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Week One (Nights 1-4) of the G1 in Star Ratings

So the 33rd edition of the G1 Climax is underway with more wrestlers than ever (any excuse to have Chase Owens in the G1 I guess) in a format change with 4 blocks of 8 with a quarter-final stage added. So with 119 matches on offer. I will watch every one (the majority of them with my dad for reasons) even the EVIL and Chase Owens matches and look at the best on offer with a little homage to Joe Lanza from Voices of Wrestling and his notebook chronicling his 4 star plus matches that he would recommend. So no social life for 4 weeks (am I the only when I tell friends that I’m watching the G1 Climax, I get looks that say “why are you telling me that you’re watching porn”) while I cover wrestling’s best tournament.

Below is a guide to how the star ratings system that Dave Meltzer (and also I) uses corresponds with Cagematch ratings on most occasions.

In Block A or Block Young Guns and Chase Owens, we would see two "notebook" matches with Ren Narita vs Shota Umino and Kaito Kiyomiya vs Yota Tsuji taking the honours with Block B or Block When are Ospreay and Okada wrestling each other? seeing Will and Taichi take the third slot in my book of star ratings.

If Ren Narita vs Shota Umino is a glimpse into the future then NJPW is going to be just fine. While the announcement of Ren, Shota and Tsuji being the New Three Musketeers turned everybody that follows New Japan to do the woman and cat yelling at each other meme on twitter including the three wrestlers themselves it really is just a sign of wrestling. Take something great and cool and just add new to it and what can go wrong, like the New Rockers for example.

The 20 minute time limit really played into this match being what it was. While the argument that we are not getting classics in the block stages is understandable with 10 minutes less to play with, the idea of matches under 20 minutes not being able to be great is not a good take. The urgency seen in matches on the first four nights has been fun to watch and to be honest after three years of watching matches go 20-30 minutes in the G1 that didn't need to I'm liking this new way.

The final five minutes was fun and the booking call to go the full 20 gets the new time limit over. ****1/4

Yota Tsuji did Yota Tsuji things. Kaito Kiyomiya did Kaito Kiyomiya things in their Kiyomiya vs Tsuji match. Kaito's journey through the month meant he should have been the winner and he was but of course people questioned the loss on Tsuji's end. It feels like the story they are telling is that Yota is fun as hell to watch yet can't get the W when he needs to. Hang on, does that make Yota Tsuji "Spursy"? I would say that maybe Yota should try being more pragmatic but that hasn't worked for Tottenham Hotspur in the last few years either. ****

Will Ospreay vs Taichi divided opinion. Some of the discords I frequent really ragged on the match. Joe Lanza in his review called it "perfect". Hate to be boring but I'm in the middle. Ospreay was really good in the first portion of the match as the man in control and on another level than the hometown hero Taichi and his sell job of the inner ear injury was Will proving again to be one of the great sellers in the history of this industry. For a sec I believed that he got rocked by the hit he endured but because wrestling you have to presume it's "working" until they convince you otherwise. But then they lost me in this match when Will offered his head unprotected for Taichi to hit the Kawada kicks. As someone who suffered an inner ear infection which caused a massive case of vertigo, I couldn't walk 5 steps without having a "reversal of fortune" and while I was thankful I didn't get to see that as part of my visual experience, as someone who had suffered from prolonged balance problems in the past, I found the offer of taking Kawada kicks stupid in the context of the match. But the final 5 minutes of the match proved that the Kawada kicks were just a blip. Unfortunately that blip deducted half a star from the match ****

Amongst Mikey Nicholls almost killing Aaron Henare (that Aussie/New Zealand rivalry can get out of hand sometimes), Tomohiro Ishii hitting another good match at G1 (if you have a less than ***3/4 match against Ishii, you're doing something wrong)

Eddie Kingston started his G1 campaign with a great Shingo Takagi match. Eddie Kingston and Takagi hit hard, they played the hits associated with puro and the chess element of the "G1 style" from the last few years taken up a notch almost as if it was speed chess this night with the spot where Shingo realising that he losing the chop battle, going to the punches but Eddie beating him in that battle too. ****1/2

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jr was the least best of the matches the pair have had in the rivalry but it was the best match The Ace can have right now. The talk of Hiroshi's knees has been part of the wrestling discourse for awhile with the attention the heaviest after his weekend in Toronto but with the ground game of Zack complimenting Tana's current predicament perfectly ****

Is this going to be Hiroshi's only 4 star match of the G1? I'm going to be confident and say no. Naito's knees may no longer be in the worst condition in the company but a match between the knees of Hiroshi and Tetsuya sounds like a disaster waiting to happen but with these two, you have to be confident that they'll figure it out on match night. You also have to be confident that Jeff Cobb can get a really good match out of Hiroshi. Yano though? Nah, Probably not

In front of a crowd so bad I thought I was watching an episode of Raw, night 3 was meh aside from a 4 star Ospreay match (if you have anything less than a consensus 4 star match with Will you're doing something wrong) and a fun main event with El Phantasmo and Kazuchika Okada.

While you get the feeling that Dave Meltzer writes Will Ospreay reviews with Whitney Houston's Greatest Love of All blasting over the speakers, you can't deny Ospreay's qualities. In Will Ospreay vs Yoshi Hashi. he gets the best singles match of Yoshi's career here. It's hard hitting, the jeopardy of the near falls are good and we got a new finisher from Will. Four and a half stars though from Dave though? **** from me

For a couple of minutes at the end of Kazuchika Okada vs El Phantasmo, they got me. I genuinely thought ELP was beating Okada on this night but Okada at the G1 is like Germany in the FIFA World Cup until 2018, they always end up winning. Phantasmo played up his character work as did Kazuchika who carried on channelling his inner-Jumbo Tsuruta and while I miss the back rake from ELP seeing the nipple twist amongst his offence was fun. Also watching the match with my dad, ELP is over with the 78-year old deaf guy sitting on the nearby sofa to mine. ****¼

Again, the crowd wasn't great on this night. Are Japanese fans actually watching WWE and going "the fans are sitting on their hands. This seems like a good idea?"

Ishii got himself another **** in the G1 match vs Tama Tonga. While my prediction of over 2.5 Ishii wins in this year's G1 feels wrong early into the tourney, my other prediction of over 5.5 in over 3 and a half star matches feels right (EVIL/Ishii is getting 1 star again isn't it) and while Tonga feels overpushed and Jado is the modern generation Jose Lothario (90s kids will get that reference) this was Tama's best outing in a while

Aaron Henare vs Shingo Takagi was better than their KOPW title match in March in my opinion. With another great use of the 20 minutes, the story of Aaron' neck hurting after that insanely gross match against Mikey Nicholls and the obvious chemistry between Shingo and Henare, this was really great. With the addition of the Mataora tattoos to his visual presentation adding to his story, I'm personally fascinated with Henare's story and it wouldn't surprise me if the New Zealander gets out of the block and into the knockout stages ****¼

With four matchdays over, we've learned that in Block A, SANADA might not be the guy (to be fair, we already knew that) and that Block A might end up with more draws than a England team at the FIFA World Cup. Block B will be all roads through Okada vs Ospreay. The story of Block C will be Shingo Takagi coming from behind chasing the rest of the pack and D will probably end coming down to Naito vs Tanahashi

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