Please make sure to check out Rick’s excellent G1 Climax preview for the skinny on what’s taking place in the tournament this year.
I would have had this up earlier, but I had a nice trip to Clitheroe in the afternoon, so apologies for the delay.
I’ll be taking on A Block this year whilst Rick takes on B Block, so look out for his reviews when they go up also.
Great to be tagging with someone this year as it should hopefully make the workload easier to bare and I think it will be interesting to get two perspectives on things.
I haven’t got a clue who will win G1 this year, but I’ll go with Kota Ibushi as they were making him look like the star in the team with Tanahashi on the Summer Struggle Tour, which suggested a passing of the guard, and Ibushi Vs Naito at Wrestle Kingdom would be pretty rad.
So, without further ado, let’s start off Night One of A Block and watch some chuffing wrestling!
The event is emanating from Osaka, Japan
English commentary isn’t up yet at the time of writing this, so if I miss anything story wise it will likely be because my feeble brain doesn’t understand Japanese.
Yuya Uemura Vs Yota Tsuji
This isn’t a tournament match, but a glimpse at the schedule would seem to suggest that they are giving the younger lads a chance to work in the opening slot on the G1 Tour in order to gain some experience. As a result, we’ll get different combination of Young Lions getting an opportunity to work some matches, which I’m looking forward to actually.
In Japan, the younger guys wear very plain black gear and mostly just work basic holds, as the idea is that they are still learning their craft and the matches they have are more about gaining experience rather than winning. Normally what happens is that a younger guy will come out of the Dojo and work for a bit in matches like this before going away on excursion and coming back with a gimmick and some flashier ring attire to get across the idea that they are now proper roster members and should thus be expected to actually win and earn their keep.
Both guys work basic holds here and throw some forearms, with everything mostly looking fine as you have to have a pretty high level of competency before New Japan will even let you near the ring, even if you are a youngster just starting out. Tsuji has cornered Tanahashi quite a bit and controls the match more due to his size. He reminds me more of Manabu Nakanishi than Tanahashi though. Eventually Uemura manages to lock him in THE DREADED YOUNG LION BOSTON CRAB though, and that’s enough for the submission win after a struggle.
WINNER: YUYA UEMURA
Standard Young Lion match
The crowd gives both men nice applause following that.
G1 Climax A Block – Round One
Yujiro Takahashi Vs Will Ospreay
Yujiro used to tag with Tetsuya Naito and for a while his main character trait was that he was the lone Japanese guy in the Bullet Club, back when the group was all foreigners. They’ve tried to elevate him a bit during the pandemic because they’ve been light on guys. There have been some unsavoury allegations laid at Ospreay’s feet that you can Google to find out more about. For those reasons I’m not exactly thrilled to be reviewing his matches, but one of me or Rick had to suck on that lemon if we were going to review G1, so it is what it is. I won’t mention it anymore going forward and will do my best to separate the art from the artist, but I felt it best to address it all at the start just to be upfront with you all.
Yujiro bumps around for Ospreay in the early going, with the fight heading outside, but eventually manages to get a Reverse DDT out there to put a stop to Ospreay’s shine. I think Yujiro’s issue is that he got comfortable as the lowest rung on the Bullet Club totem pole and let his hunger wane, so now it’s actually required for him to really step up and be more of a player he just doesn’t have it in him anymore. His stuff doesn’t look bad or anything, but he’s a long way from the dynamic worker he used to be back when he teamed with Naito as part of No Limit.
Ospreay eventually makes the comeback with his usual array of high tempo offence, but Yujiro is able to catch him with an Olympic Slam for a double down, which leads us into the closing stretch. They do some well executed near falls, which leads to Ospreay getting the Storm Breaker (Canadian Back Breaker into a neck breaker type move) to pick up the three count.
WINNER: WILL OSPREAY (2)
Yujiro doesn’t really seem to have a proper high gear to kick into anymore, but he was fine here and Ospreay’s timing was on point with his stuff
Ospreay cuts a promo post-match, saying he’s the best in the world.
