We are deep into this tournament, and in many ways, these are the toughest days of the G1. The wrestlers are all banged up, and I can only imagine how hard it is to motivate yourself to go out and give 100%. It’s no surprise that we begin to see a few matches not quite hit the level they might have a couple of weeks ago. Still, this is B Block which is rammed with some of the greatest wrestlers on the planet. If they work at 80%, they’re still going to be pretty damn good.
Tama Tonga (2-4) defeated Tomohiro Ishii (2-4)
Let’s all take a second to appreciate Tomohiro Ishii. Here is a man who is never going to win the G1. He’s probably never going to win an Intercontinental Title, never mind the Heavyweight strap, and he’s certainly never going to main event the Tokyo Dome. Yet, every time they send him out there, he gives everything he has. Christ, the bastard even went and got a decent match out of Tama Tonga!
And it was all down to the attitude that Ishii took into this contest. He didn’t go in there blind to what The Firing Squad are doing, Ishii just didn’t give a shit. The Stone Pitbull was happy to fight Tama Tonga and Tonga Loa at the same time. Whenever Loa dared to get involved, he ended up feeling Ishii’s wrath in revenge.
All of which serves to make the fans love him even more. The harder Ishii fought, the louder they got. When he battled back against Fale’s inevitable run in, they were roaring their approval, and when he kicked out from the Grenade, they were in dreamland. I’ve said it before, but despite being built like a human bowling ball, Tomohiro Ishii is a fantastic underdog.
Sadly, he didn’t quite have enough to survive the numbers game. Importantly, though. He didn’t lose because of interference, Ishii lost because Tama Tonga reversed the Brainbuster into a Gun Stun. Now, Ishii still has the out of having been beaten down by all three men, making him vulnerable to that move. However, Tama ultimately did it by himself. That’s an essential distinction to what has come before, and if the whole G1 had been booked like that, New Japan might have had a hot new act on their hands.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Juice Robinson (2-4) defeated Sanada (3-3)
We got a perfect example of what I was talking about in my introduction from Sanada and Juice. These two had a very good match, but we all know that they are capable of greatness. However, in a low spot on the twelfth night of the G1 pushing yourself to hit that level must feel like too big an ask.
I do want to make it very clear that this wasn’t awful and I’m by no means suggesting they phoned it in. They didn’t. In fact, they went out and continued the stories both men have been telling all tournament. For Juice, it revolved around that left hand, as Sanada worked it over and he eventually pulled off the cast to hit a decisive punch with it. On Sanada’s side of the ring, it’s all about the Skull End and his ability to get it on from anywhere. Being able to cinch that in and put an opponent down with it has been vital for his chances in this G1.
It just felt like, despite that, there was one more gear for them to hit. On a different night, they might have amped things up that little bit further in the closing stretch and delivered the kind of epic that both men have shown themselves capable of pulling out. I guess now we can just hope that we get this again someday and we can see how good they can be.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Tetsuya Naito (5-1) defeated Toru Yano (1-5)
Tetsuya Naito has no patience for Yano’s shit. While other wrestlers find themselves being drawn into his games, Naito no sells them. A tactic which seems to wind up the Sublime Master Thief. As Naito took his time taking off his entrance attire, Yano was practically bouncing around the ring, desperate to get started.
Once they did get going, Naito was a step ahead of him all match. It was him tying Yano to the barricades (Yano would end up dragging the furniture back to the ring with him to beat the count), and he even whacked him over the head with his own DVD. It was a masterclass in keeping Toru Yano from getting into his groove, and it would eventually lead to a Destino.
Once the bell had rung Naito made it very clear that he has little to no respect for the CHAOS man as he spanked him with a turnbuckle pad until he rolled out of the ring. The lead Ingobernable has avoided that banana skin and is still best placed to catch-up with Kenny Omega.
Verdict: Three Stars
Kenny Omega (6-0) defeated Zack Sabre Jr (3-3)
If someone is going to do that, Kenny is going to have to lose. A lot of people, myself included, had this pencilled in as the match where Kenny might drop his first points. Zack Sabre Jr’s uniqueness makes him perfectly placed to inflict such a defeat. Tapping out to those octopus limbs is never a shameful act.
