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G-1 Climax 26

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Thoughts on G-1 Matches from Night 1:

 

Tenzan vs. Ishii

 

Starting the tournament off with a bang. The "I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was" Toby Keith tribute act Tenzan is doing is really endearing. Tenzan was never my guy, but he certainly has the crowd support behind him as evidenced here. He is also really throwing everything into his matches here. This started out with some suspect kicks and Tenzan's chops and I was worried it was going to be a lightweight strike exchange match. Instead, they start trading good looking forearms and then mixing it up with some brutal headbutts. I also thought this did a masterful job of building to the high spots and having Tenzan take enough punishment to where his comeback was satisfying without it feeling like a ridiculous feat. One of those matches were 3/4 of the way through, you realize you are watching something great. Awesome start overall. ****

 

Makabe vs. Tonga

 

Nice yoga pants Tama. This match was awful. This is why I have G-1 burnout every year and it would be beneficial to trim some of the fat from each block. These two have zero chance of winning jack shit and the only real narrative here was Tonga proving his worth by being in the tournament to begin with. There was no storyline or progression, it was just exchanging of holds until Makabe put him away. I honestly think this may be the worst match of the entire tournament when all is said and done. I hope so anyways. *

 

Bad Luck Fale vs. Goto

 

This was pretty good. It was worked in a believable way at least and I really enjoyed the final stretch with Goto continuously trying to put the big monster to sleep. Goto is an interesting person to follow in this tournament as he could be anywhere from winning his block to middle of the pack. Fale is someone that I do enjoy as a bruising giant and this was a match where it felt like they didn't try to over reach. **3/4

 

SANADA vs. Tanahashi

 

Really damn good match. Tanahashi undoubtedly will work hard when he has a big stage and that worked well here. He did a lot more to make SANADA look like a contender and a star than Okada did at Dontaku. There were some things that bothered me like the leg selling was suspect from SANADA down the stretch and the finish didn't really play into the arm work but I did enjoy the tension in the sleeper and the kickouts down the stretch. I may be lower than most but this is one of those matches that I really enjoyed but did think it was just a slight slot below the great level. ***3/4

 

Okada vs. Marifuji

 

This felt like a great match wanting to break out but had some pretty high flaws that prevented it as such. I actually had no issue with Marifuji at all and thought he turned in a damn good performance with his chops, focus on the arm, showing some viciousness and going through the ending stretch. Okada does clinch his arm after every strike but every single strike is used with the right arm. This really annoyed the hell out of me. We have the visual of a purple chest of Okada and the arm work that is done by Marufuji but yet Okada is able to go 50/50 in a strike exchange as they head to the climax. When did Okada's elbow become such a deadly weapon? That was one thing that I gave a slight pass to in the Misawa vs. Hase 1/9/00 match because Misawa beat Kobashi with those elbows when the Tiger Driver 91 failed. When Okada has had the Rainmaker kicked out of, he usually has just doubled down on doing the move again instead of resorting to something else. This felt me as really foolish and destroyed a lot of the groundwork that came before it. I wouldn't have had an issue with Okada going for the RM or even hitting it and Marufuji kicking out showing how fruitful his work had been. Overall, a very good match still but really had me thinking about what could have been. ***1/2

 

Kind of a weird Night 1. One great match and a couple of other good ones but also some straight stinkers. I also think that already the reviews and praise for some of the other matches are a little out of control and hope that can be reigned in as the tournament progresses. A show with three ***1/2+ matches is nothing to scoff at. Just accept that at face value.

 

 

 

 

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Here are my star ratings for night 1.

 

Tenzan vs Ishii 3 3/4*

Tonga vs Makabe 1 1/2*

Goto vs Fale 2 1/2*

Tanahashi vs Sanada 3 1/2*

Okada vs Marifuji 4 1/4*

 

 

On the Okada match, I understand where you're coming from Chad. I'm more forgiving with Okada being a dummy by using the arm. Okada is a guy I always felt had a game plan when he worked. His work is very formulatic that he usually doesn't deviate from his plan. He's going after the neck. So when he injures the arm, he doesn't deviate from his plan.

 

On the Tanahashi match I'm 100% with you Chad. Though seeing Sanada sell the leg big post match almost made me take a whole star off because he should have been selling the leg. He sold it for a little bit of the match. Shitcanned it, then was fine, then we see where he's at post match. I also loved how both guys used low blows to set up the heat and shine. Look at Tanahashi sell the arm and Sanada should be a little embarassed.

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Being a longtime Tenzan fan, I'm excited at the possibility of him being booked strongly for a change, since they went to the trouble of the whole angle where he was pissed that he wasn't included and then went on a rampage, leading to Kojima giving up his spot. The only league matches that I don't see him winning are the ones with Tanahashi and Okada. I figure he loses one and the other goes to a draw.

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Yano vs. Nakajima

 

Yano did some of his nonsense at first and then this match settled down into an extended squash for Nakajima that really didn’t make Yano look good at all. This could be a long tournament for him where you are waiting for his short upset. This match should be thankful that Makabe vs. Tonga happened or else it would have been the dog of the tournament so far. *3/4

 

Omega vs. YOSHI-HASHI

 

This match was great. Omega was able to display his athletic ability but also look vicious in the opening control segment. I really enjoyed the double stomp to the outside and the slam onto the guardrail. Hashi starts his comeback and gets some nice teases and bits of offense but also gets cut off with a nice snap dragon suplex. They do a good job of really conveying the growing confidence of YOSHI-HASHi over the course of the match. The flash pin felt like his big moment but he just keeps compounding on that over and over until he finally decisively puts Omega away in a great feel good moment. My favorite G-1 match so far and even more of a surprise than Tenzan vs. Ishii. ****

 

Elgin vs. EVIL

 

This was an effective match in being the big bomb hoss fest that it needed to be. I did think it was lacking some storyline and hate to really push it into the next level but the throws and bombs thrown were very impressive from a strength standpoint. EVIL’s STO finisher does look pretty weak in comparison to some of the big stuff we have earlier and this seems to set him up as a ready-made challenger for the IC belt down the road. ***

 

Nagata vs. Naito

 

