Cheers to all who said kind words last time out. Had a chat with my mum today and her temperature is pretty much back to normal and she felt well enough to go in the garden for a bit, so here’s hoping she’s past the worst of it.
I’m still in isolation, but I’ve thankfully had no COVID-19 symptoms thus far, so hopefully I should be able to get out and about as soon as my 14 days are up.
Anyway, we’re into the final two nights of A Block now, with a number of workers tied on 10 points. You’d think something would have to give in this round, so let’s see what happens!
If you’d like to read Rick’s review of B Block Night Seven then you can do so by clicking right HERE
The event is emanating from Shizuoka
They’re getting quicker with the English commentary uploads, but this show isn’t up with it yet, so I decided to recap now whilst I could rather than waiting for the English commentary to go up
Gabriel Kidd Vs Yuya Uemura
This is yet another round in a series of matches between the three Young Lions of Kidd, Uemura and Yota Tsuji. Sadly I haven’t been keeping score myself, but I’ve been impressed with all three guys. Uemura is probably the best technician of the three, whilst Tsuji is the most charismatic and Kidd has looked the most ready for a push due to his more pronounced mean streak and the fact he seems a little further along than the other two.
Kidd does some British Style in the opening section, which leads to Umeura dropping into the guard Inoki Style as a way to get himself back into it. Both of these men are good on the mat and Uemura’s expressive face means his selling is really good and does an excellent job of getting Kidd’s offence over. Uemura targets Kidd’s arm, which is what he did in his match with Tsuji on Night Seven of A Block, and Kidd continues to sell it throughout in a nice touch. Kidd fights back and goes for his double under hook suplex, but Uemura replies by going to an arm scissors of all things for a submission tease.
Kidd manages to slap his way out of that one and fires Uemura up with further slaps, which leads to a trade-off between the two men. The strikes look good and the crowd is into it as they trade. Umeura gets the hooks in on Kidd and suplexes him over with a bridge, which is enough for the three count. He used the same move against Tsuji on Night Seven. So it looks like he might have an actual finisher now, and it’s an interesting one at that.
WINNER: YUYA UEMURA
More solid Young Lion action there. It’s always impressive how good these guys are for essentially being rookies. You don’t see that level of competency in up and comers anywhere near as much in the west
G1 Climax A Block – Round Eight
Jeff Cobb (6) Vs Will Ospreay (10)
Cobb got the big win over Ishii in the previous round of fixtures after a really great match, whilst Ospreay picked up the win over Taichi. I guess we’ll see how serious they are with Ospreay as a potential block winner here. A loss won’t immediately take him out of the running as he holds a win over Jay White and has Okada on the final night of the Block, so he could end up with tie-breaker wins over both of them. It would however take his destiny out of his hands as he’d need others to drop matches for him to eventually take the Block. Let’s see if Cobb can play spoiler here!
They start this one fast, with Cobb trying to powerbomb Ospreay off the apron at one stage, only for Ospreay to fight that off and then get the Space Flying Tiger Drop to the floor. Ospreay gets cocky back inside though and that allows Cobb to fire up and fight back. Cobb gets to his usual array of suplexes, throws and power moves, with Ospreay of course bumping and selling for it all well. He’s almost the perfect opponent for Cobb in this sort of scenario really, as he can take big bumps really easily and Cobb can throw him really easily. It’s a natural fit.
The closing stretch is done well, with both men countering the other at certain points and hitting their usual trademark big moves for near falls. The crowd is into the action and claps along as the two men work through their respective move-sets. Some of the counters are really good, with Ospreay somehow flipping his way out of Tour of the Islands to get a move of his own. Again, these two ring styles make a natural pairing.
It’s good but never kicks onto that next level of truly being great for me, but it’s certainly a good mix of styles and the near falls are executed how you’d want them to be. It’s not as hot as either of the two men’s previous bouts in Round Seven, but it’s still good action and the crowd digs it. Cobb even busts out the Croyts Wrath at one stage, which surprisingly leads to him getting Tour of the Islands to possibly torpedo Ospreay’s chances of winning the Block. I thought we’d get a surprise result or two tonight, but the way that match was going I thought Ospreay was taking it.
