Saying Goodbye to “Mr. Wrestling” in Ring of Honor

I am unabashedly a Ring of Honor fan. I accept all of the criticisms and acknowledge that many (if not all) of them are warranted, but I have such a special place in my heart for the Ring of Honor of 2003 – 2007 that no amount of Jim Cornette and Davey Richards can sour me on the company. It is with my ROH fan boy hat in hand that I wanted to review ROH TV Ep #152 when it came out. My real life took control and I wasn’t able to do that but as I start to craft some new content (new content is coming) for this site and it transmorphs into something new I wanted to make sure that I talked about Kevin Steen’s final match in Ring of Honor.

Steen’s final match took place on July 19th in Dearborn, Michigan against Steve Corino. I won’t spend much time talking about Corino’s importance in Steen’s career right now, I’m working on a review of the Steen “Hell Rising” DVD where that relationship is covered in more detail. However, the important think to know is that Steen holds Corino in very high regard, credits him with a lot of his success and in a post-El Generico world, there really was no better person to select as Steen’s farewell opponent.

I think the thing that makes Steen’s farewell so much different from those of CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Nigel McGuinness or El Generico (to say nothing of Richards, Tyler Black or Eddie Edwards) is that it was so unexpected. Steen has always been the type of guy that figured to spend his career as the king of the independents without ever having the steady income that a contract with Connecticut would provide. Whether it was “body type” or “wrestling style” Steen just didn’t fit the mold of a WWE Superstar. The ROH regulars that went before him made sense, for the most part every time WWE would raid the independents (and ROH in particular) we could see the thought process. Even Generico, who sans mask was a wild card was just so spectacularly gifted in the ring that you assumed he’d have a successful few years as an enhancement talent before showing back up in PWG with a bigger retainer.

It wasn’t until Steen popped up on the Steve Austin podcast that it dawned on me that he was going to get a shot with the WWE. When a slimmed down Steen started showing up at different events it really hit home that he was doing something to catch the eye of someone in Stanford. The move, beyond financially, made sense from an entertainers point of view. Steen peaked in ROH with his championship victory and feud with Jim Cornette. When Cornette was run out of the company Steen lost some steam. He became “too important” to hold the ROH World Championship but without Cornette as the focal point of his anger he was a bit of a rudderless ship. Nothing confirmed that more than his feud with Michael Bennett over the use of a piledriver. Steen needed a fresh start, he’s someone who it is almost impossible not to cheer for. He has a delightful Canadian accent, he is friends with one of the most likable WWE superstars of all time, he is a true “fan” of the form and there is truly nobody on the independent scene that is better at doing what they do well, than Kevin Steen.

So with that backdrop Episode #152 of ROH TV featured the farewell match for Kevin Steen. I was nervous about this one, Corino isn’t exactly in the best shape of his career, but as soon as it spilled outside and Steen threw on an El Generico mask to yakuza kick Corino as the crowd sang “Ole! Ole! Ole!” I knew we were in for a special night. The match was the type of match that you imagine two old friends would have on a special night. Both of them made sure to sprinkle in enough homage spots to pop the crowd and touch on the history of the company that Steen would be leaving behind. The Generico spot was great, Corino doing a Dusty Rhodes dance (Steen’s other great influence) and Steen following it up with a Flying Asshole (hi Colt Cabana!) was great as well.

The match itself was fine. It was pretty obviously a fan service match and the audience in Dearborn for whatever reason was relatively tame throughout. They cheered for spots, more than anything (though that’s not unexpected) and I thought they were really quiet in the ramp up to the finish. Considering it was Steen’s last match you would’ve thought the pop-up power bomb into the package piledriver would’ve elicited more emotion from the crowd.

My problems with the entire thing is this — ROH TV goes to commercial with the crowd chanting “THANK YOU STEEN” at the end of the match. Really? Way to space out your commercial breaks so as to not interrupt one of the genuinely good moments in your company. When we came back from commercial though we did get the final wrestlers obligation, which is to give someone the rub on their way out the door. Jimmy Jacobs comes out and hugs Steen, which of course leads to BJ Whitmer and Roderick Strong attacking Steen and Corino only to be chased off by the locker room emptying. So The Decade gets the rub from Eddie Edwards and Kevin Steen leaving and I’m still nonplussed by them.

Ultimately Steen now moves onto the next phase of his career, and if you were wondering how excited I am about that move — here is a picture that exploded my heart.

 

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NJPW “G1 Climax 24″ the one I avoided writing because I don’t want it to be over

The Seibu Dome is huge and the entrance ramp is about ten thousand miles long.

 

The video screen behind the entrance ramp is awesome.

 

Did you love the G1 tournament and think it was a series of some of the greatest matches you’d ever seen? Well now that’s over and here’s a bunch of dudes you either don’t already know, or never really liked to come muck everything up in multi-man matches.

 

Ryusuke Taiguchi, Tiger Mask, Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan v. El Desperado, TAKA Michinoku, Davey Boy Smith, Jr., Lance Archer: Immediately I’m disappointed by this match because El Desperado didn’t come out through the crowd but I’m immediately back on board with Taichi accompanying Suzuki-gun to the ring. Even in multi-man matches I guess we’re not done with the TenCozy/Killer Elite Squad feud. TAKA finally getting into the ring after being ringside for a million matches during the G1, and he immediately apes Rocky Romero with that corner lariat spot. The crowd goes wild when Tiger Mask gets the hot tag to Kojima. It probably doesn’t need to be repeated but this crowd is absolutely massive. This was a really fun and hot match that had bodies flying everywhere — everyone had a chance to look good and the match ended with Taiguchi hitting TAKA with the Dodon and getting the pinfall victory for his team. Fun way to open the show and set the tone.

 

BUSHI, Manabu Nakanishi, Yuji Nagata v. Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi, Bad Luck Fale, Doc Gallows): BUSHI stepping in for an injured Togi Makabe. I’m guessing there are mixed feelings all over the world as to that substitution. Gallows has his noose back, and Fale is wearing a bandana over his mouth, which I think might be the first time I’ve ever seen him wearing the bandana. I had a feeling going in that this wasn’t going to be a match that I loved, and it wasn’t. I thought Nagata was great , everyone else was just there. Yujiro picks up the win for Bullet Club after the Miami Pimps on BUSHI.

 

YOSHI-HASHI, Kazushi Sakuraba, Toru Yano v. Shelton Benjamin, Takashi Iizuka, Minoru Suzuki: If I skipped this match completely would you blame me? At this point the Toru Yano/Minoru Suzuki feud has become the Israel/Palestine of our time – it’s a never ending cycle. We will all die and Yano and Suzuki will still be feuding in the afterlife. If you’re a fan of Iizuka walking through the crowd this is the match for you because he has to walk about three hundred yards to get to the ring. You’ll forgive me if I never really got into this match until Suzuki and Sakuraba wound up in the ring together just slapping the shit out of each other. Even Suzuki and Sakuraba couldn’t help me get into this one because Suzuki just lost his shit, attacked the ref, choked out Sakuraba in the ropes and wouldn’t let go, then all hell broke loose. I’m kind of at a loss about this whole thing, it’s probably better if we just move on.

