Puroresu Pulse, issue 176: G-1 Climax 2010

Puroresu Pulse, issue 176: G-1 Climax 2010

The biggest annual tournament in Japanese wrestling is coming up, and I break down the prospects for all 16 participants!

Section 1- Results

Dragon Gate: Tigers Mask beat CIMA to take the Osaka Pro title and retain the lightweight title.

DDT: Another successful Sumo Hall show, with 8800 claimed. Harashima beat Sekimoto to win the title in the main event.

New Japan: Makabe retained over Nakamura, Bernard & Anderson retained the tag titles, and Devitt & Taguchi regained the junior tag titles.

NOAH: Sasaki beat Shiozaki, and Akiyama & KENTA beat Nagata & Taguchi. They half-filled Osaka Prefectural Gym, but when TAGUCHI is in the main event that’s sort of what I’d expect. Really surprised they didn’t lead with Sasaki vs Shiozaki.

Section 2- News

All Japan: Kenzo Suzuki has surfaced, and he will face the returning Muta at the 8/29 Sumo Hall show. Also set are Minoru Suzuki defending against Suwama (called it!), Akebono & Kea defending against Cade & Dupree, Taru & Big Daddy V defending against Soya & Sanada, and Hayashi defending against the junior league winner (assuming it isn’t him). Nishimura is back.

Dragon Gate: Dragon Kid is out at least a month with a hip injury. For some reason he wasn’t in the tag tournament so this won’t affect much. I’m keeping an eye on either Yokosuka or CIMA pinning Yoshino in the tag tournament to earn a title shot immediately after. Doi is working with a rib injury. Yoshino will challenge Tigers Mask for the lightweight belt on the 14th.

DDT: They’ll do another Sumo Hall show next year.

Misc: Sayama (Original Tiger Mask) unveiled Tiger Mask 5. Doesn’t seem this will affect Tiger Mask 4.

NJ/NOAH: Marufuji was injured during his match with Omega and will miss the G-1 Climax.

NOAH: Kojima will make some appearances. A match with Marufuji was agreed to, though who knows when that will happen. Between this and the G-1 it looks like he’s gone from All Japan. Kanemaru will have a title defense tomorrow in WXW. Ishimori & Marvin defend the junior tag titles on 8/22 against Kanemoto & Tiger Mask 4.

Section 2a- Meltzer News

New Japan: Tenzan was hoping to return for the G-1 but wasn’t able to get healthy in time.

NOAH: The 7/10 show was their weakest showing for a big event in Tokyo. The show was granted some airtime on NTV, which will air as part of a NOAH 10th anniversary special.

Section 3- DEEP SHILL TO LOSE

Phil talks Mexico & WWE.

Section 4- I Love The New Japan ‘80s Part 4: I Love Vader and Hashimoto

Seven matches this time instead of six, because there’s not too much length between them. The final set will be an odds-and-ends batch.

Koshinaka vs Yamada, junior title, New Japan December 9th 1988.

Yamada, who would soon go under the hood as Liger, takes it to Koshinaka in a big way. A slight mix-up likely cost this in the vote results; any match based on kicks to the face and ending with a big finish deserves better than 99th place.

Fujiwara & Kengo Kimura vs El Bello Greco & Sergio El Hermoso, New Japan February 3rd 1989.

A comedy match. This also bombed in the vote, which I blame on many people thinking that a comedy match is automatically worse than a serious match. Bah. Some people don’t like comedy matches, fair enough, but I say if a match is entertaining in the way it’s trying to be entertaining, it’s a success.

Choshu & Masa Saito vs George Takano & Super Strong Machine, tag titles, New Japan March 16th 1989.

After a slow start (which I clipped out), this becomes a heck of a stars-versus-underdogs bout. Choshu/Saito is a double-tough combo, and George/SSM is not a pair that can match up well one-on-one. George in particular takes a drubbing. The finish isn’t a pin or submission but it manages to work in-context.

Hashimoto vs Zangiev, IWGP title tournament, New Japan April 24th 1989.

This takes place at the first ever wrestling event held at the Tokyo Dome, and it was the start of Hashimoto’s big push. He snuck out of round 1 with a cradle on Choshu. Zangiev, whose pro wrestling knowledge was probably next to nothing, does remarkably well. A pity he didn’t stick around long.

Fujinami vs Vader, IWGP title tournament, New Japan April 24th 1989.

Fujinami was the champion, and he put the title up in order to ‘raise its value’ at the big event. Not sure I follow the logic, but who am I to argue with the good wrestling we got out of it? Anyway, prime Fujinami is a really good foil for Vader, being the sort of top-notch athlete that can be credible and yet is small enough to be crushed at any moment against the monster. Fujinami brings the strategy, Vader brings the… um… Vader.

IWGP title tournament finals, New Japan April 24th 1989.

The winners of the last two matches square off. I recommend downloading this after downloading the first two if you don’t want them spoiled. This extends what we saw in Vader/Fujinami, but is also hard-hitting enough to be good without backstory. And it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Placed 15th in the vote because it’s got a certain universal appeal.

Vader vs Choshu, New Japan June 27th 1989.

A straightforward fight that hit the top 20 thanks to violence and bloodshed.

Section 5- G-1 predictions & analysis

16 men, broken into two groups of 8, face off in a round-robin tournament. The last six round-robin bouts will take place on the final night of the tournament. This leads to the first four ‘outs’:

People who don’t have a round-robin match on the final night: Bernard, Wataru Inoue, Karl Anderson & Strong Man. Granted, these four had pretty much no chance as it was, but throw in how anti-climactic it would be for someone to have won their block the night before? Never happen.

