With more twists and turns than Zack Sabre Jr’s connective tissue, this year’s G1 is not done surprising us yet. A typhoon-beset Saturday night in Aichi saw a return to A-Block action, with decisive clashes between EVIL and Zack Sabre Jr, Hiroshi Tanahashi and SANADA, and Will Ospreay and Bad Luck Fale all on the card. Day 9 could well prove the end of the road for some of NJPW’s finest. Let’s see who made the cut and who was left high and dry in Aichi.
Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Minoru Suzuki and Taichi def. Yota Tsuji, Ren Narita and Jeff Cobb // Kanemaru hit Tsuji with Deep Impact
Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi and Jay White def. Toa Henare, Tomoaki Honma and Juice Robinson // Owens hit Henare with a package piledriver
Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii def. YOSHI-HASHI and Hirooki Goto // Yano caught YOSHI-HASHI with a schoolboy pin
Shingo Takagi and Tetsuya Naito def. Shota Umino and Jon Moxley // Shingo hit Umino with the Pumping Bomber
G1 Climax Block A Tournament Match: Kota Ibushi def. Lance Archer
Credit where credit is due: Lance Archer continues to impress against the odds. The G1 has proven to be the kick up the arse Archer needed to get out of second gear, and this bout with Ibushi was a superb showcase of his ‘big guy’ skillset. Ibushi is hardly the David to Archer’s Goliath, though, and his superior striking ability kept him alive throughout the match – but just barely. This was Archer’s game, for the most part, and his dominance was presented believably, but without harming Ibushi’s credibility. A well put together match with just the right amount of thrilling spots (Ibushi hitting the Last Ride on Archer was insane) and Ibushi selling Archer’s power moves like death. That it took two Kamigoyes to take Archer out for good leaves both competitors looking strong and keeps Archer in the game – just about.
G1 Climax Block A Tournament Match: Will Ospreay def. Bad Luck Fale
Look. At this point, you’re never going to make a Fale fan out of me. The constant shenanigans are tiresome, but they’re almost preferable to Fale’s dull sluggishness in the ring. You know you’re in trouble when even Will ‘Good At Wrestling, Bad At Twitter’ Ospreay can’t get a good match out of you. The inimitable Red Shoes was the best part of this match, which tells you a lot about the quality – no offence to Red Shoes, who is legitimately brilliant. A DQ finish sent Fale packing with his proverbial tail between his legs, and that’s all I have to say about that.
G1 Climax Block A Tournament Match: EVIL def. Zack Sabre Jr
Pity poor ZSJ, who has to contend with a poor G1 performance AND the ascension of racist sentient mop Boris Johnson to the head of the British government. The bendy Brit is not having a good time right now, and EVIL is on something of a roll with six points, he’s now level with Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi in the rankings. This was refreshing stuff after the Fale snoozefest, once again proving that EVIL is one of the more underrated wrestlers on the New Japan roster – against the compact but powerful LIJ stalwart, ZSJ was once again undone by his comparative fragility. Not even a wicked-looking Scorpion Deathlock could keep EVIL down. Everything Is Evil saw ZSJ out for the three count, and ostensibly out of the tournament.
G1 Climax Block A Tournament Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi def. SANADA
We all love a good handsome battle here at SteelChair and this one delivered in spades. Despite his paltry points tally, SANADA is increasingly looking like a fresh young pretender to the Ace’s throne, and they are well-matched in terms of height, build and energy. Somehow, though, this match felt a tad sluggish; neither competitor brought the same vitality they have displayed in previous bouts, and it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly failed to click here. All the moving parts did what they were supposed to. It’s possible that as we enter the latter half of the tournament, the lads are starting to tire a bit. Nonetheless, this was solid enough, and if the wrestling was a little lacking, the charisma was off the scale. Tana finishing things off with a thrilling High Fly Flow was a fitting way to end the match.
G1 Climax Block A Tournament Match: Kazuchika Okada def. KENTA
Hometown hero Okada received an even more rapturous reception than that which he usually enjoys, and so consummate heel KENTA amped up the viciousness to great effect. A war of attrition spanning the better part of half an hour, this match made up for what had ultimately been a fairly mediocre show. There was nothing polished about this, no finesse; Okada’s usual poise was quickly ground down by a relentless KENTA, whose palm strikes sound like thunder and look like death. You’ll either love or hate this one; it was stiff as hell, slow-burning and downright messy in places, but it felt brilliantly old school. More than that, it felt incredibly authentic. Okada collapsing out of the GTS was a spark of brilliance – the kind of in-ring storytelling which made his bouts with Omega so compelling. You could sense the exhaustion on him as he struggled to mount a comeback. But come back he did, and a brutal Rainmaker took Kenta out for good.
Perhaps not the best night of G1 action – quite honestly, you could skip all but the final match and not miss a huge amount – but, Fale/Ospreay aside, there was nothing egregiously bad on this card either. Participants are starting to look a little frayed at the edges now, and it’ll be interesting to see how they struggle on to the finish line – we’ve still got a few killer matches ahead of us, so stick with it. It’ll be worth your patience.
Block A Standings:
Kazuchika Okada – 10pts (5-0-0)
KENTA – 8pts (4-0-1)
EVIL – 6pts (3-0-2)
Kota Ibushi – 6pts (3-0-2)
Hiroshi Tanahashi – 6pts (3-0-2)
Lance Archer – 4pts (2-0-3)
Will Ospreay – 4pts (2-0-3)
SANADA – 2pts (1-0-4)
Bad Luck Fale – 2pts (1-0-4)
Zack Sabre Jr – 2pts (1-0-4)
All pics courtesy of NJPW