June 23, 2018

G1 Climax 28 Preview/Update

 The light brown writing reflects opinions and standings at the approximate halfway mark of the tournament: after nights 9 and 10 for A and Blocks, respectively.

One thing I've enjoyed a lot this year has been the english commentary on every show- it's like a dream come true.  Even the team is a pleasant surprise- Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero, who've worked together on a 3-man team with Don Callis, make a fantastic 2-man team, maybe even my favorite english commentary team for New Japan yet.  They've literally talked me into watching every full show, instead of skipping past the non-tournament matches, as I've done in the past couple years, since NJPW changed the format to not just be all G1 matches every night.

On the whole, the drama's been good in the A Block, great in the B Block.  There are a few guys who are already out of contention, more who are on that verge, but the drama at the top is hot in both blocks.  It's been a lot of fun, but the best is yet to come.  (Except for Ibushi- Ishii, there's no topping that!)

Last year I wrote a pretty funny preamble to my G1 Climax preview, so you guys should just re-read that.  Now let's take a look at this year's competitors!

(listed in order from Wikipedia)


Michael Elgin
What Elgin may have lost in stateside support, he has gained in swole.  He's been booked really strong lately.  He beat Omega and Suzuki last year, but lost to Juice and Tama Tonga.  I'd expect a similar, solid performance this year, and hopefully nobody leaks any more texts of him burying dudes.

So, he's never been one of my favorites to root for, but Big Mike has somehow consistently delivered for the past 6 years as the wrestler who makes the best drawings.  Maybe it's the muscular thighs, maybe it's the way he roots himself when he's hitting those big power moves (with those thighs... I guess it's the thighs).  I haven't rooted for him to win except against Jay White, but Elgin is the MVP of the wrestling sketchbook drawing project...again.  A winner on a whole other level.  Current: 2 wins, 3 losses.

King of Darkness Evil
Evil is a perfect example of how the G1 can be great for establishing guys.  Since singles matches are basically considered a special attraction for the rest of the year, being able to see everybody have 9 different singles matches within a month can give a great insight into their character, in-ring style, and storytelling ability.  I thought this dude was a joke in 2016, but he had a great G1 last year which made me a fan, even taking a win over Okada in a match that was a highlight of the tournament.  This year he's entering as one of my favorites to watch in the G1, and the only LIJ member in A Block.  I doubt he stands a chance to win, but he'll be representing LIJ strong.

As Evil co-leads A Block with 8 points, he is indeed repping LIJ strong, though his knee injury may stub out his hot streak.  I'm pretty sure it's worked a worked injury, but it was so well pulled off with a botched spot, and it's been sold well since, that whatever it is, I'm along for the ride with a hook in my cheek.  Current: 4 wins, 1 loss.

Bad Luck Fale
Fale used to always beat Tanahashi in tournaments, but Tana beat him last year.  Now it looks like he's basically in Elgin's shoes, being able to beat anybody or lose to anybody.  Fale is solo-repping the Bullet Club OGs for Block A.

I wrote these preview blurbs before the G1 Special in SF show, wherein Tama Tonga and Tonga Loa destroyed the rest of Bullet Club.  Fale was noticeably absent, but presumably implicit in the turn.  The faction drama has impacted the G1 in ways I never would have guessed.  The Firing Squad is cheating on everybody, and I'm pretty sure every single one of Fale's wins have followed a ref bump, and all of his losses came from DQs from having been caught cheating.  The finishes to Fale matches already felt unpredictable, but now they feel anarchistic.  It's unorthodox for New Japan, and moving in a "western" direction, but in this instance I think it's pulled off really well, and is an exciting component to this year's tournament.  Current: 2 wins, 3 losses.

Togi Makabe
I'm not sure if he's older than Suzuki, but he feels like it.  Last year, Yuji Nagata's final G1 performance was a terrific story, and I still have goosebumps from the ovation he got on the last day.  Makabe's king-kong bravado may not lend itself as well to gracefully stepping away, but I wouldn't look for him to take many points home.

