Monday, August 17, 2015

The G1 comes to an end with Nakamura versus Tanahashi

I'm not going to cover Night 18 in much detail here. Both Goto and Anderson lost which guaranteed the main event of Nakamura versus Okada would determine the B Block winner. After a long match, Nakamura made Okada tap with an armbar. The Nakamura / Tanahashi rivalry continued into Night 19's main event.

The G1 Climax brought two very familiar foes together again.
Image credit: NJPW.
Two interesting notes came on the final night in addition to the action. Delirious made his first New Japan appearance in his first onscreen role as booker of ROH. He announced a 2016 ROH/NJPW crossover show in Japan, clearly in answer to the success of the ROH/NJPW American shows.

Later in the night, Genichiro Tenryu made his way to the ring. Thirty-nine years into his career, he is now on his path to retirement. He is probably one of the best traveled talents in Japanese wrestling, but of late has stuck to running his own Tenryu Project promotion. But with his retirement set for November 15th, he picked his final opponent as none other than IWGP Heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada.

Alright, on to the action!

The G1 finals opened the same way most nights of the G1 did: multi-person matches mixing legends, G1 competitors and the young boys still looking for a true roster spot.

Ryusuke Taguchi, Mascara Dorada & David Finlay beat Jushin Liger, Yohei Komatsu & Sho Tanaka in the opener, while Captain New Japan and TenCozy beat the team of Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi & Jay White.

The third match of the night was also the first singles match as Michael Elgin, now deeply entrenched with the Japanese fans, took on the junior member of CHAOS, YOSHI-HASHI. The young star was valiant in his attempt, but Elgin's power was just too much for him. A massive powerbomb gave Elgin the big win in what I suspect will not be his last New Japan appearance.

Poor YOSHI-HASHI. Image credit: NJPW.
CHAOS memebers Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii teamed up with Kazushi Sakuraba to take on the Bullet Club unit of Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi. This one ended with a double low blow from Yano leading to a choke on the apron by Sakuraba to set up Ishii finishing Tonga.

Perhaps the oddest match of the night put the team of Hirooki Goto, Katsuyori Shibata and Kota Ibushi against the dysfunctional unit of Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma and Tetsuya Naito. Shibata and Naito clearly set up a rivalry here with Naito targeting Shibata. Even when Ibushi picks up the win on Honma, Shibata clearly tears into Naito. A brawl breaks out between Makabe and Ibushi in the ring as well, clearly a set up for a NEVER title match.

The second half of the card opens with an IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team title match. ReDRagon wanted the title back, but The Young Bucks brought Cody Hall to help them keep it. The two teams set out to steal the show and they put on a hard-hitting battle in the ROH style. Superkicks abounded, but ultimately it was a double superkick from the Young Bucks to Cody Hall that cost the champions. One Chasing the Dragon outside the ring and one inside allowed O'Reilly and Fish to walk away as two time champions.

The IWGP Junior Heavyweight title was on the line next, but the American challenging for it is aligned with Japan's Dragon Gate rather than Ring of Honor. Ricochet was the 2014 Best of the Super Juniors winner and he would challenge the 2015 Best of the Super Junior winner and current Junior champion KUSHIDA. Ricochet actually beat KUSHIDA in last year's finals, but only after KUSHIDA beat him earlier in the tournament, so this is something of a rubber match for the pair.

Both men are known for their acrobatic styles and they were quick to show that off with so many flips even Rey Mysterio would be jealous. But as the match continued, it turned into a battle of strikes and more technical wrestling. Ultimately a missed 630 allowed KUSHIDA to get Ricochet in the center of the ring for a Hoverboard Lock and the submission win.

The semi-final featured an epic battle with Bullet Club's AJ Styles, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows against Kazuchika Okada and ROH's Michael Bennett and Matt Taven (with Maria Kanellis). With the IWGP Heavyweight champion and the IWGP Heavyweight tag team champions in one match, this was treated as a big deal. But in reality it was pretty much a typical multi-man NJPW match. Okada battled Styles, Anderson & Gallows battled The Kingdom and the heels turned into drooling fools when Maria got on the apron. But the Bullet Club's united front was enough to allow AJ to get the pinfall on Okada, clearly setting up another battle between teh two men in the future.

The main event would finally bring the G1 to an end as Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura continued their on again/off again feud. The two men have traded victories regularly since the dawn of the decade, but neither has had a strong 2015. Tanahashi took tough losses to AJ Styles while Nakamura lost to Hirooki Goto in three straight battles for the Intercontinental title. This would be the return to form for only one of them. Japanese wrestling legends Masahiro Chono and Keiji Muto joined the announce booth before the two contenders took to the ring.

Both men were ready for a fight. Image credit: NJPW.
This was a very typical slow build main event. The two men started out slow, but as the action continued their moves became more and more brutal. Both men beat each other with hard blows and both men landed pretty much all their signatures at one point in time. As the match traveled into the 20 minute mark or so, Tanahashi seemed near a victory first with a Boston Crab and later with a Slingblade followed by two High Fly Flows. But Nakamura wouldn't stay down even against that onslaught. He came back with a brutal sitout powerbomb that gave both men time to recover.

Nakamura reigned stiff kicks on Tanahashi that certainly took a lot out of his foe, but a dragon screw allowed Tanahashi some distance, only for Nakamura to go for a flying cross armbreaker. Tanahashi locked his hands to fight the move and twist out of it. But as he recovered, he didn't see a Boma Ye coming. But even the running knee couldn't put Tanahashi down for a three count.

Nakamura moved Tanahashi to the top rope for what looked like a Lnadslide, but a few blows allowed Tanahashi to turn it into another High Fly Flow. Two more High Fly Flows would put Shinsuke Nakamura away and give Tanahashi his second G1 victory.

The end seemed to shock the fans in attendance, but perhaps not in a good way. It wasn't just American fans that expected this to be Nakamura's year to return to the IGWP Heavyweight title picture. But in the end, this looked like it might be the end of teh feud between the two men as Nakamura raised the hand of the man he plagued for years before leaving the ring.

In the end, this seems like a set-up for one last battle between Okada and Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom X. We will see if this is the true passing of the torch to Okada or if it will be the beginning of a new arc for the top star of New Japan in the last several years.

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