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NJPW G1 Climax 25 – Day 1

Arnold Furious: This year I’m trying something a little different for G1. Normally I watch the shows that I like the look of and if anything else gets good reviews I’ll check that too. This year I’m going full bore. I’m watching everything. Yes, every fucking thing and I’m going to busting those reviews out right after the shows (or as soon as I can, what with work and such). That means 19 shows in less than a month. It is the longest G1 in history. All other projects are going on the back-burner for this one. In order to full prepare you, and me, for such a momentous tournament here are the line up’s complete with some serious analysis of the individuals chances. I’ll be listing the blocks in the order that I think they’ll finish so you can laugh at me in a month’s time when I’ve made a complete arse of it.

BLOCK A:

1. AJ Styles. This in itself is wishful thinking because I’m off the opinion that we’ll get Nakamura vs. AJ as the final, which is being hotly debated on Twitter. Nakamura is the big favourite, having dropped his IC belt to contest the G1. Nakamura and AJ have almost zero history so the big hope is a dream final between those two. In order to get there AJ has to fend off Hiroshi Tanahashi, who seems to have AJ’s number in fair fights and Kota Ibushi, winner of the New Japan Cup and showstealer at Wrestle Kingdom. Given AJ’s reactions during last year’s G1, the tournament that *made* him in New Japan and his IWGP title match with Kazuchika Okada, the fans are ready to accept him as the top dog. My primary thinking is that Nakamura vs. AJ is a hot ticket for the final though. Rather than the oft repeated Nakamura vs. Tanahashi. I’m very torn over this pick.

2. Hiroshi Tanahashi. Tana is the big spoiler, potentially, for AJ (especially as they wrestle each other right at the end). He’s not won G1 since 2007 and considering he’s been NJPW’s biggest star for that entire time, it’s a bit of a surprise he’s only got the one win. Plus a victory would almost ensure another Okada-Tanahashi Wrestle Kingdom showdown. A match that Okada struggles with. Could they give Tana an elusive second G1 only to fall to Okada, ending the curse of the Rainmaker at WK? It’d be one hell of a story. I personally see them saving that for next year, hoping the dream match of Okada vs. Nakamura (many people’s MOTY for 2014 and G1 Final) will sell WK10 big time. Whichever match they go for, it’ll be huge. I’d watch the shit out of both of those contests. Or indeed Okada vs. AJ, seeing as their last match was the mutts nuts. The more I think about it, the more I think Tana could squeak into the final, at AJ’s expense. Thus saving AJ vs. Nakamura for another time.

3. Kota Ibushi. A strong showing for Ibushi would be nice, seeing as he’s been a big deal this year but not on the same level as the really top guys. Defeats to AJ and Nakamura have reflected this and he’s not beaten any of the big names. Kota missed last year’s G1 with injury and surely has a point to prove. It’s a tournament he’s perhaps considered a little too lightweight to win outright. Maybe in years to come he can change perception of himself. I’m not seeing it this year, although Okada-Ibushi would be another terrific match. New Japan have tonnes of them lined up.

4. Katsuyori Shibata. He was in the hunt last year until a dubious count-out loss to Bad Luck Fale. I can see him being the bridesmaid once more thanks to a pre-tournament arm injury. Expect a slew of opponents to work that arm and him to incur early set backs because of it. Especially as he’s wrestling AJ Styles tonight (more on that later as I stupidly pick Shibata to win). They’ve also got him working Doc Gallows on the last day, which suggests another cheap finish as Doc is a guy they’re happy to put over anyone as he’s big. So expect a poor start, remarkable comeback and cheap finish from Shibata (and despite saying all this I go ahead and pick him to beat AJ, which is why my predictions will fail. I think it through and then pick Shibata to win everything because he’s Shibata).

5. Togi Makabe. New Japan generally treat their champions quite well and Togi is carrying the NEVER belt into G1. For that reason alone he should finish in the top half. He’s generally put over most midcard guys anyway so he shouldn’t be losing to Yano or Tenzan or even Fale. He’s the kind of guy who should contend until the last few nights at the very least. I don’t see him winning but he already has one G1 win from back in 2009. It does happen.

6. Hiroyoshi Tenzan. At one point it looked like Tenzan was heading towards replacing Masa Chono as Mr August. He’s won G1 three times, closing in on Chono’s record of five. He has no chance of winning this one but is carrying the NWA title, which needs to be kept fairly strong if he’s to draw anything in defending the belt. For this alone I see Tenzan getting a good run and his nostalgia pops should be fun. “SSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHH”.

