G125 Day 16 Review (08.12.2015) Honmamania Running Wild!

I’m not entirely clear on the math, but it’s possible by the end of Day 16 there will be a big logjam at the top, or a simple, two person slot for the chance at the finals.  Either way, heading into Day 16 my gut feeling is that Shinsuke Nakamura will come out of Block B and face AJ Styles in the G1 Finals.  But, I am still trying to find a way to convince myself that Goto can find a way to come out of this Block.

Yujiro Takahashi (2-5, 4 Pts) v. Karl Anderson (5-2, 10 Pts) [Block B]: I’m not sure about this match.  It was really tough coming off the great AJ/Fale match from Day 15 to come up with something that would be more interesting.  I like that they didn’t try, and really played this straight, with AJ Styles just yelling about how certain things were not appropriate from outside the ring.  Anderson was pretty good here carrying the action and even Takahashi had a couple moments where I thought he seemed competent.  You forget sometimes that Takahashi has amateur wrestling experience and is actually a pretty talented guy.  At the end of the match Anderson hits the Gun Stun for the pin, and suddenly you get the idea of where things are headed on Day 16.

Hirooki Goto (5-2, 10 Pts) v. Michael Elgin (4-3, 8 Pts) [Block B]:  The bell rings and Elgin chants break out.  He’s literally more popular than the guy I picked to win the G1, and the current IWGP IC Champion.  At one point during this match Elgin hits a death valley driver on the ring apron and the crowd doesn’t so much as cheer, as they gasp and then laugh — that’s the impact that Elgin has had on these Japanese fans, they’re in awe of how well he’s assimilated into their little world.  I feel like a broken record at this point but every one of these Elgin matches has been better than the last.  His style has fit perfectly into the G1 and he has meshed with everyone.  The only bad Elgin match so far as been the Nakamura match, and that’s because it never happened.  The crowd absolutely supports Elgin to a shocking degree.  Watch this match, skip to the last 4 minutes or so and listen to the crowd as Elgin does the deadlift super-plex into the Falcon Arrow, the crowd is electric! Goto winds up getting a quick pin, which deflates the crowd a bit because they were so into Elgin, but it makes sense, if you’re going to make Day 18 matter, Goto and Anderson both need 12 points, Anderson just got his, now Goto has hit.  The potential for a four way tie is real, it’s damn real.  After the match the crowd chants ELGIN! ELGIN! ELGIN! Elgin holds Goto’s hand up, and the crowd is kind of sad — like they were genuinely upset that Elgin didn’t beat Goto.

Satoshi Kojima (2-5, 4 Pts) v. Shinsuke Nakamura (5-2, 10 Pts) [Block B]:  I have a confession to make — I have not been thrilled with Nakamura’s work during this G1.  I know he’s working hurt, and I suspect that’s caused some of what I’m feeling, but I’ve been nonplussed by him all tournament.  This match sticks out because the crowd was *so* good during Elgin/Goto and they were kind of asleep for this match.  This match was completely fine, but it was nothing more then that.  Nakamura won, because of course he did – and while Kojima has been having some good matches in the G1 this year, this wasn’t anything to write home about.  At this point Nakamura, Anderson and Goto all have 12 points, I believe that if Okada wins here, it sets up a crazy scenario on Day 18 that we’ll talk about at the end of the day.

Yuji Nagata (2-5, 4 Pts) v. Kazuchika Okada (6-1, 12 Pts) [Block B]:  How does Yuji Nagata have a match of this quality in his arsenal at age 78 (estimated?)  The early part of this match I kind of thought dragged, and at points I found myself thinking that they were going too long — but things changed towards the end, the crowd became consumed by the war they were watching and suddenly they booing Okada and cheering Nagata and the whole atmosphere switched.  I never really thought Nagata would win, but boy there was a moment when Okada was locked in the Nagatalock that I found myself thinking “this might actually happen.”  Of course it didn’t, Okada survived the assault by Nagata, hit the Rainmaker and pinned Blue Justice.  After the match Nagata got a well deserved ovation from the crowd.  The crowd was great throughout this match and they loved Nagata, and he deserved it — he was absolutely on point throughout this match, great strikes, great action.  I really liked what these two did, even if I thought it might’ve been a bit long.

Tomoaki Honma (0-7, 0 Pts) v. Tomohiro Ishii (4-3, 8 Pts) [Block B]:  At one point during this match the whole world broke and got stuck on repeat and Ishii and Honma exchanged chops for about 2 minutes straight.  It was impressive, and equally brutal. In a match that featured a 2 minute straight exchange of chops, that wasn’t even the most brutal sequence — that award would go to the slaps in the face, followed by Ishii headbutt, followed by lunging, jumping, Honma headbutt right on the button.  Seriously this match was straight brutality from the beginning but towards the end it started getting downright crazy, and the jumping headbutt right on Ishii’s chin was the highlight of that exchange.  Unfortunately after a string of headbutts that were all equally stiff, Honma fell just short and Ishi — wait, what?! You mean….HONMA WINS!!!!! HONMA WINS!!!!  It happened, Honma hits the Kokeshi and PINS TOMOHIRO ISHII.  The crowd goes wild, they’re jumping in the aisles at Korakuen Hall, and I am literally yelling HONMA WINS at my computer screen.  The feel good moment of the G1, and Honma becomes the final competitor in the tournament to secure 2 points.

