Editor’s note: The following originally appeared in this week’s Figure Four Weekly newsletter.
Last Sunday promised to be an incredible day of wrestling in Japan and it most certainly delivered as Dragon Gate and Big Japan each produced a top tier Match Of The Year Candidate on their shows, and the New Japan G1 Climax show at Korakuen Hall gave us two fantastic bouts in Block B.
Dragon Gate —
Dragon Gate’s main event pitting Shingo Takagi against YAMATO (main image above) featured all the pageantry one has come to expect from an Open The Dream Gate match on a big show. By the time the national anthem was finished playing throughout Kobe World Hall, they had set a mighty large stage for themselves. They delivered, and they delivered in a major way.
YAMATO has kind of become like Dragon Gate’s Hiroshi Tanahashi, even more glaring now since his face turn. He’s not the most spectacular wrestler on the roster, but his ability to bring drama to big matches and use his charisma to elevate the situation is on par with anyone. Takagi came in with nearly a year behind him of incredible title matches. He has been a force of nature as champion; a total heel of the highest level.
Everything about him has become so hateable but at the same time, he was clearly dominant and proven to be near impossible to beat. They really made YAMATO conquering him seem like a monumental achievement. The match went 34 minutes and breezed by, and the combination of action and drama was as good as it gets.
Big Japan —
Big Japan’s Strong Heavyweight title match had none of the flash or glamour of the DG main event but it was every bit the war. Both champion Yuji Okabayashi and challenger Hideyoshi Kamitani emerged in plain black trunks: no fireworks, no national anthems, just getting right down to business in the legendary Sumo Hall.
Okabayashi’s performance cemented his status as one of the best in the business. He took Kamitani, who many felt wasn’t ready for this big spot, and dragged him to a level he’s never reached before. It was very similar to what Daisuke Sekimoto did for Okabayashi over the years. By the end, the crowd (and me) were roaring in support of Kamitani, willing him on to prove that he was a worthy champion. With how realistic the style is and the emotion that the BJW wrestlers display, this was about as real as pro wrestling can feel in 2016. It was great stuff.
The G1 is really rolling for New Japan, and last Sunday’s show added two great matches to a rapidly growing list. Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Katsuyori Shibata was every bit the hard hitting and aggressive match that fans were hoping for with the added twist of Nakajima getting quite cocky and the fans really rallying behind Shibata as a result.
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The main event has been called by many the match of the tournament. Michael Elgin took on Tetsuya Naito in a gripping bout which allowed Elgin to showcase that he’s much more than just a guy hitting hard and doing power moves. His selling and psychology throughout the match was top class and it could be argued that it was his best performance ever.