New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 CLIMAX 29
Day 1 – Block A
American Airlines Center, Dallas TX
NOTE: As always with my tournament coverage, I will be focusing solely on tournament matches.
Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero on commentary which is PERFECTION.
LANCE ARCHER (0)
WILL OSPREAY (0)
Archer is out with a new look and a LOT of swagger, decking Young Boys on his way into the ring. I can dig it. Archer charges before the bell but Will counters immediately into a Spanish Fly and Archer bails, but Will climbs and wipes out Archer with a corkscrew moonsault to the floor. Chants for Will, Archer back in and Will lands a spring 450 and covers but only gets 1! Rocky reminds us that Will defeated Archer in the New Japan Cup as Will tries chops, but Archer just steps into them and CLOCKS Will with a shot. Will dumps Archer to the apron, gets an innovative spring dropkick to put him on the floor and looks for Space Flying Tiger Drop but Archer sidesteps it and throttles Will on the landing, and then just CHOKESLAMS HIM THROUGH AN ANNOUNCE TABLE! Well fuck. That’s exactly how that spot is supposed to go. The crowd has exploded. Archer sends Will back inside and runs through him with a clothesline, as the pace slows down. Chants for Will, who is busted around his nose. INSANE shortarm clothesline by Archer with a GREAT sell by Will, cover but only 2. Will throws a weak elbow (LOVE IT.), Archer gets the wrist and walks the ropes, makes it almost a full halfway across and hits Old School. Archer grounds Will aggressively and threatens ref Tiger Hitori with the claw.
Corner elbows by Archer connect as Archer shows how he can build momentum as a big man. Will tries to fire back with shots, Archer welcomes it so Will throws a NICE kick so Archer lands a BIG elbow, but Will fires back with the handspring enziguri. Enziguri and top rope 619 connect, and Will follows with Pip Pip Cheerio and covers but only gets 2. Will looks for Stormbreaker, Archer escapes but Will hits the backflip enziguri, evades the Pounce and hits a high kick but Archer repositions and hits the Pounce HARD on the 2nd try. Buckle bomb by Archer, BIG powerbomb follows by Archer who rolls Will to the floor and looks for a bomb again, hitting one on the apron. Archer now pulls Will up the entrance ramp, sets him up for another bomb, but Will drops behind into a slightly ugly but nonetheless effective Code Red! The ref counts, both come to and Archer shoves Will aside and slides in, but Will goes around and hits a spring dropkick to Archer, follows with a top rope shooting star press and covers but only gets 2. Robinson Special lands, the crowd is fired up but Archer counters OsCutter but Will gets a 2nd attempt, covers but Archer kicks out at 2! Stormbreaker attempted again, Will struggles to lift Archer so lays in Kawada kicks, Archer counters Hidden Blade and looks for Blackout, Will counters but eats a right hand in the corner from Archer, who hits a delayed Muscle Buster, covers but only gets 2.
Blackout by Archer connects, cover but Will is able to kick out at 2. Archer now locks in the EBD Claw, Will fights and falls into the ropes for the break. Archer holds on thru the ref’s count and threatens that he will fuck up Hitori. Will and Archer in the corner and Archer looks for a super chokeslam but Will counters at the last minute into a super Spanish Fly! Cover, but only 2! The crowd is hot. Will looks for Stormbreaker again, still cant lift, Kawada kicks again and Will fires up, hoists Archer up but Archer counters, head kick and hook kick by Will, ripcord hook kick, Will looks for super OsCutter but Archer crotches Will and looks for a top rope dragon suplex. Will counters and drops Archer off the corner but Archer hits a nice climbing knee, then lifts Will and plants him down HARD with a super Blackout! Archer now locks in the EBD Claw again, Will’s shoulders are down and that gets the 3, as Archer has to be pulled off of Will.
Lance Archer (2) defeats Will Ospreay (0) by pinfall via the EBD Claw
JAY’S RATING: 4.25 out of 5
This was a GREAT opening match for the greatest tournament in all of wrestling. Archer looks REFRESHED, focused and precise, blending his size and speed better than I have ever seen from him. Will is just one of the absolute best storytellers working today in ANY company, and that showed here as he and Archer locked into each other well, went on a great journey together and really knocked it out of the park. With Will clearly headed toward a Heavy run soon, but still committed to the Junior division as champ, this also felt like a smart and effective use of an upset win, especially as part of Lance Archer’s larger rebranding which I would call successful so far, with this win providing some establishment. REALLY great stuff here.
