Previously on New Japan Pro Wrestling‘s annual expedition up the Mount Everest of pro wrestling, Goto/Yoshi-Hashi and Shingo/Ibushi had IRL friend battles! Also, Taichi insincerely said that Jay White should team up with him, and they should actually do that and take over the world.
With only two nights of block competition left for each group (by the time this article runs), the cream of each crop is finally rising to the top. Night 13 of G1 Climax 30 on October 10, 2020, in Osaka, whittles the A Block down to four potential finalists. Cobb mathematically eliminates Ishii from contendership by handing him his fourth loss, Ospreay eliminates Taichi, Ibushi eliminates Suzuki, and Okada eliminates Takagi.
The guys who could still win the block are the same guys who led the block at the end of the previous A Block show: White, Okada, Ibushi, and Ospreay. The group is now clearly stratified into what I’ll call the World Title (or future world title) Tier and the NEVER Title Tier, with Cobb, Suzuki, Shingo, Taichi, and Ishii in a five-way tie for second place. (Yujiro, at 0-7, is in his own special category that I’ll call the Best Hat Tier because I feel bad for him.)
These tiers and that you could eyeball them before the tournament began has made the overall drama of A Block less interesting to follow than that of B Block, where you have the double champ killing it every show and winning a lot, but also Evil, Sanada, Tanahashi who can’t be ruled out as finalists (at this time this was written) (along with Kenta until recently) but whose potential NJPW futures feel more nebulous.
All that being said, this Saturday’s A Block show might be the group’s best! It’s a mostly very good collection of varied wrestling matches, with some of its matchups rare or completely new.
Block competition begins with a match that convinces me that even though Jeff Cobb can’t win the G1, he could easily win a King of Chop-style NJPW headbutt tournament:
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) October 10, 2020
Jeff Cobb def. Tomohiro Ishii
Jeff Cobb vs. Tomohiro Ishii was Cobb’s best match of last year’s G1 as far as I remember, and they put on another good one to kick off A Block action on October 10. Most of the best parts of this match (meaning most of the match) are when Ishii and Cobb are wrestling competitively, going close to move for move and blow for blow. The match is based around their mutual toughness and pretty traditional heavyweight movesets, but also includes spots that allow them to showcase their individual strengths. Cobb’s exceptional skill at throwing around other humans is on display, and Ishii shows off the best no-selling and attempted no-selling in the game.
Less serious highlights of this match are all the moments that emphasize how much smaller Ishii is than Cobb. The Stone Pitbull’s legs dangling as he’s lifted up during the struggle for a brainbuster is something you truly love to see.
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) October 10, 2020
Jay White def. Yujiro Takahashi
Jay White vs. Yujiro Takahashi is heavy on the drama, light on the wrestling, and it’s probably Yujiro’s best match of the G1 so far. If this G1 was full of matches like these, the tournament wouldn’t be what it is and neither would NJPW, but in the context of this show and how the G1 30 has been going, it works!
What makes White vs. Yujiro work is that both wrestlers and Gedo stay true to their characters, who regular New Japan viewers know very well by now, and everyone commits to the bit one hundred percent without going too over the top. Whether Yujiro initially agreed to throw the match and changed his mind or always meant to kick out, I completely believe that he would kick out and go for the win after White not only showed up in sweat pants and gym shoes but started messing with the ref and restarting the count, not even allowing Yujiro the dignity of getting this over quickly. Sure, he’s a jobber who bites people and sometimes hits them with a pimp stick, but anyone paying attention to his G1 at all would know he’s been taking the tournament seriously.
Jay is so obnoxious in this match (and always) that I was completely rooting for Yujiro to get a shock win, but the match ends with a distraction from Gedo, a low blow, a Blade Runner, and ten points for the Switchblade. The four-minute match instantly has about forty implications for the intra-Bullet Club drama that’s emerged over the past few shows. Its events are a real misstep by Jay, who usually seems to vibe with other faction members really well, as Bullet Club leader, just as it looks like someone else might be gunning for his throne. (Yes, gunning is supposed to be wordplay; I am so sorry.)
Jay’s lecture-promo at Evil was prompted by his and Dick Togo’s cheating against Kenta, but now Jay and his own 90’s junior heavyweight have done the same thing against Yujiro. He could argue this isn’t hypocrisy because Yujiro started it and also should have been more cooperative with the Jay 1 plan for the sake of the team, but those aren’t arguments in the context of how he behaved during the match wouldn’t make him sound like a great leader. Yujiro says backstage that Jay has been the best BC leader ever (and he’s been there for all but Devitt, so he should know) but he cryptically makes it sound like that’s not the case anymore, or that someone else could be even better.
