The Best And Worst Of NJPW: G1 Climax 29, Night 5


Previously on NJPW: The despicable Tetsuya Naito made Miho Abe cry and that’s all you need to know!!!

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And now, the best and worst of the fifth night of G1 Climax 29 (aka the third night of A Block competition) on July 18, 2019, at Korakuen Hall.

Best: Kenta And Goliath

Even though Lance Archer’s been on a hot streak and Kenta seems to have found his post-WWE groove, I was surprised by how much I loved Archer vs. Kenta. Kenta’s strategy, focusing on chopping down his redwood tree of an opponent with kicks to his legs, is perfect, but he still gets killed for most of the match because his opponent is a full foot taller than him. Archer makes the parts of the match he controls more fun by being the most motivated version of his monster self, as exemplified by that cannonball of the apron to both Kenta and LA Dojo Young Lions.

The first in-ring reference to Kenta’s time in WWE – Archer calling him “Hideo” and Kenta slapping him in the face – makes the story of the match a little more interesting than big guy vs. little guy too. The finish, with Kenta bringing back Game Over (the LeBell Lock) for the first time in years for a clever submission victory against a guy he struggled to get up for the G2S, both makes him look like a skilled, smart wrestler, and is a great way to reintroduce that move into his arsenal.

Another interesting thing about this match is that it gets a rare smarky reaction from a New Japan crowd, with some supporting Kenta/getting into the story, but possibly more fans rejecting him as the hero because Archer is “their guy” more than the former Pro Wrestling NOAH and WWE star. A refreshing thing about watching Japanese wrestling is how unironically it sounds like audiences get invested in most matches but witnessing Korakuen get so behind Archer while he’s heeling his pleather-clad butt off is pretty entertaining.

To go back to Kenta being a former WWE star for a moment though, this match is like a glimpse at an alternate universe’s Hideo Itami. Imagine the monster killer run he could have had in WWE if when he returned from injury the company had taken the cue from Balor-Itami vs. the Ascension and booked him against big dudes on the main roster rather than bumping him to 205 Live. This is purely hypothetical, but maybe he would have been more successful and fulfilled and would still be there!

Worst: General Knowledge

Kazuchika Okada vs. Bad Luck Fale was definitely a lowlight of block competition on this show, but I appreciate the effort they made to make it interesting than it could have been. Everyone who’s been watching NJPW for even six months to a year has a clear idea of what an Okada vs. Fale match is going to be like, so they subvert expectations by starting the match with Fale having jumped Okada backstage. The audience either deeply hates this or doesn’t know how to respond to this because it’s so weird.

It fits with what this match is trying to do though, which is not to Be A Great Match, but to make Okada look like a hero in about ten minutes. Our champion beats up Bullet Club goons and busts out some beautiful dropkicks and a surprising, exciting move over the top rope and the crowd supports him. Still, this is the most skippable singles match of the show, and the wrestlers involved seem like they’re aware of that.

Best: Sabreism Is Dead

Another rematch of something we’ve seen recently, however, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr., is a highlight of the show. These two traded singles match wins this spring, with ZSJ kayfabe-injuring Tanahashi so badly at the G1 Supercard that it allowed him to take time off to get elbow surgery. Now they’re both at 0-2 and have both lost to the reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion, so they really need to get on the board.

Sabre turns in a quality performance here, but it’s the Ace that really stands out. Of course, due to the collaborative nature of wrestling, that’s partly because of his opponent’s quality performance, but it’s also because Tanahashi has so much range as a performer himself. It’s always great to see Tanahashi break out his mat wrestling skills, and seeing him hang with ZSJ in a grappling contest makes it more exciting when he breaks out a classic Slingblade. His recovery from a blocked High Fly Flow to roll through a triangle into a pin is not just an entertaining win, but a respectable one. It reminds us that Tanahashi’s not just a beautiful head of hair; his veteran savvy is part of why his matches can still be so good as he gets older and slower as well as why he can remain a credible contender in kayfabe.

It’s weird for ZSJ to now be the only person in A Block with zero points, but he continues to make this losing streak angle work for him. This character cannot psychologically handle this at all right now and the resulting tantrums are a gift.

Safety Dance

We have another rematch from earlier this year in the main event, when Kota Ibushi gets on the board by beating Will Ospreay. It makes a lot of since for Ibushi to get his first G1 Climax 29 points, keeping himself in the running to win the tournament, which would be a huge moment in his career, over a guy who had a huge career moment by beating him at the most recent Wrestle Kingdom.

But more than that match being remembered for Ospreay’s win, it might be remembered for taking Ibushi out for months with a shoot concussion. So this a rematch between two guys whose last match had an aura of danger, who are always taking either crazy bumps that result in injury or shockingly don’t, and who are, in fact, both injured right now! There’s a question of whether or not they’ll play it safe here.

Honestly, if I was watching this tournament as a normal fan, it’s a question whose answer I wouldn’t go out of my way to learn. At this point in the G1, I’m turned off by seeing a match broke the twenty-five minute mark for the first time. I’m especially turned off by the idea of watching the guy who no-sold the Paradise Lock in his previous A Block match wrestle the first match of the tournament to break twenty-five minutes, especially in his third singles tournament of the year. I really need a break from Will Ospreay, but there’s no guarantee that will ever come considering that he’s no longer on that gaijin junior heavyweight schedule; he competes in two weight classes and lives in Japan.

