It’s the G1’s final night in Korakuen before they take a well earned break. I, for one, am looking forward to the time off. Mainly because I want to get some Stardom reviews up, but also because this wrestling is exhausting. It’s hard watching people be brilliant, so I hope all the talent appreciate the struggles I’ve been going through.
My spoiler-free must-see recommendations are KENTA vs EVIL, Kota Ibushi vs SANADA and Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay.
Zack Sabre Jr (1-3) defeated Bad Luck Fale (1-3) by count out
Zack Sabre Jr is not having a good time. Not only is he 0-3, but he’s been struggling to control his temper and during yesterday’s undercard his attempt to get one over on Fale, saw him left flat on his back. He needed something in this match, and against someone with the power of Bad Luck, the quicker the better.
That played into the opening seconds as Zack charged across the ring, leaping into a Guillotine and clinging to Fale like a drunk who has found their new best friend. The big man kept trying to power out, but Zack was at his twisty best, slipping out of every move and into a new submission as he desperately tried to bring him down.
Then, the fucking minions got involved. Jado’s kendo stick changed the tide before a Chase attack saw Zack being dragged into the stands for a beating. Rather than taking that beating, Sabre saw an opportunity. Fighting off the goons, he bent Fale up in a bow as the countout rose. At the exact right moment, he let go and sprinted off to the ring, leaving Fale unable to answer the count and finally earning himself a win.
Honestly, you can’t call this a great wrestling match. What it was, though, was exactly what Sabre needed. In his first three bouts he had been outsmarted, beaten at his own game, and yet here, he was back to his swaggering best. One chance was all he needed, and when he got it, he left Fale lost in the stands and, interestingly, had the Korakuen crowd on his side. While it might not pick-up a lot of stars, it will prove essential to whatever ZSJ’s narrative is set to be.
Verdict: Three Stars
Hiroshi Tanahashi (2-2) defeated Lance Archer (2-2)
Coming in, Tanahashi had expressed doubts about his ability to beat Lance Archer. There might have been a slight bluff to that confession, as he seemed to have a plan, attacking Archer’s leg with a Dropkick before the bell could even ring. The Ace knew he had to cut the big man down to size.
That is an easy thing to attempt, a slightly harder thing to do. Archer is a man possessed, and no matter what The Ace did, he seemed to keep coming forward. Tanahashi was soon trapped underneath this match, trying to survive against the monster across from him.
And, in the end, the only way he could do so was by sneaking his second victory in a row. As he was perched on Archer’s shoulder, he slipped through into a Victory Roll and ran away with two points despite looking like he was heading towards defeat.
Hiroshi Tanahashi is only three months older than Lance Archer, and they’re both brilliant. Yet, New Japan has managed to craft a narrative in this tournament where Archer is having a breakout year while Tanahashi’s ability to keep up is being questioned. Incredibly, both those stories are working, and while this won’t be either man’s best match, it was a lot of fun to watch.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
KENTA (4-0) defeated EVIL (2-2)
I got properly pumped watching this. You can see KENTA’s confidence growing with every successful showing. He started to lean into Korakuen’s boos on this show, wiping the makeup off EVIL’s face to smear it onto his own before flashing a cocky little grin as they expressed their unhappiness. He’s got that swagger back, and it’s so much fun to watch.
In there with EVIL, he had someone who he could go to war with. These two were leaning into every blow, throwing bombs at each other in an attempt to get the upper hand. It was two stiff fuckers beating on each other with Lariats and kicks. There was a Busaki Knee that looked beautifully violent although, sadly, EVIL did take the final Go To Sleep a bit weirdly, directing it towards his chest rather than his chin. Still, that didn’t take away from a match that brought the best out of both men.
I know people still have questions about KENTA, but I don’t get it. He’s been great since day one, and he’s getting better. As a total package, his match with Tanahashi is still number one, but if we’re ranking individual performances, this was his best yet.
Verdict: Four Stars
Kota Ibushi (2-2) defeated SANADA (1-3)
You won’t find many wrestlers who are as athletically gifted as Kota Ibushi and SANADA. Watching them move around the ring is fascinating as the smoothness with which they slide across the canvas is otherworldly. I’m pretty sure I could give Lariating someone a try, but I could never transition between moves the way they do.
Despite that, Ibushi seemed fairly determined to bring something more out of SANADA. He was happy to wrestle him, but as this match went on, it looked like he wanted to see the violent side of the Cold Skull. Kota began to scream at him to ‘come on’, laying into his strikes in an attempt to draw the same aggression out of SANADA.
And, to an extent, it worked. SANADA stood in the centre of the ring, trading blows with Ibushi and even hitting a Kamigoye in an attempt to claim victory. At one point it looked like he was going to take something out of the Naito vs Ibushi playbook, setting up for a Lawn Dart only for Kota to slip over his shoulder and hit one of his own.
Ultimately, that was the difference between these two. SANADA is as athletic as Ibushi, but he doesn’t have that edge, at least not yet. When push came to shove, SANADA could play Kota’s games, but not as well as Kota, and that violence ultimately paid off.
Verdict: Four Stars
Kazuchika Okada (4-0) defeated Will Ospreay (1-3)
Ospreay has done a lot in his career, but he has never beaten The Rainmaker. Will places Okada up on a pedestal. It was Kazu who brought him into New Japan, and he’s been his faction leader since the start. People can call Ospreay the best in the world, but until he beats Okada, he knows he’s number two.
There is still respect between these two, though. They’re teammates, so as the match started, they took it slow. There was a feeling-out period where both men were reaching forward tentatively, working out what they could and couldn’t get away. Then, suddenly, they took off. Roaring through a perfect sequence as they didn’t so much move up the gears as get out of the car and into a rocket.
From there this became a series of highlights. We got an Oscutter off a barricade onto the floor before the nearest of near falls after a second in the ring. Somehow, Okada then reversed a Stormbreaker into a Short Rainmaker having already reversed it into a Tombstone which then ended up being an Ospreay Tombstone. Fuck knows how all that happened, but it did.
Ultimately, though, The Rainmaker came out on top. The insane counter sequences at the end culminated with him hitting the Discus Rainmaker before following up with a proper one and leaving Will, once again, looking up at the lights. It was an incredible main event, and Will is getting ever closer to bridging that gap. The really scary thing? I still think they can do better. It will be quite something when they do.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
Guess what I’m going to say? Every match on this show was fantastic, except for Fale’s. But you know what? Even Fale’s didn’t stink. Sabre found a way to tell an interesting story with the big man. The G1 is heading towards a break, but these last three days at Korakuen have been incredible, and there’s still roughly another month to go! Fucking hell.
Top Three Matches Of the G1 So Far
- Kota Ibushi vs Will Ospreay (18/7/19) – Four And Three Quarter Stars
- Will Ospreay vs Kazuchika Okada (20/7/19) – Four And A Half Stars
- Tomohiro Ishii vs Jon Moxley (19/7/19) – Four And A Half Stars
Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/