The G1 Climax kicks off its first night of tournament action at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. All ten participants from the A Block will have their first match while the B Block fill out the undercard in tag matches. The best time to be a New Japan fan has finally come. Let’s get started!
Guerrillas of Desinty def. Roppongi 3K @ 6:42 via Super Powerbomb on YOH – **
Loa looked to start the match off hot but got low bridged out to Tama and 3K followed them out with a pair of dives. 3K isolated Tama but he ducks their attack and Loa comes in from behind with a double lariat. G.O.D. stay on the juniors with a pair of slingshot sentons until SHO manages to escape a two suplexes, lands a spear and tags in YOH. Coming in hot, YOH drops Tama with a vertical suplex, gets caught in a backdrop suplex, avoids a Gun Stun, lands a thrust kick and SHO comes in for stereo knee strikes followed by a 3K lungblower + dropkick combination. Tama appears out of nowhere, hits a Gun Stun followed by a Stinger Splash and G.O.D. finish the match with a Super Powerbomb. Fine enough opener, quick and to the point.
Jeff Cobb & Ren Narita def. Tomohiro Ishii & Shota Umino @ 7:18 via Cobb Tour of the Islands on Umino – ***
Ishii shoves Cobb before the bell which Cobb responds by doing the same so the two kick off the match. They trade shoulders, Cobb connects with a dropkick that Ishii shrugs off and they meet face to fae before tagging out. Narita is able to shoulder Umino down but his senior is quickly back up, takes Narita down with an elbow followed by a dropkick and tags in Ishii. Narita’s chops have no effect on Ishii but he ducks a lariat and rocks Ishii with strikes before eventually hoisting him up with a vertical suplex. Cobb gets the tag, catches Umino in a release belly-to-belly, does the same to Ishii and catches Ishii’s crossbody into a vertical suplex followed by a swinging backdrop suplex for a two count.
Ishii elbows out of a German, they trade forearms, Ishii ducks a lariat and connects with a German of his own and tags in Umino who heads to the top for a dropkick. Cobb fights off Umino’s vertical suplex, eats a flurry of strikes which ends with Umino landing the suplex for two. Umino wants a German, Cobb does manage to fight that off, gets a standing moonsault and finishes Umino with a Tour of the Islands. Ishii and Cobb have to be pulled apart by young lions after the match as the two rain down forearms onto one another. Very good opening tag match. They did so much in seven minutes and Cobb looked like a great fit with the New Japan guys.
Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI def. Jay White & Chase Owens @ 8:34 via Goto GTR on Owens – NR
My cable went out in the middle of the match.
Juice Robinson, Toru Yano & Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger def. Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI @ 8:18 via Yano Schoolboy on BUSHI – **1/2
LIJ spent the early portion heeling it up on Liger before he caught Shingo with a shotei and brought in Juice. Shingo and Juice had a nice lariat exchange and traded punches before Juice connected with the Left Hand of God and set up for Pulp Friction. Shingo turned that attempt into Noshigami and the two tagged in Naito and Yano. Naito spit at Yano, Yano removed the pad, Naito lands a slingshot dropkick and spits on Yano more. Naito goes to use the pad on Yano but gets rolled up for two, Naito followed up by pulling the hair and landing a neckbreaker before tagging in BUSHI. LIJ triple Yano but BUSHI gets turned around, takes a low blow and gets rolled up to end the match. Great exchanged between Juice and Shingo. That match has great potential to be a standout match of he tournament.
New Japan announces shows on September 27-29 in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. The New York show is announced as Tiger Hattori’s retirement as a referee.
Lance Archer def. Will Ospreay @ 18:16 via EBD Claw – ***3/4
Archer comes out sporting a new look but the same attitude. He attacks young lions on his way to the ring and looked to rush Ospreay before the bell but gets caught in a Spanish Fly and bails out in hopes to recover. Ospreay follows him out landing a corkscrew moonsault from the top rope to the floor, sends Archer back in and hit a springboard 450 for a two count. Archer laughs off Ospreay’s strikes and charges in but gets low bridged. Ospreay wants the Sasuke Special but Archer catches him and chokeslams Ospreay through a table. He brings Ospreay ack inside the ring, shoulders him down and brings Ospreay back up only to land an overhand chop followed by a short arm lariat for a two count. Ospreay tries fighting back from his knees, Archer brings him back up and walks the ropes for Old School before unleashing a series of back elbows in the corner. He again brings Ospreay to his feet and tells Ospreay to bring it.
