An Off the Cuff, unedited diatribe on the Burning Hammer, or Beyond Wrestling “Over-Nite Sensation” Reviewed

The last wrestling event that I reviewed was Beyond Wrestling “Hit & Run” which took place in….holy shit, January 2015!  Needless to say it’s been awhile.  That review was posted on October 15, 2015, which makes this a review 14 months in the making.  That’s a lot of hype.


To say that things have changed in Beyond since the last time I reviewed a show would be an understatement.  “Over-Nite Sensation” comes to you live from Memorial Hall in Melrose, Massachusetts.  A venue that was a mere glimmer in the eye of Denver Colorado (are we still calling him that? I genuinely don’t know), the last time you heard from me.  We’re live on FLOSLAM, and Beyond is the lede-in event for a WWNLive, Evolve iPPV being headlined by Drew Gulak and Tracy Williams.  That’s, a lot to digest.


However, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  The formula that has made Beyond Wrestling a beloved fixture in the Northeast is still here.  Drew is still here, Momma Colorado is still making amazing food, and many of the same rabid devotees to Beyond Wrestling are still here.  Having two kids has made it very difficult for me to travel to shows, but two factors contributed to getting me to Melrose on a Sunday afternoon.  The first, my Wife joined me because a member of her actual family was involved in the event (more on that later), and it was probably the last time we’d get Kimber Lee in a Beyond Wrestling ring, so let’s start there.


Thank You, Kimber…*clap, clap, clap, clap, clap*:  Few performers are as associated with Beyond Wrestling as Kimber Lee.   Way the hell back at Feeding Frenzy, Kimber Lee had an open challenge and Chuck Taylor answered.  In my review of that show I noted that while Kim was good, the Beyond crowd was not really warming up to her.  But here’s the thing, Kim kept showing up, and she kept putting on really good matches, and suddenly people start dropping away, but Kim remains, and before long Kimber Lee is the ace of Beyond Wrestling.  For my money, it was Biff Busick before he was shot into the sun and returned as Oney Lorcan, and then it was Kim, and she’s carried that baton through the growth in popularity that Beyond has gone through in the past 18 months or so.  I know she held the CHIKARA Grand Championship, which is a significant achievement, but I don’t know that any of that happens without her performance in Beyond. Last Wednesday, Kimber Lee popped up on NXT taking on Ember Moon.  Our Kim got on TV, and she took an O-Face, and it was special.  But then it came out that she had been signed, that Kimber Lee, our Kimber Lee, was going to the WWE.  Which is why her match with LuFisto was so emotional for a lot of people in Melrose.  This was it.  LuFisto was the perfect opponent. A women’s wrestling legend who at this point in her career is almost defined by the fact that she showed up too early, and never got to WWE, taking on Kimber Lee, who showed up right on time, made the most of her opportunities and now has a chance to go be a TV star.  The match itself was okay, I’m not a huge LuFisto fan at this point, but both women laid it all out there.  It was hard hitting, and told the story that needed to be told.  LuFisto hit Kim with a burning hammer, and she kicked out — a fitting tribute for Kim to leave Beyond with.  It wasn’t enough though, LuFisto caught her on the top turnbuckle, hit a double stomp and ended it with a second Burning Hammer.  The match was followed by a standing ovation, which was absolutely deserved, and then Kimber Lee went off to a be television star, which she earned.  I’m glad that I was able to be there for the end of her journey in Beyond, and though I know we’ll all miss her, I hope that she never has to come back.


