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Wrestle Respawn – New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Climax 2018 – Night One 14/07/2018

For those uninitiated, the G1 Climax is often regarded as one of the pro-wrestling highlights of the year, due to it featuring nearly an entire month of great wrestling. The first G1 was held back in 1991, and since then it’s been considered the most prestigious tournament in all of wrestling.

It starts out with a League format, split into two blocks, with the winners from each league eventually facing each other in the championship match. I’ll just be covering the tournament matches and I’m not sure whether I’ll release these one show at a time or combine some of the shows. I’ll decide as I go forward, as releasing multiple shows might create articles akin to War and Peace

All of these matches were watched on New Japan World, with commentary from Kevin Kelley and a revolving door of colour commentators

Day One

The first matches are from A Block and were held on the 14th of July from Otta City General Gymnasium. You get two points for a win and one point for a draw. Every match has a 30 minute time limit.

VSG1 Climax

A Block – 14/07/2018
Togi Makabe Vs YOSHI-HASHI

Makabe is a former winner of G1 Climax, winning the 2009 version. YOSHI is a solid enough worker but is pretty much mid card for life in New Japan, and I don’t see that changing during the tournament to be honest. YOSHI is aggressive to start and sends Makabe into the railings outside the ring before stomping away back inside.

YOSHI unloads with some hard chops, as Makabe has been on the defensive quite a lot here in the early stages. YOSHI drops Makabe with a brain buster but it only gets him a two count. Makabe eventually gets fired up and delivers some punches and a big powerslam, but YOSHI fires back with more chops. Makabe dodges a charge in the corner and unloads with some closed fists in the corner before delivering a Northern Lights suplex for two.

Both men slug away on one another, with neither wanting to be the first to back down. YOSHI eventually sends Makabe to his knees with a big slap but ends up running into a lariat from Makabe to put a stop to his momentum. Makabe delivers a clothesline in the corner and sets up for the Spider German Suplex on the top rope, but YOSHI fights him off and brings him down with a Liger Bomb for two.

Fans bought that near fall right there! YOSHI is fired up now and tries to hit his finisher but Makabe fights out, only to take a lariat for his trouble. Double knees get two for YOSHI and he transitions to a butterfly lock, but Makabe powers out. Undeterred, YOSHI hits a back cracker and then goes back to the butterfly lock, but Makabe makes the ropes to a good pop.

This has been an enjoyable high tempo match actually, with both men impressing. YOSHI gets the over castle from the top rope but Makabe kicks out. YOSHI goes for his finisher again, called Karma, which is a Uranage style slam, but Makabe blocks and delivers a release German Suplex. YOSHI does the old fashioned Japanese delayed sell off that, but Makabe bulls him into the corner and delivers the Spider German Suplex and follows with the King Kong Knee Drop for the three count.

WINNER: TOGI MAKABE
RATING: ***1/4

Very entertaining match there, with YOSHI trying to prove he won’t be a pushover in G1 this year and Makabe weathering the storm to win. To be honest though, he took quite a lot of punishment here for the opening match and you could argue it might have been a better idea to pace himself considering the matches ahead. We’ll see though as G1 progresses.

VS

A Block – 14/07/2018
Hangman Page Vs Bad Luck Fale

This is Bullet Club Vs Bullet Club here, although I wouldn’t be surprised if Fale eventually decides to either join up with either the Samoan “Firing Squad” Faction of Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa. Page has gradually been pushed more and more over the past year and has held his own admirably with New Japan’s top stars during that period.

Fale jumpstarts the match, attacking Page during his entrance, but Page fights back with a suicide dive. Into the crowd we go, with Fale flinging Page into a row of chairs as the fans scatter. The referee eventually comes outside and manages to convince Fale to get back in the ring and starts the count on Page. Page manages to drag himself back into the ring, where Fale decides to just plain stand on him.

Page fires back with some nice looking forearms, but Fale shrugs them off. Some clotheslines finally cause Fale to sink to a knee and Page is able to get a standing Shooting Star Press for two. Page is finally able to take his ring vest off, but is distracted by Tanga Loa coming down to the ring to watch proceedings. Fale squashes Page in the corner and then follows with a big splash for two.

Fale goes for The Grenade but Page counters it with a roll up for two and then clotheslines Fale over the top rope to the outside. H goes for a dive but Loa pulls him outside, and takes a super kick for his troubles. Page stuns Fale and then moonsaults off the top rope onto both Fale and Loa. So yeah, looks like Fale is indeed aligned with The Firing Squad.

Page gets the springboard clothesline back inside for two and tries to get the Risk Factor on Fale, but Tama Tonga runs in to attack him. The Samoans and Fale hammer Page three on one and the referee disqualifies Fale to give Page the two points, but this is about more than points now.

WINNER BY DISQUALIFICATION: HANGMAN PAGE
RATING: **

Typical Fale style match here, but Page looked good and worked pretty well as a babyface. Kenny Omega, Chase Owens and Kota Ibushi run down for the rescue and the Firing Squad head out.

