NJPW TV 8/10/09 G1 CLIMAX 2009 ~NEW LORDS, NEW LAWS~ Day 2
Tanaka, Oomori, TAJIRI: 1-0, 2 pts
Makabe: 0-0, 0 pts
Tanahashi, Yano, Bernard: 0-1, 0 pts
Tenzan, Nakanishi, Nakamura; 1-0, 2 pts
Nagata: 0-0, 0 pts
Gotou, Iizuka, Sugiura: 0-1, 0 pts
Block A: Yano Tooru (0-1, 0 pts) vs TAJIRI (1-0, 2 pts)
Yano's coming off an opening round loss to Tanaka, TAJIRI a cheap heel win over Bernard. Those previous matches were pretty good stuff, so if allowed to work these two should give us a decent opener. TAJIRI refuses a handshake, so Yano spits sake in his face and bowls him over with shoulder tackles. TAJIRI rolls to the floor, but returns with a slingshot dropkick through the ropes and a moonsault press into the ring. Yano fights back from this nearfall to send the action into the crowd, attacking with chairs, the timekeeper's mallet and a fan's umbrella. In the ring, he dismantles a corner pad and whips him into the bare turnbuckles, TAJIRI selling like it was FMW electrified barbed wire. Yano wails on his back, but TAJIRI struggles back to reverse a whip and hit a sunset flip. Yano drops down, but TAJIRI beautifully bridges out and hits a kick to the back of the head. The Buzzsaw Kick, back elbow and flying back heel won't put Yano away, nor will a sunset bomb out of the corner. TAJIRI counters two Oni Koroshi attemps but Yano hits him with a low blow and charges in with a chair, gets the mist in the face and TAJIRI is DQ'd at 11:34 (9:13 aired). Yano's earned 2 points, but next up for him is Tanahashi, while TAJIRI gets a bye.
Once again, we are allowed to see that TAJIRI has an interesting moveset and an ability to work a match, but the booking and New Japan's sudden decision to make the mist an automatic DQ cuts short what could've been an exciting encounter with the more than competent Yano. What we were allowed was entertaining, yes, but DQ finishes like these are almost like The Crying Game. As things stand, I suppose it may actually be only a matter of time before transsexuals get involved in the G1! In the end, New Japan is no stranger to making outsiders look stupid with booking, but this self indulgence lowers the quality of their own guys, too. Yano is far more talented than he's allowed to be most of the time. **3/4
Block B: Makabe Tougi (0-0, 0 pts) vs Oomori Takao (1-0, 2 pts)
On Day 1, Oomori scored a stunning upset over IWGP champion Tanahashi, while Makabe had a 5 minute squash warm-up against Karl Anderson. Makabe still acts like a heel to his opponents, but is definitely a babyface now, even going so far as to work the crowd. They begin hot, trading strikes, but Makabe soon takes things to the mat, showing that despite his bluster he really can wrestle. The match progresses into a pretty basic, slower-paced monodimensional affair. Makabe tries to neutralize the axe bomber by working the arm, but Oomori turns the tables and dominates on the floor with strikes, then adds boot chokes in the ring, a big European uppercut and a piledriver. Makabe looks done for, but punches to his head somehow bring him back to life. The crowd's chants pump him up like its the 80s WWF, he connects with a spasm of lariats and gets a nearfall from a northern light suplex. He comes right back in with punches and a hearty "fuck you!" but Oomori kicks a lariat away and scores with a German suplex, swinging neckbreaker and flying back heel kick. Makabe counters the Axe Guillotine Driver with a jumping powerbomb and climbs up to finish with the King Kong knee drop, but Oomori's to his feet and cracks him with an axe bomber. Oomori misses a diving knee drop but scores with two more axe bombers at 14:40 to get his second straight win over a New Japan main eventer! (10:56 shown). I guess Karl Anderson wasn't a good enough warm-up for the Unchained Gorilla.