 

Captain New Japan, Jushin Thunder Liger v.The Kingdom (Adam Cole, Michael Bennett): Michael Bennett throwing Maria at Captain New Japan to stop him and distract him is fantastic, seriously only the lowliest of heels needs a distraction to get the better of Captain New Japan. I can’t imagine anyone in this audience really knows who Michael Bennett is (or Cole for that matter). They do know Liger though and the crowd gets loud when he makes the hot tag from Capt. New Japan. I will give credit where it is due, Cole and Liger had some nice chemistry when they had the chance to be in the ring together, it doesn’t hurt that one is arguably the best wrestler of all time and the other is one of the best wrestlers in the world right now. Of course Maria winds up on the ring apron doing a strip tease to distract Capt. New Japan, otherwise why would she even be here, crowd popped for that because JAPAN. Bennett uses the distraction to hit the piledriver on Capt. New Japan and ladies and gentleman Michael Bennett just scored the pinfall in a match for New Japan Pro Wrestling. This is not a drill. I liked that, didn’t love it – but it was fun for what it was.

 

*IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship* Time Splitters v. reDRagon: After the Young Bucks I think you’d be hard pressed to find two better tag teams on the planet right now than these two, which is why the fact that they put on a potential Match of the Year should be no surprise to anyone. Heading into this match you’d have to assume that reDRagon would be a very popular act in Japan. Loved the tandem offense employed by reDRagon to focus their attack on Alex Shelley’s injured shoulder. Both Fish and O’Reilly did a great job of modifying their usual attack just enough to make sure it was directed at the taped shoulder (well taped until O’Reilly ripped off the bandage). There were some great spots in this match too — Shelley’s springboard from the outside right into a triangle choke from O’Reilly was spectacular and didn’t involve the “jumping nothing” that has become commonplace in those types of reversal moves. KUSHIDA with a flying cross body to the outside was also an excellent visual as he went over the guardrail and into the weird photographer’s pit that they set up around the ring. Of course none of that compares to Kyle O’Reilly’s insane leaping knee off the apron onto Shelley on the floor because they broke through the barricade and that shit looked super painful. Bobby Fish with a SUPER FALCON ARROW for two was amazing as well because nobody kicks out of the falcon arrow. Seriously though these four went for it in this match and I loved it so, so much. I hope this performance gets reDRagon back to New Japan because I think they have a chance to be stars in the company as a team and individually, seriously Kyle O’Reilly, Katsuyori Shibata anyone? The match ends with KUSHIDA getting O’Reilly to tap to the Hoverboard Lock and good lord was that match amazing — heart shaped eyes and everything for that one.

 

Tetsuya Naito v. Tomoaki Honma: How great is it that Honma’s hype video is him missing falling headbutts? Can we call the irresistible urge to go for a diving headbutt when you know it won’t succeed — Honmania? Like, the match was going well for Honma but he suffered from a bout of Honmania and the tides turned in favor of Naito? As crazy as it seems, nothing is more popular with a New Japan crowd than Honma actually hitting a diving headbutt, it’s like the Burning Hammer of 2014. Also for the record, “sort of a dick” Tetsuya Naito is a great development. This was a standard match that you’d expect from these two, but it was still pretty great. Naito sold the shit out of a launching headbutt and Honma got a great nearfall on a quick roll up attempt. Ultimately Naito got a little sloppy at the end, which is kind of his thing lately but Honma is just so great at taking offense that he could sell anything, even if it’s not clean. Naito wound up winning with the Stardust Press because even in meaningless G1 matches, Honma can’t catch a break.

 

Tomohiro Ishii v. Karl Anderson: It’s been awhile since a Bullet Club member had interfered in a match and actually had an impact so of course as soon as the bell rings Takahashi jumps on the apron, distracts Ishii and allows Anderson to attack. Welcome back, thing we all hated from earlier in the year. Ishii gets busted open pretty quick in this one and anytime I see blood in a New japan match it turns up the intensity. We even get a little break in the action for the ringside physician to check on Ishii, that’s commitment to a bit. Ishii selling the shit out of his injured shoulder during this match though I can’t say that Anderson did a ton of offense directed at the wrapped shoulder. For as much as Ishii sold the injury to his shoulder it didn’t really affect his ability to drop Anderson on his head with a brainbuster and get a two count. After the brainbuster Takahashi gets into the ring and puts a beatdown on Ishii — which brings out YOSHI-HASHI to make the save and those two wind up brawling into the netherworld somewhere. Great spot where Anderson goes for a headbutt only it winds up hurting him and not Ishii. Finally Ishii goes for the brainbuster, which Anderson reverses into the gun stun and the win. Pretty okay match though the interference was unexpected and the idea of YOSHI-HASHI being the guy to chase off Takahashi was surprising.

 

Hirooki Goto v. Katusyori Shibata: Sometimes you just know that you’re going to love a match as soon as you see it announced — this was one of those times. This was just two guys that know each other really well, beating the shit out of each other. There were a couple amazing spots in this match, Goto hitting Shibata with the PK was great, but the highlight had to be Goto eating one of the most brutal Go 2 Sleep’s that I’ve ever seen. I mean these guys are friends and Shibata just knee’d Goto right in the mouth. Even the second G2S was devastating by Shibata, followed up by a great PK and Shibata gets the win. That match was super exciting, it was exactly what I wanted it to be when it was announced and I loved really everything about it. Just hard hitting, brutal action from bell to bell with a satisfying conclusion. Good stuff. I even loved Shibata tossing Goto out of the ring by his hair and helping him to the back only to have Shibata fall before they get there and Goto having to carry HIM to the back. Wonderful.

 

Hiroshi Tanahashi v. AJ Styles: This is your 2nd place finishers match. AJ being accompanied to the ring by Doc Gallows waiving the Bullet Club flag and Bad Luck Fale regrettably not carrying Styles out on his shoulders. Both of these guys deserve a shit load of credit, they were put in a very unenviable situation, they had to know Goto/Shibata would be stiff as hell, and Nakamura/Okada is going to be amazing so they did everything in their power to put on a hell of a match. Tanahashi shoving Styles out of mid-springboard and watching AJ bounce off the ropes, then the ring apron to the floor was great. As was Tanahashi’s flying cross body over the guard rail and onto Styles in the media pit. During a near fall about 15 minutes into the match I noticed that the ref was red-sleeve referee and I was immediately nervous. Luckily those nerves were not warranted because the dumb shit parade didn’t start until after the match. The match itself was excellent, the dueling reversed High Fly Flow, and Styles turing a Styles Clash into a tombstone before hitting Bloody Sunday was cool, and Tanahashi getting the quick roll up victory actually made me pop because I thought a clean finish was warranted and it made sense to give the old man the nod. I also think it’s telling that as soon as Tanahashi got the win the crowd went bananas, little kids were like trampling each other to get to the guard rails to celebrate. Everything after that was dumb as shit. Jeff Jarrett joining the Bullet Club with Scott D’more is the most WCW thing ever and I hated every second of it. Jarrett saving Tanahashi and actually being a non-Bullet Club entity would be interesting, but this is just lame. Jarrett hasn’t been relevant in like 15 years and even then he was a middle act. The only positive that I could come up with is that at least the interference and guitar shot didn’t happen during the match, so I guess we’re getting better.


*G1 Climax Finals* Shinsuke Nakamura v. Kazuchika Okada:
I can’t be the only person who was surprised that Nakamura came out second right? This entire show was leading up to Okada’s first Rainmaker pose and the pull out camera shot right? It was worth it. Also I am going to see Nakamura’s Rainmaker lariat reversal into an armbar in my dreams for the rest of eternity. The other amazing point in this match is after Nakamura stops his momentum, Okada misses a dropkick and Nakamura hits the BomaYe he goes for a pin and gets two — red sleeve ref jumps to his feet in disbelief that Okada kicked out, sometimes the refs in these matches are just as important as the participants. The end of this match was just fantastic with Nakamura kicking out right into a lariat, second lariat, huge Rainmaker that Nakamura sold like a fuckin boss and Okada getting the pinfall victory. This was almost thirty minutes of the two biggest stars in the company going toe to toe, I didn’t love all of it (or really even half of it) but the final like seven minutes was especially amazing. The crowd was electric for the finish and they lost their minds when Okada got the pin.

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NJPW “G1 Climax 24″ Day 11 Reviewed

Block A: Tomoaki Honma (0 pts.) v. Shelton Benjamin (8 pts.): Really? Honma couldn’t win a single match during the tournament? Look I thought Shelton was great over the first four days, and he’s never been anything worse than good throughout, but Honma has had the crowd in the palm of his hand the entire G1 and he deserved a win. I’m bummed out already.

 

Block B: Toru Yano (6 pts.) v. Yujiro Takahashi (6 pts.): I’ve run the gamut with both of these guys during the tournament, I didn’t like either of them to start, went through a phase where I appreciated them both and now I’m back to not caring. It’s been a long, strange, trip. I’m going to give Yujiro a ton of credit because he winds up winning due to be impervious to Yano’s low blow because he was wearing a cup — there is something to be said about a guy actually watching the tournament, knowing his opponents MO and exploiting it to win a match, so for that reason, nice job Takahashi.

 

Block B: Hirooki Goto (8 pts.) v. Lance Archer (6 pts.): I don’t care what anyone says, Lance Archer has been phenomenal during this tournament.  He basically destroyed Goto in this match, I mean beat the tar out of him all over the ringside area, dominated him in the ring, Goto got a little offense in and then Archer put him away. Seriously this was as unequivocal a beating as we’ve seen in this tournament, even Tomoaki Honma felt bad for Goto. The beautiful thing was that it was warranted, Archer is a monster, he’s been a monster this whole tournament and he acted accordingly here.

 

Block B: Tetsuya Naito (10 pts.) v. Karl Anderson (8 pts.): If you’ve seen this match can you please explain to me what Naito was going for when Anderson hit the gun stun at the end? Brandon Stoud has used the phrase “jumping nothing” at points to describe those moves that guys do just to allow for a counter move — Naito perfected the jumping nothing here. He looked like a flying fish leaping out of the water, neck out stretched perfectly for a gun stun. To Anderson’s credit he nailed it — and Naito sold the shit out of it, but the way we got there was so ridiculous that it kind of killed an otherwise fun match.

 

Block A: Yuji Nagata (8 pts.) v. Tomohiro Ishii (8 pts.): You have to respect Nagata, he’s 49 years old, this tournament has been a long haul with very little time off and he’s just as stiff as ever. After happily exchanging strikes with Shibata on Day 10, Ishii exchanging face slaps with Nagata. Give Ishii credit man because he’s going for it, even if “it” is hemorrhagic brain disorder. This was everything you’d expect it to be, it wasn’t as good as Ishii/Shibata but it was in the same vein and it was hugely entertaining. Ishii wins with the brainbuster and hopefully Nagata can get some time in the ice bath and maybe a little time off. Say what you want about Ishii but he’s put on three potential Match of the Year’s in this tournament alone, and one with an almost 50 year old guy.

 

Block A: Katsuyori Shibata (12 pts.) v. Doc Gallows (6 pts.): At this point Shibata is basically out of it, but he can make the stat geeks go to the tie breakers with a win here and losses by Nakamura and Tanahashi, so he still has something to live for. I think the crowd going into this match knew what I knew — that this felt like a Gallows win and they were not liking it because they were dead silent throughout this one. This was a fine match, my earlier comments on Gallows holds true here even though Shibata was on the other side, completely average match that Gallows wins.

 

Block A: Shinsuke Nakamura (12 pts.) v. Bad Luck Fale (10 pts.): The last time these two were in a ring together Nakamura was stretchered out of the building. The spot that’ll stick out to most people was Nakamura hitting a superplex on Fale off the top. Excellent visual and did add to the desperation that both guys had in trying to put the other away. For me though the most shocking moment came when Fale hit an amazing looking spear on Nakamura, possibly the first time in recorded history that Fale didn’t just look like he was hugging someone to the ground. Nakamura freaking out when Fale kicked out of the first BomaYe and then just leveling him with  second to pick up the pinfall was awesome. This match went to another gear at the end and I loved it, Nakamura gets some sweet revenge on Fale from the last time they met. With that win Nakamura is guaranteed a Top 2 finish in the Block. Nakamura will win Block A if Davey Boy Smith Jr., beats Tanahashi (or they draw).

 

Block B: Togi Makabe (8 pts.) v. AJ Styles (14 pts.): If the G1 ended with Day 11 I think the story we’d be telling in the future is how this was the tournament where AJ Styles got his “groove” Back. The Styles that we’ve seen in this tournament has been better than anything he was doing in TNA for the past five years (at least). There was a point in this match where the camera cut to the crowd and some weepy girls in the front row were taking cell phone pictures of AJ and doing his little hand gesture — that pretty much confirmed my suspicion that Styles is getting over like rover in Japan thanks to his performance in this tournament. I’ve always thought the Pele kick was one of the dumbest moves in wrestling, but Styles commits to it so hard that it’s tough not to like it. In this match he hits Makabe with the Pele kick while Makabe is on the top rope, a slouched over Makabe is then picked off the turnbuckle and dropped in the Styles Clash, an excellent transition to the finish and once again proof positive that when AJ Styles is trying, he’s still one of the best wrestlers in the world. Styles can win Block A if Suzuki beats Okada (or they draw), otherwise Okada would win the tiebreaker with Styles and capture Block A.

 

Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi (14 pts.) v. Davey Boy Smith Jr. (8 pts.): We’ve got two matches left in the Block portion of the best professional wrestling tournament of all time and we haven’t had a draw. If ever there was time for one, this would be the time. Tanahashi had a little spring in his step for this one. This was an alright match, but the drama was through the roof. Tanahashi pulling out all the stops, going for pinfall after pinfall but coming up short, only to risk it all on a high risk move, get stopped and get dropped in a Bulldog Bomb for the pinfall win for Davey Boy Smith Jr. Actually crushing defeat for Tanahashi and you can tell this match told a good story because I feel legitimately sad for Tanahashi for falling short. With that Tanahashi loss Shinsuke Nakamura wins Block A.


Block B: Kazuchika Okada (14 pts.) v. Minoru Suzuki (10 pts.):
One more box to check off and it’s to see who will face Nakamura in the finals. An Okada win puts him in, anything else puts Styles in the finals. The story of this match was Suzuki’s relentless offense focused on the lariat arm of Okada. It’s a pretty easy story to tell — I mean if you neutralize the Rainmaker lariat you do a good job of taking the bite away from Okada, but it’s especially effective for Suzuki because he strikes to the arm and has vicious arm based submission offense. The question wasn’t whether Suzuki could effectively focus his energy on the arm of Okada, it was whether Okada could survive. At one point Suzuki is leaning fully back on Okada’s back wrenching on the arm, it looked very painful. Also during this match Suzuki broke out one of the most brutal looking dropkicks I’ve ever seen in my life – talk about Okada’s beautiful dropkick all you want, I’d rather take that then Suzuki’s full force foot to face dropkick. I have one issue with this match, and believe me it’s a minor gripe to an otherwise excellent main event — Okada wins with the rainmaker lariat. In fact none of the arm work by Suzuki early in the match ever really comes back into play, one Rainmaker and Suzuki is dead. It’s not a huge problem and it’s more a complaint about puroresu in general and the lack of selling – but this match was excellent and the only drawback is that I would’ve liked a little more selling from Okada on the large chunk of time spent working his arm by Suzuki. With the win Okada seals up Block A, and our finals will be Shinsuke Nakamura against Kazuchika Okada, the final that I predicted all along.

