Previously on NJPW G1 Climax 30, many real-life things about wrestling are terrible, but Ishii and Suzuki, Naito and Tanahashi, and a bunch of other wrestlers still tore the house down on the first two nights of the tournament.
New Japan Pro Wrestling hit Hokkaido on September 23-24, 2020, for the third and fourth nights of the G1, which were more of a mixed bag than the first two, but still had some very bright highlights. Before we get to the shows, a few notes:
- I ended my first G1 30 review with match recommendations because the G1 is long and sometimes people just want and/or have time to look up the best of it. I’m going to keep doing that, but I want to note that this section is Match recommendations (except Yano matches because those are a given) because G1 season is Yano season and everybody should just watch all of the King of Pro Wrestling’s matches during this blessed time.
- Champions (besides the 6-man ones) have started taking Ls now, so I’ll be keeping track of Potential Title Shots Earned along with points earned now and italicizing the names of people who actually express interest in those titles.
- Shout out to the Young Lions Yota Tsuji, Yuya Uemura, and Gabriel Kidd for wrestling in the opener every night along with doing their dojo boy duties! They’re traveling more than any of the other wrestlers, which probably means they’re being required to engage in riskier pandemic behavior! I’ll probably never talk about these openers because there’s so much else going on, but they’ve all been good so far, with the right amount of energy and aggression to get everyone in the mood for a couple more hours of wrestling. Also, Tsuji’s clean-shaven face is upsetting, and I hope we see him start to grow everything back by the end of the tour, for his own good!
G1 Climax 30 Night 3 – September 23, 2020, in Hokkaido – A Block
Jeff Cobb def. Shingo Takagi
Shingo Takagi is not what you would call a “relatable” character but he does react the most like a normal person out of anyone on the NJPW roster when faced with having to fight Jeff Cobb. Takagi, who has now lost to Cobb three out of the three times he’s faced him in singles competition, is constantly blown away by the size and strength and ability to throw him around the ring of this man. It makes the first A Block match on September 23 very fun to watch, as well as very flattering to Cobb. Of course, this selling of Cobb is also ultimately flattering to Shingo, whose offense in this match is all framed as won in the face of tremendous adversity. And on a meta level, it’s always fun to see a jacked-up, power-type wrestler willing to energetically eat shit.
Another fun part about this mutually-flattering match is how cartoony it is. It’s two abnormal-looking guys doing mostly more traditional wrestling moves (They pull off a bear hug in 2020!) and producing excitement without taking things too seriously. For me, it produced nostalgia for an earlier era of wrestling, probably one I didn’t actually experience, and that was a lot of fun.
In the context of this year’s G1, this match gets Cobb on the board through his second strong performance in a row. It also puts Shingo in a difficult position going into a match against Will Ospreay, the guy who ended his eight-month undefeated streak in last year’s Best of the Super Junior final and is undefeated in G1 30 so far. These early losses for Takagi could easily be more than paid off with a win on the 27th, in what’s also a rematch from what won the NJPW fan poll for 2019’s match of the year and is in his former promotion Dragon Gate’s home town of Kobe. That’s some very friendly booking if that’s how Takagi’s G1 trajectory ends up playing out.
Kazuchika Okada def. Yujiro Takahashi
Finally, the rematch we’ve all been yearning for! There’s really nothing interesting about Okada vs. Yujiro Whatever Number This Is aside from offense by the Tokyo Pimp towards the end that was a little unexpected. Okada doesn’t look great and moves pretty slowly, in a similar gear to the Ibushi match – if you’ve been watching Okada for a while, you know the deal. My biggest takeaway from this is that it’s honestly sweet how excited Yujiro is backstage to be in the G1, and I’m preemptively happy for him to get whatever spoiler win he gets over somebody down the line.
Taichi def. Minoru Suzuki
Taichi vs. Suzuki in their only singles bout aside from that one on a 2016 Taka Taichi show was my most anticipated match of Night 3. While it finished strong and started very promisingly with all the mutual eye-raking and murderous choking, most of it was a letdown. The brawling outside the ring might have played better if the audience could make noise, but the silence combined with the type of brawling it was and Suzuki’s facial acting choices quickly dragged the match down. Back in the ring, Suzuki’s acting continued to resemble self-parody for a while. However, it was still fun to see Taichi in a rare sympathetic position, and it was exciting when these two finally got to the more straightforward in-ring action. That quick setup into the Black Mephisto was also had Taichi’s second consecutive finish that made him look awesome.
The takeaways from Taichi beating the Boss are 1) GOOD FOR HIM and 2) What does it mean? What happens now? Taichi-gun??? Suzuki just laughs maniacally backstage and Taichi plays things cool, sending a Suzukigun Is Fine message, but he also looks very interested in the NEVER title, so we’ll see! If there does turn out to be drama bubbling under the surface that bursts out in a breakup or leadership change angle, I’d definitely be interested in seeing it.