Well, color me incorrect.  Makabe's making a decent showing points-wise, though I'm still not banking on his coming out of the tourney with a winning record.  His win over Suzuki was the most enjoyable upset of the G1 so far.  Current: 2 wins, 3 losses.

Kazuchika Okada
Is he the shoe-in to win?  I'd be totally fine with that.  Go get your belt back, Rainmaker!  I'm looking forward to Okada's matches the most because he's my favorite sports team.

Definitely not following the traditional route of "the shoe-in", Okada has struggled to find his footing, openly going through a coulrophilic phase, and at this point, sitting on two losses.  it seems unlikely that he'll win unless he demonstrates a dramatic upgrade of character.  My guess is that his further evolution will occur post-G1, but it's certainly not too late for him to at least take the block.  Current: 3 wins, 2 losses.

Adam Page
It's his first G1, which is probably be the most auspicious career highlight yet for Page.  He's been having great performances, and here he can act as a proxy for his teammates, keeping the heat going for Cody and the gang as the only 'new school' Bullet Club member in the tournament.

Pagey has been killin it nightly, getting over in front of every single crowd he's been in front of, whether in tag preview or G1 singles action.  I was coming into it with an open mind, but at this point feel totally invested in rooting for Pagey to earning as many points as he can get away with.  The buckshot lariat is maybe my favorite move of the summer.  Current: 1 win, 4 losses.

Minoru Suzuki
Another guy who'll be fun to watch throughout the tournament.  He's coming in on a hot streak that goes back all the way past last year's G1.  With Okada and Tanahashi in the mix, I don't think he'll be points winner, but he'll be making life hard for all of the A Block competitors.

It's occurred to me during this tournament that Minoru Sukuzi may be the #1 pro wrestler in the world.  I'm not talking about who my personal favorite is, because my #1 of all time is Dan Bryan (a Smackdown property) and my #1 of the day is Kaz Okada (present whereabouts unknown).  Suzuki's offense and selling are impeccable, and his storytelling is in some seriously rarefied air.  If he takes his hot streak all the way to WK13, it would be awesome.  Current: 3 wins, 2 losses.

Hiroshi Tanahashi
The Ace has one of, if not the best story going into the tournament.  Formerly dominant veteran, now the underdog looking to recapture his spot at the top of the heap.  That story will make all of his matches exciting, especially his bout with Okada, which will be the seventh or eighth between them, I think.  I do know that they've only had two G1 matches before, and they were both time limit draws.  Kevin Kelly will fill us in on the rest of the stats when the time comes. 

No surprise, Mr 1/100 has provided backup to my expectations.  He's holding steady in the rankings, but is still an underdog in most matches.  It would be really cool if he gets to the finals, but I wouldn't look for him to win the tourn.  He is the most beautiful man I have ever seen.  Tristy jus like him for the talent tho.  Current: 4 wins, 1 loss.

Switchblade Jay White
I feel about White the way I used to about Evil.  The gimmick is so campy, I can't see past it.  I'll be trying to watch his matches with an open mind.

Switchblade's early upsets in the G1 against Okada and Tanahashi have been part of what (for me) has made A Block less compelling than B Block.  Now that we're at the halfway-point, I can begin to see (with help from Kelly & Romero) how White is meant to fit into the roster.  He's still sorta green and figuring out his shit, but he's miles ahead of (oh, let's say for example) Will Ospreay.  Now that White's getting more rounded, I'm seeing past the gimmick better, but there's a way to go before I''m invested on another level.  Current: 3 wins, 2 losses.

With three members, the Chaos faction is the most represented in A Block, so we'll see some of these team-mates fight for their spot within their club.  Yoshi-Hashi is the perpetual kid brother of Chaos,and it will be interesting to see him against White and Okada, even though his performance last year was underwhelming.

