Saturday, August 8, 2015

NJPW on AXS - G1 Climax 24 Day 12 Finals Review - August 7th, 2015

So, NJPW & AXS decided to grace us with two episodes of puroresu action this week and I couldn't be more hyped. They've been covering the entire 2014 G1 Climax Tournament over the past month or two and that leads us here to the final day of competition. You've got four big matches including the final contest itself to determine the 2014 G1 Climax Champion. It's the biggest tournament, arguably, in wrestling today and we're about to find out the winner and see some of the best athletes in the world fight for it - what's not to love?

1) Karl Anderson vs. Tomohiro Ishii
This match was the one on the show which got clipped due to time although they certainly chose the best parts to highlight here. Ishii ends up with bloody nose that will make you cringe and Anderson takes advantage of it. Ishii wouldn't stay down though. Seeing him headbutt Anderson with that bloody nose was crazy! They trade some counters before the Bullet Club makes their present felt by pulling the ref out of the ring before Ishii could get the three count. After a short struggle once things got settled back down, Anderson counters into a gun stun on Ishii for the win.

Match rating - ***

2) Katsuyori Shibata vs. Hirooki Goto

Sometimes when you're looking forward to a match, it's hard for it to live up to expectation. Well, it's safe to say that this one did. I expected a hard hitting, shoot style contest and that's exactly what we got from the opening bell. This 11 minute barnburner flew by and showcased many of the things that I love most about NJPW. Shibata has been a favorite of mine for a while and this contest proved why. It's simply great signature puro stuff that's never not entertaining.

Match rating - ***3/4

3) AJ Styles vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
This is the third meeting overall between the two, but the first in Styles' full time stint in New Japan. The first bout was in TNA in 2008 and Styles came out on top. The second contest was in Japan a few years following that and saw Tanahashi pick up the win. Who will take the lead in the series? And even more important than that, who will take third place in the 24th Annual G1 Climax tournament? Those were the big questions heading into this match. Tanahashi was the clear favorite as Styles was fresh off turning heel & joining Bullet Club. The two trade arm drags of all variations early on with neither man getting the upperhand. They end up on the outside where Tanahashi sends Styles towards the railing only for Styles to jump over. The clever move only pays off for a few seconds though because Tanahashi charged and hit a running crossbody OVER the railing onto Styles. That was awesome! As you can probably already tell, this match kept a steady pace the entire time which is something that some NJPW matches don't do however they really did a good job of keeping me invested for every second of this contest. Smooth, crisp manuevers answered with well scouted counters. Big moves that led to shocking nearfalls such as AJ spiking Tanahashi with a piledriver yet still not being able to put him away. The nearfalls then led to both men busting out things you wouldn't expect such as AJ nailing Tanahashi with a top rope frankensteiner. This was just an all around exhausting and highly entertaining match up. It's easily one of my favorites from the 2014 G1 tourney. The finish just topped things off as I didn't expect it all as Tanahashi reversed out of the Styles Clash with a head scissors into a pinning combination for the victory.

Match rating - ****1/4

After the match came the shocking occurence that made waves around the world at this time last year. Jeff Jarrett makes the save after Bullet Club beat down Tanahashi. Jarrett is helping Tanahashi up as Scott D'Amore hands him a guitar. IT'S GOT BULLET CLUB WRITTEN ON IT! JEFF JARRETT NAILS TANAHASHI WITH THE GUITAR! You know the rest. Double J is in BC. Some loved it, some hated it, but the bottom line is it got people talking.

Episode 2: G1 Climax 24 Finals

1) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kazuchika Okada
It's all led up to this. The match to determine the winner of the 24th annual G1 Climax tournament. Nakamura has won the G1 before which may make you think it gives him an advantage. However, Okada has been on such a tear in recent years proving himself to be the future of NJPW that I'd say this is a pretty even match up. New Japan has a rep for putting on the best final round matches in tournaments and I'll say right up front that this was yet another example of that as these two somehow went above and beyond just about anything previously in the tournament which is truly saying something considering all the outstanding contests we saw leading up to the finals. Nakamura & Okada fought harder and pushed themselves even further which made this simply a spectacle to watch unfold. To attest to this, Okada kicked out of THREE Boma Ye's! When has that EVER happened? The commentary from Mauro Ranallo & Josh Barnett just added to what was already an epic contest on it's own. They've done a phenomenal job since NJPW on AXS's inception, but these two episodes as a whole felt like they were on an entire different level. Everything here was just about perfect and that's the best way to put it. Amazing match that is undoubtedly a must see.

Match rating - ****3/4

The backstage interviews after this match were awesome. I dont' typically mention them, but I really feel the need to do so here. Even if it's just to mention a quote from Shinsuke Nakamura that I loved. With his head down he uttered the words "Pro Wrestling is my life and my art."

I couldn't think of a better way to describe it. Not that I know Nakamura personally, but I think that's how both competitors and fans feel about the art that is professional wrestling. It's such a special, unique, form of art that is underappreciated and back to back shows like these reminded me why I'm priviliged to be a part of such a great community. Even if the majority of the world doesn't take the time to understand what exactly pro wres is all about, we are all still able to appreciate it and enjoy it for what it is. And what it is, you ask? When it's done right, like on these two shows, it's perfect and the best form of entertainment you could ask for.

Overall thoughts: Must see show. It's simple as that. Even if you watched these matches last year when they happened, I'd encourage a re-watch as the english commentary adds a lot to the contests, much like always with NJPW on AXS. If you've never seen these matches at all, I don't think there's a better time to check them out than here on NJPW on AXS. It's just a phenomenal presentation for several of the best matches of the entire calendar year of 2014. I can't wait to see what NJPW & AXS TV bring us next since the cover of G1 24 is over. One thing is for sure, I won't be missing it!

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