TGP G1 Climax 08.06.17: The Smoke Clears

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.

Block A arrives in Shizuoka with the picture at the top of the standings no more clear than in Ehime. IWGP Intercontinental Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi and Los Ingobernobles leader Tetsuya Naito currently sit atop the pack, while five others still have a chance of taking the lead heading into next Sunday’s finals at Ryōgoku Sumo Hall. With Togi Makabe’s score of 6 points with two shows remaining (including today), Makabe is, for all intents and purposes, eliminated from that top spot. However, this still leaves several men who can see their dreams either realized or dashed before this night is over.

G1_08.06.17

One of the surprises still in contention is Suzuki-Gun’s Zack Sabre, Jr. (8 points). Sabre is considered a surprise simply due to this being his first tournament, but his style has confounded more opponents than many might have expected. Here, he faces the former “Ace,” Yuji Nagata (0 points) in his final G1 Climax tournament. It would be very easy for Sabre to take dismiss Nagata given that Nagata has yet to score, but that would be a mistake considering Nagata’s resume and reputation. The two feel each other out to start as Sabre (wisely) seems to not take Nagata lightly. Sabre seems to have even done his homework as he soon picks apart the arm of Nagata looking to negate Nagata’s renowned Fujiwara armbar. However, Sabre may have forgotten about Nagata’s kicks that come into play. Nagata switches back and forth between playing Sabre’s submission cards against him and simply kicking him senseless. Sabre is able to keep Nagata at bay for a bit before Nagata is able to lock in the Fujiwara armbar, which Sabre escapes by going to the ropes. The two then trade kicks – Sabre’s longer legs allowing him better reach, while Nagata’s are more powerful, sending Sabre to the ground. Soon, Nagata is also forced to go to the ropes after Sabre is able to secure the Octopus stretch, working the targeted arm in particular. Sabre opts to go with striking Nagata and Nagata answers with pure impact, using two Backdrop Driver suplexes to pin Zack Sabre, Jr. and finally put himself on the board with 2 points. Depending on how others may fare today and Friday, Nagata may have just knocked Sabre out of the tournament much like his Block B counterpart Satoshi Kojima did to SANADA yesterday.

YOSHI-HASHI (4 points) is among those already eliminated that can spoil the chances of another possible contender, Kota Ibushi (8 points). Ibushi’s style is more dynamic than HASHI, but HASHI’s toughness has surprised several competitors, including the aforementioned Yuji Nagata on the very first night of tournament action. HASHI and Ibushi take the battle outside at the outset where HASHI gains the leverage position. HASHI keeps the pressure on with impact moves in the ring, going after Ibushi’s neck as others have throughout the tournament. Ibushi mounts a striking comeback and HASHI retreats to the outside. HASHI isn’t safe there, either, as Ibushi keeps the pressure on with the Golden Triangle moonsault.

Ibushi continues his aerial attack back inside to keep HASHI dazed and confused. Ibushi has HASHI down and in position for his new favorite weapon – the driving knee to the face. HASHI has paid attention, though, and dodges the fatal attack several times. HASHI pours on the offense, beating Ibushi to the punch (or kick, rather) several times. Ibushi is finally able to land the Golden Star powerbomb enroute to the deadly knee strike that puts HASHI down for the pin and earns Ibushi 2 more points. HASHI’s pride enabled a great effort out of him and Ibushi, now in the double digits, recognizes this after the match in a show of sportsmanship.

Bullet Club “Underboss” Bad Luck Fale (8 points) and Chaos member Hirooki Goto (8 points) are at a crucial juncture with both men close enough to both reach and fall from the top spot depending on the outcome of this encounter. Goto, with a G1 tournament record of 1-0 against Fale, has some experience in handling the size advantage. Goto starts off chopping down the oak tree by striking low. Fale sends Goto outside where he lands awkwardly on the knee and Fale is all too happy to erode the leg joint inside and outside the ring. Fale charges at Goto in the corner and misses, giving Goto room to breathe. Goto comes out on top of a lariat exchange but gets overconfident in trying to lift Fale up. It’s Fale’s turn to get overconfident with a splash and Goto is able to hit the Backdrop driver suplex but Fale is still alive, realizing what’s at stake. Goto does as well, kicking out of a splash but the Grenade is too much to overcome. Fale pins Goto, scoring 2 points and tying their G1 record. Fale is also in the double digits category while Goto – like HASHI – is in the danger zone of being knocked out of the tournament.

