Better late than never, this year’s G1 Climax is underway, with Kazuchika Okada and Kota Ibushi headlining on the opening night in Osaka.
Yuya Uemura submitted Yota Tsuji in 6:57 (**¾)
G1 Climax 30, Block A: Will Ospreay pinned Yujiro Takahashi in 7:44 (***¼)
G1 Climax 30, Block A: Taichi pinned Jeff Cobb in 12:48 (***½)
G1 Climax 30, Block A: Minoru Suzuki pinned Tomohiro Ishii in 12:59 (****½)
G1 Climax 30, Block A: Jay White pinned Shingo Takagi in 19:29 (***¾)
G1 Climax 30, Block A: Kota Ibushi pinned Kazuchika Okada in 21:35 (***½)
2020 has been a very tumultuous year. While the G1 was meant to have been moved to later in the year anyway, the reason changed – as the Tokyo Olympics, much like the rest of the world, was put on hold as a result of the pandemic.
It’d be totally remiss to not mention that this is the first G1 since we lost Larry Csonka. Its been four months since his passing, and there’s not a day that goes by that he’s not missed – even on those selfish moments when you’re the only one around watching and writing up these early shows. The GoFundMe for Larry’s family is still open, so if you haven’t donated yet, please do: https://www.gofundme.com/f/larrymania-living-on-in-his-girls
We’re starting in the Edion Arena in Osaka for the first of two shows. This year’s G1 is doing away with the long undercards, as each line-up is going to be block-exclusive, with only a Young Lion match rounding out the line-ups. It’s not an official “Block C”, but you bet your arse I’m going to be tracking that.
Yuya Uemura vs. Yota Tsuji
Tsuji’s gotten shaved for the occasion, as we start with a lock-up that headed into the ropes.
Uemura tries his luck with a side headlock, but Tsuji gets out… and ends up in a wristlock as the pair went back-and-forth on holds. On the mat, Uemura goes for a cross armbar, but Tsuji rolls free and back in with a side headlock. Again, Uemura goes in with headscissors, but Tsuji gets out… only to get caught with a hammerlock on the mat as Uemura rolled him for a pinning attempt. They stay at close quarters, swapping headlocks before they got to their feet, with a shove-off allowing Tsuji to hit a shoulder tackle. He hits the ropes, but gets caught with an armdrag, before a grounded Octopus-like stretch ended quickly in the ropes. Uemura goes for a slam, but it’s blocked as Tsuji hits one of his own as the pair then went back-and-forth with elbows.
It’s an elbow from Tsuji that led to a back body drop, then a suplex as Uemura was almost put away. Tsuji’s attempt at a half crab ends in the ropes, so he chops away at Uemura in the corner, following up with a slap and another shoulder tackle. An Irish whip takes Uemura across the ring for a Stinger splash, but he dropkicks Tsuji away as he was being teed up for a spear. Uemura comes right back with a Capture suplex for a two-count, but instantly rolled in for a Boston crab from the kick-out. Tsuji hand-walks to the ropes, but he’s dragged away… before Uemura went all Lion Tamer on him to force the submission. A nice heated opener with Uemura getting a rare win over his dojo foe. **¾
I know it’s rough debuting new Young Lions, but aren’t we due a fresh class anytime soon?
G1 Climax 30 – Block A: Yujiro Takahashi vs. Will Ospreay
They went to the effort to do a new entrance video for Yujiro. Ospreay’s back in Japan for the first time since February, and gets a warm reception from the Osaka crowd.
We start with a tie-up into the ropes, but Yujiro cheapshots on the break… and my feed drops. It’s back with Ospreay faking out a dive, before he hurled Yujiro back outside for a plancha attempt. It misses, as Yujiro instead rakes the eyes, only to get whipped into the guard rails.
Yujiro returns by shoving Ospreay into the rails ahead of a reverse DDT, before they return to the ring to trade elbows and chops. An Irish whip and a running front kick traps Ospreaay in the corner, before a low dropkick gets a two-count, before a slam added a similar result. Leg drops, elbow drops and a falling headbutt keeps the pressure up, before Ospreay avoided a low dropkick as he… ended up getting bitten. A handspring enziguiri catches Yujiro off guard, as does a Manhattan drop, a chop and a standing shooting star press which gets Ospreay a near-fall. The springboard forearm is next, before Ospreay went for a Storm Breaker… but Yujiro slips out and backslide his way in for a Pimp Juice DDT.
