The third night of the G1 saw the historical aces of New Japan and Pro Wrestling NOAH collide in the main event!

Night three stays at Ota City General Gymnasium in Tokyo. Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero and Chris Charlton remain on commentary..

Hirooki Goto, Tomoaki Honma & Yuya Uemura vs. Juice Robinson, Toa Henare & Yota Tsuji
I’m sure you can guess the match for tomorrow… and yes, Juice’s gear really is “the Undertaker with colours”.

The Young Lions start us off here trading chops early on, as Tsuji’s shoulder tackle sent his opponent into the corner, where Honma eventually tagged in. Wow, so quick? Henare’s in too, avoiding a Kokeshi attempt as he started to put the boots to Honma. That led to a period where Honma was on the defensive, at least until he chopped down Juice and landed a Kokeshi. We got a flash of Goto/Juice ahead of tomorrow, with Goto ducking a leg lariat and Juice avoiding an ushigoroshi, but it was duelling clotheslines that felled both men. We’re back to Henare and Uemura, with the latter scoring with some dropkicks for a near-fall, before Henare blocked a capture suplex. He’s quickly back in with a spear tackle for a two-count, before some more strikes took Henare into the uranage for the win. This was fine for the opener, ticking the boxes as much as you could in a match between two good guys with little at stake. **¾

Jon Moxley & Shota Umino vs. Jeff Cobb & Ren Narita
Hey, Mox and Shota came through the crowd!

Narita charges into Umino at the bell, cornering him with a series of forearms as “Shooter” struggled out of the gates… then came back with a shoulder tackle. His big bad dad Moxley’s in quickly after that, calling plays as they worked into a Hart Attack clothesline before Mox just bounced Narita off the ropes. Umino’s back to stomp through Narita, but tags quickly get us to Cobb and Moxley knocking seven shades of you know what out of each other. Moxley avoids a suplex, but couldn’t get Death Rider off. A Tour of the Islands was also avoided as Umino tagged back in to take Cobb down with a missile dropkick… and then Cobb sandbags the Young Lion.

A suplex doesn’t come off, as Cobb just waffled Umino with a forearm before he ended up taking that suplex for a near-fall… only for “Shooter” to get caught off the ropes with a Tour of the Islands as Cobb made light work of him. Umino did well, but Moxley has a lot to teach him… **¾

I like how Moxley again carries the lifeless body of Umino to the back afterwards…

Bullet Club (Jay White, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI
It’s White/Ishii tomorrow, which is where the spotlight’ll be going here. Just the demeanours across the CHAOS trio were markedly different – YOSHI-HASHI looking nervous, pulling on his collar on the way to the ring… the jovial Yano… and the stoney-faced Ishii.

YOSHI and Yujiro get us going, as YOSHI seemed to shed those nerves to score with a Headhunter early on. The Bullet Club clear the ring though, as White tosses Ishii over the guard railings, giving Chris Charlton an unexpected present. Back in the ring, White nearly pinned YOSHI with a back elbow as the isolation continued. A suplex from YOSHI-HASHI finally got him free, but Jay White’s in to stop him from tagging out… only for his attempt to knock Ishii off the apron to come to nought. Ishii comes in, but White quickly powders… except Yano just throws him back in to take his beating as Ishii wasn’t messing around here. Thing is, White struck back with a DDT and a Twister suplex, before a Saito suplex from Ishii got him back in front ahead of the obligatory finisher teases. Another Saito suplex has Ishii down, with Yano begging for the tag…

…and we get to Owens and Yano! Off comes the turnbuckle pad, but he ducks a shot from Owens… only to get clotheslines with it. Oh Yano. We get another flurry of Ishii and White as the match headed towards its finale, with Owens nearly laying out the ref with an errant pad shot, which left Yano free for a low blow and a roll-up to take the win. Fine for what it was, but it’s the Ishii/White stuff that was the highlight of an otherwise by-the-numbers match. **½

Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI)
It’s interesting that the Suzuki-gun trio didn’t come out to Taichi’s music – I guess the group’s the “brand” here?

Guess what? We had a jump start!

