I decided to stay up and watch this one tonight and also decided to write up the G1 matches from the show as well. If I get a chance I’ll do this more over the course of the tournament. I’m sure there’ll be someone covering it in full as well.
Obviously this contains SPOILERS, so don’t read beyond the “Read more” section if you’re trying to avoid the results.
All of these matches took place in Dallas Texas on 06/07/2019
Lance Archer Vs Will Ospreay
New Japan seems to have sadly lost the rights to Ospreay’s awesome “Elevated” entrance music as they dub it out here. This one starts hot right out of the gate as Ospreay foils Archers sneak attack attempt, but makes the mistake of throwing strikes, which allows Archer to level him with a big forearm. Ospreay responds by low bridging Archer to the outside and then going for the Space Flying Tiger Drop, only for Archer to dodge it and then choke slam Ospreay through a table at ringside.
Back inside Ospreay is now very much on the defensive, as Archer isn’t getting much love from his hometown crowd. Archer actually goes to the old Hakushi trick of walking along the top rope and dropping Ospreay with a chop, which is a mighty impressive feat for a guy his size. Seriously, how come WWE couldn’t do anything with this guy? It’s like they combined all the best physical traits of Test and Dale Torborg in someone who could actually wrestle and had charisma.
Ospreay manages to get a handspring Pele kick to get him back in to the match and hits the 619 before following up with a springboard forearm smash for two (I don’t want to call it the “Pip pip Cheerio” because that name stinks and hurts my soul). Archer responds with DA POUNCE however (Well, he did work in TNA for a while) and then adds a buckle bomb followed by another powerbomb. Still not content with the destruction, Archer hits another powerbomb outside onto the apron, as things are looking bleak for young William.
Ospreay manages to counter another powerbomb out on the ramp into a Code Red and both men are out. Both men just about make it back in and Ospreay hits a big Shooting Star Press back in there for two. Robinson Special would appear to set up the Os Cutter, but Archer blocks it. Not to be deterred, Ospreay tries it again and Archer actually kicks out at two. Part of me thinks they planned that spot to get a big pop for hometown boy Archer, but the crowd are instead bummed that Ospreay didn’t win.
Ospreay goes for the Storm Breaker but Archer uses the unique counter of being really tall to block it and then plants Ospreay with a Muscle Buster for two. Archer follows with the Black Out (Reverse Splash Mountan styled move) but Ospreay is able to kick out at two. Archer goes for the dreaded Claw next, as he’s a Texan from Dallas and they basically teach that to kids from that part of the world straight out of the womb, but Ospreay manages to get to the ropes to break the hold.
Archer tries a choke slam off the top rope, but Ospreay counters it into a C4, which only gets a two somehow. So yeah, they’re pulling out ALL the stops here. Ospreay tries the Storm Breaker again, but Archer lands on his feet, only to take a series of big kicks for his trouble. Ospreay tries for the Super Os Cutter but Archer puts a stop to that and looks to go for a Dragon Suplex from the top, but Ospreay is able to fight him off.
Archer won’t be denied however and gets the Black Out from the top, but chooses not to go for the pin and instead goes back to THE CLAW and pins Ospreay for the three count, which finally gets him a pop from his hometown crowd. Ospreay really should have bladed from it as well just for that full on 80’s homage.
WINNER: LANCE ARCHER (2 PTS)
This was a bit sloppy in places but it was a lot of fun whilst it lasted and I’m glad for Archer that they didn’t make him do the J-O-B in his hometown.
EVIL Vs Bad Luck Fale
Fale’s camo gear look is even more unflattering than what his original one was and he’s also moving pretty slow down to the ring as well. EVIL seems to be missing his halberd here. Maybe they wouldn’t let him bring it through customs? EVIL starts things out by taking the fight outside, where he gets the big run up lariat on the ramp and Fale outright refuses to bump from it, either because he’s trying to look tough or he just isn’t prepared to take a bump out there. Either works as an explanation. Why don’t you share which one you think it is in the comments section?
Fale slams EVIL onto the ramp and then starts pummelling him around ringside whilst the referee counts. Both men eventually get back inside and Fale works EVIL over whilst the fans chant for The King of Darkness. There’s something funny about a crowd chanting “EV-IL” like that. Fale does his usual offence of standing on EVIL and slugging away with big shots. Fale is really starting to resemble Mr. Pogo these days, and that’s not really a good thing.
EVIL finally manages to get back into things with a big body slam, and both men even sell it WWF No Mercy style, which I don’t think was intentional but I enjoyed it anyway. Outside we go, where EVIL wraps a chair around Fale’s head and then flings him into the ring post. Back inside we go, where EVIL gets a senton in the corner for two and then unloads with a pair of lariats, but Fale won’t go down and then flattens EVIL with a shoulder tackle.
Fale gets delivers the Avalanche into the corner on EVIL and then follows up with a big splash for two. Fale brings a chair into the ring, which leads to an argument with the referee. This allows EVIL to kick the chair out of his hands and finally knock him down with a lariat for two. EVIL goes for Everything is EVIL, but Fale manages to block it and hits the grenade for two. Bad Luck Fall seems to be on the way, but EVIL slips out and then hits another lariat, knocking the referee down in the process.
