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.
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.
I decided to take a break from KENTA & Marufuji this week, but I did watch a ton of other random stuff. First up is an episode of Raw from right before No Mercy 2001. Weâ€™re deep into the invasion angle and RVD is the most over babyface on the roster. The show was built around a tag match which would be Stone Cold and a partner vs. Kurt Angle and a partner. Austin had the Alliance vote as to who his partner would be and he rigged it so that RVD wouldnâ€™t win. I had forgotten how funny he was as the leader of these jabroniâ€™s.
The tag match ended up being excellent. Undertaker was Angleâ€™s partner and worked harder than I remember him working back in 2001. Austin was the best guy in the match. The other main matches were The Rock against RVD and Jericho against Rhyno. These were both really good as well. RVD and Rock had excellent chemistry, itâ€™s a shame they never got to work more. In fact this may have been their only ever singles match.
Some other notes from the show: