Special thanks to SenorLariato (@SenorLARIATO) for the fantastic gifs, and special thanks to yottsume (@puro_yottsume, www.ustream.tv/channel/puroresu-dubbed) for the real time English language translations.
Night one emanates from Act City Hamamatsu, and Masa Chono is at the desk tonight doing commentary. Chono talked about winning multiple G1’s, and how hard it is to wrestle so many tough matches in such a short amount of time.
They did a video package where each man talked about wanting to win the tournament. The highlight was Yujio Takahashi claiming he was going to throw a party with 100 women after he won, because all he does is dream of naked women. If you’ve ever wondered what Yujior is saying, yes, it’s as awesome as you’ve imagined.
1. Block B: Toru Yano vs Kota Ibushi – Block B kicked off with Yano vs Kota Ibushi of DDT. Ibushi’s music was dubbed, so no way to tell what kind of a pop he received. Michael Nakazawa cornered Ibushi. Yano went right after him at the bell and wasted no time tossing him to the outside and using a chair. Chono was not pleased with these tactics. Ibushi took control with his quebrada off the turnbuckle to the outside, and a dropkick off the top back on the inside. Yano got the knees up on a standing SSP and rolled him up for a nearfall. In another cool spot, Yano blocked a backslide by holding onto the ref. Ibushi got a near fall with a delayed German, and scored the pin with a Phoenix Splash to pick up the first points of the block. Good match. ***
2. Block A: Tomohiro Ishii vs Lance Archer – Hard to believe Archer is taking part in his third G1. He’s found a home and at this point is probably the most high profile American gaijin working Japan regularly. Who would have thought that TNA’s “7 foot tall ticked off Texan”, known for his moonsault & back tat, would eventually find his niche here? The story here was Archer’s power, with Ishii as the feisty underdog, which is a role that not many people are better at these days. Ishii has that rare ability to get the people behind him and his comebacks. Ishii finally got Archer off his feet with a vertical suplex & belly to back for a near fall, which popped the crowd and got them chanting his name:
In a cool spot, Archer went for a chokeslam, Ishii fought out, came off the ropes, and got hit with a black hole slam. Then Archer hit the choke slam for a two count. Ishii used a superplex & a big lariat for a near fall. Crowd went nuts for that. Archer blocked a lariat with a big boot, and hit the Blackout for the win. The fans were super into all of Ishii’s comebacks. Ishii is being presented as a clear underdog, and matches are going to be a real highlight of this tournament. The fans are going to completely lose it when he finally picks up a win at some point. Really fun match with a great story. ***1/4
3. Block B: Shelton “X” Benjamin vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan – Benjamin is now wearing MMA gloves. He showed some swagger & fire in his entrance and throughout the match, so it looks like we’re getting motivated Shelton for this tour instead of I-don’t-give-a-shit Shelton. Benjamin controlled the meat of the match, getting caught in Tenzan’s Anaconda Vice for the only brief moment of danger. Tenzan missed a diving headbutt and got hit with the Paydirt for the finish, in a short match. Shelton is clearly getting a push on this latest New Japan run, explaining his motivation. The announcers spent a ton of time talking about Shelton’s various WWE titles. A short, nothing match. **
4. Block A: Davey Boy Smith Jr vs Katsuyori Shibata – One of the most anticipated matches of night one. Davey is the fourth guy tonight to sport new gear (Ibushi, Benjamin, Tenzan). The announcers note that Davey wants to do something his father never did, win the G1. This is a first time singles match. Some good chain wrestling to start. Power moves from Davey, fighting out of holds with big slams and hitting a press slam at one point for BIG APPEAL. For the finish, DBS his a powerbomb, but got caught in a triangle choke on the landing. He lifted Shibata to nearly power out, but failed. Shibata released, and came off the ropes with a PK kick for the pin. Good stuff, with Shibata having the edge on the mat, and DBS using power moves. Loved the finishing sequence. ***1/4
5. Block B: Yujiro Takahashi vs Tetsuya Naito – Battle of former tag partners & rivals. Yujiro was extra sleazy on his ring entrance. Naito started hot, but Yujio took control by going after the knee. Yujiro hit a fisherman’s buster, but Naito escaped a power bomb and clamped on his new submission move, the “White Feather”. Yujio reached the ropes, but then ate a top rope dropkick. Naito got a near fall on a German suplex. Yujiro came back with an Olympic slam & dead lift German for a two count, and then hit the Tokyo Pimps for the upset win. Good match, as my pick to win the tournament starts off in a 0-1 hole. ***
Intermission. Hiroshi Tanahashi says he wants to win the G1 Climax to make himself “mainstream” again. Kazuchika Okada says he’s not scared of the Bullet Club interfering in his match against Prince Devitt.
