Little word first, I will use the same format as last year, first I will give the results and reviews of the tournament matches (+short analysis), then the result of the other matches on the card (with some notes when needed) and finally a short preview of the next day in the relevant Block. Now that’s been said, let’s not waste any more time because a lot of interesting stuff happened on this first tournament day:
Block A Match: Hiroyoshi Tenzan defeated Tomohiro Ishii in 14:10 via pinfall:
Excellent opener for this year’s G1 with especially Ishii going all out from the start. Tenzan was accompanied by Kojima who kept edging his team-mate on, helping sell the importance of Tenzan’s “one last run” story. Tenzan himself did a great job as well, showing an aggressiveness I haven’t seen from him in years. Crazy head-butts exchanges throughout the match, lots of big moves and Tenzan who got the crowd 300 percent behind him by constantly surviving Ishii’s best efforts (and those who know Ishii also know that means something). Towards the end, Ishii somehow survived the Anaconda buster and the Tenzan Driver, but Tenzan weakened him up with a Kojima-style lariat and a moonsault for the very popular pinfall victory. Great stuff from both and what a story this final Tenzan run is shaping up to be!
Block A Match: Togi Makabe defeated Tama Tonga in 10:38 via pinfall:
Tonga really needs some good performances during this G1, but, this was just OK. The fact that they came after an awesome opener and that Makabe doesn’t really have a purpose in this tournament probably hurt this one a bit. Nothing bad, mind you, but it just failed to keep the crowd’s (and my) attention. Makabe finally hit the King Kong Knee Drop for the predictable victory.
Block A Match: Hirooki Goto defeated Bad Luck Fale in 9:27 via pinfall:
A rather good match that was carried form start to finish by Goto. We sometimes tend to underestimate Goto, but the guy IS a very good worker in the ring, he’s just missing that famed IT-factor (damned why am I talking like a WWE guy all of a sudden???) to get to the next level. One thing has to be said about Fale, at least he’s smart enough to let himself be carried and to not try anything he can’t do (I know some wrestlers who’d better follow his example). Anyway, this was rather entertaining to follow, thanks to Goto, and told the classical technical guy against power guy story. In the end Goto’s technique and in-ring smarts proved too much for the monster as, after escaping the Bad Luck Fall, he caught Fale in a sleeper, weakening him enough to his the GTR. And that was that. Good effort from Goto here, who might just play a bigger role in the tournament then I thought
Block A Match: SANADA defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi in 19:30 via submission:
HUGE victory for SANADA here and the best part is it came at the end of a truly great match. Tanahashi might not be at his physical best here, but he’s clearly in G1 mode which promises more great performances from him. One thing about the former Ace of NJPW, if there is oe guy in the wrestling world whom you don’t need to tell how to put a great match together, it’s him. SANADA really impressed here, effortlessly keeping up with Tanahashi and showing great charisma and timing. Yep, definitely a future superstar in the making right there. Tanahashi controlled the early going until SANADA took the advantage by targeting Tanahashi’s injured shoulder but this was followed by a crazy High Fly Flow from Tanahashi to the floor. Both did a great job selling each-others moves, including the submission maneuvers which is always a nice touch and helps drawing the crowd in (not that it was needed here, the crowd was on the edge of their seats from the start). Move of the night was a picture-perfect SANADA RKO on a Tanahashi High Fly Flow. THAT WAS AWESOME! Ending came when SANADA made Tanahashi submit to the Dragon Sleeper after two moonsaults. Excellent performances by both wrestlers, and this was exactly the step-up SANADA needed. I’m now very curious to see what else he can do during this tournament.
