We’re onto the penultimate block shows and you can smell the end of the G1. A Block is the simpler of the two, as the only people left alive are Okada, Ibushi, KENTA and EVIL. Of them, Okada’s route to the final is the easiest. If he keeps winning, he’s there. Ibushi has to match Okada’s result on this show before beating him in Budokan. KENTA requires Okada to lose both his matches while Ibushi loses to ZSJ and, finally, EVIL needs to win out while Okada loses out and KENTA loses to Ospreay. I think that’s all right, but I’m sure I’ve missed something. Either way, we all know it is coming down to Ibushi vs Okada on the final night, so quite frankly, that was a bit of a waste of time.
My spoiler-free must-see recommendations KENTA vs Will Ospreay, Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr and Kazuchika Okada vs EVIL.
SANADA (4-4) defeated Lance Archer (2-6)
A slight flaw with the G1 is that everyone, including the New Japan commentators, talks about someone like Archer having a great tournament. However, in the world of kayfabe, he’s not. Sure, the performances look good, but if your football team plays pretty football before losing every week, they’re still shit.
And that served as a real problem for me in this match. Archer attacked SANADA during his entrance, beating the shit out of him (at one point he even drove his head into the camera) and dominating the Cold Skull. But I knew he wasn’t going to pin him. He hasn’t pinned anyone lately. I can appreciate good wrestling, and this was good wrestling, but it needs emotion to be great, and it never had that.
Which, if I’m honest, was neither SANADA or Archer’s fault. They had a much better match than I was expecting from them post SANADA having had his moment with Okada. The LIJ man gave Archer a shitload, and with the fans rallying behind him, served as a great underdog babyface. In the ring, they were delivering, but Archer is an undercard guy, and he’s not beating a man who is headed to the top.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Bad Luck Fale (3-5) defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-4)
It took all of twenty seconds for Chase and Jado to get involved. I could pretend that after that I sat and intently watched this match, analysing the wrestling, but I’d be lying. It’s a Fale control period with his two trolls backing him up, arsed with that.
Fale’s problem is that he doesn’t wrestle like a big man. He doesn’t throw opponents across the ring or clobber them with killer blows. Instead, he slowly plods about, standing on them now and then, but generally hitting moves that don’t play to his size. Tanahashi is one of the greatest underdog wrestlers of all time, and rather than using that, Fale had his minions attack Tana’s leg.
And The Ace’s talent did bring something to this match. He fought valiantly, getting the fans behind him as he attacked the big man’s leg in return, but it was never enough. Okada, Ibushi, Ospreay none of them are enough. Fale’s days as a man who should be wrestling in the G1 are gone, and if you need further proof of that, just look at how shit the Backslide that won this match looked.
Verdict: Two Stars
Will Ospreay (3-5) defeated KENTA (4-4)
If you want to teach a wrestler how to respond to a botch, show them KENTA in this match. After a countout tease, Will slipped back in at which point KENTA attempted to springboard towards him. Instead, he slipped. However, rather than panic or, worse, try to do it again, KENTA just got on with it. He charged across the ring and elbowed Will in the mouth, taking his frustration out on Ospreay. Sure, the slip was still a bit annoying, but he stopped it becoming a distraction.
And it didn’t ruin a great match. The story here was that Ospreay could match KENTA every step of the way. Sure, KENTA seemed intent on kicking his fucking head off, but Will was faster and stronger. A Hidden Blade to the back of the head was as effective, and as stiff, as anything KENTA could do.
It was a story that almost worked with the fact KENTA was a bit sloppy at times because it showed that yea, he couldn’t keep up. He’s still good, but he’s not Will Ospreay good. Going all out at the end of a long tournament, it was Will who had that little bit extra, and that little bit extra was the key to getting the win.
Verdict: Four Stars
Kota Ibushi (6-2) defeated Zack Sabre Jr (3-5)
Ibushi vs Sabre is one of my favourite mini-feuds of recent years. Kota has admitted in the past that wrestling Sabre scares him, he doesn’t like that Zack can zero in on his injuries and twist him up. Ibushi is a simple-man, and if you don’t drop him on his head, you go in the same category as books.
The brilliant thing is that Sabre twisting Ibushi up kind of brings the best out of him. It curbs his more extravagant instincts and turns him into an underdog babyface, battling to survive. Then, as the match goes on, he turns to those strikes. Eventually, the temper starts to go and he decides that if Zack won’t try to murder him, he’ll try to murder Zack.
And that was the story of this match. To begin with, ZSJ went after the ankle, torturing Ibushi and keeping him on the floor. In classic Sabre fashion, he had an answer to every question, and when he was wrenching on Kota’s legs, looking for Orienteering With Napalm Death, you wondered whether he was going to have too much for him.
Zack made a mistake, though. He insisted on trading blows with Kota, slapping him and kicking him. Every time he did that, Ibushi got a little bit angrier. And, eventually, that anger was all channelled into his knee. Kamigoye was enough, and Kota battled his fears by knocking Zack the fuck out.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
Kazuchika Okada (7-1) defeated EVIL (4-4)
That last match was a weird one as having Kota win made the main event almost irrelevant. EVIL could still technically make the final, but he needed to beat Okada, win at Budokan and then have Ibushi vs Okada go to a draw. It wasn’t impossible, but it was unlikely.
Then again, EVIL is the man who famously ended Okada’s unbeaten run and earned himself a shot at the IWGP Title, so there was still hope in his black heart. A win over Okada is a win over Okada, no matter the circumstances.
They did a good job of teasing the EVIL win too. Okada wrestled this match as the dominant champion, shushing the EVIL fans, and seemingly setting the stage for an upset. Like SANADA, EVIL is over everywhere, and they were playing into that perfectly. People wanted to see him get the win, so the more Okada dominated, the more they screamed his name, waiting desperately for the comeback and clinging to every hint that it was on the way.
He found a way too, launching a chair at Okada as he went for his dive over the barricade. From there, EVIL started to find his groove, but when you push Okada he just gets better, and when he leapt up for one of those incredible Dropkicks, curtailing EVIL’s momentum, the fans were split.
That led to a great back and forth, as these two really battled for the advantage. I’ve always loved EVIL’s finishing stretches, and when you put him in there with Okada, they’re only going to get better. The fans even bought Darkness Falls as a potential finish, and there was not a chance in hell that was happening. By the time EVIL powered up from two short arm Rainmakers and reversed the third into a brace of suplexes they were climbing into the rafters, screaming for their hero to get the win.
Okada had no problem breaking their hearts, though. EVIL reversed the Discus Rainmaker with a straight headbutt before hitting a massive Lariat, but he just couldn’t get the job done. Okada had a reversal to every Everything Is EVIL attempt, and when he hit the Rainmaker proper, EVIL was done.
Fantastic match, they started a bit slow, but when these two hit that final five-ten minutes it was awesome. We all tend to focus on SANADA, but EVIL is right behind and just as popular.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
I was about to call this merely a good show, but going back over my ratings, that’s clearly bollocks. It was great and finished off with two fantastic matches. The G1 is heading into the finish and with the A Block confirmed as coming down to Okada vs Kota, it’s now time to discover whether the Naito express will still be on the rails come Budokan.
Top Three Matches Of the G1 So Far
- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kota Ibushi (3/8/19) – Four And Three Quarter Stars
- Shingo Takagi vs Tetsuya Naito (4/8/19) – Four And Three Quarter Stars
- Kota Ibushi vs Will Ospreay (18/7/19) – Four And Three Quarter Stars
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