New Japan on AXS TV Episode 18
June 12, 2015
Commentators: Mauro Ranallo, Josh Barnett
Recap by: Jason Namako of Wrestleview.com

Katsuyori Shibata welcomes us to the show.

“This is Shibata. Today, you will watch G-1 Sapporo event. You’re watching World Pro Wrestling returns. It begins now.”

This week begins an 8-week look at the 2014 G-1 Climax tournament, highlighting the best matches and moments from last year’s historic tournament. On this first week, we will see 3 matches from Day 1 of the tournament, back on July 21, 2014 in Sapporo, Japan.

A Block: Tomoaki Honma vs. “The Ace of the Universe” Hiroshi Tanahashi

Chain wrestling early. Tanahashi takes down Honma, then gets out of a headscissors. Tanahashi again gets out of a headscissors by Honma and we have a stalemate. Honma backs Tanahashi into the ropes, then avoids a right hand and hits a series of chops. Honma stomps away at Tanahashi in the corner, followed by a big chop. Honma runs into a back elbow, then Tanahashi with a springboard crossbody and mocks Honma. Honma with a back elbow and a slam, but Tanahashi avoids the falling headbutt. Honma avoids a dropkick, but Tanahashi again avoids the falling headbutt. Cravate applied. Snapmare and a kneedrop by Tanahashi for a 1 count. Honma sent into the corner. Tanahashi with a gut shot and a slam. Tanahashi goes to the middle rope and hits a senton bomb for a nearfall. Tanahashi again mocks Honma, but Honma fights back with overhand chops. Tanahashi with an uppercut, then sidesteps a back body drop and hits a dropkick that sends Honma to the outside. Tanahashi wipes out Honma with a slingshot plancha! Honma gets onto the apron and hits a series of back clubs. Both block each other’s suplex attempts, then Tanahashi brings Honma back in, but Honma connects with a suplex.

Honma with a series of chops, followed by a running forearm in the corner, a bulldog and this time hitting the falling headbutt. DDT spikes Tanahashi on his head, then Honma with a basement Blockbuster for a nearfall. Tanahashi slips out of a slam, but Honma blocks a German. Strike exchange, with Tanahashi hitting a slap. Honma with a back elbow, but misses a clothesline. Honma blocks a clothesline, Tanahashi with a dropkick, but Honma POPS RIGHT UP and hits a clothesline! Honma with another clothesline, followed by a Brainbuster, but Tanahashi kicks out! Honma calls for the diving headbutt and heads up top. Honma goes for it, but Tanahashi moves out of the way! Another strike exchange, Tanahashi gains advantage, but Honma FIRES UP with forearms. Tanahashi with the Strait-Jacket German, but Honma kicks out! Honma avoids a clothesline, roll-up for a nearfall. Honma with a Dragon Screw, but Tanahashi counters a clothesline with a Dragon. HONMA POPS RIGHT UP!!! Tanahashi charges and hits the Slingblade.

Tanahashi heads up top, HIGH FLY FLOW!!! 1-2-3!!

Winner: “The Ace of the Universe” Hiroshi Tanahashi by pinfall (High Fly Flow)

Tanahashi celebrates his win afterwards as we go to commercial.

Commercial

A Block: IWGP Champion “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles vs. “The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada w/Gedo

Crowd chants for Okada as the bell sounds. Styles taunts the crowd. Styles backs Okada into the corner and shoves him. Okada avoids a right hand and taunts Styles. Styles works over Okada’s arm, but Okada reverses out. Styles regains control and takes Okada down. Okada reverses out again, but Styles gets to the ropes. Styles has words with the ref, then trash talks the crowd. Side headlock by Styles, then he goes for the Styles Clash, but Okada slips out. Okada with a roll-up for a 1 count. Styles slips out of a Rainmaker attempt and we have a stalemate. The two exchange words, then exchange strikes, with Okada gaining advantage. Styles slides under Okada’s legs and hits a big chop, but Okada with a back body drop. Okada stomps away at Styles in the corner, then hits a front slam. Okada goes to the apron and hits a slingshot senton. Stranglehold applied by Okada, Styles gets to the ropes. Styles with a shot to the throat, followed by a chop. Okada sidesteps a back body drop attempt, but Styles hits the Phenomenal Dropkick, sending Okada to the outside.

