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
G1 Climax Night 5
New Japan Pro Wrestling’s biggest show of the year, WrestleKingdom, took place on January 4th, and it’s making news all around the world. Not only was it a great show, but it was a shot across the bow to other wrestling companies. New Japan wants to expand more internationally in 2017, and WrestleKingdom 11 was a showcase for the best wrestling in the world. Not only will I be talking about WK11, but also New Year’s Dash, the traditional post-WrestleKingdom show that sets direction into the new year. For the record, I watched both shows with English commentary. Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino are easily the best English commentary team New Japan has used. With rumors that Corino is leaving ROH to do other things, I hope they find a worthy replacement.
New Japan Rumble
This was a fun way to open the show. All the New Japan dad’s were there, along with several legends and ROH’s Cheeseburger. There was however only one real threat in the Rumble, and that was Unbreakable Michael Elgin, returning from having his orbital bone broken by Tetsuya Naito. Elgin won pretty handily, entering first and running the gauntlet. There were a lot of fun bits here, and with only 14 entrants, it didn’t overstay its welcome. Rating: *** Winner: Michael Elgin
Tiger Mask W vs Tiger the Dark
This was a fine opener, but nothing special. Tiger Mask Ibushi hit all his normal spots, which mostly defeats the purpose of wearing the mask. At this point, Tiger Mask W’s identity is about as secret as Mr. America’s was. Tiger the Dark was ACH, and it will be interesting to see if he keeps working for New Japan or if this was just a one time deal. This was as good as any match involving two cartoon tigers could be. Rating: *** Winner: Tiger Mask W (more…)
Power Struggle is the last major New Japan show of the year, leading up the WrestleKingdom on January 4th. After this it’s just the Tag League, a tag team tournament through November and December. After Power Struggle, the card for WrestleKingdom should be mostly clear, and since I don’t have anything else to write about, a review it is. On the card is the finals of the Jr Heavyweight Tag Tournament, and four title matches. And even better, the real selling point of the card is four Los Ingobernables singles matches.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, & Juice Robinson vs Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi, & Teruaki Kanemitsu
Kanemitsu is one of the newest crop of Young Lions in New Japan. This past year has seen the graduation of four Lions, and so far, no one has risen up to take their place. Kanemitsu is the best of the new crop so far. Meanwhile, Juice Robinson has improved so much working in Japan this year. He’s gone from very awkward and not fitting in at all to right at home in the New Japan ring. His little mini-feud with Nakanishi has made the big Japanese man more interesting by proxy, and that’s quite an accomplishment. Anyways, Juice gets the pinfall on Kanemitsu fairly quickly with a Killswitch/Unprettier. Very interesting that Juice gets the pin and not one of his more experienced partners. Could be there are some things in store for Juice in 2017? **1/2 (more…)
It’s the quarterfinals! And with this post, I’ll be all caught up in time for the live finale. The CWC has been really special, and news broke this week that at least 10 of the guys have been signed for the “Cruiserweight Division” on Raw. My fingers are crossed that they get the respect they deserve on the flagship show.
Gran Metalik (Mexico, lucha libre) vs Akira Tozawa (Japan, technical): One of the great things about this tournament is the incredible clash of styles in some of these matches. They’re even on the mat early on, neither able to get advantage while they exchange holds. They exchange armdrags, then dropkicks, showing how even they are. Metalik finally gets advantage with a dropkick into the ropes, putting Tozawa on the defense. That’s a dangerous way to play against Metalik though, as he goes diving through the ropes, taking Tozawa out. (more…)
This is the final episode of the second round. The second round has been really good so far. Also, I’m only an episode behind after this one, though another airs tonight. I should be caught up before the finals. Woot!
Lince Dorado (Puerto Rico, lucha libre) vs Rich Swann (United States, high-flying): This should be a fast paced, high flying affair. They open up with a low key version of the Ricochet/Ospreay opening from the Best of the Super Juniors tournament earlier this year. Dorado decides to join in the fun and dance a little before diving waaaaay out of the ring. Swann ties up Dorado in, uh, well, a unique submission to say the least, but Dorado escapes. Stiff strikes are exchanged, and the dancing is over as these two start laying into one another. They both go down as they scissor kick each other. (more…)
The second round continues!