Okay, that’s who won’t reach the finals. What about who *probably* won’t?

Midcarders with no past singles success: Yano, Naito and Takahashi. All have had tag team success, and the No Limit duo made some waves in this year’s New Japan Cup, but none of them have any big match singles experience. Nobody has made it to the G-1 finals without that. They could steal some big wins but that’s about it.

Combine the thought behind the first category with the second category and we get…

Upper-card wrestlers facing midcarders on the last night: Nagata, Nakanishi and Marufuji’s replacement. Marufuji had pretty much no chance of reaching the finals anyway, but his taking on Yano at the end cinched it. A replacement wrestler has even less of a chance. Since the final night is all about having a dramatic finish to the round-robin stage in preparation for the finals, the ones advancing will come from one of the three biggest singles bouts of the night.

There’s just one more name to cross off…

Wrestler who lost in the July IWGP title match: Nakamura. Ten times, the loser of a July IWGP title match was in the next month’s G-1 Climax. That wrestler has never made the finals. Heck, there’s even 2003, when July’s title bout was Takayama vs Chono and they went to a double-KO finish; neither made that year’s G-1 final. What’s more, Nakamura has gotten four title shots in the last 21 months, so it would be overkill to add another. Caveat: he’s overdue for a G-1 win.

Down to 5 wrestlers! They all have a reasonable chance of reaching the finals. But who can win, and who can’t? Two wrestlers get yanked immediately…

Outside wrestlers: Shiozaki and Kojima. The G-1 has never been won by an outsider and it’s unlikely it ever will be, simply because it’s one kayfabe thing New Japan has over every other promotion in the country. Part of me thinks that one of these two is likely to be one-half of the finals, but with Kojima coming off an injury and with Shiozaki having busted up Tanahashi with a moonsault, I’m not so sure we won’t see an NJ vs NJ finals like we’ve had the last three years. Especially after Go just lost to Sasaki.

Three wrestlers remain: Makabe, Tanahashi and Goto. I’ll take these one at a time.

Makabe: The IWGP champ is 2-13 in G-1 Climax tournaments, and hasn’t won since 2000, when booker Choshu was giving a mega-push to Sasaki. Simply put: having the champ win the tournament makes any following title bouts seem anticlimactic. If the whole company couldn’t beat the champ in the tournament, what’s the point? In the case of both times when the champ won the tournament, New Japan was on the verge of a fresh interpromotional battle. Mutoh won in 1995, then lost the belt to Takada during the feud with UWFi. In 2000, Sasaki vacated the title after losing a memorable non-title bout with Kawada in the biggest match of the feud with All Japan. Since there are no fresh interpromotional battles to be had, unless by some miracle WWE agrees to work with them, I highly doubt we’ll see Makabe win the tournament. But he could make the finals and face one of the remaining two.

Tanahashi: One of the company’s two top long-term stars along with Nakamura, he’s always a threat. Two things could be standing in the way, and both relate to Shiozaki. First, is Tanahashi’s jaw healed enough? If he’s not in top shape he might end up losing a lot in lower-effort matches; at the very least he might not be trusted to have two big matches in one night. Second, is his recent loss to Shiozaki a boon or a bane? As with the ‘IWGP title loser’ issue, wrestlers coming in with negative momentum tend not to bounce all the way to a win. That said, Tanahashi could avenge his loss by beating Shiozaki in the finals, or he could beat someone else and THEN win a rematch with Go. All that said, I don’t think his chances are as good as those of…

Hirooki Goto: 2008 G-1 winner, but a four-time IWGP title match loser, having fallen short once every year since his star-making 2007. The tournament is often about a wrestler redeeming himself, for instance Tenzan in 2003 and 2004, or Makabe ‘finally winning a big one’ last year. Goto finally came out on top after a long series of matches with Masato Tanaka, bouncing back from a heart-wrenching title loss to Nakamura in April (following his NJ Cup win). One thing Goto hasn’t done is win over an established outsider. For Goto to win the tournament he’d need to get past Kojima on the last day, and that plus winning the finals would be a great setup to a possible IWGP title win later this year, especially if he also beats Shiozaki on the next-to-last day. Goto is still seen as a notch or two below the company’s other stars, and with the wrestling business of Japan in decline there’s no time like the present to give people a push.

I’d give Goto a 51% chance of winning, Tanahashi 40%, Makabe 4%, Nakamura 4%, and the field 1%. In terms of making the finals I’d say it’s Tanahashi 75%, Goto 52%, Shiozaki 33%, Makabe 24%, Nakamura 10%, Kojima 5%, and 1% for the field in each block. What really throws me off is that Goto is my pick for the tournament, but Shiozaki seems like the best pick for an outsider finalist, and they’re both in the same block. Hmmmm. Good job by New Japan not to telegraph things!

My take on the tournament: there’s a lot of debris, but balanced by enough big names that it should be able to draw about as much as possible. Block B is significantly more loaded, meaning lots of block A matches nobody will care about like Yano vs Strong Man or Anderson vs Naito. When you factor in the extra wear-and-tear that additional singles matches bring, I think they’d have been better off removing blatant fodder like Anderson and Strong Man, and to a lesser extent Marufuji. I mean, how do you justify having Marufuji but not Devitt, other than the fact that Marufuji won heavyweight gold in NOAH a couple years back? Oh well. The talent roster isn’t going to break the bank if they have a couple bad nights of ticket sales, and it’s significantly ahead of what NOAH and All Japan had earlier in the year, so New Japan remains the top company in the nation by a healthy margin.

Next Time: Mid-summer lay of the land, and most of the G-1 results

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