New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 32: Night 1
July 16th, 2022
Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center
Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
For the first time since 2019, the G1 Climax has returned to its traditional summertime slot on the New Japan calendar. Even though we still have to deal with clap crowds for the time being, it’s nice to see that New Japan is slowly but surely returning to a sense of normalcy.
Now as far as this year’s G1 Climax is concerned, the big story is the format change, as this year’s tourney has four blocks with seven wrestlers in each block, bringing the total number of participants to twenty-eight. The way the schedule has worked out means that that tournament will be harder to follow in some respects, but the smaller blocks means that the wins and losses are going to mean more than ever, as each wrestler will only have six block matches instead of nine.
The opening night of this year’s G1 Climax (taking place in Sapporo) featured one match from each block, and was headlined by a rematch of last year’s B Block decider between Jeff Cobb and Kazuchika Okada. Before diving into the tournament matches themselves, here are the results from the undercard:
- “Filthy” Tom Lawlor (with Royce Isaacs) def. Kosei Fujita
- TMDK (Bad Dude Tito & JONAH) def. Toru Yano & Ryohei Oiwa
- House Of Torture (EVIL, SHO, & Yujiro Takahashi) def. David Finlay, Jado, & Tama Tonga
- Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, Juice Robinson, & KENTA) def. Suzuki-gun (Lance Archer, Taichi, Taka Michinoku, & Zack Sabre Jr.)
- CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, & YOSHI-HASHI) def. LIJ (BUSHI, Shingo Takagi, & Tetsuya Naito)
Out of these five undercard matches, I only watched the first two, and that was mainly because they featured guys making their New Japan debuts in Japan. Tom Lawlor defeated Kosei Fujita in a quick match showcasing his wrestling ability and personality. Meanwhile, both JONAH and Bad Dude Tito looked good in their tag team win over Toru Yano and young lion Ryohei Oiwa.
G1 Climax 32 – C Block
Aaron Henare (2) def. Hiroshi Tanahashi (0)
One really cool point that was brought up by the English commentary team was that Aaron Henare was Hiroshi Tanahashi’s tag team partner when the two of them got destroyed in mere minutes by The Great O-Khan and Jeff Cobb (who was making his first appearance as a member of The United Empire) on the opening night of the 2020 World Tag League, and how that was the moment (in storyline) that opened Henare’s eyes, eventually leading him to join The United Empire later on. Very cool that they tied that moment into this match.
Now it’s not unusual to see a big name have an upset loss early in the G1 Climax, but in the case of this year’s tournament, we got an upset in the very first match, as Henare pinned Tanahashi clean as a sheet in the middle of the ring. The match itself went just over eleven minutes, and was pretty solid on the whole. While the first half of the bout was relatively fine, the second half is what really lifted it up, as the two had some pretty good exchanges. Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton made it a point to bring up that Henare is the heaviest he’s ever been (110 kilos or about 242 lbs), and he really used that weight to his advantage, including on a big senton off the second rope. The moment that stood out to me the most was Henare getting his knees up on a High Fly Flow attempt, and Tanahashi literally bouncing back up into the air upon landing on the knees of Henare. That was wild. In the closing moments, it appeared that Henare was going to put away Tanahashi with his Full Nelson (called Ultimum), but after Tanahashi avoided it, there was a brief counter exchange before Henare was finally able to connect with Streets Of Rage to score the victory. Obviously the biggest win of Aaron Henare’s career, and as a whole, a nice way to kick off the tournament. ***1/2
G1 Climax 32 – D Block
IWGP United State Champion Will Ospreay (2) def. El Phantasmo (0)
The message on El Phantasmo’s light-up jacket read “Extremely Long Phallus”, or something along those lines. Meanwhile, in an interesting moment during Will Ospreay’s entrance, Chris Charlton referred to Ospreay as the “British-built Best Bout Machine”, which is another little teaser for a potential match between Will Ospreay and Kenny Omega down the line.
I went into this expecting these two to have a really strong match, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Straight away, Ospreay goes on the offensive, hitting a shotgun dropkick, a Sasuke Special, and a springboard forearm within the first thirty seconds of the match. Ospreay was firmly in control early on, but Phantasmo was finally able to fight back after hitting a springboard crossbody, which led to a dive to the floor and then a MASSIVE springboard moonsault off the top rope to the floor. It’s insane how athletic Phantasmo is. After Phantasmo nailed some Chris Sabin-esque dropkicks to an upside-down Ospreay in the corner, the leader of The United Empire managed to go back on the offense, and that led to an awesome second-half that featured some incredible back-and-forth exchanges (I would be here all night if I tried to go over all of them).
