New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 27 Night 13
August 4, 2017

Watch: NJPW World

Ya tired yet? We’re past the halfway point of this year’s G1 Climax, and it’s just as exhausting as ever. I personally find myself holding up better this year than I have in the past, but I’m also still on night 8, aside from jumping ahead for this review. I am, however, well beyond the point where I care about the undercards (confession: I have watched zero undercard matches in this year’s tournament). I DID skip through to the finishes of all of them to be able to tell you the results, though.

  • Yujiro and Tama Tonga def Kitamura and Oka
  • Suzuki, Taichi, and El Desperado def Elgin, Tiger Mask IV, and Kawato
  • Kojima and Tenzan def SANADA and BUSHI
  • Juice Robinson and Finlay def Omega and Chase Owens
  • Okada and Yano def Hiromu Takahashi and EVIL

Before we get to night 13’s block matches, I’d like to thank everyone who entered the Voices of Wrestling G1 Pick ‘Em, and look forward to mailing the winners some Wrestlemon graphic novels. If you’re not doing so hot in the pick ’em, you can also just buy yourself a copy from my online store!

Wanna chat some G1 Climax, or wrestling in general? Follow me on Twitter @HEATcomic.

Kota Ibushi (8 points) def Yuji Nagata (0 points)

Normally I don’t have anything to say about Japanese commentary, because I don’t understand any of it beyond “LARIATO!” and “DROPKICKU!”, but tonight’s a little different. The demon that NJPW has signed a satanic pact with to keep all of their wrestlers in one piece for the duration of the G1 has joined the booth to provide his thoughts on the action! What? That’s just Tomoaki Honma’s speaking voice? Oh… oh my. Jokes aside, I’m glad Honma’s health has improved to the point that he can make appearances on these shows.

I’m way less into the Nagata story than many, but I can’t deny it’s given his matches some extra juice. This match sees Papa Yuji go full steam ahead in “grumpy old man” mode. Ibushi shows off his athleticism early, but Nagata will have none of that, and proceeds with a plan to smack the youth out of the Golden Star. I was a little bored early on, but things picked way up when Ibushi dug into his ol’ kickboxing bag of tricks and went kick for kick with Nagata, ending with simultaneous head kicks. From that point on, both men took turns blasting each other with roundhouse kicks until Nagata was able to hit the Backdrop Hold for an incredible near-fall. Nagata’s determination allowed him to survive the Last Ride, but the follow-up knee strike came too fast and hit too hard. Ibushi honoured his legendary opponent with a handshake, but Nagata will only find out about it when he watches the replay. ***3/4

Bad Luck Fale (8 points) def Tomohiro Ishii (8 points)

These two guys are having very different tournaments. Ishii is the most consistently great G1 performer of the Kidani boom period, and he’s maintaining that reputation this year, including a ****3/4 war with Hirooki Goto on night 1. Bad Luck Fale also had an excellent match on night 1, a brawl with Togi Makabe that felt like a kaiju fight. Unfortunately, he hasn’t done much since that bout. He had a cool finish with Tanahashi, and murdered a stuffed cat named Daryl, but bell-to-bell there hasn’t been much worth noting.

This one started off hot. Ishii hit the ropes like he was shot out of a cannon and battered Fale with shoulder tackles, only to be splattered like a bug on a windshield as soon as Fale could get his bearings and properly plant his feet. This bout brought the best out of Fale, as Ishii’s absurd toughness didn’t allow for an extended control period, which is where Fale can be dull. The Ishii Vortex was in full effect, as every bit of Ishii offence fired up the crowd. Every lariat, every knock down, every near fall… they were all responded to with oppressive, crushing offence from Fale. Countering the Sliding D into a Grenade attempt was an awesome visual.

Ishii was too stubborn to be beaten by the Grenade, but even the Stone Pitbull couldn’t withstand the Bad Luck Fall. It’s absurd how good Ishii is, dear reader. It seems like he pulls everyone’s best out of them, and I hope he’s on whatever regimen Kojima and Nagata are using that lets them stay at a high level approaching 50. ****

Hirooki Goto (8 points) def YOSHI-HASHI (4 points)

Hirooki Goto has consistently been one of my favourite wrestlers in New Japan since the first time I saw him. It was his Dominion 2011 IWGP Title challenge against Tanahashi, back when Goto dressed like a samurai. His offence is so cool, and even though he never wins the big one, he’s developed something akin to the Ishii Vortex for me. I always root for him to win that big one, even if it’s just once.

