Tonight, B Block begins! 5 matches including ZSJ vs EVIL and our main event, Tetsuya Naito vs Hiroshi Tanahashi!
Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?
First off, thank you all very much for the words on my last two pieces, the G1 preview and the Ospreay piece. Note I didn’t say kind words, because I wasn’t looking for that specifically on the Ospreay one – I rather wanted opinions and more information/argument to inform my own, and you all provided that. Thank you, y’all rock the house.
All bon mots aside, we’ve got some grappling to get to!
Previously, in the 2020 G1 Climax:
A Block Day 1 (Michael Fitzgerald): https://blogofdoom.com/index.php/2020/09/19/new-japan-pro-wrestling-g1-climax-30-19-09-2020-a-block/
Tonight, our matches are:
YOSHI-HASHI vs Juice Robinson
Toru Yano vs SANADA
KENTA vs Hirooki Goto
Zack Sabre Jr vs EVIL
Tetsuya Naito vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
But first, we continue in the all-important C Block!!
Gabriel Kidd vs Yota Tsuji
As opposed to night one, where Tsuji sported a full 1.0 Meng when it came to his cranium, this time the frizz only rates about a .7 on the Meng scale. I’d say typical Young Lions match here, but these two are actually working hard out there and they elevate it beyond the norm, as the slaps are hard and the selling is good. It’s not going to set the world on fire or anything and I won’t waste too much time with recapping it, but I did want to note that it’s actually a pretty decent piece of work. Tsuji wins with the Boston Crab after a hell of a fight for it. (Yota Tsuji over Gabriel Kidd, submission, 9:16)
YOSHI-HASHI vs Deuce Robinson – B Block match
Apparently, Juice decided to raid the costume department of NXT before he left, because he is rocking some full-on 50s greaser gear. Either that or Toni Storm threw out half his closet and he had to improvise. Hopefully he left Domino at home. YOSHI-HASHI with a title belt around his waist is just the weirdest thing to look it; it’s like seeing a Eeyore wearing a tiara.
Nice little mat sequence starts and they back into the ropes for the break. YOSHI goes for a kick, but Juice stops that with an elbow to the knee. YOSHI comes back with a ‘rana and headlock takeover, and we’re back to the mat. Back to their feet and Juice knocks him down and hits a senton for two. He controls more and hits a side Russian Legsweep, then goes to a front facelock on the mat. Juice goes for the Three Amigos, but YOSHI blocks the third one and then comes off the ropes with a neckbreaker. So far, my notes basically indicate that this is pretty much the kind of methodical pace that I expected from this match.
But then, the match starts to turn a bit. YOSHI fires off some hard shots and chops, and the pace starts to get quicker. It’s not exactly like they turn into luchadors or anything, but YOSHI starts to really show some fire and Juice responds. YOSHI blocks the left hand of God and goes for one of his own, but Juice avoids that and hits a full-nelson slam. Juice with the ‘We Will Rock You’ stomps to get the crowd going, which gets the commentary team chanting it, which is just fantastic. Crowd stomps and claps along, which is also fantastic, because it gets the crowd invested in the match narrative in a physical, tangible way without them cheering or booing.
YOSHI blocks a superplex and goes over with a super powerbomb for two. So, then, in an awesome bit, YOSHI puts Juice into his submission and the crowd, knowing what they’re supposed to do, starts clapping and stomping out ‘We Will Rock You’ without any prompting to try to rally Juice. That’s AWESOME and such a cool pro wrestling thing. Juice teases the tap, but rallies to his feet, so YOSHI takes him back down with a lungblower and goes up. Swanton hits! 1, 2, NO! Juice blocks Karma with elbows and drops YOSHI with a lariat, then double knees for two. YOSHI finally runs out of gas after blocking Pulp Friction with a roll up, and Juice hits both the right AND left hands of God before hitting Pulp Friction to put YOSHI down for the pin. (Juice Robinson over YOSHI-HASHI, pinfall, 15:57)
THOUGHTS: ***1/4. Good Lord, where did THIS come from? This was the best YOSHI-HASHI match, hell it was the best Juice singles match I’ve seen in ages. I don’t know if it was because Juice was really ready to come back or what, but after an admittedly slow start, they just started dropping bombs on each other in the second half of the match. YOSHI was busting his ass out there and even though I think he’s a limited talent, credit where it’s due: he really put in the work today. Robinson is right on the cusp of being more than just an NJPW midcarder, and having a match this good with YOSHI can only help his case. This was a truly pleasant surprise where I expected nothing.
