New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 27 – Night 1
July 17, 2017
Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center – Hokkaido, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

New Japan has seen continued growth in this building over the past two years with the 2015 G1 opener drawing 5,490 for Tanahashi vs. Ibushi and Styles vs. Shibata, the 2016 G1 opener drawing 5,533 for Okada vs. Marufuji and Tanahashi vs. SANADA, and this year’s G1 opener drawing 6,189 for Naito vs. Ibushi and Tanahashi vs. Sabre. Tanahashi is headlining most of the A Block shows while Ibushi and Naito only headline a few, but this was a good sign for the two and for New Japan in general.

Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Jushin Thunder Liger Def. Juice Robinson, Michael Elgin & David Finlay Jr.

Juice has Kojima in Korakuen on July 20th so that’s what this was building towards. Although they get a bit tough to watch a few shows into the tournament, these undercard tags are always meaningful as they give you a preview of upcoming block matches. Kojima is using his actual theme song now instead of the overdub, which is great. He debuted some fresh new gear as well, and as an aside, it was announced about two hours earlier by All Japan that he’ll be taking on Suwama at their Sumo Hall show in August. A big day for our pal Kojima here. Finlay, as you would expect, ate the fall in this match. Really good opener with a super hot crowd and some excellent exchanges between the members of each team. ***1/4

Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & El Desperado Def. Kenny Omega, Tama Tonga & Chase Owens

If nothing else, this did as good a job as you could ask of it in building Suzuki vs. Omega. Omega, despite rocking the goofy pants and fucking around, which normally bugs me, was great as an annoying little asshole to the serious Suzuki. Everyone else stayed out of the way for the most part and let them do their thing, with Owens eventually being pinned by Suzuki following a Gotch piledriver. Brief, simple, and overall fun sprint. ***

EVIL & Hiromu Takahashi Def. SANADA & BUSHI

In addition to this being a match between stablemates, which is one of my favorite things in wrestling, this was also a match between the All Japan dojo and the New Japan dojo. SANADA and BUSHI were in the same All Japan class ten years ago, while Hiromu and EVIL were in the same New Japan class seven years ago, so that’s an interesting note. SANADA, who also debuted a new look, tried to catch EVIL with a Skull End right at the bell, thus showing that friendship means nothing during the G1 and that he’s in it for himself. All four of these guys have tremendous chemistry with one another so there was no way this was not going to be good at minimum, but I do wish that it got a bit more time. Another awesome sprint nonetheless. EVIL vs. SANADA could end up being one of the sleeper matches of the tournament and this was a nice preview of that. ***1/4

Toru Yano & Jado Def. Kazuchika Okada & Gedo

Yano, who I am completely over and want nothing to do with, is due for two or three really fun matches per G1, and the Okada match may be one of them. Even though I personally dislike him, having him around is incredibly useful from a booking perspective since he can beat literally anyone on the roster without it ever having to lead to anything. When he beats Okada in Korakuen no one will bat an eye, and like I said, the match will probably be pretty fun. Yano caught Gedo here for the win. **1/4

G1 Climax 27 – A Block
YOSHI-HASHI (2) Def. Yuji Nagata

We’ve seen twice in the past year that New Japan does not like having these older guys beat their younger guys on their way out. Tenzan lost most of his matches in his last G1, Liger lost all of his matches in his last Super Juniors, and its likely that they continue telling the story of the old men simply not being good enough with Nagata in his last G1. Some may not like it, and I get why to a degree. It does send the message that one day everyone will get old and not be good at things anymore, which is not something people want to be reminded of in their wrestling, but at the same time, I appreciate the realism behind it. Wrestling does not always have to be about joy, nor does there always need to have a happy-ending. I appreciate that these old guys can’t hang with those younger, faster, stronger and hungrier, because thats life. Nagata will get one or two big wins, and thats all they need to give him.

Nagata fought hard here. He did his best, he threw everything he had at YOSHI-HASHI, he almost came close to beating him, but it came down to what most of his matches will come down to. It came down to his age, his conditioning, the level in which hes able to push himself to and perform at in comparison to YOSHI-HASHI and in comparison to everyone else in his block. How long can he last? Is he good enough to hang in there with the next generation of New Japan stars? He may give them a challenge, but will he be able to get the better of them in the end? Who knows. What we do know is that YOSHI-HASHI got the better of him on this night. YOSHI-HASHI was tougher, he was faster, he was hungrier, and he was simply the better man.

Between the highly emotional closing stretch, the hot near-falls and the heart both of them showed throughout the match, this was some of the best work both of them have done in recent memory. Unfortunately people will completely forget about it within two weeks due to the sheer amount of high-quality matches that will have taken place, but it was exactly what a tournament opener should be. ****1/4

G1 Climax 27 – A Block
Bad Luck Fale (2) Def. Togi Makabe

I somehow became the conductor of the Bad Luck Fale hype train over the past few months and it surprises me that people are still not behind the guy. Fale always steps up and can deliver against the right guys as shown in the Shibata match from the New Japan Cup and the Okada match from Dontaku. Hes facing Ishii in this tournament, hes facing Goto, hes facing Tanahashi, hes facing Naito, Ibushi, Sabre, hes facing a ton of guys he can have good to great matches with. Like Yano, hes also an important guy to have on the roster because he can beat literally anyone and can challenge for any title. Hes beating Naito and hes challenging for the case at Destruction should Naito win the thing, hes beating guys like Ibushi, he may even beat Tanahashi again.

