TGP G1 Climax 08.04.17: Scramble to the Top

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 a day of rest, Block A continues in Ehime. With four competitors tied for first and four others hot on their trail coming out of the last Block A show, this could prove to be a pivotal day of action as eight of the ten vie to see who can advance to the finals.

Kota Ibushi (6 points) is among those racing for the top spot, while Yuji Nagata (0 points) is one of two eliminated from reaching it. Ibushi is respectful at the outset as he knows better than to underestimate the legend. He soon learns why as Nagata’s patented kicks target the knee of Ibushi. Nagata, in his own show of respect for the youngster’s talent, opts to wrestle Ibushi on the ground, softening up Ibushi’s left arm to neutralize the powerbomb. Ibushi is able to escape and create some distance with a dropkick. Ibushi may respect Nagata, but he also understand what’s at stake; this is shown by way of an Asai moonsault to Nagata on the outside. Back in, Nagata recognizes the escalation and begins kicking Ibushi mercilessly. Ibushi answers Nagata and the two trade kicks. Both men, feeling the effects of the exchange, collapse and create a stalemate. Neither man refuse to give an inch until Ibushi scores a Pele kick. Nagata quickly recovers and locks the Fujiwara armbar on the left arm, further damaging the shoulder. Nagata behind to unload the high-impact offense but Ibushi will not stay down and hits the knee strike that put down Tanahashi to pin Nagata for 2 more points.

Next up, a pitbull meets a rhinoceros as Tomohiro Ishii (8 points) squares off against the “Underboss,” Bad Luck Fale (6 points). Though Fale has the size advantage, Ishii isn’t afraid to start things off with a series of forearms before Fale’s size makes a difference in dropping Ishii to the canvas. Fale continues to use his girth against Ishii, but Ishii’s toughness and raw power are a match for this particular line of attack. The momentum swings as Fale’s size wears down Ishii, but Ishii keeps coming back with powerful strikes, including a lariat that drills Fale to the ground for a near-fall.

Fale is almost indignant that Ishii won’t stay down. Ibushi’s comeback is cut off when Fale is able to hit the Bad Luck Fall for 2 more points, tying among the top placeholders. Hirooki Goto (6 points) is in a similar position as Kota Ibushi coming in – looking to keep his place near the top against an opponent already eliminated, YOSHI-HASHI (4 points). Both men come in with well-rounded game, although Goto has the edge in experience with the resume to prove it. The two are somewhat even in size, as is evident with a shoulderblock show at the beginning that HASHI is able to edge out in. Goto resorts to stomping on HASHI before going to the mat to wear him down. HASHI is able to turn the tables and work his way to wearing Goto down into a submission predicament. Goto retaliates with one of his own – a sleeper. Goto uses this to set up the Ushigoroshi and despite HASHI’s best efforts, he talks to Goto, who picks up 2 more points off the pin. Without much fanfare, Goto has used his experience and resilience to remain near the top of the block.

Two other point leaders collide next as Los Ingobernables’ leader, Tetsuya Naito (8 points) meets Suzuki-Gun’s Zack Sabre, Jr. (8 points). Of anyone on the block, Naito may be the most equipped to counter the technical precision of Sabre. Naito chooses to show his disrespect first, getting into Sabre’s head to throw him of his game by using the Tranquilo pose as his first actual move. Naito sneak-attacks Sabre as he re-enters the ring to further that plan, but Sabre sees through the ploy and ties up Naito’s legs. Sabre alternates between working the neck and legs to render Naito ineffective. Naito regains the advantage with impact moves, targeting Sabre’s neck in completely different fashion. The match breaks down as both men resort to trading forearm with Naito coming out on top. Sabre pours on the torture and is nearly astounded when Naito makes the ropes and escaped the Octopus stretch. Sabre lights up Naito with forearms and changes gears looking to pin Naito from the same Octopus stretch. Naito proves more slippery and persistent than Naito, working into position to hit the Destino and pin Zack Sabre, Jr. for 2 points. While Sabre has made an excellent G1 showing thus far, Naito has doggedly emerged as one of the clear leaders, mostly keeping place with the “Ace.”

Hiroshi Tanahashi (8 points) enters the main event to face the “Unchained Gorilla,” Togi Makabe (6 points). Tanahashi has an interesting task ahead on guarding the torn tricep from Makabe. Makabe is more concerned sticking to his tried-and-true power-based onslaught to start. Makabe lands a lariat but Tanahashi wrenches his leg. Tanahashi’s MO throughout had been to take attention away from his arm by putting his opponents’ focus on defending a limb of their own. With Makabe, that strategy has the added bonus of taking down his base of power. Makabe is still able to use his strength as he hits a suplex, and Tanahashi’s frustration gets the better of him.

Makabe’s response is simple: off with his head! A series of lariats from Makabe ends when he and Tanahashi go for – and miss – signature moves. Tanahashi’ gets  a the better of  Makabe after an exchange of German suplexes, but Makabe pops right back up from Tanahashi’s Sling Blade lariat! Tanahashi, having had enough of Makabe, his a pair of High Fly Flow cross-bodies and is finally able to keep Makabe down for a count of 3 and 2 points. Tanahashi keeps his place at the top, but now shares that spot with Tetsuya Naito. Six others are still well within range of them as Block A continues to be a scramble to the top.

Tomorrow, Block B picks back up as nine other competitors look to catch a potential runaway winner.

Current standings

Block A

Block B

Bad Luck Fale

 8 Michael Elgin



Hirooki Goto



Tetsuya Naito

10 Satoshi Kojima



Zack Sabre Jr.

8 Kazuchika Okada




4 Kenny Omega


Kota Ibushi

8 Juice Robinson



Tomohiro Ishii

8 Sanada


Togi Makabe

6 Minoru Suzuki


Yuji Nagata


0 Tama Tonga



Hiroshi Tanahashi 10 Toru Yano




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