G1 Climax 29 night 13 at a glance 【G129】

As a heat wave hits Osaka, the G1 Climax brings action even hotter for nights 13 and 14. On Saturday August 3, it’s a crucial series of matches for A block that are on the schedule.

Kazuchika Okada (6-0) vs SANADA (2-4)

Overall singles record: 6-0 Okada

Of which G1: 2-0 Okada (2016, 2017– watch on NJPW World!)

6-0 is a scoreline that sticks out like a sore thumb when SANADA looks at his records with fellow G1 competitors. It’s a scoreline that hurts a good deal more. Six times Cold Skull has faced the Rainmaker, and six times he’s gotten closer and closer, knocking on the door of victory but never quite being allowed to enter. 

After their last meeting at Dontaku in May, Okada validated SANADA  as his ‘rival’. The IWGP Heavyweight Champion recognizes SANADA as a competitive equal; as such Okada acknowledges that he could well be beaten by him. Yet ‘can SANADA beat Okada?’ and ‘can SANADA beat Okada in the G1?’ are two different questions. 

Okada’s G1 record is phenomenal thus far, a 12 point run that combined with last year’s strong close has seen him undefeated in G1 action for 13 matches. It is, in fact, eerily similar to the campaign he put together in 2017, where Okada was thought to be invulnerable for six matches until losing, in Osaka, to SANADA’s partner EVIL. 

Can history repeat? Perhaps, but SANADA’s biggest enemy in this match may be the clock. Every bout these two have had has gone longer and longer before a decision was reached, and their last three matches have gone past half an hour in length. Okada has often spoken about trying to make the unflappable SANADA lose his cool in the ring, and play things less tactically; with one eye on the 30 minute G1 time limit, SANADA may well have to.   


Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-2) vs Kota Ibushi (4-2)

Overall singles record 3-1 Tanahashi 

Of which G1: 2-1 Tanahashi (2015, 2017, 2018– watch on NJPW World!)

The rematch of the 2018 G1 Climax final is, no doubt, a main event in any building; it being the semi-main tonight is indication of just how spectacular this Osaka card is. 

As both go into this bout at 4-2 and in a realistic must win scenario (Tanahashi needs to win and have Okada lose out, while Ibushi can, barely, afford a loss if Okada loses too), the resolve of both men will be tested here, and ‘resolve’ is the key word of this match. 

It was in the lead up to Ibushi and Tanahashi meeting in the Budokan last year that Tanahashi questioned Ibushi’s resolve. Ibushi would confess at the time to not knowing what The Ace meant; he certainly felt the resolve to win the match and impress the thousands watching. It wasn’t until Ibushi signed a lifetime deal with NJPW earlier this year that he finally understood Tanahashi’s meaning of the word. ‘I always thought I had resolve,’ he would say, ‘but to Tanahashi, resolve carries the nuance of responsibility.’ 

Responsibility not just to one’s self and one’s own personal pride, but responsibility to NJPW as a whole, to its fans and to the wrestling world. That’s something that Ibushi said he at one time lacked and now has. In a bid to prove that resolve, Ibushi has taken more than a few risks, elevating the stakes with every match he contested over the IWGP Intercontinental Championship this spring. Now bereft of the white and gold, Ibushi doesn’t have the responsibilities of a champion, but is responsible as a finalist of last year’s tournament, and as a man who feels he must overcome an opponent he has called his god, Tanahashi. 

To Tanahashi, Ibushi may no longer be the ‘lost’ individual he appeared to be in 2018. He is, however, a man Tanahashi feels he must assert his superiority over. Tanahashi must be willing to demonstrate his own resolve, above any injuries and doubts, as the reigning G1 Climax winner.

Will Ospreay (2-4) vs EVIL (3-3)

First singles meeting.

At four points, Will Ospreay is mathematically out of the G1 running. At 6 to Okada’s 12 and having yet to face the IWGP Champion, EVIl’s path is not entirely impossible, but Herculean in nature. For the time being, he will be willing his partner SANADA to win in the main event, and willing himself to do what it takes to beat someone his partner couldn’t, Will Ospreay. 

Ospreay has nothing to lose in his remaining matches; he has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt with his performances that a junior heavyweight is worthy of entry in the G1 Climax, and can score wins. The quality of his track record belies the quality of his performances however, and Ospreay wants badly to score some big results before August 12. EVIL would be a significant scalp to claim. 

Zack Sabre Jr. (2-4) vs Lance Archer (2-4)

First singles meeting.

The Suzuki Gun derby should see a competitive bout with neither man backing down; it’s only to be expected given the unit both men represent, but both will also be wrestling with sizable chips on their shoulders. 

Whether it can really be blamed on political changes in his homeland, ZSJ’s mental focus has been in question throughout the tournament. Widely respected as one of the most effective tournament wrestlers there is, ZSJ ‘s four point record, and mathematical elimination with three matches still to go, is a disappointment. 

Lance Archer’s record is similarly disappointing, especially when one considers just how formidable he has been as an opponent throughout the tournament. The violence he has wrought upon his fellow contenders doesn’t match up at all with a 2-4 record, but that’s the situation Archer stands in, with his back against the wall even if he wants to keep up his consistent record of eight points between 2011 and 2014. 

A strong finish for both Archer and Sabre will do much to erase some painful memories of the tournament, and it’s with that at stake that they head to Osaka on August 3.

KENTA (4-2) vs Bad Luck Fale (1-5)

First singles meeting.

KENTA’s strong start to the G1 may have been slowed by back to back losses to Okada and SANADA, but he can console himself with a few different factors: he’s still in the G1 Climax hunt where many have already been eliminated, his next match is against the statistically beatable Bad Luck Fale, and he has some strong ties to the city of Osaka.

When it comes to his short NJPW history, it was in this city two short months ago that Katsuyori Shibata introduced him to the Osaka Jo Hall crowd. While he still hasn’t wrestled in Osaka for over five years, he has produced strong results in Osaka, including in 2013, when he defeated Takeshi Morishima to lift the GHC Heavyweight Championship he would hold for almost a year straight. 

Then as now he was in a big match, must win scenario against a considerably  larger opponent, in exactly the same venue, no less. Can history repeat? Or will Fale and his BULLET CLUB associates play ultimate spoiler?