Analysis · njpw · Pro Wrestling

G-1 Climax Day 6 Notebook: B Block Bounces Back

G-1 CLIMAX 27 – Day 6 (Results)
Date: July 25, 2017

Arena: Big Palette Fukushima

FAVORITE MATCH: Toru Yano vs. Kenny Omega
Shh. Don’t tell Jim Cornette about this match. Or anyone else stuck in the mindset that pro wrestling is strictly about two men trying to prove who’s better than the other with straight simulated fighting. This match isn’t going to be in Dave Meltzer’s top 10 matches of the year. It won’t even crack the G-1’s top 20 matches.

Yet, here it is, leading the notebook.

Yano, as noted before, has a reputation. He’s not going to fight you straight up. He’ll use underhanded tactics to beat you. Surely enough, he did. He used powder, tape, and took off the padding on three of the ring posts. Despite this, Omega didn’t fall victim to the Yano house of horrors. He prevailed after outsmarting the marketing machine.

For most fans familiar with the product this match isn’t going to be anything new from Yano. Yet even to the most hardcore fans, the match left them laughing hysterically, especially during the sequence when Omega and Yano’s feet were taped together, producing this wonderful gem:

And this:

This is Omega at his best. He takes character-driven matches and maximizes the emotional investment. In this case, the fan’s emotional investment is comedy and smiles. Ultimately, that’s the goal of pro wrestling – entertain people and very few are better at it than Omega. Despite it ending with a countout, it was a great match.

Imagine that.

BEST MATCH OF THE NIGHT: While the most fun happened during the Omega vs. Yano match, there is no doubting that SANADA and Kazuchika Okada had the match of the night in terms of traditional match quality.

It has been noted numerous times in these notebooks how this is officially SANADA’s coming out party. This was another step in that direction. He held his own with Okada in a high-leverage spot. It’s clear in the Japanese commentary that SANADA is poised to move into that next tier from midcard into the upper midcard. Winning the G-1 was not in SANADA’s cards this year, but it is setting up a situation where a finals appearance in the New Japan Cup isn’t out of the question. Truth be told, SANADA has a lot of talent, but it hasn’t always been consistent. He is finally in the environment with elite talent that will push him to become the star that he was pegged to become in All-Japan

Not to focus too much on SANADA. He’s gotten plenty of time in the notebook. Okada continues to jockey back and forth with Omega for the top guy in the world. Okada simply helped elevate SANADA tonight. Okada is that over. He’s that popular that the  idea that anyone pushes him to his limit can be made. Imagine how good of a tournament Katsuyori Shibata would be having if he wasn’t injured. Okada can become a star maker in his current role. That’s crazy to even type given he is still under 30. Okada’s high-profile singles bouts are always filled with drama. Fans want to believe that the guy he’s battling will topple him, even when they know that one real Rainmaker ends the match. Okada is the vessel that makes NJPW go. If he continues to produce at the level he currently does, then there is no question that NJPW will expand its fanbase. Of course with a little help from Omega.

ELGIN GETS ON THE BOARD: Michael Elgin hasn’t had the best 2017 thus far. He’s had six singles matches in NJPW this year and lost them all. He picked up his first singles win of 2017 against Satoshi Kojima – who is winless in the tournament like his fellow third-generation mate Yuji Nagata. Elgin is in an awkward spot. 2017 seems to be a lost year in terms of getting that big singles win. It feels that the eye injury he suffered at the end of 2016 killed his momentum, leaving him floating in New Japan’s upper-midcard while guys like SANADA and Zack Sabre Jr. pick up momentum. There is still plenty of time for Elgin, though. He’s likely to pick up a few more wins this tournament, meaning he can right this ship entering 2018.

EVERYTHING IS … AVERAGE: It’s disappointing to say that Tama Tonga and EVIL didn’t have that memorable of a match. It was the prolonged brawling outside the ring that took away from it. That’s the awkwardness that will come at times during this tournament. The two didn’t really click, but the match did have its moments. The finishing sequence was great with EVIL countering Tonga’s Tongan Twist and Gun Stun into his finish, Everything is EVIL (STO). Generally speaking though, the match was average. Maybe it’s the match quality of other matches that affected this one, but truthfully, there isn’t much to be said about a wild brawl that was just sort of there.

GRUMPY OLD GUY: Minoru Suzuki has always been off-kilter since forming Suzuki-Gun. But this iteration of Suzuki is the most fun. He beats up young boys. He drag people outside the ring and just beats the holy hell out of them. The placement of his bout with Juice Robinson was perfect in terms of setting up Suzuki’s psycho-sadist story arc for this tournament and Robinson’s “first time in the tournament, look how beat up I’m going to get” storyline. Suzuki is a marvel to watch at 49. His matches rarely feature nearfalls – seriously, actively count how many nearfalls take place. Instead, replacing those false finishes with prolonged submission holds that make fans hold their breath wondering if the hero of the story will tap out. Given that Suzuki already had his match with Omega, there is only one thing that truly remains for him: Will he beat Okada? That’s to be seen.

HUNGRY YOUNG LIONS: It was a rare opportunity to see NJPW’s young lions shine in high profile spots on a G-1 card, but here they were starting off the card in tag matches. The young lion system produces a lot of talent, but more importantly, the use of black trunks and boots – an homage to the era of Antonio Inoki, Tatsumi Fujinami, and Seiji Sakaguchi – sets forth the beginning of their story. Think it as a blank slate. These guys run to the ring, have basic movesets, and lose. But this is the system that truly makes fans invest. Imagine seeing the young lion, who, with each match, evolves and slowly gets better. Then he leaves for two years, finding his way and experiencing different pro wrestling styles and cultures. Finally, the young lion returns to Japan, filled with character, music, and a finish. This is what pro wrestling – and more or less storytelling – is about. You want to see people grow, and the young lion system allows you to see that from the beginning.

This group of young lions is something special. Despite all debuting earlier this year, all of them have distinct personalities to them. They’re already flashing the brilliance that may come after more seasoning and overseas excursions. NJPW’s future is incredibly bright, and even if only three of the young lions pan out, it’s still a plus.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was probably the B Block’s best show in terms of entertainment. The main event delivered. Omega produced more comedy gold. Suzuki was grumpy. Elgin finally won. The young lions proved their worth. Overall, it was a good show that was entertaining despite a few rough patches.

ENJOYMENT RATING: B+

G-1 27 DAY BY DAY RECAPS AND GRADES:

  1. Day 1 (Grade: A)
  2. Day 2 (Grade: B)
  3. Day 3 (Grade: A-)
  4. Day 4 (Grade: C+)
  5. Day 5 (Grade: B+)
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