G1 Climax A Block – Round One
Jeff Cobb Vs Taichi
Cobb had a quick spell in AEW as an opponent for Jon Moxley but they weren’t able to tie him down to a full-time contract and he’s back in G1 again after competing last year too. Taichi is one half of the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Champs with Zack Sabre Jr, and they’ve stuck them in different Blocks. Taichi’s boss Minoru Suzuki is in this block though, so that should be interesting when they finally go at it. These two actually met in last year’s tournament, with Cobb picking up the win. Cobb started slow last year but grew into the tournament, so it’ll be interesting to see how he does this year.
Taichi is a great slimy heel, having fantastic facial expressions that make you wish someone would just knock his block off, and he plays up to this heel character by stalling and grabbing the ropes whenever it looks like Cobb is going to out wrestle him. Eventually he manages to lure Cobb outside, where he hits him with the timekeepers hammer to take over. What a jerk! Cobb looked good in his shine and sells well in the heat, with Taichi targeting his left leg with strikes and submission holds.
Cobb makes the comeback, with the crowd clapping along because they aren’t really allowed to cheer or boo due to COVID restrictions. The downside is that he kind of ignores all the work to his legs and starts throwing Taichi around with ease, when he really should be struggling with his damaged wheel. Taichi does kick at it whenever he wants to regain control, and Cobb does sell it then, but it doesn’t really effect his performance otherwise.
We get the strike trade, which Cobb wins decisively, but Taichi manages to get an enziguri following that, which leads to a double down. This match has been solid, but it’s not had anything in it to really push over the line into being particularly good yet in my opinion, with Cobb’s spotty selling of the leg not helping on that front. The finishing stretch is done well, with both men’s timing being on point and the crowd shows its approval by clapping along.
Taichi gets a big lariat at one stage, but Cobb is able to kick out and then goes to the rolling gut wrench suplexes before getting a nice spinning back suplex and going for Tour of the Islands. Taichi slips out however and kicks away at Cobb before getting Black Mephisto (Air Raid Crash) to pick up the three count. That could end up being a big two points for him. He did kick Cobb in the leg to start that kick flurry, at which point Cobb magically remembered it was hurt, so I guess that pays the work off, but it would have been more effective if Cobb had been limping all match instead of only just when he was required to for the matches story.
WINNER: TAICHI (2)
Fine and would have likely been more highly rated with more consistent selling from Cobb
Cobb gets helped to the back following that and does appear to be limping, so guys going after his leg could possibly be a storyline for the rest of the tournament.
We take a quick break whilst they sanitise the ring.
G1 Climax A Block – Round One
Tomohiro Ishii Vs Minoru Suzuki
They open with a slap fest here, which leads to them taking it in turns to no sell forearm strikes and just be grizzled gnarly men who want to beat the Salt ‘N’ Vinegar out of one another. Suzuki is also the NEVER Openweight Champion right now, so if someone like Ishii can pick up a win then there’s a chance it could lead to him getting a Title shot once the G1 is over. If two grumpy veterans slugging one another isn’t your thing, then this probably won’t convert you, but if that sounds like fun to you then this match will likely be fun.
Suzuki’s wild crazy laughter whenever someone attempts to inflict pain upon him is right out of a horror movie almost, as he’s just relentless and seemingly cannot be killed, even though he’s in his 50’s now. It’s pretty amazing that he can still go at this level after all those years of taking punishment, ditto for Ishii who is at the stage that even walking down to the ring looks like a struggle, but he can still get in there and out-work some guys half his age.
Things move up from strikes to more high impact moves such as suplexes, with the crowd clapping along and Suzuki still grinning like he’s Kazuya about to indulge his Devil Gene. At one stage they just slap one another and the slaps echo throughout the building. The important thing for all of this though is that, even though they aren’t pulling the punches, they are mostly delivering them to safe meaty parts of the body, meaning that they make a great sound but the lasting damage is lesser than if they were leaping off high things or whacking one another with weaponry.
