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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G125 Day 9 Review, You Get Six Points, We All Get Six Points

We’ve completed 8 days of the 2015 G1 tournament.  The surprises for me so far have been Naito, who has been a revelation in his new attitude, Michael Elgin who has made a case that he should never be allowed to leave Japan, and Kota Ibushi who has basically had nothing but great matches every time he steps into the ring.  Before the tournament I talked about how sooner or later New Japan was going to have to use one of these events to squeeze some new blood into the top tier of the heavyweight division.  Goto, Ibushi, Styles and Shibata have all been making their way into that level through this tournament and two of those guys are in action on Day 9.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan (1-3, 2 Pts) v. Kota Ibushi (2-2, 4 Pts) [Block A]:   It is possible that this is the best Tenzan singles match in five years (maybe longer).  Ibushi is proving with this G1 that he’s every bit as good as anyone else in the world right now.  I think you could make an argument that he’s the best wrestler on the planet.  Maybe it’s my mood, maybe it’s because I just had a great weekend with my kids — but when was the last bad Ibushi singles match? Has that ever happened in New Japan? And I’m serious about that question. Tenzan is clearly not well, but Ibushi sold for him like he was 10 years younger, and Ibushi is so good at the thing Tenzan needs right now, which is basically a ton of nonsense happening around a stationary Tenzan.  Of course Ibushi won, but Tenzan looked great in losing and for a match that I had no expectations for, I enjoyed it.  I think as a body of work this G1 may be Ibushi’s masterpiece.

Katsuyori Shibata (3-1, 6 Pts) v. Bad Luck Fale (3-1, 6 Pts) [Block A]:  It’s a match between the biggest guy with the pillow strikes, and a smaller guy who strikes like his goal in life is to kick a hole in your chest.  This match may be my favorite Fale match ever.  My issue with Fale has always been his strikes look like shit.  I blame most of that on Fale.  Dude is a legitimate monster, and I get the feeling that he holds back on his striking because he’s afraid to actually hurt someone.  There are certain people I think who take Fale aside and tell him “you fuckin’ hit me and make it look good”.  I think Nakamura was one of those people, and I think Shibata is one of those people.  Fale looked like a different person in this match. His strikes looked strong, he looked strong and because of that, this match was really good.  Shibata reversing the Bad Luck Fale into a rear naked choke to set up the PK was awesome.  My only complaint is that I thought Shibata might miss the G1 this year due to injury so I had him lose every match in my prediction pool before this thing started, now he’s dominating everyone and I feel like a dope.

AJ Styles (2-2, 4 Pts) v. Doc Gallows (1-3, 2 Pts) [Block A]:  I give these two credit, this was a pretty solid match and certainly the best Doc Gallows match of the G1.  The problem is just that it’s impossible to get people invested in these “Bullet Club on Bullet Club” matches.  It’s maybe my own personal bias because I’ve never felt that way about Chaos members facing each other.  The one thing that always makes me laugh is when two of the BC members take each other on, and they do things that kind of make no sense — like AJ Styles going for a chop block in this match. I mean, I know you want to win but is blowing out the knee of your stable mate and ½ of the IWGP Tag Team Champions really worth the two points?  Ultimately Styles wins, because of course he does, and we get a Bullet Club members embrace after the fact.

Togi Makabe (2-2, 4 Pts) v. Tetsuya Naito (3-1, 6 Pts) [Block A]:  Just as Shibata was able to draw out the best in Fale, Naito does the same thing to Makabe here.  Makabe, who I also see as a guy with pillows in his hands just absolutely brutalized Naito in this match and I loved every second of it.  Naito is so great right now at making everyone around him angry, it’s beautiful.  Naito taking off his ring entrance gear has been the highlight of the G1 in 2015.  Once they actually got down to it, this match was a really solid back and forth that ended with Makabe busting Naito’s face open on the ring post, belly to back suplex from the top and the King Kong Knee.  Makabe pins Naito and Block A is the 6 point club.  Naito smiling with blood streaming down his face is basically the best moment of the day.  As I said during my Day 7 review, Naito doesn’t feel pain, he just feels frustration at the entire concept of professional wrestling.

