Here we are, it’s time for the Final Night of A Block, with Jay White, Kazuchika Okada and Kota Ibushi all having a chance to win it (Although there may be an outside way for Will Ospreay to still manage it somehow, which will probably happen now just to make me look dumb. I could take this bit out of course, but I’ll leave it in, just for the craic)
My pick is Kota Ibushi, but I’ve enjoyed Okada’s run so much that I’ve decided I’d like him to win the Block. So expect a Jay White victory then!
Rick’s been doing a sterling job with the B Block and you can read his review of Night Eight by clicking right HERE
The event is emanating from Tokyo, Japan
Wey-hey, the English commentary is up! Therefore, calling the action are Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero and Chris Charlton!!!
Gabriel Kidd Vs Yota Tsuji
According to Chris, if Tsuji wins here then he will win the unofficial “C Block” between the three Young Lions of Kidd and Uemura, but Kidd and Uemura can still win it if he drops this one. They start this one hot, with both men going right at it and showing some good fire. As usual with the Young Lions, the action is good as both lads have a good grasp of the basics and Kidd’s intensity plays well with Tsuji’s fire and charisma, leading to a fun contest between the two.
Tsuji muscles Kidd all the way over with a suplex from pretty much a standing start at one stage, which looked really good. The commentators push the idea that Tsuji is probably ready for excursion at this stage actually, but of course the pandemic might delay that for obvious reasons. In a cute bit, the crowd claps along with every strike thrown in a trade-off between the two, and it’s been heartening in general to see how much support the Lions have gotten from the crowds on this tour. Tsuji eventually gets Kidd with the Giant Swing and then finishes off with THE DREADED YOUNG LION CRAB to pick up the submission win and the C Block!
WINNER: YOTA TSUJI
Energetic offering from the two Young Lions that was brief yet enjoyable, not unlike World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros on the NES
G1 Climax A Block – Round Nine
Yujiro Takahashi (0) Vs Jeff Cobb (8)
Yujiro will finish with the big ol’ goose-egg here if he can’t get something from this match, which would be a pretty apt result considering he’s been relatively “meh” during this tournament. Cobb by comparison has had some good matches and stepped up the plate a certain amount, certainly more than he did in last years tournament. Losing to Yujiro would be a bit of an anti-climactic way for his G1 to end, but I think he’ll have to do the honours here in order to save Yujiro from ending pointless.
This one is a bit “house show special” to be honest (By New Japan standards anyway) with Cobb getting a shine on Yujiro until he bails and then catches him with a reverse DDT out on the floor for the cut off. Yujiro works some heat following that, and it’s the usual slow-motion wrestling we’ve come to expect from him in this tournament. It’s serviceable match structure, but Yujiro’s work is just bereft of snap, which makes periods where he controls things a bit of a slog.
Cobb eventually makes the comeback and the match finally feels like it has some life, with his stuff looking good and the crowd clapping along to help give it some atmosphere. They do some decent near falls down the closing stretch, with the up-turn in pace making the match more enjoyable, and eventually Yujiro manages to connect with his pimp cane whilst the ref is momentarily distracted, which allows him to get the Miami Shine (Fireman’s Carry Swinging Side Slam) for a close two count. The Pimp Juice DDT follows straight after though, and that leads to Yujiro finally breaking his duck.
WINNER: YUJIRO TAKAHASHI (2)
Standard Yujiro match, but the closing stretch was fun at least. Shame that Cobb had to be the chump who finally dropped a match to him, but I guess someone had to
G1 Climax A Block – Round Nine
Minoru Suzuki (6) Vs Shingo Takagi (6)
Shingo apparently holds the record for most time wrestled in the A Block this year, with 2 hours and 38 minutes. I love the English commentary because otherwise I’d never know that. It’s very easy to miss things when you don’t know the language. Goodness knows what it’s like for Japanese speakers who have to try and make sense of WWE, especially considering its bobbins these days to begin with.
