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[2014-08-03-NJPW-G-1 Climax] Katsuyori Shibata vs Tomoaki Honma

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Even better than I remembered it being in 2014. It's a classic sprint smackfest between two of the hardest hitting, sprint puttin' lads in New Japan. Tells Honma's 2014 G1 underdog story quite well too w/ him throwing everything he got at Shibata, only for Shibata to ultimately put him away. Excellent stuff. ****1/2

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A really great, violent sprint in front of a crowd that was clamoring for Honma to upset Shibata. Easily Honma's best singles match, probably the second best Shibata match of the G1 behind only the classic with Tanahashi. For my money, this does the tough guy clobbering nuclear warfare better than any of the Ishii vs. Honma matches. ****1/2-****3/4

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Honma was the saving grace of the 2014 G1 tournament. He may not be responsible for every great match from it, but his inclusion over a far less talented Ibushi means that we're treated to a great underdog performance on a daily basis. No no-selling and shitty strikes here, thank you very much. Just ten minutes of superb work and surly burly kicks to the face.

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One of the true standouts from the ridiculously loaded 2014 G1. They begin by colliding with each other like a couple of runaway freight trains and never let up from there. Although the match is worked fairly evenly, there's no doubt that Honma is a massive underdog. Every time Honma achieves a minor victory, he reacts like he just won the lottery, while Shibata never seems concerned that that match might be slipping away. It's as if he figures that Honma's willingness to turn himself into a human missile means it'll only be a matter of time before he crashes and burns (which he does in particularly brutal fashion). The violence and intensity are what drive this, but the underlying intelligence is what makes it a classic. There are no mindless counters or transitions, and the desperation in Honma's face makes this feel like a real life-or-death struggle rather than a macho pissing contest. This is almost certainly the pinnacle of modern strong style.

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A lot of modern New Japan runs together in my mind, but this match has stood the test of time. I watched it one time from January 2015 and I can still remember a lot of it. Matches that have that type of stickiness are the matches I really value. 

Katsuyori Shibata vs Tomoaki Honma - G-1 Climax 2014 Day 8

As a straight up fighting spirit match, this is a ton of mindless, slobber knocking fun. But, unlike most fighting spirit matches, this has the cool hook that lovable loser, Honma is looking for his first victory in the G-1 Climax and the crowd is 100% behind him. I like the whole match is just built on Honma's straight ahead approach. There was no heat segment. Honma was going to live and die by his offense. For the most part, he actually overwhelmed the hard hitting Shibata. Shibata could rely on kicks and elbows to always quell any sustained offense, but he was no match for Honma's fast break offense. They built to Honma's falling Harley Race heabutt perfectly as he missed the first two and then when he hit on third try, crowd popped huge! The crowd went nuts for his leaping Zidane headbutt to Shibata's chest. I heard about Honma, but I had no attachment to him going into this. I am on Team Honma for sure now. Dude is pure relentless, positive energy! Shibata chops him in the fucking face at one point. Shibata goes for the penalty kick and Honma catches. Shibata slaps a bunch of times in the face hard. So Honma fucking slaps him into the next week. HOLY SHIT! Nothing stops Honma ok, maybe two boots to the head as he comes off the top rope for a headbutt. NOPE LARIAT~! Fuck, Shibata just hit a damn brick wall. Spinning back hand chop to the face and Shibata finally catches his breath. Sets him up for a G2S, but Honma struggles so Shibata backfists him in the face and then hits the G2S! Honma-Seeking Penalty Kick! Our underdog comes up short again. Awesome, hard-hitting sprint made way better by the great, energetic underdog, Honma who looked poise to score the upset. ****1/2

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Damn I forgot how good Honma was around this period. This had the raw brutality that Shibata matches have but the extra flair and investing focal point in Honma. Shibata batters Honma, Honma more than gives it back, more so you could argue. Honma's selling was awesome. His comebacks were well timed and had some much energy behind them that you can't help, but root for him. The PK block by Honma was a great "WTF" moment and then when Shibata slapped the piss out of him, you expected him to fall but fuck that, Honma says. And he bitch slaps him right back, knocking Shibata for a loop. I got goosebumps for that. Tons of good stuff like this throughout. ****1/2

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