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G1 Climax A Block Final and Tournament Final Review

Courtesy of New Japan Pro Wrestling

After a gruelling 18 night schedule within just a month, the G1 Climax today reached its conclusion. A Block entered its conclusion with just 3 men left in the running—Kazuchika Okada, Jay White and defending champion Kota Ibushi. A win for Jay White in the main event would put him in the finals, with Kota Ibushi needing a win over Taichi and a Switchblade loss to advance and Okada needing a win over Will Ospreay and a loss from Jay and Ibushi.

Who made the finals? Let’s quickly take a look before getting to the closing night.

Night 17

Yota Tsuji beat Gabriel Kidd in 6:52 in the preliminary Young Lion showcase

Yujiro Takahashi vs Jeff Cobb

Even with his very strong G1 record in Sumo Hall (4-2 at the time), many expected Takahashi to lose here. But Yujiro finally got a win! Good for him

Even if it was at the expense of Jeff Cobb (who’s had a very strong tournament), this was a feel-good moment of sorts after seeing the Tokyo Pimp get his backside handed to him by absolutely everyone in the field.

The result was in no way damaging to The Hawaiian Juggernaut, either, as Takahashi used his cane for the first time, showing his drive to end things on a high.

Perfectly fine for what it was.

Shingo Takagi vs Minoru Suzuki

This was a wonderfully violent sprint between two of the toughest guys in the company, yet I was left wanting more—much like I was at Summer Struggle. It was by no means a bad match, but at 12:29 it didn’t have much time to do everything it needed to do. Perhaps this sets up a rubber match at the Tokyo Dome? I hope so.

Even with that in mind, the two put on a good showing. Suzuki carried out excellent work on Takagi’s arm, which was crucial in keeping The Dragon’s strike-based offence at bay for as long as possible. A similar game plan was adopted by SHO at Dominion in July, but he came up short. It was no different here, as Takagi managed to use Suzuki’s overconfidence to nail a Last of the Dragon for the win.

Decent stuff.

Will Ospreay vs Kazuchika Okada (an Ospreay win eliminates Okada)

Will Ospreay had never beaten Kazuchika Okada. It’s as simple as that. Okada was the big brother, the ace of New Japan. The dominant heavyweight. In all their previous meetings, Ospreay had been restricted by the junior heavyweight weight restrictions. Now a fully-fledged heavyweight, he now stood a chance at beating the man that brought him into New Japan in the first place.

And he did.

But not exactly in the way we thought he would.

This was a strong end to the tournament from Okada, who’s had a very mixed bag in terms of his match quality. It was also the first time in quite a long time where I’ve been remotely interested in something involving Will Ospreay. I’ve maintained very little interest in nearly everything he’s done, but the closing sequence of this match really caught my attention.

The match was quicker than a lot of Okada’s matches, which was rather refreshing. The Money Clip is slowly but surely getting over as a secondary finisher and it was used really well to set up the closing sequence here.

Bea Priestley (of STARDOM fame, Will Ospreay’s girlfriend) was the first to make it to ringside. Many of us saw this as her simply offering her partner support while getting some cross-promotion in. It wasn’t. It was enough to briefly distract Okada and allow the return of TOMOYUKI OKA!

Yes, the newly-christened (on excursion to RevPro) Great O-Kharn made his return, hitting a head-claw chokeslam on The Rainmaker to the apparent bewilderment of young Will.

The Assassin capitalised, hitting the Storm Breaker to get that elusive victory over his mentor of sorts.

That wasn’t the end of things though, as Ospreay connected with a BRUTAL Hidden Blade from behind, before screaming “f*** you, you held me back” to Okada. I don’t think anyone was expecting this. Was Ospreay the CHAOS mole? What’s the connection to O-Kharn besides RevPro? Why is Priestley here?

At this point, we also have to question Okada as CHAOS leader. This is now the second time in 3 years that his kind-heartedness has come back to bite him. We saw it with Jay, we now see it with Will – the one man that we NEVER would’ve expected.

This was brilliant. It gives Okada something to do, leans into the disdain that many westerners hold for Ospreay, brings O-Kharn back in a major way and, most importantly, builds up some major anticipation for the return of the Rainmaker.

