Previously on NJPW G1 Climax 30, the double champ continued his winning streak and Yoshi-Hashi and Evil had the surprise hit of the tournament. Also, could that be Taichi-gun I see on the horizon?
Now we’re back with a review of only one G1 show (what???), September 27’s night of A Block competition in Kobe. The show features some Kobe-relevant matches and a lot of quality action, including a way more respectable fight than you might expect between two of NJPW’s sleaziest characters.
Yujiro Takahashi 'Miami Shine'
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) September 27, 2020
Taichi def. Yujiro Takahashi
The tournament matches begin with Taichi vs. Yujiro Takahashi, and it is a tragedy of our times that this had to happen without Pieter and Miho Abe in attendance. “What’s a King without his Queen…,” as a picture of two lions with a heavy sepia filter in the Enemies Quotes subsection of the Popular Quotes section of Pinterest once said. It’s also Yujiro’s most interesting G1 30 match so far, and the Taichi’s second match in a row in which he’s been presented in a babyface-ish light.
The match is about ten minutes long and fits well in the block competition opener position, ahead of four matches that viewers know will be more serious and intense. Taichi and the Tokyo Pimp are foreign object-wielding heels, but they’re on their best behavior for most of their fight. Taichi yells at Yujiro to step his game up, bringing up his No Limit past, and Yujiro actually kind of does! The only completely heel maneuvers are Yujiro countering the setup for a powerbomb with a long bite, and Taichi winning by low blow and Gedo Clutch. It’s not the best match on the card, but I think it’s the best version of a Pieter-less, Miho-less Taichi vs. Yujiro match that anyone could hope for.
Minoru Suzuki def. Jeff Cobb
My favorite thing about Minoru Suzuki vs. Jeff Cobb is that they start by showing the most special thing about them working together: their shared high-level amateur wrestling ability. Cobb was an Olympian in 2004 and Suzuki an Olympic alternate in the 1980s (and then Pancrase, etc.) Of course, their more “realistic” wrestling still really isn’t “realistic” when Cobb is so much younger and weighs the same as a fully grown ninja turtle, but that doesn’t get in the way of the grappling at the beginning of this match being really enjoyable.
This is Cobb’s third consecutive match this G1 that’s really highlighted his strengths, making it easy to marvel at his power and his athleticism. A lot of my favorite live indie wrestling experiences have involved watching Jeff Cobb, so I extra appreciate how well his Holy shit?? factor that’s always so clear in legion halls is being conveyed this tournament. It’s also been cool to see Cobb switch up his offensive arsenal more than I remember him doing the last few times he was on an NJPW tour. This match is under ten minutes long, but we get to see some shootier wrestling from him and we get moments like when it looks like he might counter a move from Suzuki into a tombstone, but then goes for a lawn dart into a powerslam and then into a standing moonsault. The whole range is on display.
Suzuki vs. Cobb is also the match in which Suzuki gets his groove back after losing to the former junior he stole from Kojima nine years ago. He’s confident whether he’s attacking Cobb with strikes or submissions, and his quick setup of the winning Gotch Style Piledriver looks great. You’ve got to love him doing a bunch of crowd work on his way out, prompting/threatening the announce team and the crowd to clap for him and smiling on the ramp as the “kaze ni nare” part of Kaze Ni Nare hits like “Yeah, I’m still that guy.”
This was the night’s second fun, short match in a row, and both guys come out of it looking good. (For Cobb, at least as a guy you want to watch have wrestling matches, if also a guy who lost to someone in his fifties in the shortest match on the show.)
Kota Ibushi def. Tomohiro Ishii
Kota Ibushi and Tomohiro Ishii are a historically foolproof pairing, and it’s no surprise they have an amazing match on September 27. There’s no version of Ibushi that isn’t tough, but Ishii brings out the toughest version of him faster than almost anyone else. Ibushi’s like three-quarters of the way to demon mode the moment they’re standing in the ring together.
