New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 30: Night 1
September 19, 2020
Osaka, Japan

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VOW G1 Climax 30 Standings & Scores:

Yuya Uemura def. Yota Tsuji

This was the first of eighteen young lion singles matches on this tour, and the first of six bouts between Tsuji and Uemura. While the usual multi-man tags are fine ways to set up the story for whatever G1 matches they’re hyping up, I don’t think anybody is complaining about this change for the G1 this year. These two had a fairly solid singles match, which shouldn’t come as much of a shock. It’s been said many times before, but the young lions in New Japan are so good and so fundamentally sound that it’s next to impossible for them to have bad matches. There was some nice back and forth in the closing moments, before Uemura got the win after forcing Tsuji to tap out to the High Angle Boston Crab (also known as the Lion Tamer). I’m very curious to see who wins these matches throughout the tour. It wouldn’t shock me at all if they all finish out with three wins and three losses apiece, but who knows? Maybe they’ll surprise us. ***

G1 Climax 30 – A Block
Will Ospreay (2) def. Yujiro Takahashi (0)

First of all, I have to note that Jushin Thunder Liger and Milano Collection AT were absolutely thrilled to see Will Ospreay back. Obviously I couldn’t understand what exactly they were saying, but you could really tell that they were so excited to see him again. Ospreay did come out with the RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Title, so if he ends up staying in Japan, maybe we’ll get a title defense or two set up in this G1.

The most shocking thing about this match was that there were zero Bullet Club shenanigans. No Jado, no kendo stick, no referee bumps, nothing. Yujiro just came out by himself and wrestled a clean match against Will Ospreay. It was really a pleasant surprise. In terms of the match itself, it was a relatively solid contest. I’m sure those who were hoping that Ospreay would carry Yujiro to a notebook match will be disappointed, but when you look at how much time the match got, it was never set up or designed for that. This ended up going about seven-and-a-half minutes, and honestly, that’s perfect for Yujiro. If the rest of his tournament bouts are exactly like this (seven to ten minutes with zero Bullet Club nonsense), he’s going to be much more tolerable. Yujiro took control for a few minutes after an early reserve DDT on the floor, but Ospreay made his expected comeback, which set up the closing stretch. The finishing sequence was actually pretty cool, as Ospreay counted a Tokyo Pimps attempt into a quick Hidden Blade. Ospreay connected with the Stormbreaker moments later to score the win. ***1/4

G1 Climax 30 – A Block
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion Taichi (2) def. Jeff Cobb (0)

In an absolutely incredible coincidence, I realized (as I was typing this review) that one of the shows I reviewed for Voices Of Wrestling during last year’s G1 Climax (Night 10 to be more specific) featured both Jeff Cobb vs. Taichi and Jay White vs. Shingo Takagi. I promise that I didn’t plan that out at all! Anyway, the match that Cobb and Taichi had on Night 10 last year was a relatively solid bout (which I had at ***1/4), but their rematch on this show was a massive improvement over that initial encounter. If you thought this was the second-best match on this show, I wouldn’t argue with you. There were a few shenanigans early, as Taichi used the bell hammer on Cobb’s knee (following Cobb’s initial flurry). However, that did serve as the setup for the story they were telling (Taichi going after Cobb’s knee), so I can let it slide. Taichi spent a few minutes working over Cobb’s knee, but once Cobb was able to make his comeback, the latter half of the match turned out to be particularly strong. Both men went back and forth at this stage, as they busted out many of their signature moves. Taichi managed to avoid the Tour Of The Islands on multiple occasions, and even though he wasn’t able to lift Cobb up for the Black Mephisto originally, he connected with it on the second try (following some superkicks) to secure the victory. A very good outing from both Cobb and Taichi here. I know people had their respective concerns about these two, but after this match, I feel confident in saying that both men are going to have many more strong performances as this tournament continues. ***3/4

G1 Climax 30 – A Block
NEVER Openweight Champion Minoru Suzuki (2) def. Tomohiro Ishii (0)

While the main event certainly had a lot of hype coming into this show (considering that it was a rematch from one of the Tokyo Dome shows in January), I was actually looking forward to this Tomohiro Ishii vs. Minoru Suzuki match a little bit more. It was awesome to see Suzuki back in the G1 Climax, and I couldn’t think of a better way for him to return than with a singles bout against the Stone Pitbull. You knew these two were going to beat the absolute crap out of each other, and what do you know, that’s exactly what they did!! This was an awesome match from start to finish. Easily the best bout on this entire show. It only went thirteen minutes, but they certainly made the most of that time. The initial exchanges were incredible, and some of the strikes that Suzuki nailed Ishii with in the middle of the bout were absolutely sickening. The one thing that’s always impressed me with Suzuki’s strikes is the sound. It’s something you never really forget, especially in a match like this against Ishii. Speaking of which, it was awesome seeing Ishii fire up after taking so much punishment, and they continued to have some great exchanges in the closing stretch. The finish came when Suzuki rolled through on a Vertical Drop Brainbuster attempt by Ishii, spun him around once, and planted him with the Gotch-Style Piledriver for the win. What else is there to say? These two guys are fantastic, and they had the first truly incredible match in this tournament. ****1/2

