Will Ospreay and Kota Ibushi took the main event as the G1 Climax hit Korakuen Hall!

After two days off, New Japan returned to Korakuen Hall for the first of three nights in the G1. Selfishly, this is a hell of a card for my birthday, with those top two matches in particular sticking out. Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero and Chris Charlton are on commentary after a rather newsworthy week for the latter…

Jon Moxley & Shota Umino vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Yuya Uemura
I think you can guess what the tasty match is for tomorrow…

Ishii and Moxley go straight for each other at the bell as we start with forearms aplenty, before Shota Umino came in to break up some ground and pound as Moxley almost got DQ’d. Yeah, this one broke down in a hurry, as the Young Lions came to try and impersonate their partners, with Uemura and Umino also throwing bombs. Ishii returns to catch Shota with forearms… but “Shooter” hits back with a forearm and a dropkick of his own. Moxley comes back in, but he has to escape a brainbuster as Ishii instead lands a German suplex, before a retaliatory clothesline left both men down. Tags bring us back to Umino and Uemura, with a series of roll-ups and small packages almost getting Uemura the win.

Moxley and Ishii skulk around the outside as they continue their brawl, while Umino’s spinebuster draws a near-fall, before a Fisherman suplex got Shooter the win. This was a nice little opening sprint, and I cannot wait for the murderous main event that Moxley and Ishii has the potential to be tomorrow. ***

Jeff Cobb, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Juice Robinson, Toa Henare & Yota Tsuji
It’s Cobb/Juice tomorrow, but neither of them start as Goto and Henare locked up at the bell.

There’s a little bit of clubbering between those two as Goto edges ahead. YOSHI-HASHI keeps the train going, dumping Henare in the ropes for a dropkick, before Cobb picked up with a slam… but his standing moonsault landed in the knees of Henare, who finally got out of there. Juice comes in to boot Cobb in the mush, then connect with Dusty punches as he set up for a cannonball… only for Cobb to get up and dump him with an Athletic-plex instead. Juice’s Left Hand of God leaves both mend own, which is just as well as Yota Tsuji wanted in… as does YOSHI-HASHI. Yota strikes first with forearms as he proceeded to charge down YOSHI, before some double-teaming with Henare led to a big scoop slam from Tsuji for a near-fall. A Boston crab keeps YOSHI in trouble, but it’s broken via the ropes as YOSHI retaliated with a Western Lariat for a quick two-count.

On the outside, Cobb throws Juice into the apron, while YOSHI-HASHI’s elbowed as Tsuji countered a Bunker Buster. A chop and a superkick followed as YOSHI finally lands the Bunker Buster for a near-fall, before a Butterfly lock forces a submission. This was good in patches, but YOSHI-HASHI just didn’t do it for me here. When you’re looking outclassed by a Young Lion, you’re in trouble. **½

Bullet Club (Jay White, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Toru Yano, Tomoaki Honma & Ren Narita
It’s Yano/White tomorrow, and of course Jay doesn’t want any of it today. So instead it’s Yujiro and Honma who start as we got the ghosts of G1 past, along with some biting as Yujiro, under certain light, looked like he’d been FaceApp’d in real life.

Honma looks for a Kokeshi, but Yujiro rolls outside and eventually dragged him out as the Bullet Club broke it down on the outside. They isolate Honma, as Yujiro traps him in the ropes for a boot, before a back elbow got Honma back in it for a Kokeshi. In comes Yano and White, and yeah… Yano removes the turnbuckle pads and throws it to Gedo. White knocks Gedo off the apron before he kicked out of a roll-up, only for the pair to pull each other’s hair.

Narita and Owens tag in next, with Ren blasting Chase with a forearm and head of a leg lace attempt. Yujiro broke it up quickly though, earning himself a dropkick from Narita in the process as Ren tried to counter a package piledriver… slingshotting Owens into the exposed corner as he almost snatched victory from there. Instead, Owens kicks out of the small package as a quick Parade of Moves broke out, ending with a package piledriver… which Narita ‘ranas out of before he went back to the pinning attempts. Owens again kicks out, then rushes into a package piledriver to pick up the win. A good finishing stretch as Narita’s creeping closer to his maiden win against the main roster, but today just wasn’t his day. **½

Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI)
Our final undercard match sees Naito go up against the man who beat him in Hokkaido on Monday… but it’s a set-up for tomorrow’s Taichi/Shingo outing.

