As all 4 of my dedicated New Japan fans know, over the last few weeks as part of my New Japan Strong recaps I’ve added a section of quick reviews of the currently ongoing G-1 Climax; with the G-1 scheduled to wind up here within the week, I felt it was time to give it a separate post. And now I’ll post twice this week! Time to get some of that sweet, sweet blog money from Scott’s new corporate….
….turns out I don’t get any of that money. Huh.
Damnit, y’all better flatter the hell outta me in the comments section.
With that in mind, let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?
So we’ve got two things to do here. Part one is our usual recap of the last several nights, and part 2 is going to be dedicated to previewing the last three shows, projecting Block winners, trying to figure out various scenarios and even try to come up with a way for Tanahashi to somehow still win it.
This week, we had nights 12, 13, 14, & 15.
NIGHT 12 (August 6th, 2022): In a pretty decent undercard tag, some groundwork was laid for the next night in the Okada/Tanahashi vs JONAH/Bad Dude Tito match, and boy would that end up delivering.
Tournament matches were:
YOSHI-HASHI over El Phantasmo
Lance Archer over Toru Yano
Zack Sabre Jr over Hirooki Goto
Jay White over The Great O-Khan
Shingo Takagi over Will Ospreay
Holy SHIT, what a great night of wrestling this was. YOSHI and ELP absolutely killed it in what could have been a nothing match, instead doing big moves and dramatic kickouts to the tune of ***3/4. Both guys have had an absolutely brilliant G-1; ELP in his first and YOSHI as part a career reinvention that no one I know saw coming. Archer and Yano was our one blight on the night, a bunch of silliness where Archer treated Yano like a joke, basically sold nothing, and pinned him, *1/2. ZSJ/Goto was an easy ****, and was to me the definition of what a good G-1 match is, with 2 really good wrestlers going out and putting on an excellent wrestling match. Jay/GOK worked because Jay took a page out of Naito’s playbook and sold ALL of GOK’s offense, regardless of how weird it may have been, and it gave us a ****1/4 match that sent Meltzer into rhapsodies the next day on WOR. And the main event has been talked about as a MOTT by more than one person, as the two have phenomenal chemistry with each other.
NIGHT 13 (August 7th, 2022):
Tournament matches were:
EVIL over Aaron Henare
Tom Lawlor over Bad Luck Fale
Juice Robinson over El Phantasmo
Chase Owens over Tomohiro Ishii
JONAH over Kazuchika Okada
Yeah, yeah, I know that the main event is the thing, but let’s get through this. EVIL/Henare was at least brisk and relatively short – call it **3/4 and one of EVIL’s better matches in the tournament. Tom Lawlor did an incredible job working against Fale, all but wrestling himself in spots, but it didn’t really do much for me as a match even though the performance was very good, **1/2. Robinson/ELP started as a comedy match and turned serious, to the point where Juice went through a table headfirst and we got some hardway blood. Ending was dumb as hell, as we finally got a DQ in New Japan as the match started to really pick up. I went ***1/4 on it and likely would have gone higher were it not for the silly beginning and dumb finish. Chase and Ishii; what can you say? Ishii did everything in his power and carried Owens to the best match he’ll have in the tournament and likely the worst one Ishii will have. I wavered so hard on this one because I really wanted to see Ishii go **** or better with everyone in the entire tournament, but I didn’t feel it here as I felt like it was just a shade off at ***3/4.
And now, we’re recapping this one.
JONAH (w/Bad Dude Tito) vs Kazuchika Okada (with a noticeable lack of Bad Dudes, Tito or otherwise)
JONAH walks straight to the center of the ring and dares Okada to come forward, and Okada is already selling the shit out of this before they even touch. Lockup doesn’t move JONAH at all and Okada takes a second to think it over. Okada tries again, but JONAH cuts that off and slaps on a headlock, cranking it hard and preventing an Okada escape. Okada finally reverses it only for JONAH to shoot him off as though Okada were a cruiserweight and drop him with shoulder.