Toru Yano vs SANADA – Block B Match
The ref only finds two rolls of tape on Yano in his pre-match patdown, so it looks like Toru is traveling light today. SANADA grabs a waistlock and releases, pointing out Yano’s crotch to the referee. Just when I think this is about to turn into a mature audiences only show, the ref checks out what’s in Yano’s tights (thus potentially redefining what it means to be in the G-1 Climax for a moment…..alright, fine. I’m twelve.) and finds a 3rd roll of tape. Yano swears he doesn’t have any more and SANADA rolls him up for two. Yano catches a charging SANADA with a trip into an arm capture rollup for two that I swear for a second I thought was the finish. And you can say whatever you want about Yano’s matches, but that got a reaction out of the crowd, a very discernible ‘ooooh’, so it must be doing something right.
From there, we settle into a typical Yano match. SANADA is a very good foil for him in the ring, mostly because SANADA’s character shows no emotion and is basically the terminator out there, so someone trying all these antics and failing to impress him is pretty much always going to be fun. Yano bails and sits on the floor, while SANADA patiently waits in the ring until Yano finally comes back in at 19. Remember that, it’s important.
They go a bit more and Yano bails again, but this time SANADA follows him out. He puts Yano in the Paradise Lock on the floor and demands that the ref count him out. Uemura is at ringside as one of the Lions and he frees Yano from the hold, which, hey Yuya – mind your fucking business, alright? SANADA agrees and goes to put Uemura in the Paradise Lock now, but Yano springs up from behind and pulls out another roll of tape (don’t ask me from where. REALLY don’t ask me) and tapes Uemura’s leg with SANADA’s. This whole time, the ref has been counting and he’s up to 15, so Yano just sprints the fuck back to the ring…..and wins via countout. Uemura’s mask is the only thing keeping him from cracking up on camera. (Toru Yano over SANADA, countout, 6:17)
THOUGHTS: **3/4. Okay, so – yes, it’s a Yano match. But here’s why I liked it enough to slightly go above average: it paid off the characters involved. Consider that in the middle of the match, SANADA calmly waited Yano out in the middle of the ring, ignoring Toru’s bullshit on the floor, not giving chase, cool as a cucumber. Then, he gives chase the second time and puts him in the Paradise, then calmly heads back to the ring to win, but Yuya frees Yano. At that point, SANADA can either attack Yano again or head back to the ring and wait for him…..but instead he attacks Yuya because they finally made him mad, and that little crack in the door opened up for Yano to steal the match. One of the ways that Yano’s character works is that he never really WINS matches due to any type of skill, more that he steals them when opponents don’t take him seriously enough and he uses his savvy to beat them. It’s all the fault of the wrestler who loses, not Yano, and that’s why the match works on those occasions, and it was that way here. I laughed at this match, but in the spots where I was supposed to laugh, and it was logical both in how it was built and in its conclusion. As such, it’s a good match.
Commentary notes that this is how Yano beat Jon Moxley in their G-1 match a year ago. At least, I think that’s what they said – I know they said ‘Jon Moxley’ at some point.
Intermission. Clean that ring!
KENTA vs Hirooki Goto – B Block Match
KENTA with some Greco-Zbyszko stalling to start us off. He keeps bailing after Goto gains an advantage, so Goto chases him down, then follows him back in and kicks his ass. KENTA snaps his arm on the top rope to get a moment, then drags Goto to the floor and sends him arm first into the post. Arm first to the railing now. Back in and it’s time for more beatdown to the arm, with some stiff kicks mixed in with some arm snaps. Fujiwara armbar, but Goto makes the ropes.
KENTA fires more kicks, so Goto does the big dramatic stand up in the face of adversity…..and KENTA immediately grabs the arm and takes him down into an armbar. Ha! KENTA keeps stiffing the shit out of him with kicks, but misses a blind charge in the corner and Goto gets a Saito suplex to create some space. Goto with a bulldog for two. Charge from Goto runs into a big boot from KENTA, who follows that by necksnapping Goto on the top rope and coming off the top with a flying clothesline for two. Kicks from KENTA and Goto does the big dramatic stand up again…..and KENTA jumps into an armbar and takes Goto back to the mat with Game Over (hammerlock crossface)! KENTA IS AWESOME. Goto makes the ropes before KENTA can get it fully applied.
