Monthly archives: July, 2019

G1 Climax 29: July 6 overall thoughts

Really solid opener and such a bummer that American fans couldn’t sell out the show.

G1 CLIMAX 29: July 6
Watch: Sabre vs. Sanada, Tanahashi vs. Okada, Ospreay vs. Archer
Consider: Ibushi vs. Kenta
Skip: Fale vs. Evil

G1 Climax 29 Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada

I believe it was Rocky who declared this “One is the most important rivalries in professional wrestling history.” It’s kind of wild to see this as an opening-night match, but at least it’s the main event.

It’s taken me a long time to come around on Okada. His douchey Rock-wannabe gimmick has always felt a little too authentic to me. But he’s fantastic to watch in the ring, so I’m really looking forward to seeing these two meet again.

Kevin Kelly tells us they’ve met three times before in the G1 tournament, and each time they’ve gone to time-limit draws. They’ve got 30 minutes on the clock for this one, and the crowd is hot for this.

I wanted to attend this event live, but holding this the weekend after 4th of July — when most people are traveling home (and not ready to begin a trip) — made it impossible for me. But seeing this opening makes me wish I’d been able to be there in person. This feels huge.

Tanahashi is looking old and wrestling older, but he manages to turn that into compelling body language charisma; you feel his struggle and you’re rooting for him to keep up. He needs your support to hold his own with Okada!

And Okada goes for the classic smug one-foot-on-the-chest cover. He pulls out the dragon-screw leg whip to turn Tanahashi’s move against him. NJPW talent do such a good job of subtly adjusting their style in face vs face matchups to give the crowd a clear favorite to root for, and before long, Tanahashi is able to return the favor. It’s a subtle, detail-oriented form of storytelling you could be forgiven for not knowing it exists if you only watch WWE.

Fantastic back-and-forth exchange between the two about 15 minutes in that has the crowd completely blowing up. But then Tanahashi goes on the top rope and the camera catches an entire section of the American Airlines arena sitting completely empty.

Okada hits two back-to-back rainmakers at 20 minutes, when I suddenly catch myself thinking “he’s not a natural blonde.” Then Tanahashi hits a dragon suplex and I start paying attention again. But I love how NJPW wrestlers and announcers can make something as small as “wrist control” a pivotal part of match storytelling.

I don’t like that a spinning tombstone piledriver is a transitional move, but at least it sets up a rainmaker and leads to a finish. Okada gets the 2 points and the announcers remind us that no reigning champion has won back-to-back since 2000, stacking the odds against Tanahashi regardless.

Solid main event, but I think I would still give my night 1 match of the night to ZSJ and Sanada by a hair. Okada and Tanahashi held some stature by nature of who was involved. Okada cut an endearingly sincere promo to close the show, in spite of his naturally heelish charisma. Rocky calls him the greatest IWGP champion we’ve ever seen.

G1 Climax 29 Block A: Kota Ibushi vs Kenta

This will be an interesting meeting of two recent signees. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing Kenta outside of the WWE environment. I feel like the best we ever saw of him there was his NXT Takeover title challenge against Bobby Roode.

Rocky mentions these two first met in 2005 in Pro Wrestling NOAH. I was curious how they’d handle the dynamic, with the crowd hot to see both of them, but Kenta seems to be working heel in this matchup, though Ibushi doesn’t seem to be shy about fire with fire.

It’s so great to see Kenta so unshackled in these early minutes. WWE can suck the life out of anyone. Kenta is really trying to work heel but the fans seem to be too excited to see him with some passion in him, returning to the form that made him famous. In situations like this, you’d have to wonder why any NJPW main-eventer would ever sign with WWE again.

Kenta takes the win with a GTS in a match that was entertaining, but a little underwhelming following the surprisingly show-stealing ZSJ-Sanada match. +2 pts for Kenta. +5 to Kevin Kelly referring to Kenya’s WWE career as “5 years of anguish and frustration.” Nice sportsmanship to close the segment and redeem Kenta from his heel match work.

G1 Climax 29 Block A: Zack Sabre Jr. vs Sanada

I try not to miss a Zack Sabre Jr. match. The guy is incredible and has such fantastic physical heel charisma. He’s like Bryan Danielson at his worst (best) and I love it.

I’m looking forward to seeing Sanada in this singles matchup.

The crowd is doing the Seven Nation Army chant to “Zack Sabre Jr” but like every crowd that does the chant, they can’t get the timing right and they rush back into the next round like it’s in 7/4 time or something. Just stop.

Dang, there’s an absolutely fantastic sequence of holds, submission attempts and reversals early in the match.