It doesn’t come off, as Ospreay hits a wall-flip enziguiri off of Yujiro, who then replied with an Incolle Slam out of nowhere. The Miami Shine’s next for a near-fall, before Ospreay rolled up out of a Pimp Juice attempt for a near-fall. A lariat from Yujiro folds Ospreay in half, but Will’s back quickly as he flipped out of a Tokyo Pimps attempt, then hit Yujiro with a Storm Breaker for the win. Decent enough, with Yujiro looking better than his usual self at times. The Japanese commentary audibly loved Ospreay still being able to move despite his increased size. ***¼
We get a post-match promo… because that’s not going to pour oil on the fire. Moving on…
This is going to be a recurring theme around the G1 this year. Will Ospreay’s inclusion was at best divisive among Western fans, and while it’s easy to say “but it’s a Japanese promotion,” it’s key to remember that “it’s a Japanese promotion that’s had eyes on expanding beyond Japan” for quite some time. Moves like this will erode goodwill with fans, especially against the backdrop of anything that could be construed as meaningful and genuine contrition. Heaven knows what the “look” will be if they take him all the way in the G1…
G1 Climax 30 – Block A: Jeff Cobb vs. Taichi
Taichi gets the long entrance here, and there’s no jump start as he took his time to disrobe. He also doesn’t hurry things up at the bell, as he wandered around the ropes, antagonising Gabriel Kidd at ringside, before finally locking-up with Cobb.
I’m being generous there, as he let Cobb walk him into the ropes for a break. Wash, rinse and repeat, before a single-leg attempt from Cobb ended with Taichi hopping into the ropes for safety. Taichi tries for a kick… it’s caught as Cobb chops him into the ropes, before a leapfrog and a dropkick from the big man took Taichi to the outside. Taichi wanders around ringside and grabs the timekeeper’s mallet, which he used on Cobb’s leg on the outside. It’s not a DQ because the referee’s blind, but Taichi followed that up by wrapping Cobb’s leg around the guard rails. Back inside, Taichi stretches Cobb’s leg as he tried to torque away at the knee, but Cobb gets to the ropes.
Taichi stands on Cobb’s knees in the ropes, following up with an eye rake before an Axe Bomber was ducked, with Cobb landing a lariat in return. A shoulder charge takes Taichi into the corner, with Cobb following up with a leaping back elbow and a running back suplex for a two-count. An Irish whip takes Taichi into the corner, but Cobb misses a splash and got caught with an enziguiri as we then went to the back-and-forth. Attempts at giving Cobb a dead leg just earn Taichi forearm shots, with an elbow knocking him down. My feed drops again, and comes back with Taichi ripping off the trousers. That feels like a first in the covid-era, right? He sizes up for a thrust kick, but Cobb caught him with an elevated death valley driver, then a standing moonsault for a near-fall.
Cobb gets rolled up out of a Spin Cycle for a near-fall, before he misses another charge into the corner, which earned him a gamengiri to the back of the head and a Dangerous backdrop driver. An Axe Bomber collides for a near-fall, but Cobb’s seemingly too big for Black Memphisto, and counters out with some rolling gutwrench suplexes. Nice. Another Axe Bomber’s countered into the Spin Cycle, before Cobb threw Taichi into the ropes for a Tour of the Islands… but he slips out and lands an enziguiri. A superkick from Taichi has Cobb down, before he managed to hoist him up for Black Memphisto for the win. This was very slow to start, but picked up by the end, with Taichi picking up the opening night win. Slow and steady clearly wins this race. ***½
G1 Climax 30 – Block A: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Minoru Suzuki
This is gonna be a cracker! They’ve only had four singles matches in their history, with three of them being over the Rev Pro British Heavyweight title when they traded that back-and-forth two years ago…
Suzuki’s not bringing the NEVER title with him – no need for extra baggage here as he’s not one to show off. They start off hot, trading palm strikes to get the Osaka crowd going, but it’s Suzuki who drew first blood, taking Ishii into the corner for elbows… only for Ishii to monster up and hit elbows of his own. A body blow from Suzuki looked to turn the tide, before he scurried away from a brainbuster attempt. GREAT. They reconvene with elbows as Suzuki busted out the clonkers early, but Ishii ends up running into a boot before he got caught with a hanging armbar in the ropes. After breaking it, Suzuki keeps going at ringside, wrapping Ishii’s arm around the guard rails in front of the commentary team, before they returned to the ring for more elbows.
That puts Ishii in the corner, on his arse, before a running front kick kept him there. A cravat from Suzuki is broken as Ishii caught him off the ropes with a slam… following up with a backdrop suplex moments later. Ishii sits over Suzuki for some slaps, as some kicks just wound up the Murder Grandpa who goes back to those thudding elbows. He laughs off Ishii’s retort to CLONK some more, but Ishii’s elbows have a little more mustard behind them… only for Suzuki’s strikes to leave him in a heap. A PK is next from Suzuki, but he pulls Ishii up for another, but that just pisses off the Stone Pitbull, who catches another kick and decks Suzuki with an elbow. Ishii runs into a knee, but shrugs off a rear naked choke before some front kicks from Suzuki eventually lead to a German suplex as they turned up the pace.
