Tonight, we settle all family business, as Kota Ibushi takes on SANADA to determine for one and all who holds sway over the G-1 Climax! It’s Finals time, so why waste a moment?
Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?
A Block (Michael Fitzgerald):
B Block (Rick Poehling):
Well, 18 shows later, here we are. I loved the format this year with the Lions opening the shows and not having the tag matches. It led to some really tight sub-3 hour shows in a lot of cases, and it allowed the tournament matches a chance to breathe, which in most cases was a good thing. Overall, while I’m sure that once the pandemic is over we’ll be back to the tags on the undercard, I kind of hope that we won’t be.
Suzuki-Gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr, DOUKI, El Desperado) vs CHAOS (Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto)
We’ll kick things off with the usual 8-man clusterfuck in these parts. Nice to see Despy again. When I look back on this G-1, one of the things I will remember is that two guys that I generally despised in YOSHI and Taichi both had very good tournaments and stepped up to the plate in their efforts to make matches great.
As for this particular contest, there’s a little bit too much DOUKI for my taste, to be honest. Everyone does a bit with each other to try to lay some ground for the future, but with 8 guys and a ten-minute match, there really isn’t a ton of depth to the narrative, if you see what I’m saying? Regardless, the Tekkers nail YOSHI with an assisted Black Mephisto and DOUKI pins him for the win. Suzuki-Gun holds up the 6-man straps afterwards to indicate that they want da belts. (Suzuki-Gun over CHAOS, pinfall, 10:34)
THOUGHTS: **1/2. This was fine.
Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, Hiromu Takahashi)
Hiromu hits the ring like he’s been coked-up for the last 18 shows just WAITING to finally get back in there. He’s almost sure to be heading to the junior division again, but I freely admit that after the New Japan Cup, I wouldn’t mind at all seeing him mix it up with the heavys. I know that’s not really how NJPW works, but a man can dream. Suzuki, the G-1 MVP (He’s my choice, at least) stalks out and immediately shoves the NEVER title into Shingo’s face. I approve.
Suzuki and Shingo brawl on the outside while HIromu and Kanemaru work inside the ring. That doesn’t last very long as everyone ends up on the floor sooner rather than later, as the ref has absolutely zero control over this thing. Suzuki eventually ends up in the ring with Hiromu and talk about a match I’D watch. Goodness. Suzuki puts Hiromu in a Boston Crab, Shingo breaks it up, Suzuki puts it back on. Takahashi takes a whuppin’ from both Suzuki and Kanemaru until he finally dragon-screws Suzuki and here comes Shingo.
Takagi beats both members of Suzuki-Gun from corner to corner, then snaps off some Kawada kicks to Suzuki. They slug it out and Shingo is like “oh, fuck this, I know I’m gonna get hurt anyway” and rips the athletic tape from his arm as Suzuki laughs in his face. This is just glorious and I hope these guys feud forever. Takagi gets a Death Valley Driver and Suzuki does a pop-up Penalty Kick before selling it, laughing crazily the entire time. This man. THIS MAN. Just let him do his insaneo end boss character until the earth falls into the sun. This entire year has been a dumpster fire with the sole exception of Minoru Suzuki.
Tags on both sides. Hiromu and Kanemaru do a bit together, before we get a Suzuki-Gun double-team for two. Deep Impact hits, but Shingo saves it, prompting him and Suzuki to go to the floor and try to kill each other. Hiromu with the Death Valley Driver on Kanemaru into the buckles, and even though Kanemaru gets the whiskey bottle, Takahashi avoids it and hits a lariat, then the TIme Bomb for the win. (LIJ over Suzuki-Gun, pinfall, 11:54)
THOUGHTS: ***1/2. This was a crazy fast-paced bit of insanity, as we did a bit for the upcoming BOSJ with Hiromu and Kanemaru, but most of the focus was on Suzuki and Shingo. It’s clear we’re heading for a way to settle this thing, as Suzuki won the title from him initially and Shingo returned the favor in the G-1, so a 3rd match is all but assured. Takahashi looked thrilled to be back out there tonight to say the least, and we got an excellent tag out of the deal. I can live with that.
