wrestling / Columns

Hamilton’s G1 Climax 30 Breakdown

October 22, 2020 | Posted by Ian Hamilton

Yeah, calling this a “breakdown” perhaps gives a certain image. An image of someone a little worse for wear having sat through 19 shows, some of which with stupidly-early starting times for a Western audience. Luckily, thanks to a combination of shows not running overly-long and a lack of those undercard tags, pretty much every match on this year’s G1 (until the final stages, at least) meant something.

Stakes are important.

So, for those who’ve slept through it, this year’s G1 tour consisted of shows that had six matches. No more, no less. For the first eighteen nights, there was no cross-pollination of line-ups. Unlike previous years, you didn’t have block B names on block A shows or vice versa, with only the Young Lions appearing across all shows.

With cut-down cards and no undercard fluff, there was a fine line between these shows being good and great. Likewise, in the covid-era, crowds at New Japan shows have been reduced to clapping and stomping to show approval – something that Juice Robinson managed to use to great effect by leading on crowds to stomp and clap along to the beat of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Or as Jushin Thunder Liger kept putting it on commentary, “don don pah!”

As such, one so-so match can really influence your thinking on the overall quality of a show. So… if you’ve not seen all of the G1, what should you dip into if you’re looking for good shows or good matches?

G1 Climax 30 – Shows Ranked
Night 13 – 8.8
Night 17 – 7.9
Night 1 – 7.9
Night 11 – 7.7
Night 6 – 7.7
Night 5 – 7.6
Night 10 – 7.5
Night 9 – 7.5
Night 2 – 7.5
Night 19 – 7.4
Night 7 – 7.4
Night 3 – 7.4
Night 15 – 7.3
Night 18 – 7.2
Night 4 – 7.2
Night 16 – 7
Night 12 – 6.9
Night 8 – 6.9
Night 14 – 6.5

G1 Climax 30 – Block Matches Ranked
****¾ – Tanahashi vs. Naito (Night Two), Shingo vs. Okada (Night Thirteen)

****½ – Ishii vs. Suzuki (Night One), Shingo vs. Ospreay (Night Five), Shingo vs. Ibushi (Night Eleven), Suzuki vs. Ibushi (Night Thirteen), Taichi vs. Ibushi (Night Seventeen)

****¼ – ZSJ vs. Naito (Night Four), Taichi vs. Ishii (Night Nine), Cobb vs. Ishii (Night Thirteen), White vs. Ishii (Night Seventeen)

**** – White vs. Ibushi (Night Three), Ishii vs. Ibushi (Night Five), ZSJ vs. KENTA (Night Six), Shingo vs. Ishii (Night Seven), Ospreay vs. Ibushi (Night Nine), YOSHI-HASHI vs. Naito (Night Ten), Tanahashi vs. KENTA (Night Ten), Taichi vs. Ospreay (Night Thirteen), White vs. Suzuki (Night Fifteen), Ospreay vs. Okada (Night Seventeen)

***¾ – White vs. Shingo (Night One), YOSHI-HASHI vs. Juice (Night Two), Ospreay vs. Ishii (Night Three), Goto vs. Naito (Night Six), White vs. Ospreay (Night Seven), Ospreay vs. Suzuki (Night Eleven), White vs. Taichi (Night Eleven), Juice vs. Naito (Night Twelve), Taichi vs. Shingo (Night Fifteen), SANADA vs. Tanahashi (Night Sixteen), Shingo vs. Suzuki (Night Seventeen)

***½ – Cobb vs. Taichi (Night One), Ibushi vs. Okada (Night One), Goto vs. KENTA (Night Two), EVIL vs. ZSJ (Night Two), EVIL vs. YOSHI-HASHI (Night Four), SANADA vs. YOSHI-HASHI (Night Six), Juice vs. Tanahashi (Night Six), SANADA vs. Naito (Night Eight), EVIL vs. Juice (Night Ten), Goto vs. Tanahashi (Night Fourteen), Ishii vs. Okada (Night Fifteen), YOSHI-HASHI vs. KENTA (Night Sixteen), Goto vs. Juice (Night Eighteen), Tanahashi vs. ZSJ (Night Eighteen)

***¼ – Yujiro vs. Ospreay (Night One), Shingo vs. Cobb (Night Three), SANADA vs. Goto (Night Four), Cobb vs. Suzuki (Night Five), Cobb vs. Ibushi (Night Seven), Taichi vs. Okada (Night Seven), YOSHI-HASHI vs. Tanahashi (Night Eight), EVIL vs. KENTA (Night Eight), White vs. Cobb (Night Nine), SANADA vs. ZSJ (Night Ten), Yano vs. ZSJ (Night Twelve), EVIL vs. Tanahashi (Night Twelve), SANADA vs. Juice (Night Fourteen), EVIL vs. Naito (Night Fourteen), Cobb vs. Ospreay (Night Fifteen), EVIL vs. Goto (Night Sixteen), KENTA vs. Naito (Night Eighteen), EVIL vs. SANADA (Night Eighteen)

*** – Juice vs. KENTA (Night Four), White vs. Okada (Night Five), Suzuki vs. Okada (Night Nine), Yujiro vs. Ishii (Night Eleven), Cobb vs. Okada (Night Eleven), YOSHI-HASHI vs. Goto (Night Twelve), YOSHI-HASHI vs. ZSJ (Night Fourteen), Yujiro vs. Ibushi (Night Fifteen), Juice vs. ZSJ (Night Sixteen)

