It’s the second installment of POST’s coverage of the 32nd G1 Climax Tournament! Coming off of a solid first night the G1 rolls on with four tournament matches which were set up in the midst of last night’s multi-man matches.
The pace and scheduling of the tournament itself has already emerged as the major initial talking point of the 32nd installment of the G1, almost eclipsing the actual content of the tournament thus far. Will the spread-out pace of the four-block format of the tournament allow performers to give their all in every match with the benefit of a few days off, or will it be more difficult to communicate tourney-length stories and arcs given the erratic times between matches? It’s still far, far too early to answer those questions yet, but how will these matches measure up to a generally well-received first night of pro wrestling’s most prestigious tournament? Let’s find out as New Japan returns to Sapporo’s Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center.
- Undercard – As with last night, there’s nothing of key importance in the multi-man matches, but they move quickly and at least there’s at least some novelty in seeing the likes of seconds like Royce Isaacs in proper New Japan rings.
- G1 Climax 2022 Block B Match: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Taichi – Hard-hitting intensity, with Taichi holding his own against arguably the most consistent G1 competitor of all time. – RECOMMENDED
- G1 Climax 2022 Block A Match: Toru Yano vs. JONAH – Characteristic Yano tomfoolery, nothing special.
- G1 Climax 2022 Block C Match: KENTA vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – A good match, if slightly long. Worth watching for Zack’s submissions and some of the striking sequences.
- G1 Climax 2022 Block D Match: Shingo Takagi vs. Juice Robinson – A rollicking and feisty match in which Juice does a good job of punching up to Shingo’s level. – RECOMMENDED
David Finlay & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Team Filthy (Royce Isaacs & Tom Lawlor)
David Finlay pins Royce Isaacs at 7:31.
Suzuki-gun (Lance Archer & TAKA Michinoku) vs. BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale & El Phantasmo)
El Phantasmo pins TAKA Michinoku at 8:22.
United Empire (Aaron Henare, Great-O-Khan, Jeff Cobb & Will Ospreay) vs. House Of Torture (Dick Togo, EVIL, SHO & Yujiro Takahashi)
Aaron Henare submits Dick Togo at 10:53.
Jado & Tama Tonga vs. BULLET CLUB (Chase Owens & Jay White)
Chase Owens pins Jado at 7:29.
CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & Kazuchika Okada) & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito)
Hiroshi Tanahashi pins BUSHI at 6:52.
G1 Climax 2022 Block B Match: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Taichi
Taichi manages to level Ishii with some slaps early on, establishing the strike-heavy tone you’d want this match to have, and Ishii knocks Taichi down in kind. Ishii presses the striking advantage in the corner, and Chris Charlton translates him as calling Taichi out by his shoot name. Taichi gets back in the mix with some kicks, rips his longboys off and tosses them at Ishii, skipping past his usual theatrics. Quick sequences of kicks from Taichi and chops from Ishii lead to a backdrop suplex from the latter and a big fallaway vertical suplex from the top rope. Taichi’s back in the mix with some strong forearms which level both men and has Miho Abe whipping the crowd up. More kicks from Taichi set up a big Last Ride powerbomb with a high stack for two at the ten-minute mark.
After a quick exchange a Dangerous Backdrop nets another two count, and Ishii has to buy some time with an uncharacteristic drop kick. Taichi powers through a German and a lariat as things move into All Japan territory with force. An Axe Bomber sets up another Dangerous Backdrop for two, but Ishii evades Black Mephisto with a headbutt and hits another out-of-character move in an enziguri. The sliding lariat nets a two, Taichi kicks his way out of the brainbuster attempt and uses a big forearm to set up a Black Mephisto for the win.
Taichi defeats Tomohiro Ishii via pinfall at 15:25.
The takeaway: A few scant years ago I’d have rolled my eyes at this match-up and hoped that Ishii could carry Taichi to something worthy of the G1. Now, after two years of solid tournament showings from the Holy Emperor, I was expecting this to be a no-bullshit strike-fest inspired by the pedigrees of both men, and this match absolutely delivered in that regard. It was especially nice to see Ishii recognize that this isn’t the Taichi of old and have to use some outside-the-box offence to set up his signature moves. While this likely won’t be in consideration for the best match of the tournament, it was still hugely enjoyable and representative of the level of in-ring quality which makes me set aside time for the G1 every year.
G1 Climax 2022 Block A Match: Toru Yano vs. JONAH
Yano offers JONAH a t-shirt as a peace offering, only to use it as a blindfold when it’s rejected in a futile attempt to get a cheap roll-up. JONAH discovers some tape rolls secreted in Yano’s tights as he’s laying it in, and Yano quickly begs off on the floor, only to be cornered by JONAH and Bad Dude Tito. Back inside, JONAH works the ribs and drives Yano into the corners back inside, but misses the big running senton in the middle of the ring. Yano uses the ripped-off ring pads to get a two, and follows up with an atomic drop and belly-to-belly suplex. JONAH eventually hits the senton for two, and punishes Yano in the guardrails outside. While ducking JONAH’s power moves, Yano ties Bad Dude Tito up with JONAH, hits a low blow to both men, and then dashes back into the ring just before the 20 count. “He hit my fuckin’ nutsack!” JONAH pleads to the ref to no avail.
