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[2017-08-01-NJPW-G1 Climax] Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kota Ibushi

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These two had a match in the 2015 G1 that was spectacular from a moves standpoint but that forced the narrative to take a backseat and the egregious selling of the leg by Ibushi was too much for me to overcome in viewing the match as great. This match starts off with a bit of a feeling out and then Tanahashi works on the leg. He does this for a couple of minutes and kind of clumsily puts on an Indian Deathlock. Ibushi is able to power out of that and then is kicking and running around right over the leg that was just worked on. Limb selling is always in the eye of the beholder but this was a match based around perseverance so in this singular regard, I had no issue with Ibushi doing that. It also coupled with the fact that Tanahashi isn’t the king shit he was even two years ago. Tanahashi has his peer rivalry with Okada where he still holds a .500 record against in singles competition. Ibushi has always been positioned at a level below that. Now he is certainly a threat but much in the way, 1995 Kobashi was a threat to Misawa. The hierarchy has been clear. Until tonight. Ibushi has sprinkled in his high impact moves just enough that him doing the Golden Triangle and ramp deadlift German feel fresh in the confines of the G1 because we haven’t seen it since the opening night tilt with Naito.

 

So Ibushi is able to run in through some stuff and show Tanahashi that his little air guitar semi cocky bullshit of working the leg wasn’t working today. That tactic worked when Tanahashi beat YOSHI-HASHi, Goto and even Nagata but now we see that Ibushi is a level above those. Tana is rattled by this but goes back to knowing what he knows well by catching the leg of Ibushi in a dragon screw. However, Tana is woke to the idea that it is going to take more to put Ibushi away than his stock routine so he adds in the High Fly Flow to the outside to up the ante of the match overall. This sequence has Tana turning the switch and getting more vicious with his strikes and locking in a nice Cloverleaf that built up intrigue. The spot where Ibushi is able to hit the double stomp is beautiful and Ibushi’s facials really sell the point home that he has survived another onslaught from Tanahashi and is ready to win this battle.

 

This match came in twos. Ibushi tried the deadlift German twice before hitting it. Ditto the lawn dart. Ditto the ending KO knee. Tanahashi’s ultimate downfall was going for the High Fly Flow twice when Ibushi gets the knees up. The drive to that point made complete logical sense with Ibushi’s leg hurting but nothing is stopping him now. Even Tanahashi kicking out of the Last Ride didn’t bother me in the slightest as that has been positioned as Ibushi’s main finisher in the tournament. Tanahashi is still in some ways the co-ace of the promotion so you best bring your A game if you want to defeat him. Ibushi following that up with a sickening knee that not only looked effective as a definitive KO blow but also gave a nod to Kenny Omega was a beautiful choice. There was so many callbacks and upcoming storyline narratives in this match that it crafted a beautiful picture of the past, present and future for New Japan all within the confines of one match. ****3/4

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I'm going to disagree with the leg selling. For me, Ibushi no selling the leg actively took away from the match for me. I've never been a huge fan of Tanahashi but this (along with his ZSJ match) was one of the most focused performances I've ever seen out of him. He came in like an arrogant swaggering Ace trying to put down Ibushi while Ibushi made his comebacks. He actually got the crowd booing and seemed to be able to put some decent babyface sympathy on Ibushi if Ibushi had just chosen to sell a bit more. Ibushi is a spectacular bumper though, I can't take that away from him. The guy can take a simple move like a kick or a Sling Blade and just make it look like death. Unfortunately this didn't have the same spectacle and awe that the Naito match did to prop it up and Ibushi's weaknesses as a worker are getting more and more exposed.

 

****

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Rewatched this for the first time today and whatever story I saw the first go around was erased by the selling of Ibushi this time. It felt similar to Ospreay vs Takagi to me in that the overarched stories was better than the micro story making sense within the match. ****

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