Taichi and Tetsuya Naito main evented the fourth night of G1 action, as the tour took a brief stop away from Tokyo.

The G1 hit the road as they went to Sapporo – or to be more precise, the Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center Hokkai Kitayell. We had a slight card change as Will Ospreay dropped off the card as a precaution over a neck injury – so we had no preview of his match with Kota Ibushi for Thursday. That pre-show video of Tsuji polishing the floor and Honma his Kokeshi doll will never not be wacky. I still miss Police Liger though…

It’s Marine Day in Japan, so we’ve a packed crowd in Sapporo. Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero are on commentary as Chris Charlton stayed behind.

Shota Umino & Yota Tsuji vs. Kota Ibushi & Jushin Thunder Liger
Liger gets his own entrance as this was tabbed as his final appearance in Sapporo, but with no Ospreay on the card, you’d expect this’d be a night for Ibushi to perhaps not go at full pelt.

Liger and Umino start us off, but Liger quickly pulls Umino into a seated surfboard as he was playing the hits. Tsuji and Ibushi come in, but it’s a similar story as we worked into a baseball slide dropkick with Liger sending the Young Lion sailing into the guard railings. A Romero special awaits Tsuji, but Umino comes in to kick it apart as the spirit of Jon Moxley washed over him… and hey, there’s a stomping for Liger too.

Liger eventually fought back with a Shotei before bringing in Ibushi again. A slingshot splash from the apron gets Kota a near-fall, before he proceeded to kick his way through Tsuji, only to get caught with a spear. Umino breaks up a pin, only to get sent outside as Liger cannonballs off the apron into him, while a lariat flipped Tsuji inside out before a Lion Tamer-like single leg crab forces Tsuji to tap out. Hey, Ibushi’s found a way to win without landing on his head – but if Ospreay’s fit for Thursday, there’s going to be a lot of fear coming into the equation! ***

Post-match, Liger cuts a promo. Of course, Chris Charlton isn’t here for insta-translations, as he bade farewell to Hokkaido and wished the best for the live crowd. Ah man, if Liger’s doing the London show, that’s going to be emotional for a lot of fans.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, EVIL & BUSHI) vs. Tomoaki Honma, Toa Henare & Ren Narita
This is a preview of… EVIL vs. SANADA on Thursday. Don’t expect any friendliness here!

Kevin Kelly mentions that Henare may be a little salty over New Zealand drawing with England in the Cricket World Cup Final that England ended up winning thanks to the wackiest of wacky finales. Meanwhile, Ren Narita does his best to take down EVIL with a dropkick, but EVIL does manage to avoid a Kokeshi as Honma’s usual batting average helped LIJ take over. Honma manages to land his Kokeshi at the second attempt, catching SANADA before Henare gets the tag… and gets distracted too. He refocuses with a shoulder tackle to SANADA, only for EVIL to come in to try and one-up him. Henare’s back with a suplex to SANADA for a near-fall, before the Hammer Head headbutt sent SANADA down.

Narita tags in… and you can probably guess the trajectory of the match from here. BUSHI runs into a release overhead belly-to-belly, as he’s then triple-teamed with dualling Kokeshi setting up for the leg lace submission. BUSHI gets to the ropes as Narita’s quickly swarmed by LIJ, leading to the MX as BUSHI took home the win. Pretty decent for what it was, but this felt pretty much by-the-numbers given you couldn’t do much with EVIL and SANADA during the match. **¾

EVIL and SANADA refused to fist-bump after the match, and tensions finally boiled over as the pair got into a scuffle, trying their finishers before cooler heads prevailed. That felt… odd.

Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., Lance Archer, Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, KENTA, Clark Connors & Karl Fredericks
Well isn’t that a happy coincidence? Tanahashi and KENTA on the same team, just a day after Tanahashi refused a handshake following his loss in the main event. It’s KENTA vs. Archer and Sabre/Tanahashi on Thursday, by the way…

I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear there was a jump start, with the expected pairing offs taking place. Archer tries to flatten KENTA in the corner early, before KENTA had to escape a chokeslam as he tried to kick his way into the match. KENTA refuses to tag in Tanahashi, with Karl Fredericks instead getting the tag as there’s still some bitterness between those two.

Poor Fredericks eats a Black Hole Slam from Archer, before Suzuki came in. Good luck, Karl! Suzuki baits him into some strikes, but a big elbow from Suzuki just decked the LA Dojo Young Lion… only for Fredericks to find a glimmer of hope. A hanging armbar in the ropes snuffs that out though, as we had some more mayhem on the outside with Suzuki bouncing a chair off of Fredericks, nearly sending it into the crowd too.

