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[2017-08-11-NJPW-G1 Climax] Tetsuya Naito vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

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The final contest in their trilogy of matches, and quite possibly, my favorite of the bunch. Tanahashi and Naito have such good chemistry together, and it really worked here, with the Sumo Hall pro-Naito and Tanahashi turning the crowd early with a couple of bad boy slaps to Naito's face in the ropes. Kiss that ace guitar bye-bye. Then he attacks Naito during his tranquilo pose and it's on, with some nasty open hands exchanged in the corner and Naito taking the first seat behind the wheel with an awesome basement dropkick counter to Tanahashi's rounding body press. I like dueling limbwork when it's done well and thankfully, these two make it work. Tanahashi's torn bicep has been the story of his G1 run and Naito being Naito exploits that injury. On the other side, Tanahashi is looking to submit Naito with the cloverleaf hold he used to win the IC title back at Dominion, using his variety of dragon screws, and when's finally able to lock it in, it provides the most memorable moment of the match. A simple story told exceptionally without the need to drift into the usual NJPW main event overkill territory. Great stuff.

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This was just awesome. Absolutely loved the dueling limbwork from both guys and the way they kept returning to it in order to facilitate the momentum shifts in the match. This is the best I've ever seen Tanahashi performing at because his arm selling has been through the roof throughout this G1. Naito, on the other hand, just exudes so much charisma and charm that everything he does feels urgent and exciting. His stalling tactics are crazy levels of entertaining and trolling. The finishing stretch following the Texas Cloverleaf was great. Loved that Tanahashi was undone by his ridiculous need to go for another High Fly Flow. Great match.

 

****1/2

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The weakest match of their 2017 trilogy, but still a goddamn classic. In many ways this reminded me of a match Hiroshi Tanahashi had vs. AJ Styles 2 years ago in the same building - just like in that match, the crowd was RED HOT, and rightfully so because Tana & Naito delivered an absolutely epic big time dramatic main event match. Definitely one of the finest of this G1. ****1/2

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I loved this and the clover leaf sequence is such a great play off the Dominion finish and damn if Tanahashi didn't make it convincing. I also like that they didn't go back to that drawn out drama (no need to bring about diminishing returns to the drama) - there weren't a lot of covers at all either, excellent pacing. This match flies by also - at the 25 minute mark i was stunned it had been that long. I ended up rating this one slightly higher than their other two - the entire trilogy this year is an all-timer. ****3/4

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For fuck's sake. I haven't watched any NJPW since the Dome show, but these G1 finals are ridiculous. Glad to see Naito is still the greatest big match worker in 2017. And Tanahashi, as banged up as he is, working such a great match is mind-blowing too. Sometime, I guess you just have to believe the hype. MOTYC.

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Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Tetsuya Naito - NJPW 8/11/17

 

Watched this still amped up from that insane Russian Figure Skating Final. Alina Zagitova is the GOAT!

 

But now I am fading so lets keep this short & sweet. Naito beat Tanahashi at WrestleKingdom. Tanahashi beat Naito for the I-C title in June. This is the rubber match.

 

Not as good as Dominion better than WrestleKingdom. Very similar to Dominion but lacks the heated start and the great heeling from Naito. The arm work begins when Naito dropkicks the arm on the reverse crossbody attempt. Remember the WrestleKingdom heat segment began the same way but dropkick was to the knee instead of arm. I thought the arm work was not as tight here. Tanahashi got the same transition catching the dropkick into a dragon leg screw. HIGH FLY FLOW to the outside always a Martin pleaser. Naito stopping a dragon leg screw in the ropes by wrenching the arm into the ropes and then a dropkick to arm was a good spot. They repeat the Top Rope Frankensteiner into a Tanahashi rollup. Pop-up Dragon Leg Screw from Tanahashi. I feel like the body of this match means less than Dominion. Dominion they were really trying to debilitate one another. Here things just aren't as a tight.

 

Where they make up a lot of ground is the finis stretch. I would say this has a better finish stretch than Dominion and it is one of the best home stretches I have seen in a while. Dramatic and economical. Naito goes for the Destino off the ropes. Pretty much that was the move that won him Wrestle Kingdom. Tanahashi blocks with a dragon leg whip off the top into a Texas Cloverleaf, which is the submission hold that won him the Championship at Dominion. Awesome play there. Naito gets the ropes. So you got to feel that Naito's turn now. He hits the Destino, kick out. Which is similar to WrestleKingdom. He just needs to hit it again, but Tanahashi counters into an Overdrive, not once, not twice, but three times! Tanahashi calling for SlingBlade, which is the precursor to High Fly Flow. Naito catches Tanahashi in the SlingBlade and counters into an Destino. Hits one more Destino for good measure.

 

You would be hard pressed to find a better finish stretch. Great callbacks, exact right amount of twists and turns to lead to a climatic finish. Thought the body of the match was not as good as these two are capable of. Really amazing finishing stretch, I can see if you can care more about the back half of matches rating this the highest of the three. ****1/2

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NJPW's ace takes on the rebellious anti-hero. The crowd are split on this one. Tana goes for Naito's leg, which is how he got the win during their last encounter. Tana's arm is hanging on by a thread and Naito takes control by delivering dropkicks to his hurt wing. Just when I thought that they forgot about the arm work, Naito once again uses it to gain an advantage in the finishing stretch. I remember when I first saw this at the time, and I wasn't quite sure why everyone loved this as much as they did. I imagine G1 fatigue played a factor as I had seen weeks of great matches from NJPW by this point in the tournament and it's very easy to get burnt out by their back-and-forth style of wrestling. Nearly four years on, I can say that I finally see what all the fuss was about. The final stretch where Naito is bent like an accordion in Tana's cloverleaf had me on edge. I might find NJPW's main event style to feel sameish for my taste and the constant assault of big spots and nearfalls can wear me out, but I'd be very hard to press to even suggest that this wasn't a great match! ★★★★¼

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