Post-match, Suzuki and Takagi brawl all over the place on the outside. Suzuki shoves the NEVER title into Takagi’s face and that prompts another round, with Hiromu getting in on the fun by rubbing the IWGP Jr Tag title belt into Kanemaru’s face. Eventually everyone is separated and Suzuki gets his belt and makes sure to destroy two Young Lions on his way to the back.
Bullet Club (Jay White, GEDO, Taiji Ishimori, KENTA) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, Master Wato, Jeff Cobb, Juice Robinson
That’s an interesting collection of babyfaces, to say the least. Did we draw straws in the locker room? And oh, I didn’t forget…..it’s Wato time!!!
As for the heels, one would assume that Bullet Club is set for total collapse here soon, with both EVIL and Jay having lost both of their main events last night. I’ll be watching the makeups of these tags to see if there are any clues – for example, Yujiro isn’t in this particular Bullet Club mix, but KENTA is, which is a Block switchup.
White tries to steal the ab thunder of Tanahashi, earning him quite the dirty look from the Ace. Jay teases the start against Juice, but tags out before contact, making sure to mock Juice’s pandering to the crowd. Wato and Taiji start us proper, and they fire off some fast sequences. Man, did they have the juniors locked up somewhere? Everyone’s coming out like they’re hopped up on a steady diet of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Red Bull. KENTA is in next, and that’ll slow us down.
Wato gets caught in the corner and they beat on him so bad, he starts to rethink his gimmick. White goes for a pin and stares right at Robinson on the apron to taunt him and this man is just the greatest dickhead there is. He cements that further by taunting Tenzan on the outside before hitting Wato with some of Tenzan’s signature Mongolian chops. He offers Tenzan a free shot, allowing Wato to hit a desperation dropkick onto White, which sends him into the ropes so Tenzan can nail him with a chop, and White sells it like he’s been shot. That entire sequence was all White knowing exactly what to do as a heel, right down to the perfect timing on the taunts to Tenzan and then getting his comeuppance.
It’s been almost a year and a half since I’ve gotten a Jay White/Hiroshi Tanahashi 1v1 match, and I really, really want another one. Jay’s an even better heel than he was back then, and after watching all these Tana matches for B Block, I think it would be something special to see again.
Anyway, all this allows Wato to finally tag out and here comes Cobb. I would love to say that Cobb improved in leaps and bounds in his G-1 this year, but that would be a lie; all the same, he did improve for sure. It wasn’t earth-shattering, but his matches this year were clearly better than the ones previous. He goes to town on Bullet Club, tossing Ishimori like a ragdoll off a fallaway slam. Tana and KENTA are in next and they do a bit before the whole match starts to break down. GEDO gets tagged in legally and everyone just hits move after move on his poor booker ass until Tanahashi puts on the cloverleaf and GEDO uncles. Somewhere in here, Wato almost killed himself on a twisting press to the outside, so be sure to keep an eye out for that. (Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jeff Cobb, Master Wato, Juice Robinson over Bullet Club, submission, 9:13)
THOUGHTS: **3/4. Standard 8-man, a bit better than the opener. This was very much a let’s put the babyfaces over match, and once you see GEDO get tagged in, you know that’s what’s going down. Very fun.
KENTA and Tanahashi have words after the match, and it appears that Hiroshi is eyeing the briefcase. The victorious faces pose on the buckles and Hiroshi gives Liger on commentary an air hug before departing.
Intermission. Announcement time: Wrestle Kingdom will be 2 days again this year!! Woohoo! Seriously, I enjoyed the two day show last year.
Great O-Khan, Will Ospreay (w/Bea Priestley) vs CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, SHO)
Okay, let’s make this short. I have not watched any of Ospreay’s matches since he returned to NJPW. I don’t plan to start. Some of you will surely have an issue with this, as is your right. Don’t think that I’m being dismissive, because I’m not. If it means you don’t want to read my work on NJPW anymore, I understand. I’m not here to lecture, but I’ll stand where I stand and I will not apologize for it – I am not comfortable with watching Will’s matches at this time and so I won’t watch them.