The pair trade short-range headbutts as they were on their knees, building back up with more elbows and palms trikes, with increasing fervour before Ishii knocked Suzuki loopy. Minoru’s back with a headbutt, but he’s just murderised with a lariat from Ishii as they were giving and taking their lumps with glee here. Suzuki tries for a rear naked choke, but Ishii lifts him up and… a modified AIR RAID CRASH! Jesus! A sliding lariat is next for a near-fall, before an enziguiri left both men down, through exhaustion and pain. More lariats follow, but Suzuki ducks and drags Ishii down to the mat as he took the long way round for a rear naked choke. The Gotch piledriver’s next, but Ishii back body drops free before charging in with a clothesline.
MORE STRIKES. MORE. A thunderous elbow sunk Ishii, before a PK looked to be more of a diving front kick from Suzuki… as Ishii just pops up and lariats him again. Another headbutt from Ishii drops Suzuki, then a lariat, before Ishii signalled for the sheer drop brainbuster… but Suzuki rolls his way free and into a Gotch-style Piledriver, spiking Ishii for the win. Fan. Bloody. Tastic. I love me a murderous sprint, and this was every bit of it. Just thirteen minutes long too, this is going right into the proverbial notebook. ****½
G1 Climax 30 – Block A: Jay White vs. Shingo Takagi
Their only prior meeting was in last year’s G1, with White coming out on top…
Referee Red Shoes Unno tried to stop White and Gedo too-sweeting each other, but they did it anyway before… White powdered outside at the bell. They eventually lock-up, with White grabbing a side headlock before he grabbed onto Shingo’s hair to avoid being shot into the ropes. A side headlock takedown’s next, with White wrenching in the hold, but Shingo gets free and shoved him into the ropes for a shoulder tackle. White tries to block Shingo in the corner, but ends up eating clotheslines before he got slammed… with White rolling outside to avoid whatever was next. Shingo follows him and throws the Kiwi into the ring post, before turning his attention to Gedo. White tries a sneak attack, but Shingo stops him before Gedo got involved, grabbing Shingo’s leg as White knocked him off the apron.
A trip to the guard rails followed as White proceeded to charge Shingo into the railings by the commentary team. What, no social distancing? A back suplex drops Shingo onto the edge of the ring, before some stomps to the lower back and kidney awaited Shingo back inside. Stretching Shingo in the ropes was next for White, who proceeds to keep Shingo at bay, throwing him to the mat by the hair. Shingo fought back with a Polish hammer, before White… again went for the hair and a forearm to the lower back. Finally, Shingo hits back in kind, clubbering White into the ropes with a forearm to the back of the head. A hair-mare sends White across the ring before a clothesline took him to the outside, where White got met with chops, forearms and elbows as Shingo went hog wild.
White’s thrown into the railings, then popped up onto the edge of the ring as a DDT leaves White in a heap on the floor. Back inside, the pair switch around as Shingo lands a brainbuster for a near-fall, before a noshigami attempt ended with Shingo just charging White into the corner. Jay’s back with a Saito suplex, eventually following in with a Manhattan drop, a DDT and a Blade Buster for another near-fall. The Shingo combination misses, but he’s able to catch White with a noshigami, before he pulled him in for a wheelbarrow German suplex. Danielson elbows follow to the neck, but White rolls back to avoid a sliding lariat, frustrating as ever. So Shingo pulls him up and lands an elbow shot, before White came back with some slaps and a lariat. Shingo just dumps him into the ropes with a return lariat, only for White to hit a Flatliner and a German suplex after some shenanigans with the ref.
A uranage from White’s next for a near-fall, but Shingo’s able to get back up as the pair begin to trade chops. Elbows from Shingo rock White, who drops down to avoid a lariat… so Shingo just hits a sliding lariat to the back instead. Another sliding lariat is next as White then blocks Made in Japan, only to get caught with a Bloody Cross-like gutbuster for a two-count. White again escapes Made in Japan as Shingo just elbows him. The Shingo combination is next, but White ducks a Pumping Bomber, replying with a sleeper suplex and a Kiwi Krusher that almost won it. Elbows from White look to set up for a Blade Runner, but Shingo counters out into Made in Japan, almost snatching the win in the process! Last of the Dragon is next, but White grabs the referee to save himself.
