New Japan’s latest iPPV offering, ‘Kizuna Road’, was almost a mirror image of the previous nights iPPV offering from Japan, Dragon Gate’s ‘Infinity Mugendai’ (https://www.voicesofwrestling.com/2013/07/04/dragon-gate-inifinity-mugendai-ippv-hits-a-solid-double/). Both shows emanated from Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall, neither were “big” shows for their respective companies, and both featured perfectly fine but mostly average undercards with an incredibly fun kick ass main event.
‘Kizuna Road’ featured an undercard full of tag matches, with the lone singles match being Prince Devitt defending his IWGP Jr. Heavyweight title against Gedo. Yes, the same Gedo who is a part time wrestler at best these days, the same Gedo who hasn’t won a singles match (or possibly any match, period) since pinning TAKA Michinoku on a K-Dojo show in October of 2012.
Gedo, the manager & mouthpiece of IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada, ended up in this match when Okada told Devitt (following Devitt’s win over former champion & company ace Hiroshi Tanahashi) that he would give him a title shot if he could go through Gedo first. Devitt accepted, and here we are, with a main event that most fans viewed as a throwaway, on a card full of multi-man tag matches. For that reason, many fans considered the intermission, the announcement of the G1 Climax blocks, the actual main event of the show. We probably should have been smarter than to doubt Devitt (or the veteran Gedo, for that matter) & the company he works for, because the main event delivered well beyond what most people expected.
Aside from the tremendous main event, the other big story was the reveal of the G1 field.
Block A in quite possibly the most loaded block in G1 history, with Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, Hirooki Goto, Satoshi Kojima, Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Lance Archer, Davey Boy Smith Jr, Devitt, & Katsuyori Shibata. The Korakuen crowd was literally gasping at the names as they were shown one by one on the big screen, with a big pop for the inclusion of Shibata. This block will have a crazy amount of intriguing match ups, including Tanahashi/Okada V, Tanahashi/Devitt III, an Okada/Devitt rematch (they face off 7/20 for the IWGP title in Akita, the next big iPPV show), Goto/Shibata IV (III will be on 7/20 as well), Shibata vs Okada, Tanahashi, & Devitt, tag partners Archer & Smith facing off, and crowd favorite Ishii in his first high profile matches against nearly everyone in the block.
The big surprise was saved for Block B. The final entrant was Kota Ibushi, which the crowd went nuts for. Ibushi was in the building and came to the ring to cut a promo. The rest of the block includes Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Yuji Nagata, Tetsuya Naito, Shinsuke Nakamura, Toru Yano, Yujiro Takahashi, Minoru Suzuki, Shelton Benjamin, & Karl Anderson That bracket features five former IWGP champions, plus Naito & Anderson, and is still dwarfed in quality by the simply ridiculously stacked A Block, which should really speak to the depth of the company right now. Ibushi is the only real outsider being brought in, which again, speaks volumes about how strong this roster is.
0. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Super Strong Machine vs. Toru Yano, Takashi Iizuka & Jado – This was the free pre show match. New Japan dusts the mothballs of Super Strong Machine every few months. Yano & Iizuka challenge TenKoji for the IWGP tag titles on 7/20. This was a nothing match, with the babyfaces shoehorning their signature spots into a tidy 9:00 package. Yano got himself disqualified when he blasted Kojima with a chair in plain site of the ref. Not to be outdone, Iizuka attacked Tenzan with the iron glove moments later. A rare DQ for New Japan. Nothing to see here, unless you enjoy the quarterly appearances of Super Strong Machine for nostalgia purposes. **
1. Togi Makabe, Manabu Nakanishi, Tiger Mask & KUSHIDA vs. Yuji Nagata, Hirooki Goto, Captain New Japan & Takaaki Watanabe – An odd match of eight random babyfaces who were thrown together for no rhyme or reason. So what you had was a weird collection main eventers, veterans, juniors, upper mid carders, undercard jobbers, young lions, and former IWGP champions in a match that really served no purpose other than to get everybody onto the show. Makabe & Goto started things off, and sort of went through the motions. I can’t blame them. Tiger Mask got some shine with a nice tope. I’m not sure if Captain New Japan ever tagged in. The finish was great. The match broke down, with KUSHIDA & Watanabe, the young lion, isolated in the ring. KUSHIDA was outclassing him and going through his finishing paces when Watanabe caught him with a backslide and nearly scored the big upset. KUSHIDA escaped, hit a kick to the chest, and locked on cross arm breaker for the win. One of those cool moments where the young lion shows some fire, a hint of fighting spirit, and comes this close to pulling it off. **1/4
