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Abe’s New Japan G1 Climax Watch Guide (Part 1)

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G1 Climax 28 Logo

Two weekends ago, pro wrestling’s biggest and most critically-acclaimed tournament, the G1 Climax, kicked off.  The G1 is New Japan Pro Wrestling’s annual summer tournament that decides who will headline Wrestle Kingdom in January.  The pool is comprised of twenty of NJPW’s best which usually leads to the most exciting matches you’ll see all year.  You can watch them by signing up over at njpwworld.com.  I assure you it’s worth the subscription.

I’ll give you a quick run-down if you are new to the product.  Wrestle Kingdom is their biggest show of the year so this is like the Royal Rumble except it lasts a month.  The talent pool is divided into two separate blocks of 10 competitors each.  It’s a round robin style tournament so each wrestler will have at least 9 matches (one match against every man in their block).  A win is 2 points, a loss is 0 points, and each man is awarded 1 point in the event of a 30 minute time-limit draw.  The competitor with the most points in the A Block and B Block will face each other on August 12 to determine the winner.  If you want the an in-depth analysis of every night of G1 action, check out the articles by The Chairshot’s Andrew Balaz and Mathew Sarpraicone.

I understand that it’s A LOT of wrestling.  The most hardcore fans will struggle to find time for even half the matches.  The purpose of this guide is to give you the most efficient viewing experience possible.  Every week of the tournament I’ll be listing the matches I think every fan would enjoy.  I’ve decided to categorize them by Storytelling Matches, Character Matches, and Quality Matches.  Storytelling matches are matches that incorporate a current or past angle into a match, Character matches will help you become invested in certain wrestlers, and Quality matches are all of the above.  These are essentially the best the product can give you, in my opinion.  This first part will cover Night 1 (7/14) through Night 8 (7/26).

Storytelling Matches

  • Hangman Page v. Bad Luck Fale (N1, 7/14)
  • Jay White v. Kazuchika Okada (N1, 7/14)
  • Kazuchika Okada v. Bad Luck Fale (N3, 7/16)
  • Jay White v. Hiroshi Tanahashi (N3, 7/16)
  • Hirooki Goto v. Kenny Omega (N4, 7/19)
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi v. Bad Luck Fale  (N5, 7/20)
  • Tama Tonga v. Kenny Omega (N6, 7/21)
  • Tama Tonga v. Tetsuya Naito (N8, 7/26)
  • Juice Robinson v. Kenny Omega (N8, 7/26)

You may notice the frequency of the Bullet Club on this list.  If you are unaware, that’s because the BC underwent a transformation in San Francisco when the Tongan sect of the faction turned on the rest of the group, forming The Firing Squad.  Since most of the BC was bordering as a babyface faction in recent memory, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, and Bad Luck Fale decided to split and go back to their roots.  They’ve essentially hijacked the G1 tournament.  They’ll make a statement at all costs, especially against their former Bullet Club stablemates.  I honestly got chills when Hangman was walking down the aisle to confront Fale for the first time.  Speaking of making a statement, Tama made sure to take a shot at Roman Reigns and their Twitter beef before his match against Naito which was fantastic.  Something similar is happening in CHAOS.  When Jay White joined as the only heel in the faction back in January, he promised that he would face Okada one day and claim CHAOS as his own.  After his quest for dominance, he met Tanahashi in a Wrestle Kingdom rematch.  To top it off, we got to see a rematch of the 2016 G1 Finals when Kenny Omega and Hirooki Goto squared off as two different men this time around.  Most recently, Kenny and Juice had their rematch of last year’s meeting where Juice shocked the world.  This time, both men had lingering injuries to worry about.

Character Matches

  • Minoru Suzuki v. Hiroshi Tanahashi (N1, 7/14)
  • Toru Yano v. Tomohiro Ishii (N2, 7/15)
  • Minoru Suzuki v. YOSHI-HASHI (N5, 7/20)
  • Toru Yano v. Kota Ibushi (N6, 7/21)
  • Juice Robinson v. Tetsuya Naito (N6, 7/21)
  • YOSHI-HASHI v. Michael Elgin (N7, 7/22)
  • Bad Luck Fale v. EVIL (N7, 7/22)

Toru Yano is going to be plastered all over my watch guides.  Few leave me more entertained when he steps between the ropes.  He’s the type of comedic relief perfect for these long tournaments when every match needs a change of pace.  Many of you know Suzuki is the ultimate sadist so his matches against fan favorite Tanahashi, and ultimate underdog, Yoshi-Hashi were the perfect complements to his style.  Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero were really emphasizing Yoshi-Hashi’s lack of success in his bout with Elgin so it was really easy to get invested and root for him in that one.  Juice and Naito were originally going to be on my list of quality matches but the heel work and fighting spirit displayed in the match was too good to overlook.  EVIL brought Bad Luck Fale and the rest of the Bullet Club over to this part of the watch list because he was doing a really good job at handling the numbers disadvantage.  LIJ are technically supposed to be heels most of the time but it was refreshing to see EVIL work as the clear babyface in his matchup against Fale.