However, Tanahashi vs. Sabre sent me into this match in a good mood, which was good because it gets off to a slow start. It’s a slow start with a purpose, showing that this will be a sportsmanlike contest between Ibushi and Ospreay – though it gets less so as they target each other’s injuries. Because these injuries are, to some degree, legitimate, this match never gets as explosive as their last one or others these men have had in their careers. The fact that they mostly keep this in the ring and don’t go over the top with the acrobatics and high-flying in some ways makes this an underwhelming rematch but seems like a smart decision. It’s not like either of these guys can only do acrobatics and high-flying; this is a well-executed match that makes sense and the crowd gets into it.

At times it seemed like this match was supposed to have emotional weight as well, but since I watch All The New Japan and remember Ospreay bragging about concussing Ibushi in promos and on social media while the Golden Star was out of action and find him to be a very inconsistent character in general, I can’t get invested in this rivalry. The Hidden Blade counter was a smart callback to their previous match though, and Ospreay’s hug pin probably gave some people feelings.

B Block Building Blocks

By the time this article is published, the B Block matches previewed on this show will have already happened (starting at about 2 AM in my time zone, so I won’t have watched them yet), but let’s go over the more interesting builds anyway! The future opponent pairs of Jeff Cobb-Juice Robinson and Jay White-Toru Yano don’t interact in the ring that much but have exactly the dynamic you would want, with bonus points for “IT’S A LONG TOURNAMENT, ROCKY!”

The first face-off between Jon Moxley and Tomohiro Ishii, though, go above and beyond to build hype for their match, possibly the first NJPW match that’s probably a main event because of Western fanboy interest. They brawl instantly and sit in chairs at each other and it doesn’t convince me that it’s going to be better than Naito-Goto or Takagi-Taichi or maybe even Robinson-Cobb, but it looks Ishii-Mox looks like it will be a lot of fun. Their promos on each other are solid too, with Ishii echoing the sentiment of a lot of fans that Moxley actually hasn’t impressed that much in New Japan since being “emancipated” from WWE and Moxley being very helpful to journalists! You love to see it !

Tetsuya Naito and Hirooki Goto don’t get to wrestle before their match, but we’ve seen them go against each other enough times that they don’t really need to. Naito looks delighted to be able to cut a promo on Goto again. Along with pronouncing “LA Dojo” “la dojo” because no habla inglés, he destroys the Fierce Warrior for the umpteenth time by pointing out how tragically short his comeback storyline is. He’s right, but he shouldn’t say it because it makes me sad!

Taichi’s promo on Shingo Takagi might be even meaner, with less accurate personal insults (“your body is like a small pig’s”) but similarly valid meta-insults, pointing out Shingo’s weird BOSJ-to-G1 trajectory. Taichi disrespecting Dragon Gate in the same promo in which he flexes his heavyweight status on Takagi when Takagi won the equivalent of Dragon Gate’s heavyweight championship several times really drives home how weird Takagi coming into NJPW as a junior is too.

Promos aside, the in-ring build to Taichi vs. Takagi is interesting in that it not only makes their match look promising, but presents Takagi in a much more sympathetic light than usual. For the most part, since Shingo came to New Japan he’s fit into the Los Ingos situation of being able to get away with bad behavior without being booed because of being cool. But here, similar to his match with Kanemaru in BOSJ, Takagi is purely a babyface in peril. It’s an unusual look for him, especially because it includes him basically getting his ass beat for a whole tag match.

Especially considering that Naito and Takagi have a match coming up, it’s interesting to see a rare example of Naito wearing a spotless white hat when he heroically defends his partner after this tag match. New Japan showing rather than telling us that these two are supposed to be close friends seems like a smart move to give that match just that much more significance, especially when you consider how many different directions it could in go in terms of angle-building as well as good wrestling, especially when you consider Takagi’s done some of the best work of his career as a truly hateable heel.


And speaking of L.I.J.-on-L.I.J. violence, two years ago, Sanada defeated Evil in G1 Climax 27, the tournament in which Evil defeated the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. In G1 Climax 29, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the opposite happen, and we’re already halfway there!

There’s a lot more going on in this match than that though. We’ve seen Evil way more invested in this bout for a while now, and that pays off in the ring when we see he’s extra prepared to face his regular tag partner. He rolls through the Paradise Lock once in an unusually good-looking counter to the move, then reveals that he has this move scouted so thoroughly that he’s the only active NJPW wrestler besides Sanada who can apply it. I really wish Paradise Lock lore had not been warped before the biggest moment in recent Paradise Lock history, but this is still a really good moment that gets a big reaction.

When Evil and Sanada do wrestling that isn’t comedy submissions, they show their contrasting styles – flashy athleticism vs. power. They work well together in general and create standout moments that play off their history as a team: Evil uses the ref to hit their tag team finisher, the Magic Killer, on Sanada and Sanada counters Evil’s Skull End attempt into Everything Is Evil. They also build the intensity so that in the end, it does feel like not just game of one-upmanship between teammates, but a competition between brothers, something they drive home with their promos backstage.


The biggest callback moment to their 2017 match – Evil, who hasn’t partaken in L.I.J. fist-bumps since the start of G1 season, extending to the fist to Sanada on his knees just like Sanada did to him two years ago – ties it all in to not just their personal relationship, but what their faction represents. Overall, the mini-angle pays off.

As I mentioned earlier, another night of B Block competition will have happened by the time this is published, so here are the just current A Block points and title shots earned:

A Block points:

6 points – 3-0 – Kazuchika Okada, Kenta
4 points – 2-1 – Evil, Lance Archer
2 points – 1-2 – Bad Luck Fale, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Sanada, Will Ospreay
0 points – 0-3 – Zack Sabre Jr.

Title shots:

RevPro British Heavyweight Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, Sanada

I’ll see you back here next week to talk about Nights 6-7.