September 20th marked the 2nd night of the 30th G1 Climax, New Japan’s annual round-robin tournament. The card came to us from Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium with an attendance of 2,640 and featured a huge main event to kick off B Block proceedings with a bang—the long-awaited rematch between Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi. Let’s take a look at how the card played out.
If you’ve missed our coverage for the opening G1 show, check it out here:
Opening Contest – Yota Tsuji vs Gabriel Kidd
Match time – 9:15
Rating – 2.5/5
Much like the opener from the night prior, this was a pretty decent contest. Gabriel Kidd continues to impress; a 7-year vet who has really proven himself all over again after reporting to Shibata at the LA dojo. It’s only a matter of time before he goes on an excursion and comes back a megastar.
This wasn’t overly flashy and followed the usual Young Lion match layout. Some strikes, a suplex or two, some hyping up of the crowd and a Boston Crab finish. Some may find it somewhat formulaic, but that’s what makes the Young Lion system so great – the guys learn everything to the point of mastery before moving onto anything too big.
G1 Climax 30 B Block – Juice Robinson vs YOSHI-HASHI
Match time – 15:57
Rating – 3.5/5
So, it turns out that absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. It was really nice to see Juice back after spending the majority of the year away from New Japan events. It was even nicer to see him perform just as well as the other gaijins, despite the extended absence.
YOSHI-HASHI put on a great showing too, selling Robinson’s offence while connecting with some strong stuff in his own right. The Butterfly Lock is always applied pretty well, and this was no exception. I loved how YOSHI transitioned away from the hold into a backstabber and a Swanton Bomb. His escape out of Juice’s first attempt at Pulp Friction was super smooth. Really great to see.
Juice (as expected) did eventually get the win though, connecting with the Hand of God twice before connecting with Pulp Friction.
Good stuff overall. I’m very interested in how both men progress in this tournament after great showings in the block opener.
G1 Climax 30 B Block – Toru Yano vs SANADA
Match time – 6:16
Rating – 1.5/5
This was fun, all things considered. In a time where crowds are practically forbidden from being vocal at live events, comedic wrestling runs the risk of sinking like a lead balloon. But somehow, Yano and SANADA made it work.
Yano was, of course, the driving force behind a lot of the matches’ light-hearted elements as we’ve come to expect. SANADA played his role well, trying to catch Yano out with some technical offence instead of allowing himself to be drawn into the Sublime Master Thief’s out-of-ring shenanigans – a mistake that has proved fatal for many in the past—especially in G1 season.
Cold Skull was brought to the outside of the ring eventually, which allowed Yano to capitalise. The King of Pro Wrestling used a concealed roll of wrist tape to tie his adversary to Yuya Uemura, which led to the count-out victory.
This was almost Deja Vu.
Yano once again caught out one of the favourites to win the block – he did it with Naito, White and Moxley last year, and he’s already done it with SANADA this year.
What earns this match its low rating isn’t the content. Not at all. It’s the length of the match. As fun as it was, I feel there could’ve been more to it. It was a pretty fun affair, overall.
G1 Climax 30 B Block – Hirooki Goto vs KENTA
Match time – 17:15
Rating – 3.5/5
Much like Okada vs Ibushi from the opening night, I went into this match with extremely high expectations – expectations I thought were justified when knowing how excellent both can be. And much like Okada vs Ibushi, those expectations were not met.
I’m not saying this was in any way a bad match. I’m simply saying it underdelivered as a result of the lofty expectations that I had set. KENTA did some solid work on the shoulder to set up the GAME OVER submission (which did eventually give him the victory) that Goto sold exceptionally well.
Goto did adopt a similar gameplan as the match progressed, but his execution wasn’t as effective as KENTA’s.
All in all, this was fine. A strong win for KENTA (which we should expect a lot of in this tournament considering he holds the ‘right to challenge’ briefcase) and a logical one at that. As with other wrestlers who have experienced a limb being targeted thus far, I hope Goto continues to sell the arm – it could keep him looking strong in some defeats.
G1 Climax 30 B Block – EVIL vs Zack Sabre Jr
Match time – 15:54
Rating – 4/5
I think I can say without much doubt in my mind that this was EVIL’s best showing since before the lockdown. I’ve long said that The King of Darkness works much better as a competitor in more concise battles instead of drawn-out ‘epic’ matches that go long for the sake of going long.