Styles then slams Okada on the floor! Back in, Styles mocks the crowd’s chants for Okada, then hits a backbreaker for a nearfall. Okada fights back with forearms, but Styles with an eye poke. Styles with a slam and a leaping kneedrop. Chinlock applied as Gedo leads the crowd in willing on Okada. Okada fights back, but Styles switches to a front facelock. Okada fights back again, but Styles switches this time to a cravate. Styles with back clubs, but Okada comes back with a back elbow.

Big boot and a one-man flapjack by Okada, followed by a kip-up. Snapmare, followed by a sliding dropkick by Okada. Both avoid each other’s corner charges, then Okada places Styles up top and hits the Picture-Perfect Dropkick, sending Styles to the outside! Okada goes to send Styles to the barricade, but Styles leaps over it and into the crowd! Styles taunts the crowd, thinking he was one step ahead of Okada, but Okada then charges and LEAPS OVER THE BARRICADE, WIPING OUT STYLES WITH A CROSSBODY AND SENDING STYLES CRASHING INTO ANOTHER BARRICADE!! Okada gets back in as the ref begins his 20 count. Styles gets back in by the count of 18. Okada greets Styles with an uppercut and a DDT. Red Ink applied by Okada, but Styles is somehow able to reach the ropes to force a break. Okada with a slam, then heads up top. Okada leaps over Styles, but runs into a savate kick to the ribs. Styles then SNAP SUPLEXES OKADA INTO THE TURNBUCKLES!! Styles places Okada up top, facing the crowd. Styles lifts up Okada out of the corner in Torture Rack position and hits a Swinging Argentine Bomb for a nearfall. Styles heads to the apron and springboards, but Okada avoids the Springboard 450!! Another strike exchange, with Styles getting the advantage with a series of rapid-fire strikes, but Okada hits another big uppercut. Styles then with an enziguri and goes again for the Styles Clash, but Okada counters out with a kick to the head. Styles avoids another Picture-Perfect Dropkick and goes for a Tornado DDT, but Okada slips out, sending Styles into the referee, knocking him down!

Okada grabs Styles from out of the corner and hits the Emerald Frosion across the knee. Okada with a slam, then heads up top and hits the top rope elbow drop. Okada calls for the Rainmaker, but Yujiro Takahashi runs in and attacks Okada from behind! Yujiro with a clothesline, then goes for Tokyo Pimps, but Okada blocks it. Yujiro rakes the eyes, but Okada nails him with the Picture-Perfect Dropkick! Distraction, though, allows Styles to hit Okada with the springboard forearm! Styles goes for Bloody Sunday, but Okada slips out. Styles avoids another Rainmaker attempt and hits a release German. OKADA POPS RIGHT UP!! Styles avoids a clothesline and hits the Pele Kick! Styles goes again for the Styles Clash, but Okada counters out and transitions Styles into hitting a Tombstone! High-Angle German by Okada, but Styles kicks out!!

RAINMAKER!!!!! 1-2-3!!

Winner: “The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada by pinfall (The Rainmaker)

Afterwards, Okada grabs the mic.

Okada: “You can call me ‘Mr. Okada’ now. I have three things to say. One, AJ, next time we meet, we’re fighting for the IWGP Heavyweight belt, I’ll win the G-1, no doubt. Then, I’ll take another one of your belts from you. My second point, I’ll win the rest of the matches, every single one of them, G-1 will be mine. No matter who I’m facing, I don’t care, never mind that. My third point, I’ve got nothing. Now, let’s ask Mr. Gedo, why has nobody been able to beat me?”

Okada hands Gedo the mic. Crowd chants for Gedo.

