G1 Climax 32 Day 17 Report: Tanahashi vs. KENTA, Cobb vs. Lawlor

Bruce Lord recaps highlights and results from NJPW G1 Climax 32 Day 17 featuring Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. KENTA and Jeff Cobb vs. Tom Lawlor.

G1 Climax 32 Day 1 Report: Okada vs. Cobb, White vs. SANADA

G1 Climax 32 Day 17 Report: Tanahashi vs. KENTA, Cobb vs. Lawlor

After a relatively lackluster card yesterday, the major talking point going into today’s G1 show is the preservation of several tie scenarios at the close of the regular tournament matches (which I laid out yesterday), including the possibility of a seven-way tie in the D Block, dubbed “Operation Chaos” by Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton. Heading into today’s matches, an entirely plausible defeat of David Finlay by YOSHI-HASHI would keep that eventuality in play, and keep Finlay from winning the block before the last of its matches. Two other matches have significant tournament implications, with Jeff Cobb needing to defeat Tom Lawlor if he is to have a chance of tying Kazuchika Okada and Lance Archer (should the latter defeat the former on Wednesday), and Hiroshi Tanahashi needing to defeat KENTA to hold a tie-breaker over Zack Sabre Jr., though Tetsuya Naito’s presumptive defeat of Sabre on Wednesday to complete his own comeback story would make a Tana victory today moot. The long-since eliminated Taichi and Great-O-Khan are fighting purely for pride.

But beyond the preservation of neck-and-neck drama, today’s card looks much more promising than the previous one. The clash of fiery underdogs YOSHI-HASHI and Finlay should be fast-moving, and Cobb and Lawlor should gel well together, with Lawlor holding far more in-ring experience with Cobb than with any of the rest of his A Block competition (he holds a 4-2 record against Cobb in singles matches including bouts in MLW and GCW). And regardless of what you think about Tanahashi’s chances in the overall tournament, his match against KENTA has been one of the G1’s most hotly anticipated contests since the blocks were announced. In case anyone’s forgotten, the pair’s absolutely brutal ladder match for the US title at Wrestle Kingdom put KENTA on the shelf for the first half of the year with lacerations, tendon damage, a broken nose, and most gruesomely a dislocated hip. While no one’s hoping for a repeat of those real-world injuries, it’s impossible to not be drawn into the story of KENTA looking to avenge that loss and pay back Tana for the punishment he took.

The penultimate card of regular block G1 action comes to you from Nagano’s White Ring arena. Let’s see if the equilibrium of Operation Chaos can be maintained for at least one more day…

Spoiler-free Recommendations

  1. Undercard – The usual tone and pacing of multi-man matches, with some extra focus placed on the upcoming last block matches (especially Okada/Archer), and two angles which might factor into two of those matches.
  2. G1 Climax 2022 Block D Match: YOSHI-HASHI vs. David Finlay – Simple but fast-moving and enjoyable stuff from two of the tournament’s underdogs.
  3. G1 Climax 2022 Block B Match: Taichi vs. Great-O-Khan – A decent but inessential match cribbing from other combat sports.
  4. G1 Climax 2022 Block A Match: Jeff Cobb vs. Tom Lawlor – A fun match pitting power against submission technique. – RECOMMENDED
  5. G1 Climax 2022 Block C Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. KENTA – A solid slow-burn of a match which acknowledged their Wrestle Kingdom war without reprising its extremity. – RECOMMENDED

Hirooki Goto, Kosei Fujita, Ryohei Oiwa & Yuto Nakashima vs. House Of Torture (Dick Togo, EVIL, SHO & Yujiro Takahashi)

SHO submits Kosei Fujita at 8:05.

TMDK (Bad Dude Tito & JONAH) vs. United Empire (Aaron Henare & Will Ospreay)

Will Ospreay pins Bad Dude Tito at 4:54.

Juice Robinson, Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, and El Phantasmo jump and beat down Ospreay and Henare as they are heading backstage, and Juice absconds with the US title belt on his way to the ring for the BULLET CLUB multi-man. Juice repeats his claim on the title on the mic during his introduction, just like he did in the first days of the tournament. Ospreay was pile-driven onto the ramp, and was carried to the back for medical attention.

BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, El Phantasmo & Juice Robinson) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito)

Chase Owens pins BUSHI at 7:31.

CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) vs. Suzuki-gun (Lance Archer, TAKA Michinoku & Zack Sabre Jr.)

Toru Yano pins TAKA Michinoku at 6:35.

Jado & Tama Tonga vs. BULLET CLUB (Gedo & Jay White)

Tama Tonga pins Gedo at 7:08.

White beats Tama down with a chair and gives him a Blade Runner after the pin, but unlike Ospreay Tama’s able to walk backstage under his own power.

G1 Climax 2022 Block D Match: YOSHI-HASHI vs. David Finlay

Finlay makes the first significant move with a Divorce Court on the injured right shoulder which Ospreay also targeted yesterday, and kicks away at it in the corner. Finlay works some arm submissions before YOSHI-HASHI finds some breathing room with a Headhunter and neckbreaker for two. Finlay gets a pair of uranage backbreakers and torques the arm around the ropes. YOSHI-HASHI kicks out of a cutter, evades an Acid Drop, and kicks out of a blue thunderbomb. YOSHI-HASHI switches behind another Acid Drop attempt and gets a flash pin with a modified roll-up. 

YOSHI-HASHI defeats David Finlay via pinfall at 11:14.

The takeaway: Finlay playing a bit cocky made it easy to root for YOSHI-HASHI’s probable win, but he kept the pressure on throughout, and a post-match fist-bump kept everything cordial. YOSHI-HASHI’s ability to work quick reversals continues to improve, and his injured arm gave this simple but enjoyable match a throughline.

