TGP G1 Climax 08.11.17: Familiarity Breeds Contempt, Part I

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.

As the final round of Block A lands in Ryōgoku Sumo Hall for the first day of the tournament’s conclusion, the smoke has cleared and two clear frontrunners have finally emerged to claim the coveted spot in the finals on Sunday. While others battle for pride and possible future title opportunities, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tetsuya Naito collide in a rematch from June’s Dominion showdown to see which of them faces the Block B winner on Sunday.

G1_08.11.17

Yuji Nagata (2 points) caps his final G1 tournament having to square off against the monstrous Bad Luck Fale (10 points). Nagata finally put points on the board during the last round, avoiding being shut out of the tournament completely. In terms of score, Fale has much more momentum as he came within striking distance of the top of Block A. Fale starts out using his size to show he should have been a contender. Nagata’s tenure in New Japan has been marked by his toughness, though, and he will not go down easily. Nagata keeps running and striking at Fale but Fale keeps catching the smaller man and flattening him. Nagata finally aims lower and starts chopping Fale down at the left knee. Fale rises up and asks Nagata for more. Nagata is happy to oblige, turning Fale’s Grenade chokeslam into the dreaded Fujiwara armbar. Fale powers out and proceeds to muscle Nagata into the Bad Luck Fall, ending his tournament run with 2 more points after pinning Nagata.

An emotional moment follows as the Sumo Hall crowd and all involved realize that Nagata’s final G1 tournament. He is given an amazing ovation and even Bad Luck Fale, Underboss of the irreverent Bullet Club, gives his former mentor the “Too Sweet” sign out of respect for the old warrior. Nagata returns a salute, acknowledging the fight he had just been through with Fale and with the other combatants in Block A.

YOSHI-HASHI (4 points) has the unenviable task of ending his tournament against “The Unchained Gorilla,” Togi Makabe (6 points). Kevin Kelly mentions on commentary that HASHI was disappointed in how his G1 run went this year, but he’s not out of fight by any means as he dares Makabe to do his worst from the beginning. Nagata is happy to oblige, laying some heavy blows on HASHI. HASHI, like a hungry stray dog, keeps battling back and wears Makabe down enough to cinch in the Butterfly lock. Makabe’s own power slowly rises but HASHI is still willing to show he is as tough as any – a strategy that has cost him in the G1 up to this point. By focusing on being tough rather than on his own gameplan, HASHI has fallen more often than not during this tournament. It happens here again, as Makabe is able to outlast HASHI and land the King Kong kneedrop for 2 last points, pinning HASHI.

The last stop of the tournament for Zack Sabre, Jr. (8 points) and Tomohiro Ishii (8 points) should be a hell of a treat for fans wanting to see how pure technique meets brute strength. Sabre knows he had to be careful at the outset, but not too careful as he takes Ishii down and reaches for Ishii’s bandaged knee. Sabre’s cockiness gets away with him as he starts throwing forearms and immediately learns they may have been a bad idea. Ishii tenderizes Sabre and looks to have things will improve hand until Sabre ties up his arm to neutralize the strikes. Ishii steps into Sabre’s kicks, so Sabre goes after the knee again. Ishii shows no effects and is able to superplex Sabre but Sabre is also tenacious on his technical offense. Power and technique are deftly traded until only one man is able to prove superiority. That man is Sabre after he ties Ishii up with no escape, leaving the referee no choice but to stop the match and award Sabre 2 points. Despite not going all the way, Sabre’s showing in his first G1 tournament is to be commended with his win here being a prime example. Should he return next year, it will be fascinating to see his progression.

Hirooki Goto (8 points) meets another man who has made an impressive showing, Kota Ibushi (10 points). Goto may find himself in a “legends” spot in next year’s G1, while Ibushi is one of the younger competitors on the board. Goto looks to keep things on the ground to start off, but Ibushi has more weapons than aerial tactics. Ibushi kicks Goto down but is caught when he looks to take to the skies. Isbushi’s speed is able to put him in that position as he begins his attack on Goto from all sides, including a standing moonsault that gains a nearfall. Don Callis mentions on commentary that Ibushi would be smart to stick and move. Guest commentator Rocky Romero counters that speed equals power, suggesting that Ibushi may be able to hang with Goto in a strike exchange. Callis seems to win his argument when Goto pounds Ibushi in the corner to set him up. Romero’s isn’t discounted, as Ibushi uses his agility to take Goto off of that perch instead. Ibushi looks to further his point with the deadly knee that has become his go-to weapon during the G1, but Goto instead is able to get his own go-to. The GTR finishes Kota Ibushi as Hirooki Goto gains 2 points off of the pinfall.

