Welcome to an experiment of mine in watching through pro wrestling: Tournament Watch! I’m going to go through tournaments watching and reporting on each of the matches, giving special attention to wrestlers trying to actually win the match. One of the thing that interests me about wrestling is how it works like a sport and tournaments are the epitome of that. I’m going to start out with a trial run and for that I’ll use a re-watch of G1 Climax 27 from 2017. I did watch a healthy portion of this as it happened but life etc got in the way and prevented me from watching every single match. That’s what I’m going to do here.
To analyze the G1 matches I’m going to use a basic point system that shows who has the most advantage throughout the match. It goes as follows: Pins score 1 point for each count. Submission victories are worth 3 points. Using a rope break1 gives -1 point. Getting a warning2 from the ref also gives -1 point. Being disqualified or counted out is -1 point on top of the warning. The idea of this is to give an at-a-glance look at who had the advantage throughout the match. It’s a slightly distorted look that focuses on match finishes* but that is also my focus. Just keep that in mind if you end up seeing a dominating monster get a low score; not every wrestler is focused on getting pins, so a low score doesn’t mean a bad showing.
So without more babbling, let’s dive into day 1.
G1 CLIMAX 27
DAY 1 – A BLOCK
YUJI NAGATA vs YOSHI-HASHI
They quickly circled up, then started to trade holds early on. Nagata started off showing his veteran chops and a real fire to succeed here. He took the opening stanzas until Hashi pulled a little trick, following Nagata into the ropes but sliding out, then hooking Nagata’s foot and pulling him to the ground. Hashi dominated a bit of floor brawling before sending Nagata back in. Hashi’s control was very slow and deliberate here, wearing Nagata down while Nagata expended his energy trying to get back on top. Hashi then made a classic mistake: a weak striker getting complacent and trying to throw hands with someone truly dangerous. Here’s where Nagata started to beat Yoshi-Hashi silly yet again, using heavy kicks and rapid but stern arm strikes. Nagata tried an exploder but it was blocked, so he went for a rope-hung neck dragon screw instead, then got his exploder and a two count. Hashi turned things back in his favor with a blockbuster, then began pouring the pressure on and putting Nagata’s shoulders to the mat time and time again. Nagata managed to fight back out to get his famous trance armlock, even doing a double trance, but Hashi eventually got the ropes. Nagata kept control for one suplex, but Hashi countered a second into a small package. Now Hashi kept his momentum rolling, backfooting Nagata. He went for Karma but Nagata blocked it, though in the struggle Nagata got hit with a lungblower. That let Hashi come back, hit the Karma driver, and get the 3 count victory.
Rope Breaks Used: Hashi 2, Nagata 1
Warnings Received: none
Pin Attempts: Hashi 7 (15), Nagata 2 (4)
Score: Hashi 13 | Nagata 3
A surly veteran on what’s near to his last ride, if not the last one, against a cocky young punk with stupid hair. A tale as old as time. The premise appeals from the get go, with Yoshi-Hashi playing a younger athlete who can rely on his physical attributes to beat Nagata. Except not really? Cause Nagata hits way harder, throws farther, moves more crisply, and generally does everything better than Yoshi-Hashi. At first Hashi’s nonchalance can be played off as him underestimating Nagata, but he should have realized that he had a real fight on his hands and kicked it into a higher gear towards the end. Nagata was willing to go there but Hashi didn’t seem interested.
High Points: Nagata’s exploder being blocked, then hitting the neck screw and the exploder again; Nagata kicking Hashi
Finish: Hashi slams Nagata with Karma > cradle > pinfall
TOGI MAKABE vs BAD LUCK FALE
The two hosses circled, then started throwing big hammers, then charged at each other off the ropes until Makabe finally floored Fale, establishing his ring dominance for the moment. He immediately sendt Fale out to the floor where Fale shortly turned things around. He hooked Makabe’s neck with his own chain and dragged him out into the stands, where he slung him into several chairs. The referee finally began to count and Fale got back to the ring, much later followed by Makabe who managed to crawl in before the 20 count. Fale took advantage with his overpowering offense, keeping Makabe pinned to the mat as best he could. Out of nowhere, Makabe hit a lariat and took Bad Luck Fale down, buying himself some time. Now Makabe went on a roll, scoring a 2 count fall after a corner rush. Suddenly, Fale hit a lariat of his own to take over. He tried to use his Grenade chokeslam but TM fought back. Fale now tried the Bad Luck Fall but again Makabe slipped free. He came out victorious in a gutsy lariat battle, then climbed the top rope and sailed off with his patented on-target King Kong Knee Drop. That flattened Fale. Makabe wanted to put the exclamation point on it so he went up to a different turnbuckle and flew off, but he missed and ended up in the chokehold of Fale. The big Bullet Club Underboss got to his feet and hit his Grenade chokeslam to win the match.