Ospreay lands a boot to the face which Archer responds to by knocking him into the corner with a forearm. Archer sends Ospreay to the ropes where Ospreay handsprings and lands an enziguri. Archer catches a boot, eats a second enziguri followed by a top rope 619 and springboard forearm. Ospreay wants the Stormbreaker but Archer fights out, Ospreay lands a wallflip enziguri, hops over one ponce but can’t avoid the second. Archer lands a buckle bomb, a powerbomb, Ospreay bails but Archer follows him out and delivers an apron powerbomb. He then wants to powerbomb Ospreay on the ramp but Ospreay turns it into a Code Red. The two crawl back to the ring while the referee starts the count. At 17, Archer rips Ospreay to the floor and rushes back in but Ospreay springs up to the top and hits Archer with a dropkick before he manages to make it through the ropes.
Ospreay hits a Shooting Star Press for two, Robinson Special, Archer again fights off the Stormbreaker but Ospreay delivers a series of upkicks and sets up for Hidden Blade. Archer ducks the attack and lands a muscle buster for two followed by Blackout for another two count. He applies the EBD Claw but Ospreay manages to find the ropes. Archer sets up for a chokeslam off the top rope, Ospreay turns it into a Spanish Fly for two, still can’t get the Stormbreaker, goes for a Super Oscutter but Archer shoves him off and wants a suplex of the top. Ospreay headbutts his way free, Archer falls to the mat but is quickly back up where he connects with a knee lift followed by Super Blackout for two and immediately goes for the finish, defeating Ospreay with EBD Claw. The string of great Ospreay matches continue. These two play off each other very well. Archer’s finish stretch started by the knee lift in the corner was awesome. Great opening match to the tournament.
Bad Luck Fale def. EVIL @ 11:33 via Bad Luck Fall – **1/4
EVIL gets the jump on Fale before the bell, takes him outside and charges in with a lariat that has Fale strambling to the rails. EVIL wants a powerslam but Fale fights it off and hits one of his own on the ramp. He drives EVIL into the apron but makes it back in at the count of 18 and again tries slamming Fale who fights him off once again, drives him to the corner and hammers away at EVIL’s back before standing on top of him. EVIL fires up, avoids a splash and finally lands the slam, following up by lariating Fale over he top rope. He wraps a chair around Fale’s head and drives him into the post, brings him in for a bronco buster and a pair of lariats but Fale shoulders free of the third. Corner splash and jumping splash get Fale two. He brings the chairs in but the referee plays tug of war.
EVIL boots the chair into Fale’s face and connects with a lariat foe two. Fale elbows out of an STO, EVIL lariats out of a Grenade, lands a headbutt but Fale still manages to hit the Grenade for a two cont. EVIL fights out of Bad Luck Fall, catches Fale’s boot and sends it to the referee. The referee goes flying after Fale eats a lariat, EVIL goes back to the chairs and puts one around Fale’s head again but Fale throws it off into EVIL’s face and finishes him with Bad Luck Fall. I am one of the biggest EVIL supporters and a part time Fale defender but every time EVIL pulls out the chairs I tune out. One of the most frustratng spots in New Japan. If you want to get heat on a babyface with that spot, fine, but using it on Fale creates this gray area where no one knows who to cheer for so the spot winds up killing the match. Everything else was fine but too much shenanigans for my taste.
SANADA def. Zack Sabre Jr. @ 21:12 via O’Connor Bridge – ***
The match starts with a lock up, Sabre takes control but SANADA is quick to escape. Sabre again takes control, SANADA flips through, gets caught in a bow & arrow for a second before they stalemate and go back to trading holds. They go back and forth in cradles before SANADA tries for Skull End, leading right back into cradles and another stalemate. SANADA bails outside until fourteen, comes back in and asks for a knuckle lock. Sabre tries using two arms to gain the power advantage, slides through and applies a strangle hold which the two take turns trading until Sabre looks for a snapmare which SANADA flips out of and dropkicks Sabre to the floor. SANADA sits on the ropes and gestures Sabre come back in but Sabre waves him off until the count of nineteen.
