review by Jason Manning
Date: August 3rd, 2002
Location: Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium
Hey, the G1 Climax is officially now in progress so I decided to bust out and actually watch my tapes of the heavily pimped 2002 version of the tournament to celebrate. This was the first show of the tour and was aired live on PPV. It’s got Nakanishi vs. Nishimura, Nagata vs. Chono, Sasaki vs. Takayama and a bunch of other stuff for me to watch. Onto it...
Hidekazu and Sakaguchi are in the ring with the G1 trophies. All the participants come out one-by-one. Tanahashi, Yoshie, Koshinaka, Takayama, Tenzan and Sasaki comprise Block A this year while Kenzo, Nishimura, Nakanishi, Yasuda, Chono and Nagata comprise Block B. Looks good to me. Nagata talks a bit and then we go to the undercard.
Masahito Kakihara & Masayuki Naruse vs. Blue Wolf & Wataru Inoue
This is a fine six minutes of basic work with a couple highlights like Wataru hanging with Naruse on the mat early on and Wataru getting the shit kicked out of him. Osaka is a freaking great crowd as they give some nice heat to even this. Wataru and Wolf do some neat-o tag team work near the end but Wolf soon mistakenly hits his partner. Kakihara takes advantage with a Kaki Cutter on Wolfie followed by a cross armbreaker for the quick tap (5:50).
Jushin Thunder Liger, El Samurai & Minoru Tanaka vs. Koji Kanemoto, Jado & Gedo
Jado’s got new ORANGE tights that he stole from Edge. The face side brings some fine offense in the early goings against Kanemoto and then Jado and Gedo enter and head into their expected beatdown. This time however, they actually work the arm (building to Jado’s crossface - logic is awesome~!), and it’s not as bad as usual. Liger sells all the arm work like he’s some kind of selling God and is the best worker in the match based on that. He even sells the arm all the way back to the hot tag. I <3 Liger. Kanemoto and Tanaka do the uber-cool ankle hold counter into another ankle hold and it rules, and Sammy and Jado soon put together your closing sequence. And Sammy looks fine. And Jado looks fine. Jado does apply the crossface, but it’s too bad that it’s on Samurai and not Liger. Bastard. Sammy gets to the ropes and after thirty seconds or so of more fine stuff, Jado catches Samurai with the crossface again and this time it gets the win (14:32). Pretty OK offering from the juniors with even the expected beatdown not being too terrible. Too bad they didn’t actually *follow-up* on it, but I’ll take what I can get considering it’s the undercard.
VIDEO PACKAGES FOR EACH G1 PARTICIPANT~! Dig the freaking great production.
G1 Climax - Block A
Shiro Koshinaka vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Shiro Koshinaka is a veteran. Hiroshi Tanahashi is an underdog. And they wrestle. And it’s good. Koshinaka stays in control for the majority and Tanahashi gets in a couple small bursts of offense, but not enough to give him any real chance at winning. Koshinaka’s the one doing the carrying here and looks really good despite not doing all that much on the surface. Koshinaka goes through his big offense (even teasing a Dragon suplex hold) in the first six minutes or so and Tanahashi survives everything, so near the end he’s not really sure what to do and resorts to just hitting some punches while making up his mind. Beautiful. He goes for another powerbomb but Tanahashi counters with a ‘rana for a near fall. Tanahashi manages another cradle for another near fall and goes for an enzuigiri, but Koshinaka ducks it and runs... into an inside cradle for the 3 count (8:53)! Oh shit! Koshinaka was totally outworking Tanahashi here but it’s always nice to see a young guy get a big win. Good veteran vs. underdog match with smart work and a fine result. I dug this a bunch.