If this turns into something like Gedo being in on Evil’s plan, and/or all the other Bullet Club guys in Japan kicking Jay out of the faction with his tail between his legs, I could see the angle leading to a Jay White face turn, but for now, it’s working well as a heel vs. heel feud. All these people suck and nobody is really “right” or completely sympathetic, but there’s enough of a sense of who all the characters involved are and what they want that it’s easy to get invested in the Drama and speculation. Also, after how Jay acted in Chaos, it’s kind of satisfying to see him get a taste of his own medicine (an achievement-focused goth coming in and refusing to cooperate with anything.)
Will Ospreay def. Taichi
As in previous G1 reviews, I’m not going to talk about this Ospreay match in-depth because of the evidence that the RevPro British Heavyweight Champion/guy tied for first place in A Block took part in the blacklisting of the UK wrestler Pollyanna after she alleged that she was sexually assaulted by one of his friends, and no company Ospreay represents has meaningfully responded to this so far.
Abuse in wrestling is widespread, way more real and important than wrestling moves and pretend fighting, and is impacted by how fans react as consumers when they know about it. Ignoring these matches’ real-life circumstances is not a neutral action; fans ignoring them gives promoters and wrestlers permission to continue ignoring them. (I’m sure people are of me saying this every A Block article, but when you do a series with a bunch of installments, the first time you don’t follow the “every episode/article is someone’s first episode/article” is when you get confused comments.)
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) October 10, 2020
Kota Ibushi def. Minoru Suzuki
Kota Ibushi vs. Minoru Suzuki is the third point in the triangle of matches in which the A Block guys with shoot fighting skills bring those skills to the fore in their matches against each other (Ibushi vs. Cobb and Suzuki vs. Cobb are the other two points.) If you’re checking out this article and haven’t watched that much of the G1 and that sounds appealing to you, I would definitely recommend all of those matches, but especially the very fun and insane Ibushi vs. Suzuki.
The opening sequence of all strikes, kicks, and attempts at those instantly makes this match unique and memorable. It also quickly brings to mind the other similarities between Ibushi and Suzuki: besides martial arts skills, they also share being two of New Japan’s most murdery. There are some clear heel vs. face moments here, but the match is a contest to prove who’s the strongest fighter much more than it’s a hero struggling against a villain.
Ibushi’s clearly higher than Suzuki on the New Japan totem pole, but a lot of moments in this match play like he’s working to step up to Suzuki’s level at this type of wrestling. He counters a leg lock by grabbing the same hold on his opponent, he leaves the ring to meet Suzuki on the ramp to trade strikes, and he never hesitates to respond to kicks, slaps, and elbows in kind. Ibushi points out backstage that he didn’t do any high-flying in this match, and, after all that trash talk in the ring, gives it an extremely wholesome review. Fighting Suzuki was fun and reminded him he still has so much to learn! No update on the state of his teeth so let’s assume they’re still fine!
I already briefly mentioned Suzuki’s best moments in this match, but I want to emphasize now that this is some of the best of recent work. With the evil aspect of his character barely visible and the craziness not as over the top as it could have been, this match makes it extra clear why Suzuki’s still a great and valuable professional wrestler beyond his theme song. He executes everything perfectly and is the guiding force of this match, and he pulls that off while being 52 and smaller and less jacked than his opponent (Suzuki looks amazing for 52, but Ibushi looks amazing for 27 and he’s 38.) It never feels like Ibushi is making allowances for him because of his age because Suzuki so fully embodies the idea that he’s a master at what he’s doing in this match and he executes it all so skillfully.
The final thing to talk about in this match is the winning pin. The pinning position is incredibly sexual, and Suzuki’s smile makes it way more so, and it casts the whole match in a new light like maybe all along it was really a look at how courtship works for demonic fighting people who are also frequently the subject of feverish thirstposting. The Kamigoye does not naturally lead into a pin like this, but Ibushi and Suzuki went out of their way to do it and I must respect their bold artistic choices.
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) October 10, 2020
Kazuchika Okada def. Shingo Takagi
Kazuchika Okada and Shingo Takagi made their wrestling debuts in the same year and almost in the same promotion. They both trained with Toryumon in the early 2000s, Okada at the company’s original school in Mexico and Takagi at its dojo in Japan. By the time they both debuted in 2004, these branches of the company had split, the promotion where Shingo debuted had changed its name to Dragon Gate for copyright reasons, and Toryumon Mexico and Dragon Gate no longer interacted. This bonus real-life lore impacts how the October 10 main event plays out even less than the history behind Takagi-Ibushi did, but it still makes me think that maybe this match Último Dragón smiling down from heaven (he’s alive; I just assume they let him hang out there sometimes) like it had me smiling at my laptop screen right up until the end.
