NJPW G-1 Climax

New Japan G-1 Climax 26 Day 1 Results
July 18, 2016
Sapporo, Japan (Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center)
Recap by: Jason Namako of Wrestleview.com

Welcome to the beginning of coverage of the most prestigious tournament in the pro wrestling world, the annual New Japan G-1 Climax round-robin tournament, this is in its 26th year. Day 1 today kicks off with the A Block and will alternate with B Block matches going forward until we hit the semi-finals at Sumo Hall in mid-August. In the interest of saving time, I will only be covering the block matches on these shows and not the non-tournament multi-man tag matches that take place on the first halves of these shows.

In non-tournament action:

1. NEVER Champion Katsuyori Shibata, Manabu Nakanishi, Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask IV def. Tomoaki Honma, IWGP Jr. Champion KUSHIDA, Ryusuke Taguchi & Captain New Japan by pinfall when Nakanishi pinned Captain with a Hercules Cutter.

2. GHC Tag Team Champion Toru Yano & Katsuhiko Nakajima def. Satoshi Kojima & Juice Robinson by pinfall when Nakajima pinned Robinson with the Vertical Spike.

3. Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi def. YOSHI-HASHI & Gedo by pinfall when Yujiro pinned Gedo with the Miami Shine.

4. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & BUSHI) def. Yuji Nagata, IWGP Intercontinental Champion Michael Elgin & David Finlay Jr. by pinfall when BUSHI pinned Finlay with the MX. Naito attacked Nagata after, putting him in a Figure Four and mocking Nagata’s Blue Justice salute prior to their B Block match on Friday as part of Day 2.

Now, let’s get to the first A Block matches in the tournament, shall we?

A Block: “Violent Bull” Hiroyoshi Tenzan w/Satoshi Kojima vs. “Stone Pitbull” Tomohiro Ishii

Tenzan out with new tights alongside his long-time tag partner, Kojima, who gave up his G-1 spot to his friend, Tenzan, out of respect to him. This is Tenzan’s 21st G-1 tournament and more than likely his last.

Ishii avoids an early Mongolian chop by Tenzan. Tenzan responds with a shoulder tackle. They trade strikes until Tenzan begins uncorking the Mongolian chops, knocking Ishii down. Tenzan stomps away, with Ishii constantly motioning at Tenzan to hit him harder. Ishii explodes out of the corner with a shoulder tackle. Vicious chops by Ishii to Tenzan, catching him near the throat area. Hanging suplex by Ishii gets 2. Ishii begins showing disrespect to Tenzan, swiping at him with his foot, but that fires Tenzan up and he begins shrugging off Ishii’s strikes. Tenzan fires back with a spinning heel kick. Another array of Mongolian chops begins doing damage to Ishii’s neck. Tenzan continues the onslaught, even shoving down the referee. Tenzan gets a close 2 off a brainbuster. Ishii begins shrugging off Tenzan’s strikes, catching him with a powerslam. Tenzan pops up and hits the Mountain Bomb, but now Ishii pops up and hits another vicious chop. Ishii begins his Violence Party in the corner, then peppers Tenzan with a corner clothesline for a close 2. They head up top as Ishii goes for the Delayed Superplex, but Tenzan fights it. They battle on the turnbuckles, trading strikes, until Tenzan drives Ishii down with an Inverted Calf Branding! Falling headbutt by Tenzan, then he heads up top and hits the diving headbutt, but Ishii is able to kick out! Tenzan locks Ishii in the Anaconda Vice, but Ishii gets to his feet, however Tenzan drives him back down in the Anaconda Buster, but Ishii kicks out again! Tenzan calls for the Moonsault and heads up top, but Ishii pops up and stops him. Ishii then brings Tenzan from out of the corner and hits a Last Ride Powerbomb! Crowd chants for Tenzan, trying to will him on. Both men trade strikes, with Ishii drilling Tenzan with a headbutt to the neck, followed by a Lariat, but now Tenzan kicks out! Ishii hits the Sliding Lariat, but Tenzan kicks out again! Ishii calls for the Vertical Drop Brainbuster, but Tenzan blocks it. Ishii begins uncorking his rapid-fire forearms, then they trade headbutts back and forth like battering rams, until Ishii is the first to flinch. Ishii hits an enziguri, but Tenzan shrugs it off and hits another vicious headbutt! Tenzan calls for the TTD and spikes Ishii with it, but Ishii kicks out yet again! Tenzan with a big-time Lariat, shades of his tag partner Kojima, then hits a front slam.