After the match, Archer locks a Lion in the EBD Claw because he fucking can.
BAD LUCK FALE (0)
EVIL jumps Fale before the bell for the early advantage, and takes the fight to the floor. EVIL hits a lariat running down the full entrance ramp, staggering Fale as the crowd chants for EVIL. Fale blocks the slam attempt and hits his own hard slam to EVIL on the floor. Fale back inside as the ref counts, and EVIL makes it back inside at 18 as Fale keeps on him. EVIL fires back, tries to slam Fale but still struggles to lift him so Fale sends EVIL into the corner and lays into him. Fale stands on EVIL’s back full weight, and hits clubbing lariats in the corner. Fale steps on the chest and salutes to cover, but EVIL kicks out at 2. EVIL tries to fire back and finally slams Fale as the crowd chants for him. Fale is dumped outside by EVIL who follows and pulls out chairs, but Fale cuts him off and looks for a chair shot. EVIL blocks it and wraps a chair around Fale’s head before sending him into the corner post. Chants for EVIL. Back inside and EVIL hits a bronco buster in the corner, covers but only 2. Lariat by EVIL staggers but does not drop Fale, another one takes Fale to a knee, but Fale counters the third with a tackle that just runs through EVIL. Corner avalanche and big splash connect, cover but only 2. Fale brings the chairs in but the ref stops him which allows EVIL to kick the chair away and hit a lariat that drops Fale. Cover but only 2. Everything Is Evil is blocked, Fale looks for Grenade, headbutt by EVIL but Fale hits Grenade and covers but EVIL kicks out at 2. Fale hoists EVIL for the Bad Luck Fall, EVIL fights out and drops Fale with a lariat but the ref gets knocked out of the ring in the process. EVIL now goes to the chair and measures Fale, gets a shot, wraps one chair around Fale’s head and looks to baseball swing the other but Fale cuts it off and hits a low blow. Boos from the crowd. Fale now does the baseball spot to EVIL, the ref is coming to as Fale hits the Bad Luck Fall, cover and thats the 3.
Bad Luck Fale (2) defeats EVIL (0) by pinfall via the Bad Luck Fall
JAY’S RATING: 2 out of 5
That was a match that happened, more than anything. EVIL had some nice spots and Fale does know how to tell a story, he’s just so limited in his range and it showed here and ended up holding EVIL back, in my opinion. It was a very specific kind of match and did its job as such, with Fale putting a hot EVIL back a step in the midst of his separation from LIJ during G1. But it just felt slow. (You’re gonna have Fale in the tournament and not Suzuki? Really?)
ZACK SABRE, JR. (0)
They lock up and grapple quick to start. Cravate by ZSJ, SANADA gets out but ZSJ with a nice mat counter to keep control of the arm. ZSJ works the shoulder joint, SANADA with a nice counter sequence but ZSJ counters back, SANADA looks for a counter and they trade again in a GREAT sequence to a standoff. Nice pop for that. ZSJ does his cocky prick thing, then gets SANADA in the corner, they come out into another great counterwrestling sequence with neither getting a 1 count on rollup attempts, Paradise Lock is countered into a cradle for 2, thats countered into a cradle for 2 and we get another standoff. Nice layout. “New Japan” chants. SANADA heads outside to reset the pace a bit, then heads back in. They go test of strength but ZSJ kicks it away mockingly, but SANADA asks for it again. This gives ZSJ the wrist but SANADA is able to get the power with the one hand before ZSJ counters into a nice grounded hold and transitions to a straightjacket choke. SANADA rises and reverses the hold onto ZSJ, who fights up but SANADA puts him back down. Nice counter from ZSJ to get the hold back on SANADA but SANADA rolls through again to reverse it. Cocky escape by ZSJ who follows with a Euro, SANADA gets the wrist but ZSJ counters. SANADA gets the wrist again, evades a PK, they pick up the pace as SANADA sends ZSJ outside with a dropkick, ZSJ evades a dive so SANADA holds the ropes open and invites ZSJ back in.
