The opening night of this year’s G1 Climax tournament came from Dallas, Texas. The match card, featuring the A-Block, was suitably impressive for the first time a G1 tournament show’s been held outside of Japan with both KENTA’s NJPW debut against Kota Ibushi and another match in the long-running series between Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Before that, though, the first match of the tournament featured Will Ospreay taking on Lance Archer.
Will Ospreay v Lance Archer
The hometown boy, Lance Archer’s changed his look to go with his change to singles competition (his long-time partner in Killer Elite Squad, Davey Boy Smith Jr, is now working in MLW) and it’s actually pretty impressive!
Ospreay went on the attack immediately with a Spanish Fly, hit a 450 back into the ring for 2. He tried some strikes but Archer barely moved and hammered him with one of his own.
Ospreay used his speed and agility as much as possible but Archer took him down at every turn. Archer caught Ospreay and chokeslammed him through an announce table.
Back in the ring, Ospreay couldn’t get a move in, Archer completely overpowered him for a lot of the match.
Ospreay finally took Archer down with a somersault kick, thenhit a 619 and Pip Pip Cheerio to take him down again. Ospreay used his speed and kicks but Archer knocked him halfway across the ring with a shoulder tackle then hit a buckle bomb and a power bomb. Ospreay rolled to the outside,so Acher picked him up and powerbombed him on the apron. He went for another on the ramp but Ospreay reversed it into a Code Red.
Both back in the ring, Ospreay hit Archer with a springboard dropkick and a shooting star press for 2. Ospreay hit a Robinson Special, then Archer caught him on an Oscutter attempt, but Ospreay got away and hit it the second time for 2.
Ospreay tried to lift Archer up for Stormbreaker, couldn’t, hit him with kicks, went for hidden blade but Archer caught him, Ospreay escaped blackout but got caught again and dropped with a muscle buster for 2.
Archer hit Blackout for 2, Ospreay kicked out! Archer locked in the claw but Ospreay got to the ropes for the break. Archer picked Ospreay up to the corner, going for a chokeslam but Ospreay turned it into a Spanish Fly for 2!
Ospreay tried for stormbreaker but Archer escaped, Ospreay hit him with a series of kicks, tried for super Oscutter but Archer cut him off and looked for a suplex from the top, Ospreay fought out, Archer hit him with a running knee, then a Blackout with Ospreay on the top turnbuckle. Archer locked in the claw again, putting Ospreay to the mat for the win.
I enjoyed a lot of this match, but Ospreay barely sold the series of pwerbombs mid-match and it really took me out of it. Archer looked like a proper monster heel, I think he has the potential to go far with his singles run but maybe not in the tournament since A-Block is full of top stars.
Winner by pinfall – Lance Archer
EVIL v Bad Luck Fale
EVIL immediately took the action outside and hit Fale with a running clothesline on the ramp but couldn’t take him down. Fale slammed him on the ramp. They fought some more on the outside and EVIL barely made it back in at 19.
EVIL tried for a slam but couldn’t lift Fale. Fale hit him with some hard elbows to the back, then used a Tongan massage. He continued to dominate EVIL with hard forearms in the corner then a pin for 2. EVIL came back with strikes and tried an Irish whip but Fale was too strong and threw him into the corner, evil avoided a charge and hit a bodyslam on Fale.
EVIL clotheslined Fale over the rope to the floor and grabbed some chairs from under the ring, Fale picked one up but EVIL kicked him then wrapped a chair around Fale’s neck and rammed him into the corner post. Back in the ring EVIL hit a senton in the corner for 2. He knocked Fale down with clothesline but Fale tackled him when he went for a third. Big splash in the corner then on the mat for 2. Fale grabbed a chair, the ref tried to take it off him and EVIL kicked it in Fale’s face then hit a clothesline for 2. He tried for Everything is Evil, Fale fought out and hit a Grenade for 2.
EVIL fought out of Bad Luck Fall, threw Fale’s leg to the ref and hit a clothesline that knocked the ref out of the ring too. EVIL wrapped a chair around Fale again but Fale threw it at him and hit a low blow. Fale wrapped the chair around EVIL’s neck and hit it with another chair, then Bad Luck Fall for the win.
This was a solid match, I liked the chair spots and the heavyweight style of it. I wouldn’t rush to watch it again, but it was decent enough.
Winner by pinfall – Bad Luck Fale
SANADA v Zack Sabre Jr.
The match got off to a great start with a fantastic series of moves and countermoves.
SANADA started to get the upper hand but ZSJ twisted him to get him to the ground. SANADA powered back up and locked in a submission, they revered each other into it, ZSJ escaped and hit SANADA with a strike. Series of dodges then SANADA dropkicked ZSJ who rolled out of the ring.
SANADA invited ZSJ back in. ZSJ showboated a bit and got back in at 19.
SANADA tried to get the paradise lock in but ZSJ countered with an armbar and SANADA made it to the ropes.
SANADA hit a dropkick again and ZSJ went out of the ring, got back in to avoid pescado and SANADA tied him up in the ropes in the paradise lock! Basement dropkick by SANADA to release him and then pescado to the outside.
SANADA rolled ZSJ back in and hit a big side suplex for 2. After another series of moves, ZSJ locked in an octopus, then dropped SANADA to the mat with his arms trapped. SANADA managed to get his leg on the rope.
They traded stiff strikes, ZSJ ran at SANADA who went for Skull End but ZSJ escaped and hit a DDT while locking in a Dragon Sleeper. SANADA powered up, went for TKO but ZSJ got him in a guillotine choke hold, SANADA fought out with a twisting neck breaker off the rope then hit a TKO for 2.