 

FINAL STANDINGS

BLOCK A

Shinsuke Nakamura (16)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (14)
Katsuyori Shibata (12)
Bad Luck Fale (10)
Satoshi Kojima (10)
Tomohiro Ishii (10)
Davey Boy Smith Jr. (10)
Shelton Benjamin (8)
Yuji Nagata (8)
Doc Gallows (8)
Tomoaki Honma (0)

BLOCK B
Kazuchika Okada (16)
AJ Styles (16)
Minoru Suzuki (10)
Tetusyo Naito (10)
Karl Anderson (10)
Hirooki Goto (8)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (8)
Togi Makabe (8)
Lance Archer (8)
Yujiro Takahashi (8)
Toru Yano (6)

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NJPW “G1 Climax 24″ Day 10 Reviewed

As I’ve fallen so far behind I’m probably just posting these reviews for my own personal enjoyment. With that being the case I won’t be doing much of a breakdown until the tournament ends and I’ll do a final recap. Until then we’ll just talk about the individual matches and try to get through to the finals.

 

Block A: Satoshi Kojima (8 pts.) v. Tomoaki Honma (0 pts.): Really? We couldn’t even give Honma this one? At this point my only hope for Day 11 is that Honma doesn’t get shut out. I guess that’s just another example of how good he is at working the crowd and the gimmick.

 

Block A: Davey Boy Smith Jr. (8 pts.) v. Bad Luck Fale (10 pts.): I have a stylistic issue with this match which is namely that Fale just isn’t that convincing as a monster — he can pull it off ok when his opponent is smaller than he is, but Smith Jr., is basically the same size. I just can’t get over the fact that Fale’s offense looks really weak when the guy he’s in the ring with is the same size and looks to be a much stronger striker. This was actually kind of a squash for Fale, which is still baffling as Smith Jr., is at least as strong as Fale and a more accomplished wrestler and yet Fale’s fake ass offense was enough to stop him. Not being able to hit the Bad Luck Fall makes this match a dud to me because why else should I be watching Fale if not to see that awesome finisher.

 

Block B: Hiroyoshi Tenzan (8 pts.) v. Tetsuya Naito (8 pts.): For the past few days I’ve constructed this alternate world where Naito turns heel and joins the Bullet Club instead of Takahashi. I know Naito doesn’t always “sell” but man he throws himself around like a ragdoll trying to make people look good. I defy you to watch Naito eat a lariat on the ring apron and not smile. I was totally into this match and so was the crowd, Naito has just been on fire in this tournament and this was no exception. Naito wins with the Stardust Press. This one had those moments that you expect from Naito where he’s kind of going too fast for his body and the match, but Tenzan is a solid base and kept things going at a nice clip. I liked this a lot.

 

Block B: Minoru Suzuki (10 pts.) v. Karl Anderson (6 pts.): So the Bullet Club hasn’t actually done anything to benefit any other members to this point, but a win by Anderson in this match almost assures AJ Styles at worst #2 in the bracket right? Also you have to respect the fact that Suzuki, no matter how slowly he walks always gets to the ring at the same point in his entrance song every night, pretty impressive timing. Suzuki stabbing Anderson in the face with a pen while simultaneously giving crazy eyes to Jado and Gedo at the announcer booth is amazing. This match had a moment that legitimately made me laugh out loud with Suzuki running the length of the ring, pausing and slapping Anderson in the face who immediately responded by biting Suzuki on the top of the head. Absolutely LOVED the guys exchanging reversals from the gun stun to the saka otoshi and back again until finally Anderson is able to hit the gun stun and pick up the win. This was a solid match, which is to be expected from these two who have both had great tournaments.

 

Block B: Togi Makabe (8 pts.) v. Toru Yano (4 pts.): For the record before this match starts Yano is introduced as having 6 points, spoiler alert! Yano tries to jump Makabe at the bell, spraying water in his face and attacking him — that is not very successful and pretty quickly Makabe is beating the bag off Yano. Yano gets a low blow and a quick roll up for the win and can someone explain to me why Yano has been winning so many matches in this tournament? Poor Honma, who is over like rover can’t get 2 points but Yano now has three wins. Crazy.

 

Block B: AJ Styles (12 pts.) v. Yujiro Takahashi (6 pts.): Yujiro turned on CHAOS, joined Bullet Club, cost Okada the IWGP Championship and handed it to AJ Styles. So I am now to believe that he is so committed to competition that he won’t just lay down for Styles in a completely meaningless match for him?  I would love to say that this was another spectacular match out of Styles but it really wasn’t. One of the great things about the G1 so far has been the crowd starting to embrace Styles, but none of that was evident here and Takahashi is so hateable that the crowd was pretty dead throughout. Styles brainbuster looked awesome and the crowd did pop for the Styles Clash so it wasn’t all bad but it felt a little flat. With the win Styles does move into first place in Block B.

 

Block B: Kazuchika Okada (12 pts.) v. Lance Archer (6 pts.): This was an interesting match because you don’t really see long periods of time where Okada is manhandled, but Archer had a lengthy stretch where he was completely in charge. I liked the story these two told, though I’m not sure that I ever bought into the idea that Archer might win. After Archer misses a friggin moonsault, Okada hits the tombstone and the Rainmaker lariat for the win and Block B is a two man party.

 

Block A: Yuji Nagata (8 pts.) v. Hiroshi Tanahashi (12 pts.): You know Tanahashi has been burning the candle on both ends for New Japan when in a match with Nagata he seems like the older guy. Tanahashi doing the dragon screw on a laying on his back Nagata looked painful but the physics of that move don’t really add up to anything. You can tell this crowd was a little suspect because they weren’t even into Tanahashi which almost never happens. This match did pick up a bit with Tanahashi slapping Nagata who responded with an amazing “what the eff?!” look before slapping the taste out of Tanahashi’s mouth. Nagata is wonderful in this role, it’s basically the same character he’s been playing for twenty five years, he just needed to sync his age up with the character to make everything pop.  The finish came out of nowhere with Tanahashi getting the roll up and the quick three — the flash pin does play into the story of Tanahashi in this tournament who is using veteran tricks and guile to position himself near the top of the board. I liked the match more than the live crowd who were largely quiet throughout.

 

Block A: Tomohiro Ishii (8 pts.) v. Katsuyori Shibata (10 pts.): Heading into this match and having watched the entire show to this point I am sad that this match is happening in front of this crowd, this crowd doesn’t deserve nice things. When this match starts Shibata is still not mathematically eliminated in Block A. These two wasted no time telling us what kind of match this would be, bell rings, they run to the middle and just start slapping each other to death. Ishii kicks Shibata in the back from a seated position, Shibata gets to his feet, Ishii sits himself down and allows Shibata to kick him. They trade off that exchange for a bit which is something I’ve never seen before and absolutely would not participate in. If you’re wondering what type of person Shibata is, he is smiling during this exchange — and it is my understanding that nothing in wrestling hurts as much as being kicked in the back while seated. These two exchanging kick outs at one was amazing — this match should be in front of a better crowd, that Osaka crowd would be losing their minds right now. Ishii selling a shoulder injury and Shibata appears willing to exchange strikes with one arm behind his back — he’s evened the odds. Shibata is such a bad ass that he hits the PK and doesn’t even TRY to pin Ishii, also he gets headbutted for his trouble. Every near fall is a kick out at one, this is a war of attrition and even this lousy crowd can’t help but get involved (albeit a very little bit). Shibata with the Go To Sleep and the PK and he picks up the win, that was fantastic. One of the most stiff matches of the entire tournament and the only thing that it held it back from being a 5-star type of match was the crowd who remained pretty quiet throughout.