Since we’re here, let’s talk about the Burning Hammer:  My biggest problem with the show was the spamming of the Burning Hammer.  Contextually Misawa invented the Burning Hammer and used it a grand total of 7 times.  It was the proverbial “In Case of Emergency” move.  You know that if Misawa thought enough of you to bust out the Burning Hammer, that you were in elite company.  I don’t want to sound like the old man complaining about everything, but on Sunday afternoon I saw 5 Burning Hammers within the first 90 minutes of the show.  After the opening six-man scramble, Da Hit Squad came out and basically murdered everyone in the ring, including two burning hammers. The very next match, LuFisto vs. Kimber Lee included Kim KICKING OUT of a burning hammer, and then Lu hitting a second burning hammer for the win.  Shortly thereafter, Chris Dickinson hit a burning hammer.  FIVE BURNING HAMMERS in the first half of the show, that’s literally FIVE Burning Hammer’s too many.  Seriously, Da Hit Squad never should have use the BH in context of their beat down.  It was completely unnecessary, but also, you have to know that LuFisto who uses the move regularly, is coming out right behind you. Four burning hammers in the first half hour, and then Dickinson, who presumably has been in the building for this whole ordeal, uses the BH himself later.  I dunno, maybe I am just that old guy screaming into the void, but the whole thing seemed unnecessary and ridiculous.


Chris Hero used zero burning hammers:  During the show news started to leak out that Chris Hero had made plans to return to the WWE in 2017.  Hero, who has been on an absolutely tour de force in 2016 has put on good to great matches with basically everyone he’s been in the ring with.  It’s one thing to get a great match out of Pentagon Jr.  It’s a whole different animal, when you’re in the middle of the show, wrestling John Silver.  That’s not intended to be a knock on John Silver, but this card featured Ricochet, AR Fox, David Starr and a host of other “top of the card” names.  Silver isn’t there yet (though he’s delightful and always delivers huge in Beyond).  The fact that Hero can put on a great match with Dick Togo shouldn’t shock anyone, but it’s a completely different style to put together something as effective as his match with Silver.  Hero’s a technician and it showed in this match.  The whole thing was paced and delivered perfectly.  Silver is significantly smaller than Hero, and they played that up throughout.  Silver, who is constantly flexing and showing how strong he is, trying to life the *much* bigger Hero played throughout the match.  However, Hero disrespected Silver throughout the match (because of the size difference) and it ultimately cost him as Silver was able to get the pin and defeat Chris Hero.  If the stories about Hero going back to the WWE are true, Silver getting the pin over Hero in this match should be used as a HUGE stepping stone towards more high profile matches for Silver.


The match that made my Wife audibly say “OW!”:  To say that Ricochet and Jonathan Gresham was good, would be to state the obvious.  Both of these dudes could wrestle a potato sack to an interesting match.  Ricochet operates on another level, but Gresham is like his perfect opponent.  Everything that Ricochet does aerially that sets him apart, Gresham can match with mat technique. Gresham’s joint manipulation in this match was other-worldly, and at one point as he bent Ricochet’s arm, wrist, and fingers my Wife audibly said “ouch”.  It was visually compelling, and it was joint manipulation.  That doesn’t happen very often.  I’m going to give a huge tip to Ricochet for a moment.  Remember two paragraphs ago where I talked about the Burning Hammer, and how nobody seemed to care who was up next, so they just kept spamming Burning Hammers?  Well, during the Ricochet/Gresham match, Ricochet stayed pretty grounded and it was a little jarring.  I mean, why show up and grapple with Jonathan Gresham?  After Ricochet tapped out to Gresham, it all made sense.


International Man of Mystery David Starr:  On Saturday, David Starr wrestled for wXw in Germany and became the wXw Shotgun Champion.  On Sunday afternoon he’s standing in a wrestling ring in Melrose, Massachusetts putting the belt on the line.  I cannot imagine how exhausting that must be.  But, with Joey Janela almost dying at Cage of Death, AR Fox was set to return to Beyond, and had no opponent.  So, Starr comes out, puts his wXw title on the line and the two blow the goddamn roof off, in what felt like a 4 minute sprint where they both got all of their shit in at once.  Of everything on the show, this stood out to me as the highlight.  Fox was his insane best, at one point bumping directly on his skull when Starr did nothing more than sweep his foot out from under him.  See, the sneaky great part of AR Fox is that he over sells on everything for a reason.  Everything about Fox is exaggerated.  His offense is insane, he flies higher than anyone, he jumps higher, he hits harder, and because of that he also sells more intensely, which makes everything he does seem like it has purpose.  This match was an excellent use of a short amount of time.  Starr retained, because of course the xWx Shotgun title isn’t going to change hands in Melrose, Massachusetts.  However, this match was also why I think Ricochet stayed somewhat grounded in his match.  Ricochet can’t come out, do insane aerials, and then have Fox come out and do the same type of match  — because it KILLS the Fox effort.  Ricochet knows this, so he wrestles a more conservative (for Ricochet) match against Gresham and lets Fox blow the roof off the joint.  As an additional aside, David Starr has felt on the verge of being a major “thing” on the independent scene for a year now, and if something huge doesn’t happen for that guy in 2017 I’d be shocked.