Hiroshi Tanahashi (2-2, 4 Pts) v. Toru Yano (1-3, 2 Pts) [Block A]:  This Block A is the “everyone gets a medal” of G1 standings, six different guys all have six points after Tanahashi pins Yano here. I have said it before but Yano has been outstanding in the G1 this year, and he was great here again.  There is just something so great about a guy who can work the crowd and who has perfect timing like Yano.  Watch him try to skin the cat here, listen to the crowd react to him, and then try to tell me that he isn’t a master.  Heading into the G1 I honestly couldn’t tell you what value Yano had to New Japan, but right now he’s been a real highlight of the tournament for me.

Final Thought:  We’re in the home stretch right now and Block A is looking pretty clogged.  We’re past the halfway point and technically nobody has been eliminated from contention.  That being said I think Yano, Tenzan and Gallows are all effectively out, but that still leaves seven guys with a chance to win the block.   Day 9 won’t go down as the best day of the tournament, but it might have been the most consistent.  There were no “blow away” matches, nothing on this day will show up in the top rated matches of this year’s event, but all five of the G1 matches on Day 9 were good to very good.

Block A Standings (Through Day 9)

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

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G125 Day 8 Review, Block B Reminds Us Why They’re Here

Oh Block B — I’ve been so hard on you throughout the tournament.  Finally, after three lack luster performances by the B Block, and after being completely outshined by Block A to this point, we turn the calendar over to August and the B Block comes out firing!

Yujiro Takahashi (1-2, 2 Pts) v. Satoshi Kojima (1-2, 2 Pts) [Block B]:  I know it isn’t the most popular position but I kind of like that the Bullet Club members are getting involved in these matches.  I mean for a “heel” stable they’ve been cutting back on the bad guy antics lately so it’s nice to see them taking advantage of the damned numbers game again.  This was without a doubt a better match than I ever anticipated.  Yujiro was actually competent here, his offense looked good, he sold for Kojima.  I don’t know if these two in particular have some type of backstage bond but I don’t know that I’ve ever enjoyed a Yujiro match more than this one.  It ended in bit of a mess with Cody Hall getting into the ring after Hall pulled the referee out of the ring before counting three for Kojima.  Kojima fought off Hall, but Takahashi struck a second time with a low blow and followed it up with the Miami Shine.  Shockingly! the official recovered just in time for the Miami Shine and Takahashi picked up the pinfall victory over Kojima.  It doesn’t sound like much, but this was a completely alright match, which based upon my previous assertions about Takahashi, is equivalent to a seventeen star Okada match.

Yuji Nagata (1-2, 2 Pts) v. Karl Anderson (2-1, 4 Pts) [Block B]:  Here’s the thing about this match – it’s good.  My issue is that I have never been a huge fan of Anderson as a solo competitor.  Now, that’s not to say that I can’t recognize his value.  The thing about Anderson for me has always been that he seems important.  Even when I don’t care about what he’s doing, I’m still always watching him do it.  The dude has presence.  Because of his ability to draw your eyes to him, everything that he does, and everything that happens in this match takes on some extra gravity.  If this exact same match happened between Nagata and Kojima, I probably would’ve turned it off.  Anderson is just so good at making things seem important.  In this match he picked up the pin over Nagata, and he continues to excel in the tournament.

Tomoaki Honma (0-3, 0 Pts) v. Michael Elgin (1-2, 2 Pts) [Block B]:  I want to live inside this match for the next week.  The third match on the show continues to be the highlight and this match very well may have been the best Block B match of the entire tournament to this point.  All four of Elgin’s singles matches have been excellent.  The dude has gone to Japan and reminded everyone why he was one of the top independent wrestlers in the country a year ago.  He’s just been so good during this tournament, and once again Honma is the perfect foil.  Honma takes offense so well, and he gives to his opponent in such an incredible way that it’s almost impossible to come out of a match with Honma looking bad.  Elgin’s buckle bomb into a kokeshi may have been my favorite moment of the G1 thus far.  Elgin also continues to be really over with the crowd.  His power moves get the crowd so hyped, and the deadlift super-plex spot made everyone in Osaka scream.  Honma had the crowd behind him, and put up a valiant effort but in the end, Elgin picked up his second win in a row, and his first pinfall victory in New Japan ever.