Quality Matches

  • Zack Sabre Jr. v. Kota Ibushi (N2, 7/15)
  • Tetsuta Naito v. Kenny Omega (N2, 7/15)
  • Zack Sabre Jr. v. Toru Yano (N4, 7/19)
  • Kota Ibushi v. Juice Robinson (N4, 7/19)
  • Zack Sabre Jr. v. SANADA (N6, 7/21)
  • Hirooki Goto v. Tomohiro Ishii (N6, 7/21)
  • SANADA v. Kota Ibushi (N8, 7/26)

Zack Sabre Jr. keeps coming up for a reason.  ZSJ is truly at the top of his game.  He has a very distinct in-ring style yet makes it new and interesting with every one of his opponents.  He would have been a sneaky favorite of mine to make a run if he didn’t win the NJ Cup earlier this year.  Kota and Juice also continue to stand out in each of their matches just as I expected.  We were treated to the rematch of last year’s finals early as Kenny and Naito put together a hot one.  Both guys are accustomed to lengthy main event style matches but the 30 minute limit forced them to go all-out from the get-go.  Goto vs. Ishii and Sanada vs. Kota Ibushi were probably my two favorite matches of the tournament so far.  Those are just four guys that are masters in the art of wrestling and always know how to create a main-event level match.

Standings As of 7/26

A Block

  1. Jay White (6 points)
  2. Hiroshi Tanahashi (6 points)
  3. EVIL (6 points)
  4. Kazuchika Okada (4 points)
  5. Togi Makabe (4 points)
  6. Michael Elgin (4 points)
  7. Minoru Suzuki (4 points)
  8. Hangman Page (2 points)
  9. Bad Luck Fale (2 points)
  10. YOSHI-HASHI (2 points)

B Block

  1. Kenny Omega (8 points)
  2. Tetsuya Naito (6 points)
  3. SANADA (6 points)
  4. Kota Ibushi (4 points)
  5. Zack Sabre Jr. (4 points)
  6. Tomohiro Ishii (4 points)
  7. Hirooki Goto (4 points)
  8. Tama Tonga (2 points)
  9. Toru Yano (2 points)
  10. Juice Robinson (0 points)

What’s great about the G1 is that even the guys staring down 2 points or less have still put together great matches.  A lot of them have a decent shot to get on a roll too.  For example, I didn’t expect Okada, Suzuki, Fale, and Tama to be stuck at 2 points after three matches.  I also don’t think many expected Jay White to get off to a 3-0 start.  Juice Robinson is the US Heavyweight Champion and has started 0-4 so it looks like they’re going to continue the rhetoric that he’s a “streaky” fighter.  Tama and Fale have taken multiple DQ losses which are rare so I see them shaking things up and coming back strong, especially since they’re at the center of the freshest storyline.  I understand that their main objective is to make a statement but I think the best way to do that is to win against the best competition.  It’s working for Jay White so far.  Okada is poised to go on a furious tear.  He’s the clear favorite in his block and already got some of his toughest tasks out of the way.

It was announced this week that Kenny Omega has been wrestling with a fractured heel.  He confirmed it in this week’s episode of Being the Elite and said he plans to finish the tournament regardless.  I watched his match against Juice Robinson with this in mind and it was incredible how much pressure he continued to put on it.  Omega said it hurts to walk but I never would have guessed by watching that match.  If the pain becomes unbearable, it’ll be interesting to see what NJPW decides to do moving forward.  Pulling him from the tournament or compensating by building a story around the injury are the first things that come to mind.  Removing him from the tournament while he’s still undefeated would protect him in more ways than one.