Final Thoughts:  So here’s how I see it breaking down.  Okada and Nakamura will face each other on Day 18, if Okada wins, he wins Block B and moves into the Finals.  However, if Nakamura wins he’s in the cat bird seat.  EXCEPT, that if Nakamura wins AND Karl Anderson and Hirooki Goto both win, you’ll have four people tied with 14 points, and all four will have wins over each other to completely complicate the tie breaker.  I have no idea how it’ll work.  We could actually see a four person, sudden death tournament to determine who wins Block B, AND THAT WOULD BE AMAZING!  I might be wrong about that match, I genuinely don’t think it matters because I don’t see it becoming a thing.  I do think that it’ll be Nakamura coming out of the Block, so however that needs to happen, they’ll find a way.  This day was excellent though — Elgin/Goto was great, Okada/Nagata and Honma/Ishii were both very good, and Honma getting the win was the feel good moment of the G1.

Standings (Through Day 16)

Kazuchika Okada (14 pts)
Shinsuke Nakamura (12 pts)
Hirooki Goto (12 pts)
Karl Anderson (12 pts)
Tomohiro Ishii (8 pts)
Michael Elgin (8 pts)
Yujiro Takahashi (4 pts)
Satoshi Kojima (4 pts)
Yuji Nagata (4 pts)
Tomoaki Honma (2 pts)

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G125 Day 15 Review (08.11.2015) Styles and Tanahashi Stand Alone

So Block B basically killed it in Korakuen Hall on the 9th (Day 14) and now Block A gets their chance in front of the Korakuen fans for Day 15.  We’re in the home stretch of the 25th G1 tournament and this block is still pretty wide open.  I confess heading into this day that I didn’t have very high hopes for these match ups, but I did expect that by the end of Day 15 we’d be a little bit closer to sorting out the logjam at the top.

Tetsuya Naito (5-2, 10 Pts) v. Doc Gallows (1-6, 2 Pts) [Block A]:  There is a level of irony in Doc Gallows yelling at Naito about how dumb he is dressed, that I’m not sure Gallows appreciates.  Other than that observation, what in the good hell happened here?  I was all ready to talk about how great Naito is that he got me to enjoy a Doc Gallows singles match, and then, Doc Gallows hits a second rope double chokeslam and pins Naito? What planet am I on?  Gallows has been basically atrocious during the G1, I’d probably argue he’s been the worst performer out of everyone in the tournament, and here is, pinning one of the best performers in the whole tournament.  If this is a sign of things to come from Day 15, we are in for a wild ride.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan (1-6, 2 Pts) v. Katsuyori Shibata (4-3, 8 Pts) [Block A]:  Shibata is coming off that out of nowhere, roll up loss to Yano on Day 13.  This match was the second consecutive “out of left field” match of the night.  I wasn’t surprised that it was good.  I was surprised as how good it was.  Tenzan has been having some really good matches in this tournament but for the most part I’ve been crediting the other guys in the match for the quality.  This match is the first time that I honestly thought Tenzan earned the accolade.  Tenzan was a brutal, beast in this match.  Shibata was excellent (because of course he was) but watching Tenzan lock in the Anaconda Vice and proceeding to headbutt Shibata unconscious was basically the best thing ever.  Ultimately Shibata passes out in the Anaconda Vice and Tenzan picks up a huge win.  This match felt like a goodbye.  I know Tenzan isn’t retiring but there’s a good chance that this, his 19th appearance in the G1 will be his last one.  Giving him a huge win over Shibata in this fashion is a nice way to tip your cap to a legend and I have no issues with giving Tenzan the win here, he deserves it.

Kota Ibushi (3-4, 6 Pts) v. Toru Yano (2-5, 4 Pts) [Block A]:  This was, beyond a shadow of a doubt the best 2 minute wrestling match you’ll see all day.  This match proved two things, 1) that Ibushi can’t possibly having a bad match, no matter what the parameters, and 2) Yano is absolutely KILLING it in the G1 this year.  Basically the entire match is a mad cap sprint of Ibushi kicking Yano, Yano grabbing the ref, Yano hitting a low blow and Yano with the quick roll up/cradle for the pin.  Yano pins Shibata and Ibushi in consecutive days and, yep Day 15 is officially a fever dream.

