G1 Climax 32 Day 11 Report: Tanahashi vs. EVIL, JONAH vs. Cobb

Originally published at G1 Climax 32 Day 11 Report: Tanahashi vs. EVIL, JONAH vs. Cobb

G1 Climax 32 Day 11 Report: Tanahashi vs. EVIL, JONAH vs. Cobb

For my money, Tuesday’s G1 show was one of the more enjoyable and easy to watch of the tournament, and likely the best since Night 4. Still, as we’ve crossed the halfway mark of the tourney, I’m starting to view the overall level of this year’s G1 as something of a disappointment, even when compared to last year’s tournament which suffered under the same restrictions, and an even less diverse roster. Using Cagematch’s overall show ratings, the first ten cards of the 32nd G1 are averaging 6.577 compared to the 7.059 average last year’s tournament sported through ten nights. It’d be nice to try to get a sense of how domestic audiences have felt about the tournament, but given fluctuations in COVID restrictions in Japan over the last year, it’s likely a fool’s errand to try to compare the draws of shows even in the same venue.

Speaking personally, Grappl is still down as of this writing, so I don’t have access to my ratings of last year’s individual matches, but the first two nights last year yielded matches that ended up on my personal Top Ten Matches of 2021 list (Shingo/Ishii and Okada/Tanahashi). While I’ve thought that four or five matches in this year’s G1 were wonderful (and the fact that a number of great matches have come from YOSHI-HASHI and David Finlay is a welcome surprise), I can’t imagine any of the extant matches being in consideration come December.

The pros and cons of the four-block system have been hotly debated by NJPW fans since it was announced, but as plenty of people pointed out even before the tournament began, the splitting up of the roster meant that there would be fewer opportunities for main event talent (or even your workhorses like Ishii) to meet up on your day-to-day cards. Sure, adding literal block semi-finals allows for some interesting storytelling possibilities even after the de facto playoffs of the last night(s) of regular G1 competition. But it also leads to situations like today’s card, where a match that was in the semi-final spot last year is in the main event this year, despite the fact that EVIL and Tanahashi have both been downcycled in terms of the overall promotion since then.

Will they be able to deliver something worthy of that main event spot? What will happen in one of the A Block’s most monstrous match-ups? On the eleventh day of the 32nd G1 Climax at the Ehime World Trade Center in Matsuyama, let’s find out.

  1. Undercard – The usual enjoyable but not specifically necessary undercard matches. Royce Isaacs had some impressive power spots and accidentally took out some of the lights while brawling with Ospreay. While initially not on the card, Ishii and Fale were added to the last undercard match at the last minute.
  2. G1 Climax 2022 Block D Match: Yujiro Takahashi vs. Juice Robinson – Slow, plodding, and to be avoided.
  3. G1 Climax 2022 Block B Match: Taichi vs. Chase Owens – A decent finishing stretch isn’t enough to recommend this match.
  4. G1 Climax 2022 Block C Match: Tetsuya Naito vs. Aaron Henare – A nice showcase of Naito’s charisma and Henare’s progress as a striker.
  5. G1 Climax 2022 Block A Match: JONAH vs. Jeff Cobb – An excellently paced monster mash that completely delivered on its potential for mammoth destruction. – RECOMMENDED
  6. G1 Climax 2022 Block C Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. EVIL – Moderately acceptable by the standards of House Of Torture overbooking, but not worthy of a G1 main event.

Jado & Tama Tonga vs. David Finlay & Kosei Fujita

Tama Tonga submits Kosei Fujita at 6:44.

United Empire (Great-O-Khan & Will Ospreay) vs. Team Filthy (Royce Isaacs & Tom Lawlor)

Great-O-Khan submits Royce Isaacs at 7:26.

Suzuki-gun (Lance Archer, TAKA Michinoku & Zack Sabre Jr.) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, SANADA & Shingo Takagi)

SANAD submits TAKA Michinoku at 7:47.

CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. BULLET CLUB (El Phantasmo, Gedo, Bad Luck Fale, Jay White & KENTA)

Toru Yano pins Gedo at 9:26.

G1 Climax 2022 Block D Match: Yujiro Takahashi vs. Juice Robinson

Juice refuses to too-sweet Yujiro and SHO, attacking both before the bell. There’s some slow brawling to start, and Juice drives both men into the guardrails. Juice is backdropped onto the concrete and takes an Olympic slam back inside. Juice responds with a Juice Box and is enraged at only getting a two count. Yujiro gets a Pimp Juice after a turnbuckle spot for two. Yujiro rolls Juice up for two while SHO tries to attack with his wrench. After a ref bump, Yujiro pokes Juice with his pimp cane a couple of times and hits his new Big Juice finisher (an impaler DDT) for the three-count.

Yujiro Takahashi defeats Juice Robinson via pinfall at 12:00.

The takeaway: The story here was that Juice is enraged at having lost to YOSHI-HASHI Finlay and wanted to take his frustration out on Yujiro, SHO, the ref, anyone. The problem with Juice playing his anger in a slow, seething style (rather than in an explosion of fury) is the contrast with Yujiro, whose offense looked especially sluggish, even by his low standards. Yujiro wasn’t able to sell Juice’s offense to any real effect, and the result was the most plodding match of the G1 to not feature Fale.

G1 Climax 2022 Block B Match: Taichi vs. Chase Owens

Chase plays along with Taichi’s sumo pantomime before taking Taichi outside for the expected guardrail spots. Owens hits a northern lights for two and like last year, begins leching on Miho Abe. Taichi rallies with some kicks and the pace picks up nine minutes in with some lariats from both men. Taichi evades a Bobby Eaton knee drop from the top and hits a gamengiri. Chase sets up a C trigger with some goofy sumo palm strikes, and after a series of finishing counters is struck by a big forearm which sets up the Black Mephisto.

Taichi defeats Chase Owens via pinfall at 13:25.

The takeaway: While the closing stretch of this was decent, the very slow and generic brawling which marked its first nine minutes really dragged, especially coming on the heels of the previous match. Without totally rehashing my comments from when these two met in last year’s G1, there’s something especially unpleasant about seeing Chase Owens harass women, even in kayfabe.

G1 Climax 2022 Block C Match: Tetsuya Naito vs. Aaron Henare

This starts fast, with both men sticking and moving with strikes, but this is the G1, so the guardrails need some attention as Henare holds the advantage. Back inside, Henare targets Naito’s busted knees. Naito rallies but is set back down with a nifty captured curb stomp. Henare goads Naito up for more MMA striking, but Naito has a tornado DDT for an answer. Naito works Henare’s neck and delivers a top rope rana, but Henare hits his Berserker Bomb. Nicely underlined strikes from both men set up a senton from Henare. Naito endures the Ultima full nelson which Henare takes to the ground, ducks out of a Streets Of Rage attempt and turns a second one into a modified Destino for two, and a straight-up version of Naito’s finisher keeps his G1 hopes alive.

Tetsuya Naito defeats Aaron Henara via pinfall at 17:32.

The takeaway: A win for Naito to avoid elimination was a fait accompli, of course, but these two told a straight-up and entertaining story along the way: Naito had to endure Henare’s striking long enough to soften the bigger man’s neck for the Destino. This was a match that made good use of Naito’s nearly limitless in-ring charisma, though it was also a nice showcase for Henare’s direct and impactful style.

