Opinions

Opinion pieces about various wrestling miscellanea.

G1 Climax update

The G1 is well underway, and we’ve gotten some great matches from it so far. Through 6 nights, I’ve ranked 13 matches at 4 stars or better. Everyone should check these out when they can:
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jr – A great showcase on how dangerous ZSJ can be. ****1/4
Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito – Ibushi’s return to the New Japan ring ****1/2
Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii – Really good hard hitting, no quarter given brutality. ****1/4
Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr – The Cruiserweight Classic final that finally happens. ****1/4
Kazuchika Okada vs Michael Elgin – The best match of the tournament so far. ****1/2
Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii – If you like hard hits, watch this match. ****1/2
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Yugi Nagata – An aging Nagata makes every effort to hang with the Ace. ****1/4

I’ve also written a few new things. Check out my piece on Michael Elgin and my review of the G1 Climax Night 5

Michael Elgin

G1 Climax Night 5

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The Underdog Underboss

The G1 Climax has started, and if you’re not watching you’re missing out. This is one of the best times of the year to get into New Japan if you’re not already. Tetsuya Naito and Kota Ibushi killed it on Night 1, and it’s just going to get better. In anticipation, I wrote a bit about Bad Luck Fale, the Bullet Club’s Underboss, and what it would take for him to finally advance in the G1.

Bad Luck Fale

The Billy Gunn Problem

If you haven’t heard, New Japan is having two shows in Long Beach this month. Both the IWGP title and the IC title will be defended, and a new US champion will be crowned. It should be pretty cool. Except, well… except Hiroshi Tanahashi is defending the IC title against… Billy Gunn. Yeah, that Billy Gunn. If that bewilders you as much as it does me, check out my article for Voices of Wrestling.

The Billy Gunn Problem

New Japan Factions

At New Year’s Dash, the faction Suzuki-gun returned to New Japan after spending the last two years in Pro Wrestling NOAH. The sudden influx of an entire faction has inflated the New Japan roster, so I thought I would write up a bit about the different factions currently in NJPW, both for my benefit and that of anyone reading.

Plus, what else am I going to write about, the Royal Rumble? The Rumble could be interesting, but most likely the most boring wrestler with the most boring story is going to win, so I’m not going to waste time predicting interesting scenarios. So New Japan factions it is. I’ll be listing them in order of current power and strength, based on recent major wins and losses and titles held.

CHAOS
Leader: Kazuchika Okada
Key Members: Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano

CHAOS is the largest and most powerful faction at the moment. They hold the IWGP Heavyweight title, the NEVER Openweight title, the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles, and the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Titles. They have several auxiliary members they can call in time of need such as Will Ospreay and Roppongi Vice to raise their numbers. They won four matches at WrestleKingdom, including the main event, putting them firmly as the most powerful faction in New Japan. (more…)

International Expansion

2017 is shaping up to be an unprecedented year for professional wrestling. Streaming services have made any wrestling we want available with the click of a mouse. The rise of such services has expanded the potential audience for any wrestling promotion, and the two biggest wrestling companies in the world are poised to take advantage of that.

New Japan is firing some serious shots at the WWE. Their management has made no secret that they see the WWE as competition. No doubt some of this comes from the events of early last year, which saw the WWE sign away four of their biggest stars. One way NJPW has countered this is by signing their talent to longer contracts. They have also announced their intentions to bring New Japan wrestling to the United States. (more…)

Top Ten

6. Wrestling has been getting me kinda down lately. It seems like I don’t have time to watch the stuff I really want to watch, and instead get stuck watching WWE just because it’s the most convenient. In an effort to bring some positivity to my viewing habits, I’m going to list a Top Ten performers on Raw and Smackdown right now. Even if the rest of the show sucks, these guys will at least make me pay attention.

10. Braun Strowman: I can’t help it. Deep down, don’t all of us love watching big dudes beat the crap out of little dudes? His performance this week on Raw really got him a spot on this list. His little backstage vignette with Jericho made me chuckle, and his utter dismal of Sami Zayn was perfect. There’s issues going forward, but if he can have a good match with Zayn, he might move higher up the list.

9. Heath Slater: He’s got kids! Easily the most entertaining Slater has been in years. Slater has always been an under the radar guy, who can kill 10 minutes and be inoffensively entertaining. The brand split has been kind of him, and being in a featured role on Smackdown has been a treat to watch.