7. Tetsuya Naito. Placing Naito is hard because his new found attitude (he looks like he doesn’t give a fuck about anything) could result in a lot of defeats. The weird part of his new persona is he still wrestles exactly the same but only without any interest in wrestling, people or life in general. Like some sort of zombie robot. He could potentially come in last if he starts taking count outs against the likes of Doc or Tenzan. His very first match is with Fale. If he loses that…he could be in for a long, long tournament. He does have a tournament pedigree however winning G1 back in 2013. His resultant title match with Okada got bumped off top though and resulted in him being turned heel (eventually). He’s not yet been rebuilt to a winners circle level.

8. Bad Luck Fale. Fale was a spoiler last year and finished very high up but was also involved with Nakamura around the tournament and was being booked strong so they could finish their series. This year he’s due no such protection and he doesn’t deserve it.

9. Toru Yano. I suspect he’ll probably finish higher but Yano’s sole purpose is to provide the wrestlers with an off night. Last year his matches were routinely short and inoffensive. The idea being that it gave everyone in the block a night where they didn’t have to bust ass. I’m sure Tanahashi and Tenzan will appreciate working Yano. Look for their matches to be especially short. Yano will probably go 50-50 throughout the tournament so I’ve probably got him a bit low.

10. Doc Gallows. While he’ll probably pick up a few unexpected wins to keep people guessing who’ll win the overall prize, I don’t see Gallows over anybody in a straight up match. Maybe Yano. The match with Fale will be skippable. He could potentially be spoiler for Shibata right at the end and could inflict an early defeat on Tenzan this evening but ultimately he’ll be nowhere.

BLOCK B:

1. Shinsuke Nakamura. It’s hard to look past Nakamura. The only other major player in Block B is Kazuchika Okada and he’s already the IWGP champion. The tournament exists to set up the number one contender for Wrestle Kingdom. While IWGP champions have won in the past that was before it was such a deliberate set up for something else. Like how Hulk Hogan won the Royal Rumble when he was WWF champion. Kensuke Sasaki was the last man to win G1 while holding the title so it’s highly unlikely. Nakamura on the other hand is free of IC title issues, having lost the belt to Goto and lost the re-match, and already has a terrific match with Okada in the books. They’ll face each other again in the Block here in what could, potentially, be a preview of WK10’s main event.

2. Hirooki Goto. Most people have Okada as #2 in this Block and I would totally understand that but G1 is never that cut and dry. I don’t see Nakamura and Okada being the only guys capable of winning going into their match at the end of the tournament. I can see Goto winning to go top before their match leaving us to wonder whether Nakamura or Okada can overcome him. Ultimately I see Goto as a red herring but he’s been making overtures toward the big belt, one he challenges for sometimes (and loses), claiming he’ll unify NJPW’s big two belts. I can’t see either of those things happening but beating Nakamura twice sets him up for the hat trick and to be taken seriously as a main eventer.

3. Kazuchika Okada. The IWGP champion coming into G1, which virtually guarantees he won’t win but New Japan will want people to think he’ll win so he’ll be up there all Block long. Probably in the lead for most of the tournament. His first big match is against Elgin. Unless they’re looking to break Elgin in big, that’s a win for Okada. His next big match is Honma and, no offence to Honma, he won’t lose that either. Honma was blanked last year and it’ll all be about Honma getting a big win. He won’t get it against Okada. He just won’t. So Okada will contend the whole way and lose to Nakamura in the last match to miss out. Whether Nakamura wins the Block based on this is debatable but most people think he will.

4. Karl Anderson. A former runner up, in 2012, the Machine Gun is a legitimate singles threat and they usually have one of the gaijin have a good run to contend. AJ is the obvious choice but Karl is the other guy capable of a good run. I see him getting a few upsets and possibly beating Okada, as he has done before (like last year).

5. Yuji Nagata. This is another guy I’d love for NJPW to push but it seems to rarely happen. His IC title shot at Nakamura came after he contemplated retirement after being left off the WK9 show. He’s back to being on the pre-show and you wonder how long they’ll carry on sticking Nagata into tournaments they’ve no intention of having him compete in. With that in mind I’m hoping he has a good showing. To prove he belongs and next year they can put him back into having great matches and finishing in the bottom half.

6. Tomohiro Ishii. I’m a massive Ishii mark. My Twitter avatar at the moment is me standing next to, and towering over, New Japan’s diminutive Stone Pitbull. I’m always hoping he pushes for the big win and I’m constantly crushed he comes up short in big matches. He should at least steamroller the likes of Yujiro but won’t upset any of the big guns. Unless Shinsuke is feeling generous. He loves #141.

7. Satoshi Kojima. Another veteran and it seems like an eternity since Kojima won the G1 back in 2010. He certainly won’t be in contention here and will probably be the cause of much frustration regarding selling and inconsistencies during this G1. He’ll still finish above Honma because Gedo is mean.

8. Michael Elgin. I’m not sure how well Elgin will be received. Mainly because of his lack of experience in NJPW. The crowd were notably silent at his name being announced in previous tours. I can see him getting a few wins and being given the opportunity to prove himself. He’ll hope for a long term gain of future tours by throwing a tonne of effort in. The match with Nakamura alone should be worth his inclusion. His opening match, against Okada, should be a fine demonstration of how well he’ll do.

9. Tomoaki Honma. The loveable loser was blanked at last year’s G1. I’m expecting a wait during this one for Honma to break his duck but I can’t see him going 0-9. I have him winning at least twice, if not more frequently and staying out of last place. The fans will love him regardless and I can’t face the prospect of Yujiro beating the poor guy.

10. Yujiro Takahashi. I hate this guy.

So that’s the preview. Should be a fantastic 19 shows. Day one alone boasts Tanahashi vs. Ibushi and AJ vs. Shibata. It promises to be one wild ride. The anticipation of not only seeing G1 live but also paying a minimal amount for it on the outstanding New Japan World is a genuine thrill. New Japan are bringing the best value for money in the world. Even better than the WWE’s $9.99 Network.

Tomoaki Honma, Mascara Dorada, David Finlay & Jay White vs. Yuji Nagata, Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask IV & Yohei Komatsu
I actually ate my dinner during this match. That’s not a metaphor or anything. It was a baguette. I had fries with it and JR’s BBQ sauce. The hot one. Bangin’. Anyway, the guys to watch here are Honma and Nagata. Two massive crowd favourites with differing goals during G1. Honma just wants to win one match and land as many Kokeshi’s as possible. Nagata wants to prove he belongs at the top end of the card, despite his advanced years. They leave the legwork to the juniors. Jay White, and his shitty new Mohawk, looks eager to make an impact and looks smoother than usual. As if his training has kicked up a gear. He’s very impressive. There are moments where he hesitates, perhaps giving himself a second of thinking time that a veteran wouldn’t require and some of his movements are quite mechanical and deliberate but he’s improving. Nagata singles out Finlay Jr. for abuse and finishes with the Backdrop Driver.
Final Rating: ***

KOKESHI COUNT – 1/4

Tangent: Nagata and Honma had the best preparations for G1. Nagata did some work on limboing to avoid the Rainmaker. Meanwhile Honma perfected his Kokeshi by doing a Kokeshi bungee jump. This is the kind of thing they show on New Japan World when you’re watching Swerved or Total Divas.

Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Cody Hall) vs. Hirooki Goto & Captain New Japan)
Scott Hall’s boy is starting to progress up the card and feature in matches with no other young boys. This has nothing to do with his ability and everything to do with how tall he is. One day he will be a monster. Yujiro doesn’t bring Mao with him so he’s completely worthless. Cody on Twitter joked “what’s yellow on the outside but white on the inside…Yujiro Takahashi”. I see political correctness runs in the family. Goto’s stock has raised of late and he’s wearing a new robe to the ring for G1, a sign he’s likely to do well. It’s at times like this I wish that New Japan didn’t put on such big shows. This one is three and a half hours and this match is completely unnecessary. Captain New Japan opts to take the joke route, pretending he has mind powers and missing stuff. It’s all very silly and it’s a bit early in the show for a comedy break. The result of this half-assed approach is a house show level event, which only picks up when Goto decides to impose himself on Yujiro as an early marker in Block B. All the tag matches involve Block B participants, with Block A open for business in singles in the second half. Cody throwing Goto around is pretty surprising. He is a beast. If the WWE catch wind of him they’ll be calling. He’s 6’ 8”. He’s second generation. Vince must surely want him. Goto pins Cody with a cheeky roll up, which is a bit odd. You’d expect the IC champion, and a guy in G1, to murder the young boy with his finisher. Match was filler.
Final Rating: *1/2

