounter. Two men went out to the ring and hit each other until one of them couldn’t get up again. However, there was an undercurrent of subtlety too. We saw Goto take control and get a bit too cocky, cuffing the veteran around the head. That turned out to be a mistake as it fired Nagata up and he came storming back. Of course, it wasn’t enough and as the match went on Goto regained control and took the win. I love this kind of wrestling, and I loved this match. Love that was amplified by the fantastic reception Nagata got at the end. Credit also to Goto for leaving the ring area and allowing the legend to basque in it.

Verdict: Four Stars

Tomohiro Ishii defeated Togi Makabe

Hit me baby, one more time. Credit: NJPW

If Nagata vs. Goto was a masterfully wielded weapon, then this was a sledgehammer to the balls. Two big fuckers beating the shit out of each other. There’s really not much to say about it. I’ve never seen their feud over the Never Openweight Title, but if it’s half as good as this, I’ll have to go back and check it out. It wasn’t pretty, but it sure was fun.

Verdict: Three Stars

Kota Ibushi defeated Zack Sabre Jr.

It was around this point Kota begun to regret coming back. Credit: NJPW

This was a pretty match. People have wanted to see this one for a long time after we were denied it at the Cruiserweight Classic, but the wait made it all the sweeter. Zack’s technical mastery and Ibushi’s flashy offence could have clashed, but I was impressed by the way they adapted to each other. Zack spent the early portion of the match cutting off Ibushi’s attacks, and I love the way he plucks leapfrogging wrestlers out of the air. Even better, however, was the way Ibushi changed the gameplan. Switching it up to go blow for blow with Sabre and use his size to floor the grappler. These two are on course for delivering multiple match of the year contenders in the next few weeks, and this one will be right up there with them.

Verdict: Four Stars

Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Bad Luck Fale

Boom! Credit: NJPW

This wasn’t the best match you’ll see in this tournament, but it might be one of the smartest. The story throughout was that Fale’s power allowing him to dominate Tanahashi and take advantage of his damaged arm. However, Hiroshi is no fledgeling, and the guy knows how to sneak out the win.  Countout finishes are usually screwy and leave the fans wanting more, but this was nothing of the sort. It made Tana look like the smartest man in the room, and it was helped by the fact the sling blade on the apron was perfect. Lovely stuff.

Verdict: Three Stars

Tetsuya Naito defeated YOSHI-HASHI

Nighty night. Credit: NJPW

YOSHI-HASHI kicked off the tournament with a fantastic match against Nagata and was looking to follow that up against Naito who overshadowed that performance with his against Ibushi. I don’t think this lived up to either of those, but it was still very good. Naito gave YOSHI a lot, and while common sense told you that he was unlikely to pick up the win, there were a few moments where I thought Naito was going to do the job. I wasn’t alone either, as the crowd slowly turned from Naito’s side to HASHI’s. Of course, Naito is one of the top guys for a reason, and he was eventually able to pull out the win but not without having a few scares before he got there.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Overall Show

Incoming. Credit: NJPW

Some people are calling this an all-time great G1 day. As a relatively new viewer, I can’t comment on that, but it was fantastic. Ibushi and Zack put on a clinic while Nagata continues to roll back the years. Tanahashi vs. Fale might not have been the best match, but it was smart, while YOSHI vs. Naito and Ishii vs. Makabe had plenty going for them too. If you have the time, watch all of this.

Day 4 (22nd July)

RIP Daryl

I hope he burns in hell. Credit: NJPW

It would be remiss of us not to take a second to pay tribute to Daryl. He was a good cat, and Fale, vengeance will come for you.

Toru Yano defeated Satoshi Kojima

Yano does Yano things. Credit: NJPW

I could probably just copy and paste this from the first Yano match, but this was what it was. If you find Yano funny, you’ll have found it funny. It was far too long, and it didn’t leave Kojima looking fantastic, but Yano is a strange proposition. It doesn’t actually matter if you lose to him, no one takes him seriously. He could pin Okada, Omega, Tanahashi and Naito and he’d still just be Yano.

Verdict: Two Stars

Evil defeated Juice Robinson

All the best, Honma. Credit: NJPW

Both of these men were coming off impressive first matches in this tournament, and that continued into this. Juice is being set up as a wounded warrior, and it works for him. He’s a natural babyface and having him go through this tournament getting the shit kicked out of him makes that all the more apparent. Meanwhile, Evil is brilliant at beating people down. There’s an arrogance to him that makes it all the more believable when he takes advantage of an opponent’s injury. The final sequence was fantastic, and once again we are in a position where we can say this was the best match of Juice’s career. If New Japan plays their cards right, we’ll be seeing this one again down the road when both of these men are even bigger stars.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Minoru Suzuki defeated Sanada

We’ve seen it all before MiSu. Credit: NJPW

It’s got to the point where I could skip the first part of Suzuki’s matches. I love him (although he also terrifies me) but he has a formula, and it’s all bells and whistles. Strike exchange, armbar in the ropes, into the crowd, some interference and then let’s get down to business. When this got down to business, it was good and told the story of the wily veteran getting the better of the younger stud. It also made Sanada look great as he was able to twist Suzuki up a bit himself which is a simple but efficient way to make anyone seem like a badass. Sadly, I feel I’m still looking for more from Minoru, and while he came close in the Omega match, he hasn’t shown it. Don’t tell him I said that, though.

