TGP G1 Climax 08.05.17: Usurpers

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 G1 Climax tournament lands in Osaka today as Block B continues its trek to next week’s finals. The setting is familiar to the prior Block B show – those at the top currently stand tall as opposed to Block A. Whereas Block A is still establishing a clear front-runner, Block B has two men racing to the finals. While many have been eliminated here, a chosen few can still usurp those top positions and shake up the field.

G1_08.05.17

The tournament matches begin with another Chaos vs. Bullet Club showdown as the trickster, Tory Yano (4 points), meets the brash lieutenant, Tama Tonga (4 points). With both eliminated from the finals, Yano doesn’t have the opportunity to eliminate another competitor here (as he did Michael Elgin three nights prior). Before the bell, Tonga sneaks up on Yano much like he did Minoru Suzuki previously, but he’s here to taunt Yano, not attack him. A terrified Yano runs in fear as Tonga disappears under the ring, looking to beat Yano at his own game. As further evidence of this, Tonga jumps Yano and tapes him to the barricade for the count-out. Yano is able to make it back in where Tonga stomps on – then pokes fun at – Yano. Tonga learns he’s not as good as Yano at untying the turnbuckle pad, nor at using chicanery. Tonga has the ring bell hammer, but Yano grabs it in plain sight of the referee. As the referee is removing the hammer form play, Yano low-blows Tonga and rolls him up for 2 more points. Another match that took longer to recap than happen, but the moral of the story is that no one can out-cheat Toru Yano.

Los Ingobernobles’ SANADA (8 points) is among those still in contention for the finals, while Satoshi Kojima (0 points) is not. Kojima is not one to lie down, though, as he and SANADA start off wrestling to a stalemate. SANADA’s disdain shows as he ties Kojima up (literally) in the Paradise lock, kicks his ass (literally), then hits Kojima with his own trademark corner chops. The mockery only serves to anger Kojima as he shows SANADA the proper way to turn someone’s chest into hamburger in the corner. The two trade slpas before SANADA employs his agility to try and confound Kojima. Kojima has a response, but SANADA is able to utilize some impact to keep up. SANADA moves in for the kill with the Skull End submission (dragon sleeper) then the moonsault for the coup de grace. Not quite dead yet, Kojima keeps evading the moonsault. SANADA returns to the Skull End, but Kojima is able to transition to the Emerald Flowsion. Kojima now moves in for the kill and succeeds, nearly separating SANADA’s head from his shoulders with the Cozy Lariat enroute to the pin that puts Kojima on the board with 2 points. Kojima not only finally scores but also may have removed a member of Los Ingobernobles from the field heading into the home stretch of the tournament.

Inverse from the last match, a young competitor who’s already eliminated may have the chance to ruin a legend in contention for the top spot. Michael Elgin (4 points) has nothing to lose but much to gain should he be able to overcome the MMA style and nasty disposition of Minoru Suzuki (8 points). Before the bell, Elgin realizes there’s also the other members of Suzuki-Gun to consider and shows them he has no fear of the numbers game. Desperado looks to get involved right as the bell sounds, so Elgin takes him down before dragging Suzuki to the outside, beating Suzuki to the punch. Suzuki shows Elgin whose world it is and uses a chair outside on Elgin’s arm, trying to take a weapon out of Elgin’s arsenal. Suzuki and his cronies are relentless in looking to break Elgin’s arm and Suzuki plays the wrestling card inside the ring to continue the attack. Elgin won’t be denied, though, as he uses the same arm to establish his power attack and take control. Suzuki’s wrestling seems to be no match for Elgin’s strikes as his left arm is just as effective. Out of survival, Suzuki traps Elgin’s arm to end to contest, but Elgin powers his way out and slams Suzuki to the mat. Elgin tosses Suzuki into the Buckle Bomb and Suzuki “accidentally” falls into the referee. Suzuki-Gun now has carte blanche to gang up on Elgin but Elgin disposes of both Desperado and Taichi in one fell swoop.

Elgin is free to give Suzuki all of his attention and does so with a powerbomb that’s enough to keep Suzuki down for a count of 3 and 2 more points for Elgin. Elgin is the second in a row to topple a contender, but a bigger accomplishment should be noted.

While Elgin is well out of place to make the finals of the G1, he has scored wins over both the IWGP US Champion and now the NEVER Openweight Champion. Even with a losing record in the tournament, Elgin should have title opportunities coming out of it. Sometimes a tournament performance can mean much more than how you place in the actual performance.

No one may know this better than Juice Robinson (2 points). Robinson scored a win over Kojima in the first round of Block B action, but has failed to capitalize on that momentum since. Despite a bad left knee that has plagued him throughout this year’s G1, Robinson has shown guts and determination to go along with his growing skill. While he has fallen to the IWGP World Champion, he now has a non-title opportunity against one of the point leaders in Block B – the IWGP United States Champion, Kenny Omega (10 points). Though he looked somewhat intimidated as Omega made his entrance, Robinson takes it right to Omega to start. Omega doesn’t seem to take Robinson very seriously, so Robinson corrects with a few choice punches to the mush before sending Omega outside. Robinson has the match well in hand, staying one step ahead of Omega at each turn. Omega, in a desperate effort, finally creates some space by dumping Robinson outside.

