NJPW G1 Climax 8/15 at Sumo Hall
By Alan Counihan
August 15th saw the first of back to back nights at Sumo Hall for New Japan to close out this year's edition of the G1 Climax. The questions going into this show were who from Block B would join the runaway Shinsuke Nakamura in the semi finals (Yuji Nagata, Hirooki Goto, Takashi Sugiura and Manabu Nakanishi were all still alive) and how would the complex Block A standings pan out (Masato Tanaka lead Hiroshi Tanahashi, Toru Yano and Togi Makabe).
The show opened with a fun six man tag pitting Prince Devitt, Kazuchika Okada and Wataru Inoue against Giant Bernard, Karl "The Machine Gun" Anderson and OKUMURA. The action was good throughout but the finish was slightly flat. Devitt, Anderson and Bernard looked good in their roles. The next match between Yuji Nagata (who had been very impressive in the tournament) and Takashi Iizuka (who had lost every match, usually by DQ) was a short brawl which saw Nagata baited into DQ to lose his chance at making the semis. It was kind of stupid because Tomohiro Ishii was in the ring hitting Nagata right in front of the ref and somehow Iizuka wasn't DQ'd for this. Nakamura and Nakanishi followed this with an average match, far from the best either man had during the week. Nakamura completed a perfect 6 out of 6 by pinning Nakanishi with his Boma Ye knee strike. There seemed to be some miscommunication in the spot prior to that, it came off awkward.
The next match delivered in spades. It was winner advances between Goto (who had a very strong week) and Sugiura (whose tourney had been a mixed bag due to being hampered with knee problems). This was by far Sugiura's best performance of the week, as he brought tons of intensity and the always great heelish mock clapping when beating on Goto. They started dropping major bombs down the stretch and even traded HARD straight right hands the the face at one point. Goto was eventually overwhelmed by "NOAH's assassin" when he took a German Suplex into the buckles and an awesome looking Avalanche Olympic Slam. Easily a four star match in my book, maybe slightly higher if you really dig hard strikes.
We then got a break from G1 action as Tiger Mask IV defended the IWGP Junior title against CMLL's Mistico. I didn't like this at all. Tiger Mask looked as bad as usual, and they had zero chemistry. The match was really awkward and had no flow whatsoever. Mistico won the match and the title with La Mistica. It was back to G1 matches then as Block A took centre stage. TAJIRI misted Takao Omori in very short order for a DQ. The crowd booed and told him to go back to Hustle. Okada, who was acting as a ringside attendant, hit the ring and got in TAJIRI's face. Then former teammates Makabe and Yano battled it out for a guaranteed semi spot. Yano dominated, bloodying Makabe and using distractions by Ishii to hit him with his stupid hammer thing. It was ok, but nothing special as Yano doesn't have the fire or intensity to carry a match on offence. However when Makabe made his comeback, it got good. The crowd were starting to get into it and they (and I) bought a lot of the nearfalls, particularly when Yano hit his Oni Kuroshi for a 2.999999. Makabe survived and hit a chain lariat, a Spider German and the King Kong Knee Drop for the win.
Then it was time for the main event and what turned out to be the best match of the week up to this point. Tanahashi took on Tanaka with the last semi final spot at stake. Lots of feeling out early which led to Tanahashi working over the leg of Tanaka for a short while before Tanaka got control of the match. About 13 or 14 minutes in, Tanahashi missed a somersault to the floor and took a hard bump. Tanaka capitalized by putting him through a table with a splash to the outside. He brought it back inside and hit an awesome superplex rolling through into a brainbuster. This got the first big nearfall of the match. Tanahashi dodged a Sliding D and zero'd in on the leg which he had worked over earlier. He hit several desperation dragon screws and locked in the Texas Cloverleaf. Tanaka fought for the ropes. A perfectly constructed singapore cane spot involving Tanaka's buddies Gedo and Jado got another huge nearfall for the Zero 1 man. He kept on Tana and got more major close falls following a Superfly Splash and a Sliding D. Crowd were going apeshit at this point. He went for the D again but Tanahashi caught him in a desperation cradle for a nearfall of his own. Following more frantic rollup attempts, he caught Tanaka in a straight arm German, and then a Dragon Suplex for a GIGANTIC false finish. Two High Fly Flows later and Tanahashi prevailed. Awesome awesome match. Easily ****1/2.