To the floor, where Okada manages to get an advantage and slam JONAH’s leg into the barricade. He takes JONAH up the ramp and goes for a suplex, but JONAH reverses it and sends him crashing into the ramp. And then, in a bit of storytelling, JONAH doesn’t go for the countout win as he wants to beat Okada in the ring, breaking the count and taking Okada to the barricades, then the ringpost. And now, JONAH will take the countout but Okada rolls in so JONAH continues the whuppin’.
JONAH methodically destroys Okada with shots as the Rainmaker is getting killed in there. And it is glorious to watch. Okada is the greatest when he’s against bigger guys. Blind charge by JONAH misses Okada elbows him down to put both guys on the mat. Okada uses speed to knock JONAH down, but it takes multiple shots for him to do it. DDT by Okada for two. Okada goes for a slam and can’t pull that off, so he dropkicks JONAH to the floor instead. Okada incurs the wrath of Bad Dude Tito on the floor, and in the middle of his deepest apologies he attempts to bow, which means that a charging JONAH takes out Bad Dude Tito instead and Okada DDTs JONAH on the floor as a result. JONAH and Bad Dude Tito make their way back to their feet, right into Okada’s gorgeous tope con hilo.
Back in Okada tries for a slam again, but nothing doing. He comes off the ropes, right into a giant spear from JONAH! Senton from JONAH gets two. Okada reverses a powerbomb attempt and gets the Money Clip, then a shotgun dropkick to send JONAH to the corner. Okada puts JONAH on the top, but JONAH kicks him away and hits a splash off the top, then a lariat for two. At this point, the crowd is starting to buzz. Powerbomb attempt by JONAH is countered by a ‘rana and a dropkick from Okada, then Okada slams him! Now the crowd is deeply into this.
Okada goes up, big elbow! It’s Rainmaker time, but JONAH escapes, so Okada dropkicks him again. Okada goes for it again, JONAH blocks it with elbows so Okada hits a German suplex. Okada tries AGAIN, but JONAH catches both arms and fires headbutts, then comes off the ropes with a GIANT lariat!! 1, 2, NO! I almost bought that one live. Crowd is now DEEPLY into this one.
To the corner and JONAH puts Okada on the top, looks like a superplex, Okada blocks it and tries a dropkick, JONAH catches him and powerbombs him! Crowd has totally forgotten the rules and they’re losing their minds as JONAH hits the Black Forest Bomb on Okada! Up to the top, TSUNAMI!! 1, 2, 3!!! (JONAH over Kazuchika Okada, pinfall, 21:54)
THOUGHTS: ****3/4. I don’t even know what to say. This was one of the best matches of this tournament, a MOTY performance by Okada and one of the best examples of putting a guy over that I’ve ever seen. There was ZERO doubt as to who the better man was here as JONAH blocked all of Okada’s attempts at the Rainmaker, escaped the Money Clip, and pinned him clean as a sheet in the middle of the ring. And more to the point, the story of the match was so strong that both guys excelled in telling it. But my GOD, what a performance by Okada, who did everything perfect off the jump from his facial expressions to his physical selling. Upon a repeat viewing, his apprehension mixing with determination before the shock of the finish was just exquisite. I cannot praise this match enough and everyone should watch it. I mean everyone. I don’t care if you’re a wrestling fan or not, you should watch it.
NIGHT 14 (August 9th, 2022): Undercard had two fun ones today, as Team Filthy vs Suzuki-Gun ended up in a George Michael/Boy George debate mid-match between ZSJ and Lawlor. ZSJ was right, by the way. And in one of the biggest 6-man tag mismatches in New Japan history due to Jay White being out for it, we had Tanahashi/Okada/Goto beating Juice/Fale/GEDO in what ended up almost hilarious to watch as the Bullet Club guys were hopelessly outclassed in every way.
