More G1 action, and you can read Rick’s review of Night Six of B Block by clicking right HERE
It’s been an interesting week for me. As mentioned in the last A Block review, it was my birthday mid-week so I decided to spend it with my support bubble (If you live on your own in the UK then you’re allowed to visit one other household under the pandemic restrictions), of which my mum is a member.
However, my mum has since come down with COVID-19, which means I’m in isolation for 14 days. Thankfully I can do my entire day job from home and I’ve not shown any symptoms myself as of this writing, which hopefully stays the case. I’m missing my daily walk though, as it was how I got my exercise and cleared my head.
I’m worried about my mum though as she has asthma, which puts her in a high risk category, and I’ve been checking in on her regularly via phone. She’s still keeping to her bed but her temperature is going down at least. I’ve not been tested myself as the guidelines just say to isolate unless you get symptoms, and I’ve got a food delivery booked in for tomorrow, so I’m ready to hunker down. I’ve already had four days in isolation as I decided to play it safe the minute I was told she had symptoms, so just 10 left now and I’ll be released back into polite society.
So with that out of the way, let’s watch some chuffing wrestling so I can take my mind off it all.
The event is emanating from Osaka, Japan
I’ve been looking through the archives and it seems like they’ve been catching up with the English commentary. Hopefully they’ll be ready to go live when the Final Night comes along.
Young Lions Collide!
Yota Tsuji Vs Yuya Uemura
More Young Lion action, as the trio of Tsuji, Uemura and Gabriel Kidd have all been wrestling one another in various combinations on this tour and acquitting themselves well. If you’re only just dipping into the reviews for the first time, the Young Lions are up and coming wrestlers who are just starting out, and thus wear generic gear and wrestle a basic style. The whole point is that they are learning and gaining experience, so they’ll mostly just do mat wrestling and standard moves like vertical suplexes and Boston Crabs. Eventually they’ll get to go out on “excursion”, which means they’ll go to America, Mexico, Britain etc. to gain seasoning before coming back with an actual character and whatnot (Although the pandemic might make excursions a bit more tricky in the short term)
Uemura mostly goes after Tsuji’s arm here, working it over with some nice stuff whilst Tsuji does a good job selling it all. The good thing about the youngsters in New Japan is that the company won’t let them in there unless they can at least hold their own in this sort of environment, meaning you generally get a better level of competency from the younger lads than you would in a company like WWE or AEW, where they’ll sometimes just throw someone out there who isn’t ready because they like their look etc. As a result, this is a solid match, if slightly lacking in flash, and it’s an easy watch.
Some of Uemura’s work on the arm is very good. There is one quick botch where it looks like Uemura is trying a hip-toss and it goes awry, but they do a decent enough job covering it and just go back to Uemura working some nice holds. Tsuji rally’s however by catching Uemura with a nice dropkick and goes to THE DREADED YOUNG LION BOSTON CRAB. In a nice touch, Tusji’s left arm goes out due to the previous work and he has to do it one armed, which allows Uemura to make the ropes. Psychology! Uemrua then gets a fantastic double arm lock overhead suplex, which is enough to hold Tsuji down. That looked a lot like a move Al Snow used to do actually.
WINNER: YUYA UEMURA
There hasn’t been a bad one of these yet, and I liked how the work on the arm played into the finish. The level of competency from these young lads is very impressive
G1 Climax A Block – Round Seven
Tomohiro Ishii (6) Vs Jeff Cobb (4)
Cobb has been “Mr. ***” for me in this year’s tournament, in that he’s had good matches every night but hasn’t regularly cracked the four star barrier for me. Ishii got a ***+ match out of Yujiro in the last round, so maybe now is when Cobb breaks into the **** promised land? If there’s any dance partner you’d want in pursuit of a great match, then Ishii is definitely the one!
I’m thinking Ishii probably needs to win here if he’s going to have any chance to win the block, although Cobb winning would continue the way they’ve been trying to keep most of the A Block close (Yujiro aside). Cobb shows some good fire here, getting in Ishii’s face and talking trash, which is generally when he’s at his best. Far too often in G1 it feels like he’s overawed by the occasion, with his best stuff coming when he cuts loose.