G1 Climax - Block A
Yutaka Yoshie vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Good lord Hiroyoshi Tenzan is a million bucks here as he carries Yoshie to places nobody ever thought Yoshie could be carried to. Yes, Yutaka Yoshie is part of a good match. And yes, I did just say that. The story is pretty obvious, but it works. Yoshie has defeated Tenzan before and can hang with him, but in the past year Yoshie’s been demoted big. He can hang with Tenzan here and while it’s not completely obvious at first, Tenzan does a bunch of small but neat things (most notably almost falling down after hitting a shoulderblock) to make Yoshie a believable threat. Yoshie controls around 90% of the offense while another 7% is used up for those “stand there and clobber each other” exchanges we all love so much. So, Tenzan’s mostly selling, and he’s great at it, as he puts over Yoshie like a champ and gives Yoshie all the openings, and Yoshie thankfully runs with most of ‘em. Yoshie’s offense is at least interesting too, as he works the back (in one of the coolest parts of the match, Tenzan gets up after a superplex and Yoshie brings him down on his back again with a shoulderblock and we all weep as Yoshie has done something smart for the first time in his career) and then the leg (backfist to the leg - rock~!). There are the expected flaws, such as the back/leg work going nowhere (both guys forget it ever happened later on) and Tenzan’s eventual big comeback being too short considering he just put Yoshie over the whole match. Beyond that though, YUTAKA YOSHIE is involved in a good match and that’s a huge improvement for a guy that was hated by just about everybody no less than a few months ago. And improvement is where you start becoming, y’know, good. Or at least watchable. And Yoshie’s definitely watchable here. They hit each other a bunch near the end and Tenzan wins out, and then he delivers the TTD. Tenzan then applies his new whacky modified Buffalo sleeper, and the referee eventually just has to stop the match (15:53). This was moreso just really fun to see Tenzan carry Yoshie on his back, but Yoshie too stepped up and I really enjoyed this. Really, it was just Yoshie being put over for the entire match before Tenzan made a pretty simple comeback and won. You CAN expect some problems when Yoshie is in the ring, but I shall stress it again: Yutaka Yoshie was involved in a good match. Good lord, I never thought I’d say that, but with this new seemingly motivated Yoshie paired against some of the other guys in his block, I may be saying it again...
They take an intermission and we get to see all the wrestlers getting medical check-ups. Aw.
G1 Climax - Block B
Kenzo Suzuki vs. Tadao Yasuda
Yasuda comes out but Kenzo doesn’t and after waiting forever the referee begins a countout but Tanahashi comes down and Yasuda talks to Tanahashi and Kenzo jumps the guardrail and Kenzo hits a spear and Kenzo Suzuki defeats Tadao Yasuda (0:37). Beautiful. And we didn’t even have to watch Kenzo vs. Yasuda for more than 40 seconds. MOTY, baby.
G1 Climax - Block B
Manabu Nakanishi vs. Osamu Nishimura
Hey, this is good. Everything’s so basic and OLD SKOO~!~!!~~!~ and I dig the hell out of it. It’s a total throwback to the old pro wrasslin’ we all long for and I love it. The story’s pretty simple. It’s Nishimura’s quick, technical expertise vs. Nakanishi’s power. And no matter how simple, it works well enough. All the holds are milked for all their worth which gives each one some meaning, which is something wrestling’s missing nowadays. And surprisingly, Manabu Nakanishi is completely watchable as Nishimura doesn’t let him get too goofy and is either carrying him on the mat portions or letting him do what he does best - chopping your chest off. Nakanishi even does Nish’s “handstand followed by a slap to the knees” spot, which rocks no matter how sloppy it looks. Nakanishi also does one more cool thing as when both guys go for a knucklelock, he realizes that Nishimura owns him in the technical department and just chops him. Oh, and he does a cool spear from behind that Nishimura sells to perfection. That’s about it for the Nakster, as this is Nishimura’s match. The crowd is really into respecting what they’re doing here, too, and that’s a good thing. A very good thing. Osaka RULEZ.
Hey, this isn’t good, too. At times. *COUGH* Things never really pick up and within the first 5 minutes you basically know it’s going to the draw. Nakanishi’s whole aggressive power man act isn’t played up too much considering it’s the basic story they’re working with. One minute he’s chopping the shit out of Nishimura and the next he’s TAKIN’ IT TO DA MAT~! There’s no long-term structure, either. The match is basically “Alright, so let’s just go totally old school and do a couple cool things in between and be all technical forever and the people will mark out!” And their planning does work on me, but a flaw is a flaw. Nishimura and Nakanishi both bring some leg work to each other, but it’s about 20 too late and each lasts about 4 seconds. So no, no long-term structure either. Also, I keep wondering why both guys do get all respectful and technical about themselves, considering this is the G1 Climax after all and you’re always looking for a win no matter what. And finally, the finish comes across weak as they don’t build up the Argentine backbreaker nor Nishimura’s sleeper hold/chinlock well enough. The crowd knows the Argentine backbreaker can end it, but Nishimura’s hold isn’t built up enough as something that can win the match, ever, so they know that the time’s going to run out (besides both guys basically spelling it out for them throughout the match). *COUGH*
25 minutes in Nishimura is still doing Cobra Twists and Octopus holds, and the crowd still loves it despite Nishimura basically telling them it’s a draw. The finish is neat, as Nakanishi applies the Argentine backbreaker but Nishimura applies the sleeper/chinlock while in it. Nishimura showed early on that he’s going to refuse to let go of the sleeper (like I said though... it still ain’t built up all that much), and we all know what the Argentine backbreaker can do. Both guys refuse to let up though (the crowd’s dead for this, as it’s obvious what’s happening), and the time limit expires (30:00). Basically, this was like a hell of a death match. It’s not that great (don’t get me wrong, it’s good, but there are a truckload of things keeping it from being THAT good), but I still mark out for everything they’re doing and dig the hell out of what they’re accomplishing. This isn’t for everyone, but if you like your wrestling technical and can stomach a completely passable Manabu Nakanishi for 30 minutes (come on, I know you can...), get a hold of this.
