September 27th (Block A Night 3)
-Taichi is 3-0. Good for him and the IWGP Tag Titles, one half of which he holds. Nice to see Suzuki get back in the win column too, though at the expense of Jeff Cobb unfortunately; their match was a little clunky for my tastes.
-Kota Ibushi and Tomohiro Ishii set the tone for the Match of the Night competition and threw their names in the hat for match of the tournament thus far. The awkward moments were easily passed off as being due to physical exhaustion from the beating they each endured (it might have been frankly; they beat the crap out of each other). Ibushi has the most aesthetically pleasing version of strong style. I continue to think of Ishii as NJPW’s Mick Foley, in that all of his opponents have to adapt slightly to his game, but everyone comes away looking better for having gone toe-to-toe with him, increasing their tough guy bonafides. Awesome performance truly. Ishii is three for three in that department and continues to do his annual G1 MVP thing. He’s also 0-3, but now Ibushi is back on track where he belongs. (****1/2)
-Will Ospreay vs. Shingo Tagake took Match of the Night, though, and also took the lead for match of the tournament to date in this absolutely fantastic rematch of their all-timer in the Best of the Super Juniors Final from 2019. Ospreay and Ibushi are the two best wrestlers in the world right now, in terms of in-ring performance. The attitude that Ospreay has jumps off the screen and translates well to how he counters so much opponent offense into his dazzling displays. Shingo is tremendous, as well, and it was very engaging to me that they basically flipped the roles from last year’s match, with Ospreay assuming the favored status while Shingo seemingly fought from underneath. It goes to show the difference a year can make. I respect the heck out of these guys for that effort. I would put that match in the conversation with the WrestleKingdom 14 classics in terms of pure quality. (****3/4)
-What’s going on with Kazuchika Okada? Jay White had better matches with not just Ibushi, but also Shingo. Okada’s reliance on his new submission may be hindering his match flow…or I’d say it’s definitely hindering it frankly. I’m fine with giving him time to get it over and make it a big part of his game moving forward because of the potential it has to add another dynamic to his already dynamic talents, but something has just felt off with him since New Japan’s return. I have now caught up with the classics library for NJPW dating back to January 2012, and it’s been a rare thing that Okada’s name has been absent from the list of participants in said classics for a stretch of major shows that includes the New Japan Cup, Dominion, and the G1.
September 24th (Block B Night 2)
-Here’s hoping that SANADA is merely setting up a comeback storyline because it would be very disappointing to see him, in such a seemingly wide-open tournament, fail to make a run at winning B Block. I think back to his matches with Okada in 2019; they were amazing, perhaps the launching point to a consistent headlining career. He holds my rooting interest. Good match with Goto in a loss (***).
-Cheers to Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero on commentary. I enjoy the Japanese commentary generally, as its palpable enthusiasm makes up for the language barrier for the most part, but the sports style audio supplied by Kelly and Romero on English commentary adds a lot to the NJPW product for me. They do the kind of commentary I think I would do if given the opportunity.
-KENTA was given another chance to win me over. The strike-heavy offense worked for me against Juice because Robinson is so charismatic that the combination told a satisfying story. KENTA’s brand of strong style often threatens to borderline bore, but I will give him a few more looks throughout this year’s G1, if for no other reason than to prepare myself for him having a significant WrestleKingdom 15 role. Browsing the net, it would appear that I liked this match more than most (***1/2), but I’ll readily admit to being a Juice fan and will be rooting as strongly for him the rest of the way as I will SANADA.
-Someone tell me why I should care about YOSHI-HASHI? Go EVIL! And Yano beats Tana!? Wow again!
-I’ll tell you what…Tetsuya Naito has been making the most of his starring opportunity as double champion in the G1 through two matches, having what I would consider the best and third best matches of the tournament through four nights total. I was a little down on his title reign, appreciative of his moment in the Dome earlier this year, but not to the point that I had keen interest in what followed. Naito, perhaps fueled by the odd year and lack of a chance to maximize his well-earned time in the limelight, has come into the G1 with gusto. His match with Zack Sabre Jr. was absolutely fantastic. ZSJ + Naito = gold. It was a match that exemplified the value in wins/losses mattering so much. As they inched toward a potential time limit draw, I got sucked deep into the picture they were painting on the 20’x20′ canvas and walked away feeling like they had topped what I had said days earlier was among the best matches of 2020 (Ospreay vs. Ishii). I think it also proved that style preference is overrated; a great wrestling match is a great wrestling match because there are common elements among all genres, not the least of which is the drama involved with compelling characters trying to one-up each other. Excellent! (****1/2)
I had not originally intended to post today, but if there’s a match as good as Ishii vs. Ospreay, I might bump up my timeline for it. After going into the tournament thinking the A Block was wide open, I felt like Night 3 gave us some clarity and four legitimate favorites.