Brian Fury’s Goodbye to Beyond:  During the introductions for the main event this is how I described Brian Fury vs Donovan Dijak to my wife (a novice).  Fury trained a bunch of the wrestlers in this room, and is a significant fixture in New England independent wrestling.  Dijak is one of his students, and is going to headline Wrestlemania someday.  The first time I saw Dijak I said he was going to be a star, and so far that prediction has proven to be correct.  I don’t just say this for no reason – ROH should pull the trigger on Dijak yesterday.  As a company ROH’s biggest problem has always been that they wait to long to put the belt on someone.  Dijak is basically built of money, if you can’t do something with him better than opening match scrambles, then let him go to Orlando and wrestle Samoa Joe.  Fury got the crowd to push in towards the ring because he deserved a traditional Beyond Wrestling send off, which does highlight one of the issues with Beyond getting more popular and running these different venues.  There is a bit of the old vibe that is gone when everyone is sitting in seats, and watching a show comfortably.  Fury is a reminder of an era of Beyond that is gone.  As of last night, Kimber Lee, Chris Hero and Brian Fury are likely all gone from the company, the question becomes who is prepared to step up and take advantage of the sizable vacuum created by those losses.


I confess that I love the Spirit Squad.  Full disclosure, my Wife came with me to Melrose on Sunday because Kenny of the Spirit Squad is her cousin.  If that somehow taints my appreciation of them than so be it.  The Squad (we’re tight like that) is an acquired taste, a gimmick so repulsive to wrestling fans that these guys are still getting heat out of it a decade after they debuted (Jan. 2006).   The thing about the Squad that I struggle with is, the gimmick handcuffs the performers.  Kenny is like a shredded 6’3.  Mikey is a fantastic performer with charisma for days.  Unfortunately, because they’re wrestling as the Spirit Squad and not Ken Doane and Mike Mondo you sometimes can’t get past the gimmick to see the performer.  The match with EYFBO took awhile to get going, but what you actually got was a solid, tag team match with good work from both sides.  There was nothing particularly “flashy” about the match, EYFBO had a couple moments that picked up the pace, but with the heel Squad controlling the action it was a slow, deliberate paced tag team match, and I for one, enjoyed it.  I was shocked when the Squad picked up the victory, and I actually hope that this is a sign that they might not have been one a “one off” performance in Beyond.  I actually think Mikey and Kenny have something to offer in Beyond, and there a plethora of tag teams that could benefit from working with them.


Da Hit Squad Again.  After the Squad picks up the win Da Hit Squad comes to the ring and all hell breaks loose.  Basically insulted that EYFBO couldn’t even beat The Spirit Squad, Da Hit Squad beat the tar out of them, only to be interrupted by Chris Dickinson and Jaka.  When Dickinson and Jaka challenge Da Hit Squad, they bail.   Though I wasn’t a huge fan of multiple burning hammers, I do like that Da Hit Squad are making a statement that they are the alpha dogs in Beyond Wrestling now, and Dickinson and Jaka, who have for a long time held themselves as the lead dogs in that yard, are having to confront them head on.


