Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Tomohiro Ishii
G1 Climax Block A Match
Act City Hamamatsu, Hamamatsu, Japan
(reviewed 08/09/2017) This match has a neat story. Tanahashi, recently dethroned ace of the company, has always been many, many rungs above Ishii in the NJPW ladder. In singles competition, Tanahashi has a 6-1 record against Ishii (including a win in this very building, interestingly enough) leading into this match, only defeated in Ishii’s miracle win on night two of the 2013 G1. But, despite being Intercontinental Champion and still a hugely important part of the company, Tanahashi has gotten bust-ass injured in recent years and it’s finally gotten to the point where Ishii just might have the advantage. This plays out in the match, as some of Tanahashi’s shots literally just bounce off Ishii, who is no spring chicken or stranger to lingering injuries himself. It forces Tanahashi to get creative. He mostly does that through a bunch of crowd work (little too much guitar stuff early in the match for my liking, but it quickly goes away), quick thinking, and some of the best leg work I’ve seen him do in a long time. But Ishii is still right there with him, even reversing the leg work into a few holds of his own, beating the fair-haired former ace at his own game. It’s a fun story and a mostly fun match, but also one that’s sort of hard to watch for reasons I’ve expressed before while reviewing this tournament. It’s hard to see someone like Tanahashi grind down in real time before your eyes. I think you can see him take it hard. There’s moments here where I wish he’d just stop, like the rough, rough superplex late in the match. I wish he’d just take the pin. But he keeps going and that’s difficult to watch, to some degree, especially considering the recent injuries of Shibata and Honma. The match, through the expertise of its competitors, mostly manages to make you forget that sort of thing, but it never fully goes away. It never makes it stop hurting.