Taichi and Naito didn’t get involved though, as they just took their time before swatting each other with kicks and forearms. Naito spits at Taichi to stop that tide, then gets a receipt as they eventually joined everyone else on the outside. Kanemaru took Naito into the railings for the step-up legdrop, which just left Naito in deeper trouble as Suzuki-gun triple-teamed him back in the ring. Taichi stays in control, using Naito’s own baseball jersey to choke him with, before an attempt at the Stretch Plum almost forced the submission… only for BUSHI to break it up. I must say, it is odd how much of tomorrow’s match we’re getting here. Off come Taichi’s shiny trousers, but Naito’s able to stop him as tags got us to Shingo and Kanemaru.

Finally the pace gets upped here, with Shingo popping up Kanemaru before getting caught with an enziguiri. A low dropkick from Kanemaru drops Shingo, as Suzuki wanted in… a PK quickly lands for a two-count, but Shingo’s able to counter Suzuki’s guillotine into a suplex as BUSHI wanted in for some reason. BUSHI manages to take down Suzuki with a missile dropkick as LIJ triple-teamed everyone’s favourite murder grandpa. Suzuki eventually finds his way into a quick rear naked choke before he kills BUSHI with a short Gotch piledriver, and that’s a quick win. This was fine, but the amount of Taichi/Naito we got here would make me think that their match won’t go long… except it’s the main event in Taichi’s hometown. ***

After the match, Taichi pulls out Iizuka’s old Iron Fingers from the bag he’s been carrying around since February. That’s going to come into play on this tour, isn’t it…

G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. Lance Archer
Needless to say, expectations are low. They sink even lower when Jado comes out to “enforce”…

Commentary keeps mentioning how Fale’s not been pinned or made to submit in the G1 for over a year, and with Archer laying out some Young Lions on his way to the ring, you’ve gotta wonder if he’s not just tiring himself out. We start off positively with the two big lads charging into each other, before Archer just speared himself and Fale through the ropes to the outside! Archer throws Fale into the guard rails so hard a monitor flies off, before Jado gets involved with that Kendo stick. It’s a distraction so Fale can attack from behind, and take the match into the crowd. Quite literally, in fact, as Archer got thrown into the crowd, with those chairs proving sturdier than they seemed.

They both make it back to the ring so Fale can stand on Archer’s back, then choke him in the ropes. A missed elbow drop gives Archer an opening, which he tries to capitalise on with shoulder tackles, before a crossbody out of the corner earned him a near-fall. Fale stops some rope walking as he unsights the referee – just so Jado could use the Kendo stick – before a superplex hit the mat so hard that even the referee fell! Despite that superplex popping up a couple of boards from under the ring, Fale can only get a two-count from it, before he got caught up top as Archer looked for a Black Out… only for Fale to slip out and score with a Grenade for another near-fall. Archer tries his luck with a chokeslam, but he has to fend off Jado before he POUNCE’d Fale!?!

From there, Archer chokeslams Fale for a two-count, before the EBD Claw puts Fale down for the pin. This was a lot slower than you’ve come to expect from New Japan’s big lads, but these two put in a hell of an effort to make this watchable and at times, enjoyable. That superplex… man. ***

G1 Climax, Block A: SANADA vs. Will Ospreay
Going by the VTR they air on the pre-show, it looks like Ospreay’s music rights aren’t a temporary thing. New Japan badly need to get him away from the Land of Overdubs, ASAP.

Ospreay and SANADA keep it restrained early on, before they suddenly turned it up into the obligatory double-dropkick standoff spot. Both guys revelled in the split crowd as Ospreay tripped up SANADA and tried to put him in a Paradise Lock… but nobody ever accused Will of being technical, so it doesn’t come off. Instead, SANADA puts him in it… but Ospreay rolls free quickly as commentary sold that it wasn’t “properly in” and took a surprised SANADA out with a dropkick before he faked out the dive. Back inside, SANADA absorbs some clotheslines before he ties up Ospreay in the ropes, this time properly tying in that Paradise Lock as a dropkick set him free. A handspring enziguiri drops SANADA, as did an over-the-top 619 before Ospreay wheelbarrowed him into a stomp. Heading outside, a Sasuke special lands flush on SANADA, as the pace looked to quicken.