Block A Match: Naomichi Marufuji defeated Kazuchika Okada in 19:02 via pinfall:
Most wrestlers would have had an hard time following the Tanahashi/SANADA match, but Okada and Marufuji aren’t most wrestlers. Indeed they not only were able to follow up on the previews match but even exceed it. Those of you who aren’t familiar with Marufuji are in for a treat as he was at his absolute best here, showing great chemistry with the IWGP Champion and being spot-on with everything he did. Both of them clearly had the other scouted out as Okada repeatedly prevented Marufuji to use his trademark Shiranui, but it was Marufuji who had the upper-hand as he completely dismantled the Champ, taking away his favorite weapons one by one with truly impressive combination of chops, kicks and knees. Gedo also did his job at ringside, as his facial expressions told more than a whole book: the Champ was really in trouble here. With Gedo desperately trying to edge him on, Okada tried to fight back but Marufuji would have none of it, expertly countering every Tombstone and Ranmake attempt. The end came when Okada went for an ultimate Rainmaker attempt, only to be countered by a fantastic combo of knees and kicks followed by fisherman suplex into a emerald flowsion for the pin. Wow, that was absolutely awesome. The crowd was completely into everything both wrestlers did, Okada was in “Big Match” mode and Marufuji fought like someone who had something to prove, but, especially after this match, it’s safe to say he doesn’t have ANYTHING to prove anymore to the world, the guy is Japan’s greats and that’s all there is to it. Great start from Marufuji who is clearly here to shake up NJPW’s current hierarchy (because of this win he is now entitled an IWGP heavyweight title shot at some point), and catastrophic start for the champ who needs to pick himself up and regain his confidence after being out-played at every possible level. Fantastic finish to a great show.
It’s safe to say the G1 Climax 26 tournament started with a huge bang. With three great matches, one good effort from Goto and an ultimately harmless Makabe/Tonga match, you can only conclude the boys from NJPW put on a great show for the G1’s opening night. Considering who is involved in the tournament and the storytelling possibilities they have this year, this could very well shape up to be the best G1 ever.
From a results point of view, Marufuji’s victory against Okada was, of course, a shock, but a more or less expected one. NJPW needed to make Marufuji’s participation seem like a big deal. Well, now it’s safe to say it is a VERY big deal, so mission accomplished. But the biggest upset is undoubtedly SANADA’s victory over Tanahashi, and here I’m not only talking about the result but also about the manner. SANADA more than held his own during the match, proving once and for all (in case there were still doubters) that TNA completely missed the bal as far as he’s concerned. Such talent must be bound for greatness somewhere along the line.
Lower on the card, Goto pulled of a minor surprise by beating Fale, which could spell trouble for NJPW’s resident monster heel. Usually NJPW pushes him strongly during such tournaments but a first day defeat might mean NJPW doesn’t really have plans for him during this tournament. And finally, the Tenzan story is working like a charm,, only question remains, how far can the veteran go and who will be the one to crush his dreams?
In other results:
Tiger Mask IV, Jushin “Thunder”Liger, Manabu Nakanishi and Katsuyori Shibata defeated Captain New Japan, Ryusuke Taguchi, KUSHIDA and Tomoaki Honma – Fun opener whenever CBJ and Nakanishi WEREN’T in the ring. Nakanishi pinned CNJ (who else).
Toru Yano and Katsuhiko Nakajima defeated Satoshi Kojima and Juice Robinson – Decent match, clearly a warm-up round for Nakajima’s big debut on Friday. Nakajima pinned Robinson. Interesting they chose to have Yano and Nakajima team up.
Kenny Omega and Yujiro Takahashi pinned Gedo and YOSHI-HASHI – Nothing match, Takahashi pinned Gedo.
Tetsuya Naito, EVIL and BUSHI defeated Michael Elgin, Yuji Nagata and Dave Finlay Jr – Good NJPW Multi-man tag team match with great exchanges between Elgin and EVIL. BUSHI pinned Robinson for the win.
Next night in Block A:
July 23 at Machida Municipal Gymnasium in Tokyo (5:30 AM ET)
BLOCK A: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Tama Tonga
BLOCK A: Naomichi Marufuji vs. Bad Luck Fale
BLOCK A: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hirooki Goto
BLOCK A: Kazuchika Okada vs. SANADA
BLOCK A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Togi Makabe
Metalhead’s thoughts: Tenzan shouldn’t have much trouble against Tonga. I doubt very much that they will have Marufuji klose against Fale just after his awesome victory against Okada. Speaking of Okada, he will want to rebound after his crushing defeat against Marufuji, but against SANADA, fresh off his huge victory against Tanahashi, he might be in trouble again. Tanahashi also needs to rebound against Makabe and Ishii vs Goto is a battle between CHAOS stable-mates that will be all kinds of awesome. I say Ishii wins but I might be wrong here.
See you all this Friday for the first night of Block B!
Tags: bad Luck fale, G1 Climax 26, G1 Climax 26 night 1, Hirooki Goto, hiroshi tanahashi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, kazuchika okada, Naomichi Marufuji, njpw, Sanada, Tama Tonga, Togi Makabe, Tomohiro Ishii