NJPW “Soul” results (6/23): Vetter’s review of Satoshi Kojima vs. TJP and Toru Yano vs. Boltin Oleg in G1 Climax qualifier tournament matches

By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)

New Japan Pro Wrestling
June 23, 2024 in Ibaraki, Japan at Kamisu Bousai Arena
Streamed live on New Japan World

This show has Japanese-only commentary. As I noted in my review of Saturday’s show, a lot of top-tier NJPW are competing in North America this week and aren’t here.

* NJPW announced 18 competitors in the 20-man G1 Climax tournament, and also announced 12 wrestlers will compete for the final two slots. So, we have two first-round matches here; those winners will advance to face a wrestler who got a first-round bye. On Saturday, Callum Newman and Yoshi-Hashi advanced to the “Final Four” for a G1 slot.

* This is a large gym with a nearly empty second deck. There are maybe 600 fans on the floor; this room is so big this crowd feels really tiny.

1. “Just 5 Guys” Douki and Yuya Uemura defeated Shoma Kato and El Desperado at 9:45. A reminder that Douki is next in line for Desperado’s Juniors title. Yuya and Shoma opened and traded intense mat reversals.  Douki and Desperado tagged in at 2:00 and traded more fast-paced offense. Desperado hit a spinebuster and locked in the Stretch Muffler. Douki applied the Douki Chokey triangle choke, but Desperado reached the ropes at 5:00. Desperado hit a suplex and they were both down. Yuya and Shoma tagged back in, with Uemura hitting some loud chops. Shoma hit a dropkick for a nearfall at 8:00, and they traded rollups. Yuya hooked both arms and hit the Deadbolt suplex with a bridge for the pin. While the winner was neve in doubt, this was on the high end of what to expect from an undercard match; Shoma’s potential shines through when he’s in the ring with quality competition.

2. Tomohiro Ishii and Tomoaki Honma defeated Katsuya Murashima and Hiroshi Tanahashi at 8:24. Ishii and Tanahashi opened and immediately traded stiff forearm strikes; these two were six-man tag champs together just a few months ago! Honma and Katsuya entered at 1:00. Katsuya tried some forearms on Ishii, who completely no-sold them, then Ishii dropped him with just one blow. (I love that; I don’t care how many times I see it.) Honma applied a half-crab on Murashima. Tanahashi hit a second-rope summersault senton on Honma for a nearfall at 5:00.

Tanahashi hit a Twist-and-Shout neckbreaker on Ishii. Murashima hit a dropkick on Ishii. Ishii immediately put Murashima in a Boston Crab and sat down on his lower back for pressure, but Tanahashi made the save at 7:00. Murashima hit another dropkick on Ishii. Ishii re-applied a Boston Crab, and this time, Murashima tapped out. Solid match. A reminder that both Ishii and Tanahashi are in this mini-tournament for the final G1 Climax slots.

3. “United Empire” Jeff Cobb, Great-O-Khan, and Francesco Akira defeated “Just 5 Guys” Taka Michinoku, Sanada, and Taichi at 9:35. Taichi also is in the mini-tournament, and like Ishii and Tanahashi, has a first-round bye. Sanada and O-Khan opened with a feeling-out process, and O-Khan hit his Mongolian Chops. Akira entered and hit a basement dropkick on Sanada at 4:00. Cobb tagged in and bodyslammed Sanada, then hit a standing moonsault for a nearfall. Sanada bodyslammed Cobb but sold pain in his lower back. Taichi tagged in and hit a Helluva Kick on Cobb, then a spin kick to Jeff’s jaw for a nearfall at 6:00. Akira hit a top-rope crossbody block on Taka. Taka hit a superkick on Akira for a nearfall. Akira nailed the Fireball running double knees to the back of the head to pin Taka. Solid match.

4. “United Empire” Callum Newman and Henare defeated “House of Torture” Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Yujiro Takahashi at 10:13. The HoT attacked during the ring introductions. Newman got whipped into guardrails, and the HoT worked him over in the ring. Henare got a hot tag and hit a Berzerker Bomb on Yujiro at 7:30. He hit a Samoan Drop on Kanemaru. He nailed a brainbuster for the pin on Kanemaru. Pretty basic but Henare looks like a beast here.

5. “Bishamon” Yoshi-Hashi and Hirooki Goto defeated “Bullet Club War Dogs” Chase Owens and Gedo at 7:58. Bishamon beat up Chase at the bell. The heels rolled to the floor and started to walk to the back; Bishamon ran to catch them. Gedo hit Goto with the hammer for the ring bell. In the ring, Goto hit a clothesline on Chase at 5:00. Yoshi-Hashi hit his Headhunter neckbreaker. Gedo tagged in but Yoshi-Hashi tied him up on the mat. Goto hit a back suplex on Chase. Bishamon hit the Shoto team slam to pin Gedo. A dull match; none of these four do much to excite me.

