G1 Climax 32 Day 19 Report: Okada vs. Tama Tonga, Naito vs. Ospreay
After a fast-moving final night of block match action, the final four contenders of the 32nd G1 Climax are in place. Looking at these semi-final matches on paper, the smart money would seem to be on Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazuchika Okada in tomorrow’s final match; it’s a money-drawing pairing that New Japan seems more than happy to return to in an era where the company is in need of big houses, and with a good deal of talk about Naito possibly winding his career down in the not-so-distant future (rather than smoothly transitioning into the emeritus position currently occupied by the likes of Yuji Nagata), there’s very little reason for Gedo to not want to get the most out of two of the four most popular wrestlers in Japan (according to the recent TV Asahi poll) while he can. After all, until Jay White’s upset win over Okada at Dominion, like many, I assumed the match would headline at least one night of Wrestle Kingdom (and of course, it still might).
Contrary to much speculation (including my own), there were no statistical ties in any of the four blocks, meaning that apart from the semi-final matches we have six multi-man matches on the card. Featuring a slightly wider range of workers than we’ve seen on G1 undercards thus far, there’s the chance for a few angles to set up directions for wrestlers and tag teams who don’t seem to have natural feuds or matches to head to, coming out of their tournament runs. Given that there are still generally obvious pin-takers in many of these matches, and that their appeal to those outside of the live house likely rests on emerging stories rather than bell-to-bell action, I won’t be providing detailed summaries of these matches themselves, and will instead comment on any noteworthy angles or talking points.
The second installment of a three-night New Japan stand at the world-famous Nippon Budokan will set the stage for the finals of the 32nd G1 Climax…
- Undercard – There were no notable matches from an in-ring perspective on the undercard (Dangerous Tekkers vs. Team Filthy was likely the best in that regard), and a bit more comedy than usual.
- G1 Climax 2022 Semi-Final Match: Kazuchika Okada vs. Tama Tonga – A solid match in Okada’s modern classic style with Tama Tonga showing the results of his recent babyface build. – RECOMMENDED
- G1 Climax 2022 Semi-Final Match: Tetsuya Naito vs. Will Ospreay – An expertly paced match with explosive sequences at just the right moments. – RECOMMENDED
CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, YOH & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Lance Archer, TAKA Michinoku & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
YOH pins TAKA Michinoku at 6:24.
The takeaway: Lance Archer was given most of the focus in this match with several monster spots, including several sequences in which he and Ishii squared off. A singles match between the two seems likely.
Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr.) vs. Team Filthy (Royce Isaacs & Tom Lawlor)
Zack Sabre Jr. submits Royce Isaacs at 10:06.
The takeaway: Isaacs was mimicking Taichi’s lip-syncing on the way to the ring, complete with masquerade mask (though Taichi indicated that his mic might not be as sizable as his own), while for his part Lawlor gave ZSJ a 12” of George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” before revealing a Japanese pressing of Culture Club’s “The War Song” 12” (complete with obi strip!) and declaring “Boy George ichiban!” before Zack smashed it to start the match. Despite all the comedy the actual grappling between the two was quite promising, and some trash talk after the match looked to set up a future date.
Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma) vs. TMDK (Bad Dude Tito & JONAH)
JONAH pins Tomoaki Honma at 7:36.
The takeaway: This was mostly built around GBH double-teaming JONAH to try to keep the monster down, and I was a bit surprised by how much control the aging vets were given. After the win, Bad Dude Tito proclaimed “World Tag League, take a fucking note: we’re here to stay!”. Whether you want to take him at his word or view this as bluster for the sake of bargaining power with WWE is up to you.
BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens & Juice Robinson) vs. United Empire (Aaron Henare, Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb)
Chase Owens pins Aaron at Henare at 6:48.
The takeaway: This seemed designed to allow O-Khan and Henare, the United Empire competitors with pretty disappointing G1 records, to show some fire and fortitude, but also underscore the power of the package piledriver Owens used to defeat Ishii in the tournament. Owens tells Kelly that he and Fale plan to head to AEW to regain the IWGP tag team titles from FTR.
BULLET CLUB (El Phantasmo, EVIL, KENTA & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA & Shingo Takagi)
KENTA submits BUSHI at 9:52.
The takeaway: El Phantasmo rubbing Shingo’s nose in yesterday’s defeat was given a fair bit of focus, as was a goodly amount of slapstick related to Paradise Locks, KENTA’s book, and those odd low blows SANADA keeps dishing out when he bumps. It’s not often that El Phantasmo comes across as one of the more serious competitors in a multi-man, but here we are. Phantasmo mocks Shingo’s cross-legged pose after the match.
David Finlay, Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA & Toru Yano vs. BULLET CLUB (Doc Gallows, Jay White, Karl Anderson & Taiji Ishimori)
Toru Yano pins Doc Gallows at 9:09.
The takeaway: On commentary, Chris Charlton reminds us of bad blood between Finlay and NEVER Openweight champ Anderson, who was conspicuous by his absence in the G1. KUSHIDA and Ishimori were another noted pairing. However, after a low-blow roll-up win, Kelly and Charlton speculate that the Be-Bop tag team of Yano and Tanahashi could have a crack at the Good Brothers’ Impact tag team belts, so stay tuned to AXS for that.