Cobb throws some nice chops and lays a few elbow strikes in, but Ishii chops him back, so Cobb FLINGS him with a capture suplex. That looked outstanding, as he got some proper air on Ishii there. It didn’t even look like it was just Ishii going up light either, a lot of it was Cobb just heaving him over like the powerful freak he’s capable of being. We need more “Jeff Cobb is outrageously strong” spots to be honest, as it’s by far the best part of his act in my opinion. At one point they tenaciously fight over a vertical suplex, with Ishii finally getting it for a double down. I love how they fought over that as it makes the match feel like an athletic contest because they have to struggle to pull off moves.
Ishii runs wild with the elbows and chops in his usual vicious fashion, as I ponder how great this version of Ishii would have been as a challenger for Kobashi during his epic two year GHC Title reign. Can you imagine those two battering one another at Budokan? Cobb fights back to his credit, but takes a snug elbow to the FACE, which Ishii sells as well in a nice touch. You know you’ve hit someone hard when the blow causes your own appendage to hurt as well!
We head into the closing stretch, with both men getting big strikes and suplexes, with Cobb eventually seeming to knock Ishii clean out with a head butt. Ever since Shibata the head butt is seen as super devastating strike in New Japan, and they delivered that one well as it looked safe but also deadly at the same time, which is the right mix that you want. Cobb continues to be a physical freak with some of his outrageous displays of strength, and he no sells an Ishii lariat before getting one of his own for two in a good near fall.
Ishii manages to slip out of Tour of the Islands and gets an enziguri for another double down, selling his bandaged right leg in the process. Psychology! The big moves and counters continue, with the crowd clapping along, and Ishii turns Cobb inside out with a lariat for two. I bought that as the finish to be honest. Both men keep fighting, which eventually leads to Cobb heaving Ishii up into the Tour of the Islands for the three count after a WAR!
WINNER: JEFF COBB (6)
Ishii continues to possibly be the greatest wrestler ever who will never get to be a World Champion, as he was fantastic here both when it came to selling and offence. Cobb held his own too and really upped his game here, leading to a fabulous match with oodles of great wrestling and big moves. Definitely one that’s worth going out of your way to see!
G1 Climax A Block – Round Seven
Yujiro Takahashi (0) Vs Jay White (8) w/ Gedo
Both these men are in Bullet Club, but the quality of each of their respective work rates is somewhat different. Yujiro has yet to win a match in the tournament this year, and this could potentially be one of those Gedo curve-balls where he throws in a shock result to keep you on your toes and also keep the standings interesting. That being said, White comes out in his civvies here and doesn’t look ready to wrestle, which makes me think something is amiss.
And of course, as soon as the bell rings, Yujiro lies down and White makes the cover, only for Yujiro to kick out at two. It looks like Yujiro might be having second thoughts, and he catches White with a couple of cheeky roll ups for two, which leads to rounds of applause from the crowd. I’ll be honest; they did that opening section so well that I actually thought Yujiro was just going to stay down for White. They do some more near falls, with White only just kicking out at the last minute on some of them. They probably over-egg the pudding a little bit, as after a while it becomes clear that White isn’t losing. And indeed, a Gedo distraction leads to a low blow and Blade Runner for three.
WINNER: JAY WHITE (10)
More and angle than a match, but what they did was really good. I think they just went a bit OTT with the Yujiro winning teases, as after a certain point you kind of knew he wasn’t winning due to there being so many White kick outs. Aside from that, it was a fine bit of business and a nice palette cleanser
G1 Climax A Block – Round Seven
Taichi (6) Vs Will Ospreay (8)
These two had a match in Altrincham in 2018, for which I was in attendance for, and they did the surprise finish at the time of Ospreay doing the job to Taichi as they were pushing a “Suzuki-gun decimates CHAOS” storyline on the night, which meant all the CHAOS guys lost, including Okada to Zack Sabre Jr. I’m not particularly expecting a similar result tonight, especially as Taichi is all but out of contention now and Ospreay needs to win in order to keep pace with White, of whom he has the tie-breaker win over. Ospreay does make the mistake of messing up Taichi’s hair in the early going though, which fires him up because,
Indeed! Taichi adds a shot with the time keepers hammer outside the ring and works Ospreay over with it some more. Ah, New Japan, where you can skewer someone with a trident but it won’t be a DQ so long as it happened outside the ring. It’s like playing WWF No Mercy on the N64, where you’d throw a CPU opponent you were having trouble with outside the ring and hit them with a big block of cheese until their Attitude bar was sufficiently low enough that you could polish them off back inside. Taichi seems to have the same strategy, although he’s clearly gone for the non-dairy option, as he works Ospreay over back inside with chokes and whatnot.