Tournament matches were:
Yujiro Takahashi over YOSHI-HASHI
SANADA over Chase Owens
Tama Tonga over Taichi
Lance Archer over JONAH
Tetsuya Naito over KENTA
What a confusing set of results this night was – it all ends up being part of necessary tournament math, but goodness. So, up first we had one of the most useless lumps of New Japan protoplasm, Yujiro, beating YOSHI in a **3/4 affair. SANADA/Chase was as rock solid as it gets, with Owens actually putting in the effort moreso than normal to get to ***. Tama Tonga over Taichi kind of shocked me, as I assumed that Taichi was winning to set up the showdown with Jay White, but it appears that Tonga gets that showdown instead. I had it at ***1/4, which is fine. And then Archer, who has been fine but not more than that on this tour, beat JONAH via countout in a relatively awkward ending that just felt wrong to me, as JONAH had all the momentum from the Okada match and then….Anyway, I put it at **3/4, as Archer has done really nothing for me in this thing. And KENTA/Naito was really good professional wrestling, as Naito continues his comeback in a ***1/2 match.
NIGHT 15 (August 10th, 2022):
Tournament matches were:
El Phantasmo over David Finlay
Tama Tonga over The Great O-Khan
Zack Sabre Jr over EVIL
Kazuchika Okada over Tom Lawlor
Hirooki Goto over Hiroshi Tanahashi
Finlay’s slide from the top continued in the opener as ELP got the duke in an excellent ***1/2 match. Finlay has had quite the good first G-1, even if it feels like the clock is just about to strike midnight. Tonga/GOK was really good, although it kind of felt like it never hit a second gear; I had it at ***. And then it all got great, as we started with what will surely go down in history as THE GREATEST EVIL MATCH EVER, with ZSJ outsmarting the HoT at every turn and pinning EVIL in under a minute with his bridging rollup. Someday, children will write songs about how life-changing this ***************************** match was. Lawlor/Okada was next and it was FANTASTIC, just the type of wrestling I enjoy watching as Lawlor dominated on the mat and worked the arm of Okada like he wanted to mount it on his wall like a fresh kill. Okada escaped this one and put Lawlor over strong as a result with the sitdown pin. This was an absolutely terrific match, ****1/2 all day in my eyes and the best Tom Lawlor match I’ve ever seen. And finally, Goto got his win back from the Ace as Hirooki won a **** match between two really great professional wrestlers.
PART 2: (Alternate title – Yes, somehow, Yujiro Takahashi is technically still alive in this thing)
So, with the results in mind, let’s go Block by Block to look at the standings, see what’s left, and then try to figure out what happens with 3 shows to go.
Up first, it’s the Monsters, AKA A Block:
- Kazuchika Okada – 4-1, 8 points. (1 match to go, against Archer)
- Lance Archer – 3-2, 6 points. (1 match to go, against Okada)
- JONAH – 3-2, 6 points. (1 match to go, against Bad Luck Fale)
- Jeff Cobb – 2-2, 4 points. (2 matches to go, against Toru Yano and Tom Lawlor)
Everyone else in the Block is eliminated at this point. So let’s take a look at things. Really, the Block comes down to the Archer/Okada match. Very technically, neither Cobb nor JONAH are done as both can make 8 points – in the case of Archer beating Okada, that would create a 4-way logjam at the top of the Block with conflicting tiebreakers across the board.
BUT, I don’t think that’s going to happen. JONAH needs Cobb to get to 8 for him to even have a shot, as he loses the head to head break to both Archer and Okada. His only hope is a morass at the top. What’s more likely is that Cobb gets Yano’d, which would eliminate JONAH outright, or drops the fall to Filthy Tom. If either of those things happen, it just comes down to Archer and Okada’s match to determine the Block winner, which is what I see happening. And in that case, while I’m sure that they want to maintain good relations and all with AEW, I don’t think they want it THAT much as I expect Okada to pick up the win and the Block to advance to the semi-finals.