AJ Styles (5-2, 10 Pts) v. Bad Luck Fale (5-2, 10 Pts) [Block A]:  I love the idea that they tease the finger poke of doom spot but Fale kicks out at 2, and AJ acts incredulous because “we flipped a coin and everything!” Styles goes for a too sweet as a sign of forgiveness, pokes Fale in the eye instead and Fale responds by double hand choke throwing Styles over the top rope and into the BC members at ringside.  A description in words doesn’t do the visual justice, but it was one of the rare times where we can to see how freaky strong Fale really is.  The story in this one was really well done, with the BC members being unable to stop Fale and AJ from beating each other up, but trying at every turn to keep them civil.  Tama Tonga ripped a chair out of Fale’s hand, Styles had a chair taken away from Yujiro, and every time they’d get free they’d wind up furhter and further from the ring just beating each other up.  At one point Fale goes for a Bad Luck Fall from bascially the top walkway in Korakuen, but before he can launch AJ into the crowd Gallows grabs his leg and pulls AJ to safety.  Loved, loved, loved AJ getting out of the Bad Luck Fall and Fale trying to turn it into a Styles Clash (Styles escaped, because even AJ Styles won’t take the Styles Clash), and then AJ using the ropes to steal the pin.  Cheating to beat your own teammate, so low.  This match overall was gorgeous.  The story was great, the action was really good. It’s by far the best Fale match I’ve ever seen, and once again AJ Styles proves that he’s a magic man.

Hiroshi Tanahashi (5-2, 10 Pts) v. Togi Makabe (4-3, 8 Pts) [Block A]:  Makabe standing defiant before Tanahashi hits him with a High Fly Flow is maybe the perfect way to encapsulate Makabe.  He looks dangerous and strong, but ultimately he just is there and doesn’t get out of the way.  This match was really good.  Makabe was Makabe, but Tanahashi is so good that he’s able to elevate Makabe into something that I want to see, and someone who seems really strong.  I will never understand why the camera man insists on getting that direct angle shot from the floor of Makabe doing his corner punches because they look so terrible, it’s a bad shot.  Tanahashi hit the aforementioned High Fly Flow on a standing Makabe, and followed it up with a second High Fly Flow for the win.  

Final Thoughts: Well, Day 15 was a lot to handle.  The first three matches were bananas.  If you had told me that Gallows, Tenzan and Yano would win the first three matches against Naito, Shibata, Ibushi I would’ve laughed in your face.  Things calmed down in the second half with Styles and Tanahashi winning and moving into the 12 point category.  The results tonight put Styles and Tanahashi atop the leaderboard and *WHAT A COINCIDENCE* they’ll face each other on Day 17 to close out Block A.  The winner will advance to the G1 Finals.  Just like that, the main event of Day 17 has become bigger than it would’ve been had it *just* been Tanahashi/Styles.

Block A Standings (Through Day 15)

AJ Styles (12 pts)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (12 pts)
Bad Luck Fale (10 pts)
Tetsuya Naito (10 pts)
Katsuyori Shibata (8 pts)
Togi Makabe (8 pts)
Toru Yano (6 pts)
Kota Ibushi (6 pts)
Doc Gallows (4 pts)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4 pts)

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G125 Day 14 Review (08.09.2015) Goto and Ishii head butts for everyone

At this point in the G1 I am burnt out writing these introductory paragraphs.  Block B has been a weird one for me, because it’s the less interesting side of the tournament.  Okada and Nakamura feel like this half of the bracket is a foregone conclusion.  Anderson, Goto, Elgin and Ishii have all been excellent, and even the lower tier guys have shown signs of brilliance (Kojima in particular).  But it never really feels like anyone else has a shot when Okada and Nakamura are on the same side.  Meanwhile, the A block feels wide open because you can justify almost any of the top guys on that side being eliminated, or winning the whole thing.  We get Nakamura/Okada on Friday (the last day of the block stage).  I have to assume that things haven’t been laid out in such a way that two guys, neither of whom need to win to advance face each other, which means that one of those two won’t move on.  The question now becomes, who positions themselves better to advance before that match?

Karl Anderson (4-2, 8 Pts) v. Michael Elgin (4-2, 8 Pts) [Block B]:  We’re 14 days into the G1 and I think I have a pretty good handle on how these cards are laid out.  The opening match is rarely very good.  There have been exceptions — I really liked Elgin/Nagata from Day 12.  But for the most part, the opening tournament match of each day has been a throw-away.  In my head Elgin and Anderson knew that reputation and decided to go out and try to steal the show.  The Korakuen Hall crowd did their part as they were completely into this match and Elgin and Anderson had, what has easily been my favorite Anderson match of the tournament, and what was probably my favorite Elgin match of the tournament.  It was so good.  Elgin fighting off Gallows and Tonga only to then powerbomb Anderson out of the ring and into those guys ringside was awesome.  Anderson reversing the buckle bomb into a Gun Stun to pick up the pin was so great.  The finish gave the win to Anderson (which makes sense) but also kept Elgin looking strong as he had Anderson on the ropes.  Elgin continues to be a revelation in this tournament.  The crowd is completely invested in him at this point and honestly I’d be SHOCKED if he doesn’t become someone who makes regular trips to Japan after his performance here.

Yuji Nagata (1-5, 2 Pts) v. Satoshi Kojima (2-4, 4 Pts) [Block B]: Holy smokes, who knew that these two had this match in them in 2015.  Basically this was just two old bulls beating the snot out of each other.  This was the best Nagata match from the G1, it was the best Kojima match from the G1 and it very well may have been better (or at least as good as) than the Elgin/Anderson match that kicked off the tournament matches on Day 14.  This was excellent, and I’m actually surprised at how good it turned out.  Really physical, both guys just unloading everything they had.  In the end, Nagata picks up the win in a match that I genuinely would have been okay going to either guy, it was that good.  I’m probably overreacting a little bit because I didn’t have very high hopes going in, but if I give them some extra credit for exceeding my expectations then so be it.