The Blitz in the Middle of the Show:  So with Dickinson and Jaka in the ring, we get a bit of a blitz of three matches.  Jaka takes on Sean Maluta in a match that I genuinely don’t remember.  I don’t mean for that to be insulting, I just kinda don’t have much to say about the former partners facing off. Maluta to me seems like a guy who got that run in the Cruiserweight Classic and is now stuck in a world where he’s “WWE’s SEAN MALUTA” but also not really.  After they’re done, Dickinson comes into the ring to hug it out and Chuck O’Neil comes out to confront Dickinson, calling him fat and genuinely being kind of terrible on the mic.  O’Neil can’t compete (or “can’t” compete) tonight so he brings out Jeff Cobb to wrestle Chris Dickinson.  Jeff Cobb is fucking awesome, and actually the more I have thought about this match in hindsight, the more that I liked it.  Cobb to me feels like a guy who should genuinely be a super-duper star and that isn’t even with a mask on.  He’s so strong it’s incredible, the force and quickness that he snaps off moves is awesome and these two had a really hard hitting match.  After that ends, O’Neil comes back out and gets into the ring to fight Dickinson who like quickly takes him down and starts beating his ass.  This was weird — O’Neil playing the chickenshit heel role, watches Dickinson have a grueling match and tries to take advantage of that, but before he can even get one shot in, Dickinson just murks him, kind of proving the whole point that Dickinson is just better than he is, awkward.  In the melee that ensues, Matthew Riddle comes out and starts just kicking Dickinson in the head, which brings out Dan Barry and we get this weird moment where Dan Barry is working with Chris Dickinson and Jaka to beat up Matthew Riddle.  When things finally calm down we get Dan Barry working over Matthew Riddle’s knee, until Riddle can regain his composure and then proceed to just pummel Barry.  I know that you don’t need me to tell you this, but Matthew Riddle is so good at professional wrestling it’s crazy.  Dude moves so fluidly, his offense has genuine heft.  Everything he does has force (if that makes sense) and it’s actually alarming how good that dude has gotten, in such a short amount of time.  That’s not to take anything away from Barry, who I adore, but the whole story line of this match going in was that Barry, upset that Riddle destroyed his merch table, was biting off more than he could chew, and that actually played itself out during the match.  At the end of the day there is a hierarchy to this stuff and Matthew Riddle > Dan Barry I guess.


Closing:  So, what did I think of my first Beyond Wrestling show in what felt like a lifetime?  I was very happy to have been in Melrose for this show.  Ricochet/Gresham and AR Fox/Starr were really fun.  Even though he’s on Lucha Underground now, AR Fox somehow still manages to be the most underutilized talent around.  Meanwhile, John Silver pinning Chris Hero feels like it was important for the growth of a guy who has connected with the Beyond audience, and it was bittersweet to say goodbye to Kimber Lee.  I’m not entirely sure where Beyond goes from here.  There is one more show in 2016 before they turn the page to 2016, but this year has felt like a significant growth step for the company, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can maintain that growth moving forward.  The independent wrestling scene is a changing landscape, and nowhere is that more evident than Beyond Wrestling who have already lost some of the most trusted names to the WWE and really feel primed to lose a few more before too long.  Personally, this show revitalized me a bit, and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.

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Beyond Wrestling “Hit & Run” Reviewed, 10 Months Later

Beyond Wrestling “Hit & Run” (January 31, 2015)

Available: BEYONDEMAND and Smart Mark Video

AR Fox with the Chile Lucha Libre Championship comes out to apologize to the crowd that he can’t perform tonight.  Shynron comes out to confront AR Fox.  Shynron demands that Fox hand over the belt.  Fox asks Shynron to shake his hand – he does, Fox tries to attack, Shynron fights him off and Fox and bolts.

Dave Cole v. Davey Vega:  I wanted to like this a lot more than I actually did.  For what it was, it was perfectly fine – and the finish was pretty good.  But, as a show opener this was a bit lacking.  I liked the story of Cole and Vega being the first ever Beyond main event, and now it’s opening the first show of 2015, but I’ve seen both guys perform better than they did here.  There were times when everything kind of clicked here, specifically, Vega with a dive to the outside into a tornado DDT on the floor, and the finish with Dave Cole hitting the Dave Cole Bomb off the top.  I know it’s probably unfair to hold these guys to the standard of other Beyond Wrestling openers, but this was a perfectly fine match, that just felt like it lacked the appropriate spark for a Fete Music opener.

