By: Mark Buckeldee
Welcome to POST Wrestling’s report on G1 Climax 30 day 6. This is the 1st show from Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. While it is the smallest venue on the tour, it is usually known for having the hottest crowd. That did not quite prove to be the case, as the Osaka crowds from the 1st 2 days of the tour were superior. Today also had the announcement that New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Board of Directors had decided to replace CEO Harold Meij. The current New Japan of America CEO, Takami Obari, will be his replacement. Meij, who would often wait and shake the hands of fans at New Japan live events, joined New Japan in MAY 2018 after being the CEO of Takara Tomy.
The start of these Block B reviews will feature a short, spoiler-free summary for each match highlighting any matches that I recommend, highly recommend, or anything that is must-see. This should help give you, the reader, an idea for what is worth your time without spoiling any surprises for you.
- Gabriel Kidd vs Yuya Uemura – Both wrestlers showed off their technical skills with some nice flourishes before a distinctly Young Lion finish.
- B Block – YOSHI-HASHI vs SANADA – A decent but slightly too long match. Much more even than you would expect.
- B Block – Zack Sabre Jr vs KENTA – A gritty affair with KENTA mind-games, Sabre Jr’s technical work, and some niggly and nasty kicks. – RECOMMENDED
- B Block – Juice Robinson vs Hiroshi Tanahashi – A simple match structure but Tanahashi put on a clinic, trying to get the most out of everything he does. – RECOMMENDED
- B Block –Toru Yano vs EVIL – The usual Yano tropes. Nothing special by Yano’s standards.
- B Block – Tetsuya Naito vs Hirooki Goto – Another chapter in “Goto has a dodgy arm” and “Naito brings his working boots.” Great stuff from both wrestlers here. – RECOMMENDED
Gabriel Kidd vs Yuya Uemura
Uemura is currently on a losing streak and lost his last match against Kidd. This surprised me as Kidd focused on the arm and showed off a lot of tenacity and technique, with some nice flourishes thrown in. Uemura eventually gained control with some well worked headlocks, reminiscent of how Tanahashi uses that hold. Neither man went for their signature suplex and eventually, Uemura used back to back dropkicks to set up his Liontamer-esque Boston Crab for the win.
Yuya Uemura submitted Gabriel Kidd (9:10)
Yet again the Young Lions managed to put on a match that was vastly different from what came before it. You can see Shibata’s influence here with the way that they both focused on holds here and both wrestlers showed good maturity and understanding of the basics. The match lost its way at one point but then it had a good back to basics finish to let Uemura end his losing streak. Many people will be skipping these matches, but I feel that the Young Lions, especially these 2, are doing a great job of not having the same match again and again.
B Block – YOSHI-HASHI vs SANADA
Neither competitor has won a match so far so someone should be getting their first points on the board after this one. This was quite an even match, with YOSHI-HASHI getting a lot more than I would have expected. He has been allowed to look strong so far and this was not the exception. SANADA spent less time showing off his aerial prowess, focusing more on the Skull End. YOSHI-HASHI got to show off all his signature moves except for the Butterfly Lock, which was a plus. There was a noticeably dodgy-looking counter to SANADA’s Moonsault, where he failed to land on the knees as YOSHI-HASHI did not move his knees enough. Eventually, they went into the finishing stretch and it is YOSHI-HASHI who picks up his 1st win of the tour with KARMA.
YOSHI-HASHI pinned SANADA (15:15)
YOSHI-HASHI’s strength is being an underdog but this match did not play into that and it suffered because of it. It was decent but SANADA felt a little off like he was not up for this one and almost going through the motions at one point. YOSHI-HASHI did his best but it just felt like it went too long and YOSHI-HASHI probably shouldn’t have looked as strong as he did here and it will do nothing to change the minds of his detractors. I expect SANADA to now go on a run until the last day.
B Block – Zack Sabre Jr vs KENTA
Unlike his previous 2 B Block matches, KENTA did not look to shy away from his opponent as he sat down in the middle of the ring and dared Sabre Jr to fight him on the mat. After a cagey exchange Sabre Jr returned the favor and KENTA just kicked him in the head before targeting the arm with kicks. The tone was set as this match flowed between good limb work, nasty strikes, and pure dickishness. KENTA upped the nastiness and the cockiness of his strikes and Sabre Jr focused on KENTA’s injured arm. We even saw Sabre Jr bust out his rarely used Northern Lights Suplex, chaining it into a Kimura.
The strikes in this match were hard-hitting and nasty at times, especially KENTA’s slaps which were sold like death by Sabre Jr. The structure made KENTA look really calculating, with some well-timed strikes landing as big counters. There were some great strike exchanges and counter sequences but, like the rest of this year’s G1, it did not feel like Sabre Jr controlled the structure of the match. A knee strike caught Sabre Jr flush on the chin as he tried to go low and that gave KENTA time to hit the Go To Sleep to win the match.
KENTA pinned Zack Sabre Jr (15:46)
Like the rest of KENTA’s G1 bouts this year, the pace was a little slow and the match was designed to make him look like a calculating opportunist with big strikes and a cocky side. He has great chemistry with Sabre Jr and the match flowed well. Neither man pulled their strikes, and this may have been KENTA’s best match so far in the tour as the intensity helped alleviate the pacing issues. It had a cocky edge to it and the timing of the counters was great. This was possibly my match of the night.
