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[Results + Review] New Japan, 8/11/13
–> G1 CLIMAX 23 (8/1/13 to 8/11/13) <--
NJPW, 8/11/13 (WPW/PPV/iPPV)
Tokyo Ryogoku Kokugikan
11,500 Fans – Super No Vacancy Full House
- G1 Climax – Block A: Tomohiro Ishii  beat Hirooki Goto  by forfeit.
- G1 Climax – Block B: Kota Ibushi  beat Hiroyoshi Tenzan  by forfeit.
1. G1 Climax – Block B: Yuji Nagata  beat Yujiro Takahashi  (9:06) with the Exploder of Justice.
2. G1 Climax – Block B: Toru Yano  beat Minoru Suzuki  (9:26) by pinfall.
3. G1 Climax – Block B: Shelton Benjamin  beat Shinsuke Nakamura  (10:34) with the Paydirt.
4. G1 Climax – Block B: Tetsuya Naito  beat Karl Anderson  (13:11) with the Brahma Blanca.
5. G1 Climax – Block A: Lance Archer  beat Davey Boy Smith Jr.  (14:37) with the Blackout.
6. G1 Climax – Block A: Prince Devitt  beat Togi Makabe  (8:43) with the Bloody Sunday.
7. G1 Climax – Block A: Satoshi Kojima  beat Kazuchika Okada  (11:56) with a lariat.
8. G1 Climax – Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi  beat Katsuyori Shibata  (10:56) with a small package hold.
9. Special 6 Man Tag Match: Kazushi Sakuraba, Akebono & Kota Ibushi beat Takashi Iizuka, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI (13:25) when Sakuraba used the Sakuraba Lock on YOSHI-HASHI.
10. G1 Climax – Final: Tetsuya Naito beat Hiroshi Tanahashi (26:44) with a Stardust press.
* A new star was born at Sumo Hall today as the 23rd G1 Climax came to an end with another exciting show in front of a packed house. Business-wise, this has been a hugely successful G1 drawing almost 50,000 fans altogether with most of the shows being sell outs or near enough.
Today’s show began with the resolution of Block B. Nagata beat Yujiro in a good opener besides Yujiro completely overshooting a moonsault press to the amusement of the fans. Nagata’s mouth got busted open pretty badly (quite a lot of bloody mouths in this tournament) but he won with his Exploder of Justice (wrist-clutch Exploder). Despite a fairly inconspicuous G1, Nagata actually finished with as many points as the group winner but the direct confrontation rule meant he couldn’t reach the final.
Yano outwitted Suzuki just like he did in the New Japan Cup earlier this year, using a very cool pinfall to counter Suzuki’s sleeper hold. Typical Yano match, if you find him and his DVD shilling antics entertaining (I do) he is a lot of fun to watch in his role. Shelton Benjamin upset Nakamura in what was Shelton’s best match of the G1 I think, largely in part to the excellence of Nakamura. Nakamura needed the win to be able to go through but wasn’t able to despite surviving Benjamin’s ankle hold, going down instead to the Paydirt.
Naito vs. Anderson became a decision match to see who would win Block B and qualify. Good match with Anderson less heelish in this than others and more the wrestler we’ve become familiar with. Naito was invincible though and kicked out of not only a spectacular Gun Stun from the top, but the Bernard Driver. It seemed then that this could be his night and he went one step towards achieving that by debuting an elaborate new submission finisher, becoming the only guy besides Benjamin (ankle hold) to win via submission in the G1 – remember, New Japan was once a very submission heavy promotion but the style has shifted in recent years.
Block A’s final matches began with the battle of the Killer Elite Squad as Lance Archer faced Davey Boy Smith Jr. Both of these have been good in the G1, particularly Smith who has had a break-out tournament that must have impressed New Japan. This was the typical partner vs. partner storyline, with matching strikes and stand-offs early on. They put together a good match but it started to drag and might have been better a few minutes shorter. Still, they did a good job and the older member of the team, Archer, won with the Blackout.
Prince Devitt beat Makabe in a funny match. Funny not because it was comedy but because it had so much interference and weirdness, probably more than I have ever seen before in a New Japan match. Devitt has been a real life troll in this tournament and came out with a gorilla mask to mock Makabe. The match had two or three ref bumps, Devitt actually spearing the referee by accident (… or not), leading to that referee hobbling out and having to be replaced. Fale must have interfered at least three times as Vince Russo became New Japan booker for 9 crazy minutes. Devitt finally won with the Bloody Sunday to add Makabe to an impressive list of scalps. Devitt will need to tone down the cheating to be taken more seriously as a heavyweight I think, but this is a period of establishing the Bullet Club so everything may be exaggerated.
Kojima ended the hopes of last year’s winner and reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada, by beating him in an outstanding match. This was arguably as good as the final as these two put on a super high quality match with Kojima showing that unlike Tenzan, he can still go at a high level in singles matches. At one point Kojima ducked the Rainmaker twice in a matter of seconds and mauled Okada with a lariat. Kojima came out of this match looking very strong and still someone who could still compete at main event level, winning with a big lariat.