ZSJ now runs the count out at ringside to keep control of the pace, flipping folks off after heading back in. SANADA looks for the Paradise Lock, ZSJ evades and they run a sequence, SANADA tries again but ZSJ gets the cross armbreaker, and SANADA makes the ropes to break. SANADA rolls outside favoring the arm but rolls back inside where ZSJ pounces and keeps on the arm. ZSJ kicks away at SANADA, chants for SANADA who fires off chops, Euro by ZSJ who then locks in a Cobra Twist quickly and effectively. Hip toss counter by SANADA who then follows with the leapfrogs into the great dropkick. SANADA to the apron where ZSJ works the arm but misses an arm Pele, opening ZSJ to be tied in a Paradise Lock around the bottom rope. The crowd pops as SANADA pumps up and hits the dropkick to release. Pescado by SANADA wipes ZSJ out at ringside, and the crowd is firmly behind SANADA. Back suplex by SANADA connects, but only gets 2. ZSJ evades a spring by SANADA and locks in a nice Octopus Hold, wrenching the arm back and then scissoring the legs. ZSJ then grabs the other arm which drops SANADA down, so ZSJ transitions into a grounded scissored Octopus. SANADA fights and finally makes the bottom rope for the break.
Some chants for ZSJ who kicks away at SANADA, shots traded, SANADA looks for Skull End but ZSJ out of it, hits a unique snap DDT and transitions it into a dragon sleeper variation of his own with the arms trapped. SANADA hoists ZSJ from this position into a TKO setup but ZSJ escapes again into a hanging guillotine choke, but SANADA turns it into an Anarchist Suplex. TKO by SANADA connects, cover but only 2. Moonsault by SANADA misses but he lands on his feet and backslides ZSJ for 2, but ZSJ hits a PK. Zack Driver is countered into Skull End, spinning ZSJ around until he fades, looks for the moonsault but ZSJ catches him on the landing into a triangle choke! SANADA fades, chants for SANADA who lifts ZSJ up but ZSJ targets the arm again, SANADA gets a moonsault into Skull End, ZSJ with the European Clutch for 2, ZSJ tries another rollup but SANADA rolls it through with the Prawn Hold and gets the 3 count! ZSJ is STUNNED!
SANADA (2) defeats Zack Sabre Jr (0) by pinfall via Prawn Hold
JAY’S RATING: 4 out of 5
This was a VERY good match between two VERY good mat technicians who worked a totally psychological match against each other, and I was here for it. Its a different kind of pace and contest, but I LOVE seeing the mental games, the little choices, the counterwork all working together to build and release tension. And these two are masters of this form, as shown here. I do feel like it could have pushed further with maybe one more sequence before the finish, but the flash pin is a great choice for a match between these two, with SANADA snatching 2 points in classic ZSJ style.
After the match, ZSJ HAS ATTACKED THE REFEREE and is tearing his arm out of its socket. ZSJ is PISSED about the outcome of this one. Then he clocks a Young Boy in the ramp. Nice post-match tantrum.
KOTA IBUSHI (0)
I want this one to be great SO BADLY. I want the old KENTA back, one of the first Japanese wrestlers of the current era who really INSPIRED me during his time at NOAH. I want this return to deliver so much. So I want to own that I’m going in a) biased and b) with high hopes. HUGE response for KENTA. We get the bell and some “New Japan” chants to start, just because of this matchup even happening at all. Strong lockup to begin, they evade each others strikes and stand off. Things keep slow, measuring each other and looking for the striking game, going kickboxing style. Dueling chants with equal support for KENTA and Ibushi. KENTA grounds Ibushi as we get “Both These Guys” chants. Break in the ropes and KENTA just SLAPS THE SHIT out of Ibushi. So Ibushi just CRACKS ONE OFF of his own. JEEBUS. That one rocked KENTA and Ibushi now puts boots to him. Shots from Ibushi but KENTA gets him on the apron and draped over the middle rope and KENTA lands a middle rope knee drop to the back to take control. KENTA now toys with Ibushi, and hits a thudding chest kick that wakes up Ibushi. Dueling chants again as KENTA keeps laying in kicks, hitting a THUDDING one and covering for 2 before grounding Ibushi. The crowd fires up for Ibushi who fights up, knee to the gut by KENTA who then hits an AWESOME PK. Nice crowd response to that one. Shibata helped him on that one, I think, and it paid off. Dang.