SANADA went for a moonsault but ZSJ dodged it, ZSJ with a back slide for 2 then a PK. ZSJ went for a Zack Driver but SANADA countered with Skull End, he went for the moonsault again but ZSJ got his knees up and locked in a triangle hold. SANADA lifted ZSJ who let go and kicked SANADA’s arm. SANADA with a moonsault into skull end, ZSJ powered out and pinned SANADA for 2, went for a submission and SANADA countered with an O’Conner Bridge for the pin!
After the match, a frustrated ZSJ attacked the ref and some young lions.
This was a great match, these two always work well together. I was glad to see SANADA win, he’s my dark horse pick for the tournament. I suspect ZSJ will get a win over Okada when he faces him to set up a Championship match between the two at Royal Quest in London.
Winner by pinfall – SANADA
Kota Ibushi v KENTA
They started with a lockup,KENTA pushed Ibushi into the ropes, then went for a slap, but Ibushi dodged and went for a kick that KENTA dodged. They look evenly matched, blocking kicks from one another. Ibushi tied KENTA up but KENTA reversed and tried to lock in a submission but they ended up in the ropes again and KENTA hit Ibushi with a hard slap, Ibushi back with a slap of his own to knock KENTA down.
Ibushi kept going with strikes to KENTA but KENTA came back with a kneedrop to Ibushi when he was hanging from the second rope. KENTA started kicking Ibushi, he started to get up but KENTA knocked him straight back down. KENTA with a headlock on the mat, Ibushi powered out, charged at KENTA but KENTA kneed him in the gut then kicked him hard. KENTA with knee drops to Ibushi’s head then a quick kick. Ibushi came back with a series of strikes but KENTA took him down again with his own for 1.
More kicks and boots to Ibushi, then they started trading strikes. Ibushi back down and KENTA with more kicks for 2. A last ditch dropkick by Ibushi took KENTA down, he dragged himself up in the corner. Ibushi hit a powerslam then a moonsault from the second rope for 2.
Multiple running clotheslines by KENTA followed by a suplex. KENTA went to the top and hit a diving clothesline for 2. He tried to follow up with a spinning DDT but Ibushi turned him back to the corner and hit a big chop. Ibushi climbed up, they fought on the top until Ibushi knocked KENTA off and then grabbed him for the deadlift German from the apron but KENTA fought out, Ibushi knocked him off the apron with a back flip kick, went for pescado but KENTA countered with a knee. KENTA hung Ibushi on the barricade and hit him with a double stomp on the back.
Ibushi got back in and hit with a springboard dropkick, then a low dropkick then a double stomp form the top for two. KENTA tried for the GTS but Ibushi grabbed the ropes, Ibushi broke free and hit a big clothesline. Ibushi hit a sit-out powerbomb for 2. Ibushi went for Kamigoye but KENTA countered into GTS position, countered into crucifix pin for 2. Both back up with dropkicks to each other and a running knee by KENTA to take Ibushi down.
They traded hard strikes, then kicks, KENTA took Ibushi down with a high kick for 2. KENTA hit multiple head kicks to Ibushi for 2. KENTA pulled his kneepad down, and hit GTS for the win!
KENTA helped Ibushi up after the match and they hugged.
I’ve been looking forward to KENTA in the G1 and this match in particular. It really lived up to expectations, there was a great realism to it from their focus on strike-based offence and I was gripped for the whole thing. It looks like KENTA made the right decision in going to NJPW, can’t wait to see more of his run there!
Winner by pinfall – KENTA
Kazuchika Okada v Hiroshi Tanahashi
They tarted with a lock up and a clean break, then a series of counters with neither man able to get the upper hand.
Dropkick by Tanahashi in the corner, followed by a senton for 2. Run at each other and Okada took Tanahashi down. Okada with a running back elbow to Tanahashi followed by a DDT for 2.
Okada picked Tanahashi up but he countered, fought to the ropes and Tanahashi used a dragon screw through the ropes, ran at Okada but Okada took him down with a flapjack.
Uppercut by Okada and a dropkick by Tanahashi. Then an Air raid crash by Okada for 2. Okada slammed Tanahashi and called for the elbow drop, and hit it perfectly. Okada called for the Rainmaker, but Tanahashi rolled him up for 2 and hit an inverted dragon screw before locking in the cloverleaf. Okada quickly got to the ropes. Tanahashi got him with another inverted dragon screw and Okada rolled out of the ring. Tanahashi climbed to the top and hit a High Fly Flow to Okada on the outside!
Tanahashi threw Okada back in, went for a shoulder tackle, Okada picked him up but he countered with Twist and Shout, Okada hit a dropkick, Tanahashi came back with a slingblade, Okada caught him with a high dropkick and a tombstone but Tanahashi was back up with another Slingblade! Fantastic sequence!
Tanahashi climbed to the top, and hit a High Fly Flow, he went back up to the top, and tried another but Okada got his knees up.
Okada struggled to lift Tanahashi into the tombstone position, Tanahashi fought out with strikes to the back and head. Okada hit a Rainmaker, maintained wrist control, got a second in, then picked Tanahashi up for a third, but Tanahashi countered with a small package for 2.9! Dragon suplex pin for 2, then a series of counters, and huge slaps to Okada. Tanahashi ran at Okada but he countered with a jumping spinning tombstone and a final Rainmaker for the win!
This was another brilliant match in the Tanahashi/Okada feud, even recovering from surgery Tanahashi brings his ‘A’ game every time. Both men are possible winners of the block and the wider tournament, and it’s all still to play for!
Winner by pinfall – Kazuchika Okada