This one is a rematch from Jingu Stadium earlier in the year, where Suzuki defeated Shingo to win the NEVER Openweight Title in an absolute banger. They pick up where they left off there, going straight to the slug fest and not even bothering with some patient technical wrestling. Fair enough honestly, who wants to watch Shingo and Suzuki doing arm drags and wrist locks when you can see them throwing bombs and delivering big moves instead?
Shingo holds his own against Suzuki, giving as good as he gets, and a win here could lead to him earning himself another shot at Suzuki with the belt on the line, so he’s got a lot to gain from winning and nothing to lose, so he might as well go heck for leather if he thinks it’ll get him the result. However, his right gets hurt, meaning his firepower is limited somewhat. In a nice touch, he goes all Kobashi by throwing strikes anyway, only to then collapse in pain as a result, which allows Suzuki a way back into the match. Psychology!
Suzuki of course targets the injured right arm in the closing stretch, getting a lovely arm bar at one stage, but Shingo doesn’t quit and keeps coming, eventually doing the old Matt Hughes/Carlos Newton spot by lifting Suzuki up and dropping him down to break the hold. Shingo’s selling has been fantastic here and Suzuki has done his usual excellent job of being a psychotic Crazy Old Man who is seemingly trying to remove the appendage from his opponent’s body.
There’s an incredible moment where Shingo is throwing lariats with his injured arm and drops to sell them, whilst Suzuki teeters and totters like he’s about to tumble, but never does. It’s just fantastic selling from both men and enriches the match no end. Shingo doesn’t give up though and keeps coming, eventually getting Last of the Dragon (Fireman’s Carry into a Michinoku Driver) for the three count after a real gutsy effort on his part.
WINNER: SHINGO TAKAGI (8)
Excellent match there, just as the one at Jingu was also. I’m all for another meeting between the two if that’s where they are going!
G1 Climax A Block – Round Nine
Kazuchika Okada (12) Vs Will Ospreay (10)
Ospreay is mathematically still in this, but it will take some World Cup 1982 level of tie-breaking gymnastics in order to ensure it happens. For Okada it’s much more straight forward. If he wins here whilst Ibushi and White lose, then he wins the Block. If he wins and either of those guys wins, then he’s eliminated because they both hold wins over him previously in the Block, which means they win the tie-breaker. Charlton gets a fantastic line comparing Okada to Alexander The Great, which makes me think he was a fan of the commentary stylings of Sid Waddell.
They shoot right of the traps with some fast action to start, and it’s great as you’d imagine, with Okada finally being able to slow things down by getting the Randy Orton hanging DDT out on the floor for the cut off. Interestingly they mention on commentary that Okada hasn’t been in a G1 Final since 2014, which is quite a long time for a guy of his level. Okada controls things inside for a bit but Ospreay eventually makes the comeback, leading us into the closing stretch. Both men have some really good chemistry with one another, which shows itself in how smooth they are with one another when it comes to counters and timing.
Ospreay busts out a dive in honour of the recently passed away Ryan Smile, before putting Okada back inside with a flying forearm to the back of the head for two. That was a nicely executed near fall and the crowd enjoyed it. We get the big trade-off between the two, with Okada’s facial expressions being a fantastic mix of determination and disgust, and that leads into more excellent counter sequences between the two. This has potential to become an all-time rivalry based purely on match quality, as they just work together exceptionally well.
Its impressive how they manage to do these quite intricate counters but never stray into making the action look too rehearsed, which is often a trap I though PAC and Ricochet would fall into when they would work with one another. Okada eventually goes to his Cobra Clutch hold, which I got wrong last time out as it isn’t actually called the Coin Pouch. Sorry about that everyone, I’ll call it by its correct name going forward. So as I was saying, Okada locks in the Cash Bag, but Ospreay manages to get out of it and ends up delivering the Spanish Fly for a two count. I love how Paul Burchill of all people used to use that as a finish.
