Over the next week or so, I’m going to be posting a series of articles EXCLUSIVELY here at FGB documenting the state of Japanese Pro Wrestling at the moment. Each article will highlight one or maybe a couple of feds. We kick things of with …
One could quite easily make a case that this is the most well rounded wrestling promotion in the world right now. New Japan offer up a bit of everything. You have a junior heavyweight division headed by Ireland’s Fergal Devitt which has been producing one classic MOTYC after another. Matches like Devitt vs. Kanemoto, Devitt vs. Marufuji and Fujita vs. Kanemoto all deserve to finish high in any match of the year list. There is a tag division which after a few years of neglect and tarnishing (cough…Team 3D… cough) is really making a comeback with IWGP Tag Champs, Bad Intentions (Giant Bernard & Karl Anderson) leading the way. With the G1 Tag League upcoming, this division is about to get even hotter. Then there’s the heavyweight singles guys, and among them are some of the best in the world – guys who are right now in their prime like Tanahashi, Nakamura, Makabe and Goto, and dependable veterans like Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi and Satoshi Kojima. Shinsuke Nakamura in particular is on fire right now and has a case for being the best heavyweight in the world.
All of this is backed up by sensible booking with a willingness to create interesting storylines that allow the wrestlers to display their characters. There are numerous clear heels which you don’t have in alot of Japanese companies.
The future looks incredibly bright too. Tetsuya Naito looks a lock to be the ace of the promotion for years to come. He has it all – a unique charisma, incredible natural talent, and a great look. His partner Yujiro Takahashi may end up more suited for being the ace of the junior division due to his height but he too has great skills and personality. With the talented Kazuchika Okada due back from his US excursion soon and the new crop of young lions that debuted this year there is even more reason to be optimistic.
My thoughts on the two great (as in ALL TIME GREAT) matches from NOAH 3/1.
NJPW vs. NOAH: Shiosaki & Sugiura vs. Nakamura & Milano
GHC Junior Title: Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. KENTA
These are my one and two for 2009 so far. I was completely and utterly losing my mind during both matches. This was Danielson vs. McGuinness in Liverpool levels of marking out and I was at that match in person. These matches didn’t have the live atmosphere going for them, yet I still managed to get so excited that I legit broke a spring in my couch by jumping to my feet on it (when Sug speared Milano into the corner and the ref jumped out of the way). I also ran around the room multiple times shouting OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! when Nakajima flipped out of a Tiger Suplex in the prettiest spot I’ve seen in forever.
Shiosaki’s killing of Milano down the stretch was among the coolest, most memorable things I’ve ever seen in wrestling. The spinning overhand chop to a kneeling Milano was BRUTAL. That so needs to be his finisher. Suigiura was out of this world on the hot tag and all prior to that when stewing on the apron and in the early stages with Nakamura. He brought the emotion to this match more than anyone, and as mentioned earlier that running spear he nailed Milano with was GODLY.
Nakamura and Milano were great heels and Milano really had his working boots on and brought some really awesome innovative stuff to the table. Nakamura once again mocking the Misawa face wipe was beautiful.
G-1 Climax 2008
Mid-August has become one of the highlights of my wrestling calendar. The reason for this is that it signals the start of New Japanâ€™s G-1 Climax tournament. Since 1991 the G-1 has been provided classic matches, interesting booking and the emergence of several stars. This yearâ€™s edition looks to be, on paper, one of the best in recent years.
The format of the tournament has taken different forms over the years and this year what weâ€™re looking at is two blocks of 7 wrestlers, with the winner in Block A facing the winner in Block B. The two blocks are stacked with potentially great matches, and the winners are not clear cut. Block A consists of Satoshi Kojima, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinjiro Ohtani, Giant Bernard, Manabu Nakanishi, Togi Makabe and Wataru Inoue. Block B will feature Shinsuke Nakamura, Yugi Nagata, Hirooki Goto, Toshiaki Kawada, Toru Yano, Yutaka Yoshie, and Hiroyoshi Tenzan.
There are a ton of interesting plots going into this. The biggest is probably that the winner will face IWGP Champion Keiji Muto, on Mutoâ€™s home turf in All Japan. This really adds intrigue to who the winner will be. If the plan is for Muto to retain in that match, then almost anyone in the G-1 could be the guy who gets the shot. If the plan is for the title to be won back by a New Japan guy then youâ€™re probably looking at it being Nakamura, Nagata, Tanahashi or maybe even Tenzan. So there are a lot of possibilities in how this thing all plays out.