September 23rd (Block A Night 2)
-If Jeff Cobb is going to make a run, it felt like he had to win against Shingo. Ditto for Shingo needing to beat Cobb. If either of them got pushed to the moon tomorrow, I would co-sign for it from my arm-chair booking position. The evidence to back up that statement certainly came from their match, which I thought was great (****). I dig the real sports feel to the G1. For Cobb and Shingo, it felt like an NBA Playoff game, neither wanting to into an 0-2 hole. No other event in pro wrestling offers the same dynamic.
-Okada bouncing back from his Night 1 loss to Ibushi to defeat Takahashi was predictable, but Taichi remaining atop the A Block leaderboard with a win over Minoru Suzuki? Color me shocked. Taichi’s gimmick feels out of place in serious pro wrestling, but whatever. Different strokes. Suzuki feels like less of a dark-horse to win the block now.
-Ospreay vs. Ishii in a first time ever situation lived up to the hype (****1/2). The Aerial Assassin had Ishii scouted, countering just about everything that the Stone Pitbull threw at him. It would take something exceptional to top Ibushi vs. Okada or Ospreay vs. Takahashi in the Dome in a Match of the Year conversation, but this was comfortably in that Ishii vs. Takahashi in the NJ Cup class just beneath the WK14 matches. Incredible quality all around from them both, but the story to me was actually the presentation of Ospreay. New Japan is booking him to look like a major star. I first really noticed the shift at WrestleKingdom, when Ospreay owned the spotlight and had that “I’m the best in the world” attitude. Now, he is really coming into his own in that role. I can genuinely see Ospreay winning the G1. He has found a balance between high risks, strikes, and borderline cocky character traits that seemingly have taken him up a notch or two on the hierarchical ladder.
-The rematch from last year’s G1 Final, Ibushi vs. Jay White, was great in its own right, wrestled in a more traditional style. In taking a temperature reading of the IWC, it seems like the traditional heel is no longer in. Working over a body part, cheating, and having no honor still goes over well with me, though, so I’d call this effort the standard Switchblade main-event performance and happily award it 4-stars. White, Ibushi, Okada, and Ospreay each feel like favorites right now. Jay White is the only one among them who feels like he would need to match up with the right opponent for that to work, and I’m confident that Naito is not it.
–Ospreay, Switchblade, and Taichi lead A Block with 4 points each, followed by Ibushi, Okada, Suzuki, and Cobb with 2 points apiece; Ishii, Takahashi, and Shingo have zero points thus far
In 2019, I immensely enjoyed my first attempt at keeping up with wrestling’s greatest annual collection of awesome wrestling matches, otherwise known as New Japan’s G1 Climax. Lord knows that, in 2020, anything immensely enjoying attracts me like a flame does a moth. So, join me for the journey if so inclined, sharing your thoughts along the way.
September 20th (Block B Night 1)
-There are not as many talents in this group of ten that I am interested in, admittedly, but SANADA and Zack Sabre Jr. (ZSJ) are two of my favorites in NJPW. SANADA losing to Toru Yano bummed me out a little bit, as it set the tone for the Cold Skull having a disappointing tournament. Yano’s antics remind me of Santino in WWE; somehow, every year in a serious situation, his antics are presented within a less goofy context, and I always have mixed feelings about it.
