This is the third instalment of POST’s coverage of the 32nd G1 Climax Tournament, and my first report after Bruce Lord’s coverage of the first two shows.
On paper, this show did not look great. Most people’s favorites were relegated to the undercard and only the main event promised to be better than good. Given the structure of the tournament, days like this felt inevitable and it looked like everything fell on the shoulders of Naito and Goto. After two days in Sapporo, New Japan moved on to Xebio Arena Sendai in Miyagi. The show took place in front of 1,919 fans, 600 more than the last G1 Climax event in this venue.
- Undercard – The undercard matches were fine but inconsequential. They fulfilled their role by getting names on the card and building up future matches, with differing levels of effort in order to ensure that the wrestlers had plenty in the tank for when it mattered.
- G1 Climax 2022 Block D Match: David Finlay vs Yujiro Takahashi – A low energy, slow paced affair that was slightly better than you would expect.
- G1 Climax 2022 Block B Match: Tama Tonga vs. Chase Owens – The first half felt like mid 90’s WWF, the second half tried to be 2010’s New Japan. Decent but nothing special.
- G1 Climax 2022 Block A Match: Lance Archer vs. Bad Luck Fale – Better than expected but not good. A “raised in captivity” brawl with some overly ambitious elements.
- G1 Climax 2022 Block C Match: Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito – A particularly good, dramatic battle as Goto fought from underneath to try and prove that the G in G1 stands for Goto. – RECOMMENDED
TMDK (Bad Dude Tito & JONAH) vs. Team Filthy (Royce Isaacs & Tom Lawlor)
Jonah pinned Royce Isaacs at 8:38.
United Empire (Aaron Henare, Great-O-Khan, Jeff Cobb & Will Ospreay) vs. House of Torture (Dick Togo, El Phantasmo, SHO & EVIL)
Aaron Henare submitted Dick Togo at 7:52.
Ryohei Oiwa & Toru Yano vs. CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI & Kazuchika Okada)
YOSHI-HASHI submitted Ryohei Oiwa at 7:26.
Kosei Fujita, Tomohiro Ishii & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. BULLET CLUB (Juice Robinson, KENTA & Jay White)
KENTA submitted Kosei Fujita at 10:30.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, SANADA & Shingo Takagi) vs. Suzuki-gun (Taka Michinoku, TAICHI & Zack Sabre Jr.)
SANADA submitted TAKA Michinoku at 8:17.
G1 Climax 2022 Block D Match: David Finlay vs Yujiro Takahashi
Finlay used his grappling skills to get an early advantage, with Takahashi relying on dirty tactics until he hit a reverse DDT on the floor. Takahashi worked over Finlay until Finlay landed a jumping neckbreaker. Finlay’s comeback included a running European uppercut, a Plancha and a back suplex onto the apron. A Uranage backbreaker earned Finlay a two count, as did Finlay’s version of the Hidden Blade. Takahashi managed to hit a Fisherman Buster, but Finlay cut him off with a Powerbomb.
SHO interfered and Takahashi used the opportunity to hit an Olympic Slam. After the referee confiscated Takahashi’s stick, Takahashi hit an incredibly lukewarm low blow and the Pimp Juice DDT. The pop when Finlay kicked out was not lukewarm and the crowd got behind him as he pushed Takahashi into SHO and hit Prima Nocta for a nearfall. Finlay avoided the Big Juice DDT, but he got clobbered by a wrench wielding SHO and Takahashi pinned Finlay with the Big Juice DDT.
Yujiro Takahashi defeated David Finlay via pinfall at 12:59.
On paper I did not expect much from this match. It delivered a little more than I expected, but not much. Finlay’s small flurries of offense were good, and the crowd loved his big kick out but ultimately, this was a slow paced, low energy affair with more than a smattering of House of Torture shenanigans. Finlay may have better performances against better opponents, but this was not a great start for Finlay’s first G1.
G1 Climax 2022 Block B Match: Tama Tonga vs. Chase Owens
Tonga countered an Owens ambush with a reverse crossbody. Owens took his time at ringside before he took Jado’s head off with a Superkick. This distracted Tonga and Owens gained control. Tonga countered a double axe handle with a punch to the gut and a Clothesline. He followed it up with a series of strikes and a back suplex. Owens regained control with a sunset flip that sent Tonga into the turnbuckle pad. A reverse neckbreaker earned Owens a two count before Tonga hit his cartwheel style DVD, only for Owens to dodge a top rope splash.
Owens removed the mats on the floor, but Jado replaced them to save Tonga from a suplex onto the unprotected floor. Jado again saved Tonga by stopping Owens from using a chair. That let Tonga get a nearfall with a top rope splash before signaling for the Gun Stun. Owens avoided it, just like he avoided another Gun Stun attempt when Tonga escaped the Package Piledriver. Tonga tried for a reverse crossbody style Gun Stun, but Owens countered that as well. Eventually Owens got slingshotted into an exposed turnbuckle and Tonga finally hit the Gun Stun at the fourth time of asking to win the match.
Tama Tonga defeated Chase Owens via pinfall at 13:18.
