This was the week we've all waiting for mainly because it means 3 hour shows every other day that includes Chase Owens, Tanga Loa and Gabe Kidd every other day are no longer a thing for another 11 months. It also means that we get important decision matches which means the quality of in-ring action goes up big style (well, apart from one match) so let's look at the best from Week Three of the G1
How do you outsmart Gabe Kidd? That question is easier to answer than Is the Pope a Catholic? But Tsuji’s way of confusing Gabe was to introduce his legit twin brother to the masses and while the first portion of the match was fun silliness and is a potential foreshadowing for “twin magic” to happen in future matches (would it be any worse than the House of Torture bollocks we've seen) everything after Yota’s twin was out of the picture was a really fun match.
The trade of strikes, big moves and near-falls got the crowd into them and the match which will gave us interest in the Bullet Club Killers vs Reiwa Musketeers matches going forward akin to The Four Pillars facing off with the foreigners in AJPW in the early 90's.
As a match it was really good. While Narita has gotten stick during the G1 for his lack of it factor, the final two matches of Ren’s Climax saw him put Tippax over the criticisms with his Cobra Lock looking dangerous in the Chase Owens victory and the final few minutes of the Kiyomiya match which was dynamic and filled with urgency with the finish being great in this match. But the main take of the match and the bigger talking was to quote Voice of Wrestling’s Emerald FlowShow podcast, the Geekification of Kaito Kiyomiya.
AEW’s Eddie Kingston left the G1 in a stronger position than NOAH’s Kaito left the tournament. You imagine that Tony Khan pushed for Eddie to look good and to be fair, the Strong Openweight belt on Eddie’s waist helped his cause so why didn’t the NOAH’s powers push as successfully.
Rumours are that Kiyomiya is heading to WWE (yes folks, we could be getting Kiyomiya vs Duke Hudson in front of the NXT bots on a Tuesday night) and NOAH are just washing their hands of him. If that is the case, more fool Pro Wrestling NOAH. As the rep of NOAH, Kaito being pushed as an also-ran in the end made NOAH look really meh. The reigning N-1 Champ was to this year's Block A what Charlton Athletic were in the Premier League in the early 00's, they’re both there but we don’t know why.
In the end no-one won with Kaito being mid-table in Block A. NJPW didn’t win because get Okada vs Kiyomiya II which would have got interest if it had happened didn't. NOAH looked like a 2nd rate company and Kaito looked like a geek.
Hang on a second, WWE are going to have Kaito lose to Dominik Mysterio aren’t they?
The pair would hit their big moves that had gotten over in the weeks before like Umino’s stomp to counter the big offense of his opponent and Hikuleo looking for his combo of powerslam and chokeslam which he would hit to win and progress.
With the second son of Haku to qualify for the knockout stages for the second consecutive year, you have to ask why? Haku is revered in Japan and being the son of the Tongan legend was always going to be beneficial but this feels excessive. Is Gedo just booking this to get his friend Jado, who feels like modern generation Jose Lothario in his current variant, more appearances? Whatever the answer, the lack of the Reiwa Musketeers in the knockout stages feels short sighted.
You announce the new Musketeers, which is a big deal considering who the previous two incarnations of the trios were and none of them are in the Elite Eight? While the slow burn booking of new talent in puro is the norm, it has been the departure of that norm that has produced generational stars. Hashimoto beat Riki Choshu in the Tokyo Dome in less than 4 minutes, Misawa beat Tsuruta on that night in Budokan, Okada upset Tanahashi in 2012 and they ended up as stars in the decade afterwards. You could still give any of the Musketeers that would have had the long run in the G1 their Everest that is in line with Gedo’s booking over the years but having 0 of 3 progress feels like a booking decision that might harm the trio in the next few years.
Talk about an emotional roller coaster.
I've been a fan of ELP since I saw him wrestle in a nightclub in Birmingham in 2018 and despite my fandom of the guy, I've always thought he had more in him to turn the volume up to 10 and on this night he finally hit the maximum.
Ospreay did for ELP what Okada had done for many in the weeks before in Block B. ELP’s big flying moves hit perfectly and the near falls from the Gedo clutch and CR2 produced edge of the seat tension and ELP kicking out of Ospreay’s big moves got this ELP fan cheering from relief that he was still in the match. It needed Will’s new MDK finisher, the Storm Driver to get the win which I hope is done sparingly not because it’s “dangerous” (this attempt of this move was very safe) but because it gets the opponent over if Will has to use it to win their match. Kenta Kobashi used the Burning Hammer just seven times and it was over because of that.
It was a Ishii match and Mikey Nicholls is mad enough to do the quintessential Ishii match. What else can you say
This was a good way of getting Finlay over as the prime killer of the new Bullet Club and trying to prove that David isn’t the Graham Potter to Jay White’s Jose Mourinho, Kenny Omega’s Carlo Ancelotti and AJ Styles’ Antonio Conte. The move when Finlay threw Eddie into the post and Kingston did the “fencing” sell as per the scary incident on TNF with Tua Tagovailoa (which is part of the AEW banned list) was a good spot which increased the drama. Eddie’s selling afterwards was brilliant and the feeling that he ran out of gas in his loss was a better way for the AEW outsider to go out than the NOAH outsider.
I hated this. The match structure was the ugly love child of TNA when Jeff Jarrett was World Champ and Roman Reigns matches in the past year. Red Shoes gets pulled out of the ring and there is no DQ which begs the question, what is a disqualification in NJPW. I’m beginning to think a stabbing wouldn’t be. Shingo has the odds stacked against him and then eventually LIJ comes out to help him (If I was Shingo I would be asking questions of my stablemates) to a big pop and even when they saved the day, EVIL still wins. Shingo and LIJ came across as losers and the whole thing felt deflating. Just rubbish.
After Shane Haste caused him and Jeff Cobb to get double counted-out to give Zack Sabre. Jr a path to the quarters, which if you are going to book factions in a company, stuff like this actually has to happen, Zack needed to beat Hirooki Goto to progress and summoned 2021 Zack Sabre. Jr in the process to do so. Pushing the “6 seconds in each submission position” that got Zack into the hearts of NJPW fans and the post-match with Zack celebrating with a young kid in a Young Punks shirt felt like Zack’s official face turn which might end up being a freezing cold take in a few months.
In maybe the greatest “both guys have completely knackered knees” match ever, Naito and Tanahashi wrestled a match around a small package and it ruled. Helped by the commentary (Eddie Kingston to the surprise of no-one was great on commentary) and with Tanahashi hitting the big moves knowing it was his final singles in this years G1 (and maybe final singles match in awhile with how Hiroshi has struggled to cope with his knees declining so badly) the quality might not have been their 2016 series but it was still really great and while the Tornado DDT into a small package from Naito was not as gorgeous as the one hit on Zack earlier in the Block Stage, it has got even more over because of how Tanahashi’s head hit the mat so hard, penguins on the North Pole heard it. When Naito hits the move against Ospreay or maybe Okada, the pop will be massive.
They say sport tournaments do not start until the knockout stage. Well, they do because I've spent three weeks of my life watching the G1 but with (spoiler alert) two ****+ in the quarters and no Hikuleo in the semis, I would say the semi-finals will be classics but EVIL is involved. Kazuchika Okada will certify his standing as one of wrestling's Mt. Rushmore if he gets a ****+ out of EVIL.