Week Two of the G1is done and between work, a possible chest infection, Barbieheimer weekend, the FIFA Womens World Cup and 39 matches of G1 (I skipped Loa vs Khan, I'm not a masochist) I'm a very tired man right now. So lets get into the best of the best and a slight reference to Owens vs Loa before I hit my head on the laptop while writing this up
While Night Five had a contender for worst match of 2023 (Chase Owens, everybody) there were three worthy matches to go into the notebook.
For full disclosure, I’m going to do a deep dive into Will Ospreay and his achievement of being the “most successful wrestler according to Dave Meltzer and his star rating”. After this match, his case of whether he will end up on the Mt. Rushmore of in-ring workers has increased due to the fact he had a great match with 2023 KENTA.
In what was the first 7.50+ match from KENTA in a NJPW ring since last year's G1, Will brought back the KENTA from the good ol’ days of NOAH kicking and screaming. Washed up KENTA was physical in his strikes, showed urgency in his offence and while he still did some of current schtick cause 2023 KENTA and maybe cause 2023 NJPW but more on that later in this review, it turned out to be a fun **** match. 4 and a half felt excessive though.
Unlike the Tsuji/Narita draw earlier in the tournament, there was urgency in the final minutes (except Kaito’s release of the Figure Four) which kept me on the edge of my seat. The Figure Four portion of the match was tense to watch mainly thanks to the re-emergence of that move as a big moment of a match in the last few months. Ideal world, I would have had Shota tap to the leglock but the idea of having 5 guys in Block B in the bubble for second place will make the next two nights fun to watch.
Jaysus, this was great. This match was further evidence to my point last week that Okada is the best ever at making others look like they could beat him even when he’ll eventually get the win. The Gedo clutch was a great near-fall and the fact Okada needed to use a pinning combination to get the win shows how strong Taichi has become in the world of New Japan.
One underrated aspect of Gedo’s booking is wrestlers having to climb their own personal Everest even if they have an accolade to their name. Take Kazuchika’s quest to beat Hiroshi Tanahshi even though he was champion. Taichi’s Everest right now is Okada and the moment he beats Kazuchika will be great television.
On a night where the crowd seemed to think that we were still in the “clap crowd era”, four of the eight matches were less than 3 stars in my eyes. The event’s 5.35 on cagematch is the fifth worst rating for a G1 card, yet I have two matches from the night in my “notebook” Go figure
This one divided opinion. I loved it. Hard hitting wrestlers doing hard hitting things, the finish felt true to the match with it more being a case of whoever won was going to be the guy who got the last shot in before both gas tanks expired.
In another building this would have been really good but was still fine here, but the quiet crowd hurt. *** - Dave Meltzer
While Dave is correct in his point that it would have been really good in another building, it wasn’t Eddie and Aaron’s fault. Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba could have risen from the dead and held a dream match in this building on this night and would have got just rounds of applause and I can’t punish both by striking points from the match because Nagano couldn’t have been bothered/scared to make noise.
Seriously, Tomohiro Ishii and Shingo Takagi were in the same ring and we got this crowd being rubbish. Seriously, I made more noise in my living room than the patrons of Nagano and I was watching this inbetween cinema viewings of Barbie and Oppenheimer (***¾-**** for Barbie and ****½ for Oppenheimer by the way) Takagi and Ishii got the greatest hits out for this match but it didn’t feel like the previous ***** classics with the pair in 2019 and 2021. Still fun though with the terrible Nagano crowd.
Have I made myself clear that I hated this Nagano crowd?
I love Korakuen so much. The willingness of the fans to get into the action meant the wrestlers worked their asses off and it showed with some great action from the two nights and being in Tokyo meant we got Chris Charlton back for the nights at Korakuen and at Ota Hall. I like Kevin Kelly. He's been harshly treated by internet critics with Ian Riccaboni's awesome performances in Kelly's place on Collison but Kevin needs a partner at the announce desk as Nights 4-6 showed. Hell, I'd take Chase Owens in place of a solo effort from Double K. Also, major dap for Chris calling Gabe Kidd a bellend which is My Moment of the G1 so far.
In front of a rowdy Korakuen Hall which made a change from 2 nights before in Nagano, Okada vs Yoshu-Hashi was like Okada’s matches vs ELP and Taichi but slightly inferior in quality. Not much else to say. One day I'm going to have to remind myself that I shouldn't take Kazuchika Okada for granted.
The finish of this match made me jump off my seat. With the ref’s count ongoing and the knowledge of time close to being up, everyone plus their pets thought the bell would ring as Red Shoes hand was between his second and third slap of the mat but when the third slap happened, a wail of joy/shock/disbelief came out of my mouth. The finish was just perfect.
Everything leading up to the finish was also great. Lots of Keiji Mutoh references with both being his protege (shame Great O’Khan used the mist in the first match) and also Kaito referencing NOAH legends from Marufuji’s dive. SANADA’s selling of his knee and Kaito’s limb work was real good. This felt like the night that SANADA finally made his point in belonging with the top guys in NJPW and made me hope that Kaito joins New Japan where he would belong judging by the G1 so far
Sanada beat Kaito Kiyomiya in 19:58 with the shining wizard. That’s the official time but it actually went 20:01 as they mistimed the finish.