2. Tomohiro Ishii, Rocky Romero & Alex Koslov vs. Minoru Suzuki, TAKA Michinoku & Taichi – Ishii faces Suzuki on 7/20, and TAKA & Taichi challenge Romero & Kozlov for the junior tag titles on that show as well. This was all about Ishii & Suzuki building their singles match by brawling all over the place. Kozlov had Taichi beat, but Suzuki came out of nowhere to make the save, choke out Kozlov, deliver a Gotch piledriver, and toss Taichi on top of him for the pin. Crowd laughed at the finish, butt in a good way. Suzuki is just plain awesome. Ishii & Suzuki brawled all the way to the back, with Suzuki stopping at one point to steal a JUICE BOX from a fan. I can’t possibly be making that up. **
3. Tetsuya Naito, Tomoaki Honma & La Sombra vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Masato Tanaka & Yujiro Takahashi – Another match with future singles opponents facing off in a tag. Sombra is back from Mexico, where he won the IWGP Intercontinental title from Nakamura, and had one “successful” (a DQ win over Volador Jr) defense. Nakamura gets his rematch on 7/20. Sombra really shined here, and was super over with the live crowd. I should mention that the crowd was on fire all night and really raised the level of some of these matches. Takahashi used his Tokyo Pimps finish to pin Honma. They’ll be on opposite sides of a tag match on 7/20. **3/4
4. Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Karl Anderson & Bad Luck Fale – Welp, it didn’t take a genius to figure out what this finish would be. Interesting tidbit here, is that when Okada returned from TNA in 2012, his first match back was against YOSHI-HASHI, and it was terrible. The next month, he was IWGP Heavyweight Champion. A short non descript match where Okada was protected, with Fale hitting his thumb thrust chokeslam combo on YOSHI-HASHI for the win. Another strong win to put over Bullet Club, and Fale in particular. **
Next was the intermission, with the G1 announcement:
5. CMLL World Tag Team Titles: Tama Tonga & El Terrible (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Jushin Liger – It’s always good to see Liger, who is 48 years old and mostly a (protected) undercard guy, in a big match. Something smelled fishy about this match from the minute it was announced, considering the star power of the challenging team, and the fact that CMLL won a New Japan title in Mexico when Sombra beat Nakamura. New Japan got revenge here, as Tanahashi hit the High Fly Flow on Terrible to win the titles. Liger, who can still go, hung with these boys just fine, and as long as he can still move at a reasonable level, will be fine because his costume makes him ageless. Terrible shook hands with the winners and raised their arms, as an annoyed Tonga looked on from the outside. I’ve seen a lot of CMLL fans complaining about the result, much like New Japan fans complained when Sombra beat Nakamura. Both sides need to stop. This is a healthy relationship between two good promotions, and there is nothing wrong with making sure each side looks strong. I have absolutely no issue with either title switch. This one made for a good moment. Second best match on the card. ***
6. IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title: Prince Devitt (c) vs. Gedo – There was a real buzz as Gedo made his entrance. It was pretty clear that the crowd was going to take this match seriously. Gedo was flanked by CHAOS stable mates Okada & Jado. No light up jacket or lights out entrance deal for Devitt. The story early on was Gedo using veteran savvy, including and clipping Devitt leading to some great legwork. The crowd was solidly behind Gedo, chanting his name and popping big for his comebacks and transitions. Devitt is over as a heel. As in, a legitimate, nobody roots for this asshole heel. Not a cool heel, not a guy getting himself over while being a heel, but an old school “we hate this motherfucker” bad guy. 2,000 people wanted Gedo to beat this man in the worst way, and shut his mouth. Devitt has to be a frontrunner or contender at this point for Wrestler of the Year, Most Outstanding, Best on Interviews, Most Charismatic, Best Gimmick, and maybe even a few others. At one point, Devitt flipped Gedo out of the ring, but he landed on top of Anderson. Anderson was going nuts, as Gedo was taunting him and egging him on, begging him to punch him out in front of the ref, to get the cheap DQ. Fans ate that up. The match broke down, and Bullet Club tried to do the usual interference, but were cut off by Jado & Okada. At this point the crowd was on fucking fire, popping through the roof for Okada dropkicking Anderson out of the ring. Gedo got a 2.9 count that had me off my couch. Gedo kicked out of the Bloody Sunday, which blew the roof off Korakuen. They traded roll ups for close two counts, and by now the place was going bonkers. People believed Gedo could win, and wanted it badly. Devitt hit a second Bloody Sunday, and this time there was no kick out. Great, great match. A notch below Match of the Year level, but maybe the most fun you’ll have all year watching a wrestling match. Seek it out. ****1/4