They slug it out on the apron and KENTA gets a choke, but Goto escapes by snapping the arm, then comes back in with an armbar of his own. KENTA escapes but Goto hits an Olympic Slam for two. KENTA with a DDT and both guys are down. KENTA back up, hanging DDT on Goto, then the delayed dropkick in the corner. KENTA goes up, double stomp to the arm of Goto! 1, 2, no! Running knee from KENTA gets two. GTS attempt, Goto escapes by grabbing the knee. KENTA does not take kindly to this and absolutely UNLOADS on Goto with palm strikes. Like, seriously, made me wince.
Goto ducks one and hits an Ushigoroshi, then into another double armbar sub, but KENTA makes the ropes. Goto catches KENTA and goes for the GTR, but KENTA slips out and wrestles Goto to the mat in a very nice sequence. It wasn’t smooth and that made it better, as it looked like a real struggle. Either way, KENTA gets Game Over on this time and rolls him back to the center of the ring, and Goto doesn’t have anywhere left to go and taps. (KENTA over Hirooki Goto, submission, 17:17)
THOUGHTS: ***1/2. This was a really good professional wrestling match. I wish I had a better bit of verbiage here, but it just didn’t hit me in the gut like a great match does, and both guys tend to leave me a bit cold when it comes to emotional investment. But the selling was good, the pace was good after a slightly slow start, and the finish made sense as the arm work came into play on the submission. In short, they did everything they needed to do to have a good match, and they did.
EVIL (w/Dick Togo) vs Zack Sabre Jr – B Block match
Togo gets in ZSJ’s face to start, so Zack puts him in a wristlock, and EVIL attacks. To the floor we go, and EVIL sends ZSJ to the barricade and drops him on the floor with a sideslam. EVIL back in the ring and he takes off a turnbuckle pad while Togo taunts Sabre on the outside. Sabre back in at 11 and he promptly gets sent into the exposed buckle, collapsing in pain. EVIL with a half-crab, ZSJ makes the ropes and Zack is just playing total underdog babyface here. It’s very weird to see it in NJPW. EVIL with the abdominal stretch and he blatantly uses Togo for leverage until the ref gets to 4 on his count.
ZSJ finally gets a bit in when EVIL tries to send him to the buckle, but ZSJ puts a stop on that and trips up EVIL to wrench the neck with his feet. ZSJ with a hammerlock snap, then a kick. To the mat we go with Zack torturing the arms of EVIL, stomping away in glee. EVIL comes back with a kick to the gut after catching one of Sabre’s. Fisherman’s Buster by EVIL is blocked and Zack hooks the Octopus, with EVIL pulling on Zack’s ear to escape and getting the Fisherman’s right after. EVIL puts Zack on the top rope, superplex! 1, 2, no!
Everything is Evil attempt is blocked by ZSJ, Zack Driver attempt but EVIL goes to the eyes, then tries a lariat, which ZSJ turns into an armdrag that he rolls through for two. Good sequence there. ZSJ starts to tie EVIL up with a submission, but Togo is on the apron. Oh boy. Here we go. Sure enough, Sabre breaks the hold to boot Togo to the floor, and ends up getting sent into the ref to take him out. Come on, Zack! Just because you’re a babyface here doesn’t mean you have to be stupid like one! Togo gets in the ring and it’s 2 on 1, and ZSJ is the only Suzuki-Gun member in this Block, so apparently he’s not going to get any help. Doesn’t need it, apparently, as he fights back and takes out both guys for a brief moment, but that’s fleeting and the bad guys go back on the beatdown.
