G1 Climax 29 Block A: Will Ospreay vs. Sanada

G1 Climax 29 Block A: Will Ospreay vs. Sanada

This should be good. Ospreay is the best around, and even though Sanada isn’t really at that level, he should definitely be able to keep up well enough. I’m really hoping the NJPW / ROH partnership falls apart soon so that Ospreay could do some AEW events. This guy could be a major breakout star (for some company other than WWE). In WWE, they’d probably have him be like Downton Arby or Doctor How.

Kelly brings up Ospreay’s Lucha training and parallels that with Sanada’s time wrestling in Mexico, and that aligns with the two wrestlers showing their balance in the ring with an evenly matched opening flurry that leads to a standoff that gets the crowd going.

I love the light storytelling and crowd-nudging gestures they use in New Japan; the crowd seemed evenly split during that standoff, so Sanada comes out of the standoff by offering a handshake, which Ospreay gingerly accepts … only to be suckered by Sanada. Unlike the usual WWE suckerings of babyfaces, this was no pivotal moment leading to losing the advantage or even losing the match — it was just a quick exchange that dropped an important cue to the crowd.

I guess it doesn’t really work; Sanada gets Ospreay trapped in the ropes with the Paradise Lock and plays to the crowd, and the crowd responds with cheers. Sanada keeps the pace slow in these early minutes, with a lot of submission holds and deliberate chipping away at Ospreay — but then Ospreay finds openings to spring out of nowhere with an amazing sequence. It’s a great example of how different styles can tell an interesting story through their contrast and the clarity of the momentum shifts.

After some quick exchanges, the crowd is now chanting Ospreay’s name, but Sanada holds his own with Ospreay’s increased pace and answers accordingly. An awesome exchange of holds, finishing move attempts and reversals is even more impressive partially based on what appears to have not worked — in a few of the quick exchanges, it looked like maybe some aim was off or grasps were missed, but these two are so good that they immediately recovered and did so in a way that seemed totally natural, as opposed to “Oh oops I missed my spot, so let me very unnaturally get back into position.”

These two put together an amazing sequence leading to an Ospreay powerbomb, but Sanada kicks out at two. Ospreay lands a shooting star press (that looked a little short, to be honest) and Sanada kicks out again. But Ospreay goes for a Stormbreaker that Sanada beautifully reverses into a Skull End. Ospreay lands the (not super impressive looking) Robinson Special into an Os Cutter and finally hits the Stormbreaker for the win.

Fun match that earns Ospreay his first two points, and the announcers make a point of emphasizing the significance of Ospreay scoring for the first time in this heavyweight tournament. Sanada may not get any points out of this, but he still comes out of the match looking strong.

G1 Climax 29 Block A: Lance Archer vs. Bad Luck Fale

Man, Bad Luck Fale is lame. Fat, slow, boring and he sucks too. I wouldn’t be watching this match if not for a desire to watch all the tournament matches. Archer really impressed me in the opening night match against Ospreay, so maybe he’ll make this watchable.

Not sure who is supposed to be the face in this match, though; both seem determined to be as unlikeable as possible. I realize over the course of the block there are going to be several heel vs. heel matchups, but I was curious if they’d try to subtly encourage fan preference.

The announcers aren’t concerned about reaching the 30 minute time limit. “We’ll be lucky if we get to 10.”

I realize screaming “EVERYBODY DIES!” is part of Archer’s gimmick but he really overdoes it. It doesn’t come off as scary or threatening but just like somebody pulled the Lance Archer doll’s string again so he’s saying “everybody dies” again.

So far this match is just lazy, slow-motion brawling. I’m considering stopping it early. Considering I’m about a month behind on this tournament, this feels like maybe something I don’t need to watch. I appreciate the polite in-person crowd still gently applauding Archer’s slow climb to his feet.

Following up on the earlier topic, Archer isn’t working face at all, but presumably due to Fale’s terribleness the crowd has started lightly supporting Archer. “What world am I living in,” Kevin Kelly asks. “People are actually starting to cheer Lance Archer?”

Fale’s so bad that a standard superplex is exciting because he’s actually doing something other than just walking around slowly.

