Day 1 of the 2014 G1 Climax certainly lived up to the hype, as New Japan delivered a great show with a killer second half.
On paper, Day 2 did not have the look of a great show, with the three most intriguing match ups being Satoshi Kojima vs Tomohiro Ishii, Lance Archer vs Tetsuya Naito, and Davey Boy Smith Jr vs Shinsuke Nakamura, with none of the three positioned late enough on the card to be confident that a single one of them would get a decent amount of time. The main event of Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Doc Gallows was one of the weakest on paper of the entire tour. Kazuchika Okada was matched with the aging Hiroyoshi Tenzan. IWGP champion AJ Styles was paired with Toru Yano.
Did Day 2 deliver an entertaining show, despite the mediocre lineup?
1. Block A: Satoshi Kojima (2) vs Tomohiro Ishii (0) – This crowd is hot. HOT. Wow. I knew this would deliver, and it did. Fierce forearm battle to start. I can not stress enough how amped up the crowd was right from the jump. They go outside early, Kojima kicks Ishii’s legs out from under him on the apron, then delivers an apron DDT. He’s been watching ROH tapes. Back inside, Ishii has the audacity to reverse the Kojima chop spot in the corner. The nerve of that guy. Kojima reverses back and completes the spot. They key stuff was Ishii countering the big lariat, Kojima using Ishii’s brainbuster on Ishii, and Ishii later using Kojima’s big lariat on Kojima. There was also a great sequence that led to a crisp reversal by Kojima into an implant DDT. Ishii eventually put him away with the brainbuster. This was intense, perfectly executed, and was perfect pacing for a hot opener. The best G1 opening match that I can recall. I think it’s smart to use Ishii in openers to heat up the crowd. Ishii is scheduled twice more in that spot. I have a feeling I liked this more than others, but hey, it’s my review. ****
2. Block A: Shelton Benjamin (2) vs Bad Luck Fale (2) – You know a crowd is red hot when they pop for Shelton Benjamin being announced. I think Shelton has found his calling, working against monsters, because he was very impressive working hope spots from underneath & selling for the second straight night. You could tell they were going short early on based on the pacing and how quickly Fale was moving from spot to spot. Shelton wiggled out of the Bad Luck Fall, delivered a spin kick, and then hit the Paydirt out of nowhere. The crowd didn’t pop for the Paydirt like it was a possible finish, but they popped like crazy when he got the three count. Shelton’s facials were great after he won. The story is always the same with him. When he’s motivated, he’s good. When he’s not, he isn’t. Right now, being booked favorably with something to sink his teeth into, he’s been good. You can add an extra quarter star for the cool unexpected finish and how Shelton reacted to it if you like. **3/4
3. Block B: Hirooki Goto (2) vs Yujiro Takahashi (2) – This wasn’t bad at all, but it wasn’t my preferred structure for a New Japan G1 bout. I don’t want to see heels with long methodical control periods, including a time killing REVERSE CHIN LOCK, on a G1 show, especially this early in the card where the idea is generally get in, get to the action, and get out. This was like Sheamus working a match on Main Event against a mid card heel, selling the whole way, and it goes 20 minutes when it could have went 12. Do we really need two Sandow rest holds?? Anyway, Goto fought off the buckle bomb, then later fought off a Tokyo Pimps attempt. He made the WWE babyface comeback in the final moments, ran through his shit, and won with the Shouten Kai. This was a three star WWE TV bout. ***
4. Block B: Tetsuya Naito (0) vs Lance Archer (-) – Archer had Day 1 off. If a match isn’t going to get a ton of time, this is the pacing I prefer. They told a story here, yet kept things moving at a good pace all the way through. Naito dodged some strikes early, but when Archer finally got his hands on him, he flung him into the turnbuckle (think the Titus O’Neil spot where he flings the guy aside, but in this case directly into the corner). From here, it was a big man dominating a little man bout, which Naito has excelled in this year. Archer is also very good in the bully role. Naito missed the Stardust Press during one of his brief comebacks. Archer went for the F’n Slam (complete with a very verbal FUCK YOU to either Naito or somebody at ringside), but Naito reversed it into a small package for the win. Cool finish. Anther solid match. The crowd is really helping this show, and the guys are feeding off of the energy. ***
5. Block A: Yuji Nagata (0) vs Tomoaki Honma (0) – Honma missed two headbutts which led right into the “Honma gets his ass kicked for the meat of the match” phase. And of course, this is where Honma excels, taking a wicked beating while getting the fans behind him and screaming in the face of his opponent while randomly no selling hard strikes. This had that extra bit of intensity that the previous few matches lacked, because the fans really love to get behind Honma to pull upsets more then they get behind people like Naito or Goto who they expect to win most of the time anyway. They lost each other in the ropes at one point, but Honma covered it up well and I don’t think most people even noticed. Honma survived a brainbuster, but fell to Nagata’s backdrop driver (actually, a backdrop hold, as Nagata held on and bridged). The crowd made this a little better than it probably actually was. ***1/4