Omega begins the abuse of Robinson’s bad knee with a Figure-4 on the ringpost. Trainers check on Robinson as Omega is kept at bay by the referee. Robinson, able to continue, makes it back in where Omega lies in wait with more torture. Robinson is able to switch the momentum, reversing the Snapdragon suplex into a Full Nelson slam. Omega clips the knee on the way to a moonsault and Robinson if forced to use the knee to defend himself, giving advantage to Omega either way. Robinson doesn’t have the experience that Tanahashi does in taking focus away from a bad limb, but does have the wherewithal to strike from all sides and keep Omega off-base. Robinson tries for Pulp Friction, but it’s his turn to be reversed as Omega hits the Snapdragon suplex as the game of one-upsmanship continues. Robinson avoids a knee by straight cold-cocking Omega but the slippery Omega is able to avoid Robinson’s finisher a second time. Omega lands the V-Trigger and has Robinson’s ticket all but punched with the One-Winged Angel, but Robinson finally trumps Omega by countering with a cradle for the 2-point pinfall.

An amazing performance becomes an amazing upset. Robinson also turns a failing shot at G1 Climax contention into future opportunities past the tournament as he is another man to hold a victory over the IWGP United States Champion. It will be interesting to see how that title picture plays out with two competitors possibly vying to see who can translate their momentum to gold first.

EVIL (8 points) is another who has shown leaps and bounds in growth in his first G1 tournament outing, doing so while keeping himself close enough to be a potential finalist. He looks to be surely tested against the undefeated (in tournament action) points leader and IWGP World Champion, Kazuchika Okada (12 points). EVIL enters the contest with a question mark after many thought he suffered a concussion during the final moments of his loss to Omega. EVIL shows no signs of ill-effects at the start as he mows Okada down to show his physical superiority to the champion. Okada is keenly aware of what happened between EVIL and Omega, answering EVIL by drawing a straight line to EVIL’s head with a basement dropkick. EVIL takes Okada outside and uses a chair to take a baseball swing at another placed on Okada’s head, daring him to continue down that route. Back inside, it is EVIL who keeps the pressure on Okada’s head and neck but Okada’s agility allows him to break free. EVIL is able to keep pace with Okada at every turn, which serves to frustrate the champion; Okada has set out throughout the tournament to prove he is the absolute best to the point that he can outdo any of his opponents at their own game. This factor has seen him taken out of his element to try a power game with EVIL. Okada is successful enough at it to manipulate EVIL into position for the Rainmaker lariat. EVIL avoids this and Okada goes for another staple, dropkicking EVIL off of the top rope. Going to the well of familiarity again, Okada flies at EVIL outside but EVIL has Okada scouted and throws a chair in Okada’s face!

The battle rages outside as EVIL dumps Okada onto a pile of chairs with the Darkness Falls slam before bringing him back to the ring. Back inside, EVIL keeps the pressure on but Okada breaks away again to land a missile dropkick, hoping the impact is enough to keep EVIL down. EVIL again escapes the Rainmaker and Okada is now flat-out angry at being outmaneuvered by EVIL, repeatedly smashing in the jaw with uppercuts. EVIL presses the mental and physical advantage by flooring Okada with a lariat of his own that almost ends the match. Okada is finally able to score the Rainmaker, but is too exhausted and beaten down to make the cover. Okada hits a second time, but a third attempt sees EVIL counter into the This is EVIL STO and pins the IWGP Heavyweight Champion for 2 more points. In one motion, EVIL has ended the champion’s unbeaten tournament streak, put himself in contention for a shot at that title, and tied himself with the US Champion Kenny Omega in second place on the block. All in a day’s work for up-and-coming EVIL.

Tomorrow, Block A heads into the home stretch in Shizuoka where several competitors make a last-ditch run to the top spot heading into next Sunday’s finals.

Current standings

Block A

Block B

Bad Luck Fale

 8 Michael Elgin

(Eliminated)

6

Hirooki Goto

8 EVIL

10

Tetsuya Naito

10 Satoshi Kojima

(Eliminated)

2

Zack Sabre Jr.

8 Kazuchika Okada

12

YOSHI-HASHI

(Eliminated)

4 Kenny Omega

10

Kota Ibushi

8 Juice Robinson

(Eliminated)

4

Tomohiro Ishii

8 Sanada

8

Togi Makabe

6 Minoru Suzuki

8

Yuji Nagata

(Eliminated)

0 Tama Tonga

(Eliminated)

4

Hiroshi Tanahashi 10 Toru Yano

(Eliminated)

6

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2 thoughts on “TGP G1 Climax 08.05.17: Usurpers

  1. Pingback: TGP G1 Climax 08.08.17: War of Attrition | The Gorilla Position

  2. Pingback: TGP G1 Climax 08.11.17: Familiarity Breeds Contempt, Part I | The Gorilla Position