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[2014-08-10-NJPW-G-1 Climax] A.J. Styles vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

Superstar Sleeze

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IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles vs Hiroshi Tanahashi 

G-1 Climax 2014 Consolation Prize

The biggest star of the company facing the champion for the very first time in the 3rd place match of the G-1 Climax may seem like bad booking, but I think it is really, really good. AJ showed up and won the IWGP Champion and I believe some of that credit is shared among the Bullet Club. Thus AJ has never faced most of these guys. Sure, he is the champion and an experienced vet, but he is inexperienced against this competition. So it only makes sense he slipped up early against Naito. As we know from real sports, it is hard to beat the same twice or three times in the same season so it was bound that Okada would get his win back. He tied with Okada in the block, but Okada had the head to head tiebreaker. It also shows the clear divide between the top four stars (Tanahashi, Okada, Nakamura, and Styles) and everyone else. There is a parity among those four, but they are in a level unto themselves.

Now onto the match, which I think was laid out very well for what it was. People have said it was a bit off, clunky, awkward. I disagree with those negative words. Instead, I think they were showing this was their first match against each other and thus they were feeling each other out throughout the match. Their basic strategies were similar put myself in a position to hit my finish. It was a great first match in the series because they never give away too much, but they are both looking to win.

The start was very even, which really helps Styles' credibility, who looks like a real New Japan star after the G-1 Climax. One weird element was that Tanahashi did a spot that is usually done to heels. The one where you lay out on the top turnbuckle get kicked and then land crotch-first onto the top rope and the babyface shakes it. It was just weird to see the reverse happen. Knowing 2007 Tanahashi as well I do, he must have been drooling to reverse a quebrada into a dragon sleeper and lo and behold he did! Tanahashi cuts off an AJ springboard by tripping him up and that was a nasty fall. My favorite AJ spot ensues, he jumps over the railing, thinks he is so smart and then eats a cross body. Never gets old! In the long standing debate of does Tanahashi's offense looks like it hurts? I think his elbows do, but yes his body punches are Kofi Kingston-light in this match.

Styles obliterates Tanahashi with a spinwheel kick, but Tanahashi grabs a Sling Blade. When Tanahashi pulls down on the head like here, it is a great looking move. The struggle over the Dragon Suplex into a Human Capture Suplex was the best part of this match. AJ really put over how much he does NOT want to go over in this suplex, but his damn arms are trapped, which makes lifting his shoulder very difficult. Tanahashi hitting a Dragon Suplex out of Styles' strike combination was so awesome! AJ has cut off the High Fly Flow twice and the Styles Clash has been cut off once. Tanahashi struggles again on the Styles Clash so AJ hits a GANSO BOMB~! A word on that later. Styles goes for his own High Fly Flow, but eats knees and then Tanahashi hurries to hit his own, but the same fate awaits him. Styles goes for the Styles Clash for a third tim, but Tanahashi is able to get a reverse victory roll to win the match. Bullet Club attacks, Double J feigns the save and smashes a guitar over Tanahashi's head to join the Bullet Club.

As a first match this is perfectly fine. They both had each other well-scouted and Tanahashi was finally able to turn a counter into victory, but it was not definitive. It earns him a title shot, no doubt, but it leaves intrigue open for the winner. Overall, it was just a lot of each wrestler's highspots used against each other without much creativity, It lends itself to that storyline that they were both tentative and working with what brought them to the dance rather than responding organically. Lastly, I wish the Ganso Bomb (it is a safer version than Kawada used as opponent's head does not hit the match) was used more like the Burning Hammer or Emerald Flowsion as AJ Styles' super duper finisher rather than the move that Tanahashi gets up and runs around from 30 seconds later. It is a cool match up and entertaining throughout. I think they set the championship rematch up well. ***1/2

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  • GSR changed the title to [2014-08-10-NJPW-G-1 Climax] A.J. Styles vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

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