But I’ll still give the info, if not a review. (Will Ospreay, Great O-Khan over CHAOS, pinfall, 12:36)
Bullet Club (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi) (w/Dick Togo) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI)
EVIL would seemingly be in line for a title shot after defeating Naito in the G-1, running his 2020 record against the double champ to 2-1. Naito has ditched his G-1 whites for the baseball cap and jacket of ‘I’m gonna take it easy here’. Not that he hasn’t earned it.
EVIL ambushes Naito to start, but Naito doesn’t let that stop him from eventually getting the advantage over Takahashi. BUSHI comes in with a neckbreaker, but gets his neck snapped on the top by Yujiro. They head outside and the ref watches them, allowing EVIL to sneak around and wallop Naito with a chair. Back in and BUSHI is your Rocky-Romero-Mortal-Enemy-in-peril, as the two Bullet Club members tag in and out, beating on him unmercifully.
BUSHI finally makes a tag and here comes the champ. He keeps going after EVIL in-between beating up Takahashi. It’s actually kind of funny, to be honest. Yujiro does manage to make a tag after biting Naito’s hand, and EVIL is in to take Naito down. Misdirection lariat gets two for EVIL, but Naito avoids the Scorpion. DDT and both guys are down, but Naito tags in BUSHI first. BUSHI puts up a fight for a bit, but he can’t fight both guys off forever. Naito does manage to hit a dropkick to break up Everything is Evil, but it’s all for naught as EVIL hits Darkness Falls before putting BUSHI in the Scorpion Deathlock for the submission. (Bullet Club over LIJ, submission, 14:15)
THOUGHTS: **1/4. Am I alone in really not wanting to see another EVIL/Naito match? I know we’re going to, probably at Power Struggle, but the outcome probably isn’t in doubt and they just don’t have great chemistry together. Oh, and this will be the 4th match they’ve had since New Japan came back. They’ve had long matches, time limited matches, it doesn’t matter; they just don’t gel in the ring together for me. Anyway, this was fine for what it was, but it’s leading me in a direction I’m not feeling like I want to go. At least it’ll almost assuredly be a short feud with probably just the one match.
Post-match, EVIL goes face to face with Naito, allowing Togo to sneak up from behind to choke Naito out. Lovely.
Recap of Ibushi and SANADA’s tournaments. So many Kamigoyes. Before the main, Masahiro Chono comes out to give a nice speech about facing troubled times in the world, and how NJPW is responding to it.
Kota Ibushi (A Block winner) vs SANADA (B Block winner) – FINALS
I had Ibushi ranked #1 in A Block in my preview, so good job on me for that one. I had SANADA ranked #3 in B Block in my preview, so not-so-good job on me for that one. I honestly didn’t think that GEDO would finally pull the SANADA trigger, as he’s been ‘on the rise’ for literally years. I still think he ends up more a Goto than a Naito in the end, but I’ve been surprised before. I think that with Ibushi at 38 years old, it’s gotta be time for him to win everything. His progression has been: won his Block two years ago, lost to Tanahashi in the Final. Won his Block and the entire tournament last year, lost to Okada at the Dome. Should he win this thing, he needs to win the title at the Dome. It’s the moment.
With these guys, you expect them to take a bit to get going, and you’d be right. Ibushi has his leg taped up from doing his Rockettes shoot match with Taichi the other night, so you’d think that will come into play. Lots of wristlocks, reversals, rope breaks. Everyone plays nice and is a good guy. I’m not saying it’s boring…..but it’s not Ibushi with crazy heat against the loathsome Jay White from last year, for example. This is just going to be a different type of match, with a much more deliberate pacing to it.
They trade off uppercuts, kicks, strikes – no one really gains an advantage from it. We get a weird spot where SANADA goes for a dropkick and Kota goes underneath it, but SANADA hits him on the head when he does and Ibushi goes flying out to the floor. I assume we got a bit of a signal cross there. Back in and Ibushi puts SANADA into an STF. I do want to shout out the English announcers for really selling the idea that SANADA hitting Ibushi on the head out of that missed dropkick has caused some sort of damage. They’re doing what good commentary does, taking what happened and working through it as though it was exactly the way it was supposed to be.