I also wanted to mention how much I’ve loved the commentary team of Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero.  You can tell they have paragraphs of notes for each match.  They’ve kept a tab of the total match time for each competitor so they can reference their long-term durability for the rest of the G1.  They also like to detail all the significant past meetings of the men in each match, especially if they were G1 matches.  During Hiroshi Tanahashi’s match against Hangman Page, they explained that Tana has a poor record against first-time G1 opponents.  Way back on Night 1 Kevin Kelly made a comment about how the ring sounded different after a slam so a board might have gotten knocked loose from a suplex earlier in the match.  He elaborated that this was significant because it could make any future contact with the mat potentially more dangerous.  These are things I never would have thought about.  It’s amazing what a little more insight can do to elevate the prestige of the tournament as a whole.


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Should New Japan’s Next UK Show Be At Wembley Arena?

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After watching an incredibly successful and entertaining PROGRESS Wrestling Wembley Arena show that drew a reported 4,750 fans. I’d like to discuss the viability of New Japan running that same arena next year, on the back of a successful Strong Style Evolved UK tour earlier this year.  

Strong Style Evolved UK Success

Let’s start with the success of the Strong Style Evolved UK tour. New Japan ran two shows earlier this year in the UK. One at the Planet Ice Arena in Milton Keynes drawing 2,500 fans and another at the Altrincham Ice Dome drawing 3,000. Both were reported as sell outs on the day. What’s interesting about the success of these shows is that only a third of New Japan’s roster was available. They had CEOxNJPW, ROH Best in the World and this Strong Style Evolved UK tour all at the same time. This meant that the UK tour was largely headlined by Suzuki-Gun (Minori Suzuki, ZSJ, Taichi etc.) and CHAOS (Okada, Ishii, Jay White, Ospreay etc.) talent. Only Kazuchika Okada out of New Japan’s ‘big four’ was present as Kenny Omega, Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi were at the other shows. An easy conclusion to reach would be that New Japan were able to draw 4,500+ fans with a third of their roster, surely if they brought their whole roster, they could have increased success? I think there is definitely some truth to that, however it’s worth mentioning that the majority of the tickets sold were prior to any talent announcements. So, many of those buying tickets (myself included as I attended the Manchester show) did so because it was the first New Japan tour of the UK, opposed to it being to do with any announced talent or match card. That being said, as someone who attended one of the shows and kept my eye on the social media feedback of the show/s. I didn’t see many complaints at all, it all seemed to be very positive. Especially at the shows, the feedback on the VODs is a different matter entirely. I think this is an important point that fans who bought their tickets weren’t disappointed with the lack of certain stars not being on the card. It speaks volumes to the depth of the New Japan roster and how great the partnership with RPW has been, which leads me to a great segue onto my next point of discussion.

SSE UK in Manchester night 2. Shared on Twitter by Andy Quildan, founder & promoter of RPW.

Partnership with Rev Pro

In my opinion Revolution Pro Wrestling’s partnership with New Japan Pro Wrestling has proven to be a great success so far for both parties. I really can’t praise RPW enough for how they’ve provided some absolute dream matches between the New Japan wrestlers and the indie talent not just from the UK, but from all around the world. They’ve also played a massive part in growing the New Japan brand in the UK. Whether that be through the frequent booking of talents such as Minoru Suzuki and Tomohiro Ishii or the sale of merch (be it at their shows or online). The consistent booking of New Japan wrestlers by RPW for their big shows has been such an important ingredient in allowing those outside of New Japan’s ‘big four’ to become draws in the UK.  it’s why despite having Okada on the SSE UK tour facing off against Zack Sabre Jr, Suzuki vs Ishii was the main event for their highest attended show competing for the RPW British Heavyweight Championship respectively. Another important factor of this relationship is how RPW helped produce the Strong Style Evolved UK shows, this includes handling the stage setup, arenas and the recording of the overall event. Which brings us onto the last point of discussion. What’s next?

Zack Gibson vs Yuji Nagata at Global Wars 2017. An example of the kind of unique matches RPW puts together.

Wembley Arena or UK Tour?

I think the first thing we have to ask is, could New Japan run Wembley Arena? As referenced earlier, PROGRESS Wrestling ran the arena and drew 4,750 fans. New Japan drew 4,500 fans across two shows in the UK. Could they draw more than that if they brought their whole roster over to the UK for a big show? It is my belief that they could. What I think they would need to do is confirm who is attending the show ahead of ticket sales, I think that would definitely create a lot of hype around this show.

