Arnold Furious: 23rd July 2015. We’re in Shizuoka, Japan for Day Two of the G1. Day One focused on Block A where Hiroshi Tanahashi and AJ Styles, the pre-tournament favourites, both racked up victories. After one night here’s the standings:
Hiroshi Tanahashi 2
AJ Styles 2
Tetsuya Naito 2
Hiroyoshi Tenzan 2
Togi Makabe 2
Doc Gallows 0
Toru Yano 0
Bad Luck Fale 0
Katsuyori Shibata 0
Kota Ibushi 0
Tonight the focus switches over to Block B. Day One rather cunningly set these matches up. Kojima vs. Ishii featured heavily in a tag match, which resulted in a pull-apart brawl. Everyone else faced each other in tag action also, and the headline event is Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Karl Anderson. While it’s not the stacked card that Day One was those two matches should be great and Honma vs. Nagata as well. Plus it’s the first singles match in NJPW for Michael Elgin…against Kazuchika Okada. No pressure.
This show differs from the first one, in terms of production. While the first show was a multi-camera deal, this one is very much a tour set up with just the hard-cam. Sometimes that takes away from the action and it’s very odd if you’re used to watching WWE but sometimes it helps to intensify the feeling that you’re at a wrestling show.
Today I face my first major challenge since G1 started…eye strain. I woke up and could barely see anything. Perhaps a down side to last nights Brit Wres Roundtable Podcasting and possibly nothing to do with the Wild Turkey I drank afterwards.
Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask IV vs. Yohei Komatsu & Jay White
You’ll have to excuse a lack of details on this match as I was still eating breakfast while it was happening. You cannot beat a well made BLT. It is food of the gods. The contest pits junior veterans Liger and TM against young boys Komatsu and White. It’s interesting to see the young boys in this environment. The hard-cam is a bit odd. It feels like you’re sitting in the audience at the show, which has pros and cons. The young boys don’t get much, generally given a shoeing as Liger tests their resilience before Tiger Mask finishes. This was really basic stuff. Both Liger and TM looked a bit disinterested.
Final Rating: **
Kota Ibushi, Togi Makabe & Captain New Japan vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Doc Gallows & Cody Hall)
The lights on the entrance rig are ridiculous here. To the point where I cannot see anything and I can understand why Bad Luck Fale is wearing shades. Normally only two kinds of people wear sunglasses indoors; blind people and assholes. Ibushi, perhaps forgetting he got himself injured last year, goes ahead and throws high spots into this one to stop the crowd getting bored. Otherwise it’s a bit of a grind with a lot of samey workers doing clubbering. Togi polishes Cody off in about five minutes flat with the King Kong Kneedrop. There was suckage here. Lots of it.
Final Rating: ¾*
Bullet Club (AJ Styles & Tama Tonga) vs. Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI
Yano demanding a clean break is a definite highlight of his act. It makes me chuckle. Before anything even happens here he’s into the ropes. “BREAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAK. BREEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAK”. Genius. Then he gets completely wigged out by Tama sliding around the mat, which is cool as Yano is normally not fazed by any of the tough guy acts in NJPW. It’s nice to see that something unnerves him. AJ Styles understandably takes this match easy. Most of it is heat on YOSHI-HASHI before Yano brings the usual comedy cheating and flukes a win by rolling up Tama. This was ok but the undercard has been brisk so far. Not that I’m complaining. The shorter the undercard the better. Especially if it’s just a bunch of tags. Although there is a concern here that they’re not building anything. Not like the tag matches on Day One where stuff was built up for this show. Yano and AJ were hardly involved with each other.
