The G1’s final big stop before Budokan saw them stroll into Osaka for a couple of nights. These two shows will give us a huge indication of exactly where Gedo is going with this unpredictable tournament, and we start with SANADA getting a chance to pick up his first win over Kazuchika Okada.
My spoiler-free must-see recommendations are EVIL vs Will Ospreay, Kota Ibushi vs Hiroshi Tanahashi and SANADA vs Kazuchika Okada.
Bad Luck Fale (2-5) defeated KENTA (4-3)
KENTA was seemingly unfazed by the size of Old Bad Luck, slapping him before the bell and delivering a flurry of kicks before his early momentum was crushed by Jado’s kendo stick.
From there, you can split this match into two halves. There was the bit where Fale was in control which was dull as shit and then there was KENTA’s comeback, which was entertaining. He took out Fale’s knee with a series of Dropkicks and even teased going for the Go To Sleep, but failed to get the big man up.
Then, just as it seemed like we might get a solid match out of Bad Luck, Chase and Jado got involved, providing a distraction for Fale to roll KENTA up and, by my maths, eliminate him from contention. That was disappointing and yet will still go down as one of Fale’s better efforts.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Zack Sabre Jr (3-4) defeated Lance Archer (2-5)
It’s the vegan technician vs the Texan powerhouse. Although with both men eliminated, there wasn’t much to play for outside of pride and a shot at the British Heavyweight Title.
Early on, it looked like Archer caught Sabre off-guard. ZSJ wasn’t able to dominate the technical side of the match like he expected, as Archer showed a good combination of wrestling talent and power. Lance has been shocking people all tournament with his outlandish displays of flying, but this was his chance to show he can do the twisty stuff too.
It was actually when Archer went back to the flying that Zack found an opening. The more fancy moves in his arsenal opened him up to being countered, and while Lance was still controlling the action, Zack was beginning to chip away. Every submission, even if it was only on for a second or two, opened a few new cracks in his opponent’s armour.
And, ultimately, it was Archer’s hubris which killed him. Having hit one of those incredible Chokeslams he seemed to have the pin, but he pulled Sabre’s shoulder up. Instead, he went for The Blackout, looking to prove his dominance definitively, and paid for it. Zack rolled him up and continued the little streak he has built up in a decent match.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
EVIL (4-3) defeated Will Ospreay (2-5)
For a man who has been selling his neck for as long as Will has, he’s really bad at it. It’s not enough to ruin his matches, but when you zone in on his daft facial expressions and screaming, it becomes comical. That’s before you even touch on the fact that he forgets about it every time he charges across the ring to flip into the air.
Anyway, that’s a general gripe rather than one specific to this match. Ospreay and EVIL proved to have good chemistry, EVIL attacking the aforementioned injury and Will trying to create distance, using his speed to give him an advantage over the big goth. He was smart enough to not build the match around him exchanging strikes with EVIL (and when they did go in that direction, EVIL won), presumably aware that no-one was going to buy that.
As they headed into the final act, Will adapted the Lariat reversal into the Powerbomb for the Everything Is Evil, flipping out of it brilliantly. From there, these two hit full-speed, flying from one move to another with EVIL kicking out of the Oscutter before catching Will out of the Super Oscutter and drilling him with a pair of Millenium Suplexes. The Everything Is Evil was then enough to put to an end a great match.
Verdict: Four Stars
Kota Ibushi (5-2) defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi (4–3)
Tanahashi’s matches have been defined by his injuries for a long time. Whether it be the knee, the elbow or just the whole damn thing, it’s been key to the way Tana has adapted his wrestling in the twilight of his career. So, the structure of this match was rather surprising. For once, it was Tanahashi that went on the offensive and attacked a limb, working over Kota’s ankle and knee to give himself the advantage.
It was a tactic that pushed Ibushi to go high risk. As Tanahashi set up for the High Fly Flow to the floor, Ibushi leapt up, hitting a Super Hurricanrana back into the ring. A Standing Double Stomp, the Lawn Dart into the corner and the Swan Dive German followed, and the tide had turned in Kota Ibushi’s favour.
Somehow, that all turned out to merely by the appetiser for what was to come. Kota Ibushi would be left bleeding from the mouth after a slap battle that saw these put it all out there, not holding back one bit as the blows came raining down. I’m not sure they even know how to hold back. They bring that magic out of each other, a magic that makes it impossible for them to be anything less than incredible.
In the end, Ibushi’s Kamigoye would do what it was named to do, help Ibushi surpass his God. Amazingly, this only went around fifteen minutes, as they worked an insane pace, throwing it all at the wall and leaving it there. These two men are pro-wrestling and as Ibushi crawled over to Tanahashi at the end, the man he idolises, you could see The Ace say a few words to The Golden Star. What I wouldn’t give to know what they were.
Verdict: Four And Three Quarter Stars
SANADA (3-4) defeated Kazuchika Okada (5-2)
It’s becoming a recurring theme in this G1 that SANADA is stood across the ring from a legend listening to the fans chant his name. It appears that the man can do no wrong in the eyes of the Japanese faithful.
The opening act of this match reminded me of Okada and Tanahashi’s G1 battles in the past. It even built to Okada Dropkicking SANADA from the top rope to the floor before following up with the Hangman DDT off the barricade. With the accelerated nature of Ibushi vs Tanahashi, it became clear these two were not going to be wrestling a sprint.
It also led to one of my favourite things, dickhead Okada. With the fans chanting for SANADA, The Rainmaker began to up the arrogance, covering SANADA with his foot on his chest and playing to their boos. It meant that when SANADA did come into the action, those same fans were firmly in his corner, roaring him on.
Sadly, the character beat was the most interesting thing about the opening act, because the rest of it was boring as hell. I don’t know if it was because I was settled in for the long haul, but nothing they did was capturing me. It was only when SANADA reversed the first Rainmaker attempt that it felt like they began
And, to be fair to them, it did get a hell of a lot better at that point. When these two slip into those counter sequences, there are few better as SANADA’s athleticism combines perfectly with Okada’s genius. Just before the twenty-five-minute mark, SANADA reversed a Rainmaker with one of his own before locking in Skull End, forcing Okada to battle tooth and nail in his attempts to escape it. Now, they had me.
Because let’s face it, when you put Okada in these desperate final minutes, you know you are getting genius. These two danced between moves, both of them giving everything they had. With thirty seconds left, SANADA climbed to the top, connecting with a Moonsault to Okada’s back, with fifteen seconds left he came down with the second to his front. One, two, three, the bastard finally did it, and it can’t be a coincidence that this match played heavily on the Tanahashi comparisons.
That final five minutes more than made up for the first fifteen. It didn’t quite turn this into a classic, but it became a great.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
People’s love for this show will depend on how they react to the boring part of SANADA vs Okada. I would not argue with those that hated it, but those final minutes were near perfection. Either way, any show that features Ibushi vs Tanahashi is a great wrestling show. The A Block is shaping up to come down to The Golden Star and The Rainmaker, and I can’t wait to see how that comes out in the wash.
Top Three Matches Of the G1 So Far
- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kota Ibushi (3/8/19) – Four And Three Quarter Stars
- 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
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