Will Ospreay def. Tomohiro Ishii
As I explained in my first G1 30 article, I’m not reviewing Will Ospreay’s matches right now because, as I wrote about in-depth here and here, there’s credible evidence he took part in the blacklisting of the wrestler Pollyanna in the UK scene after she came forward about being raped, and no company he works for seems to have taken any kind of action about this.
RevPro posted a new code of conduct earlier today, and while it like a great step if it’s implemented in real life like it is in writing, it doesn’t mean as much as it could when there’s evidence that Ospreay has violated huge swaths of the Dignity at Work Policy and he’s still the RPW British Heavyweight Champion and face of the company. The excuse that Pollyanna or Scott Wainwright never worked at RevPro is an obvious misinterpretation of the point that shows how easily these kinds of policies can be abused if they’re just followed by letter and not in spirit. Nothing being done about Ospreay sends the message that these policies don’t apply if you’re a big enough star, and if that’s the case, though they could have some benefits, they seem like putting a fresh coat of paint on a house infested with termites.
As far as NJPW goes, Ospreay’s obviously in the G1, and looks like still getting the same huge push he’s been getting basically since Kenny Omega gave notice. NJPW doesn’t have any shame about promoting him to their English-speaking audience; the NJPW Global Twitter account even recently advertised a new Ospreay shirt you can’t buy outside of Japan yet. All of the comments on that ad, by the way, are either from people yelling at the company about Ospreay being a blacklister and a rape apologist or from people denying all the evidence and caping for their hero online, choosing to be hostile to those concerned about the sexual abuse that everyone can see, post-Speaking Out, is a huge problem in the wrestling industry. The company choosing to side with these people really makes it seem like would make it super fun to go to an NJPW show in an English-speaking country if you are a woman or anyone who doesn’t hate them!
This review column continues to prioritize the abuse spotlighted by Speaking Out above pretend fighting, so every Ospreay match while there are no repercussions for this gets a star rating of who gives a shit out of five. If sexual violence is something you recognize as a terrible thing that’s a common part of real life then there’s no “setting the allegations/evidence aside” to enjoy wrestling moves. It’s immeasurably more distracting than stuff like “too much interference” or “that submission looks bad;” I compared it last month to the watching a match with the words “Brock Turner served three months for rape” flashing onscreen the whole time. Neither being able to put these allegations out of your mind and just watch a wrestling match or not being able to is an “objective” point of view; both reflect feelings and choices.
From the point of view of this column, NJPW’s refusal to acknowledge the allegations made against its international talent during Speaking Out continues to be a black mark on this year’s G1 and the company as a whole.
Jay White def. Kota Ibushi
NJPW’s September 23 G1 match closes with a strong showing from Jay White and Kota Ibushi. The success of this main event comes from avoiding all the usual problems with Jay White matches. He wrestles the match like he came in with a game plan (attacking one of Ibushi’s knees) and sticks to the plan until it gets him the win (with help from Gedo.)
All of White’s offense looks like it’s supposed to do something other than fill time, and it’s done in a way that’s exciting to follow. It’s less Periods of Extended Heel Control and more White looking like he decided after the knee whenever he gets in the chance, even when he can just get one move in. This type of performance looks way more damaging to the babyface, is less repetitive and more interesting to watch, and makes Jay look more like a credible threat than like a guy who’s just booked to be one.
White’s performance is easier to have things to say about in review form, but while this stands out as one of his best matches, he also doesn’t overshadow Ibushi, who delivers with everything he does, especially wants he goes into Demon Mode.
Overall, it’s a great main event and a great look for Jay White, and the icing on the cake is White’s post-match promos where he breathes very heavily on the mic like a freak and effectively sells his upcoming match with Okada in Kobe—where White and Gedo betrayed him about two years ago— and brings back the very good bit about how he singlehandedly sold out Madison Square Garden. This A Block show was not great, but at least it closed as well as possible.
G1 Climax 30 Night 4 – September 24, 2020, in Hokkaido – B Block
Hirooki Goto def. Sanada
The September 24 G1 Climax show both begins and ends like the previous night’s concluded, with a serious-business body part match. I think this might also be the best, or at least most distinctive, match that Sanada and Goto have ever had.
Sanada vs. Goto plays out a lot like Kenta vs. Goto, with the key difference of Goto getting it done in the end. Goto shines in this type of badass-but-forty performance, and Sanada, after a match that showed off his comedy chops, looks like a killer on offense. If Sanada had won this match he would have looked like a potential G1 finalist for reasons other than the new costume and being booked against Evil on the last night of block competition. As it is, he looks like all he needs to do now is keep wrestling like this and getting results and continuing to touch up the toner on his new hair because otherwise the whole look is going to fall apart. And I’m choosing to believe he can do it!