What ever happened to him? I was enjoying reliving his final days in WWE by reading Maffew’s ECW on Sci-fi reviews. Anyway, Okada eventually goes back to the hold, which leads to Bea Priestley (Ospreay’s girlfriend) coming down to distract the referee. Oh hello, something’s up here. And indeed, Great O-Kharn makes his return from his excursion in Europe to give Okada a Face Claw Slam whilst the referee is distracted, thus saving Ospreay. Ospreay even looks surprised by this, but he isn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth and gets The Storm Breaker for the win.
WINNER: WILL OSPREAY (12)
These two are silky smooth together, and the ending was an intriguing twist I didn’t see coming. I’m guessing it means an official heel turn for Ospreay? I mean, he’s been a jerk for this entire G1 anyway, but that probably puts the icing on the cake and cements him as a full-on bad guy. Priestley getting involved as an on-air character is a new direction to take his act in, as is the addition of O-Kharn, who I seem to remember was usually dressed up as a Pionpi from Super Mario Land (Two Mario references in one review, I’m off the chain!) over in the UK, but now instead looks to be more like a suit wearing heavy.
With that defeat Okada is now out of the running and Ospreay is still alive, but he will need Ibushi and White to lose their next two matches. Ospreay attacks Okada post-match and then steals his pose to be a Super Mega King Kong Mega-Mega Biatch about it all. I suppose Ospreay isn’t in CHAOS anymore either follow that?
G1 Climax A Block – Round Nine
Taichi (8) Vs Kota Ibushi (12)
Taichi has had a very good G1, having good matches and also scoring some important wins, including one over his boss in Suzuki-gun Minoru Suzuki, possibly putting himself in the NEVER Openweight Title picture as a result. Here he can not only score another big win, but also play spoiler and deny Ibushi the chance to win the Block. If Ibushi loses here then I don’t think he’s immediately out of the running due to holding a win over Ospreay, but the maths might not come out in his favour if it goes to the 3 way tie with Ospreay and White.
Taichi does the Toshiaki Kawada stretches to start us off, in a neat shout out to his trainer. For years it looked like Taichi might end up being a disappointment to his mentor, but the boy done come good eventually. Just goes to show that sometimes you can still become a good worker even if you don’t have the most exciting start in the business. I’m hoping this means Baron Corbin can still get there, although I’m not holding my breath.
Both men trade kicks to start, with neither of them really even flinching to start with, as this looks like it’s going to be a game of who blinks first. Eventually both men deliver a big kick each and it leads to a double down and much applause from the crowd. Wow, that entire kick contest took five minutes and it just flew by! Taichi shows how he’s toughened up over the years, by voluntarily allowing Ibushi to kick him following that, as they both sit down and let the other man kick them in the back, which leads to more kicking on the feet.
This is why I love New Japan, because this match has felt considerably different to the other four that have already come, with this one having a slower pace in the opening sections that has built, whilst the two that came before it started quick. Variety is the spice of life at the end of the day. Some of these kicks sound and look super snug as well, although they might be pulling them a little and just know how to work it to make them look convincing. Either that or they are laying them in but just making sure to hit one another in a safe place. I’ve taken a leg kick or two in my time, and let me tell you, they hurt like absolute mo-fo’s. I think I’d honestly rather get kicked in the chest or head. At least you can get your hand up on a head kick to block it somewhat. If someone’s kicking you on the leg then you just brace yourself and hope it doesn’t hurt too much.
I’ve really enjoyed this, as it’s been super simple in a lot of ways but it’s told a great story of these two tough guys wearing one another down and that’s been reflected in the selling, as both men have registered the pain more and more as it’s worn on, with them barely being able to walk as it heads into the closing stretch. I wonder if they’ll go with a leg submission finish here to pay all of this off? It’d be a very Shinjiro Ohtani styled finish and I’d be all for it. Man, if you’ve not seen any of Ohtani’s stuff from the 90’s then I strongly suggest seeking it out. That man was a next level worker in the lighter weight divisions, mixing striking and submission wrestling really well.