The biggest question I think that should be asked is, should they? Should they run Wembley Arena or should they do another tour of the UK, only perhaps add a few more dates? Personally, it was very nice being able to attend the Manchester show and not have to travel down to London (the typical place for big RPW shows) for once. Another thing worth thinking about is, I have some friends that are in different parts of the UK, let’s say Wales or Scotland. They couldn’t make the shows in Milton Keynes or Manchester, so they definitely wouldn’t be able to make a Wembley Arena show in London. Perhaps there is more value in running more shows across the UK as part of a tour, opposed to running one big show? I think it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons. If they did a tour, more fans across the UK could attend shows closer to their home, they could run similar sized venues as they did for the SSE UK tour. The negative side of this is having to put match cards together for each event, which leads to opinions on who is getting the better show. We experienced this for the SSE UK tour where a lot of fans enjoyed the Milton Keynes show, but felt as though the Manchester one was definitely the better card with big singles matches. This is something New Japan and Rev Pro would have to be careful about. However, it does mean that more people up and down the country will have a chance to see New Japan live in person, that’s never a bad thing!

So, should they run Wembley Arena instead? In my opinion I think they should. The positives for me of running this show are that the UK will get a proper super show featuring all the New Japan talent under one roof. That’s something we just haven’t had yet. I also think they have a great opportunity to do some incredible numbers attendance-wise. I look at TNA’s record attendance and it was at Wembley Arena with 8,000+. Granted, the promotion was on UK TV via Challenge, but us Brits love pro wrestling. We’ve demonstrated our hunger for the New Japan product with two sold out shows and I do believe people would travel for one big show especially if it meant being a part of something special. There’s also a chance that New Japan could get some mainstream UK attention in the press if the show looks like it is going to be a success. I know PROGRESS Wrestling’s recent show got a lot of coverage online from sources that don’t usually bother with pro wrestling outside of WWE, this includes Sky Sports, Mirror, SportsBible and Daily Star to name but a few.

A Wembley Arena show could help New Japan keep their momentum going as a white hot promotion alongside their MSG sellout.   

All in all, I’d argue running a Wembley Arena show could have a greater impact on New Japan’s reach as a product. It would also help keep their forward momentum of an ever-growing promotion alongside the MSG show Stateside. I can honestly say doing either would be a positive thing, but I believe there to be more potential value in having one big show. Whatever happens next year, I’m looking forward to attending and being entertained by the New Japan stars as per usual!

 

What are your thoughts? Do you have a preference? If you’re in the UK, would you prefer a New Japan closer to you or one big show that brings fans from all over the country together? Let us know via social media or in the comments section!    


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Top 5 Matches: Week Ending 10/14/2018

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Well in a weekend of cray matches, crazy football games and overall crazy entertainment, this isn’t a very WWE friendly list.

Before we get to the Top 5 Matches, we need to go over the two votes we had last week. Firstly, our September winner:

  • January – NXT Takeover Philly: Johnny Gargano vs Andrade Almas
  • February – New Beginning in Osaka: Kazuchika Okada vs SANADA
  • March – Strong Style Evolved: Golden Lovers vs Young Bucks
  • April NXT Takeover NOLA: Andrade Almas vs Aleister Black
  • May – WWE Backlash: Seth Rollins vs The Miz
  • June – NJPW Dominion: Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega
  • July – G1 Climax 28: Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii
  • August – G1 Climax 28 Finals: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kota Ibushi
  • September – All In NWA Championship Match: Cody vs Nick Aldis (c)

It’s not the kind of match the IWC usually goes crazy for, but this proves that good story telling and emotional investment still leave an impression on people. As for last week, that’s more par for the IWC course. WWE Super Show-Down Cruiserweight Title Match: Cedric Alexander (c) vs Buddy Murphy, got most of the votes last week.

Now that we see what the MOTY pool is shaping up to be, let’s see what else joins the Cruiserweight match.

 

5. NJPW King of Pro Wrestling IWGP Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat: Kenny Omega (c) vs Cody vs Kota Ibushi

Only the third IWGP Heavyweight Triple Threat, and I suppose it doesn’t have a high bar to live up to. The first was effectively a match just to make Brock Lesnar look like a beast in 2005. The second was at ROH War of the Worlds in 2014, and…well…we don’t speak of that. So yeah, low bar, so if they all have a mediocre match, it’ll still be the best Triple Threat in the history of the IWGP Championship.