Tomohiro Ishii (3-0, 6 Pts) v. Shinsuke Nakamura (1-2, 2 Pts):  Nothing like suffering a significant elbow injury and returning to action after less than a week off to face Ishii.  I have to say that I might like one-armed Nakamura more than I liked two armed Nakamura.  Nakamura has always been (in my view) the most vulnerable of the Big Three.  Adding to that vulnerability the fact that he has only one arm now has made him even more relatable.  This match was pretty solid throughout but man it really ramped up at the end.  Ishii is so tough, but beyond that he’s a great base for someone like Nakamura who is unorthodox and comes at you from a lot of different angles. I also appreciated that it took all three variants of the BomaYe to finish off Ishii, as well it should, Ishii is a bad ass.  At the end of the day, Nakamura picks up the win and he’s going to have to do some scrambling.  Giving up that point to Elgin because of the arm injury may have put him behind the eight ball, after four days within Block B, Nakamura has 4 points.

Hirooki Goto (2-1, 4 Pts) v. Kazuchika Okada (3-0, 6 Pts):  This match was literally everything I wanted out of the G1 wrapped in one beautiful package.  First, I’d like to take a moment to remind you all that Goto was my pick to win the entire tournament.  He might not win another match during the G1 but he just went toe to toe with the IWGP Champion, and pinned him clean as a whistle in the main event.  The reason that I loved this match so much was that it finally gave you the feeling that Goto was someone pegged as a future star.  Remember, Okada’s mission statement at the beginning of the tournament was that he wanted to go undefeated.  Goto losing this match wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows.  Goto is the IC Champion, he’s seen as a second tier talent and Okada is, well he’s Okada.  However, by having Goto go out there and survive the best that Okada had to offer, and actually pin him clean after a Shouten Kai — that’s a major statement (in my eyes) that Goto is not to be taken lightly.  I don’t think this is an overreaction on my part either.  The number of people who have pinned Okada clean, in a singles match, is very short.  AJ Styles, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito, Karl Anderson — it’s a pretty exclusive club and now Hirooki Goto is in it.

Final Thoughts:  Oh Block B you beautiful bastard — you’ve been holding out on me.  This was a statement day for Block B.  I’ve been killing this Block for their matches throughout the tournament and Block A has been superior by any measurement.  However, this was a lineup with potential to deliver some great things and the final three matches came through in a big way.  I’d argue that the Elgin/Honma and Okada/Goto matches belong in the top tier of G125 matches overall, and they happened within 40 minutes of one another.  I’m very excited about Goto pinning Okada.  I did not see that coming.  I also think Elgin continues to be crazy impressive in this tournament.  I know he was disappointed that he wasn’t invited to New Japan after the first ROH/NJPW War of the Worlds, and he’s gone to Japan this time apparently with the intention of never coming back, and that might actually happen if he keeps this up.  Strong day from the A Block, be very interested to see how Block B responds tomorrow.

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

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G126 Day 7 Reviewed (07.29.2015), Shibata/Ibushi and Styles/Naito

We’re back on Day 7 with the A Block.  Which means we’re going to see some great matches, plus we’ll get to see how Yano and Tenzan recover from their head trauma.  I’m going to be brief today because I’m watching this episode really late at night, but I’m excited.