Yoshi's best performance was on the most recent A Block show, when he headlined in a game but losing effort against his Chaos-mate Okada.  It was cool to see him bring the noise, and see a fuller extent to what his finishers could pull off, even if they couldn't take down the Rainmaker.  It reminded me of his great match vs Omega in '16, and not just because it was the only reference point our intrepid commentators had to make.  Current: 1 win, 4 losses.


Hirooki Goto
He's an innovator, he's a bruiser, he's a great technician, but somehow he's still boring most of the time.  Still, he shines best in the G1, and there are a lot of matchups to be excited about.  As the current Never Champ, he should finish strong, but I wouldn't expect him to take the block.

As expected, he's had some really good matches, but his place in the standings equals his hype level.  Current: 2 wins, 3 losses.

Kota Ibushi
With his team-mate holding the IWGP Heavy belt, it will be interesting to contrast Ibushi's record against Omega's.  Ibushi's kinda been on the sidelines for the coronation of Omega, with his last singles match being a losing effort against Cody in May.  I expect he'll be getting tons of underdog support from the crowd (and from my couch).  Last year was the first time he got through the G1 with a winning record, but it was still just 5-4.

My MVP of the first half of the tournament.  His match against Sabre was one of my G1 favorites, but then his match with Ishii blew the lid off everything, and will undoubtedly be one of the best of the whole year.  Even with two losses at this point, I'm looking for him to go far in the tourney, possibly even getting a win over Kenny on the last day.  Current: 3 wins, 2 losses.

Tomohiro Ishii
Even without much of a spotlight through the rest of the year, Ishii always closes out the G1 as a contender for the tournament's MVP.  The B Block roster is really strong, and I'm looking forward to every one of Ishii's matches.

Even though Ibushi may have (so far) taken Ishii's spot as G1 MVP, Ibushi's best match was unquestionably against Ishii, and besides that, the tourney ain't over yet.  Ishii is still showing up in a big way, and his win against Goto felt smooth for this Chaos fanboy.  Current: 2 wins, 3 losses.

Tetsuya Naito
Last year's winner, and there hasn't been a back-to-back G1 winner since '03-'04 when Tenzan did it.  It's always interesting to see what they do with Naito, and his match against Omega should be electric.  I could see him taking the block.

He's trailing Omega in points, but I'm still looking for Naito to take B Block.  He's over as fuck, he's cool as hell, he's like the 2011 CM Punk except that New Japan knows how to book.  His next four matches are some of the ones I'm looking forward to most.  Current: 4 wins, 1 loss.

Kenny Omega
Fresh off his Championship win, it will be great to see everyone else gunning for the new top guy.  He'll have his loss to Juice last year to avenge, a match with Tama Tonga that may (or may not) glean insight into the Golden Elite's relationship to the OGBC, and of course a match against his best friend in the whole wide world.  And in between those great matches, more pure fire.  The champion never wins the tournament, so it will be interesting to see who can get a win over him.

No losses so far, but I'm sticking with my prediction of his not winning the G1, or even the block.  One of the great questions now is "who can beat Kenny?"  He'd have to lose twice in order for Naito to win, and Naito'd have to stay undefeated going forward.  There are probably some people who would love to see Omega go all the way, for the champ to win the G1 for the first time since 2000 (which predates the stipulation that the G1 winner headlines vs the champ at Wrestle Kingdom... because it predates Wrestle Kingdom by 6-7 years.)  There are other people like me who want to see some points-drama late in the game.  But we'll all be on the edges of our seats.  Current: 5 wins, 0 losses.

Balls Deep Juice Robinson
He had that huge upset last year, so you can never count Juice out, but B Block is stacked so I wouldn't expect him to go far.  I become a slightly bigger fan of Juice every year, largely because of the G1.

Having won the US Title, injured his hand, and become a gay pirate since I wrote the preview blurb, a lot has gone on in the Juice-verse.  Like Evil's injury, I'm pretty sure the hand thing is a work, but it makes a good story, if only to excuse his losing streak.  Marty Derosa said that Juice looked like a 14-year-old girl's bedroom that could kick your ass.  I just wrote that so I would remember it.  Current: 1 win, 4 losses.