Absolutely beautiful subtle heel move as Sanada’s wristband comes off and Sabre just kicks it out of the ring, sending Sanada out to regroup and reassemble. These guys are such pros.

Sabre is so fluid — it’s amazing to watch him flow through a match from hold to hold. And Sanada is right there with him with the holds and reversals.

Interesting how New Japan World blurs out middle fingers but leaves the f—s and sh—s. I guess fingers are the universal language.

Sabre is SO GOOD at his physical heeling, and so dangerous at turning his goading into successful baiting into a submission.

I’m so conditioned by WWE booking all their faces to be idiots that whenever I see a face gloating over a successful move, I’m legitimately surprised when a heel doesn’t use that wasted time to regain the advantage.

I haven’t written much the past five minutes because it’s been so good, so fluid and so balanced. The crowd is really waking up and Sanada has turned a marky ZSJ crowd into solidly pro-Sanada.

Winner: Sanada bridging Sabre into a roll-up reversal. +2 pts. Sabre takes out his frustrations on various officials and other staff around the ring.

G1 Climax 29 Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs Evil

In full transparency I’m only watching this match to be a completist. I’m not really into either of these guys. I’m mostly watching this because I’m intrigued by the upcoming Evil and Sanada match, and I figure I should see how Evil does leading up to that.

I’ve always felt like Bad Luck Fale has a real “I’m a sort of D-Lo Brown-esque category of loser” vibe to him. The announcers seem to agree as they promise this match will go nowhere near the 30 minute time limit. Thank you for that.

Fale may be a slow fat guy, but he does know how to leverage his size to come across as sincerely menacing. He does the great heel move of going for the pin by standing with one foot on the chest of Evil. When I was in 7th grade, Aaron Shigley went for a pin on Brian McConnell with that move in PE class, and Mr. Kecheley grabbed Aaron by the shirt and slammed against the wall and told him never to pull a stunt like that in his class again. It was awesome. But Aaron was way cooler as a middle schooler than Fale is as a fat old adult.

While I was reminiscing about middle school PE class, Evil turned the tide, but not quite enough to end this stinker. Camo-pants Fale won’t stay down. Now Fale is threatening to use a chair. I’d rather see him just lose straight up, but whatever it takes to end this.

Great move in the history of absurdity when Evil positions the ref to hold Fale’s leg as Evil takes Fale down. It managed to come off as pretty believable, but then we move into a folding-chair segment.

Winner: Bad Luck Fale with the Bad Luck Fall in 11:33 seconds for +2 points. If I were Evil, knowing I’m a mortal with a finite number of matches left in my life, I’d be a little bummed that I just spent one on putting Bad Luck Fale over. But such is life.

G1 Climax 29 Block A: Will Ospreay vs Lance Archer

I’m a few weeks behind on the G1 tournament, so I’ve got a bottle of Bushmills and my New Japan World subscription teaming up for a “let’s make up for lost time / I have no interest in watching the Raw Reunion” evening.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Lance Archer match. I don’t recognize him at all. But he has more presence than a lot of big men — plenty of them seem content just being big, whereas he’s pairing some personality with his size.

Ospreay is probably my favorite wrestler active today, so I would be watching this regardless of who he was facing.

I’m legitimately surprised at Archer’s athleticism; they’re putting together a great story of the intimidatingly well-rounded big guy against the athletic smaller guy.

The audio mix is weird in this match. The crowd is completely drowning out Kevin Kelly. I’m not sure if it’s on my end or if they’re overcompensating on the production side for the poor ticket sales.

Seeing these two in the ring together, you wouldn’t expect Archer to be able to hold his own in a competition of speed, but that’s what’s happening. And Ospreay’s doing a fantastic job of selling Archer’s dominance.

Ospreay’s reversal of Archer’s powerbomb attempt on the ram was beautiful. Loved the Amazing Red shout-out too. I haven’t seen him wrestle since the early NWA-TNA Wednesday night $10 PPVs.

Archer’s “everybody dies!” mid-match battle cry was ok the first time, but he keeps saying it. I feel like that’s one of those things that gets less intimidating each time you have to say it, because implicitly your need to repeat it shows your opponent is doing a good job of not expiring.

Apparently Ospreay is the only man to ever kick out of Archer’s finishing move. I’m not sure I would have cashed those chips here but that was generous of Archer to give that to Ospreay for this moment.

Winner: Archer with the Iron Claw in 18:17. +2 points

Ospreay remains the greatest active wrestler, in my opinion, but this was a great showing for Archer. Either I’ve really never seen him wrestle before or he really showed up tonight. Either way, good match, and it sets up Archer as a scary competitor in the tournament.