Analysis · njpw · Pro Wrestling

G-1 Climax Day 2 Review – Stabilizing the Bar

*DELOS NOTE: It’s time to enter the tournament’s more grueling stretch for both workers and fans. We are staring right in the face of four straight nights with cards and results. My goal is to get these up by 4 p.m. Pacific.*

G-1 CLIMAX 27 – Day 2 (Results
Date: July 20, 2017

Arena: Tokyo Korakuen Hall

FAVORITE MATCH: SANADA VS. EVIL

There’s no denying my love for Los Ingobernables de Japon. Tetsuya Naito’s group is easily the most entertaining thing on the NJPW roster (Sorry, Bullet Club fans). It makes sense that these two would be earmarked as my match of the night. Contrary to other heel group stablemate confrontations (Watch Taichi vs. TAKA from the Best of Super Juniors this year, and you’ll see what I mean), this bout remained consistent with the LIJ mind frame. The two went out there and wanted to deal as much damage to each other to show who’s stronger. Don’t believe it? EVIL did his usual chair-on-chair spot and hit the chair so hard that a poor camera man got hit with the fallout.

Both came out of this match looking great. On one hand, it feels as if SANADA is ready to finally cash in on that potential that was placed on him. The crowd firmly backed him in this bout. He put on a show that proved why he is considered one of Keiji Muto’s finest protegees. EVIL, on the other hand, continued to produce in a high-leverage singles match. He doesn’t do anything overtly flashy, but he executes his stuff and spots well. This was a fantastic match that truly played off what happens when workers have chemistry.

THE BAR IS TOO DAMN HIGH: When Minoru Suzuki vs. Kenny Omega was announced, everyone circled it as a can’t-miss-bout. While it produced a strong match, it failed to reach the bar these two have set for themselves.

Don’t get me wrong: Suzuki’s match with Omega was a fun, solid affair. The mid-match shenanigans and a stylistically mismash, however, really dampened my personal entertainment. Suzuki developed a niche in terms of getting involved into epic slugfest, while Omega owns a mastery of developing a rich, multi-layered in-ring story, but this is where the disconnect seemed to be. The two couldn’t find the middle between their styles. In terms of matches that could have followed the same gameplan: watch Ishii vs. Omega from the G-1 Special in USA. That is how Omega can work the hard-hitting UWF-I slugfest style while incorporating the elements that make Omega matches amazing. Naturally, I’m sure some people found this match to be excellent, but for me, there feels like another level that these two could have went to, but it just didn’t click to the high levels we’ve grown accustomed with these two.

It’s nothing against Suzuki or Omega. Both are still among the best workers in the world. What’s even more impressive: it’s easy to forget that Suzuki is a month removed from his 49th birthday. There were spots in his match with Omega that it showed. Omega couldn’t hit his reverse frankensteiner cleanly and couldn’t get Suzuki completely over on a snap dragon suplex to allow Omega to bridge. Thankfully, Omega is a smart worker that all he had to do to cover the lack of execution was sell the knee, which he did to perfection. Or maybe he’s working us. He wants us to think think Suzuki can’t take these bumps and spots. That’s the beauty of how NJPW’s best does things: you may never know if it was a botch because they cover it to the best of their ability with something logical.

Again, it was a fine bout and was my third favorite match of the night, trailing SANADA vs. EVIL and Toru Yano vs. Kazuchika Okada.

YANO = GENIUS: Here’s the thing, I mentioned in the previous blog that Gedo enjoys setting up threats on Day 1. There’s one threat he never has to set up, however: Toru Yano. Yano is quintessentially the G-1’s best spoiler and deus ex machina, as whenever Gedo needs to give one of his top stars a loss, you can bet Yano is in the conversation.  His one job in this tournament is to make your favorite wrestler lose and do so with a series of laughs. This match with Okada displayed Yano’s genius at its highest level. By his nature, Yano comes off as aloof and immature, but the layers to his character are dynamic. He doesn’t need to compete in the tournament. His wins never really result into meaningful singles matches. Nope. Yano is in this tournament to do one thing: get exposure to sell DVDs and merch. Yup, you read that right. Yano understands that winning the G-1 would heighten his sales, so why wouldn’t he accept an invite to it and try to win? He also understands that he’s not quite as skilled as the others in the tournament, so he relies on his underhanded tactics to win matches.

The match with Okada is not going to secure any match of the year recognition from anyone, but it gave us a bout that was perfect after the SANADA vs. EVIL match. If nothing more, Yano provides levity to a hyper-serious event, which should be welcomed. The bout saw Okada play grumpy heel and visibly annoyed with Yano’s antics, drawing heat from the crowd who has grown to love Yano’s shtick.

It’s fitting that Yano’s merch has him dressed as Einstein. I mean, he’s a fully capable worker who has an amazing moveset that he never uses because he’s already entertaining.

NOT BAD, JUICE: C.J. Parker never lit the WWE/NXT Universe on fire. Something didn’t click. Was it the crappy gimmicks? Was it being in NXT at the wrong time? All that is in the past now because Juice Robinson does not resemble anything that anyone saw in NXT. He’s truly grown into the NJPW style and having him in the G-1 is a nice reward for having a great year in terms of his growth.

Now, his match with Satoshi Kojima wasn’t anything overtly special. Rather it displayed Robinson’s growth as a worker, I couldn’t imagine him having this style of match with anyone in NXT when he was there. His selling was amazing and played the role of student trying to best the teacher role well.

Robinson and Kojima’s match also featured an excellent final third where Robinson knows that the lariat is coming and does everything in his power to avoid it, while paying off an earlier spot in the match, leading to the finish.

If Robinson continues to grow like he did in the past year, there is no doubt he will be a solid hand in the NJPW system. Main event level? Probably not, but he is far more enjoyable now than he has ever been.

As for Kojima, he hasn’t come out and said this is his final G-1, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone. But again, it wouldn’t hurt anyone if Kojima – or Nagata – got a chance to be relevant on the final day.

NO FRILLS, FINISH STRONG: It feels as if the idea of competing in high-level matches in three of the next four days, resulted in less crazy spots like there were on the first day of the G-1. That didn’t lower the match quality in anyway, however. In fact, many of the matches followed a safe, entertaining gameplan, putting emphasis on how the matches finish.

As previously mentioned, Robinson and Kojima’s bout featured a strong finishing third. Tama Tonga and Michael Elgin’s match had one as well. The match was solid, but nothing to write more than a few sentences about. It featured Tonga’s erratic, speed-based moveset against Elgin’s power set. The two played off it well, but the finish was easily the best part. Watch it and see if you were just as confused as many watching.

NOTHING TO SEE HERE: If there was any indication that this was the first of a 4-in-4-days stretch, the undercard served one purpose: get you excited about for A Block’s Day 2.

The tag matches and six-man bouts weren’t anything that fans haven’t seen before on an undercard. It’s probably going to be a trend that continues for the remainder of the tournament, as the mileage continues to pile on and the grueling month-long event takes its toll on the workers.

FINAL THOUGHTS: While not as strong as the first day of the tournament, Day 2 was a good card. The matches hit their marks and established longterm storylines for the remainder of the tournament.

MY ENJOYMENT RATING: B+

G-1 27 DAY BY DAY RECAPS AND GRADES:
1. Day 1 – Block A – Grade: A

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