Zack Sabre Jr
This year's KOPW tournament winner, Sabre can beat anyone or lose to anyone.  There are only two Suzuki-Gun members in the G1, with Suzuki in A Block and Sabre in B.  I'd expect him to represent his faction strong, but struggle with Yano and not take the block.

Sabre's had a great G1, really adding a lot to what's made the B Block so special this year.  Whether he wins or loses, his matches feel different, and his bouts against Ibushi, Sanada, and Tama Tonga were some of my faves.  Current: 3 wins, 2 losses.

The second LIJ member in B Block.  Sanada is another guy who can beat anyone and lose to anyone, but with B Block being so stacked, including his faction's leader, Sanada's going to have a hard time finishing with a winning record.

Sanada's shown up in a big way, even headlining twice (and probably will a third time before it's over).  He's got a winning record now, as I hadn't predicted, and he looks set to stay ahead of the crowd from here on out, though I'd be shocked if he got one over Naito.  Being so far down on the list of competitors, I didn't mention before how Sanada's another one of those guys who really shines during the G1, but he has been before and he is again.  Current: 3 wins, 2 losses.

Tama Tonga
This is usually the only time of the year we get to see Tama wrestle singles matches, and I think he's really fun to watch.  He isn't exactly poised to take any upset victories, but I'll be rooting for him.  He's the only Bullet Club member (besides Kenny?) in B Block.

My preview blurb is comical considering how much Tama's hype has improved.  He isn't any higher on the card, and his win record hasn't improved, but he feels dangerous, and his faction is predictably unpredictable, and he's got the style to back it all up.  We remember when he was the weak link of Bullet Club, but he makes a great leader for the Firing Squad.  I'm totally into it.  Current: 1 win, 4 losses.  (2 losses were DQ, Naito and Sanada got him clean.)

Toru Yano
Again, Chaos faction is the most represented with 3 competitors in B Block.  Yano won't be fighting for his spot in the way that Goto and Ishii will be, but he'll be wreaking mischief across the board.  Yano's matches are great because you never know what to expect, and the matches can end at any time outta nowhere.

The injection of "fair play" into Yano's repertoire has sustained his matches' unpredictability for another year of weird G1 matches.  His match with Sabre was especially fun.  Current: 1 win, 4 losses.


Satoshi Kojima
I think he might be injured, I'm not sure.  He, Tenzan, and Nagata have all faded from the limelight in the past couple years, but Tenzan and Nagata had "goodbye" G1s in 2016 and 2017.  I was sort of expecting Kojima to get the same treatment this year.

One of the things I was looking forward to most about this year's G1 was the possibility of seeing a bunch of Taichi matches.  He's only joined the heavyweight ranks recently, so there are a ton of fresh matchups waiting for him.  There are several guys in the tournament that I would love to swap out for Taichi.

This makes sense, I do like how they keep Cody's appearances more limited.  It keeps his heat... hot.  And like I said for Adam Page, with him being in the G1 he can keep that heat going, but take losses, while Cody stays strong.  It's solid booking.

CM Punk
*cue the music*

June 19, 2018

Be A Star

Wolfing down sweet potato fries and marking out to Velveteen Dream. Scanning 25 dollar flip flops at Whole Foods like a house of fire. It is I, you're boy, dreading work while drinking nock off La Croix. Weighing in at about 145 pounds(working on bringing that down a bit)  RrrrrrrUSTY NICKLES
Cue the theme...

Ok Enough of that shit. I figured I would type up a quick post because it was another great weekend for wrestling. Sadly I had to close both nights so I couldn't text Poncho as we watched it live together. But at least I had both shows to look forward to when I got off work. About that, I am a whole Foods Cashier now. It is ok. Not hard exactly. I just am having a hard time jumbling up the produce numbers. Apparently I am more dyslexic than I thought. Something you both probably find obvious from reading my posts for years. Oh well. I am getting it. Lets get to the wrestling.