8. The Uso’s: The Uso’s were growing stale as a tag team at around the time the Shield broke up. Think about that for a minute. It’s been what, two years, and the Uso’s have been the same the entire time. A heel turn was the best thing to freshen them up, and American Alpha’s are a great team to oppose them. I hope the Uso’s keep their new attitudes for a while.

7. Sheamus: Sheamus gets a bad rap, but it’s been years since he was actually a bad wrestler. He has improved so much that it just doesn’t get noticed, which is weird to me. He’s a great brawler, and works so much better as a heel bruiser then as a babyface. His series of matches with Cesaro were all very good, and he finally has someone who really compliments him in the ring.

6. Cesaro: Cesaro ranks higher then Sheamus because, well, because Cesaro is a better wrestler. He’s been rejuvenated this year since returning after WrestleMania, and seems to have found a character that works for Raw. He remains the fantastic wrestler he was before his injury. I think the rest of this year has big things in store for Cesaro.

5. The New Day: These guys remain the brightest spot on Raw. In what is usually a three slog, the New Day provide some fun in every segment, no matter the situation. It’s like a fresh breeze when these guys come on. Some day, perhaps soon, this group will lose the tag titles, and Big E is going to be a big star.

4. Becky Lynch: I have no scientific measurements to back this up, but Becky might be getting louder cheers then anyone else right now. While the women on Raw are “making history,” as we are reminded over and over again, Becky is taking the Smackdown brand on her shoulders. She cuts a fiery promo, and her in ring skills are obviously exceptional. As the only Horsewoman on Smackdown, she’s got heavy expectations, and she is living up to them.

3. Chris Jericho: I don’t even have enough words to compliment Jericho. He had a rough start this year, with a feud against AJ Styles that felt like he was struggling to stay relevant. His heel turn helped so much in that. And now he has The List, and is probably the most popular person on Raw. While that’s sad in it’s own way, there’s no denying Jericho is entertaining.

2. The Miz: There is no better heel right now then The Miz. He gets more heat then anyone else on the roster. I’m disappointed he didn’t keep the Intercontinental Title, but whatever he’s doing or whoever he’s fighting, you know he’s going to be the douchebaggiest person around. Having his hot wife around only makes everyone want to hit him more. He’s been brilliant this year.

1. AJ Styles: But no one has had a better year then AJ Styles. Starting with his awesome match against Nakamura at WrestleKingdom, debuting at the Royal Rumble, fighting Jericho at WrestleMania, giving Roman Reigns two of the best matches of his career, beating John Cena at Summerslam, then finally winning the WWE Championship. AJ Styles is WWE Champion. That still feels incredible to say outloud. No one is having better matches at a more consistent pace than AJ Styles. The one knock against AJ has always been that he’s not a great character, but he’s taken to the WWE’s more character driven product like a natural, and is a way better heel then I figured he would be. AJ is easily the best thing going in WWE right now.

 

Return of the Jobber

One thing the brand split between Raw and Smackdown has reintroduced is the role of the local jobber. One of the more important parts of the weekly television show (no, really!), the return of the jobber has been a welcome addition to the shows, in particular Raw.

The nameless, local jobber has an important, even vital, role on TV. At it’s most basic, it keeps the money-making wrestlers looking strong without making one of your other talents look like a bitch. Up until the mid to late 90’s, television wrestling was almost always a star wrestler against no-name guy. Matches between two main guys were saved. In the 70’s and 80’s, they were saved for big, untelevised shows in arenas like Madison Square Garden. In the 90’s, the marquee matches were saved for Pay Per Views. (more…)

G1 Climax 2016

Well, I didn’t make it. In retrospect, vowing to review every match of a 19 day tournament when I had a freaking wedding in the middle of it was probably not my brightest idea. Ah well, maybe next year. I’m still working my way through the events, so will have a comprehensive list of matches that need to be checked out, but for now, let’s just talk about the winner of the G1 Climax: Kenny Omega.

There’s a lot to talk about in regards to Omega winning the tournament. The first being that he is the first gaijin to ever win, and only the third to reach the finals. That’s a HUGE accomplishment for Omega. That’s up there with, say, Brock Lesnar ending the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak, or Chris Jericho becoming the first ever Undisputed Champion. It’s an accomplishment that could define Omega’s career. He could retire tomorrow, and still be the first and only foreigner to win the biggest tournament in wrestling. (more…)

Update

It’s been a busy month, and this blog as fallen behind unfortunately. I’m in the middle of a move, and in the middle of getting married, and am woefully behind on my professional wrestling. And holy crap, with the upcoming wrestling in the month of July and August, I may just have to say farewell to everything I missed in June, because there is so much upcoming stuff that I want to watch.

