We’re back! You know what? I’ve genuinely missed the G1, and I’m bloody delighted to have it return. What’s life if one does not have the wrestling to watch and then write overly complicated reviews about which no-one reads? It’s not a life I want to lead I’ll tell you that. There’s also the small matter that it’s a B Block night which means we’re guaranteed at least one classic. All together now, WRESTLING!
Hirooki Goto (2-2) defeated Toru Yano (1-3)
Short and sweet. Yano is mixing his amateur background together with the Sublime Master Thief antics. It’s an entertaining style as he swings between whacking Goto with a turnbuckle pad and wrapping him up in intricate flash pins.
Sadly for Yano, Goto seemed to decide that enough was enough and headbutted poor Toru into submission. A Ushigoroshi followed by a GTR spelt good night for our thieving prince.
With Goto having wrestled a few epics recently I can see why they gave him a night off. No-one is going to remember this in a week, but no-one is supposed to. It achieved exactly what it wanted to by delivering a momentary burst of fun.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Tetsuya Naito (3-1) defeated Tama Tonga (1-3)
It took me a few attempts to get through this because I kept falling asleep. My notes occasionally trail off into a scribble because I was nodding off while trying to write my latest complaint about Tama.
Look, I’ve been pretty clear since the start that this gimmick isn’t doing it for me. I know Tama Tonga’s a heel, I’m not a moron, and I’m aware that he and his Firing Squad goons are trying to annoy me. However, when that annoyance leads to me wanting to turn off the TV or has me literally falling asleep from boredom, it’s not working.
The short bit where there was no-one else in the ring and Naito and Tonga went at it was alright. After that was done, we broke down into shenanigans with Naito showing that he can cheat just as well as his Tongan adversary. This was utterly skippable.
Verdict: Two Stars
Zack Sabre Jr (2-2) defeated Tomohiro Ishii (2-2)
I’d forgotten that these two have insanely good chemistry. Fuck, the G1 is great, isn’t it?
You have a real contrast in styles here. Zack Sabre Jr is a master of subtlety, trying to draw his opponent in and tie them up. Tomohiro Ishii is a brick to the face. He wants to knock you the fuck out and then drop your limp body onto its head just to make sure you’re not still breathing.
And yet, this became a battle of the limbs. Right from the start, Zack was focusing on Ishii’s arm, presumably because he wanted the Stone Pitbull to stop hitting him. Ishii would then respond to that by going after Zack’s leg, using an ankle lock to surprisingly strong effect.
Of course, this was still Ishii vs Zack. It ultimately came down to Zack flying around the ring for Ishii’s blows and Ishii straining and stretching that body in ways that such a squat frame really shouldn’t bend as Sabre tied him up. They both give so much to their opponent and yet still look like incredible wrestlers as they do so.
One of those stretches would finally prove too much. Zack Sabre Jr would achieve the impossible and tap out a man who never gives up. Let’s just hope this isn’t the last we see of these two facing off.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
Kenny Omega (4-0) defeated Juice Robinson (0-4)
I don’t know what it was, but something was missing from this one. Omega and Robinson are a pairing that has put on fantastic matches in the past, and I was expecting the same again. Yet, I never bought into it. There was an overwhelming feeling of ‘is that it?’ when it was over.
Part of the problem was that I never believed Juice was going to win. Despite the fact he’s yet to pick up a victory, Robinson never looked likely to repeat his heroics from last year. The main reason for that was that he controlled a significant portion of the fight. Juice isn’t going to dominate Kenny and then put him away. That’s not how this works. He’s going to battle valiantly from underneath. Christ, it’s what he does best!
It meant that all the near falls fell flat. The newly christened Juice Box (Robinson’s Double Knee Gutbuster) was kicked out of after only being set up as a potential finisher a few days ago while the only thing that came close to being an exciting two count was a quick roll-up up off of the One- Winged Angel, a callback to last year’s shock result. Wrestling works best for me when I’m emotionally attached. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen.
Once that was over and done with, it all seemed rather elementary as Omega started hitting V-Triggers before hoisting Juice onto his shoulders to put him away for good. I wanted to love this, it’s two of my favourite wrestlers, and it wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t at the level that I expect from them. On another day, I’m sure they’ll deliver it.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Sanada (3-1) defeated Kota Ibushi (2-2)
New Japan is sneakily elevating Sanada. That’s him picked up victories over Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr recently. It will be interesting to see whether this is the start of the long-discussed mega push that we all assume he’ll get someday.
Anyway, this was two exceptionally handsome and talented men having a wrestle. I had a lovely old time. It became apparent that these two were pushing each other and the athleticism on display was insane. I swear they must have gone for a record number of Moonsaults as Sanada continues to use it as a transition into the Skull End and Kota just loves Moonsaulting off shit.
What made this special was that New Japan was in Sanada’s hometown and the crowd were passionately in his corner while also not being anti-Ibushi. It led to an atmosphere that was close to pure joy. Everyone was having the time of their life, and it extended into the ring. Ibushi and Sanada are enigmas but damn do they work well together. There was beauty in their wrestling as they showed off skills that were smooth as a really smooth thing sliding on some super smooth ice. Yea, that’s not my best work, is it?
The final minutes saw everything kick-up a notch. Ibushi took one of those mental bumps that only Ibushi will do when Sanada Lawn Darted him into the turnbuckle. From there, they started slugging it out, both men going for big moves and not quite hitting them. That was until Sanada locked in the Skull End and got Kota down to the floor, wrapping his legs around him as he slowly choked him out. Rather than waiting for the submission, he slipped out and hit the Mutoh Moonsault to pick up a massive win in his hometown.
I fucking loved this. I fucking love wrestling. Argh, give me more of it.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
This was far from NJPW’s best show. Yano did a quickie, Tama did a Tama and Juice vs Kenny fell flat. However, we still had two four and a half star, match of the year contenders with Ishii vs Sabre and Kota vs Sanada. It’s mental that this company can get away with that. It doesn’t matter if there are one or two duds because the ones that are good are so fucking amazing that you want to headbutt a wall in joy. Did I mention that I love wrestling?
Top Three Matches So Far
- Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii – Four And Three Quarter Stars
- Tetsuya Naito vs Kenny Omega – Four And Three Quarter Stars
- Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr – Four And A Half Stars