The G1 returned after a three-day break with some big A Block matches. All eyes were on the main event, where the winner of Kota Ibushi and Will Ospreay would top the A Block standings.
Let’s head straight to the ring and get straight into the action!
If you’ve happened to have missed any of our previous G1 coverage, use the links below:
Preliminary Match: Gabriel Kudd vs. Yuya Uemura
The Young Lions, it must be said, have been consistently entertaining throughout this G1. This was no exception. The early going was mat based but picked up into striking later as Kidd flipped through an armbar, punched Uemura’s arm then hit a stiff forearm to the face beforw Uemura returned fire. Kidd showed his usual intensity, but this was not enough to stop him tapping to Uemura’s Boston Crab, which he converted after a moment into a Walls of Jericho. Perhaps not the best of the Young Lion matches in the G1 so far but certainly entertaining and watchable.
Yujiro Takahashi vs. Shingo Takahashi
This might seem uncharitable, but if you’re going to have a heel dominate Shingo in the early going of a match, make it anyone but Takahashi. The guy is so slow and methodical that watching him dominate is like pulling teeth.
To be fair to him, the second half of the match saw more of an even back and forth with Shingo and was much more entertaining. But even then, it was the rallies from Shingo that excited. The man is a powerhouse, nearly taking Takahashi’s head off with lariats, and battering him with big power moves.
Last of the Dragon sealed the deal with Shingo, but it didn’t half take a while to get there unfortunately.
Jay White vs. Jeff Cobb
I really enjoyed this one. Jay is such a good heel currently, you really do love to hate him. Cobb is a beast, and it struck me tonight how much the crowd and the commentators were behind him. It’ll be interesting to see if that groundswell of support continues during the remainder of the G1 tournament.
White used a combination of heelish scorn (slapping Cobb’s face), counters, speed and Gedo to cut Cobb down, but he couldn’t do it for long. Cobb’s power was fully on display here, pulling Jay off the bottom rope where he was hanging and straight up into his arms and into a suplex. A big overhead suplex nearly sent White out of his boots, such was the force he was sent crashing into the mat with.
Cobb went in for the kill with the ‘Tour of the Islands, but Jay slipped out and countered into a Blade Runner attempt, which Cobb in turn countered back into a successful ‘Tour of the Islands’ for the surprise victory. How will each man react to this result? This could possibly be the turning point of the tournament for both men. I’ll be watching how this plays out closely.
Minoru Suzuki vs. Kazuchika Okada
This wasn’t the match I was expecting, and perhaps that wasn’t a bad thing. I’d been lucky enough to be in the audience for their battle at Royal Quest and that had been a hard-striking encounter which played to the gallery nicely.
This time, the mood was more tentative, sports-like. Suzuki and Okada took it to the mat throughout the early parts of the match. Gone was the wilder Suzuki of earlier matches, replaced by a more focused Minoru, reminding me of Suzuki the former King of Pancrase. Some of the holds Suzuki tied Okada up in, I’m not even sure they have names for, but did they ever look painful!
A brief excursion to the guardrails saw Suzuki work on Okada’s arm by wrapping it around the rail. He continued on the arm in the ring, only for Okada to come back and provoke a striking match, something he inevitably came out the worse on.
Suzuki went for a Gotch-style piledrive mid-way through but Okada was able to counter it into a neckbreaker. A tombstone and a Rainmaker also did damage, but it was his countering of another Gotch-style piledriver attempt into a roll-up that earned him victory. It’s interesting to note, though, that Suzuki dominated the majority of the match and that it wasn’t a wholly convincing win for Okada at all. Part of an on-going story, do we think?
Perhaps this wasn’t their best match per se, but it was very enjoyable and worthy addition to their overall canon.
Taichi vs. Tomohiro Ishii
It’s either a brave or a crazy man that tries to defeat Ishii by fighting fire with fire. But that’s exactly what Taichi did and it’s with all credit to him. The Taichi of the last 12 months has been a revelation. Here he wanted to prove he was tougher than Ishii and he could match him blow for blow. To this end, Taichi kept the cheating to a minimum, save for using the timekeeper’s hammer at ringside and hitting a low blow near the end.
Taichi came out fighting from the start, aiming kicks at Ishii and finally knocking him down. The early part of the match up saw striking in abundance, with Taichi working kicks against the injured leg of Ishii, while Ishii trapped Taichi in the corner and unleashed a barrage of chops and forearms. Taichi later dropped Ishii with a forearm that was legitimately stinging—he’s clearly taking lessons from Suzuki!
Ishii demonstrated that wonderful resilience and determination that we’ve seen so many times from him, coming back for more time and time again when it looked Taichi had him down. A brainbuster finally nailed Taichi to the mat for the 1-2-3, but both men came out looking incredibly strong. A great match.
Will Ospreay vs. Kota Ibushi
This was the rubber match between these two, and the winner would also go on have the lead in the A Block G1 standings. So, a lot to play for. A big main event.
I seem to be correct in my assumption from Night 1 that Ospreay seems to be heading into the cocky heel role, although it’s genuinely hard to tell with him as he certainly does think a lot of himself. Perhaps this is his idea of being a face. But the heel tropes were more pronounced here, with Ospreay ruffling Ibushi’s hair on a rope break and grinding Ibushi’s head into the mat with his foot.
It works to a point—Ospreay suits playing the cocky heel. The real problem is that the live audience were clearly cheering him throughout and reacting favourably to his cockiness. For this to really work, Ospreay will need to find a way to upset the Japanese audience and generate heat from them without it being “go away heat”. I’m not quite sure how he’ll achieve that.
As for the match, it was a strong outing, perhaps not quite at the heights of their previous outings but certainly solid. There was a neat story being told here, with Ospreay frustrating Ibushi by constantly countering him and pouring salt in the wound by being cocky about it. Ibushi reached the point where he lost his temper and his viciousness came out, and a Kamigoye earned him the victory.
The right man won. Why? Because I seriously think Kota Ibushi is going to be this year’s winner. Now that I’ve said that, watch Nee Japan prove me wrong…
The ninth evening of this year’s G1 didn’t feel like a big deal, in fact it felt pretty low-key. But actually, that feeling was deceptive, and it was a very entertaining evening. The ‘Switchblade’ and Jeff Cobb had a solid effort, as did Okada and Suzuki. Ishii and Taichi and a stormer and the match of the night. And Ospreay moves further into the heel side as Koto tops A Block. Recommended.
1. Kota Ibushi (4-1) (8 pts)
2. Jay White (3-2) (6 pts)
3. Taichi (3-2) (6 pts)
4. Will Ospreay (3-2) (6 pts)
5. Minoru Suzuki (3-2) (6 pts)
6. Kazuchika Okada (3-2) (6 pts)
7. Jeff Cobb (2-3) (4 pts)
8. Shingo Takagi (2-3) (4 pts)
9. Tomohiro Ishii (2-3) (4 pts)
10. Yujiro Takahashi (0-5) (0 pts)
1. Tetsuya Naito (3-1) (6 pts)
2. Toru Yano (3-1) (6 pts)
3. Juice Robinson (3-1) (6 pts)
4. KENTA (2-2) (4 pts)
5. Zack Sabre Jr. (2-2) (4 pts)
6. EVIL (2-2) (4 pts)
7. Hirooki Goto (1-3) (2 pts)
8. Hiroshi Tanahashi (2-2) (2 pts)
9. YOSHI-HASHI (1-3) (2 pts)
10. SANADA (1-3) (2 pts)