Archer’s doing a good job of waking the crowd up. This guy seems like he could come out of this tournament a new main-event star in New Japan. That was an interesting finish — pinning Fale by squeezing Fale’s head and essentially having the shoulders down incidentally.

Archer is now at 4 points, Fale holds at 2.

G1 Climax 29: July 13 overall thoughts

I had lower expectations for this show compared to the July 6 show, given the makeup of Block B, but the matches I most thought would be entertaining (Moxley, Naito) were kind of duds. I guess I should’ve expected as much considering the matchups, at least with Naito.

Cobb vs. Ishii was great, but I think I might actually give White vs. Goto my match of the night. Ask me tomorrow and I might go with Cobb vs. Ishii.

G1 CLIMAX 29: July 13
Watch: White vs. Goto, Cobb vs. Ishii
Consider: Robinson vs. Takagi
Skip: Moxley vs. Taichi, Naito vs. Yano

G1 Climax 29 Block B: Hirooki Goto vs. Jay White

Man, Block B sure seems weaker when this is the main event, and the main event in the previous show was Tanahashi vs. Okada.

I’m not a big fan of Jay White’s beard. He’s got that problem where the mustache and the beard don’t connect, and it just makes the overall beard thing less intimidating, like maybe he’s going for a 19th century Frenchman look. It also somehow makes him look younger, not in a good way. His heel charisma is still fantastic though.

I realize it was mostly due to Kenny Omega’s departure and the decision to transfer his story to White, but I feel like White was maybe hurt a little by having such an inconsequential championship run so early in his rise. He’s so good, but rising and then falling so quickly makes him feel a bit like a fluky flash in the pan. And it makes the weasely heat he’s trying to generate against Goto feel a little midcardish.

As soon as I type that, though, he turns on the credibility and the danger. This is the style I really like in White — he’s so menacing and almost surgical in the way he swiftly picks at opponents. I love when wrestlers can project their personalities through wrestling moves.

(I am kind of getting tired and want to go to bed but I have a feeling they’re going to make the most of their time opportunity here.)

Good stuff here as White just smacks the back of Goto’s head like a total jerk. Beautiful. I think White actually looks like he’s lost some muscle mass since his title run. He was looking a little oversized for a while though.

Nice turn in the story as White is still outsmarting Goto, but Goto’s perseverance is breaking through the advantage. White’s still taking him apart, but Goto isn’t staying down.

Bladebuster and a nonchalant cover lead to a two-count, but I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if they actually let that be the finish. I think we’re seeing a good story of White proving to be just as dangerous and menacing as ever, and a clean win — as unhappy as the crowd would be — would me a good statement and set the stage well for the threat of Jay White in this opening night for the B Block. Plus the crowd doesn’t seem as hot for Goto as they are opposed to White.

White’s gloating leads to Goto’s revival, and at least now the crowd seems behind him. Good back and forth sequence with some really awfully executed near-falls from the always awfully-executing Red Shoes. The guy milks a 2.999 count so far past the point of believability. I realize that’s part of his charm but it can really disrupt an otherwise beautifully wrestled match.

Another beautiful sequence of reversals, and two brutal moves from Goto but I missed the name of both of them. Totally didn’t think White should’ve been able to kick out of either. But Goto has the crowd super hot and times the GTR just right for the win and the 2 points. I was all for a White win earlier, but that was a pretty flawlessly executed finishing sequence.

That wraps up the second night of the G1 Climax, first night of Block B.

G1 Climax 29 Block B: Jeff Cobb vs. Tomohiro Ishii

I didn’t really notice Jeff Cobb until the NJPW/ROH MSG show on Wrestlemania weekend when I thought “How have I missed this guy?” I also thought “How has Ring of Honor won the contract battle?” And Ishii is awesome. I’m really looking forward to how these two match up given their builds and styles.

Cobb shows off his strength early, but Ishii balances with his ferocity. I like the story here though, where Cobb just throws so much power at Ishii, Ishii retaliates with tenacity, but Cobb just has too much.

There’s a spot in this match where Cobb and Ishii just trade forearm after forearm for like a minute and it just keeps going. It wears me out watching it.

Cobb’s really something special to watch — the way he pairs speed with his insane strength. Also I’ve never really understood how people with such big guts can be so fast or have such good cardio. Or do standing flips.