With the ref down, EVIL grabs one of the chairs Fale brought into the ring, but Fale replies with a low blow and then delivers a big chair shot, followed by the Bad Luck Fall for the win.
WINNER: BAD LUCK FALE (2 PTS)
EVIL was game but you need everything to go right these days to get an especially great match out of Fale and that just didn’t happen here. As it was, it was decent thanks to EVIL working so hard, but nothing special.
Zack Sabre Jr Vs SANADA
The match between these two last year in G1 was possibly my favourite match of the whole tournament, so hopefully they can deliver once again. We get some great technical chain wrestling to start, as you’d expect from these two. It has the feel of what a modern version of the classic World of Sport style would be actually, and the crowd are very appreciative for the great counters on show.
A series of pin attempts leads to another standoff between the two men, which gets another round of applause from the fans. Technical wrestling is probably my favourite wrestling style to watch, so this sort of stuff is like chicken soup for the soul for me. Both men fight over a strangle hold next, with SANADA being able to hold his own and the crowd are once again appreciative. Zack eventually throws an upper cut, so SANADA replies with a dropkick, which causes Zack to bail.
What’s so great about this is that they’ve just got in there and wrestled, without any assorted crazy bumps or anything, and they’ve had the crowd completely engrossed. Obviously if every match was like this then it would lose its uniqueness, but I love the fact that you actually get a variety of ring styles in New Japan, which means you have some matches that are traditional styled Puro with all the strikes and throws but you also get matches like this.
SANADA goes for the Paradise Lock, but Zack is able to get out of it and then targets SANADA’s arm, going to work on it with stomps and punishing holds. As per usual however, Zack makes the mistake of being cocky when he has SANADA down, which allows SANADA to get back to his feet. SANADA gets the two leap frogs and a dropkick, before finally managing to trap Zack in the Paradise Lock over the bottom rope. This allows SANADA to gee up the crowd and hit a running dropkick, followed by a vaulting body press to the outside.
Back inside, SANADA delivers a nice back suplex but the resulting cover only nets him a count of two. Zack replies by going to the Octopus Hold, as I start to wonder what a prime Inoki Vs Zack match would have been like. Zack transitions to an arm bar of sorts on the mat, but SANADA holds on and gets the ropes. Another thing I like about Zack, he does these submission holds that don’t even have names sometimes but they always look like they hurt. His finisher most times is just “Submission Transition”, because he cycles through holds until his opponent taps.
Zack actually goes to the Skull End on SANADA, adding his own unique twist to it, but SANADA powers out of it and goes for the TKO, but Zack just holds on and transitions into a guillotine choke. Seriously I think wrestling a giant octopus wouldn’t be too different from wrestling Zack. SANADA manages to break out of the hold and finally hit the TKO for two. Zack dodges a moonsault and manages to hit a PK, before going for the Zack Driver. SANADA slips out of that goes for Skull End, but stupidly decides to let go so he can go for a moonsault, but Zack sees it coming and counters to a triangle hold.
You had him trapped in your deadly submission hold you fool, why would you let him go?! Anyway, SANADA gets out of the hold and goes back to Skull End, which Zack counters leading to both men going for pinning holds, which ends with SANADA getting his own version of the European Clutch for the win.
WINNER: SANADA (2 PTS)
I’ll 100% admit that I’m biased due to my enjoyment of this style of wrestling, so your own personal mileage may vary, but I absolutely loved this. Just two great technicians at the top of their game going out there and wrestling. For me, that’s kind of all I need sometimes. The crowd seemed to agree as they were with the wrestling all the way and popped huge for the finish.
Zack is in a bad mood following that loss and decides to attack both the referee and a young lion for good measure!
KENTA Vs Kota Ibushi
It’s still really strange for me to see KENTA working for New Japan seeing as he’s always been a NOAH guy to me. Let’s see if his body can hold out working to this level of intensity, hopefully they keep his interactions in the tag matches to a minimum. He’s kind of become the wrestling version of Darren Anderton in recent years. We see that Katsuyori Shibata, essentially KENTA’s sponsor, is watching this one.
Both men dodge the others’ kicks to start and then settle into a more tentative style of feeling one another out. So far we’ve had Archer/Ospreay do the big vs little formula but with crazy spots, EVIL/Fale doing a brawl, the technical wrestling masterpiece from Sabre/SANADA and now we’ve got more of a traditional strong style faux-MMA strikefest. This is why these shows feel like such a breeze to watch, because you’re not getting the same cookie cutter match all night.
Both men throw slaps, with KENTA selling the one he takes big time, but he manages to fight back and drops some knees to Ibushi’s head from the second rope. KENTA kicks away at Ibushi, drawing some heel heat from some sections of the crowd, and Ibushi sells it like he’s out. KENTA drops some knees to the back of Ibushi’s head and then adds a disrespectful stomp, just to be a jerk. Yeah! Arsehole KENTA is the best KENTA!!