WINNER: JEFF COBB (8)
Fun match, but it just didn’t kick into that extra gear for me. I’m thinking I might be lower on the scale than most with that one though. I liked the strength vs speed aspect of it and the two wrestlers’ styles meshed well together, but it just never broke through into the great category for me
G1 Climax A Block – Round Eight
Yujiro Takahashi (0) Vs Kota Ibushi (10)
Ibushi holds a win over Ospreay earlier on in the tournament, so if he wins here then it will be impossible for Ospreay to win the Block, because the best he’ll be able to do is tie with Ibushi on 12 points and Ibushi holds the tie-breaker on him. Yujiro would be a strange choice to beat Ibushi, but Gedo likes bowling a Yorker now and then in these tournaments, so you never know.
Yujiro’s tactic is to keep Ibushi from really getting going in the early parts of the match, continuously throwing him outside and cutting him off whenever it looks like Ibushi might deliver a move. It works for the most part, although it’s not the most exciting match to watch owing to Yujiro not exactly being the most dynamic of wrestlers on the New Japan roster. Still, from a storytelling perspective it makes sense at least.
Ibushi spends a large chunk of the match selling whilst Yujiro works him over at his usual snail’s pace, like he’s wrestling underwater, but eventually Ibushi gets to make a comeback and the match picks up a bit. Ibushi’s selling has been top notch for the most part, and he even takes a big bump off a Yujiro lariat, as he’s really trying to have a good outing here despite Yujiro’s limitations.
We head into the closing section, and the crowd is with it. It has been better since Ibushi has had a chance to do more to be fair, and Yujiro has picked up the pace a little bit as well. Yujiro actually gets a fisherman’s buster off the top rope and then follows with another one after that, for a super close near fall.
I’ll give them credit, they had me thinking Yujiro was going to get the three there. Having this sort of league based tournament set up really helps with stuff like that, because Yujiro winning sets other things up so you think it might happen and double guess the direction they are going in. Ibushi does eventually prevail though, getting a knee strike and the Kamigoye to put Yujiro away.
WINNER: KOTA IBUSHI (12)
Typical Yujiro match up until the finishing stretch, where they did a good job making me think Yujiro might actually win for a moment
That win now means that Ospreay can no longer win the A Block due to Ibushi having the tie-breaker over him. He can still play spoiler against Okada though.
G1 Climax A Block – Round Eight
Taichi (6) Vs Shingo Takagi (6)
Both these guys are out of the running now, but Shingo winning could possibly leave the door open for he and a fellow LIJ member to challenge for Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr’s IWGP Heavyweight Tag Belts maybe, although that would probably be unlikely. That’s a small issue that comes with the latter stages in that once people start getting mathematically eliminated then their matches in essence become dead rubbers unless there’s a chance of earning yourself a Title shot with a victory.
Taichi does his usual slimy heel antics of stalling and attacking Shingo with the timekeeper’s hammer, before adding a choke with a TV cable just to become a super King Kong mega biatch. Taichi’s heel chicanery continues in-ring, as he outright chokes Shingo at one stage. I do wonder sometimes if they could almost go the Eddie Guerrero route with Taichi and kind of turn him into an entertaining cheater that the crowd could get behind? I never would have thought Eddie could have pulled off the babyface “Lie, Cheat and Steal” character before he tried it, but it ended up being a hugely popular character, and it’s not like the fans don’t enjoy Yano’s constant shenanigans.
Shingo does eventually make the comeback and the match’s pace picks up as a result, with the execution from both men being on point. I will repeat my love for Shingo’s closed fist punch, as it looks great and he can snap it off at any moment to take an opponent unawares. Normally I’m not a huge fan of loads of punching, as technically it shouldn’t be allowed in a pro-wrestling match, but a nice punch snapped off at the right time really is an art-form and Shingo has it down perfectly.
We get the strike trade, with Taichi doing kicks and Shingo doing chops, and the action continues to be good. Both men do versions of the Axe Bomber and run into one another with them at the same time in a good spot, which leads to Taichi snapping off a Saito Suplex for a double down. They’ve built this one well and I’m digging it, as are the crowd. They do a really fun finishing stretch, with Shingo managing to block Taichi’s attempt at cheating and catching him with his own Gedo Clutch move for two in a good near fall.
Taichi gets to be all gutsy as he continues to kick out of Shingo’s big moves, just like he did in his matches with Ospreay and Okada also, as he’s really gained something from this tournament even though he’s not going to win it. Some of the near falls here are really good, and they get me more than once where I think it’s over only for them to pull out the rug from under me. Eventually Taichi catches Shingo with Black Mephisto and that’s another big win to go along with the one he got over Minoru Suzuki in a previous round.