A good match overshadowed by the finish and aftermath. That’s perfectly fine.

Kota Ibushi vs Taichi

Taichi was out of the tournament no matter what, but he was certainly out to make a statement in this final match. A loss for Kota would’ve kept him out of the tournament finals.

I don’t really know what to say here. It basically went like this:

“Hi, my name’s Kota. I’m not the smartest, but I really like kicks.”
“I’m Taichi and I’m an opera singer that tears his trousers off for some reason. That’s cool, I like kicks too!”
“Ok, let’s do that for about 15 minutes and then I’ll beat you with a Kami Goye”

I don’t feel I can really say much else, other than it was really good and you should go and watch it.

Ibushi picked up the win, setting him up for a 3rd straight final (the first time that’s ever happened) if Jay White lost in the main event.

Even in defeat, Taichi looked great. He’s continued to prove he can hang with the very best in New Japan, I wouldn’t at all be against a high-profile singles run after Dangerous Tekkers lose the tag titles. Really, really good stuff.

A Block Decider – Jay White vs Tomohiro Ishii

This was a very late contender for match of the tournament. Jay main eventing pretty much signalled that he was winning the block and making it back-to-back finals—or so we thought.

Unfortunately for Jay fans like myself, the result of the match from last year’s tournament was repeated, keeping King Switch out of the final and denying the potential tournament victory that so many of us thought he’d get.

All that aside though, this was absolutely fabulous. Jay played the slimy, arrogant heel to near-perfection as always, while Ishii became the victim of a brutal assault on the leg. This was a great way for Jay to control the match and prevent Ishii from making too big of a comeback.

Seeing the bowling ball with limbs fighting from underneath was something that still felt weird, despite seeing it so many times in the past. There’s just something about Ishii that really stops me from buying him as an underdog. A real air of bad-assery to him. He played the role well though, as he does with everything else he does.

A weird, slightly clumsy finishing sequence eventually brought things to an end though, with Ishii connecting with a Vertical Drop Brainbuster for the win—coaxing out a pretty audible reaction from the previously mute crowd.

This was everything I wanted from this match, maybe even more. Well, the result wasn’t what I wanted. But the content of the match was.

A shock victory to cap off a stellar A Block campaign, with a post-match that could be the beginning of a very interesting character arc for Jay White. The Gedo interference failed. He didn’t make the finals. This was supposed to be the Jay-1 Climax. The ghost of CHAOS still haunts him, as Ishii handed him another loss. Gedo tries to console him, but it’s clear that Jay isn’t listening. This is a man on the edge. He could lose everything over the next few months—and I’m all here for it.

Finals Night (Night 19)

(NOTE – Despite all matches having some significance in terms of titles or BOSJ/WTL preview, I will only be looking at the final three matches of this card)

Suzuki Gun (DOUKI, El Desperado and Dangerous Tekkers) defeated CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano and YOSHI-HASHI) in 10:34

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi and Hiromu Takahashi) defeated Suzuki Gun (Minoru Suzuki and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) in 11:54

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jeff Cobb, Juice Robinson and Master Wato defeated BULLET CLUB (Taiji Ishimori, KENTA, Jay White and Gedo) in 9:12

Great O-Khan & Will Ospreay (w/Bea Priestley) vs CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada and SHO)

Well, this was very good from a story point of view, wasn’t it?

Okada sold the betrayal extremely well, showing more hatred and anger toward Ospreay in one night than Tetsuya Naito has with EVIL in 3 months. His continued teasing of the Rainmaker is getting much more exciting, the crowd are going to explode when he finally connects.

Will and Bea are extremely dislikable characters, so they naturally angered a lot of people without locking up with anyone. O-Khan’s look was a bit confusing and fell a bit flat, which is a shame when looking at how badass he looked when he made his debut/return with the glove, the mouthguard and the suit. I’m more than prepared to give things a chance though, as he more than played his part here.

Ospreay, to his credit, looked excellent throughout, working a more grounded style to match his new attitude—he clearly understands the fundamentals behind good heel work and has eliminated many of the high flying elements of his repertoire to stop the crowd supporting him.

It was nice to see SHO back after a month away, but we all knew he was taking the fall here, which is exactly what happened. He ate the submission defeat, as Ospreay debuted a new inverted figure-4 type move which looked pretty decent.

