After yesterday’s focus on A block, we return today to B Block action as NJPW’s G1 Climax continues into its tenth night. KENTA and ‘The Ace’ Hiroshi Tanahashi are main eventing in what is sure to be an exciting main event, plus big matches for Zack Sabre Jr and IWGP Heavyweight Champion Tetsuya Naito.
Let’s head 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: Yota Tsuji vs. Yuya Uemura
Maybe Young Lion fatigue has caught up with me, but I wasn’t really feeling this outing. There was nothing wrong with it per se. I was impressed to see Tsuji nail a running flip senton and a running splash at one point—impressive for a guy his size. Both men showed resilience in surviving the other man’s Boston crab, and they traded some absolute bombs in the final moments of the match. The time-limit draw result is fine, it doesn’t really upset anything here.
All in all, a solid effort. I just couldn’t connect with it for some reason.
Hirooki Goto vs. Toru Yano
If you ever needed proof that Goto is working hurt…
Yano started off by offering Goto his T-shirt, just like he did to Juice Robinson. Instead of being a nice guy, like Juice, Goto smashed Yano with a clothesline and rolled up in an odd-looking spinning roll-up for the pinfall victory in 18 seconds!
Yani chasing the ref around the ring afterwards was funny. But how much more can be done with Goto in his present state? We’ll wait and see.
Zack Sabre Jr vs. SANADA
This was a solid little match that I did quite enjoy. I’ve seen criticisms elsewhere that said the match never got out of second gear, but I don’t know if that’s fair. I don’t think this match was really attempting to escalate into an epic and so it didn’t need a big build-up. What we got was perfectly fine.
Perhaps I’m biased. I’m just a big ZSJ fan anyway, but the first part of the match, which saw Zack tying up SANADA in a variety of different wear down holds and submissions (including an octopus stretch on the outside) was fun to watch. For me, the fun of watching Zack is not necessarily the submissions themselves but how fluidly he transitions between them. It’s mesmerising.
SANADA was perhaps a little less memorable here. He was insistent on hitting the dragon sleeper but finally took victory with a Tower of London neck breaker and a moonsault. Zack still tried to go after SANADA after the bell. I’m not sure if he was genuinely dazed or not.
A fun, low-key match with an ever-enjoyable ZSJ. Not bad at all.
EVIL vs. Juice Robinson
I must say, the enthusiasm of Juice Robinson is contagious. You can help but get pumped up with him as he gets going. Still, EVIL tried his best to dampen his spirit.
There was a solid story being told here. Early on, Juice was pulled to the outside by Dick Togo and sent into the guard rail. EVIL followed up with a suplex onto a pile of chairs, which hurt Juice’s back. For the rest of the match, Juice would rally but would find himself debilitated by his back. He’d also go in for offence that would seem to hurt his own back as much as EVIL’s. EVIL would add to Juice’s woes with some mean slams and suplexes.
You’d think an opponent’s weakness would be enough for EVIL to get by with, but why rely on that when you’ve got Dick Togo? Juice had just nailed the Left Hand of God and was going for Pulp Friction when Togo distracted the ref. EVIL then nailed a low blow and Everything is Evil for the win.
A good match with a solid story, but I wish the story had played into the finish. They set up all that drama with Juice’s back, only for a low blow to be the deciding factor. Less Togo=Better EVIL.
Tetsuya Naito vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Have you ever noticed that YOSHI-HASHI always looks bored? Not that he wrestles bored, you understand, but he just has one of those faces…
Luckily for us, his wrestling has really shown a big upturn since the restart in May and this was no exception. While most fans, I assume, would have taken it for granted that Naito would win, YOSHI-HASHI gave us all pause for thought with a highly athletic performance that also saw some keen mat work and showed a bit more of a flourish from him than we’re used to. Check his moonsault to the outside for example. He also nailed the champ with a running head hunter, a western lariat and a Dragon suplex as part of his assault.
Naito was his usual charismatic self and gave as good as he got. Whether you’re a fan or not, it has to be said he really carries himself like a champion. He nailed some big moves here, like the Combinacion Cabron, a Swinging DDT, a reverse neck breaker in the ropes and a Gloria.
A Destino eventually gave Naito the win, but you could both men were the winners. A great match.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. KENTA
We ended with a great bit of drama, as KENTA proved once more why he makes such a killer heel and why ‘The Ace’ is still loved by so many.
Starting off with some minor asshole behaviour, like ruffling Tana’s hair on a rope break and booing the crowd (something Tana stopped with a baseball slide), he took at the Ace’s bad leg and subjected it to a real grinding: wrapping it around the guard rail and kicking the rail, hitting a dragon screw from the apron to the arena floor and locking in no less than three figure four leg locks.
The psychology here was clever. Not only was KENTA picking at Tanahashi’s weak spot and softening him for a submission, but it also made it harder for Tana to use his legs to kick out. As Tana avoided the count out from the dragon screw to the floor, KENTA hit him with a double stomp from the top for a near-fall that really saw the Ace struggle to kick out. Full credit to Tana’s selling here; he genuinely looked battered and his cries in pain were legit.
KENTA decided to do his own air guitar at one point—all I will say about it is that KENTA’s air guitar seems to have an unusually long fretboard! ‘The Ace’, he is not.
There were some shenanigans near the end of the match that, while they took nothing away from it, didn’t really feel necessary either. KENTA sent Tana into the ref then piled on top of both. With both men down, KENTA got his briefcase and cracked Tanahashi in the head with it. He followed up with a PK and a Buisaku knee for a very close near-fall. A Go To Sleep attempt saw the Ace counter into a Twist and Shout and, by hanging on, managed to land another two of the same on KENTA. A Slingblade and a crossbody followed, before the Texas Cloverleaf, raised into a Walls of Jericho-style high angle, was enough to put KENTA away. But the Ace looked like he’d been through a war…
A great match and a great end to the night. There was real storytelling here, KENTA plays the obnoxious heel so well and Tana proved he still has a lot to offer. Match of the night.
After some good but uninspiring action in the earlier part of the card, the second half of the show really saved the day, with great storytelling in Juice/EVIL and KENTA/Tanahashi, while Naito and YOSHI-HASHI put on a splendid athletic effort in the penultimate bout. If you can certainly catch the last two matches, definitely do so. They’re worth your time. Tanahashi continues to prove why he’s ‘The Ace’ and why he’s still standing tall, even though he’s in the latter part of his career. Here’s proof of why people still chant: “GO ACE!”
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 (4-1) (8 pts)
2. Juice Robinson (4-1) (8 pts)
3. Toru Yano (3-2) (6 pts)
4. EVIL (3-2) (6 pts)
5. Hiroshi Tanahashi (3-2) (6 pts)
6. KENTA (2-3) (4 pts)
7. Hirooki Goto (2-3) (4 pts)
8. SANADA (2-3) (4 pts)
9. Zack Sabre Jr. (2-3) (4 pts)
10. YOSHI-HASHI (1-4) (2 pts)