Sabre and Archer were able to take time off during the match to do commentary, while Suzuki wandered over to the Japanese commentary table as he intimidated them for… reasons. Among all that, we lost track of how much of a beating Fredericks was taking, as his latest attempt to break free just ended with him having to try and suplex away a guillotine from Sabre. A spinebuster dumped ZSJ awkwardly though, as KENTA and Tanahashi tried to stop each other from tagging in. That’s a tremendous little detail. Regardless, Tanahashi got the tag in as he proceeded to flatten Sabre with a flip senton off the middle rope, before KENTA managed to interfere and help Tanahashi… who then went to swap cobra twists with Sabre. Octopus holds and cloverleafs ended up in the ropes as the pair tried to strike their way to victory.

A Twist and Shout neckbreaker gives Sabre an awkward landing as the rest of the match brawled on the outside. Clark Connors got free for a tag, as he killed Kanemaru with a spear before a Boston crab ended up getting broken up by an elbow from Suzuki. In the end though, with the rest of Suzuki-gun restraining his partners, Conners ends up falling to a reverse DDT and the Deep Impact as Kanemaru planted him for the win. This meandered a little in the middle, but this was a fun undercard tag that put Suzuki-gun across as an absolute menace. In the good sense. ***

Tanahashi ended up needing to be helped to the back by KENTA, after Sabre’s deathlock had worn down his knees badly. Oh good, another body part to break down!

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens) vs. Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI
It’s Owens and YOSHI-HASHI who get us going here, but Owens just took him into the ropes as Fale pulled his hair.

YOSHI-HASHI manages to get free with a Head Hunter after he bumped Fale off the apron, but the big man’s in to go after Okada, taking him outside as we had some body blows. Owens and YOSHI brawl into the crowd as Okada’s choked with some cables, before YOSHI-HASHI continued to get swarmed back in the ring.

Fale’s in, but gets caught with a low dropkick from YOSHI, before Okada came in to try and raise the pace of things. An elbow from Okada staggered Fale into the ropes, but then he went to try and do something stupid like do a bodyslam. He does it at the third attempt, but Fale’s up at two, before he tried a Bad Luck Fall on Okada.

Okada slips out, but gets squashed in the corner before Owens tried a package piledriver. It’s blocked as Okada’s back in with a neckbreaker slam, but couldn’t head up top as Fale just press slammed him down. YOSHI-HASHI wipes Fale out as the pair crash to the floor, leaving us with Chase and Okada… another package piledriver nearly comes off, but Okada back body drops free before he lands a dropkick. The top rope elbow’s next, then the Rainmaker… and that’s all folks. Chase made this, and he’s gonna end this tour with a real strong back if he’s going to be Fale’s tag partner on the alternate nights. **¾

Interrupting VTR time… New Japan’ll be back in Sapporo on February 1st and 2nd for the New Beginning in Sapporo shows.

G1 Climax, Block B: Shingo Takagi vs. Toru Yano
Toru Yano outwitted Naito on Saturday, can he make it 2-0 against LIJ here?

Shingo seems to be a little offended that Yano’s wrestling in a t-shirt, and when Yano removes it… it’s the opening for a sneak attack as Shingo took him into the corner for a clothesline. Yano gets free and goes for the turnbuckle pads… Shingo splashes into the exposed corner and almost loses to a roll-up from there. Yano rolls outside and goes for a walk, taking a chair into the aisle so he could have a sit down. Wrestling is tiring work.

Takagi finally joins him out there, but he’s taken into the chair with a drop toe hold before Yano moved a tonne of furniture to create an obstacle course for Shingo to overcome, but overcome he does at the count of 19, even despite having a turnbuckle pad thrown at him. Back inside, Shingo just charges through Yano with a shoulder tackle for a two-count, before a series of strikes just earned Yano a punch.

A Noshigami’s countered into a backslide as Shingo nearly took a loss, but he just chops Yano back to the mat. Yano switches out and shoved Shingo into the ref, before he grabbed his chair and pulled an Eddie Guerrero… but the ref doesn’t fall for it. BUSHI’s out to distract the ref as Shingo throws the chair at Yano, then a Pumping Bomber, and this comic relief is over. Good stuff as Shingo gets on the board! ***

G1 Climax, Block B: Hirooki Goto vs. Juice Robinson
Juice’s only singles win over Goto came in last year’s G1 – can he repeat the trick?