ZSJ blocks the mule kick ballshot and grabs an anklelock, but get sent into the exposed buckle as the ref finally manages to roll back in. EVIL hoists Zack up, Darkness Falls! 1, 2, NO! Everything is Evil is blocked and ZSJ flips into a bridging pin, 1, 2, 3!! ZSJ wins it! The commentators go nuts! (Zack Sabre Jr over EVIL, pinfall, 15:55)
THOUGHTS: ***1/2. I liked this a little less on the rewatch since the freshness of ZSJ playing babyface had worn off, but the match was still aces in a lot of spots. As usual, we had to have the Togo interference in multiple spots on EVIL’s behalf AND we had to have a ref bump, because that’s what EVIL’s matches are now. I mean, it is what it is, but it gets old. Regardless, at least here it backfired and the babyface won despite the bad guys cheating like nuts. It was also nice to see Zack wrestle again, because so much of what he does in his tag team with Taichi necessitates them going for cheap heat with their own cheating that it can sometimes be lost how good Sabre is on that mat. But this was fun and a cool upset.
Post-match, ZSJ has the BEST CELEBRATION EVER as he’s basically passed out on the floor; the ref comes out to raise his hand, so Zack raises his other in triumph as well while still laying on his back. Tremendous.
Main event time!
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Tetsuya Naito – B Block match
Naito is wearing the white suit of “I mean business” tonight, so, you know. He means business. It’s been 3 years since these two last met in a singles match – both times that Naito has previously won the G-1, he has beaten Tanahashi in the tournament.
Feeling-out process starts us off and Hiroshi grabs a headlock. They float over into dueling wristlocks, then a stalemate on the mat after a headscissors. Tana gives us a bit of air guitar, then tosses the guitar out of the ring. Hiroshi dropkicks the knee of Naito and stomps away, then drops the knee in a backbreaker position. Naito rolls out to try to walk it off. Tanahashi looks to give chase, but Naito avoids that and sends him from the apron to the barricade, then hits the tranquilo pose. Tana comes back in and tries a senton, but Naito avoids that and Tana rolls out as Naito taunts him. I mention this only because this type of very little thing to sell the story, this is the type of thing that Tanahashi absolutely excels at. His facials afterwards are literally just saying “I can’t believe I was that dumb” and it’s awesome.
Naito rolls out and just kills Tana on the floor, sending him to the barricade multiple times and hitting a dropkick, thus allowing Tanahashi the chance to roll in agony. And he’s glorious at it. Back in at 14, and Naito goes to work, targeting the neck especially. He beats on Tanahashi and goes for the sweep/kick combo in the corner, but Tana catches it and gets a uranage to buy some time. Big forearm and a somersault senton get two for Tanahashi.
Tanahashi with a dragon-screw legwhip that sends Naito to the floor, then he goes up, takes a moment to compose himself, High Fly Flow to Naito on the floor! And it was a GOOD one, too, with crazy hang time. Naito barely beats the count back in at 19, so Tana is considerate enough to try to help him at least halfway by hitting a dragon-screw through the ropes. Then dropkicking the leg. Then hitting another dragon-screw through the ropes. Hmmm, maybe he isn’t helping Naito after all.
Naito manages to fight off a Cloverleaf with a small package, then hits a spinebuster. He drives Tana into the corner, puts him on top, and ‘ranas him off, but Tana rolls that through into a sunset flip, then a dragon-screw on the mat. Absolutely magnificent. He does it again and goes for the Cloveleaf, and this time, it’s on. Tana sits back on it like a Liontamer and Naito is in trouble. They have an epic battle over it and Naito finally, finally makes the ropes.
Back to their feet and Tana gets a straightjacket suplex for two. Naito manages to come back with a rolling kick and a DDT. Naito tries a slam, Tana reverses it to an elbow, Tana tries a slam, Naito reverses it to an inverted DDT. 20+ minutes in and they get back to their feet and slug it out and I feel like standing and applauding them in my living room. Tana wins the battle with a vicious palm strike, but comes off for a lariat and the arm is caught by Naito, who just starts firing back elbows at Tanahashi. Hiroshi’s selling is off the charts as he grimaces in pain.