We were wrong, though, Kenny continues onwards as he ultimately joined Sanada in outwitting ZSJ. Early on, it became clear that this was going to come down to Zack’s intelligent wrestling vs Kenny’s power. It was like a chess game, with both men looking for the perfect chance to get their shit in. Twice Kenny powered out of armbars, only to be caught when he went for a signature piece of his offence that Sabre already had a perfect counter in place for.
Because unfortunately for Kenny, wrestling Zack Sabre Jr is like trying to beat off a fly with a sock. You might get a few lucky strikes in, but it keeps coming back. Buzzing around you and being a right pain in the arse. Unlike a fly, though, Zack is also slowly causing damage. The first submission move might not be catastrophic, as he only gets it on for a few seconds. However, by the fifth or sixth that damage has added up. With Kenny coming into this with an injured heel, he already had a few pain points on the board and Sabre was only too happy to add to them.
As time went on, it looked like the pain was going to be too much for Kenny. The power that had given him an edge early on was fading as Zack seemed to have counters for everything from V-Triggers to One-Winged Angels. He only just made the ropes after being tied up, and the end seemed nigh.
We should have learnt not to bet against the champ, though. Kenny had enough in him to throw that knee a couple more times, and while Zack blocked the first, he couldn’t do so for the second. That stunned Sabre for long enough for Kenny to roll him up and steal the victory. Leaving a visibly frustrated Zack to have a temper tantrum although he shouldn’t worry too much, it was another fantastic performance from him.
While this didn’t provide Kenny with his first loss, I think it will prove vital to the one that does. Kenny Omega came out of this selling his leg and he stole the victory. For the final night to mean something, he has to lose before we get there and it seems likely that either Toru Yano or (more likely) Tomohiro Ishii are going to benefit from the work Zack did here.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
Kota Ibushi (4-2) defeated Hirooki Goto (2-4)
You know who should be slowing down a bit? Kota Ibushi. Do you know who is never going to slow down a bit? Yea, Kota Ibushi. After his war with Tomohiro Ishii, it would have been nice for Kota to have a nice easy run out on this night. Instead, he’s in his hometown wrestling Goto, and Goto doesn’t hit softly.
Early on, Goto was dominating this match. Grinding Ibushi down and taking that hometown advantage from him. While the methodical pace they were working wasn’t the most exciting thing to watch, it was clearly in place to set-up the final stretch where Kota was able to let loose.
It all changed when Ibushi managed to hit the Golden Triangle Moonsault. Like the star he is, he rose up, and the crowd came with him, roaring on their boy. From there, these two started to raise the ante, battling on the top rope until Goto went for Kaiten. He’d come down empty-handed, though, as Ibushi backflipped out of it (although their timing was slightly off) and tried to remove Goto’s head with a lariat.
They then moved into a fantastic sequence based around the GTR. I’m actually not a huge fan of that move (I always think the Reverse version looks better, is that just me?), but it does make for fascinating closing stretches as Goto battles to get it in. It’s an easy move to reverse out of in interesting ways, and Kota Ibushi excels at being interesting. Finally, Kota would find the edge he discovered against Ishii, knocking Goto’s senseless with a vicious strike and finishing him off with the Kamigoye. He marches onto destiny and Kenny Omega. Although, in this case, those two might be the same thing.
Verdict: Four Stars
The final two matches made this a great show. We’re hitting crunch time with the G1 as people begin to drop out of the running. After this, everyone under six points is out of the reckoning while those with six points who have already lost to Kenny are also done. By my count, that leaves Ibushi and Naito as the only two left in the race which should really be no surprise. It’s clear Kenny and Kota’s battle on the final night will mean something, I’m just intrigued to see whether Naito will play a part or not.
Top Three Matches So Far
- Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii – Five Stars
- Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii – Four And Three Quarter Stars
- Tetsuya Naito vs Kenny Omega – Four And Three Quarter Stars
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