To try and get myself back into the habit of blogging, I’m going to do something insane. As I watch the several wrestling tournaments the next several weeks, I’m going to blog on each show. That’s a post for each G1 show, the Super J Cup, and the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. Will I last more then a week doing this? Probably not, but I feel the need to shake things up a bit.
I decided to do this after the first show of the CWC happened, so while I might go back for that one, I probably won’t. Seeing Gran Metalik (Mascara Dorada) and Kota Ibushi on WWE TV was a surreal experience. 2016 has been one hell of a weird year for wrestling. Anyways, onto the G1! We start with matches from the A Block.
G1 Climax Night 1. July 18, 2016
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Tomohiro Ishii: This is the 20th G1 Tournament for Tenzan, a remarkable achievement. He won three of those tournaments, though the last was in 2006. The last couple years have not been kind to him, and he was initially left out of this years tournament. His fellow New Japan Dad, Kojima, gave up his spot for Tenzan to make one last run at glory. Ishii though, is as unsentimental as they come, and certainly wasn’t going to make it easy for Tenzan. With two other CHAOS members in Block A, Ishii would be looking for early wins to pull away from the pack.
This was a brutally stiff match, which was pretty much expected. It was highlighted by a series of headbutts that almost gave me a migraine. Tenzan landed a moonsault beginning his farewell G1 with a win. ***1/2
Tama Tonga vs Togi Makabe: Tama Tonga, the Bad Boy of the Bullet Club, is in the middle of his first major push. Unfortunately it has kinda sucked. He won the tag titles with his brother, and the results were mediocre. His biggest achievement so far has been beating Makabe in the New Japan Cup. Makabe, a former G1 winner, will be looking for some revenge.
This was a perfectly serviceable match. Tama is becoming synonymous with “average,” but at least he looks like he belongs in there with a guy like Makabe. Makabe won with a spider suplex followed by the King Kong knee drop. **1/2
Bad Luck Fale vs Hirooki Goto: Bad Luck Fale can always be counted on to score a lot of big wins in the G1. Goto can always be counted lately to come up short. Goto won the G1 once, but that was in 2008. This year saw him lose to Okada and join CHAOS, but it remains to be seen if that was a good career move for him or not.
This was a pretty good back and forth match. I like Fale more then most, and a guy like Goto helps bring out the brawler in the bigger man. Both of these guys can be a bit uninspired at time, so it was good to see them have a solid match. Goto won by choking out Fale, then hitting the GTR neckbreaker. ***1/2
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs SANADA: SANADA has made quite an impact since he debuted earlier this year, helping Naito win the IWGP title. He will be looking to pick up some big wins in the G1 in his first significant singles bouts. Tanahashi meanwhile, like last year, is coming back from a serious injury, this time to his arm. Tanahashi is held together by mostly duct tape and gumption at this point, but he won’t let a little thing like the risk of permanent bodily harm slow him down.
This was great. Aside from some spotty selling of the leg by SANADA in the middle part, everything else was spot on. SANADA in particular looked great, and is a main eventer in the making. They had some great counters as each tried to lock on the dragon sleeper. Tanahashi eventually tapped out, clean as a whistle, to the Skull’s End dragon sleeper. Easily SANADA’s biggest win to date. ****
Kazuchika Okada vs Naomichi Marufuji: Okada has vowed to win the G1 as IWGP Champion. That would certainly be something different, but his first challenge is a big one. Marufuji is the Ace of Pro Wrestling NOAH. NOAH is a smaller company, but Marufuji is no stranger to New Japan also.
Holy crap I loved this match. Okada easily controlled early, but Marufuji hit a big knee off the top rope on Okada’s arm, and the match was never the same. Marufuji attacked the arm like a pitbull. Every time Okada looked like he had a moment to rest, his arms was kicked and slammed from under him. He was utterly relentless, and you could say the despair in Okada’s eyes as he saw his game plan start to fall apart. He tried, going to the top rope and throwing it all on the line with a diving elbow drop, but that was his last hurrah. Landing on the injured arm, he fell to a series of swift kicks and a fisherman driver. Marufuji looked like a beast. ****1/2
I went 4 for 5 on picks for Night 1. I figured either Okada or Tanahashi would lose, but didn’t think both would. I picked SANADA, but not Marufuji. With their big wins, the A Block has gotten off to a very interesting first step. Okada and Tanahashi are proven winners who won’t be denied easily, and Goto and Tenzan are both going to be lurking at the top, both wanting to prove themselves.