New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 29: Night 1
July 6, 2019
American Airlines Center
Watch: AXS TV
Non-Title – IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions The Guerrillas Of Destiny def. Roppongi 3K
While this was the only undercard match that didn’t involve wrestlers participating in the G1 Climax, it might’ve been the most intriguing undercard match on paper. There were no titles on the line, but the fact that Roppongi 3K (a team that’s been a staple of the junior tag team division since their return from excursion in 2017) were getting a two-on-two bout with the current IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions seemed pretty significant. When the dust settled in this opening contest, SHO and YOH more than proved their worth against the team that’s dominated the heavyweight tag team scene over the last few years. G.O.D. tried to jump Roppongi 3K before the bell, but that backfired, and they ended up getting taken out with a pair of dives to the floor. From there, G.O.D. was able to regain the advantage, as they isolated SHO before he eventually made the hot tag to YOH. In the end, we got the result that was pretty much expected, as G.O.D. picked up the win following a super powerbomb on YOH. However, this was a very impressive outing for Roppongi 3K, as they showed that they could hang with the top team in the heavyweight tag team division. As for the match quality, this was a very entertaining opening contest. It only went about seven minutes or so, but there was solid action throughout, and the fans in Dallas were really into it. A great way to kick off the show. ***1/2
Speaking of the fans in Dallas, the way this event was presented on AXS TV showed off the good and bad aspects of this event. The camerawork wasn’t the best, as the empty sections of the building were seen on camera numerous times throughout the event. In that regard, the event didn’t look good at all. On the other side of the equation, this show sounded great. It might’ve seemed like a bad visual with all of those empty seats, but it certainly didn’t sound like it. The hot crowd absolutely translated on AXS TV, so that ended up being an enormous positive.
Jeff Cobb & Ren Narita def. NEVER Openweight Champion Tomohiro Ishii & Shota Umino
This was the first of the B Block preview tag team matches on the undercard. The goal of these undercard tags is to build up the tournament bouts for the next show on the tour, and it’s fair to say that this particular tag team encounter certainly accomplished that goal. This was by far the best bout on the undercard, and it got me so hyped up for the Jeff Cobb/Tomohiro Ishii singles match next week. There was hard-hitting action from start to finish, and the crowd absolutely ate it up. Cobb and Ishii wanted to fight each other so bad, and when they locked horns, it was just incredible to watch (why do we have to wait a week to see this match?!). While this bout was mainly about the two G1 participants, the two young lions had moments to shine as well. Both of them managed to hit a couple of big moves here and there that really popped the crowd, but they were only delaying the inevitable. One of them was going to get pinned, and in this case, it was Shota Umino, who ate a Tour Of The Islands from Cobb. Afterward, Cobb and Ishii got into a brawl that actually busted Cobb up a bit. I wanted to see those two fight right then and there, but alas, we have to wait another week. This match did exactly what it needed to do. ***3/4
CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) def. The Bullet Club (Jay White & Chase Owens with Gedo)
Jay White got a ton of boos during his entrance, which wasn’t much of a shock. This wasn’t quite as good as the two previous tag team bouts on this card, but it was still a solid match from start to finish. We got heel tactics almost immediately as White attacked Goto from behind. Gedo would get involved a couple of times in this one, and in both instances, his efforts allowed The Bullet Club to regain control of the match. Goto had some fine exchanges with White (serving as a preview of their tournament bout on Night 2), before having a fun closing stretch with Chase Owens. Ultimately, Goto pinned Owens after hitting the GTR. Again, this was a good tag team affair, but it was definitely below the two matches that came before it. Three of the four wrestlers in this match were fun to watch….and then there was YOSHI-HASHI. To be fair, I don’t really hate YOSHI-HASHI (I honestly don’t have strong feelings on him either way), but I’m so glad that he’s not in the G1 this year. While he was by no means awful in this match, I just didn’t care about him at all. As for Hirooki Goto vs. Jay White, I’m very intrigued to see how that bout turns out. I feel like most people have White as a lock to win, but it wouldn’t shock me if Goto scored an early upset win. ***1/4
Juice Robinson, Toru Yano, & Jushin Thunder Liger def. Los Ingobernables de Japon (IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, & BUSHI)
Everyone involved in this six-man tag pretty much got their own entrances (to varying degrees, of course). Tetsuya Naito vs Toru Yano and Juice Robinson vs. Shingo Takagi are the two B Block bouts that were being built up in this one. This was very similar to the CHAOS vs. Bullet Club tag team match that came before it (generally good, but not on the same level as the first two tag team bouts). Even though this crowd loved LIJ when they made their entrance, they quickly booed them when they started going after Liger’s mask. There was a really good back and forth exchange in the middle portion of the bout between Shingo and Juice, while Naito and Yano had some interactions of their own (which mainly involved a turnbuckle pad, a flash pin attempt, and Naito spitting at Yano several times). Naito eventually tagged in BUSHI, who proceeded to get pinned shortly thereafter when Yano caught him in a roll up following a low blow. I saw that some people were upset that Liger didn’t score the winning fall here, which I honestly don’t understand. We all know Liger doesn’t give a shit about these sorts of things anymore, and he always seems willing to take a back seat in these situations (regardless of how big the show is) ***1/4
Before the A Block matches kicked off, it was announced that New Japan would be running a series of shows on the East Coast in late September, under the “Fighting Spirit Unleashed” name (which was used for the show in Long Beach, California last September). These three events will be taking place in Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia markets, but the bigger story is the venues they chose to run. The buildings they’re using for this tour include the Lowell Municipal Auditorium, the Hammerstein Ballroom, and the 2300 Arena. What’s interesting is that ROH runs all three of those venues pretty regularly. They just had a set of TV Tapings in the 2300 Arena, and they’ll be running shows at the other two venues in just a few weeks. Of course, ROH’s recent struggles with regards to ticket sales have become well known, particularly with this upcoming Manhattan show. There’s no question that New Japan will certainly sell out these three shows very quickly once tickets go on sale, and that will definitely be a powerful message sent to ROH.