Rope Breaks Used: none
Warnings Received: Makabe 1, Fale 1
Pin Attempts: Makabe 2 (4), Fale 4 (9)
Score: Makabe 3 | Fale 8
There was nothing much to this match: two big men with no particular reason to like one another and every reason to drive straight through the other on the way to a potentially landmark run. The crowd brawling was alright, mostly glad that it didn’t take too much time and they didn’t try to kill themselves doing fancy stuff on the outside. That said, there wasn’t the kind of sheer Godzilla Destroy All Monsters type of energy that really makes big man battles stand out. And make no mistake, despite their size difference there was the distinct impression that Makabe was Fale’s physical match. This particular set-up was intended for two powerful combatants of roughly equal might slugging it out. I felt Fale more in that role than I did Makabe.
High Points: Fale throwing Makabe into chairs
Finish: Fale slams Makabe with Grenade > leg-hook press > pinfall
Winner: Bad Luck Fale
HIROOKI GOTO vs TOMOHIRO ISHII
Another battle of power, but this time the competitors charged straight at each other over and over, first simultaneously, then alternating, then going into fevered strikes until out of nowhere Ishii was rocked. Goto tried to capitalize, but suddenly Ishii exploded back out with a shoulder block that flung Goto down. Throughout the match Goto was doing his damndest to simply break Ishii down and the Stone Pitbull was having none of it. A prime example: after Goto had Ishii stunned he tried to go up top but Ishii was there to meet him, and even when Goto thought he’d stunned Ishii with a headbutt, Ishii surged up with his rock solid skull, then peeled Goto off the top with a second-rope superplex. Goto’s sense of fight will never leave him and it didn’t on this occasion, but he had a hell of a lot to fight through. After eating a powerbomb and a sliding lariat from Ishii, Goto managed to escape the vertical brainbuster and lock in a sleeperhold. Ishii rallied but Goto met him blow for blow until a double lariat took both down. An endless strike battle followed, one that Hirooki Goto edged out with a big kick for a two count. Goto then hit Ishii with a reverse GTR, then a standard GTR, then got the three count.
Rope Breaks Used: none
Warnings Received: none
Pin Attempts: Goto 5 (8), Ishii 3 (6)
Score: Goto 8 | Ishii 6
A good, hard-hitting match that burst with intensity, a kind that is persistent, high-level, and bound to build a tolerance in whoever experiences it. As it got past Ishii’s powerbomb and lariat, the match lost a lot of steam: Ishii had previously been shown to be “mortal” so there was nothing left to prove for Goto, yet they kept going. This match also highlights my major issue with Hirooki Goto: his one-dimensionality. His approach of simply battering down his opponents works great against lots of people but not Ishii. The fact that he goes straight ahead against Ishii shows that he has no cunning. The fact that he doesn’t change his tactics when he’s seen how sturdy Ishii is shows that he has no flexibility. These are reasons, in my mind, that Goto can’t get into a consistent top-level position. He’s a color to be painted with, not the painter. He doesn’t change. Ishii, on the other hand, couldn’t be cooler. On surface he’s similar to Goto, but I think the fact that he is supposed to be an unbreakable badass whereas Goto is supposed to be tough but have some vulnerability makes it easier to take Ishii’s one-dimensionality.
High Points: Ishii’s leaping headbutt to superplex; Ishii’s powerbomb, then sliding lariat
Finish: Goto attacks Ishii with reverse GTR > GTR > leg-hook press > pinfall
Winner: Hirooki Goto
ZACK SABRE JR vs HIROSHI TANAHASHI
It must be said that both of these guys have awful entrance music. Maybe they were both thinking about that during their slow start. We got some finger sparring at first before progressing to tougher holds. At first, Sabre Jr didn’t focus on the glaring target of Tanahashi’s wrapped arm to break down his legs, but he gradually began to work the upper body as well. Tanahashi fought free and battled up but an elbow drop proved a mistake, landing him into a cross arm breaker from the Englishman. Sabre Jr continued to be in the driver’s seat, throwing in a few strikes to set up for his next hold. Again Tanahashi rallied but this time ZSJ had a great response, zipping into the corner, then back in and slinging himself around Tanahashi to hook the octopus hold, his attention now on wrenching apart Tanahashi’s arm. After using a dragon screw to escape, Tanahashi began to build real momentum. Sabre Jr managed to bait him into an European clutch, but afterwards Tana hit his Sling Blade, then a High Fly Flow for two. El Desperado, who had accompanied ZSJ, jumped onto the apron long enough to get knocked off. Tanahashi went up for High Fly Flow #2 but this time ZSJ got his knees up, then twisted Tanahashi into an armbar which forced him to tap out.
Rope Breaks Used: Sabre Jr 1, Tanahashi 1
Warnings Received: Sabre Jr 1
Pin Attempts: Sabre Jr 2 (4+3)
Score: Sabre Jr 5 | Tanahashi -1
A pretty decent match all told. The real story here was Tanahashi’s hubris. He felt he was the all-conquering ace and wouldn’t have much problem with this new kid. He tried to beat ZSJ at his own game on the mat at first but was seriously outclassed. At the end, he seems to have assumed that he’d had Sabre Jr down for the count even with the extra time needed to take El Desperado out. It cost him. Sabre’s technique is always a delight to watch and it’s great to see paired against someone with the particular energy of Hiroshi Tanahashi. Not a real star making turn because Tanahashi did not take Sabre completely seriously but it definitely went a long way to displaying what Zack can bring to the table. Desperado’s interference was regrettable but didn’t effect the match much, and maybe he only serves to make Tanahashi look like he’s made less of a mistake.
