The Best And Worst Of NJPW: G1 Climax 29, Night 2


Previously on NJPW: A grand total of zero wrestlers wore a cowboy hat for the tournament press conference or their entrance in Dallas but somehow the G1 still got off to a pretty great start.

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And now, the best and worst of the second night of G1 Climax 29, the first night of B Block competition on July 13, 2019, at Ota City General Gymnasium in Tokyo.

B Block: Best Block???

Warning: the first night of B Block action was a very positive experience to watch and featured quality wrestling, so this article is going to be very positive! Let’s get this tooth-rotting review rolling with Juice Robinson defeating Shingo Takagi. These two completely lived up to the hype they built in their preview tag match and in a way that makes me hope they wrestle again sometime.

In a similar situation to his Kojima match, Takagi is still a beast against heavyweights, but he doesn’t get to be on the hoss-to-bully spectrum against Robinson, who’s about half a foot taller than him. This means he has to use his brain in addition to his other muscles, like in his quest to break down Robinson enough to hit a shoulder tackle at the beginning of the match. Both wrestlers fight both smart and hard here, resulting in an entertaining ratio of dodges and counters to high impact moves and clotheslining each other at the same time. In fifteen minutes, Robinson and Takagi tell a more exciting story of a very competitive match than a lot of people do in thirty.

Speaking of competition, this is probably a good time to talk about G1 Points Madness, the thing that will happen to you if you try to figure out the “correct” result for every G1 match. There are so many G1 matches, especially in B Block, where one could make valid arguments for why either wrestler should win. Sometimes, like in this show’s main event, there is someone who actually needs to win in order for their character arc to go a certain way, but for the most part, the round-robin structure of the tournament and its famously “grueling” nature and the way it sets up storylines for the rest of the year allow for some unpredictable results. Wins and losses mattering is the whole reason the G1 works, but also G1 wins and losses are, for the most part, not worth getting up in arms about.

Jon Moxley vs. Taichi was probably my personal least favorite match on the card, but it was fun and oh my gosh, under ten minutes. At this point, I think the best way to view New Japan Mox is to remember that he’s not the same as AEW Mox. For the most part, the New Japan audiences in Japan do not care about his WWE career; there isn’t that anti-establishment element of his character that people take seriously. It’s not a perfect comparison, but he feels like a throwback to the likes of Terry Funk. Former WWE Superstar Jon Moxley is here in your town, and do you remember American hardcore wrestlers who used to come to Japan? He’s one of those! Enjoy!

That might read like it’s diminishing what Moxley is doing in New Japan right now, but it’s not. He’s playing this role very well. The fact that he’s embracing being a Guest Star and Not From Here gives him leeway for the Purveyor of Violence not having, for example, as convincingly violence forearms as most of the New Japan roster. He makes up for stuff like that by leaning into being different (an attraction!), his always strong character work (which meshed very well with Taichi’s), and spots like that sick uranage through the table.

Also, obvious ethical concerns about winning a manservant in a wrestling match aside (BRB, googling “how to call CPA on behalf of an adult in another country”), Mox and “Shooter” Umino forever. They continue to be the unexpected odd couple of the summer.

An even shorter and more chaotic match officially kicks of YANO SEASON. No one is safe, not even the first or second top pick for B Block winner, Tetsuya Naito! Both Naito and Yano are very skilled wrestlers with great comedy instincts and characters who play the opposite types of mind games with their opponents. Putting them together one-on-one is gold. Naito gets bonus points for breaking out the big match cape for this too.

Yano’s usual tag partner and another perpetual G1 MVP, Tomohiro Ishii, also gets his first win in a completely different kind of match. Ishii vs. Jeff Cobb is the slowest bout on this card in a good way. We’re in an era of wrestling where most “heavyweights” do things that used to be the realm of the lighter weight classes, but Cobb and Ishii deliver straight-up, old-school heavyweight action. They go into it recognizing each other’s toughness and knowing they have to break each other down. It’s a bit of a slow burn, but by the time Ishii makes his hard-earned comeback for the win, the match and crowd have heated up.

Cobb seems like he could have shifted to another gear, which isn’t uncommon in his matches, but he still comes out of this established as a credible powerhouse. Ishii’s usual New Japan tournament story is perfectly set up again: he looks like he could beat any in the G1, but whether going this [tough and] hard in every match will be sustainable in a way that leads to his tournament victory remains to be seen. (At this point, we pretty much know we’re not going to see it, but what a moment that would be.)

