G1 Climax 32 Day 13 Report: Okada vs. JONAH, Ishii vs. Owens
What a difference a day makes. 24 hours after yet another card with one great match and a number of acceptable but unremarkable contests, the G1 had what seems to already have been widely acknowledged as its best card of this year’s tournament. ZSJ and Hirooki Goto had a classic clash of styles, and the idiosyncrasies of Jay White and Great-O-Khan’s feints, mirror moves, and counter-attacks meshed together enjoyably. Hell, even Yano had his best comedy match of the tournament with Lance Archer playing the world’s most intimidating straight man.
But of course, the day belonged to two men alone, and quite frankly New Japan should be sending thank-you cards, fruit baskets, and luxury cars to Will Ospreay and Shingo Takagi for finally giving the 32nd G1 the sort of explosive, heart-in-throat, hard-hitting match upon which the tournament’s reputation was built. This was a tournament in desperate need of juice, of MOTY buzz, of actual excitement, and the fifth chapter in the best feud NJPW has had since Kenny Omega returned to North America delivered in spades. It’s on days like this that Bushiroad’s clampdown on gifs and videos on social media feels especially lamentable, as just about any random ten-second clip from this match likely would have done more to draw in lapsed New Japan fans than any recommendation from this site or any other ever could.
On paper, the tournament’s second consecutive night in Osaka is far less impressive. Predominantly made up of matches featuring competitors literally or effectively eliminated from the tournament and those who don’t seem like credible block winners, the question of whether JONAH will be able to hand Kazuchika Okada his first loss, tie the Rainmaker in points, and hold the potential tiebreaker over him heading into the last night of regular block action seems to be the only major one to be answered tonight.
Does JONAH’s conquering of the well-protected Cobb spell defeat for Okada, or will the lynchpin of NJPW roll through the G1 undefeated? And will any of the other tournament matches offer any pleasant surprises? On the thirteenth night of G1 action, from the illustrious EDION Arena in Osaka, let’s find out.
- Undercard – The usual inessential fun, though the BULLET CLUB/United Empire match had some decent comedy and a very brief but very impressive White/Ospreay sequence. Yuto Nakashima blaming Yano for his being pummeled by Archer yesterday made for a rare Young Lion plot point in the first match.
- G1 Climax 2022 Block C Match: EVIL vs. Aaron Henare – House of Torture 101. Not as irritating as some of EVIL’s matches, but nothing worthwhile.
- G1 Climax 2022 Block A Match: Bad Luck Fale vs. Tom Lawlor – A simple enough match which was Fale’s best of the tournament, though unless you’re grading on a curve that’s still no great shakes.
- G1 Climax 2022 Block D Match: El Phantasmo vs. Juice Robinson – A US indie-styled match heavy on comedy and very out of step with traditional G1 match style.
- G1 Climax 2022 Block B Match: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Chase Owens – Solid and hard-hitting, this was a 180° turn from the previous match and found Owens measuring up to Ishii’s standard. – RECOMMENDED
- G1 Climax 2022 Block A Match: Kazuchika Okada vs. JONAH – Some classic foreign monster vs local babyface booking is matched by its in-ring work. – RECOMMENDED
David Finlay, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Yuto Nakashima vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI)
YOSHI-HASHI submits Yuto Nakashima at 8:28.
Jado & Tama Tonga vs. House Of Torture (SHO & Yujiro Takahashi)
Yujiro Takahashi pins Jado at 7:08.
Suzuki-gun (Lance Archer, Taichi, TAKA Michinoku & Zack Sabre Jr.) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito)
BUSHI pins TAKA Michinoku at 8:03.
BULLET CLUB (Gedo, Jay White & KENTA) vs. United Empire (Great-O-Khan, Jeff Cobb & Will Ospreay)
Great-O-Khan submits Gedo at 7:03.