High Points: ZSJ’s high-speed octopus hold; ZSJ upkick countered into a Tanahashi tragon screw; ZSJ baiting Tanahashi into the European clutch
Finish: Tanahashi dives onto Sabre Jr with High Fly Flow > Sabre Jr blocks with knees > Sabre Jr converts into armbar > submission
Winner: Zack Sabre Jr
KOTA IBUSHI vs TETSUYA NAITO
The atmosphere is cacaphonous and both men absorb it for a moment, then rush to lock up. Naito is pushed into the ropes and Ibushi gives him a clean break, only for Naito to kick him, pitch him to the floor, head for a dive but then hit his Tranquilo feint. Naito kept trying to annoy Ibushi until, annoyed, Ibushi just attacked Naito in the back. That kicked things right into gear. Naito threw in an array of neckbreakers to Ibushi, including one on the apron that sent Ibushi to the floor until about the count of 10. Naito controls until they get into a series of whip reversals which Kota wins by sending Naito into the ropes and clocking him with a big dropkick. Soon, Ibushi’s sent Naito to the floor with a rana, then flew out himself with the Golden Triangle. Now in the game, Ibushi threw Naito back in and started in on him, but Naito wasn’t cooked just yet. Naito eventually went for his big driver Gloria but Ibushi flipped out, crushed him with a snap German suplex, then laid in kicks that were made even more vicious by the look of Lovecraftian horror which paralyzed Naito’s face after the barrage. Ibushi’s search for a top rope powerbomb let Naito slip out and eventually deliver Gloria, and then a super reverse rana, but neither ended Ibushi. Naito tried for Destino but Ibushi blocked and lawndarted him into the corner, then hit his deadlift second-rope German suplex. Ibushi tried to follow up but Naito reversed away. He set Ibushi up for a super rana but Ibushi escaped and fought his way until he could spike Naito with a super piledriver which, somehow, only got two. Ibushi grabbed double underhooks but Naito blocked, fought away, then hit a hurried Destino for 2. With Ibushi on the ropes, all Naito needed to do was pick him up, deliver Destino again, and get the win, which he did.
Rope Breaks Used: Ibushi 1
Warnings Received: Ibushi 1
Pin Attempts: Ibushi 4 (8), Naito 6 (13)
Score: Ibushi 6 | Naito 13
Definitely the best match of the night and with the most engaging reversals of fortune. Yet for all that it still struck me as shallow. It worked on lifebar logic, where your skill is based on hitting the right move at the right time, rather than on a sense of strategy. At the same time there wasn’t really a strong story current in the match either. Neither Ibushi nor Naito really changed as time went on, they just continued to blast each other as best they could. Popcorn matches like this are fun but they always leave me a little dry.
High Points: Naito’s utterly horrified post-kicking face; Ibushi’s Golden Triangle; Ibushi’s super driver; Naito’s early neckbreaker rush; Naito’s super reverse rana
Finish: Naito slams Ibushi with Destino > leg-hook press > pinfall
Winner: Tetsuya Naito
The A Block gave a pretty good showing to set the stage. Maybe it’s just time but I’m not as over the moon about the main event as everyone, including myself to an extent, was when it first happened. It’s really not my sort of match to be honest. I remember as well having high hopes for Elgin vs Tama which weren’t quite met, though as I’m hinting I think Tama Tonga is forging a new path… if he ever realizes it. I remember the feeling that the B Block had some ground to make up quality wise from the great head start the A Block received. Day 2 will tell the tale.
|A Block||B Block|
|Tetsuya Naito||2||Kazuchika Okada||—|
|Zack Sabre Jr||2||EVIL||—|
|Bad Luck Fale||2||SANADA||—|
|Hirooki Goto||2||Kenny Omega||—|
|Kota Ibushi||0||Tama Tonga||—|
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||0||Satoshi Kojima||—|
|Togi Makabe||0||Juice Robinson||—|
|Tomohiro Ishii||0||Minoru Suzuki||—|
|Yuji Nagata||0||Michael Elgin||—|
1 A rope break means being in a hold and choosing to grab the ropes to break the hold, or otherwise purposely grabbing to the ropes to back the opponent off. Being pushed into the ropes, for example, doesn’t use a rope break.
2 Warnings only register if the ref actually begins to count, like count-outs or not releasing on a rope break.
* To answer why I didn’t give points for submission holds (since it’s an issue I had to work out), it was just too hard to decide what was a “real” submission hold. Technically you can get a submission victory off of an armwringer or a rear chinlock but the odds of that happening are very low. But then again, if you do it late in the match after having worked the arm/neck, maybe it should be sold as dangerous. Waiting until the ref actually asks doesn’t work cause some refs ask early and sometimes the wrestler tells them to ask and they do. That’s why I just gave a penalty for using a rope break and full points for a submission win.