I bet Dave saw that scene in Oppenheimer when Robert made the speech after the bomb hit and pointed out there and then that it was in the incorrect American flag showing.
You could see Kingston died and went to heaven for him, because heaven is Korakuen Hall wrestling Ishii.
Actually, add Tiger Hattori as ref and have the AJPW Pillars that are still with us in attendance and he would have been in heaven. Heaven actually really came for Eddie later when he got to meet Toshiaki Kawada.
I loved this match from that chop from Eddie which sounded like a gun had been fired in Korakuen to the insane diving headbutt from Ishii to the super near-falls and the pitch perfect brainbuster. This is a contender for my Top 10 MOTY list and got the full five from me.
All the talk of Ishii being in line for a shot at Kingston’s Strong Title made me think. Tomohiro is in London on All In weekend. I’ve already got myself down for a trip from my hotel to East London on public transport on account that I get to see Ishii live but another dose of the Stone Pitbulll would be cool especially against Eddie.
TK, if you’re reading, if Chris Jericho is insisting on facing Will Ospreay (which I totally understand why) can we have Kingston/Ishii IV as a make good please? Also, announce some damn matches for All In while you're at it!
You know something is great when Red Shoes instinctively claps and that’s what the first 3 minutes were. For all the talk of Zack’s technical ability, some of the other compartments of his game get left unheralded but Sabre’s selling and bumping of Cobb’s big hitting was tremendous. One “botch” aside this was great and Cobb’s win makes Block D very interesting with Zack vs Naito and Shane Haste to come
I’m not giving this match 4+ stars so I give myself an excuse to write about why I dislike Gabe Kidd matches in this G1 so much. This was great. Despite the predictable Gabe jumping from behind (in kayfabe why don’t the NJPW powers that be make Gabe go out first?) and Gabe Kidd doing a Stan Hansen impression without knowing how to actually do an impression of Stan Hansen, the brawling on offer was fantastic. It felt like watching 80’s Memphis which shouldn’t be a surprise considering Gedo’s love of old school Memphis. The out of the ring brawling has been a fixture of the G1 this year and made an not eagerly at all awaited match between ELP and KENTA into a good brawl. Kaito’s fire was exceptional and the idea of Kaito hurting his chances of qualifying by losing his head in the brawling was a good piece of booking. Problem is watching Gabe Kidd doing this thing 7 times in three weeks is just going to be exhausting.
Watching Gabe Kidd do his schtick every 3 days is like going to your regular local pub and have that guy give you opinions that were better left in the 70’s and despite your wishes you have nowhere to go and you’re just stuck in a swirlpool.
If I could bet the over on the amount of middle fingers and f-words per Gabe Kidd, I’d be able to afford the gold boat that I’ve craved since I was a child. It just got boring now and after 5 matches of this Gabe carry-on, I want to see something creative from Gabe which we got thanks to Kaito Kiyomiya, mainly because Kiyomiya is a great wrestler.
Maybe this dislike I have of one of the Bullet Club Wardogs is actually Gabe doing his job brilliantly, maybe me posting so often on the discords and group chats about my dislike of Gabe is irrational on my part, maybe it’s because Gabe reminds me of the guy a girl I fell in love with a decade ago, ended up dating and ended up marrying. Maybe I dislike watching Gabe because he’s the dictionary definition of toxic masculinity that should be dead in 2023. The fact that I’ve written around 400 words on this subject maybe just says that Gabe Kidd’s last fortnight has been noteworthy but you also feel that the Gabe formula we have seen this past fortnight is going to get tiring for the majority very quickly and that this Wardog will need to learn a new trick.
This was the match that got many British fans of NJPW rushing home from work or maybe even taking a sick day. The rematch of last years G1 final was the most eagerly awaited match of the Block Stage of the tourney but it ended up only being the second best match of the night in my eyes behind Gabe/Kaito and so far it’s third on Cagematch’s list with Kingston/Ishii and Okada/Taichi ahead of this contest. So why did the rematch of the Observer Awards MOTY and a match from the two guys that gave us No.3 and No.6 in the 2023 VOW MOTY Poll not live up to what admittedly was very high expectations?
While the 20-minute time limit has helped a lot of matches, it didn’t help this one. While the 20 minute time limit was part of the story with the faster pace from the get go, the Omega/Okada G1 match told its time limit story better in my opinion.
Maybe the placement in the overall schedule didn’t help with the expectation of this match being on the final night of Block B not materialising with the story of either man needing a win to advance to the quarters not being told and while the story of Will climbing his Everest by beating his former teammate clean was told very well and the hidden story of Will finally appreciating the cheers of the fans also playing out to its conclusion, this match won’t trouble the Top 10 of either the Observer/VOW MOTY poll and it may not get into the Top 25 of the VOW Poll.
So let's find out if Uncle Dave agrees with my take.
Hang on, did Dave not give this a star rating? The completionist part of me is going to have an anxiety attack right now. Hang on a second.
2 minutes later
So with everyone having two matches left to go, it means we're at the business end with match quality probably getting even higher. It also means I can skip some matches (I love wrestling but watching Tanga Loa is exhausting)
So next week we will look at Nights 10 to 12 and I'll be giving live thoughts on twitter as the cards will be happening on days off from my "shoot job". Follow me @PeterEdge7 where Gabe Kidd slander will be occurring at regular times.