New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 25 – Night 18
August 15, 2015
Ryogoku Kokugikan – Tokyo, Japan
Yohei Komatsu & Sho Tanaka vs reDRagon
Tanaka & Komatsu are the greatest 0-30 tag team of all time. Seven of those losses have now come to reDRagon. This was a short warm up bout to get reDRagon ready for their title match against the Bucks on Sunday, but the lions still showed plenty of fight. My favorite spot was Fish attempting to break up a Tanaka crab hold on O’Reilly with forearms, but Tanaka defiantly refusing to break the hold until Fish kicked his head off of his shoulders. reDRagon won it with Chasing the Dragon, but their celebration was cut short by the Bucks doing a run in and cleaning house. Good, solid match. ***
David Finlay & Jay White vs Young Bucks
A little bit of Paul Heyman booking from Gedo, as Finlay & White saved their fellow young boys from the Bucks beating, mocked the Bucks pre match pose, and match #2 was on. This was all action and a lot of fun. It’s pretty scary how advanced all four of the young lions are. This is probably unfair to say, and it isn’t fair to place these types of expectations on anyone, but this group of lions is the most skilled at this point of their careers since the Muto/Chono/Hashimoto/Liger group from the mid-80’s. The Bucks won it with the Indytaker (called as such in commentary), complete with Matt mocking Undertaker’s pin routine with the opponents arms folded and his tongue sticking out. reDRagon did a run in on the Bucks and ran the champs off. The title match should be great, because these teams have unreal chemistry together and will be looking to steal the show in a sold out Sumo Hall. ***
Toru Yano, Kazushi Sakuraba, YOSHI-HASHI, Matt Taven, Mike Bennett vs AJ Styles, Doc Gallows, Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Cody Hall
Another short match with all action, with YOSHI-HASHI beating Cody Hall with the Loose Explosion (copyright/trademark VOW). Fale edges out Yano to win the Taking the Night Off Award, as i’m not even sure if he ever tagged in. AJ was right behind them, as he did one spot with Sakuraba (which made for a very intriguing dynamic), took one bump, and got the hell out of there for the rest of the match. Hey, this is a long, hard tournament, so I don’t blame these G1 guys one bit for dogging it in a meaningless ten man tag. The Kingdom worked he bulk of this for their side, and Tama Tonga looked great here, just as he has for the entire tour. He also had the best reactions to Maria yet. Tonga deserves a push. **3/4
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Katsuyori Shibata, KUSHIDA vs Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi, Manabu Nakanishi, Captain New Japan, Ricochet
KUSHIDA & Ricochet opened with a stalemate as a teaser for the IWGP Junior title match the next night. Lucha Underground is totally missing the boat with Ricochet, who comes across roughly a thousand times more charismatic as Ricochet than he does as goofy mute Prince Puma, but that all may be a moot point anyway since the future of Lucha Underground is looking grim.
Tetsuya Naito was the star of the match even though he never officially tagged in. It’s amazing to me that some people have complained about Naito’s booking over the last few days of the tournament. A month from now nobody is going to remember or care that he lost to Gallows or Tenzan, especially since he beat Tanahashi, Styles, & Ibushi. If you think these random one off losses in a league setting matter (while completely ignoring the fact that Naito antagonizing Tenzan was an underlying theme of the tournament), and can’t see that Naito will leave this tour far far stronger than he entered it, then you either haven’t been paying attention, or have a serious lack of perspective and are not seeing the forest through the trees. Same for Shibata, for that matter.