Naito hits Gloria for two and he’s ready to end this. Destino is countered into a Twist and Shout, then a second, then a third! Naito tries a kick but goes for Destino again and this time, Tana hits the Sling Blade! Off the ropes, another Sling Blade from Hiroshi! He goes up, High Fly Flow hits! He goes up for the second one to finish it, but Naito moves out of the way! While this match was happening live, I audibly said “NO!” out loud when that happened. Naito takes his opportunity, Destino! 1, 2, NO! Tana avoids a second one and fires a strike, but he has nothing left and a second Destino rips out my heart and puts Tanahashi down for the pin. (Tetsuya Naito over Hiroshi Tanahashi, pinfall, 27:16)
THOUGHTS: ****3/4. I had it at ****1/2 on the live watch and bumped it another 1/4* on the rewatch because it was that much more awesome. This was absolutely magnificent professional wrestling between two of the best in the world at it. The pacing of the match stood out to me, as each guy controlled at enough points where it became possible that either could win or even that we could go to a draw, but more importantly it allowed each guy to sell the damage of the match in various spots to take the crowd on a ride. This was impeccable, almost perfect work and a great match – if we have any matches in this thing better than this, it will be a blessing. This one is worth going out of your way to see, as Tanahashi fought like a valiant warrior that just didn’t quite have enough on this night to win, but by GOD you wanted him to. Just terrific.
Post-match, Naito cuts the victor’s promo and we’re done.
FINAL THOUGHTS: What a great opening night this was! Even Juice and YOSHI delivered far more than expected. I only had one match higher than ****, but the show from top to bottom had great wrestling with a main event that is the first great match of the tournament (outside of Suzuki/Ishii, but this was better). This one gives me hope that B Block will have just as many great matches as A Block will if the wrestlers are motivated to do it.
B BLOCK STANDINGS AFTER NIGHT ONE:
Toru Yano – 2 Points
Tetsuya Naito – 2 Points
Zack Sabre Jr – 2 Points
Juice Robinson – 2 Points
KENTA – 2 Points
Hiroshi Tanahashi – 0 Points
Hirooki Goto – 0 Points
YOSHI-HASHI – 0 Points
EVIL – 0 Points
SANADA – 0 Points
Clearly, there’s no point to doing any more matches. Just give Yano the Block right now.
Alright, I can’t promise that I’ll get to this every time, because it solely depends on when NJPW gets them up on World, but they’re up so let’s recap the post-match interviews. As always, my thoughts are in bold. Ladies and Gentlemen, the scrum:
Gabriel Kidd: It’s not how he wanted to start this series at all. He couldn’t knock Tsuji down – how much did he weigh? He never said it was going to be easy, he just said he had to win. He’s LA Dojo and they don’t give up. He’ll go back to the drawing board and message Shibata-san to practice tomorrow. Next time, be ready, Tsuji.
Yota Tsuji: Gabe, back in Sendai you told me you had a hard time getting up for the match. What does that mean? Me and Uemura fought to get in this ring. He doesn’t know what it’s like in England or America, but in that ring is where the best wrestling in the world happens! And you’re having a hard time getting motivated? You’re kidding! If that’s your attitude, you’ll never beat anyone, myself and Uemura included.
I like letting the Lions have a storyline, and Tsuji and Umeura kind of both against Gabe could be fun.
YOSHI-HASHI: Juice has more power and is faster. He can’t match that, but he has more spirit! He’ll definitely get the next one! (He’s got EVIL up next after EVIL just lost. I don’t love his chances) Even though it was a singles match, he still brought his NEVER six-man belt with him, even though he probably shouldn’t have, but he wanted to show his determination!
Juice Robinson: Hot damn! He calls one of the reporters hot and says that he can’t believe it took 15 minutes, he wanted to beat him in half that time. YOSHI’s got a lot of heart, a lot of fighting spirit – he doesn’t want to take anything away from YOSHI, who he calls ‘Ichiban sweetboy’. You know who else is a sweetboy? The guy who works at the local market, but he wasn’t beating Juice tonight and neither was YOSHI! Juice predicted what would happen in that match, and he wishes YOSHI luck in winning the rest of his matches, because he plans on doing the same damn thing! Next up is KENTA-san; a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there were two dudes with different names than Juice Robinson and KENTA, and they met, and KENTA wiped the floor with Juice; this time, it’s going to be different. He says he’s going to 4 points, then asks a reporter if he’s growing out his hair; when the reporter answers in the affirmative, Juice responds with the same and leaves.
I once again remind you that the WWE let this man go. Voluntarily, because they had nothing for him beyond CJ Parker. Great promo here.
