Night three of the G1 was a hell of a card with the dream match between KENTA and Tanahashi proving the cherry on the cake for something that promised to be special. Let’s stop blabbing and get right into it.
My spoiler free can’t miss matches are: Will Ospreay vs Sanada, Zack Sabre Jr vs Kazuchika Okada, Kota Ibushi vs EVIL and KENTA vs Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Lance Archer (2-0) defeated Bad Luck Fale (1-1)
Lance Archer isn’t so much meeting my expectations for his G1 as hurtling over them while laughing mockingly at the low bar I’d set. He didn’t have a great match with Bad Luck Fale (some tasks are always going to be too large), but he had a good one, and I went in expecting it to be a disaster.
It was most definitely an Archer performance too as he is working his arse off in that ring. He kicked things off by spearing Fale through the ropes, tumbling to the floor with little regard for his body. For a man his size who suffered a broken back in his recent past, the agility he has is incredible. He’s leaping up turnbuckles and taking Superplexes which can’t be healthy.
Sure, I could have used less Fale dragging Lance through the crowd, beating on him while they walked between the chairs, but it was a Bad Luck Fale match. If I’m slightly entertained, it’s a miracle. I got more than that, as they worked around Fale’s weaknesses to put on a short and fun fight. I am incredibly impressed.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Will Ospreay (1-1) defeated SANADA (1-1)
SANADA and Will Ospreay are two incredible athletes, so it was no surprise to see them show fantastic chemistry right from the off. As most of SANADA’s best matches do, this revolved around the Cold Skull and his attempts to lock it on. Although, you could equally say that it revolved around Ospreay’s ability to escape the move as he constantly found a way out of it, setting himself up for the kicks he used to get into the action.
It wasn’t the only move that he proved himself equal too. Will delighted grumpy wrestling fans everywhere by escaping a Paradise Lock, rolling over and kipping up to kick out of it. Honestly, that kind of pissed me off. Yes, it’s a dumb move, but if the likes of Zack Sabre Jr aren’t escaping it, then Will Ospreay shouldn’t be. Will is good at many things, but no-one is proclaiming him a technical master.
I also don’t think he should have won this match. He’s stepping up to heavyweight, so I would have built this tournament around his desperation to get a win. Plus, SANADA is looking fucking awesome. He’s starting to unlock the personality that people have been craving from him, and as he controlled Will, I saw a man who could easily step up the card once more. Losing to Ospreay won’t change that, but I’d have loved to see him get a dominant win over the Junior.
Still, it was a great match despite those two nitpicks. These two combined fun technical wrestling with a fast-paced style that was a delight to watch, but didn’t unleash the entire arsenal. If both men’s careers go the way I expect them to go, we’ll look back on this as the foundations for a stunning feud.
Verdict: Four Stars
Kazuchika Okada (2-0) defeated Zack Sabre Jr (0-2)
Well, there goes one of my big predictions. I was near certain Sabre would win this match. Instead, he fell to a Rainmaker relatively quickly.
Although I think that shortness is something of a misnomer. Sabre and Okada worked an interesting style, essentially going for a technical sprint. It felt like ZSJ went out with the intention of getting the win as quickly as possible, sliding into clutch pins at every opportunity and looking to lock Okada up so tight that he had no choice except to tap. It was a nice twist, especially from Okada, who has to tendency to over-rely on epic match structures.
The final act saw Sabre finally run out of counters to Okada’s biggest moves. He’d been hit with an awesome looking Tombstone earlier in the action, setting up the damage to his neck that a series of slaps and Dropkicks took advantage of. Ultimately Okada was just too much, a Spinning Rainmaker followed by a good old-fashioned one sent Zack to 0-2 and kept the champ unbeaten. These two would have had an even better match with more time, but it was great to see them do something different.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
EVIL (1-1) defeated Kota Ibushi (0-2)
Ibushi injured his ankle in the match with KENTA and EVIL was intent on punishing it. You won’t often see the big goth fucker work an Ankle Lock, but that was his plan going into this, and it was successful. Kota Ibushi was on the back foot, his usual offence negated by the injury as even a Dropkick saw him get nowhere near the height you’d expect to see.
To get through that pain, Ibushi had to dig deep and find the crazy we all know he has inside of him. He couldn’t rely on his incredible athleticism or his wrestling talent, but rather his ability to ignore the agony and duke it out. His problem? EVIL had no interest in playing his games. As Ibushi tried to make this a fight, EVIL kept it smart, ditching the forearm exchange to kick Ibushi in the ankle. Ibushi was having to wrestle crazy, but EVIL was showing a cleverness we haven’t seen from him in the past.
Not that he was able to rely entirely on that. In the final act, Kota threw everything he could at EVIL, hitting a brace of Bomayes only for EVIL to fire up when he went for the Kamigoye. The big man unleashed his arsenal on The Golden Star and as the crowd roared him on he connected with Everything is EVIL to get the win. This was a fantastic match with yet another shock result. My predictions for this tournament are all over the place.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
KENTA (2-0) defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi (0-2)
KENTA vs Ibushi seemed to split fans. Where some viewers saw a hard-hitting war, others thought were bored. If you did enjoy the physical aspects, then get excited because they bubbled straight to the surface in this match. An early KENTA slap out of a break set the theme and when Tanahashi dared to air guitar after a Senton KENTA made his feelings clear, kicking him in the back of the head.
And much like that Ibushi match, this was worked at a slow pace with KENTA dominating the action. It felt like he was relishing the opportunity to cave the chest in of The Ace and wanted to take his time as he did so. With Shibata looking on, KENTA was booting his way into earning the respect of those around him.
Tanahashi struggled to find a response to that onslaught until he caught one kick, countering into a Dragon Screw Leg Whip. The fans’ cheers then seemed to fire him up, and KENTA’s first Go To Sleep attempt saw him come down into Tana’s grasp and another connected. Now, he had his target, and the Cloverleaf followed soon after.
In the end, though, this came down to a battle of wills. Two very different wrestlers, threw everything they had at each other. On this day, it was KENTA that had more. Tanahashi hit the Standing High Fly Flow but came down on KENTA’s knees for number two. A Sleeper set up a Shibata style PK before Tanahashi was put to motherfucking sleep (it looked much better than the Ibushi one).
Honestly, if you had problems with KENTA’s first match, you’ll probably have the same issues with this one. He’s working a very deliberate style as he has so far lacked the explosiveness he had in NOAH. However, I love watching that fucker kick people, and if you feel the same, you’ll have a lovely time. On top of that, he’s now beaten Ibushi and Tanahashi before cutting an arrogant closing promo on a New Japan show. Some stuff is just awesome to see.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
Fucking hell, this is setting up to be an all-time great G1. Every show so far has delivered a bunch of fantastic matches and with the likes of Lance Archer having awesome tournaments, it’s surely only going to get better. If New Japan keeps even a fraction of this level up, I’m going to be fucking exhausted come the end.
Top Three Matches Of the G1 So Far
- Tomohiro Ishii vs Jeff Cobb (13/7/19) – Four And A Half Stars
- Juice Robinson vs Shingo Takagi (13/7/19) – Four And A Half Stars
- EVIL vs Kota Ibushi (14/7/19) – Four And A Quarter Stars
Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/