Gedo: “An unprecedented summer has just begun. The main role belongs to who else but, Rainmaker, Kazuchika Okada. Today, we got a victory. We nailed the IWGP Champion. Of course, he’ll win out the rest of the matches, too. The final at Seibu Dome, he’s going to win it. Sure, the members of G-1 are quite something, but none of them can against the Rainmaker, not a single one, you hear me? Do you know why? He’s on a different level. Rainmaker will be coming back. He’s coming back as the 2014 G-1 Climax Champion, as well as the IWGP Champion the next time we meet. When that happens, you’ll see this place raining with money.”

Commercial

Back from commercial, we go to the TV-Asahi studios with Shibata, talking about his thoughts prior to his match with Nakamura and the beginning of the 2014 G-1 Climax tournament.

Shibata on the 2014 G-1 Climax Day 1:

“Nothing was special about that day. I just fought as usual. But, this year’s match-ups were great. The match-ups of 2014, that is. The block that I was in meant a lot to me. I personally felt great significance playing in that block. I was able to find different tasks.”

Shibata on facing Nakamura, as it had been 10 years since they fought last in New Japan, in 2004:

“Before we faced each other, I thought about what fans would think. I was curious how the fans would see our fight. I somehow knew that people had high hopes for this match, that was how I felt. He wasn’t the same Nakamura that I once knew, he had a different aura about him. I was surprised to see him change, 10 years is enough time for a person to change. The environment changes and so does the circumstances, but it was nice, fighting him after 10 years. I didn’t think much about it, it was just how others viewed our match-up. For me, it felt just the same as any other match, I really didn’t think much of it.

Main Event in A Block: “The Mad Dog” Katsuyori Shibata vs. “The King of Strong Style” Shinsuke Nakamura

Long feeling out process early, then Nakamura rubs his face against Shibata’s abs. Shibata with 2 spinning back kicks, a snapmare, then both avoid each other’s head kicks and we have a stalemate. Back and forth working the clinch and guard on the mat until Shibata with a big slap. Strike exchange, Shibata gains advantage and unloads with forearms in the corner. Shibata charges in, but Nakamura catches him with a flying kick. Nakamura places Shibata across the top turnbuckle, but Shibata avoids the running knee and locks in a Sleeper from the apron. Shibata then takes Nakamura all the way over to the outside! Shibata sends Nakamura into the barricade, then hits a running boot that sends Nakamura into the crowd! Shibata sends Nakamura into the ringpost, followed by a snap suplex on the floor!

Back in, Shibata locks in a Figure Four. Nakamura turns over to his stomach, but Shibata stays on his back and turns it back over. Nakamura is finally able to reach the ropes to force a break. Shibata kicks at Nakamura and paintbrushes him in the back of the head. Another strike exchange, then they go nose-to-nose. Nakamura with the Superman forearm that rocks Shibata back into the corner, then Nakamura goes for the shaky boot dealy-a-bob, but Shibata gets to his feet! Nakamura with an enziguri, but Shibata avoids a running knee in the corner. Nakamura again places Shibata across the top rope and this time hits the running knee to the ribs for a nearfall. Nakamura places Shibata across the apron and hits a running knee to the face! Back in, Nakamura applies a front facelock. Nakamura switches to a Sleeper, but Shibata fights out with elbows. Nakamura with a knee to the ribs, but Shibata with a kitchen sink. Shibata locks in a Sleeper, but as Nakamura quickly gets to the ropes, Shibata hits a Backdrop Driver! Shibata with a chest kick that rocks Nakamura back into the corner, then Shibata unloads with a series of forearms. Shibata with a head of steam and DRILLS Nakamura with the hesitation dropkick! Butterfly by Shibata for a nearfall. Nakamura with a release German, but SHIBATA POPS UP AND HITS HIS OWN RELEASE GERMAN!

NAKAMURA POPS RIGHT UP and hits a big boot and a backstabber right back into the Sleeper. They reverse each other’s Sleeper attempts until Nakamura hits a Reverse Suplex. Nakamura sets for the Boma-Ye, but Shibata counters it with a dropkick!