Final Rating: **1/4
Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Katsuyori Shibata & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito & Mascara Dorada
This is more like it. A far better, and more intriguing, mixture of talents. Tana vs. Shibata is the big feud in there, even if they’ve made it a friendly feud now. With Tenzan and Shibata teaming up there are two opportunities for someone to beat the shit out of that sulky bastard Naito. There’s every chance he won’t get along with Tanahashi either, seeing as they’re in the same block. Naito called Tenzan washed up in the pre-tournament hype, which is ok because he’s a heel and Shibata just hates everyone so there’s a very strong chance of Naito getting his ass handed to him. Naito, because he’s an asshole now, goes after Shibata’s bad arm, which confirms there are two guys in Block A that will want to beat the crap out of Naito. His heel persona allows for a lot of cheap short cuts, like running away. Or Naito’s laid back version of running away. When Tenzan finally traps him Shibata tags himself in because he wants to kick Naito’s ass more! Shibata’s aggression levels makes me think the Naito match on Day Three will be solid. Naito shows some strong psychology too by not only working Shibata’s legitimately injured arm but also the leg that AJ worked over on Day One. Even Dorada and Taguchi have fun in this one with Dorada hitting some fun dives and Taguchi his usual butt-based offence. Unfortunately he smacks Dorada in the face with his bottom for the win after some stupid posing that makes me despise him. First really good match on the show, much like Day One where they saved a good multi-person tag for right before the intermission.
Final Rating: ***
G1 Climax Block B
Satoshi Kojima vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Pre-Match pick: Kojima. It pains me to go against my boy Ishii but Kojima’s big lariat tends to end him. Also there’s logic here. Their last three singles matches have gone: Ishii win, Kojima win, Ishii win. There’s a pattern emerging. The build for this one, with them having a pull apart that busted Ishii’s lip on Day One, has me primed for this match. They carry on where they left off by wailing on each other from the bell. It’s the kind of contest where neither man wants to back down or show weakness. It’s the kind of wrestling that defines Japan. Ishii is, for me at least, the definitive Japanese worker for that very reason. In your face and gutsy. While the match mostly consists of back and forth brawling there are some tasty big spots too. Ishii takes a wonderful bump off the Koji Cutter and headspikes a DDT and the impact from an Ishii stalling superplex is intense. They even get a bit of psychology in there with Koji and Ishii going after lariats and working each other’s arms to stop it. Kojima is forced to switch arms and because it’s his weak arm Ishii kicks out. It’s good use of trademarks and common sense. Ishii brings his great selling too, where you’re not sure if he’s really injured because of how he holds himself. Ishii’s defensive headbutts are immense. Brainbuster puts Kojima down and gets Ishii off to a winning start. I love Ishii so I’m not even upset about him ruining my predictions. Great little match. Intense. Ishii is going to have a good tournament this year, I can feel it.
Final Rating: ****
G1 Climax Block B
Hirooki Goto vs. Yujiro Takahashi
Pre-Match pick: Goto. He’s the IC champion and Yujiro is dreadful. At least he brings Mao with him and the perverted cameraman finally discovers the zoom function to check out her rack. The match is about as good as you’d expect. Goto even puts a fucking chinlock in it so Yujiro can do his bullshit thumb biting spot. At least they run it back the other way so Goto can lift it and get a few chuckles. The rest of the match sees Goto giving Yujiro way too much respect and hardly ever dominating the punk-ass bitch. The match improves down the stretch with some nice counters, Goto especially sliding out of stuff. Shouten Kai finishes Yujiro off and gives us the inevitable conclusion. This did not start at all well but the last couple of minutes picked up nicely. By that point they had pretty much lost the audience though.
Final Rating: **1/2
G1 Climax Block B
Tomoaki Honma vs. Yuji Nagata
Pre-Match pick: Nagata. Because Honma always loses. Part of the joy of watching Honma is hoping that he’ll win. These guys tag together quite often, and as recently as 11th July, so they know each other quite well. Honma gets the biggest reactions of the night too, getting chants going at regular intervals. Given how quiet the crowd as been tonight, it’s probably in their best interests to save a Honma win for a bigger venue. Especially as Nagata’s aims are surely higher than Honma in this tournament. He wants to push toward the final, Honma wants to win a match. Honma shows a lot of resilience and Nagata beats the crap out of him. As per usual a lot of the story revolves around Honma’s desire to hit Kokeshi’s. He hits one standing and gets overconfident. Part of his charm is the combination of pluck, tenacity and uncertainty. You can see him thinking if he’ll be able to get that Super Kokeshi and costing himself time with the procrastination. He ends up scoring an unusually high number of Kokeshi’s, two of the torpedo variety, before being felled by not one but two Backdrop Drivers (the first one being of the release variety and a hideous looking head drop). This didn’t quite have the vibe of some of Honma’s matches from last year, where he was a late replacement. Very strong wrestling though with Honma showing testicular fortitude and Nagata showing his continued resistance to the aging process. I think I lost a little enjoyment during this as I developed indigestion. This was the only match effected and I tried to go back to it and re-watch but it just reminded me of the indigestion. Damn you, body, co-operate! We’re only one Day Two.
