There’s a heatwave in Osaka and things are heating up in the G1 Climax 29 tournament. Unlike the B block, which remains a relatively open field, the A block has already seen several mathematical eliminations. While the likes of Zack Sabre Jr., SANADA and potential cat-among-the-pigeons Will Ospreay have seen their chances of G1 victory stolen away from them, Okada has put in a record-breaking performance having equalled NJPW legend Chono’s run of unbeaten appearances in the G1 and surpassed it. KENTA also has made his return to Japan with a vengeance, crushing the dreams several NJPW mainstays along the way.
Onto tonight’s matches, then, as the journey towards the block finals in the Budokan continues apace.
Toa Henare and Juice Robinson defeat Yota Tsuji and Ren Narita // Henare pins Tsuji with a uranage
YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii defeat Tomoaki Honma, Jeff Cobb and Toru Yano // YOSHI-HASHI submits Honma with the Butterfly Lock
BUSHI, Shingo Takagi and Tetsuya Naito defeat Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Minoru Suzuki and Taichi // Shingo pins Kanemaru with Made in Japan
Chase Owens and Jay White defeat Shota Umino and Jon Moxley // Jay White pins Shota Umino with the Blade Runner
G1 Climax 29 A Block tournament matches
Bad Luck Fale defeats KENTA by roll-up
The disparity in size between these two opponents is probably the biggest in the G1. However, KENTA has proved a worthy potential winner of the block while Fale languishes at the bottom. The size issue reared its head early on for KENTA as he was rag-dolled on a couple of occasions by the Rogue General. This match soon degenerated into usual Bullet Club fare with Jado using his kendo stick to interfere and, KENTA having turned the tide and locked in the Game Over submission, Chase Owens provided a distraction just as Fale started to tap out. After KENTA was then distracted again by Jado, Fale scored the win via roll-up.
With Fale only scoring four points so far, his involvement in the G1 period remained questionable. What’s the point in having a big guy in there if he can’t run interference against some of the favourites to win the block? This was not the most inspiring match but it did serve to keep KENTA further from the top spot in the block and gave Fale a role as spoiler to KENTA’s G1 campaign.
Zack Sabre Jr. defeats Lance Archer by roll-up
Just taking into consideration the size and height difference between Archer and Sabre Jr., this should have, theoretically, been a rout for Lance Archer. However, the 6’ 8” behemoth came up short against the British Heavyweight Champion in what was a fairly competitive affair. After ‘evading’ (not running away from) Lance Archer for the first part of the match, Sabre Jr. was overpowered by Archer’s strength game.
However, at every opportunity Sabre was able to use his technical skills to find an answer in the form of a submission hold. Archer’s Derailer? Countered with a flying guillotine. Archer’s rope walk? Sabre pushes him from the top rope. The action spills to the outside and then Archer goes to get back in the ring? Sabre ties Archer up with a Cobra Twist and then a knee bar.
The tide would soon shift, though, with Archer chokeslamming Sabre and then stalling a potential pinfall victory at the count of two. Archer’s hubris would prove his downfall after his attempted Blackout finisher was evaded and reversed into a roll-up for ZSJ to score the win and two points.
For a match that, on the face of it, looked like a throwaway affair where both wrestlers are mathematically eliminated from the G1, this was a good one. Archer’s bold new look and relative dominance in singles competition have started a renaissance for the multi-talented big man and Zack Sabre Jr. continues to prove why he is one of, if not the, best to have held the Undisputed British Heavyweight title.
EVIL defeats Will Ospreay with Everything is Evil
Despite Will Ospreay being mathematically eliminated from this year’s G1, the stakes were high for both competitors in this match. EVIL is one of the five men still alive in the competition and a victory here would make sure that remained the case. For Ospreay, it was all about proving that he could hang with the heavyweights and also about running interference for Chaos leader Kazuchika Okada.
Early in the match, Ospreay looked dominant but after a trip to the outside and a chair shot for his trouble, the advantage became EVIL’s.
