B Block hits Okayama as middle third of the tournament comes to an end
Night 12 of G1 action takes place in Okayama this Thursday. With all to play for in B Block, this match sees the middle third of the campaign come to an end, and important maneuvering take place as we get set for the decisive final week.
Hiroshi Tanahashi (3-2 ) vs EVIL (3-2)
Singles record: 3-1 Tanahashi G1 Record 2-0 Tanahashi
There are very few matters of black and white in life, and shades of grey persist in many issues worldwide and the social microcosm of the pro-wrestling ring. This main event in Okayama though is the most straightforward a battle of good versus (lower case) evil that you are likely to find in this whole tournament.
And Tanahashi has been good, even though he hasn’t found his way to the top of the table as of late. An emphatic High Fly Flow over YOSHI-HASHI to score his second win last week represented in a turn of the corner for the Ace, who followed with a Texas Cloverleaf submission win to sit at six points.
On the other hand, EVIL has come into his dastardly own, brazenly making liberal use of Dick Togo’s services at ringside to assist him to victory over YOSHI-HASHI, Juice Robinson, and even his own teammate KENTA. Every corner that’s possible to cut will be by the King of Darkness, and the deck will be stacked against the Ace.
Still, few know EVIL as an antagonist better than Tanahashi. It was in 2015 that EVIL made his first appearance, at Tetsuya Naito’s invitation as Naito faced the Ace in Ryogoku. Since then, EVIL has only scored one victory over the Ace, in the 2017 New Japan Cup, while Tanahashi has been consistently victorious, including twice in the last two G1 Climaxes. As we turn the corner into the critical final stretch of G1 Climax 30, will the good of Tanahashi triumph over EVIL?
Juice Robinson (3-2) vs Tetsuya Naito (4-1)
Singles record: 3-0 Naito, G1 record 2-0 Naito
Juice Robinson has a long history with Tetsuya Naito, and unfortunately for juice, it’s an unhappy one. Robinson’s first ever tour with NJPW in 2015 happened to coincide with Tetsuya Naito having his final tour as the lone representative of Los Ingobernables in Japan, before hew recruited EVIL and then BUSHI to form LIJ. Every night resulted in some rough treatment from Naito to his ‘partner’, treatment that Naito even now remembers as a valuable character building exercise for the man who went on to become an IWGP US Heavyweight Champion.
Juice has had chances to address history, with an IWGP Intercontinental Championship match in 2017, and a pair of G1 meetings in the last two years, but he’s fallen short each time. Now, he heads into Okayama with a winning record and a desire to bounce back from a bitter loss to EVIL. Here, a chance to not just get long awaited revenge on Naito, but potentially a win over the double IWGP champion. As an added sweetener, with Juice two points off Naito’s pace, a win would put him tied at the top of the block with an all important tie breaker.
SANADA (2-3) vs KENTA (2-3)
Singles record: 1-0 SANADA (2019 G1)
SANADA and KENTA’s sole singles meeting came on night 12 of the G1 last year, a similar phase in time, where SANADA was trying to get a late campaign resurgence going, and KENTA was in mid collapse after impressive early form. Then it was Cold Skull picking up victory, and recent form may suggest a similar result in Okayama. After a 0-3 start, SANADA got his first win over none other than Tetsuya Naito in his home arena of Aore Nagaoka, and kept his upswing going with a win over Zack Sabre Jr. in Hiroshima. KENTA meanwhile has suffered back to back losses, first to EVIL in Nagaoka, and then Hiroshi Tanahashi in Hiroshima.
It goes without saying that SANADA will be highly motivated to make sure his history with KENTA repeats, while his opponent will be looking to reverse his fate. Who wins out in Okayama?
Toru Yano (3-2) vs Zack Sabre Junior (2-3)
Singles record: 1-0 ZSJ (2018 G1 Climax)
The two men with the fastest match times so far in G1 Climax 30 face off in the second group match of the night, with Toru Yano taking on ack Sabre Jr. For the last six years, Toru Yano has recorded the shortest match time in the tournament; in 2020, ZSJ’s sub four minute victory over Hirooki Goto was the fastest thus far before Yano once again logged the shortest match of the year, albeit not in the way he would hope. A Goto Shiki roll-up loss in 18 seconds was the fastest match in G1 history in Hiroshima.
It should be noted that Sabre is 1-0 against Toru Yano, but with a slight asterisk. Their solitary singles meeting came at the start of G1 Climax 28, a tournament where Yano was steadfast in his quest to bring fair fights to proceedings, and wrestle cleanly… Until he realised that shortcuts were his forte and the best route to victory. Still finding his feet against Sabre, he was defeated by the Briton in Korakuen in 2018, but In G1 Climax 30, Yano has been playing to his key strengths throughout the tournament, to great effect with key victories. Can ZSJ successfully defuse YTR?
Hirooki Goto (2-3) vs YOSHI-HASHI (1-4)
Singles record 1-0 Goto (2017 G1 Climax)
Firm friends, and NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions will face off in the first tournament match of the evening when Hirooki Goto meets YOSHI-HASHI. Their first singles meeting in three years comes with Goto having an edge over the Headhunter, but with a troubled record so far in this year’s tournament, as shoulder issues have plagued him to three defeats and four points.
YOSHI-HASHI certainly knows what it’s like to wrestle through shoulder pain. With a 1-4 record belying one of the best and most motivated series of performances in his career to date, the question will be whether YOSHI-HASHI has the killer instinct required to target his opponent’s obvious weakness, and exploit it on the way to victory. A moment’s hesitation, and Goto will be quick to capitalize, just as he was quick to score the fastest vctory in G1 history this week in Hiroshima over Toru Yano.
Yuya Uemura (3-3-1 this tour) vs Gabriel Kidd (2-4-1 this tour)
Singles record 4-1 Uemura (2-1 this tour)
With all three Young Lions so evenly matched on this tour, every match is vital, and situations can change in an instant. That’s what happened for Uemura against Kidd in Takamatsu, where a win over the Briton put him right behind Yota Tsuji in the unofficial Young Lion rankings and out a stop to Gabe’s momentum after Kidd was high on double arm suplex victories over both of his peers, followed by a draw against Tsuji.
Now, as the G1 heads into its final stretch, who will emerge as the front runner of the young charges? With four losses to his name, is Kidd in danger of being left behind? We find out when action kicks off Thursday.