Often times, I find myself being let down when I expect a wrestling match to be great. Then, I’m reminded that the big events of New Japan Pro Wrestling delivers the goods on a consistent basis. That tradition continued on Sunday as Hiroshi Tanahashi squared off against Shinsuke Nakamura in the finals of the G1 Climax tournament.
The word “great” fails to describe the 32-minute epic that Tanahashi and Nakamura embarked on inside the squared circle. 12,000 fans inside Tokyo’s Sumo Hall were beyond excited to see the two biggest stars the company in this climatic showdown. The ghosts of G-1’s past also took in the action as Keiji Mutoh (Great Muta) and Masahiro Chono were announced as special guest ringside observers.
The big-fight feel was evident, and augmented even further when ring announcer Makoto Abe’s opening introductions drew a cascade of oooh’s and aaah’s from the audience as Nakamura made his way to the ring with his trademark brand of pizzazz and machismo followed by Tanahashi whose electric gravitas reminds everyone that he is the ace of New Japan.
The bell rang and a mixture of pro wrestling and MMA opened up things during the feeling-out process. Tanahashi became the aggressor while attacking Nakamura’s injured elbow. Tanahashi switched things up and began working over the left knee. Tanahashi climbed to the top rope, butNakamura quickly rose to his feet and nailed with him a kick to the head, which sent Tanahashi to the floor in a heap.
It was officially on!
Nakamura worked over Tanahashi throughout the match with a plethora of kicks and knees. Tanahashi would come back with strikes of his own and temporally neutralize the “King of Strong Style” with a Dragon screw leg whip, a move he would use throughout the contest. Later on Tanahashi would climb to the top rope and hit a standing Nakamura with the High Fly Flow (Frog Splash) on the outside of the ring.
The match steadily built to a long crescendo of big forearm smashes, cringe worthy submission holds, and a series of Boma Ye strikes, Nakamura’s signature maneuver. Both men sold every single move like a champ, conveying the wide array of emotions such as anger, pain, and frustration that comes with such a highly contested bout.
The finish came when Nakamura put a seemingly lifeless Tanahashi on the top turnbuckle for one last big move. Tanahashi found one more burst of energy, knocked Nakamura off balance with a barrage of forearms, leaped up, and hit a High Fly Flow as Nakamura was hanging on for dear life. Tanahashi would nail another High Fly Flow to the back and more to the stomach for the one, two, and three.
Hiroshi Tanahashi wins the 25th annual G-1 Climax and will challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight title in the Tokyo Dome on January 4th. Kazuchika Okada, the current title holder, was pinned by AJ Styles in the co-main event which means we are in store for another championship classic between the two.
I really thought Shinsuke Nakamura would go all the way this year. He lost the Intercontinental title to Tanahashi two years ago, so I assumed he would get his win back. Despite the result,Nakamura proved once again why he is arguably the best wrestler on the planet today with his unique blend of style and guile.
If the “Rainmaker” gets past AJ Styles in their pending bout, all roads will most likely lead to the next installment of the Tanahashi vs. Okada rivalry. The score after three and a half years is Tanahashi with three wins, Okada with three wins, and one draw. The eighth match will determine once and for all who is the ace of New Japan.