The G1 well and truly got underway as the first of a three-night run saw a little bit of everything in block B’s opening night.
One week on after it kicked off in Dallas, the G1 Climax returned to Japan as block B got underway in Tokyo. Those who tune into the stream early will have seen that Police Liger’s been done away with, as instead it’s the wacky trio of Honma, Taguchi and Tsuji running through the venue rules. We’re back at the Ota City General Gymnasium in Tokyo for the first of two shows here. Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero and Chris Charlton’s on commentary as New Japan World doesn’t discriminate against Englishmen on commentary.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI) vs. Kota Ibushi, Will Ospreay & Yuya Uemura
We’ve got EVIL/Ibushi and SANADA/Ospreay tomorrow, so why not open with a LIJ tag? Especially one with some fraught emotions to it as EVIL and SANADA face each other on Thursday…
It seems that Ospreay’s real music no longer lives or breathes, as we get an overdub. It’s hit America, Australia and now, Japan. Big elbows get us going between EVIL and Kota, whose ankle is seemingly fine enough to work on as he dropped EVIL with a kick early on. Thing is, EVIL held back from a leapfrog as Ibushi jarred his own ankle, and there’s your opening. We hear a lot of clanging from the outside as EVIL worked a toe hold, prompting a long spell of LIJ wearing down Kota’s ankle. BUSHI’s missile dropkick followed, before he helped out holding Kota’s ankle in the ropes so SANADA could jump onto it. Ibushi successfully fought out of Darkness Falls before clocking EVIL with a head kick, and finally he’s able to tag out of as Ospreay burst into life on SANADA.
A springboard forearm’s good for a near-fall, before Ospreay slipped out of a TKO… only to get tripped as a Paradise Lock awaited him. When Ospreay escaped, SANADA just followed in with the double leapfrog/dropkick, before tags got us to Uemura and BUSHI. That brought some huge shade from Rocky on commentary, but Uemura tried to make BUSHI submit to a Boston crab, only for the LIJ man to make the ropes. Poor Yuya then gets clobbered with some triple-teaming, ending with a back cracker from BUSHI for a two-count. A brief fightback – that saw Uemura come within a split-second of winning with a backslide – ends with an enziguiri and a lungblower from BUSHI… and that was enough. BUSHI didn’t even need to head up top for the MX – the standing one was plenty enough, as the big question coming out of this (and probably the rest of the tour) was: how’s Kota’s ankle going to hold up? ***
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens) vs. Suzuki-gun (Lance Archer & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
Archer’s calmed down his Max Max look from Dallas last week, as Suzuki-gun’s favourite spraying duo rocked up.
We start with the big lads, as they tried to chokeslam and claw each other, before thankfully Chase Owens tagged in. It was a lost cause. Then Kanemaru came in and a match broke out, with Owens using an inverted cravat… only for Archer to come in as the big lads chokeslammed their opponents. Yeah, I’m not expecting much from their match tomorrow. Anyway, Fale and Archer brawl into the aisle, while Owens and Kanemaru barely beat the 20-count. Kanemaru tried to spice this up with a low dropkick to Chase, taking him into the corner before Archer returned to the ring and POUNCE’d Chase. Fale’s back too with a rather less impressive shoulder tackle, before he shoved down the ref.
Kanemaru sprays whiskey at Fale to take him outside, before a satellite DDT takes down Owens for a near-fall. Owens avoids the Deep Impact and rolled Kanemaru into a knee strike, before a package piledriver finds the mark, and thank Christ this is over. At least Archer was able/willing to do something, but I have big worries about that singles match… *½
KENTA, Clark Connors & Karl Fredericks vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shota Umino & Ren Narita
Well, isn’t this a nice treat for the Young Lions? There’s a brief scuffle before the match as the New Japan and LA Dojo Young Lions got into it – that’ll be a heck of a story to follow throughout the tour and beyond…
Narita and Connors get us going with some mat wrestling, which flowed seamlessly before a tag got made to Umino… who wanted to face Fredericks. So that’s a tag, Umino doesn’t immediately take it to the mat, instead looking to work over the arm before he found his shoulder tackle was ineffective. So we get help as Narita and Umino double-team Fredericks with back elbows for just a one-count. Fredericks fights back with some chops to Umino, before Connors tagged himself back in as the Americans hit a double-hiptoss so they could keep focusing on Shota. Oh, here’s KENTA to just absolutely wallop Shota with a forearm. Standard.