G1 Climax 29 – A Block – Lance Archer (2) def. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Will Ospreay (0)
Lance Archer came out sporting a new haircut, which appears to be some sort of mohawk/mullet combination? I really don’t know what the correct terminology for that would be. Anyway, these two had an awesome match in the New Japan Cup back in March, and once the two blocks were revealed, a lot of people were excited to see what these two could do in a rematch. Well, when the dust settled, this ended up being an absolutely incredible encounter that (for me) was easily the match of the night. This got off to a lightning quick start, as Ospreay connected with a flurry of offense in the first minute after Archer tried to jump him before the bell (he hit a Spanish Fly, a big twisting dive to the floor, and a 450 Splash). Then, Ospreay tried to go for the Sasuke Special, but Archer somehow managed to catch him, and put him through a ringside table with a massive chokeslam. From there, Archer took control, and while Ospreay was able to hit some offense here and there, Archer controlled the middle portion of the bout. This included a series of devastating powerbombs. Ospreay was able to mount a comeback after a Code Red on the floor, and from there, we got an exciting closing stretch that included some awesome moments. Archer survived and avoided some of Ospreay’s biggest moves, and ultimately, he scored the win after a Super Blackout (which looked insane) and a Claw Hold, which he used to pin Ospreay.
I don’t know what else there is to say about this match. This was eighteen minutes of pure greatness, and it got the G1 Climax off to a hot start. Archer had the best match of his career in front of a lot of friends and family, which was really cool to see. Meanwhile, if Ospreay continues to have performances like this, then there’s no question that he’ll have Wrestler Of The Year all locked up by the time this tournament concludes. Go out of your way to see this match. ****3/4
G1 Climax 29 – A Block – Bad Luck Fale (2) def. EVIL (0)
I could go on and on about how much Bad Luck Fale sucks, but that would just be preaching to the choir. Instead, I’m actually going to make a (rare) positive comment about Fale. I actually think he looks pretty cool in this new “Rogue General” gimmick. The beard in particular really completes the look. Much like the Archer/Ospreay match, these two didn’t waste any time getting this one started. They immediately started brawling on the floor, and traded big moves on the entrance ramp. Fale got the better of that exchange, but EVIL regained control after he managed to lift Fale up for a bodyslam. There were some decent exchanges in the second half, but a pair of steel chairs would come into play towards the end. While they were introduced earlier in the bout, they were fully utilized once the referee got taken out. EVIL wrapped a chair around the neck of Fale, and went for his signature chair swing, but Fale blocked it with a low blow. Then, Fale hit EVIL with his own chair swing, and followed up with the Bad Luck Fall to pick up the win. This wasn’t the prettiest match in the world, but for what it was, I thought it was perfectly fine. The bulk of the bout was solid enough (by Bad Luck Fale standards, anyway), and even though we saw some shenanigans at the end, at least we didn’t get a DQ. **1/2
G1 Climax 29 – A Block – SANADA (2) def. Zack Sabre Jr. (0)
These two had a great match in Korakuen Hall during last year’s G1 Climax. However, that wasn’t their most recent singles meeting, as Zack Sabre Jr. successfully retained his Undisputed British Heavyweight Title against SANADA at a RevPro event the week prior. The story of this rivalry has been that SANADA has proven to be just as good of a technical wrestler as Zack Sabre Jr., and as we saw last year during this tournament, he managed to beat Sabre using those technical wrestling skills. Well, SANADA managed to get the better of Sabre once again, as he scored the win after trapping him in a Prawn Hold. This was a very strong match that was just as good as their encounter from last year’s G1 Climax. There were plenty of awesome technical exchanges and counters throughout this one, almost too many to list. They were so smooth and precise with everything they did. The chemistry that these two have is incredible to see. Sabre utilized all of his usual offense, but SANADA seemingly had an answer for almost everything that Sabre threw at him. Towards the end of the bout, Sabre managed to counter a moonsault attempt by SANADA into a triangle choke, and that led right into the sequence of pinfall exchanges that finished the match. The crowd exploded when SANADA got the win, and I loved how Sabre sold the loss. He was pissed, and he even went attacked the referee! Another great singles encounter between these two. Again, their chemistry is just amazing. ****1/4
G1 Climax 29 – A Block – KENTA (2) def. Kota Ibushi (0)