Gedo wanders in and eats a back elbow as he tried to go for a shot with the Brass Knuckles. So nonchalant! Shingo followed that up with a Pumping Bomber to White as commentary were going wild for the finish… but White grabs the rope to stop another Last of the Dragon. He kicks the ref away as Shingo lands the move, so we’ve nobody to count. Shingo goes to check on the referee, but wanders into a low blow as White looked to snatch a desperation win… almost doing so with a Regalplex of all things. From there, it’s a suplex and a simple Blade Runner… and that’s Jay White on the board by hook or by crook. This was largely good, with some slight issues if you’re looking for them – with perhaps ring rust being the reason behind a couple of mis-steps on White’s end. Still, Shingo more than held his end of the bargain here, and almost overcame the bullshit that permeate White’s matches – although you could argue that in this case, Shingo’s size advantage meant that White “needed help”… ***¾
G1 Climax 30 – Block A: Kota Ibushi vs. Kazuchika Okada
We finish with a battle between two of the tournament favourites, but they’re not in any hurry to start as the first minute is spent absorbing the crowd reaction before they even left their corners.
From the opening lock-up, Ibushi goes to work over Okada’s arm, before a trip led to a rather slow-motion float over from Kota into a side headlock, which Okada tries to counter by rolling him down for a pin before he finally broke free. Okada’s front facelock is quickly escaped, so he’s in with a side headlock of his own… but Ibushi shoves him off and came back in with a ‘rana. Okada rolls outside, where Ibushi joined him after a baseball slide, before an Asai moonsault attempt was blocked by Okada, who pulled him down and threw him into the guard rails, chest-first. A snap DDT on the floor led to a sickening thud as Ibushi was left laying. He returns to the ring, but eats a low dropkick as Okada looked to be dictating the pace.
Ibushi’s picked up as Okada goes in with an elbow… Kota replies in kind as they go back-and-forth there, until a neckbreaker leaves Kota down. A dropkick from Ibushi stops Okada’s momentum, before he lit up Okada with a flurry of kicks. The PK misses, but the standing moonsault lands for a near-fall, before Okada returned with a sliding back elbow off the ropes. From the pacing so far, they’re looking likely to be sailing close to the time limit…
Another back elbow in the corner and a DDT’s next for Okada, before an uppercut takes Ibushi into the corner. An overhead kick from Kota again stems the tide, but Okada tries to go back in with a modified cobra clutch, only for Ibushi to kick him away. Ibushi charges into the corner, and gets caught with a neckbreaker slam from Okada, then a side Russian legsweep, as Okada was hell-bent on that bloody modified cobra clutch. Ibushi’s able to scoot into the ropes for the break, before he took himself outside for some respite. Okada followed him there to tease a tombstone on the floor, but Ibushi gets free and hits an Asai moonsault into the aisle. Back inside, Ibushi continues his comeback with a missile dropkick, before taking Okada up top… only to have to abort things as Okada looked to hit a tombstone. Instead, Ibushi slips out and hit a springboard rana – steadying himself as time stood still as he looked wobbly on top – before getting a near-fall.
Okada tries for a tombstone but Ibushi counters out and teases a package tombstone… only for Okada to wriggle free and hit his tombstone first. On their knees, the pair trade elbows as they get back to their feet, but it’s Okada who crumbles first as Ibushi left him down and out. That looked to be the cue for a Kamigoye, but Okada grabs on to stop the move, so Ibushi just clocks him with a buzzsaw kick instead. A spinning tombstone catches out Ibushi as he tries to push on, before Okada reapplied the modified cobra clutch. Ibushi tries to escape, but he’s pulled back down as he ends up… scooping out of it, only for Okada to go right back to the hold. Again Ibushi rolls free as we cross the 20-minute mark, then countered another tombstone attempt by kicking his legs before he kicked away a Rainmaker attempt.
Ibushi keeps going with a leaping knee, but Okada dropkicks away a Kamigoye. A second dropkick is next, but a sit-out powerbomb and a running knee from Ibushi turn it around, before Kamigoye led to the definitive-as-hell win. That’s my pick-ems broken in the main event, which truth be told was a match that faked out going the distance before the sudden end. The Okada formula doesn’t quite work at this stage of the tournament I don’t think, but this was a solid match that just lacked drama for most of it. ***½
We may as well tabulate the blocks…
Kota Ibushi, Will Ospreay, Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Jay White (1-0; 2pts)
Jeff Cobb, Tomohiro Ishii, Kazuchika Okada, Shingo Takagi, Yujiro Takahashi (0-1; 0pts)
(Unofficial) Block C
Yuya Uemura (1-0)
Yota Tsuji (0-1)
We’re back in Osaka tomorrow for some block B action, headlining with Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi on another six-match card. Remember, there’s no “preview matches” on the undercards this year! All in all, a really good first night to the G1 – with the condensed cards helping remove most of the fat that tend to draw these shows down. Coming in at a shade over two hours (with interval), with none of the undercard going longer than needed, this is in keeping with the formula that New Japan’s managed to fall into in the current era.