Tenzan heads up top, MOONSAULT!! 1-2-3! WOW!

Winner: “Violent Bull” Hiroyoshi Tenzan by pinfall (Moonsault)

Tenzan and Kojima celebrate his win afterwards as the crowd gives Tenzan a big-time ovation, chanting his name.

Incredible way to kick off the tournament. Looks like a Cinderella run might be in the cards for Tenzan in his possible final G-1 tournament. Ishii has been on fire this year and this was by far Tenzan’s best match since his G-1 match with Goto two years ago. Great stuff.

A Block: “Bad Boy” Tama Tonga vs. “Unchained Gorilla” Togi Makabe

Makabe also out with new tights. Tonga wearing new face paint and new tights as well.

Tonga tries to attack before the bell, but Makabe has him well-scouted, hitting a clothesline. Tonga comes back by backdropping Makabe outside. They brawl outside, with Tonga sending Makabe ribs-first into the barricade. Tonga breaks the referee’s count, then hits a flapjack-style hot-shot, driving Makabe throat-first across the barricade as Makabe has had long-standing issues with his jaw. They head back in, with Tonga catching Makabe off the pass, unloading with shots, before hitting a draping swinging neckbreaker for 2. Tonga mocks the crowd by giving them a golf clap before taking control on Makabe. Tonga continues to taunt the crowd, but now Makabe is daring him to bring it with every shot Tonga gives him. Crowd chants for Makabe to will him on. Makabe blocks Tonga’s attempt at a Gun Stun and catches him with a clubbing clothesline. Makabe fires up and nearly takes Tonga’s head off with a corner clothesline. Makabe hits his 10 punches, but Tonga shoves him down. Tonga leaps off the turnbuckles, but Makabe catches him in mid-air and hits the Northern Lights for 2. Makabe catches Tonga with a Lariat for a close 2. Makabe unloads with shots, but Tonga does a series of evasions to disorient Makabe, then hits with a clothesline, followed by a Stinger Splash in the corner. Tonga hits a flapjack for a close 2. Makabe tries to shrug off Tonga’s strikes again, but Tonga drills him with a headbutt for 2. Makabe slips out of another flapjack, but Tonga stays on his feet after a Makabe clothesline. They trade strikes, with Makabe finally hitting a Western Lariat, but Tonga kicks out at 1! Tonga hits a Superman Punch, but now Makabe kicks out at 1! Tonga drives Makabe into the corner, then hits another Stinger Splash. Tonga stands over Makabe and taunts the crowd, then heads up top, but Makabe stops him. Tonga fights off a German attempt, but Makabe with a rabbit lariat. They head up top as Tonga hangs on for dear life to block the Spider German, hitting reverse headbutts. Makabe gets tied up in the ropes, but he gets back up and hits a Spider Belly-to-Belly on Tonga!

KING KONG KNEE DROP!! 1-2-3!

Winner: “Unchained Gorilla” Togi Makabe by pinfall (King Kong Knee Drop)

Makabe celebrates his win after.

Solid match, but it appeared the crowd was either tired from the previous match, or wasn’t that interested in the match. Tonga had a good kick-off to his first G-1 and these tournaments is where Makabe shines brightest. So, it was solid, but nothing SPECTACULAR.

A Block: “The Underboss” Bad Luck Fale vs. “Samurai Warrior” Hirooki Goto

Fale attacks the ring announcer on his entrance, knocking him down.