PREDICTED BLOCK WINNER: Kazuchika Okada
Next, we’ve got the B Block:
- Jay White – 4-0, 8 points. (2 matches to go, against Taichi and Tama Tonga)
- Tama Tonga – 4-1, 8 points. (1 match to go, against Jay)
Everyone else in the Block is all but eliminated at this point. Barring a zero point result from the last show which does have a match between these two, no one else can catch them on points. With that in mind, we have to consider a lot of things here. The biggest is that the Bullet Club angle where Jay turfed the Tongans is still fresh enough that Tama desperately wants to get his hands on Jay. So I would expect that we have to consider what happens after the match to figure out who likely wins. The winner of B Block faces the winner of A Block in the semis, likely to be Okada. Would GEDO run an Okada/Tonga semi-final, with the awareness that people would see the outcome as a fait accompli, as no one would expect Tama to beat Okada, especially with a trip to the G-1 Finals on the line. Whereas on the other hand, Jay vs Okada is a marquee match where either guy COULD win, much moreso than Okada/Tonga. But, and I know we’re going back and forth here, the story is that Tama wants vengeance on Jay – would he really lose here? Why set it up like that? Would they send Jay through both Taichi and Tama to give him the undefeated Block win? How far are they really going to go with the Tama Tonga singles push?
My answer to all these questions is – I dunno, man. I can see all the scenarios being plausible. With that in mind, though, I’m going with Jay. If GEDO cheats enough on Jay’s behalf before JADO runs him off, I think you can minimize the loss for Tama, and putting the champ through to the semis undefeated seems like the right call to me. The thing with GEDO is that when he decides you’re gonna be the guy, he puts every gun he’s got behind you. And Jay going undefeated in Block competition before facing Okada seems like the way to continue to do that with White.
PREDICTED BLOCK WINNER: Jay White
Onto my favorite Block, the C Block:
- Zack Sabre Jr – 4-1, 8 points (1 match to go, against Tetsuya Naito)
- Hiroshi Tanahashi – 3-2, 6 points (1 match to go, against KENTA)
- Hirooki Goto – 3-2, 6 points (1 match to go, against EVIL)
- Tetsuya Naito – 3-2, 6 points (1 match to go, against ZSJ)
Oh baby, this has been a fun Block to watch. So, who can win this thing? While I’ve listed four people, I don’t see it for Goto. That leaves us 3. Now, let’s look at Tanahashi as a possibility. He holds the break over both ZSJ and Naito, so they can’t win if they end up tied with him on points. What does that mean? Well, the way that GEDO books, with ZSJ/Naito on the last night, one would think that it means that Tanahashi will be done by then, losing to KENTA. And he may very well be. But, and we’ll call this the ‘Talbot scenario’, there is a very real way that Tana can pull this off, and that is because the Naito/ZSJ match has a personal history stemming from last year’s G-1, where Zack put Naito out of the tournament on the very first night. Naito doesn’t need to necessarily be able to win the Block to still want to spoil Zack’s tournament. So, if Tanahashi wins his match against KENTA, it does mostly eliminate Naito but not necessarily eliminate Naito’s desire to stop ZSJ.
So that’s your Tanahashi scenario. But, and I say this with a slight bit of sadness, I don’t see it. I think that Tanahashi is losing to KENTA, Goto is losing to EVIL, and ZSJ/Naito is for the Block. And that fills me with joy, because the two of them are absolutely phenomenal opponents for each other. Who wins? Well, I had Naito winning this entire thing before the tournament started and I don’t see myself changing course here. While ZSJ has been really well protected by New Japan and won the New Japan Cup this year, I think that he’s slowly inching towards the top of the card and that will likely continue. But not here – the story of Naito’s entire year has been him getting THIS close to winning the big one and not pulling it off. This is his moment.
