Night three of the 26th G1 Climax saw the continuing march of an exalted legacy, the reminder that some types of strength simply can’t be overcome, that champions do not go quietly into the night and that even great heroes must eventually face their own end. But enough with the poetics, let’s get to the matches.
The legacy I’m speaking of is that of Hiroyoshi Tenzan’s march to win one last G1 and obtain an IWGP Heavyweight Championship match. Night three’s A BLOCK matches placed Bullet Club and Guerillas of Destiny member Tama Tonga in Tenzan’s path to one last moment of glory. Tonga performed in much the same way he normally does, arrogantly and nonchalantly, but Tenzan’s experience and superior toughness overcame Tonga who lost to Tenzan’s moon-sault.
The second match of the night saw Tomohiro Ishii face off against Hirooki Goto. Goto sought to notch another victory and two more points to his total and Ishii looked to recover from his night one loss. Now, if you were in a premiere round-robin tournament and saw your over-aggressive approach fail you by losing your first match you might think it wise to reconsider your strategy. Maybe you wrestle more conservatively, wait for your opponent to make a mistake upon which you could capitalize instead of charging headfirst into the open arms of brutal conflict. But you are not Tomohiro Ishii.
The Stone Pit Bull brought the attack to Goto who, as is his nature, was well-equipped for the violent throw-down that followed. This was a match filled with hard-hitting, non-stop action from bell to bell. The two traded unforgiving lariats, devastating forearms and crushing kicks throughout. Ishii, with an incredible show of strength, managed to land a delayed (I counted seven seconds) vertical second rope suplex to Goto, a man with a height advantage of five inches. It was a spectacular effort by Ishii but it was all for naught as Goto won the match with his patented GTR (lariat into a backbreaker) finisher.
The night’s second match had a prelude in the previous night’s preliminary action as the two opponents, Bad Luck Fale and Naomichi Marufuji had faced off in a six-man tag match. Marufuji continued his strategy of quick, stiff, deliberate strikes, from that tag confrontation and while he found some success the power and size of Fale proved insurmountable for the much smaller Marufuji. Bad Luck Fale won with his finisher, The Grenade, a choke slam that transitions into a thrusting Samoan Spike.
IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada sought to rebound from his surprising night one loss to Marufuji and faced off against Los Ingobernables de Japon’s SANADA. SANADA had participated in night one’s other upset when was able to submit Hiroshi Tanahashi with his EVIL Skull finisher. SANADA started the third match of the night aggressively as the action spilled out of the ring and onto the floor. SANADA took advantage of the surroundings, even hitting Okada with a chair, which should have been a disqualification and I’m at a loss as to why it wasn’t. Maybe the ref is a fan of Memphis, who knows? SANADA followed the chair shot with several Irish whips into the steel railing and tossed Okada throat first down onto them. The champion looked to be in trouble as SANADA confidently strolled around the ring waiting to pick his spots.
But Okada soon gained the advantage and the two became locked in an interminable struggle. They executed reversal and escape after reversal and escape, including a finishing sequence that saw SANADA’s apron springboard knee strike intercepted by Okada’s Too Awesome Dropkick. Okada then went for The Rainmaker clothesline only for SANADA to reverse it into an EVIL Skull attempt that was then reversed by Okada into a German suplex which Okada followed up with The Rainmaker for the three count.
Okada could be seen favoring the left side of his neck throughout the match as well as immediately afterwards and I hope that was just selling and not indicative of a real injury he might possibly have.
The final match of the evening pitted New Japan Ace Hiroshi Tanahashi against The Unchained Gorilla Togi Makabe. Tanahashi’s entrance was notable for the lack of air guitar Tanahashi normally pantomimes during his entrances. Not only was the air guitar missing, but Tanahashi himself seemed to be missing throughout the match and seemed a step behind Makabe; constantly fighting from underneath. His shoulder was obviously bothering him, which Makabe capitalized on with repeated side headlocks, wrist locks, arm bars and hammer locks.
Additionally, Makabe relentlessly mocked and taunted Tanahashi throughout the match, and showed no respect for the seven-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, even screaming a guttural “fuck you” at one point. While the fans were fervently behind Tanahashi and obviously wanted to see him bounce back from his shocking night one submission loss, it was not to be. The Ace had his moments but Makabe was unrelenting in his offense and had an answer for every attack mounted by Tanahashi. Tanahashi lost via pinfall after Makabe hit a top rope German suplex which he followed up with a diving knee drop.