Bullet Club (Karl Anderson & Tama Tonga) vs. CHAOS (Shinsuke Nakamura & YOSHI-HASHI)
You don’t get Nakamura and TACOS tagging often. Y-H usually tags up with Okada. Likewise Anderson & Tama as the Machine Gun usually tags with Doc Gallows. Doc is in G1 action tonight though and Tama seems to be working a buddy gimmick during G1. Nakamura might be the most entertaining wrestler in the world right now. His entrance alone is something else. All he has to do is walk into a room and you can’t take your eyes off him in case he does something awesome. Karl knows him well so they have great counters lined up and their G1 match should be really good. The mockery alone makes it entertaining but they can work too. The match is divided in half. The Nakamura half is full of inventive counters and ridiculous showmanship. The YOSHI-HASHI half is meaningless heat. Nakamura gets Tama alone, YEAOOOH, and the BOMAAAA YEEEEE finishes. Tonga had a decent showing but it was all about Nakamura vs. Anderson. Their Block match should be a belter.
Final Rating: **1/2

Satoshi Kojima, Ryusuke Taguchi & Michael Elgin vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & Gedo)
This is Elgin’s first match in New Japan. They haven’t got his name right though. “Michael Elgar” according to the announcers. Interesting that Kojima and Taguchi come out together and Elgin comes out alone. He does face Kojima in the Blocks so that might factor into how well they operate as a team. That’s true of Okada and Ishii but they’re normally teammates so it’s less of an issue. Ishii gets right in Kojima’s face from the get-go. That’s going to be a hard-hitting contest. I mark out hard for Okada’s blinged out entrance. He has that same X-factor that Nakamura has, only without doing anything ridiculous to achieve it. Elgin wants to start his first match, rather than watch to see how it’s done. Okada obliges. It’s great to see Ishii’s reaction to an early Elgin powerslam. He steps down the apron toward Elgin, sizing him up. As if to say “I’m going to beat the shit out of you”. And he will. And I’ll love it. Kojima provokes the Stone Pitbull further and Ishii full on jumps in there to attack him. Ishii is in the kind of mood that will result in some serious snowflake action during G1. Elgin rather steals the match with a ridiculous stalling suplex, which both Ishii and Okada fail to break up. Okada’s look of disbelief is great. Ishii’s bad mood eventually spills into the ring and we get another prize reaction from him when Taguchi tries that stupid hip attack and then he NO SELLS KOJIMA’S SHITTY CORNER CHOPS! I don’t think Ishii realises he’s supposed to take the tag matches lightly. They’re rest days, mate. NO! Ishii’s determination raises every else’s game, apart from Okada who’s too clever for that. Perhaps the idea is for Ishii to act as Gatekeeper for Okada, wearing out his future opponents. Elgin drops Ishii square on his face, during an ambitious spot where he lifts Okada and Ishii and that takes the starch out of his performance. Okada steps it up to finish off Taguchi but it was Ishii and Elgin who stole this match. Elgin must be thrilled with how his debut came off, despite dropping Ishii on his head.
Final Rating: ***1/2

Tangent: Some good stuff after the bell too where Elgin eyeballs Okada and Ishii full on belts Kojima in the face. Those are going to be two fucking awesome matches. I love Okada here. He just kicks back and watches Ishii and Kojima fighting. Ishii even gets a bloody lip during the ruck but Okada is way too cool to get involved. I would say G1 turns Ishii into a maniac but he’s like this ALL THE FUCKING TIME.

That takes us up to the break with the G1 matches to follow. The break sees clips from the NJPW presser with various suited competitors making comments on the forthcoming tournament. Okada looked remarkably dabber. Champions are men who know their way around a waistcoat.

