The end of this year’s G1 Climax is in sight, and as we join the NJPW faithful in Kanagawa for day 16 of this gruelling tournament we are met with quite a quandary: while the outcome of A-Block stands between Golden Star Kota Ibushi and the Rainmaker, Kazuchika Okada, the potential outcomes for B-Block are numerous and deeply uncertain. Moxley comes into Day 16 riding high on 10 points, but Goto, Ishii, Naito and Jay White are all nipping at his heels on 8 points each. Can Goto knock Moxley off his perch? Can the Stone Pitbull subdue the Dragon, Shingo Takagi? And most importantly, can the Holy Emperor Taichi triumph against the true Ace of New Japan, Toru Yano? Read on for the answers….
Ren Narita and Shota “Shooter” Umino def. Yuya Uemura and Yota Tsuji // Umino pinned Tsuji after a Fisherman’s Suplex
Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi and Bad Luck Fale def. BUSHI, EVIL and SANADA // Owens hit Bushi with a Package Piledriver
Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer and Zack Sabre Jr def. Karl Fredericks, Clark Connors and KENTA // Suzuki took out Connors with the Gotch Piledriver
YOSHI-HASHI, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada def. Toa Henare, Will Ospreay and Kota Ibushi // YOSHI-HASHI hit Henare with the Kumagoroshi (you go Y-H!)
G1 Climax Block A Tournament Match: Toru Yano def. Taichi
Day 16 of this year’s G1 just so happened to coincide with my 33rd birthday. I was very pleased, then, to discover that this guaranteed classic of a match had been scheduled, quite obviously as a birthday gift. Thank you, New Japan. This was everything you would expect from a Yano/Taichi outing: false starts, a wild Kanemaru appearing, ring-apron burritos. Flying turnbuckle pads aplenty. Poor referee Marty Asami did his best to keep control but it was never destined to be. A truly shocking turn of events came when Toru Yano forcibly removed Taichi’s trousers, cruelly denying the Holy Emperor the chance to dramatically rip them off. A double low blow to Taichi and Kanemaru followed by a two-man ring apron burrito saw Suzuki-Gun’s finest fall victim to the dreaded countout. Was there any actual wrestling? Not really. Did it matter? Not remotely. This 6-star classic was truly a match for the ages. I defy you to watch it without cracking a smile.
G1 Climax Block A Tournament Match: Tetsuya Naito def. Jeff Cobb
Some solid chemistry between the big man Jeff Cobb and LIJ’s Tetsuya Naito; Naito’s speed and agility proved an excellent foil for Cobb’s high power offence; neither Cobb nor Naito are afraid to sell when the occasion calls for it, and it lent the match an air of legitimacy. Cobb is still finding his feet in NJPW, but he’s convincing, and he brings a style and a presence which sets him apart from the plethora of Big Lads on the scene right now. How many other absolute units can pull off a perfect standing moonsault? This was arguably Cobb’s best match – though it’s not hard to have a good match with Naito – and the one performance thus far which convinces me that he has a potentially bright future with New Japan. The last five minutes of this bout, in particular, were extremely good – Naito reversing the Tour of the Islands into Destino was some galaxy brain brilliance. It was always going to go Naito’s way, but Cobb looked good in defeat.
G1 Climax Block A Tournament Match: Hirooki Goto def. Jon Moxley
How’s this for a massive upset? Moxley has steamrollered his way through the G1 so far, absolutely dominating B-Block with his fire and determination. His trajectory brilliantly mirrors that of Kenny Omega in last year’s G1:0 the assured, poised gaijin star taking down veterans and young upstarts alike. But like Kenny Omega, underestimating one of NJPW’s best-kept secrets has proven his downfall.
Hirooki Goto is low-key one of New Japan’s most reliably entertaining wrestlers. True, he’ll never set the wrestling world on fire, but he’ll never disappoint either; he’s got guts and grit and a kind of stoic energy, a classic hero figure. And sure, there’s probably a degree of politics in the decision to hand Moxley a big L: he’s AEW-bound once the tournament is over, and you might question the long-term outlook should Mox go on to win, especially with rumours that NJPW and AEW are not on the best of terms. But losing to Goto is actually kind of brilliant. It’s completely unpredictable: nobody would peg Goto for the guy to take Moxley down – much in the same way that nobody thought Ishii would break Omega’s winning streak. And that’s the point. Underestimate Goto at your peril.
On pure narrative terms, this was an inspired piece of booking. Goto absorbed everything Moxley threw at him and still had enough left to turn things around; you might argue that Goto’s advantage is an intimate familiarity with the G1, which Mox lacks. My one criticism is that this ought to have gone longer to really drive home the mutual exhaustion. A fakeout Ushigoroshi into the GTR ultimately put Moxley down.
G1 Climax Block A Tournament Match: Jay White def. Juice Robinson
It was gaijin versus gaijin as Jay White and his beard sought to scoop a vital two points. I’ve never really understood the Juice Robinson hype, but he and White have excellent chemistry; a convincing whitemeat babyface vs slimy heel dynamic. White, in particular, showed intelligence (or perhaps cunning) in targetting Robinson’s knee, a sustained assault which saw White pull out an arsenal of strikes, blows, dragon screws, chair shots and a single leg crab. White has always been a superb heel in my estimation, but losing the belt has given him a kind of bitter viciousness, a much-needed edge; he’s the kind of heel you desperately want to lose. Robinson, meanwhile, played the babyface in peril to perfection. It wasn’t surprising to see him tap out to the JTO – but it made you hate Jay White that little bit more. Job well done.
G1 Climax Block A Tournament Match: Shingo Takagi def. Tomohiro Ishii
There was no way this one was going to be anything less than stellar. Ishii vs Takagi was an absolutely no-nonsense affair, a true war of attrition. Two strong, aggressive men doing their level best to pound the absolute crap out of one another. As per the usual Ishii brief, there was no polish to this match, no finesse, and nor should there have been. Takagi and Ishii complement one another beautifully in this respect: you don’t come to their matches for moonsaults or complex submission holds. This was 20+ solid minutes of Shingo Takagi wearing the implacable Ishii down bit by bit, lariat by thundering lariat; there can be few more terrifying spectacles than a fired-up Tomohiro Ishii approaching, demanding to be hit one more time.
It felt like the right choice to have Takagi triumph over Ishii. It was not an easy win, and Takagi took a huge amount of punishment. But it solidifies Takagi’s place among the heavyweights, proof that he can hold his own. Neither Ishii nor Takagi stands a chance of winning the block, but that was never the point. It was always about pride, and both men can walk away from this one with theirs intact.
Pretty much every B-Block bout on the Day 16 card is worth your time. Starting strong with the ode to joy that is Taichi vs Yano and ending on a love letter to Strong Style, this was a brilliantly diverse set of matches – and served to further muddy the B-Block waters. We now have four men on ten points, and four potential outcomes, with precious little indication as to how things will go – be sure to check back in for the next night of B-Block action.
Jon Moxley – 10 points (5-0-3)
Hirooki Goto – 10 points (5-0-3)
Jay White – 10 points (5-0-3)
Tetsuya Naito – 10 points (5-0-3)
Tomohiro Ishii – 8 points (4-0-4)
Toru Yano – 8 points (4-0-4)
Juice Robinson – 6 points (3-0-5)
Jeff Cobb – 6 points (3-0-5)
Taichi – 6 points (3-0-5)
Shingo Takagi – 6 points (3-0-5)
All pics courtesy of NJPW