New Japan Pro Wrestling put on three absolutely amazing matches last weekend as a part of the G-1 Climax semi finals and finals. Tetsuya Naito defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to win the block A and Kenny Omega defeated Kazuchika Okada to win block B, setting up a Naito/Omega final.
Naito/Tanahashi was a great match that was overshadowed by a stellar third Okada/Omega encounter. Omega was in a must win situation and had to do it in less than thirty minutes. Okada, however, could advance to the finals with a win or a draw due to a one point differential in his favor.
Okada went into the match with an injured neck he suffered in previous tournament bouts. Omega targeted the injury right from the onset and was relentless in his attack. Okada fought him off with everything he had but with a little over three minutes left in the match, Omega hit the One Winged Angel for the pin.
1 win, 1 loss, and 1 draw is the story of what might be the greatest wrestling trilogy of all-time. Many old school fans would give that nod to the classic matches between Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair. Attitude Era disciples, on the other hand, would point to industry shaping bouts between Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock as the greatest trio of matches.
Okada/Omega presented three distinct stories that were masterfully told. New Japan is in a position where they can run it back in a couple of years and it will still be a hot commodity.
Omega vs. Naito in the G-1 Finals was just…Phenomenal in every sense of the word. Each wrestler delivered big move after big move. Naito hit several reverse hurricanranas and Omega replied with many, many V-Trigger knees. Omega also delivered a piledriver on to a table, which looked botched because Naito’s head missed the table. It actually did more damage by hitting the bottom rung of the ringside guardrail.
The fans inside Sumo Hall were white-hot for the match as Bullet Club and Naito merchandise blanketed the crowd. The closing moments of saw Omega avoid a Destino but couldn’t escape the second as Naito won his second G-1 Climax tournament.
Naito is set to challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Title at Wrestle Kingdom 12. That is of course if he can successfully defend the briefcase between now and then.
The matches from the G-1 made it hard to watch WWE this week. New Japan’s in-ring product is on another level from anyone else right now. It’s just amazing how so many simple storylines were derived from this tournament. That comes with a price, though, as a lot of guys are banged up from working so many grueling matches over a nineteen-day schedule.
Several wrestlers are injuried, especially Hiroshi Tanahashi, who probably aggravated his already torn bicep but won’t take time off. I understand that people love Tanahashi and he’s is one of the people responsible for this new golden age of wrestling we are seeing from New Japan.
While submissions wizards such as Zack Saber Jr. add heat to the match by working over the legitimately injured arm of Tanahashi, it too comes with a price. We’re starting to fear for Tanahashi’s health and safety as opposed to getting sucked into the drama inside of the ring. The Ace is a big boy and he can do what he wants but it might be time for New Japan to save him from himself self.
Is he putting on bad matches? No, not yet, and that is what you want to avoid. Persuade him to take some time off. Along the way, New Japan can create some new stars with their exceptional roster, all while Tanahashi heels. Then, when the time is right, you bring back the Tanahashi who was getting five-star performances in his sleep.