SANADA fires back with some shots and puts Ibushi in a figure-four. Ibushi escapes that and hits a standing moonsault for two. Plancha to the floor by Ibushi hits, then back in with a missile dropkick to get two. SANADA hits a dropkick and fires back with a plancha of his own. Pace begins to pick up here, around the 20 minute mark as Ibushi hits a powerslam but misses a Phoenix splash. He sends SANADA to the floor and looks for the Golden Triangle Moonsault, SANADA tries to baseball slide the apron, but Ibushi jumps over that and double stomps SANADA. Tremendous sequence there.
SANADA fires back and hits a Magic Killer off the apron to the floor. Back in and they slug it out from their knees, and SANADA hits another Magic Killer for two. He goes for a springboard dropkick, Ibushi turns that into a sitout powerbomb. Another one gets two. More back and forth and SANADA gets a Tiger Suplex for two. TKO by SANADA, but Ibushi turns that into a Dragon Suplex after impact. He’s playing with fire as that’s SANADA’s move, and indeed it gets reversed into Skull End.
Ibushi is fading and might be going out….so SANADA releases the hold and goes up for the moonsault which, of course, misses. Ibushi does the pose and sets up, Bomaye hits! 1, 2, no! He goes for the Kamigoye, but SANADA pops him up into a cutter! 1, 2, no!! SANADA goes up, moonsault hits Ibushi on the back! He goes up again, Ibushi gets the knees up! See, now that was cool because you knew Ibushi couldn’t kick out of another one, but putting up his knees hurt him badly.
They trade reversals off the Dragon sleeper, and Ibushi ends up hitting the Bastard Driver on SANADA for two. Man, I wish that was just a finisher, that move looks so insane when it hits. Kamigoye attempt is blocked into a rollup by SANADA for two, then he rolls Ibushi into a clutch and the crowd BUZZES because they’ve gotten that move over as an actual finisher, 1, 2, 2.99999999999!!!!! Seriously, that was the closest nearfall I’ve seen in AGES. Ibushi with a jumping knee, Kamigoye hits! 1, 2, NOOOOO!!!!!
Ibushi can’t believe it! He rolls down the kneepad and winds up, Kamigoye with the exposed knee!! 1, 2, 3!!! Kota Ibushi has gone back-to-back as the G-1 Climax winner!! (Kota Ibushi over SANADA, pinfall, 35:12)
THOUGHTS: ***3/4. I know I’m going to catch some heat for not going 4, but the honest truth is that while the beginning of the match laid the foundation for the end, they padded a bunch and there were times in this thing where they looked like they were in different universes out there. I don’t totally understand the psychology of the match on a certain level, where SANADA did a few leg kicks and a figure-four early and then just kind of left the leg alone for the rest of the match? They really were all over the place in a lot of spots and there seemed to be a story where Ibushi had been working everyone else’s style for most of the tournament, so they went for more of a cerebral style like SANADA’s in the main. I certainly didn’t think it was a BAD match or anything and I wouldn’t argue with 4 too strenuously, but I believe strongly that the scale should top out at 5, and I’m not sure this was even a top 10 match of this tournament, much less the G-1, and that means that it wasn’t 4 to me.
Kota gives his speech to the crowd and gets the trophy. Backstage, Jay White crashes the interview area when Ibushi gets there and challenges Ibushi for the briefcase, pointing out that Kota didn’t beat him in the tournament in the most dickheaded fashion that he possibly can. Glorious. Ibushi tells him any time, any place.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Where do I even begin? This has been a blast of a month and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. I want to first thank Michael Fitzgerald for taking the ride with me; when I first anticipated doing the G-1 this year, I thought it would be better for both of us if we split duties on this craziness, and he came through with flying colors. I am proud of the work we did together, and you should click all of his links above to read his excellent work.
Thanks to Scott for allowing us to post and allow our work to seen by all of you. Thanks to everyone who commented and made us think our work was appreciated, because that’s what I love – knowing that people are watching wrestling and contributing to the dialogue here on the blog based on the pieces we post. Makes the hours of writing totally worth it. Thanks to everyone who complimented, argued, and just in general ENGAGED.
Thanks to everyone in NJPW for giving me something to write about.
I’m not disappearing, as I’ll be back for Power Struggle and then the Best of the Super Juniors tournament. For now, I need to catch back up with the ROH Pure tourney.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
See you down the road, everyone.
As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
@MrSoze on Twitter