I have been a professional wrestling fan my entire life, but I have rarely watched outside of WWE. So, for my first time experiencing New Japan Pro Wrestling, I was told the perfect place to start was the 2016 G1 Climax. After just one night I am already impressed, the Japanese strong style of wrestling, as they call it, creates hard-hitting contests that made me much more invested in the matches.
Block A Match- Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Tomohiro Ishii
Night one would kick off with Hiroyoshi Tenzan locking horns against Tomohiro Ishii. Tenzan and Ishii are two big men that hit very hard and they had a great back-and-forth contest.
I was not too familiar with either of these men, but I had seen videos of Ishii’s powerful chops, and all those videos were very accurate. The echo heard when Ishii lashed out over his opponent’s chest is deafening.
In this match, I also got to hear my first iconic, “BRAINBUSTAAA,” from the Japanese commentary team. I had placed Ishii as the favourite in this match due to knowing more about him previously, so I was surprised by the close of this match.
Tenzan would drop Ishii with a power slam and climb to the top rope, landing a moonsault onto Ishii and getting the pin. Giving Tenzan the win and his first two points of the tournament.
Winner: Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2pts)
Block A Match- Togi Makabe vs Tama Tonga
The next match saw Togi Makabe matching up with Tama Tonga. This match was nothing too special. It was a very average contest between two technical heels it seemed.
The matchup only lasted about 10 minutes and had no big spots and the final 20 seconds of the match was the only part that made me really watch the screen. Makabe would land a top rope belly-to-belly suplex to Tonga followed by a diving knee drop, giving him the win and the two points.
Winner: Togi Makabe (2pts)
Block A Match- Hirooki Goto vs Bad Luck Fale
The next match of the card did two things for me; it made me very invested in Hirooki Goto and uninterested in Bad Luck Fale. Goto has some serious skill in the ring, and the way he moves for a man his size amazed me.
Fale, on the other hand, made me think of every other big man in wrestling history, having a very limited move set and not taking bumps too well. I cannot see him being a successful singles star, but instead being a smaller star’s muscle.
Goto had some high spots in this match, specifically his corner spinning heel kick and his powerful finishing move, the GTR. This move dropped Fale’s neck right on to his knee while clubbing his chest at the same time was outstanding, and gave him his first two points of the tournament.
Winner: Hirooki Goto (2pts)
Block A Match- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs SANADA
After watching this bout, I can now truly understand why Hiroshi Tanahashi is “The Ace” of NJPW and why people view SANADA as such an underrated competitor.
Tanahashi showed his technical skill throughout the matchup, and SANADA worked so well as the heel. He wore him down throughout the match, and constantly working on The Ace’s left arm was great heelwork.
Tanahashi’s momentum boost at the end was such an entertaining moment, he was hitting SANADA from every angle. Hitting the trapped arm suplex and going to the top rope for his iconic high fly flow, only to be caught with a cutter in mid-air by SANADA.
SANADA followed up the cutter with back-to-back diving moonsaults from the top rope and then locking in the dragon sleeper, to submit Tanahashi for the huge upset victory. I am now very excited to see what SANADA will do for the rest of the tournament.
Winner: SANADA (2pts)
Block A Match- Naomichi Marufuji vs Kazuchika Okada
MATCH OF THE NIGHT
With Kazuchika Okada coming into this tournament as the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, he was the clear favourite for the whole tournament. Therefore, this match had a very shocking result.
Naomichi Marufuji and Okada stole the show with this matchup and they kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Okada may be the best bout machine, but Marifuji took the spotlight in this one in my opinion. His strong kicks and his few high-flying attacks really amazed me.
But, that’s not to take away from the great work Okada did in this match too. He does his moves so cleanly that it all looks so brutal but beautiful at the same time. Specifically, his German suplex, diving elbow drop, and his reverse neck breaker where he drops the opponent on his knee.
The close of the match was a highlight reel, Marufuji hitting the superkick, followed by a bicycle knee, and finally finishing the match with his signature move, the pole shift. Marufuji landed the huge upset, knocking off the champion in his first match of the tournament.
Winner: Naomichi Marufuji (2pts)
This concludes night one of the 2016 G1, and it was a great event. We saw upsets like Tenzan, SANADA, and Marufuji; along with strong showings from Makabe and Goto. I am very excited to see what is in store for the next night of the tournament, and NJPW has really built my interest.
BLOCK A STANDINGS
Hiroyoshi Tenzan – 2 Points
Togi Makabe – 2 Points
Hirooki Goto – 2 Points
SANADA – 2 Points
Naomichi Marufuji – 2 Points
Kazuchika Okada – 0 Points
Hiroshi Tanahashi – 0 Points
Bad Luck Fale – 0 Points
Tama Tonga – 0 Points
Tomohiro Ishii – 0 Points