New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 27 Night 15
August 6, 2017
Act City Hamamatsu
Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan

Watch: NJPW World/VOW G1 Climax 27 Pick’Em Standings:

We’re in the closing stretch now! The A Block is all set for Sumo Hall, and viewers are preparing for their post-G1 comas. This deep in the tournament, most folks are probably cherry-picking pretty hard, and I’ve gotta admit, I’d be skipping a lot of this show if I weren’t reviewing it. In fact, I DID skip a lot of this show – here are the results of the undercard matches I ignored.

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

You probably have a pretty good idea of how you’re doing in the VOW G1 Pick ‘Em by now. In the mathematically likely event that you’re not currently in one of the prize positions on the leaderboard, you can always just buy one of them, because that’s how capitalism works. You can grab a signed copy of Wrestlemon without having to be good at picking G1 matches. Also, feel compelled to follow me on Twitter @HEATcomic.

Yuji Nagata (2) def Zack Sabre Jr (8)

This is one of the matches I was referring to when I was talking about things I would have skipped in the intro. Yuji Nagata immediately grabbed my interest, though, as he quickly established that he was in no mood for Zack Sabre Jr’s shit. I don’t think it was supposed to be a comedy spot, but I laughed out loud when Nagata completely no-sold a ZSJ uppercut so he could yell at El Desperado for interfering.

The dynamic between the two was clarified early. Sabre needed to be creative to get an advantage on the mat, as Nagata gave him a much tougher test there than expected. Nagata, on the other hand, knew he could fall back on his striking if he needed to, as did some big damage early with kicks. These are the kinds of Sabre matches where his style works for me; he’s an awesome counter-wrestler, but incredibly boring when he shows extended dominance. A wonderful sequence saw Sabre turn an exploder attempt into a rolling arm bar, then a triangle choke, only for Nagata to pull off a slick counter into the Nagata Lock.

A hot closing stretch saw Sabre make the mistake of trying to strike with Nagata. His grappling wasn’t working, and he needed to do something, but he ended up getting hammered with kicks and dumped on his head with the Backdrop Driver and Backdrop Hold. Yuji Nagata picks up his first two points of the tournament with an unexpected victory. So unexpected, that when I wrote the header for this match before I started taking notes, I wrote “Zack Sabre Jr def Yuji Nagata.” Better go back and change that, huh? ****

Kota Ibushi (10) def YOSHI-HASHI (4)

For a super-exciting wrestler, Kota Ibushi’s entrance theme sure is bland. This is the first ever G1 encounter between Ibushi and YOSHI-HASHI, according to this year’s new matchup history graphic. That’s a small production element that I’ve really enjoyed.

I mentioned this during the last A Block review, but YOSHI-HASHI being a guy who consistently hits the 3 to 4 star range in singles matches is not something I ever would have expected after his terrible post-excursion debut. He’s always a guy who delivers, but without anticipation. YOSHI-HASHI matches are never the ones I’m looking forward to on a card, but once the bell rings it’s going to be a good time.

This match really picks up after the Butterfly Lock (which does not look like it hurts, and nobody buys as a finish tease). Ibushi grabs the wrists to go for his new knee strike finisher, but ends up eating some headbutts from the HASH which eventually lead to a powerbomb near-fall. That’s followed by a slap-fight, which turns from intense to very silly as they speed up their strikes. This sparks the sprint to the finish, which is just both guys clobbering each other, a really cool flip-out to escape KARMA, and more clobbering. Ibushi picks up the win with a roundhouse kick to the head followed by his new double-wrist clutch knee strike. Ibushi shows respect to YOSHI-HASHI for his valiant effort, but unfortunately the scoreboard doesn’t reflect valiant efforts. ***1/2

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Bad Luck Fale (10) def Hirooki Goto (8)

Unlike Ibushi’s bland theme, Hirooki Goto’s entrance music is awesome. It truly feels epic.