The story of Ishii being unable to withstand the beating continues, with Cobb’s strength and speed compounding the damage. But that just builds up to a Hulk-up moment where Ishii begins leaning into Cobb’s bludgeoning and ends up building to a superplex. Cobb responds with a Hulk-up and superplex of his own though.

I am really enjoying the build of Ishii from underneath here; Cobb still has the strength advantage, but whereas it seemed earlier like that was going to be too much, Ishii is wearing him out to where the strength advantage is getting slimmer and slimmer. And now the tenacious old man may have outplayed his stronger and faster opponent.

Cobb blocks a lariat attempt, Ishii reverses that into a suplex, goes for a pin and has his cover attempt result in getting launched halfway across the ring — this sequence where either man could gain the upper hand is fantastic. More cover attempts, more near-falls and kick-outs, more counters and reversals — until Ishii lands the vertical brainbuster for the win.

Fantastic match, and both men came out looking great — Cobb just came up short this time. It should be fun when both of them meet up with Moxley later.

G1 Climax 29 Block B: Tetsuya Naito vs. Toru Yano

Will they do two relative squashes in a row? I hope so!

I much prefer Naito’s “too cool for school” demeanor over Okada’s; Okada’s is always just a little too much “Who farted?” for my tastes. I love Naito’s ridiculously cocky 70s attire here, and it’s a nice trick to let Yano fill the space with his clowning so Naito can slowly transition from glitter suit to wrestling clothes.

30 minutes are on the clock. Let’s see if we can do this in one.

Yano is lucking his way through survival with a few surprise survival spots and almost rolls up Naito for an unbelievable couple of near-falls.

Holy cow. Toru Yano pinned Naito. I wanted a short match, but that’s not what I expected or really had any interest in seeing. His first G1 win since 2014 and it’s over Naito.

(For what it’s worth, the announcers are doing a great job of selling the story that Naito looked past Yano and maybe now he’ll learn to take each opponent seriously. New Japan is so good at making everything count, even when it’s something stupid like Toru Yano pinning Naito.)

G1 Climax Block B: Jon Moxley vs. Taichi

I’m looking forward to seeing how Moxley is presented in the G1. His New Japan matches so far have been framed as standalone showcases that really just served to establish his character; now he’s part of a much bigger — and always intricately planned — story. It’ll be interesting to see how the framing of the new personality meets the framing of the tournament.

This wasn’t really the match to help me learn anything. Relatively short, and unfortunately “hardcore.” I get that’s part of Mosley’s identity, but does every match really need to involve a table? Hopefully no.

So Moxley beats Taichi pretty easily. Obviously not every match is going to be a classic, but I was hoping for more.

G1 Climax 29 Block B: Shingo Takagi vs. Juice Robinson

I’ve mostly hated Juice Robinson since the first moment I saw him. Something about his neon colors and obliviousness, plus an underwhelming in-ring style — he felt like a lame Randy Savage cosplayer.

But his match against Jon Moxley made me totally rethink my irritation. It felt like he was reinventing himself, even beyond abandoning the dreadlocks, and I impressed; it was clear he played a big part in that match being as successful as it was.

And then his G1 Climax debut saw him walk out with ridiculous neon colors and dumb glasses and dumb hat. So maybe I opened my mind too soon. Still, I’m interested to see if he shows something more in his style; it took me long enough to start to come around on him and I will not give up easily!

Pretty straightforward match; hard-hitting and largely evenly matched so far. Juice is holding his own and keeping the crowd behind him. I really wish Juice would get some different pants. I do think there’s something different about his body language and overall attitude. Jackson Pollock pants don’t help though.

Takagi’s strength and brick-houseness is starting to play more of a role in the match though. It’s giving Juice some good material to play underdog off of. I was surprised the Juice Box didn’t get more of a reaction though.

After a good run of energy, Takagi ends up taking over and really dominating Robinson, in a way that turns the fans to his side. But true to form, Robinson has some fight in him and almost gets a surprise rollup and connects with some punches before scoring the win with the Pulp Friction.

I was kind of surprised to see Juice get the win here; Takagi was really holding the crowd and Juice seemed to be in a spot where he could lose the match without losing much. Takagi had enough control through much of the match that his loss felt like a bit of a choke. Curious to see where both of them go from here.

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.