After a pair of Osaka shows full of bold booking and in-ring mastery, yesterday’s G1 show felt a bit like heading back to the office on Tuesday after a long weekend full of fun and adventure. “Okay, enough of with the hot-shotting and MOTY stunting: there’s the very serious business of another House Of Torture screwy finish and the return of the Iron Finger From Hell to get down to. Oiwa, remember to get everyone’s lunch orders…” There wasn’t anything specifically bad about the show (okay, yes: Yujiro), but a return to the perfectly acceptable yet unremarkable level of most of the nights leading up to the twelfth and thirteenth shows couldn’t help but be something of a letdown.
Still, as John and I discussed yesterday, some of the more subtle stories of this year’s tournament are coming into focus, beyond Tetsuya Naito’s comeback. And while none of the performers I expect to be winning their blocks are in action today save for Kazuchika Okada, other plot lines are very much in play: the level of David Finlay’s push and his direction post-G1, ZSJ staying in the running heading into Naito’s chance for vengeance against him, Tama Tonga looking to be the only person capable of blemishing Jay White’s record, etc. And while none of these matches look like guaranteed classics on paper, several have very high ceilings.
So, with the finish line in sight let’s head back for the second of two days of G1 action at the Hiroshima Sun Plaza…
- Undercard – Nothing of real note happening here; the heel factions working their usual shticks seemed to be the focus of most of these multi-mans.
- G1 Climax 2022 Block D Match: El Phantasmo vs. David Finlay – Fun and well-paced, this showed a nice sense of parity between the two.
- G1 Climax 2022 Block B Match: Tama Tonga vs. Great-O-Khan – A decent match that continued the establishment of Tama as a fiery babyface.
- G1 Climax 2022 Block C Match: Zack Sabre Jr vs. EVIL – The best House of Torture match of the tournament. Why you ask? Watch and find out…
- G1 Climax 2022 Block A Match: Kazuchika Okada vs. Tom Lawlor – A frantic and focused display of Lawlor using his grappling prowess to try to dismantle Okada. – RECOMMENDED
- G1 Climax 2022 Block C Match: Hiroshi Tanahasi vs. Hirooki Goto – A classic, hard-hitting G1 main event calling back to the tournament history shared by these two. – RECOMMENDED
Ryohei Oiwa, YOSHI-HASHI & Yuto Nakashima vs. United Empire (Aaron Henare, Jeff Cobb & Will Ospreay)
Aaron Henare submits Yuto Nakashima at 5:34.
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) vs. TMDK (Bad Dude Tito & JONAH)
Toru Yano pins Bad Dude Tito at 7:05.
Suzuki-gun (Lance Archer, Taichi & TAKA Michinoku) vs. BULLET CLUB (Gedo, Juice Robinson & KENTA)
Taichi pins Gedo at 7:05.
BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, SHO & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito)
Chase Owens pins BUSHI at 8:54.
G1 Climax 2022 Block D Match: El Phantasmo vs. David Finlay
After some wristlocks, hammerlocks, and hip tossing, there’s a quick exchange of roll-up two counts then forearms, all meant to communicate a sense of parity between the two. There’s a suicida and springboard moonsault to the outside from Phantasmo, giving him control five minutes in. After taking a Bret Hart-styled second rope forearm, Finlay begins to rally, hitting a fisherman suplex for two. El-P counters with a springboard crossbody and lionsault. Finlay gets a uranage backbreaker, blue thunderbomb, and Acid Drop. El-P gets a top rope rana to set up Thunderkiss ‘86 for two. There are CR2 and Trash Panda evasions, and then another sequence of quick roll-ups and counters leads to El-P keeping Finlay down for three with a crucifix rollup.
El Phantasmo defeats David Finlay via pinfall at 14:24.
The takeaway: This was a fun and steadily built match which never reached a fever pitch, but did a good job of showcasing each man’s ability to match and counter the other in terms of speed, power, and technique. It’d be nice to see a rematch of this a little while down the road. While this doesn’t literally eliminate Finlay, a slide down the block rankings seemed inevitable after his hot start.
G1 Climax 2022 Block B Match: Tama Tonga vs. Great-O-Khan
After some groundwork, O-Khan tosses Tama with a throat-assisted beal, crashes him into the guardrail, and bodyslams him back in the ring for two. O-Khan uses his odd seated press on Tama’s back in the corner. Tama fires up, eating some strikes to the back of the head to hit lariats, dropkicks, and a corner splash. The claw and Tongan Twist are both countered, with O-Khan eventually using the claw to set up a snap suplex. Both men take turns driving their opponent’s head into the corner padding. O-Khan counters a diving forearm into a nifty toss. After forearm exchange, Tama endures O-Khan’s Mongolian chops to hit a Death Valley Driver and Supreme Flow for two. Tama slaps the mat calling for the Gun Stun but O-Khan counters with a spin-out from almost a modified Torture Rack position. Tama rallies out of the Sheep Killer and counters the Eliminator with the Gun Stun, and after catching his breath manages to cover O-Khan and barely keep him down for three.
Tama Tonga defeats Great-O-Khan via pinfall at 14:33.
The takeaway: This was decent stuff, meant to spotlight O-Khan’s idiosyncratic offense, but also Tama’s babyface fire. Tama having tournament matches on back-to-back nights (a relative rarity in this four-block format) was a major point of discussion on the English commentary, as was the heat which has been starting to feel like a third opponent in these matches. Still, that story of fighting through exhaustion put Tama in a good light and continues to set him up to spoil Jay White’s perfect G1 on the last night of block matches.
