Golly gosh we’re close to the end. With only four shows left (including the final), the G1 is coming to a head. I could try to do the maths and tell you what the various results on this show would mean, but I studied English, and it’s easier to figure it out at the end. Let’s watch the graps and then worry about the equations.
Tomohiro Ishii (4-4) defeated Juice Robinson (2-6)
Technically, these two don’t have anything to wrestle for. Any chance of winning the G1 is long gone, and with Ishii having earned an IWGP Heavyweight Title shot, you can’t imagine he’s interested in the US belt. Throw in the fact that it was the first G1 match out and you couldn’t blame them for taking it easy.
However, the reason these two are where they are is that they never half-arse it. I don’t think Ishii would be capable of that. They went out there and slugged it out, throwing the kind of strikes that must fucking hurt. You would never have guessed they were on night sixteen of one of the hardest tours in wrestling.
There were a couple of sloppy moments, brief flashes where they didn’t seem to know exactly what they were doing next while at one point Ishii came barrelling in so quickly for a Juice Spinebuster that he nearly flew over his head. However, they quickly recovered and more than made up for it with pure passion. These are two men who love what they do and their wrestling benefits from that.
The final sequence saw them exchanging headbutts as they battled for a finisher. It was a fight that Ishii would win. The Stone Pitbull is having a near-perfect tournament even as he lingers in mid-table while Juice continues to prove he’s a star. God bless the graps.
Verdict: Four Stars
Zack Sabre Jr (5-3) defeated Hirooki Goto (3-5)
Having lost all his belts from around the world, it looks like Zack Sabre Jr has his eyes on a new collection. Could we see him go after both the NEVER and the US title? If you were to merge a pair of NJPW’s belts, it would be those two. Just a thought.
Zack Sabre Jr is a near perfect wrestler. He’s one of the few guys who you can see actively putting a plan into place. In the opening minutes, it looked like he’d gone insane as he charged towards Goto, almost daring him into a striking battle. Of course, trading blows with a man like Hirooki Goto is asking to be put on your arse and that’s what happened.
We should know by now that ZSJ never acts without reason. Just as Goto felt like he was in control, Zack struck, attacking the arm and doing the damage that would give him his way into this battle. He was able to take control, dictating the tempo and wrestling the fight that he wanted to fight.
And Goto is the perfect opponent for that battle. I feel we take him for granted so watch his selling throughout this. The strain in his eyes as he struggles to deal with the multi-limbed assault from Sabre. Then the bursts of offence when he finally gets free. Looking to do as much damage as possible before Zack finds his way into a new submission.
He did some damage too. Throughout, you slowly became aware that Zack’s arm was bothering him. He doesn’t roll around on the ground clutching it. Instead, he grabs his shoulder when Goto isn’t looking, flexes his hand as if he isn’t getting full mobility and generally acts like someone who is actually in pain.
Sabre and Goto are two classy wrestlers who had a classy wrestling match. If you are planning to enter the crazy world of grappling, this is the kind of tape you should be studying. They are masters of telling tales, and that’s what they did.
Verdict: Four Stars
Tama Tonga (3-5) defeated Kota Ibushi (5-3)
Every time Tama Tonga opens his mouth he gets a bit less cool. For a man who likes to go after ‘snowflakes’, he’s showing himself to have thin skin.
Anyway, Tama attacked Ibushi as he made his entrance, and away we go. The periods of this where Tonga was in control were very dull. Thankfully, Kota Ibushi was on the other side of the ring, and he’s literally had great matches with children and blow-up dolls, so you expected him to get something out of Tama Tonga.
It started when Kota vanished into the crowd only to reappear on a balcony. Then, the magical elf man proceeded to walk along the railing, high-five a fan and moonsault off onto Tama below. It was beautiful.
Back in the ring, the rest of the Firing Squad finally made their presence known as this broke down. Kenny made the save, but it was still three on two and Tama hit a Gun Stun for the shock win. After that surprise, they continued the beatdown until Chase Owens and a shoeless Hangman Page chased them off.
It’s kind of hard to rate this. The Moonsault off the balcony was sublime while the ending shenanigans were quite fun before they ended in a huge shock. It still wasn’t great, though, was it? Em, let’s go with this.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Toru Yano (2-6) defeated Kenny Omega (6-2)
We got a Heyman special from NJPW as Omega was already in the ring selling the Firing Squad beatdown. Yano made his way out, and we went straight into the action.
From there, this was pure comedy. Much like Kota Ibushi, we all know that Omega gets as much joy out of pissing around with Yano as he does putting on classics with Okada. The highlights were Chase Owens working as a human turnbuckle pad to block Omega’s head being driven into the exposed steel, Yano Suplexing Omega onto a pile of turnbuckle pads without realising that they are softer than the ring and Ren Narita being taped to Kenny Omega as a human anchor.
If you’ve hated Yano and Omega in the past, you’ll hate this too. If you’re Jim Cornette, you’ll fucking despise it. If you have a sense of humour, you’ll get more than a couple of laughs out of it.
In the end, The Firing Squad reappeared, took out everyone and laid Yano on top of Omega for the pin. While it wasn’t classic wrestling, it was fun. Once again, it’s nearly impossible to rate, but I had a lovely time, so I’m going big.
Verdict: Four Stars
Tetsuya Naito (6-2) defeated Sanada (4-4)
All that insanity meant Naito still has a chance of winning this damn thing. As long as he could get past his stablemate, Sanada. I’d try and raise the tension, but I’ve written the result above so that would be a bit pointless.
Naito and Sanada have been building to this since the blocks were announced. The usually stoic Sanada was clearly unsettled by facing his Ingobernable leader, unable to distinguish between the emotion he feels for his friend and the anger he has to draw on to face an opponent.
It led to a match that didn’t appear to be between two allies. Sanada had no time for Naito’s shit, tripping him as he ran the ropes, dropkicking him in the face as he got Tranquilo and spitting right back when Naito did it to him. The Cold Skull was fired-up even letting out a couple of roars as we entered the closing stretch.
That closing stretch was what pushed things to the next level. It’s been a theme of Sanada’s tournament, and it didn’t stop here. They battled between Destino and Skull End, desperately seeing who could hit the decisive blow. Sanada even hit a Destino of his own, which Naito took as an opportunity to show everyone how to take the craziest bump possible off of it, landing on his head at a sickening angle.
Sadly, all tales must come to a conclusion, and this one was with the leader defeating the follower. Naito survived Skull End and finally hit a Destino of his own, connecting plush and getting the three.
The joy wasn’t over, as the rest of LIJ made their way to the ring with EVIL carrying Hiromu’s jacket. Naito went on to cut a promo paying tribute to their little brother and telling him to come back soon. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t have a tear in my eye as he said it. Then, in a final touch, Sanada raised his hand and joined the customary fist-bump. Thankfully, it appears Los Ingobernables de Japon is going to be just fine.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
Night fifteen of the G1 lacked the blow away epic that a lot of B Block nights have had. However, from top to bottom it might have been their most consistent show. Even Tama did something decent by catching Kota’s Moonsault. Plus, it set up the final night nicely. If Naito wins Kota is out, but Kenny can still go through with a victory. Otherwise, the winner of the battle of the Golden Lovers will take the day.
Top Three Matches So Far
- Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii – Five Stars
- Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii – Four And Three Quarter Stars
- Tomohiro Ishii vs Kenny Omega – Four And Three Quarter Stars