-ZSJ beat EVIL surprisingly. I thought they had a really good match. If you came here looking for me to echo the common “EVIL being a traditional heel sucks” sentiments, then you’ll be disappointed. What’s the deal with fans disliking traditional heel tactics in New Japan? EVIL, like Jay White, seems to turn people off by cheating and gaining an unfair advantage. I frequently see comments about how being a bad guy somehow threatens match quality. Say what?! (***3/4)
-I skipped KENTA defeating Goto. KENTA is like an actor whose first two starring roles I saw were in terrible movies and I’ve struggled to allow my perception of him to change. Goto, meanwhile, is like the Warlord was to me as a kid; I might watch his match if he’s wrestling someone I care about, but I’m otherwise uninterested. Juice Robinson, conversely, won me over last year in the G1 with several inspired efforts following his outstanding earlier summer match with Jon Moxley. I will say, though, Juice’s new look is going to take some getting used to. Glad to see him beat Yoshi-Hashi (who I’ll need someone to explain why I should care about).
-Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito was a great match (****1/4), the best among everyone’s first matches of G1 30. From my vantage point, it is clear that both are past their prime, with Naito declining athletically faster than his age suggests. Destino might need a replacement as a finishing move soon. Tanahashi may have lost, but he looked like he has more in the tank than the current double champion. I wonder if Naito’s current run at the top will be his last and I find his status among the elite one of the more intriguing plot points of the tournament. Naito vs. anyone in the WrestleKingdom 15 main-event feels flat to me right now, but gutsy performances that seemingly lean into his growing physical limitations like this one will further invest me in his journey back to the Tokyo Dome.
–Tied for 1st in B Block with 2 points apiece from their wins: Naito, Yano, Juice, ZSJ, and KENTA
September 19th (Block A Night 1)
-Seeing all of those people live in attendance, even if distanced a bit to prevent full capacity, gives me hope for the future. America could learn a lot from Japan’s health care system. Theirs is among the best in the world; ours is among the worst. Health thoughts aside, the crowd looked great tonight!
-Will Ospreay has to be one of the favorites to win the G1. He’s arguably the most prolific wrestler in the world right now. Most of the other candidates on that pedestal who call NJPW home are also in A Block, which seems likely to produce this tournament’s overall winner. Ospreay had no issue defeating the other Takahashi.
-Jeff Cobb, who for now makes me think primarily of his run as Matanza Cueto in Lucha Underground, is a real talent. Him losing to Taichi? Eh. Taichi is another one of those wrestlers in New Japan that has never really made an impression on me. In a year when there seems considerably less buzz surrounding the G1, I thought maybe Cobb could make a huge run. He still can, but Taichi felt like one of the few guaranteed wins on the line-up for him.
-Minoru Suzuki and Tomohiro Ishii represent strong style more than any two upper echelon NJPW stars, and I will readily admit that it took time for me to come around to the virtues of that style. I am now fully bought in. Their pairing is the New Japan equivalent of Terry Funk and Mick Foley. What a blast it was to watch them duke it out. I would not mind at all seeing Ishii make a surprise run this year, the strangest of years as it is. He will have to make up his loss here to Minoru somewhere, or it may be Suzuki who makes that surprise run instead (****).
-I might have quietly become the internet’s biggest Jay White supporter. It brings me back to 2004, when I was on the LOP Forums championing Randy Orton’s talent while the majority of others picked him apart relentlessly. Jay White rivals MJF as the best young heel in the game, yet most would rather pick him apart than engage in his superb storytelling. White, as proven in his defeat of Shingo, has every tool that you would want a modern pro wrestler to have; he looks the part, he’s charismatic, he stays within himself, he’s smooth in the ring, and there’s little he can’t do athletically. The Switchblade is, in my humble opinion, the single most underrated wrestler on the planet. White vs. Shingo was, for its style, just as good (****) as the matches that both preceded and proceeded it.
-Perhaps my hopes for Ibushi vs. Okada were unrealistically high given their all-time classic from WrestleKingdom earlier this year. They had a great match (****), but it struggled to hold my attention until its predictably stellar closing few minutes. More importantly, it gave my man, the Golden Star, a resounding win that threatened to mock the running narrative from some of the previews I listened to that barely gave him a chance to repeat as the G1 winner. I’m more of a here-and-there New Japan fan, granted, but I look at Kota Ibushi and see an awesome story comparable to Naito’s of an absolutely stellar performer who has yet to get it done on the grandest stage available to him. I want anything but another Naito-Okada match at WK15. Give Ibushi one half of that spot.
–Tied for 1st place in Block A with 2 points are Ibushi, Ospreay, Suzuki, Taichi, and White