G1 Climax 2022 Block C Match: EVIL vs. Aaron Henare
Henare takes EVIL outside after a second rope spin kick, allowing Dick Togo to lure him into a clothesline from the House of Torture head honcho. EVIL smashes Henare off the apron into the announcer’s table for the hardest bump Abe has taken all tournament. Henare repays him by Irish Whipping him over the guardrail (two actually impressive guardrail spots in a row?) and hits a Berserker Bomb back inside and a Saito senton. A Togo distraction paves the way for a Fisherman’s Buster and Darkness Falls. Henare replies with a Rampage tackle but can’t follow up with Streets of Rage. Ultima is locked in, but EVIL grabs the ref and while trying to break the hold, the ref swats Henare. There’s a ref bump in the chaos, EVIL clocks Henare with a chair, and hits Everything Is Evil for the win.
EVIL defeats Aaron Henare via pinfall at 10:36.
The takeaway: This was a textbook House of Torture special. This wasn’t the most egregious example of the rote match style we’ve seen this G1 but has nothing to recommend it, and Henare wasn’t given much space or time to leave his mark between the usual heel spots.
G1 Climax 2022 Block A Match: Bad Luck Fale vs. Tom Lawlor
Fale jumps Lawlor before he can drop his Daisy Dukes. Fale tosses some guardrails on top of Lawlor outside of the ring for a weak countout attempt, but Royce Isaacs unearths the Filthy One in plenty of time. Fale hits a scoop slam and the Tongan Massage Parlor spot. Lawlor kicks away at the leg, even crawling all the way under the ring to lock the ankle from behind. Fale fights out of a rear naked choke, lariats Lawlor and hits him with an elbow drop and the Grenade for a two count. Lawlor squirms out of the Bad Luck fall position and hits a DDT for two. The rear naked choke sets up a Shining Wizard for two, and a Nasty Knee On The Brain keeps the big man down.
Tom Lawlor defeats Bad Luck Fale via pinfall at 11:24.
The takeaway: The basic David vs Goliath story worked well enough here. Lawlor’s plan was clear, but to his credit Fale worked with more energy than he has at any other point in this tournament. The ceiling on a Fale match in 2022 is likely shorter than the man himself, but this was at least passable.
G1 Climax 2022 Block D Match: El Phantasmo vs. Juice Robinson
Both men demand the crowd be silent before they lock up. Juice blows a raspberry, and there’s some “who farted” pantomime with the ref. “The premiere professional wrestling tournament in the world,” Chris Charlton reminds us. The Bullet Club brethren go through the most basic and elementary of exchanges at half speed, prompting me to wonder if this show is happening in Reseda rather than Osaka. Rope and tights-assisted roll-ups from both men are caught by the ref, and some trash talk from both men prompts each to grab various plunder from under the ring. A table and chairs are set up for an impromptu arm wrestling match, which El-P cheats to win. Juice chucks a chair at him and we just might actually get some pro wrestling out of this match yet.
Juice piledrives El-P on the ramp for a near countout and applies a high crab. El-P hits a very high tope suicida which nearly carries both men over the guardrail. Juice’s head is driven through a table and comes out juiced. El-P’s rope-walking gets the better of him, but he’s able to hit delayed tope con hilo and splashes from the top rope. Phantasmo hits a Styles Clash for two and a V-Trigger, but Juice escapes the One Winged Angel and hits Left and Right Hands of God, and Phantasmo answers with Sudden Death. Another Right Hand Of God sets up Pulp Friction for a two count. Furious, Juice brings another chair in and goes for another piledriver on it. While reversing it, Phantasmo is low-blowed and in a pique of anger openly clocks Juice with the chair mid-ring for a very, very rare G1 disqualification.
Juice Robinson defeats El Phantasmo via disqualification at 16:23.
The takeaway: I expect this match to be viewed with no small amount of controversy by NJPW purists. This was a US indie-styled comedy match for more than half of its duration, and by that standard not even a bad one, but as the commentary noted, this isn’t part of the standard G1 delivery. The plunder heavy second half felt a bit more serious but also out of step with the usual G1 style. If nothing else, the disqualification felt like a fitting end to something this bizarre.
G1 Climax 2022 Block B Match: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Chase Owens
Ishii wins some shoulder check and forearm trades, but Owens wrenches the pitbull’s knee from a nifty seated angle and keeps working away at the joint. Ishii creates some space with a vertical suplex at the five minute mark and a belly-to-back for two. Owens continues the Bobby Eaton tributes with a neckbreaker and dropkicks Ishii to the floor. Owens hits a sunset flip which sends Ishii’s head square between the vertical poles of the guardrail and flat against the horizontal base of it. Ouch.
