By Bryan Rose, WrestlingObserver.com
Tonight on New Japan on AXS, the first of eight shows covering the 2014 G1 Climax tournament begins. For me, it’s one of the best tournaments there has ever been in professional wrestling. The level of match quality in each match was outstanding, and by the end of the tournament I was giving away so many stars it should have been considered illegal! The problem with so many great matches, however, is that it’s easy to forget a lot of them, with some becoming lost in a sea of excellent match quality. Thanks to these next eight weeks, however, I get to rekindle my memory.
Take tonight’s main event, for example. I had to look at my notes for last year’s show. I had given Shibata vs. Nakamura ****¼. Looking back, I probably wouldn’t have given it that after having just finished watching it again. But star ratings are superficial, what matters most is the enjoyment factor. Four stars or three, I’m glad I was able to take a trip back down memory lane, reliving some of the best matches from last year’s tournament. It’s gonna be a blast!
Tonight’s show is from Day 1 of the G1 Climax tournament from last year, taking place on July 21, 2014 in Hokkaido.
We start off with Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomoaki Honma. The funny thing about Honma's run in this tournament is that he was never supposed to be in. This tournament was to show Kota Ibushi as a new threat in the heavyweight division. But a concussion suffered shortly before the tournament began put him out of the tourney and Honma stepped in. Honma is super over wherever he goes, despite constantly losing. But that’s his gimmick; he’s the underdog who takes his opponents to the limit, only to be caught and beaten at the very end.
This was how the match went; Honma kept coming back with offense until Tanahashi blindsided him with a dragon suplex. Honma immediately went up to his feet, but got taken out with a sling blade and was pinned with the high fly flow. This was cut short due to time restraints (all matches barring the main events will be going forward) but this was fun while it lasted.
That match is followed up with AJ Styles taking on Kazuchika Okada. Going into this match, Styles didn’t have a ton of buzz. He won the IWGP title, but it was due to interference, something hardly done in New Japan. Not to mention, his last few years in TNA were lackluster to say the least. But this was the match that changed everyone’s mind. Styles was in his element here, taking charge and having a fantastic match with Okada who was just as great. He picks up the win with a fierce rainmaker to the face, which doesn’t seem that cool to take, but fun to watch. Okada cuts a promo after the match saying he has three things to say. One, AJ, next time we meet we’re fighting for your belt. He also promised to win every single match in the G1. His third point...well, he has nothing, so he asks Gedo why no one’s been able to beat him. Gedo cuts a promo putting him over and saying he’ll win at the Seibu Dome.
Shibata is interviewed. He says nothing was special the day he fought Nakamura, but the matches this year was great. He felt a great significance being in that block. He thought about what fans would think, he was curious to see how they would see their fight as they had highy hopes. The Nakamura he met that night had a different aura about him than the one he faced ten years prior. For him, it felt the same as any other match.
The main event of the evening was Katsuyori Shibata vs. Shinsuke Nakamura. This wasn’t at the top of my list for top G1 matches, and looking back it wasn’t as memorable as other bouts - like I said earlier in this review, I’d pretty much forgotten about it until now. But with that said, it was a really good match. They started out slow, and I’m not sure if the crowd was ever really there to my liking, but this was good towards the end. Nakamura hit two boma yes but Shibata kicked out. He came back wit the the GTS then WAFFLED Nakamura with the penalty kick for the win. This was a good, stiff match.
Nakamura after the match says as long as the battle takes place in a New Japan ring, this never ends. Shibata in the post match interview says this isn’t over yet.
Back reflecting on the match, he wasn’t sure about the crowd reaction and was wondering if this was the match they wanted to see. Some say it was, others say he needed to improve. He saw Nakamura differently ten years ago; he guesses time has indeed passed.
A great show with a fun main event and highlights from two great matches. Next week, Katsuyori Shibata will be back as he faces Hiroshi Tanahashi as G1 coverage continues.