Slow start but that is the Naito style these days. He starts to focus on Nagata’s leg and locks on a very unorthodox figure four type submission where he is able to mock Nagata’s salute. I also like how Naito cuts off any offense by Nagata by kicking at the leg. I feel Nagata did a pretty poor job of selling the damage as he neither looks like he is in much pain or annoyed. This makes his comeback feel hollow. The story is again there but like the Okada vs. Marufuji match, some of the execution is off. The end of the match is a sequence of exchanges but I don’t feel much escalation or investment like I did in the YOSHI-HASHI match. Overall, Nagata does pick up the upset but it doesn’t feel like a big deal to me. I can see some really enjoying this one, but I thought it was pretty poor overall and it really takes some great character work to offset the indifferent Naito character. Nagata didn’t provide that. **3/4

 

Shibata vs. Honma

 

We have had a serious string of upsets and here comes the perennial underdog in Honma. I appreciated the opening strike exchange and the way this match really kicked off as a contrast to the previous Nagata/Naito match. I really appreciate the moments of selling in this match after the big exchanges. This really helps stretch the match out and not feel like an overt wank fest. Shibata locks on a nice sleeper that Honma has to work hard to fight off of. Honma has no problems dunking Shibata right on top of his head with the Otoshi and other head dropping stuff. He goes up top, hits the Kosheki and just like that we have a great night of upsets. Another really entertaining match between these two and it still feels like they have stuff left in the tank. ***1/2

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Tenzan vs. Tonga

 

Tonga doubles down on his awful first night pants with even worse ones tonight with dollar bills on them. Combine that with a wicked witch of the west makeup job and he looks really low rent. I do appreciate the Tonga is more aggressive here doing the attack to Tenzan. While nothing he does look overly imposing or impressive, it at least is thematic in keeping the attack on his opponent. We get a countout tease because this is New Japan and the countout happens about as much as Flair hitting a move off the top rope. A good teased finish happens when Tenzan starts to mount his comeback but is stopped by the spear. The build to the Anaconda slam was well done and the crowd is amped now. Tenzan hits his lariat and with Kojima’s support he nails the moonsault to pick up another win. Good big man match that didn’t have exceptional action but told a neat, little story well. ***1/4

 

Ishii vs. Goto

 

A big ol slugfest to start out with forearms and chops galore. That is essentially how the match follows through. Goto has these type of matches a lot. Nothing that he does is bad, but I am never invested in his character or what he is doing. There is a run through the motions aspect to everything. That is why this match certainly had more compact and stiff action than the first match but there was much less story or investment that I could grasp onto. Ishii locks on a sleeper that Goto is able to power out of. He hits a lariat and this is where we get the one count kickout from Ishii. Ishii does a real good job at the ending sequence of selling the damage in pain screaming out as the count occurs. A good match, but didn’t have the hate to elevate it. ***

 

Fale vs. Marifuji

 

This match looks butt ugly on paper. However, this told a simple but great story of Fale being the big giant and Marfuji using his one great tool (His kicks) to try to chop him down. Fale had an answer for all of the offense and maintained composure even though he was reeling from the kicks that were laid in. Besides the big whiff on the spinning back heal kick, Marifuji’s strike here looked really effective and varied including the knee strike. The finish felt very earnest given the story that was laid down before it. A very fun match that adds a lot of depth to a tournament like this as a contrasting example of simple storytelling being effectively done. ***1/4

 

SANADA vs. Okada

 

A really good match that heated up in the final few minutes through the tombstone reversals, dragon sleepers, and Rainmaker’s attempt. I still think SANADA is effective but missing that one piece of viciousness. This was seen in the early going of the match where he was pissing around too much on the outside. They seems to be building up to SANADA picking up a huge win down the road vs. Okada but that will have to wait for a later time. Really good match. ***3/4

 

Makabe vs. Tanahashi

 

This has been a good show so far with all the G-1 matches being ***+ and some of the tags either being close or matching that mark too. That made this match feel like the card ended with a dud. I understand that Makabe is popular in Japan but he is so uninteresting in the ring to me and his attack of Tana’s arm felt second rate. Finish was pretty mundane and I didn’t get a sense of peril. On top of that, Makabe ends up winning which was an upset that didn’t feel like one. I thought this was a thud to an otherwise strong card. **1/2

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YOSHI-HASHI vs. Honma

 

A good match but a weird dynamic that when you have two perennial underdogs going at it, the crowd doesn’t really have anyone to get behind. This creates a weird narrative where all of a sudden, Honma is acting like a dominant veteran and giving HASHI glimpses of hope. The work was strong and the story was told well enough, but that dynamic allowed something to feel “off”. Still enjoy that Honma has 4 points and it appears that HASHi running through his offense in the final stretches will create super drama. ***

 

EVIL vs. Nagata

 

Nagata’s first match bored the piss out of me so I was glad to see Evil jump the gun on him here and continue to work over the leg using a simple but varied enough attack. For the second show in a row, Nagata does much of nothing selling the damage and then he runs through his offense as if nothing has happened. I enjoyed Nagata in the Shibata feud for his role but he has really had a chance with the first two shows and not done much of anything to impress. Disappointing match as a result. **1/2

 

Omega vs. Yano

 

This match is my hell. I didn’t laugh or find it amusing at all. This may be funny for some individuals but it wasn’t for me in the slightest. *1/2

 

Nakajima vs. Shibata

 

I really appreciated the slow burn on this match with Shibata setting the table and Nakajima taking that and then unleashing on him as if to say, “huh, that was your best shot.” The ending stretch was incredibly dynamic and the strikes were really effective. There were little no selling spots which annoyed me but the strikes and action looked so great that I mostly ignored it. The PK to end the match was especially brutal. This is about as close to a **** as a match can be in my mind without reaching that mark. ***3/4

 

Elgin vs. Naito

 

I am pretty convicted in the flaws of Maru vs. Okada from night 1 and that is why I rank it lower than most. With this match, I will admit I may be wrong but while it was certainly very good and featured limb selling and building to the big moves without the expense of excessive kickouts, something just felt off a bit for me. The botched DDT was hilariously bad but more than that it is Naito’s overall demeanor. I did the tranquillo thing and get it. It feels different and absolutely has revitalized his career. However, between this match and the Invasion Attack Okada one that also got huge marks, something about that personality trait makes me lose focus down the stretch. I could see how if you were invested, the ending forearm exchange would be very dramatic. For me, I was blah with it. A very good match that I probably deserve to give a second chance to. ***1/2

