NJPW G1 Climax 1992
Unlike most G1s, which are usually round robin style tournaments with competing blocks, the 1992 G1 was a 16 man elimination tournament for the NWA Championship. Due to the WCW/NJPW relationship, half of the field were from WCW. The intro has a slide show of various NWA Champions, with a big focus on Lou Thesz, and even a snippet of Giant Baba as NWA Champion. Ric Flair is prominently shown in the package, which is funny, since he's the reason for all of this. When Ric Flair left WCW in 1991, he was both the reigning NWA and WCW Champion. They were represented by one title, the Big Gold Belt, which made its way to the WWF as part of the lead into Ric Flair's arrival. A lawsuit returned the title to the NWA, and Flair was technically recognized as NWA Champion for another few months before he signed with the WWF, despite having no defenses between leaving WCW and joining the WWF. Therefore, the title sat vacant for nearly a year before being on the line at the 1992 G1.
NJ released most of the tournament on a 3 tape set, which is what I'm watching.
Masahiro Chono vs Tony Halme Round 1
I'd just like to point out that Tony Halme, aka Ludvig Borga, was totally a legit ass Neo-Nazi. Remember when he goose stepped at a dome show? Chono has his work cut out getting a good match out of him. Ludvig starts the match with a few heavy punches that might have KO'd Chono. Imagine if the tournament had started with Chono getting KO'd in the first 15 seconds. Borga absolutely dominates this the match. The first 8 or so minutes sees Chono get not a single bit of offense. Lol at the Japanese pronunciation of "Tony Halme" being "Tony Homo". Chono gets a series of Yakuza kicks off, and then Borga lariats the post on accident. Chono goes after the arm from that point on, winning with an armbar that was transitioned to from the STF. Borga looked like a monster.
Barry Windham vs Keiji Mutoh Round 1
Fuck yes. Man, Mutoh was SO fast and smooth before his knees gave out. He made everything look so easy. Barry, too. Dude was such a natural. Shame he never truly reached his potential. He could have been a legitimate top 10 all time level guy had injuries and personal issues not hampered him. There is a lot of mat work in this. Specifically, a lot of headlocking from Mutoh. Barry's big DDT only gets a 2 count. I'd probably put him in the top 5 DDTers. Arn, Jake, Hashimoto, Raven, Barry. In that order. Mutoh wins with the moonsault.
Bam Bam Bigelow vs Scott Norton Round 1
HOSSES. HOSSES. HOSSES! Norton has his ribs taped coming into this. Bam Bam has spent most of the year teaming with Vader, while Norton has had a number of big singles matches, including an IWGP Championship shot against Hashimoto. Bam Bam controls the opening portions of the match, until Norton hits a big back drop, which he can't capitalize on due to his rib injury. Really, that's how most of the match goes. Bam Bam dominates, Norton hits a big move and can't capitalize. Norton gets busted open on the post and is clearly the fan favorite here. Imagine a world where SCOTT NORTON is the underdog face. And he bleeds like a mother fucker. Norton wins with a powerslam OUTTA NOWHERE.
Steve Austin vs Arn Anderson Round 1
!!! !!! This tournament is overpowered. Arn/Austin in the FIRST ROUND. Dangerous Alliance EXPLODES. It's pretty sad that Austin only did two tours in NJPW. He did this one, then had a tour in 1995 towards the end of his WCW run where he worked mostly in tags with Arn, Ron Simmons, or Mike Enos. Imagine if he had been brought over as regular in 1992-1995. Prime Stunning Steve in NJPW. IMAGINE IT. These guys are stable mates, so you have to take that into consideration. They don't want to to injure each other or anything. The first half of the match is them taking it easy on each other. Then, as happens in matches, things start getting heated. Austin tries a rolling shoulder block in the corner, which is hilarious to me. He misses, and Arn focuses on the shoulder after that. Have you ever had a shoulder injury? That shit will fuck EVERYTHING up. Austin blocks the DDT and wins with the Stun Gun. 95% of this match was each trying not to injure each other for stable reasons. Even with that caveat, it was still fun.
Kensuke Sasaki vs Terry Taylor Round 2
The Taylor Made Man in what is probably biggest match he'll have left in his career. About a month after this, he'd end up back in the WWF as mostly a jobber on house shows, then bounce back to WCW in 1993 to do the same thing. THE ROOSTER'S LAST STAND! Fans don't seem to care until he pulls out a backdrop as an immediate counter to a headlock. Kensuke does the same thing moments later. Taylor really brings the stiffness and heel characteristics not really seen very often from him. Kensuke wins with the Ipponzeoi.
Shinya Hashimoto vs Rick Rude Round 2
Hashimoto beat Barbarian in round one, which is something I need to see. I'm not sure the match even exists online, which is such a shame. Prime Rude and Hashimoto together. What a world. You couldn't have more of a clash of styles and aesthetics. I mean, Hashimoto's first move is a kick, while Rude's first move is an eye rake. Hash has a laser focus on Rude's lower back. Rude's focus is on the head and neck. Hashimoto gets his mouth busted open, and what do you know, he gets pissed. Who ever could have seen such a thing happening? Madusa caused a distraction a number of times through out the match, including the finish, which saw Rude hit a SUPER DDT and follow it with the King Kong knee drop for the win. Post-match had Hashimoto having to be held back from attacking Madusa, then crying in a stairwell. The match was not the all time classic you'd hope for, but it was very enjoyable, and the crowd was very into it.
