My apologies for the delay between posts. My computer’s been down for a few weeks, but now it’s back up so now it’s time for a right proper recap, and I’ve got several events lined up – ya see, The G1 Climax tournament happened in NJPW earlier this month, and I’ve got a fair chunk of it (about 5 out of 7 days), so I’ll be recapping that, starting with Day 3, 8/13/2008 (I haven’t gotten all of Day 2, the 11th yet, and I’m missing Day 1, the 9th entirely).
Quick run-down: the G1 Climax is a round-robin tournament, divided into 2 blocks. The winner of each block faces the other in a 1-fall match. Whoever wins that match wins the tournament.
NJPW “G1 CLIMAX 2008 “HEROES OF SUPREMACY”
Time and Place: 8/13/08, Tokyo Korakuen Hall. This is Day 3 of the Tournament
Attendance: Sellout crowd of 2,050.
Special Tag Match – Tomokiro Ishii and Tomoaki Honma vs. Milano Collection AT and Satoshi Kojima
Milano and Kojima are basically pretty-boys (Kojima, however, is a member of heel stable Voodoo Murders in his native promotion of AJPW), and Ishii and Honma are tough-as-nails cheating heels, members of the stable GBH (Great Bash Heel, referred to by the fans as Great Big Head). The heels jump the faces before the bell and the brawl quickly goes to the outside and into the fans before returning to the ring, with Milano and Honma starting out.
Milano keeps control for a bit, and after some chanting by the fans, tags in Kojima. Kojima starts to work over Honma, only for Ishii to come in and start double teaming him. Kojima recovers and spikes Ishii with a DDT, but only for 1. Ishii gets worked over in the face corner and in comes Milano. Milano works on the arm, but Ishii gets to the ropes. Honma comes in, knocks Kojima off the apron and Milano gets Ricky Mortoned. Ishii and Milano get in a stiff chop battle, which Milano gets the worst of.
The Heels continue working over Milano’s groin behind the ref’s back, until Milano counters a double back drop with a kick to Honma, and then ducks a chop by Ishii (which hits Honma) and finally suplexes Ishii on Honma. Milano makes the tag, and Kojima is a House! En! Fuego! Ahh, it’s been a while since I used that one. Kojima sends Ishii to the corner and then chops the shit out of the bastard. Honma tries to make the save but Kojima sends him into the corner on top of Ishii, and then chops the shit out of him too, before tossing him to the outside. Kojima chops the shit out of Ishii again for good measure, and then whips him from coast to coast, and hits a high corner knee splash. Kojima then goes up top and hits a big elbow drop for 2.
Ishii and Kojima get in a chop battle, and Kojima starts to get the upper hand before trickery by Ishii allows them to recover. Ishii makes the tag and honma lays waste to the faces. Kojima gets wailed on for a bit before countering his way out of it. The faces double-team Honma but only get 2. Then the heels regain control, with Ishii basically tying Milano in the ropes in a submission hold (kinky) before trying to double-team Kojima. However, Kojima manages to send Honma out of the ring, and then ducks a lariat by Ishii and floors him with one of his own, and gets the pin.
Winner: Milano Collection AT and Satoshi Kojima by pinfall with a lariat at 9:11.
Rating: **** – Very nice start, and a better tag match than what I’ve seen stateside in a long time.
Block A: Wataru Inoue vs. Togi Makabe
Togi is one tough mother and head of GBH after he kicked out the founder, 4-time IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Hiroyoshi Tenzan. Togi currently has 4 wins. Inoue has none.
Inoue and Togi circle up, with Togi taking control early on with a significant strength advantage, particularly coming out on top in the Puro Shoulder Block Spot. The fight goes out of the ring to ringside. Togi appears to have the advantage, but loses it due to some nice maneuvering by Inoue. Inoue goes up on the apron and goes for a flying knee, but instead gets a steel chair to the shins (which the ref apparently didn’t see). The fight goes out to the stands until the Ref starts the 20-count and both sides return to the ring about as fast as they can. Togi continues to work over Inoue, but isn’t able to get more than a 2-count. Togi tries for a sleeper hold, but Inoue reaches the rope.