Kazuchika Okada (5-1, 10 Pts) v. Yujiro Takahashi (2-4, 4 Pts) [Block B]:  I don’t have a lot to say about this — it was kind of terrible. Okada tried.  There were times when Okada was clearly putting himself in harm’s way to make this work — launching himself over the barricade to take out Takahashi and Hall comes to mind right off the bat.  But Takahashi stinks, and the crowd is so ambivalent about him that after his ring entrance they all go into a collective coma and don’t wake up again until they hear that the match ended.  The third slot has typically been a great match, not so much tonight — in keeping with the theme of tipping everything on it’s head because the opening match on Day 14 was excellent and that’s usually the spot reserved for a lousy match.  I confess that my bias against Takahashi probably impacted my rating of this match, but it wasn’t very good regardless and I’m not sad that it’s over.  Okada had to overcome both Takahashi and Hall, which of course he did because Takahashi and Hall are the Bullet Club equivalent of two guys who set up the chairs.

Shinsuke Nakamura (4-2, 8 Pts) v. Tomoaki Honma (0-6, 0 Pts) [Block B]:  I was really set to crap on this match a little bit because it was not nearly as good as I expected it to be, but the finishing sequence almost made up for any other deficiency.  Honma lunging at Nakamura as Shinsuke came forward for a BomaYe was awesome, and then Honma being BomaYe’d out of mid-Kokeshi was also spectacular and Nakamura picks up the win.  You have to think that if Nakamura hadn’t gotten injured he’d be comfortably at the top of the standings with 12 points instead of surging with 10.  Once again we enter the final few days of the G1 still waiting for Honma to get that monkey off his back.

Hirooki Goto (4-2, 8 Pts) v. Tomohiro Ishii (4-2, 8 Pts) [Block B]:  Oh man.  This was war.  This was everything that I wanted it to be and more.  Ishii over the past two years has probably been the ace of the G1.  He is basically Honma, if Honma had the opportunity to win matches.  Ishii just kills it in the G1.  His offense is so good, his strikes are brutal and everything looks great.  But, the real secret to Ishii is that he makes everyone else look good.  He can take a beating, so a guy like Goto can unload on Ishii and never seem like he’s holding back.  I had never considered that I desperately wanted to see a match where two guys head butt each other half to death, then I watched this match and realized I had been missing out this whole time. Give some credit to the Korakuen crowd too, they were electric for this thing and the finishing sprint was just madness, and the crowd ate it up.  Ishii and Goto lunging at each other with headbutts only to see Ishii crumple (the only way to describe it) was excellent leading into the Shouten Kai.  Goto picks up the pinfall victory in another spectacular G1 match, and I’m not ready to count Goto out just yet.

Final Thoughts:  This day was book-ended by two excellent matches.  Anderson/Elgin and Goto/Ishii will be on my end of the tournament best of list, for sure.  The rest of the matches on Day 14 were somewhere between very good and good with my least favorite match being the one that featured arguably the best wrestler in the world (Okada/Takahashi).  It feels like Okada is moving on to the next round, which leaves one spot up for grabs in this group.  I don’t think it’ll be Anderson, which leaves Nakamura and Goto.  I don’t feel *super* confident in my pre-touranment selection (Goto) but he’s got but wins over Okada and Ishii, but the loss to Nakamura might prove fatal.  Up next for this group, Day 16, which gives us Hirooki Goto v. Michael Elgin (yes, please) and a suddenly very interesting Satoshi Kojima/Shinsuke Nakamura match.

Standings (Through Day 14)

Kazuchika Okada (12 pts)
Shinsuke Nakamura (10 pts)
Hirooki Goto (10 pts)
Karl Anderson (10 pts)
Tomohiro Ishii (8 pts)
Michael Elgin (8 pts)
Yujiro Takahashi (4 pts)
Satoshi Kojima (4 pts)
Yuji Nagata (4 pts)
Tomoaki Honma (0 pts)

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G125 Day 13 Review (08.08.2015) Tanahashi/Shibata, enough said

Block A has been my jam during the G1 this year.  I think Block B has the benefit of the real superstars, but Block A is deeper.  Looking at the Group of 8 a-top Block A you’ve got four guys who could win both the Block and the tournament (sorry Fale).  I’d also say you’re nuts to think that Ibushi isn’t a threat to win the whole thing either as he’s had nothing but great matches throughout the tournament.  Heading into Day 13 I really don’t know what to expect.

Bad Luck Fale (4-2, 8 Pts) v. Kota Ibushi (3-3, 6 Pts) [Block A]:  I have never watched a match where I felt like nothing that I was seeing made sense.  This match was a fever dream.  Ibushi kind of looked like garbage.  His offense looked pretty awful because in fairness Ibushi slapping Fale isn’t going to ever look like it’s hurting Fale.  Plus, Fale is so immobile that when Ibushi goes for a rana Fale has to like, transition to a knee, then slowly roll — it is just all bad.  This match was such a disappointment that even the Bad Luck Fall, the one thing that Fale does that is awesome, looked like shit.  I might just be biased because I love Ibushi and can’t stand Fale, and Fale wins here but either way, not how I wanted to start Day 13’s tournament action.