We’ve a jump start as Taichi tried to rip apart Shingo’s face at the bell, before he threw the Best of the Super Junior finalist to the outside, as Suzuki-gun took the fight into the crowd. Suzuki even has time to whack a few of the LA Dojo Young Lions with chairs, as Taichi continued to wear down Shingo in the ropes. Suzuki comes in to blast through Shingo with elbows as Takagi was having real trouble getting going in this one. Taichi’s back to rip off his trousers, before Shingo blocked a Last Ride… countering out with a back body drop as he still couldn’t tag out. A shoulder tackle takes Taichi down as Shingo finally gets free, with tags taking us to Naito and Kanemaru, with the latter quickly taking a ‘rana.

An atomic drop and an enziguiri opened the door for BUSHI to come in… but things quickly go sour as Suzuki’s brought back in to crack into him with a PK. Naito makes a save as Suzuki was measuring up for a Gotch piledriver, prompting a Parade of Moves that saw Taichi’s Axe Bomber outwit a Pumping Bomber, before the Gotch piledriver quickly put BUSHI away. Standard stuff, but Suzuki-gun as a unit in these undercard tags continue to be a huge threat. **¾

G1 Climax, Block A: Lance Archer vs. KENTA
Archer’s back looking like Mad Max, wiping out Young Lions. They’ll learn one day. Both of these guys are undefeated in the G1 thus far, so something’s gotta give…

This was KENTA’s first appearance at Korakuen in over five years, with his last singles match here coming in February 2014, back in his NOAH days. Commentary tells us this match has the biggest size differential in the entire tournament, and that’s something that Archer tried to capitalise on, as KENTA tried to stick and move early on. The barrage of kicks worked, as Archer was taken into the corner for some running boots, before he just charged through KENTA with a shoulder tackle. Archer shoves down the ref as he threatened to chokeslam KENTA off the apron… thankfully the LA Dojo lads caught him, only for Archer to fly into the pile with a cannonball!

Archer keeps it on the outside, chopping through KENTA before he commandeered the ringside mic to find a new way to stop the count. Back in the ring, KENTA takes being called Hideo badly as he slapped the former Vance Archer (two can play at that game), before a Pounce takes KENTA into the ropes before Archer again shoved down the ref… and I’ve a nagging feeling we’ll end up with a DQ here. The pace slows down again as Archer clotheslined KENTA, but a bunch of running boots on the corner sees KENTA get back in it, following up with the Shibata-ish dropkick. A flying stomp off the top is next, before Archer gountered a Go 2 Sleep with a gutwrench… only to have to block a tornado DDT as he caught KENTA off the top rope with a uranage facebuster.

Archer’s back in with a clothesline for another near-fall, before KENTA countered Blackout with a rear naked choke, squeezing Archer to the mat ahead of a PK. Then another Go 2 Sleep was tried, but Archer slips out with an EBD Claw right by the ropes. Not to worry, Archer takes him back up top for a Muscle Buster which nearly wins the match… as did a powerbomb… before KENTA countered a chokeslam into a triangle… then into a Lebell lock for the quick submission. I was not expecting that as the finish, but this showed KENTA as a resourceful and hardy sod here after a match that meandered all over the place. ***¼

G1 Climax, Block A: SANADA vs. EVIL
It’s an all-LIJ outing here, and a repeat from the G1 two years ago, where SANADA picked up the win.

SANADA strikes first, catching EVIL with a pair of dropkicks before his top rope moonsault was quickly escaped from, as EVIL rolled outside to compose a plan B. which seemed to involve a chair, but EVIL ends up rolling out of a Paradise Lock before he trapped SANADA in his own move. Ah well. A dropkick sends SANADA outside, where he’s thrown into guard rails, before some bodyscissors back in the ring were used to wear SANADA down. My feed drops out for a spell as SANADA recovered, tying up EVIL in the ropes with another Paradise Lock, as another dropkick freed EVIL and sent him to the outside for an awaiting plancha.

Back inside, a backdrop suplex gets SANADA a near-fall, only for EVIL’s backbreaker to see him return the favour as the pair inched closer to a win. SANADA scores next with a springboard dropkick, before the referee was used as a human shield with a ref-assisted Magic Killer dropping SANADA. A superplex followed as SANADA bounces for a near-fall, before the pair tease finishers again, leading to SANADA backflipping into a Skull End. EVIL reverses the hold… but SANADA flips free and dropped his partner with Everything is EVIL for a near-fall. A moonsault from SANADA’s countered into a roll-up for a near-fall next, before the pair begin to exchange chops, ending with a Tiger suplex from SANADA for another two-count. Another Skull End traps EVIL, but he catches SANADA unawares with another inside cradle for a two-count, then again with Darkness Falls as SANADA remained resilient.

