By Big Red Machine
From July 20, 2019
JON MOXLEY & SHOTA UMINO vs. JUICE ROBINSON & YOTA TSUJI - 2.5/10
This was very short. Why can't the Suzuki-Gun undercard matches be this short? After the match we got a post-match brawl that didn't feel forced for once.
YUYA UEMURA & CHAOS (Tomohiri Ishii & Toru Yano) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, & Taichi) - 2/10
Suzuki-Gun jumped the bell on their opponents. Spill to the outside, cue usual bullsh*t. And after that they gave us crap with Yano. Uch.
JEFF COBB, TOMOAKI HONMA, & TOA HENARE vs. BULLET CLUB (Jay White, Chase Owens, & Yujiro Takahashi) (w/Gedo) - 5/10
REN NARITA & CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, & BUSHI) - 4.5/10
LIJ win, Naito and Ishii wind up in a very forced post-match confrontation.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Bad Luck Fale (w/Chase Owens & Jado) - 3.5/10
They did some stuff in the ring until Bullet Club interfered. Cue fighting on the outside for a long time without count-outs until suddenly there were count-outs and Zack got Fale in a triangle and then ran back to the ring in time to beat the convenient count. Inconsistent enforcement of the rules completely kills finishes like this for me.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Lance Archer vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi - 7/10
Tanahashi jumped the bell on Archer as revenge for Archer & Suzuki doing the same to him yesterday. Tanahashi worked over Archer's knee, like he had started to do yesterday. They did a decent job with that story and a good job with the size differential story. Tanahashi countered Blackout into a victory roll for the win, continuing his comeback after dropping his first two matches. Archer attacked the referee after the match, which you think would warrant some kind of punishment, but this is New Japan so that won't happen. Even in WWE attacking a referee gets you fined.
BLOCK A MATCH:
EVIL vs. KENTA - 6/10
The majority of the first five minutes of this match were spent outside the ring with the wrestlers not being counted out, and not being DQed for hitting each other with weapons. The remaining ten minutes were very good, but nowhere near close to being able to erase the terrible start.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Kota Ibushi vs. Sanada - 9/10
This was an absolutely phenomenal athletic wrestling match. That's really all there is to say. They didn't overdo it on nearfalls, didn't do anything crazy like a balcony dive or whatever or didn't work a limb. They just had a well-paced, extremely exciting, athletic professional wrestling match.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Will Ospreay vs. Kazuchika Okada - a PERFECT 10/10!
After Okada hit Ospreay with a completely legal strike to the back of his injured neck, f*cking Red Shoes grabbed his neck, too, and lifted his arm like he was trying to make some sort of call, even though the strike was completely legal. Red Shoes is constantly doing things like this to draw attention to himself, which is the exact opposite of what a good referee does.
Kevin Kelly said that the G1 winner gets a title shot at Wrestle Kingdom, and if the champion wins he gets to choose his opponent. I'm not opposed to this idea at all, but I thought the deal at the moment was that whoever wins can choose to face either the IWGP Heavyweight Champion or the IWGP Intercontinental Champion at Wrestle Kingdom.
That Red Shoes thing aside, everything about his match was just as awesome and perfect and amazing as you'd expect it to be. Lots of emotion and drama and storytelling and all of that good stuff. The match was plotted out BRILLIANTLY with those great twists and turns, and I'm certain we'll be seeing those knees to the head during the Tombstone Piledriver reversal in just about every indy match from here until the end of time. This match was great enough that they actually had me thinking that one or two spots might be the finish even though they weren't even a finisher, simply because it would have felt so right.
Despite all of this, I actually did spent a good amount of time debating with myself whether this actually belonged in that special category of 9.75/10 matches that don't get the perfect 10 because I didn't think the finish worked with the story. In the end I decided that this fit more into the category of the Elimination Chamber match from earlier this year where the story was more of a "could he do it?" than a story like Nakamura vs. Ibushi from Wrestle Kingdom IX or Klinger vs. Dragunov from wXw's 17th Anniversary Show where the completion of the story demanded a certain wrestle to win but that wrestler fell short, so I gave this the full 10/10.
That being said, I do think that Ospreay losing here was something of a mistake, and that a 30-minute draw would have been better. It's one fewer job for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion to do that won't get followed up on, one fewer job for Ospreay to do in his first real attempt to establish himself as a heavyweight, I think it creates a little more of a progression for Ospreay in that the last time he faced Okada he lost, but now he has managed to fight him to a draw, and it would also get us some darn odd numbers on the scoresheet, which would make things more exciting due to the narrower point margins (plus, doing a draw or two earlier in the tournament makes them feel like more of a threat for later).
This was a very up and down show from New Japan. The undercard is what it is, but as last night showed, it can actually be something that feels like a boon to the show rather than something you just have to slog through. The G1 matches tonight definitely had some of the same structural problems that we've seen throughout the tournament, but at least the final two matches delivered in a HUGE way, and that's all anyone is going to remember by next week.