Toru Yano (2-4, 4 Pts) v. Tetsuya Naito (4-2, 8 Pts) [Block A]:  It’s kind of hilarious but Yano is the perfect foil for Naito right now. Naito’s attitude is that he just doesn’t care, until he’s confronted with someone who genuinely doesn’t care — as Yano is clowning on Naito, Naito is getting frustrated.  It’s perfect.  Naito laying down on his side leads to Yano laying down on the ring apron.  Naito keeping his entrance clothes on, leads to Yano putting his entrance robe back on and laughing at Naito.  All of this leads to Naito being more vicious in his attack.  That’s the little trick to Naito’s whole character, and it’s a great wrinkle that came out in this match.  Naito doesn’t care, except that he does — and when he’s faced with someone who just laughs at him, he can’t really handle that so he snaps.  That’s why after Naito hits the Destino and pins Yano he doesn’t let up, he keeps the assault going.  Yano continues to be a revelation during this tournament and Naito continues to be one of the MVP’s of the entire Block process.

AJ Styles (4-2, 8 Pts) v. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (1-5, 2 Pts) [Block A]:  I’ve said before that these Tenzan matches can be good, if he’s paired up with someone who is willing and able to do all of the work.  Tenzan is basically a motionless headbutt and mongolian chop machine.  He needs someone who will do all the running around, all of the motion in the match, and he’ll stand back and occasionally headbutt you and concave your chest.  Fortunately Styles is one of those guys that is willing and able to do the heavy lifting and still create a really good match.  This was really good. Much better than a match with Hiroyoshi Tenzan had any right to be, and once again I give a ton of credit to Styles for that because he did a lot of work here to make this thing come off right.  In the end, Tenzan taps to the Calf Killer and AJ Styles joins the group at 10.

Doc Gallows (1-5, 2 Pts) v. Togi Makabe (3-2, 6 Pts) [Block A]:  Whether it’s fair or not I hated this match.  My hatred of this match came not during this match, or even during the entrance.  I’ve hated this match since it was announced.  There are just certain pairings that I have no desire to see, and this is one of them.  It really wasn’t a bad match.  It was certainly better than what I expected, but I expected a bag of garbage.  Makabe wins with the King Kong Knee and let’s just leave it at that and get to the reason we’re all here.

Katsuyori Shibata (4-2, 8 Pts) v. Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-2, 8 Pts) [Block A]:  This wasn’t my favorite match in the G1 this year, but I’d argue it’s probably the most “complete”.  By that I mean, it starts off very technical, they took a long time to set everything up and to build towards the violence, and the brutal striking, than the quick paced exchange of big moves all transitioning to the sprint to the finish. It was as complete a match as I can remember watching during the G1 this year.  Shibata has been excellent during the G1 this year but I think the clock may have struck midnight on his run.  Tanahashi continues to put on fantastic performances and this was no different.  I feel a little lousy for Shibata who has lost back to back matches on a quick roll up.  He’s basically the WWE Diva’s Division of G1 competitors.  Losing to Yano on a roll up is one thing, Tanahashi rolling you up is a different animal.  As I said, I might’ve liked Shibata/Ibushi or Styles/Ibushi more, but I don’t think any of those matches were as complete as this one.

Final Thoughts:  As great as this G1 has been — and it’s been very good, if Block A winds up coming down to Tanahashi and Fale I might have to consider canceling my New Japan World subscription.

Block A Standings (Through Day 13)

Bad Luck Fale (10 pts)
Tetsuya Naito (10 pts)
AJ Styles (10 pts)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (10 pts)
Katsuyori Shibata (8 pts)
Togi Makabe (8 pts)
Kota Ibushi (6 pts)
Toru Yano (4 pts)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2 pts)
Doc Gallows (2 pts)

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G125 Day 12 Review (08.07.2015), The Day I Started To Appreciate Satoshi Kojima

Day 12 is upon us and nothing is really settled at this point.  Block B has been coming on strong lately after having some pretty poor showings at the beginning of the tournament (in my opinion).  My MVP of the block so far has been Michael Elgin who has been great, and Kazuchika Okada who is always great.  All I know is this — Block B will get back in the ring on Day 14 in Korakuen Hall and sooner or later these guys are going to have to separate themselves from one another in the standings.

Michael Elgin (3-2, 6 Pts) v. Yuji Nagata (1-4, 2 Pts) [Block B]:  At this point there is no use denying that Michael Elgin is taking New Japan by storm.  A clean pinfall win over Yuji Nagata and suddenly Elgin finds himself with 8 points.  The crowd is loving him, and he’s having good to very good matches every time out.  There is an Elgin/Tomohiro Ishii match coming down the road that should be amazing.  This was a tough, hard hitting match and Elgin took as well as he gave.  Nagata has been really good during this G1, better than I remember him from last year and he continues to prove that he’s ageless.  The crowd still loves the deadlift superplex-falcon arrow spot, and the buckle bomb, blue thunder bomb combo to finish the match for Elgin gets people charged up as well.  I expect Elgin might not get to 10 points, but he’s made a very strong case to not have this G1 appearance be the last time he shows up in New Japan.