Block A: Shinsuke Nakamura (12 pts.) v. Doc Gallows (6 pts.):
Gallows has the noose back around his neck, whatever crime he’s been convicted of was apparently commuted during Day 9 but his sentence has been reinstated. Sometimes you know precisely how a match is going to go as soon as it’s announced — that’s pretty much what happened here. The thing with Gallows is that he’s nothing more than a completely cromulent professional wrestler. You know exactly what you’re going to get with him. He’s incapable of elevating a match, it’s just not going to happen. So while Nakamura is delightful, there is only so high that you can fly with Gallows on the other side, so this was a fine match, a pretty standard issue New Japan off-show main event that nobody will remember in a week. The only real stand out moment from this match was Nakamura turning a choke slam into an arm bar. Ultimately Nakamura finishes Gallows off with two BomaYe’s in a row and gets the win to close out a pretty average (by this G1’s standards) day.

STANDINGS THROUGH DAY 10

BLOCK A

Shinsuke Nakamura (14)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (14)
Katsuyori Shibata (12)
Bad Luck Fale (10)
Satoshi Kojima (10)
Shelton Benjamin (8)
Tomohiro Ishii (8)
Yuji Nagata (8)
Davey Boy Smith Jr. (8)
Doc Gallows (6)
Tomoaki Honma (0)

BLOCK B
AJ Styles (14)
Kazuchika Okada (14)
Minoru Suzuki (10)
Tetusyo Naito (10)
Hirooki Goto (8)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (8)
Karl Anderson (8)
Togi Makabe (8)
Lance Archer (6)
Yujiro Takahashi (6)
Toru Yano (6)

 

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NJPW “G1 Climax 24″ Day 9 Reviewed

Short intro right now because I fell way behind on the tournament and am rushing to catch up before the final. I defy you to find a weak link in this tournament, even Honma who hasn’t won a match is putting stand out moments during the proceedings. I have said it a couple times now but this has been the greatest tournament in wrestling history and I defy you to find something that compares.

 

Block A: Tomoaki Honma (0 pts.) v. Davey Boy Smith Jr. (6 pts.): I don’t want to be a dick here too much but as great as Honma has been at taking offense and as wonderful of a job as he does getting the crowd on his side, he really needs to win one of these matches because I am just not interested. Opener is a tough spot for him because it’s like, first guy through the curtain and I already know the outcome. As great as Honma is (and honestly I thought this would be the match he’d win) he ultimately succumbs to the Bulldog Bomb and the non-winning streak continues.

 

Block B: Lance Archer (6 pts.) v. Yujiro Takahashi (4 pts.): I may have been underrating Yujiro a little bit, it takes a special kind of awful person to be the most despised man in a tournament comprised almost exclusively of bad guys. Takahashi did a ton of leg work in this match and Archer went out of his way to sell the shit out of that offense. It’s tough to ignore that this G1 has featured a lot of selling, which is not a NJPW (or puroresu) staple. You’re starting to see the considerable American style influence in this tournament. Archer was also fantastic here, his selling was pretty good, his offense looked great and his facial expression continue to be the underrated star of the G1. Yujiro with two ref bumps, two low blows and a quick roll up for the win. As good as the selling was in this match the knee/leg work never, ever came into play which hurts the overall score, but Yujiro winning by being a douche is pretty great in character work.

 

Block A: Yuji Nagata (8 pts.) v. Doc Gallows (4 pts.): The noose is gone! That was a short lived accessory for Gallows. Nagata is 49 years old but if you told me he was actually 60 I’d probably believe you. Of course if you told me he was 35 I’d buy that too, the guy is ageless, he seriously looks almost the same as he did when he was popping up on episodes of WCW Nitro. This match was just kind of there, but man did Gallows absolutely waffle Nagata with a bicycle kick at the end and finish him off with the powerbomb. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t very good, it was like every other Gallows match in this tournament, just fine.

 

Block B: Togi Makabe (6 pts.) v. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (8 pts.): This match wins the award for “Most HOSS-able” match of Block B. I bet you couldn’t even get even odds that this match would start with dueling lariats. I have to give Tenzan credit here, he gave Makabe a pretty convincing beating in this one Ultimately Makabe takes the beating, reverses the field and hits the King Kong Knee to pick up the win. A solid heavyweight clash that ended the way I think everyone expected as we start to get a glut of names with 8 points towards the end of the tournament.

 

Block B: Tetsuya Naito (8 pts.) v. Minoru Suzuki (8 pts.): You could make an argument that this match features the two guys having the best “out of nowhere” performances. Suzuki has been stuck in his seemingly endless feud with Yano, and Naito turned a surprise 2013 G1 victory into being the plucky underdog in tag team matches for much of the year. Both guys are killing it this year and honestly a part of me wishes that Naito’s surprise victory came this year because he’s been white hot during the tournament. As the Bullet Club has reigned in their outside interference Suzuki-gun seems to be re-taking the mantle, this match once again featured TAKA Michinoku getting involved early on. I think getting kicked in the back by Minoru Suzuki would be the thing I’d like the least about professional wrestling. I could watch Minoru Suzuki hit the saka otoshi all day long, especially on Naito who took it like a champ, held on as long as he could but ultimately tapped out. Suzuki was awesome here, brutal and vicious in his strikes, played the heel really well and that finishing choke is so amazing. I really liked this match and continues a trend for both of these guys of putting on great performances in this tournament.

 

Block A: Katsuyori Shibata (10 pts.) v. Bad Luck Fale (8 pts.): I’m not going to lie, here is an actual passage that I wrote watching this match “Someone needs to be counted out during one of these matches, at least three matches each Day have a spot where someone has to beat the count, and everyone has always beaten the count. Even Okada won a match with his first Rainmaker for chrissakes.” And then lo and behalf, someone actually wins a match via countout and I hated it like the rain. Fale and Yujiro have a competition going to see who can devalue a previously super-over championship and right now Fale is giving it a go. His offense still blows other than the Bad Luck Fall, and I hated that apparently Gedo and Jado decided that neither of these guys could suffer a loss to the other. Anyways I hate this finish, Fale wins via countout, bleh.

 

Block A: Satoshi Kojima (8 pts.) v. Shinsuke Nakamura (10 pts.): It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this was a great match. I think it was pretty clear going in that Nakamura was going to win but they way they got there was pretty entertaining and Nakamura using the BomaYe from different levels has turned it almost into a superkick during this tournament. Kojima has been a pleasant surprise as he wasn’t a guy that I was particularly drawn to before this tournament started.

