Let’s throw it out there, this G1 schedule is a bit too relaxed for my taste. I’m usually drowning in wrestling by this point, desperately trying to keep afloat. This year? It’s all been quite relaxing, as I’m even managing to keep on top of my Stardom reviews. Give me more!
My spoiler-free must-see recommendations are Kazuchika Okada vs KENTA.
Kota Ibushi (3-2) defeated Lance Archer (2-3)
Ibushi tried to blitz Archer at the start of this match, coming flying out with a series of kicks before going for The Golden Triangle Moonsault. Sadly for Kota, Big Lance was in no mood for that. He wrenched Ibushi off the ropes and went to work on that ankle, using the fact he could toss The Golden Star around like a pancake to his advantage.
It was opening which set-up a classic battle of power vs speed. The difference, was that both Ibushi and Archer have the ability to dabble in the other’s strengths. We got Kota hitting a Powerbomb and Archer going for a Moonsault. Throw in a Chokeslam that nearly left Ibushi tangled up in the rafters, and this was heating up nicely.
Sadly, it built to a finish that was a bit too much. Archer kicked out of the Bomaye, which was fine, but then went on to no-sell a Kamigoye, and I’m not sure that was a good idea. Kota hit the second one instantly, but did Archer need that rub? Someone no-selling a Kamigoye could have been a Shibata absorbing the Rainmaker moment. Instead, it’s been used in a bottom of the card G1 match. It didn’t stop this being a very good performance; it just felt like a waste.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Will Ospreay (2-3) defeated Bad Luck Fale (1–4) by disqualification
The Bullet Club bullshit started before Ospreay had even got into the ring. Fale and his band of goons (I still love you Chase, but can you fuck off for this tournament?) went to work on Will’s neck and attempted to mug him out of the victory.
It led to a match that was, for the most part, shite. Fale is a slow lumbering beast, and while Will threw some kicks as he battled valiantly from underneath, it wasn’t enough to make this interesting. I don’t want kendo sticks, interference and DQs in my G1, and if Fale needs them to get through a ten-minute match, then he shouldn’t be out there.
There was some amusement to be found in the final seconds as Red Shoes came down to replace Marty Asami when Bullet Club attacked him. After initially looking like he was going to make the count for Fale, he stopped at two, gave Fale the double finger and called for the DQ. Sadly, badass Red Shoes was the best thing about this.
Verdict: Two Stars
EVIL (3-2) defeated Zack Sabre Jr (1-4)
Zack Sabre Jr has been a pain in EVIL’s arse for a long time. The Big Goth finally got a win over him earlier this year, but Zack still seems to hold an edge over the LIJ man, or at least enjoys gloating about the number of times he’s beaten him.
Perhaps EVIL has learnt a little something from every one of those defeats, though. For, in this match, it almost looked like he was the one who had Sabre’s number. ZSJ tends to control the action, dancing between holds and refusing to give his opponent a chance to breathe. Yet, in there with EVIL, he couldn’t seem to find his feet. He was trying to attack the leg, but time after time, EVIL’s power was proving the perfect antidote to Zack’s twistiness.
It was a story that made sense, but never quite caught fire. While these two have had good chemistry in the past, there was something off about this match. They stuck at a slow, methodical pace, and it never felt like they got up to their top gear. Then, slightly out of nowhere, EVIL hit Everything Is EVIL and got the win, putting Zack in a near-impossible spot if he plans on winning this G1. How strange.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Hiroshi Tanahashi (3-2) defeated SANADA (1-4)
Western New Japan fans have a million different opinions about SANADA. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that those opinions are irrelevant. Not only do I believe he’s a great wrestler, but he was getting cheered more than Tanahashi as they stood across the ring from each other, so he’s going to be a star whether you like it or not.
Although this wouldn’t be the in-ring performance I’d choose to prove that, as the pace set by EVIL and Sabre bled through to these two. Tanahashi and SANADA are a natural fit, but you got the distinct impression they were at half-speed as neither man pushed the other to make this a classic.
It did improve as it went on as they ditched the leg work that factored into the early going and worked around the Skull End instead. SANADA is so good at getting that move on from a million different positions, and no-one elicits sympathy like Tanahashi as even with his face stuck in SANADA’s armpit you can feel his pain.
Unfortunately, the finish again felt a bit sudden. One second, SANADA and Tana were elbowing it out, the next Tanahashi hit the double High Fly Flow leaving SANADA stuck on two points. Like EVIL vs Sabre, this wasn’t bad, but it was far from great.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Kazuchika Okada (5-0) defeated KENTA (4-1)
There was no upping of the pace for Okada vs KENTA, but there was an increase in intensity. After a calm start, KENTA lashed out with a slap, and from there this was a fight. KENTA dominated with his stiff kicks before Captain Kazu came back, matching the former NOAH Ace at his own game and holding his own.
It led to some fantastic physical battles. At one point they were perched on the top rope, wavering as they exchanged blows. It was simple wrestling, but you could hear the fans gasping at every strike, desperate to see who would survive and who would fall.
And that was what was great about this, as these two are masters of the little moments. KENTA pulling out the Rainmaker pose in Kazu’s backyard (he’s from the area) and Okada’s half kickouts from KENTA’s onslaught got a bigger reaction than most wrestlers can get with the extraordinary. They had the fans on the edge of their seat, and they didn’t require a million moves to get them there.
The final sequences were enthralling. KENTA battled out of a Tombstone and into position for a Go To Sleep only for Kazu to slip out of that. Then, when KENTA ducker a Rainmaker, he took a leaf out of Okada’s book, connecting with a Discus Lariat as the twenty-five-minute mark ticked past and you began to wonder whether they were heading towards a draw.
In the end, Okada proved that theory wrong. He survived some of the stiffest slaps you’ll ever see to hit a Spinning Tombstone followed by The Rainmaker, cementing his place at the top of the pile. Afterwards, though, he reached out a hand to KENTA, and while he refused to let Okada help him up, he did shake his hand. This KENTA run keeps throwing up those moments you never expected to see.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
I believe that Japan is currently experiencing similar weather to the UK as it switches between incredible heat (it’s probably hotter there than here) and huge storms. In fact, Aichi was in the middle of a typhoon when this show was on. I mention that because this felt like a show wrestled in a hot and humid place. Everyone was a step slower than usual, and the matches suffered because of that leading to this being easily the weakest night so far. However, we’re deep into the tour and the only thing that actively sucked was Fale vs Ospreay plus we still got an awesome main event, so I’m not going to complain too much.
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 Tetsuya Naito (24/7/19) – Four And A Half Stars
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