By Bryan Rose, WrestlingObserver.com
Last week on this program, we saw Katsuyori Shibata defeat Hiroshi Tanahashi in a epic battle, stemming from resentment that’s been building between the two over the last decade. This week’s program won’t feature something as heated as that rivalry, but we’re still in for a potentially awesome match as Kazuchika Okada, winner of the 2012 G1 tournament, takes on Tetsuya Naito, the winner of last year’s tournament.
Tonight’s event took place on July 28, 2014 in Sendai Sunplaza Hall.
First matchup is Bad Luck Fale taking on Hiroshi Tanahashi. This wasn’t bad, though clearly there are better matches in the tournament. Fale can be perfectly fine with the right guy, and Tanahashi was the right guy to put him with. They put over Fale strong, having him win with the Bad Luck Fall in 12 minutes. 2014 was a strong year for Fale, and his dominance over former champions helped build his credibility a lot. We’ll see how he fares in this year’s tournament.
After the match, Tanahashi in a post match interview simply states that his luck has changed.
We follow that with Shinsuke Nakamura against Tomoaki Honma. This match I remember clearly, though for bittersweet reasons. On one hand, they had a hell of a match, way above the four star range for me, and it easily established Honma as a guy that can get over anywhere no matter how many times you beat the guy. On the other hand, there has a huge botch towards the end where Nakamura went for a backslide but the move fell apart in execution, and they kind of seemed lost in transitioning towards the ending. I think this was even edited from the live version as they shot to the crowd at one point towards the ending. Nakamura won after two boma yes. Still a hell of a match to check out on New Japan World, just a shame it ended the way it did.
Nakamura states in a post match interview that he’s on a roll. Meanwhile, Honma seems disappointed in himself, asking why he can’t win. He especially wanted to win in the Sendai region. He saw that Nakamura changed the belt strap on the Intercontinental title to white; he wants to change it to yellow because it’s the color of happiness.
Tetsuya Naito is interviewed before the match. He noticed that everyone was picking Kazuchika Okada and AJ Styles as potential winners of the block they were all in, and that irritated him, so he wanted to make sure he beat them all. When asked about the Sendai Sunplaza Hall, he remembers a match in 2012 where CMLL luchador Rush tore a ligament in his knee, sending him out of commission for months. Not pleasant memories of the arena, in other words. He says despite that, it’s one of the more memorable areas.
Should note here that since Josh Barnett is out due to scheduling conflicts, MMA legend Frank Shamrock is filling in for him for shows going forward. I didn’t feel like he added much, and was usually quiet, but I didn’t feel he was terrible or detracted for the matches. Perhaps in due time we’ll see an improvement, but right now I wasn’t blown away.
The main event aired, with Tetsuya Naito taking on Kazuchika Okada. They had a great match, worthy of airing last on a show like this. I think the previous match, despite it’s botched finish was better, but this was a case of two guys showcasing why they get the hype they get. Finish of the match was really hot, with Naito getting the win after a uranage suplex followed by a stardust press. I liked how they aired the interview package before this, as it added context to the match: Naito wanted to upset the two guys who proved to be the biggest challenge for him, and he succeeded by taking out both Styles and Okada in their respective G1 matches. Great stuff.
Okada says in a post fight interview that he said he would win all of his matches, and even though he’s a loser tonight he’ll win his remaining matches. Gedo says after G1 he’ll slowly take care of Naito, that bastard. Back in the ring, Naito says that he’s had some bad memories here in the past, but he is glad to have the support of Sendai tonight. He says that although the G1 isn’t over yet, this is his tournament and summer. In a backstage interview, he says that he got his revenge for the WrestleKingdom main event. He’s sure no one expected this ,but he will be the main wrestler this summer and win all his matches.
We look at a reflective piece from Naito. He says that it was an important match, since it was in Sendai. He showed those who wanted AJ or Okada to win that he was still there. He fights in the G1 to win, so while he had a good run, he faces many challenges since he didn’t win. He’s certain he’ll win this year’s G1.
Next week, we’ll see highlights of the Wrestling Observer’s 2014 match of the year between AJ Styles and Minoru Suzuki, highlights of Hirooki Goto taking on Hiroyoshi Tenzan, and we’ll see the full match between Tomohiro Ishii and Shinsuke Nakamura.