Okada vs. Shingo is over twenty-seven minutes long and, along with Naito-Tanahashi and Naito-Sanada, it’s the third long match this tournament that’s had me hooked every second. It’s also Okada’s best of the G1 so far. I don’t know if that’s because he was saving his big match self for the home stretch or because this opponent brought it out of him or what, but he really showed up. Just in time for Okada to cut his first top guy main event victory promo of the tournament, we get the combination of top guy presence, easier movement, and Okada just looking a lot more physically comfortable doing pro wrestling, and it’s really nice to see.
Speaking of “physically comfortable doing pro wrestling,” holy shit, Shingo Takagi in this match. This might be a spicy take, but Shingo is extremely good at his job! At no point in this match is he not killing it. Every move looks amazing, his level of intensity is always perfect, and all of his crowd work moments land. This entire match is exciting, but its most standout moment is when, after it looks like Okada might bust out the Rainmaker when Shingo escapes the Money Clip, Takagi hits his own Rainmaker. The move is technically not the Rainmaker, I guess, but a Rainmaker-setup for the Pumping Bomber, but in the context of this match it’s not only Takagi hitting a Rainmaker on the Rainmaker, but Takagi hitting the first Rainmaker of the tournament.
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) October 10, 2020
That brings me to the one downside of this match and the most glaring one of post-hiatus Okada, the push to get the Money Clip over as a finisher on the same level as the Rainmaker. It’s often difficult to tell how much things are getting over in COVID-era New Japan because of the cheering ban, but there have been moments that have showed something was really working, like the illegal boos to Evil’s heel turn and some audible surprised reactions to nearfalls (including when Shingo kicks out of the pin Okada used to put away Suzuki and Cobb.) In this match, we get the flipside of that coin, what sounds like audible confirmation the Money Clip is not working by the sudden, dead silence of the crowd whenever Okada locks it on, with clapping only beginning again when it looks like Takagi could break free.
Judging by the response to Okada’s post-match promo and Okada during the rest of the match, I don’t think this means people hate Okada now! Thinking about the reactions to even heels’ finisher on clapping-only shows, I also doubt the silence was just because Osaka just didn’t want him to win. The Money Clip is not over in general, and that’s not helped here by Okada-Shingo being the first match in which Okada’s opponent brings up that he’s not doing the Rainmaker beforehand and asks for it. There are moments in the match when it looks like Okada could maybe go for a Rainmaker, and Shingo doing the move is a badass moment, and it’s still a let-down that Okada doesn’t do it and uses this lame finisher instead.
This promos backstage make it seem like maybe Shingo not tapping out and the match ending via ref stoppage was supposed to be a good look for him, that’s never the case when someone passes out to the Money Clip. It feels so forced that anyone would pass out from this whack move that it not only makes Okada’s opponent look bad, but it makes Okada look bad for having this move that’s been built up as the most powerful submission in a company full of way better-looking finishers. The Money Clip is the only move that an NJPW heavyweight has regularly used to knock out heavyweights in years (apart from the EBD Claw, which was an intentionally goofy-looking move by a midcard monster character so it’s not really the same thing.) Whenever Okada does the Rainmaker again it will likely be an amazing moment, but it’s not going to be worth these months of terrible match endings.
Overall, though, this match rules, and this show rules except for when it reminds you that the wrestling industry is disgusting and the parts of the wrestling world impacted by Speaking Out do not seem to value women as workers, consumers, or people whenever that might be inconvenient.
My Match Recommendation of the night is Ibushi vs. Suzuki, but whatever you feel like watching from this show will almost definitely be worth your time.
- 10 points – 5-2 – Jay White, Kazuchika Okada, Kota Ibushi, Will Ospreay
- 6 points – 3-4 – Jeff Cobb, Minoru Suzuki, Shingo Takagi, Taichi, Tomohiro Ishii
- 0 points – 0-7 – Yujiro Takahashi
B Block (these will be a day out of date by the time this gets published, but here’s how things stood after 10/10):
- 10 points – 5-1 – Tetsuya Naito
- 8 points – 4-2 – Evil
- 6 points – 3-3 – Hirooki Goto, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, Sanada, Toru Yano, Zack Sabre Jr.
- 4 points – 2-4 – Kenta
- 2 points – 1-5 – Yoshi-Hashi
Potential title shots earned:
- IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships: Sanada
- NEVER Openweight Championship: Taichi, Kazuchika Okada, Will Ospreay, Kota Ibushi
- Contract for an IWGP U.S. Championship match: Juice Robinson, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Evil, Sanada
- RPW British Heavyweight Championship: Shingo Takagi, Kota Ibushi
- KOPW 2020 (if that’s how this works): Juice Robinson, Hirooki Goto, Zack Sabre Jr.
- IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Tetsuya Naito, Kenta, Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Sanada, Jay White, Will Ospreay
- NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship: Juice, Kenta, Suzuki, Ospreay, Evil, Ibushi, Naito, ZSJ, Tanahashi, Naito