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Ishii vs. Fale

 

Really cool match in that Ishii gets dwarfed by Fale but is able to take the fight to him and look like a believable underdog. Fale has been one of the highlights of the tournament so far as his matches have followed a similar story but they have felt different and fresh. Once again, Ishii picking up the victory felt like a big feat. ***1/4

 

SANADA vs. Makabe

 

I am sort of happy Makabe has been a dud for most so far as I really haven’t liked the guy at all for a while now and was way lower on stuff like his feud with Ishii from last year. SANADA gets a tough draw as it feels like it is going to be a slog to get something compelling out of Togi. SANADA once again takes over and doesn’t do much of note. They go outside, he locks on a chinlock, etc. Then we go to the ending stretch and it felt really drawn out and undramatic considering how checked out of the whole thing I was. To make matters worse, Togi picks up the win with the Kong knee still positioning himself near the top of his block. **1/2

 

Tenzan vs. Marufuji

 

Still on board the Tenzan train for this G-1. Marufuji hasn’t been good in his first two appearances but this was a near miss for me with him. This match was fine but didn’t really seem to hit a stride and I didn’t get the dramatic value of the nearfalls like I should with Tenzan. A match that was enjoyable to watch but nothing I will remember a week from now. **3/4

 

Tonga vs. Tanahashi

 

Tonga has an upgrade in his yoga pants tonight. Good match actually and again not a terrible Tonga performance but also not one where he knocks it out of the park where he really needs to. The upset was the biggest one for the tournament for me and really had a good crowd reaction that felt earned given the work that led to it. Tanahashi get a good selling job underneath. I can see an argument that Tana gave too much to Tonga here but he did try to put him over.

 

Goto vs. Okada

 

I have never liked these two together and this match really didn’t grab me in any other way. Even now, I’m struggling to compose any thoughts on it. I guess I was happy that only one Rainmaker put Goto away. Overall an end to a pretty mundane show. **1/2

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YOSHI-HASHI vs. Nagata

 

This was the best Nagata has looked so far to me. His opening matwork looked focused and tight and we didn’t have the meandering pace that his first two matches ran through. Hashi looked ok too besides the whiffed dropkick. On another hand, I do think in some ways there is too many underdogs at points in this tournament. We have Hashi, Honma, Tenzan and then artificially Tanahashi now given his start. The finish was really good with the trading of submissions and emphasis on the limbs that had been worked over previously. I thought HASHI might gain another upset victory but Nagata is able to pull it out. Good start to today’s action. ***1/4

 

EVIL vs. Nakajima

 

Actually looking forward to this one. This had a pretty basic start but got better as it went along and built up to a good and satisfying finish. Nakajima is someone that can conceivably take a lot of the fight to EVIL and also withstand his onslaught. Him overcoming that and winning with the brainbuster was satisfying. Another match that isn’t going to be a MOTYC but is a good depth builder for the overall tournament. ***

 

Naito vs. Yano

 

Pretty much all bullshit. Not my thing. *

 

Honma vs. Omega

 

Kenny uses his HASHI template here and that was one that I could get behind. I didn’t think he was quite as on point as he was in that match making this

one look slightly inferior but it was still really enjoyable and the best Honma has looked in the underdog role so far in the tournament. Besides the Naito vs. Yano whatever match, this show has been very consistently good. ***1/4

 

Shibata vs. Elgin

 

Another good match to close out the night. Not a whole lot of story to this one but for a big, beefy hoss fight it was really good. I liked the strikes exchanges and power moves that Elgin was displaying throughout the match. ***

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I don't usually take notes when I watch, but I was kind of feeling it tonight and what the hell, I didn't used to do star ratings either until I started coming to this place. Time for something new, I guess.

 

G1 CLIMAX 26 – NIGHT SEVEN

 

HIROYOSHI TENZAN vs TOGI MAKABE

 

Really decent hoss battle with two thick maulers just pounding on each other until one of them finally caves in. Tenzan's story so far has been his odd underdog role and I liked how that played into this match, as he was (as he's done all tourney) constantly looking to the audience for approval and reaction and against Makabe, whose story has been a methodical focus of just pounding guys, it cost him. Makabe gets dumped on I think for his lack of selling but I thought he did a great job here of putting over the accumulation of Tenzan's heavy offense. But Tenzan could never stay in control long because he wasn't keeping on Makabe and a gorilla like that won't stay down long if you lay off him. The final sequence bared that out as Tenzan had Makabe down but didn't push his advantage and Makabe caught him with an absolutely wicked Angle Slam and the King Kong Knee and that was it. I can't see Makabe's streak continuing much longer, but I like that so far in the tournament he's winning because other guys are failing to match him blow for blow, which you'd need to do. ***

 

HIROOKI GOTO vs SANADA

 

This one lost me along the way, as it was pretty basic with no real flow or story that I could get into. I'm still trying to get my head around Sanada as a character. He has wanderer's syndrome, which is a big pet peeve with me, where he'll hit a big move and then just sort of drift around with a look on his face that says he's thinking about nothing in particular, least of all what his next move will be. I feel like part of it is trying to play along with Naito's pseudo indifference, but with Naito it feels like a calculated mind game and with Sanada it feels vacant. Goto gave his usual solid effort but he's just so non-descript as an in-ring performer for me that I needed something extra in this match to make it pop for me and I didn't get it. **1/2

 

NAOMICHI MARUFUJI vs TOMOHIRO ISHII

 

Marufuji's been probably my favorite performer thus far in the tournament. I like how he's carrying himself as this seasoned vet who's not quite past his prime, so he knows he can compete without having to fire himself up, yet he also knows the grind that he's about to undertaker, so there's real sense of "getting down to business" about him. After he beat Okada he didn't let it go to his head against Fale, and even though he lost there it wasn't because of cockiness. Fale was just a different beast. Here I thought he was generally a step ahead of Ishii throughout the match, but he couldn't quite hit a move that would put him away. Ishii can just take so much ridiculous punishment and Marufuji isn't the guy that's going to just steamroll you. The chop exchange was pretty epic and I love how Ishii then started leading with his chest at the end, to really let Marufuji know that his best wasn't going to put Ishii down. In the end I think Marufuji just ran out of steam and Ishii's bull doggedness got him the victory. Fun match. ***1/2