G1 Climax 2022 Block C Match: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. EVIL
Kosei Fujita (wearing a mask and ballcap) is sent out as a ringer for ZSJ, allowing the real McCoy to get the jump on both Dick Togo and EVIL. After EVIL gets a taste of his own timekeeper’s table medicine, the bell rings. Zack blocks a low blow, evades Everything Is Evil, and rolls up EVIL with the Euro clutch to win the shortest match of the G1 and officially eliminate EVIL from the tournament.
Zack Sabre Jr. defeats EVIL via pinfall at 0:45.
Evil and Togo chase both Zack and Fujita backstage after the pin.
The takeaway: Having the crafty ZSJ be the one to hoist EVIL by his own petard in this tournament makes a lot of sense, as Suzuki Gun have been de facto faces in a near-constant series of clashes with the House Of Torture over the past few months. Just about every G1 has one shockingly brief match, and rather than giving it to Yano this year boy howdy was it nice to be spared the usual House Of Torture shtick today. I feel like I’ve just won an extra ten minutes of my life.
G1 Climax 2022 Block A Match: Kazuchika Okada vs. Tom Lawlor
Lawlor keeps Okada grounded with neck scissors and armbars, but Okada gets a flapjack when Lawlor makes the mistake of moving to strikes. Okada sets Lawlor atop the turnbuckle to be dropkicked to the outside but Lawlor wrenches a hammerlock through the guardrail to regain control. Lawlor gets a triangle on Okada back in the ring. Okada gets a dropkick but Lawlor immediately escapes the Money Clip. Okada hits an Airraid Crash, but Lawlor counters the top rope elbow into an armbar. Lawlor goes back to the arm after a forearm exchange and keeps one of Okada’s arms trapped in order to strike him to the beat of the crowd’s claps. Lawlor traps and wrenches both of Okada’s arms but Okada makes it to the ropes. Okada gets the landslide but the arm has been worked over too much for him to get the Rainmaker. Lawlor counters a second attempt with a pump handle uranage, hits two Kamigoyes to set up the NKOTB, but settles for a fisherman belly-to-back suplex. Lawlor does the Rainmaker pose and goes for another NKOTB but Okada rolls up him for two. Lawlor PKs the arm then continues to wrench it from a guillotine position, but Okada hoists Lawlor over his back and sits down into a roll-up position for the three.
Kazuchika Okada defeats Tom Lawlor via pinfall at 16:16.
Lawlor looks heartbroken after the loss and Okada signals that he’d welcome a rematch and encourages the crowd to clap for Lawlor as he leaves. There’s a staredown between Okada and Archer at the commentary booth as well, pointing to their match next Tuesday.
The takeaway: Lawlor looked very credible in his attempt to both figuratively and literally disarm Okada and remove the Rainmaker from the equation. His grappling was as entertaining as it’s been all tournament, and Okada was given very little breathing room in a match he came to realize he could only escape rather than decisively win. As with Tama/EVIL, the heat was very much a factor here as even the broadway-tested Okada looked gassed by the end, but this ultimately added to the desperation.
G1 Climax 2022 Block C Match: Hiroshi Tanahasi vs. Hirooki Goto
It takes a while for Goto to power out of a side headlock, presaging that Tana will be playing heel sotto voce. Tana hits a springboard crossbody, goes to skin the cat but Goto breaks it up. Tana begins to target the knee. An already hobbled Goto hits a lariat, spinning back heel kick, and bulldog for two. Tana hits a Sling Blade from the back and can’t lock on the cloverleaf so goes for a pair of Dragon Screws before cinching the submission in. Goto makes it to the ropes and lariats his way out of another Dragon Screw attempt in the rope. Tana gets a superplex and tries to go for the cloverleaf again but Goto locks in a modified Fujiwara, transitioning to a neck crank. Goto gets an ushigoroshi, then both men exchange forearms. Goto headbutts Tana’s chest, Tana starches Goto with a slap (Archer reminds us that a similar slap broke Goto’s jaw and his G1 run ten years ago), and as both men fall Tana’s head strikes a low blow to Goto. Tana gets a Sling Bade and Aces High, but Goto rolls out of the path of the High Fly Flow. Goto’s mouth is bloodied as he hits a nasty side Russian leg sweep and seatbelt style roll-up for a near fall. Goto hits a draping Shoto, and measures Tana for a big kick to the chest, but Tana turns an ushigoroshi attempt into a roll-up for two and hits two Twist And Shouts before Goto counters a third one into a big Shouten Kai. Rather than going for the immediate cover, Goto bellows as blood pours from his mouth before putting the Ace down for good with a GTR.
Hirooki Goto defeats Hiroshi Tanahashi via pinfall at 19:01.
The takeaway: Goto hasn’t had many opportunities in the G1 for in-ring stories and action which measure up to the narrative of his son wishing for his success. This was exactly the sort of fiery and literally smash-mouth main event which he needed and exemplifies why he remains a beloved presence within New Japan even if his grit and spirit rarely result in title reigns. I was viewing this match simply as Goto’s opportunity for payback after he was viewed as a walk-over for Tana in their AEW title condender’s match, but the blood-drawing slap called back to a far more significant chapter in the history of these two. Credit should also be given to Lance Archer and Kevin Kelly for immediately recognizing the significance of this moment and weaving it through the rest of the match.
A card that was on the shorter side (quite possibly due to the heat) ended up yielding five enjoyable to great tournament matches…or at least four real matches and one welcome enough angle. While not quite measuring up to the excitement of the first of the Osaka shows, this felt of a kind with the solid pair of Sapporo shows which started the tournament and had the flavor and weight of a proper G1 show which have been somewhat lacking this year.