The main event determines the winner of Block A. Hiroshi Tanahashi (12 points) and Tetsuya Naito (12 points) battled at this year’s Dominion show in June, where Tanahashi won the IWGP Intercontinental from Naito in an absolute battle. Naito has this in mind as well as his last G1 tournament win in 2013. A fan vote resulted in Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura being placed as the main event of the 2014 Wrestle Kingdom as opposed to Naito’s challenge of IWGP Champion Kazuchika Okada. It was then that Tanahashi screwed Naito out of the main-event, sparking a long rivalry that grew into Naito’s leadership of Los Ingobernobles de Japon, turning his back on those that had done so to him first. Naito’s Tranquilo is betrayed by his slow-burning anger – an anger he has a chance to satiate here against his hated foe.

Hiroshi Tanahashi is the “Ace” of New Japan, having earned that distinction in 2012 when he broke former “Ace” Yuji Nagata’s record for most success defenses of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. (Nagata was beaten by Tanahashi to tie that record.) Tanahashi also holds the record for most reigns as IWGP Heavyweight Champion at five, solidifying the “Ace” moniker. Throughout his time, Tanahashi has shows love for the fans as they have him – a love Naito formerly coveted before they “betrayed” him. Tanahashi’s love for the fans and the sport have left him disgusted at his rival. Tanahashi looks to put the exclamation point on his Dominion win by beating Naito once again, this time to go to the finals on Sunday and earn his shot at a sixth IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign.

Both men enter the contest with battle damage – Tanahashi’s bicep injury is well-documented, while Naito’s shoulder has also been hurt during the course of the tournament. Naito knows how to frustrate Tanahashi and does so immediately, stalling and mocking Tanahashi. The IWGP Champion shows he has learned a few tricks of frustration from the leader of Los Ingobernobles when he hauls off and slaps the taste out of Naito’s mouth and attacks Naito as he hits the “Tranquilo” pose. Naito refuses to let Tanahashi dictate the pace and pulls his agility out of his bag to gain first advantage. Naito paints a bull’s eye on Tanahashi’s arm, but Tanahashi counters by going after the leg – the strategy that won him the title at Dominion. Naito isn’t safe outside the ring as Tanahashi isn’t afraid to fly, even in his condition.

Back inside, Tanahashi continues his efforts on Naito’s leg, but Naito slips away and turns back toward the arm. Naito looks to end the night early after hitting Gloria, but the Destino is turned into a straightjacket German suplex that scares Naito with a nearfall. Tanahashi continues confounding Naito by countering offense into close wins. Things break down as Naito spits on Tanahashi, leading to the two men slapping each other with all the strength and disrespect they can muster. As the crowd swings in favor of the one who betrayed them, the reaction gets to Tanahashi. He scores half of the High Fly Flow combination but misses the second dive to the ground as Naito evades the attack. As Naito goes after the neck looking for the Destrino, Tanahashi changes lanes and goes back after Naito’s knee. Tanahashi locks Naito in the Cloverleaf submission, and Naito’s revenge looks to be cut short as Tanahashi has him bent in half dead-center of the ring – the same way he defeated Naito two months prior. Naito pulls a page out of Tanahashi’s book and uses his own agility to maneuver into position to hit the Destino out of the corner! Tanahashi lives to fight another day and goes after Naito’s neck, but Naito’s anger will not be denied. The Destino reverse-DDT is finally enough for Naito to pin Tanahashi for 2 points and a trip to the finals of the G1 against the winner of Block B on Sunday. The fans that Tetsuya Naito supported him in a turning point in his banner year.

Tomorrow, Sumo Hall hosts the final round of Block B – and another highly anticipated rematch from Dominion that serves as a must-win situation for history to occur.

Current standings

Block A

Block B

Bad Luck Fale

(Eliminated)

 12 Michael Elgin

(Eliminated)

8

Hirooki Goto

(Eliminated)

10 EVIL

(Eliminated)

10

Tetsuya Naito

(Winner)

14 Satoshi Kojima

(Eliminated)

2

Zack Sabre Jr.

(Eliminated)

10 Kazuchika Okada

13

YOSHI-HASHI

(Eliminated)

4 Kenny Omega

12

Kota Ibushi

(Eliminated)

10 Juice Robinson

(Eliminated)

6

Tomohiro Ishii

(Eliminated)

8 Sanada

(Eliminated)

8

Togi Makabe

(Eliminated)

8 Minoru Suzuki

(Eliminated)

9

Yuji Nagata

(Eliminated)

2 Tama Tonga

(Eliminated)

6

Hiroshi Tanahashi

(Eliminated)

12 Toru Yano

(Eliminated)

6

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