WINNER: TAICHI (8)
Great match there, with good action and some exciting near falls. They built it gradually and took it home at just the right moment in my opinion. They gave us some big near falls but didn’t overegg the pudding to the point it got silly. I like how they had Taichi survive and pick up the big win too, as he pretty much did it cleanly and he gained something from it, but Shingo looked really good too and didn’t lose anything from it as a result. Great effort from both men!
G1 Climax A Block – Round Eight
Minoru Suzuki (6) Vs Jay White (10) w/ Gedo
Watching White’s entrance video really rams home how much better the bearded look is for him. He looked like he was 12 back in the clean shaven days. I suffer from the same affliction actually, which is why I also have a beard most of the time. I suppose I should look at it as a positive, but getting constantly ID’ed when I’m buying booze gets a bit tiresome after a while you know, especially when I’m years past being over the legal drinking age.
Anyway, White can lose here and still win the A Block provided results go for him elsewhere due to having tie-breaker wins over both Kota Ibushi and Kazuchika Okada. All he’d need to do would be to win his last match and hope Ibushi dropped his match to Taichi on the last night whilst Okada lost tonight and then beat Ospreay in his final A Block match. Suzuki is out of the running now, but I’m sure he’d love to play spoiler to somebody else’s chances, owing to him being a Crazy Old Man who likes to haunt peoples dreams.
Suzuki destroys White in the early going, with Gedo being too afraid to help his man at one stage in a funny spot. When your freely interfering manager doesn’t even want to help you, you know you’re in there with a scary opponent. Gedo does eventually manage to distract Suzuki long enough for White to start ramming him into the metal railings around ringside, but that seems to serve only to make Suzuki angry, which is not something you’d want to do. You’d probably have more luck throwing a stick at a nest of Murder Hornets. At least an agonising death from Hornet venom would be less painful than getting torn limb from limb by a nettled Minoru Suzuki.
White tries to use a chair on Suzuki whilst Gedo takes the ref, but Suzuki grabs the chair for himself and gets a few shots in before the referee notices and takes the chair away from him. Oh yeah, that’s what you want to do with a psychotically dangerous man, give him a weapon. I can’t see HOW that could possibly go wrong! We head into the closing stretch, with Suzuki continuing to almost laugh off White’s offence before delivering some of his own, with White selling it fantastically. This is genuinely some of the best selling I’ve seen, with White doing the big glassy eyed look and then cowering in the corner in fear when Suzuki advances on him.
Gedo yelling encouragement at White is a great touch too, and reminds me a bit of how Paul Heyman would manage Brock Lesnar actually. White eventually manages to find a way to properly hurt Suzuki by going after his legs, with Suzuki selling it with a mixture of anguish, anger and disgust. Both man’s facial expression game has been top notch here, with them telling a story using just their reactions most of the time. The actual wrestling is almost secondary at points. This is two guys who understand who they are, and in classic wrestling fashion they are reacting instead to acting. Their two personalities are bouncing off one another, with them in-turn having an effect on how they are wrestling one another.
In a really nice spot, White tries to defeat Suzuki with his trademark figure four styled submission hold, but Suzuki is obviously much more of a submission master and he calmly counters it into a hold of his own, which causes White to have to desperately make the ropes. Suzuki almost has an “I can’t believe you’re stupid enough to try a submission hold on me” look following it, and then ominously points to Gedo whilst he lays a whupping on White with elbow strikes. That was awesome!
Gedo finally is able to distract Suzuki long enough for White to attack him though, and this time he goes for the Blade Runner instead of trying a submission, only for Suzuki to get a fantastic counter into an arm bar for another great submission tease. White does actually tap out, but Gedo takes the referee and he misses it as a result, so Suzuki walks over and knocks Gedo off the apron. We get a great counter sequence following that, with both men trying their finishers, only for Gedo to distract the ref one more time so that White can hit Suzuki right in the Pancrase before following up with the Blade Runner for the most desperate of last gasp wins.
WINNER: JAY WHITE (12)
I absolutely loved that just on a purely storytelling level, as this gave you everything you’d want from a battle between these two characters. White was outmatched and desperate throughout, whilst Suzuki had the beating of him throughout but just couldn’t get past Gedo’s constant interfering, thus leading to White finally being able to find the necessary window to steal a victory from the jaws of suffering. I think it’s no secret that I enjoy the work of both men, so I may possibly be higher than others, but I really enjoyed this one a lot!