Zack, after spending the majority of his New Japan tenure as a big heel player, was the face here and worked a more power-based, EVIL-style match pretty well. Some of the attempts made to ground the bigger man were thwarted by the former double champion, who used heel tactics to escape and bring things back into his control.
The match was partially spoiled by the Dick Togo interference that we’ve come to expect from Bullet Club EVIL, but ZSJ made it work, getting a huge reaction from the Osaka crowd as he fought off both men and avoided all heel moves from there on out.
A great closing sequence led to the European Clutch from Sabre for the win—a shocking (but surely welcome) victory in the eyes of many people.
G1 Climax 30 B Block – Tetsuya Naito vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
Match time – 27:16
Rating – 5/5
I don’t think I can recall many matches from the past 5 months that have gotten me this emotionally invested. I was like a child, innocently watching these larger than life performers fight for supremacy with pure joy. I forgot about all of the politics. All of the internet complaints. For just over 25 minutes, I watched 2 of my all-time favourites put on one of the best New Japan matches of the past 2 years.
Tanahashi (as I’m sure we all know) entered this tournament with a chip on his shoulder. He’d had a disappointing year, and was on the verge of falling off the edge as the rest of New Japan’s top talent passed him by. Naito entered as the double champion, the cocky leader of Los Ingobernables de Japon. I think in the back of our minds, we knew who was winning, but the Ace made us all believe that he could pull it off on a number of occasions. Even LIJ fanatics such as myself found themselves wanting—nay, needing—Tanahashi to pick up the win.
This wasn’t a pure strike-fest. This wasn’t a high spots encounter to pop the crowd. This was an excellently paced, brilliantly executed story. Tana’s usual targeting of the leg was sold well by Naito, there were some great counters, and Tana showed glimpses of the prime ace that he once was, hitting the High Fly Flow to the outside of the ring and hitting multiple ‘twist and shouts’.
At around the 25-minute mark, he connects with the first High Fly Flow on a standing Naito, before immediately going back to the top to finish the job. The crowd are electric, the investment in Tanahashi is at its highest. And in one moment, it all goes away, and the realisation slowly sets in that our beloved Ace is not winning. Naito puts things away quickly, hitting some (somewhat sloppy) Destinos to get the 3 count and the win.
While this didn’t have quite the same level of intensity as their trilogy in 2017, the two men put on something truly brilliant here. While Naito’s execution of his big moves was poor a lot of times, he played his role well and really helped his opponent build momentum. That’s all he really needed to do. This was the Tanahashi show, and it delivered.
Very, very good stuff all around.
Overall, this was a great night of wrestling. Naito vs Tanahashi was probably the best New Japan main event since Wrestle Kingdom; the two have excellent chemistry with one another and Tanahashi proved he could still be turned to as the Ace of New Japan—one that is desperately needed right now with the absence of Kazuchika Okada and the lack of current main event faces outside of Ibushi. I’m completely invested in his tournament run, even at the age of 43 he remains one of the most emotionally compelling performers and quintessential babyfaces in wrestling.
The undercard was strong too, with Juice/YOSHI-HASHI and ZSJ/EVIL pleasantly surprising me. I’m very excited for the rest of the tournament
The G1 Standings (To Date):
1. Kota Ibushi (1-0) (2 pts)
2. Jeff Cobb (1-0) (2 pts)
3. Will Ospreay (1-0) (2 pts)
4. Minoru Suzuki (1-0) (2 pts)
5. Taichi (1-0) (2 pts)
6. Jay White (1-0) (2 pts)
7. Kazuchika Okada (0-1) (0 pts)
8. Tomohiro Ishii (0-1) (0 pts)
9. Shingo Takagi (0-1) (0 pts)
10. Yujiro Takahashi (0-1) (0 pts)
1. Juice Robinson (1-0) (2 pts)
2. Toru Yano (1-0) (2 pts)
3. Tetsuya Naito (1-0) (2 pts)
4. Zack Sabre Jr. (1-0) (2 pts)
5. KENTA (1-0) (2 pts)
6. Hiroshi Tanahashi (0-1) (0 pts)
7. Hirooki Goto (0-1) (0 pts)
8. YOSHI-HASHI (0-1) (0 pts)
9. SANADA (0-1) (0 pts)
10. EVIL (0-1) (0 pts)