Night 15 sees the penultimate night of A Block action from Hamamatsu.
Kazuchika Okada (6-1) vs EVIL (4-3)
Overall singles record: 2-1 Okada
KEYS TO GLORY:
EVIL must win, win his last match with Lance Archer, and have Okada lose here and to Ibushi in his final match, while KENTA loses to Ospreay tonight.
Okada leads the block.
EVIL and SANADA might be fighting from themselves during the G1, but they functioned like the perfect tag team they are in their separate matches on August 3 in Osaka. After EVIL kept his distant hopes of G1 glory still alive by beating Will Ospreay early in the night, SANADA managed to get a win over his rival Okada with just 13 seconds to spare in the main event, claiming the biggest singles win of his career, and preventing the Rainmaker’s lead at the top of A Block from becoming insurmountable.
Now, it’s all on EVIL. In 2017, it was the King of Darkness who, after Darkness Falls on a stack of chairs and the EVIL landed flush in ring, beat Okada in Osaka and put a stop to his six match winning streak; a set of events eerily parallel to 2019. Since then, however, EVIL has struggles against Okada. A follow-up IWGP Heavyweight Championship challenge that October resulted in disappointment, and EVIL couldn’t repeat his G1 victory in last year’s tournament. Okada mustn’t let confidence and a positive track record get the better of him, however. When Okada was last upset in Osaka in the G1, he didn’t win again for the rest of the tournament, and didn’t make it to the finals. A Rainmaker loss could well lead to the Budokan being shrouded in darkness.
Zack Sabre Junior (3-4) vs Kota Ibushi (5-2)
Overall singles record: 3-2 Ibushi
KEYS TO GLORY:
Kota Ibushi must keep a minimum two point distance to Okada. If Ibushi loses and Okada wins, Ibushi is eliminated.
It is a close rivalry indeed between ZSJ and Ibushi, and one that grows more fascinating and more competitive with every match. 3-2 to Ibushi is the score right now, and crucially this includes two G1 wins, and a win in the most recent match between the two; in Nagoya at Sengoku Lord over the IWGP Intercontinental Championship Ibushi held at the time.
Ibushi’s two G1 wins over Sabre came at a very different stage of the tournament. In 2017, Ibushi and ZSJ wrestled in their second tournament match; in 2018, their first. A fresh Ibushi was a very different prospect to the grappling shark that is the British Heavyweight Champion, yet now in match eight, Ibushi is hurting, and with several weaknesses that Zack can attack and punish.
The all-but must-win nature of the match for Ibushi meanwhile evokes the kind of mindset Ibushi had when he wrestled Zack, twice, in the New Japan Cup- and lost both times. That’s something the Brit will be happy to remember, and to remind Ibushi of.
Will Ospreay (2-5) vs KENTA (4-3)
First singles meeting.
KEYS TO GLORY:
KENTA must win, and beat ZSJ in his last match, with Okada losing to EVIL and Ibushi, while Ibushi loses against ZSJ.
KENTA started with a dominant run that had many go from questioning whether the former GHC Champion could hang in 2019 New Japan to wondering whether he could make the final. That all began to unravel when he faced Okada however, and a loss to the Rainmaker began a precipitous decline that may have seen his hopes dashed completely by Bad Luck Fale in Osaka.
Now at 4-3, he requires some convoluted scenarios to win A block, but he will be doing everything he can to hold up his side of the bargain; that is to say, he will be aiming to beat Will Ospreay.
Ospreay put in another sterling performance in Osaka but, once again, lost, keeping him at four points with a 2-5 record. Now deprived of the chance to finish with a positive record, Ospreay must be hoping to end as strong as he can, and a win over KENTA without any of the controversies of Fale’s victory on August 3, will be the way to do that.
Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-3) vs Bad Luck Fale (2-5)
Overall singles record: 6-3 Tanahashi
Tanahashi’s Osaka loss to Kota Ibushi on August 3 effectively ended his G1 Climax run. He won’t be able to win back to back G1 trophies, but he can be consoled by his sixth consecutive singles victory over Bad Luck Fale.
That isn’t to say Fale isn’t a formidable opponent, especially to Tanahashi, and especially when Chase Owens and Jado are in his corner. Fale is tough enough on his own, and in the first two singles Tanahashi and Fale meetings, in 2014, and 2015, Fale emerged victorious. Tanahashi has often spoken about drawing out the monster that lies within Fale, and often being challenged by him. The Ace will not be letting up even as his G1 winds down.
SANADA (3-4) vs Lance Archer (2-5)
First singles meeting.
SANADA’s G1 score might be lower than he had hoped for, but claiming the tournament’s first win over Okada says an awful lot, and could put him in good stead for a future IWGP` heavyweight Championship opportunity; that is to say, if he can keep up his recent spate of good results. His win over Okada might mean little if he loses out in the tournament and finishes only on six points, and that means every match he has, including against Archer here, is vital. For Archer, frustrated time again, to end on four points is not acceptable. He’ll be doing everything that he can to improve his record by the end of the summer, or at the very least to destroy SANADA in the process. A hospitalized SANADA can’t very well have a championship opportunity either…