Ospreay of course fights back and gets the Space Flying Tiger Drop, before putting Taichi back inside with a flying forearm for two. The crowd is really into this one, clapping throughout, especially when Ospreay is on offence. Taichi sells all of Ospreay’s stuff well and their timing is good when it comes to counters and near-misses, with things really picking up since Ospreay made his comeback. Taichi manages to buy himself some time with an enziguri, with Ospreay selling it big, doing the dizzy stumble and everything.
We get a strike trade in the middle of the ring, with both men throwing some nice looking kicks, and that leads into the closing stretch, as this one continues to build. I was already to semi-right it off during the heat, but it’s continued to get better as it’s gone on and the near falls are executed well. In a good spot, both men go for super kicks, and Ospreay is quicker on the draw, but when he tries the Os Cutter follow up he finds a super kick from Taichi waiting for him for another double down. The timing on that was spot on. Both men fight off the others’ finishing moves, with the crowd loving it, and Ospreay finally picks up the win with The Storm Breaker.
WINNER: WILL OSPREAY
It was fine enough during the shine and heat, but it didn’t really show much of a hint that it was going to end up being as good as it did until they hit the second half. Taichi used to be so boring in the ring but he’s really come along nicely in the past couple of years. These days you almost expect him to have a good match rather than hope he does, which is a definite improvement on how it used to be with him
G1 Climax A Block – Round Seven
Minoru Suzuki (6) Vs Kota Ibushi (8)
I’m excited for this one, as Ibushi knows how to handle himself in a strike battle, so it shouldn’t just be your typical Grappler Vs Flyer battle as both men like to trade on their feet, and indeed that’s how we open. It’s almost like I’m watching my Battlarts tapes again! Yeah, I must confess that one of my most egregious bad predictions was that Battlarts was the future of wrestling and that shoot-style was the way the business was eventually going. So yeah, I was out to lunch on that one just a bit!
If shoot-style isn’t really your thing then you might not like this one, as they work it more like an MMA fight, with an emphasis on submissions and strikes. I personally quite like that style as a change from the norm, but I understand that a lot of people who watch wrestling like it specifically because it isn’t always like a real fight and enjoy the more show-man style aspects of it, so two guys rolling around having a worked shoot fight probably isn’t what they tune in for.
Things do eventually turn into a more traditional pro-wrestling bout, as Ibushi sends Suzuki into the railings outside of the ring and preps for a dive, only for Suzuki to storm down the entrance way and demand Ibushi follow him for a fight out there. Ibushi complies and heads out, which leads to both men trading shots out there whilst the crowd claps along. Suzuki wins that battle and hits one of his trademark loud forearm elbow strikes, which sound like a gun has gone off, and Ibushi sells it in kind. In a nice touch, Suzuki might be able to win by count out, but he demands Red Shoes Uno stop counting, because Ibushi hasn’t been sufficiently battered yet and he wants to win this one properly in the ring.
Suzuki openly laughs at some of Ibushi’s attacks back inside the ring, as he may have surpassed Terry Funk in the “Psychotic 50+ Guys Who Are Still Believable Scary Wrestlers” category, but Ibushi keeps coming and is eventually finally able to put Suzuki onto his back following some kicks. Suzuki sold those kicks like Sean Bean selling the arrows in Lords of the Ring. Suzuki doesn’t stay down for long though and soon floors Ibushi with one more snug elbow strike. I love it, Ibushi teed off on Suzuki with kick after kick and only just barely put him onto the mat, whilst Suzuki hits him with ONE elbow and almost knocks him clean out. Ibushi keeps coming though and eventually both men are down on the mat for a double down following some more stiff shots.
Suzuki drags himself to his feet from that, looking like the monster in a horror movie in the process, and we get some more strike exchanges, with Suzuki cackling away like he’s Bryan Fury. In a great spot, both men trade slaps and Ibushi has had enough and goes for one big shot to end it, only for Suzuki to dodge it and go to the sleeper. It’s like he’d been waiting for that all match, taking all kinds of punishment in the hope that Ibushi would finally drop his guard. Amazing!
Ibushi slips out of the sleeper and tries the Kamigoye, but Suzuki blocks it and goes to the Lion Tamer of all moves in an effort to make Ibushi tap out. Oh man, if that’s a tease for Suzuki Vs Jericho then I’M THERE! Ibushi manages to survive that and eventually is able to slip out of another sleeper attempt and catch Suzuki with two Kamigoye’s, which is enough for the pin. Come to think of it, that might have been the first proper pin attempt from either man in the whole match, as it was all striking and submission attempts prior to that.