Makabe's rise to stardom has been a long time coming. He debuted in 1999 and by 2003 I thought he'd never amount to anything. Though he certainly has deficiencies in the stiffness department and I don't like the 80s-style "hulking up", he has overall proven me wrong and the truth is he's far less a power fighter than his appearance would indicate. His interesting style and attitude make him a guy you want to cheer for; he can genuinely wrestle and has great pro-wrestling sense, but for whatever reason has not gotten over the hump to be able to carry a match like a star should be able to do. Indeed, it is amazing how unamazing Oomori looks when Tanahashi is not there to be the puppetmaster. Because neither man in this match seems capable of taking that role, they had to paint by numbers. Perhaps they had to bring things down a notch given the position on the card, which shouldn't be the case in a tournament like the G1, but often is nonetheless. Obviously, Makabe's on the up in New Japan while Oomori is hired help, so it will be the Unchained Gorilla whom we'll have to keep a close eye on. This match had around four minutes excised by Samurai TV, but it doesn't look like we missed anything important. Other than Oomori getting another upset, this wasn't memorable, but not offensive, either. **1/2 to **3/4 range.
Block B: Nagata Yuuji (0-0, 0 pts) vs Gotou Hirooki (0-1, 0 pts)
This is Nagata's first tournament match. Gotou, the defending champion, lost a tough match to Nakamura and is looking to bounce back. Nagata shows himself to be a babyface by wearing the local baseball team's cap and jersey to the ring. Gotou looks all business, and the crowd seems to be behind him. A cautious, slow opening leads to some fast chain wrestling. Nagata almost gets an ude-juuji right away but Gotou's too quick. More tussling leads to a stalemate, so Gotou slaps Nagata in the face and goads him into a strike exchange. Nagata fires in angry kicks but Gotou drops him with a right hook and a brutal no-touch headbutt. He throws a whip but Nagata collapses to the mat, Kawada-style. Gotou continues to almost arrogantly beat Nagata down. Finally, Nagata finds an opening to kick at Gotou's knee. He brings him down and unleashes paroxysmal, punishing stomps and a heel hook. After making the ropes, Gotou dodges a PK and hits a backdrop, flying heel kick, the ushi-koroshi and a diving elbow drop for a nearfall. Fuelled by fury, Nagata breaks out his big moves- Exploder, backdrop, vertical drop brainbuster, Drive Screw, running knee to the corner. Gotou fights back with lariats but in the end Nagata blocks the Shouten and hits the backdrop hold for two points, giving the defending champion an 0-2 hole to climb out of. 14:43 aired of 17:48.
Gotou, the most recently ascended of New Japan's pantheon of younger stars, showed a wonderful Chousedaigun-like arrogance towards the veteran Nagata. Nagata is part of the past, Gotou is part of the future, and Gotou wanted to let him know. Nagata, conversely, taught Gotou a tough lesson through fury- New Japan's future may be in the hands of Tanahashi, Nakamura, Makabe & Gotou, but Nagata and his generation still have a thing or two to say. What I found interesting is that- unless it was cut out by Samurai- everything took place in the ring. There was no brawling outside, no American style histrionics, nor did any booking get in the way. These two had roles to play in terms of personality, but the match was worked as straight, pure sport: two men at the top of their game looking to put points on the board in the tournament, the way the G1 is supposed to be played. The offense was stiff, fiery, and extremely well executed with each man understanding the other's moveset, transitioning from ground work to strikes to bigger moves in a logical, sensible evolution. Why Samurai TV wanted to cut even three minutes out of this is anyone's guess, but its great to see this sort of match on the midcard. **** range.
