Tiger Mask & Jushin Thunder Liger vs David Finlay & Ryusuke Taguchi
The fact that David Finlay, who is a better worker than a good chunk of the New Japan roster, is still doing young lion job duty on every show when New Japan has a dojo full of new rookies at their disposal is borderline criminal. It’s long overdue at this point that Young David be either sent away on excursion or elevated. To me this speaks volumes on what the company thinks of the new lions, who you can’t find with a search party, and who almost never work matches.
This was kept short, with you guessed it, Finlay taking the fall. Sigh. **
Captain New Japan & Yoshitatsu vs Gedo & Jado
The crowd was firmly behind World Class Tag Team here, booing the shit out of Yoshitatsu every time he broke up a pin or submission attempt. Gedo was great as usual, bouncing around for Yoshitatsu and cursing up a storm. I was a little surprised when Jado tapped CNJ with the crossface, being that this was a heavyweight team (albeit the lowest ranked heavyweight team) against a junior team. It can’t get any worse for Bullet Club Hunters than following up a squash loss with losing to a junior team that almost never wins. **
Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe vs YOSHI-HASHI & Tomohiro Ishii
This was a hot little match, and a big win for YOSHI-HASHI & Ishii over the former champs. This sure felt like a title eliminator, which would give Ishii a fresh new direction, and also continue the elevation of YOSHI-HASHI. YOSHI-HASHI scoring the pin over Honma is meaningful, as they continue to pound home the idea that he is no longer a prelim dude who exists to eat falls for CHAOS. ***
Manabu Nakanishi, Yuji Nagata, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Katsuyori Shibata vs Masa Kitamiya, Maybach Taniguchi, Go Shiozaki, Katsuhiko Nakajima
This turned into a literal riot and did more for Go Shiozaki in 20 minutes than his entire NOAH run (which includes a GHC title reign) has. Go was booed out of the building every time he tagged in, and WHOA BOY did he revel in it. The Go/Shibata interactions were straight up fire, and this entire match was red hot and worked with the same kind of intensity you’d see in an old school promotional feud. Shibata’s headbutt on Nakajima, which knocked Nakajima legit loopy and busted open Shibata (making for an incredible visual, with a stream of blood running down this brutal madman’s face), could very well prove to be the opening shot of a long, intense New Japan vs NOAH blood feud that lights an exciting fire under both promotions.
— John Stevens (@DK1105) August 14, 2016
Post match the riot broke out, with Shibata throwing headbutts at Go, Nagata egging things on and taunting the NOAH boys until Nakajima took the bait as they kicked each other senseless, and it all ended with the New Japan fellas taking a powder while the fans greeted Nakajima, who was perched on the top turnbuckle, with middle finger salutes. This all had massive heat and everybody involved knew exactly how to play it. ***1/2 for the match, ***** for the post match carnage. This has the potential to develop into something great, and NOAH winning the first encounter was the right call.
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles – The Briscoes (c) vs Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi
The Briscoes worked hard, it was a well worked match overall, and the right team won, but nobody, and I mean NOBODY cared. The NOAH riot was going to be hard enough to follow, and following it with Hangman Page & Yujiro simply didn’t work. Fans were into the Briscoes’ wild offense, but the boring heel control periods kept killing things dead as Page & Yujiro were totally uninteresting. Yujiro is Yujiro, but I really thought Page, working the biggest match of his career, would bring it, and while he looked good in spots, he did nothing to stand out or get himself over. The Briscoes in NJPW is a good idea in theory, but they’ve been saddled with horrendous opponents (G.O.D, Bullet Club Hunters, and now Page & Yujiro). ***
ROH World Title – Jay Lethal (c) vs Satoshi Kojima
Aside from an ugly looking and nearly botched Lethal Combination (which it seems nobody in Japan understands how to take, as the same move nearly killed Yujiro two nights earlier), these two worked very well together. With the Lethal Injection and Kojima’s lariat both requiring the use of the ropes, there were plenty of fun and creative counters, including Kojima countering a Lethal Injection with a lariat to the back of the skull. The low blow leading to the finish, combined with Lethal needing the Book of Truth to beat Mike Elgin back in January, makes Lethal look like a complete goof to the Japanese fans. ***1/4
KUSHIDA, Juice Robinson, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin vs Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI
This was every LIJ six or eight man tour tag, which means it was excellent. Juice Robinson bumps and sells as well as anybody, which is what made him such a great enhancement guy in NXT, but he’s rounding out the rest of his game quite nicely and getting over with the New Japan fans. He’s been really fun to watch, and if nothing else the ability to make opponents look like a million bucks, as he did putting over EVIL here, is a sure fire path to steady employment in pro wrestling. ***1/2
Kazuchika Okada, Naomichi Marufuji, Toru Yano vs Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa
A good match, but nothing more than a setup for Okada to plan out his fall by laying down challenges to both Fale and Marufuji. The Marufuji challenge received a huge reaction from the fans. My biggest fear coming into this match was that they were going to shoot an angle for a G.O.D. GHC challenge of Yano & Marufuji, which is a match that nobody on planet Earth wants to see. Okada emphatically putting away Loa with the Rainmaker was the right move to help him look strong coming off of the draw, as there was no need for Fale to beat him for a second time in a week. ***
G1 Climax 26 Final – Hirooki Goto vs Kenny Omega
The perfect enigma against the perpetual bridesmaid.