 

KAZUCHIKA OKADA vs TAMA TONGA

 

Not sure what to make of this one, as Okada looked really disinterested in the beginning (although I can't say as though I blame him, given it would take an extraordinary set of circumstances for me to believe Tonga had a chance here). It wasn't until Tonga caught him with that clumsy stunner over the ropes that things picked up and I liked him going out after Okada to drop him on the railing since it was clear the countout victory wasn't going to happen. After that though it was just odd to see Tonga take so much of the offense, in particular countering so much of what Okada attempted. They were trying really hard to make Tonga seem like he could pull off the upset but for some reason I just wasn't buying it. Credit to Okada though because he made a couple of the nearfalls down the stretch seem like a miracle was about to happen. In the end Tonga's offense just isn't that interesting to me, so the match kind of lurched along to the finish as I waited for Okada to get that one small opening to hit the rainmaker, which of course he did. Not a bad match, but an awkward match-up that tried to sell a story I wasn't buying. **1/4

 

BAD LUCK FALE vs HIROSHI TANAHASHI

 

What an odd match for Tanahashi to get off the schnide with. I liked the story of it, with Fale basically dominating Tanahashi throughout and the ace only getting in small bursts of a comeback, because it made sense. Fale is so much bigger and Hash is pretty desperate for a win, so he's leaving himself open to stuff in an effort to fell the larger guy. All decent stuff. But man, Fale's offense is just so lumbering and loose. He hit a kneelift at one point and a lariat a little while later and neither looked like they had anything behind them, though Tanahashi sold them both. I don't need a guy like Fale to be stiffing the hell out of people because his size alone does some of the work for him, but he just doesn't put enough effort into it for me to take it seriously. The fluke ending works fine in a vacuum, but as Tanahashi's first win after an 0-3 start it felt unsatisfying to me. He might as well be 0-4 for all this match did for him. A lucky win after being mauled for most of the match doesn't put him on a turnaround path from where I sit. Still though, I was entertained by this even in spite of Fale's lack of oomph. This was probably the most compelling I've found him to be in my limited exposure, though a lot of that has to do with Tanahashi's narrative coming in. ***

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Makabe vs. Tenzan

 

These two have had a 100 matches together and I can’t think of one that was memorable. This didn’t buck that trend. Makabe just doesn’t seem like he is willing to give Tenzan anything to keep the upset hopes alive. Sure enough, he runs through some offense and hits the Kong knee for the win. **1/2

 

SANADA vs. Goto

 

Still not feeling Goto at all in this tournament. SANADA has done well but really needs a partner that is willing to go along for the ride for the match to reach a strong level. This was nothing offensive but another match that will leave no lasting impression. **3/4

 

Ishii vs. Marufuji

 

Good, stiff wrestling. A simple storyline but they really brought the fight here and provided a really good match that looked like it was filled with hatred compared to most of the other bouts this evening. I can see the high ratings of ****+ this match has received but it didn’t reach that level for me because of the no selling in certain points. Still overall a strong effort. ***1/2

 

Okada vs. Tonga

 

This was a cookie cutter heavyweight match. The problem that Tonga still has is the lack of being able to portray a viable strategy or persona that is agreeable to the viewer from both a kayfabe standpoint and an entertaining one. Like usual, he attacks Okada on the outside doing some “stuff”, works him over a bit on the inside and then we go into the finishing stretch. They do have a couple of good Rainmaker teases but Tonga eventually falls to the move. **1/2

 

Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

 

Fale continues to impress. This continued his narrative of the opponent playing the big underdog working from underneath. Fale was especially vicious here when he grabs the guard rail and slams it against Tana’s chest and arm. Tanahashi does a great job selling both the arm and back during this heat sequence. My favorite cut off was Fale clotheslining Tanahashi to the outside although the knees up on the second High Fly Flow attempt was also very well done. Tanhashi ends up getting a banana peel roll up finish to give him some points and keep Fale strong. I thought Tana ran through his offense in the closing stretch a bit too easily, but this was overall a really engaging main event and Fale continues to be my surprise of the tournament. ***1/2

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Totally forgot to mention Fale hucking the barrier at Tanahashi. Those shots were SICK. There was no way for Tana to fully protect himself on those. Wicked.

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G1 CLIMAX – NIGHT EIGHT

 

(FYI: Spritied little sprint between Taguchi and Finlay opened the show. Nothing you haven't seen before, but a fun match.)

 

TOMOAKI HONMA vs TORU YANO

 

As soon as I saw Honma coming to the ring I thought, "he should get back on the winning track here, but I bet this is where Yano get's his fluky win". I hate being right. This match was junk, with Honma alternating between being duped by Yano's antics and sniffing them out. The ref bump was terrible as no seasoned ref would have ever been in that position to get hit. I don't mind Yano's act, but this was just schtick, kokeshi, schtick, kokeshi, schtick, low blow, backslide. Waste of time. *

 

EVIL vs YOSHI-HASHI

 

This took awhile to hook me, as throughout the opening half it just felt like one of those matches where guys just do stuff to each other. Nothing really compelling. I'm officially tired of Evil's "chair around the head" spot, as doing it in every match, especially so early on, kills its appeal. Things really picked up on the last third though, as they both turned up their intensity quite a bit. Yoshi-Hashi is a really good underdog, as I tend to bite on a lot of his nearfall kickouts. This felt a lot like his match with Omega on night two, where he stayed in the match despite being dominated in the early going, then just began to slowly escalate his offense towards the end and I started biting on his nearfall wins as I had the losses. In both matches I felt the opponent was probably better but neither could manage to put Yoshi-Hashi away and before they knew what was happening he had taken them out. A very solid encounter. ***1/4

 

KATSUHIKO NAKAJIMA vs YUJI NAGATA

 