G1 Climax Block A
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Doc Gallows
Pre-match pick: Tenzan, because he’s NWA champion and he’ll get tired as the tournament progresses. Start him out strong. Doc is likely to win whenever it suits the booking and winning here would start us out on a downer. No one likes downers. Speaking of which, they work really hard to avoid having a stinker to open G1. I’m not really into either guy, which makes it a tough one to sit through. You need a degree of investment to really get into a match. Gallows looks in poor shape, carrying a paunch and being rough around the edges. It’s not as noticeable when he’s working tags but in singles he’s exposed. Tenzan is even more random, selling a knee for no apparent reason (unless he’s really hurt, which would be terrible for him). Maybe they’re going for an injury angle with him, like they did with Makabe and his jaw last year. In which case, I change my pick! Tenzan decides to ground the match, to work around the injury, and hooks the Anaconda Vice. Doc can’t get out and taps. Let me just revel in my 100% predictions accuracy to this point.
Final Rating: **1/4

G1 Climax Block A
Togi Makabe vs. Toru Yano
Pre-match pick: Makabe, because he’s NEVER champion and Yano’s wins and losses will be nights off. Togi doesn’t need one of those yet. Plus Yano upset an injured Togi in the Blocks last year. I’m sure the unchained gorilla hasn’t forgotten that. Togi looks angry, but often that’s Yano’s aim. He winds you up so you lose your focus while he’s laughing at you. Yano tries that here and gets a roll up inside a second, which freaks the crowd out. Yano’s insistence at hiding in the ropes yelling “BREEEAAAAAAAAAAKKKK” is incredibly endearing. I find myself smirking before he’s even started doing it. Yano brings an assortment of the usual, loveable, cheating (chair shots, crowd brawls, exposed turnbuckle, low blow). Togi kicks his ass and finishes with the King Kong Kneedrop. My 100% predictions record remains in tact! Yano isn’t supposed to have good matches but this was actually a welcome break. I feel suitably refreshed ahead of the final three bouts.
Final Rating: *1/4

G1 Climax Block A
Bad Luck Fale vs. Tetsuya Naito
Pre-match pick: Fale. He won an awful lot last year and Naito’s sulky gimmick doesn’t seem to involve effort. Both these guys are into hats all of a sudden. The Underboss has a Blues Brothers hat, and sunglasses. Naito brought a baseball cap back from Mexico as a souvenir and has started sulking because no one complemented him on it. Naito actually comes out here in a Skeletor mask and a suit. He can’t see properly and trips on the ring apron. Twat. Despite Naito looking like getting up in the morning is a massive effort for him (is he bipolar?) he goes hell for leather when he’s on offence and Fale is in the mood to impress. He’s also looking tubby around the waistline. Maybe Bullet Club should cut down on the buffets. Either that or Fale has been dining at Chez Paul to try and get the band back together. Naito’s new personality is hard to get a read on. He’s a morose nihilist. I’m really not sure how I feel about that. It sucks a lot of the fun out of his character and regresses his personality to that of a glum teen. Some of his facials are borderline psychotic and it’s hard to get a handle on what he’s going for. Naito ends up working the leg and going after submissions. It’s a ballsy tactic. Especially as Fale isn’t known for selling limbs (not that anyone does nowadays). He’s known for accidentally avoiding assassination attempts by Carrie Fisher. Naito and Fale have some really nice counters, especially when going after big moves. They make a royal fucking mess of the finish with Naito going for some sort of jack-knife pin and Fale selling his groin. Naito doesn’t even bother staying on top for the full three count. I think I hate Naito’s new gimmick, which means it works? He’s supposed to be a heel after all. Incidentally, there goes my 100% predictions record. I feel like Fale must feel when he saw Blues Brothers 2000 and realised the dream was over.
Final Rating: **3/4

G1 Climax Block A
AJ Styles vs. Katsuyori Shibata
Pre-match pick: Shibata. This is a ballsy call, considering I think AJ will either win Block A or finish second. Shibata is injured and that could count against him. I remember talking about the potential for this match up late in 2014. Thinking it would be a strong contest. They’re both great on the mat with AJ capable of countering Shibata’s range of strikes. They’ve hardly encountered each other at all before this match, which makes it all the more intriguing. Shibata’s arm is a cause for concern, after he missed the lead in shows with an injury, and it’s heavily taped. It looks like the elbow that was causing him problems. He’s eager to avoid that being an issue, using kicks to keep AJ at a distance and giving up his left arm for AJ to work over rather than his injured right arm. As expected the match is technically excellent with strong countering and great proficiency from two mat masters. It’s nice to see Shibata switching to the left arm for his elbows, out of sheer necessity. His kicks are firmly on point and one of them knocks AJ over the rail with the impact. It’s a great mixture of AJ’s willingness to bump and Shibata’s raw aggression. As expected they click like nobodies business. They have an absolutely killer spot too where Shibata kicks the ring post, with AJ ducking, and the brutal CLUNK noise is horrific. It’s one of the most organic spots I’ve ever seen with someone ducking and someone else hitting the ring post. AJ had Shibata chasing him to set the spot up. From there AJ works over the leg, which at least offers respite for Shibata’s bad arm but probably doesn’t make him feel any better.