Crowd chants for Goto as the bell sounds. Goto instantly goes on the attack, but can’t knock Fale down. Fale then mows Goto over with a shoulder tackle. Fale takes Goto down amateur-style, but Goto takes advantage on the mat, working over Fale’s arm before Fale gets to the ropes. Goto continues to work on Fale’s arm as Fale again gets to the ropes. Goto keeps the onslaught going before Fale clotheslines Goto off the turnbuckles and all the way down to the outside. Fale sends Goto hard into the barricade outside multiple times as we see that one of the steel bars broke off with the sheer velocity Fale used to send Goto into the barricade. Goto gets back in by the count of 18, but Fale is right there to stand on Goto’s chest, taking control of the match. Crowd chants for Goto to try and will him on. Fale with a big slam, then puts one foot on Goto to only get a 2 count. Goto tries to fight back, but Fale goes downstairs with a knee. Goto is able to avoid a corner avalanche, but cannot knock Fale down with multiple Lariats. Finally, the third time is the charm as Goto is able to get Fale down. Goto uncorks his corner spinning heel kick, then hits a Top Rope Elbow Drop for a close 2. Goto tries to lift up Fale for the Ushigoroshi, but Fale is too big as he finally hits the corner avalanche, followed by a leaping splash for a close 2. Fale sets for the Grenade and he is able to hit it, but Goto kicks out and Fale can’t believe it! Fale goes for the Bad Luck Fall, but Goto is able to slip out the backdoor and hit a big-time headbutt to Fale’s neck, followed by a FK. Goto goes for the GTR, but Fale stops that. Goto then leaps on Fale’s shoulders and locks him in a Sleeper. Referee checks Fale’s arm as Fale is fading away, but Goto breaks the hold.

GTR!! 1-2-3!

Winner: “Samurai Warrior” Hirooki Goto by pinfall (GTR)

Goto celebrates his win after.

Good match. Fale is another one that shows his worth in the G-1, but continues to receive no credit due to the cliched “big men can’t work” arguments by the internet. He and Goto worked well together here, nice touch by Goto doing a finish his tag partner, Shibata, would do by wearing down his opponent in a submission, then switching to his finisher. This was good.

A Block: “Cold Skull” SANADA vs. “1/100 Man of Talent” Hiroshi Tanahashi

This is Tanahashi’s first match coming back from a shoulder injury suffered in May.