I didn't know much of anything about Nakajima coming into this tourney, particularly about his character/face-heel dynamic. Up till now I feel like he's been trying to cautiously win people over. Not here. He attacks Nagata before the opening bell and really takes it to him, drawing boos, which I don't recall hearing much from Japanese crowds. Nagata takes a beating outside and I liked his tease of the countout by falling off the apron just as it seemed he'd get back in. Nakajima failed to stay on top though and once Nagata turned things around this thing took off. Nagata beat the ever loving SHIT out of Nakajima. Just brutal strikes and kicks. He looked so pissed off here that I wondered if Nakajima dishonored his family somehow. Just brutal. Nakajima's sell of an early Nagata kneelift was like he'd ruptured some vital internal organ. Nakajima tried giving back what he got and while his stuff was likewise heavy and stiff, it couldn't match Nagata. Until he went after the knee, a weakness for Nagata all tourney. That evened the playing field a bit and then it was just a matter of who was going to survive. The slap battle near the end was epic and I loved Nagata's rage in administering the corner beatdown. Nakajima seemed like he was fighting merely for survival at some points. In the end he was able to take Nagata's best shots without going down for good and do just enough damage to the knee to keep Nagata weak to where he could hit a sick brainbuster for the finish. Just an epic exchange and probably my favorite match of the tourney so far (though I need to rewatch some of the middle shows since I was a bit distracted on the intial viewings). ****1/4

 

KENNY OMEGA vs MICHAEL ELGIN

 

First let me say that this crowd is hot, in both the "really vocal" and "full of smokin' ladies" senses of the word. Needs to be said. As for the match itself, I've now seen enough Kenny Omega where I can agree with the general sentiment that too much of his stuff is overblown to the point of being comical and/or fake looking (even when it's clearly stiff). There were times here where I felt like he was wrestling like Shawn Michaels vs Hulk Hogan at SummerSlam '05. It distracted me quite a bit in the early going. There was also some sloppiness and more than a couple mis-timed moments in this match. Elgin getting up too early to take Omega's plancha after the Takahashi attack in the opening moments looked terrible. Warts aside, these two ended up delivering a hell of a match that just got more intense and more vicious as it went. The second half became this tremendous bomb throwing exchange that reminded me so much of the Cena-Owens series where it seemed like each guy was intent on completely unloading everything in their arsenal rather than lose. I love matches like that where there is a real palpable sense of "at all costs" from both sides where you just know that losing here is something they outright refuse to do. Elgin no-selling some of Omega's stronger kicks and strikes bugged me a little, but for the most part this really delivered on the finishing stretch. A flawed match, but a highly entertaining one. ****

 

KATSUYORI SHIBATA vs TETSUYA NAITO

 

I don't have a ton to say about this one other than it was a really hard fought battle that told a nice story of Shibata overcoming his various injuries to defeat a guy you could just tell it would sicken him to fall to. Shibata the warrior is a character I enjoy. They beat the tar out of each other with the railings in the early going and then it settled into a more traditional match. Not much in the way of notable spots, but just some really solid wrestling. Match never dragged, there was plenty of intensity, and Naito kept his schtick to a minimum, which he should have given the magnitude of his opponent. His low blow near the end actually felt well earned (that sounds weird) given that Shibata had gotten testy and shoved the ref for no real reason. If he was dumb enough to give Naito that opening, he deserved to take one in the yambag. The finish felt a little flat to me just because I'm not use to KO finishes so it felt out of left field, but it wasn't bad in any sense. In the end this was a really good match that may have suffered a tad for me because I was so into what preceeded it. Might be worth a revisit at some point. ***3/4

 

Best night of the tourney so far for me (though again, nights 3-5 need to be rewatched), with four of the five matches really delivering. Marufuji vs Okada from night one is still the best match of the tournament so far, but Nakajima-Nagata comes close and was ultimately a more entertaining watch for me.

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Honma vs. Yano

The best of the Yano bullshit matches so far. Honma plays well into this style and it didn’t overstay its welcome before it turned into annoyance. That is about the ceiling for a Yano affair these days and even though the finish was annoying, you knew Yano would pick up points somewhere. ***

EVIL vs. YOSHI-HASHI

Really good match from two of the more solid performers so far. EVIL does some of his best work on top first attacking the arm and then getting increasingly frustrated as he cant put HASHI away. YH continues to really excel in the underdog role and is able to time his hope spots and nearfalls effectively without forgetting all the damage he has taken from EVIL previously. The lariat/swantom bomb comb was excellent especially the selling and comeback on the lariat. Once again, when HASHI puts EVIL away he is able to make it feel like a great accomplishment. I really enjoyed watching this one. ***3/4

Nakajima vs. Nagata

Another crackling match. This didn’t have as strong a story as some other matches but the strikes were fantastic and this really had a big fight feel especially in the closing stretch when they two guys were slapping and kicking each other as hard as they could. A really big slug fest match with Nakajima proving his worth. ***1/2

Omega vs. Elgin

This started with some bullshit on the Bullet Club point but then settled down into a really strong match. I did like how some of the wrinkles like Omega hitting the double stomp on the outside were avoided here rewarding the viewer of all these shows. Elgin does a good job planning his big moves and hits some huge lariats here. This felt like a really strong main event in the US with strong character work. Omega still overacts a bit but when he shows this much restraint, the results are pretty damn good. ***3/4

Naito vs. Shibata

I loved the opening of this of Shibata getting pissed the fuck off with Naito’s antics and just going off on him. I really appreciate how patient Naito is. He is reeling here so he takes his time and picks a great spot where he can pounce. We then get some great work from Naito on both the leg and arm on Shibata. He really hits the sweet spot here of being aggressive but also playing into his tranquillo attitude. The arm submission looked nasty. Shibatas comeback was well earned and wonderful to watch. He even gets the submission on the three arm check which is a spot I usually loathe. Great match. ****1/4

This was a crackling show.