The takeaway: A decent match but not worth watching unless you are either a completionist or someone who is invested in either competitor. At times this felt like a mid-90’s WWE match with a hat full of Gun Stun attempts thrown in at the end. This was another clear heel vs face match with an interfering second. Like the last match, the match dragged when the heel was on top. There were some good ideas, and I enjoy Tonga as a fiery baby face more than his heel run, but this was not a good match. I expect Tonga to have better matches in this tournament.
G1 Climax 2022 Block A Match: Bad Luck Fale vs. Lance Archer
Fale tried to hit the Bad Luck Fall while Archer posed during his entrance. Archer showed some agility before getting downed by a shoulder tackle. Fale choked Archer with Archer’s own braids. Fale used a flurry of punches and threw Archer around ringside. Referee Red Shoes Unno repeatedly unarmed Fale by confiscating his chairs. Archer fought back with punches, but Fale then slammed Archer onto the chairs for a count out tease, with Archer entering the ring at nineteen. A running crossbody got Archer a two count but Fale ensured that Archer’s rope walk ended in a painful fashion.
Fale went for a second rope splash, but Archer stopped him and went for the Blackout. Fale escaped and a Fale Powerbomb attempt was countered with a messy Frankensteiner to the outside. Archer’s tope con hilo off the apron was less messy. Archer and Fale fought on the apron and Fale hit Archer with the Grenade on the apron, winning the match via count out.
Bad Luck Fale defeated Lance Archer via count out at 10:46
The takeaway: This was messy. It was clunky. It was slow. Despite that, this was more enjoyable than I expected. It was two big guys doing a wild brawl. Okay, it was not a wild brawl. More like a raised in captivity brawl. Fale has a lot of limitations, but he was willing, and Archer did a decent job of pushing himself with some ambitious spots. I would not call this a good match, but it entertained me more than I thought it would.
G1 Climax 2022 Block C Match: Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito
These two New Japan veterans started things off with grappling before Naito used his intelligence to stop Goto gaining momentum. After a lot of stalling on the outside Goto got impatient and he paid for it, getting lured into Lariating a ring post. Naito targeted Goto’s right arm with varying degrees of legality. Goto’s attempts to fight back were hampered by Naito’s strategy, and the crowd got behind Goto. Goto finally earned some breathing room with a go behind Lariat.
Goto used his trademark spin kick into the corner and a bulldog, but Naito quickly fought back and applied a modified version of his trademark neck lock, using it to do more damage to Goto’s arm. Naito was overflowing with confidence, hitting Goto with a top rope Frankensteiner. Goto escaped Naito’s first Destino attempt before running into a Spinebuster. Naito was overconfident and Goto opportunistically applied the ShoryuKekkai armbar. When it looked like Naito would reach the ropes, Goto turned it into another submission, but Naito somehow reached the ropes.
They traded forearms as the crowd clapped along, with Naito getting the better of the exchange using his elbows to the neck. Goto fought back with a rolling Lariat and the Ushi-Goroshi for a nearfall. Naito fought back with a Koppo kick, a flying forearm and a running Destino for a big nearfall. Goto escaped the Valentina and used a rope hanging version of the Shouto for a double down.
Goto was the first one to get back to his feet, getting a big nearfall with the GTW. Naito countered the GTR into a nasty looking Valentina, but Goto reversed the Destino into the Shouten Kai for a massive pop. Goto then hit the GTR, getting a three count on Naito that shocked the crowd.
Hirooki Goto defeated Tetsuya Naito via pinfall at 22:41.
The takeaway: The G in G1 stands for Goto. At least, today it did. Seriously though, Hirooki Goto is often one of New Japan’s forgotten men, but he can always pull out a great match when he needs to. The match was about Goto fighting from underneath against a confident Naito. It was New Japan’s nearly man reminding you that all he needs is an opportunity. The crowd really got behind him and the pop for the Shouten Kai was fantastic. It was like a multi staged rocket launch, as the crowd popped for each step of the counter. The finishing stretch focused less on speed and more on drama, which worked well considering the wrestlers limitations.
There were flaws to this match. It was a little too slow at times, a little too long, and the arm work by Naito did not lead to much. There were definitely signs that Naito was another year older, although you can see how he works to his limitations. Due to those factors, I will be a little surprised if this is in people’s top ten at the end of the tournament. Despite those negatives, this is definitely worth a watch and the only thing that anyone should watch from this show.
The takeaway: Final Thoughts
On paper this looked to me like a one match show with three sub-par tournament matches before the main event. In practice, it was exactly what I expected. I was not invested in anyone in those first three singles matches, and the performances and matches did little to change my mind. The likes of Finlay, Tonga and Archer will have better matches than this.
Naito vs Goto is not a match that will change your opinion on either Naito or Goto. Naito especially looks another year older, although you can see how he worked around his growing limitations. Goto looked much fresher than Naito, despite being three years older. This was a very good match and easily the best thing on the card although they have had better matches.
I will not be surprised if this is seen as the worst show of this year’s G1 Climax. If you watch anything from this show then watch the main event, but do not expect to see Naito vs Goto getting many mentions when this year’s G1 is over.