Crowd chants for Tanahashi as the bell sounds. Chain wrestling in the early going between the two. SANADA goes quickly for the Skull End, but Tanahashi slips out and we have a stalemate. Tanahashi wrenches in a side headlock to wear down SANADA. Tanahashi with a shoulder tackle and a hiptoss before going back to the side headlock. SANADA catches Tanahashi coming back in the ring, sending him outside. Tanahashi drives SANADA into the barricade, but SANADA catches Tanahashi coming in and drop toe holds him into the barricade! SANADA traps Tanahashi’s arm in the barricade and pulls at it, then kicks the barricade, doing more damage to Tanahashi’s arm, the same arm where Tanahashi suffered his shoulder injury on. Tanahashi is able to get back in by the count of 18, but SANADA is right there to continue to go to work on the arm, driving it into the mat repeatedly. Tanahashi fights back, but SANADA evades him with a series of leapfrogs, followed by a big dropkick for 2 before going right back to work on the injured arm. Tanahashi gets to the ropes to get out of a short arm scissors, but SANADA keeps the hold applied to the referee’s count of 4. Tanahashi fights back one more, but SANADA goes to the eyes. Tanahashi then fires back with a flying forearm. Tanahashi hits his 2nd Rope Senton Bomb for 2. SANADA avoids a dropkick to the knees, but then Tanahashi avoids a standing moonsault. Tanahashi is able to hit the dropkick to the knees of SANADA on the second try, followed by a Dragon Screw that sends SANADA outside. Tanahashi heads up top, HIGH FLY FLOW CROSSBODY WIPES OUT SANADA OUTSIDE!! SANADA gets back by the count of 16, but Tanahashi is right there to hit two more Dragon Screws to the injured leg while SANADA was in the ropes. Tanahashi locks SANADA in the Cloverleaf in the center of the ring, but SANADA is able to crawl over and reach the ropes. SANADA is sent up and over the turnbuckles, but is somehow able to come back with a springboard dropkick. SANADA tries to get the blood flowing back in his leg, but Tanahashi goes right back to it. SANADA goes back to the injured arm of Tanahashi, then they trade strikes until SANADA uncorks a big-time uppercut. Tanahashi responds in kind and now they trade uppercuts back-and-forth until SANADA catches Tanahashi with a TKO for a close 2. SANADA goes for the Skull End, but Tanahashi reverses out. SANADA gets back in control and takes Tanahashi down in the Skull End along with the body scissored. Referee checks Tanahashi’s arm three times, but Tanahashi is still in the match on the third attempt. Tanahashi maneuvers over and is able to reach the ropes with his feet to finally force a break. Crowd chants for Tanahashi to will him on. SANADA with a backbreaker, then heads up top for the Moonsault, but Tanahashi moves out of the way! Tanahashi with a big slap, then hits the Twist and Shout after countering out of the Skull End. Tanahashi hits the Slingblade, but SANADA kicks out! SANADA blocks the Dragon, but Tanahashi hits a Straitjacket German for a close 2. Tanahashi heads up top and goes for the High Fly Flow, but SANADA catches Tanahashi in mid-air with a RKO OUTTA NOWHERE, but Tanahashi kicks out! Another backbreaker by SANADA, then he this time hits the Moonsault, but Tanahashi kicks out again! Another moonsault by SANADA!

SKULL END LOCKED BACK IN!!! TANAHASHI TAPS OUT!! WOW!!

Winner: “Cold Skull” SANADA by submission (Skull End)

SANADA celebrates his win after as the crowd is in shock by what they just saw.

Helluva match here. Tanahashi looked superb upon returning and they worked in his shoulder injury nicely here. It may be early, but this match might have just turned the corner for me on SANADA in New Japan. He’s been kinda ho-hum since coming in April, but everything clicked for him and tapping Tanahashi out clean as a sheet might wind up being the biggest shock decision of the tournament coming out of it next month. Great performance by SANADA and Tanahashi continues to show his value in the second half of his career.

Main Event in A Block: GHC Tag Team Champion Naomichi Marufuji vs. IWGP Champion “Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada w/Gedo