Verdict: Three Stars

Kenny Omega defeated Tama Tonga

Perfect form. 10/10 Credit: NJPW

I gave Tonga a bit of a tough time after his first match and then had to go back and correct myself when I rewatched the finish. This time I’m not going to make the same mistake. He was great here. His frustration at Omega boiling over was entirely believable, and he played that part well. There were times when this was more about the angle than the match (and it will be far down the rankings come the end of this tournament) but the two of them told the story nicely and while it was on it was fun.

Verdict: Three Stars

Kazuchika Okada defeated Michael Elgin

This looks like it is going to hurt. Credit: NJPW

What a match. There were two or three points during this where I was confident that Elgin had the win but Okada’s incredible resilience shone once again. Elgin is often on the losing side at the moment, so it’s easy to forget just how good he is. However, every time he steps out there you get something special. These two fit together perfectly, slipping out of each other’s moves and Elgin had some fantastic counters to the Rainmaker.  However, that all important wrist control proved to be decisive once again. The moment when someone finally breaks that hold is going to be massive, and that’s entirely down to the way New Japan have built Okada.

Verdict: Four And A Half Stars

Overall Shows

Talented and photogenic. Credit: NJPW

With the main event likely to be one of the matches of the tournament, it’s safe to say this was a good show. However, the rest of the card wasn’t as spectacular as some of the other days. Omega vs. Tonga and Suzuki vs. Sanada were solid, while Juice vs. Evil was fun if nothing spectacular. However, with the horrific murder committed in the undercard who can blame performers for not being at their best? Definitely watch Elgin vs. Okada, but you can pick and choose from the rest.

Day 5

Zack Sabre Jr. defeated YOSHI-HASHI

Roll ups on top of roll ups. Credit: NJPW

These two had impressive starts to the tournament, but this match made it clear who New Japan have their money in. It wasn’t a squash, but Sabre controlled most of the action as he twisted up YOSHI in all manner of ways. I know Zack isn’t to everyone’s taste (although I’m firmly of the opinion that I can’t be friends with anyone who doesn’t like him) but watching him do his thing is fascinating, and this was a lovely showcase for him. While Hurrah! Another Year, This One Will Surely Be Better Than The Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All To Happiness is not only a snappily named move, but it looks awesome too.

Verdict: Three Stars

Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Yuji Nagata

Rolling back the years and being slapped in the face. Credit: NJPW

These two have clear stories going through this tournament. For Tanahashi, it’s the injured arm which we saw him try to avoid using during this match while all of his opponents are targeting it at every chance they get. For Nagata, it’s about the younger guys having just a bit too much for him. They also both happen to be fantastic wrestlers. Nagata is bringing it and these performances kind of make you wish this wasn’t his last run in the G1. Meanwhile, Tanahashi is Tanahashi, does more need to be said? He slipped into the heel role here because the crowd was so pro-Nagata and he did it with the ease he does everything. Which is even more impressive when you consider how much pain he must be in. Don’t sleep on this one because it includes an ‘older guy’, it’s one of the matches of the tournament so far.

Verdict: Four Stars

Bad Luck Fale defeated Tetsuya Naito

Failing to sparkle. Credit: NJPW

This is one of the few matches in the G1 so far to underwhelm. Not only did Daryl go unavenged but Naito and Fale never seemed to click. The match was controlled by the big man as he proved too strong for Naito to deal with and it led to a slow and plodding affair. The Bad Luck Fall always looks impressive, though. This is a perfect example of Fale doing his job and being a guy who can pick up a few wins and at the same time not hurt anyone’s momentum.

Verdict: Two Stars

Kota Ibushi defeated Tomohiro Ishii

Does anyone ever look better in defeat than Ishii? Credit: NJPW

Do I need to review this? Do you seriously need me to tell you that Ibushi and Ishii went out there and had a fantastic match? I mean the sky is still blue, AC/DC still play rock and roll and as far as I know, the pope hasn’t started shitting in the woods, so I think it’s safe to say that’s what happened. It was hard hitting, it was exciting and two of the best in-ring workers in the world did what they do. Ishii is such a fantastic seller, but he’s also one of the best no-sellers as he bounces up with a ferocity that is thrilling.  He is shining brightly every time he steps into that ring this year, and it’s a joy to watch. Ibushi, meanwhile, seems to be making up for lost time as everything he touches turns to gold. Watch this fucking match.

Verdict: Four Stars

Togi Makabe defeated Hirooki Goto

THUMP! Credit: NJPW

This seemed like a weird choice for the main event until you realised this was in Makabe’s hometown and suddenly the result seemed obvious. The match was what it was, two big bastards hitting each other hard. I’m a fan of that kind of thing, but compared to Goto vs. Nagata and Makabe vs. Ishii it struggled. It is worth saying that this run is the first time I’ve seen Makebe look motivated since I started watching New Japan and he’s a lot better than I thought he was.

Verdict: Three Stars

Overall Show

Come to Daddy. Credit: NJPW

Three out of five of these matches were good to great, and nothing was awful. Yet, it feels like one of the more missable shows, perhaps because the main event was one of the poorer efforts. However, there is still more than enough for you to get your teeth into here, and Ishii vs. Ibushi and Tanahashi vs. Nagata were brilliant.

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