NJPW: G1 Climax Day 11 Review

…Oh, hello. Didn’t see you there. Welcome to the 11th day of G1 Climax tournament action. Today we have a lot of big questions to answer: will Will Ospreay earn himself a RevPro title shot by beating Zack Sabre Jr? Is there a limit to how hard KENTA can kick people? What, if anything, could be used to stop Kazuchika Okada? Well, let’s find out what the answers are:

Results:

CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto) & Yota Tsuji def. Tomohiro Ishii, Tomoaki Honma & Yuya Uemura // HASHI tapped out Uemura with the Butterfly Lock

Ren Narita & Toru Yano def. ‘Shooter’ Shota Umino & Jon Moxley // Yano rolled up Umino for the pin

Bullet Club (Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi & Jay White) def. Suzuki-Gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Minoru Suzuki & Taichi) // Owens pinned Kanemaru off a Package Piledriver

Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito) def. Toa Henare, Jeff Cobb & Juice Robinson // Shingo pinned Henare off a Pumping Bomber

G1 Climax Tournament Match: Kota Ibushi vs Bad Luck Fale

If you were wondering if the 2nd best wrestler in New Japan was good enough to drag a good match out of Fale this far into the tournament? No.

Winner: Kota Ibushi

G1 Climax Tournament Match: Will Ospreay vs Zack Sabre Jr

There was more to prove here than just two points, this was philosophically about proving who was the best British wrestler not currently in Britain. But with Nick Aldis and Mason Ryan unavailable, we had to settle for a socialist and some lanky wanker from Essex. All jesting aside, this was possibly the best technical work I’ve ever seen from Ospreay. I’ve criticised Shit Will from Twitter in the past for being a very good performer from the neck down and that, didn’t really change here, still his work in holds is somewhat lacking but ZSJ was enough to bring out that thing that’s been missing from Ospreay’s work since his opening night match with Archer. Sabre equally, managed to showcase his versatility here by playing Ospreay’s fast-paced game including delivering a b-e-a-utiful second rope tornado DDT.

I can’t say this match was flawless, it had the typical odd awkward moments, it occasionally could have been trimmed by a minute or two here and there but really, it’s worth just not really trying to critique it sometimes. Now if we could have this Ospreay more frequently, I’d be a happy boy. Zack won by tapping out Will with Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than the Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness. Also, as this win was dedicated to toppling the British PM, in the words of Stormzy, “F*ck the Government, F*ck Boris.”

Winner: Zack Sabre Jr

G1 Climax Tournament Match: Lance Archer vs Kazuchika Okada

This is the match that Ibushi and Fale would have in a world where Fale cared about producing more than two half-good matches per tournament. Okada is often at his best when someone forces him out of his comfort zone and here, Archer is a very different monster to even the man Okada beat five years ago. Forcing him to work underneath but also at pace and often very stiff, this was a real delight and a good refresher after Okada has put on superb performances throughout the tournament but he can start to feel a little stale, like you know if a match is either going to go under 10 or over 20 minutes. So seeing him work in the 14-minute pocket was lovely.

That said, with the limited time frame, it did take about halfway through this match for everything to really click. But when it did, it was lariat-slinging magic. Ultimately, Archer was not enough to take down the Rainmaker who after hitting his eponymous move, got the pin. Still, this was another star-making performance from Archer who is more than likely going to pick up a good title shot out of this tournament. If nothing else, he has a win over the Junior Heavyweight Champion…

Winner: Kazuchika Okada

G1 Climax Tournament Match: KENTA vs SANADA

KENTA is having one hell of a debut tournament and SANADA, well he’s very good given the right opponent. I’m not sure if KENTA was quite the right opponent for this but they still produced something interesting. The problem with SANADA is he puts on likeable babyface performances but then he still wrestles the same style even when he’s playing the underdog or the dominant heel. It stops his underdog work feeling sympathetic which is a necessity. Still, he’s working with someone who is very comfortable with playing the unrelenting asshole in KENTA.

The story here seemed to be that KENTA was underestimating SANADA but at the same time, was still a little shook after his loss to Okada. But also, he’s really good at kicking and kneeing people in the head. Much like the Ospreay-Okada match, this was strong in layout but a little unbalanced as SANADA did not quite match the intensity of KENTA. It was still very good work on a purely technical level but on an emotional level, did not quite deliver to the extent of some of the highlights of this tournament. This might just be me talking as someone who doesn’t understand why anyone would think anyone but EVIL is the man deserving of a breakout run within LIJ. Eight days with the NEVER title is not enough for my beloved Goth Hoss. SANADA won by making KENTA pass out in the Skull End dragon sleeper for long enough to hit a Moonsault for the pin. Keiji would be proud.

Winner: KENTA

G1 Climax Tournament Match: EVIL vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

My lord, this was a professional wrestling match. Both the ACE and the Reaper’s skillset is very effective at swapping between styles, presenting a match with English technique, American psychology and Japanese toughness. They also quite firmly and wisely worked a simple formula with little messing about outside the ring, just good in-ring action. The story that Tanahashi is having to push himself closer to death with each match just to win paid off dividends as obviously, no one expects the Ace to still be as combustive as he once was but he is still one of the most fluid and accomplished big match wrestlers we’ve ever seen. EVIL, no slouch in that department went all out, looking like he was willing to kill for two points, some of his lariats looked like they might literally take Tana’s head off.

The commentary added massively to this one, telling the story of both men’s opposites in terms of average win and loss times, making it seem every minute longer the match went, the more it was slipping away from Tanahashi. The final five minutes of this as Tanahashi tried to power back from stuff devastating leg work by EVIL were superb stuff. I’m sure there will be some who will complain that perhaps Tanahashi shrugged off that leg work too much but for me, it didn’t affect the storytelling so I am fine with overlooking that, especially as the High Fly Flow frog splash is such a beaut of a climax to a match. This was possibly the best main event of A Block so far, up there with Okada v KENTA & Okada v Tanahashi. All-round jolly fine stuff.

Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi

Some matches were good, one was bad, most were very good. Let’s face it, if you’re reading this, you’ll probably watch it or already have so yeah, hope you enjoy/enjoyed it.

Standings:

Block A

Kazuchika Okada – 12 pts (6-0-0)

Hiroshi Tanahashi – 8pts (4-0-2)

KENTA – 8pts (4-0-2)

Kota Ibushi – 8pts (4-0-2)

EVIL – 6pts (3-0-3)

————–CANNOT—WIN—————————-

EVIL – 4pts (2-0-4)

Lance Archer – 4pts (2-0-4)

SANADA – 4pts (2-0-4)

Will Ospreay – 4pts (2-0-4)

Zack Sabre Jr – 4pts (2-0-4)

Bad Luck Fale – 2pts (1-0-5)

Block B

Jon Moxley – 10pts (5-0-0)

Juice Robinson – 6pts (3-0-2)

Tomohiro Ishii – 6pts (3-0-2)

Hirooki Goto – 4pts (2-0-3)

Jay White – 4pts (2-0-3)

Shingo Takagi – 4pts (2-0-3)

Taichi – 4pts (2-0-3)

Tetsuya Naito – 4pts (2-0-3)

Toru Yano – 4pts (2-0-3)

Images courtesy of njpw1972.com

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