SANADA returns the favour, cradling EVIL out of Everything is EVIL as lariats kept frustrating EVIL… until one last Everything is EVIL earned the win. This was a fantastic game of human chess, as the analogy goes. The two tag partners knowing each other inside out saw them having to switch it up at times, even if parts of this match were beginning to get a little too samey towards the end. ****¼

Post-match, SANADA and EVIL fist-bump as they made up…

G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. Kazuchika Okada
We’ve a nice little touch here as Chase Owens came out the entrance that Fale was meant to have… so Fale could jump Okada out of the “other” entranceway instead.

Making it to the ring, Fale squashes Okada with a pair of splashes for a near-fall. Okada makes a comeback, but Chase Owens trips him to the outside, holding him for a Kendo stick shot from Jado. Yep, Fale needs all the help he can muster, it seems. A back body drop sends Okada flying into the air, but the referee refuses to count Fale’s saluting pin. Okada tries to slam Fale, but he just falls back on himself and nearly lost before succeeding on the second attempt. Fale rolls outside, where he’s met with a tope con giro from Okada, as the champion started to settle down.

Okada tries to pick up Fale again, but that neckbreaker slam’s just countered into a Bad Luck Fall attempt, which Okada escapes from. He manages to dump Fale with that neckbreaker slam at the second attempt for a near-fall before the top rope elbow lead to the Rainmaker zoom-out. The Rainmaker’s next, but Fale pulls Red Shoes into harm’s way, as Owens rushed the ring to do Fale’s work for him. A Grenade’s next, then a Bad Luck Fall as Owens tries to pull Red Shoes back in… but Okada escaped again and hits another dropkick. There’s one for Chase too, before a tombstone’s countered by Fale. Jado gets involved with a Kendo stick shot, but he’s quickly knocked off the apron by an errant Fale as Okada quickly got the win with a back body drop… leaning down on Fale for the three count. Well, this was about as good as you’ll get out of Fale these days, but I wasn’t a fan of all the shenanigans around it. **¾

G1 Climax, Block A: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Sabre’s just about edging things in their prior matches, winning 3 matches to Tanahashi’s two, with the most recent coming at Madison Square Garden back in April. Both men here are coming in with null point, so someone’ll be getting their first scores today.

A fairly scrappy start saw Tanahashi try and take Sabre into the corner, but the obligatory rope break just meant that Sabre ended up coming out with a single-leg takedown, as both men tried to work over the other’s legs and arms. There’s some nice, fluid counters here as the pair really couldn’t build momentum, much to the frustration of Sabre. Tanahashi finally manages to grab a hold, working over a toe-hold on Sabre, working up into almost a Banana Split-like hold as a crucifix pin nearly puts Sabre away. A series of flash pinning attempts followed from both men, before Sabre caught Tanahashi off the ropes with an Octopus stretch, only for Tanahashi to escape with a Dragon screw.

From there, Sabre looked to make this a striking game, which didn’t play well as the pair ended up countering each other’s grip on a backslide before a Slingblade from Tanahashi finally landed. Sabre’s quickly back in in the hunt for a cross armbar, only for Tanahashi to counter with a cloverleaf… which Sabre instantly countered into an omaplata, only to roll the hold into the ropes as Sabre’s persistence proved to be a downfall again. Tanahashi’s back with another Dragon Screw, before a Slingblade dropped Sabre for a near-fall. The High Fly Flow crossbody’s next, then a frog splash equivalent as Sabre looked to have tweaked his knee, but Zack got his knees up and counters with a triangle armbar on the landing… only for Tanahashi to roll through and snatch the win with a jack-knife cover. Some excellent counter wrestling on show here as Tanahashi finally gets points, prompting Sabre into another tantrum as his G1 is quickly falling apart. ****¼

G1 Climax, Block A: Will Ospreay vs. Kota Ibushi
…and now for something completely different. This match had been in question when Ospreay dropped off of Monday’s show as a precaution, but needless to say, we are on!

No pressure, lads! We’ve one prior meeting between these two, when Ospreay beat Kota for the NEVER Openweight title at WrestleKingdom earlier this year. They started out rather slowly, with Ospreay taking Ibushi into the ropes as he did the Okada-like break… as did Ibushi when the tables turned. Ospreay escapes some headscissors, but is quickly back in them as Ibushi made a point of working over the injured neck, with a simple shoulder tackle dumping Will to the mat.