Steve Austin vs Keiji Mutoh Round 2
This certainly has a higher ceiling than Rude/Hashimoto could have had. Hope it reaches it. Some snug ass headlocks in this. Austin gets hit with a dropkick that was almost like a flying shining wizard. Looked like the shin/knee hit him in the face. This is primarily mat based, but Austin pops Muta from time to time. Dusty Rhodes is in the front row and appears to be loving it. Oh shit, YAKUZA KICK from Austin. Bill Watts is also at ringside, and he's looked bored as fuck during every match. Austin again tries that wacky rolling shoulder block. He misses again. Austin avoids the moonsault. He does not avoid getting splattered with a pescado. Mutoh tries the handspring elbow on the floor, misses, and then gets suplexed on the floor. Austin initially looks like he's going for a count out win, but breaks the count to lay another beating on Mutoh. Oh wow at the SCREAMS from the crowd when Mutoh missed a flying elbow. It was like someone getting shot. I don't think I've ever heard a reaction like that outside of an injury. Mutoh slips and slowly falls to the floor when going for the finishing stretch moonsault. Lol. He returns to the ring to hit it about a minute later for the win. Really good match. Austin in Japan could have been next level.
Scott Norton vs Masahiro Chono Round 2
Norton is so wide. How can one be so blessed? God damn what a powerslam. Norton is a very underrated seller. For all I know, those taped ribs are an actual rib/sternum injury and he's toughing it out. He's also MERKING Chono. God damn. It's wonderful. Just fucking violent. It's similar to the Chono/Borga match, but obviously much better because Norton was much better. Few things I like better in the world of wrestling than super heavyweights beating the shit out of people. Chono wins with a seated abdominal stretch/octopus hold thing turned into a pin.
Rick Rude vs Kensuke Sasaki Semi-Final
I don't know why Rude and Madusa sharing PDAs is getting so much heat, but it is hilarious. She touches him and the building gets pissed. Even weirder since they pop for his solo flexing right after. Fans are very vocal for this match. Rude's atomic drop sells are the best in da biz. Kensuke continues the back work that Hashimoto started. Actually, this whole thing was pretty much the Hashimoto match just without Madusa's interference. It's hard to says Rude's matches haven't been a disappointment, because this was right about his peak in WCW. But I guess you have to consider that WCW was his main gig, and he was a top heel, so he needed to stay healthy. It wasn't a situation like Vader had where he was getting guaranteed money from both places and NJ was paying for surgeries for injuries that happened in WCW for him. Rude won with two King Kong knee drops in a row, one to the back of the head.
Keiji Mutoh vs Masahiro Chono Semi-Final
One year ago, these two had an all time classic that is was a defining match for both men and the G1 itself. Will they be able to top it this year? Both refuse to shake hands before the match. Lots of even grappling to begin. Early on, Chono gets accidentally popped in the fucking eye with Mutoh's heel. Mutoh starts opening up on the leg, then the suplexes and attempted dives show up. The backdrop: Popping Japanese crowds since the 1950s. They popped more for the backdrop than a Gotch style piledriver. Things get kind of weird as the last few minutes are literally nothing but them trading/blocking Yakuza kicks and dropkicks. Mutoh misses and is forced to tap to the STF. Definitely not as good as their match the year before, but early-mid 90s NJ had a very specific style for big matches, and it can be difficult at times to get into if you aren't familiar with it. You might be watching a match and thinking nothing is really happening or building, then the crowd has a reaction to a move or spot that takes you off guard because they're seeing something you aren't. I think that happened/happens a lot with this period of NJ, which is part of why 1990s AJPW seems to have a much better reputation: It was simply a more accessible, more spot oriented style. I'm not sure one can accurately judge an early 1990s NJPW match in a vacuum. As I'm familiar with and a fan of the style, I think this was quite good (although definitively not great like the 1991 match), but I can see this being quite boring to the uninitiated.
Masahiro Chono vs Rick Rude NWA Championship
Lol at the heel heat for Rude's opening spiel. They probably didn't even understand what he was saying. "PUNY, OUT OF SHAPE, NOTHING HAPPENING NIPS." Yikes. But then they popped for his swivel again. Crowd is molten at the start of this. Rude starts with a cheap slap, which pisses Chono off, leading to a huge flurry of lariats. Both end up working a lot of the same holds, mostly focused on the neck. The match really starts to fall apart down the final stretch, they just kept repeating spots (Chono did back body drop into STF probably 5 times in the last 5 minutes) and were having a lot of miscommunications. Chono won with a flying shoulder block OUTTA NOWHERE. New champion.
On paper, the greatest tournament ever. In practice...eh, kind of iffy. None of the matches lived up to expectations. Austin/Mutoh was definitely the best of the the collection, though.