6. Boltin Oleg defeated Toru Yano in a G1 Climax tournament qualifier match at 9:15. Again, these two are six-man tag champs together and they opened with a feeling-out process. They went to ringside, where Yano hit a chair shot across the back, and he tied up Oleg in the curtain along the edge of the ring at 3:30, and Oleg struggled to free himself; this is cartoonish. In the ring, Yano kept him grounded. Oleg finally hit a shoulder tackle and a bodyslam, then a running splash to the mat for a nearfall at 6:00. Oleg hit a gut-wrench suplex. Yano hit a belly-to-belly suplex.

Yano hit a slingshot that sent Oleg onto the top turnbuckle. Oleg hit a shotgun dropkick and a Vader Bomb for a nearfall at 8:30. He set up for the Kamikaze but Yano escaped, got a backslide and a nearfall. Yano hit a low blow mule kick and got another rollup for a believable nearfall. However, Oleg rolled up Yano for the pin; he was still selling the low blow after his win.

7. TJP defeated Satoshi Kojima in a G1 Climax tournament qualifier match at 12:13. A feeling-out process, and Kojima has a clear weight advantage. TJP hit a shoulder tackle that dropped Satoshi; Kojima hit one back. They went to the floor, where TJP whipped him into the guardrails. In the ring, TJP hit some rapid-fire chops in the corner at 2:30. Satoshi hit a standing neckbreaker. TJP snapped Kojima’s left arm backward, and Kojima rolled to the floor at 5:00 and sold the pain in his arm. TJP hit a summersault slam off the apron onto Kojima on the floor. Satoshi hit a DDT onto the ring apron; TJP crawled back into the ring at the 19-count.

Kojima now hit his rapid-fire chops in the corner at 7:00. TJP hit a Facewash kick in the corner. Kojima hit a mid-ring DDT. TJP tied him in a mid-ring Octopus, but Kojima reached the ropes. TJP hit a springboard DDT for a nearfall at 9:30. Satoshi went for a stunner but TJP rolled free, and TJP hit a running knee to the back of the head for a nearfall, but he missed a Mamba Splash. Kojima hit the Koji Cutter for a nearfall! Kojima hit a clothesline for a nearfall, then a brainbuster for a nearfall. TJP hit a superkick. TJP hooked an arm, got a forward roll, and scored the clean pin. Good match; I noted this after Satoshi’s last MLW match that his knees appear to be doing better than a few months ago.

8. “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Tetsuya Naito, Bushi, Yota Tsuji, and Titan defeated “House of Torture” EVIL, Sho, Ren Narita, and Dick Togo at 11:25. This is a nearly identical rematch from Saturday’s main event. EVIL and Naito opened. Bushi hit a huracanrana on Sho. Titan hit a springboard crossbody block at 2:00 on Sho. Togo whipped Titan with a belt, then he beat Titan up on the floor. Meanwhile, EVIL whipped Naito into a guardrail, too. In the ring, Togo untied Titan’s mask. Togo hit his knife-edge chop to Titan’s groin for a nearfall at 5:30.

Yota entered and hit a backbreaker over his knee. He suplexed EVIL. Naito tagged in at 8:30 and hit a deep armdrag on Narita, then a swinging neckbreaker. EVIL hit a fisherman’s suplex on Naito for a nearfall at 10:00. Titan hit a flip dive to the floor on most of the HoT. It allowed Naito to nail the Destino to pin Togo. Okay match; like Saturday, it just didn’t feel much like a headliner.

Final Thoughts: TJP-Kojima was easily the best match. Sure, TJP created all the movement, but yes, Kojima clearly is feeling much better. I’m thinking back to the MLW taping where they had their War Games match and he could barely move but he still wrestled twice on that show. I fully expected TJP to win, but Kojima got a nice nearfall after that Koji Cutter. That opening match takes second place as it was pretty inspired for an undercard match. The main event is a very distant third.

I will reiterate that I think a 32-man field is the best-case scenario — not just because I think ‘bigger is better.’ The 32-man field actually meant fewer tournament matches AND more days off for each wrestler, which I contend creates better matches. BUT, I like that over the past two days, we’ve eliminated Toru Yano, Yushiro Takahashi and Chase Owens — guys that fans really don’t want to see compete seven or nine times over three weeks. We have a short break in the schedule, as the tournament won’t resume until July 3, featuring Kenta vs. Callum Newman and Tomohiro Ishii vs. Yoshi-Hashi in the A Block semi-finals, while Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Boltin Oleg and TJP vs. Taichi are the B Block semi-finals.


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