KENTA makes a point of knocking Tanahashi off the apron as he poked that proverbial bear, all while my feed decided to take a bath. It’s back as Shota took down KENTA with a missile dropkick… and now we get KENTA/Tanahashi! The crowd roared for that as the pair walloped each other with elbows. A flip senton from Tanahashi looked to set up for a Slingblade, but that’s ducked as KENTA ended up kicking his way into a Dragon screw. Connors comes in to chop away Tanahashi’s Cloverleaf attempt, but he’s quickly sent outside as KENTA decided to slap Tanahashi. A diving knee stopped Tanahashi next as the pair briefly looked to be on different lines of the same story, and then we’re back to the youngsters as Fredericks and Narita trade big strikes. Narita’s Boston crab gets switched up into the leg lace in the middle of the ring… but Connors breaks it up as he opted to just knee Narita… who came back with his overhead belly-to-belly!
Narita goes back to Fredericks… only to get stopped with a dropkick, then a spinebuster and a single-leg crab as Fredericks sat down on Narita for the submission. That was a hell of an outing for the dojo lads, and I want to see a whole lot more of these guys. Connors and Fredericks fit this environment like a glove. ***¼
Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Minoru Suzuki) vs. Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI
Sabre’s already declared that he wants to win the G1 and cash in his title shot at the Copper Box in London in August. If he beats Okada tomorrow, he may get that wish regardless…
Those two get us going, with Sabre grounding Okada in the early stages, but a big boot from Okada turned it around… and then he did something daft, like tag in YOSHI-HASHI. Sabre makes him pay for it by bringing Suzuki in, as the pair trade chops… until Suzuki threw YOSHI-HASHI outside in the search for a rear naked choke. Poor YOSHI ends up in the railings as Suzuki did his usual brawling in the crowd, before they headed back to the ring as Suzuki tried to yank YOSHI’s shoulder from its socket. Sabre and Suzuki work well to continue to twist YOSHI’s bad wing, before a PK from Suzuki only got a one-count as YOSHI showed some defiance. Ill-advised defiance, but defiance nonetheless.
A chop actually floors Suzuki, but he’s back up and booting YOSHI in no time, only to run into a Western lariat. Tags get us back to Sabre and Okada, with Zack almost making the champion tap out as YOSHI-HASHI came in to kick away the Octopus stretch. A dropkick from Okada stopped Sabre, as YOSHI returned to the match, seemingly a step ahead of Sabre for once. YOSHI suplexes away a guillotine choke, but couldn’t quite get it over the line despite landing another Western lariat. Okada and Suzuki brawl on the outside as Sabre countered out of Karma, rolling YOSHI back to the mat in a cross armbar that forces the instant submission. This was quite good, with YOSHI-HASHI showing some rare fire – but I do fear that any of this is much too late for him as the die’s long since been cast on his career. ***
G1 Climax, Block B: Shingo Takagi vs. Juice Robinson
Less than a year after debuting in New Japan, Shingo’s making his G1 debut – just weeks after being the runner up in Best of the Super Junior… and you could say there’s perhaps a look of trepidation from him here.
After an early exchange of strikes, Shingo caught a leapfrog before he ended up running into a leaping leg lariat. He turned things around, pulling Juice to the outside ahead of a DDT onto the floor – and it was one-way traffic from there for a while as Shingo started to settle into a groove. More chops from Shingo sting, but Juice replied to each one of them, before a slingshot spear through the ropes got Juice right back in it. A spinebuster followed, then a crossbody that looked to bounce Shingo’s head off the mat as Juice picked up a near-fall. Takagi’s able to block the Juice Box, but not a full nelson slam as the former US champion almost took the win. Dusty punches follow, but Shingo stopped him with a lariat… then avoided a cannonball as Juice crashed and burned into the corner.
