So here we are. After an absolutely crazy year, we’ve finally arrived at the 30th G1 Climax tournament. As perhaps the most important event in New Japan’s calendar, alongside Wrestle Kingdom, eyes from all across the world will be watching this prestigious event.
The opening night has some big matches scheduled, so let’s jump right in and get stuck into the action!
Preliminary Match: Yuya Uemura vs. Yota Tsuji
This wasn’t part of the G1 tournament; rather, it was a showcase for two of New Japan’s most promising Young Lions.
This was a short but sweet, hard-hitting encounter that saw both men quite evenly matched against the other, starting on the mat with headlocks, head scissors and counters, before using their elbows and their physicality to try and take an advantage.
Tsuji found some dominance with a half-crab, some chops and an elbow tackle, but Uemura hit a nice sequence of a dropkick, a Capture Suplex and a Boston crab, switched up into a Lion Tamer, to take the submission victory.
An enjoyable opener, and a win for Uemura for a change!
Yujiro Takahashi vs. Will Ospreay
The G1 Climax officially now with the first match from Block A! I’ve never been a big fan of Takahashi and find his pimp shtick tired and dull, but I am a fan of Mr Ospreay, who I’m excited to see make his New Japan return here, even if the recent controversies around him have me see him in a new, very uneasy light.
Whatever my opinion of the man, the fans in attendance certainly appreciated the man, giving a hearty ovation and cheering him on through the match. The commentators too sounded excited at his presence, audibly exuding excitement at his speed, even with Ospreay’s increased weight (although I’d say that it looked like to me that he’d lost a tiny bit of bulk over lockdown).
This was a decent match which, to its credit, didn’t run too long, keeping Takahashi’s offence brief and focussed and giving the crowd a little taste of Ospreay to bait their appetites for his bigger matches in the G1. Ospreay looked to be in good condition, with little, if any, ring rust. When he hit his aerial offence, such as a handspring enziguri, a standing shooting star press, and the decisive Stormbreaker, it all looks very crisp and precise.
Although, unless the plan is to turn Ospreay heel, it might have been a little tone-deaf on his first appearance back to have Ospreay give a promo where he cockily said he was the greatest wrestler in the world…
Jeff Cobb vs. Taichi
Jeff Cobb recently confirmed he has signed with New Japan and that this was his goal all along. I’m glad about this: Japan has an excellent tradition of bringing over big hoss gaijins, and let’s face it, Cobb is a monster. The potential of Cobb in New Japan is huge.
This was very much a match of two halves. The first half was a little slower than it needed to be. A hesitant Taichi drew Cobb to the outside, where he smashed Cobb in the knee with the timekeeper’s hammer. Taichi logically kept on the knee back in the ring but he didn’t have enough variety in offence to make it interesting, and the pace was lacking a little.
Things picked up in the second half with Cobb making a comeback and engaging in some competitive back and forth with Taichi. Cobb found himself hit with some gorgeous kicks to the face, and of course the knee, but he fought back with some brutal offence of his own, including a Death Valley Driver, a standing moonsault and some astonishing rolling gut-wrench suplexes. It wasn’t enough though: a superkick and Black Mephisto were enough for Taichi to put the big man away.
Outside of the odd starting pace, this was a good match which showcased Cobb nicely without him jobbing Taichi out. I’m looking forward to what else Cobb can bring to the tournament.
Minoru Suzuki vs. Tomohiro Ishii
I knew this was going to be brilliantly brutal and I wasn’t wrong. Thank god! I’m a Suzuki mark anyway, but throw Ishii into the mix and you have the perfect ingredients for a battering.
We were all expecting furious exchanges of elbows and strikes, and we got them aplenty, sickeningly so sometimes, but it was the little details that made this match different: the way Ishii, when attempting a strike, slumped against Suzuki’s chest out of sheer exhaustion and pain, or how Ishii countered a Gotch-style piledriver attempt with a kind of reverse brainbuster, or even how Suzuki would lock on an armbar or a rear-naked choke, only to quickly to switch into another Gotch-style piledriver.