“You’re crazy, man” yells AJ at Shibata as he gets in AJ’s face, asking for more abuse. It’s a great moment of AJ realising how nuts Shibata really is. AJ is a composed wrestler though and knows when and how to pick his fights. He won’t go toe to toe, not if he can bait Shibata into a move that he can counter. His speed is sufficient to get Shibata into trouble and he uses the Styles Clash as a distraction to set up the Calf Killer, on that injured leg. Naturally Shibata gets the ropes but then AJ springs up and kicks the injured arm too. He’s dissecting Shibata and all the guts in the world won’t get you through busted limbs. AJ goes to those injured body parts to counter just about everything. Shibata has to alter his sleeper by BITING HIS OWN HAND instead of using the bad arm. It’s awesome stuff. AJ ducks the PK though and flattens Shibata with Bloody Sunday and the Styles Clash finishes. The psychology in this one was off the page. Some genuinely brilliant selling and limb work. I’m a little disappointed the Calf Killer wasn’t the finish after all the set up work but the big storyline is that Shibata’s injuries will hinder his run.
Final Rating: ****

G1 Climax Block A
Kota Ibushi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Pre-match pick; Tanahashi. If there’s one thing I’ve learned watching New Japan is that if you bet on Tanahashi you’ll be right more often than not. That said, I can totally see Kota going over to establish himself as a threat to this Block. Tana is just starting to look a bit haggard, showing his aging rock star good looks more than in the past. Ibushi is keen to show he belongs in the ring with New Japan’s ace (is he still considered the ace? He still beat Okada this year). Kota is younger, faster and possibly hungrier. Kota misses a standing moonsault to set the story of the match in motion; a knee injury for Tana to work over. Kota isn’t the best at selling an injury. He’s in the school of thinking where you can sell a bit but then stop and carry on like nothing happened. It’s a popular school nowadays. Besides Ibushi is far more fun when he’s hitting moonsaults to the floor and flipping around like a lunatic. I had similar issues with KUSHIDA vs. Omega a few weeks ago. Tana is relentless with that knee deal too, going back to it after Kota has moved on. When Kota bails to avoid more abuse he gets himself a HIGH FLY FLOW TO THE FLOOR!

It does become a battle, of sorts, where Ibushi is determined the limb work segment of this match is over and Tanahashi won’t let him forget it. Kota is in the mood to take big bumps though and everything Tana throws at him is met with Ibushi landing his neck on the mat. This includes the Slingblade, which he takes a huge concertina bump on. The match takes a turn as Ibushi javelins Tana into the buckles. It’s a fucking sick bump and Tanahashi looks absolutely fucked after flying head first into the middle of the buckle. Tana tries to sneak out under the ropes but Kota hauls him back into the ring with a German suplex off the apron. It’s batshit crazy. Tana’s neck must be destroyed after those two moves. Both guys attempt their top rope finisher but both times they take too long and allow the opponent to move. A little too much showboating before finishing the contest. The match hits a flow of big bumps, creating a fantastic atmosphere, drawing the crowd in. Tana eventually messes Ibushi’s leg up so bad he can’t stand and finishes with the High Fly Flow. The limb work didn’t work for me but Tanahashi’s persistence was eventually rewarded. The crowd helped to create the big match atmosphere they wanted here.
Final Rating: ****1/4

Picks: 3/5. Not bad. I should have gone with my gut on AJ Styles rather than my heart and should have realised that Naito’s new character wouldn’t be jobbing in his first singles match. Otherwise a grand victory for logic.

Summary: The undercard was a bit patchy but we’re one night in and we’ve already seen two terrific matches. Shibata’s sleeper where he couldn’t use his one arm and had to bite his hand was amazing. Some of the best selling and improvisation I’ve seen all year long. Tanahashi made the main event special. The veteran took a couple of sickening bumps and told a story, forcing Ibushi to go along with it whether he liked it or not. Those two matches are worth the price of admission alone. Obviously thumbs up. Fuck Battleground. See you for Day Two on Thursday!
Verdict: 71

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