Togi remains in control. Inoue tries to “hulk up” but gets shut down, hard. Finally, Inoue regains control with a release German suplex and gets a 2-count off a… sort of Mitchinoku Driver (except it kind of turns into more of a facebuster… I guess I’ll call it a Mitchinoku Facebuster). Inoue gets Togi in a waistlock, but Togi breaks out with a low blow. Togi hits a powerbomb and goes for a pin but only gets 2. Togi grabs his chain he came out with and wraps it around his arm for a lariat, but Inoue manages to counter the move, and the ref quickly removes the chain from play. Inoue hits a bridging German suplex but only gets 2, and then another 2-count off a brainbuster. Inoue hits a pair of big chops and sets Togi up in the corner and goes for a splash, but Togi quickly switches places with the ref, who takes the brunt of it. Inoue tries to revive the ref, while Togi gets another chair and nails Inoue with it, and hits a lariat and covers, and looks up to see the ref still out. Togi gets this look on his face that seems to say “That’s not the smartest thing I ever did” ((c) bbcisdabomb), and hits a powerbomb and covers again. This time the ref is conscious and able to properly count a 2-count (as Inoue kicks out).
Togi hits a series of lariats for 2. Togi goes for a third lariat and only ends up having his head hit the canvas when Inoue reverses it into a backslide for 2. Inoue finally hits lariat number 3 and only gets a 2-count. Finally Togi just goes up top and hits the King Kong Knee Drop on Inoue’s ankle, drags him into the middle of the ring, and locks on a sitting figure-four leglock. Inoue has nowhere to go, and nothing else to do but tap.
Winner: Togi Makabe by submission with a kneeling figure-four at 13:00.
Rating: *** – Decent match, but a little too one-sided for my taste.
Block B: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Hirooki Goto
Speaking of GBH, here’s their former leader, now turned face. His opponent, Goto, is a member of Shinsuke Nakamura’s stable, RISE. Both men have 2 wins.
Both men start off with some chain wrestling, with Tenzan taking control first and goes to work on Goto, with Goto regaining control with a lariat. Tenzan rolls to the outside to regroup, only to get knocked off the apron when he tries to get back in. Goto works on Tenzan on the outside before taking things back in the ring. Goto gets a 2-count, and continues working on the neck and back with a camel clutch, which Tenzan escapes by reaching the ropes. Goto continues working over that area with a series of big standing elbow drops.
Goto brings Tenzan to his feet and goes for a suplex, but Tenzan counters and tries to hit one of his own. After 2 attempts, Goto finally hits a Fisherman’s Slam. Goto then goes for the Shouten (vertical suplex side slam) but Tenzan reverses it into the Anaconda Vice! Goto quickly manages to squirm to the ropes, to escape. Tenzan picks him up and goes for the TTD (Tenzan Tombstone Driver) but his arm gives out. Goto goes for a piledriver, but Tenzan reverses it into a backdrop.
Goto goes for a lariat, but ends up eating a clothesline by Tenzan instead, followed by a pair of lariats for 2. Tenzan hits a back drop suplex and goes for another lariat, but again his arm prevents him from hitting full force. Goto goes for a lariat and bounces off. Tenzan and Goto go for simultaneous lariats and bounce off. Finally Goto goes for a 3rd try, and eats a Spinning Wheel Kick! Tenzan covers but only gets 2. Tenzan works over Goto some more, and goes to the top rope and hits a diving headbutt, but only gets 2. Tenzan goes up top again, but Goto recovers and catches him off the top rope, and hits a rope hang neckbreaker. Goto goes for the cover, but Tenzan’s feet are still on the ropes, so the ref breaks the pin. When Tenzan fails to respond the ref and ring doctor check Tenzan out and determine that he is out and unable to continue, and stop the match.