Back inside, Ishii gets a German out of some standing switches and a delayed superplex. Owens gets a C-Trigger and Jewel Heist for two. Ishii hits a dragon suplex but Owens answers with a superkick for two. Ishii avoids the package piledriver and drops Owens with a headbutt to the chest. Owens gets a half and half suplex, but eats a big lariat for a one count and another for a two count. Owens rolls Ishii up on a sliding lariat for two, and an inverted backslide for another near count. There’s another C-Trigger and package piledriver attempt, some quick reversals which lead to an enzuigiri from Ishii, but a final C-Trigger is enough to set Ishii up for a very square and very final package piledriver.
Chase Owens defeats Tomohiro Ishii via pinfall at 16:50.
The takeaway: You couldn’t have had a sharper contrast from the previous match than with this one. This was meat and potatoes G1, with Owens showing that he was able to hang with the tournament’s gatekeeper both in terms of intensity and fluid exchanges and reversals.
G1 Climax 2022 Block A Match: Kazuchika Okada vs. JONAH
JONAH gets the better of the initial lockups, working a headlock for a while. After shoulder checking Okada to the floor, he misses with a charge off the apron, and Okada starts working the knee. JONAH fights out of the DDT on the ramp. JONAH smashes Okada into the guardrail which (likely accidentally) crashes the timekeeper’s table ten feet away. Back inside, JONAH steps on and punches away at Okada’s midsection and starches his chest with a big chop.
Okada creates some distance with a European uppercut ten minutes in and begins to build steam, hitting a DDT for two. Bad Dude Tito talks some trash on the floor (“Hey pretty boy, how about I slap the shit outta you?”), but Okada dodges and JONAH crashes into his second and eats another DDT. Okada hits a big tope con hilo to both men. Okada can’t get JONAH up for the body slam, and JONAH hits a spear and running senton for two. Okada gets JONAH down on one knee with the Money Clip, and sends him all the way down with a shotgun dropkick. JONAH pounces on Okada from the second rope and gets a two count with a lariat.
Another dropkick lets Okada finally hit the bodyslam, which he follows with the top-rope elbow and hits the Rainmaker Pose. JONAH ducks the Rainmaker but takes another dropkick, and Okada hits a German. More Rainmarker dodges let JONAH headbutt Okada from the clinch, and he nearly beheads Okada with a lariat for two at the twenty minute call, as the Hogan/Andre parallels are being acknowledged by Charlton. JONAH reverses a second rope dropkick attempt into a powerbomb, which is followed up by a full Black Forest Bomb. The crowd gasps as JONAH climbs to the top rope and hits the Torpedo Splash to put the Rainmaker down for the count.
JONAH defeats Kazuchika Okada via pinfall at 21:53.
There are audible roars from the crowd after the pin, and Charlton describes Okada supporters storming out of the building. On the mic, JONAH shouts out his TMDK teammates, alludes to his overcoming his WWE release and notes that just one year after that release he’s used his fighting spirit to beat the best wrestler in the world.
The takeaway: With the A block so full of giants, the classic foreign monster booking of JONAH in the G1 didn’t become apparent until recently. When it did, though, JONAH had a perfect foil waiting in Okada, with both men playing to their strengths clearly and effectively. The crowd recognized the weapons in JONAH’s arsenal established in earlier matches, and the realization that the powerbomb spelled doom for the Rainmaker made the inevitable finish all the more electric. The shock of someone who’d never stepped foot in a Japanese NJPW ring until this tournament defeating Okada was palpable, despite the ostensible limitations on crowd noise.
Though starting poorly and showcasing some of the tournament’s weakest elements, the final two matches had me feeling upbeat about this card (even if it failed to live up to last night’s show). Ishii and Owens’ traditional G1 playbook was thoroughly enjoyable, and seeing the effective short-term booking of JONAH fall into place so effectively was a treat. It’s taken a while due to the four block format, but this G1’s stories are finally coming into clear focus.