A Block competition hits Aichi
A Block competition hits its midway point on Sunday October 3 in Aichi. As the G1 gets on the road to a second half with just over a fortnight still to run, who will lead A Block, and will Zack Sabre Jr.’s perfect record remain intact?
Main event: Kota Ibushi (3-2) vs Shingo Takagi (3-1)
Singles record: 1-0 Takagi
The battle of 1982’s brightest in the main event in Aichi sees Kota Ibushi and Shingo Takagi square off for the second time one on one, but with much unfinished business lingering from the summer. This would have been the main event of Wrestle Grand Slam in the Tokyo Dome, the ultimate meeting of two contemporary athletes at the tops of their game, who have risen from outside New Japan to excel within it. Yet aspiration pneumonia would put Kota Ibushi on the shelf, and while he has been eager to show that he hasn’t missed a step in the ring, concerns still loom large.
Slow out of the gates with a loss to Yujiro Takahashi, Ibushi was scrappy in scraping a victory over Tomohiro Ishii, and was submitted by Zack Sabre Jr. After a fast and convincing win over Toru Yano however, Ibushi has received a crucial boost in confidence, as well as giving fans a new move to consider. His reverse Kamigoye could well be a difference maker in our main event. .
Shingo shares the tapout loss to Zack Sabre Jr. but has only been fired up since, fighting hard to gain victory in his special singles bout with Yuji Nagata, and then throwing absolute caution to the ring against KENTA. His hurt right arm ruthlessly targeted by the BULLET CLUB member, Shingo nonetheless found a Pumping Bomber and then connected with Last of the Dragon to move to six points. Pain is sure to be a factor for the Dragon tonight- will Ibushi’s sportsmanship see him seek victory through other means, or will he go after the blood in the water?
5th Match: Tomohiro Ishii (2-3) vs Zack Sabre Jr. (4-0)
Singles record: 3-2 ZSJ, G1 record 2-0 ZSJ
Zack Sabre Jr and Tomohiro Ishii will lock up in their first singles battle since Wrestle Kingdom 14, where Sabre submitted Ishii to claim the British Heavyweight Championship. Sabre’s submission wins over Ishii have carried into the G1 as well, where he is undefeated against the Stone Pitbull, a run of dominance Ishii looks to end tonight.
Sabre’s G1 dominance over Ishii over his career is mirrored by his dominance in this year’s tournament overall. Four matches have seen four submissions, and all against top caliber competition. Yet after a difficult start to his own campaign, a Korakuen Hall clash against Tanga Loa finally saw an emphatic Vertical Drop Brainbuster, albeit against the run of the match, and the Stone Pitbull’s first two points of G1 31 earned by his own hands rather than forfeit. Sabre presents a difficult task indeed for Ishii, but can the former British Heavyweight champ help stop Sabre from being the first British G1 winner?
4th Match: Tanga Loa (1-3) vs Yujiro Takahashi (2-2)
A wrestler’s first G1 is always a learning experience conducted in the most punishing of environments. Tanga Loa still hasn’t won his first match under his own steam as of yet, but has shown progression in each bout from arrogant overconfidence against great-O-Khan and Toru Yano, to a more assured performance against Tomohiro Ishii. Can he put together a win opposite Yujiro Takahashi? As evidenced by the last A Block BULLET CLUB derby, we can expect as clean a fight between Yujiro and Loa as Yujiro is prepared to give, but with the Tokyo Pimp having already lost one intrafaction matchup, he isn’t prepared to lose another.
3rd Match: Great-O-Khan (4-1) vs KENTA (3-2)
Great-O-Khan’s plan for absolute dominance of the G1 field might be in tatters after a tapout victory for Zack Sabre Jr. in Korakuen Hall on September 30, but the United Empire’s Dominator still has every intention on taking the trophy to the faction. To get back on track, he has to face a KENTA who also fell short in Korakuen against Shingo Takagi, and himself wants to keep a positive win:loss record going into the back half of the tournament.
As much as KENTA has changed his approach in ring over the years, one aspect of the BULLET CLUB member’s game that has stayed the same throughout has been the ferocity of his kicks. With karate and kickboxing in his long list of martial arts experience, it will be interesting if O-Khan is drawn into a strike exchange with KENTA in much the same way as he tried to out wrestle college amateur Yujiro Takahashi, and showed his submission grappling against ZSJ. If that is the direction O-Khan goes, could he be playing into KENTA’s hands (or feet as the case may be?)
2nd Match: BUSHI vs Toru Yano
Singles record 1-0 Yano
In the second match of the evening, it’s Toru Yano’s turn to wrestle his make up match for Tetsuya Naito’s injury driven absence, stepping in the ring with BUSHI tonight. With a Naito inspired mask, BUSHI was fighting on behalf of Naito in the face of his former partner Yujiro Takahashi this week in Korakuen Hall, but against Yano he might be wrestling more for himself. BUSHI will have sour memories of last summer, and the inaugural KOPW contests that saw BUSHI eliminated from a Jingu Stadium four way to decide the first KOPW 2020 trophy holder. It was Yano beating BUSHI to the four way in a unique two count fall match back then, and though BUSHI did make the KOPW 2021 four way at Wrestle Kingdom 15, Yano won that match too, while BUSHI was not involved in the decision. This match then might see BUSHI get some measure of revenge, and to sow the seeds for a future KOPW 2021 opportunity.
1st Match: Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Kosei Fujita
The night will kick off with Kosei Fujita being put to the test against Yoshinobu Kanemaru. After taking on Ryohei Oiwa in Hamamatsu, Kanemaru will go no easier against the younger of the two new Young Lions tonight. Can Fujita survive?