Final Rating: ***3/4
KOKESHI COUNT: 1 missed. 3 hit.
SUPER KOKESHI COUNT: 1 missed.
G1 Climax Block B
Kazuchika Okada vs. Michael Elgin
Pre-Match pick: Okada. The IWGP champion vs. a guy who’s never had a singles match in New Japan? Normally that would be easy but AJ Styles beat Okada under similar circumstances in his first match in New Japan. Elgin is out to shock the world and beating Okada would certainly do that and probably guarantee him a title match between now and Wrestle Kingdom because that’s how Okada rolls. He does not take G1 losses lightly. Elgin is freakishly powerful, which gets him over with the crowd pretty quickly. He can’t get reactions for his near falls though because nobody buys him as a threat. Perhaps Okada wasn’t the best idea for his first match. Having him beat someone first might been a better idea. Elgin is a touch sloppy, not connecting cleanly on his flip on the ropes or a double stomp. I’m a big believer in sticking to your strengths and Elgin is out to impress in ways he doesn’t need to. He’s fine by doing all the big power moves, like jacking Okada up deadweight for a suplex. These little irritations take the sting out of the match but it remains a solid contest. Mainly because of Okada’s presence but also because of Elgin’s freaky power moves. Elgin knows Okada from working with him ROH so he recognises the set up to a few of his trademarks, not just the Rainmaker. Okada getting the Tombstone on the big man is very impressive and that’s enough to set up the Rainmaker for the finish. Surprisingly good contest, with Elgin growing in front of the crowd as the match continued. It’s a good way to catch his footing before more challenging matches roll around.
Final Rating: ****
G1 Climax Block B
Karl Anderson vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Pre-Match pick: Nakamura. Come on, it’s Nakamura. I have him winning every match. Seeing as his record will be very strong in the tournament I think that’s a fair bet. Karl does have his support out here (Fale and Cody included) but normally G1 means no interference. Even the IWGP title doesn’t get that kind of respect. Anderson is gifted enough to have a quality match without any help and his understanding with Nakamura allows for some tidy near miss sequences. Karl’s tactics lean toward illegal with hair pulling and eye rakes. I’m fine with heels being heelish, as long as we don’t get too much interference. Especially when good wrestlers are involved. Anderson does some top work on Nakamura’s neck, including a wicked diving neckbreaker. It’s better than working over Shinsuke’s legs as he won’t sell that. The neck allows Nakamura to do some selling without it drastically effecting his move set. It is a pretty slow paced match up because of this. Spending time building up to bigger spots, like the TKO off the top. Logically all this neck work would lead to Anderson getting a pin, seeing as his finish the Gun Stun works the neck, but in the main event? Surely the native babyface goes over. No sooner did I type that Anderson floors Nakamura with the Gun Stun to win. Holy shit. Ok, I didn’t see that coming. Good use of logic and body part psychology in this one. Karl earned the W. Not the most thrilling of main events though. It’s very weird seeing Karl close out the show with an interview, referencing his 2012 G1 Final. This win certainly puts him in contention and the interview, in Japanese, is a babyface move.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Picks: 6/10. Damn you, Karl! Three right and two wrong, the exact same thing that happened on Day One.
Summary: A very strong second day. Almost all the tournament matches delivered. The one disappointment coming from the Yujiro Takahashi match and that’s entirely expected. The hard cam and lack of commentary was a bit odd but most of the action took place in the ring so it wasn’t really an issue. Four of the five tournament matches were over *** so that’s arguably better than Day One where only two matches clocked in as ‘good’. But Tanahashi vs. Ibushi remains the best match in G1 so far.