Karl Anderson (3-2, 6 Pts) v. Tomoaki Honma (0-5, 0 Pts) [Block B]:  I have to give credit where credit is due, this match felt like it was SO S-L-O-W, but the end totally flipped me on it.  Honma is great at getting a crowd fully invested in what they’re watching.  Dude simply does not win G1 matches but that never stops the crowd from fully committing to the bit, and just getting wrapped up in his offense to the point where you think this might finally be the time.  Honma goes for the top rope Kokeshi and because Anderson isn’t dumb, he just jumps to his feet, catches Honma on the way down and drops him in the Gun Stun.  Now, admittedly the impact to Honma is basically the same whether that happened, or he hit the Kokeshi so the match being an automatic kill doesn’t make much sense, but it was innovative and a fun way to end the match.  Anderson joins the group at 8 points.

Satoshi Kojima (2-3, 4 Pts) v. Hirooki Goto (3-2, 6 Pts) [Block B]:  This was such a good match that it caused me to go back and re-evaluate my feelings on Kojima.  Dude has been on point during the G1 this year.  He had a good match with Takahashi (almost impossible) and this match was better than good, it was entertaining as hell.  Goto has kind of developed into this guy who takes a ton of damage but keeps coming back, keeps charging up and then ultimately overcomes you in the end.  That character type is tough sometimes because if your opponent can’t carry the offensive load, the match can slow down to a brutal degree.  Kojima did a great job of carrying the action here, and this match never felt slow (compared to the previous match especially).  Ultimately Goto wins with the Shouten Kai and my pre-tournament prediction lives on as Goto joins the group with 8 points.

Yujiro Takahashi (2-3, 4 Pts) v. Shinsuke Nakamura (3-2, 6 Pts) [Block B]:  This is why Nakamura is the best.  Takahashi comes out alone — apparently he’s so lousy that he can’t even pay women to come out and dance for him.  But Nakamura is no dummy, so when he comes out the minute he gets into the ring he motions to Takahashi asking where the dancing girl is, it’s hilarious because that is absolutely the only thing that Takahashi has going for him, and if he isn’t going to have the girl with him, there is almost no reason to care about Takahashi, even when you’re wrestling him in a must win G1 tournament match.  Other than the opening twenty seconds, the rest of this match certainly happened.  Nakamura wins, because of course he does and suddenly there is a huge logjam at 8 points, and Nakamura, after injury, is coming.

Tomohiro Ishii (4-1, 8 Pts) v. Kazuchika Okada (4-1, 8 Pts) [Block B]:  The best way I can describe this match would be — at one point Okada is throwing forearms, Ishii isn’t avoiding them, he’s diving his head into Okada’s forearm, and Okada is smiling and laughing.  It was like Okada couldn’t really process why this tiny, ball of rage, wouldn’t stop coming forward.  That exchange ended with Ishii decking Okada. I didn’t love the early phase of this match because it took place outside the ring and on a single camera show that never translates well.  However, once things went inside the ring, it was *so* good.  Ishii is kind of the perfect opponent for Okada because he’s brutally tough, his offense looks great, but Okada can also toss him around like a rag doll.  The finish saw Okada with a gorgeous german suplex dropping Ishii on his head, right into a rainmaker lariat and the three count.  Day 12 ends with Kazuchika Okada a-top Block B with 10 points.

Final Thoughts: Day 12 was a strong day from the B Block.  Elgin/Nagata, Kojima/Goto and Okada/Ishii were all really good matches that deserve to be checked out.  Each member of the Block has three matches remaining.  Now that Okada has 10 points, you can effectively write off Takahashi, Kojima, Nagata and Honma (not that any of them had a chance to win anyway).  We’re going to separate most of the other pretenders on Day 14 when this Block comes back.  The next day we see Block B will be at Korakuen with Goto/Ishii in the main event, so that should be pretty awesome.

Standings (Through Day 12)

Kazuchika Okada (10 pts)
Tomohiro Ishii (8 pts)
Michael Elgin (8 pts)
Karl Anderson (8 pts)
Hirooki Goto (8 pts)
Shinsuke Nakamura (8 pts)
Yujiro Takahashi (4 pts)
Satoshi Kojima (4 pts)
Yuji Nagata (2 pts)
Tomoaki Honma (0 pts)

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G125 Day 11 Review (08.05.2015) Please Appreciate Naito

Bad Luck Fale (3-2, 6 Pts) v. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (1-4, 2 Pts) [Block A]:  This was a good match, in the same way that any random pairing of two guys with zero forward momentum would be a good match.  One of my favorite running subplots of this G1 was the pre-tournament statement by Naito that Tenzan was essentially washed up with nothing left to give, and this tournament has all but confirmed that Tenzan is exactly that.  Fale continues to be just the absolute worst, and this match won’t convince anyone that he is worthy of being near the top of the leader board.  Tama Tonga got involved a ton in this match, which at least put one guy who has shown consistent improvement over the past year in the match for the Bullet Club.  Fale won with his 2 star frog splash, big splash off the top turnbuckle which is a significantly worse finisher than the Bad Luck Fall.