Toru Yano (1-2, 2 Pts) v. Doc Gallows (0-3, 0 Pts) [Block A]:  This is going to sound crazy, but Toru Yano has been my favorite part of the G1 this year.  While that might be an exaggeration, it’s not a huge one.  Last year it was Honma who ran wild in the G1 and really strapped a rocket to his international popularity.  I think Yano is that guy this year.  He loses almost every match, but they’re always fun, they’re always moving with a coherent story and he’s always engaging.  I’m just really high on him right now.  Gallows winds up picking up the win after massive Bullet Club interference, because apparently ½ of the IWGP Tag Team Champions requires three other individuals to help him beat, the most hapless member of the G1 field. With the win Gallows becomes the final member of Block A to pick up points, although he should really give one of his two points to Karl Anderson who helped in a big way secure the victory.  For the record, I don’t even mind Bullet Club interference.  First, Yano is essentially 90% interference, so who can complain when he loses by nefarious means.  But also, the Bullet Club are bad guys, and while they have been standing around ringside all tournament, nobody is really getting involved so it was time that they impacted a match and this one made sense from an unclean finish prospective.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan (1-2, 2 Pts) v. Togi Makabe (1-2, 2 Pts) [Block A]:  Sure, this match is a thing that happened.  Look, at this point I don’t want to watch a Togi Makabe match.  I genuinely don’t want to watch a Hiroyoshi Tenzan match, and I certainly do not want to watch them wrestle each other.  Tenzan is an all-timer, but he’s hurt, and he’s old and he just isn’t able to get it done right now.  He works when the guy he’s wrestling can carry the load.  That isn’t Makabe.  Makabe needs you to fight back, he needs to brawl and spill outside and do a bunch of stuff that Tenzan isn’t going to do.  This just never felt right, it was slow and dull and I was happy when Tenzan hit the knee drop and got the pinfall.

Kota Ibushi (2-1, 4 Pts) v. Katsuyori Shibata (2-1, 4 Pts) [Block A]:   It is not necessary for me to tell you that this match was so good right?  Ibushi is incredible at taking offense, he’s basically the real life version of the physics engine that they use in the Grand Theft Auto games.  You hit Ibushi with a german suplex and he winds up on the top of his head, flailing to the ground lifelessly.  He manages to make Shibata, the most deadly striker in New Japan, seem even more vicious.  But, credit to Ibushi’s offense too because he goes strike for strike with Shibata.  The end sequence, basically from the moment the two start trading suplexes and kicks to the chest through the PK by Shibata and the pinfall victory, is amazing and brutal and glorious and I loved every second of it.  Shibata covering up while Ibushi just throws closed fist punches off his head was awesome.  Then Shibata shrugs off the blows, locks in the sleeper and finishes Ibushi with the PK. So good.  I want to see these guys locked in a blood feud forever.

Hiroshi Tanahashi (2-1, 4 Pts) v. Bad Luck Fale (2-1, 4 Pts) [Block A]: As expected, the high fly flow ends it — wait, what?! Bad Luck Fale pins Hiroshi Tanahashi after hitting the High Fly Flow.  That’s a thing that just happened.  I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t watch it myself.  God bless Tanahashi who did everything in his considerable powers to make Fale look dangerous, and for the most part he succeeded.  Fale still looks like he gives no shits about getting better. His strikes look ridiculous and those pillow shots he throws out there, after Shibata and Ibushi kicked each other in half just don’t cut it.  At one point Fale went for a samoan spike that basically completely missed and Tanahashi was lightly placed on the ground. I’m giving all the credit for this one to Tanahashi, it still wasn’t a very good match, I wouldn’t recommend it – but Fale looked strong, and because he never looks strong I have to assume it was due to his opponent. I consider this a major surprise though as Fale ends Day 7 with 6 points, ahead of Tanahashi and Ibushi.

Tetsuya Naito (2-1, 4 Pts) v. AJ Styles (2-1, 4 Pts) [Block A]: I’ll try to explain my love of Naito here as he picks up a pinfall win over AJ Styles to joint Shibata and Fale in the 6 point club.  Naito isn’t bored, and he isn’t disinterested – to me, his character is disgusted with the entire concept of the thing he’s doing.  There was a point where Naito, on the top turnbuckle, punching Styles, looked disgusted with the crowd for watching him.  He didn’t show signs of pain when Styles would deliver offense, he showed signs of disgust with the entire concept of being hit.  I just love the idea of Naito’s inner monologue being “I can’t believe I have to do this stupid thing, with these terrible people, and these awful crowd members watching me” and he’s KILLING IT and making it work.  This match was also great.  It was a different kind of match from Ibushi/Shibata but it was solid and I had no idea how it was going to end right up until the finish.  Here’s how great Naito has been, this was a fully pro Styles crowd, can you imagine saying that a year ago? Or hell, three months ago?  Everyone hates Naito, and Naito gets undressed while people go crazy with frustration is my new favorite part of the G1.