KENTA just keeps throwing these stiff strikes, with Ibushi selling them like his very life force is being drained from his body. Ibushi manages to hit a desperation dropkick and then follows with a powerslam and a quebrada for two. KENTA replies with a calf kick and then hits a trio of clotheslines before heading up top. KENTA comes off the top rope with a clothesline, but Ibushi is able to kick out at two.
Ibushi manages to block a Tornado DDT attempt and sets KENTA up for a superplex, but KENTA blocks it so he knocks him onto the apron. Ibushi attempts the German Suplex from the apron back inside, but there’s no way KENTA is taking that after all of his injury woes, so Ibushi has to settle with kicking KENTA off the apron and going for a dive. KENTA catches Ibushi on the way down with a kick though and Ibushi seems to have hurt his ankle.
KENTA lays Ibushi over the guardrail and then follows off the apron with a sick looking double stomp. I honestly think KENTA might actually be trying to kill Ibushi here. Back inside, KENTA hits a missile dropkick from the top rope and then follows with a dropkick in the corner. Double stomp from the top comes next, but Ibushi is able to kick out at two. KENTA brings the mood down by doing the Benoit throat taunt and then tries for the GTS, but Ibushi manages to slip out and hits a stiff clothesline.
Ibushi gets a big sit out last ride powerbomb, but KENTA is able to kick out at two. Kama Goye is countered by KENTA and he manages to floor Ibushi with a jumping knee. Both men start showing the old Fighting Spirit™ by throwing strikes at one another from their knees. KENTA hits the big Cro Cop kick, but Ibushi is able to kick out at two. KENTA adds some more stiff kicks to the head, as Ibushi stupidly decides to kick out from the resulting pin attempt. Dude, do you want to die? Because this brother’ll kill ya! KENTA goes for the GTS next and that’s enough to pick up the win.
WINNER: KENTA (2 PTS)
Good solid meat and potatoes wrestling there, as both men brought the stiff strikes and KENTA looked good in victory. I don’t think he’ll win the tournament or anything, but I expect him to do well. Ibushi can bounce back from that as there are plenty more matches to come and they needed to have KENTA look strong there for the rest of the tournament. Not a blow away bout of anything but a solid bit of a work.
Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs Kazuchika Okada
We get a standing ovation for the ring bell. Yes, the chuffing ring bell! Can’t say I blame those people, I’d be losing my mind if I was there live for this. Both men waste no time trading forearms with each other, as they are both manly men, despite the fact they both wear fancy entrance gear. Tana amps up the crowd following an elbow drop, but when he heads up to the second rope he gets drop kicked off by Okada down to the floor.
Okada shows that he’s playing defacto heel here tonight by dropping Tanahashi with a DDT on the floor and then follows with a running dropkick back inside and a cocky pose. Okada works Tanahashi over and even delivers a Dragon Screw, just to be a dick I guess. Okada goes to a chin lock next, but Tanahashi manages to get out of it and then delivers his own Dragon Screw, which Okada sells big. Tanahashi makes a comeback with a running forearm and a dropkick in the corner.
With Okada down, Tanahashi heads to the second rope for a flipping senton splash for two. Okada fights back however with an elbow in the corner and a DDT for two, before going for a neck breaker. Tanahashi fights that off and then Dragon Screw’s Okada’s legs over the middle rope, but Okada replies with a flapjack for the double down. Okada gets the neck breaker this time, but Tanahashi is able to kick out at two.
Okada heads up top to drop an elbow and it’s now time for the RAINMAKER POSE!!! Tanahashi sees this as a chance to get a roll up for two however and then delivers another Dragon Screw. Tanahashi goes to the Texas Cloverleaf. Okada makes the ropes to stop that, so Tanahashi sends him outside and follows with a big cross body off the top to the floor, which is nothing short of insane for a man with his litany of injury issues.
Back inside, both men hit quick fire moves and that ends with Okada hitting the Tombstone on Tanahashi. Rainmaker looks to be next, but Tanahashi counters it to a Sling Blade and then heads up top for a cross body, before heading back up for the High-Fly-Flow, but Okada gets his knees up to block it. Okada tries for the Tombstone again, but Tanahashi fights him off with all of his might and delivers some slaps. However, when he goes for a Sling Blade Okada is able to counter it and hits a pair of Rainmakers, but neglects to go for the cover.
Okada goes for one more, but Tanahashi turns it into a small package for two and then follows with a Dragon Suplex for another two. That small package was one of the closest two counts I think I’ve ever seen. Tanahashi throws some more slaps but Okada is able to hit a spinning Tombstone and follows with the Rainmaker to pick up the win.
WINNER: KAZUCHIKA OKADA (2 PTS)
Well worked main event and the crowd reactions really elevated it for me. Not the best they’ve ever had but nothing to be sniffed at ever.
So after Round 1, the scores are the following;
Kazuchika Okada, Bad Luck Fale, Lance Archer, SANADA and KENTA on 2 points, whilst Hiroshi Tanahashi, EVIL, Will Ospreay, Zack Sabre Jr and Kota Ibushi are all on nil points.
Good opening night all told, I’m looking forward to seeing the beginning of Block B on 13/07/2019