Crowd chants for Okada as the bell sounds. Little feeling-out process in the early going. Both men take turns showing off their agility in the opening chain wrestling exchange. Okada with a shoulder tackle, then they exchange leapfrogs. Okada goes for the Rainmaker, Marufuji goes for the KO-OH and a Superkick, but they both avoid each other’s strikes and we have a stalemate. Okada does his pat on the chest to Marufuji to taunt him, then goes on the attack with a sliding dropkick. Neckbreaker by Okada gets 2. Marufuji gets to the ropes out of a chinlock. Okada continues the attack, but Marufuji stops the Corner Too Awesome Dropkick and hits a double stomp to the arm of Okada, sending him outside. Marufuji hammerlocks the arm outside and drives Okada into the ringpost, arm-first. Marufuji then traps the wrist of Okada in-between the door of the barricade and presses his foot against it, doing damage to Okada’s wrist and arm in an attempt to negate the Rainmaker. Okada gets back in, but Marufuji goes right to work on the injured arm. Crowd chants for Okada to will him on as he gets to the ropes out of an armbar. Okada fights back, but Marufuji responds with a stinging chop, hurting his own hand in the process. Marufuji with a barrage of chops to Okada in the corner, then continues to pull at the injured wrist and arm. Flying corner back elbow by Marufuji, but Okada fires back by catching him with a back body drop. Gedo wills Okada on as he makes his comeback with a flying elbow, a flying corner back elbow, a spike DDT and a kip-up. Running basement uppercut by Okada gets 2. Okada with a slam, then he heads up top, but Marufuji stops the Top Rope Elbow Drop and hits a Lariat that sends Okada outside. Marufuji then with a slingshot knee drop across the injured arm of Okada. Marufuji drives the injured arm into the apron, then pulls at it against the ringpost. Back in, Marufuji pulls back the injured wrist of Okada and stomps on it while its in a keylock position. Marufuji continues to wear down the injured wrist and arm of Okada as the crowd and Gedo continue to try and will him on. Okada is able to get his foot on the ropes to get free of a Fujiwara armbar. Marufuji continues the onslaught of chops, but Okada responds with a flapjack. They trade strikes, as Okada yells at Marufuji to bring it after every stinging chop. Okada hurts himself trying to hit a forearm as Marufuji sees his opening, dropkicking Okada in the injured arm and sending him back outside. Marufuji with a head of steam and he wipes out Okada with a slingshot plancha! Okada tries to send Marufuji into the barricade, but Marufuji uses his foot to put on the brakes, then hits Okada with a one-legged missile dropkick off the top as Okada was getting back in the ring for a close 2. Marufuji calls for the end as he goes for the Shiranui, but Okada slips out and hits Marufuji with the Air Raid Crash across the knee. Okada heads up top and this time hits the Top Rope Elbow Drop, then calls for the Rainmaker. Okada goes for the Rainmaker, but Marufuji blocks it and hits a big knee to the head. Okada responds with an uppercut, but Marufuji catches him with an enziguri, a superkick, but Okada blocks the Shiranui and hits the Corner Too Awesome Dropkick to the back of Marufuji’s head! Okada brings Marufuji from out of the corner and goes for the Tombstone, but Marufuji slips out and hits another superkick, a big slap and a wheel kick, but then Okada catches Marufuji coming in with the Too Awesome Dropkick! Okada goes again for the Rainmaker, but Marufuji avoids it. Okada avoids the KO-OH and hits the High-Angle German, then goes again for the Rainmaker, but Marufuji counters it with a Bicycle Knee to Okada’s injured arm! Another superkick by Marufuji, then he finally hits Okada with the KO-OH!!

Marufuji calls for the end, POLE SHIFT EMERALD FLOWSION!!! 1-2-3! WOW!!

Winner: GHC Tag Team Champion Naomichi Marufuji by pinfall (Pole Shift Emerald Flowsion)

Marufuji celebrates his win after, then gets on the mic and says that he thinks that there is no one else like Okada, but this summer belongs to him. Marufuji continues to celebrate his win as the show closes. (Thanks to @reasonjp for the translation)

Damn good main event. Utterly shocked that Marufuji pinned Okada clean as a sheet here, but if this means it sets up a title rematch between the two for one of the big fall shows, then SIGN ME UP! Marufuji’s work of Okada’s arm throughout the match was stellar, as was Okada’s selling, which enhanced the match even further. While this wasn’t the best match on the show, Marufuji’s performance was to me the best on the show as he instantly made himself a player in this tournament the first night in. Go out of your way to watch this match, especially to see Marufuji’s performance and Okada’s selling of the arm.

Overall, the G-1 is here and it kicked off in super fun fashion. Now, we have to see what the B Block has cooking for us and with it being chock full of heavy hitters in Naito, Elgin, Omega, Shibata and others, it appears we’re in for another incredible G-1 Climax tournament. I, for one, cannot wait. Until Friday’s Day 2 with our first look at B Block, I say sayonara to you all, but remember that puroresu is ICHIBAN!!!

Match of the Night: Tenzan vs. Ishii
MVP: Naomichi Marufuji

Follow me on Twitter @Jason_Namako
Listen to G-1 Climax review podcasts featuring myself and Greg McNeish over at Radioinfluence.com.