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

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.

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…)

NJPW WrestleKingdom 11 Review

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…)

NJPW Power Struggle Review

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…)

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…)

G1 Climax Nights 13 & 14

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…)

G1 Climax Nights 11 & 12

I have 3 days to get through 6 shows before the climatic final three events. So far I have managed to avoid almost all spoilers. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this….

Night 11

Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2-3) vs Bad Luck Fale (2-3): Things look better for Fale than they do for Tenzan, even though they have the same record. Tenzan has lost three in a row and has been looking his age the last few matches, and his losses have been against the three wrestlers ahead of him. And now he has to go against one of the most physically intimidating men on the roster. Meanwhile Fale has momentum from winning his last match, has beaten Marufuji already, and still faces Makabe and Okada later. A win here may signal that Fale is rising in the rankings. (more…)