Next Time On G1 Climax 29: Dojo Wars And Submission Piss

The matches previewed by these preview tags will have happened by the time this article is online, but I’ll still point out they were very effective.

First, L.I.J. vs. Yuya Uemura, Will Ospreay, and Kota Ibushi focuses mostly on Evil vs. Ibushi, and on turning Ibushi’s real-looking ankle injury from Dallas into a storyline. Ibushi shows he can still do a standing moonsault with ease (injured Ibushi is still one hundred times more athletic than most humans), but he’s slowed down by Los Ingos targeting his ankle and looks mad about it. There’s an easy way for one of the company’s biggest heroes to be in peril for the rest of the tour and Evil, after starting the tournament with an L, is more motivated and ruthless than before.

Bad Luck Fale and Lance Archer had a surprisingly good monster fight in the 2018 New Japan Cup, and they show they remember why that worked so well in the preview tag for their G1 match. They’re not going to try to prove that actually, they have the range to do what popular indie guys are doing and aren’t just huge, threatening people. They are the two giants of New Japan who chokeslam people so they’re going to try to chokeslam each other at the same time. I respect that.

Okada and Yoshi-Hashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. and Minoru Suzuki effectively makes it look like ZSJ could beat Okada, or at least make beating him very difficult. Okada tries to mat wrestle Sabre at first like an idiot and both Suzukigun members show that they could credibly mess up someone’s G1 with an injury.

Suzuki is as sadistic as he was on the Kizuna Road tour, but now he’s mostly staying within the rules and also not talking backstage. Is he in a depression funk? Is he a ticking time bomb? Is he having a crisis about three members of his army being more highly regarded by NJPW than him? Is he all three? I appreciate that this isn’t overshadowing the storylines of people who are actually in the G1, but I am also very interested in finding out what happens next with Suzuki.

Even more than the angle I’m calling Taichigun 2020??? in my mind, the Japan debuts of the LA Dojo boys provides both good wrestling and intrigue about possible changes to the NJPW landscape. Clark Conners and Karl Fredericks (who have represented NJPW in dark matches and house shows in the U.S., in Ring of Honor, and in RevPro, and people have gotten to know a little through the LA Dojo mini documentary series) show the audience that Shibata’s made sure they’ve shined up their mat wrestling make a good first impression. They and the Tokyo dojo boys also immediately go to war against each other because of course they do.

While this trios match mostly lets the youngsters shine, it also makes the upcoming battle of Shibata’s Friends Kenta and Hiroshi Tanahashi look promising. They’re both broken down veterans who seem to easily work each other’s pace. We don’t see a lot of them together here, but they don’t give anyone a reason to think their match will be bad.

Best: Better Than Ever Block

When I talked about Points Madness, I mentioned there are a few G1 matches that a certain guy has to win in order to keep his character arc going. One of these was Kenta vs. Ibushi, and the other was Shibata’s other best friend and person now associated with the recently unlocked location of the LA Dojo, Hirooki Goto. I’d argue Goto’s comeback story got off to a stronger start in the first night of B Block than Kenta’s did in A Block because we saw him not only pick up a win, but actually wrestle better than we have in a while.

I think there were two defining moments for Goto in this match: his cool-looking new take on the ushigoroshi, making one of his moves that already looked good more exciting, and the part when he stopped a finisher reversal sequence in its tracks by pulling Jay White’s hair and headbutting him several times like an absolute murderer. Goto wrestled a very good match here overall, but these were moments that showed he is in, in fact, a new and improved man and that new and improved man is a badass.

Jay White also looked really good in this match, but in a more understated way, and that’s a good thing. His control portions of the match felt more vicious and like they had more continuity than some he’s had in other matches, including his last match with Goto. But while White’s combination of wrestling skills and shenanigans made him look like a credible threat and are sure to pay off with a G1 W in the near future, the Switchblade never overshadowed Goto’s comeback story and new attitude in a match that was all about Goto’s comeback story and new attitude. Non-wrestlers using the term “worker” can sound very dumb and wannabe-insider, but I have to say that this match made Jay White look like a good worker.

On that note, let’s run down the points and title shots earned after this show:

A Block points:

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

B Block points:

2 points – 1-0 – Hirooki Goto, Jon Moxley, Juice Robinson, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano,
0 points – 0-1 – Jay White, Jeff Cobb, Shingo Takagi, Taichi, Tetsuya Naito

Title shots earned:

RevPro British Heavyweight Championship: Sanada
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Toru Yano

The Best and Worst of NJPW will be back later this week to talk about Nights 3 and 4 of G1 Climax 29.