Winner: Hirooki Goto by referee stoppage following a rope hang neckbreaker at 12:43.
Rating: *** – It was shaping up to be a good match until the non-finish, though from Goto’s reaction, the injury either was legit, or if it was a work, he wasn’t satisfied with it.
Block A: Giant Bernard vs. Shinjiro Otani
Most of you will you know Giant Bernard as either A-Train or as (Prince) Albert in WWF/E. After he was discharged from WWE, he came first to AJPW as a member of Voodoo Murders and then jumped ship to New Japan. During his time in NJPW he won the IWGP Tag Team Championship with Travis Tomko, though they lost the belts in February. Both Bernard and Otani have 4 wins.
Both men lock out and Bernard practically shoves Otani clear across the ring. They lock on again, and Otani starts to work the arm, before Bernard pulls his arm out. Otani continues to use his speed to try and stay out of Bernard’s grasp. He does not always succeed. Otani proceeds to float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, until 331 lb (150kg) Giant Bernard finally connects with a shoulder block and a standing splash for 2.
Bernard continues to drop several elbows on Otani and then set him up in the corner and work him over a little there. Benard hits a backbreaker for 2. and continues to work over Otani’s head, neck, and back, locking on an neckwringer and an abdominal stretch before throwing Otani into the corner. Otani is bust open a little. Otani tries to gain some momentum with some big chops, but Bernard shuts him back down again. Bernard beats Otani from pillar to post, and Otani rolls to the outside to catch a breather, while Bernard stands tall in the ring.
Bernard finally goes outside to pursue his opponent, which turns out to be an mistake, as Otani’s speed and agility works to his benefit as he dodges an attempt by Bernard to lariat him into the ring post (thus Bernard runs into the ring post shoulder first instead). Now Otani grabs a chair and nails Bernard in the shoulder, and the crowd is starting to seriously turn on Otani. We’re starting to get some serious boos! Otani and Bernard return to the ring, and Otani works over Bernard’s arm and shoulder on the turnbuckle (illegal due to the use of the ropes). This is the most audible heat I’ve ever heard at a Japanese wrestling event.
Bernard makes his way to another corner and begs off further assault, but without success. After the ref cautions him from continuing with the submission holds, Otani decides to make nice with a nice plate of chops. Otani goes to whip Bernard from coast to coast, but Bernard reverses it, and then connects with a corner lariat, leaving Otani sprawled in the ring, and Bernard capitalizes with a corner slingshot splash, and goes for another, but Otani gets his boots up. Otani goes to capitalize, but gets slapped in the face so hard he’s left sitting in the corner.
Bernard goes for a series of boots followed by a running corner knee splash, but Otani recovers and kicks Bernard in the mush, leaving him in the same position. Otani, figuring that while he’s got smaller feet and weighs less he can still kick pretty hard, decides to show Bernard how you really do it, and connects! Bernard rolls to another corner, and Otani goes for an encore. Otani goes for a suplex but can’t lift him. Bernard tries to reverse it, but Otani locks on a waistlock and hits a German suplex and covers, but only gets 2 (what, did you think he was going to bridge that – yeah, and Brock Lesnar can F5 Akibono). Otani locks on a what appears to be an ashigatame (or seated armbar), working on the injured arm, but Bernard reaches the ropes. Otani bounces off the ropes, but runs right into a Chokebomb, but Bernard isn’t able to capitalize!
Otani recovers first, and staggers to his feet. They trade chops and forearms, but Otani gets the worst of it with a lariat to the back of the head. Bernard hits an Olympic slam and covers for 2. After kicking out, Otani quickly rolls to the ropes Otani starts to build some momentum with some big kicks to Bernard’s arm, and then locks that armbar back on. Bernard tries deperately to get his foot on the ropes but they’re just… out.. of reach… and he makes it!
