We’re diving back into New Japan as it’s G1 season – and we start with a match from each block, headlined by Kazuchika Okada vs. Jeff Cobb.
G1 Climax 32 – Block C: Aaron Henare pinned Hiroshi Tanahashi in 11:11 (***¼)
G1 Climax 32 – Block D: Will Ospreay pinned El Phantasmo in 15:06 (***½)
G1 Climax 32 – Block B: Jay White pinned SANADA in 18:07 (***½)
G1 Climax 32 – Block A: Kazuchika Okada pinned Jeff Cobb in 21:30 (****¼)
It’s been a while since I sat down and “properly” watched a “main roster” New Japan show… there’s no better time to get back into it, as the biggest G1 in some time kicks off in… Hokkaido, eh? Someone’d better get (and like) that Simpsons reference.
So, I’m only going to be touching the G1 matches in these reviews, for the sake of not burning myself out the undercards. As you can guess, we’re not having “block nights” with everyone only having six matches (plus the knock-out stages, if they make it.) Commentary from the Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center Hokkai Kitayell comes from Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton at ringside…
G1 Climax 32 – Block C: Aaron Henare vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
It’s a first-time singles match between these two former World Tag League partners…
Opening with a lock-up, Henare takes things to the ropes before Tanahashi switched around and broke. A side headlock from Tanahashi is wrenched in, but Henare goes for the hair to break free – with Tanahashi unable to do so in response. Things head to the corner, as Tanahashi breaks out with a crossbody out of the buckles, only to get met in response with a springboard enziguiri as Henare then “broke” an air guitar. Both men trade body blows as Henare proceeded to kick Tanahashi in the back, leaving him laying ahead of a modified STF. It’s morphed into a curb stomp for a near-fall, before Tanahashi mounted a comeback with a flying forearm as we passed the five-minute mark. Right hands follow to take Henare into the corner, leading to a slam and a flip senton off the middle rope.
Henare cuts off a Slingblade by clotheslining Tanahashi in the ropes, then with a Blue Thunder bomb. A step-up knee into the corner and a running Samoan drop out of it gets Henare a near-fall, before a back senton off the middle rope squashed Tanahashi for another near-fall. Tanahashi’s forced to defend a full nelson as Henare looked for the stoppage, but Tanahashi broke the hold and returned with a pair of Twist and Shout neckbreakers that led to a Slingblade for a near-fall. Tanahashi races up top for an Ace’s High froggy crossbody, but a High Fly Flow ends with Henare getting the knees up.
Henare keeps going with a spinebuster, getting a near-fall out of that, before the Ultima full nelson almost forced the stoppage… instead, Henare switched out and hit a rear spin kick to dump Tanahashi. From there, Henare hauls up Tanahashi for the Streets of Rage… and that’s a clean as a sheet win for Henare over a Tanahashi who barely got going here. An upset in match one as Henare gets the win over his former tag partner in a pretty good outing. ***¼
Henare’s next block match comes in a week’s time, on July 23rd against Zack Sabre Jr. while Tanahashi picks up the next night against Tetsuya Naito.
G1 Climax 32 – Block D: El Phantasmo vs. Will Ospreay
We’ve got history between these two, and a split record with Ospreay beating ELP at Rev Pro’s Epic Encounter in 2018, this year’s New Japan Cup and back in 2019 in a Junior Heavyweight title defence at King of Pro Wrestling. ELP’s wins came in Defiant Wrestling in 2018, plus a pair in New Japan in 2019 – as part of the Best of the Super Juniors, and as part of ELP’s Super J Cup win.
Ospreay wipes out ELP with a shotgun dropkick at the bell, taking him outside for a Sasuke special as he rolled back to his days as a junior heavyweight… back inside, a springboard forearm drops Phantasmo for a two-count, with the Canadian’s first G1 match threatening to end in a hurry. ELP punches out of a powerbomb, then got chopped after he raked Ospreay’s back. Seems like there was no itch. Ospreay blocks a ‘rana from Phantasmo and hot shotted him against the top rope, following with a running boot as ELP just couldn’t get anything going. Trapped in the corner, Phantasmo’s chopped down, then whipped across the ring as he eventually returned with a springboard crossbody for a near-fall.
Ospreay rolls outside to avoid a Quebrada, but ELP just adds a tope for the sake of it, adding some chops on the outside before a springboard moonsault into the aisle left Ospreay laying. Back inside, Phantasmo lays in some elbows in the corner, before Ospreay took a Bret Hart bump into the buckles ahead of a Tree of Woe… which Phantasmo utilised with a baseball slide into the hung-up Ospreay. A low dropkick followed to take Ospreay out for a near-fall – with the ropes saving the Rev Pro Undisputed British Heavyweight champion – before a chinlock grounded him. Getting free, Ospreay handsprings off the ropes for an enziguiri, before he springboarded into a superkick. It’s shrugged off as Ospreay returns with a spinning backbreaker, before ELP elbowed out of a Chelsea Grin attempt.