Block B: Tenzan Hiroyoshi (1-0, 2 pts) vs Iizuka Takashi (0-1, 0 pts)
Here we go again. Cue Pink Floyd's "One Of These Days", because Sheik the Second Iizuka's back for more. Last time out he had no interest whatsoever in competing, and tonight is no different. Iron fingers in hand, he jumps Tenzan at the entranceway and busts him open even before the bell. Not once but twice does Iizuka wait for Tenzan in the ring just so he may throw him back outside and brawl him with chairs. As Iizuka garrotes Tenzan, the color commentator sagaciously observes "This isn't a deathmatch, this is the G1!" No kidding. Iizuka actually manages a wrestling move with a knee drop for a nearfall, but Tenzan comes back with Mongolian chops, headbutts and a backdrop. He goes up top, but Iizuka throws a straight punch directly to the Little Tenzan and jerks him off. Iizuka tries to strike with the iron fingers, but Tenzan dodges and hits a headbutt and a lariat, then stupidly grabs the iron fingers. As referee Hattori grapples with him, Iizuka produces another one, thrusts Tenzan right in front of the ref and gets his second straight DQ at 10:59 (9:11 shown). Iizuka and Ishii beat down Tenzan after the bell. Iizuka eventually leaves through the crowd as the play by play man mentions how much like the Sheik he is, and Tenzan is stretchered to the back.
Iizuka's whole act is aggravating, pointless, and has no place in the G1, but at least it was played pretty well here, and since Iizuka and Tenzan have been feuding for quite awhile, it made some reasonable amount of sense. Tenzan was portrayed as something of a moron, which is fine by me. For those playing along at home, this is the third DQ finish in the G1 in two days. **1/4-ish.
Block B: Nakamura Shinsuke (1-0, 2 pts) vs Sugiura Takashi (0-1, 0 pts)
Sugiura's coming off a snoozer loss to Tenzan, so he'll want to bounce back in both a shoot and a kayfabe sense. Nakamura took down Gotou and a win here gives him a share of first place. Despite seldom, if ever, seeing such a thing in NOAH, Sugiura hangs right with Nakamura on the ground in the opening seconds. Nevertheless, he initiates a trade of elbows which leads to a hot sequence: Nakamura dodges a high front kick, connects with one of his own, Sugiura hits a spear, but takes another kick for the stalemate. Sugiura hits a gourdbuster and hangs Nakamura on the top rope. He runs in for a kick, but his leg gets snared on the rope when Nakamura dodges, and Nakamura zeroes in on the knee with kicks, stomps, and a hiza-juuji. Sugiura survives and launches a comeback, scoring big with a knee to the face. Nakamura tries to get momentum back with his trusty right cross, but Sugiura comes right back to drop him on his head with a release German. Nakamura hits a German of his own, but Sugiura unleashes his power moves- Dragon suplex, brutal running knee, Olympic Qualifier Slam. After the slam he runs in and immediately gets caught with the flying juuji. Sugiura gets to his feet and grabs the ankle hold, but after several moments, Nakamura gets a kick squarely to the damaged knee to break the hold. Back up, Sugiura punches him in the head and tries the Olympic Slam again, but Nakamura flips it into a lucha armdrag, kicks out the knee and destroys him with the Bomaye! 13:11 of 13:51.
Mercy, what a match. Perhaps its a testament to the glory of Nakamura and the general uselessness of Tenzan, but Sugiura looked like a completely different wrestler here. Nakamura carried him to without a doubt the best singles match of his career as a heavyweight, though ironically they worked a junior-style match. In NOAH, Sugiura's heavyweight opponents are all ancient, caryatids or both, so there's really nothing to be done besides the strike exchanges, shoulder tackles, and power moves; substance is completely lacking. With Nakamura, however, Sugiura finds himself in the ring with a man who can actually move and read a match, allowing him to behave more as he did in his junior days with Marufuji and company. Nakamura's new Bomaye finisher has potential to be an American-style tactical nuke instant match ender, but here his victory was predicated on his intelligence. He focused on the knee throughout the match and used a lucha libre move to counter Sugiura's finisher and come in with his own. The match wasn't won by the Bomaye, it was won WITH the Bomaye because Nakamura outsmarted and outmaneuvered his opponent. ****, at least, and a true highlight of the tournament.
