John LaRocca looks at Shuji Ishikawa vs Suwama from AJPW’s Summer Action Series in our Throwback Thursday video.
The summer for pro wrestling fans means WWE’s SummerSlam, the number three of the “Big Four” pay-per-views, and New Japan’s G1 Climax Tournament. The G1 tournament spans over nineteen events and is considered the most grueling tournament in professional wrestling history. The standard for match quality in the G1 tournament is so high that everyone puts their best effort forward and the result is numerous match of the year contenders. This year’s G1 may have been the greatest ever for match quality.
G1 kicked on off on July 17th in Hokkaido with A Block of the round robin tournament setting the pace of the tournament with great matches, the highlight being Tetsuya Naito versus Kota Ibushi in a true Match Of Year contender. On this same night, All Japan Pro Wrestling sold out an event at the historic Korakuen Hall to kick off their Summer Action Series. The main event saw AJPW Triple Crown Champion Shuji Ishikawa defend his title against Suwama. This was a rematch of their classic match earlier during AJPW’s annual round robin tournament called “The Champion Carnival” on April 16th in the same building.
Before we get into the July 17th match between these two monsters of the mat, we have to go back and look at the April 16th Champion Carnival match. Suwama and Shuji Ishikawa were the main event of the opening night of the tournament and these two did not disappoint anyone.
As advertised, these two huge men punched, kicked, slammed and suplexed each other all over that AJPW ring. The heat in the building was high with both fans of Suwama and Ishikawa damn near split down the middle. Korakuen Hall was rumbling. After 13:48 of intense action, Suwama was one with his hand raised in victory.
I loved this match so much it made my Top 5 Matches during quarter 2 of 2017, coming in at number four. This match was booked and the tournament was booked perfectly. Though Ishikawa lost this match, he ended up winning the Champion Carnival tournament in the end. By winning the tournament, Ishikawa earned a Triple Crown title shot and took the gold home over Kento Miyahara on May 21st in classic match.
With Suwama’s win over Ishikawa in the tournament, he was set up perfectly in earning a future Triple Crown title shot. Since their first match was one of the best in All Japan this year, the excitement for the title was much anticipated. The majority of the time, the sequel does not live up to the original, but these two topped it. Their first encounter was a war and so was this one. The rematch told a simple story. Not only was Ishikawa defending his championship, but he was also avenging his loss to Suwama. To accomplish both of those goals, Ishikawa had to unleash everything in his arsenal.
A key moment in the match was Ishikawa hitting Suwama with his “Giant Driver” which is a sit out piledriver, also known as the “Fire Thunder Driver” and Suwama kicked out. The look on Ishikawa’s face at the kick out was perfect. He was shocked Suwama kicked out, but he didn’t over-sell it like many in pro wrestling today do. It was a believable reaction that helped you suspend disbelief that much more for this great match.
The crowd sensed a title change and the heat cranked up from there. Back and forth they went. Suwama was great selling like he was out on his feet, but then reaching back to do all he could to secure victory. In the end, Ishikawa hit the “Giant Driver” a second time and that was it. Shuji Ishikawa retained and now was onto his next challenger, Kento Miyahara at All Japan’s biggest show of year at Ryogoku on August 27th.
After a year full of great matches, I did not want this great match to go unnoticed. Can this match make my Top 5 for Quarter 3 of 2017? The way this year is going, it is going to be tough. If it does or doesn’t, this is one match I won’t forget. If you like two big tough guys beating the living hell out of each other, Suwama versus Shuji Ishikawa is the match for you.