I love Goto, but given Fale’s output so far in this tournament, I’d probably be skipping this one if I wasn’t writing the review. Then again, Fale’s best matches have been against Makabe and Ishii, so maybe this will surprise me.

And as I type that, Fale starts working over Goto’s knee. Uh oh. The pace picks up when Goto starts battering Fale with lariats and kicks, but it’s still pretty plodding. Credit where it’s due, though, countering the GTR into a Grenade attempt which is countered into another GTR attempt was an excellent sequence. Once Fale finally hit the Grenade, this one was done. I wonder if Fale has started winning with the Grenade more because of the tournament-wide theme of guys establishing secondary finishers, or if people just don’t want to take the Bad Luck Fall in the middle of the G1’s brutal grind? **3/4

Tetsuya Naito (12) def Togi Makabe (6)

Our new friend the head-to-head graphic informs me that Makabe is 4-1 against Naito in G1 matches, and Makabe drives that point home by mugging Naito during his customary roll-and-pose sequence. Makabe also drives home his Unchained King Kong nickname as he drags Naito into the crowd and tries to dent all the furniture with his head.

Naito is a good example of something I’ve noticed in this year’s G1 – match variety. In past years, it’s seemed like each guy has a match formula, and they would stick to it with only minor modifications to suit their opponent. This year, most guys are having a much wider variety of matches. Naito is a great example, as last year he had knee matches. In each of his matches, he not only attacked the opponent’s knee, he did so in mostly the same way. Same moves, same order. This match was unlike anything else I’ve seen thus far in the tournament, as Naito and Makabe clattered each other about in a heated brawl on the floor that really amped up the intensity of what could have been a nothing match.

Makabe has been at his best when he needs to beat respect into his opponents, and Naito makes the perfect foil. After the brawl on the outside, Naito starts laying into Makabe with a lot of his usual offence, only to be sneered at and walloped with lariats in return. Eventually, a pair of Destinos was enough to put the chains back on King Kong. I think this match is going to end up being one of the underrated gems of the tournament, buried as it is near the end of a loooong G1. ****1/4

Hiroshi Tanahashi (12) vs Tomohiro Ishii (8)

When I took this review assignment, this was the match that leaped out at me. Dickhead Ace-of-his-own-mind Hiroshi Tanahashi against the Stone Pitbull? Yes. All day long. Tanahashi immediately tries to get cute on a clean break, and Ishii responds by trying to shove his elbow through Tanhashi’s face. After taking control, Ishii returns the mockery grabbing Tanahashi’s braids and growling insults in Japanese.

When Tanahashi sticks to his smooth blend of technique and high flying, he’s able to maintain an advantage. He can’t help himself from taking those extra moments to be a smug jerk, though, and those are the openings Ishii needs to devastate Tanahashi with power moves and strikes. Tanahashi attacks Ishii’s exposed knee, but only as an attempt to give himself an edge in forearm exchanges. He still gets his head caved in. After that, they start dumping each other on their heads with suplexes as the drama ratchets up a level.

After missing a High Fly Flow, Tanahashi decides that maybe attacking the leg wasn’t such a bad idea, and resumes that course of action. It backfires somewhat, as Ishii refuses to tap out to the Texas Cloverleaf and then attacks Tanahashi’s knee out of spite with dragon screws and some sort of inelegant ankle lock/crab situation. That doesn’t really pan out, so he just lariats the bejesus out of Tanahashi to make himself feel better. We’ve all been there. I thought that was going to lead to the finish, but we got several more minutes before Tanahashi emptied his entire arsenal on Ishii, capped with a pair of High Fly Flows to end the match.

While it didn’t QUITE reach the heights of Naito/Ibushi and Elgin/Okada, you need to go out of your way to see this one. ****3/4

Final Thoughts:

I would have skipped almost all of this show, looking at it on paper, but it was excellent. Tanahashi vs Ishii is a must-see match from this year’s G1, and it’s backed up by a pair of four star matches. Night 15 proved my preconceptions wrong, and I’m very glad it did. You can skip Goto/Fale, but definitely check out the rest.