G1 Climax 2022 Block B Match: Taichi vs. Great-O-Khan

O-Khan takes guard in response to Taichi’s sumo stance, but after being stood up by the ref there is some sumo style grappling, with Taichi eventually toppling O-Khan with an uwatanage. O-Khan gets a judo hip toss, Taichi gets a two count with a Gedo clutch, but a snap suplex from O-Khan gets another flash pin.

Great-O-Khan defeats Taichi via pinfall at 7:07.

The takeaway: With nothing on the line, this shouldn’t have gone long and it didn’t. The funkiness of each competitor’s interests in combat sports beyond pro wrestling gave this a bit of extra flavour, but that’s about all.

G1 Climax 2022 Block A Match: Jeff Cobb vs. Tom Lawlor

Lawlor is wearing kickpads for the first time in the tournament which he uses to start chopping away at the bigger man’s legs, but Cobb hits a fall-away slam. Lawlor reverses a splash into a rear naked choke. Lawlor goes for a triangle outside of the ring but is slammed on the apron for his troubles. Cobb surfs atop Lawlor’s back but Lawlor traps the leg to avoid the standing moonsault, and uses a monkeyflip maneuver to try for an ambar and kneebar. Cobb tosses the smaller man with a release belly to belly. Lawlor transitions out of a pumphandle hold for another armbar attempt and manages a uranage. Cobb reverses a guillotine into a vertical suplex but Lawlor gets the better of some striking. Cobb gets a pair of Germans off but Lawlor retains wrist control, trying for a kimura throughout. A kamagoye gets Lawlor a two count. Cobb fights out of the NKOTB but eats a modified Regalplex which sets up a second attempt at Lawlor’s finisher. This one is successful and Cobb’s G1 hopes are extinguished. (N.B.: Chris Charlton indicated that this effectively eliminates JONAH as well by NJPW’s counting, which is good enough for me.)

Tom Lawlor defeats Jeff Cobb via pinfall at 14:03.

The takeaway: If the previous match’s clash of styles didn’t hold together for any sustained amount of time, the story of Lawlor trying to endure Cobb’s brute force in order to maintain positional advantage and try to grind out a submission win fared much better.

G1 Climax 2022 Block C Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. KENTA

Each man rallies the crowd to clap to their own rhythm. Losing that contest, KENTA brings some chairs into the ring which Red Shoes dispatches of. Tana works a side headlock and hits his customary opening springboard crossbody. KENTA takes a nasty kick-off into the guardrail, treats Tana to some of the guardrail himself, mixes a DDT in, and temporarily knocks one of the lighting rigs out while brawling. KENTA works the midsection back in the ring, but Tana fights back with a dragon screw and somersault senton. KENTA moves up from the midsection to the neck and the face, snapping Tana’s head on the ropes and hitting a top rope lariat.

Red Shoes eats a hard-hitting slap which sends him to the ground amidst a strike exchange, and it’s plunder time. KENTA repeatedly smashes Tana’s ribs with a crutch and takes Tana outside, setting him up for a double stomp through a table, but Tana rallies, only to be set down again with a Green Killer. Red Shoes comes to just as KENTA hits a pair of delayed dropkicks and the double stomp to Tana’s softened ribs for a two count at the twenty minute mark. Red Shoes inexplicably takes some splash damage, giving KENTA a chance to chuck the table at Tana’s head. A GTS is reversed into a Twist and Shout and Tana notches a pair of sling blades for two. Aces High is hit, but as has happened throughout this G1, Tana is unable to nail the High Fly Flow, instead taking KENTA’s knees to the midsection. A busaiku knee sets up another GTS attempt which Tana turns into an ugly rollup for two. Rapid fire slaps drop Tanahashi and a brutal knee to the face sets up a GTS for a measure of revenge for KENTA, quashing the Ace’s 21st G1 run. 

KENTA defeats Hiroshi Tanahashi via pinfall at 23:46.

Kenta grabs a copy of his book from a fan in the front row and plugs it while speaking on the mic after his win.

The takeaway: This built towards a crowd-pleasing main event which had some impressive spots and allowed KENTA to earn his revenge without either man playing against type. I was a bit surprised by the slow start to this one, but as KENTA’s dismantling of Tanahashi came into focus it improved. Having the spectre of some serious hardcore spots looming at the edge of the match yet never really giving in to them gave this match a whiff of the menace of their Wrestle Kingdom battle without any of the real-world risk.

(On an unrelated note which was likely designed to get the rumour mill going, on commentary JONAH mentioned calling his friends Shawn and Paul to try to get an injunction placed on the BULLET CLUB’s too-sweeting. Consider the pot stirred.)

Final Thoughts

This was an easy to watch card with less than an hour of bell-to-bell tournament time for the time-pressed wrestling fan (especially considering that the N-1 Victory has started). While I don’t know that anything from tonight will be landing on any lists of the tournament’s best matches, the variety of styles and storyline implications on display here made for an entertaining show.

In terms of the final G1 scene, Operation Chaos holds out for one more day in the D block while the A and B blocks hinge entirely upon Okada/Archer (barring any outlandish no-contests) and White/Tama, respectively. A three-way tie between Goto, Sabre, and Naito remains a real possibility in the C block.

A final minor note: the lighting and layout of the White Ring arena (which according to Cagematch has only hosted wrestling once before for a 2012 AJPW card) was quite striking, almost giving it the feel of an open air arena lit in a very cinematic fashion.

About Bruce Lord 26 Articles
Bruce Lord lives in Vancouver where, between AEW and NJPW binges, he blogs and podcasts about industrial and goth music at idieyoudie.com.