PREDICTED BLOCK WINNER: Tetsuya Naito
And finally, a giant mess that is known as D Block:
- (Good CHRIST) Yujiro Takahashi – 3-2, 6 points (1 match to go, against Shingo Takagi)
- David Finlay – 3-2, 6 points (1 match to go, against YOSHI-HASHI)
- Shingo Takagi – 2-2, 4 points (2 matches to go, against Takahashi and El Phantasmo)
- Will Ospreay – 2-2, 4 points (2 matches to go, against YOSHI-HASHI and Juice Robinson)
- YOSHI-HASHI – 2-2, 4 points (2 matches to go, against David Finlay and Will Ospreay)
- Juice Robinson – 2-3, 4 points (1 match to go, against Will Ospreay)
- El Phantasmo – 2-3, 4 points (1 match to go, against Shingo Takagi)
Yep. NOBODY is eliminated at this point in D Block. And we can, in fact, end the Block in a 7-way tie: Yujiro loses to Shingo, ends at 6 points. Shingo then loses to ELP, putting both at 6 points. YOSHI beats David Finlay, putting both at 6 points. Then YOSHI loses to Ospreay to stay at 6, which would allow Ospreay to lose to Juice to put both of them at 6 as well. Boom! 7-way tie, fuckers!
Please, for the love of GOD, don’t do that to us GEDO.
Luckily, looking at the remaining schedule, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think that we’re likely in for one of either Shingo or Will winning the Block. Let’s really look at what’s left. Yujiro is likely losing to Shingo in his last match, keeping him at 6 points and putting Shingo at 6 with one to go. YOSHI is likely beating Finlay to go to 6 and then losing to Ospreay to put the latter at 6. Assumign these things to be true, that leaves us with the final night set up of Shingo vs ELP and Juice vs Will. Takagi holds the break on Will, so if Shingo wins, it’s over, with Shingo going to 8 points. If, however, Shingo loses (and that is a possibility, as ELP is capable of scalping Takagi), it opens the door wide for Will to be the only guy to get to 8 points. If Will were to lose at that point, we have the points nightmare and I just don’t think GEDO is going to do that.
So. If we assume that the Block really only has two contenders, who wins it? I see two storylines, pick one – Naito is winning C Block and they really want to do LIJ explodes with Shingo vs Naito with a spot in the Finals on the line. That’s what I would want to see, frankly, as it’s a completely fresh matchup that could go any way they want it to. But the other option is equally plausible, as Ospreay’s story this year has been him getting screwed over by the officials of New Japan and him winning the Block would be a very strong answer to it, and a match with Naito is an extremely fresh one as the two have not crossed paths all that much – and a singles match between the two has never happened, especially since while Naito was in the main events as the Heavyweight champ, Ospreay was still in the Juniors. I wonder if that’s too much for New Japan to turn down, as it’s a really strong match to sell a card on. Perhaps they want to wait for Wrestle Kingdom? Possibly, but that isn’t a lock and I could still see that match happening as whoever loses the Block semis would want revenge.
Overall, while I would very much like to see Shingo vs Naito, I don’t think I’m going to.
PREDICTED BLOCK WINNER: Will Ospreay
If my predictions hold, that would give us the following 2 semis:
Kazuchika Okada (A Block) vs Jay White (B Block)
Tetsuya Naito (C Block) vs Will Ospreay (D Block)
So, who wins here? Well, this is total speculation, but I like Okada to beat Jay. I think that Okada ‘banking’ a title match down the road against Jay means he doesn’t have to win the G-1 to still get a title shot, and if WK is going to be two days again, one would think that he might have it on one of those nights on the show, assuming White works both shows. I do think that whoever comes out of that side of the bracket is losing the Final, and that’s because I’m like a dog with a bone – I still believe that Tetsuya Naito is going to win this G-1. I think he’ll beat Ospreay and then beat Okada in the Final, which will set up some fun stuff as he can defend the briefcase against both Tanahashi and Goto, the guys who beat him in the tournament matches.
So, that’s about it – we can see how wrong I was next week as the G-1 comes to a close! For those of you who are interested, we’ve got a dedicated G-1 thread here on the Blog every show thanks to the wonder that is Joedust, and there’s always people watching the show live – so join us! Every show is live in English on New Japan World, and we’re about to get some really fantastic wrestling to cap off an excellent tournament of both highs and lows.
I’ll be back with New Japan Strong and, when it’s over, my final wrap-up on the G-1 Climax 2022.
As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
@MrSoze on Twitter