Sabre rushes in, SANADA tries for the Paradise Lock but Sabre turns it into an armbreaker and kicks SANADA’s arm after he forces the rope break. Sabre gets cocky, eats an overhand but manages to turn a hip toss into a Cobra Twist. SANADA fights it off to the hip toss he originally intended and follows with a double leapfrog dropkick. Sabre avoids the plancha and goes back after the ar but SANADA ties him into the Paradise Lock through the ropes and dropkicks him free before following with the plancha. He sends Sabre in, lands a backdrop suplex for two, Sabre avoids a springboard dropkick and turns a TKO into another Cobra Twist and transitions it into an armbar. SANADA finds the ropes, Sabre catches him with a tornado DDT and puts SANADA in a Dragon Sleeper. SANADA powers out and pulls Sabre up for a TKO but Sabre turns it into a guillotine, SANADA powers out of that and drapes Sabre over the top rope for an assisted Magic Killer and a TKO for two.
SANADA wants the moonsault but sees Sabre moved so he lands on his feet, catches Sabre in a backslide for two, Sabre rebounds with a PK and looks for Zack Driver but SANADA turns it into Skull End. SANADA lets go of the hold, climbs to the top but Sabre gets his knees up on the moonsault and applies a triangle choke. SANADA powers up, lands an elbows and catches Sabre in Skull End but Sabre transitions it into an O’Connor Roll which SANADA responds to by doing the same and picking up the win. Sabre attacks the referee after the match and has to be pulled away by young lions. There’s no doubt these two have great chemistry but they went too long and lost the crowd which put a damper on the match overall.
KENTA def. Kota Ibushi @ 20:51 via Go 2 Sleep – ***
Katsuyori Shibata is shown out on the floor to watch the match. They lock up, KENTA backs Ibushi to the rops and looks for a slap but Ibushi ducks. Ibushi quickly goes for a kick but that too is avoided. They go to lock up again but before they do, KENTA kicks the leg. The two begin trading strikes, KENTA catches a boot, Ibushi backs to the ropes and eats a huge slap across the face. Ibushi responds with a palm strike to the face and stomps KENTA into the mat. He fires up and sends Ibushi to the apron, kicks him before he can make it back in and lands a knee drop from the top to Ibushi who’s draped over the second rope. ENTA stays on Ibushi with kicks that score him a two count and applies a headlock. Ibushi elbows free, eats a knee followed by a PK and KENTA stands on top of his chest but the referee refuses the count. They trade strikes and again KENTA comes out on top but only gets a one count.
Ibushi asks for more, fires up and they trade forearms. KENTA connects with an uppercut, snapmare and a kick across the back for two. Ibushi catches him running in with a dropkick and again catches a charging KENTA, this time with a powerslam + moonsault combination. Then it’s KENTA catching Ibushi coming in, his strike of choice being a leg lariat. Ibushi refuses a tornado DDT, lands a palm strike ad drops KENTA to the apron where he looks for a draping deadlift German but KENTA fights it off and eats an overhead kick. KENTA collapses to the floor, Ibushi dives in with a plancha but KENTA gets his knee up on Ibushi’s way down. He drapes Ibushi over the rails and lands a double stomp from off the apron followed by a springboard dropkick back in the ring and a corner dropkick plus a double stomp off the top for a two count.
Ibushi fights off the G2S and lands a discuss lariat and sitout powerbomb for two. KENTA pulls a Kamigoye up into position for G2S but Ibushi turns it into a crusifex pin for two. KENTA charges in and connects with a knee, they trade forearms on their knees, fight to their feet, trade kicks. Ibushi palm strikes versus KENTA head kick. He lands four more head kicks before pulls down his knee pad and finishing Ibushi with Go 2 Sleep. The two embrace after the match. There was a weird atmosphere for this match. At one point the fans started chanting for the referee and seemed to be disinterested in the match. The pacing was a little wonky so I can’t completely blame the fans but they helped create a bad environment which gave the match a disappointing tone overall. It doesn’t help that the last two matches both went twenty plus. You’re asking a lot of your wrestlers to keep the fans engaged at that amount of time.