G1 Climax A Block – Round Eight
Tomohiro Ishii (6) Vs Kazuchika Okada (10)
Okada has lost to both White and Ibushi, so he has to win here to have any chance to winning the A Block. He then needs both Ibushi and White to lose on the final night of A Block whilst he defeats Will Ospreay. I’m thinking they will have him win here at the very least just to keep three people in contention going into the final night. Interestingly, from looking on CAGEMATCH they have Suzuki and Shingo listed as the Main Event on the final night of A Block, but you’d have to think they’d swap some of those matches around so that the last match actually decides the Block itself?
Ishii and Okada are both part of the CHAOS stable, but I doubt Ishii will take it easy on his stablemate even though he’s eliminated now and doesn’t have much to gain from a win other than bragging rights. It’s been brought to my attention that Okada’s Cobra Clutch hold actually has its own name. I apologise for getting it wrong all this time and I’ll be making sure to use its proper name going forward. Apologies again for any offence caused to those of you in the comments section.
They build this one gradually, working some holds in the early going until Okada seems to fit into his best role of subtle heel by working over Ishii’s neck area with a chin lock. One move that Okada used to do a lot that he doesn’t as much anymore was a really nice roll-through crucifix cravat actually. I always remember really liking that, but it’s not really in his move-set anymore. Ishii starts firing back with chops, which leads to Okada fighting back with some elbow strikes, only for Ishii to chop him back down and then start talking some smack.
I love how two people who are technically supposed to be allies and friends are just being absolute jerks to one another in the spirit of competition. It’s great because it mirrors real-life, where athletes might be friendly away from the game, but when it’s game-time they hold nothing back. A perfect example would be Ronaldo and Rooney at the World Cup in 2006. They were team mates at Man United, but in the World Cup it was absolute no mercy, and they ended up working really well together the next season as United went on to win the League.
The match continues to build, with the pace and action getting more intense, as both men trade elbow strikes and Ishii clobbers Okada with a big shot to pop the crowd. I like how the last match was a story driven one based around a desperate cheating heel trying to overcome a much scarier opponent, whereas this one is about two top athletes going all out to try and see who the better man is in a fair fight. It’s great when every match doesn’t feel the same, as variety is the spice of life.
We get considerably bigger spots and bumps, as Ishii gives Okada a German Suplex into the corner at one stage and Okada sells it great. You could almost picture the stars floating around his head like he was stunned in Street Fighter II or something. Okada of course replies with his dropkick, with the timing being perfect as always, and that means it’s time for the Coin Pouch! Ishii sells that big, especially as Okada used it to beat Shingo in the previous round, with him quickly trying to get to the ropes so that it can’t do too much damage.
Both men’s selling has been great here, as they’ve gotten the right mix between registering the pain but not completely dying. Okada gets the Summer Slam 92 pin counter, but Ishii kicks out, and when he tries it again Ishii actually counters it into a pin of his own for a super close two count. The timing on that kick out was utterly superb! Part of me honestly thought it was over. Ishii keeps coming, but Okada dodges a lariat and goes back to the Coin Pouch. In a great twist, Ishii gets out of it and goes to a submission move of his own in the form of a Kimura before transitioning to a straight arm bar, only for Okada to break the hold by getting to the ropes.
I love the idea that Ishii has seen Okada use that hold a lot and probably has more knowledge about it than most due to being a stablemate with him, so it meant he was ready for it with a hold of his own. This match has layers like a stiff hard hitting onion! The exchanges between the two men continue to be fantastic, with both no selling at certain points and hitting big moves, until Okada is finally able to get the Coin Pouch locked in again. Ishii once again sells it really well, doing the big pass out tease, but then managing to counter out of it once again, landing on his feet when Okada tries to take him back down with a back breaker, before getting a big a lariat for another nail biting near fall.
The near fall game in this one from both men has top of the table stuff it really has. Okada keeps trying to get the Coin Pouch locked back in, but Ishii just keeps having counters. Okada will not be denied though and goes back to it, this time managing to get the back breaker when Ishii tries breaking out, and the referee calls for the bell.
WINNER: KAZUCHIKA OKADA
Fantastic match that I absolutely loved! It was the perfect way to build an epic, as they started slow and then just got progressively more hard hitting and action packed until the big finish. Ishii fighting and fighting the hold off so many times only to finally just not have enough to get away from it was a great story and both men played their parts to a tee. This was exactly what you’d want from a match between these two and a great way to close out the show. It was just as good as the previous match but in its own different way, and that’s why wrestling can be so great because there really are multiple ways to skin the proverbial cat
We get the big speech from Okada to send us out. Sadly I don’t know what he’s saying due to lack of Japanese, but its Okada so I bet it’s good. That man has charisma in places that most people don’t even have places!
