New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 26 – Night 11
Kagoshima, Japan
August 3, 2016

Watch: NJPW World

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Night 11 of this year’s G1 Climax is upon us, and it is now when we finally see some true direction in the tournament. At the midway point, the real threats to win break away somewhat from the early pretenders. We’re seeing some true “Must-Win” matches, including the big Marufuji vs SANADA and Tanahashi vs Ishii matches on today’s card. At the end of the day, who will be in the driver’s seat on the road to the IWGP Championship contract? Let’s find out…

NJPW G1 Climax 26 – A Block

Hiroyoshi Tenzan [4] vs Bad Luck Fale [4]

Entering his sixth match of the tournament, Hiroyoshi Tenzan had only won two of his five matches so far. Not quite the miracle, final run for Tenzan that some expected. However, the story here is the chance of a Tenzan comeback. Let’s face it, Fale is beatable. So are the entire final run of opponents for Tenzan. So a miracle comeback could have happened, but that isn’t to be. It appears the miracle comeback idea may be saved for another participant in the A Block.

Tenzan struggled with the power game against the large Bad Luck Fale, ultimately causing his failure. Fale just couldn’t be moved. In the end, a failed moonsault turned into a Fale Grenade dooms Tenzan, who suffers his fourth loss in the series. With an Okada victory later in the show, this loss will eliminate Tenzan from any chance of victory in this year’s tournament. **

Tama Tonga [4] vs Hirooki Goto [4]

Would the Bullet Club start the night 2-0 in G1 matches? Not so much. Tama Tonga tried to use his speed throughout the affair to confuse and stymie Goto, but it didn’t work. The ending sequence – complete with Tonga switching back and forth from running away from Goto to then running at Goto in attempts to hit the Gun Stun – was quite entertaining. After avoiding two straight attempts from Tonga to hit the Gun Stun, Goto turned Tonga inside out with a GTR for the victory. Goto remains in the race, while Tonga’s destiny, like Tenzan’s, lays at the feet of Okada later on. **

Alright, here we go to the good stuff. The most anticipated match of the night for this NJPW fan – two relative outsiders in Naomichi Marufuji and SANADA!

Naomichi Marufuji [6] vs SANADA [4]

Marufuji is still the only man to have beaten Kazuchika Okada in this tournament, a feat accomplished on the very first night of the tour. SANADA started off well in his own right, too, before becoming a bit uneven later on.

The match goes ten minutes, but another ten on top would have been absolutely acceptable. These two meshed so well, it was great fun while it lasted. Marufuji chopped the living hell out of SANADA, with SANADA welcoming it (dummy.) With his chest beat red, SANADA bites it to the Shiranui at the ten minute mark. Marufuji continues his impressive run, while SANADA joins the list of others awaiting the result of Okada’s match to see if he survives another day. ****

Hiroshi Tanahashi [4] vs Tomohiro Ishii [4]

Hiroshi Tanahashi continues his miracle comeback attempt, as he gets his third victory in a row after losing his first three matches of the series. The road isn’t easy for Tanahashi, though, as he still has Naomichi Marufuji and Kazuchika Okada left on his schedule. It seems there is intent purpose on making Marufuji look so strong early on for what’s next.

The upcoming bout between Marufuji and Tanahashi, which takes place as the main event of Night 13 in Osaka, is a hugely important contest. It will determine whether Marufuji is indeed headed to a possible A Block win, or if Tanahashi vs Okada on the final night of the A Block will determind the A Block champion. I figure the latter is most likely, as a dominant Okada looks to hold off the challenge of a recently injured but surging Hiroshi Tanahashi.

The match between Tanahashi and Ishii is one that could be suspected. Ishii shows no nonsense, while Tanahashi sticks to old tricks to put the former NEVER Openweight champ down. Sure, Tanahashi has to play the Ishii game a little bit, but he never deviates from the set plan. ***3/4

Kazuchika Okada [8] vs Togi Makabe [8]

The two runaways so far of the A Block finally meet up on Night 11, but it is Kazuchika Okada who leaves with continued momentum towards the A Block finals.

Okada, in victory over Makabe, eliminates Tenzan, SANADA, and Tonga from any chance of victory in the series.

I could have been wrong, and if I had been, I would have felt quite foolish… but Togi Makabe never had a chance to win the A Block. So, I never gave him a chance to win today’s main event. That thought took me out of the match a bit, as I was just waiting for the Rainmaker to finish the show. Okada’s victory is important, though, as it lessens the clog in the A Block and sets up a distinct path towards the finals for the top tier in the group.

As for the match, it was pretty fun but not the best of the night. Coming in at fifteen minutes, I was thinking that the time given the main could have been switched with Marufuji vs SANADA for a better experience overall. ***1/4

Okada spoke after the bout, followed by Gedo’s usual putover of the IWGP Heavyweight Champion.

We’re on to Fukuoka tomorrow for the 6th day of the B Block, while the A Block returns on Saturday with the big Tanahashi vs Marufuji main event! NJPW G1 Climax 26 Standings