Otani knows that he’s got Bernard (if you’ll pardon the expression) on the ropes and goes for a running some thing, but gets a Kenka kick (they’re not calling it a Yakuza kick anymore, the Yakuza complained). Bernard builds up some steam… Lariatooooooooo! Otani is hit on the chin, lands on his face, bounces on to his back. Cover, 1! 2! Kick out! Bernard hits a big corner splash on Otani, and hits the Bernard Bomb! 1! 2! 3!
Winner: Giant Bernard by pinfall with the Bernard Bomb at 14:12.
Rating: *** – Again, not great, but a great example of how you can mix two guys with differing styles (speedy technican* and power wrestler) and get a good/decent match.
*As opposed to the usual luchador or high fligher.
G1 Special Tag Team Match: Tiger Mask (IV) & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Toshiaki Kawada & Taichi Ishikari
For those who don’t already know, Tiger Mask, no matter who wears the mask, is a face. Period. He’s like Captain America, or Superman. If you’re feuding with him and you don’t already know you’re the villain, you might want to rethink your position. Okay, maybe not exactly like that, but as a general rule, Tiger Mask doesn’t turn heel (at least in Japan). Tiger Mask IV is the current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. Kawada and Ishikari are currently freelancers, currently frequenting NJPW and HUSTLE. Kawada is Ishikari’s mentor.
Taguchi and Ishikari start off with some chain wrestling with Ishikari takign control early on, and starting cheating right away, tying Taguchi up in the ropes, loading his boot, and drop kicking him, only for Taguchi to regain control and tag in Tiger Mask, who shows Ishikari that you don’t have to load your boot to kick hard, for he kicks with the Power Of JUSTICE! As an aside, who the hell loads their boot anymore these days? Really? I thought that went out with pointy-toed boots on Middle Eastern heels.
So, Ishikari, realizing he’s in trouble, tags in Kawada. Kawada and Tiger mask trade kicks and Tiger Mask takes the worst of it. Tiger Mask gets worked over in the corner, but some Justice Kicks get him a little momentum, before one kick from Kawada sends Tiger Mask into Ricky Mortonville. Ishikari ocmes back in and decides that kicking Tiger Mask isn’t the best idea, so goes for the submission stuff before deciding that stomping doesn’t count as kicking right? However, Tiger Mask covers, smokes Ishikari with two beautiful kicks, and tags in Taguchi. As an aside, someone needs to write a fanfic where El Santo (or Hijo Del Santo), Tiger Mask, and Batman (or maybe Blue Beetle III) team up and fight evil. It’d be awesome!
Taguchi gets some payback for those nasty kicks that Ishikari nailed him with earlier, working over the head back and neck, before tagging Tiger Mask back in again to do Justice’s work. Brainbuster suplex for 2. Taguchi is tagged back in to lock on a chinlock and continue working over Ishikari. Ishikari is sent for the ride, Taguchi goes for a back drop, Ishikari reverses into a sunset flip, Taguchi goes for a drop kick, misses, gets leg dropped, and Kawada gets the tag.
Kawada kicks Taguchi halfway across the ring, and suplexes him, kicks him in the back, and gets a 2 count. Kawada hits the, well, Kawada kicks and applies an Eastern Stretch. Tiger Mask tries to make the save but Ishikari tries to block him, which takes him about 2 seconds to stop before he literally kicks Ishikari out of the ring. Kawada delivers a series of knees to send Tiger Mask onto the apron, and Ishikari holds him, while Kawada bounces off the ropes for a running kick. However, good shall triumph over evil because evil has communication problems – as Tiger Masks ducks down and Ishikari eats Kawada’s boot, sending him into the guard rail. The mighty feet of Taguchi and Tiger Mask send Kawada outside as well. Kawada is sent back inside and Tiger Mask hits a missile drop kick. Taguchi gets a series of near falls and the two get some chain wrestling in until Kawada regains control with a spinning heel kick, and tags in Ishikari.