Final Thought: Stop the fight! Block A is absolutely murdering Block B in tournament action and it isn’t even close. These odd numbered days have been excellent, with at least two good to great matches each day.  Shibata/Ibushi and Styles/Naito should be added into the list of great G125 matches, and Shibata/Ibushi may go down as the best match of the entire tournament.  I don’t think there’s any way that I would’ve predicted, after 7 days that the leaders of the G1 would be Naito, Shibata and Fale in Group A and Ishii and Okada in Group B.

Block A Standings (Through Day 7)

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

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G125 Day 6 Review, Block B is Cursed, Nakamura Injured and More…

Day 5 was the strongest day of the tournament thus far and right now Block A is absolutely KILLING the G1.  On the other end of the spectrum, the last time we saw Block B, on Day 4, we were having the low point of the G1 in my opinion.  Sooner or later a Block with Okada, Nakamura, Goto, Ishii and Anderson has to turn things around and there is some pressure on the Block B participants after Block A murdered Day 5.  At least for one day Block B can stop feeling like it’s inferior in the eyes of New Japan, as we’ve got a multi-camera shoot for I believe the first time with this group (if my memory serves me).

Yuji Nagata (1-1, 2 Pts) v. Yujiro Takahashi (0-2, 0 Pts) [Block B]:  I’m sorry did I just see Takahashi win a match?  I kind of wanted to hate this, especially as this was the match that Block B had to start with following that amazing Day 5 for Block A.  But I have to confess that I didn’t hate this. You pretty much know exactly what you’re going to get out of both of these guys, but Takahashi seemed engaged, and at no point did I think he almost killed someone with laziness. I liked that Cody Hall finally got involved at ringside, even if it was directly in front of the official.  At least Yano has the decency to pretend to distract the official before doing something untoward.  If I had to guess, I’d say that a combination of Day 5 out of Block A, and having this day actually involve something other than a single hard camera brought out the best in these two, I’m hoping that keeps up throughout the day.  Takahashi broke out the Miami Shine to pick up the pinfall on Nagata and Yujiro moves into the land of points.

Hirooki Goto (1-1, 2 Pts) v. Tomoaki Honma (0-2, 0 Pts) [Block B]:  Goto needed this match.  I have thought that Goto has looked like a dope in the first two matches of the tournament, essentially having like 5% of the entire offensive output in each respective match.  What he needed, was a chance to look like the brutal striker that he is, and nobody is better at making someone look offensively gifted than Honma.  This was the perfect match at the perfect time.  Honma was Honma.  He got the crowd behind him, and he them excited at the right parts, and he convinced everyone that he might actually win.  In the end, he was there to do a job, and part of that job is to sell offense — which he did, extremely well.  For the first time all tournament, Goto looked like he belonged as someone who might be predicted (by me) to win the tournament.  The crowd still loves Honma and are desperate to see him win a match during the G1, but that wouldn’t happen here.  After some nice back and forth, Goto finishes the match with the Shouten Kai and picks up the pinfall win.

Karl Anderson (2-0, 4 Pts) v. Tomohiro Ishii (2-0, 4 Pts) [Block B]:  The third match during the tournament block of these dates has traditionally been excellent.  There were things during this match that I liked, but overall it felt a bit plodding to me.  Anderson had the weirdest offense in this match because it felt like every time something would happen his response would be a leaping push kick.  It almost felt like Anderson was in the back and said “guys, I totally know karate” but he only knew one move, so he just went out and did that move over, and over, and over again.  It didn’t really work for me.  It started to heat up a bit at the end, and Ishii just driving his head through someone’s body is always going to pique my interest.  The match felt much longer than it was, and that’s not a compliment.  I also don’t understand why a gun stun KO’s you, but if Anderson hits a leaping (from the second turnbuckle) neckbreaker, you can kick out 100% of the time.  Is the difference between hitting your face, and the back of your neck an instant KO, because for real the moves are identical.  Ultimately, Ishii won, which I actually thought was a surprise.  I thought Anderson was getting the Shelton Benjamin surprise push from nowhere, but maybe it was Ishii all along.

