Hey folks! The G1 Climax is approximately halfway done and I thought I'd give you a quick rundown of the matches that have happened since the last time I wrote one of these to let you know if they're worth your time or not. I've got a very simple five point scale laid out where a 1 is total skip, 2 you can probably skip unless you love one of the dudes in it, 3 is a match that's worth watching but not necessarily worth making time for, a 4 is a solid recommendation to make time for if you can, and a 5 is a must-watch.
Mind you, these are not star ratings. They're not meant to be absolute ratings in any sense, but rather a simple (and hopefully sensible) way to determine if a match is worth your time. A one is not necessarily a bad match, but rather just one I feel like you're best off skipping. I have my biases (sorry, fans of Goto and Okada!), of course, but hopefully I can make it easy for you to adjust for them.
Night 6 (B Block, July 27th)
YOSHI-HASHI vs. Yuji Nagata (3): YOSHI-HASHI comes into this one with his shoulder all taped up, and Nagata's locked onto it right from the jump. But it's not all "grumpy vet beats up the first timer", because Tacos has that fire of unknown origin burning inside of him. Not a great match, exactly, but one worth watching.
EVIL vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima (3): These dudes hit each other a lot, and it's fun. EVIL seems to hate Nakajima's face, for some reason. Maybe it owes him money. It's a clubberin'!
Tetsuya Naito vs. Toru Yano (3): Much like the Omega/Yano match, this is not exactly a wrestling showcase, but it's a lot of fun all the same. Sublime master thief in full effect, with the Ingobernable One being an excellent foil. Only thing I'd dock it for is it went a little short, and not in the fun obvious way I was hoping for.
Kenny Omega vs. Tomoaki Honma (2): Something about this one just didn't work for me. It's frustrating, because Kenny played it totally straight, which usually kicks his matches up into essential territory for me, and I historically have really enjoyed Honma's work for the most part. This G1, I dunno, the Kokeshi keeps missing or something-- it's just not landing. Definitely worth watching and forming your own opinion if you're in the same boat as me with both guys, though.
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Michael Elgin (4): Power vs. grappling to start, before both men increasingly lean on their stiff strikes and Shibata even starts slinging Big Mike around a little himself. While it never quite reached fever pitch, it was damn close at points and is definitely worth your time.
Night 7 (A Block, July 28th)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Togi Makabe (2): Tenzan's heart continues to carry him through the tournament even when his body flags. This one is mostly Makabe beating the living hell out of him and Tenzan bravely fighting back for an opening. Not bad, but not anything hugely necessary.
Hirooki Goto vs. SANADA (3): With SANADA dominating much of the match and Goto fighting from underneath, I found this one quite enjoyable. Not quite willing to push it to the level of absolute recommendation that I've set a four at, but it's close.
Naomichi Marufuji vs. Tomohiro Ishii (4): Do you like chops? This one has a lot of chops in it. So many chops. Ishii's chest looks like ground meat by the end of it. Fortunately, as much as I do like chops, this also has a lot more to it. Very much worth your time.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Tama Tonga (2): Cards on the table, I had pretty low expectations for this one. I saw basically one path to a good match (work it as a really fast-paced sprint, just have both guys put their feet to the floor and punch the gas), and while they chose not to do that, I actually enjoyed the result more than I thought I would.
Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (4): This is exactly the match that you expected if you've been following the G1. Fale's the big bad giant, and Tanahashi's taking an axe to him to desperately try and end his losing streak and claw his way back into contention. So another one where numbers are kind of irrelevant, because either that story intrigues you or it doesn't, but with a few big brutal spots, it's a great match.
Night 8 (B Block, July 30th)
Tomoaki Honma vs. Toru Yano (2): While not as excellent as the Omega or Naito matches-- Honma is far too much of a straight man despite his own schtick being in full effect here-- it's still fun to see these two interact. Still as much a matter of taste as any Yano match is, of course, and on the short side, so watch accordingly.
EVIL vs. YOSHI-HASHI (3): Kinda neat seeing YOSHI-HASHI get to be the veteran in a match, even if EVIL is actually in charge most of the time. YOSHI-HASHI's bandaged shoulder is a target and EVIL stays on it, not with traditional arm work, holds and such, but rather aiming for it at almost every opportunity. Not quite outstanding, but a good match from the ALLCAPs brigade.
Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Yuji Nagata (4): Boy, Nakajima takes a licking and keeps on ticking. And seeing as the old man's left knee has been coming up lame ever since Naito worked him over, Nakajima has a ready-made opening, every time. An excellent match, well worth a watch even if you're not as particularly fond of old folks beating up young upstarts as I am.
Kenny Omega vs. Michael Elgin (5): More of this one happens outside the ring than in it at the beginning, but don't worry! This is far from one of Kenny's garbage-filled junior matches, but rather it's a good old-fashioned brawl! BIG MIKE dominates that part of the match until Kenny goes to town on his injured shoulder. That levels the playing field and from there it's all bombs. Awesome, awesome match. Go watch it!
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tetsuya Naito (5): It's a 2016 Naito G1 match, so of course he destroys Shibata's left knee. Great stuff early with Shibata just destroying Naito by whipping him into the barricades over and over, and it gets even better later, as Naito goes after Shibata's bandaged shoulder (reportedly a legitimate rotator cuff tear, no less) in addition to the injured leg. Another excellent match, another B Block night with a must-watch doubleheader. Get on it!
Night 9 (A Block, July 31st)
Tama Tonga vs. Tomohiro Ishii (1): This match definitely happened. Maybe it's my own bias towards Ishii as an asskicker, maybe it's Tonga's lackluster G1, but I did not enjoy how evenly this was presented. Credit where it's due, though, Tonga countering a brainbuster into a Gun Stun was really awesome, I just wish the rest of the match was, too.
Bad Luck Fale vs. SANADA (2): I mean, hey, it's a Fale match. He's big and bad, SANADA's trying to wear him down, you probably get the idea by now. Not bad, by any means, but easily skipped.
Naomichi Marufuji vs. Togi Makabe (2): Clearly Marufuji enjoyed his experience against Ishii, because he goes for more of the same here. Just two dudes beating the hell out of each other. Something didn't quite come together on this one, though, and I can't give it a huge recommendation.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Kazuchika Okada (4): Tenzan brings the fire (and a particularly nasty looking set of cupping marks on his back). Okada's the Man, at least in theory. And what you get is in some ways reminiscent of Genichiro Tenryu's retirement match from last year, where Okada found himself in uncharted territory, fighting to survive by throwing dropkick after dropkick. I've been trying to keep my biases clear here, folks, and I got no problem admitting that I was expecting to at best damn this one with faint praise, but I really enjoyed it.
Hirooki Goto vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (1): Sometimes slow and steady wins the race, but this is not one of those times. This match is some real paint-by-numbers action that never manages to kick into second gear. Pass.
Night 10 (B Block, August 1st)
Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. YOSHI-HASHI (2): Nakajima's shoulder (like so many this G1!) has a target painted on it and YOSHI-HASHI is happy to oblige, continuing his streak of solid attempts to keep up with the big boys. A fine match, but entirely inessential.
Michael Elgin vs. Yuji Nagata (3): Raw Power vs. Veteran Wiles: The Match. Kind of refreshing that neither guy made this one about a body part, actually. Just BIG MIKE clubbing an old man and getting receipted in turn. Good stuff, but not quite worth going out of your way for.
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Toru Yano (5): Look, it'll literally take a minute of your time to see the sublime master thief in his element. Go watch it.
EVIL vs. Kenny Omega (3): Mostly just two dudes doing stuff until it was time to stop doing stuff, not a lot of through-line or in-match story here, but it was definitely mostly cool stuff. Watch if you like cool stuff, take a pass if you need more.
Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomoaki Honma (1): Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends-- that's right, the Tetsuya Naito Hates Your Knee Fun Hour! Which is fun, except for the way Honma completely ignores it the minute Naito lets up. Completely. Running, deadlifting, zero sign of any damage. I'm usually not somebody who's overly bugged by ignored limbwork, I can buy a little adrenaline powering through here and there and the traditional New Japan "let me casually work your arm for the first ten minutes and then we'll agree to ignore it" stuff doesn't bug me, but this was ridiculous. A 1 might be overstating my case, but this was disappointing enough that I don't mind the exaggeration.
There you have it, folks.
Ten nights of G1 Climax action down, nine to go.
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.