This time last year, Michael Elgin was riding high.
Elgin was in his second New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Climax tournament, he had signed a two-year deal with NJPW, and had just won the IWGP Intercontinental Championship from Kenny Omega in a rare New Japan Ladder Match. His impressive strength wowed the Japanese audiences and the crowd was firmly behind Big Mike in all his matches.
Unfortunately, things would come crashing down around Elgin shortly after. It was at the G1 where Elgin would fight the man who would alter his New Japan career.
Tetsuya Naito, leader of Los Ingobernables de Japon, defeated Elgin in the G1 and earned a title shot.
In September, at Destruction, Naito took Elgin’s IWGP Intercontinental Title. Elgin fought with great strength and courage, but Naito appeared to have his number. Losing the title wasn’t the worst thing to happen though. Titles can be regained. An aura is much harder to get back. And a few weeks later, Naito did the unthinkable.
He broke “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin.
Look at that eye pic.twitter.com/tg3DDjIJSE
— BigMike (@MichaelElgin25) October 10, 2016
A dropkick broke Elgin’s eye socket, and he missed three months of action. For someone who calls himself Unbreakable, being proven otherwise must have been a shock. Elgin made his return at Wrestle Kingdom, but was regulated to the pre-show Rumble with old legends and comedy acts. Dominating them then watching Naito celebrate in the semi-main event must have been unfulfilling.
Big Mike celebrated his one-year anniversary as a full-time member of the New Japan roster by challenging Naito. No doubt he wanted his title back, but he also needed more. He needed vengeance. He needed to prove that he was, in fact, Unbreakable, and if you give him a setback, he comes back stronger than ever. Instead, he lost to Naito for the third time.
Keep up with our G1 Climax 27 Coverage at http://www.voicesofwrestling.com/category/vow-latest/reviews/njpw/njpw-g1/.
It was a Match of the Year performance, but such compliments ring hollow when you’re 0-3. After losing to Naito in the main event of New Beginning in Osaka, Elgin disappeared. When he returned five months later, it was in a losing effort to Cody. He lost in the first round of the IWGP United State tournament to Kenny Omega. Before the G1 started, Michael Elgin had not won a singles match in New Japan since last year’s G1 tournament.
The 2017 G1 is a chance to Big Mike to return to prominence. Despite being the strongest man on the roster, he has been lost in the shuffle in 2017, and a strong G1 Climax could help him re-emerge as a threat. In his favor is that Naito and he are in opposite blocks. Should he want another chance at his nemesis, he needs to win his block. As of this writing, Elgin is 1-2, which is not good enough. One of his losses came against Tama Tonga, a match he should have won. He lost focus, and lost the match. Upsets happen though in the G1. It’s a long tournament and a loss like that can be forgiven.
Elgin’s loss to IWGP Champion Kazuchika Okada was a huge blow to his chances. A win against Okada would have set Big Mike up for a future title IWGP title match. A title shot, a main event, and “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin would be back in business. The match was an instant classic, maybe the best in the tournament so far, but once again Elgin came up short. He caught Okada out of mid-air and the crowd went nuts as he slammed Okada with every power move he knew. In the end though, it wasn’t enough.
— GIF DDT (@GIFDDT) July 22, 2017
It doesn’t get any easier for Elgin. He has a rematch with last year’s winner and IWGP United States champion Kenny Omega coming up. He must contend with Naito’s LIJ teammates EVIL and SANADA, along with the trickery of Toru Yano and the ferocity of the NEVER champion Minoru Suzuki. If Elgin is going to advance in the G1 Climax tournament, if he is going to reclaim his former relevance, he has to take to heart the lessons from the past year.
Being strong is good, but strength alone isn’t getting the job done. And even the most unbreakable men can be shattered.