Inside Pulse 12

Metalhead Reviews NJPW’s G1 Climax and G1 Climax’s Final (Okada, Naito, Omega, Goto, NOAH)

Before I start with the G1 Climax Finals, first a little word. As you probably have noticed, I wasn’t able to cover the G1 Climax tournament like I wanted due to health problems piling up. Still sorting things out, so this article is a one-shot, for now. I hope to be able to come back on a regular base in a couple of months (if all goes well).

Now that’s out of the way let’s take a (short) look at how things ended in both Blocks.

Block A:

After the surprising result of the first day (with both Tanahashi and Okada losing), things seemingly went back to normal with both the Rainmaker and the Air Guitar Champion taking back their rightful place at the top. That doesn’t mean all was smooth sailing for the IWGP Champion who ended up losing to Marufuji, Fale and… Ishii in a MotY contender. Speaking of Ishii, while he ended up with a rather average record of 4 wins and 5 loses, he can arguably be called this year’s G1 Climax MVP. I mean the Guy could probably have a 4 star match while sleeping. Further sown the ranking, Tenzan quest for that one last run lasted all of two nights and new boy SANADA entered some great performances, solidifying his “future superstar” status. Finally, NOAH’s Marufuji was clearly out to prove something and succeeded, being one of the highlights of this year’s G1.

In the end, it all came down to Fale, Marufuji, Goto, Okada and Tanahashi, With Okada needing to win against Tanahashi and needing Marufuji to lose against Goto, Fale needing to win against Tonga, Goto to win against Marufuji and Tanahashi to win against Okada while Tanahashi basically just needed to beat Okada. Finally Goto needed to win against Marufuji with Okada and Tanahashi fighting to a draw, which seemed very unlikely. So, in typical wrestling fashion, that’s exactly what happened. Fale was the first out of contention, by, surprisingly, losing against Nullet Club Team-mate Tama Tonga (who started slow but ended up having a pretty good G1). Then Goto vanquished Marufuji in a great match. And then Okada and Tanahashi fought to a fantastic 30-minutes draw, which gave the Block victory to Goto. Well it’s safe to say nobody saw THAT coming, but Goto’s block victory was well receiving, due to some good booking during the tournament, slowly building him up as a genuine contender and not just Okada’s understudy.

Block B:

One of THE stories of B-Block was how well NOAH’s Nakajima did. With fantastic matches against Naito and Shibata and victories over Elgin and Nagata, Nakajima certainly made an impact. At first it seemed that this was going to be another disappointing year for Shibata but The Wrestler rebounded with a great finishing stretch, putting himself back at the top of the ranking. While most were taking more about the Omega/Ibushi/NXT speculations than about The Cleaner’s performances (which ranged from good to great) the man himself cruised throughout the tournament, still having a good chance to the Block on the last day. Another notable participant in group B was EVIL who, like SANADA, confirmed he is well on his way to become one of NJPW’s stars of the future.

On the last day, Elgin, Shibata, Naito and Omega still had a chance to win the Block. Elgin needed to win against Nakajima and Omega to beat Naito, Shibata needed to win against EVIL and for Naito and Elgin to lose while Naito simply needed to win. Omega not only needed to win but also for Elgin and Shibata to lose. Which, again didn’t seem very likely. So, again, that’s exactly what happened. SHibata and Elgin both failed at scoring a win and Omega beat Naito in yet another MotY contender. In hindsight, probably the biggest story of B-Block was how Gedo completely shuffled the NJPW cards. Omega was steered away from IC champion Elgin (which would make a lot of sense once the Final was over) and put Naito in his place while already planting the seeds for a future Naito/Shibata IC feud. Speaking of Shibata, his next challenger for the NEVER title will more than likely be EVIL.

So this all gave us a VERY surprising Hirooki Goto vs Kenny Omega final (I don’t think there was even one observer or fan who had banked on that) and a perfect lead-in towards the actual subject of this article which is the G Climax Finals. Let’s see what happened.

 

Tiger Mask and Jushin Liger defeated David Finlay and Ryusuke Taguchi in 5:22 via pinfall:

Short but fun match that ended with Tiger Mask pinning David Finlay. NJPW needs to start doing something with Finlay soon, that guy is just too good to be wasted as ceiling starer.

Jado and Gedo defeated Captain New Japan and YOSHITATSU in 5:44 via pinfall:

Jado and Gedo usually book themselves to lose and put over  at this point so them taking the win here should tell you all you need to know about the Good Captain and YOSHITASTU’s career. And it’s deserved as the Bullet Club hunters are not over in the slightest and usually suck any life out of every match they participate in. Put some Young Lions in their place please.