To be succinct, Omega was right in his post match promo. It was a little bit of a Cody match, Ibushi match and Omega match…but that also made the pacing a little awkward. It was mostly a formulaic WWE style of Triple Threat where one person gets dumped out and two focus on each other for a few minutes and then, switch.

It had some flashy spots, like Cody going through the announce table. Also a nice subtle statement from Cody during the match was interesting, when he said, “I’m your friend too! Help me too!”. Omega’s bias was an interesting underlying theme in the match.

As a match, it was pretty good, it felt weird given it was in New Japan and Ibushi sold more frustration and emotional struggle than Kenny once again. The fact Kenny doesn’t think twice about landing moves on Ibushi and then tries to put him over in the post match promo, just makes this whole relationship feel like Stockholm Syndrome.

I’m not going into moves, but the match is fine, if you aren’t a puro purist, you’ll probably be okay with it. But the match wasn’t a classic that will last more than the next couple months in most memories.

Winner: Omega via One Winged Angel (on Ibushi)

Rating: **** 1/4

 

4. Impact Bound For Glory Knockout’s Title Match: Tessa Blanchard (c) vs Taya Valkyrie

There’s not really much else to lead into this then: They both are alpha females, they kick ass…so let’s see who wins this.

Hard hitting from both and they had pretty solid chemistry together. We saw from both women they can wrestle any style needed, while staying resilient and imposing.

Tessa hits the Buzzsaw DDT, but Taya manages to kick out to Tessa’s surprise. Taya then rocks Tessa pretty hard, so Tessa tries to powder out and grabs the ring skirt. When Taya drags her back in, Tessa drags the skirt with her and the ref goes to readjust the ring. Taya hits Road to Valhalla during the distracted referee moment, and him being out of position allows Tessa enough time to kick out.

We see Tessa get to the top rope and leaps about halfway across the ring to hit Taya with Magnum. Finally picking up the pinfall and retaining her championship.

Yes I gave a very abridged edition, but that’s mainly because you should watch this. Many writers, reviewers and casual fans shit on women’s wrestling, but these two women are special. We’ve seen them both go up against men and more than hold their own, and they prove that when they have time, they know how to put on solid matches.

Winner: Tessa via Magnum

Rating: **** 1/2

 

3. Impact Bound for Glory World Heavyweight Championship Match: Austin Aries (c) vs Johnny Impact

Well this match certainly got personal all of a sudden. Aries basically calling out the hypocrisy of ‘short jokes’ still being acceptable when other genetic short comings, difference or handicaps are seen as taboo, got blown way out of proportion. Yes he worded his stance in a harsh way, but that also proved exactly what he meant. So ya, worked shoots, shoot Tweets and TMZ made this an interesting build.

The match started off like a shoot. Both men were posturing and attacking like they were trying to expose the other instead of work a match. If that was intentional, very good, cause I know the group of people I was watching with couldn’t tell where the truth and lie blurred.

Either way we had a lot of jawing back and forth between the Hennigans and Aries, and we even got both men to grab the ropes after each one’s finishers. So obviously they were working together enough, and I’d be lying if it didn’t add a nice layer to the match. Hell there was even an early spot where they were on a narrow side, outside of the ring, Aries charged and Johnny jumped up balancing on the barricade and apron perfectly and then hitting a moonsault/flip kick…something like that, shut up it looked cool.

Aries plays the jaded heel up until the end, even doing a dive to the outside straight on to Taya. Johnny goes right after Aries instead of checking on Taya, lands a brainbuster for rub ins and then one more Starship Pain, for the pinfall.

Nearly immediately after the bell, Aries gets up, effectively no sells the finish, curses at Don Callis and walks up the ramp flipping off the crowd. He could be heated that he was painted as the bad guy when logically his stance made sense. So I’m more interested to see the ramifications or if this is just another case of Aries’ ego showing him the door.

Damn good match, finish makes future episodes or news releases from Impact a little more interesting.