Satoshi Kojima (1-1, 2 Pts) v. Kazuchika Okada (2-0, 4 Pts) [Block B]:  Maybe it’s not fair.  In fact, I know it isn’t, but this match — yeck.  The truth is that Okada is amazing and he’s capable of having a passing match with a broom stick.  But Kojima isn’t much further along than a broomstick right now.  I liked Okada’s match with Tenzan, because there was some passion there and Tenzan has a bit of a story heading into the G1.  This match was similar in nature, with none of the passion.  It felt plodding (a theme today), it was pretty boring, and even a crowd that desperately wanted to be involved didn’t save it for me.  I can’t be too mad at the nature of this match, it’s Okada, and he had a shit hand to work with because a match was cut from the show.  I’m sure he wanted to give the fans the time, so they probably stretched this match out more than it needed to be, but I felt it and it hurt the overall product.  Okada picked up the win with the rainmaker and he joins Ishii at the top of the heap with 6 points.

Final Thoughts:  Obviously the biggest story of Day 6, and likely the entire tournament is the injury that Nakamura suffered that kept him out of action today.  Michael Elgin, by proxy, picks up his first New Japan victory via forfeit, but the whole situation sucks because Elgin/Nakamura had potential to be excellent, especially with how well Elgin has been doing during this G1 run.  The injury probably effectively knocks Nakamura out of contention, and at this point we’re not even sure he’ll return to the tournament.  The lack of Nakamura does add some interest moving forward.  I still have my pick of Goto who is now looming as the potential beneficiary of the Nakamura injury.  Ishii is also in play, though nothing would scream New Japan like missing the boat on a guy for a year, spending that year killing his momentum and then jumping on him a year too late.  Overall, the lack of Nakamura/Elgin hurt Day 6 a ton and I think the last two matches suffered because they stretched and it showed.  Honma/Goto was the best match on the card and in my opinion it wasn’t even close.  Block B continues to struggle though, this is a snake biten half of the tournament.

Standings (Through Day 6)

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

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G1 25 Day 5 Review, The Best Day of the Tournament So Far

I’m not trying to alarm anyone but it’s become clear that New Japan thinks Block A is the superior side of the tournament right?  Day 1, 3 and 5 have all been multi-camera broadcast shows, with Day 2 and 4 being single cam “house shows.”  That seems surprising when you consider that both Okada and Nakamura are in Block B, but when you look top to bottom, this has just been the better group so far.  Day 5 brings us a rematch of the incredible Ibushi/Styles IWGP Championship match, and Naito against Tanahashi which is almost certainly going to be excellent, but the surprising thing is that literally every match on this show winds up being at worst, pretty good.

Doc Gallows (0-2, 0 pts) v. Bad Luck Fale (1-1, 2 pts) [Block A]:  I don’t particularly enjoy either of these guys.  I had no reason to think this would be anything other than garbage.  And yet, I sit here after the fact and have to admit that this match was pretty good.  Basically, two super heavyweights just running into each other until one guy can’t get up anymore.  The finish was kind of dumb because Fale gets the win after a lariat where he basically lightly touched Gallows in the chest with his fingertips, but other than that this was probably better than it had any right to be, and much better than I expected heading in.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan (1-1, 2 pts) v. Toru Yano (0-2, 0 pts) [Block A]:  This G1 has been a revelation for me about Yano.  He has been amazing in his first three matches, including this one.  Tenzan is obviously hurt, and he’s clearly struggling.  With that, the perfect role for him is to remain stationary while someone else runs around and does everything.  Yano excels in that set up, and Yano killed it during this match.  The end saw Tenzan flop off the top turnbuckle and smash skulls with Yano busting both guys open pretty serious.  A blood soaked Yano then grabbed the referee, hit the low blow and won with a backslide three.  Especially coming off a pretty long Tanahashi/Tenzan match on Day 3, this has to be have been the best use of Tenzan yet in the tournament.

