G-1 CLIMAX 27 – Day 5 (Results)
Date: July 23, 2017
Arena: Machida Gymnasium
FAVORITE MATCH: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Yuji Nagata
Like most nights when the A Block has its tournament bouts, this could have easily gone to another match, but the power of nostalgia allowed this one to take match of the night honors. This was an excellent throwback to the 2007 G-1 Finals when, you guessed it, Nagata and Tanahashi met. This multi-layered match featured a heelish Tanahashi, Nagata slowly getting goaded into becoming Demon Nagata and homages to the 2007 final.
When great in-ring work meets an emotional audience, it makes for something special. After going 0-2 in his first two bouts, fans firmly backed Nagata. This is where Tanahashi draws his John Cena comparisons. Tanahashi sensing the crowd won’t be on his side, works heel by goading the crowd and treating Nagata like a young boy by slapping him on the head. This is the fantastic dynamic of Tanahashi and Cena. The ability work heel without changing too much about their core personalities gives their characters depth. It makes them feel real. Naturally, like Cena, Tana wins.
The match also features a sense of desperation from Nagata, who understands what happens to guys who fall 0-3 in the G-1. He takes out the spinning brainbuster and gets more aggressive as the match goes on, but it’s not enough. Tanahashi is the ace for a reason and after countering a backdrop hold, Slingblade and a pair of High-Fly Flows, Tanahashi puts himself into the A Block’s top tier, while Nagata is all but eliminated from contention, pending a drastic shift in booking philosophy.
Why, Gedo. Why do you do this to your older guys? Please change. Just once.
HOMETOWN HERO: While Gedo’s inexplicable booking habit is to bury guys in their final tournament, it is known that Vince McMahon in the WWE prefers to have hometown talent lose in their hometown. Thankfully, Gedo does not hold the same belief, so naturally Togi Makabe won in his home arena in a solid, but nothing special match with Hirooki Goto. The bout under any other circumstance would have slotted after Zack Sabre Jr. vs. YOSHI-HASHI, but due to the hometown allure, Makabe found himself in the main event, closing the show and having NJPW pay for the licensing fees for the “Immigrant Song” – his theme music which is always muted on NJPW World. The match, however, pretty standard Makabe-Goto affair. Heavy shots here. Trade throws there. Tease finishes. Spider-German Suplex. King Kong Knee Drop. Send the Machida Gymnasium fans home happy. Simple. Effective. It’s how hometown talent should be booked – strong.
IBUSHI STRIKES AGAIN: It was noted two nights ago that Kota Ibushi’s genius is the ability to adapt to any match type and work any style to near elite-levels. It’s actually Kazuchika Okada-level, which is crazy to think that Ibushi is going to be in that same stratosphere as the undisputed ace of New Japan. Ibushi and Tomohiro Ishii put together another fantastic bout that saw Ibushi stand toe to toe with the Stone Pitbull and not crack. Respected NJPW expert Chris Charlton – read his book by the way to learn about NJPW – noted that Ibushi’s three A Block matches all feel different. It’s true. Ibushi worked a wonderfully crafted story with Naito, filled with intensity and danger. Then he worked a great technical match with the technical wizard Sabre Jr., filled with technical exchanges and submission escapes before going toe to toe with Ishii in a match suited for the NEVER Openweight title. Ibushi will have plenty of opportunities to work different styles this tournament. The first chance for an overlap in match style is coming, though, he faces Makabe in his next bout, which may follow a similar script as his Ishii bout.
BAD LUCK FOR THE GENIUS: Nobody finishes the G-1 undefeated. In fact, when it does happen, it will be a special occasion. Sadly, it will not be Naito’s time to run the gauntlet, as Bad Luck Fale ended Naito’s hot streak. It was a rare sight to see the giant taking the beating from Naito, but it oddly worked here. It was Fale’s best match of the relatively short tournament and gave him the big win following the countout loss to Tanahashi on Day 3. It also creates drama for the A Block, which was slowly creeping into Naito dominance. That doesn’t, however, excuse Fale from his actions from Day 4. Someone will still need to avenge poor Daryl.
SLEEPY TIME WITH ZACK: Zack had a relatively sleeper of a match with YOSHI-HASHI. No, that doesn’t mean the match was low-key great. It was emotionless, heatless, technically-sound match. The problem here wasn’t Zack, honestly. Zack is a heel – even by NJPW’s unique standards – and his entire workrate and story is driven by feel for the poor guy he is stretching in his various submissions. When his opponent is in a submission, you want to say, “Oh finally, his pain can end” or “Please, don’t tap here.” It’s easy to get that exact heat against with likes of Tanahashi and Ibushi, but getting it against YOSHI-HASHI is another challenge. The fans are still icy toward the Headhunter. Just watch the match with Naito a few nights ago. The crowd is 90 percent in Naito’s favor and rarely – if ever – do you hear a YOSHI-HASHI chant. YOSHI-HASHI rarely draws sympathy from the fans. It’s inexplicable, really. He has the everyman charm that should make people like him at least. Oh well, though, but that may be an issue with Zack moving forward. His matches may, at time, lose emotional intensity and crowd involvement, despite being technical works of art.
IT STILL HURTS: The undercard wasn’t necessarily much to write about other than 24 hours later the loss of Daryl Takahashi continues to linger. Hiromu is visibly upset regarding the whole ordeal, and it’s tragic to see a man so broken. First, he lost his first real companion Mr. Belt and now he has lost Daryl. It’s tragic to see him go through so many things. It also doesn’t help his soulmate is in Mexico (Dragon Lee). Hopefully things turn around for the ticking time bomb. He has the love and support of all the Daryl fans around the world, however.
FINAL THOUGHTS: It’s getting interesting. The A Block is crowded at the top with five guys with four points, three with two and Nagata sitting with zero. With that being said, the break comes at a much needed time. The tournament leaves Tokyo for the rest of Japan where the cards will, hopefully, continue to be strong. A Block is superior. It’s depth is clearly visible, but B Block has the top two workers, so it’s a wash. Like the workers, it’s time to refresh and regroup. The next set begins Tuesday.
MY ENJOYMENT RATING: B+