Winner: Impact via Starship Pain

Rating: **** 1/2

 

Honorable Mentions:

NJPW King of Pro Wrestling IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship Match: Kushida vs Marty Scurll
Winner: Kushida via Back to the Future
Rating: ****
Impact Bound for Glory Concrete Jungle Death Match: OGz vs LAX
Winner: LAX via Street Sweeper
Rating: *** 3/4
Impact Bound For Glory: Rich Swann & Willie Mack vs Matt Sydal & Ethan Page
Winner: Swann via Middle Rope Phoenix Splash
Rating: *** 3/4
AJPW Raising an Army Memorial Series AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Championship Match: Shuji Kondo (c) vs Hikaru Sato
Winner: Kondo via King Kong Lariat
Rating: *** 3/4
Impact Bound For Glory: oVe vs Fenix, Pentagon & Brian Cage
Winner: oVe via 14 Superkicks (pinning Cage)
Rating: *** 3/4
NOAH Global Junior League Final Day Finale: YO-HEY vs Kotaro Suzuki
Winner: Suzuki via Requiem
Rating: *** 1/2
AJPW Raising an Army Memorial Series All Asia Tag Title Match: Takao Omori & Black Menso-re vs Yuma Aoyagi & Naoya Nomura (c)
Winner: Nomura via Maximum
Rating: *** 1/2
ROH Glory by Honor ROH World Title Match: Jay Lethal (c) vs Silas Young
Winner: Lethal via Lethal Injection
Rating: *** 1/2
NJPW King of Pro Wrestling IWGP Jr Tag Team Title Match: El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru (c) vs Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask
Winner: Despy via Pinche Loco
Rating: *** 1/4
ROH Glory by Honor 6 Man Tag Title: Young Bucks (c) & Cody vs SoCal Uncensored
Winner: Cody via Crossroads
Rating: *** 1/4
Raw: The Shield vs Dogs of War
Winner: McIntyre via Claymore
Rating: ***
AJPW Raising an Army Memorial Series: Jake Lee vs Yusuke Okada
Winner: Jake via High Angle Back Body Drop
Rating: ***
AJPW Raising an Army Memorial Series: Dylan James & Kotaro Suzuki vs Koji Iwamoto & Ryoji Sai
Winner: James via Chokeslam
Rating: ***

 

2. NJPW King of Pro Wrestling G1 Briefcase Rights Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Jay White

We know the lead in to this. Jay beat Tanahashi during the G1, and because of that, he is granted a shot at claiming the briefcase for himself.  We’ve seen White become even more of a heel, getting Gedo to turn on Okada and splinter off from Chaos. So will the Ace stay ahead of the young heel Switchblade, or has Switchblade matured enough to overtake the Ace?

Another Tanahashi classic where pacing is important. Unlike his time seconding Okada, Gedo got involved on numerous occasions during the match. Tanahashi took him out at one point which gave White multiple openings. The match is well wrestled and got across both characters. Tanahashi trying to preserve wrestling in his image and complete his comeback tour. Jay playing the foil of the heel that will do literally anything to win.

After two High Fly Flows, Gedo pulls Red Shoes out of the ring. Jay low blows Tanahashi, but Tanahashi returns the favor at some point. Jay introduced the chair, Tanahashi tried to slam Jay on it and then hit one more High Fly Flow, but hits all chair. Jay hits Tanahashi with the chair and then has Gedo go revive Red Shoes.

Just as we think Jay White is going to win with Blade Runner, after soo much cheating, Tanahashi counters it into a Small Package, and picks up the pinfall victory.

Fallout after the match is noteworthy since Gedo and White beat down Tanahashi, Okada comes out to make the save. Jado tries to calm down Okada and then the Bullet Club OGs show up, surround the ring and effectively jump Okada. White joins in and it turns out Gedo, Jado and Jay White are all part of the Firing Squad version of the Bullet Club now.

So it’s very much like nWo Wolfpack and Hollywood now, but hey, people like it, so why the hell not?

Winner: Tanahashi via Small Package

Rating: **** 1/2

 

1. NOAH Global Junior League Final Day GHC Heavyweight Championship Match: Takashi Sugiura (c) vs Katsuhiko Nakajima

Sugiura has had the best reign of any world champion in 2018. His defenses have all been different and bring out different feelings and layers in not only his opponents but also the crowd. Nakajima had Sugiura’s number last time he was champion in 2016, and he’s only gotten better. So will the shameless old man hold on, or do we see the cocky Nakajima take it again?

This match was unlike any other match Sugiura’s had all year, and I can’t even think of a similar one in quite a while. Nakajima outright dominated this match. He played coy, aloof and just straight arrogant. Every time Sugiura tried to hit him, he’d dodge and strike back. This was the classic story of egotistical youngster trying to make the old dog look bad, because he’s faster, better, etc.

