OCTOBER 14, 2020

Watch: NJPW World
Daily Audio Reviews:
VOW G1 Climax 30 Standings & Scores:

It’s Night 16 of the G1 Climax 30, baby. You can tell because I’m pale and weak, having nightmares about being chased down dark corridors by the Lion Mark, and going into cold sweats whenever I see the color Cerulean. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. 

G1 Climax 30 B Block
KENTA (8) def. Yoshi-Hashi (2)

Yoshi-Hashi has been a total treasure in this G1. I’ve thrown more stars at his matches than I care to admit, and I love his whole “Bully Who Still Gets His Ass Kicked” routine. He controls from the outset, forcing KENTA to retreat. KENTA grabs Yoshi-Hashi’s staff at ringside as if to say, “What the hell is this thing supposed to be anyway?” Or maybe I’m projecting, and he just wanted to hit Yoshi-Hashi with it. Either way, it lures Yoshi-Hashi to the outside where KENTA takes the wheel. KENTA directs his offense at Yoshi-Hashi’s left arm, perhaps trying to set up the Game Over. Yoshi Hashi’s offense is a fireworks display of thrust kicks and Liger Bombs that I’m still shocked by, even on Night 16. 

Then the Butterfly Lock happens. Yoshi-Hashi’s Butterfly Lock, normally a submission hold second only to the Skull End in its ability to make a viewer want to watch something else, has had mixed results in this G1. It’s been tense and riveting at times (EVIL, Night 4) but it’s also made me scramble for the remote, wondering if my stream froze (Naito, Night 10). Here, KENTA makes a mercifully quick escape, before attempting the Game Over. The move is an omoplata, a hold that allows for so many clever and snappy applications. It’s felt clumsy and unwieldy in the hands of 2020 KENTA. At the risk of sounding like a total goon, I wish these two would quit it and just clobber each other. Thankfully, they do. 

KENTA barrages Yoshi-Hashi with his legendary stiff slaps and backhands, and Yoshi-Hashi responds by dumping him on his head. It’s already a shit-hot closing stretch when KENTA reverses a strike for a CLEVER and SNAPPY application of the Game Over. It forces the tapout, cashing in on the arm work earlier in the match. Way to turn this one around boys, that’s a rock-solid block opener. ***½ 

G1 Climax 30 B Block
Zack Sabre Jr. (10) def. Juice Robinson (6)

I say this as a fan of both men: Take a minute to imagine what a match between Juice Robinson and Zack Sabre Jr. looks like, and you’ve probably got the first ten minutes of this match locked down give or take a wristlock. ZSJ is a real-life Gumby, but his only competition in terms of elasticity might be Juice Robinson’s face. It’s a bottomless well of cartoon-grade expression. It serves this match well while Zack twists and wrenches his body every which way. 

An emphasis is placed on Juice’s strength advantage down the stretch. ZSJ snakes around him like he’s playground equipment. Eventually, Juice spends a little too much time in Zack’s web and gets caught in a European Clutch for the pin. Good stuff here. Won’t knock you on your ass, but doesn’t wear out its welcome either. ***¼ 

G1 Climax 30 B Block
Tetsuya Naito (12) def. Toru Yano (6)

Naito’s one of my favorite wrestlers on the planet, but before the G1 I hadn’t really loved a match of his since the Tokyo Dome. This tournament, however, has been a total treat, loaded with performances that have felt like vintage Tetsuya Naito. And it would have been a joy to write about one of those performances, but a match with Toru Yano will have to do. 

Naito seems to be relishing a well-earned night off. His entrance takes a full eight minutes, fumbling at the buttons on his shirt in what might be the match’s high point. Yano tapes Naito and Tsuji’s arms together. That’s pretty funny I guess. Are we good? Can I go to the next match now? YANO

G1 Climax 30 B Block
EVIL (12) def. Hirooki Goto (8)

Ever since Goto’s nebulous shoulder injury improved to the point he could return to full-length matches, he’s brought a much-needed influx of ass-kicking and hard-hitting offense to the B Block. EVIL’s matches, on the other hand, have filled me with dread while I wait for my nightly onslaught of dick punches and Dick Togos. It’s Night 16, and unless you’ve been in a coma, you don’t need me to describe the formula of every EVIL match. If you HAVE been in a coma, I’ll save you some time – his only good match leading up to this was against Yoshi-Hashi. Wait! Don’t will yourself back into that coma just yet; there’s good news! This match rules. 

EVIL and Goto collide like angry bulls, the way you’d expect them to before EVIL became helpless. Dick Togo gets involved in an appropriately pesky manner, without making the referee, opponent and viewer look irredeemably stupid. EVIL is capable, working over the injured shoulder, but willing to take shortcuts where he can find. Goto overcomes hurdle after hurdle, appearing every bit the badass while working his way through a moveset that only seems to get cooler with each passing year. When EVIL does finally land the STO for the win, it’s still in an underhanded-enough way to make you bristle at the TV. But it stops short of making you feel like you just watched a bad Looney Tunes short, or worse, a WWE TV match. More of this from EVIL, please. ***½ 

G1 Climax 30 B Block
SANADA (10) def. Hiroshi Tanahashi (6)

The stakes are deliciously elevated for this match – with the prior victories from EVIL and Naito, SANADA must win this match to stay alive. Early on Tanahashi focuses his attack on SANADA’s legs, and takes his sweet time in doing so. This would seem to indicate two things: that this match is continuing Tanahashi’s recent trend of building toward his Texas Cloverleaf, and that we’re going long.

Tanahashi is great at this sort of thing. He uses the damaged leg as a target when he needs to get himself out of trouble, rather than simply cycling through long holds on the limb. To SANADA’s credit, his flashes of offense impress. Even the Paradise Lock is exciting, locked in from nowhere after rolling through a Sunset Flip. Tanahashi takes flight with a cross-body from the top rope to the floor, a common signal that the Ace is swinging for the fences tonight. Alright, I’ll sit up for this one.

The Cloverleaf is successfully locked in shortly after, but SANADA escapes with little effort. He regains a semblance of control with a rope-assisted Magic Killer, and the two start digging into all their most devastating signature spots. SANADA’s leg remains a factor – he’s still hurt when he gets his knees up for the High Fly Flow, and Tanahashi can escape the Skull End by wrenching on the limb. Of course, by this point, Tana’s knee is also in poor shape. Mostly because at this point in his career, Tana’s knees are trash and debris wrapped in perfectly tanned skin. 

Often, here I’d talk about how far my eyes roll back into my head when SANADA begins his sequence of Skull End applications, but something must have been different about this match. When Tanahashi reverses a SANADA hurricanrana attempt into his second successful Texas Cloverleaf, the twenty-five-minute call rings out. I’m shocked. It honestly felt like fifteen. Well established stakes, multiple possible avenues to victory and main event performance from Hiroshi Tanahashi go a long way. As the time limit approaches SANADA lands back to back moonsaults to win and stay alive in the block. Kudos to both men – this probably had no business going twenty-eight minutes, but these two made it relatively painless. ***¾ 

Final Thoughts

This late in the tournament, it’s nice to have little surprises like EVIL/Goto. Nothing’s going to blow you away but this is a pretty solid show, or for short, “B Block”.