Tuesday, 18 August 2015

A Quick look at the G1 Climax: 2015

*This is meant to be a quick round-up or a guide to which matches you should check out from the New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Tournament. I did not watch the tag team matches before the show or most of the matches featuring Yujiro Takahashi (I have no time for the male gaze in my wrestling viewing if I can help it) or some of the lesser important members of the Bullet Club like Bad Luck Fale. All that being said, here are my general thoughts on the G1*

The G1 Tournament is perhaps the purest example of wrestling as sport in this entire industry. This years tournament functioned around a point system where each competitor was separated into 2 different blocks each consisting of 10 wrestlers. Each wrestler was then given 2 points for every victory. The two wrestlers with the most points at the end of an 18 day period of wrestling would square off in the finals to crown a winner. It's all very simple, and if it were easier to acquire in North America it would represent the best possible way to introduce someone to a wrestling company.

The G1 is about the spirit of competition. You'll find less shenanigans here than in WWE or any second tier North American companies. There are factions and wrestlers who are present to offer something different than pure wrestling like Toru Yano or The Bullet Club, but for the most part the G1 is presented as a straight forward wrestling tournament consisting of contests between two men where only one can come out better. What separates it from the types of tournaments present in WWE is the nonexistence of jerkaround booking. We all know how awful Wrestlemania 4 turned out to be and The King of the Ring tournament is largely something WWE will tell you is masterful, but oftentimes pitiful in it's complete dismissal of tournament style booking. G1 is clean. That's what is key here and for fans of wrestling as a pure artform between competitors it is refreshing and while 2015 doesn't have the sheer depth of quality matches present in last year's tournament there is plenty to admire. I'm new to NJPW for the most part, but based purely on the amount of wrestling presented and the respect they treat the tournament the competition appears the be bulletproof. Which is rare in professional wrestling. The G1 isn't without it's problems, but since addressing them in the preface this will only be about what I loved about this year's G1.

When the G1 began it was clear that Block A had more to offer this year while Block B dealt with injuries to Shinsuke Nakamura and the relative uninterest of Kazuchika Okada to work his matches at full speed. All of this meant Block B felt severely limited compared to the impressive work being done in the A block. This would change in the final days of the tournament when Nakamura seemed to be on and when grouping that with raised stakes Okada found his footing as well. Michael Elgin turned into the stealth MVP of the inferior block and Tomohiro Ishii who is always consistently enjoyable turned out some of his best work with the already mentioned Elgin along with perpetual loser Tomoaki Honma. Block A was the sterling example of NJPW throughout this tournament though with Katsuyori Shibata delivering multiple 4 star contests and Tetsuya Naito's new gimmick unleashed a flurry of incredible matches with Shibata, AJ Styles, Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi. Shibata has a no-nonsense moveset that feels relatively old school, focusing on kicks, forearms and chokes that was always believably violent and essential to being drawn into his work that proved to be magnificent throughout. I suppose one could argue that Tanahashi put out the best work as well, but it'd be easy to pat him on the back since he won the entire thing. God bless Shibata. If only Yano hadn't tricked him. He was never the same after that, and when his chances of winning the G1 went away along with Naito the B block rose up to prominence.

Shinsuke Nakamura's arc throughout the G1 was held up from an apparent elbow injury. He had to forfeit a match he was surely scheduled to win against Michael Elgin, but curiously the elbow injury added some extra depth to a push that was going to position him against ace of the company Hiroshi Tanahashi. The elbow made him vulnerable. His matches were noticeably weaker in the middle stretch of the tournament and his offence seemed significantly muted. The "thwack" that normally echoes through the halls just wasn't there, but he kept finding ways to deliver enough damage to get by. Shinsuke didn't find his confidence again until day 14 against Honma. The whipping post his opponent was gave him enough reason to see if he could let loose, because honestly in kayfabe Honma can't even touch Nakamura, so the King of Strong Style delivered blow after blow and his ability to kill was present once more. He needed it because he was about to face the man he lost to last year in the G1 finals, Kazuchika Okada. In what ended up being one of the best matches of the entire tournament, Nakamura proved craftier than his opponent and he moved on to face Tanahashi. Tanahashi and Nakamura delivered magic. The game plan was set up early when Tanahashi went for Nakamura's legs and that first chink in Shinsuke's armour was exposed. This foreshadowed what was to come. Shinsuke never gave up though and even as his body was covered in sweat and his hair dangled lifelessly atop his head he stared down Tanahashi and gave it his all. He made it believable that he would win. When he landed an armbar on Tanahashi late in the match it signaled his effort and his guile to push forward. Shinsuke did everything he possibly could, but he couldn't beat Tanahashi and moments later after kicking out of Tanahashi's finisher he ate another one that looked like it broke his lungs. He was finished. Tanahashi won. Shinsuke raised the better man's arm and the G1 was over.