We eventually reach the point where both men are holding one another up whilst throwing more leg kicks. I never would have thought two guys kicking each other in the leg would be so engrossing, but they’ve done it so well here that it’s honestly been one of my favourite matches in this whole G1. Ibushi eventually manages to wear Taichi down and finishes with the Kamigoye, which officially eliminates Ospreay. Man, that was an absolute war of attrition!
WINNER: KOTA IBUSHI (14)
I thought this was sensational pacing and storytelling, but I fully accept that it might not be for everybody. It was presented more as a battle of wills than anything else, with both men refusing to back down and trading stiff kick after stick kick with the knowledge that only one of them could be left standing. I never would have thought Taichi capable of a match this good even as recent as two years ago, but he’s pulled something out of a place even he probably didn’t think he had in recent years and he’s genuinely become a really good worker
The selling here was magnificent too, as both men were really stoic in the early going but gradually started to sell more and more as the match wore on and they themselves were worn down, until at the end they were struggling to even move and were crying out in agony on the mat every time they tried to drag themselves back to their feet. It was such a simple story to tell, but they told it exceptionally well and it stood out from the other good matches on the card. It was hard hitting, unique and utterly engrossing to watch. Again, it might not be for everyone, but it was right up my street!
Ibushi has a nice nod of respect for Taichi following that. Watching this G1 has really got me thinking that either Taichi is turning or they are going to go all in with Bullet Club Vs Suzuki-gun, with Suzuki-gun as the defacto faces due to how much everyone hates Bullet Club.
G1 Climax A Block – Round Nine
Tomohiro Ishii (6) Vs Jay White (12) w/ Gedo
That Ibushi win has simplified things somewhat. If White wins then he tops the A Block due to having the tie-breaker over Ibushi, but any other result sees Ibushi advance instead. White stalls as usual to start us out, which actually doesn’t play to his benefit today as a draw won’t be enough for him. He does finally manage to lure Ishii outside the ring, where he works him over by sending him into the railings. White of course tries to get the count out following that, as he doesn’t care how he advances so long as he does advance, because he’s sub-human heel scum.
Ishii gets a power slam in reply, but then starts selling his ankle following it, which causes the commentary team to muse on whether he twisted it. Knowing Ishii, it wouldn’t shock me if he had a Mr. Burns sort of deal going on where he actually has every injury it’s possible to have, and as a result they are all subsequently keeping each other in check, thus making him indestructible. White tries to systematically break Ishii down, going after his bandaged right leg.
Ishii’s selling and timing is really on point here, as he gets an occasional flurry or no sell in to show he’s still alive in the match, but will the go back to registering the pain. It’s the perfect sell job in some ways, getting the mixture of expressing pain and showing defiance spot on. It should shock no one to read this, but Ishii is a genuine top tier worker, not just of this era either. I really hope he’s remembered as the years wear on and his work is appreciated for the high level it represents.
White deserves credit as well for being such a fantastic heel, as he’s so wonderfully despicable at all times, and has been great in this match as the cocky schemer trying to take Ishii apart. I just hope they go with the payoff of White’s arrogance costing him by having Ishii making the improbable comeback to win the match. I can totally see them heading for a flat finish of Ishii just not being able to overcome all the damage on route to a gallant defeat, which would work, but I’d like to see the Ishii victory, because Ishii is awesome and it’s always great to see a disgusting heel get his.
White goes to the Ishii Tap Out (His signature figure four styled submission move that he names after every opponent) and Ishii sells that big time with some fantastic facial expressions. Ishii is normally so stoic, so you know a move is punishing when it moves him to sell like that, which only helps get White’s hold over even more. Ishii does eventually manage to make the ropes, but the damage looks to be done and White continues to control things afterward. This is once again a very different match to the ones that preceded it, built around Ishii selling to make you want to see him fight back whilst White has done traditional heel heat spots, and it’s worked a treat.
