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The Knockout Stage of G1 in Star Ratings

After 45 hours of action in a 4 week span with socialising no longer a thing in that time, the G1 finally felt real again with crowds fully back and fans being able to make noise and not clapping to show appreciation (except for Nagano) While the arguments about fields being too big and formats not working, the final week with 3 knockout rounds was always going to be a great watch and despite EVIL threatening to not make it a great watch, the end of G1 was something to put in the history books, so let's look at the final 3 nights of the 2023 G1 Climax

This was what it should have been. The use of the bodyslam to the chokeslam that was pushed heavily in the Block stages and Tetsuya countering each attempt until Hikuleo hit the big move and then Naito hitting the big counter move on Hikuleo’s attempt to kill the match in the Destino for the 1-2-3

This was only the fourth time that the U.S. champion faced the Never champion, and for the fourth time it was the U.S. champion winning. The other times were Kenny Omega over Minoru Suzuki in 2017, Juice Robinson over Hirooki Goto in 2018 and Jon Moxley over Tomohiro Ishii in 2019. Meltzer

Tell me how the US belt (now UK after Will Lance Storm’d it after the semis) is more prestigious than the Openweight belt without telling me that the US belt is more prestigious than the Openweight belt.

A really fun match which got tarnished with what is now becoming the too regular rubbish that is faction warfare outside interference. But unlike the way LIJ were booked to look incompetent in the EVIL vs Takagi match, United Empire looked great in the end.

Everything was spot on technique wise and Ospreay’s face work was so good with great callbacks to their match last year with the roles reversed from that match in the face/heel dynamic. I can’t speak high enough about Will’s face work in the G1 and I’ve enjoyed his storyline arc of finally embracing the fans and becoming one of the big two babyfaces in the company (that’s if you think Okada is a heel right now) Hopefully they won’t book Will as the henchman/lackey for a heel manager for a AEW PPV in his home country at Wembley Stadium.

Oh, wait

While questions remain about Finlay and that he feels like the Graham Potter of Bullet Club leaders, the quarters match was his best performance yet as BC leader and while the Gold version of BC in AEW is the best wing of Bullet Club right now, the Wardogs do have potential but maybe they'll live up to that potential if they are, a) booked like the main attraction act that previous incarnations of BC were and b) Gabe Kidd is actually the leader and I say that as someone who dislikes Gabe.

Cagematch's hatred of this match comes from the fact that EVIL won. I get it, no one bar House of Torture, EVIL's family or Gedo wanted EVIL to win but the match itself was fine if not weirdly booked. EVIL wanted to face his former tag partner on his own, sending Dick Togo back and then 2 mins later, Dick returned. SANADA outlasts the House of Torture antics and then loses clean 1-2-3.

Obviously this is to build EVIL wrestling for the IWGP Title sometime down the line and with the bicep injury also putting jeopardy to SANADA's reign which was also enhanced with the angle on finals night which was superior to the match 3 nights earlier. But the fact is it’s EVIL and while it makes sense in the long-term canon of NJPW with EVIL wanting to beat his former LIJ stablemate for the main belt as I’ll get into later, the heat EVIL is getting is not the right heat. It’s the Japanese version of when Baron Corbin was challenging for the World Title. It’s “they having this guy win the belt” heat which is not the way to book the World Title picture.

I didn’t love this as much as others. Maybe it was because Okada was obviously winning with EVIL and Sabre definitely not happening in the final four and while Sabre’s selling during Okada’s control segment was tremendous and the physicality of the strikes was great, the tension that was has been present in the the best matches in the Block stages (Ospreay/ELP, Kingston/Ishii and Okada/Taichi) wasn't there and while the work was obviously great because it’s Okada and Sabre. Jr, it just lacked that it factor we got from other matches in the G1


A lot of people didn’t like this match with all the interference but I thought it was tremendous. The crowd was super into it. Okada was great.

Unlike interference that leaves the audience unsatisfied, this interference built the heat and made Okada’s win that much bigger. I can see those wanting sanctity in a G-1 semifinal, but they went for the classic G-1 match in the main event and babyface vs. heel in this one. Had the crowd not bought it, it would be a different story but they couldn’t have enjoyed it more.

Ok, I just did a 10 second sigh reading Dave’s review of this match.