Like I said earlier, I had to close at work. So I didn't start it till after 11 pm. This made the later half of the show hard to watch because I was so tired. Lesson learned; wrestling is more fun when both eyes can watch the match. oh well. Takeover still was great and reaffirmed my feeling that NXT is  miles ahead of main roster.

Some quick match thoughts...

Undisputed Era vs Lorcan and Burch (AKA the Stone Cold Wax Figures)
Man I HAAAAAAAATE the UE. As an outsider (mark) They just seem like kid wrestlers. I mean look at this dude. I am no size queen when it comes to wrestlers but he just isn't convincing at all. And they all do that fucking stupid hand sign. It is just embarrassing. I haaaaate them. Miz style hate. On the flip side, I know how wrestling works, and they are awesome heals and are doing a great job.  I am dying to see them get crushed and lose the belts at every show. With this show I knew that there was no chance that they were going to lose against the wax figures of stone cold. But the match ruled regardless. It was a killer way to open the show.

Ricochet VS Velveteen Dream 
This is the one I was most excited about seeing. The build was fucking perfect. That flip that Ric did was one of the moments of the year. And Dream has rocketed into my fav five. Maybe even number one at the moment. I can see how he is a bit green but whatever. I look forward to seeing what he does week to week and isn't that what wrestling is all about?

So this match was fantastic. From the second it started it was a mark out fest. So many little details everywhere. I gotta admit I am not totally sold on Rick. I mean, he is a killer wrestler and I will be glued to the tv for his NXT matches. But I am not into his whole vibe. maybe it is the be fearless tattoo. He looks like the kinda guy who shops at whole foods, has a hot wife, two kids with 50 dollar Hitler youth haircuts, and pays with his apple watch. I guess that is unfair. Ric is great too. This was easily match of the night for me.

Shayna Baszler VS Nikki Cross
This was killer also! I knew that these two would rip it up and they did. Here is where I started getting sleepy so I don't have notes. The end was great. I love both of them.

I mean we all new Lars had no chance right? But this was a real fun big man smaller man match. I  love both of these guys and of course NXT delivered by having a great story thru the match. Speaking of.

Ciampa vs Johnny Wrestling
Do we all agree that this is the best thing in WWE today? Here is more proof, if you even need it, that NXT is far superior to main roster. This was another great match that had me nervous and on the edge of my seat the whole time. I was worried they would kill each other based on the brutality of the last match. Personally I like regular matches over ones with stipulations. I feel like a great match with no stipulations just feels better. And this one fell to that a bit. But I mean, it was still killer and brutal and these guys hate each other's guts haaaard. And the ending was perfect. fight forever clap clap clapclapclap! Where do they go next? I can't wait to see. May I suggest a bra and panties match?

I don't wanna get into MITB really . I hardly paid attention. And fucking Instagram spoiled the mens MITB match so that was a let down. Lately I have been down on the main roster shows. I am sure I have harped on this before. It is just so meaningless. Sure, some stories are great, the actual roster is fucking awesome, and good stuff is hidden thru the shows. But it is just so tediousssssssss. Jesus Christ I can't handle sitting thru a whole show. Every one feels the same. It is so fucking boring. If it wasn't for NXT maybe I wouldn't be so hard on WWE. But it is like if I aced advanced math and chemistry and got D's in art and P.E. You know I could do better, but it is obv

ious I just don't care to try. so frustrating.

Ok, stop complaining Rusty. It is my fault really. It is up to me to pick and chose what I watch and
not blame them for being bored with an aching back when I watch RAW. Be positive! Be a star! I need to chill out.

So friends, I gotta go work out and go to work. Lame. I leave you with some words of wizdome. Stay positive. Wrestling is fun even when it sucks. Soundgarden rules. Life is good even tho it is shitty sometimes. And frozen pizza sounds good but it is never worth it, we are getting to old to eat like that.

Love you dudes!

June 01, 2018

MMS: Smackdown Roster Race 2018

In which an opinionated but meandering QM mumbles softly.  Hugs and kisses are implied.