Ishii vs. Ibushi is so fun and exciting not just because they play two insane people who hit hard, but because they’re both masters of knowing when to sell and no-sell, when to dodge moves and when to eat them. The audience knows what to expect from these two, and they give you what you want while switching things up enough that you never know when to expect it.
Also, a huge part of why this match is so fun and exciting is because these are two insane people who hit hard. At one point they do like a horizontal 69 for head-kicks and it’s amazing. After the match, Ibushi says backstage that he wants to face Ishii as much as possible, and I completely support him getting what he wants.
Shingo Takagi def. Will Ospreay
Shingo Takagi vs. Will Ospreay II is the rematch of the 2019 Best of the Super Juniors final, which included Takagi using Made In Japan in New Japan for the first time and ended with the first loss of his NJPW run. The match won the company’s fan poll for favorite of the year. These two were supposed to go one-on-one for the second time in the first round of the 2020 New Japan cup, but travel restrictions meant we got Sho vs. Shingo II instead.
The match is given some extra stakes aside from “That match people liked last year? We’re doing it again!”, which is a valid reason to book matches in a tournament. Ospreay goes into it undefeated in the G1 and proclaiming he’s the Best In The World (he also does this after losing.) Because he’s a dick, he’s extra excited to beat Shingo in Dragon Gate’s hometown of Kobe. Shingo, meanwhile, is only defeated in the G1 and has the chance to put points on the board against a guy he really wants to beat. Shingo doesn’t bring up the significance of the location in the build for this match, but it is notable this show takes place in Kobe World Hall, where Dragon Gate holds their biggest show of the year every year, a show that Shingo main-evented four times. NJPW has put Takagi in featured matches in Kobe before, but the location was no guarantee he was going to win; this is also where he lost to Goto on last year’s Destruction tour.
So with all the significance and hype behind this match, how did it turn out? Who cares. As I’ve written about several times previously, there is significant, credible evidence that Will Ospreay took part in the blacklisting of a wrestler who said she was raped by one of his friends. He has faced zero professional consequences for this. RevPro didn’t even take their British Heavyweight Championship off of him, saying loud and clear that they’re completely fine with this person being the face of their company. They put out a new Code of Conduct, but it doesn’t say much while they do nothing about Ospreay engaging in so much of the behavior they say they won’t tolerate. If the issue of widespread abuse and sexual violence in wrestling is ever going to be addressed in a meaningful way, the culture of blacklisting those who speak out about it needs to be dealt with, and big stars and “good wrestlers” need to face the same type of repercussions as wrestlers who aren’t “important.” So until this issue is actually addressed my review of every Will Ospreay match is going to be that this whole situation is disgusting and harmful.
This match produced some Will Ospreay heel question mark comments, among the English-speaking NJPW fandom at least, that I want to address. Ospreay is acting more heelish lately, but he is so historically terrible at promos that I feel like he could be trying to convey “heel,” “cocky, cool tweener,” and/or “Kenny Omega” on the mic since he’s returned to New Japan. He also has a history of doing heelish things for short periods of time and then going back to normal, see: ahead of his Dominion 2018 match with Hiromu, after his NEVER title match with Ibushi, and for about two days of the build to his Wrestle Kingdom 15 match with Hiromu. It’s also not uncommon for him to do character things that don’t really make sense. For example, that new t-shirt I mentioned in the previous review says “The Aerial Assassin” with “Aerial” crossed out, but Ospreay still does the same aerial moves he’s known for and is just bigger while he does them. So maybe he’s supposed to be a heel, maybe he isn’t, and if he is it could wear off at any time, judging from past behavior.