Toru Yano (1-4, 2 Pts) v. Katsuyori Shibata (4-1, 8 Pts) [Block A]:  This mach includes definitive proof that Yano-mania is running wild in the G1 this year.  Basically the entire match is Shibata kicking the shit out of Yano, until Shibata goes for the armbar, Yano rolls him up and gets the pinfall victory while locked in an armbar.  When Yano gets the win, the crowd erupts!  It’s not because they hate Shibata either, because nobody hates Shibata, Shibata is the f’n truth.  It’s because Yano has been delightful in this tournament and deserves to pick up these sneaky, dastardly wins every once in awhile.  It’s what separates Yano from Honma.  Whereas Honma is capable of having great “wrestling” matches in the G1, Yano is able to win.  I guess it’s a personal preference which of those scenarios you enjoy more.  I love Shibata and he’s been awesome in this tournament, but I like that he got blindsided by a flash pin and Yano picks up the points.

Doc Gallows (1-4, 2 Pts) v. Hiroshi Tanahashi (3-2, 6 Pts) [Block A]:  During this match, around the 2:09:00 mark on the New Japan World video player, Doc Gallows performs, what can only be described as the single worst attempt at an elbow drop in the history of professional wrestling and I mean that in all sincerity.  Pretty much everything after that elbow drop was garbage by Gallows.  He wiffed on catching Tanahashi in a choke slam when Tanahashi jumped from the top rope, he looked awful with a superkick on Tanahashi coming off the ropes and the rest of the match was equally “meh”.  Tanahashi did the best that he could, but this really wasn’t working for me. Ultimately Tanahashi got the roll up for the pin and picked up two more points to move into the 8 point log jam.

Togi Makabe (3-2, 6 Pts) v. AJ Styles (3-2, 6 Pts) [Block A]:  The pin off the Styles Clash is lazy and looks terrible — I’m not alone there right? I think for the most part Styles has been spectacular in the G1 this year, but this match — well it wasn’t great for me.  Of course I have to give some leeway for the single camera, that wide angle takes away something from these matches, but Makabe continues to feel like a guy who is all bark, no bite.  Watch Ishii and then watch Makabe.  It’s apples to oranges, but I think they’re supposed to be guys with similar styles.  AJ continues to be great, he’s even found a way to make his Pele Kick look awesome and natural.  I genuinely think that AJ’s run in New Japan is the best work he’s ever done, and it isn’t even that close.  Having Ibushi around has also caused AJ to really tighten up his own work, and I think he’s really excelled.  Styles picks up the win after the Styles Clash and he joins the group at 8 points.

Tetsuya Naito (3-2, 6 Pts) v. Kota Ibushi (3-2, 6 Pts) [Block A]:  I hope you’re not underestimating how incredible Naito is right now.  Dude has found new and inventive ways to undress before a match, every, single, match.  It’s not the same schtick every time — he’s switching it up, adding new wrinkles and expanding the act.  It’s amazing and I hope everyone else is appreciating the work this guy is doing.  With all that gushing about Naito out of the way, let me be very clear about one thing — Kota Ibushi is the best wrestler in the world right now, and I’m not sure it’s that close.  Ibushi is so good he could have a compelling match with a blow up doll (I know this for a fact, because he’s done it).  I would like to warn both of these guys not to try top rope reverse-rana’s ever again, and thankfully Ibushi doesn’t appear to be deceased after the one they did in this match.  My only complaint about this match is that I wanted it to be even better.  I know that isn’t fair because what they did here was excellent, but don’t you get the feeling that these guys have an *epic* five star style clash in them somewhere.  Naito took the win with the Destino finisher and the crowd was almost audibly shocked that Ibushi lost.  This was a very good match that continued to showcase the improvements that Naito has made in every facet of his performance.

Final Thoughts:  This was a strange day for me, I never really got invested in it and I think that has a lot to do with the single camera.  Some of the matches were very good, the final two were both quality and the main event was excellent.  Overall, it was a strong day that didn’t really do much to help spread the field.  We went into Day 11 with one (1) person at 8 points, and six (6) at six points and we left Day 11 with five (5) guys all at eight points.  The field is not doing much to separate themselves, and Shibata in particular lost a great chance to create some distance by losing to Yano. With the performances from Naito, Shibata, Ibushi, Tanahashi and Styles this group could legitimately go any possible way and I wouldn’t be surprised — so I’m very interested to see how Day 13 plays out where I think we’ll finally see the cream rise to the top.

Block A Standings (Through Day 11)

Katsuyori Shibata (8 pts)
Bad Luck Fale (8 pts)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (8 pts)
AJ Styles (8 pts)
Tetsuya Naito (8 pts)
Kota Ibushi (6 pts)
Togi Makabe (6 pts)
Toru Yano (4 pts)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2 pts)
Doc Gallows (2 pts)

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G125 Day 10 Review (8.4.2015) Nakamura on the move

Sometimes I just don’t have anything pithy to say as the lede.  This is Day 10, we’re getting dangerously close to the end of the group stage of the G1 and if it had not been for Nakamura’s injury I think every member of CHAOS would have 8 points by the end of today.