Togi Makabe (1-1, 2 pts) v. Katsuyori Shibata (1-1, 2 pts) [Block A]:  I get the feeling that Makabe thinks he strikes like Shibata.  The third match has been the best match on the show every day of the G1 so far, so this match has a ton to live up to.  This is the point of Day 5 where I realized this was a special day because all of a sudden I found myself really enjoying a Togi Makabe match.  Most of my complaints with Makabe are that he’s like a “bad ass” intimidator but his strikes are like baby soft.  But, apparently having Shibata kick the shit out of you makes your own striking that much better because Makabe looked like a boss in this match.  This match also featured the most terrifying finish I can imagine at this point, Shibata puts you to sleep with a sleeper hold, and then you get a PK in the chest to wake you up.  Ultimately, Shibata picks up the win after that very same PK and we’re 3 for 3 on Day 5 with two can’t miss matches left.

Kota Ibushi (1-1, 2 pts) v. AJ Styles (2-0, 4 pts) [Block A]:  Oh. My. God.  This was *so* good you guys. Just looking at this match before it began you had to assume it’d be excellent.  Their IWGP Championship match was incredible, and this was a worthy successor to that.  I could gush about this match for paragraphs, but I’ll just recommend that you go check it out as soon as possible.  The beautiful thing that’s going on with Ibushi is, he hasn’t been able to beat any of the ace’s of New Japan.  He’s 0-fer against the Big 3 (Nakamura, Okada, Tanahashi) and Styles is essentially the fourth on that list, and Ibushi hadn’t beaten him either.  You could feel the desperation in Ibushi as he tried to get that monkey off his back in this match, and I thought both guys played their roles to perfection.  In the end, Ibushi hit the Phoenix Splash and pinned Styles clean.  The emotion from Ibushi was real, and the adulation of the crowd was well deserved.  This was a great match, and is another step towards super *duper* stardom for Ibushi in New Japan.

Hiroshi Tanahashi (2-0, 4 pts) v. Tetsuya Naito (1-1, 2 pts) [Block A]:  Oh man, this match.  Up until this point Naito had been making strides with his new approach, but this match really drove home the new Naito.  Tanahashi is just so great and he is able to make everyone look so good so he was the perfect opponent for Naito at this particular moment.  You couldn’t have done this match on Day 1, because the crowd needed a chance to get used to Naito, and I thought the Shibata match added some nice wrinkles to the whole Naito package.  This was the ideal spot for this match to fall because of two things.  First, Tanahashi just headlined Day 3, and won, and gave a speech, and second, it felt like this was the perfect time for Naito to win so that he could close the show with his own “moment.”  Though I don’t understand Japanese, the image of Naito standing over a defeated Tanahashi while the crowd reigns boos down on him was picture perfect.  It took a ton to live up to the bar that was set by Styles and Ibushi and I really think Tanahashi and Naito cleared it.

Final Thoughts:  Without a doubt Day 5 was the best day of the entire tournament, and coming off Day 4, which I thought was the weakest, Block A has easily confirmed their spot at the best half of the bracket.  The main storyline coming out of the fifth day is the establishment of two *new* stars.  Ibushi got his win over Styles, and Naito defeated Tanahashi setting the stage for both of those guys to be legitimate challengers not only for the tournament victory, but after the tournament ends as well.  Every match on Day 5 was good, and the final two matches were excellent with Styles/Ibushi being my favorite match of the entire tournament through five days.  I think I might have even said you could skip Day 4, which should give you even more time to watch an amazing Day 5.

Block A Standings (Through Day 5)

Kota Ibushi (4 pts)
AJ Styles (4 pts)
Tetsuya Naito (4 pts)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (4 pts)
Katsuyori Shibata (4 pts)
Bad Luck Fale (4 pts)
Togi Makabe (2 pts)
Toru Yano (2 pts)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2 pts)
Doc Gallows (0 pts)

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