A slam places Ospreay by the corner as ELP took to the skies for a Bret Hart-ish elbow drop, but a back body drop gets Ospreay free from a possible CR2 follow-up. Ospreay laughs off elbows from Phantasmo, then threw some of his own, before the pair teed off on each other. Ospreay misses a hook kick before eating an enziguiri… then returns with a Stundog Millionaire before a reverse Spanish Fly out of the corner countered an OsCutter for a near-fall. Ospreay responds with a Chelsea Grin, before ELP ate a Ligerbomb as he tried to avoid a Hidden Blade. A suplex/powerbomb’s next for another near-fall from Ospreay, before the pair went up top… with ELP pulling off an avalanche ‘rana… before he missed a Thunderkiss splash as Ospreay rolled out of the way.
Ospreay misses an OsCutter and gets caught with Sudden Death for a near-fall. A CR2 attempt is blocked as Ospreay sparks some see-saw near-falls, following with a hook kick before his next OsCutter was turned into a backslide for a near-fall. ELP’s arguing the call, but gets wiped out with a Hidden Blade, and just like that, Ospreay takes the win. A good showing from Phantasmo – perhaps not in any real positions to win, but was matching Ospreay until ELP took away his attention at the worst possible moment. ***½
Will Ospreay’s next G1 match is on July 27 against Yujiro Takahashi, while ELP’s next match is also against Yujiro on July 24.
G1 Climax 32 – Block B: SANADA vs. Jay White
Just the one prior singles meeting here, back in February 2020 before the world went to shit, with White winning at the New Beginning in Osaka.
White mocks the crowd (that still can’t chant) by starting a SANADA chant that nobody follows. White ordered SANADA to hold the ropes for him, which he eventually gets right, before an attempt to cheapshot SANADA was cut off. They swap side headlocks as White pushed free, leading to an armdrag and a dropkick from SANADA that sent him right back outside. Gedo goes to distract as Jay White was thrown back inside, and we start the game of chase as White rolled out of harm’s way. SANADA’s plancha misses, as White then threw him into the guard rails, then between the apron and the various railings before White picked up a one-count back inside.
White ties up the arm as he opened up SANADA for a shot to the ribs for a near-fall, before he grounded SANADA with a waistlock, targeting those ribs. SANADA breaks free, but gets knocked in the lower back before he’s chopped to the mat. A series of swings and misses allowed SANADA back in as a low dropkick took White down, following up with a forearm, an armdrag and an atomic drop, before he pulled White down for a Paradise lock… which is pushed away. A chop from White stings SANADA, before SANADA’s ‘rana rolled through into another Paradise Lock attempt, this time successful. Freeing White helps SANADA get just a one-count, before White slipped out of a TKO, returning with a DDT instead. A Blade Buster followed for a near-fall, as did a Complete Shot and a deadlifted German suplex as White began to coast.
White dumps SANADA with a uranage for a near-fall, before a sleeper suplex was blocked as SANADA backed into the corner. SANADA’s whipped into the corner, but his escape leads to White knocking him to the floor to cut off a springboard… only to get met with a TKO after he’d rolled SANADA back inside. A swinging Skull End from SANADA’s next as he pulled White down to the mat… prompting Gedo into the ring to distract as SANADA let go of the hold. SANADA gives chase, but White’s up to kick the rope into SANADA before an uppercut ended with SANADA falling… with a stray leg giving an accidental receipt as he low blowed White on the way down. Capitalising, SANADA went for a moonsault, but missed as White demanded the referee DQ SANADA for the low blow. In among the argument, SANADA rolls up White for a near-fall, then hit an O’Connor roll, but again White kicks out in the nick of time.
Pushing further, SANADA’s forearms have the World Heavyweight Champion down, before a TKO out of a Canadian Backbreaker almost won it. SANADA went back up top for a moonsault, but White crotches him… then brought him down for a Dominator. It’s countered as we doe-see-doe between Blade Runners and Skull Ends, until another O’Connor roll almost won it for SANADA. We go back to the Skull End as SANADA looked for the submission, only for White to counter out for a Sleeper Suplex. SANADA flipped free and back into a Skull End, before White poked the eyes to blind SANADA… walking up the ropes helps White free as he finally finds the Blade Runner… and that’s enough for the win. I enjoyed this up until the doe-see-doe counters, which always irked me, but it’s a tournament-starting win for White as he tries to join that rare club of G1-winning champions. ***½
Jay White’s back in action on July 23 against Tomohiro Ishii, while SANADA returns a day later on July 24 against Taichi.
