Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The G1 Climax is a Concept by Which I Measure My Pain: Day 1

-AM, "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream"

Oh, for fuck's sake. Today was going to be the day. I've been slacking off, as I have the tendency to do, but my desktop dropped dead, and my funk has been drawn out longer than I'd like to think it would be otherwise. Still, I've got a flashdisk with pretty much all of my important stuff on it, including a half-finished write-up for the Fujinami/Choshu match deemed the 21st best bout of 80's New Japan, and a half-finished third part of my "More Wrestling Than Wrestling" Judy Garland retrospective, and today was going to be the day that I snapped myself out of whatever the hell it's been that's been holding me back and write about the motherfuckin' professional wrestling.

Except now I can't find my flashdisk. The world can kindly go fuck itself.

Oh, but I had another project that I had just started considering doing. Of course, it's a project that involves inflicting even more mental anguish upon myself, but today is gonna be the day for writing about wrestling one way or another. Phil already took the bullet by covering the BOSJ tournament. I may as well take another with a New Japan tournament that actually has the sheer contempt for it's audience to book Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Strongman. Is it a good idea to go ahead with this in my fragile mental state? I don't know. Maybe I'll find some diamonds in the rough like Phil did with the performances of Liger and Gedo. Or maybe this will just be primal scream therapy as a wrestling review. I suppose being the guy who writes the wrestling criticism equivalent of "Plastic Ono Band" isn't the worst thing in the world.

Block B: Wataru Inoue vs. Giant Bernard

Well, they didn't waste any time bringing the suck, did they? Wataru Inoue is a guy who I've thought got a bad rap from certain corners of the internet going back almost to his rookie year, but damn, he really lived down to his reputation here. It's not just that he was fucking up stuff. It's that he was fucking up stuff that you almost forgot could be fucked up before you see this. He fucks up starting a strike exchange. He fucks up getting his knees up to block a splash. He fucks up holding on to Bernard's arm while applying an armbar. Inoue has been wrestling for ten years now. How does he fuck up low-level stuff like that? This wasn't Bernard's best showing, either, although he basically looked fine. He delivered a good beating, although Bernard's real strength is as sort of a lesser, taller Arn Anderson. Best as a guy who comes off as an asskicker, but also does a lot of great comedy stooging. And well, his beating was good, but he didn't do much comedy stooging, so I was left wanting. Also, him slapping Inoue on the back while Inoue was delivering the gentlest shoulderblocks in the corner ever to try and make them sound more impactful than they were was really embarrassing. But yeah, this was a "worst in the world" type performance from Inoue. Just the kind of thing you want to open with.

Block A: Manabu Nakanishi vs. Toru Yano

Hey remember when Nakanishi was really good for about two seconds? Man, that sure was a long time ago. Nakanishi rolls up and drops Yano with a standing dropkick which was pretty cool. Him undershooting a pescado shortly afterwords despite making Yano stand stone still for something like a year while he got it lined up killed the good will pretty fast. Thankfully, he pretty much landed on his feet, since Yano couldn't be bothered to take the one step forward necessary to catch him. He did still sell getting knocked over by the wind of a large Asian man falling down from a great height in front of him. In fairness, Yano is mostly inoffensive here. Yano is a guy who I remember being a big favorite of mine (as he was with everyone else who was posting at Happy Wrestling Land) when he started doing his heel shtick back in '04/'05. He wasn't actually a good wrestler, but the shtick was amusing, and natives in big league Japanese promotions doing American-style heel stuff was still pretty novel at that point. But it's 2010, that gimmick is commonplace, and Yano still isn't a good wrestler. The fact that I can accurately describe a guy whose stuff I once kinda liked as a poor man's Togi Makabe is really sad. Nakanishi does some good clubbering at points, but he is really nowhere as good of a clubbering big man as Iron Mike Sharpe was in his match on the Texas set. Yano runs the ropes and bounces off backwards so that Nakanishi can catch him with a German suplex for the win, I guess because catching him from the front and then doing a go-behind into the German would've been too much to ask.

Block A: Prince Devitt vs. Strongman

Strongman is on that elite level with Gronda and Paul Ellering of guys who look like they are going to have a massive heart attack anytime they do anything. It really looks like it is physically painful just being him. I am not as down on Devitt as most people whose pro graps opinions I take seriously are, but he didn't give me much to make that case with in this match. This was worked like a Rey Mysterio/Mark Henry match, as Devitt bounces off of Strongman and Strongman stands around looking huge before eventually getting worn down and falling to his smaller opponent. Unfortunately, running the formula really just illustrates just how shitty Strongman is compared to someone like Henry. Guys bouncing off of Henry works because Henry is genuinely imposing, and as a heel, could be downright scary. Strongman is just plain goofy. I mean, he really comes off like a 21st century Ellering. You can totally see him doing vignettes in CMLL where he teaches little kids to get in shape while joking about being addicted to "World of Warcraft" or something. His vocalizing doesn't help his case. "YEAH! HERE WE GO, BABY! YEAH!" And his opponent is a guy who actually yells "DANGEROUS!" before doing his top-rope double stomp, which is some weird Western fetishization of puro coming full circle shit. Strongman really struggles with timing and being in position for stuff, though that seems to be partially Devitt's fault as well. The finish is a good example. Devitt "grabs" a prawn hold from his back, but his legs don't ever really hook Strongman's arms, and Strongman flails about (to the extent that someone of his build is capable of flailing, anyway) unsuccessfully trying to get his arms hooked right until the ref counts three. Where does one botch end and the other begin?