Those opening exchanges didn’t find any advantages, until Juice caught Goto with a leg lariat as the former US champion looked to be settling in early. Goto gets up to avoid a cannonball, countering with a hanging neckbreaker out of the corner before he tried to throw Juice through some guard rails on the outside.

Back inside, some headscissors from Goto force Juice into the ropes, but Juice comes right back in with a flapjack as a full nelson slam nearly got Juice the relatively quick win. Dusty punches kept Juice on track, but Goto stopped the Left Hand of God as the pair started to go back-and-forth in the corners. A spinning heel kick and a Saito suplex dumps Juice for a near-fall, before chops sent sweat spraying into the Sapporo air.

Juice has to flip out of an ushigoroshi before a clothesline from Goto left both men laying. He’s quickly back in with an ushigoroshi for a near-fall, before a series of kicks left Juice in a heap as he then collapsed to avoid a finale. Not to worry – Goto pulls him up and looked for a reverse GTR, only for Juice to counter with a Jackhammer before he scrambled over to pick up the near-fall. A roll-up nearly gets the win for Juice as his Left Hand of God got smashed by Goto’s head… Juice uses his head twice before landing that Left Hand of God, before Pulp Friction lands for the win. Goto’s gonna Goto, but commentary played up how Juice may have rebroken the same hand he hurt last year… is that going to derail the promising campaign? ***½

G1 Climax, Block B: Jon Moxley vs. Jeff Cobb
A first time meeting here, as is the case for almost all of Moxley’s G1.

They don’t hold back here, as Moxley tried to take Cobb down to the mat early before the favour was returned. In the ropes, Moxley throws a couple of chops before Cobb impressed with a leapfrog, a dropkick and an overhead belly-to-belly suplex that defied belief. Moxley struck back on the outside, tripping Cobb onto the apron as the former NEVER champion landed on his shoulder… and there’s Moxley’s point of attack.

A wristlock, focusing on the left arm, forces Cobb into the ropes, as Moxley held onto the hold before the pair went outside… where an attempted powerbomb on the apron was switched into some biting as Moxley changed tack. An attempted running clothesline’s stopped by Cobb’s forearm, before a double clothesline led to both men crashing onto the ramp. Moxley returned to the ring to break the count, so he could continue to wear down on Cobb’s arm by wrapping it in the guard railings some more. Back in the ring, a flying elbow gets a near-fall… but Cobb holds on and rolls back up as he tried to suplex Moxley, only for his shoulder to give out. An attempt at the Death Rider DDT’s stopped as Cobb comes in with a snap German suplex and a standing moonsault for a near-fall.

Moxley charges into Cobb with a clothesline, following it up with a knee trembler for a near-fall. The pair end up on the apron again, with Cobb teasing a German suplex to the floor… but Moxley clings onto that top rope, and ended up getting clotheslined back into the ring. Cobb couldn’t follow up though, and gets dragged back into the ring with a draping version of the Death Rider DDT, which proved to be enough for the win. Decent enough, as Moxley had to find other ways to blast through the big man – as his unbeaten run in New Japan continued. ***¼

G1 Climax, Block B: Jay White vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Surprisingly, this is a first-time meeting – at least in the singles ranks, thanks to the pair being a part of CHAOS until White’s defection last year.

As usual, White rolls outside as he tried to bait Ishii to the outside. The disappointment in Kevin Kelly’s voice when Ishii “fell for it” was palpable. Still, it needed a distraction from Gedo to really give White an opening… one that Ishii quickly closed down as he charged White with a shoulder tackle, before heading outside.

White got acclimated to those guard rails as Ishii reached over for a chair, which prompted Gedo to loudly swear as he thought that chair was destined for him. It wasn’t, as Ishii hurled the chair where White was laying, before Gedo again tried to get involved. It works this time too, as White throws Ishii into the ring post after that distraction, before the Kiwi got some retribution by throwing Ishii into the guard rails.

Back inside, White continued to keep the momentum going, coming close with a neckbreaker (which is impressive given Ishii doesn’t have one), before Ishii retaliated with a suplex. Chops follow, including some aimed straight at White’s throat, before White managed to spike Ishii with a DDT, which seemed to cause leave Ishii’s right arm hanging limp. White capitalises with a twisting suplex for a near-fall, before Ishii resisted a series of clotheslines, and hit back with a powerslam instead. The pair descend into back-and-forth strikes, which eventually fell White… only for the former IWGP champion to snap back in with a Flatliner and a snap German suplex. A series of kicks from White just angered Ishii, who stood back up… and got taken down again with a Saito suplex.

