NJPW on AXS 7-24-15 report: Tanahashi vs. Nakamura; Shibata vs. Honma

by Bryan Rose, WrestlingObserver.com

Tonight’s show took place August 3, 2014 from the Osaka Bodymaker Colosseum.

First match we have on the docket tonight is Tomoaki Honma taking on Katsuyori Shibata. This was just excellent, right from the get go. You had two guys going out there and being as stiff as possible and people were totally into it. At one point Shibata chopped Honma right in the face, which did not look fun in the least bit. Honma did not win one single match here in this tournament, but it doesn’t matter. He got over big time in this tournament because he went to the limit every time he faced off against someone, and only after giving it his all did he get pinned. That’s how you book a guy to lose but still get over. Honma is one of the best babyfaces in New Japan, probably the best underdog type character in wrestling at the moment, and this performance here was a great reason why. Shibata gets the win after a GTS and the penalty kick.

Honma, with his gravelly voice, said after the match that he might not win or be a champion, but he wants to make sure people know about him in this tournament.

Kazuchika Okada followed, facing Yujiro Takahashi. This was fine, but not nearly as good as the previous match. Yujiro I wouldn’t say is terrible, but he’s clearly a notch below a lot of the New Japan Heavyweights and can be clumsy at times. He wasn’t here, as the match between him and Okada was pretty short, and was perfectly fine for what it was, though there’s not much to talk about here. Okada picks up the win with the Rainmaker lariat.

Gedo interviews for Okada after the match, saying no one is able to step up to Okada. When asked if he felt anything after facing Takahashi since he was the one who cost him the IWGP championship, Okada simply said “no” and walked away.

Tanahashi is interviewed. He says he enjoyed facing Nakamura as there are wrestlers that he always looks forward to facing, and he’s one of them. He always feels that he could do more, however. He gains something every time they face.

The big match followed. This was a very good, back and forth technical match for much of the match, then got really awesome in the closing stretches. Ranallo did a good job of detailing the background of the match, including Tanahashi’s trip to the hospital during the G1 to check on his neck. I completely forgot about that, and was a nice touch. Nakamura hit the boma ye twice on Tanahashi and was going for a third when Tanahashi tripped him and busted out the Japanese rolling clutch hold to pin him for the surprise win. I wasn’t too into this the first time it aired, but I loved it re-watching it again. This was different from the opener in that they didn’t destroy each other, but rather just had a great back and forth match. This is probably my favorite match between the two at the moment.

After the match Nakamura notes his losses to Shibata and Tanahashi. He’s still in the game, and his fight with those two will never end.

Back with Tanahashi for his reflections on the match. When coming up for the finish, he didn’t realize that it was on the anniversary of Karl Gotch’s death, so he saw it as the god of pro wrestling giving him powers. He realized that G1 was a truly important event when he was a worldwide audience gaining interest in it. He says that concentrating on the G1 for nearly a month will wear your out. Being strong mentally was the most important factor this year. He says that he will become G1 champion this year.

Another great show this week with some good analysis and great matches. Next week we’ll continue the G1 trail as Kazuchika Okada takes on Minoru Suzuki in the main event.