While virtually eliminated, the “Unchained Gorilla” Togi Makabe (6 points) still has his pride and a chance of knocking Tetsuya Naito (10 points) out of one of the lead positions. It is worth noting that Makabe holds an astounding 4-1 record against Naito in G1 competition. Knowing Naito well, Makabe begins pounding on Naito as the bell sounds and takes the battle outside (which is becoming a common theme). Naito is also familiar enough with Makabe to turn the momentum to his favor before the two re-enter the ring. Naito mercilessly twists at Makabe’s neck, beginning the work toward the Destino reverse-DDT. Makabe asks for more before delivering a series of lariats to Naito. Naito recovers and delivers trademark moves in the corner, again going after Makabe’s neck. Makabe mows Naito down and gets a near-fall off of a powerbomb as he keeps softening up Naito for the King Kong kneedrop. Makabe stays the course with the Spider suplex out of the corner and counters a Destino. Makabe looks to ruin Naito’s run toward the top until Naito’s work on the neck pays off as the Destino puts Makabe away with a pin. With 2 points added to his total, Naito firmly establishes his place as one of the top contenders.

The next man to have a chance at locking in his top spot is Hiroshi Tanahashi (10 points). Injured arm and all, he has a tall order ahead in facing Tomohiro Ishii (8 points), a man desperate to also reach that top spot and strong enough to pull it off. Tanahashi has a 2-1 lead over Ishii in G1 matches. The entire landscape of Block A heading into the final set of shows next weekend hinges on this match.Knowing the importance of what’s about to transpire, Tanahashi begins by taking to the skies to disorient Ishii and take his power out of the equation.

 

Ishii soon catches Tanahashi and lets his strength do the talking. Tanahashi is goaded into trading blows with Ishii, allowing Ishii to retain the momentum. Tanatashi takes Ishii off of the top rope with a dragon screw legwhip and begins his tournament tried-and-true strategy of taking the focus away from his torn right tricep. Tanahashi again lets his pride betray him, thinking he can overcome Ishii at his own smashmouth game. Ishii batters away at Tanahashi and almost puts Tanahashi down but the Sling Blade allows Tanahashi to recoup momentum. Tanahashi further wrenches Ishiii’s knee with a cloverleaf submission that takes Ishii some time to escape. Tanahashi looks to go up top for the High Fly Flow, but Ishii meets him there and takes Tanahashi to the ground with a superplex out of desperation. Ishii brutalizes Tanahashi with lariats and headbutts and kicks out of the Sling Blade. It looks as though Ishii has Tanahashi overpowered, ready to advance and put Tanahashi’s hopes in jeopardy after the sliding lariat. Tanahashi counters Ishii’s coup-de-grace Brainbuster but Ishii simply refuses to die. Tanahashi finally overcomes the blitz and puts Ishii away after the High Fly Flow combination to score 2 points.

As the standings below illustrate, Tanahashi’s win finalizes the top of Block A. It comes down to he and Tetsuya Naito on Friday, with the winner moving into the finals. With only one more Block A round before the finals, all eight other men are now blocked from reaching the finals and effectively eliminated from the tournament. Several have already met that fate in Block B, but a scant few have a chance to reverse their fortunes when the tournament continues Tuesday in Kanagawa.

Current standings

Block A

Block B

Bad Luck Fale

(Eliminated)

 10 Michael Elgin

(Eliminated)

6

Hirooki Goto

(Eliminated)

8 EVIL

10

Tetsuya Naito

12 Satoshi Kojima

(Eliminated)

2

Zack Sabre Jr.

(Eliminated)

8 Kazuchika Okada

12

YOSHI-HASHI

(Eliminated)

4 Kenny Omega

10

Kota Ibushi

(Eliminated)

10 Juice Robinson

(Eliminated)

4

Tomohiro Ishii

(Eliminated)

8 Sanada

8

Togi Makabe

(Eliminated)

6 Minoru Suzuki

8

Yuji Nagata

(Eliminated)

2 Tama Tonga

(Eliminated)

4

Hiroshi Tanahashi 12 Toru Yano

(Eliminated)

6

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