Ishii does finally fight back and actually targets White’s legs as way to pay him back, going to a knee bar. White hugs the referee to distract him so that Gedo can come in, which leads to Ishii breaking the hold. He manages to fight both Gedo and White following that and we head into the closing stretch, just as we pass the 20 minute mark. Gedo distracts the ref again, which allows White to go low on him and get the Regal-Plex, but White is able to kick out at two. A great counter sequence leads to Ishii getting the Osaka Street Cutter of all things, which leads to Gedo coming in again to take a lariat, which Ishii follows up with a lariat to White also for two. Brain buster follows though and that’s enough to give Ishii the win and send Ibushi to the G1 Final. Yes!!!!!!!!!!!
WINNER: TOMOHIRO ISHII (8)
Another excellent match in a series of them tonight, with this one being all about the slow build of White working heat and Ishii selling until you were just begging for the latter to make the comeback, at which point he did and evil was vanquished. Proper pro wrestling!
White is angry following that, whilst Gedo tries to console him by saying it was the referee’s fault he lost. White doesn’t look happy at that explanation though. He then gives an interview backstage, where he insincerely wishes EVIL luck. Trouble in Bullet Club? Tune into Nitro to find out!
Our Final Standings are;
14 Points – Kota Ibushi (Block Winner)
12 Points – Will Ospreay, Kazuchika Okada, Jay WHite
8 Points – Shingo Takagi, Jeff Cobb, Taichi, Tomohiro Ishii
6 Points – Minoru Suzuki
2 Points – Yujiro Takahashi
One heck of a way to close off the A Block!
I’m chuffed that I called it right with Ibushi. I don’t often get predictions right, so that one was a pleasant surprise. I’m thinking they’ll go with EVIL or SANADA as his opponent in the Final. I actually think it’d be a great way to give SANADA the rub by having him reach the Final and go down to Ibushi in a hard fought battle. They can still have SANADA challenge Naito at some stage and then go with Ibushi Vs Naito at Wrestle Kingdom.
I watched a couple of matches during the week on NJPW World, so I decided to review one for the…
SPECIAL BONUS MATCH REVIEW
Genichiro Tenryu Vs Tatsumi Fujinami – 29th April 1996
I had fun watching Tenryu last time out in his match with Shinya Hashimoto, so I decided to dive into the New Japan World archives to see what other Tenryu matches they had up there. This one is from Battle Formation at the Tokyo Dome, and features one of the big New Japan stars of the past two decades prior to this point against one of the biggest stars from outside of New Japan.
We get some nice technical wrestling to start, with it having some amateur flavour, which Tenryu essentially forfeits by throwing strikes. Fujinami makes him pay by sending him outside with a Dragon Screw and then following with a pair of TOPE SUICIDAS to pop the crowd. Tenryu catches him on the third one with a punch though, which leads to Fujinami bleeding from the nose, in what was probably a case of fortuitous juice seeing as you’re not like likely to blade your nose.
Tenryu gets cocky back inside with Fujinami bleeding, but Fujinami keeps coming and takes him down with another Dragon Screw before going to a figure four. The gory visual of Fujinami sitting in the figure four with blood flowing out of his nose is pretty visceral I must say, and a tad uncomfortable too. Tenryu throws his illegal closed fist punches to draw heel heat from the crowd, and then gets a big lariat, as he’s now starting to get Fujinami’s blood all over him.
Fujinami makes the odd fiery comeback, which he’s very good at, but Tenryu starts mostly working him over now, showing some good cocky charisma in the process, clearly leaning into his role of being the heel. Fujinami sells this all really well, as he really was a great gutsy babyface fighting from underneath. I’m not sure if this sort of match was always the plan or if the blood was accidental and they decided to work it into the story. Either way, it’s been an engrossing match, with the blood really adding to the drama. Fujinami refuses to die and locks Tenryu in the Dragon Sleeper, but Tenryu makes the ropes. Fujinami misses a knee drop off the top and that leads to a lariat from Tenryu for the pin.
WINNER: GENICHIRO TENRYU
The actual match itself only went about 9 minutes, but it was a good intense 9 minutes with the blood really making it feel special. I’m not sure if the blood was part of the plan, but if it wasn’t then they did a good job adapting to it and it certainly made for a more interesting match