G1 Climax 30 – A Block
“Switchblade” Jay White (2) def. Shingo Takagi (0)

Even though I wasn’t thrilled to see the Bullet Club shenanigans return in this match (I’ll get to that in a minute), I was happy to see Jay White return. Seeing him back in action was just a reminder of how good he’s become in such a short period of time. He had his work cut out for him here, however, as he was up against Shingo Takagi. Of course (as I mentioned earlier), these two met on Night 10 in last year’s G1, and White picked up the win in a pretty good match. The result ended up being the same in this rematch, but I would say it was a slight step above that previous encounter. The first fifteen or sixteen minutes of this nearly twenty-minute bout were really solid, with some good back and forth action throughout. Through the first three-quarters of the match, we did get the occasional interference/distraction from Gedo, though really it wasn’t significant enough to actively hurt the match. What did hurt the match was the referee bump late, which occurred as Shingo was setting White up for Last Of The Dragon. Shingo foiled Gedo’s attempt to interfere, but this left him wide open for a Jay White low blow. White then followed up with a brutal looking Regal Plex, followed by an Arm Trap Brainbuster, and finally the Blade Runner for the win. Shingo and White worked very well together (there were a couple of spots between them that I REALLY liked), and the match probably gets into notebook territory if not for the total WWE style referee bump/visual pin. At the same time, the bulk of the action was also too good for me to not put it above their bout from last year’s G1 Climax. Obviously, I hope stuff like referee bumps doesn’t become the common theme of all of Whilte’s G1 matches, but time will tell, I suppose. ***3/4

G1 Climax 30 – A Block
Kota Ibushi (2) def. “Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada (0)

It really speaks to the incredibly high standard of the G1 Climax that a pretty great match between Kazuchika Okada and Kota Ibushi could be considered a disappointment, yet that’s the world we live in. There’s no question that the expectations for this bout coming in were extraordinarily high, especially after these two had what is (arguably) one of the best matches of the year (maybe even the best, depending on who you ask) on January 4th in the Tokyo Dome. I can totally understand people being disappointed by how this rematch turned out, and I would agree that it could’ve been a little better (I’ll get to my main reason why in a second). That being said, it was still a really great match. On their best day, Okada and Ibushi can have an incredible MOTY caliber bout (as we saw back in January), but they’re also such incredible performers that even their worst match is still an awesome match. While we did get one or two moments that looked a tad shaky (Ibushi nearly lost his balance on that top rope springboard hurricanrana), the wrestling from start to finish was fantastic, which is exactly what you would expect from these two. Ultimately, Kota Ibushi ended up scoring the victory after hitting Okada with only one Kamigoye, which didn’t even see Ibushi take down his knee pad.

After taking a few minutes to digest the match, the one thing that really stuck out to me (when wondering why this match fell so short of their Wrestle Kingdom encounter, or even their A Block Final from the G1 Climax last year) was Okada’s usage of the Cobra Clutch. Now, to be clear, I don’t dislike the Cobra Clutch as much as I dislike YOSHI-HASHI’s Butterfly Lock submission (which is a move that everyone hates as a finisher). However, it just didn’t seem quite as natural when that was the move Okada was trying to go for to finish Ibushi off during the closing sequences. It just felt like this was missing Okada just nailing Ibushi with a bunch of Rainmakers. Now, that could be part of Okada’s story in this year’s G1 (as some people have suggested). Maybe the story is that, by changing his finisher, he’s tried to fix something that wasn’t broken, and it’s been biting him in the ass, aside from the Yujiro feud. Perhaps this dedication to the Cobra Clutch has led to him becoming a little overconfident, which we saw a little bit at the finish, when Okada tried to hit the Kamigoye on Ibushi, and it immediately backfired on him (sort of like the first Cena/Rock match, where Cena got overconfident and tried for the People’s Elbow, only to get caught and pinned following a Rock Bottom a few seconds later). The fact that Ibushi pinned Okada so easily with only one Kamigoye was very reminiscent of the Okada/Tanahashi IWGP Heavyweight Title bout from Wrestling Dontaku 2018, where Okada managed to beat Tanahashi easily with only one Rainmaker. Are all of these things part of Okada’s story? Is he going on a stump to start the G1, before making a massive comeback to win the whole thing? We’ll see what happens as the tournament moves forward, but a very interesting start to the G1 for both Okada and Ibushi, that’s for sure. ****1/4

Final Thoughts

Night 1 of this year’s G1 Climax proved to be a very exciting show from start to finish. The young lion opener was entertaining as always, while all five A Block matches ranged from good, to very good, to freaking great. We all know the format change with only six matches and no undercard tags was a COVID related decision, but it made for a very easy show to watch. For my money, Ishii vs. Suzuki was easily the best bout on this show, with Okada vs. Ibushi coming in second. Cobb vs. Taichi proved to be a pleasant surprise, while Shingo vs. White could’ve been much better without the usual Bullet Club shenanigans. Finally, Ospreay vs. Yujiro was a nice little seven to eight-minute match that was shockingly clean. Your opinions of this show may vary, depending on what you thought about Okada vs. Ibushi, but this was a very strong start to the G1 Climax in my book.