Despite EVIL maintaining a strong power game, this was another match where any size difference between Junior Heavyweight Champion Ospreay and EVIL didn’t stop it from being competitive.
With Ospreay flying all over the place as per usual and attempting a Storm Breaker and a Super Oscutter on EVIL, the suspense was palpable. Could EVIL really fall at the blade of Ospreay? However, a lariat and a few suplexes later and everything remained EVIL as the big man took the win and, most importantly, two points which keep his hopes of topping the A block alive, at least for the time being.
Kota Ibushi defeats Hiroshi Tanahashi with Komagoye
In last year’s G1 Climax, these two met in a thrilling final at the Budokan so the hype going into this was real. A win for either man was the difference between remaining within chasing distance of Kazuchika Okada and facing an uphill struggle to the finish.
Tanahashi started out firmly in control, no doubt buoyed by his previous two wins over Ibushi. However, after an attempted High Fly Flow to a prone Ibushi on the outside misfired, with Ibushi jumping onto the ring apron and reversing it into a top rope hurricanrana.
While the Bomaye didn’t secure the win for Ibushi, his own knee strike finisher which translates to ‘surpassing God’ certainly did. It’s well documented that Tanahashi is a massive influence on Ibushi so tonight’s win is one that will hopefully serve to elevate Ibushi to the next level.
While Tana appears to be winding down his career, his intensity and ring work remain high quality despite his obvious injuries. The gruelling punishment he puts himself through with every match is a testament to his resolve and his legend status.
You can see that Tanahashi is doing the right thing – having achieved all of his success and borne New Japan on his shoulders in difficult times he is now heralding a new beginning for the company and it’s hard not to believe that is starts with the likes of Kota Ibushi.
SANADA defeats Kazuchika Okada with a moonsault
SANADA is mathematically eliminated from the G1. However, a win here would prove invaluable for him as it would more or less guarantee him a title shot against the Rainmaker at a later date. For Okada, a win here would mean an unprecedented undefeated streak in the G1 and further eliminate the likes of KENTA from having a chance of catching him up to win the block.
With the crowd firmly behind SANADA, the sense that the tide would finally turn against Okada was palpable.
After a relatively slow start to the match, it was clear that this 30-minute time limit match would go the distance. Okada had the upper hand for most of it but SANADA was able to fight back. Okada’s attempted Rainmakers fell short of the mark and SANADA slowly ground his opponent down with the Skull End.
A series of nifty escapes from Okada, though, was reminiscent of other matches in this G1 where SANADA has failed to get the submission. However, after locking in the Skull End in the centre of the ring and holding onto the body scissors, Okada’s escape attempts became weaker and weaker as the champion faded away before our very eyes.
When SANADA finally abandoned Skull End and went for the moonsault, it seemed as though Okada had found a reprieve. But, despite getting his knees up to block the Keiji Mutoh-inspired moonsault, Okada couldn’t capitalize. All the while, the clock was running down, now to the final minute of the match. Two moonsaults later with 20 seconds to go, SANADA was able to finally pick up the win against Okada, cueing up a challenger for the IWGP title once the G1 is over.
What happened tonight in Okada seemed like a sea change for New Japan in the best possible way. Ibushi’s victory over Tanahashi and SANADA finally scoring a win over Okada signals a potential changing of the guard or, perhaps, a levelling of the playing field in the not too distant future. Despite opening up a lead for Okada in terms of points and maintaining his legacy as the greatest IWGP Champion of all time, the matchmakers in this G1 have also secured a promising future for the company. This is a lesson some other wrestling promotions, even the biggest, could certainly take note of.
A Block standings
Kazuchika Okada – 12 pts
Kota Ibushi – 10 pts
Hiroshi Tanahashi – 8 pts
KENTA – 8 pts
EVIL – 8 pts
Zack Sabre Jr. – 6 pts
SANADA – 6 pts
Lance Archer – 4 pts
Will Ospreay – 4 pts
Bad Luck Fale – 4 pts
Bad Luck Fale
Zack Sabre Jr.
All pics and videos courtesy of NJPW