WINNER: KOTA IBUSHI (10)
As a general rule, if a match is that good and I can’t really think of a way to improve it outside of nit-picking, then I go with the Full Monty. Maybe on a future re-watch I might see something I could really critique it for, but on the first viewing that’s a Five Star match for me. I enjoyed the shoot-style stuff at the beginning and Crazy Old Man Suzuki laughing in someone’s face whilst getting attacked multiple times is always entertaining. I loved the finishing stretch too, as it had all sorts of little touches to it that added to the story they were telling, and they didn’t do the big near fall fest either, instead focusing on Ibushi weathering the storm and finally being able to wear Suzuki down long enough to hold him down for three. I suppose if I was REALLY looking for things then I could say that the opening section might not be for everyone, but that’s down to own personal taste and preference, and I think even someone who doesn’t like that style of wrestling could still accept that the two men executed it well
The creepy glazed eyes look on Suzuki as he stumbles to the back is incredible. It’s like he’s almost happy that he found someone capable to beating him up, like he’s a real life version of Akuma/Gouki from Street Fighter or something.
G1 Climax A Block – Round Seven
Shingo Takagi (6) Vs Kazuchika Okada (8)
You’d think Okada would have to win here in order to keep pace with the guys on 10 points, but Shingo actually holds a win over Ospreay in a previous round, so if he wins here then he’ll be two points behind him with a tie-breaker in hand, which means he would still technically have a chance to win it all with just two matches to go. He’d still need things to go his way elsewhere, but he’d still have a shout. This being the Main Event slot makes me think they might have the big Shingo win, but Okada could do with someone else to do a job for that Cobra Clutch hold of his, and Shingo is someone where a victory over him would help give that hold credibility. This is why I love G1; because this could conceivably go either way and it will still make sense.
I love the crowd clapping along in place of doing the “O-Ka-Da” chant. They do it for Ibushi too and it’s really cool that they’ve found a way around the COVID restrictions to still give the matches some atmosphere. Okada controls Shingo for most of the early going, out wrestling him and seeming to target the head and neck area, which makes sense when you consider what part of the body his finishing hold targets. Shingo sells it well, registering the pain but also continuing to fight.
Shingo bails to regroup and Okada follows, which allows Shingo to give him a DDT on the floor to cut him off, before sending him into the railings. LIJ as the babyfaces with edge works better for me now than it used to due to them coming together and showing some camaraderie following EVIL’s heel turn. You can sympathise and root for them against heels easier now, and they still work in roles like this too.
Okada sells Shingo’s stuff well and eventually gets a flapjack for a double down, with the crowd staying with the action, and then makes the comeback. Okada is such a good babyface these days, and when he wants to he can still be a heel too. He really is the Total Package. We head into the closing stretch, with Shingo starting us off with the pop-up Spicolli Driver for two.
We head outside again, where Okada goes for the Tombstone Piledriver, but Shingo fights him off, only for Okada to hit the Randy Orton draping DDT on the floor. How about this for a match, Orton and Okada Vs Tanahashi and Cena? It would have certainly been better 5 years ago instead of now, but I think they’d still have a good match. How can you not with any combination of those four guys? Shingo fights back once they get inside the ring though, getting a Gory Bomb after a struggle.
Shingo goes to the Bryan Danielson elbows, but Okada pops up with his usual perfect dropkick and gets the Tombstone, which means its COBRA CLUTCH time! Shingo sells that big but eventually manages to drag himself to the ropes. That’s one of the biggest reactions the hold has got so far though, so I think Okada is succeeding in getting it over, which is a testament to how dedicated a worker he is. Shingo replies with a really nice superplex, which only gets two sadly. Man, I wish someone would bring that move back as a finisher. It looks great and is just generally a very impressive move; it really should be a match ender.
We get some more really smooth counters from both men, as this one has continued to build and has become a very enjoyable bout as a result. Shingo goes wild on Okada with a series of elbows, with Okada selling the last one with a great facial expression. In a nice touch, Okada gets the Summer Slam 92 pin counter he’s used to win his last two matches, but Shingo gets to kick out, only for Okada to go back to the Cobra Clutch. They way they’ve filled this one with twists and turns has been really well done. These are two guys who clearly understand how to pace a match and tell a story in there. Shingo hits Okada with his own Rainmaker and then catches him with Made in Japan for two in a fabulous near fall. That was executed perfectly!