Michael Elgin (2-2, 4 Pts) v. Yujiro Takahashi (2-2, 4 Pts) [Block B]:  The fact that Michael Elgin got a crowd response during a Yujiro Takahashi match should prove to all the naysayers that Elgin belongs in New Japan.  This tour has been a revelation for me as it relates to Elgin.  I think the day-to-day goings on in Ring of Honor really wore Elgin out in late 2014/early 2015 because the guy I’m seeing in these G1 matches is a different person.  It’s the Elgin that basically tore the independent scene apart in 2013.  I didn’t really like this match, I don’t know that I’ll ever really like a Takahashi match, but it was good and Elgin looked good.  I was worried going in because Takahashi has the ability to really sandbag a match, but he had his work boots on here and he gave for Elgin as good as he got.  Takahashi is probably having the type of G1 this year that he wishes he had last year.  If this is the guy we got in 2014, his entire career would probably be in different shape than it is.

Satoshi Kojima (1-3, 2 Pts) v. Tomoaki Honma (0-4, 0 Pts) [Block B]:  This was a pretty “meh” match to me.  The one highlight was Kojima punching Honma out of mid-air headbutt, which was a cool visual, if somewhat missed by the cameraman.  Kojima has shown me something during the tournament this year, he’s still got something left in the tank and it doesn’t hurt to be in a match with Honma who exists on earth strictly to make someone else look great in the ring.  Honma was Honma, the crowd loved him – but I think New Japan is walking a fine line by not having him win any of these matches.  This was another meaningless, in the grand scheme of things, matches and a win by Honma would’ve added a level of intrigue to his matches that is currently lacking as it’s clear he’s just not going to get a win.

Yuji Nagata (1-3, 2 Pts) v. Tomohiro Ishii (3-1, 6 Pts) [Block B]:  There is a beautiful part about 4 minutes into this match where Nagata kicks Ishii, and Ishii responds with a look of just annoyance that someone would try to kick him.  They start to exchange strikes and Nagata appears to get confused or something and just shoves Ishii, school yard style and it made me laugh so hard.  This match also involves the most concentrated effort to forearm someone in the liver that I’ve ever seen.  The match itself is just a brutal exchange of strikes from two of the toughest dudes in the company.  The end is a pretty vicious slap fight that ends with Ishii head butting Nagata flush in the mouth and dropping him. Ishii wins with the brainbuster in a match that was significantly better than it had any right to be.

Kazuchika Okada (3-1, 6 Pts) v. Karl Anderson (3-1, 6 Pts) [Block B]:  I hated this match.  That’s not even fair, I was bored to tears by this match.  I am not even sure how it’s possible that a match featuring two of the best performers in the world could be as boring as this was, but this was brutal.  I still have no clue how the physics of blocking a Gun Stun work — Anderson, jumping forward, legs out, is somehow stopped, mid-move by Okada standing still. It is the most fourth wall breaking shit in all of wrestling and I wish they’d just stop doing it.  Yeah, you can block the move by not cooperating and not moving at all – that would also work to reverse every single wrestling move there is.  Okada wins with the rainmaker because there was no way Okada was losing two singles matches, in three days, to different opponents.  Anderson, who jumped out to an early lead in the G1 is slowly falling down the leaderboard.

Hirooki Goto (3-1, 6 Pts) v. Shinsuke Nakamura (2-2, 4 Pts) [Block B]:  I kind of started off this match wanting to hate it, but it got so good at the end that I can’t say anything bad about it.  I wanted Goto to win, and I thought he might, but Nakamura wound up spinning through a lariat into an armbar, and forcing Goto to tap.  I continue to love one-armed Nakamaura who seems so vulnerable that it’s making his incredible ability stand out.  Goto meanwhile continues to have a very strong G1, he’s pinned Okada, and he took Nakamura to the limit in consecutive singles matches.  When you consider that he’s also pinned Nakamura to become IC Champion recently, you have to admit that Goto is on a pretty solid run.

Final Thoughts:  Maybe it’s my mood but this day just didn’t click for me.  I thought Nagata/Ishii was solid and Goto/Nakamura ended on a great high note, but other than that the rest of the day was pretty lackluster.  I still have no clue what is happening in this group.  The obvious answer is that Nakamura is set to go on a run and get himself into the top 2 with Okada, but Ishii and Goto appear to be poised to crack that final two spot as well.  I can’t imagine Elgin is a real threat, though honestly he deserves to be a threat and he’s already through the most difficult part of the group. We’re getting close to the end of the group stage though and I think we’re probably going to see Okada and Nakamura battle for one spot, with Goto grabbing the other spot in the final four.

Standings (Through Day 10)

Tomohiro Ishii (8 pts)
Kazuchika Okada (8 pts)
Hirooki Goto (6 pts)
Karl Anderson (6 pts)
Michael Elgin (6 pts)
Shinsuke Nakamura (6 pts)
Yujiro Takahashi (4 pts)
Satoshi Kojima (4 pts)
Yuji Nagata (2 pts)
Tomoaki Honma (0 pts)

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