Block B: Yujiro Takahashi vs. Go Shiozaki

Hey, a good match! I didn't know they still had those. Yujiro was a perfectly fine - if unremarkable - wrestler working as the cocksure youngster getting a few lucky shots in on the established guy early before getting his ass beat for most of the rest of the match. Kind of a semi-odd role considering they've been around for about the same length of time, but Yujiro was a junior until fairly recently, so I guess it still works on that level. He ate some real nasty shit here, including a release gourdbuster onto the apron and a slingshot into the ringpost, so I'll give him props for that. Go continues to reward me for the faith I started to put into him last year. He has forgone being a sad parody of late 90's/early 00's Kobashi for being a lesser version of 00's Akiyama, the arrogant established guy who mauls lower-ranked dudes trying to make a name for themselves at his expense. The main difference, other than Akiyama being all-around better than Go, is that Akiyama would usually completely no-sell the lower guy's offense at the start of the match, only to get worn down later on and start showing weakness, whereas Go is a little more willing to sell for Takahashi, most notably taking a nice bump off of the apron into the guardrail and then eating a big tope. Still, he's selling it as irritation that Takahashi is getting one over on him. He's actually shooting him a dirty look as Takahashi hits the tope. Not a great match by any means, but I'll take it over the dreck I've been given so far. Still, looking over what I've written, pretty clear that "Wrestler X is like a lesser Wrestler Y" is already a recurring theme in this tournament, and that's a pretty sad statement.

Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Karl Anderson

If you want a good look into my mindset here, this is the first match of the tournament that really struck me as a great match, and yet the big thought that comes to my mind is "poor Karl Anderson". He delivers a great performance here, and yet, something is always threatening to undercut his efforts. He is awesome heeling it up early on, trying to start chants for Tanahashi after taking him down and mocking his posing, including miming flipping around his long, lustrous hair. The crowd cheers him for this. How do you say "this is awesome" in Japanese? I'm going to need to keep an ear out for it. Anderson rips the shit out of Tanahashi's knee, dropping some nasty kneedrops to the knee and twisting it up like Tyson Kidd, no, Karl deserves better than to fall into that trap. And Tanahashi definitely doesn't deserve to be compared to Finlay, but he does do a really good job of selling the knee. They do a great job building heat on him, to the point that you actually get psyched up when Tanahashi starts to make his comeback in spite of the Downy-soft offense he's sure to deliver. In fact, his offense on the comeback doesn't even look that bad. It won't blow you away, but he's putting just enough weight behind it and Anderson is eating it well enough that I can dig it. He's still staggering and limping as he makes his way to the corner, pulls himself to the second rope with his upper body alone...and then does a somersault senton without a second thought. And then his knee is hurt again! And then he's running and jumping around like nothing's wrong. I'll give Tanahashi this much, he does basically just forget that his knee is hurt at this point. That's not good, but I'll take it over KENTA or CIMA's "My knee is hurt! Wait, no it isn't! Wait, yes it is! Wait...." bullshit where they are just rubbing how bad they are in my face any day. I'd much rather that story just be dropped if you're not going to follow through on it so I can move on to other things. And there are other things to move on to, as Anderson continues fucking Tanahashi's shit up in spectacular fashion, wisely forgoing limbwork for nasty boots and lariats. And wouldn't you know, he's even rewarded for his efforts with a win! Maybe the world isn't as cruel as it seems.

Block A: Togi Makabe vs. Tetsuya Naito

Damn it, G1 Climax! You're screwing up my bad mood with good matches! This match had some weirdness to it, and it won't be to everyone's taste, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I got a kick out of it. It opens with a bunch of perfunctory chain wrestling, which seems odd to me. But it breaks down, and Naito ends up dropkicking Makabe in the stomach, and Makabe starts selling like he's just ruptured his spleen. It seems really strange at first, but it's apparently part of the story, as Naito spends the body of the match going after Makabe's abdomen. He looks great doing it, too. Both members of No Limit always struck me as natural power brawling heavies stuck in junior bodies. Now that he's actually bulked up to heavyweight status, Naito seems right at home overpowering Makabe and working over whatever the hell internal injury he's supposed to have. Come to think of it, Makabe does kinda look like a shorter, bulkier Japanese Diamond Dallas Page. Will he start taping his ribs after this match? Makabe makes his comeback, and it's semi-problematic. He doesn't drop the injury storyline like Tanahashi did, and he doesn't quite fall into KENTA/CIMA-style fluctuating selling, either. For the most part, he does come off as a guy who is fighting through an injury, rather than a guy who is alternately fighting and injured. But considering the severity of his earlier selling, I'm not sure if holding his stomach in between rope-running, powerbombs, and a bridging northern lights suplex cuts it. Still, it could have been worse, and Naito came up big, and like Anderson in the previous match, he was justly rewarded with a win. So good on him. No, no limits, reach for the sky! No valley too deep, no mountain too high!

Block B: Yuji Nagata vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

This was the one match on the card that looked genuinely good to me on paper, so naturally, they didn't deliver. It's not so much that the match was bad. It wasn't, at least not significantly so. But it was very much these guys going through the motions. Boring opening matwork that leads nowhere, strike exchanges that are fine but not particularly heated, Nakamura throwing a lot of Boma Yes that look pretty good, some mild overselling by Nagata that looks more jarring than it should next to the cool and indifferent (and possibly bored) Nakamura, and an uninspiring run to the finish. It's very paint-by-numbers, and while I'm all for a good formula, there still needs to be effort behind it. I wasn't getting that here. Day 1 of the G1 Climax measured my pain as being not as bad as I had feared, but it ends on a flat note.

Oh, hey, there's my flashdisk!


Blogger Phil said...

Be interesting to see if you can get farther with this then I got with the BOSJ. New Japan can wear you the fuck down.

5:51 PM  

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