By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “G1 Climax Tournament Night 19”
August 17, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan at Budokan hall
Streamed live on New Japan World
This show features the “Final Four” of this 28-man, 20-event tournament, spread out over 33 days. The headline matches are Kazuchika Okada vs. Tama Tonga and a first-time-ever bout of Tetsuya Naito vs. Will Ospreay.
The lineup for this show was posted around 9 p.m. CST Tuesday night. My biggest takeaways was the return of top juniors Hiromu Takahashi, Taiji Ishimori and Kushida, plus the return of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Notably absent from the lineup is El Desperado. Also, I praised a wrestling exchange between Tom Lawlor and Zack Sabre Jr. and suggested that as bonus match; those two will meet again here in tag team competition.
Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton are at ringside to call the action.
1. Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, Yoshi-Hoshi, and Yoh defeated Lance Archer, Douki, Taka Michinoku, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru at 6:23. Charlton said there is an “end of term feeling” to the undercard; I described it yesterday as like the NFL Pro Bowl. The stars are here, but it’s kind of going through the motions. Archer and Ishii started and traded shoulder tackles, but soon, Archer was beating on the smaller men in the match. Archer hit a crossbody block on two men. They have been doing a comedy spot with Archer trying to bodyslam Taka onto an opponent, and it just never works out; this has been an entertaining aspect of their undercard matches this tournament. Yoh hit a brainbuster to pin Taka. Fun and harmless.
2. Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi defeated Tom Lawlor and Royce Isaacs at 10:12. Lawlor gave Sabre a Boy George record, but Sabre broke it over his knee, and they all started fighting. As expected, Lawlor and Sabre graded some really good mat-based offense and reversals. Sabre applied a cross-armbreaker on Isaacs, who tapped out.
3. Jonah and Bad Dude Tito defeated Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma at 8:37. Jonah and Tito attacked to start the match. Makabe and Tito squared off. Jonah hit a rolling cannonball on Togi for a nearfall at 4:00. Honma hit his Kokeshi headbutt on Jonah. Honma and Makabe worked together to suplex Jonah to get a nearfall. Jonah hit a running Stinger Splash, then a flying body splash, on Honma for a nearfall. Jonah then hit a hard clothesline to pin Honma. I wanted to see another Torpedo frogsplash!
4. Chase Owens, Bad Luck Fale, and Juice Robinson defeated Jeff Cobb, Aaron Henare, and Great-O-Khan at 6:45. GOK and Fale started and traded stiff forearm shots, and O-Khan hit his Mongolian Chops. Cobb entered at 3:30 and hit a dropkick on Juice, then a belly-to-belly overhead release suplex on Chase. All six brawled in the ring. Chase hit a kneestrike to the chest, then a package piledriver, to pin Henare. Decent match.
5. Kenta, EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, and El Phantasmo defeated Shingo Takagi, Sanada, Bushi, and Hiromu Takahashi at 10:04. All eight brawled at the bell. The heels began working over Shingo. Sanada made the hot tag at 4:30 and hit a series of dropkicks, and he tied both EVIL and Sho in the Paradise Lock, and hit dropkicks on their butts. Kenta hit Sanada over the head with a book, but as Sanada fell, he hit a low blow kick on Kenta. Bushi nailed a dive to the floor at 8:00. In the ring, Kenta hit a powerslam on Bushi. Kenta applied an STF on Bushi, while holding the book in his hands in front of Bushi’s face, and Bushi tapped out.
6. Hiroshi Tanahashi, David Finlay, Toru Yano, and Kushida defeated Jay White, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, and Taiji Ishimori at 9:07. Finlay and Karl started. Karl hit a spinebuster on Tanahashi at 3:30, and the Bullet Club began working over Tanahashi. Kushida made the hot tag at 6:30 and hit a basement dropkick on Ishimori. Ishimori fired back with a handspring-back-spin kick and they were both down. Kushida tagged in Yano, who was reluctant to get in the ring with Gallows. Funny. Gallows and Anderson hit a team neckbreaker move on Yano. They set up for the Magic Killer, but Tanahashi made the save. Yano hit a low blow uppercut on Gallows, got a rollup, and scored the tainted pin.
* I’ll just add that I was right… none of those six matches were as good as they could have been. Nothing was terrible, it just all stayed in second gear. But of course… this show is all about the next two matches.
7. Kazuchika Okada defeated Tama Tonga in a G1 Climax semifinal match in 19:08. Okada’s lifetime record is 5-1 vs. Tonga, although Tama beat Okada in last year’s G1 tournament. Tama is the most unlikely winner of the four Block winners (see my note below). They hit quick armdrags out of the gate. A basic feeling-out process, and they fought to the floor at 4:00, and Tama barely got back in before being counted out. Tama fired up and hit some clotheslines, then a bodyslam and a Stinger Splash for a nearfall at 6:30.