SANADA’s double leapfrog/dropkick takes Ospreay back out for a pescado, following back inside the ring with a back suplex as the former IWGP tag champion started to take control. Reversals on top of reversals saw SANADA’s TKO escaped… only for him to roll Ospreay through and take a hook kick, before a handspring from Ospreay finally got countered into that TKO. They went the long way around, but that was a good exchange. With both men back on their feet, we got duelling forearms and head kicks, before Ospreay floated away from a SANADA springboard and landed a nice Liger bomb. A shooting star press had Ospreay fly most of the way across the ring for a near-fall, before an attempt at Storm Breaker’s slipped out of as SANADA locked in a Skull End, swinging Ospreay around before dumping him for a moonsault.

Ospreay rolls away and rebounds with a Spanish Fly for a two-count. A Robinson special followed, only for an OsCutter to get caught as a Skull End was again teased, before Ospreay hits a hook kick and finally lands an OsCutter. He holds onto the head though, and rolls through into a Storm Breaker, and that’s Will’s first two points! That felt like they were holding back from an even better match, this was exceptional stuff. The amount of stuff they made look stupidly easy was amazing… and I can’t wait for their “even better” match down the line. ****½

G1 Climax, Block A: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kazuchika Okada
Well, this is the one Sabre perhaps needs to win if he’s going to be getting a headline role at the New Japan show in London next month.

Sabre suckered Okada into his game from the off, dragging him into a stranglehold early that the pair easily countered back-and-forth from. Heck, after Sabre almost pins Okada, he quickly pulled the champion into a Banana Split as he perhaps looked to go Orienteering with Napalm Death, but fortunately it’s right by the ropes. Okada doesn’t get back to his feet quickly though, so Sabre toys with him… only for Okada to come right back with a spiking DDT, before his attempt at a flapjack was countered neatly into a guillotine choke. Sabre’s making this look effortless, much like Ospreay in the last match. That guillotine got lifted and countered into a neckbreaker slam as Okada went up top… and lands his elbow drop ahead of the Rainmaker zoom-out.

A dropkick and a tombstone nastily spikes Sabre, but he’s quickly back with a modified Octopus stretch to try and avoid putting pressure on his own neck (largely because of THAT tombstone). Okada’s dragged to the mat as he seemed to be close to tapping, but instead Sabre’s gotten back up and begins to stomp away on the champion again. Kicks leave Okada on his knees, before a Timothy Thatcher-like goozle and chop has Okada back down. Another PK’s blocked though, so Sabre slaps Okada silly, only to get greeted with a pair of dropkicks. A Euro clutch out of nothing nearly does it, before a crucifix cradle got the same result. Okada’s back to the tombstone, but Sabre tries to roll out, then countered a Rainmaker into some headscissors, only for the Rainmaker to land. A second one follows, and that’s enough for the win. That felt like a natural finish, as the pair were going at such a pace that anything could have ended it. Sabre’s game here was sound, but in the end it was that tombstone that seemed to derail him. ****

G1 Climax, Block A: EVIL vs. Kota Ibushi
In yesterday’s “preview tag”, EVIL made a point of going after Kota’s injured ankle… so expect a lot of that today.

The pair charge at each other like bulls from the off, before a series of kicks put EVIL down. EVIL quickly took Ibushi down with him, working over the leg and ankle as Ibushi dragged himself into the corner… and into the path of a Bronco buster as EVIL was keeping things deliberate. A kick-out just saw Ibushi expose his leg, as EVIL locks in an ankle lock for fun, eventually forcing a rope break as he’d completely neutered Ibushi’s style. Ibushi hobbles as he’s whipped across the ring, before he came back with a dropkick that may have done more harm than good. A back senton from EVIL gets him back on track, but he couldn’t land Darkness Falls and ended up running into a powerslam as Ibushi tried to get into his usual game, landing a moonsault out of the corner for a near-fall.

A superplex from EVIL restores order, before a clothesline gave Kota a new way to land on his head. The pair trade Dragon suplexes that left them on jelly legs… so why not restart with elbows as they climbed back to their feet? EVIL goes low with a kick to the bad leg though, then stands on the bad ankle ahead of a Scorpion Deathlock attempt… but they’re way too close to the ropes. Ibushi tries to box his way back in, sending EVIL turtling up into the ropes ahead of some kicks. EVIL shoves the referee into Ibushi as he started to get more violent, but Ibushi’s back with a clothesline for a near-fall. Kota tries for Kamigoye, but EVIL rolls through neatly into a Scorpion Deathlock, eventually forcing another rope break before he looked to pull a SANADA, heading up top… instead going for a back senton off the top, which missed. That opened the door for Ibushi, who lands a pair of Bomaye knees for a near-fall, before a Kamigoye was blocked!