Very nice chained speed maneuvers between Taguchi and Ishikari, with Taguchi coming out on top, in that he’s in a condition to make a tag to Tiger Mask. Ishikari finally manages to get a leg up on Tiger Mask with a DDT, and hits a super kick for 2. Ishikari goes for a lariat, but Tiger Mask counters with a crucifix into an armbar. Kawada hits a leg drop on Tiger Mask and Taguchi comes in for the save sending Kawada to the outside and then nails the schmuck with a pescado. Journalistic detachment, I don’t need no steenkin’ journalistic detachment!
Ishikari gets to his feet first and goes up top, but Tiger Mask catches him, hits a double underhook superplex, followed by a kneeling belly-to-belly piledriver, and then locking on the Tiger Clutch (crossface chickenwing) smack dab in the middle of the ring. Kawada tries to make the save, but too late, as Ishikari submits. As always, Justice prevails once again!
Winner: Tiger Mask and Ryusuke Taguchi by submission with the Tiger Clutch at 10:37.
Rating: *** – Again, decent, but with some beautiful kicks in this match. This match had some of the best looking kicks I’ve ssen in a while. Better even than Low Ki.
For the record, I’d say that Jushin “Thunder” Liger’s entrance music is better then Tiger Mask. Though Tiger Mask’s entrance music is very 70’s J-Pop-alishous
Block B: Yuji Nagata vs. Yutaka Yoshie
Nagata has 1 win, Yoshie has 2. Nagata is a 2-time IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. Yoshie has been in the business for a while, isn’t nearly as decorated as Nagata (only 1 IWGP Tag Team Championship reign), but is still fairly well regarded.
Nagata takes control early on using his speed against the slower, heavier Yoshie… who he has some problem lifting. They get in a test of strength, which Yoshie wins. They lock up again, with Nagata working the arm, with Yoshie escaping with a body slam. Nagata changes his tack again, going with a stiff kick to the leg (well, this is Strong Style, and puroetsu, all the kicks are stiff, and all the chops are stiff – audibly so). Yoshi brushes off his leg and gives Nagata a look like “What the fuck was that?”
Nagata tries to chop down the mighty Redwood, without success. He goes for a Dragon Screw but can’t lift Yoshie’s leg, he goes for a bodyslam, but gets slammed himself. Finally he rolls out of the ring to collect his thoughts and figure out how to beat this guy. Well, you haven’t tried running moves yet. He comes back in the ring and once again they lock up. This time Yoshie gets a side headlock in on Nagata – Nagata sends Yoshie for the ride, and Yoshie connects with a shoulder block that sends Nagata on his ass. By the way, Yoshie is 5′ 11″ and 353 lbs, Nagata is 6′ and 238 lbs.
Yoshie picks up Nagata and smacks hmi around a little. Nagata gets sent for the ride, Yoshie goes for a back drop, Nagata tries to reverse it to a sunset flip, but can’t pull Yoshie over… leading to not 1, not 2, but 3 consecutive Butt Drops. Nagata rolls to the outside again to catch his breath and try to figure out what he got into. He gets to his feet in time for Yoshie to splash him off the apron. Yoshie stomps him one more time before rolling back in as the Ref starts the 20 count.
Nagata finally rolls back in, and gets slammed for good measure, and Yoshie rolls him into the Boston Crab, before Nagata can reach the ropes. Nagata, you’re kinda screwed, ain’t cha?
Nagata decides to try to change his tack one more time to just trying to take Yoshie’s feet out from under him and he finally does it, and then locks on an ankle lock. However, he can’t keep Yoshie from reaching the ropes and getting back to a vertical base. Both men trade chops and strikes for a bit until, finally, Nagata manages to connect with an release exploder suplex for 2. Nagata tries to get a Uranage, but Yoshie backs him into a corner and then butt slams him, and then butt splashes him.