Let’s look at the standings following that;
12 Points – Jay White, Kota Ibushi, Kazuchika Okada
10 Points – Will Ospreay
8 Points – Jeff Cobb, Taichi
6 Points – Minoru Suzuki, Shingo Takagi, Tomohiro Ishii
0 Points – Yujiro Takahashi
One heck of a one-two punch to close us out there, with both of the top two matches being both great and completely different from one another.
Going into the final night of A Block I’m going to stick with my prediction of Kota Ibushi taking it all. However, I can’t deny that Ibushi and White both losing only for Okada to then beat Ospreay in a great match to win the Block would be a fantastic way to end the A Block story, and part of me kind of wants that to be where they go with it.
Normally I’d sign off here, but I’ve decided to have yet another;
SPECIAL BONUS MATCH REVIEW
G1 Climax 1998 – Quarter Final – 1st of August 1998
Genichiro Tenryu Vs Shinya Hashimoto
I enjoyed getting to do a bonus match last week, with the six match format these events have had making it easy to sneak one in at the end. This one is on New Japan World and was one of the first times I ever really “got” Hashimoto after years of thinking he was just a chubby bloke who kicked people. However, I dug this match a lot and it gave me a whole new appreciation for him as a worker. I have this tournament on DVD and it’s one I’d certainly recommend if you want a taste of late 90’s New Japan, as it’s got lots of names you’d likely recognise and the actual booking of the tournament itself is top notch. Let’s see if this particular match still holds up since I last saw it.
The G1 had a single elimination format in 1998, which actually worked quite well for the most part and allowed them to elevate some people up the card, including Satoshi Kojima, Kazuo Yamazaki and even Tadao Yasuda. Tenryu was working the tournament as an outsider and had actually defeated Keiji Mutoh of all people in the first round after a 20+ minute epic, whilst Hashimoto had beaten Tatsutoshi Goto via referee stoppage in a comparatively brief four minutes. The crowd was very into the idea of seeing Tenryu and Hashimoto going at it due to their combined penchant for stiff strikes, so this was one of the most anticipated bouts of the Quarter Final stage.
Both men waste no time throwing the stiff shots, with Tenryu throwing illegal closed fist punches when his back is against the wall, thus earning the ire of the ref and making him a heel in the crowd’s eyes. The selling from both men is great here, with Tenryu especially selling Hashimoto’s chops brilliantly, with his body jolting like it’s be shot full of electricity. They don’t even do a single hold in the early going, it’s all kicks, chops and punches, and the crowd loves these two heavy hitting blokes having a slug fest with one another. Tenryu’s punches look great too and the instant heat they draw really adds to the match’s atmosphere.
Hashimoto is the first to go for an actual hold, locking in a combined arm bar and triangle for a submission tease, which leads to Tenryu having to get his foot on the bottom rope to break. After that brief interlude for some wrestling, we’re back to both men slapping the roast potatoes out of one another, with them both taking longer to recover after each rally now, which helps get the brutality of the fight over. Sweat is literally flying at one stage when Tenryu chops away at Hashimoto in the corner. Bear in mind that this is only the Quarter Final stage as well. Whoever wins this has to win two more matches to win the tournament, and considering how sore they both must have been following this, that’s a daunting prospect.
We hit the closing stretch, with Tenryu having a look on his face that suggests he’d rather be anywhere else than the world than in Tokyo getting hit by this hefty bloke, but he manages to deliver his trademark enziguri and heaves Hashimoto up for a powerbomb, which gets two. In a nice touch, Tenryu really had to fight for that, which makes the match feel more like a struggle. Tenryu gets the improbable late 40’s elbow drop off the top following that (Yes, Tenryu was only in his 40’s at the time of this match), but Hashimoto kicks out at two and then catches Tenryu with a spin kick when he tries coming off the top with a shoulder block and then DDT’s Tenryu off the second rope for a two of his own. Hashimoto won’t be denied though, and after another trading of strikes he gets a standard DDT in the middle for the three count after an absolute WAR!!! (Pun only marginally intended)
WINNER: SHINYA HASHIMOTO
Hot Dog, Jumping Frog, was that one heck of a slug fest! If seeing two guys chop each other to pieces is your jam, then this match is your boogieman and requires your immediate attention over on New Japan Word!