Tetsuya Naito vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
August 11, 2017
Sumo Hall in Tokyo, Japan
NJPW G1 Climax (Day 17)
The definition of 5 stars is that it’s a perfect match. And that’s exactly what this was.
This was the best match thus far in the G1 tournament, and that’s mighty high praise considering what we’ve seen up to this point. Hiroshi Tanahashi, in matches like these, is still as good as anyone in the business. Tetsuya Naito, of course, is among the top 4 or 5 in the world. These guys were made for main event, big-time matches like these. Imagine Shawn Michaels wrestling himself, with all the athleticism and psychology that made Shawn an all-time great, and you have this match.
The crowd was almost John Cena-like, in that half were for Naito and half were for Tanahashi. The stakes were high, in that a win would mean advancing to the finals. True art in action is what kept coming to my mind as I watched this. Tanahashi delivers the best flying body presses, and Naito takes them perfectly to make them seem even more impressive. The spitting, slapping, and stomping added to the intensity, which peaked when Naito was about to submit to the Texas Cloverleaf. Because of the finish of the previous Ishii-Sabre Jr match (in which the ref stopped the match instead of Ishii submitting), the tease was the same thing would happen here and it was just brilliant booking and match layout on the part of Gedo.
Heat was off the charts, and these two know exactly how to milk it for maximum effect. Sensational performances by both men, adding yet another chapter to their already storied legacies.