EVIL couldn’t get his finish off, so instead he just lariats Ibushi to the mat, then bounced him off the mat with Darkness Falls for a two-count… before Everything Is EVIL planted Kota for the win. This was technically fine, but it lacked any kind of spark to capture your attention or anything like that. I’ve a feeling this’ll be a long G1 for Kota with the ankle injury, but I wouldn’t be too shocked if he mounted the typical G1 comeback. ***¾

Katsuyori Shibata comes to ringside before the main event, as two of his boys were about to lock horns in a special one…

G1 Climax, Block A: KENTA vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
On paper, these two haven’t exactly set the world on fire recently, with a lot of questions over nagging injuries and the proverbial ring rust perhaps overshadowing things on the way in here.

The pair open up with a long tie-up into the ropes, which led to KENTA slapping Tanahashi. There’s a receipt, which sparks back-and-forth elbows to the head, before Tanahashi boxed his way ahead… only for KENTA to kick him in the head as Tana tried to air-guitar. Tanahashi’s reply was to pull KENTA outside and whip him into the railings, but of course, KENTA replies in kind, taking him into the aisleway for a big DDT. KENTA seemed to make a point of keeping some of the beating in and around Shibata’s general vicinity before taking the match back inside. Some knee drops and a playful back heel get the crowd on KENTA’s back, before a running knee to the gut drops Tanahashi for a two-count.

A kick to the back of Tanahashi just annoyed the Ace, who stood up and… got taken down with another knee to the gut. KENTA, who’s still technically an outsider here I guess, continued to wear down the “home team”’s star with kicks, which eventually got countered into a Dragon screw. A slam sets Tanahashi up for a flip senton, which finds its mark for a quick two-count, before KENTA kicked and slammed his way back into it. A springboard missile dropkick from KENTA takes Tanahashi back into the corner for a running boot, then the Shibata-ish dropkick as a double stomp off the top drew another near-fall. KENTA tries for the Go 2 Sleep, but it’s blocked and countered into some rolling Dragon screws as Tanahashi seemed to have found an answer to all that offence. Tanahashi follows in with a Cloverleaf, but KENTA rolls through and nearly steals the win before a draping DDT off the middle rope turned the tide back around.

KENTA looks for a Busaiku knee, but instead got met with a Slingblade as the pair resumed trading elbows. Some right hands get stopped by KENTA, whose discus lariat followed in, as another Go 2 Sleep’s countered into Twist and Shout, followed by a Slingblade and a High Fly Flow crossbody. Tanahashi doesn’t go for the pin though, instead heading back up top for the frog splash… but KENTA gets his knees up at the last second! Tanahashi tries to mount a comeback, but ends up in a rear naked choke before he caught another PK. Not to worry, KENTA uses his free knee to avoid a Dragon screw before the PK landed flush, as did the Go 2 Sleep… and KENTA leaves Tokyo with the win! That was a low-key good match, but unlike yesterday’s main event this one at least had the feeling of a big match. KENTA’s slowly losing that rust, as Tanahashi is showing he’s not as broken down as everyone was thinking, as KENTA’s started life in New Japan with wins over both of last years G1 finalists. ****

After the match, KENTA offered a handshake for Tanahashi, who blew him off as he got carried to the back instead. That got a mixed reaction…

So, two matches in for block A, and there’s a lot of surprising placements – with unexpected names at the top and bottom.

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

So, another really good show continued the trend in the G1 this year. Fale/Archer wasn’t as bad as many feared, while the remainder of the G1 matches delivered in spades. Ospreay/SANADA was perhaps the standout of the night, but if you’re looking to cherry-pick, then I’m afraid you’re sat with at least ⅘s of the G1 card today!

The G1’s back tomorrow in Hokkaido, headlining with Naito vs. Taichi in the main event before taking a few days off…