Toru Yano: He begs Uemura for forgiveness, saying the next meal is on him. This is the toughest road he’s ever had in the G-1, but as the KOPW title holder, there’s no way he can lose!
I hope Yano never loses that trophy. Ever.
Hirooki Goto: (Comes in with ice on his shoulder) In the end, KENTA found a way to get him. If only he could have held out a little longer. Some might think this is the end, but we’re just getting started. Onto the next one!
KENTA: Long time, no see. He cuts a weird promo on the camera like an old friend, then asks if the camera is really happy to see him. He sits down and says that it felt great to see the NJPW world camera again, he’s always thinking of New Japan World, checking Twitter, their hearts are connected! He’s going to ramble a bit now (Now? What the fuck has this interview been before now but rambling?) He’s learned to take the ups and downs of the G-1 in stride, and he recaps his G-1 from last year for us. Anyway, his point is that the only thing that got him through quarantine was checking the posts of Tenzan and Master Wato.
HUH? Me thinks KENTA might have taken a whack on the noggin. This was all over the place.
EVIL: Comes in screaming about the ref, saying it was only a 2-count! Don’t tarnish the G-1; did the Osaka crowd get to you? This whole place is rotten! Togo says that they’ll show us what the G-1 is all about.
Zack Sabre Jr: Hey, EVIL – happy halloween, dickhead. On the subjects of dickheads, guess who’s next up for ZSJ? Naito, the number one dickhead in the company. He just beat the former double champion, so he’s going to tap out the current double champion and then maybe he’ll take the rest of this tournament off, because he’s still got the tag divison to worry about, and beating Naito will get him a title shot anyway! (ZSJ is the SMARTEST MAN IN THE G-1) He’ll tap out Naito in Sapporo, then one of his teammates, either Suzuki or Taichi, can go ahead and win the G-1.
Interesting that he didn’t just default to rooting for his tag partner. Of course, I wouldn’t say a bad thing about Suzuki if you put a gun to my head, so that’s probably the smart move on ZSJ’s part.
Back to the ring for Naito’s promo, where he thanks the Osaka crowd. The other shows in this area are A block shows so he won’t be back here on this tour, but you’ll be able to see him in November with both titles and the G-1 trophy in tow. He does the roll call and asks the crowd to shout along in their hearts, and he’s done.
Back to the back area now:
Hiroshi Tanahashi: (Lying on the ground) He put everything he had into this match, risked everything. He pulls himself up to a sitting position and fights back tears as he says he put everything into the G-1 and he still didn’t win. That just goes to show that everyone is giving their all, that Naito must be working harder than him. The fact that Naito has both titles means he’s moving faster than he imagined Naito would be. He shouldn’t be negative, it’s only the first day, but Naito is out of reach. He goes to leave and a reporter asks if he’s proud that even though he lost, he still fought for 30 minutes; Tana responds by saying that he felt electricity right half of his body after the DDT, and he hoped it would go away, but this is G-1. Back in 2015, he hurt his neck in his first match with Ibushi, what luck.
This man is the greatest goddamn babyface I’ve ever seen, at least this side of Ricky Steamboat. Seriously, what a great promo, a mix of sadness, regret, melancholy, and a glimmer of resilience to fight on. Just tremendous.
Tetsuya Naito: Asks if Tanahashi made any comments, did he ramble on? He knew that Tana’s entire G-1 was riding on that match. (They’re going a long way here if this isn’t going to be a big part of the story in the coming months with these two.) He should say whatever he wants, but for Naito, this was just one of 9 matches. Going one on one with Tanahashi is always special, but Tanahashi just isn’t a threat to him anymore. (OH SHIT, NO HE DIDN’T) Everyone in the G-1 dwells on their losses, but Naito doesn’t think like that – he just wants to win every match and the Final. The fact that so many people still support Tana is amazing, and his work is impressive, so maybe he can try to be a threat to Naito again. If not, he’s as worthy as a Young Lion. Up next, it’s Zack Sabre Jr, and Naito won’t hide it; ZSJ is the toughest opponent for him. No time to enjoy this victory, because he has to prepare. No time for your questions, so Adios!
Naito took a lot of time slagging Tana here. Just saying.
Night one of B Block is in the books! See you all later this week!
As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
@MrSoze on Twitter
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