Tomohiro Ishii vs Yuji Nagata
G1 Climax Block A Match
Kagoshima Arena, Kagoshima, Japan
(reviewed 08/03/2017) Historically, this is a pretty big match. For years Nagata was the only person in NJPW to give Ishii anything as he languished in the “no, you are Choshu’s boy so we hate you” zone of despair. Once the roles switched in 2013 or so, Ishii fairly handily began winning their matches, leading us here, to Nagata’s last stand in the G1. Coming into this match, Nagata had been fairly enjoyable, having my favorite match of the tournament thus far, but was noticeably slowing down and fraying at the ends. Ishii, god help me, has been outright bad in this tournament, this tournament that historically is his shining moment. My favorite Ishii matches from 2013, 2014, and 2016 are all G1 matches and, by my count, the best G1 matches of their respective years, yet somehow, here in 2017, he’s stinking it up left and right.
So that leads us to this match. A match that was highly anticipated for me and for people like me. My friends all told me it ruled. I thought and believed that it would rule. But it doesn’t. It’s disappointing, maybe only because of my high expectations but also because of its execution. Nagata is really showing his age here with weird strikes and bumps, losing his footing at times, sort of teetering over when he shouldn’t be. Ishii, himself no spring chicken, feels like he’s holding something back here, relying on the same old song and dance that is growing increasingly routine. It’s still enjoyable, to be sure, as I could watch these two take shots at each other for years and years. By the end, they mostly find their footing and lean into it, making for a hard-hitting match that causes me to wince more than once (the superplex spot and a lariat falsie from Ishii late in the match were both audibly cringe-inducing). So it’s good, on some level, it’s something I like. But it’s also something that makes me confront the fact that my favorite guys are getting older and getting stale and they don’t move as fast anymore and they don’t hit as hard anymore, and that’s always hard to watch. But I can’t not watch. I guess I owe them that much.