Kazuchika Okada def. Hiroshi Tanahashi @ 22:04 via Rainmaker – ****1/4
The biggest rivalry in modern day New Japan makes its way to the U.S. for the first time. The match starts with dueling chants which bith guys soak in before the lock up. Okada backs Tanahashi to the ropes, gives a clean break but Tanahashi responds with a forearms so they begin trading strikes. They grab each other by the hair, Okada drops Tanahashi with a boot but he pops right back up and puts the brakes on an attempted dropkick by Okada. He misses a slingblade, ducks a Rainmaker, Okada fights off a Dragon suplex and they stalemate. Again, they lock up and Tanahashi wins the exchange with an uppercut followed by an elbow drop to the back and hits the air guitar. He brings Okada to his feet, gets dumped off the top rope to the floor and Okada follows him out with a DDT and brings Tanahashi back in for a basement dropkick, stands on Tanahashi’s chest and hits the Rainmaker Pose.
Tanahashi tries fighting back but Okada catches his boot and turns it into a Dragon Screw followed by a neckbreaker for two. Okada applies a chinlock, Tanahashi elbows free, catches Okada’s boot and Dragon Screws him followed up by a strike flurry, a corner dropkick, coop slam and somersault senton. Okada ducks a slingblade and elbow, hits his own elbow and a DDT for two. Tanahashi fights off the neckbreaker, Okada sends him over the top but Tanahahi captures his leg and Dragon Screws Okada’s knee over the second rope. Okada catches Tanahashi charging in with a flapjack, Tanahashi ducks lariat and dropkicks Okada’s knee. Okada fights back, lands a forearm and neckbreaker for two followed by a scoop slam and top rope elbow drop. He hits the Rainmaker pose but as he does, Tanahashi rolls him up and connects with an inverted Dragon Screw before Okada can get back to his feet and applies the Texas Cloverleaf. Okada makes it to the ropes but Tanahashi stays on him with another inverted Dragon Screw.
Okada bails and Tanahashi follows him out by landing a crossbody off the top rope to the floor. He bring Okada back in, Okada ducks a slingblade, takes a Twist & Shout and pops back up to drop Tanagashi with a John Woo and a Tombstone. Tanahashi ducks the Rainmaker, hits the slingblade followed by a top rope crossbody and looks for High Fly Flow but Okada gets the knees up. They trade Tombstone positions, Tanahashi fights it off and lands a flurry of strikes followed by a slap. Okada ducks a slingblade, slides Tanahashi through and connects with a Rainmaker. He keeps wrist control and hits another Rainmaker. Okada hit the pose, goes for a third Rainmaker, Tanahashi ducks it and turns it into a small package for two followed by a bridging Dragon Suplex for another two count. Okada again ducks a slingblade, Tanahashi ducks a Rainmaker.
Three slaps breaks Tanahashi out of control of a Rainmaker. Okada catches Tanahashi charging in with a spinning Tombstone and finishes him with a Rainmaker. He takes the mic and asks the crowd if they enjoyed the show. He says the next time they come back he’ll be both the G1 Champion and the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. If you weren’t already convinced these two are the best in the world, it was loud and clear tonight. After two back-to-back twenty minute matches, this one went just as long and felt half the time. They have perfect chemistry and every match feels special no matter how many times you watch them.
Overall a good show but I hesitate to call it strong. The main event delivered exactly how it should have and Ospreay continues his ‘wrestler of the year’ campaign. Between those matches were several disappointments. Whether it be the continued booking of the chairs or a couple of overly long matches, this show felt uneven in the middle. The tournament matches were bookended with the best matches of the night and the next best thing was the interaction between Ishii and Cobb in the tags. There were a couple of great matches, the pacing of where you got them was the issue, but a minor issue at that. By no means a bad show but there were two matches that were far above the rest. A good albeit somewhat underwhelming start to the tournament.
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