A big Pumping Bomber Lariat looks to have ended it for Shingo, but Okada kicks out once again, and the crowd is hot for all of this now. Okada manages to fight off Last of the Dragon, but Shingo clobbers him and goes for it again, only for Okada to slip out into the Cobra hold, but Shingo slips out of THAT and we get even more counters and counter-counters. Hot Dog, they must have seen that last match and felt “Well, the bar just got raised, let’s go out and have an absolute scorcher” and thus they have. Okada goes back to the hold and Shingo again sells it fantastically, doing the big tease of fighting out of it, even grabbing Red Shoes so he can’t ring the bell, only to eventually pass out to give OKada the win.
WINNER: KAZUCHIKA OKADA (10)
You know, Okada has been kind of low-key awesome in this year’s G1, having better and better matches as it’s progressed and really dedicating a lot of time to get two brand new moves over as potential match winners in the pin counter and submission hold. It’s like they’ve used this tournament as a way to reboot him a strange way, and now going into the closing couple of rounds he still has a chance to win the whole thing. He’s almost gone under the radar, but if you look back at his body of work for this G1 you’re going to find a bunch of really hot matches. He’s the complete professional wrestler, and nevermore has that been clearer than in this year’s tournament
Okada gives the victory speech, which judging by his hands suggests he’s saying something along the lines of “And that’s Five!” and we’re out
Our standings now look like this;
10 Points – Kazuchika Okada, Jay White, Kota Ibushi, Will Ospreay
6 Points – Shingo Takagi, Minoru Suzuki, Jeff Cobb, Taichi, Tomohiro Ishii
0 Points – Yujiro Takahashi
Possibly the best night of A Block so far, with great matches up and down the card, with even the Yujiro match being fun for what it was. The A Block is shaping up nicely now, and I’m sticking with my pre-tournament prediction of Kota Ibushi taking the Block. Let’s see if I’m right as we have only two rounds left now.
Now normally this would be where I’d sign off for the day, but I have something extra planned, so let’s move on to…
SPECIAL BONUS MATCH REVIEW
New Japan Pro Wrestling – Dissidence at Korakuen Hall – 6th May 2009
IWGP Heavyweight Title
Champ: Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs Manabu Nakanishi
I was perusing the archives on NJPW World and saw this one had been uploaded with English commentary, so I decided to check it out. I’d been a NOAH guy for most of the 00’s, but the rise of Tanahashi as The Ace of New Japan had finally got me back interested in watching the NJPW product again, with his match against Keiji Mutoh pretty much being the moment that New Japan took over NOAH when it came to being the Japanese company I was most interested in watching. As a result this was one of the first big surprise moments of me really jumping back on board the New Japan train, and it’s stuck with me ever since.
Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton are handling the call here, and explain that New Japan were originally supposed to wrestle people from CMLL on this show, but a Bird Flu pandemic meant that they weren’t able to come, thus they booked Tana Vs Nakanishi as a non-Title special singles match for the show instead. However, Tana was a fighting Champion and decided he wanted to put the Title on the line. Tana had just taken part in a gruelling Title match with Hirooki Goto though, where Goto had targeted his neck, and Nakanishi was up front in the build-up that he was going to target it as well.
New Japan had tried pushing Nakanishi on multiple occasions, including a G1 Climax win in 1999, but it had just never really taken. However, he had remained a key part of the NJPW roster during the dark days of Inoki-ism and, now that the company’s fortunes were finally turning around, he was a beloved member of the roster and a good hand who could usually be trusted to deliver a fun match (This was before his neck injury). That being said, not many expected him to win here, because good hands may be popular, and may get a shot now and then, but they don’t get to the win belt, ala Ishii.
They work holds on the mat to start, with it being basic but decent. Nakanishi moved quite awkwardly sometimes when doing chain wrestling, but he was always able to make good use of his size and amateur background to make it work. Tana was more willing to be a bit of a jerk back then, as he hits Nakanishi in the gut one stage when they lock up on the ropes, with Nakanishi selling it well. Another shot from Tana sends Nakanishi to the floor, where he follows off the apron with a cannon ball, only to then get suplexed out there on the mats by an angered Nakanishi. Nakanishi removes the mats and tries a body slam on the wooden floor, but Tana slips out of that, which leads to Nakanishi doing some loud chops instead.