Akira Tozawa (Japan, technical) vs Jack Gallagher (England, technical): This matchup with everything I want out a tournament like this. Even though they are both listed as “technical” wrestlers, the styles of these two couldn’t be more different. Will the speed and power of Tozawa prevail, or the smoothness and creativity of Gallagher? Tozawa has an intensity to him that not many competitors match, while Gallagher is much more laid back and relaxed, another way these guys differ. Tozawa tries to put Gallagher in a couple different holds early, but the Englishman easily escapes each one, reclining casually as he wraps Tozawa’s legs in a grapevine. (more…)
The second round begins! The first round was relatively easy to predict; if I had heard of them, they were probably advancing. This next round is much tougher to pick though, with only a few heavy favorites obviously advancing. The first round had mixed quality. There was nothing bad, but nothing really stood out either. It was definitely worth watching though, if nothing more than for the novelty of all these guys on WWE television. The show opens with a fantastic video package recapping the first round and the 16 men who advanced.
Tajiri (Japan, strong style) vs Gran Metalik (Mexico, lucha libre): This is a pretty big clash of styles, we will see if Tajiri can keep up with the younger and faster Gran Metalik. Tajiri is no stranger to lucha libre, though the style has certainly evolved since Tajiri was fighting the likes of Super Crazy. Tajiri is able to keep up with Metalik early as they run the ropes, showing Tajiri’s lucha skills. They also exchange grounded holds, going from armbars and leg locks, showing Metalik’s proficiency in the more technical style. (more…)
This is the last night of the first round, and they saved a couple of doozy’s for last. I’m still behind on, well, everything, so no more wasting time.
Jason Lee (Hong Kong, China, high-flying) vs Rich Swann (United States, high-flying): Swann has competed a few times on NXT television, and has been impressive. He’s got all the tools, including that all important charisma factor. I know a lot of people were looking forward to him being in this tournament. I do not know Jason Lee, but I hope he’s better than his Chinese compatriot HoHo Lun.
Both these guys are fast. Swann runs and flips around Lee, but Lee gets him with some quick martial arts strikes. Swann is super impressive athletically, hitting a leaping hurricanrana on the top rope, then an AWESOME standing 450 splash for the win. This was too quick to be anything but an impressive showcase for Rich Swann. **1/2 (more…)
Hey, remember that other awesome tournament that happened to be taking place during the last two months? Somehow, I’ve only seen the first two nights, and that is changing immediately. So here we go. Let’s catch up on the CWC.
Zack Sabre Jr (England, technical) vs Tyson Dux (Canada, technical): Zack Sabre Jr is one of the four or five guys that could realistically win this tournament, and is my pick to advance to the final four from his corner of the bracket. He has the same buzz about him that Bryan Danielson used to have. Tyson Dux is… a guy. I know the name, but have never watched him. He’s probably fine. The real star here is ZSJ though.
Mauro drops a World of Sports reference in describing ZSJ, which is pretty cool. Bryan meanwhile sounds like he’s orgasming every time ZSJ counters a hold. While both are labeled technical wrestlers, they are extremely different in the ring. Dux is labeled as master of the basics, and keeps it simple but effective with things like a fireman’s carry. ZSJ though is twirling around limbs, going from hold to hold, attacking almost casually. Dux is getting frustrated, and plants Sabre with an awesome Fisherman’s Buster. It’s hard to describe ZSJ’s offense. He transitions from one hold to another so smoothly. Sabre wins with a unique omoplata armbar. *** (more…)
It’s time for the eliminations to start coming, and I don’t mean eliminating everything from my social life to finish this damn tournament. A Block already has a few eliminations. SANADA, Tenzan, and Tama Tonga have been mathematically eliminated. Goto and Ishii also face elimination this show. B Block is… confusing, and I don’t have the mental faculties right now to figure out if people are facing elimination or not. This night should help clear things up. Or I could have done all my math wrong in the haze of a wrestling-induced coma. (more…)