Suzuki tries for his Gotch Styled Piledriver, but Ishii is able to block it and we go to some more slaps until Suzuki hits Ishii with a forearm strike so loud it sounded like a gun was going off. If the Christians had been lucky enough to have Suzuki on their side in the Roman Coliseum then the lions wouldn’t have made it out alive! Ishii tries to end it with his Brain Buster, but Suzuki counters that into a DDT and then manages to successfully deliver the Gotch Piledriver for three to end the war.
WINNER: MINORU SUZUKI (2)
Ishii does the big woozy sell following the piledriver to get it over, whilst the crowd applauds him for leaving under his own power despite clearly being hurt.
G1 Climax A Block – Round One
Shingo Takagi Vs Jay White w/ Gedo
Jay had a run to the Finals last year and is one of the best heels going when it comes to being a despicable piece of work. Shingo really broke out of the Junior Heavyweight pack thanks to his G1 performance last year and he’s been mixing it with the Heavyweights ever since.
White does his usual thing of bailing to the floor the minute the bell rings, because he’s a jerk who does things when he wants to do them, and when he eventually does get inside he immediately starts pulling hair and just being a thoroughly unlikeable person. It really is impressive how he just commits to the role of being a bad guy. MJF is similar in AEW actually, but I’d personally say that I think White is a better overall wrestler when it comes to the in-ring aspect. Gedo does his bit as heel manager too, by trying to distract Shingo and just generally being a nuisance.
Shingo gets a bit of a shine, but eventually the Gedo distractions become enough for White to cut him off and go to his primary heel tactic of ramming Shingo back first into the guardrails, which is such a brutally simple spot that still looks vicious due to the way White delivers it. Shingo sells well during the heat, with some great facial expressions in particular really getting across the anguish, whilst White remains interesting by talking smack to referee Red Shoes Uno and delivering some unpleasant pinpoint offence to Shingo’s back area.
White’s cockiness costs him though, as he keeps taking Shingo down by his hair and acting nonchalant, which gives Shingo a chance to fight back and return the favour by tossing White from one side of the ring to the other before clotheslining him to floor and unloading with strikes. Shingo is a great foil for White, because he’ll happily fight fire with fire due to being in LIJ and not being especially bothered with fighting clean when the situation calls for some snide behaviour instead.
After Shingo gets some payback outside the ring we head back inside for the finishing stretch, with both men gradually hitting bigger moves and getting some well executed near falls. In a nice touch, Shingo gets White with deadlift German Suplex at one stage but can’t follow up right away as his back is still hurting from White working it over earlier, showing that he can still fight but the work on the body part is starting to hamper his performance. Little things like that just make a match more satisfying as it actually makes the heat mean more than just the designated section where the heel gets to do stuff.
White of course digs into his back of tricks to try and regain the foothold, throwing the referee into Shingo to buy himself some time and then following up with a Uranage Suplex for two. Shingo keeps coming though, so Gedo provides a distraction which leads to a feet on the ropes school boy from White for two. Shingo replies with his Made in Japan pumphandle wheelbarrow slam for two, which leads to Gedo getting involved once again. Shingo deals with him and then delivers a running Pumping Bomber Lariat before getting Last of the Dragon (Torture Wrack into a Michinoku) but the ref gets bumped in the process so there’s no one to count.
White hits Shingo right in the Dragon Balls with the ref down however, and then follows up with a barrage of big moves before going to The Blade Runner (Sister Abigail’s Kiss) which is enough for the three count and 2 points after copious amounts of deceitful behaviour. What a low handed way to win, you’d think he was a heel or something!
WINNER: JAY WHITE (2)
Shingo’s resilience and White’s continued desperation in the face of it made for an enjoyable story, and the work was to a good standard also. They could probably hit higher on another outing too, especially in front of a crowd who were allowed to make more noise
White looks absolutely exhausted after that, which is either an amazing sell job on his part or a result of him being away for a while due to the pandemic and not being acclimatised to working at this level again just yet. In a nice touch of heel chicanery, White steals the ice pack brought in for Shingo for himself. What an absolute weapon!