Shingo tries to capitalise with Noshigami, but Juice slips out and finally connects with the Juice Box. That left Shingo in the corner as the cannonball finds its mark at the second try, following up with a suplex and a Jackhammer for a near-fall as Shingo was finding life among the heavyweights a little tricky. Shingo manages to avoid Pulp Friction, quickly following in with a sliding lariat. That seemed to give Juice an idea as they trade lariats, but it’s Shingo who edges ahead, dropping Juice with a Saito suplex… but he’s right back up as a lariat decked the Dragon, only for Pulp Friction to get effortlessly countered into Noshigami! Juice tries to roll away, but instead Shingo cuts him off with a massive Pumping Bomber… but it doesn’t get the win! These heavyweights be tougher than the juniors! An attempt at Made in Japan’s blocked as Juice ends up slipping out into a roll-up for a very near-fall, before two Left Hands of God softened up Shingo for Pulp Friction… and that’s the opening loss. This was absolutely superb stuff – Shingo’s not having it all his own way among the heavyweights, but Juice had to bring his A-game in order to get the win too. ****
G1 Climax, Block B: Taichi vs. Jon Moxley
This could be great, or this could be rotten. Taichi can blow hot and cold, and we’ve got a big question mark over Moxley in New Japan…
Shota Umino was out with Moxley, carrying the title and shadowing his “New Japan Dad”, but Taichi meets Moxley in the crowd, attacking him on his long walk to the ring, using a fan’s umbrella as well as he tried to weaken Mox before the bell. They ring the bell anyway as they continued to brawl, but Taichi throws the referee aside so he could use a chair on Moxley. After beating the count-out, Moxley gets caught with a buzzsaw kick for a near-fall… and off come the trousers! A leaping enziguiri snuffs out Moxley’s fight back, but he has another go, scoring with a sunset flip before charging Taichi into the corner with some strikes. Another clothesline dropped Taichi next, taking him outside for a tope.
Out comes a table… but Moxley nearly sees it backfire on him as Taichi tries to powerbomb him through it, only for the pair to switch sides as Moxley breaks the table with a uranage! Back inside, a running knee from Moxley nearly gets the win, before he got shoved into the referee as Taichi looked to win via shenanigans. An attempt at using a chair goes awry for Taichi as Moxley ends up using it, but Taichi outsmarted him with a Gedo clutch for a near-fall… only for Moxley to spike Taichi with the Death Rider (implant double-arm DDT) for the win. This was real fun – from the brawl beforehand, and it didn’t go too long for it to waver off course either. ***½
G1 Climax, Block B: Tetsuya Naito vs. Toru Yano
So, what Yano are we getting this year? Is he going to be the trickster again, or is he going to be back to Fair Play?
Yano gets very agitated at how slowly Naito undresses, so Yano decides to put his shirt back on. It must be cold in Tokyo? The bell rings for this t-shirt match, and we’ve got your favourite spots – Yano removing the turnbuckle pads, hooking himself in the ropes… before Naito tries to subvert us. Naito spits at Yano, pulls his t-shirt over his head then rolls him up for a near-fall, before a heavily delayed Combinacion Cabron connects in the corner. Getting hold of the turnbuckle pad, Naito tries to use it as a golf club… but the referee disarms him as Yano tried to win with a roll-up. There’s more scares for Naito, as he gets low blowed and speared to the back, then rolled up for the pin! Well, that’s my picks for today well and truly shot, but this was another slab of Comedy Yano. If you like him, you’ll like it, if not, you probably already skipped over. **½
G1 Climax, Block B: Jeff Cobb vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Hope you like your big lads hitting each other…
After Cobb made light work of lifting Ishii up towards the ropes, these started clattering into each other. Shoulder tackles, elbows, and some more shoulder tackles as Ishii got knocked down. Now we get chops, as Cobb lit up Ishii’s chest, staggering the NEVER champion down into the corner. Ishii switches around with a mix of chops and forearms to send Cobb down to his knees, but Big Jeff had plenty left in the tank, even if Ishii’s stinging strikes kept taking him down to the mat. Cobb finally hits back by throwing Ishii across the ring, but it’s back to the back-and-forth forearms as Cobb eventually began to fade.
Cobb’s suckerpunch caught out Ishii, who charged back out of the corner with a shoulder tackle, following in with a suplex for just a one-count as Cobb rolls back and back to his feet… while holding Ishii in a suplex. That’s just not fair. A dropkick misses from Cobb, but he’s quickly back up with a slam into a suplex on Ishii, following with a standing moonsault for a near-fall. Cobb tries to keep up with a bevy of forearms, but Ishii just walks straight through them, as the pair continue to throw bombs at each other. Ishii’s lifted up top for a superplex, following in with a big piledriver as the pace seemed to slow – while the volume of the blows did not. Ishii refuses to stay down, and charges back at Cobb with a powerslam… but Cobb replies with an Exploder as neither man seemed to stay down… until a lariat finally did the trick!
