TGP G1 Climax 07.20.17: (Legitimate) History in the Making

By Michael Melchor, Executive Editor


Welcome to The Gorilla Position’s coverage of this year’s New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Climax tournament and thank you for joining us. Some disclaimers to get out of the way:

One, if you’re here for play-by-play, star ratings, or discussions about booking or finishes, you’re in the wrong house. What we discuss herein is the nuts and bolts of the tournament in so far as track records, career trajectories, and what it means for those involved. Second, this is a live event, not Game of Thrones. There are spoilers here insofar as results. We’re discussing results and what they mean as well, so if you haven’t watched it on NJPW World yet and want to come back afterward, we’re okay with that.

After some minor upsets and major action during the first day on the G1 Climax 27 tournament, the Block B participants began their journey in Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall today, beginning with an entrant new to the tournament.

G1_07.20.17

Juice Robinson – the former CJ Parker – had made great strides since leaving NXT and venturing to New Japan to home his skills. This has slowly but surely been a breakout year for Robinson, but he has a true test to start. Satoshi Kojima is not only a former G1 winner (in 2010), but one of only three men to hold the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, All Japan’s Triple Crown Championship and the NWA World Heavyweight Championship simultaneously. A veteran of the game, Kojima’s resume speaks for itself. (The sorely missed and very welcomed back) Don Callis on commentary keeps making reference to Kojima being the “senpai” (master) and Robinson being the “kohai” (student). Those descriptions perfectly describe the battle – Robinson is hungry to make his own mark, but Kojima is the stalwart warrior continuing to cement his legacy. As the match progresses, Robinson is felled by everything Kojima has to offer but refuses to stay down. It is Robinson’s hunger and will to win that prevails as he scores 2 points over Kojima after a pin off of his finishing move, Pulp Friction. There will me more of Robinson’s story to tell in the coming days.

Michael Elgin is no stranger to the Bullet Club, having recently faced Cody for the Ring of Honor World Championship. A week prior, Tama Tonga and Tanga Roa – the Guerillas of Destiny – lost the IWGP Tag Team Championships to War Machine during the G1 in USA Special. Each man starts Block B looking to regain some momentum. Elgin opens fire with his trademark freakish power, one-armed delayed suplex and all. Tonga, however, discovers how to frustrate Elgin after taking the fight to the floor. It is 1-part misdirection, 2-parts heart that sees Tonga advance with 2 points after a Gun Stun (a nod to former Bullet Club compadre Karl Anderson).

Block B now see the first of two matches involving teammates facing off as SANADA and EVIL are both members of Los Ingobernables de Japon. Given the disrespectful nature of Los Ingobernables, a “fingerpoke of doom” was considered a possibility, but fortunately both men are too concerned with running the tournament. EVIL displays as much when he offers his hand to SANADA for a handshake – and kicks him low to start the match. As Takaaki Watanabe, EVIL was strong but unassuming; not the greatest performance record in New Japan or in Ring of Honor, where he spent some time. It was coming back to Japan with a new name and attitude that he has been much more of a brute – a strategy he employs against SANADA. SANADA has much more experience on EVIL as an All-Japan veteran before making his New Japan return to the side of Tetysuya Naito and Los Ingobernobles. SANADA also has another edge over EVIL – his ability to fly, which wins him the match and 2 points after a moonsault and a pinfall. As eye-rolling as this could have been, both men put forth a damn fine show and captured the crowd, showing they’re not ones to be overlooked in this year’s field.

 

The current IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada now makes his first appearance in the second match involving teammates facing off. Toru Yano is a perennial G1 competitor and member of Okada’s Chaos stable. He is also normally one to play the spoiler as opposed to a top seed, much like Bad Luck Fale in Block A. He tries his best to at the outset, resorting to chicanery to try and get over on the champ as the contest starts. Okada is the champion for a reason, however – he’s not one to fall for Yano’s tricks for too long. Okada may see the value in Yano’s antics when it comes to dealing with others, but knows how to overcome them himself. This is made official when Okada scores 2 points by submitting Yano with the Red Ink.

With the main event on deck, the actual history Kenny Omega could make in this year’s tournament should be discussed. Omega has been touted by announcers as the first gaijin G1 winner in history. While this is technically true, it feels like some WWE-strength revisionist history is being told.

The roots of the G1 spring from the evolution of other tournaments. New Japan has held an annual tournament under different names since 1974: World League, the MSG League, the International Wrestling Grand Prix (IWGP) League, and the World Cup Tournament. The tournament became the G1 tournament in 1991. Those prior iterations saw both Andre the Giant (the MSG League in 1982 and the International Wrestling Grand Prix in 1985) and Hulk Hogan (the 1983 International Wrestling Grand Prix) as winners. Omega’s claim of being the first gaijin winner is more akin to calling Lex Luger the first WCW World Champion in 1991 when he defeated Barry Windham after the promotion left the NWA.

That said, what Omega has the opportunity to do this year is to be the first two-time consecutive winner of any iteration of New Japan’s annual tournaments. In and of itself, that may be bigger than being the first foreign G1 trophy winner. But first, he has to contend with the leader of another faction – and a Japanese MMA legend – in Minoru Suzuki.

From the outset, it seems that Suzuki’s reputation precedes him as Omega is hesitant to engage. Suzuki gives him good reason, showing Omega how mean he can be. Japan’s modern-day Ole Anderson even has his own Horsemen as Suzuki-Gun’s Desperado, TAKA and Taichi emerge to work over Omega and secure the win for their boss after Suzuki pulls referee Red Shoes (no other name given) in the way of a V-Trigger knee from Omega. Omega has his own backup, however, as Chase Owens and the monstrous Bad Luck Fale are out to save their boss. Omega finally takes out the trash (in terms of heel interference and booking).

 

Omega goes on to overcome Suzuki after two V-Triggers set up the One-Winged Angel, giving Omega 2 points off of the pin.

Block A returns to action tomorrow as we look at another new competitor and a second-timer looking to make the same mark as Omega.

Current standings

Block A

Block B

Bad Luck Fale

 2   Michael Elgin  0  

Hirooki Goto

2 EVIL

0

Tetsuya Naito

2 Satoshi Kojima

0

Zack Sabre Jr.

2 Kazuchika Okada

2

YOSHI-HASHI

2 Kenny Omega

2

Kota Ibushi

0 Juice Robinson

2

Tomohiro Ishii

0 Sanada

2

Togi Makabe

0 Minoru Suzuki

0

Yuji Nagata

0 Tama Tonga

2

Hiroshi Tanahashi 0 Toru Yano

0

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