Gentlemens’ Club (Chuck Taylor & Orange Cassidy) v. Team Create-A-Pro (John Silver & Ryan Galeone):  I’m not sure you’ve really lived until you watch Chuck Taylor and John Silver wrestle on their knees.  I honestly can’t tell if Orange Cassidy is the worst or greatest professional wrestler alive.  His style to me appears to be almost impossible.  I mean, when everyone else in the ring is going at full speed, and you’re operating at like 30% speed, but you’re still always in the right spots, that’s impressive.  Cassidy probably doesn’t get enough credit for how well he adapts this gimmick to a wrestling match.  Cassidy also has the ability to make everyone else look great – he makes Ryan Galeone look like a million bucks in this match – the single arm press into the jackhammer was awesome by Galeone.  This match also included one of my favorite wrestling tropes – the, I’m blinded by a foreign substance so I just suplex everyone in the ring, including my own partner thing.  The finish was a bit distracting as it did appear that Orange Cassidy might have died on a jump to the outside where nobody caught him and he spiked himself, but Taylor wound up hitting John Silver with the Awful Waffle and picked up the win for the Gentlemens’ Club.  After the match, Jimmy Preston shows up, joins forces with Ryan Galeone and they leave together.

Anthony Stone v. Matt Cross:  I’m pretty sure the story here is, Stone was basically the MVP of Beyond Wrestling in 2014, so they asked him who he wanted to wrestle, and he said Matt Cross – so here we are.  These two men have wonderful beards.  Apparently the theme tonight is “not catching people” as Anthony Stone hits an Arabian press to the floor and M-Dogg appeared to make no effort at all to catch him.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say that watching M-Dogg cartwheel across the top rope to avoid Stone in this match didn’t make me squeal in delight.  My problem with this match is – I’m not entirely sure Matt Cross was “trying”.  The whole thing felt like it was happening under water.  Stone was doing his part, and it’s possible that Cross was holding back because he didn’t know Stone and wasn’t sure if Stone could keep up with him, but everything that Cross did felt like it took maybe one or two beats longer than it needed, and it made the match feel very disjointed.  I’m also pretty sure Stone hurt himself during the match and that slowed things down as well.  While there were parts that will take your breath away with Cross and his athleticism, the match itself didn’t flow very well and the ending, with Stone hitting the running double knees for the three count felt odd.  It’s a huge win for Stone though over a guy that is a pretty big deal.

Matt Tremont v. Rickey Shane Page:  Does this match feature two big dudes sitting in steel chairs in the middle of a wrestling ring, punching each other in the face?  Yes, yes it does.  It also features Rickey Shane Page being superplexed onto two chairs that had been set up back to back – which looked vicious.  This was not a technical masterpiece, but it sure was two dudes beating the tar paper out of each other, and I approve of that.  Tremont continues to be one of the best features of every Beyond Wrestling show.  RSP was excellent here as well, and the crowd loved him for his performance.  After the match as RSP is getting a “please come back” chant, the Crusade for Change comes out and attacks him.  Davey Vega tries to make the save, but Darius Carter takes him out.

Da Hoodz v. The Hooligans:  This match features one of the least believable Code Red’s that has ever been hit in a match.  Kris Pyro hits one of the Cutter brothers with it – from a full stop.  The physics of the move made so little sense that it kind of distracted me from everything else that was happening.  Basically Buff Bagwell hit a Code Red, and now it shows up five or six times on every independent wrestling show – it’s not necessary guys and it almost never looks natural.  Ultimately Da Hoodz pick up the victory.  The match was fine, but like everything else so far during this show it just didn’t have much flow.