Tama Tonga vs. Ishii

I continue to struggle to care about Tonga. I know he has been a popular whipping boy but it really has been a lackluster performance when he needed a great one for this G-1 run. This match didn’t have much flow or over riding theme to it and as a result, it felt middling and in consequential. **1/2

SANADA vs. Bad Luck Fale

Fale has been the biggest surprise of the tournament but this beginning was really boring with SANADA not adding much and not doing anything compelling going after Fale. Fale makes things more exciting by using the guard rail on the outside to get our obligatory count out tease spot. I never bought SANADA winning which made the match drag. I did really pop huge at Fale finally being able to hit his Bad Luck Fall to win the match. **3/4

Makabe vs. Marufuji

Even though Marufuji has been good this G-1, I was dreading this match hardcore as Makabe has been worse than Tonga in my eyes. Match played out about how I expected with me struggling to come up with much things to say 5 minutes after it happened. This has been a rough card overall. **

Tenzan vs. Okada

Glad we have a good match on this show. Tenzan was game to really work vs. Okada and Okada did a good job on top. The cut offs to the Rainmaker was really strong and it felt like a struggle for Okada to hit the move. This was a really effective use of Tenzan and he looked really competent and valiant in defeat. ***1/4

Tanahashi vs. Goto

This match would not end for me. I had no connection to it whatsoever and thought it was really blah overall. This card was pretty awful. **1/2

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G1 CLIMAX – NIGHT NINE

 

TAMA TONGA vs TOMOHIRO ISHII

 

I have no idea what the hell this match was so I have no idea how to justly rate it. Tonga is just such an odd wrestler. I don't get his character or why he's aligned with the Bullet Club, as he doesn't seem to have anything in common with their antics. He seems to try hard in his matches and there were moments here – particularly in the second half following the odd rope-running sequence – where he does stuff to get a decent pop from the crowd, but it's all just so disjointed and kind of mindless. In a way I feel bad because I feel like I'm short-changing the guy, but on the other hand I feel like I'm more than willing to give him a chance to do something to excite me and it just never happens. Meanwhile Ishii was just kind of along for the ride here, doing stuff, but not actively bringing anything to the proceedings. The ending sucked too, as either they botched the intended counter of Ishii's suplex or Tama just no-sold the front suplex in order to hit his own move for the win. Just a weird match to me. *1/2

 

BAD LUCK FALE vs SANADA

 

Oof, was this ever slow and plodding. At this point I'm wondering if it's just me and I need to come back to this show later on, because that's two matches in a row that did absolutely nothing for me and were a chore to sit through. Sanada spends so much time looking like he doesn't wanna be there while Fale is generally content to do as little as possible unless his opponent brings the fight to him. He repeated the rail squashing spot from the Tanahashi match, which was the highlight of this match, sadly. Sanada hit a nice looking missile dropkick at one point, but that's about all I can point to on the upside. Here's hoping this show picks up. *1/2

 

At this point I took a break from the show because I figured I was just not in the right frame of mind, especially after I did a little checking and saw that some other folks enjoyed those two matches. When I came back to it 24 hours later it still didn't do much to hold my interest even though the matches were significantly better. I didn't take notes, but here are some ratings. Could go up on a re-watch, but I don't expect to do one.

 

NAOMICHI MARUFUJI vs TOGI MAKABE ***

 

HIROYOSHI TENZAN vs KAZUCHIKA OKADA ***1/2

 

HIROOKI GOTO vs HIROSHI TANAHASHI ***1/4

 

This is my first time experiencing the G1 in it's entirety so I think this show was my first real encounter with tourney fatigue. Oh well.

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Nakajima vs. YOSHI-HASHI

 

G-1 catchup time. As a result, these could be brief. Really liked Nakajima’s arm work to lay the ground work of the match. I was bummed to see the final portion kind of result into a typical big move finishing spamming sequence. Good match but really went into a direction that was appealing to me towards the back half. ***

 

Nagata vs. Elgin

 

Ok, I have to ask what the fuck is those circles on nagata’s back? This was a good no nonsense match that went right into the action. I thought this did sputter out a bit as it went along and never grabbed me. Both of these guys are similar in that I see how they have fans and they are well positioned in their roles, but neither is able to make a personal connection to me. It is generally the opponent that has to make me be invested in the match as a whole. As a result, this match left me cold. **1/2

 

Shibata vs. Yano

 

Fuck this noise. ½ *

 

Omega vs. EVIL

 

I have enjoyed the BC vs. LIJ interactions. This started off with a pretty spirited brawl on the outside and Omega takes a sickening bump getting suplexed

onto a chair and bending it beyond recognition. The rest of the match is a sprint full of high impact moves and reversals. I enjoyed this much more than the Nagata match earlier and my interest never waned as the match reached its conclusion. I have been enjoying Omega a lot in this mostly serious G-1 run. ***1/2

 

Honma vs. Naito

 

Very good leg work by Naito but it wasn’t followed up much and the ending seemed to be the latest trope of Honma clamoring for an upset but not being able to reach it. Good match but one where I didn’t feel like the finish was in any doubt. ***1/4

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Fale vs. Tenzan

 

I have enjoyed these two a lot so far in this tournament. I didn’t really enjoy them working together. Nothing seemed to mesh well for me and the match felt lumbering and reckless. I still am shocked at the booking of Tenzan and can’t fathom why he wasn’t doing the Makabe spot of going on a nice run. If this is his last G-1, at least give him some juice in the tournament. **1/2

 

Tonga vs. Goto

 

I wanted to claw my eyes out just watching these two walk down for this one. One of those unfortunate things where it feels like they have wrestled each other in the tournament 20 times even though they haven’t yet. They did some stuff. I couldn’t be bothered to care. As far behind as I am, I know Goto has a chance of winning the block which sounds horrible to me. **

 

Naomichi Marufuji vs. SANADA

 

I liked the style of this match with the two outsiders really going out there to prove themselves. There was some eye rolling stuff like SANADA using the bat right in front of red shoes and him doing nothing but at least SANADA had some intensity in his attack on Marufuji. The match lost a good deal of steam to me when the strikes started to be exchange in the ring after SANADA’s attack. I appreciated him going for the choke so quickly, but it felt like we missed an integral portion in the progression of the match. ***1/4

 

Ishii vs. Tanahashi

 

Another match where starting out all I could think about was the stars Meltzer threw on this thing. This had some great strikes in it and Tanahashi really adds a level of toughness going toe to toe with Ishii. I really enjoyed when Ishii started to take over in the later stages and Tanahashi having to find counters to stay alive. The final stretch really had Tanahashi overcoming everything and showing why he still can be the ace of the promotion when called upon. I think it is absurd to call this a ****3/4 match but I have no problem calling it a very good match. ***3/4

 

Okada vs. Makabe

 