Commercial

Back from commercial, they go into another strike exchange, then they go nose-to-nose. Shibata gains advantage and hits a chest kick. Another exchange of Sleeper reversals until Shibata takes Nakamura down. Shibata with a kick to the back, but Nakamura avoids the PK! Shibata fights out of a German attempt, but Nakamura kicks him off! Nakamura goes to the middle rope, 2ND ROPE BOMA-YE!! Nakamura off the ropes, BOMA-YE!!!!! 1-2…….SHIBATA KICKS OUT!! Nakamura goes for another Boma-Ye, but Shibata counters it again with a dropkick! Shibata with a spinning backfist, then lifts Nakamura up.

GO 2 SLEEP, PK!!! 1-2-3!!

Winner: “The Mad Dog” Katsuyori Shibata by pinfall (PK)

We go to post-match press conference comments from Nakamura.

Nakamura: “As you saw, my condition is at its best, but winning has to do with luck. Oh please, God, don’t do this to me. I think you all know, this ring belongs to New Japan Pro Wrestling. As long as the battle takes place here, this never ends.”

We then go to post-match press conference comments from Shibata.

Shibata: “No questions?”

Reporter: “You faced Nakamura for the first time in 10 years.”

Shibata: “What about it? Anything else? Nothing? Huh?”

Reporter: “Fans were waiting for this match.”

Shibata: “Yeah, I have one thing to say. Its not over yet. That’s all.”

We go back to the TV-Asahi studios with Shibata.

Shibata looks back at the match with Nakamura:

“Even after the fight, I’m still not sure what to make of it. It doesn’t feel like I’ve made any remarks. I wasn’t sure how loud the crowd was. I wasn’t sure if it was a good match or not. Was that the kind of match people wanted to see? That’s what I wasn’t sure about. Then, I got responses about the match. Some said it was entertaining, and others said that I still need to improve. It was a strange match.”

Shibata on his thoughts of Nakamura now after their match:

“Right now, I see him different than I did years back. I guess time has surely passed. Experience is reflected on that, that’s for both of us. I don’t particularly feel any attachment to it him, at least not as much as people think.”

Shibata on his post-match press conference comments of “Its not over yet”, a tagline used by the legendary Kantaro Hoshino:

“It was just something that came to my mind. Mr. Hoshino was there when I facing Nakamura, 10 years ago, that was. After the match against Nakamura, I felt that I’ve missed out. Partly, I saw sides I didn’t know, and other sides had stayed the same. And ‘Its not over yet’ was the first thing that I thought.”

Show closes.

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THOUGHTS: While I’m still as underwhelmed by the Shibata-Nakamura main event as I was on my first viewing if it last year, commentary did a very good job during the match to make it important and big. Shibata’s studio comments of feeling that he missed out, presumably being away from New Japan for several years to go to MMA, was very poignant and candid and to me, was the most noteworthy comment by any of the NJPW stars in these studio interviews so far on this show’s AXS TV run.

Overall, for new viewers getting to see last year’s incredible G-1 Climax tournament, this episode highlighting the first day was a nice way to get the palette wet and leave the viewer salivating for more, which they no doubt about it will get over these next upcoming weeks of shows. If what we saw here on this first show, between the beginning of Honma’s incredible G-1 run, the beginning of AJ Styles becoming a made man in New Japan from a match quality standpoint and a good, but not great, pilot match between Nakamura-Shibata and that was the first course of an eight-course meal, just wait until the other seven courses make their way out onto your table of viewing pleasure. This week was your nice, hearty appetizer, the next seven weeks will leave you thoroughly satisfied and wanting second helpings of the greatest tournament in pro wrestling history.

Jason Namako recaps the weekly New Japan on AXS TV show, as well as all major New Japan iPPVs for Wrestleview.com

Twitter: @Jason_Namako
E-Mail: jason@wrestleview.com