The biggest match on the show, besides the final of course, saw the reunion of 2/3 of the former New 3 Musketeers, Tanahashi and Shibata. This was fantastic and the crowd was hugely into it. Shibata has been amazing in the G1 and is quickly making people forget his failed MMA career by returning to his roots and being great. Shibata set the tempo of the match with a shotei attack at the start and some nice matwork followed. Slick matwork isn’t as common in New Japan as it once was, much like submissions, so is something of a novelty these days! Of course it was never going to last given the old grudge between these two and they returned to hitting and throwing each other around. Shibata hit the PK but didn’t cover, instead taking too long to go for the Go 2 Sleep, which turned out to be a mistake. Tanahashi countered it in mid-flight and rolled Shibata up for the flash win, shades of the old Tanahashi who used to win many matches that way. Shibata slapped the mat in anger, having lost when he really shouldn’t have and costing himself a place in the final. Tanahashi advanced and the final was set…
Naito has often been dubbed a future successor to Tanahashi. They share a lot of features and Naito has been much like Tanahashi was in his rise to fame with his spunky charisma and eye-catching techniques. The ACL injury that kept him out for months was a setback and Naito has looked underpar at times since his return. I think he is getting back to his peak and looked good against Nakamura yesterday and was also in the final. But Tanahashi was even better with another brilliant performance as he did his part in the creation of a new star. There have been many great performers in the G1 but it’s reliable old Tanahashi who has had the most great matches. President Sugabayashi credited him as the man single-handedly responsible for the revival of New Japan, which is probably over the top (good booking and others like Nakamura have helped) but he has been the main man and in my opinion is now one of the best wrestlers in New Japan history. This was the longest match of the G1 by a long way with Tanahashi relentlessly attacking Naito’s knee for a chunk of it. But as usual with G1 finals it came down to the signature moves and battle of wills. It was hugely exciting although some people in the USTREAM chat who have made their mind up already about Naito spent most of the match complaining bitterly, while the rest of us enjoyed the match. The biggest win of Naito’s career eventually came after he hit the Gloria and Stardust press to a huge pop. A fantastic final, not the greatest in history but one that will help make Naito.
Naito accepted the trophy and gave an unexpected interview where he didn’t challenge Okada, but rather Masato Tanaka. “MASATO TANAKA!?”, you ask. Naito wants to capture the NEVER Openweight Title first, the belt it is thought was designed with him in mind before his injury, and in doing so avenge his recent loss to Tanaka during his comeback trail. Now that Naito has ended his streak of losses, he wants to fight Tanaka again, win the NEVER belt, and only then challenge Okada. Perhaps this means we can see Kojima challenge Okada for the title beforehand after Kojima’s win today.
Naito promoted himself as the future of the company but acknowledged one win over Tanahashi doesn’t mean much as Tanahashi is still the main man (on the babyface side). But Naito’s win today elevates him into the “top four” with Tanahashi, Okada and Nakamura. There has been a lot of criticism of Naito and having been around a long time, it gives me deja vu as people were exactly the same with Tanahashi some years ago. Actually, I think Naito is more impressive in his “rise to fame” than Tanahashi was and I’m confident Naito will soon enough be a money-making main eventer putting on great matches regularly. Tanahashi only really started to excel once he became the main man while Naito has put on some incredible matches in his rise, especially last year’s title shot against Okada at Korakuen Hall.
FINAL THOUGHTS: My first G1 Climax as a New Japan fan was the 1998 version and back then you had to wait a long time for a VHS tape. I’ve seen every G1 Climax since in one form or another but this is the first time I’ve been able to watch every show live thanks to the modern iPPV (that really should have come much earlier!). It was a great experience and an experience you can only fully appreciate watching it live, day by day. I had a lot of fun watching the matches despite the awkward hours (waking up before 7am this Sunday morning to watch the final!) and in the USTREAM chatroom with many SSS forum regulars and others. It helped that the tournament quality was incredible. There were a couple of shows you could easily skip, especially 8/6 Ishikawa, but some memorable shows with 8/4 Osaka likely to go down as legendary and one of the best in G1 history. There are only so many superlatives you can use to describe New Japan these days and I think I exhausted them in my daily reviews. It is up there with the best pro wrestling products of all time. I also have to thank one person who knows who he is for sending a donation that allowed me to afford the package, as the “$150 for the lot or nothing” (until today’s show was made available individually following complaints) is an awful lot of money for many people, including myself. And that is all for my G1 thoughts this year… make sure you watch it if you already haven’t!
Stuart’s Top 5 G1 Matches:
1. Tanahashi vs. Ishii
2. Tanahashi vs. Okada
3. Ishii vs. Shibata
4. Nakamura vs. Ibushi
5. Tanahashi vs. Naito
1. Hiroshi Tanahashi 
2. Togi Makabe 
- Katsuyori Shibata 
- Prince Devitt 
- Davey Boy Smith Jr. 
6. Kazuchika Okada 
7. Hirooki Goto 
8. Lance Archer 
9. Satoshi Kojima 
10. Tomohiro Ishii 
1. Tetsuya Naito 
2. Yuji Nagata 
- Shinsuke Nakamura 
- Minoru Suzuki 
- Karl Anderson 
- Shelton Benjamin 
7. Toru Yano 
- Yujiro Takahashi 
- Kota Ibushi 
10. Hiroyoshi Tenzan 
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