G1 Climax 2022 Block A Match: JONAH vs. Jeff Cobb

The two big men lock up twice with neither beast getting the advantage before a test of strength and an exchange of shoulder blocks which sends each man rolling out of opposite sides of the ring. JONAH hits a shoulder tackle off the apron and smashes Cobb with the guardrail’s gate. Back inside, JONAH wrenches Cobb’s midsection and holds the advantage, but Cobb knocks the (slightly) bigger man down with a lariat, though his momentum carries him outside. There’s a mid-air crossbody crash, more shoulder tackles, and a big delayed release pump handle suplex from Cobb which gets an audible gasp from the crowd. JONAH delays Cobb’s vacation plans for him with a spear. JONAH goes for a crossbody from the second rope but Cobb grabs him in mid-air, hitting a powerslam which JONAH rolls through for two. JONAH delivers a big standing superplex from the top rope, and as the crowd forgoes restrictions and chatters and cheers, reascends in order to deliver a Torpedo Splash from the top rope and finish Cobb.

JONAH defeats Jeff Cobb via pinfall at 14:52.

The takeaway: The sheer bulk of the A block was one of the major talking points when the G1’s structure was revealed, and no pairing better exemplified it than this one. Thankfully, this match ably lived up to its big potential, with both men delivering thrilling spots, and the pace underlining each hard-hitting attack perfectly. JONAH, who only debuted in New Japan itself less than a month ago (despite regular appearances on New Japan STRONG going back to November) benefits greatly here from the credibility Cobb’s built as NJPW’s resident monster over his past two G1s.

G1 Climax 2022 Block C Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. EVIL

Tana hits a crossbody with an air guitar flourish after some headlocks, and we get the standard EVIL crash into the timekeeper’s table early on. EVIL gets some two counts after ring post and Togo chicanery. A flying forearm from Tana sets up a somersault senton as Young Lions in the Ace’s corner try to whip the crowd up. EVIL and Togo wrench the knee and EVIL applies his Darkness Scorpion sharpshooter. Tana gets four dragon screws from various angles and locks on the cloverleaf. Togo rings the bell (and Tana’s music plays for a second) to prompt Tana to break the hold, leading to the first ejection of a second I might have ever seen in New Japan. EVIL gets a chair shot in during the fracas and some lariats are traded. Tana turns an Everything Is Evil attempt into a twist and shout and a trio of sling blades for two. Tana follows up with a High Fly Flow, but SHO pulls Red Shoes out at three and beats Tana down. Togo is back out, dragging a second ref to the ring, who inexplicably counts two on Tana. Two more refs are out to break things up and Marty Asami ends up helping Tana deliver a Magic Killer. Tana fights off SHO and Togo’s wrench and garotte, can’t evade EVIL’s low blow, but no refs are up for the count. Red Shoes is finally up to count two after a Darkness Falls, and even Kevin Kelly is on his feet whipping the crowd up in support of the Ace. EVIL goes for an Everything Is Evil, but Tana (taking a page from Shingo’s playbook) uses a Ground Cobra to roll EVIL up for the win.

Hiroshi Tanahashi defeats EVIL via pinfall at 19:03.

The takeaway: I came into this match ready to note that this year’s G1 had somewhat partitioned House Of Torture BS to the beginnings of matches (at least compared to last year), but oh boy did this overbooked mess counter that trend. I’ll try to refrain from going on the same lengthy filibuster I did when these two met in last year’s G1, but it’s hard to find a match-up that puts the cartoonish supervillainy of the House Of Torture into sharper relief. Sure, Tana overcoming the triple-teaming of EVIL, SHO, and Togo makes sense in terms of the broadest markers and storytelling of pro wrestling, but as I alluded to up top, neither man is in a significant enough position to make this triumph of good over evil feel significant, nor does having it at the top of the card help a tournament which is in dire need of classic G1-styled main events.

Final Thoughts

This was a smaller market card (New Japan hasn’t brought a G1 card to Matsuyama since 2017), and the fact that the last match felt more like a house show main event rather than a capper to a proper night of G1 competition was a reminder of how much of NJPW’s business depends upon live gates rather than TV or NJPW World subscriptions. While it’s been nice to see fresh G1 blood like Finlay, and today JONAH, get their share of the spotlight, I feel as though this card is indicative of New Japan not putting its established talents in the best of lights in the G1 thus far. Here’s hoping that Naito’s comeback story is strong enough to provide the tournament its throughline.