Very good way of keeping Okada strong and establishing Ospreay and O-Khan instantly. Really, really good stuff here.

WINNER: Will Ospreay and Great O-Khan in 12:36

Bullet Club (EVIL and Yujiro Takahashi) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito and BUSHI)

15 minutes this went on for. It wasn’t too great—but I think that was by design, to allow SANADA and Ibushi to work the crowd up from nothing.

This tag match all but confirmed that we were getting EVIL vs Naito IV for the titles, which is both a good thing and a bad thing, depending on how you look at the situation.

The action was fairly unspectacular, but it was salvaged by a rather surprising finish and a decent post-match. BUSHI, as expected, took the fall, but surprisingly tapped out to the Sharpshooter. This gives EVIL another legitimate manoeuvre to use, which will make EVIL (the move) much more effective in the long term.

The title challenge was then made, as Naito and EVIL had a brief staredown—one that was abruptly cut off by Dick Togo’s garrot, which allowed the King of Darkness to lay his former Pareja out with EVIL and stake his claim to the titles once more.

WINNERS: EVIL and Yujiro Takahashi in 14:14

G1 Climax 30 Final – Kota Ibushi (A Block Winner) vs SANADA (B Block)

Was this the match I wanted for the finals? No. Did it deliver? For the most part, yes it did.

Fun fact: this was the first G1 Climax final with neither competitor starting their careers in the NJPW dojo—Kota Ibushi is, for the most part, self trained, while SANADA began his journey in Keiji Mutoh’s AJPW dojo.

Things started off quite slowly, which made sense considering the two hadn’t wrestled a singles match since 2018.

We were soon at the 15-minute mark, which is when the crowd came alive. A few botches here and there were largely covered up by both guys—a real testament to their abilities as performers.

The world collectively gasped as SANADA caught Ibushi out with an O Connor Roll, which seemed to be enough for the three, but Ibushi kicked out at the last possible moment—one of my favourite false finishes of this year.

Ibushi hit the Kami-Goye in the closing stretch, but SANADA kicked out! A glimmer of hope for all of us that maybe, just maybe, Cold Skull was going to walk away with the trophy. Unfortunately, that kick out was rendered moot just a few seconds later, as the Golden Star connected with another Kami-Goye to pick up his second consecutive G1 Climax win.

A great match with a stellar closing 10 minutes. There wasn’t an excessive number of Skull End attempts, which was a very welcome change of pace from the usual SANADA match formula that sees him lock it in 8 times before trying to land the moonsault. It was well-paced, with a somewhat worthy winner in Ibushi—I only say that as I feel SANADA could’ve been pushed into the stratosphere with a win here.

SANADA was put over huge in defeat, making history once again with the longest G1 match in history. Ibushi fulfilled his promise of ‘becoming God’. Only Switchblade Jay White stands between him and the Tokyo Dome main event. Honestly, and it pains me to say it, I’m more interested in Jay vs Naito than I am Ibushi vs Naito for the 323231313145th time—having Ibushi lose the briefcase allows him to finish up the story with Tanahashi, which would be much better (in my eyes) considering their bonafide classic in the G1 28 finals.

WINNER – Kota Ibushi via Kami-Goye in 35:12

Final Thoughts on the Tournament

Despite the obvious crowd limitations caused by COVID-19, this was an excellent tournament. The A Block put on at least one MOTYC on nearly every night, while the often overlooked B Block completely exceeded expectations—making a star out of YOSHI-HASHI and revitalising names like Juice Robinson.

The last night of A Block has, in my opinion, comfortably earned a place amongst the best overall nights of action—both on this tour and this year as a whole. An absolutely stellar show, with Jay White and Will Ospreay coming out with a lot of options to move forward with.

The night of the tournament finals was a mixed bag, with only the SANADA/Ibushi match really worth watching. But that’s how I feel it should be. It was a good end to a great month of wrestling, while also setting up the road to Wrestle Kingdom 15 (which was announced as being 2 nights once again) really well.

My match of the night for night 17 is Jay vs Ishii by quite a margin, while B Block was EVIL vs SANADA in the block decider—both delivered exactly how they needed to.

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Written by Conrad Newton

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