Makabe still sucks and Okada still isn’t a compelling worker when he is in there with someone I don’t have interest in. This felt like a pedestrian match to end the night for me. Really nothing to say except Okada extinguishes Makabe who has had a really strong run in the G-1 so far. **3/4

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Yano vs. Nagata

 

You know the drill here. Bullshit from Yano but again this was spirited and we actually get a countout payoff which is nice for a change of pace. **

 

YOSHI-HASHI vs. Elgin

 

Good match here. The arm work performed on Elgin was well done and really brought into doubt whether he could pull off his power moves. Elgin has his spots down now and when he is in there with an engaging opponent like here, it makes for a satisfying result. I wouldn’t mind seeing an IC defense against YH on a smaller show. ***1/4

 

Honma vs. EVIL

 

Another good match with Honma looking like a good underdog here vs. the big monster EVIL. EVIL really is able to convey a great menacing look when on top throughout this tournament and it pays dividends here with Honma’s big comeback. Block B continues to be much more consistent and entertaining than Block A to me. ***

 

Shibata vs. Omega

 

This match was freaking awesome. You had no bullshit from Omega and he really can be one of the better wrestlers in the world when he tones that stuff down. He had great work on the leg and then the match climaxed with a gripping sequence with huge strikes and pin point accuracy on the knees and kicks. I loved seeing the sweat go flying with each big strike. This really brought me in and felt like the best match of the whole tournament so far. ****1/4

 

Naito vs. Nakajima

 

Another great match as this tournament seems to be really turning around. Naito has been in a great groove now and is working well with all of his pairings. The leg work here was again spot on and I really enjoyed the leg focus on all of these matches together. Nakajima has really became an entity in puroesu again with this tournament. ****

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Tonga vs. SANADA

 

Glad Tonga at least has something on resembling normal tights. This was a shockingly strong match and really the type of motivated performance Tonga needed throughout. He was moving around quickly and hitting explosive bombs and swift looking strikes. This was also SANADA’s strongest performance in numerous nights. I don’t know whether it was the Osaka crowd or what, but this was the real surprise hit of the entire tournament so far. ***1/2

 

Fale vs. Makabe

 

I liked that Fale jumped him before the bell allowing the match to play out with Fale as the dominant force. This storyline helped the match to be enjoyable even if I rolled my eyes with the punches Togi was throwing in his comeback. **3/4

 

Tenzan vs. Goto

 

Another Osaka miracle. Goto has given us nothing throughout this tournament but he really showed some great fire here and worked well in the strike exchanges vs. Tenzan. I think Tenzan overall has been booked pretty bafflingly throughout the tournament but this match worked as his last grasp at being a player in the tournament. The result was a high staked match that really portrayed the struggle well. The final moments were really dramatic and felt prominent for Goto to put the final nail in the coffin of the historic G-1 career of Tenzan. ****

 

Ishii vs. Okada

 

A lot of hype around this one and it absolutely delivered for me. I really got a sense of how Okada works as an ace and how Ishii was able to buck that trend. Okada starts off with his patting on the chest and Ishii demolishes him. They then go into a really stiff exchange showing that in a lot of ways, this match is going to drift from the narrative of the NJPW heavyweight G-1 style. Okada senses this but is still the man so he is able to weather the storm and go back on the offensive. Everything seems to be going to plan but again Ishii is not going to roll over and die hence the Rainmaker attempt. This segues into the final stanza with both really feel like this match is there for the taking and neither competitor backing down. I thought this was an incredible performance and an excellent way to make an upper mid carder like Ishii look on par with anyone in the company. MOTYC ****3/4

 

Marufuji vs. Tanahasi

 

I appreciated that this started out more traditionally and different from the previous war. The action was basic in the beginning but it felt fresh. Marufuji locking on the piledriver and focusing on the neck was a nice way to give the match an overall focus. I liked this match overall but really disliked the ending as I thought Tana’s slingblades looked really weak and he essentially did a hulk up in putting Marufuji away with 2 HFF. A match I liked but one I do feel is being highly rated by some and I don’t get that appeal. ***1/2

 

Overall this was the A Block show I have been waiting for. An amazing show of wrestling.

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Okada vs. Tanahashi

 

In the aftermath of that match, praise was heaped upon it immediately as ***** or even the best match they have ever seen.

I reflected on this on the hour drive I had to work and thought about the series I myself have rated multiple matches ***** or higher within.

 

1. Misawa vs. Kobashi (1/20/97, 10/31/98, 3/1/03) : One of those matches shows Kobashi as an equal and has great emotional selling, the 10/31/98 is without a doubt a flawed match I could waft back and forth on but I think it shows a great mixture of consequence and stakes being raised, the final match is the absolute climax of the feud and the passing of the torch.

2. Misawa/Kobashi vs. Kawada/Taue (12/3/95, 5/21/94, 6/9/95): The first one has one of the best selling performances in wrestling history, the second match completely changed the template for better or worse in how Japanese tag matches were worked, the third match in the list is again the climax of the feud in satisfying payoff fashion.

3. Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat (Chi Town Rumble, Clash 6, WrestleWar): The first is a sprint that was alien from the rest of the series, the second match is a magnum opus with interweaving story, the third was a climax again to the feud.

 

Taking all of this into account in how I view wrestling, I really pondered where this match of Okada vs. Tanahashi excelled on that level where it was deserving of such a high rating. Even though I don’t have the Wrestle Kingdom 2016 or the Invasion Attack 2013 matches between these two at *****, I get those ratings. Let me dissect this one from where I am sitting.

 

A. Did the match buck the trend structurally? Not at all, these two have done a 30 minute draw before and this match crafted a very traditional structure of a hot opening, a middle portion of limb control with work around and transitions and a climatic finish.