While Im glad they got this out of the way early since it had potential to be the worst match both guys will have, it was still well above average and both of them worked hard to make it such. It took a minute to get going but once it did it was about what you would expect a halfway decent Bad Luck Fale vs. Togi Makabe match to be. I have a feeling this will be one of many losses Makabe has this year since there’s no need to protect him anymore and he’s a great guy to have job to the younger dudes. ***1/4

G1 Climax 27 – A Block
Hirooki Goto (2) Def. Tomohiro Ishii

Ishii and Goto are two of the best wrestlers in the world. No one conveys emotion quite like they do. No one is able to win a crowd over the way they are. Goto especially conveyed great emotion in this match as he pushed himself to the absolute limit and was willing to do whatever it took to get past one of toughest opponents, to possibly recreate what he had last year and win his block again. He was more aggressive than Ishii was, he worked with more of an urgency than Ishii did, he threw everything he had at him to ensure the victory. Ishii did what he could, he fought incredibly hard, he gave everything right back to Goto, but it wasnt enough. Goto needed it more, he wanted it more, and like YOSHI-HASHI with Nagata, he was simply the better man on this night.

You knew what you were getting with this, you always know what youre getting with Goto and Ishii, yet no matter how many times you see it, you cant help but marvel at what these two are able to do and what theyre willing to do to their bodies. While both of them have had much better matches this year, this was arguably the best Goto performance of 2017 and was absolutely perfect for what it was. I can watch these two maul each other every day for the rest of my life without ever getting tired of it, the chemistry they have is simply unreal, and the best part is that this was only the third best match on the show. ****1/4

G1 Climax 27 – A Block
Zack Sabre Jr. (2) Def. Hiroshi Tanahashi

While I did enjoy this a lot, I do feel they have a better match in them as this one never quite kicked into that next gear. It was worked at the exact same pace from the opening bell until the last three minutes or so, which is one of the only problems I have with Sabre sometimes. Otherwise, there aren’t many things I love more than watching him twist people into pretzels and work his way into all sorts of wacky submissions. Watching him strategically tear apart Tanahashi limb-by-limb was so enticing that I have a hard time criticizing the match too heavily even if the pacing could have been better. He has trouble connecting with the crowd since all of his matches have involved Suzuki-gun bullshit, but once they see that Sabre is more than just some gaijin asshole whose matches are full of interference and is someone who can hang with the top guys, I can see them taking to him as a heel.

Tanahashi having an injured arm especially added to this since it gave Sabre a clear target and a clear route to victory. All he had to do was ground him and get hold of his arm, Tanahashi knew this and he fought like death to avoid it. Tanahashi had no idea how to handle what Sabre was doing to him. Hes never encountered someone whos capable of doing the things Sabre is capable of doing to the human body. Sabre was too smart for him. He knew Tanahashi better than Tanahashi knew him, and thats what got him the win. Tanahashi was able to get ahead for a little bit, he tried stopping him by taking out the leg, but once Sabre got him down and grabbed that arm, that was it.

It’s safe to assume that Sabre will get a title shot down the line and that Tanahashi will get his win back, and in a bigger spot than they were in here, I would imagine theyd have an even better match. Sabre is going to win his fair share of matches in this tournament, so prepare yourselves. Tanahashi will not be the only big name he beats. I promise you that. Zack Sabre Jr. is a player in this company now. ****

G1 Climax 27 – A Block
Tetsuya Naito (2) Def. Kota Ibushi

Ibushi spent two years away from New Japan doing his own thing, living his life the way he wanted to live it, not allowing anyone to tell him what to do, and upon return, upon shedding the Tiger Mask W persona, he met one of the biggest stars in the company. Was he ready for it? Was he able to simply waltz back in when he wanted to and hang with one of the best? No smoke and mirrors, no Tiger Mask W, no fucking around. Was he the man he was before he decided to walk away two years ago? All of those questions were answered.

Yes, Ibushi was able to hang with Naito, yes he brought him to his limit and showed that he is indeed the same guy he was two years ago, but he was just shy of being good enough to get past him. Naito gave Ibushi a nice reality check by outlasting him at his own game. He had an answer for what Ibushi was throwing at him, he knew what he had to do in order to beat this nutcase.

When Ibushi tried breaking Naito’s neck, Naito gave it right back to him, and thus there was a constant sense that they were trying to one-up each other and see which one could endure the most. German suplexes, neckbreakers, lawn darts, this was quite literally about who had the stronger neck, who had the stronger spine, who the bigger lunatic was, a moniker in which generally belongs to Ibushi but in this case was in fact Naito.

It took Naito everything he had, Ibushi almost had him but he ultimately fell short. Perhaps his time away is what hurt him. Perhaps he wasn’t fully prepared. Perhaps this was his wake-up call and perhaps he tries even harder next time knowing that there are people on the roster who are willing to play his game, are just as crazy as he is and are able to outlast him like Naito did.

Ibushi is set to have great matches throughout the tournament, he could easily end up being the standout, and this might have been his trademark performance. He now has this great story of him learning to get back into the fold and adapt to what New Japan has become in his absence following what happened here. People have gotten older, he’s gotten older, guys like Naito have made huge progressions as wrestlers, so he may be the same guy he was two years ago, but the company may not be. If this did show anything in terms of quality, it showed that he’s still one of the best in the world. No wrestler is as unique as he is, no wrestler creates that sense of danger like he does, and look no further than this match as evidence. I thought at least six times while watching this that his neck might have been broken. His bumping, his selling, his facial expressions, his heart, his guts, it’s all part of what makes him so special, and Naito was every bit as good. No matter how many matches top it as the tournament progresses, I hope this isn’t one that people forget about. God bless these crazy bastards. ****3/4

Final Thoughts:

With a Match of the Year contender in the main event, three other matches that were great, a solid Fale vs. Makabe match and a fun undercard, this was a tremendous show. If you plan on skipping the undercards like most normal human beings do, at least make some time for this one. With an excellent crowd and everyone working hard, I fail to see how one could watch this show and not have a good time.

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