We have, in no particular order, Ultima Lucha Dos, The Cruiserweight Classic, The Super J Cup, and the G1 Climax. We have the chaos of whatever is going to happen with the WWE Draft, Battleground and Summerslam. Last night Brock Lesnar won his fight at UFC 200, and is fighting Randy Orton at Summerslam. Roman Reigns has been suspended, but is still, by all appearances, being kept as a babyface in spite of all logic.

So let’s briefly look at two of the big tournaments coming up. The WWE’s Cruiserweight Classic looks phenomenal. If you haven’t watched the Bracketology special (on the award winning WWE Network), go watch it now. It did such a great job of setting up the tournament. Once again, the NXT people continue to do things in a simple but smart manner. The WWE proper could really stand to take a few notes.

My final four are Gran Metalik (Mascara Dorada), Zack Sabre Jr, Johnny Gargano, and Kota Ibushi. They are making a big deal about “diversity” in this tournament, and this way you have four different nations represented in the final four. And they are really emphasizing the difference in styles. These four would give us Metalik vs ZSJ, lucha libre vs technical submissions, and Ibushi vs Gargano, two guys who merge many styles together. It should be a great tournament, and I have high hopes for the presentation.

Then we have the G1 coming. I was going to do a longer post on this, and still might, but time keeps slipping away. In order to predict the G1, we have to look at WrestleKingdom, since the winner gets a title shot at New Japan’s biggest show of the year. The only match that can headline their biggest show is Kazuchika Okada vs Tetsuya Naito. Since Okada is the champ right now, it would make perfect sense for Naito to win, and indeed he is the strong favorite going in. But it’s such an obvious outcome that I wonder. Okada has vowed to win the G1 as champion, and doing so would be a big testament to his power in New Japan. We also have Hiroshi Tanahashi coming back from his injury, and don’t sleep on Katsuyori Shibata. Shibata just finished a great feud with the New Japan dad’s, and left it with the respect of the fans and roster. Picking Shibata is something of a yearly joke with some fans, but this time he actually has a chance.

It all comes down to the last night of A block. Tanahashi vs Okada, a continuation of their famous rivalry, will almost certainly determine the winner of the block. If Naito is winning the G1, he would have to face Tanahashi in the finals. He has fought Okada twice this year already, and would do so again at WrestleKingdom, so I really can’t see them using that for the finals as well. Plus, a decisive win over Tanahashi, the Ace of New Japan, would be huge for Naito’s budding superstardom. That would mean Tanahashi would beat Okada in their match though, which would mean we might still get more Okada/Tanahashi matches. They have excellent matches, but it’s really time for New Japan to move on. A decisive win for Okada would put this feud to rest for good. Okada could face Shibata in the finals, or even someone else like Kenny Omega.

It’s circular booking, and I’m not sure what they are going to do. With New Japan, betting on the safe, predictable option is usually smart. They don’t take a lot of risks, and the safe option here is Naito beating Tanahashi in the finals. In any case, it’s going to be a really busy month, both in the wrestling ring, and out.

Will Ospreay vs Ricochet

At Best of the Super Juniors Night 6, the wrestling world got sent for a spin when Will Ospreay and Ricochet went at it in the main event. All anyone has been talking about the past two days has been The Match, with people ranging from Vader to William Regal chiming in. I even saw an article about it on the front page of Yahoo. If for some reason you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for?

A LOT of opinions coming in about the match are from people who obviously haven’t watched it. Instead, what they’ve seen are gifs. To be fair, this might be one of the most gif-able matches ever. In particular, there’s The Gif. I’m having trouble embedding, so click here if you haven’t seen it yet. There are two general reactions to that clip. It’s either “Holy shit that was awesome!” or “That looked ridiculous.” I fall firmly in the first group, and thought the match was amazing. Not as good as Kamaitachi vs Dragon Lee from earlier this year, but a match that will be far more remembered.

Before getting into the rest of the match, I’ll talk about that gif just a bit more. The main complaint, and the one Vader makes, is that there is no storytelling in the match, it’s just a bunch of flips, and no one looks like they are trying to hurt each other. Actually, the main complaint is that it’s not “realistic,” but that is a complaint that can be safely disregarded, as always. Remember, the most unrealistic move in professional wrestling is the Irish Whip. Anyways, people making the first complaint have most likely not watched the match, because it’s pretty obvious where the story is and why they do what they do. (more…)