B Block – Juice Robinson vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
Robinson is unbeaten so far in G1 Climax 30, while Tanahashi has lost his 1st 2 matches. This started with a strong lock up and you could see the theme from the very start. Even by his normal standards, Tanahashi milked almost every spot as much as he could. The opening holds were all about struggle and effort on his part. The story of the match became Tanahashi having to put in more effort to match the younger Robinson and keep in the match. His facial expressions, body language, and pacing were all about establishing him as someone fighting to stay in this match.
Robinson had more than the lions share of this match. Tanahashi spent most of his time looking for big moves in desperation to try and keep up. There was a lovely spot where Juice evaded a Tanahashi slap and hit a DDT for a near fall. One of my big complaints about Juice is his insistence on getting the crowd to clap while he sets up his superplex. It just burns out the crowd. Speaking of superplexes, Robinson followed one up with a roll through into a Jackhammer. Luckily, the pause and selling between the moves helped make this sequence less irksome than it usually is with other wrestlers.
Eventually, they went home into the finishing stretch, with Robinson pulling down the straps of his tank top like Kurt Angle at a YMCA themed party. A Tanahashi High Fly Flow was rolled through by Juice for a lovely near fall. Robinson countered a slap with 2 left-hand punches but Tanahashi crashed to the mat before Robinson could hit the Pulp Friction. Tanahashi then executed a slightly clunky roll up for the shock win to get his 1st win of this year’s G1.
Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Juice Robinson (14:16)
This was probably the slowest paced match in the G1 so far, but it stood out because of it. Tanahashi felt like a veteran who focused on the little things to fill time and limit the physical strain on his body. That may sound dull, but his performance was engrossing, garnering empathy as he tried to hang on. Robinson did a really good job here with his expressions and crowd work as well. The addition of a Lariat to his arsenal really suited him. The finish was great as Tanahashi foiled Robinson’s finishing combination by dropping to the mat after the second punch, which gave him the opportunity to beat Robinson. It might not stand out by the end of the G1 but to me, this showed just how good Tanahashi really is in a match that was all about letting him show off by doing less.
B Block – Toru Yano vs EVIL
While Yano is unbeaten in this G1, EVIL has never lost to Yano in singles matches. The ring started with 4 turnbuckle pads and very quickly it ended up with zero. The match contained the usual Yano spots of exposed turnbuckles, tape, and low blows. It also contained the usual EVIL spots of interference and more low blows. After a dull match, Dick Togo entered the ring in a sequence that led to a double low blow and Yano rolling up EVIL in under 5 minutes to go to the top of the block on 6 points.
Toru Yano pinned EVIL (4:33)
Aside from night 1, Yano matches have felt a little dull this year. This did nothing to change my opinion. EVIL has been badly served by the booking in the G1 so far, although his performances have not done him any favors. A skippable match, even if you like Yano matches, and maybe my least favorite so far.
B Block – Tetsuya Naito vs Hirooki Goto
Naito spent the build-up to this match mocking Goto and he noticeably smiled when he saw Goto standing in the ring. Like all Goto’s opponents so far, Naito targeted the heavily taped right arm. Naito was mocking his opponent as he targeted both the arm and the neck, which is the normal focus of Naito’s offense. The arm work played into Naito’s new arm wrench elbows to the neck, which has proved to be a great addition as it’s a strike that feels more cerebral and about cutting out the opponent’s opportunities to strike back.
Goto eventually countered one of these into a backdrop, which let him get back into the match. That did not last long, and they do a good job of hiding some miscommunication after Naito countered a Goto’s attempt at the from behind Lariat. A Frankensteiner was countered into a huge superplex by Goto, with Naito rolling outside and getting hit by a big Plancha to the outside.
The match then went into the finishing stretch, with both wrestlers hitting big counters, starting with a Destino getting countered into the Reverse GTR. An Ushi-Goroshi gets countered into a Destino and that sets up the matches 1 strike exchange. This has a great story as Goto ends up fading, unable to put anything behind his forearms due to the pain. Goto eventually sets up his finishing combo of the middle kick and GTR but Naito counters with Valentina and cleanly hits the Destino for the win. This set Yano firmly at the top of B block, tied with Toru Yano.
Tetsuya Naito pinned Hirooki Goto (21:58)
Naito has had 3 very good performances so far, although a cynic would suggest that Tanahashi, Sabre Jr, and Goto are probably the 3 of the best wrestlers in B block. This was the shortest B Block main event so far, and possibly my least favorite of the 3. Despite that, the story with Goto fighting against adversity and nearly winning it worked very well. Goto has done a great job of adapting to the G1, it reminds me of Shibata in the 2015 G1 Climax although it remains to be seen if Goto also works through the injury by the end of the tournament. This will be many peoples match of the night, but I have a feeling that it may be forgotten by the end of the tour.
Overall, this was a very good show. While none of the matches would be in the top 3 for the tournament so far, there were 3 particularly good matches that felt quite different from each other. KENTA vs Sabre Jr had a great striking and Tanahashi vs Robinson was a tour de force of the little things from Tanahashi. Naito vs Goto was another great example of Goto’s story with his injured arm and Naito putting on another good main event performance. It did have possibly my least favorite match of the G1 so far in Yano vs EVIL.