We’re already hitting the stage where I’m struggling for ways to fill these intros. It’s the G1, does it need introduced? How can you not be on a high after Kota vs Ospreay yesterday? Just think about that and dive into the next one.
My must-see spoiler-free recommendations are Shingo Takagi vs Taichi, Hirooki Goto vs Tetsuya Naito and Jon Moxley vs Tomohiro Ishii.
Shingo Takagi (2-1) defeated Taichi (1-2)
Shingo and Taichi delivered a classic match of two halves. The opening saw Takagi attack before the introductions, making me hopeful that he was going to beat Taichi’s bullshit out of him. Unfortunately, some sneaky footwork saw Taichi use the dreaded microphone, and that wish died.
That lead to a period where I zoned out, as things got a bit boring, but thankfully it wasn’t to last. As these two entered the third act, the bullshit died, and they got to work beating the shit out of each other. It was all neck-breaking Suplexes, stiff Taichi kicks and Shingo Pumping Bombers, as they descended into a physical war while the fans roared Takagi on. There’s been a great motif throughout the G1 where the Lariats that decapitated Juniors leave the Heavyweights on their feet, forcing Shingo to hit multiple to get the job done. Not that he cares, he’s happy to throw as many as it takes.
The last seconds were near perfect as Shingo blocked a low blow and finally took Taichi off his feet with a thunderous Pumping Bomber. The second did more than that and while Taichi kicked out at two, The Last of The Dragons did its job. Shingo has now beaten the two men Naito lost to, and that can’t be a coincidence, can it? Either way, after a slow start this turned into a fantastic match.
Verdict: Four Stars
Jeff Cobb (1-2) defeated Juice Robinson (2-1)
Juice Robinson has been strolling through the G1 like a man who knows he is on a roll. Despite the defeat, that didn’t end here. Juice controlled the action, going toe to toe with the monstrous Jeff Cobb and looking his equal. In previous years, Robinson has been presented as a whipping boy with heart, but that’s no longer the case. If anything, that was Cobb’s role.
Because the thing that kept Jeff in this, was that every time Robinson went for Pulp Friction, he found a counter. That counter usually involved tossing Juice across the ring, but no-one said it had to be fancy. I could watch Big Jeff throw a lot of things around. Give him a couple of logs and let him suplex them for ten minutes, I’ll probably give it at least three stars. Three and a half if the logs prove to be good at selling.
In the end, it was Jeff’s heart that shone through. He took the best Juice had to offer and roared back, connecting with some bone-crunching suplexes and hitting Tour of the Islands to get the three. Robinson might be the one coming across as the superstar, but on this day, Jeff Cobb got the win.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Toru Yano (2-1) defeated Jay White (0-3)
What the fuck is going on? New Japan must have a plan for Jay White but fucked if I know what it is because in the match that seemed a dead cert for him to end his losing streak Yano punched him in the balls with some brass knuckles and rolled him up for the three.
Honestly, you can’t review this. It went under four minutes, and Gedo spent as much time wrestling as Yano and White did. If you enjoy The Master Thief’s antics (which I do), you’ll have fun. If you don’t, well, you’re probably not reading this.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Tetsuya Naito (1-2) defeated Hirooki Goto (1-2)
For the first time in this G1, I was nervous coming into a match. I don’t just want Naito to win because I predicted it at the start, I want him to win because I’m going to be at the Dome in January and it would make me cry happy tears to see Naito finally beat Okada.
Not that Goto cared about any of that. Naito has been mocking him for needing Shibata to hold his hand and has ‘misread’ his t-shirt as reading La Dojo, which he has decided is a fitting nickname. Unsurprisingly, that meant Old Hirooki was fired up, attacking Naito from behind and getting physical from the start. He wanted to leave his long-time opponent as a smear on the canvas and was trying his hardest to make that a reality.
Naito had a plan, though. He negated Goto’s stiff kicks by taking out his legs, adapting his offence to go after one of them. The lead Ingobernable might have lost his first two matches, but he was brimming with confidence. You can imagine him paraphrasing Sir Alex Ferguson to the rest of LIJ beforehand, ‘lads, it’s Goto’.
Putting all that aside, it’s easy to forget just how perfect Naito and Goto are together. It’s intensity vs swagger, and that’s a pairing that works. Naito pokes and prods, getting under Goto’s skin and when he explodes it translates into frantic action, as these two men throw themselves at each other desperate to prove who is superior.
And, thankfully, Naito was the best. Goto might have found himself in LA, but there is a unique Gotoness to him that will never change. When push comes to shove, Naito has more than him, and the Running Destino followed by the traditional one gave him his first win after a cracking match-up. It’s one of those pairings you can always rely on.
Verdict: Four Stars
Jon Moxley (3-0) defeated Tomohiro Ishii (2-1)
Tomohiro Ishii flying off the top rope to Splash Jon Moxley through a table is an image that will remain ingrained in my brain for the rest of time. That brilliant bowling ball-shaped man taking flight made me want to burst into tears of joy and punch the air. Wrestling is beautiful.
Unsurprisingly, Ishii and Moxley did not go out there and try to have a technical wrestling match. They skipped all that and went straight to beating each other up, with Ishii giving Mox a few lessons on how to work in Japan. I’ve seen a few people complain he’s not leaning into his shit enough, but as Ishii chopped the shit out of him, you have to imagine he got the message. He certainly didn’t seem to be holding back on Wide Tom.
There was nothing complex or pretty about this. It was two men throwing themselves at each other and seeing who could take the most damage. By the end, they were just smashing their bodies together in an attempt to cause more pain. It was Ishii in his element and, once again, he’s found a way to get the best out of his opponent. Moxley has been brilliant since hitting the world outside of WWE, but in there with Ishii, I could buy him as a New Japan main eventer rather than a special attraction. What a match.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
There has not been a day of this G1 where New Japan hasn’t delivered at least one four-star match. It’s getting ridiculous. Three of these hit four for me while one wasn’t far off. They’ll have to slow down at some point, but with the final Korakuen tomorrow, it’s not going to be quite yet. I’m not a religious man, but God bless the G1.
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
- Tomohiro Ishii vs Jon Moxley (19/7/19) – Four And A Half Stars
Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/