Sugiura got in a small flurry when he was able to land a Spear off a misdirection move. But then Nakajima established himself as just being five steps ahead. Katsuhiko is known as the Genius of the Kick, and he light up Sugiura. Standing Round Kicks, a flurry of Thrust Kicks to the chest and head in the corner, Soccer Ball kicks to his chest, punting Sugiura’s head so well I’m pretty sure Randy Orton blushed somewhere. Nakajima put on a clinic, but Sugiura was mostly resilient.

I say mostly, because there was a moment after the second or third punt to the head, that Sugiura appeared knocked out. Nakajima puts his foot on his chest for the cocky cover, 1-2, and then he lifts his foot off and grins. Nakajima wanted to continue to embarrass the old man, instead of just win the match and be done with it. This would ultimately prove to be his downfall.

Nakajima got progressively more lazy with his kicks. The man has great form, but he was sacrificing torque just to be cute. Sugiura kicks out of the Vertical Spike and eventually puts a little offense together but Nakajima kicks out of the Olympic Slam. One of those lazy kicks finally bites the arrogant genius in the ass, and Sugiura locks in an Ankle Lock. After pulling back into the center of the ring twice, he grapevines the leg, and Nakajima is forced to tap out.

A well wrestled match, with gorgeous character work and ring psychology make this match special. Definitely worth watching for anyone with a half hour to kill.

Winner: Sugiura via Ankle Hold

Rating: *****

 

Thoughts:

As I usually mention when something obscure takes the top spot, I don’t expect it to win the vote, but it deserves the attention. Also just to throw this out there, Glory by Honor was a pretty awful show. Looked like the venue was at least one third empty, the matches were uninspired and the things that even made Honor Mention are well below average level for the participants. Couple that with Bound for Glory being a solid show mixing good wrestling with solid sports entertainment, it’s just a bad look for ROH.

Anyway! Back to the Top 5, my vote will go for the match that topped the list. I gushed a little in the description, because it’s so many professional wrestling tool utilized beautifully. Tessa vs Taya would be my second choice, but that’s not how this works.

So either way, hopefully you saw a couple of these. Make your opinion heard and let us know which one you think is the best of the 5. And remember, Always Use Your Head.


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Opinion

Booking the Entirety of Smackdown 1000

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Smackdown Fist Stage WWE

The 1000th episode of Smackdown is this Tuesday and it’s been a highly anticipated show for weeks now. The reunion of all four members of Evolution is going to happen and Rey Mysterio vs Shinsuke Nakamura was just announced last week. There’s sure to be more returns and surprises so let’s see if I can make the most out of those within a two hour show. My goal here is to reminisce on the times and superstars we cherish while still making new stars.

John Cena’s Open Challenge

He doesn’t currently have a championship but John Cena made his WWE debut as a result of Kurt Angle’s open challenge. That’s why I would have John Cena open the show with an open challenge to all the current and former stars in the locker room. The man that answers the call is none other than Kurt Angle. When rumors of Kurt Angle returning to WWE started to surface a couple years ago I wanted him to answer John Cena’s United States Championship Open Challenge as his method of return. Since that is no longer possible, Tuesday feels like the best way to revisit that historic segment from 2002.

Evolution segment sets up giant main event

For the Evolution segment I’d have all four members go to ring and cut a promo. They would be interrupted by New Day, who would then be interrupted by The Club (Gallows, Anderson, and AJ Styles). All three teams are going back and forth on the mic when the lights go out. Sanity’s music hits and they decide they want in on the action. This now sets up the giant 12-man main event: Evolution (w/ Ric Flair) vs The Club vs New Day vs Sanity. Teddy Long can make the announcement of the tag team match because that’s what he does best.

Becky Strikes Again

As the segment concludes and is about to go to commercial, Becky Lynch attacks Ric Flair from behind. This is just the next way for Becky to get under Charlotte’s skin. Charlotte comes in to stop it but Paige needs to preserve their title match for Evolution. Paige announces that she’s recruited a former women’s champion to humble Becky. Beth Phoenix makes sense but Molly Holly is more synonymous with the Smackdown brand. We saw Molly return at the Royal Rumble so this isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Becky Lynch defeating a legend one on one would further cement her current status as champion.

Evolution (cont.)

During the main event my plan would be for Sanity to win. At Raw 25, the Revival got utterly humiliated by DX so here’s a chance to rectify that. If they’re not ready to give Sanity that kind of a clean win, Undertaker can cost Triple H and Evolution the match. They’re in the middle of a feud and there is no Smackdown celebration without an appearance from The Undertaker.