Quite possibly the best moment of the entire bout occurred right at the finish of the match. Ospreay went for an Oscutter, but Phantasmo was able to counter it into a backslide that only got a two count. Phantasmo immediately went to argue the count with the referee, but this meant he took his eye off the prize, and as soon as he turned his attention back to Ospreay, he got leveled with a Hidden Blade right to the face and Ospreay pinned him to pick up the win. Me explaining the finish doesn’t do it justice. It was so smooth and so seamless. I absolutely loved it. A strong ending to what was an excellent match. Phantasmo wrestled this match with almost no heel tactics (there was only one back rake that I can recall), which was nice to see, while Ospreay played his role perfectly. Incredible stuff from these two. ****1/2
G1 Climax 32 – B Block
IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Jay White (2) def. SANADA (0)
When looking through the B Block, I thought the two people that had the best chance to beat Jay White were Tomohiro Ishii and SANADA. In particular, SANADA made a lot of sense on paper as a guy who could’ve beaten Jay White here, which would lead to a match for the IWGP World Heavyweight Title at some point between the G1 and Wrestle Kingdom. Unfortunately, it didn’t play out like that, as White scored the victory after connecting with Blade Runner. The bout got off to a slow start, with White stalling while trying to get the crowd to cheer. Once they finally got going, SANADA got a few shots in before White took control after sending him hard into the barricades on the outside. At this point, White would start working over the midsection, but SANADA would fight back and, after some struggles, finally managed to trap White in the Paradise Lock. White would come back with some of his signature offense before we got to a rather interesting sequence.
At one point, SANADA had the Skull End in, but he released the hold to go deal with Gedo, who had gotten up on the apron. SANADA was halfway between the ropes, and with the referee distracted, White kicked the second rope into SANADA’s groin. A few moments later, SANADA would get a measure of revenge in the form of an accidental low blow after White hit an uppercut (I actually thought that particular spot was very well done). An immediate attempt at a follow-up in the form of a Muta Moonsault followed.
The final few moments saw some good exchanges between the two, with White constantly trying for the Blade Runner while SANADA tried to catch White in a couple of flash pins. SANADA would try for the Skull End yet again, but While would gouge the eye (remember that SANADA was on the shelf for a bit earlier this year with an orbital bone injury), and followed up with the Blade Runner. This took awhile to get going, but I thought it got really good by the end. Much like the two matches that came before it, things very much picked up in the second half. Your enjoyment of this match is definitely going to depend on what you think of both of these guys. I know some people didn’t like this one as much, and while I wouldn’t call this great, it was still a fairly solid contest. Not the result that I would’ve predicted, but we’ll see where these two go from here. ***3/4
G1 Climax 32 – A Block
Kazuchika Okada (2) def. Jeff Cobb (0)
These two men wrestled each other three times in 2021, with Okada taking the series 2-1. The biggest of those three bouts was the B Block decider in last year’s G1 Climax, where Okada ended Jeff Cobb’s undefeated run to win the block. This time around, they’re facing off on the very first night. I feel like having two guys who met either in the finals or in a big match on one of the final block nights going at it early in the tournament the next year is something that’s happened a couple of times in the recent past. That’s something that happens in the NFL a lot, where you’ll get an early season matchup that was a rematch of a big playoff game from the previous season.
This one got off to a slow start, as Okada tried and failed to knock Cobb down with a shoulder tackle. Okada eventually got knocked down himself, and this led to Cobb dominating the early portion of the match. He was just tossing around Okada at points, and really showed off his immense power. Okada finally managed to fight back with a DDT, and started to run through some of his signature offense. Cobb would retort later on by hitting Okada with his own versions of Okada’s famous dropkick, first in the center of the ring, and then in the corner with Okada sitting on the turnbuckle. The latter of those two dropkicks would lead to a gutwrench suplex off the second rope that caused Okada to bounce off the mat upon impact, which also popped up one of the boards underneath the mat (a board had actually come up earlier in the match as well). The closing stretch was very strong (as they typically are in Okada matches), and while Cobb was able to once again steal some of Okada’s big moves (including the Tombstone Piledriver and the Rainmaker), Okada would ultimately put Cobb down for the count with a Rainmaker.
This was far from the best match these two have had together, but it was still pretty great by the time it ended. I thought this was another potential spot where we could’ve gotten an upset (if anyone in the A Block was going to beat Okada, it was going to be Cobb), though the fact that Cobb got so much offense in on Okada throughout was probably a giveaway that he was losing. Still, I’ve really enjoyed the matches these two have had together. Cobb once again showed off his incredible power, while Okada once again provided us with another awesome G1 Climax main event. It’ll be interesting to see how Okada’s tournament goes from here. Again, given that Cobb is probably his strongest competition, I don’t see anyone else in the A Block that has even a decent chance of beating Okada. I guess time will tell on that one. ****1/4
The opening night of the 32nd G1 Climax tournament kicked off with four very good to great matches. Will Ospreay vs. El Phantasmo and Kazuchika Okada vs. Jeff Cobb were both really strong bouts that I would definitely recommend checking out. Your mileage may vary when it comes to Jay White vs. SANADA. I thought it was pretty enjoyable as a whole, though your interest will greatly depend on your feelings towards those two and their matches. Finally, while I wouldn’t call it stellar by any means, I would say that Henare vs. Tanahashi is worth watching since it offered such a big upset right out of the gate. Even with the clap crowds, this was still a positive start to this year’s G1 Climax.
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