B Block back in Korakuen
After stops in Shizuoka and Aichi, the G1 returns to Korakuen on Monday October 4, with B Block bringing the tournament past the midway point and into an intense second half.
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Main event: Kazuchika Okada (4-0) vs SANADA (2-2)
Singles record: 7-1 Okada G1 record: 2-1 Okada
SANADA’s first, and to date only victory over Kazuchika Okada, earned in the 2019 G1 with only 13 seconds remaining on the clock came in the wake of Okada granting a rare accolade to one of his opponents that May in Fukuoka. After a pair of consecutive wins in the New Japan Cup final and then at Dontaku, Okada addressed SANADA as his ‘rival’ for the first time, but it was a word that seemed just as much a disingenuous, backhanded poke to get a rise from the normally collected SANADA as it was a genuine compliment.
Despite being the same age as the Rainmaker and having a wealth of pro-wrestling acumen, SANADA’s singles accomplishments have been dwarfed by Okada, and their 7-1 record against one another in Okada’s favour only serves to force that fact home. With the scoreline still at 6-0 then, SANADA was doubly driven to finally get his first victory over the CHAOS leader, doing so with a pair of moonsaults and finally putting Cold Skull on the fast track to the very front lines of NJPW.
Yet a couple of months later, his earned King of Pro-Wrestling title shot resulted, match of the year in 2019 or no, in defeat. Indeed it was a defeat at the hands of the very same Landslide style Tombstone, followed by the Rainmaker that has carried Okada to such success on this current G1. That sense of momentum finally earned and snatched away led to SANADA weeping bitter tears in Ryogoku, and will drive SANADA to revenge tonight in Korakuen.
While Okada has been away from the IWGP title scene, SANADA has made the finals of G1 Climax 30, the quarter finals of the New Japan Cup in 2021 (a tournament that saw Okada crash out in the first round), and has captured the IWGP Tag Team Championships. Yet still it is Okada and the Rainmaker Return making the headlines. Lest that stinging ‘rival’ comment haunt him once more, SANADA is driven to put an end to the momentum of Okada; the question is can he? For that matter, can anyone?
5th Match: Hirooki Goto (0-4) vs YOSHI-HASHI (1-3)
Singles record: 2-0 Goto
After both Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI battled Kazuchika Okada in their more recent efforts in Hamamatsu and Korakuen respectively, the third and final CHAOS derby in B Block sees the two NEVER 6-Man Champions square off. Ever since Goto joined CHAOS in 2016, other members have commented on the similarities between he and YOSHI-HASHI in terms of a pure drive and simplicity of mindset. Yet a two point difference between the two men does exist, YOSHI-HASHI doing what his partner Goto could not in defeating Taichi in Hamamatsu Friday.
Indeed, Goto is crashing to potentially his career worst G1. With an 0-4 record, Goto might be looking for inspiration from his partner. Over their 13 months together as two thirds of the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions, they have brought the best out of one another, but now, as YOSHI-HASHI stated backstage last week ‘I’ll be doing my best to be better than you’.
3rd Match: Taichi (2-2) vs Jeff Cobb (4-0)
Singles record: 2-1 Taichi G1 record: 1-1
Of the three undefeated members still remaining in this year’s tournament, each achievement is impressive for different reasons; Zack Sabre Junior for his string of submissions, Kazuchika Okada for the return of the Rainmaker swagger to his step. Then there’s Jeff Cobb, whose dominant performances have seen him to match his prior G1 scores of eight points apiece after only four matches.
Taichi will give Cobb little pause, but pause all the same. Their first meeting at Dontaku 2019 saw Taichi lift the NEVER Openweight Championship after a match filled with interference and dirty tactics from the Holy Emperor. Still, it was a win via Black Mephisto that came despite the threat of a back injury. Two years on, and victory was a good deal more emphatic for Taichi after a hard fought and hard hitting bout in Osaka. Cobb wants to level the 2-1 score tonight in Korakuen, but Taichi badly wants to get back on his horse after defeats to EVIL and YOSHI-HASHI.
2nd Match: EVIL (3-1) vs Tama Tonga (1-3)
The final BULLET CLUB derby of B Block will see EVIL take on Tama Tonga in a match where most of the drama will be taking place outside of the ring. That is very often the case with EVIL’s matches, considering the copiuous interference from Dick Togo, and the constant shots into the guardrails and NJPW’s timekeepers, yet tonight it will all take a very different dimension. From day one, EVIL’s HOUSE OF TORTURE was met with some wariness, not just from fans but other members of BULLET CLUB. Yet Tama Tonga was quick to welcome the sub faction into the fold, all while heaping dirt on Jay White as he keeps up his activities on NJPW STRONG. ‘Does he know?’ has been an ominour refrain from Tonga in this tournament, who has a habit of dropping breadcrumbs during the G1 tours; after all, it was two years ago that the ‘Good Bad Guy’ revealed he had been scouting a world class athlete for the group, who would turn out to be KENTA.
Friday in hamamatsu saw Chase Owens refuse to lie down for EVIL, and the King of Darkness pull out every dirty stop possible to defeat the Crown Jewel. Now this match will say a lot about the power dynamics of BULLET CLUB, be they through pure competition, or behind the curtain intrigue.
1st Match: Chase Owens (0-4) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (3-1)
After valiant efforts, Chase Owens is now feeling the pinch of four defeats in his first G1 matches. Yet his BULLET CLUB partner Yujiro Takahashi proved last year, as he went 0-8 and scored one last win over Jeff Cobb, sometimes in the G1 it’s not the number, but the quality of your wins that can stand you in good stead for the future. Zero points or not, against Hiroshi Tanahashi, Chase has the chance to defeat the Ace of New Japan and the current IWGP US Heavyweight Champion, something that could lead to a future title opportunity, and make a G1 32 entry much more likely. But now on a roll with his first definitive High Fly Flow victory of the tourney, Tanahashi will not let a win come easily, if at all.