Shynron v. Fire Ant:  Athletically there is no denying that Shynron is amazing.  However, this match (like much of the night) felt a bit like a choppy mess.  In order to truly engage Shynron in a match, his opponents are required to do a lot of standing around, watching Shynron do something athletic before the move.  That happens a couple of times here and it just takes me immediately out of a match.  It know there is some level of suspension of disbelief required for all wrestling, but when Fire Ant just stands near the apron, holding a hand in front of his face and waiting for Shynron to do his “movez” – well, that isn’t great.  There are other times where things happen in sequence and it feels less like a choreographed dance number, and more like a fight (which I’m relatively certain is the idea).  In a match where both guys are capable of staggering feats of athleticism, the moment that got the crowd the most excited, was Kevin Quinn punching out AR Fox (not really, the coast to coast dropkick by Shynron was the best).   Ultimately, Shynron wins with the 630 – I don’t want you to think I’m being overly negative, the stuff that was there was amazing, but sometimes it’s hard with Shynron to not just feel like you’re watching two guys hit their marks while doing pretty okay gymnastics.   After the match AR Fox sneak attacks Shynron and beats the tar out of him.  Building this feud has been one of the central features of this entire show, and this final beat down also features a Canadian Destroy (#2 on this show, so far) which is significantly more impressive than Kris Pyro’s – and this one is done by AR Fox’s wife. Fox then does the best heel thing ever and slides into the ring, steals Shynron’s mask and wears it while taunting the crowd.  As far as heel shit, that’s about as devious as you can get in professional wrestling.

“Speedball” Mike Bailey v. Silver Ant:  Here’s my issue, and I acknowledge that this problem is about me, and not really about what I’m watching, but when I watch wrestling, most of the time I don’t want to see the strings.  So if you’re going to do a finishing sequence where Silver Ant is on all fours, Bailey runs across the ring, leaps off Silver Ant’s back, to the top rope, and hits a shooting star knee from the top — it better look fluid and natural, and not like Silver Ant is the dumbest motherfucker on the planet who just got stuck in a frozen animation of guy on all fours while Mike Bailey flails around on the turnbuckle.  It happened roughly a million times during this show, but none of this is working for me right now.  Thing’s just aren’t fluid.  Moves are being set up in the most obvious way possible, and most of these matches feel like they involve one guy paused, in a completely unnatural position, waiting for the other guy to get into position to perform his move.  It’s basically a wrestling video game, where there is a hitch in the animation so everything looks ridiculous.  This match had some nice parts that I really enjoyed, but the parts that didn’t work took me out of the moment completely and ruined the rest of the experience for me.  I get that sometimes you’re going to try stuff and it isn’t going to work, but you should also think about how something is going to seem before you do it – the end of this match was never going to work, ever, in any situation, and yet they tried it, and it looked bad and took me away from the moment and kind of ruined my whole mood.  After the match Team Pazzuzu hit the ring and assault Bailey, which brings out the Canadian Quad, and we’re off and running with our next match.

Franky the Mobster, Buxx Belmar, Tabernak de Team v. Pinkie Sanchez, EYFBO, Jaka:  This match featured another move that might have seemed good on paper, but in practice was just someone (in this case Mike Draztik) looking like a fucking fool on all fours waiting to have his partner powerbombed onto his stupid dog body.  However, that being said, the rest of this match was delightful.  Just a great mix of characters all working together in a really fun match.  EYFBO and TBT are two of the best tag teams in this particular company and they were both great here.  I honestly thought everyone was on point throughout this match.  The comedy stuff worked for me, the power stuff was all on point. Other than the one moment that I mentioned earlier, I thought the match had a noticeable flow, and people were positioned correctly so that the moves transitioning from one to another never felt forced or stalled.  Yeah, I can’t speak highly enough about this one – great work from everyone involved.  Team Pazzuzu picked up the win after a Stereotypical Savage Splash from Jaka on Buxx Belmar.