Eddie Guerrero Tribute

My original plan was for Andrade “Cien” Almas to pay tribute to Eddie but I eventually thought against it since he is his own person. Instead, after a commercial, a video montage should play of Eddie’s best Smackdown moments. WWE is usually really good with their video packages and Eddie is one of Smackdown’s most significant talents of all time. As the montage fades, Rey Mysterio’s music hits to signal his match with Nakamura. Since Rey was his close friend, it would be really special to see some sort of tribute to Eddie on his ring gear or maybe he wins the match via Frog Splash. Perhaps we see Vickie Guerrero play a role in this instead. She’s a former Smackdown General Manager so she deserves a spot in the show for multiple reasons.

Samoan Supremacy

I’m not sure if The Rock is scheduled to make an appearance but I need him for this segment. When looking back at the earliest memories of Smackdown, The Rock is all over them. I’d have him come down to the ring and talk about those memories and his legacy – saying it wouldn’t have been possible without his Samoan ancestors. That’s when Samoa Joe’s music would hit. He’d make the obvious remarks of The Rock’s Hollywood status and what not. Joe would then go on to say that the reason WWE brought him in was because they were tired of The Rock’s and Roman Reigns’ bloodline and needed a fresh start. After all, he has been one of main the faces of Smackdown for all of 2018. After another insult to The Rock’s family, a fight would ensue which would require both guys to get pulled apart. The Rock could even take a shot at Joe’s freshly injured knee before the scrap concludes.

A New Giant Emerges

One of the most iconic moments in Smackdown history is when Brock Lesnar’s superplex to Big Show collapsed the entire ring. Since Big Show returned last week, he could stand in the ring while the clip of that match plays on the Titantron. Big Show lost in his return last week so his promo would have a reflective and somber tone. He would have the audience believe that he’s about to retire. This would be the show to do it on, after all. However, before Show can conclude his speech, Lars Sullivan debuts. Sullivan declares that he won’t allow Show to walk out until he puts him down himself. Lars wins via superplex and a star is born.

Edge and Christian’s Cutting Edge Peep Show

I had a few big stars left over and this was the way to squeeze everyone in. Daniel Bryan is a guest on the Cutting Edge Peep Show. Edge and Christian are congratulating him on his recently earned WWE Championship match. Christian says him and Daniel Bryan are similar in the sense that they were once underdogs. Edge says he sympathizes with Daniel because he also had to retire early. Miz is annoyed and decides to crash the party. He cuts the promo of a lifetime of everyone in the ring and puts over Miz TV as the superior talk show.

A certain Rattlesnake in the back has heard enough. Glass shatters. Dads everywhere toss their children in the air out of excitement. Stone Cold Steve Austin is walkin’ and talkin’ all the way down to the ring. He is clearly fed up. Miz tries to talk over the entrance music and audience ovation to no avail. Austin gives a Smackdown-sized stunner to the Miz and the microphone goes flying. Austin, Bryan, Edge and Christian all celebrate in the ring as Miz lays lifeless. Miz tries to get up toward the end of the celebration but receives another stunner for his troubles. Everyone is happy heading into the main event.

Miscellaneous

The Fist

When lifelong wrestling fans think of Smackdown, they immediately think of the giant fist that used to be centered at the top of the stage. Tuesday is the ideal time to bring it back for one night.

Commentary Team

I’d like to hear some of the voices of Smackdown’s past. Michael Cole and Tazz on commentary with Tony Chimel as the special guest ring announcer would be quite the nostalgia trip.

Hardy Boyz vs The Usos

The Hardy Boys are clearly one of the most crucial elements to the early success of not only Smackdown, but the history of the tag division. In a down year for Smackdown, the Jimmy and Jey Uso were considered by many as the MVPs of the brand in 2017. To my knowledge, these pairs of brothers have never actually squared off in the ring. Let’s make it happen on Tuesday.

Missed Opportunity

As much as I loved King Booker’s return to introduce New Day into the 5-Timer’s Club, I wish there would have been a way to save Booker T for Tuesday night.

Opening Theme

I saw a poll going around Twitter asking for everyone’s favorite Smackdown opening theme of all time. This got me thinking that it would be a fun idea to open the show with a mash-up of all the past themes and short clips of all the past title sequences edited together. It’ll be a quick trip down memory lane to start the night.


Always Use Your Head and visit the official Pro Wrestling Tees store for The Chairshot All t-shirt proceeds help support the advancement of your favorite hard-hitting wrestling website, The Chairshot!


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