Vicious knee drops to the back of the head, KENTA uncovers the knee but fakes out and hits the mocking kick to the head. Shots traded and KENTA gets the striking advantage, just collapsing Ibushi and getting a cover for 2. The striking story here, with KENTA getting the advantage over master striker Ibushi, is great. Ibushi fires up and asks for more as KENTA kicks him in the face, they power up and trade shots, kick to the back by KENTA earns a cover but still only 2 as KENTA grounds things again. Chants for Ibushi. Nice dropkick by Ibushi stops KENTA’s momentum as both are down. Dueling chants again. Ibushi gets a powerslam, follows with a rollthrough into a middle rope moonsault and covers but only gets 2. Wasitlocks traded and KENTA drops Ibushi off the ropes with a leg lariat. Clotheslines by KENTA connect, he dumps Ibushi with a nice suplex, climbs and folds Ibushi up with a diving clothesline. Cover but only 2. KENTA keeps things slow, looks for the tornado guillotine but Ibushi counters and hits a chop, looks for a superplex, KENTA fights but Ibushi strikes back and drops KENTA to the apron. Ibushi now looks for the deadlift German off the apron, KENTA counters but Ibushi lands a Pele that dumps KENTA to the floor. Pescado by Ibushi but KENTA attempts to counter with a kick but the knee ends up catching Ibushi more and the landing is just awkward. But then KENTA drapes Ibushi over the barricade, climbs the apron and hits a nice diving stomp/dropkick to the back of the head.
Ref Red Shoes counts, Ibushi breaks it at 12 but KENTA meets him with a spring dropkick, corner running kick and THE hesitation dropkick. KENTA climbs and drills all of his weight into Ibushi with a double stomp, cover but only 2. KENTA now calls for the end, looks for Go To Sleep, Ibushi fights it off and drops KENTA with a THUDDING lariat and both are down. Sitout powerbomb by Ibushi gets 2. Dueling chants again. Ibushi looks for Kamigoye but KENTA counters into a GTS attempt but Ibushi turns it into a crucifix for 2. Double lariats move no one but KENTA connects with the busaiku knee and both are down again. “This is Awesome” chants. Shots traded from their knees, Ibushi smiles as he lands one, they keep throwing bombs and Ibushi fires up, they stand and keep trading until KENTA nails a nice head kick, Ibushi crumples and KENTA covers but Ibushi is able to kick out at 2. Another kick to the head by KENTA, then another, then another, and one more for good luck before KENTA covers but Ibushi still kicks out at 2. KENTA now uncovers the knee, calls for the end again and hoists Ibushi, GTS connects, KENTA covers and thats 3!
KENTA (2) defeats Kota Ibushi (0) by pinfall via Go To Sleep
JAY’S RATING: 4 out of 5
This was a REALLY good match. A great match. I want to make sure thats clear. This was a successful reveal for KENTA, who proved to be a BETTER striker than Ibushi (which is saying a LOT). It was hard-hitting, and a great choice to set G1 favorite Ibushi back at Day 1 in favor of establishing KENTA as a major threat at the start. This was all good stuff from top to bottom. And KENTA certainly looks FAR more present and dropped in than his WWE run. But… its still not the same KENTA in terms of sheer intensity and precision. There were moments that didnt need to be as slow as they were, and those moments felt like WWE-esque “air” in the match. And so I was hoping for something just a smidge more. That said, this was no less a great hard-hitting high-impact outing. And I have a gut feeling that this is just KENTA getting back into his own skin, and that he will continue to do so over the course of the G1. And if that happens, I cant wait.
After the match, KENTA helps Ibushi up and shows respect. Ibushi collapses and then shakes KENTA’s hand and they hug.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI (0)
KAZUCHIKA OKADA (0)
“Holy shit” chants at the start, as this is one hell of a main event for Day 1 of the G1, in the US no less. The crowd is going BALLISTIC. Okada and Tana just drink it in. “New Japan” chants. This crowd seems to feel like this main event is a gift (and the past few matches have delivered the goods too), so this is really cool as a response. They lock up, split chants for both, and we get the tease into the clean break by Okada but Tana hits a forearm. Shots traded, they grab each others hair, boot by Okada drops Tana but he’s quickly back up and comes right back at Okada. Tana evades the dropkick, Okada evades Sling Blade, Tana evades Rainmaker, Okada evades a dragon suplex, arm drag by Tana, headscissors by Okada and we get a standoff. Nice sequence. “Both These Guys” chants. Slam by Tana and a leaping elbow drop connects, and Tana does the guitar taunt. “Go Ace” chants. Tana gets into a sitting position in the corner and Okada lands the dropkick to dump Tana outside. Dueling chants. Okada follows outside and hits a hard DDT on the floor, then rolls back in as Red Shoes begins the count. Tana rolls back in and Okada hits the running basement dropkick, then poses over Tana’s body. Red Shoes wont count the pinfall for a cocky cover. Chants for Red Shoes.