 

Block B: Karl Anderson (6 pts.) v. AJ Styles (10 pts.): This match had the single greatest opening of any match in this tournament. Anderson says he’ll lay down for AJ, and when AJ goes for the pin he tries to quickly roll him up. Then AJ goes to shake Anderson’s hand and he quickly rolls him up. That was excellent, well executed and I have little hearts in my eyes because of how perfect that was. At one point Anderson goes for the too sweet with AJ and then just pokes Styles in the eyes. Anderson also power bombed Styles on the ring apron officially making this a Ring of Honor match. The turn around that the crowd has made on Styles is amazing and well deserved but it’s clear they are way into him right now which is clearly a byproduct of how excellent he has performed throughout this tournament. This was another great performance by Styles but I want to take a moment to recognize Anderson who hit a pretty awesome second rope fallaway ace crusher , for a guy generally thought of as a tag team specialist, Anderson has proven himself to be capable of holding the crowd in the palm of his hand as a singles competitor as well. I still don’t understand the physics behind guys blocking Anderson’s ace crusher by just standing still but I’m willing to forgive that small logic hole for a good match. This match also featured something that I can’t remember seeing in — honestly I don’t even know how long, AJ Styles busted open. I love that two friends, in the same heel stable would go so hard against one another that Styles would actually wind up bleeding. Styles ultimately wins with the Styles Clash but that match was excellent and at this point I don’t think Styles has done anything wrong in this tournament.

 

Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi (10 pts.) v. Shelton Benjamin (8 pts.): I feel like in every match I’m talking about how so-and-so has really shined in this tournament and I’d say it again about Shelton Benjamin. Remember when Shelton was winning Block A? Shelton Benjamin playing air guitar on Tanahashi’s chest during an abdominal stretch is one of my favorite moments of the entire tournament. Shelton getting out of the way of a High Fly Flow, right into an ankle lock, right into a roll up pin by Tanahashi was a great sequence. Shelton’s ability to turn anything into an ankle lock has been a revelation in this tournament. Tanahashi hits two High Fly Flow in a row and gets the pinfall, poor Shelton Benjamin, you had such promise about a week ago. Don’t look know, but here comes the old man.

 

Block B: Hirooki Goto (8 pts.) v. Kazuchika Okada (10 pts.): It probably bears mentioning at some point but Okada, the most obviously popular guy in the room everytime he comes through the curtain, is a heel. I kind of dug this match and I like that Okada is working some Randy Orton offense into his repertoire, including the elevated DDT but he’s using the guardrail to elevate Goto. I can’t talk about nobody ever getting counted out again because it actually happened on this day, though they teased it again in the main event. I’m not sure if it was just the mood I was in during watching this match but I absolutely loved Goto doing the rip chord headbutt. The crowd was so psyched in the run-up to the end and people in the audience were losing their shit when Okada hit the Rainmaker. Okada gets the win and another day ends with the Rainmaker standing atop the mountain.


So the ninth day ends and we’re really starting to whittle down potential champions. At this point Block A could be won by Nakamura, Tanahashi, Shibata or Fale and that’s it, Block B could only be Styles, Okada or Suzuki everyone other than those seven are I believe just playing a supporting cast role. At this point on Day 9 I’m still pretty sure that we’re going to see Nakamura and Okada as the Block winners, but Styles has been so good and Tanahashi has gone on a late push that nothing would surprise me. I don’t think Day 9 was as strong over all as some of the other days, but still even an off day during this tournament is better than 90% of what you’re going to see anywhere else. On to Day 10!

 

STANDINGS THROUGH DAY THE END OF DAY 9

BLOCK A

Shinsuke Nakamura (12)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (12)
Katsuyori Shibata (10)
Bad Luck Fale (10)
Shelton Benjamin (8)
Tomohiro Ishii (8)
Satoshi Kojima (8)
Yuji Nagata (8)
Davey Boy Smith Jr. (8)
Doc Gallows (6)
Tomoaki Honma (0)

BLOCK B
AJ Styles (12)
Kazuchika Okada (12)
Minoru Suzuki (10)
Tetusyo Naito (8)
Hirooki Goto (8)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (8)
Togi Makabe (8)
Lance Archer (6)
Karl Anderson (6)
Yujiro Takahashi (6)
Toru Yano (4)

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NJPW “G1 Climax 24″ Day 8 Reviewed

At this point I think it goes without saying but the 2014 G1 Climax is going to go down as the greatest tournament in professional wrestling history (to this point) right? I honestly can’t think of anything that has been better. Every time I think we’ve hit the zenith the next day starts and we’re off and running with another amazing show. I loved Day 4, but Day 7 probably had the best string of three matches that you’re ever going to see including two matches that will easily find their way to my MOTY list. At this point it seems impossible but I’m starting to get burnt out by amazing wrestling. I couldn’t even watch RAW on Monday because as soon as it started I thought “you know my time would be much better served watching the G1.” This tournament may wind up ruining professional wrestling for me, and Day 8 didn’t let it’s foot off the gas.

 

Block A: Tomohiro Ishii (6 pts.) vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr. (6 pts.): This may be the most unfair match placement in history. Ishii finishes up Day 7 with a MOTYC against Nakamura and then he’s the next person you see when Day 8 starts, that’s a tall order. I think because I watched Day 7 right before I started with Day 8 this match never really clicked to me. These two did some really good work and I bet if I watched it after 24 hours had passed between Ishii/Nakamura I’d love it a lot more, but for now I’d give it an average grade with an extra point because of the visual of Ishii tossing around a significantly bigger Davey Boy Jr.

 

Block B: Hiroyoshi Tenzan (6 pts.) v. Toru Yano (4 pts.): This match is the perfect definition of just something that happened. Two minutes after it was over I am hard pressed to tell you what happened. I know Yano did the Tenzan chops, and at one point Tenzan lariated the red chair back in Yano’s face. Other than that, I’m at a loss — Tenzan wins with the anaconda vice, moving on.

 

Block A: Yuji Nagata (6 pts.) v. Shelton Benjamin (8 pts.): Remember Shelton being the leader in the group? That feels like a lifetime ago. I think both of these guys have had better matches in the tournament and I was about to comment on how I’ve seen so much amazing wrestling during the G1 this year that I’m beginning to become immune to it, but then Nagata caught Shelton mid-Zig Zag and dropped him into his arm lock and I was right back on board. I feel like maybe they screwed up the finish here and Nagata was supposed to get the pinfall with a roll up after locking in the Rings of Saturn, but ultimately Shelton taps to the crossface and we’ve seen back to back submission wins for almost certainly the first time this G1.

 

Block A: Satoshi Kojima (6 pts.) v. Doc Gallows (4 pts.): So Doc Gallows has now added noose and rope accessories to his gear. Kojima hit the worst ace crusher I’ve ever seen in this match. He jumped when he hooked the neck but Gallows just fell, so actually Gallows wound up hitting the mat before Kojima came down from his jump, I’m not sure the physics of that move. This match didn’t do anything for me. It was fine, but I did find my eyes wandering and that hasn’t happened much throughout the tournament. Kojima wins with a lariat and unfortunately for Gallows the noose doesn’t seem to have helped him any.

 

Block B: Hirooki Goto (6 pts.) v. Tetsuya Naito (8 pts.): It sounds like everyone in Japan has had the same reaction to Naito as I have since he got busted open by Toru Yano because the crowd is alive for Naito. Interestingly he’s getting some heel reactions and playing it up wisely in this match. The real power of Naito right now is that he’s making everyone else look like a million bucks. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Goto look better than he did in this match. The crowd was so good for this match that any of the flaws were kind of hidden. I still think Naito matches go about 2 minutes too long, he seemed to run out of steam here and things got a bit of a mess near the end. Goto was amazing though and he picks up the win with the Shouten Kai. To this point this is the leader in the clubhouse as the best match of the day.