Toru Yano def. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Yano season continues to be a rare bright spot in this terrible period of history. He and Tanahashi (NJPW’s two aces) start their match with some hold-to-hold and striking that calls back to an earlier era of the Sublime Master Thief, but they end it with full comedy ridiculousness. The whole sequence of Tanahashi taping over Yano’s eyes and Yano still managing win with a low blow and a roll up because he is the certified King of Pro Wrestling and of course he can do this blindfolded. He could probably do it in his sleep if he had to! I loved every second of this match.
Juice Robinson def. Kenta
The story of Juice vs. Kenta is of the legendary wrestler dominating his opponent for most of the match, but Juice, with his mix of power and fighting spirit and everything we like about him, coming out on top in the end. This is a tried and true structure for a match, but it doesn’t work that well when Kenta’s actual wrestling doesn’t fit what you’re supposed to expect from his resume. I think this is supposed to be “a hard-hitting matchup,” but aside from Kenta’s palm strikes, it always looks like Juice is hitting harder. If Kenta’s performance here was more like the one in his bout a few days earlier with Goto, I think this match would have worked a lot better.
The best things related to this match, besides the revelation that Juice will now pull down the straps of his wife beater like it’s a singlet but because it’s a wife beater and not a singlet it will look very perverted, are the backstage promos, from two of NJPW’s best in front of the backdrop. Juice starts his speech by declaring he sharted (Could this be the first use of “poopsie daisy” is NJPW history?) and goes on to drop his own shoot name and call Tanahashi, his next opponent, a sexy old tiger, and it’s all completely endearing. Kenta cuts one of his rare promos where he gets “real” talking about his time in NXT and personal journey to get back to wrestling like he wanted and functionally goes full babyface. Here, the post-WWE self-actualization journey – not just for him, but for anyone – is so important to Kenta that he doesn’t care that Juice beat him, although he is going to kick his ass when, it’s implied, Juice comes for the U.S. title shot briefcase down the road.
These promos sell this most likely impending storyline really well, and I could definitely see Juice vs. Kenta II being a lot better. The weirdest thing about this angle is that though I guess Juice is the one true U.S. champion in a way (spiritually or something like that), the idea of Kenta vs. Mox for the first time is a lot more appealing, so it’s hard to really support the babyface there. However, if they do the briefcase match in Japan, which seems most likely, I feel like that should be less of an issue. (That whole last sentence is complete speculation though.)
Evil def. Yoshi-Hashi
Evil vs. Yoshi-Hashi is the biggest surprise hit of the tournament for me, and I think my favorite Yoshi-Hashi match I’ve ever seen. I lost my mind at Evil just sitting down for Yoshi-Hashi’s notoriously long entrance and then our 6-Man champion taking out him and Dick Togo with his Monkey King staff. Every moment of Yoshi-Hashi unleashing righteous violence against the guy who broke Hiromu’s brain is so satisfying and fun to watch. The time off and possibly championship win did Yoshi-Hashi’s wrestling a world of good and his underdog stories are so much more effectively told now, with more engaging action.
As for Evil, he really struggled to win this match and put points on the board, in a way that doesn’t make the former double champ look “strong,” but I think he’s making this booking work. Both of his block matches so far have been entertaining and so is he and Togo’s self-aware promo bit about the sanctity of the G1. The future of Bullet Club Evil feels up in the air, especially with Jay and Kenta back, but he’s handling it well so far.
Tetsuya Naito def. Zack Sabre Jr.
Tetsuya Naito and Zack Sabre Jr. have worked well together several times in the past, and they do it again in this main event where they both work each other’s necks like ‘let’s see who snaps first, bitch!’ In addition to the consistent theme of neck-targeting that keeps the long-ish match easy to follow and both guys delivering at what they typically do best, we also see some less than typical range from them. Zack busts out that surprise swinging DDT and Naito does a lot of mat work, which isn’t new for him but is something we haven’t seen from him yet this year.
The weak point of this match is the last few minutes before the finish when Naito and Zack do the NJPW-typical thing where they start countering the beginning of each other’s finishers or big moves very quickly, but none of these counters look good at all. At one point Zack just lets go of an Octopus Hold and very obviously gets in position for the Destino. This and the kneeling fighting spirit forearm exchange are the two things that NJPW insists on putting in matches constantly and sometimes they look good, but they very often don’t and seem like they’re just in the match in the first place because this is the type of thing that’s supposed to happen in big NJPW matches. This B Block show was great and Naito vs. ZSJ was mostly very good, but this part really took me out right at the end.
Match recommendations (aside from Yano matches, which are a given):
- Night 3: Jay White vs. Kota Ibushi
- Night 4: Evil vs. Yoshi-Hashi
- 4 points – 2-0 – Jay White, Taichi, Will Ospreay
- 2 points – 1-1 – Jeff Cobb, Kazuchika Okada, Kota Ibushi, Minoru Suzuki
- 0 points – 0-2 – Shingo Takagi, 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
- NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship: Juice, Kenta, Suzuki, Ospreay, Evil