Toru Yano defeats JONAH via countout at 8:59.
The takeaway: Yano had been heavily pantomiming his fear of the big man in yesterday’s multi-man match, and while most of this match had the Sublime Master Thief running away from the Aussie giant, the question of what (if anything) a newcomer like JONAH gains in dropping his first G1 match to the likes of Yano is likely rendered irrelevant by the sort of deep calculus the booking of the G1 demands. Don’t give this a second thought, and move on.
G1 Climax 2022 Block C Match: KENTA vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Zack’s mocking KENTA through their shared NOAH roots as the bell rings, insisting that he’s the senpai now, dogg, and that KENTA needs to cook him vegan chanko. Save some for me, Zack. The shit-talk continues during a forearm exchange. Ankles and eyes are wrenched with equal aplomb, and this battle of grimy technicians spills out for some guardrail spots. KENTA hits a not exactly Okada-level DDT outside. Back inside, KENTA smothers Zack for some quick one counts, but finds his legs locked in an in-rope submission. Outside, Zack continues to torque KENTA’s legs around the guardrails. ZSJ transitions through some leg submissions back in the ring as Charlton notes that the Blackpool Combat Club will likely be taking an interest in this match.
Both men trade stinging kicks to the back before Zack goes back to joint manipulation, this time of the arm. A one-armed powerslam from the knees represents KENTA’s first real control spot of the match. A top rope lariat nets KENTA a two, but ZSJ counters KENTA’s follow-up striking with some windy man grappling. KENTA fights out only to trade targeted body strikes and more forearms fifteen minutes in. A Green Killer and shotgun dropkicks in the corners sets up a top rope stomp, as somewhere in the US Finn Balor feels an unexpected sense of nostalgia. Zack pastes KENTA with some slaps but Fang Reborn gives as good as he gets. Zack slips out of two GTS attempts, sinks in a rear naked choke and transitions into an ankle lock, but KENTA drops Zack with a big knee to the face and a follow-up Busaiku for two. KENTA pulls Zack’s head up from the mat, interrupting his own falls twice, and Zack transitions over from a shoulder trap to a left forearm submission, netting an immediate submission.
Zack Sabre Jr. defeats KENTA via submission at 21:33
The takeaway: The peculiarity of KENTA’s press conference presentation prompted all sorts of speculation about how the injury-ridden wrestler might be moving towards a more character-focused presentation. It was tough to tell exactly what sort of in-ring style KENTA might be plying, as he was very much reacting to Zack in this match rather than directing traffic. This was enjoyable, if a wee bit long, and reiterated the point that Zack is capable of defeating any opponent at any point in the match, no matter how weakened he is, with the right submission.
G1 Climax 2022 Block D Match: Shingo Takagi vs. Juice Robinson
Juice reiterates that, contrary to the official record, he remains the IWGP US Heavyweight Champion in a voice which sounds like Sammy Hagar gargling bourbon. From the get-go, we’re outside hitting strikes and guardrails. Shingo keeps the pressure on back inside, hitting strikes and a vertical suplex, but Juice takes things back outside with some slobber-knocking lariats and the like in the guardrails. Back inside, Juice gets the better of a trade of punches, but Shingo creates some space with a belly-to-back suplex. A standing senton gets the Dragon a two, as Shingo mocks Juice’s old babyface fist-pumping punches.
Juice eventually turns the tide with a shotgun dropkick and cannonball and follows up with a superplex. Shingo avoids a Pulp Friction attempt but gets a gutbuster for his troubles. Shingo hits a Noshigami, wheelbarrow suplex, and sliding lariat, but Juice wriggles out of a Made In Japan attempt. Juice tries to hit a spear from the draping position but Shingo hits a draping GTR and Pumping Bomber for two. Juice seems to earn Takagi’s respect with a trio of weighty lariats, and is able to hit the Pulp Friction but a late cover keeps it to a two count. A lariat exchange sends sweat from both men’s chests misting into the stadium lights, but neither drops. Big punches and forearms bring us back to the beginning of the match. Juice ducks out of Last Of The Dragon, attempts a Rock Slide, but goes back to what brought him to the dance with a second Pulp Friction and nets the win.
Juice Robinson defeats Shingo Takagi via pinfall at 21:38.
The takeaway: The rebirth of Juice in his Rock Hard Bullet Club guise has been set up to be a major tentpole in the current landscape of New Japan storytelling, and it’s fair to say that there is a good amount resting on this match in terms of the no longer flamboyant one’s ability to fit into the main event scene. While this wasn’t the most artful or elegant of NJPW matches you’ll ever see, the intensity was kept at a high level throughout and this was able to credibly present Juice as a tough in-ring competitor on the level of a former IWGP World Heavyweight champion in Shingo.
While maybe a hair below last night’s card in terms of in-ring, this was still a varied and enjoyable card which set a host of stories in motion, within and beyond the G1 itself. The variety of styles represented in the tournament, in addition to the four-block format, has been keeping things fresh thus far, and the paucity of each wrestler’s actual matches has given each of the tournament matches some extra weight.