YOSHI-HASHI and Tomohiro Ishii defeated Tomoaki Honma and Togi Makabe in 9:20 via pinfall:

This is an unofficial Number 1 Contender match for the tag team titles. It was clear from the start that most were rooting for the CHAOS boys to win because it not only would it give two of NJPW’s best workers something to do but it would also completely refresh a more than stale tag team title scene. All 4 had a rather good G1 with Makabe dominating the early days of the tournament, YOSHI-HASHI showing he was much more than CHAOS’s pinfall boy, Honma scoring victories over Nagata, YOSHI-HSHI and… Shibata and Ishii, well as for him see above, he’s one of the very best workers in the world right now. Good tag match with YOSHI-HASHI being further elevated by avenging his loss against Honma during the G1. Can’t wait for these guys’ title shot.

Team NOAH (Masa Kitamiya, Maybach Taniguchi, Go Shiozaki and Katsuhiko Nakajima)  defeated Team New Japan  (Manabu Nakanishi, Yuji Nagata, Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Katsuyori Shibata) in 11:02 via pinfall:

Well, this was all kinds of awesome and also likely the start of what could become wrestling’s biggest story in the coming months, a full-on feud between NJPW and Pro-Wrestling NOAH.

You gotta give it to Gedo, love him, hate him, criticize him (and sometimes there are certainly reasons to do so), but when he’s on top of his game, the guy is a freaking genius (see below for further prove of that). When the G1 roster was announced, people were wondering if Marufuji’s and Nakajima’s participation was just a one-off or the start of something new (and bigger) for both wrestlers. Their matches in the G1 seemed to hint at the later… And then this match was announced, Go Shiozaki was added to the mix and people started dreaming about a inter-promotional war, without daring to hope it would happen. But, dreams do come true, sometimes, and that’s exactly what we swill be getting in the coming months. The match was insanely heated with NJPW fans boo-ing the NOAh “invaders” out of the building and Shibata looking like a complete madman busting himself open with an incredibly stiff head-butt on Nakajima and spending the rest of the match delivering crazy ass-kickings with blood pouring over his face. On top of that, his exchanges with Shiozaki were off the charts good, leaving fans begging for a match between those two. Team NOAH picked up the win thanks to Nakajima pinning Nakanishi.

But NOAH’s win didn’t mean Shibata was done. looking like an absolute savage, he and the New Japan Angry Dads Club went after Team NOAH with a vengeance for one of the wildest pull-apart brawls in recent years.Just awesome.

The G1 and the way this match was booked both gives us a great base for this feud, but it goes even further than that. Remember the Shibata/Angry NJPW Dads feud earlier this year? Well that was actually the groundwork for the coming feud. Shibata was till very much considered an outsider at the start of the year. Having him gain the respect of Nagata and Co not only established him as a true representative of NJPW’s strong style to the fans but also gives him the back-up of NJPW legends like Nagata, Tenzan and Kojima for the coming feud. Gotta love it when wrestling is telling such great, logical and exiting stories. Gotta say it, great work Gedo-san.

IWGP Tag Team Title Match – Champions The Briscoes defeated Yujiro Takahashi and Hangman Page in 15:20 via pinfall:

The fact that people were already buzzing about the upcoming Briscoes/Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI BEFORE this match even ended says much about how far Bullet’s Club profile has fallen in recent months. Page did what he could but Takahashi was the absolute pits here, bringing nothing whatsoever to the table. Briscoes of course always bring their enthusiastic style to the table, effortlessly saving this match from Takahashi’s ineptness. But, like said, this was only an intermezzo. Bring on Briscoes vs CHAOS already, we’re more than ready for it!

ROH Title Match – Champion Jay Lethal defeated Satoshi Kojima in 10:44 via pinfall:

This was a good match, but I can’t say this was THE NJPW moment Lethal needs if he is to get over with the NJPW crowds. Kojima was highly dependable as always and never really minds putting another wrestler over, but the booking just wasn’t in Lethal’s favor, as he once again needed tricks to pick up the win. This might work in ROH, but, in Japan, if you wanna get over, you need that one, big, clean victory and this just wasn’t it. On a side-note, it will be interesting to see how the NJPW/ROH relationship will evolve now the NOAH/NJPW war is on.

Los Ingobernables (BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA and Tetsuya Naito) defeated KUSHIDA, Juice Robinson, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Michael Elgin in 12:34 via pinfall:

This was further proof that the CHAOS/Los Ingobernables feud is on hold for now, with Okada’s win over Naito at Dominion closing down the first chapter. But you can be damn sure there will be other chapters in the future. In the meantime, Naito is clearly being steered towards Elgin and his IC title which should in turn lead to a feud against Tanahashi. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get the big IC title match between those two at Wrestle Kingdom. If Tanahashi’s body holds up of course. But first Elgin and this match was a good prelude for the coming wars. Sure, some will say it lacked the fire of the CHAOS/ Los Ingobernables feud, which is true, but, to be fair, this was only the starting shot of this war. You can count on Naito to bring the heat later on. EVIL pinned Robinson for the win.