Yoshie goes for a power slam, but Nagata slips out and goes for some kicks, before getting leg dragged. Yoshie proceeds to lock on a reverse figure 4 leg lock. Nagata manages to barely make it to the ropes. Nagata gets splashed in the corner 6 ways from Sunday before getting hit with a release German suplex for 2. Nagata gets power slammed in the corner, and then hit with a Banzai Drop for 2. Leaping lateral press for 2. Yoshie’s going all the way up top. Nagata catches him on the second rope on the outside, tries to do… something, and gets swatted back to the mat. Yoshie’s up top, Nagata gets back to his feet… high cross body! 1! 2! – Kick Out!
Nagata is just barely escaping defeat here, and in any case, I suspect that he’s never going to underestimate a fat man again. Nagata gets back to his feet and slapped back to the mat again. Yoshie goes back up top, Nagata recovers and (trying a different tack) kicks Yoshie in the head, sending him back to the apron, kind of hanging on the top rope. Nagata, who maybe hasn’t learned after all, drags Yoshie back to the top rope and is going to try a superplex, and hits it! Maybe he has learned. Nagata and Yoshie start to get to their feet with Nagata recovering first… Yoshie is on one knee… Shining Wizard by Nagata! Well if it works for the current IWGP World Heavyweight Champion (Keiji Mutoh), maybe it will work for you. Nagata covers, gets 2.
Once again, Nagata goes for a suplex, gets nothing. The two men try trading blows again. Nagata goes for a spinning heel kick, gets Yoshie in the corner, and hits a high knee. Vertical Suplex by Nagata for 2. Nagata is going for it looks like another suplex, but Yoshie will have none of that and shuts Nagata down again, before Nagata chops Yoshie with a few kicks and manages to hit a back drop suplex (by the way, what is called a back drop suplex in Japan we in the west call a belly-to-back suplex). Nagata gets a 2 off this one, drags Yoshie to his feet, hits a drop kick to stagger him, and then hits a bridging back drop suplex for 3.
Winner: Yuji Nagata by pinfall with a bridging back drop suplex at 15:38.
Rating: **** – Now that was fun. We need more big guys like Yoshie in wrestling – not so much visibly muscular and defined as… fat. Well, chubby.
Block B: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Toru Yano
Shinsuke, as mentioned before, is the founder of RISE. He’s also a 2-time IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, and the man who beat Kurt Angle to unify the IWGP Third Belt and IWGP World Heavyweight titles. He is not, however, the current champion, having lost the belt to Kenji Mutoh several months prior. Toru is a heel, and comes out doing the “bottled water spray” thing, and the carrying a steel chair. Shinsuke has 4 wins, Toru has 3.
Toru jumps Shinsuke as soon as the house lights from Shinsuke’s entrance come up. Toru recovers quickly and gets a 2-count off a kick to the head and a bridging german suplex. Toru finds himself getting sent to the outside, and they end up brawling to the entrance way. Toru’s manager tries to make the save, but gets kicked through the guard rail. Tour gets brought back to the ring area, and gets a vertical suplex on the ringside mat. The 20-count reaches 8 and both men return to the ring. 2 count off a guillotine knee drop by Shinsuke.
Toru continues getting the snot beat out of him. If this keeps up, if he can ever get a strike in edgewise, I suspect Toru will be going for that chair. Shinsuke continues working on the arm, shoulder, and neck of Toru. Toru finally regains control by pulling Shinsuke’s hair, Shinsuke gets sent to the outside, where Toru’s stable mate? manager? puts the boots to him before the ref catches wise. Yep, Toru’s going for a chair. After a coupe chair shots, the brawl goes into the stands and then back to the ring. While the ref has an eye on Shinsuke, Toru removes some turnbuckle pads and slams Toru repeatedly into the exposed turnbuckle. Toru hits a brain buster, only gets 2.