 

B. Was the match containing an all time personality performance or instance of selling? I really struggle to see an argument for this. I thought Okada’s selling was poor. Wrestling is all about believability. I have to buy in to what you are selling and see your attack as a feasible strategy. Tanahashi went after Okada’s knees with some neat stuff including multiple variations of the dragon screw leg whip. While I wasn’t as impressed as the arm work done in Invasion Attack or the heelish tendencies he showed in KOPW 2013, I could buy what he was doing to focus on the leg. Okada to me did a really poor job on selling wincing here and there. Worse than that, almost every focal point besides the Rainmaker attempt relied heavily on the use of his legs. Either through deadlifting Tanahashi for a tombstone, getting his knees up on a High Fly Flow or delivering dropkicks. I understand some of the concept of “I will fight through the pain” narrative to a degree, but when all of this is used in combination, I find myself thinking Tanahashi’s plan was ineffective and he looks like a dope. Tanahashi’s climatic moment with the leg work seemed to be working up to the Texas Cloverleaf, but I thought this was audibly the least heated sequence of the final moments and was received by the crowd as not a serious finish. There was also little instances like Tanahashi breaking up the referee count that made no sense for me and didn’t really play into the personality tropes. Was Tanahashi frustrated here? Did he want to inflict irreversible damage? Is he just a doofus? I couldn’t decipher and as a result, he leaves a victory and guaranteed G-1 final on the arena floor. Okada worked this match mostly underneath but when he was on the attack, I didn’t find much inspiring and was shocked things like Tanahashi’s shoulder hitting the mat on the dropkick to the outside didn’t get played up more.

 

C. Was this the climax? NO, that was 1/4/16. This seemed to be a backing down to the status quo of these guys and showing them as equals. They are presenting some ace storyline thing which could only eventually lead to another encounter.

 

D. Was the execution flawless? NO, this isn’t something I put a ton of weight into, but some of the stuff here wasn’t hit very cleanly and there were two outright botch moments.

 

Looking over those points, I just don’t see this match as up to the level or a lot of their output and am really missing the extra emphasis that makes this an all –timer. I totally get being invested in the final minutes but that will be diminished on repeat watches and a lot of the connective tissue within the match didn’t connect. I commend both for at least trying new ideas with this being their 9th singles match together in this run, but a good chunk missed the mark. ***1/4

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Yano vs. Elgin

 

This had some clever stuff like the handshake but also some bullshit. Yano sqeaks out another win and this has happened far too often in this tournament so far. **

 

Shibata vs. YOSHI-HASHi

 

Good match that had some solid stiffness and escalation throughout. Shibata is quietly putting together a nice solid tournament by not having any huge stinkers to speak of. ***1/4

 

Nakajima vs. Honma

 

Honma seems to have found a nice groove and Nakajima has been a pleasant surprise in the tourney. This was another good match. Not a whole lot of consequence it seemed and not something that I will remember in a week, but pleasing why it was going on. ***

 

Nagata vs. Omega

 

I have really enjoyed a ton of Omega the last month but this took his silliness too far for me to hold it credibly. Nagata didn’t help matters by ignoring a lot of the selling for the damage that was done on his leg. The result was a really disjointed and lackluster match. **1/2

 

EVIL vs. Naito

 

I really disliked the way this was worked. You have two partners going against each other and instead of really conveying the increasing frustration or just having a friendly skirmish, they take the route of working this match like every other one. They go to the outside early on and EVIL uses a chair and it is just completely lost on me why he would at that point. One of the weakest B block shows of the tournament. **3/4

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SANADA vs. Tenzan

 

Kind of over the baseball bat SANADA act. With the tournament over for these two guys, this one felt really inconsequential and they couldn’t even give Tenzan a nice win on the way out of the G-1. **3/4

 

Makabe. Vs Ishii

 

Glad we got some new age psychology right from the get go with this one. I haven’t liked their series of matches together. It is just always a problem for me buying this feud because they make Ishii and Makabe as equals in the striking game and I don’t buy that at all. Ishii does win here which is nice and I expect him to get a title shot at some point. **1/2

 

Fale vs. Tonga

 

Good match here and I liked the fake out in the beginning. Tonga was able to use his movement well against Fale and make it look like it was an effective strategy that he was having to go up against the monster. ***

 

Goto vs. Marufuji

 

Big match from both and while I am not the biggest fan of either, the action here was good and raised by the stakes it possessed. I really loved all of the high spots Marufuji mixed in and also the strikes were really on point. The final few minutes were incredibly dramatic and really worked well at showing the tidal shifts and how close each person was to clinching victory. ***1/2

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Nagata vs. Honma

 

Really good stuff to start us off on the penultimate night. The strikes looked really stiff and strong and the lead up to HOnma winning was well done. ***1/4

 

Yano vs. YOSHI-HASHi

 

Yano can go away for a really long time. *1/2

 

EVIL vs. Shibata

 

Great stuff. EVIL went right up against the big bully and beat him at his own game. He killed the arm with great offense and Shibata’s selling of the arm was sublime. The choke was rendered as ineffective due to the work on the arm and EVIL just kept on the attack until he finally put Shibata away. Really want to see a long feud between these two. ****

 

Nakajima vs. Elgin

 

Another great match and worked around an arm for a good portion of it but in a different way as Nakajima used his kicks to great effectiveness and really used the arm as a way to gain an advantage to try to chop Big Mike down. Elgin was resilient coming back. A strong showing overall and set up Nakajima as a IC title challenger. ****

 

Omega vs. Naito

 

I don’t want to go overboard with this match right now so I will just say on first watch it was ***** and I will rewatch this week to see if the same feelings linger.

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I like Chad don't want to go OTT with Omega vs. Naito, but I'm going to anyway. I had it at *****+. And this is coming from someone who doesn't really overly rate Kenny Omega much. However, this match was a masterful performance by both Omega and Naito. I really think the drama of it potentially going to a time limit draw helped it massively for me. 100% a MOTYC and a match I advise everyone to check out.

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I had a ton of fun watching Naito-Omega. But I also thought Omega executing a spring-board, flips, and multiple lifts - with perfect form! - after having his leg constantly worked looked ridiculous. Worse than Okada, given how strongly he was selling it earlier in the match. It was a really good match and the crowd was red hot and didn't seem affected by any of it, but it came off like he over-sold early on and instead of telling a story where his offense worked around excruciating pain he really was able to perform everything fine, with some wincing in between, until just the end. That also kind of took away from the drama of the ending for me when he finally did buckle but powered through. He'd been doing that the whole match anyway.

 

Okada-Tanahashi seemed much sloppier to me and the ending looked botched (if not, I couldn't buy it logically) like they wanted the time to run out mid-count but went too fast so Tanahashi had to hit a second HFF instead of just going for the first cover.

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