Match Scores (matches above 4 stars in bold)

Day 1
  • Katsuyori Shibata vs. AJ Styles- **** ½
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi - *** ¾
Day 2
  • Yuji Nagata vs. Tomoaki Honma- ***
  • Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Karl Anderson- *** ½
  • Micheal Elgin vs. Kazuchika Okada - *** ¼
Day 3
  • Toru Yano vs. AJ Styles- *** ¼
  • Katsyori Shibata vs. Tetsuya Naito- **** ½
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan- *** ½

Day 4
  • Satoshimi Kojima vs. Michael Elgin- *** ¼
  • Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Yuji Nagata- *** ½
  • Kazuchika Okada vs. Tomoaki Honma- *** ½

Day 5
  • Toru Yano vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan- **
  • Togi Makabe vs. Katsoyuri Shibata- *** ½
  • Kota Ibushi vs. AJ Styles- **** ½
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito- **** ¼
Day 6
  • Satoshi Kojima vs. Kazuchika Okada- ***
  • Hirooki Goto vs. Tomoaki Honma - ***
Day 7
  • Kota Ibushi vs. Katsoyuri Shibata- **** ¾
  • Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi - **
  • Tetsuya Naito vs. AJ Styles- **** 1/4
Day 8
  • Michael Elgin vs. Tomoaki Honma - *** ¼
  • Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Tomohiro Ishii- *** ½
  • Kazuchika Okada vs. Hirooki Goto- *** ½
Day 9
  • Togi Makabe vs. Tetsuya Naito - *** ½
  • Katsoyuri Shibata vs. Bad Luck Fale - ** ½
  • AJ Styles vs. Doc Gallows - ** ½
Day 10
  • Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hirooki Goto- *** ½
  • Tomohiro Ishii vs. Yuji Nagata- *** ½
  • Kazuchika Okada vs. Karl Anderson- ** ¾
Day 11
  • Toru Yano vs. Katsoyuri Shibata- n/a- fun though
  • AJ Styles vs. Togi Makabe- *** ¾
  • Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi-****

Day 12
  • Satoshi Kojima vs. Hirooki Goto- *** ¼
  • Kazuchika Okada vs. Tomohiro Ishii- ****
Day 13
  • AJ Styles vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan- *** ¼
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Katsoyuri Shibata- **** ¾
Day 14
  • Satoshi Kojima vs. Yuji Nagata- *** ¼
  • Kazuchika Okada vs. Yujiro Takahashi- *
  • Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Tomoaki Honma- **** ¼
  • Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hirooki Goto - **** ¼
Day 15
  • Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Katsoyuri Shibata- *** ¼
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Togi Makabe- ** ½
Day 16
  • Hirooki Goto vs. Michael Elgin- ****
  • Satoshi Kojima vs. Shinsuke Nakamura- *** ¾
  • Kazuchika Okada vs. Yuji Nagata- *** ½
  • Tomoaki Honma vs. Tomohiro Ishii- *** ¾
Day 17
  • Doc Gallows vs. Katsoyuri Shibata- ** ¼
  • Toru Yano vs. Bad Luck Fale- * ½
  • Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Tetsuya Naito- ** ¾
  • Kota Ibushi vs. Togi Makabe- ** ½
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. AJ Styles- **** ½
Day 18
  • Yuji Takahashi vs. Tomoaki Honma- * ¾
  • Tomohiro Ishii vs. Michael Elgin- **** ¼
  • Yuji Nagata vs. Hirooki Goto- *** ¼
  • Satoshi Kojima vs. Karl Anderson- ** ½
  • Kazuchika Okada vs. Shinsuke Nakamura- **** ½
G1 Finals
  • Young Bucks vs. reDragon- *** ½
  • Kushida vs. Ricochet- *** ¼
  • Bullet Club against The Kingdom & Kazuchika Okada- * ½
  • Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi- **** ¾ 

(Editor's note: The rest of us here at Push Cesaro embrace Toru Yano and think every match is worth viewing. We wash our hands of Willow not even watching all of them. For shame!)

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