G1 Climax A Block – Round One
Kazuchika Okada Vs Kota Ibushi
Ibushi won the tournament last year and defeated Okada in the process, so Okada is looking for payback tonight and could very well get it. They had an excellent match together at the Tokyo Dome in January this year, which ended with Okada getting the win and earning a match with Naito. We get some nice patient mat wrestling to start, which eventually leads to them going at it outside the ring, where Okada gives Ibushi a DDT on the floor. I think that suggests that Okada will be playing subtle heel tonight.
Okada controls things inside following that, targeting the head and neck area mostly to follow up on the move outside the ring. Ibushi fires back with a dropkick and then makes a bit of a comeback, hitting nice offence and delivering some good facials to get across his fighting spirit. These two are both very talented at not just the big things but the little things also, and, as Hank Scorpio once so succinctly put it, it’s the little things that make up life!
Most of Okada’s attacks are all targeted at that head and neck area, with him delivering another DDT and trying the Cobra Clutch in an effort to put Ibushi out. Ibushi has to make the ropes to break that and Okada hangs on for a few seconds more, again leaning into his role of the heel for this specific match. The fight heads outside again, but Ibushi is the one getting a high impact move this time, delivering an Asai moonsault out onto Okada and then raising his hands to the heavens like he’s Ultimate Warrior.
Okada sells that big back inside, panting and struggling to catch his breath. He manages to fight off a superplex attempt from Ibushi though and goes for a Tombstone, but Ibushi slips out of that and rana’s him down, though he didn’t quite get all of it. The crowd are very nice though and clap it anyway, because the Japanese are a good bunch of souls who I have great affection for. Both men fight over Tombstone’s, with Okada being the winner there, spiking Ibushi for the double down.
This is another match that would benefit from a crowd that were allowed to do more than just clap, as the work has been on point and the crowd are clearly digging it. They must be desperate to shout and scream, but are being very well behaved and following the rules. We get the mandatory strike trade, with Okada actually demanding Ibushi hit him harder if you could imagine such a thing, and they trade in the middle with neither budging until Ibushi finally fires off a big one to knock Okada down.
Ibushi clocks Okada with a LOUD Buzzsaw Kick, that I hope was more slap than impact, because DAMN! Okada keeps coming though and gets another Tombstone before going back to the Cobra Clutch. Hey, I’m all for someone trying to get a submission hold over and it totally makes sense in the story of the match due to where Okada has been targeting all of his offence. Ibushi manages to survive that and keeps coming and blocks the Rainmaker with a kick, only for Okada to reply with two dropkicks.
You know Okada is taking this seriously when he busts out TWO dropkicks! It’s not enough though, as Ibushi powerbombs him down and then follows up with the Kamigoye (Knee strike to the face whilst holding the wrists) and that’s enough for three.
WINNER: KOTA IBUSHI (2)
Excellent match, with a good story being told of Okada going after the neck and head area in an effort to put Ibushi out with his Cobra Clutch hold, only for Ibushi to prove too resilient and manage to end it with his finisher. They didn’t go super nuts in the finish either really, instead doing a longer finishing stretch built around the drama of hitting moves rather than actually hitting them most of the time.
Due to being the last man in the ring at the end of the night, Ibushi does the closing speech and everyone gets to look forward to B Block starting tomorrow!
So on the end of Round One of A Block we have the following standings;
Kota Ibushi, Taichi, Minoru Suzuki, Jay White and Will Ospreay all have 2 points whilst the rest of the field is languishing on a big fat goose egg.
You can’t really argue with that match quality on a six match show and I’m genuinely intrigued to see how the rest of the tournament goes. Please make sure to check out Rick’s B Block recap and I’ll hopefully see you all on Wednesday for Round 2 of the A Block!