G1 Climax 32 – Block A: Jeff Cobb vs. Kazuchika Okada
Remember last year, when this was the big block finale? Okada’s got a 3-1 record over Cobb in singles matches, with two of them in the G1 and a third at last year’s Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome, while Cobb’s sole win came last September at the Wrestle Grand Slam in MetLife Dome card.
Cobb opens up with a lock-up into the ropes… giving him a chance to patronisingly break a la Okada. A lock-up sees Okada thrown into the ropes as he went outside to compose himself, and perhaps ponder a new game plan. Returning, Okada kicks Cobb in the midsection, then grabbed a side headlock… Cobb pushed free, then resisted some shoulder tackles before he charged down Okada off the ropes. Cobb hits the ropes and caught an Okada leapfrog, transitioning it into a LOVELY fallaway slam which saw Okada get some hangtime on the way down. Cobb followed him outside for some forearms to the chest, before he whipped Okada into the railings by the English commentary crew.
Okada makes it back inside the ring, but Cobb remained in firm control, throwing forearms to the neck and back of Okada, following up with a running suplex out of the corner. Elbows from Cobb follow as Okada got to his feet, leading to some elbows in return… only for a throat thrust to catch out Okada. Cobb threatened a five-minute stalling suplex, but Okada blocks it and eventually slipped out for a DDT. Okada hits the ropes for a sliding back elbow to Cobb, before he baited Cobb into a flapjack… that popped up a board under the ring, which the referee tries to put back in as Okada slowed things down with a chinlock. Cobb heads outside and gets taken into the railings as (presumably) the ring crew fix things… with a DDT on the floor from Okada buying them more time.
Heading back inside, Okada paced around Cobb ahead of a neckbreaker slam for a near-fall. Cobb avoids a leap off the top from Okada, as he then tried to pull him into a suplex… Okada escaped, then hung onto the ropes to avoid a dropkick from Cobb, but couldn’t avoid it at the second time of asking. A leaping uppercut from Cobb caught Okada in the corner, before Okada was pulled out of the corner and into a Spin Cycle back suplex. Okada heads to the apron, but gets caught with Cobb as he went for a deadlift superplex to bring him back in… Okada fights free, but ends up getting dropkicked as Cobb pulled a page out of Okada’s own playbook… then went up for a gutwrench superplex and holy hell, Cobb popped the board again!
It’s good for a near-fall, as was a standing moonsault as Cobb looked in firm control, before a Tour of the Island was countered with a shotgun dropkick from Okada. Okada tries for a tombstone, but Cobb deadweights him and hit one of his own, before pulling Okada back up… only to get spiked in return! Okada followed that up with a Money Clip, but Cobb charged to the corner to break it… but couldn’t build as Okada lifted him up top. Cobb avoids a dropkick, but gets pulled into a Randy Orton-ish backbreaker as the Money Clip returned on the mat… only to get broken in seconds via the ropes. A body slam keeps Cobb down ahead of a top rope elbow drop as we then… zoom out!
Cobb’s pulled up for a Rainmaker, but he elbowed free, only to get backslid out as Okada stayed ahead with a dropkick. A Rainmaker’s ducked again as Cobb hit one of his own. The pair trade strikes, with a Cobb elbow drawing such a reaction from the Japanese commentary crew that you could literally hear on the English feed. Okada fights out of a Tour of the Islands, countering back with another Money Clip, before a spinning Rainmaker had Cobb down. From there, Cobb’s pulled up, but headbutts his way free of another Rainmaker… another Tour of the Islands is escaped as Okada returns with an enziguiri, a Cobra Flowsion and finally a Rainmaker to put the “Imperial Unit” away. My word, that was a heck of a main event – Cobb and Okada were a pretty good combo last year, and it seems they’ve found another notch here, even if we’re not going to be able to have any record-setting unbeaten runs in this format. ****¼
Okada’s next block match is on July 23 against Toru Yano, while Cobb is back on July 24 against Bad Luck Fale.
The G1 stays in the Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center Hokkai Kitayell tomorrow, with Shingo Takagi and Juice Robinson main eventing… and after six months away from “properly” watching New Japan, it’s a little reassuring to see that it’s not exactly the same product I stopped following after WrestleKingdom. That being said, this was a solid, yet not great kick-off to this year’s G1, with a lot of new faces waiting to make their tournament bows in the coming days.