I am officially all caught up on the G1. Thanks to New Japan organising a few days off while I’m away on holiday, I shall return and be right on schedule (hopefully) for the rest of the tournament. So, if you are one of the many many people who clamour for my reviews, you can relax. They shall arrive promptly. Well, kind of promptly. Let’s not make too many promises.
My spoiler free must-sees for night four are Juice Robinson vs Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii vs Jay White.
Shingo Takagi (1-1) defeated Toru Yano (1-1)
It’s easy to see Shingo as all action no smiles, but Dragon Gate is a company with a few bizarre characters, and The Dragon turned out to be the latest New Japan roster member to have surprisingly great chemistry with The Master Thief. The highlight of the usual antics was the teased count out where Shingo did a fantastic job of convincing the fans that the barricades, tables and turnbuckle pads Yano had placed in his path were scuppering his attempt to return to the ring.
Ultimately, though, this ended exactly how it should have done. Shingo got fed up of playing around and, after a helpful distraction from BUSHI, threw a steel chair into Yano’s head before decapitating him with a Pumping Bomber. The big man got his first G1 win after a match that delivered big on the entertainment.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Juice Robinson (2-0) defeated Hirooki Goto (1-1)
For a long time, Hirooki Goto was Juice Robinson’s white whale. He was the first star that he feuded with and it looked like he’d never be able to beat Old Hirooki. Then during last year’s G1, despite having had a tournament in which he failed to pick up the wins, Juice finally bested him. It was a victory that completely altered their dynamic, and this was no longer master vs pupil, but a battle of equals.
Not only are Goto and Juice now equals, but equals that were on a high. Both of these men are coming off a bit of a rebirth, Goto by getting ripped with Shibata and Juice by cutting off his hair to fight Moxley. That led to a sense that either man could get the win at any moment, as Goto delivered vicious kicks and Juice proved all heart, matching the physical style of his opponent. It climaxed in a fun battle where Goto would block The Left Hand of God with a headbutt, only for Juice to do the exact same thing in return. A second headbutt to the chest set him up for that left fist and a Pulp Friction. Juice’s hot start to the G1 continues.
Robinson and Goto have always had great chemistry, as they bring the best out of each other. While it’s a shame to see the new fiery Goto drop a fall so quickly, I’m delighted to see New Japan finally start to treat Juice like a star. He’s at a point in his career where he needs to step up and, sadly, stepping up means going through the likes of Old Hirooki.
Verdict: Four Stars
Jon Moxley (2-0) defeated Jeff Cobb (0-2)
Wrestling Jeff Cobb was the first real test for Jon Moxley. His high profile matches since leaving WWE have been wild brawls against people who were happy to play his game. Cobb isn’t that kind of wrestler. He’s a man who stands in the centre of the ring trading strikes and suplexes, could Mox adapt his style to someone like that?
The answer can be put down as yes, with a few caveats. Moxley vs Cobb often felt like two men doing completely different things, but it kind of worked. Moxley attacked Cobb’s shoulder which the English commentary put over as an injury he’s had issues with before. However, when you say that, you picture a tactical breaking down of an old wound, but Moxley was no less wild than usual. He was still biting and scratching for every inch. The difference was that he did it with a bit more focus.
Cobb, meanwhile, is clearly made for this shit. Any worries I had about him are gone as you can hear the Japanese fans expressing their delight whenever he hoists someone into the air. He did a good job of selling the shoulder too, getting Mox half up before having to let him drop, the injury proving too big a hurdle to overcome.
It added up to a match that won’t go down as a classic but was fun. They both worked with what they’re good at, and while it didn’t come together perfectly, they pulled it off enough.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Tomohiro Ishii (2-0) defeated Jay White (0-2)
That’s more like it, Jay! In my review of his match with Goto, I lamented that White’s playing to his character occasionally prevents him from having brilliant matches. It turns out he was waiting for Tomohiro Ishii to come along so they could go out and steal the show.
In the opening minutes, this was a Jay White match. Ishii tried to deal with Gedo in the only way Ishii knows how, by beating the shit out of him. Sadly, the numbers game was too much, and White took control.
However, rather than a dull, extended control period, we then transitioned into a Tomohiro Ishii match, and it was fucking awesome. These two men were laying into each other, Ishii hitting those vicious chops to the throat before White responded with a stiff DDT, leading Ishii to sell his neck. I say it all the time, but no-one sells better than Ishii. The staggering around the ring, before he snarls his way back forward still clutching his injury but determined to fight through it. You almost begin to worry that he’s actually in agony.
It built to a fantastic closing stretch where even Gedo kept his bullshit to a minimum. Ultimately, though, White’s mind games backfired on him. He’s been blocking moves by going limp, laughing to himself as he drops to the mat, forcing his opponent to deal with that rather than attacking. It seemed to be working against Ishii until he dodged a Lariat by dropping to a seated position. Suddenly, White was in place for the Sliding D, and Ishii was set-up to steal a massive win.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
Tetsuya Naito (1-1) defeated Taichi (0-2)
Naito was in a playful mood as he kicked off this match. He knows Taichi’s games so when he wandered down to the ring he stopped on the ramp, looking behind him as he waited to see if an attack was imminent. Then, when Taichi refused to engage, the lead Ignobernable lay on the ground, writhing around and presenting an open invite for Taichi to attack.
Unfortunately, that proved to be the first act in a match that frustrated as much as it delighted. There were great moments in this. When Taichi was unleashing his inner-Kawada with those fantastic kicks or spiking Naito with a (very safe) Ganzo Bomb, I was on-board. Naito was flopping around, making Taichi look awesome and it was working.
Unfortunately, there was a lot of stuff around that. We got low-blows (from both men), ref bumps, Kanemaru popping up on the apron and Taichi teasing using those stupid papier-mache fingers (which should have been binned the second Iizuka was out the door) at every opportunity before finally connecting to set-up the Last Ride finish. It all got in the way of a potentially great contest and was everything I feared Taichi would bring to the tournament.
On top of that, New Japan is destroying every prediction I had for this G1. I’m still relatively confident Naito is winning the damn thing, but how he’s getting there is up in the air. Hopefully, it will go through a few matches that don’t have the same nonsense this one did.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
I was about to write that this was the weakest G1 show yet, but I gave everything three and a half stars and above with two matches going over four stars, so it can’t have been that bad. It’s tough when you enter a crowded marketplace. So yea, this might not feel quite as essential as the previous three nights, but it’s still damn good wrestling.
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
- Tomohiro Ishii vs Jay White (15/7/19) – Four And A Quarter Stars
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