Toru removes the tape from his wrist, and chokes Shinsuke with it, before the ref catches him. I suspect tight pulling and use of the ropes for leverage soon. Toru locks on a half crab, though he’s a little close to the ropes a positioning error that Shinsuke is quick to capitalize on. Shinsuke then, however, ends up hitting the exposed turnbuckle, back first. However, Shinsuke uses that pain and channels it into a series of 3 lariats, from which he gets a 2 count.
Toru gets sent head-over-teakettle from a knee lift, Toru recovers and both men trade blows for a bit until Toru hits a German suplex, followed by a big spear for 2. Toru picks up Shinsuke and goes for a powerbomb… but You Can’t Powerbomb Kidman Nakamura! Hurricanrana by Shinsuke that sends Toru halfway across the ring!
Toru finally does pull off a semi-powerbomb (as a reversal to an attempted monkey flip), but is unable to capitalize. Both men recover at the same time. Shinsuke smacks Toru and goes for a German suplex, but Toru hangs on to the ref. Shinsuke tries wailing on Toru to get him to let go, unstead he staggers away and shoves the ref so hard he goes flying out of thing. That’s the second ref bump of the night!
Shinsuke goes to bounce off the ropes, but Toru’s buddy is waiting with a chair to the back. Shinsuke’s got a chair in the ring and goes to nail Shinsuke, but Shinuke ducks and Toru’s buddy eats steel – twice over (when he hits the guardrail). Full Nelson suplex by Shinsuke, followed by a Landslide (Samoan Drop)! Shinsuke covers but only gets 2.
Shinsuke picks him up, goes for it again, we get a few chain reversals leading to a low blow by Toru and a sort of rollup for 2. We get some roll-throughs from an Armbar, leading with Shinsuke ending up getting pinned for 3. After the bell, Toru makes a break for the back.
Winner: Toru Yano by roll-up at 12:53.
Rating: *** – Decent match, Toru’s a decent heel, and it did take him every trick in the book to win, but it felt that he only won by luck, which while it may protect Shinsuke, it doesn’t do Toru any favors, really. If you’re going to have him pull every trick in the book, you might as well have him use the ropes for leverage and not get caught doing it. It builds him up as a heel, and doesn’t hurt Shinsuke too much (because Toru couldn’t have won cleanly).
Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Manabu Nakanishi
Here’s our Main event of the evening. 1 man has 2, the other has none. I can’t read the characters (I think it’s kanji) so I can’t tell the score. Hiroshi is a 2-time IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, Manabu has held half of the IWGP Tag titles 3 times, with his 3rd reign being ended by Tomko and Bernard. Both men have won the G1 Climax, Manabu in 1999, and Hiroshi last year.
We get a big chant by the fans for Hiroshi starting off. Nice chain wrestling, with Hiroshi taking control early on. starting with the legs and abdomen, working up to the head and neck with a very tight side headlock. How tight is it? So tight that the usual-bounce-off-the-ropes-and-shove-the-guy-off spot doesn’t break the hold. Manabu tries it again, but he just can’t break the damn hold. Manabu tries for an atomic drop, but Hiroshi just pulls Manabu over in a kind of throwy thing, to keep the hold applied. Manabu tries the rope spot one more time and it finally works.
Now Hiroshi goes for some impact moves (shoulder blocks) – no dice. Goes for a bodyslam – blocked. Hiroshi appeals to the crowd, and then lays into Manabu. He backs Manabu into the corner and goes for a coast to coast whip, but Manabu hangs on to the top rope, He finally gets the whip, but Manabu reverses it, and then levels Hiroshi with a big chop.
Both men go in and out of the ring, with Hiroshi finally drop-kicking Manabu off the apron into the guard rail, then leaping off the apron in a missile drop kick into Manabu once he gets to his feet, knocking him into the guard rail again. Manabu tries to recover as Hiroshi poses for the crowd. Holy crap! As Manabu tries to get back in, Hiroshi grabs Manabu’s foot as he’s partway through the ropes, and hits a Dragon Screw! Manabu manages to stay on his feet though (having just stepped through the ropes might do that). Manabu then eats a drop kick, leaving him prone on the apron.