Anyway, Naito repeatedly took cheap shots from the apron at an increasingly frustrated Shibata until Shibata returned the favor by kicking him in the face and sending him tumbling to the floor to an enormous pop. They’re clearly setting up a Naito/Shibata singles match, perhaps at one of the two Destruction shows, and that should be a ton of fun. Makabe & Ibushi has one brief stand off and quietly disappeared into the night. Ibushi noted after the 8/14 show that he’d like a shot at the NEVER title, so that’s the immediate direction for those guys. NEVER is a logical step for Ibushi, who from a story perspective is not quite ready for the big boys at the top. Tanahashi put away CNJ with the High Fly Flow. If Nakanishi starts to move any slower, he’ll be going in reverse. ***
Tomoaki Honma vs Yujiro Takahashi
This result was a head scratcher, because once Honma finally won against Ishii, there was really no reason to beat him here vs a lower card guy like Yujiro. Had Honma lost to Ishii, I would have been fine with this, because I don’t think Yujiro would have been the right person for him to get his big win. The match it self was good. Despite some ugly first week performances, Yujiro was much better in this tournament than people probably want to admit. ***1/4
Tomohiro Ishii vs Michael Elgin
Anybody who doubted Elgin is choking on crow at this point. Elgin started the tournament off well, and progressively got better & better, wrapping things up with a borderline MOTY contender vs Goto and a sure fire no doubt MOTY contender vs Ishii. This was an incredible big bomb throwing strong style FIGHT between two pit bulls, and it didn’t end until one man finally broke. This is everything it should have been, and everything I love in my pro wrestling when two bowling ball shaped fire plugs get together to hoss it up. The prideful no selling and the defiant one count kickouts will bother some who just can’t grasp that kind of psychology, but for me that’s exactly what we needed to see out of two guys like this and the story here was great. Elgin has a serious case for tournament MVP. He needs to pack up and move to Japan. ****1/2
Yuji Nagata vs Hirooki Goto
This was strange. Nagata sells the entire way, and hits the backdrop out of nowhere to score the pin. What a weird, weird year for Nagata, as many of his matches have been structured this way, but I think I get the long term story they’re telling. He’s the old anti-aging warrior, but time is finally catching up, and he’s relying on his spirit and his caginess to get by. Sometimes it’s enough (this match, and vs Kojima) and other times, it is not (Nakamura at New Beginning). Maybe i’m looking for something that isn’t there, but there is clearly a pattern that has developed of Nagata selling for the bulk of his matches. Anyway, this result smells like Nagata challenging for the IC at one of the Destruction shows. ***1/2
Satoshi Kojima vs Karl Anderson
Kojima, who always works incredibly hard, had fire in his eyes for this one, and with it being positioned as the semi and with Nagata getting the feel good win in the previous bout, I quickly got the feeling that they would give the other wily 3rd Gen veteran a big Sumo Hall win, too. A very enjoyable bout, and a pretty sneaky tour for Kojima, who produced strong matches vs Ishii, Elgin, Okada, and now Anderson, plus great individual performances in two very different roles in the Nagata (where he worked heelish) and Nakamura (where he worked sympathetic from underneath) bouts. Anderson had a very good tournament, too. ***3/4
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kazuchika Okada
Nakamura had produced an uneven tournament to this point, and to me needed to deliver big here (and in the final, since I figured it was a given he’d be in it) to redeem himself, and he did. This was special. I’m not sure if I liked this better than the G1 Final between these two last year, but I will say that it was more compelling bell to bell. Okada being a cocky prick by mocking Nak’s taunts turned the crowd on him early, but the match was so good, and these two guys are so charismatic, that the fans were simply cheering the action by the end. Okada’s dropkick counter to the Boma Ye was out of this world, and kicked off a closing stretch the likes of which will be very hard to top. The call back of Okada trying the double Rainmaker that killed Nak dead last year bu this time being countered, the crazy German reversal into a cross arm breaker by Nak, Nak slipping Okada into a triangle choke as Okada fought off a cross arm breaker with all of his life, and the camera catching Okada’s look of sheer desperation as he desperately reached for the ropes before realizing he was fucked…there was really nothing not to like here.
This was a fantastic match, and it set the stage for a third bout (before you send the angry emails, i’m well aware that they faced each other in the 2012 G1, and probably a few Okada young lion matches before that, but this very much felt like the second match of a series) for some point down the line because it didn’t feel like they emptied the tank. A thoroughly satisfying pro wrestling match from every aspect, especially so if you enjoy long term match to match psychology and storytelling. ****1/2
Tanahashi vs Nakamura was the only logical final, because one of those two was clearly winning the entire tournament, and it would have been silly to give away a fresh matchup of Styles vs Nakamura on a show that was going to sell out regardless, or a Tanahashi vs Okada match that needs to eventually happen at a Wrestle Kingdom so Okada can finally slay his rival at the site of his career biggest disappointment.
This was the best night of the tournament so far, with every single match being a fun watch at minimum. Overall, the tournament has slowly been creeping up to the quality of the previous two years, with a longer list of outstanding matches than you might think, including multiple MOTY level bouts. The format has been a drain, with too many nights for the average fan to keep up with, but I really can’t come up with a suitable solution. The previous format was just as draining, with cards that ran ten matches deep of stuff that a hardcore fan just couldn’t skip. If you’re a New Japan fan with G1 fatigue, force yourself to watch this show. There is no way you won’t enjoy it, and the final night has a realistic chance to top it.