Tana had started working the leg more following the feud with Mutoh, and he does the same with Nakanishi by getting the old Dragon Screw over the middle rope and then working the leg back over inside the ring with some nice stuff. I forget sometimes that Tana used to have more of an edge back then, but you can see by this stage that he’s comfortable in his own skin and he’s letting his work talk for itself, and he was pretty much a fully formed elite worker by this stage in his career. He works this as the classical World Champ manner of being the subtle heel to allow the emotional crowd favourite to sell and make comebacks. We of course get the figure four, and Nakanishi sells that fantastically before finally making the ropes to break the hold.
Nakanishi has done an excellent job selling the leg throughout this one actually, and Tana has done a good job working it over, so it’s retained the interest of the crowd, even though the match has built gradually and the early pace has been patient. Nakanishi eventually makes the comeback, getting a dropkick off the top rope of all things before following with a dive to the floor. Manabu Nakanishi: High Flyer! Things continue to pick up back inside the ring, with stiff slaps and chops getting thrown by both men, which leads into Tana going back to the leg when he starts losing that battle. It’s a simple enough story that they’re telling here, but they’re telling it well and both men are doing what they need to make their roles work. In a straight slug fest or power battle then Nakanishi holds the edge, but in more of a technical and body-part focused contest it favours Tana, and both man is trying to steer it towards the match type that favours them.
We head into the closing stretch, with Nakanishi stopping the High-Fly-Flow and then superplexing Tanahashi down, which causes a board to pop up under the ring. Thank goodness no one appeared to land on that, as that could have been ugly. Nakanishi goes to The Human Torture Wrack, which he used to call The Argentine Backbreaker, but Tana slips out before he can turn it into a cutter and gets a pair of Sling Blades before heading up for the High-Fly-Flow. Nakanishi manages to get his knees up to block it though, but gets caught with an inside cradle for a good near fall. High-Fly-Flow onto the leg follows and Tana tries to win it by submission with a Texas Cloverleaf, but Nakanishi counters with the Von Erich Claw and lifts Tana into the Hercules Cutter (Argentine Backbreaker into a cutter) which gets two in another great near fall. The crowd is really with this now, as Nakanishi gets some more near falls to tease that it isn’t going to be his day. However, he gets a German Suplex with a bridge and that’s enough for the pin and the Title!
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: MANABU NAKANISHI
This was a cracker, with it building like it was going to be your standard Tanahashi Title defence, only for it to take a sharp left turn at the end with Nakanishi picking up the improbable win to pop and shock the crowd in equal measure. This really felt like it came out of nowhere at the time, but it gave Nakanishi the big Title win his legacy was lacking and, had he not got injured a couple of years later, they probably could have gotten a few more years out of him atop the card instead of him fading into his role of the lesser of the Nagata, Tenza, Kojima, Nakanishi quartet.
The question is though, if Nakanishi could get his moment is there any chance that Tomohiro Ishii could ever get his? Obviously as a big fan of Ishii I’d like to see it, but the New Japan of 2020 is different to the New Japan of 2009. Back then they had Tana as the top guy and giving a guy like Nakanishi the quickie run existed mainly to give Tana a chance to win it back and overcome an obstacle. These days, if you get the IWGP Title it’s either because you’re already a top guy or someone who they want to be top guy in the future and they’re giving you the big win to boost your credibility so you’ll be ready for the role in a year or two.
Despite how good he is, Ishii is not an automatic Main Event level guy when it comes to his overall package. As a worker he’s incredible and one of the best going today, but when it comes to things like look and star power he isn’t on the level of the likes of Okada, Naito etc. Also Ishii isn’t a younger guy on his way up like Okada, White and Naito were when they first won it, or a guy who is ready to go Main Event who just needs the big win to get him there like AJ Styles was. He’s got the work rate chops to be a Main Event guy, but it’s about more than how good you wrestle, even in a place like New Japan.
I just can’t see them ever “burning off” a Title change for a guy like Ishii, because he’s not going to have a long reign on top due to him not being a top star in the company level guy and he’s not going to be that person down the line due to his age and physical issues, so really all it would be is a quickie transitional reign, which is not something they really do anymore. Certainly the hardcore fans would go nuts for an Ishii Title win and would savour it, but you’re always going to have those fans. Is your average casual New Japan fan going to be more excited to see Naito as the World Champ or Ishii?
The answer to that question is why we’re probably never going to see IWGP Heavyweight Champion Tomohiro Ishii