A version of this theory is that Ospreay 1) is a heel now, and 2) him turning heel is a genius move to lean into his “heat.” If true, for someone to recognize the reasons people are angry about Ospreay and decide to not do anything about them in real life, but to just try to work the marks with the same logic of if people starting casting Mel Gibson in major motion pictures but only as villains, that would actually not be a brilliant creative decision, but a sign of complete moral vacancy. Thinking that heel heat is essentially the same as frustration and concern about the issues brought up during Speaking Out and about what happened to Pollyanna is like thinking you can buy a car with Monopoly money.
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) September 28, 2020
Jay White def. Kazuchika Okada
As Jay White made sure to remind everyone before and after the September 27 main event, Kobe is very significant to his history too. This is where he and Gedo (and Jado) betrayed Okada and kicked off the Switchblade Era of the Bullet Club, an event he calls “the single most important moment in all of pro wrestling” in a very good promo. That betrayal turned up the heat on White and Okada’s simmering rivalry, leading to a Wrestle Kingdom grudge match and a title match at Madison Square Garden. From what I remember of those matches, I think their bout this weekend might be the best version of White vs. Okada so far.
White pursues a similar strategy against Okada as he did against Ibushi on the previous A Block show, but targeting the Rainmaker’s lower back (taped up a little here, taped up a lot more during the match with Yujiro) instead of his knee. As in the Ibushi match, this body part-focused approach is a great look for Jay. It provides a narrative for the audience to focus on, it keeps all of White’s offense looking motivated, and I think it fits how his character is supposed to be a man who always has a plan, or at least says he does. It also builds extra sympathy for the babyface because it’s easy to imagine how much it would suck to experience this type of attack.
Okada gets some cool moments in this match, especially that double DDT to White and Gedo on the ramp, but I think the best thing this main event does for him is minimize his weaknesses. The way he’s moved in this tournament and earlier this year has often reminded me of that part in The True Kazuchika Okada documentary about his 2019 G1 when he talked about a swollen ligament and fluid in his knee becoming so painful that it kept him up at night and showed a physical therapist that he could barely get halfway to a bodyweight squat. I don’t know the specific reason Okada’s been moving more slowly and with less intensity more much of this year, but the damage he takes and selling he has to do in this match make it work. And most of the offense he does get in looks good, though my reaction to the Cobra Clutch is still very much Please do the Rainmaker.
The show ends with White getting the three-count after a good-looking Blade Runner and bragging about his accomplishments, with only he and Taichi standing undefeated on the top of A Block. On paper and in a kayfabe bubble, this heightens the stakes for the next A Block show, on which Okada will take on Taichi and White will face Ospreay. If either of the heels win those matches, they’ll be undefeated in the G1 after a win over a big-name babyface and ideally have extra heat for it.
In reality though, plenty of people are not in the mood to root for Ospreay, who will at least be the babyface by default for that match, for serious real-life reasons, a situation reminiscent of the recent White vs. Flip Gordon match on NJPW Strong. The presentation of international talent to the international audience is going great here, folks, nothing to see!
Match recommendation: Kota Ibushi vs. Tomohiro Ishii
- 6 points – 3-0 – Jay White, Taichi
- 4 points – 2-1 – Kota Ibushi, Minoru Suzuki, Will Ospreay
- 2 points – 1-2 – Jeff Cobb, Kazuchika Okada, Shingo Takagi
- 0 points – 0-3 – Tomohiro Ishii, Yujiro Takahashi
- 4 points – 2-0 – Juice Robinson, Tetsuya Naito, Toru Yano
- 2 points – 1-1 – Evil, Hirooki Goto, Kenta, Zack Sabre Jr.
- 0 points – 0-2 – Hiroshi Tanahashi, Sanada, Yoshi-Hashi
Potential title shots earned:
- NEVER Openweight Championship: Taichi
- Contract for an IWGP U.S. Championship match: Juice Robinson
- IWGP Heayweight Tag Team Championship: Tetsuya Naito
- RPW British Heavyweight Championship: Shingo Takagi
- NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship: Juice, Kenta, Suzuki, Ospreay, Evil, Ibushi