G1 Climax - Block B
Yuji Nagata vs. Masahiro Chono
*Yawn* This stinks. It’s like your everyday rookie match with a bunch of really vanilla work and no real focus, along with a couple big moves thrown in to make it seem halfway decent. But for fuck sakes, this is Nagata and Chono, supposedly New Japan’s top two wrestlers. It sure doesn’t look like it here, as Chono mails it in first class and Nagata can’t really do much to salvage it. The most interesting part of the first 14 minutes comes from an STF from Chono that Nagata puts over really well. Yep. There is some fine building to the Nagata Lock II at times with Nagata busting out a few Exploder’s, and uh... yep, there’s the big focus of the sixteen minute match. A few Exploder’s leading to the Nagata Lock II. That’s it. Love it. Or don’t. Nagata gets to run wild with a flurry of offense for the last minute or so and looks good, and he slaps on the Nagata Lock II for the win (16:00). At least the Nagata Lock II build paid off. Let’s just call this, uh... “decent”. Yeah. That works. Argh. And they gave these two an hour in October?
G1 Climax - Block A
Kensuke Sasaki vs. Yoshihiro Takayama
Dear Mr. Takayama,
Hey bro. I see we’re booked against each other on the first show of the tour, and I was thinking.. I believe it’d be best if we just beat the motherfucking shit out of each other. I mean, come on man, who are we fooling, we aren’t great technical wrestlers, but you and I know damn well that we can beat the dogshit out of people. I saw Nagata after that Dome match. He looked like a CHUMP, man. You shoulda’ won that shit. And man, did you see me take Kawada? Did you see that shit, man? We are stiff brothas and the fans and that punkass Jason Manning kid will love it and love it some more if we just beat the shit out of each other. We need to. We’ve got to. By the way, if you do agree, I’ll lean into all of your knees. Oh, and can I punch you in the back of the skull a few times? Oh, and for the finish, I’ve got to hit the lariat and it’d be really cool if you could sell it like a king. And can I do the Scorpion Deathlock, too? That wondrous jumping knee over the top into the ring... I don’t see you doing that much. Is everyone scared of it? I’ll take it, man. I promise. Oh, and near the end we can do the greatest exchange of strikes, too. And the crowd will love it because it’ll be all dramatic and shit. It’ll rule. I know this stuff. The whole match will be dramatic and shit. The crowd will love all of it. It’ll be great, bro. I swear. So come on man, what do ya’ say?
P.S.: Iiiiiiiiiiii’m goooooiiiiinnnngggg OOOOOVVVEEEERRR! NANANANA NAAAA NAAAA!
Yeah, this match is great. Kensuke wins with the Northern Lights bomb (12:11) and the show ends with me being a happy camper. No, no technical wrestling. No, no real focus or anything, no. They just beat the shit out of each other and it RULES. The drama man... the drama is off the charts. They want to kill each other and you love it. You want this. You want this now.
Final Analysis: This was a hell of a show to kick off the 2002 G1 Climax with a bunch of consistently good action surrounded by two very good standouts, those being Nakanishi vs. Nishimura and Sasaki vs. Takayama (moreso the latter). Both of the standouts may not be for everyone, but I sure dug the hell out of ‘em. The other G1 stuff besides Nagata vs. Chono is stuff to check out, too, and the undercard is rock solid. This is Recommended.
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