Ishii seemed to have landed his sliding lariat… only for Cobb to catch it. Nevermind, Ishii countered into a Dragon suplex before hitting a regular lariat… for a one count! A superkick and a German suplex gets Cobb back into things, as he looked for a Tour of the Islands, but his back gives out, allowing Ishii to hit an enziguiri. More back and forth led to Ishii finally landing that brainbuster, and that’s enough to keep Cobb down for the three-count. This was exactly what you expected out of these lads – lots of heavy hitting without ever feeling too trope-y or too reliant on the greatest hits for reactions. If you’re cherry picking, this is one to add to your list! ****¼
G1 Climax, Block B: Jay White vs. Hirooki Goto
While White had new gear, Goto was out in a plain LA Dojo tee. We start with White heading outside for a chair as he told Gedo to take a seat. Always looking after his elders.
Those shenanigans seemed to inspire Goto, who just clotheslines White to the outside, before he tried to chase Gedo to the back. Yeah, that distraction’s going to cost Goto, especially as Gedo came back to hold him in the ropes as White burst into life. A front suplex drops Goto onto the edge of the ring, before White took him between the guard rails and apron with a series of charges. Back in the ring, Red Shoes Unno refused to count a pin after all that, so White has to restart… and reset as Goto came in with chops, only for the Kiwi to come back in with an elbow and a neckbreaker. White keeps on restraining Goto with a cravat, but White’s trash-talking only served to fire up Goto every now and then.
Eventually Goto fought back in with a discus clothesline, before a kick took White spinning into the corner as the flurry continued. A spinning heel kick and a Saito suplex led to a near-fall, only for White to come back in with a baseball slide and a DDT as he tried to close the door on Goto. The Three Amigos have White ahead, only for Goto to pull him into a backbreaker as back-and-forth strikes broke out… again, leaving Goto in the ropes. Goto blocks a Blade Runner, but after a confusing series of rope runs, White stops him in his tracks with a Saito suplex. Another clothesline keeps it up, as White tried to pin Goto with his foot on the chest… but again, the referee refuses to count.
So White continues to toy around with Goto, only to shove down the referee as he tried to break it up… and that opening allowed Goto to get back up and begin another fightback. From there, Goto lands an ushigoroshi, but White stayed down to avoid a buzzsaw kick to frustrate his foe once more. Another quick flurry saw White escape a GTR, only to get decked with a headbutt, as a reverse GTR nearly led to the finish. Some more exchanges take us into a Bladerunner, but Goto uses a handful of hair to block it, then some headbutts on the way to a GTR. Gedo tried to get involved again, but Goto stares him down before going after White… countering a Blade Runner attempt into a Shouten Kai for a near-fall. Another ushigoroshi plants White, but it’s still not enough, before a GTR finally shut White up and got the win. I’ll be honest, this match just didn’t do it for me. Goto’s not on the same level as YOSHI-HASHI, but the number of high profile losses has got him down as damaged goods to some degree – which makes it incredibly difficult to get into his matches, especially when they’re headliners like this. ***¾
After everyone’s had one match, the blocks are pretty clear cut…
Lance Archer, Bad Luck Fale, KENTA, Kazuchika Okada, SANADA (1-0; 2pts)
EVIL, Kota Ibushi, Will Ospreay, Zack Sabre Jr., Hiroshi Tanahashi (0-1; 0pts)
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)
The B block’s opening night, while not as high as the opener in Dallas, was a big success in-ring. As long as you overlook that Archer/Fale tag… but I doubt anyone was looking for those two to pull up any trees. There’s some scattered gems on the undercard here, such as the LA Dojo vs. New Japan Dojo tag which should blossom throughout the tour. If you’re only bothered about the G1 matches, well Moxley/Taichi delivered a different kind of match, while Cobb/Ishii was exactly what we desired… and then some. We’re two nights in and the G1’s already heating up – just wait for that little stretch at Korakuen next week!