He’s back up to deck White with a forearm though, then with a Saito suplex of his own as Ishii tried to assert himself. White’s uranage suplex stops him though, before a Kiwi Krusher drops Ishii for a near-fall. An attempt at Blade Runner follows after he’d softened up Ishii with more elbows, but it’s quickly stopped as Ishii elbowed him away, only to get dropped nastily with a sleeper suplex.

Somehow Ishii’s back up with a German suplex, before a powerbomb nearly put White away. Jay stays down to avoid a sliding lariat, then clings onto Ishii’s leg as Gedo again intervened for a distraction… it gave White time to get up, but it backfires as he ate an enziguiri as a sliding lariat finally connects for a near-fall. Another lariat nearly does the trick, before the sheer drop brainbuster finally gets Ishii the win. My God, this really tore it up towards the end, as the shots needed here from Ishii solidified White’s role – but him losing means he’s not being “lowered” to the NEVER title picture just yet. ****¼

G1 Climax, Block B: Taichi vs. Tetsuya Naito
Is hometown Taichi “good Taichi”? Yoshinobu Kanemaru’s out at ringside with Taichi, who’d been threatening busting out Iizuka’s old Iron Fingers as of late.

Naito turns his back on Taichi during the entrance, perhaps to tempt Taichi into a sneak attack. Instead, we have a rather measured start, as Taichi trolls Naito by sidestepping lockups, before Naito went to the mat, offering an easy pin before he popped up and rolled-up Taichi for an early two-count. Combinacion Cabron lands from Naito after he went Tranquilo, before the pair went outside with Taichi taking those railings. Taichi used Miho Abe as a human shield, which bought him some time as the referee was distracted on the outside, and therefore oblivious to a low blow.

Back on the outside, Naito gets hurled into the guard rail with such force he flipped over and landed into Rocky Romero, who jarred his knee with having Naito land on him. They make it back to the ring as Taichi mocks Naito’s pose, only to get caught with a one-legged dropkick as both men were left on the mat. Neckbreakers from Naito help him towards a two-count afterwards, before some modified head and arm scissors looked to force a submission.

Taichi gets free as he tries to edge ahead of Naito with kicks, scoring with an enziguiri to take the Intercontinental champion down. A superkick misses as Naito ragdolled Taichi with an atomic drop, then counter a powerbomb with a ‘rana. Naito can’t get much momentum going though, as a Saito suplex from Taichi led to a head drop for a near-fall. That seemed to be the cue for Taichi to grab the bag with the Iron Fingers in…

…but he can’t quite use it as Naito’s low dropkick disarmed him ahead of a tornado DDT off the ropes. A top rope ‘rana and a Gloria gets a near-fall, before Taichi blocked Destino and came back with another head kick. Taichi tries another Last Ride powerbomb, and awkwardly dumps Naito as he tried to counter out. Taichi keeps up with a gamengiri, before Naito got free and shoved away the referee. That’s the opening for him to score with his low blow and a reverse ‘rana, before Destino got a near-fall… a second one quickly followed, but it countered into the Black Memphisto (Air Raid Crash).

Taichi’s superkick’s countered into a German suplex, before he ended up pulling the referee into the path of Naito’s flying forearm. You can guess what’s next: the funky oven glove is back, as Naito blocks Kanemaru’s whiskey mist, before ducking the Iron Fingers again. A Snow Plow gets Naito a visual pin, but referee Red Shoes Unno is still out, and couldn’t make the count. From there, Naito signals for another Destino, but it’s countered as Taichi plants him with a thrust kick for a near-fall as we crossed the 20 minute mark. It’s back to the Iron Fingers, as the referee’s again had his attention taken, and third time was the charm as Naito got drilled, before the Last Ride got the win. Taichi can be very hit and miss, but so far in this G1 he’s been knocking it out of the park – and that’s without having to “grade on a curve” too much. ****

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

While not perhaps on consistently a high level as the prior three nights, the run of good G1 shows continues – but now they’ve got a slight break before a three-day stretch at Korakuen Hall starting on Thursday – and that’s where you’d expect everyone to pull out all the tops. That Thursday card’s looking real tasty too…