VS

A Block – 14/07/2018
Michael Elgin Vs EVIL

EVIL is a member of Los Ingobernables de Japon whilst Elgin is unaffiliated and has been a solid fixture on the New Japan roster for a couple of years now. EVIL had a great G1 last year, actually getting a clean victory over then IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada at one point which eventually earned him a title shot later in the year.

Elgin runs through EVIL to start, causing him to bail outside. Elgin follows and sends EVIL into the railings before following up with some chops. Elgin tries a clothesline but EVIL dodges and he ends up hitting the ring post instead. EVIL goes after the arm by wrapping it in a chair and slamming it into the ring post. Hmm, maybe Elgin’s storyline in this G1 will be working through an arm injury?

EVIL goes after the arm back in the ring, working it over with basic stuff, and delivers a seated senton splash for two. EVIL goes to a surfboard but Elgin refuses to give in and keeps trying to power out. The fans are very into Elgin’s power stuff it must be said. Finally Elgin manages to successfully power out and delivers a back suplex for the double down.

EVIL bails again, so Elgin follows with a suicide dive and then follows up with a slingshot double stomp and a German Suplex back inside for two. Elgin goes for the brain buster but Elgin slips out, only to end up on the receiving end of some clotheslines in the corner with the injured arm. It looks like Elgin has shuck the arm injury off, but when goes for a military press it goes out on him and EVIL is able to deliver a kick.

EVIL gets a clothesline in the corner followed by a bulldog for two, and transitions to a Fujiwara arm bar when Elgin kicks out. Elgin gets out of that and delivers a pump kick, but ends up on the apron and has his arm snapped over the top rope. Both men tussle on the apron, which ends with EVIL throwing Elgin off onto the guardrail arm first. Ouch!

The referee starts the count on Elgin as he struggles to make it back in at the count of 16. EVIL goes right back to the arm with an attempted submission move but Elgin gets out and then stupidly delivers some clotheslines with the injured arm. Hey Mike, here’s an idea, US E YOUR OTHER ARM!!! Case in point, Elgin gets a clothesline but can’t deliver all of it due to the injury and EVIL hits Darkness Falls (Death Valley into a Powerbomb) for two.

EVIL goes for Everything is EVIL (S.T.O), but Elgin is able to counter it with a Falcon Arrow and both men are down again. Both men trade forearm shorts, with Elgin getting the better of things but EVIL is able to counter an Elgin clothesline with a lariat of his own. Everything is EVIL is blocked again with a super kick from Elgin and he follows with a lariat. Big Superplex from Elgin only gets a two count, but he follows with a buckle bomb. Both men trade finisher attempts and Elgin is finally able to hit the Elgin Bomb for the victory.

WINNER: MICHAEL ELGIN
RATING: ***3/4

Cracking match there, as both men worked well together and the arm work gave the match a different feel. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of Elgin’s arm injury this G1, but he’s managed to get two points on the board at least.

VS

A Block – 14/07/2018
Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs Minoru Suzuki

Go Ace! For those not au fait with Japanese wrestling, Tanahashi has been one of the main men in New Japan for close to 12 years now, whilst Suzuki started out as a star in mixed martial arts before transitioning to pro wrestling in the early 00’s. Suzuki has never won a G1 Climax tournament and wants to achieve it for the first time this year. Tanahashi has won the G1 twice with his victories coming in 2007 and 2015. Suzuki defeated Tanahashi earlier in the year to win the IWGP Intercontinental Title. He won thanks to targeting Tanahashi’s legs, and he wastes no time going after them here as well.

To be honest, if I was Tanahashi here I’d consider tapping out early to save myself for the rest of the tournament, but unlike me Tanahashi is real man he bravely struggles on and keeps reaching for the ropes. Suzuki transitions from a knee bar to an ankle lock before going back to the knee bar and. Suzuki wraps Tanahashi up like an octopus and continues to transition between multiple punishing holds as Tanahashi writhes and tries to find a way out.

Tanashashi finally makes the ropes after about five minutes of agony, but he’s going to struggle to do anything after all that punishment. Tanahashi throws some forearms but Suzuki shrugs them off, but leaves himself open with a dragon screw leg whip. That finally puts him on the defensive and Tanahashi follows up with a dropkick in the corner and a flying forearm. Tanahashi slams Suzuki and gingerly heads up for a flipping senton but misses.

Suzuki delivers a Penalty Kick before going back to the legs with a figure four leg lock. Tanahashi holds on however, but ends up taking a flurry of slaps from Suzuki for his trouble as this match is turning into a slaughter. Suzuki hooks in a sleeper hold and cinches it in but makes the mistake of going for the Gotch Style Piledriver. Dude, just choke the guy out for frigs sake and win that way! Tanahashi blocks the Gotch because…

Thanks, Cenk.

Tanahashi manages to fire off another gnarly looking dragon screw and Suzuki sells it big time. Tanahashi hits the Sling Blade and then heads up top for a cross body block and follows with the High-Fly-Flow Frogsplash for the win out of nowhere.

WINNER: HIROSHI TANAHASHI
RATING: ***3/4

Another great match, which was fought at a much slower pace than the previous one but told a great story and featured excellent selling from both men. I love that Suzuki would have clearly won if he’d just stuck with the leg submissions but he just HAD to hit the Gotch Style Piledriver and, as usual, it was his undoing. That’s excellent story telling!

VS

A Block – 14/07/2018
Kazuchika Okada w/ Gedo Vs Jay White

Jay White was a generic young lion wrestler before he went off for “excursion” in Ring of Honour and came back as “Switchblade” at the end of 2017. Thus far I haven’t been particularly enthused with White since the gimmick change but I thought he had an excellent match a week before this against Juice Robinson and I think I’m starting to turn the corner on him. Okada broke all kinds of records during his run as IWGP Heavyweight Champion and is widely regarded by many as the best wrestler in the world. I certainly admire him as an in ring competitor but I do wish he’d stop wearing his awful baggy pants and go back to wearing shorts.

Gedo is not only Okada’s manager but he’s also a long time wrestler and the actual booker of New Japan. Okada and White are both members of the CHAOS faction, but to be honest White has never really fitted that group and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go out on his own at some point. White tries to hit his finisher, The Blade Runner (Sister Abigail) right from the off but Okada slips out and the two stablemates share a laugh over it before getting serious with some chain wrestling.

Okada gets the better of the chain wrestling and sends White outside with a dropkick. A big boot sends White over the railing and Okada tries to follow up with a dive but White uses the lesser used technique of just walking away to avoid it. Okada stays on top of things but ends taking a Saito Suplex from White and is then pinballed between the railings and ring apron. Rocky Romero on commentary says this doesn’t like two men from the same faction facing one another, and he’s got a point.

White continues to fling Okada into the guardrails, which is something he did to Juice Robinson in their match as well. Hey, it’s something no one else is doing at the moment so he might as well make it his own. Back inside, White gets an under hook suplex into the corner for two and then works over Okada’s neck with elbows. White even rips off part of the ring skirt and chokes Okada out with it until the referee intervenes. White mockingly “apologises” to the referee for all of his cheating before going to a chin lock.

White gets a pump handle back breaker as Kevin Kelly muses that a board might have become loose under the ring. White goes to the inverted Indian Deathlock and talks trash to Okada whilst cinching it in, but Okada is eventually able to drag himself to the ropes to break. This makes Okada angry and he drops White with a DDT for the double down. Okada runs wild with back elbows and delivers a flapjack for two. Okada heads to the top rope and comes off with a cross body for a two count.

White comes back with another Saito Suplex and the delivers a series of two head and arm suplexes followed by a brain buster for two. White goes for The Blade Runner but Okada slips out again and goes to a cobra clutch. However, White is able to get out of that and goes to his own version the hold, again delivering more bad mouth to Okada whilst applying it. Okada teases going out but is able to drag himself to the ropes to break.

Okada gets a neck breaker and both men are down again, as I’m starting to think this might end up being a thirty minute draw. Okada floors White with a running front dropkick and delivers a big elbow drop from the rope before calling for the Rainmaker (Inverted Short Arm Clothesline). White counters the Rainmaker with a Complete Shot and then follows with a German Suplex for two. Both men square off and trade strikes as we get the 20 minute call.

White unloads with some shots and then delivers the Saito Suplex again, this time over the top rope to the floor! I’ve loved the psychology on display here, with White targeting the neck area of Okada and gradually upping the ante as the match rocks on. White suplexes Okada into the guardrail right in front of the commentary team, putting them in danger like he did Jim Ross a week prior to this at the Cow Palace.

White brings a chair into the ring, to boo’s from the crowd, and shoves down the ref when he tries to stop him. This however allows Okada to dropkick the chair in his face and follow up with a Tombstone Piledriver and the Rainmaker. However, the ref catches a stray elbow from White as the move is delivered and he’s down. With the ref out, White hit’s Okada with a low blow as we get the 25 minute warning!

White smashes the chair over Okada’s head and then follows up with the Blade Runner to get the pin from the recovering referee. Thus we have our first proper upset of the tournament with White pinning his stablemate. Romero is not happy with White on commentary, as White is proving to be a questionable addition to the CHAOS unit.

WINNER: JAY WHITE
RATING: ****

Second great match in a row for White, as he’s really starting to come into his own now after a sketchy start with the gimmick. White grabs the mic and trash talks everyone, saying that Okada is finished. The fans are not happy and he tells them all to take a running jump.

So after night one, A Block looks like this;

Togi Makabe, Hangman Page, Michael Elgin, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Jay White all have 2 points, YOSHI-HASHI, Bad Luck Fale, EVIL, Minoru Suzuki and Kazuchika Okada all have 0 points

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you all tomorrow for the first matches of B Block

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