With seen matches before where Suzuki’s insistence on ending things with only the Gotch-style piledriver has cost him. But here his persistence paid off, rolling through a brainbuster attempt before finally nailing his finisher for the 1-2-3.
A hard-fought battle that punctuated its vicious striking contents with some strong grappling and countering, I’m of course delighted Suzuki got the win. But I’m even more delighted we got such a great match.
Jay White vs. Shingo Takagi
I’ve been critical of ‘The Switchblade’ before. Whilst I think he nails it with his look and his spiel, I sometimes think he can be lacking in the ring. While his matches with Tanahashi were great, for instance, his matches with Naito left me cold.
So you can imagine how pleased I was to enjoy this match! I thought looked really good here and showed strong chemistry with Shingo. Talking of Shingo, he never looked less than impressive, battering White with a series of lariats, a wheelbarrow German suplex, an umbrage, a ‘Made in Japan’ and a pumping bomber. Wow. The man has such awesome offence, and I do hope he gets another crack at the NEVER title again, even if it is held by my man Suzuki.
White also had his moments, smashing Shingo into the guard rail and dropping him hard on to the guard rail. In the ring, he attacked Shingo with real urgency by his standards, pulling out moves like a Flatliner, Blade Buster, a sleeper suplex, a Kiwi Krusher and the decisive Blade Runner for the pinfall victory.
There were the usual shenanigans that come with a Bullet Club match up, and your mileage may vary, but I thought they weren’t too intrusive here and ultimately didn’t play too heavily into the finish anyway. But if you’re yet to see the match, you have been warned!
Nevertheless, a great match and at least one win for the start of Bullet Club’s campaign in Block A.
Kota Ibushi vs. Kazuchika Okada
Kota, of course, is last year’s G1 winner, and this is a rematch from the main event of the first night of this year’s Wrestle Kingdom. That match was near-perfect for me, even if they didn’t pull the trigger on Ibushi as I wanted, so I was very much looking forward to this one. They didn’t disappoint.
You can tell both guys must have been missing live audiences, as they took their time to soak up the applause at the start of the match, as well as working the crowd masterfully throughout. There was a lot of back and forth action in this one but there was an interesting story that you could read between the lines: Okada’s insistence on repeatedly using certain moves, e.g. the tombstone and the cobra clutch, made him inflexible, whereas Ibushi was more flexible and harder to counter because he wasn’t tied down to using certain moves repeatedly. Will that become a subtle story that we’ll see Okada play out throughout the G1? Stay tuned.
There was a nice little streak of viciousness from Okada, who DDT’d Ibushi on the floor and tried to tombstone him in the aisle. Ibushi, for his part, showed his disregard for his own safety as he hit a beautiful springboard moonsault to the outside and appeared to wobble on the top rope before hitting a springboard hurricarana.
As two of the biggest names in the block, I expected there might be some sort of trick played out here to give one man a sneak victory. But no, Ibushi got the absolutely clean and decisive victory with a Kamigoye. A big surprise, but a welcome one for me nonetheless. No, I don’t believe Okada has overstayed his welcome in the main event scene, but I do think Ibushi deserves his turn at the top of the mountain.
This might have lacked the drama of their Wrestle Kingdom cracker, but it was a very enjoyable encounter all the same.
This was a really solid opening night to the 30th G1 Climax tournament. The show was well-paced, perhaps out of necessity with the current situation, and there wasn’t a single match where I was either bored or really disappointed. Ospreay returned, Suzuki and Ishii battered each other senseless and we got a surprise winner in the main event. I’m very happy with that.
Tomorrow we get the first matches from Block B, with Tanahashi taking on Naito in a big main event. Join us here for ongoing coverage of the G1 at Sports Obsessive!
The G1 Standings
Block A Standings
Block B Standings
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