Okada hit a DDT for a nearfall. They brawled again to the floor. In the ring, Tama hit his rolling Death Valley Driver at 11:00, then the top-rope frogsplash for a nearfall. He went for Gun Stun, but Okada hit a neckbreaker over his back, and Okada applied the Money Clip sleeperhold. Okada hit a top-rope elbow drop, and he set up for the Rainmaker, but Tama escaped and hit a dropkick, and they were both down at 14:00. Tama again avoided a Rainmaker and he hit a brainbuster for a nearfall. Okada hit a clothesline, couldn’t hit the Rainmaker, but then he hit a dropkick. Tama hit the Gun Stun out of nowhere, and they were both down at 16:00. Tama was slow to make the cover and got a nearfall.
Tama went for the Gun Stun again, but Okada blocked it and applied the Money Clip sleeperhold. Tama’s Gun Stun attempt was again blocked, and Okada hit a modified Bulldog Powerslam, then the Rainmaker for the pin. A really good match, but I never fully believed Tama could win here, which hurt the match. They hugged after the match.
8. Will Ospreay (w/Great-O-Khan) defeated Tetsuya Naito in a G1 Climax semifinal match at 20:22. This is somehow a first-time-ever meeting, meaning they have wound up in opposite blocks of G1 in recent years. (And a reminder that Ospreay didn’t compete in the 2021 G1, as most non-Japanese wrestlers were out due to COVID restrictions.) There is just a quiet intensity in the building as Naito took off his robe. Quick reversals with a standoff. Ospreay hit a standing Shooting Star Press for a nearfall at 3:00. Naito hit a standing Rude Awakening neckbreaker. Naito applied a head-scissors lock. and Charlton talked about Ospreay having a sore neck from this tournament. “Ospreay’s neck is on borrowed time,” Kelly agreed.
Naito hit his catapult dropkick in the corner for a nearfall at 6:00. Ospreay hit the handspring-back-spin kick to the jaw, and they were both down. Ospreay dropped Naito throat-first across the top rope, and he nailed a Mafia Kick, then a springboard forearm shot for a nearfall at 8:30. Naito came back with a neckbreaker over his knee, and he applied a different leglock around Ospreay’s head. but Will eventually reached the ropes. As we hit the 10 minute mark, Kelly reminds us those are just time calls, and thiis match has no time limit. Ospreay hit a mid-ring Spanish Fly, and they were both down at 11:30.
They traded forearm shots from being on their knees, then from the standing position, and Ospreay hit a LOUD open-hand chop, so Naito returned one back. Ospreay missed a Hidden Blade, but he nailed a brainbuster suplex. Naito fired back with a tornado DDT and they were both down at 14:00, and the commentators again pointed out that it was a blow to Ospreay’s sore neck. Naito nailed a side slam for a nearfall. Ospreay’s head hit the top turnbuckle, and Naito hit a top-rope Poison Rana from the corner for a nearfall at 16:30. Great-looking move.
Ospreay set up for a modified Styles Clash but instead hit a piledriver, then the Hidden Blade, and he set up for Stormbreaker. However, Naito hit an inverted DDT, and they were both down. Charlton wondered if Ospreay should have gone for the cover after the Hidden Blade. Ospreay hit his wrap-around kick to the jaw. Ospreay missed the Hidden Blade, and Naito immediately hit Destino for a believable nearfall at 19:30. Naito missed a second Destino, and this time, Ospreay nailed the Hidden Blade for a believable nearfall. Ospreay nailed Stormbreaker/spinning faceplant off his shoulders, for the pin. That was epically good. Really, really, really good. I expected Ospreay to win, but the Naito nearfalls had me believing a Naito win was coming.
* Ospreay got on the mic and said “good showing” to Naito, but added he has one more win in him. He talked about how he had a “kidney infection that nearly killed me,” but here he is, just months later, in the G1 finals. He said he has lost six of seven matches in the past to Okada, and everyone is now doubting him. But he listed off the names of stars who have beaten Okada, and he knows how to do it. “I know I’m the best wrestler in the world today!” That got a nice applause. He concluded by saying, “Okada, see you at the top!”
Final Thoughts: What a great main event. It was intense and believable. They were going at a hard pace, but I still wouldn’t have been surprised if they had gone another 10 or so minutes. Ospreay is so incredibly good, and this was easily the best Naito looked all tournament, even in a loss.
Last year, Tama Tonga was a mere 3-6 in the G1 Climax, so this was an unlikely run to the winner of the B Block. I thought he would be akin to David Finlay this year: Finlay finished 3-3 but got a huge clean win over Ospreay. I envisioned Tama going 3-3 but getting a clean pin over Jay White. He got that win, but it also scored him the winner of the B Block. Tama (and Tanga Loa) started slowly upon their return to New Japan this year, after the Bullet Club turned on them in Impact Wrestling. They were mired in an undercard feud against Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens. So, it has been great to see Tama move up the card in recent months, culminating with his win Tuesday against Jay White, before this loss here.
The tournament concludes on Thursday with Okada vs. Ospreay, and the rest of the card to be determined. It is the final show before a two-week break for New Japan.