6. Block A: Shinsuke Nakamura (0) vs Davey Boy Smith Jr (-) – I would have preferred this a little later in the card, but at least in was on the second half. But as it turned out, time wasn’t an issue at all. DBS Jr, like his tag partner Archer, had Day 1 off. I loved this. This two guys have very good chemistry. DBS is a guy who I would love to see featured in long singles matches more often, because he always delivers in a big spot. I often complain about throw away rest holds & lazy rest hold implementation, but this was a good example of doing it in a compelling way. DBS would rag doll Nakamura, hit him with power moves, and then wear him down with holds. Rinse, repeat. This gives the holds more meaning than just slapping on a side headlock, catching your breath, and then moving into the next sequence of spots. The way DBS works his holds into his matches, he never loses me. This match felt like Nakamura had to fight & scratch his way to everything he got. He eventually won it with a Boma Ye, but not before DBS kicked out of the first attempt. This whole match really worked for me. ***3/4
7. Block B: Toru Yano (2) vs AJ Styles (0) – Crowd went apeshit for Yano. The crowd was going apeshit for everything on this show. Fun dynamic at the start, with AJ not knowing what to make of Yano’s antics. AJ carries himself very well as a heel with his facials and mannerisms, but the promos just take me right out of it. As a talker, he’s a face. Anderson should do all of the talking for BC. Styles was in control and cruising until Yano untied the turnbuckle pad and lured him into it. This ended up backfiring, as a minute later Yano got tossed into his own trap. Nothing special from here, until Yano scored a near fall on a surprise cradle. He tried it again, but got caught in a Styles Clash. Good, strong, clean win for AJ, which is the sort of thing he needs badly as he starts to slowly get over. **1/2
8. Block A: Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2) vs Kazuchika Okada (2) – Shame on all of us. Sure, he may be a step slow these days, but Hiroyoshi Tenzan has proven over the first two nights that he can still contribute his end of a high quality singles match. The story early was Tenzan not belonging in the same ring as the younger star, with Okada systematically taking him apart. Tenzan put together a few brief comebacks, but things really heated up when he blocked a tombstone attempt. Tenzan worked his way up to an anaconda vice (which helped him win on Day 1), and the crowd was fully behind him. Well, the crowd was behind both guys, but they were having a lot of fun rooting for Tenzan to pull the upset. Tenzan later ducked a Rainmaker, but eventually got caught in a tombstone, and that was the beginning of the end, as a Rainmaker that eventually landed was around the corner. Tenzan didn’t exactly take the best bump for it, but we can overlook certain things in the bigger picture here. ***3/4
9. Block B: Togi Makabe (0) vs Karl Anderson (0) – I never got into this. I don’t know why. It was a match. Makabe won with the King Kong Knee Drop. It was fine, but instantly forgettable. Anderson, who might be the strongest contender behind Styles & Okada in the block, is 0-2. I have nothing else to add. **1/4
10. Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi (2) vs Doc Gallows (0) – Gallows was wearing Hack Myers gear. I was yelling “Shah!” along with his strikes. This is exactly what I expected out of this match. Gallows gave Tanahashi a nice beating for a few minutes, and displayed some of the best looking offense he’s shown since he debuted (not exactly clearing a high bar, but the point stands). What I liked about this, is Gallows didn’t go down like a chump. He kicked out at one after a slingblade clothesline, and it took two High Fly Flows to put the big man away (one to the back, and then immediately a second traditional version). This has a chance to end up being the weakest main event on the tour, but it wasn’t bad. It’s pretty much exactly what you would expect from the participants involved and the caliber of show this was set up to be. ***
While it didn’t feature any great matches, this show massively exceeded expectations, with a very strong first half that I actually thought was better than the second half. The lesson here, is you really have to be careful when it comes to prejudging a New Japan show, especially during G1 season. This hasn’t been the best in ring promotion on the planet over the last few years by accident.
It’s still very early, but as expected the new spread out format looks like a great idea, not only for my sanity as a reviewer, but more importantly for the ability of the participants to grab a few days off in between matches and get refreshed. A good example of this is Katsuyori Shibata, who had a hard physical bout against Nakamura on Day 1, who thanks to having this show as his scheduled off day, and the scheduled gap between shows, will end up having three consecutive days off to rest up for what will very likely be another physical match with Davey Boy Smith Jr on Friday. Minoru Suzuki barely broke a sweat on Day 1 (a brief match against Yano) and will head into Day 3 100% healthy & fresh, essentially having not worked a single “real” match yet.
Friday’s offering looks like a decent show on paper, but after tonight’s showing, I’m not going to make any assumptions about these shows moving forward. This company simply always has the potential to deliver.
G1 Climax Pick’em Standings (updated: July 23)
|Iftar Puja Utama||10|
|Mario L. Morrison||8|