 

Block B: Lance Archer (6 pts.) v. AJ Styles (8 pts.): Add this to the list of matches during this tournament featuring guys who left TNA to become wildly popular and/or successful and draw money elsewhere. I don’t know if I’m alone in this thought but Archer has been wonderful this tournament, his character work and facial expressions are amazing. As much fun as I’ve had watching Archer in this tournament, the entire G1 has been about the transformation that AJ Styles is making into the total package for a New Japan IWGP Heavyweight Champion. The irony of Styles becoming so comfortable with the style, and just being so good during this tournament is that the winner is likely going to take the belt off him just as he’s getting hot. I don’t think I’m being too hyperbolic to say that both guys absolutely clicked in this match. These heel/heel matches that you get in the G1 are tough because the crowd isn’t always into the match, but Archer is kind of the perfect platform for Styles because Styles makes Archer’s offense look amazing, and AJ is strong and fast enough to convincingly get his own shit in. It got a little sloppy at the end (the sub title for this Day’s action) but even the sloppy parts added to the appeal of the match.  AJ, who had been working the legs for most of the match ultimately locks in the calf cutter and gets Archer to tap — this was a great match, easily the best performance that Archer has had in the tournament and most of that credit should probably go to Styles who is just locked in right now.

 

Block B: Togi Makabe (6 pts.) v. Minoru Suzuki (6 pts.): In the first two minutes of this match both guys unloaded every forearm they had, spilled out of the ring and Suzuki broke a chair over Makabe’s back and then Suzuki stabbed Makabe in the head with a pen — so it was that kind of match. If I was the kind of person who could create a .gif I would have one of Suzuki with an arm bar through the ropes on Makabe, as Makabe just punches him in the face until he lets go. I said during the Styles/Suzuki match that when Suzuki slapped AJ at the beginning it woke Styles up, it appears to have also woken Suzuki up who is suddenly my favorite part of the show. I really liked this match a ton, Makabe is capable of taking a real beating and Suzuki is capable of handing out a great beating. Makabe did a valiant job of being able to fight out of the saka otoshi but couldn’t get out of the choke and ultimately passed out. Suzuki is rolling.

 

Block A: Tomoaki Honma (0 pts.) v. Katsuyori Shibata (8 pts.):When I saw this match on the card I immediately got sad because this could have been Shibata against Kota Ibushi. The crowd was absolutely electric for this match and regardless of my own feelings on Honma you can’t ignore the fact that the live crowd loves him. Even though I’m kind of tired with Honma’s act, he is an amazing opponent for Shibata because he takes a great beating and Shibata can dish one out. I heart this match and the Osaka crowd was so hot for it that it brought it up another notch. I cannot overstate how amazing the crowd was for this match, just spectacular throughout. At this point I want to live inside this G1 tournament and I’m starting to get sad thinking about the fact that it’ll have to end soon. Though it’s irrelevant to how great the match was I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Shibata won, because of course he did.

 

Block B: Kazuchika Okada (8 pts.) v. Yujiro Takahashi (4 pts.): It’s pretty amazing to think that this is the first Takahashi/Okada singles match since Yujiro cost Okada the IWGP Championship. Actually with that back story I feel like this would’ve been a good choice to main event the Day. This was without a doubt the best Takahashi match that has ever happened (hyperbole, maybe) and when Okada kicked out of the Tokyo Pimps the crowd absolutely exploded. I also believe this marks the first time in recorded history that Okada won a match with his first Rainmaker lariat. I honestly don’t remember Yujiro kicking out of one before the finish. Loved Okada posing over the downed Takahashi as well, a fitting end to a match that has been a long time coming.

 

Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi (8 pts.) v. Shinsuke Nakamura (10 pts.): Hey if you just jumped on the New Japan bandwagon because everyone you know has been talking about how amazing the G1 has been this year — you should know, this match is kind of a big deal and these two did not disappoint. I have to give Osaka a ton of credit because the crowd was just so amazing for this match and they were molten hot for the near falls. For those who don’t know, this match headlined Wrestle Kingdom 8 which is New Japan’s biggest show of the year. This is a pretty important match and one of (if not the) top modern rivalries in New Japan. New Japan allowed fans to vote on the Wrestle Kingdom 8 match placement for the two main events, Tanahashi/Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship won the vote. The second tier title wound up headlining New Japan’s Wrestlemania because of these two. I was actually surprised by the outcome as Tanahashi wound up scoring a pin on a leg clutch roll kind of out of nowhere and I’ve read a couple reviews that I agree with that say this match felt like it would be a draw. After the match Tanahashi said he used the leg clutch roll as a tribute to Karl Gotch because this Day 8 show took place on Gotch’s birthday — so that’s pretty amazing. This match was awesome and this is now the second time in three days that a G1 day has ended with Tanahashi in the ring celebrating. Is it possible that New Japan is giving Tanahashi one final run?


I’m not sure what I could say about Day 8 that hasn’t already been said – top to bottom this was one of the best shows that I’ve seen all year, and the rest of those shows are almost all G1 tournament shows. This tournament has been amazing. When you look at the standings and you realize that a guy who has secured zero points has also been one of the most impressive performers in the tournament, you know you’ve got something special. I’m sorry but if you’re not watching this tournament, or if you have friends who are not watching this tournament who consider themselves wrestling fans you should probably stop being friends with those people.

STANDINGS THROUGH DAY 8

BLOCK A
Shinsuke Nakamura (10)
Katsuyori Shibata (10)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (10)
Shelton Benjamin (8)
Bad Luck Fale (8)
Tomohiro Ishii (8)
Satoshi Kojima (8)
Yuji Nagata (8)
Davey Boy Smith Jr. (6)
Doc Gallows (4)
Tomoaki Honma (0)

BLOCK B
AJ Styles (10)
Kazuchika Okada (10)
Tetusyo Naito (8)
Hirooki Goto (8)
Minoru Suzuki (8)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (8)
Lance Archer (6)
Karl Anderson (6)
Togi Makabe (6)
Toru Yano (4)
Yujiro Takahashi (4)

 

 

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NJPW “G1 Climax 24″ Day 7 Reviewed

Oh Day 7 — We’re past the halfway point and nothing has really been sorted out yet. I keep looking at the lineups and how things have gone and thinking that Okada is a shoe in for Block B but even that hasn’t really taken shape. This day had a couple matches that I was interested in, plus two Bullet Club only matches that could have been interested — nothing really prepared me for Day 7 though, my god the last three matches on this day I’d put up against any string of three consecutive matches anywhere. Let’s get to it shall we?

 

Block A: Satoshi Kojima (4 pts) v. Shelton Benjamin (8 pts.): For some reason the version that I have of this match was joined in progress. Shelton’s performance in this tournament has been eye opening; he’s been solid even now that he’s hit the portion of the tournament where he doesn’t win anything. Kojima wins this one with a killer rebound lariat and even though I only caught part of the match “in progress” it still looked like a fun match and what I saw made both guys look pretty good. Shelton continues to make me happy just to see how well he’s been able to do for himself in this field.

Block B: Lance Archer (4 pts.) v. Toru Yano (4 pts.):  Lance Archer trying to scare a young woman in the front row while the guy behind her takes a picture on his phone as she cowers in fear might be my new favorite moment of the G1.  Also for the record nobody has ever gained more in my eyes than Yano, ever since he busted open Naito I’ve been on board with everything he’s been doing in this tournament. I think I came around on Yano just see him wrestle anyone other than Suzuki. Yano taking the turnbuckle cover off has finally come back to haunt him as Archer irish whips him into the exposed turnbuckle. Of course Archer winds up bouncing himself off the exposed turnbuckle because of course he does. Archer is pretty good in his bully role but the underrated part might be TAKA Michinoku on the outside trying to refocus him and stop him from berating the referee. Yano with Eddy Guerrero style tactics to distract everyone and hit a low blow was pretty great, but so was Yano goofing around and having his chair punched back into his face. After the chair punched to the face Archer finishes off Yano and gets the win. Fun match for what it was, nothing special though.

Block B: Karl Anderson (4 pts.) v. Yujiro Takahashi (4 pts.): Too sweet to open things. I kind of respect the fact that Yujiro is such a dick that he even takes cheap shots at Anderson who is just trying to goof around Bullet Club style. Yujiro drops Anderson on the guard rail neck first and then does his finger gun for the crowd; this match is baffling but also kind of hilarious.  Anderson finally getting tired of Yujiro’s crap and just beating the mess out of him was a nice touch too. Yujiro blocking Anderson’s ace crusher doesn’t make physical sense, like Anderson is in midair, stops and just lands on his feet – how did Yujiro force that to happen?  Ultimately Anderson does hit the ace crusher and picks up the win, which is appropriate because Yujiro sucks. They hug after the match so my Bullet Club implodes storyline continues to seem unlikely.

Block A: Davey Boy Smith Jr. (4 pts.) v. Doc Gallows (4 pts.):  Is it fair to say that when Toma Tonga is unavailable, Gallows is the most well accessorized Bullet Club member? I bet there is footage of this match taking place in like Deep South or Ohio Valley Wrestling seven to ten years ago right? Davey Boy Jr., with a delay vertical suplex on Gallows, at one point pulling his arm away was a pretty impressive visual and got the crowd really into this match. Here’s some brilliant heel work, Gallows reaches into the first row and pulls a chair out from under a spectator, and the brilliant part is that the chair RIGHT NEXT to the guy was empty. That really made me laugh louder than I expected.  This was a significantly better match than I anticipated nothing special but I was worried going in. Smith Jr., wins with the sharpshooter and I ain’t mad at anything those two did.

Block B: Hirooki Goto (6 pts.) v. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4 pts.):  It might be wrong for me to say this but when this match started I had a hard time not thinking that it was a match between two guys who had tag team partners in the tournament with a ton more buzz. I wanted desperately to like this, the crowd was eating it up and I thought both guys did some great work, including some murderous head butts from each of them – but in the end I just never felt like they had a higher gear. The many near finishes did help a tremendous amount, and this felt like a match that was legitimately a toss-up, but Tenzan ultimately won with the anaconda vice and this block is getting very crowded at the middle.

Block A: Bad Luck Fale (6 pts.) v. Tomoaki Honma (0 pts.): What do you get when a guy who is amazing at taking offense (and nothing else) takes on a guy who does not have convincing offense? Well, you get this match – and this match was not good.  I do give Honma credit because the crowd loves him and they get so invested in seeing him try to win these matches, and the dude took the Bad Luck Fall and made it look like the most destructive move of all time, but other than that it was just meh. Fale won because of course he did. Highlight of the match was without a doubt Honma being carried to the locker room on the back of one of the young boys at ringside.

Block B: Tetsuya Naito (8 pts.) v. Togi Makabe (4 pts.): It probably isn’t fair, but Naito was more interesting to me when he had that cut on his head that kept opening up during his matches. Seeing him covered in blood always made his matches stand out, now that he’s had a couple of days off it appears that he’s not as easy to bleed and that hurt this match.  Naito did his best to make Makabe look like a kill here, which isn’t always that hard but he’s seemed a bit off during the G1. This match was probably about three minutes too long because they got sloppy as shit near the end, though I’d watch Makabe baseball swing Naito out of mid-air with his clenched fists for the rest of the day and be happy. Makabe smashes Naito’s head off the ring post, suplexes Naito into the ring and hits that King Kong knee drop for the win, the end was hot, the rest was nothing special.

Block B: AJ Styles (6 pts.) v. Minoru Suzuki (6 pts.):  Suzuki slaps the shit out of AJ at the bell and that appears to wake Styles up because he immediately goes from like derp face sulky Styles into Phenomenal AJ Styles. Red sleeve ref meant that at some point interference would happen, and of course TAKA winds up in the ring after a ref bump and then all hell broke loose. Anderson and Gallows come out and stomp TAKA, the K.E.S. then comes out and brawl with the Bullet Club – that was a fun little segment that effectively set up what I imagine is coming down the road for those two teams. Even with the interference (which was harmless and helped set up a future story) this match was excellent. There were so many amazing spots that I can’t even mention them all, but these two absolutely worked their asses off in this one and they delivered. The finishing build and final sequence, maybe the last 4 minutes was simply incredible. Ultimately Styles wins with the Styles clash in an excellent match, great job by everyone involved. Think about this, the crowd was chanting for AJ after the match, that’s no small feat.

Block A: Katsuyori Shibata (8 pts.) v. Yuji Nagata (4 pts.): This match was probably precisely what you thought it would be. It was a hard hitting, stiff match that involved a ton of brutal sounding kicks from both guys. At one point Nagata went to that place that only he knows — but Shibata escapes the Nagata-Lock. Other than the very short period of time that Shibata was in the arm bar this match was almost exclusively guys punching and kicking each other in the face and chest with some suplexes thrown in for good measure. I mean seriously if you want to see two guys stand in the middle of a wrestling ring and slap the dog mess out of each other, this is the match for you. Nagata hits a BRUTAL looking backdrop driver with the bridge and gets the pinfall, that finish was awesome – All Japan early 90s style just dropping a dude the top of his head. If you like strike based, strong style wrestling you will enjoy this match.

 

Block A: Shinsuke Nakamura (8 pts.) v. Tomohiro Ishii (6 pts.):Sometimes everything just works. That’s kind of all I want to say about this match. Everything worked. I wanted to live inside this match. When your friends ask you why you wake up at ungodly hours to watch professional wrestling from Japan, just smile and know that you got to watch this match and they didn’t. Ishii continues to be a work horse and Nakamura is Nakamura. I’m not surprised these two were able to do what they did, I’m just so happy that they were given the time to do it.

 

And we leave Day 7 behind with Shinsuke Nakamura standing tall with the points lead in Block A. I had a feeling going into the tournament that we’d get a Nakamura/Okada finals and it is kind of starting to look that way. Basically from here on out either Nakamura or Okada will main event the remaining shows (except for the weird as all hell, penultimate show). They’ve also been featured players throughout the tournament. Add into that mix the fact that AJ Styles suddenly appears to have turned back the clock and is operating on a different level from the one we’ve seen lately and this tournament has just been amazing. I can’t think of a single person in the tournament aside from maybe Gallows that has had a better than average match and even Gallows was excellent on this day. I’ve fallen woefully behind on the tournament – as I’m writing this Day 9 just finished, but the great thing about the G1 is that I can’t wait to start watching the next day immediately.

 

STANDINGS THROUGH DAY 7

 

BLOCK A
Shinsuke Nakamura (10)
Katsuyori Shibata (8)
Shelton Benjamin (8)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (8)
Bad Luck Fale (8)
Tomohiro Ishii (6)
Satoshi Kojima (6)
Davey Boy Smith Jr. (6)
Yuji Nagata (6)
Doc Gallows (4)
Tomoaki Honma (0)

BLOCK B
Tetusyo Naito (8)
Kazuchika Okada (8)
AJ Styles (8)
Hirooki Goto (6)
Minoru Suzuki (6)
Hioyoshi Tenzan (6)
Lance Archer (6)
Karl Anderson (6)
Togi Makabe (6)
Toru Yano (4)
Yujiro Takahashi (4)

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