I’m not a “sanctity of the G1 must be kept” guy but the crowd in this match didn’t make the match better. It wasn’t proper crowd heat. It was “they’re not booking EVIL to be in the G1 final are they?” heat. It was “why can’t we have Okada vs Ospreay/Naito instead heat”. Dread as a heat device only works when the face in the other corner is beloved and Okada is not supposed to be beloved one right now with his channelling of Jumbo Tsuruta.

Maybe it was the ninth time in four weeks I’ve seen the timekeeper take a bump and wished it was Kevin Kelly get someone thrown at him so we can get more Ian Riccaboni on Collision (I’m blaming CM Punk for no more Ian Riccaboni on Saturdays) Maybe it’s the ninth time I saw multiple ref bumps during a EVIL match and maybe it was the ninth time that we saw Dick Togo choking someone with a wire but this repetitive rubbish had worn me down and if I wanted to watch repetitive rubbish, I’d watch the TV show Bones.

Okada’s dropkicks were awesome and yes, I’ll admit the Everything is Evil near-fall was very good in the moment, but EVIL’s go away heat is making me wish he would actually go away but he won’t anytime soon with EVIL’s shot at the World belt happening soon.

As a “sporting spectacle” which I've always believed makes for the best wrestling hence my love of Kings Road and the NJPW “5 Star” era of the last half of the 2010’s, it was captivating, mesmerising and a spectacle like not much else I've seen in a wrestling ring.

As an artistic endeavour, the final few minutes were as precariously close to a dumpster fire as you can get because of Naito getting punted in the head after a miscommunication between Naito and Will.

Will would basically hold Naito by the hand and at times literally talk and carry him through the final few minutes of the match and helping stamp his claim to be the best in the world right now and having a genuine claim to in the Top 10 ever to grace the squared circle. A lot of wrestlers in that position that Will found himself in with a man who didn't know where he was or what year it was would have been involved in a calamity but WIll’s composure was something to watch.

From Will's selling from Naito finding a key to controlling the match with his hiptoss into the knee to the neck to his body language especially after hitting the Leap of Faith, Will with his G1 is now on his own island as the best in the business.

When I started this series in October, I would make jokes about Dave Meltzer's love of Will Ospreay from a place of while I thought Will was really, really, really great, there were a bunch better than him (Okada, Omega, Takagi, Moxley) Well, there is no-one better than Will Ospreay right now

So why ****¾ from me and why do I think Dave’s 6 stars is not correct?

First I’ll go back to a rant from my January in Star Ratings column

When reviewing something whether it’s a movie, album or book, you need a maximum mark to adjudicate to. Empire Magazine goes up to 5. Play, the video game magazine I read as a kid went up to 100. Imagine trying to give 6 stars to an Uber driver, I think the app might crash. If I tried to give a book at my book club 6 stars, I’d get funny looks and I get enough of those when I give quarter marks in my assessments. Sometimes you need order in society or it goes into chaos. What next, pineapple on pizza.

Also for me, a ***** match needs to be perfect. That nothing I had seen in a match had fault. Unfortunately from a freak moment there was fault, the final 5 minutes were not supposed to happen like it did. In fact, they went home early with Naito probably thinking he was in Barbie World at that time. It was captivating and absorbing. It wasn’t perfect though.

YouTube wrestling essayist Jospeh Montecillo has a thing on his essays saying whether he thinks matches he reviews are better than Kawada vs Misawa from 3/6/94 (which he thinks is overrated) and when it came to this match, I asked myself “was this better than Ospreay vs Naito” and my answer is no.

It was great, once I fully knew that Naito was not working with a concussion on this night. Naito going back to the hiptoss to knee move that worked for him in the semis plus the Tornado DDT into a small package were great storytelling devices as was the fear mongered when Naito went to the top rope for Stardust.

That particular moment showed what great heat you can summon. Everyone in the building that wanted Naito (and it sounded like everyone in Sumo Hall) to win feared the worst at that moment. That it would be Naito’s “”QB pass on the one-yard line in the final seconds of the Superbowl” moment and the final stretch was great but if I was to do a Top 20/50 matches of the year both Naito matches on Final Four weekend would be close to each other but shy of the Top 10

So now I have my life back and the countdown to Jan 4 and the Tokyo Dome starts, is SANADA vs Naito a Tokyo Dome main event? Probably not but that’s an argument for another time.

I’m now going to Manchester, get drunk and tell strangers about how great Will Ospreay vs ELP was. Wish me luck.


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