“Today, G1 26 finals. I’ll be calling on the power of all the good brothers – past and present – to pull this one off.”
But in the end, after Phoenix Splash’s and Last Ride’s and Styles Clash’s and Bloody Sunday’s and Boma Ye’s, and kicking out of the Shouten Kai, it was his own One Winged Angel that got the job done.
Kenny Omega will frustrate you, annoy you, disappoint you, even embarrass you. It doesn’t always land. But when it does, like it did against Goto, and like it did against Naito, there is no question that you are watching brilliance, a pro wrestling genius without flaw, a man who at his best is the best. We all want Kenny to just stop fucking around, but the more I think about it, the more I don’t want him to change. He’s a perfect, beautiful enigma. It’s what makes him who he is.
“I hate this tour, and I hate this stupid tournament.”
You don’t know who or what will step out from behind the curtain.
It could be the boorish jerk who underestimates Jay White or Juice Robinson and has every person in the building believing he’s going to lose. It could be the annoying, reluctant junior who isn’t going to play his full hand or take it very seriously because he didn’t come here for that and he knows it’s merely a pit stop on his road to real stardom. It could be the crazy video game assassin who ran AJ Styles out of the company and took out Tanahashi, or the goofball Elite who fucks around with his friends, winning and losing titles they don’t give a shit about in the first place. On this night it was the superstar. The calculated, driven Kenny who does pro wrestling better than anyone, the brilliant worker and master of psychology who is a match of the year threat every time he steps through the ropes, and an emerging superstar just waiting to explode. That’s the Kenny we think we always want, but he knows better. He knows when to give that Kenny to us, and it isn’t when he’s working 5th from the top chasing the trios belts.
“You don’t understand! So I’ll speak Japanese from now. You’re surprised, right? Sorry, but I can speak Japanese. I’m a heel!’ If you don’t support me, I hate you! Like me or not, Japan is my home, New Japan is home! So whatever happens, I won’t go ‘there’.”
The Ibushi spots were not an accident, and they weren’t merely an ode to a friend. There is a plan here. A few weeks ago the world was convinced that Omega had one foot out the door, after spending months seemingly angling for a New Day feud and apathetically dragging himself through a G1 tour that he convinced us he didn’t want to be on in the first place. There is always a plan with this guy, but good luck figuring it out. He fooled us all. Or did he? An enigma is just that, you can’t figure him out. Today he won the coveted briefcase that guarantees him the biggest main event in Japan, and all anyone can talk about is a match against his former tag team partner who doesn’t even work in the same company.
For Goto, nothing is more Goto than backing into a tournament final when two men who you couldn’t beat fought to a draw. I suspect his story is not over. It can’t, and won’t end by reluctantly joining CHAOS and playing sidekick to Kazuchika Okada for the rest of his career. But this night wasn’t about him. He was merely a stand in, someone for Omega to beat without burning a key match. Omega still needs to beat Tanahashi clean. He has never faced Okada. In this company, when two men are kept apart for this long, it is never by accident.
There was never any doubt that Omega would eventually emerge as a top star in New Japan. That’s why he showed up in the first place. Tonight, it happened. ****3/4
Final Thoughts: What an odd month. G1 Climax 26 evolved from underwhelming to underrated to excellent to amazing over the span of four weeks. This tournament was flat out great. There was very little in the way of anything less than good, and as the tournament moved along it ultimately produced no less than a half dozen legitimate MOTY contenders and at least four bouts that I’ve seen earn 5-stars from at least one prominent reviewer. The booking was unpredictable in all of the right ways, a new top star was created, seeds were planted for several others, multiple first time participants made great first impressions, the outsiders from NOAH kicked ass and had incredible tours, we saw the emotional end of an era for a old champion, and the next chapter of the greatest in ring rivalry of this generation was written. Four weeks ago, thinking this tournament could stack up to the previous three years would have been considered incredibly optimistic. Now that it’s over, we have to legitimately ask ourselves, was this the best G1 yet?