Hiroshi drags Manabu into the middle in the ring and starts working over the leg. It looks like Hiroshi’s got an Indian deathlock locked on and holds it for several minutes before Manabu finally reaches the ropes. Hiroshi slides to the outside, Manabu’s leg in hand, and continues to work the leg, before Manabu slides back in the ring. Hiroshi poses for the female fans a little (looking very much a muscular bishounen).
Once again, Hiroshi stops and kicks the leg. However, Manabu has had enough and has decided to stop selling for a bit and start chopping – until Hiroshi floors Manabu with an European uppercut. Manabu takes Hiroshi’s feet out from under him and starts repaying him for the work on the leg. Manabu drags Hiroshi into the middle of the ring and locks in an over-the-shoulder-standing-single-leg Boston crab! Now that’s how you work the leg. Manabu releases Hiroshi who rolls out of the ring and hobbles on the outside for a bit before falling, and then having Manabu deliver a jumping stomp off the apron (it looks like). The ref gets Manabu to clear off Hiroshi, and starts counting.
The fight returns to the ring, and Manabu smacks around Hiroshi in the corner, Hiroshi manages to break out of it with a reversed Irish whip and dragon screw. Both men have opposite legs “injured” Hiroshi works over the abdomen, hits a scoop slam, and hits a Senton for 2. That’s our first actual pin attempt of the match. Hiroshi then tries to do a Dragon suplex, but Manabu breaks out and goes for a kick, but gets dragon screwed again. You know, that had a nice ring to it, “Dragon screwed”… Hmm…
Anyway. Hiroshi sets back to work on the leg, and applies a Cloverleaf, but Manabu reaches the ropes. Manabu gets dragged back to the middle of the ring, and Hiroshi goes for the Cloverleaf again… but tastes the Iron Claw! Manabu has applied the Dreaded Von Erich Iron Claw! My God, I didn’t think anyone used that move anymore. Particularly in Japan, where wrestling has the kind of “sport” atmosphere that wouldn’t work with the Iron Claw. The crowd is rallying behind Hiroshi again, as he gets his head lariated off and into the front row. Manabu then whips up a yummy plate of chops, and then goes for a pair of big corner lariats, before hitting a vertical suplex. Manabu then hits a big jumping knee drop but only gets 2.
Manabu goes for his finisher, a torture rack backbreaker, but Hiroshi tries to get out of the move but gets shut down. Hiroshi gets slammed and Manabu goes up top. Hiroshi tries to stop him, and goes for a superplex, and hits it! Hiroshi tries to cover, but he’s too slow and only gets 1. Hiroshi goes for some running move, but gets drop-kicked clean out of the ring, and Manabu follows with a pescado! Manabu then chops Hiroshi a bit and sends him back in the ring.
Manabu goes back up top, and hits a missile drop kick (as Manabu gets back to his feet) but only gets 2. Manabu goes for a Backbreaker rack, but Hiroshi locks on a side headlock to avoid the inevitable, and flips Manabu over to a 2 count. Hiroshi bounces off the ropes, hits a Lightning Speed Cradle for 2. Dragon Suplex by Hiroshi only gets 2. Hiroshi comes of the ropes, goes for something but Manabu slips behind and hits a German Suplex, and then hits another and bridges for the pin!
Winner: Manabu Nakanishi by pinfall with a bridging German suplex at 17:33.
Rating: **** – very nice back and forth, with an excellent Over the shoulder single leg Boston crab. That move is just awesome to watch. All in all, an excellent match.
Well, that’s the event. Next time I’ll take things back to the previous day, of the tourney, the 11th.
EDIT: Minor little correction for the first half of the show – Milano Collection AT and Kojima are (or were – Kojima has since left) both members of the heel Voodoo Murders stable, over in All Japan, making that match, technically, a Heel stable Vs. Heel stable (something that we’d never see in the WWE, unfortunately))