TGP G1 Climax 07.22.17: The New(ish) Challengers, Part II

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.

The third night in Korakuen Hall sees the second round of competition for Block B. The story of the Bullet Club continues as two of its members face off. Two westerners also continue their journeys as Juice Robinson and Michael Elgin look to continue or regain, respectively, momentum heading into round two for Block B.

G1_07.22.17

Coming off of a loss to Juice Robinson, Satoshi Kojima is another accomplished veteran having a rough start, much like Yuji Nagata in Block A. The opening match of the second round see him against the spoiler of Chaos, Toru Yano. Yano was unsuccessful in trying to trick IWGP Champion Kazuchika Okada during the first round of the tournament, but his deftness with deception should never be underestimated. Kojima learns this the hard way as he unleashes his agile strikes against Yano. Yano keeps finding ways to survive and ultimately gets 2 points off of a pin when he – as testament to his cheating ways – low-blows Kojima while holding the referee at bay. Yano may be seen as comedic fodder, but his underhanded tactics are why he is a perennial tournament contender – and spoiler.

 

The youngest competitor in this year’s tournament, Juice Robinson continues his first G1 tournament showing vast improvement since the days of CJ Parker. After leaving WWE’s NXT developmental territory in April of 2015, Robinson was nearly written off. In the following two years, he has shown great strides of improvement to the point that he may be another dark horse favorite in the tournament. A strong statement considering the depth of talent in the field, but Robinson has already opened the tournament with a victory over no less a performer than Satoshi Kojima. The odds are a little more stacked against Robinson in this outing as he faces a man not only roughly equal in age, but also stronger and – it has to be said, sorry – a little more EVIL.

Robinson is game, opening the match with a dropkick right off the bat, taking EVIL both off his feet and off-balance. The strategy is simple: keep the bigger man disoriented to rey and score the win. Though Robinson (surprisingly) has the experience edge, EVIL has learned enough to spot an opening and let his power do the work. Robinson looks to have this locked in at some points, but he is unable to overcome EVIL, who scores the 2-point pinfall win with a lariat(?). Robinson now has an even record and a little humility to go with his first G1 experience. How he rebounds from this will be worth watching.

After dropping his first round match to Kenny Omega, Minoru Suzuki now faces another rival faction member (though not a leader) in Los Ingobernobles de Japon’s SANADA. SANADA wastes no time in showing his own brand of disrespect, blasting Suzuki in the corner with forearms. Suzuki’s tough reputation is on show here, though, as he smiles at SANADA before taking the fight outside. Chairs, Desperado, you name it, Suzuki uses it on SANADA. Kevin Kelly makes the point that disqualifications are very rare in G1 action – as if this was evident when SANADA blasted referee Red Shoes with a chair two nights ago en route to winning his tournament match. SANADA’s athleticism and adaptative ability serves him well here as he strikes Suzuki from all sides and blocks some of Suzuki’s trademark offense once back in the ring. However, SANADA is unable to overcome Suzuki’s MMA style and does fall victim to one of Suzuki’s patents. The Gotch-style piledriver earns Suzuki 2 points off the pinfall.

Tama Tonga (here sans facepaint again) has been rather vocal as of late (especially toward some of its announcers) to the point that he is now seen as one of the most disrespectful members of the Bullet Club – a statement in and of itself. Tonga’s attitude opens the match against Bullet Club leader Kenny Omega as he opens fire and sends Omega outside the instant the bell sounds. Tonga quickly puts Omega in the position of having to establish his dominance as the leader, but Omega responds to the disrespect in kind – at one point, Omega wipes out several Bullet Club members with a dive to the outside as they try to stop him from getting to Tonga. Omega finally establishes that alpha role, putting Tonga away with the One-Winged Angel, pinning him for 2 points. Though solidarity reigns in the end, there is certainly a tease of further dissension afterward.

The evolution – or potential dissolution – of the Club will be another story to keep an eye on, especially if Omega repeats. It should be noted here that Cody is not an entrant in the G1 field this year. This comes as a borderline shock as one of the most prominent members of the Club and current Ring of Honor World Champion finds himself shut out of the tournament. His reaction should Omega go all the way may play out to be one of the bigger wrestling stories of the year.


Will we see this scene play out again?
 

Current IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada closes the show against Michael Elgin. A lot is riding on Elgin’s performance in his third G1 tournament, particularly in this second round match. This is a rematch from 2015, when Elgin had the same opportunity, but failed to capitalize on it then. Elgin has vastly improved since that time and his power has made him a favorite among the New Japan crowd. He has the opportunity to not only advance in the tournament but, should he score a win over Okada, to have his shot at the IWGP title.

“Big Mike” realizes this from the outset, employing his strength to bulldoze Okada in the opening moments. Elgin shows he has Okada well-scouted when Okada dives over the barricade at Elgin only to be caught by Elgin in mid-air. Okada’s slight edge in experience and technical acumen help him regain control in the ring. The back-and-forth continues as Elgin keeps hitting big moves on the seemingly overwhelmed Okada, but Okada refuses to stay down. The same can be said for both as the both are much more evenly matched than during their first G1 encounter 2 years ago. Okada has had to withstand the attack of a wide variety of opponents and styles in his New Japan career, and is able to do so again here as he puts Elgin away with the Rainmaker lariat for the 2-point pinfall victory.

The tournament continues tomorrow in Tokyo, but the action moves to the Machida Gymnasium as Block A enters its third round of competition.

Current standings

Block A

Block B

Bad Luck Fale

 2   Michael Elgin  0  

Hirooki Goto

4 EVIL

2

Tetsuya Naito

4 Satoshi Kojima

0

Zack Sabre Jr.

2 Kazuchika Okada

4

YOSHI-HASHI

2 Kenny Omega

4

Kota Ibushi

2 Juice Robinson

2

Tomohiro Ishii

2 Sanada

2

Togi Makabe

0 Minoru Suzuki

2

Yuji Nagata

0 Tama Tonga

2

Hiroshi Tanahashi 2 Toru Yano

2

 

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