I would say that this was one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament, but honestly, you could say that about most of KENTA’s matches in this tournament! It was so cool to see him come out with Shibata back at Dominion, and once the field for the G1 Climax was announced, people were salivating over the idea of KENTA mixing it up with some of the best that New Japan has to offer. That being said, there were plenty of questions surrounding KENTA as well, since he was coming off a WWE run that was plagued with various injuries. How would he hold up? Well, Kota Ibushi was his first major test, and while he definitely passed, it wasn’t a perfect score (if that makes sense). As a whole, this was a great match, but it wasn’t without issues. On the positive side, this was a very strong win for KENTA. Even though Ibushi certainly kept this one competitive, KENTA pretty much dominated the majority of the bout. It was a very brutal affair, as KENTA just devastated Ibushi with a variety of kicks and knee strikes. We saw more back and forth action between the two in the second half, but KENTA was dominant. He just beat the crap out of Ibushi. On the negative side, however, there were certain points where the match seemed to really slow down when KENTA was in control, and they appeared to almost lose the crowd. The fact that a noticeable chant for Red Shoes started in the middle of the bout showed that some fans were losing interest, but then again, they chanted “This Is Awesome” when the action picked up later. This probably would’ve been a little better if they shaved off five minutes. As for KENTA, while he didn’t totally look like the KENTA of old, he certainly came off like an ass-kicker. Believe it or not, this was actually his first match since leaving the WWE back in February, so I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s still shaking off a little ring rust. I’m hopeful that he’ll be able to shake most of that off as the tournament progresses.
Again, the action did pick up in the second half, and Ibushi took the fight to KENTA in the closing stages, but KENTA ultimately emerged victorious after hitting a very safe looking GTS (it looked like he connected more with Ibushi’s arm than his head). I’m probably a tad higher on this match than most, but if I were to rank the five tournament matches from this show, this might be the fourth best match out of those five. ****1/4
G1 Climax 29 – A Block – IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada (2) def. Hiroshi Tanahashi (0)
What else can be said about the Okada/Tanahashi rivalry that hasn’t been said already? It’s been the rivalry that’s defined New Japan Pro Wrestling in this decade and played a major role in the promotion’s incredible worldwide growth following the dark ages that were the 2000’s. Now, for the first time ever, they brought their legendary feud to the United States. Coming into this bout, the record between these two was 5-5-3, and it was important to note that all three of those draws happened in the G1 Climax (2013, 2016, and 2018). While everyone knew that the match would be great, the big question was whether we see an unprecedented fourth-time limit draw.
In the end, Okada managed to finally break that streak of draws in the G1 when he put Tanahashi away with a Rainmaker. This was by no means the best match these two have had with each other, but it was still an awesome bout from start to finish, and the atmosphere was electric. The fans in Dallas were into this right from the opening bell, as they cheered them on for a solid minute before the two even locked up. For the most part, Okada and Tanahashi played their greatest hits, but it was exactly what that crowd wanted to see. We saw everything from their classic back and forth exchanges, to the dragon screws, to the slick counters, to the wrist control, to their biggest moves, and so much more. They weren’t reinventing the wheel here, but again, these fans wanted to see Okada and Tanahashi do what they do best, and they delivered. While Tanahashi did come close to winning on a number of occasions, Okada ultimately got the job done. The only thing that surprised me was the fact that they didn’t get closer to the time limit. Okada was my pick to win this match, but I figured (given their previous meetings in the G1) that they would at least get beyond the twenty five minute mark. Other than that, these two gave us exactly what we all wanted to see, and the fans in attendance loved every second of it. ****1/2
This was the first time a G1 Climax event has ever taken place in the United States, and even though the ticket sales weren’t what many of us were hoping for, there’s no question that this show was a massive success from an in-ring standpoint. All of the tournament matches not involving Bad Luck Fale were awesome, and all of the undercard bouts were pretty entertaining to watch as well. I would give the match of the night honors to Lance Archer vs. Will Ospreay, but Okada vs. Tanahashi wasn’t that far behind.
We also saw KENTA have a dominant outing against Kota Ibushi, while SANADA outwrestled Zack Sabre Jr. once again. The fact that the crowd was so hot for much of the show definitely helped the matches, and I would hope that we see another G1 Climax event in the United States next year. The only negative coming out of this show is the realization that we have to wait another week for the tournament to really kick into high gear.
VOW G1 Climax 29 Pick’Em Standings/Scores
Standings/scores for VOW’s G1 Climax 29 Pick’Em are coming soon and will be available publicly at voicesofwrestling.com/forums.