Okada keeps on Tana in the corner, Tana fires back but Okada gets a dragon screw (and as damn good a one as Tana pulls out) to keep the advantage. Neckbreaker by Okada, cover but only 2 and Okada keeps Tana grounded. Dueling chants again. Okada catches a leg and looks for a dragon screw again but Tana is able to get out, get Okada’s leg and snap off one of his own. “Go Ace” chants. Flurry by Tana, flying forearm drops Okada and Tana gets a running corner dropkick, a slam and climbs the middle rope before landing the flipping senton. Cover but only 2. Tana looks for Sling Blade, Okada evades and hits the running elbow and fires up. Flying corner elbow connects followed by another heavy DDT, cover but only 2. Air Raid Neckbreaker by Okada is countered and Tana gets a dragon screw with Okada’s leg draped through the ropes. Okada fires back with a flapjack, and both are down again. They duck lariats, Euro by Okada, dropkick to the knee by Tana, BIG forearm by Okada and the Air Raid Neckbreaker connects for 2. Slam by Okada who climbs and hits a gorgeous flying elbow drop, hypes up the crowd, and hits RAINMAKER POSE, but Tana gets rollup for 2 and keeps on the leg with an inverted dragon screw. Tana gets the Cloverleaf but Okada gets to the ropes. Another inverted dragon screw, Okada rolls outside and Tana climbs the corner and wipes out Okada with a picture perfect standing High Fly Flow on the floor. Damn that was pretty.
Red Shoes begins to count, and Tana sends Okada back inside, wanting to win clean. Tana fires up, Okada looks for a counter, Tana counters that to Twist and Shout, Okada gets John Woo, Tana gets Sling Blade but Okada gets the dropkick and tombstone piledriver! Nice sequence. The Rainmaker is blocked as Tana turns it into Sling Blade. Tana climbs and hits another standing High Fly Flow, now climbs again and goes for High Fly Flow but Okada gets the knees up at the last moment and Tana crashes and burns. Both are down, and we get the dueling chants. Tombstone by Okada is blocked, Tana with strikes but Sling Blade is reversed into a short Rainmaker, and Okada holds onto the wrist and hits another short one (without the ripcord). Okada fires up, looks for Rainmaker but Tana grabs a cradle out of nowhere for a VERY close 2, then hits a great dragon suplex with a bridge for another 2. Sling Blade is reversed again twice into Rainmaker attempts but Tana smacks Okada to block, but Okada keeps the wrist so Tana keeps slapping and Okada drops. Tana tries Sling Blade again but Okada counters again into a spinning tombstone and hits Rainmaker fully and decisively, cover and thats the 3!
Kazuchika Okada (2) defeats Hiroshi Tanahashi (0) by pinfall via Rainmaker
JAY’S RATING: 4 out of 5
I really enjoyed this as a main event of the evening and it was easily the best deilvery from Tana that we’ve had in a while. The crowd ate up every minute, and Okada and Tana both FED off of that energy and stayed locked in with each other, and delivered a counter-heavy and fun performance, with good drama from these now perennial rivals. A great way to cap off a great evening of tournament action overall.
After the match Okada takes the mic and says “first win” in Japanese, then apologizes in English (brilliant and funny moment) and gets the Dallas pop. Chants for Okada. Okada asks how G1 Climax was? Nice pop. He says tonight is the first time G1 has been in America, but will not be the last. Nice pop. Okada says we will come back, and when he comes back to Dallas, he will be the G1 Climax winner, and he will be IWGP heavyweight champion. He thanks Dallas and does his Japanese closer saying when he comes back he will make it rain to a nice pop. Okada pulled that one out, and the crowd just LOVES him.
This was a GREAT way to kick off the G1 and a great debut for the tournament in the US! The crowd was a little small, as you could see lots of empty space, but JESUS were the people there happy to be there, and the talent ate all of that energy up. Fale/EVIL left a bit to be desired, but there was so much good here. KENTA gets his first win, and over Kota Ibushi at that, which makes a statement right away and whets the appetite. SANADA and ZSJ put on a clinic, Archer has reached his next form and I am here for it, and Okada and Tana sent the people home happy. I also like Okada taking the win here over last year’s G1 winner, as Tana is Tana but he’s definitely showing the wear and tear, so the investment in Okada early on feels smart. New Japan tournaments have been ON POINT lately, and this is a promising star to this one. Looking forward to Day 2. Rankings after Day 1:
|Block A||Block B|
|Lance Archer||2||Jeff Cobb|
|Bad Luck Fale||2||Hirooki Goto|
|Kazuchika Okada||2||Jon Moxley|
|Will Ospreay||0||Shingo Takagi|
|Zack Sabre Jr.||0||Jay White|
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||0||Toru Yano|