Naomichi Marufuji, Toru Yano and Kazuchika Okada defeated Bullet Club (Tanga Roa, Tama Tonga and Bad Luck Fale) in 9:13 via pinfall:

With Tanga Roa and Fale in there, this was never going to be a classic, but, it turned out to not even really being a match, more like an excuse for the post match angle. And what an angle it was. After Okada took out Roa with the Rainmaker, he called out Fale for having the audacity to pin him during the G1, challenging him to a match. Interestingly he then called out Marufuji for the same reason, offering him a title match. Marufuji of course accepted but when he went to shake the champ’s hand, Okada walked right past him to go pose on the top-rope, looking like a complete dick in the process. I’ve already documented the upcoming NOAH/NJPW feud to the mix, you can now add Marufuji vs Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight title to that particular mix. But with Okafa playing the heel??? This should be VERY interesting.

G1 Climax 26 Finals Match – Kenny Omega defeated Hirooki Goto in 26:48 via pinfall:

This is one of those matches where I’m not going to waste your time trying to describe it. All you need to know is that it was awesome for a variety of reasons and that you need to GO WATCH THIS.

One of the reason I used to be on Omega’s case a bit in the past is that I KNOW the guy is a great wrestler. But he was too often concentrating on comedy than on delivering the 5-star matches any observer knew were in him, which made the whole “Cleaner” gimmick all the more frustrating. There were some signs of hope earlier this year, with a more serious Omega delivering good matches, but, then came the Omega/NXT speculations. All of this was swept away by the Cleaner (pun intended) on this night. Not only was he at his very best, delivering a star-making performance, but he also had the ideal opponent in Goto who worked his ass off to make Omega look like a genuine contender. And once the bell rang, there was only one conclusion, NJPW has just created a new Top Guy. OK some months later than most expected, but the result is there. Nobody things Omega will be a walkover for Okada, on the contrary. The only thing they need to work on in the coming weeks is the Bullet Club stable. (Omega and The Young Bucks are fine as The Elite, but the rest of the stable just seems to weak to offer a credible threat to CHAOS. Unless Okada turns heel of course…

Post-match, the star-making moment feeling was reinforced by Omega cutting a great promo even speaking once again in Japanese at the end  (Omega actually speaks fluent Japanese but has refused to do so in recent years as part of his heel persona), saying that like it or not Japan was his home, New Japan was his home and that, whatever happened he wasn’t going “there” (WWE obviously). And the crowd? They lapped it up.

 

Conclusion: It must be said NJPW had gotten some criticism before the G1. While Dominion was very good match-wise, the results were deemed too predictable and somewhat disappointing (especially Okada’s victory over Naito was deemed counter-productive). Then came the first round of the Super J-cup which was also deemed something of a disappointment, especially with WWE’s CWC being on fire. The main target of all that criticism was, of course, Gedo, but, at the end of this year, the G1 tournament and Final will probably be remembered as the shows where Gedo fired back, silenced all of his critics and turned NJPW on its head in the process. Not only has he planted the seed of an awesome NJPW/NOAH feud, which was made all the more interesting by the great way Marufuji and Nakajima were booked during the G1 and the earlier feud between Nagata and Shibata culminating in both Shibata become allies with Nagata and Co, but we also now have the possible prospect of Shibata, the Insane One, becoming NJPW’s top babyface while hints are being planted of a possible Okada heel turn. Add to that the fact that said NJPW/NOAH feud also involves CHAOS, who, even when they turned face some years ago always considered themselves apart from NJPW and that there is no love lost between Nagata and Shibata and CHAOS and you’re probably starting to see why I called Gedo a genius above.

On top of that, they created a new Top Superstar in the person of Omega (and you better believe him suddenly starting to speak Japanese again is no coincidence, Gedo is just too smart for that) AND they are already building towards a huge Wrestle Kingdom match between Tanahashi and Naito, more than likely for the IC title (and remember the IWGP IC title does mean something in Japan) and you will agree with me that the fall season is lining up to be absolutely awesome for NJPW. Of course, all of this is just the start of the puzzle, no doubt there will be many more surprises and twist and turns before we get to Wrestle kingdom and the first ever Okada vs Omega match, but, all I know is that NJPW is still on course to have it’s best year yet and that I’ll never question Gedo again. Well, except when it comes to the cruiserweights of course.

One last thought, with the Omega/NXT speculations coming to a screeching halt (and while nothing is official yet, you better believe Omega has already signed a big, multi-year contract extension, otherwise he would never have won the G1), one who have thought that the Ibushi/Omega-match rumors would end. The problem is, they didn’t. So, since we now know Omega isn’t going to NXT for the foreseeable future, could this mean what I think this means? Just asking…

 

That’s all from me, will now continue my efforts to bring my health back to an acceptable level, hope to see you all in a couple of months and until then, have fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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