6. Block B: Yuji Nagata vs Minoru Suzuki – Chono couldn’t stop talking about Suzuki kicking the young boy off the ring apron during his entrance. Suzuki dragged Nagata over to the announce table and taunted Chono. Chono no sold him. Great stuff. The ref warned Suzuki to take the match back into the ring, and Suzuki laughed in his face. Suzuki was in rare form tonight, even by his usual standards. Suzuki dominated until Nagata did his Undertaker rising from the dead routine and went for a leglock. Suzuki reversed and locked on a tight heel hook to keep control. Nagata made the ropes. Nagata locked on the White Eye crucifix armbar, and Suzuki made the ropes. Then they did a hard slap fight, which Suzuki won. Suzuki then put him out with a sleeper choke for a near fall. Nagata fought out of a Gotch-style Piledriver and hit an exploder followed by a heel kick. He scored the pin with a wrist clutch exploder moments later. Real good match. ***1/4
7. Block A: Togi Makabe vs Hirooki Goto – The announcers noted that Goto won the 2008 G1, his first appearance in the tournament. This is his sixth consecutive appearance in the field. Makabe’s “Immigrant Song” entrance is dubbed as usual. The announcers note that Goto defeated Makabe in the finals in ’08. First big spot was Makabe clothselining Goto over the railing into the crowd. Makabe won it with the King Kong Knee Drop. This was hard hitting and well worked, but fell a bit short on a show with tons of other very good matches. ***
8. Block B: Karl Anderson vs Shinsuke Nakamura – Anderson came out alone, no Bullet Club in sight. Announcers talked about Anderson losing in the finals to Okada last year, and discussed how the “former nice guy sold his soul” and wants to make his revenge as a “bad guy”. Chono cuts Anderson a break, saying how sometimes it’s ok to switch from white to black. These translations rule. He goes on to say that these types of American wrestlers like Anderson, who show great balance between technical wrestling & fighting, are nowhere to be found these days. Chono apparently loves Anderson. Chono also implied that Nakamura was forced to do MMA against his will, but that it helped his fighting spirit, which is interesting to bring up. Chono was going on and on about Anderson’s ability to mix wrestling with roughhousing. Chono went on to say that the territories in the U.S. are dead, and it’s only WWE. As a result, he claimed the territory styles are dead, and he admires Anderson for adapting to strong style. Seriously, Anderson must be Chono’s favorite wrestler. Finishing sequence took this from a good match to a very good match. Nakamura whiffed on two Boma Ye’s. Anderson hit a reverse Stun Gun, but Nakamura kicked out at one. Anderson followed with a Bernard Driver and a second Stun Gun for the mild upset. Great stuff down the stretch. ***1/4
9. Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Satoshi Kojima – Crowd was hot for this right from the start. Chono notes that as two former G1 winners, he thinks these men may be insulted that they aren’t in the main event. I hope Chono does all nine shows. Chono says Tanahashi never had a rivalry to keep him motivated like Kojima had with Tenzan, so he admires Tanahashi for being so good despite being a “lonely champion”. Not much happened until Kojima knocked Tanahashi off the top onto the floor with a huge lariat, and they teased a count out.
Kojima got the knees up on a High Fly Flow. Crowd was hot at this point for an upset. Huge lariat by Kojima, and a blown finish. Ref counted to two but stopped, and Tanahashi never kicked out. They rang the bell. I have no idea what happened, but it looked like the ref blew the finish. If Tanahashi was supposed to win, that will throw off all of the intricate booking the rest of the way and they’ll have to change some things. The finish takes the rating down a bit. Really turned into something great before that. ***
10. Block A: Kazuchika Okada vs Prince Devitt – Rematch from Kizuna Road. Devitt came out with Bad Luck Fale, but no sign of the rest of the Bullet Club. Funny stuff early as Devitt gets in Chono’s face and screams “I’M REEEAAAALLL!”. Both guys ran through their key spots, with Devitt reversing a tombstone and hitting a Bloody Sunday followed by a top rope double stomp for a near fall. Devitt went for a tombstone of his own, but Okada reversed. Devitt ducked a Rainmaker, and it took out the ref. Fale ran in. Gedo saved, but ate a thumb. Then Fale took out Okada and laid Devitt on top. Two count. Okada hit his big dropkick. Devitt reversed another Rainmaker, and threw Okada headfirst into a chair held up by Fale. Bloody Sunday, pin. The usual Devitt/Bullet Club riot match. Chono is annoyed that Devitt cheated. Fun stuff. ***1/4
Overall, a great opening night. It’ll be hard for New Japan to top this, but I wouldn’t bet against the card in Osaka giving this a run for it’s money.
More action, courtesy of @SenorLARIATO: