G1 Climax 24 Review - The Best Wrestling Tournament Ever | Smark Out Moment

G1 Climax 24 Review - The Best Wrestling Tournament Ever

Posted by Oliver Court Thursday, August 14, 2014
G1 Climax 24 New Japan Pro Wrestling NJPW Seibu Dome 2014 Nakamura Okada Tanahashi Styles
New Japan Pro Wrestling's G1 Climax tournament has provided some of the best 3 weeks, 12 shows and 120 matches of pro wrestling I have ever had the pleasure to witness. It's certainly the best wrestling tournament I've ever seen, and I wouldn't hesitate to call it the best one ever, although wrestling historians (AKA bigger nerds than I am) will be the ones who will decide whether to give it such a lofty title. However you slice it though, G1 24 was pure awesome from start to finish, and if you weren't watching it or even aware of its existence, you've missed out big time. Luckily, I'm here to provide a summary of the tournament; what worked well, what didn't, and direct you to the matches you NEED to see if you love pro wrestling. And if you were watching the tournament, you can read this and bask in the greatness you have just witnessed, from 5-star classic matches to Kazuchika Okada defeating his friend and mentor Shinsuke Nakamura in the final at the Seibu Dome.

This is a big round-up/review of the entire tournament; a collection of my thoughts about all 12 days and 24 competitors. I'll even throw in videos to my top 10 matches (thanks to Original Bonski for uploading them), which you really need to see if you haven't already.

The Best Stories of G1 24

Apart from the awesome matches, G1 was so successful this year because of the tournament-spanning stories that it told, which made just about every one of the 24 competitors, and their matches, feel important, rather than just filling up the numbers.

Kazuchika Okada G1 Climax Final vs Nakamura 2014 Rainmaker Gedo
Okada's Quest - Kazuchika Okada's tournament began with a Night 1 main event victory over AJ Styles, the man who defeated him to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, giving him a measure of revenge over Styles, who had beaten him 4 times since joining New Japan. This showed the fans that Okada was a man to watch during the tournament, and his vow to defeat all of his opponents made all his matches mean a lot more. It put Okada back in the spotlight after a couple of months of losing, which ultimately led to his eventual tournament win. Great storytelling.

G1 Climax 24 Tomoaki Honma Kokeshi loser 0-10 Shibata Naito Benjamin
Honma's Plight - As the last minute replacement for Kota Ibushi, who suffered a concussion two weeks before, Tomoaki Honma was not expected to win many, or any, matches in this tournament. What he was expected to do was put in a hell of an effort, do some crazy diving headbutts, and lose valiantly. He did all this, but much more as well, as he connected with the crowd at just about every show better than anyone else on the card. The fans were solidly behind the underdog Honma, in a way that was very reminiscent of Daniel Bryan's support. Honma was getting good reactions this year before G1 Climax, but despite losing every single match this tournament, Honma is now more over than ever before, and New Japan would be silly to not capitalise on that at some point. If Honma were to connect with the Kokeshi headbutt from the top rope and win a match, perhaps at Wrestle Kingdom in January, the crowd would blow the roof off the building.

AJ Styles NJPW IWGP Heavyweight Champion Minoru Suzuki G1 Climax Korakuen HallAJ Styles proves himself - Going into the G1, AJ Styles had not been fully accepted by the Japanese fans as the IWGP Heavyweight Champion and a legitimate main-eventer. This was his chance to prove that he belonged in the top tier of NJPW and he absolutely delivered, putting on multiple great matches with a variety of opponents, including a 5 star instant classic with Minoru Suzuki at Korakuen Hall. After that match, Styles was getting some of the best reactions from the crowd of anyone in the tournament. Styles has proven that he is still one of the best wrestlers in the world, something that hadn't been apparent for some time due to being buried under all of TNA's bullshit booking, and I'm looking forward to his Championship defenses this autumn.

Bullet Club don't cheat - A scary prospect heading into this year's G1 was whether the Bullet Club would run constant interference in their matches, which had been their MO in most matches this year. This wouldn't have ruined the tournament, but would have caused much eye-rolling from fans on every show. Thankfully, New Japan avoided BC shenanigans almost entirely, allowing the guys to actually wrestle. Interference was used sparingly, and used well when it did happen, such as at the Finals, where Yujiro Takahashi attacked Tomohiro Ishii in his match against Karl Anderson, only for YOSHI-HASHI to take 100 levels in badass to save his CHAOS teammate and chuck out Yujiro. Hopefully this trend of limited interference will continue for the Gaijin Gang.

Tomohiro Ishii Stone Pitbull NJPW Puroresu stiff injured G1 Climax 24
Everybody hurts... sometimes...
Fighting Spirit -  Normally I wouldn't applaud guys for working hurt, but across the 12 nights of G1 Climax and in the 'fighting spirit' environment of New Japan, seeing guys like Ishii and Togi Makabe fighting through their very apparent pain to pull out 4 star matches every night was amazing to watch, if a little scary. Their matches were enhanced by their opponents going after their injured bodies, such as Shibata Penalty Kicking Ishii's separated shoulder and Suzuki slapping Makabe on his dislocated jaw. This is what you get with strong style wrestling, and it's fantastic when done so well. I just hope Ishii gets a nice long holiday now, because he looked like shit after his match with Karl Anderson at the finals.

Random Thoughts

  • Shelton Benjamin winning his first 4 matches of the tournament was a great way of making a guy who was otherwise 'filling up the numbers' feel important, and it made Benjamin's next few matches seem much more significant as he had a chance to win it. 
  • Tenzan and Kojima, at 43 years of age, proved that they definitely still have something left in the tank, with several good performances by both men. I was harsh on Tenzan in my preview, but I have egg on my face now. Hopefully they can carry that form into their tag team matches for the rest of the year. 
  • Yuji Nagata is even older at 46, but moves like he's Okada's age. I loved his matches with Ishii and Shibata, which looked absolutely brutal. 
  • Doc Gallows has 2 main event matches against two of the best in Nakamura and Tanahashi, but he did nothing special in either one. Disappointing tournament for Gallows, who won't have the spotlight on him in that way again for a while.
  • Bad Luck Fale can only have great matches with Nakamura. It's like Nakamura can see inside his brain, because he's really not very good against anyone else.
  • Yujiro was poor. He hasn't been good as a Bullet Club member and I can't remember one of his matches from this tournament. 
  • Toru Yano was great in his role of bullshitting comedy pest, stealing points off better wrestlers by cheating and conniving. His matches were great changes of pace in-between more serious matches that might otherwise have blurred together. 
  • Tetsuya Naito was in a difficult spot in this tournament, since it seems like half of Japan hates him while the other half love him, but he played 'subtle heel' in Osaka and Korakuen very well. Maybe he should permanently turn heel?
  • Minoru Suzuki was fantastic; his matches with Styles and Okada are must-sees. He needs to get away from his never-ending feud with Yano and get back to serious stuff, because he's an absolute master and needs more chances to put on great matches. 
  • Lance Archer impressed me a lot; he was easily the best 'big man' in the tournament, although his tag partner Davey Boy Smith Jr. was also good in his role. I'm looking forward to what they can put together as a tag team in the autumn. 
  • Shibata's spinning back hand strike is the best move in pro wrestling today. It makes me wince every time he hits it, and his opponents have always sold it well by going down like a ton of bricks.  
  • It was odd to see only 5 wrestlers on the final day still in contention to go to the final. Last year almost everyone still had a chance to win their block, but eliminations were earlier this year, as the main eventers were booked much more strongly than in the last couple of G1 tournaments. 
  • The Seibu Dome was not a great wrestling venue, but it was a spectacle. I'm a mark for stadium shows, since they're so rare and they look very special, and this one was no different; a great place to hold the grand final to such an amazing tournament. The main stage looked better than most WWE PPV stages these days. 
  • Oh yeah, Jeff Jarrett joined the Bullet Club. I'm not going to say that they're jumping the shark with that; in fact it's a smart move that gets more American attention on New Japan. But it's not going to make the Bullet Club more interesting, and Double J probably won't even be at most of the shows for the rest of the year.
Bullet Club New Japan Pro Wrestling Jeff Jarrett joins G1 Climax Seibu Dome Styles Tanahashi
I'm having PTSD flashbacks to TNA.
The Top 10 Matches

10. Shinsuke Nakamura vs Katsuyori Shibata - Night 1

A battle between two of the new generation 'Three Musketeers' that was hard-hitting and showed that Shibata would be a contender in the tournament by beating Shinsuke. A good place to start watching the tournament if you weren't following it live.

9. AJ Styles vs Kazuchika Okada - Night 1

An excellent first main event of the tournament and the first indication that this would be a tournament to remember for Styles. It's also the best of their three matches this year in my opinion.

8. Yuji Nagata vs Tomohiro Ishii - Night 11

Right at the end of the tournament, this match was meaningless in determining the winner of the A Block, but you wouldn't know it from the brutality of the match. Both Nagata and Ishii brought the fight, with some wicked strikes and holds that are a staple of the Japanese strong style.

7. Shinsuke Nakamura vs Tomohiro Ishii - Night 7

The main event of the Korakuen Hall show, this match saw best friends deliver a match that felt like a main event, not just another tournament match. It was overshadowed by Styles/Suzuki on the night, but when seen in isolation, it really is awesome. My two favourite wrestlers right now tearing it up.

6. Tomohiro Ishii vs Katsuyori Shibata - Night 10

This was a re-match to one of the best matches of 2013, and wasn't as good as that classic. Ishii's separated shoulder is partly to blame for that, but both men used that injury and worked it into the match, with Shibata kicking it like Adam Vinatieri and Ishii always coming back for more, as well as a strike exchange where Shibata put his own arm behind his back to make it fair. Badass.

5. Kazuchika Okada vs Minoru Suzuki - Night 11

The last match of the Blocks, and one that will be overlooked because of the Styles/Suzuki classic, but this was an amzing match in its own right. Okada having to win the match to win the block, and Suzuki being the sleazy brick wall of a veteran trying to stop him doing that was an excellent dynamic. The hot crowd fully behind Okada, and the final Rainmaker where Suzuki landed on his head, really made this match special.

4. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Katsuyori Shibata - Night 4

An emotionally charged grudge match that had been years in the making; Tanahashi/Shibata was the match everyone wanted to see in this year's G1. Although they left a bit of room for a better match in the future, this was a fantastic mach that felt like it could have main evented any New Japan show, something that most of the main events in the tournament didn't achieve. I hope they go back to this feud, possibly for Wrestle Kingdom in January, because given 5-10 more minutes, they can do even better.

3. Katsuyori Shibata vs Tomoaki Honma - Night 8

This match was somehow even more emotional than the Tanahashi/Shibata blood feud match, since the Osaka crowd was fired up and totally behind Honma, while Shibata and Honma looked like they were destroying each other. Shibata's spinning backhand followed by Honma's flying Kokeshi was my second favourite spot of the entire tournament. Some people are saying Honma should have won this match since the crowd were more ready for it then than at any other point, but I don't mind him losing, since it is his gimmick and it's what keeps the fans cheering him. If he starts to win, then the underdog aura fades and he becomes just another guy, albeit one with a ridiculous diving headbutt.

2. Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kazuchika Okada - The Final

This was the most historically significant match of the G1, and one that perfectly suited the grand stage of the Seibu Dome. The story of Nakamura; the veteran main eventer, taking on his stablemate and protege Okada, was encapsulated in one spot; the best spot of the entire tournament. Okada sets up the Rainmaker and nearly hits it, but Nakamura just avoids it and craftily counters into a cross armbar, which Okada manages to fight out of. It was the perfect summation of their characters and wrestling styles, and looked awesome to boot. Moments like that make matches special. The finish was also spectacular, with Okada hitting three Rainmakers to send a message to Nakamura, the New Japan roster, and the world, that he is now the dominant wrestler, not Nakamura or Tanahashi. No one has ever kicked out of a full-power Rainmaker, so to hit three in a row was just overkill. It was about the message, not the match, and you have to think that some of that is out of kayfabe as well. The translations of Okada and Gedo's post-match promo show that Okada is feeling more confident than ever, and his yanking the mic away from mouthpiece Gedo again sent a message that he is ready to carry New Japan as it goes through this boom period as THE top guy. Matches and moments like that is why I love pro wrestling.

1. Minoru Suzuki vs AJ Styles - Match 7

Even after all the lip service I just paid for the Nakamura/Okada final, there was one match that will go down as an instant classic, and one that any pro wrestling fan NEEDS to watch, whether they've ever watched Japanese wrestling or not. Suzuki vs Styles was a masterclass of  of selling, storytelling and wrestling. This is the match that has cemented AJ Styles in New Japan and gotten him over with the Japanese audience. To pardon the pun, the clash of styles between AJ's agility and Suzuki's size was perfectly utilised, and both guys proved that they are great technical wrestlers as well. You really need to see it to believe the hype, so here it is:

G1 Climax 24 was a wild ride, and hopefully New Japan can carry the momentum they've created into the autumn and the double 'Destruction' shows. Stars have been born, reinforced and given one last hurrah in this amazing tournament, and I'll remember it for a long time. The Best Wrestling Tournament Ever? Quite probably.

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