Block A: Tanahashi Hiroshi (0-1, 0 pts) vs Giant Bernard (0-1, 0 pts)
A metrosexual, preening David now shall meet a pierced, tattooed Goliath in the wrestling ring. IWGP champ Tanahashi was horrifyingly upset yesterday by journeyman inn owner Oomori while Bernard was screwed out of a win by TAJIRI's evil green mist. A win for either man could provide a huge boost. Tanahashi does his usual routine to work the crowd and is horrified to hear many of them chant for Bernard. Early on, Tanahashi tries to stick and move, but gets tossed around. Bernard's size works pretty well for him and he takes an opportunity to mock Tanahashi's grouse preening mannerisms. When Bernard charges into the corner, Tanahashi counters and sets himself up top, but Bernard distracts the ref so his corner man (Karl Anderson) can shove Tanahashi to the floor. There, Bernard bashes Tanahashi back first into the ring post. He looks for his vicious apron powerbomb, but Tanahashi Frankensteiners out of it. Bernard continues targeting the back in the ring. Eventually, Tanahashi's speed begins to work for him, and he chops Bernard down with flying forearms and dropkicks, then goes to work on the knee with his Dragon screws. His back gives out when he tries the Texas cloverleaf and Bernard cracks him with a Canadian backbreaker. Tanahashi reverses the Bernardriver into the Dragon sleeper, but Anderson jumps on the apron and Tanahashi- in uncharacteristic stupidity- releases the hold to go after him. Tanahashi's grabbed, but dodges and Bernard checks Anderson to the floor. Somehow, Tanahashi hits a release German suplex to the man he's comically out of scale with and ascends for the High Fly Flow. He hits one to the back, but crashes on the follow up to the front and takes the Bernard Bomb for 2.9. Bernard can't believe it and tries again, but Tanahashi wriggles out, hits a pair of Slingblades and goes back up top for the High Fly Flow. Bernard's to his feet, but Tanahashi launches anyway and gets caught. Bernard brings him directly into the Bernardriver, but Tanahashi rolls forward into a cradle and steals a win at 19:57 (16:03 shown).
Aside from the bit where he let go of the Dragon sleeper, we see once again how smart a wrestler Tanahashi is. These two have had matches in the past, so they played off that experience in the way holds were countered, reversed and avoided. Bernard tried to get a little help from his buddy Karl- perhaps due to lingering resentment over his previous match- but it didn't take away from the match or make it feel too American. Bernard's workrate and style shows that he has clearly moved past his WWE days and is firmly a Shinnichi now. He's huge and slow, so that brought the pace down in places, but Tanahashi's speed and strategy gave the match a sort of retiarius vs secutor feel, albeit more moral. As the main event, New Japan once again gave the boys permission to go all out. Had Tanahashi's title been on the line, they wouldn't have had to change much at all to sell this as a championship match. It may not have had the pure adrenaline of Nakamura-Sugiura, but what a cracking way to top off the show and erase any memories of TAJIRI & Iizuka. **** range.
So then, here is how the tournament stands after two matchdays:
Oomori: 2-0, 4 pts
Tanahashi, Yano, Tanaka, TAJIRI: 1-1, 2 pts
Makabe: 0-1, 0 pts
Bernard: 0-2, 0 pts
Tenzan, Nakamura: 2-0, 4 pts
Nagata, Nakanishi: 1-0, 2 pts
Gotou, Iizuka, Sugiura: 0-2, 0 pts
In Block A, Makabe and Bernard will try to get on track against each other while Yano, Tanaka and Tanahashi could all move top unless Oomori stays perfect. Both TAJIRI and Iizuka in Block B will be inactive, so we may not have any DQs at long last. Meanwhile, in B, Nakamura will go for three in a row against the Iizuka-battered Tenzan and Gotou & Sugiura will try to finally get on the board after two sensational but losing efforts.
Tanaka (2) vs Oomori (4)
Makabe (0) vs Bernard (0)
Tanahashi (2) vs Yano (2)
Tenzan (4) vs Nakamura (4)
Nakanishi (2) vs Gotou (0)
Nagata (2) vs Sugiura (0)