After a short break, the G1 strolled back into Tokyo with an intrigue packed card. It will never cease to amaze me that I can wake up on a normal Thursday morning and watch Kota Ibushi vs Will Ospreay. How awesome is that? Why would you not watch wrestling? And if you do watch wrestling, why would you not watch New Japan? If you’re that person, get your fucking head examined.
My spoiler-free must-see recommendations are EVIL vs SANADA, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jr. and Will Ospreay vs Kota Ibushi.
KENTA (3-0) defeated Lance Archer (2-1)
Every KENTA match feels like a little slice of weirdness that I never expected to witness. KENTA vs Lance Archer? Where the hell has that come from?
It was a match-up that ended up playing into both men’s strengths. For the first time, KENTA was playing the underdog, lashing out with stiff strikes in an attempt to cut the giant down. Then, in the latter stages, he switched to submissions, blocking Archer’s power moves by dragging him back to the mat and trying to keep him there.
Archer, meanwhile, continues to be a revelation. The Tokyo crowd adored him, taking his side against the NOAH outsider and revelling in him tossing KENTA around the ring. His willingness to do mental shit (he hit a Somersault Senton off the apron in this one) is the sign of a man grasping a massive opportunity with both hands, and you can’t fail to respect that.
They didn’t hit the highs of KENTA’s previous two or Archer’s war with Ospreay, but ut was two guys working together brilliantly to tell a compact story, and you can’t ask for more than that.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
EVIL (1-2) defeated SANADA (2-1)
No-one should be surprised to discover that SANADA and EVIL have rather good chemistry. I guess that’s what happens when you spend a few years teaming up.
Despite that chemistry, there was some tension coming in, and they did not wrestle like a team forced apart. Neither man had the slightest interest in holding back as they went at it from the first bell, working and hitting hard as EVIL even had the cheek to put SANADA in the Paradise Lock.
It was a move that established one of the themes of the action. As they moved into the final act EVIL locked on a Skull End for a second, so SANADA responded with an Everything Is EVIL to turn the tide in his favour. These two know each other so well that they were becoming each other in an attempt to get the win.
It ended as it should have done. Two brothers battling it out in the centre of the ring, swinging for the fences as they went for victory. EVIL got a great near fall off an Inside Cradle after SANADA had taken him for a spin in the Skull End before SANADA returned the favour out of Everything Is EVIL. Ultimately, a vicious brace of Lariats followed by another Everything Is EVIL secured victory for the big goth.
The most important part? After it was all said and done, EVIL put his fist out, and SANADA gratefully returned it. LIJ once again proved that while they will fight, they always come back home, usually after a great match.
Verdict: Four Stars
Kazuchika Okada (3-0) defeated Bad Luck Fale (1-2)
In an interesting touch, Fale dragged Okada to ringside having attacked him backstage. I knew The General was lazy, but now he can’t even be arsed waiting for all the entrances to happen? Disgraceful.
It did leave this match with a slight issue as, and this might be controversial, starting with a Fale heat section is not the most thrilling way to begin. The first few minutes were as dry as burnt toast smeared with polystyrene.
To be fair to Okada, he tried to save things. He threw himself over the top rope onto Fale while the crowd were into his comeback. However, the match also featured a ref bump, Jado’s kendo stick and Chase interfering, so I was always going to struggle to care. I get using smoke and mirrors to try and hide Fale’s inadequacies, but I can see through that shit, and that’s what it is, shit.
Captain Kazu got the win with the same flash pin he’s used against Omega and Jericho before fighting off a Fale revenge attack with a Dropkick. For all its inadequacies as a wrestling match, this did do a good job of establishing Okada as a champ at the top of his game who is running through everyone.
Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars (they’re all for Kazu)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (1-2) defeated Zack Sabre Jr (0-3)
Coming in, one of these two was facing a potential disaster. 0-2 is recoverable, 0-3 is damn near impossible. Tanahashi and Sabre were two of the big names in this block, and they both faced putting themselves at a severe disadvantage for the weeks ahead.
That tension led to a tentative start from both men. It reminded me of Okada vs Tanahashi in the 23rd G1 where both men were working more to not lose than they are to win. There was a feeling that they were waiting for their opportunity, hoping to be the one who found an opening first and managed to scramble into it.
It was Zack who succeeded, locking on a Manji Gatame and starting to twist on The Ace’s broken body. You can never count Tanahashi out, though, and while he’s not the technical wrestler Zack is, he refused to allow himself to be bullied. He has a power advantage over the English prick, and while Sabre was getting into holds, he wasn’t managing to keep them on.
It was Tana’s defiance that would turn the tide. He grabbed Zack’s leg for a Dragon Screw and received a flurry of slaps in return, but The Ace refused to let go. He had his target in his grasp, and he was going to keep it there. Connecting, he followed up with a Slingblade and one High Fly Flow, but the second came down on Zack’s knees, The Ace was in trouble till he threw himself forward and rolled through, trapping Sabre’s shoulders to the floor and taking the win.
I love watching Tanahashi and Sabre wrestle. They’ve got an effortless class that few can touch even if Zack is currently ending his matches by having a wee hissy fit. The British champ is still struggling, but The Ace has his first points on the board.
Verdict: Four Stars
Kota Ibushi (1-2) defeated Will Ospreay (1-2)
Will has fucked his neck and Kota his ankle, do you think that means they went into this match planning on taking it easy? Ha, don’t be silly. If anything, Ibushi and Will view injuries as a challenge to work around.
Despite that, what this match showed is Ospreay and Ibushi’s growth as wrestlers. Once upon a time, these two would have gone out and unleashed both barrels on each other, hitting the spectacular, but with little meaning behind it. Now, they wrestled a more measured affair, taking their time to build to that moment and working what was essentially a limb match, Ospreay attacking the ankle and Kota the neck.
When they did take off, wow, it was something else. Ospreay seemed to be going out of his way to eat moves harder than he had to, getting spiked with a High Angle German Suplex and coming down viciously off The Last Ride. Kota, meanwhile, is immaculate. From his selling to the fire with which he counterattacks. You never once doubt that this man is one of the best in the world.
As they crept over the twenty-minute mark, the stiff strikes began to rain down. Kota went dead behind the eyes, trapping Will in a Tree of Woe and stomping away at him mercilessly. In response, Will hit an incredible looking Hidden Blade to the side of Ibushi’s head and followed not long after with an Oscutter for a near fall that had me convinced this was over. They were into the twenty-fifth minute, and every fucker in Korakuen Hall was on the edge of their seat as they hit a breathless closing stretch. I kept thinking they were done only for them to push on, raising the bar that little bit higher.
In the end, Will went back to the Hidden Blade, but Kota was ready, countering with an elbow of his own followed by a huge Lariat. He went straight for a Bomaye backed-up by the Kamagoye and what a fucking match! That’s the motherfucking G1 Climax for you, fuck yes!
Verdict: Four And Three Quarter Stars
I suspect this is going to become a recurring theme with A Block, but this was a fantastic show… if you ignore the Bad Luck Fale match. Nearly everyone went out and delivered, but Kota and Will went above and beyond especially as two men who are injured. That match was incredible and was a ba’s hair away from being five stars. God, I love this shit.
Top Three Matches Of the G1 So Far
- Kota Ibushi vs Will Ospreay (18/7/19) – Four And Three Quarter Stars
- 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
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