YOSHI-HASHI has done an incredible job of grinding his way to respectability since his return from excursion in an awful bout against the also-returning Kazuchika Okada. He has done a significantly less incredible job of choosing hairstyles.

Goto has added some tributes to injured friend Katsuyori Shibata into his offence during the G1, with the sleeper hold and penalty kick becoming staple weapons for him. Unfortunately, this is the type of match that the G1 punishes, as it was well-worked and entertaining, but lacked the emotional hook that took it to the next level. In a tournament with as many matches as the modern G1, bouts that aren’t blow-away great or a key part of a wrestler’s larger narrative tend to get lost. This is a good, entertaining wrestling match that nobody will think much about in a week or two. ***1/2

Tetsuya Naito (10 points) def Zack Sabre Jr (8 points)

Confession: I don’t really like Zack Sabre Jr. I see what other people like about him, but if he’s in control, he bores me to tears. That said, this G1 tournament has been the most I’ve ever liked him, so maybe he’ll grow on me.

At the five minute time call, I’m considering deleting that last sentence, because I am bored. All of the juice in this match so far has come from Naito being defiant and making brief comebacks in between pretzelizations. The major problem I have with Sabre’s style is that it doesn’t utilize the narrative elements of pro wrestling to build toward a dramatic finish consistently. Against Kota Ibushi, Sabre’s grappling served a greater story of Ibushi being frustrated and needing to change his approach to the match. Here? Sabre stretched Naito, then Naito hit a Destino out of nowhere and won. There was no drama, no excitement leading to the finish. It was the equivalent of reading a novel that doesn’t end, it just stops.

If you like Zack Sabre Jr, you’ll probably like this match quite a bit. For my taste, this sucked. **1/2

Hiroshi Tanahashi (10 points) def Togi Makabe (6 points)

I always get hyped up for Tanahashi’s entrance until I remember that he doesn’t come out to “High Energy” anymore. Also he’s one of the best wrestlers on the planet, but that’s pretty well-established at this point, and kind of goes without saying.

What does need to be said is how good Togi Makabe’s G1 has been. Makabe’s a guy that’s always brought up when pundits talk about people they wouldn’t mind being dropped from the tournament, and most years they have a reasonable case from a workrate standpoint. This year? The Unchained King Kong has been storming around Japan like a human violence tornado, and it’s been a notable story in the tournament. I loved his kaiju fight with Bad Luck Fale, and he’s also had excellent matches with Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii.

One of the overarching narratives in the tournament has been Hiroshi Tanahashi’s subtle heel tendencies becoming far less subtle. This bout really picks up when Tanahashi uses Makabe’s corner punches against him just to be a dick. From that point on, Makabe isn’t just trying to win a match in an important tournament – he wants to lariat this smug jerk’s head into the front row. Both men miss their top rope finishers, though Tanahashi takes the worst of it. Tanahashi gets a near fall from a German suplex; Makabe responds with a more violent one. The anger of Makabe isn’t enough to beat Tanahashi on it’s own, though, and the self-styled Ace is able elude Makabe’s spider German suplex and knock the Unchained King Kong off his skyscraper with a pair of High Fly Flows. ****

Final Thoughts:

This wasn’t a blow-away show, but it was a breeze to watch, and unless you’ve reached the point where you’re cherry-picking only the best matches, it’s worth your time. Tanahashi/Makabe and Ishii/Fale both hit four stars, and Nagata/Ibushi was only a shade below that mark. The A Block and I will both be back on Sunday for the last show before we head to Sumo Hall, and the standings are pretty close. Naito and Tanahashi sit atop the block with 10 points a piece, but Fale, Ishii, Sabre, and Ibushi are all within striking distance at 8 points. The conventional wisdom says Naito and Tanahashi will win their matches on Sunday and clash in Sumo Hall to represent the A Block in the finals, but who knows? Maybe we’ll get that Ibushi/Fale block win that I’m sure some of you chose in your pick ’em.