There’s no instant kip-up either, as Ibushi dove in with a headlock before an attempted OsCutter’s blocked, so Ospreay pulls Ibushi outside and slams his leg onto the edge of the ring. A shinbreaker onto the guard rails followed as Kota was suddenly in deep trouble, exacerbated by Ospreay wrapping his legs around the ring post as this was a much different style of match than the flippy-dos people were expecting. Back inside, Ospreay wraps Ibushi’s leg in the ropes, before a leg sweep led to a low dropkick… but Ibushi avoids it and cracks Ospreay with a kick to the back. More headscissors trap Ospreay by the neck, with Ibushi smartly rolling him into the centre of the ring to avoid a rope break, but Ospreay manages to get free and hit a handspring enziguiri as the YOSHI-HASHI-like tape began to peel off.

Another enziguiri in the ropes led to Ospreay hitting his over-the-top 619, which almost went awry after the kick before a springboard forearm misses… giving Ibushi a quick way back in as the pace suddenly rocketed. The springboard forearm lands at the second attempt, sending Ibushi outside as a Sasuke special left both men in a heap on the floor. Back inside, a lifting reverse DDT nearly gets the win, as Ospreay began to build his momentum… only for another OsCutter attempt to get countered into a German suplex! The pair begin to escalate things with elbows, then with boots, before a roll-up out of nowhere nearly got Ospreay the win. From the kick-out, he stomps on Ibushi’s bad ankle, then teases a Dragon suplex… only to get countered with a German from Ibushi as again the pace soared, until Ospreay couldn’t get off a Storm Breaker as Ibushi countered into a belly-to-back piledriver. Yeuch.

A Ligerbomb’s next for a near-fall as Ibushi tries to follow up off the top rope… but Ospreay grabs his leg and lands a Cheeky Nandos, only for a Storm breaker attempt to get countered. Thankfully, Ospreay avoids a package tombstone and eventually rolls his way into a Ligerbomb for a near-fall as it was now Ibushi who was clinging onto the leg for respite. Ospreay kicks himself free, but he’s shoved into a Tree of Woe as Ibushi stopped an avalanche OsCutter… but Ibushi finds a way to amp it up by teasing an avalanche Dragon suplex before he just backflip kicks Will to the apron. Somehow Ospreay just about flips out of that elevated German suplex (although that did look like a nasty head drop) as he dove back in with a Hidden Blade. Ibushi barely grabs the rope in time to save the match…

There’s barely any steam in Ospreay’s Kawada kicks as he sized up Ibushi for a Robinson special, which lands flush. The OsCutter’s next, but it’s caught again before Will finally lands it… and it’s still not enough! From there, the Storm Breaker’s teased, but Ibushi gets out and lands a knee… then a Michinoku driver for a near-fall as those head drops were ramping up. A lawn dart’s teased, but Ospreay gets out with a Spanish Fly as he teased another Hidden Blade… Ibushi elbows it away though, then drops Ospreay on his head with another lariat as it was his turn to go for the finish.

Cue yeah-oh, cue a Bomaye knee… but still Ospreay kicks out, only to get met with a Kamigoye as Kota finally took home the win after a barnburner of a match. I loved how they worked their injuries into this from the start rather than just go all out with the big stuff – and it led to a much better story for it. Yeah, some of the landings throughout made me wince, and I do have to wonder if this was a “final hurrah” for Ospreay in the G1 if the injury’s as bad as the tape is letting on… ****¾

Block A:
KENTA, Kazuchika Okada (3-0; 6pts)
Lance Archer, EVIL (2-1; 4pts)
Bad Luck Fale, Kota Ibushi, Will Ospreay, SANADA, Hiroshi Tanahashi (1-2; 2pts)
Zack Sabre Jr. (0-3; 0pts)

Block B:
Tomohiro Ishii, Jon Moxley, Juice Robinson (2-0; 4pts)
Hirooki Goto, Taichi, Shingo Takagi, Toru Yano (1-1; 2pts)
Jeff Cobb, Tetsuya Naito, Jay White (0-2; 0pts)

As expected this show totally delivered – especially in the G1 matches, with three of the five falling into that neat little “must see” pile that’s continuing to grow for this tournament. We’re back at Korakuen tomorrow for some block B action – topped off with Jon Moxley vs. Tomohiro Ishii. That’ll be a masterclass in violence, I feel…