David Starr v. Kimber Lee:  You don’t see streamers in Beyond Wrestling very often, so Kimber Lee being showered with a TON of streamers is kind of a big deal.  I want to live inside this match.  On a show that was just littered with guys doing stupid shit, and taking forever to set everything up, Kim and Starr put on a clinic on “how to wrestle a grudge match.”  This match had emotion, it had pace, it had PSYCHOLOGY which was completely missing from almost everything else on this show.  I mean, get this — David Starr chops the support beam early in the show, injures his arm, AND THIS MATCH PLAYS OFF THAT IN THE FINISH!  I know, the idea of that happening shouldn’t surprise me, and yet here I am.  Starr goes for a big elbow drop, misses it, further injuring his arm, Kimber Lee locks in an arm bar and manages to force Starr to submit.  This was a gorgeous match, and on a show that I was kind of starting to hate, it managed to avoid all of the stuff I had been complaining about.  This was a match with emotion, that told a story and had flow — kudos to both Kim and David Starr for remembering the things that make people love wrestling.  Also, David Starr hugging Kim and then superkicking her in the back of the head was glorious. AND the fact that he remembered to sell his arm injury during his shoving match with JT Dunn, just perfect, that’s a guy that knows how to do pro wrestling.  Starr’s interaction with Hero and Dunn was also beautiful, and Hero’s discus elbow KO of Starr was a perfect way to end that segment.

Death by Elbow (JT Dunn/Chris Hero) v. Biff Busick & Drew Gulak:  This match was so fucking fun.  It’s not going to win any psychology awards, but man for like 20+ minutes these four guys just beat the snot out of each other in a highly entertaining fashion.  Basically all of my complaints from the rest of this show were washed away during this match.  I’m not a huge Chris Hero fan, and I could mention how he looked just absolutely terrible from a physical standpoint, but I don’t want to be labeled a “hater”.  I can however acknowledge that Hero is a great professional wrestler, and he’s perfect in matches like this because he can help direct traffic and hold everything together — which is much easier when everyone else is doing their job at such a high level.  Hero was actually the low point of this match for me.  My biggest regret watching this thing, is that we will not be getting an extended JT Dunn/Biff Busick program in Beyond Wrestling.  I had never really contemplated how perfectly their styles meshed before now, but man watching Biff ragdoll JT around a wrestling ring is something I wish I could enjoy more of, and who knows, maybe someday down the line, in a venue much bigger than Fete Music we can. The raw brutality on display here by Biff and Gulak is amazing, and they’re just so perfect working this type of style.  I defy you to watch the last two minutes of this match, with Biff, holding Chris Hero’s face and slapping the shit out of him and not just be giddy and a bit mortified all at the same time.  This match has so much good stuff going on that I never once recognized how long it was — which is the mark of a great match.  Sometimes I’ll watch something that is 5 minutes that feels like 40, this was about 30 and felt like 12.  It ended with an awesome visual or Biff kicking out of a bridge into a rear naked choke on Hero while Dunn watched helplessly from the ring apron in an ankle lock from Gulak.  Good work all around.

Final Thoughts:  This was a show that I was not enjoying for a LONG time.  I don’t know what got into me.  It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed a wrestling show, and actually it’s been awhile since I’ve watched a whole show start to finish – so maybe it’s a me problem, and not a Beyond Wrestling problem, but man I hated most of this show.  But when things turned around, they really turned around.  The last three matches saved this show for me — and actually would kick it from a pass, to a purchase.  The main event specifically was really great, and we have so few Biff Busick in Fete Music moments left that him kicking away Chris Hero’s bridge and choking him out in the middle of the ring is worth the price of admission alone.  The David Starr/Kimber Lee match was delightful, and Starr is such a good smarmy dick at the end, and the four on four match delivered.  The rest of the show was pretty “meh” though I’ll never give a worst to Matt Tremont, so that match deserves to be mentioned as worthy of your time as well.
Now that Beyond Wrestling has launched their streaming service BEYONDEMAND I’m going to be reviewing all of the 2015 shows that I have missed.  It’s been tough for me to spend much time watching wrestling lately as I have just been so nonplussed by everything that has been going on.  Basically, I was in love with the G1 Climax tournament, then I went to Costa Rica and I haven’t watched wrestling since.  Hopefully watching the slate of 2015 shows from Fete Music on Beyond’s new streaming service can rekindle that fire that I once had when I first walked into Fete at the original Americanrana.

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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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