G1 Climax 29 night 5 at a glance 【G129】

After Monday night’s battles in Hokkaido, the G1 returns to Tokyo on July 18 for the first of three consecutive nights at Korakuen Hall. It’s A Block action once more, and here’s your breakdown of the matches. 

Kota Ibushi (0-2) vs Will Ospreay (1-1)

Overall singles record: 1-0 Ospreay

First G1 meeting.

When Will Ospreay was just beginning to get noticed on the world stage, before his breakthrough RevPro match with Kazuchika Okada that saw him handpicked by the Rainmaker to join CHAOS in 2016, he was frequently described to potential Japanese fans as ‘the British Kota Ibushi’. Some four years on, those words have proven to be prophetic indeed. 

From transforming their bodies to adapt to junior heavyweight and heavyweight competition, to changing their reputations from daredevil to brutal striker, Ospreay and Ibushi’s roads in New Japan have been strikingly similar. It was only inevitable that those roads should meet, and on January 4, they did in the opening bout of Wrestle Kingdom 13, for the NEVER Openweight Championship. 

What suprised many on that night wasn’t just that Ospreay pulled out an impressive victory and instantly established himself in the very top flight of NJPW competition, but his attitude in doing so. Ospreay showed an anger and aggression that hadn’t been seen before, and utilised the deadly Hidden Blade elbow strike for the first time; a move that would see Kota Ibushi forced out of action for a number of weeks. 

On his return, Ibushi showed his own new attitude, a newfound sense of resolve, and indeed aggression of his own. The intensity and drive of Ibushi and Ospreay saw success for both; Ibushi had a two month reign as IWGP Intercontinental Champion, and Ospreay seized Best of the Super Juniors and the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title, setting himself up to make history as the first to compete in the New Japan Cup, BOSJ and G1 in the same year. It also saw physical limits be tested, and Ibushi and Ospreay both walk into this match damaged from their prior encounters. 

Ospreay has the momentum and pride that only his first G1 Climax win can provide, having defeated SANADA in Ota, but the match took its toll on his neck. Ibushi has pushed through ankle issues and insists they are a non factor, but still had his foot worked over heavily en route to his second straight loss to EVIL on July 14. How will Ibushi/Ospreay 2 play out?


Hiroshi Tanahashi (0-2) vs Zack Sabre Junior (0-2)

Overall singles record: 3-2 Sabre

Of which G1: 1-0 Sabre (2017– watch on NJPW World!)

When Hiroshi Tanahashi and Zack Sabre Junior lock up in Korakuen on July 18, two years and a day will have passed since Sabre made one of the most impressive G1 debuts of all time, submitting Tanahashi in Hokkai Kita Yell. To make matters better for ZSJ and worse for Tanahashi, the Ace had both arms tied up by his British opponent at the time, as Zack trapped Tanahashi’s left arm while torturing his right elbow and wrist. Tanahashi’s submission was a verbal one, and ZSJ  made the ultimate impact. 

Since then, two more submissions have followed for ZSJ over Tanahashi, the most recent being in Madison Square Garden, with the hold that injured the Ace’s elbow and put him on the shelf for a two month stretch. In a relatively short period of time, Sabre has established himself as one of Tanahashi’s premier rivals, one that the Ace is driven to defeat, especially given the slow start he’s hard to his G1. This is Tanahashi’s worst opening record since 2016, and he never went 0-2 in any of the three G1s he has won.

Similar could be said of ZSJ, however. Zack won his first match in 2017, and won his second match in 2018 over Tanahashi and Toru Yano respectively; 0-2 after two matches is unknown territory for him. With the confidence Sabre had going into his opening bouts with SANADA and Okada, the results were a bitter blow, and led to a backstage tantrum in Ota-ku. With the elbow still plaguing him, Tanahashi might be at a physical advantage over Zack, but the Ace clearly has a mental edge over an increasingly frustrated Sabre.  


Kazuchika Okada (2-0) vs Bad Luck Fale (1-1)

Overall singles record: 4-3 Okada

Of which G1: 2-0 Fale (2016, 2018– watch on NJPW World!)

Lance Archer’s pinfall victory on night three of the G1 might have been the first time since 2017 that Bad Luck Fale has taken a pinfall in a G1 Climax match, buthis reputation still stands. With the dangerous ability to viciously beat anybody at any time, Fale is the ultimate G1 spoiler. 

Moreover, with two victories over Okada in 2016 and 2018, he is Okada’s ultimate G1 spoiler. The loss of those two points against the Rogue General undeniably played a key role in Okada not being able to advance beyond the group stage before his final night draws against Tanahashi both years. The overall record might have Okada with the upper hand- Fale has never beaten Okada outside of a tournament setting- but this environment definitely benefits BULLET CLUB’s bruiser- Okada has never beaten Fale within a tournament setting. Okada might be riding high after two big victories over Tanahashi and ZSJ, but Fale is a tall, tall mountain to climb as far as the G1 is concerned. 


EVIL (1-1) vs SANADA (1-1)

Overall singles record: 1-0 SANADA (2017 G1– watch on NJPW World!)

What a difference does two years make? That’s the question going into this second G1 meeting of EVIL and SANADA, almost two years to the day, and in the same venue as their 2017 encounter. Results wise, then as now, this is a toss-up; prediction polls as of earlier in the week were even, and both men are so evenly matched, we could equally see an EVIL end as we could a replay of 2017’s Rounding Body Press and SANADA victory. 

As for the match itself? Although EVIL would be more openly aggressive toward SANADA in the early going in 2017, heading outside and grabbing steel chairs early, it’s perhaps hard to imagine him starting the bout the same way he did two years ago. Their G1 27 bout started with EVIL extending a hand to his tag team partner, something 2019 EVIL has been loath to do heading into this match. 

The King of Darkness has kept his distance from the rest of Los Ingobernables De Japon ever since the G1 entrants were announced. He closed that distance with SANADA after their six man tag in Hokkaido only to attempt to attack his teammate, an attempt SANADA read and avoided. That evasion showed a knowledge between the two that has only come in the intervening two years between singles matchups; it’s only come from two back to back World Tag League and IWGP Tag Team Championship victories. 

That then, is perhaps the key difference two years makes, and one that should factor heavily into the end result. 


KENTA (2-0) vs Lance Archer (2-0)

First singles meeting

Standing at 174 and 206 cm respectively, KENTA and Archer may have the biggest height differential in this year’s G1, but in terms of experience, the two have much in common. Chief among them is the number five; Archer spent five long years away from G1 Climax contention and is now more aggressive and more fired up than at any point in his career, with his wins over Will Ospreay and Bad Luck Fale providing two of the G1’s outstanding performances thus far. 

KENTA has also spent five years away; not from the G1 but from Japanese wrestling as a whole. Questions were raised going into the tournament as to whether KENTA could provide results in the tournament, whether his style of professional wrestling would be effective in the modern scene, whether the ‘fangs’ of classic KENTA were really still present in the first place. His first two results, hard hitting and impressive wins over Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi laid all those doubts to rest. 

Both men have been impressive thus far to say the very least, but only one can walk out of Korakuen with a 3-0 record.