G1 Climax 2022 Semi Final Match: Kazuchika Okada vs. Tama Tonga
Okada keeps things slow to start while Tama tries to pick up the pace with strikes and arm drags. Tama seems to be getting the crowd on board by trying to fire up against a clearly stronger opponent, but Okada uses DDTs and flapjacks to quell that momentum. Tama gets a pair of Tongan Twists including one on the floor and a Villeno for two. SRC sets up Supreme Flow for another two. Okada counters a Gun Stun attempt into the Money Clip. A diving elbow prompts the Rainmaker Pose. After a first attempt is countered, Tama gets a Bloody Sunday for two and goes for the Dive Shack Driver (double underhook piledriver) he used to beat Okada in last year’s tournament, but Okada blocks it.
We flashback to the days of Okada and Tanahashi’s rivalry with a close-up on Okada clutching Tama’s wrist on the floor fifteen minutes in. A short-arm Rainmaker is hit, a regular one is dodged, but a dropkick sets up a landslide. Okada goes to finish Tama with a full Rainmaker, but Tama counters with a Gun Stun. He’s too weakened to make an immediate cover, though, and only gets a two. Tama is unable to hit the DSD, and Okada nearly pins him with his now-familiar sit-down roll-up. The DSD and Gun Stun are both blocked (the latter twice) and the Money Clip is applied. Tama rolls out, another Gun Stun is blocked, and Okada uses the Cobra Flowsion to set up a full Rainmaker for the win.
Kazuchika Okada defeats Tama Tonga via pinfall at 19:09.
The takeaway: An Okada victory was no surprise here; the real question is the degree to which Japanese crowds are buying the Good Good Guy incarnation of Tama Tonga and his rise up the card. So far things look good if this match was any indication: both the Gun Stun and DSD spots were taken as serious threats, and the crowd seemed to rally behind Tama as he fought from underneath. The symbolism of Okada needing to use the touchstones of both AJPW and NJPW in the Cobra Flowsion to set up his own signature has a bit more poetry to it than the landslide tombstone (which to be frank has looked more and more like a generic bodyslam of late).
G1 Climax 2022 Semi-Final Match: Tetsuya Naito vs. Will Ospreay
A quick tijeras/moonsault/arm drag sequence that recalls Ospreay’s clashes with Ibushi punctuates both men warily measuring each other. A standing shooting star gets Ospreay a two, and Naito fires back with dropkicks and a neckbreaker. Naito is working Ospreay’s heavily taped neck. The two lose track of one another during some crossovers, but Ospreay begins to use some of his fast-moving power offense, including The Forearm Formerly Known As Pip Pip Cheerio. Another neckbreaker and double leg nelson keep Naito’s focus on softening Ospreay’s neck for Destino. Ospreay gets some time to breathe ten minutes in after a Spanish Fly and trades forearms from the knees with a grinning Naito. Ospreay misses with a Hidden Blade but turns a tornado DDT into a brainbuster before Naito hits the DDT on a second attempt.
Naito continues to strike away at the neck and gets a two-count with Gloria. A poison rana from the second rope continues the pulverizing of Ospreay’s neck. Ospreay hits a modified Styles Clash in which he locks Naito’s legs and follows it with a Hidden Blade. A Stormbreaker attempt is turned into a modified Destino. Ospreay hits a hook kick but Naito ducks the OsCutter and hits a spinebuster. Ospreay uses a Chelsea Grin to make another Hidden Blade attempt which Naito reverses into a full Destino. Ospreay kicks out at two, though, and evades another Destino in order to smash Naito’s face in with a Hidden Blade. Naito kicks out, and Ospreay immediately follows up with a Stormbreaker, the first of the G1, in order to keep Naito down.
Will Ospreay defeats Tetsuya Naito via pinfall at 20:23.
On the mic, Ospreay rallies the crowd to clap and asks Naito for one more match. Ospreay reminds us of his speedy recovery from his nearly fatal kidney infection and notes that he’s yet to beat Okada “on own”. Ospreay has watched AJ Styles, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito, and Jay White all beat Okada, and knows that he is better than those men. He runs through his existing NJPW accomplishments, identifies the World Heavyweight Championship as the one he’s yet to reach, and promises to bring the company “out of the dark ages and bring it back to the light”, words that almost seemed to echo Ibushi.
The takeaway: This was excellently paced, with incredibly explosive sequences and reversals being perfectly timed within the larger gameplans of both men: Naito looking to annihilate Ospreay’s neck, and Ospreay waiting for the right opening to strike with the Hidden Blade and Stormbreaker. I was a bit surprised to see Ospreay fighting from underneath for much of this, as Naito’s comeback story has been the defining one of the tournament, but there has been a concerted effort to give Ospreay some babyface shine in the second half of the G1, as his post-match comments underlined.
I’m not sure that a revisiting of the jealousy which drove Ospreay to betray Okada and CHAOS and form the United Empire was high on many people’s lists of G1 outcomes, but it’s an intriguing proposition, especially with a babyface turn for Ospreay seemingly in full effect. Ospreay has plenty of irons in the fire, including US championship defenses against Robinson and Finlay and even a possible crossing of swords with Kenny Omega in AEW after heading stateside for the trios tournament. Adding defenses of the G1 briefcase to the workload (could we see another classic with Shingo this year?) seems nigh impossible, but Ospreay hasn’t accrued another Wrestler Of The Year resume thus far by taking it easy, as his promo reminded us. Okada seemed an imposing Final Boss for the diminishing Naito to have to contend with, but as a Former Boss for Ospreay to content with he should prove just as challenging.