**¾ – SANADA vs. Yano (Night Two), Taichi vs. Suzuki (Night Three), Yujiro vs. Taichi (Night Five), Yano vs. Juice (Night Eight), SANADA vs. KENTA (Night Twelve), Yujiro vs. Cobb (Night Seventeen), YOSHI-HASHI vs. Yano (Night Eighteen)

**½ – Yujiro vs. Okada (Night Three), Yujiro vs. Suzuki (Night Seven)

**¼ – Yano vs. Tanahashi (Night Four), Yano vs. Naito (Night Sixteen)

** – EVIL vs. Yano (Night Six), Goto vs. ZSJ (Night Eight), Yujiro vs. Shingo (Night Nine), Yujiro vs. Jay White (Night Thirteen)

* – Yano vs. KENTA (Night Fourteen)

Yano vs. Goto (Night Ten)… I’m not rating an eighteen-second match!

So, what were the key stories coming out of the G1?

Okada’s New Challenge
Something that really rankled fans at the start of the G1, was how Okada wasn’t hitting the heights we’ve been used to seeing him reach. The Money Clip – that modified cobra clutch that he first debuted during the New Japan Cup – was being established to such an extent that the Rainmaker was fading into history.

Problem was, the insistence on using the Money Clip meant that Okada matches which usually built to a crescendo were now building to something of a wet fart. He’d tease setting up a Rainmaker… and then move the wrist into the submission hold.

The early chatter of how Okada’s “not what he once was” quickly faded away as people realised that the story had turned to him looking to win matches in another way… although by the end of the G1, he’d never quite won a match because of the Money Clip. Okada’s pins came through flash pins, and results from the Money Clip were more down to referee stoppages than submissions.

Clearly the story is building to Okada digging into his bag of tricks for the Rainmaker only when it matters… and that moment when the Rainmaker appears again is going to be real special. Perhaps there’s an obvious target?

Ospreay’s Empire
At the start of the G1, Will Ospreay was rather controversial figure – albeit for issues outside the ring that weren’t getting addressed (well, aside from a rather messy attempt to clarify things… which just made things worse).

In the ring, Ospreay as a heavyweight to me is still finding his feet, but still doing the flips while being a heavyweight is something that could be a recipe for disaster. I’m not saying that it’s going to fail, far from it, but you do tend to find that flippy guys moving to heavyweight eventually have to change their routines. By the end of the G1, Ospreay had been leaning into acting like a prick on-screen, which led to him turning on Okada in their final night block match… with the help of two people, one of which was perhaps unsurprising, and the other one totally out of left-field. Bea Priestley appeared first to cheer on Ospreay from ringside, with commentary acknowledging their real-life relationship… before a returning (and soon to be renamed) Great-O-Khan dropped Okada with an Iron Claw Slam.

That’s led to Okada vs. O-Khan at Power Struggle next month as the newly-named Empire group look to establish themselves. There’s already worries that this is yet another new pairing that’s going to go overboard with interference, much like we have seen with EVIL and Dick Togo in the last few months… but among the speculation that New Japan is about to hit reset on a bunch of factions, could the Empire be the start of something big?

Bullet Club is Fine, I guess?
We’ve been here before. Arguments inside the Bullet Club that went nowhere… but this time, this feels like we may actually have a trigger pulled here.

Across the G1, the Bullet Club had four entrants – with three of them having a realistic shot of winning it… two of which ended up in the driving seat going into their final night. That being said, seeds of discontent were planted by EVIL in the run-up to White’s match with Yujiro Takahashi. That all led to White, who was fully expecting Yujiro to lay down for him without a Fingerpoke of Doom, having to do more than he expected… which then led to arguments with Gedo as White perhaps showed a little paranoia over just how much the Bullet Club’s moved on while he’s been away…

Yujiro Finally Wins
Take away matches against Young Lions, and Yujiro had gone five years without a singles win in Japan. And why wouldn’t he? Prior to the shutdown, Yujiro hadn’t had a singles match in Japan since September 2018. Relegated to the lower tier of the Bullet Club, Yujiro’s involvement tended to be restricted to undercard tags that felt to be more about wheeling out Pieter than giving him a spot on the card.

Still, in spite of that, Yujiro was given a lot of falls – often being the guy to win those undercard tags with his Pimp Juice DDT… but typically kept at arms length from anything meaningful. So with a depleted roster, Yujiro was thrust into action in the New Japan Cup, going out into the first round (naturally), before being thrown into the G1.

Nine singles matches. Would he win any? Would many care? By the end, Yujiro was the first man eliminated from the G1, but would start showing a frustration and a desire to win – even if that manifested itself in pre-match attacks and a lot of dirty tactics. Of course, he’d get that win on the final night of block A, overcoming Jeff Cobb, and while the story perhaps wasn’t as romantic as Tomoaki Honma’s G1s in 2015 and 2016, it at least was better than just throwing him a random win in the middle of the tour.

Is The Machine Broken?
For the last few years, the G1 has been seen as a “match of the year contneder” generating machine. Last year, I gave 28 matches from the G1 a rating of over four stars – this year? Eleven.

While this has been something of a recent phenomenon, there is an overall air that this year’s G1 perhaps is a sign that the old grey mare ain’t what she used to be. Is that me saying “New Japan’s the drizzling shits”? Absolutely not – but much like a sports team who runs an unbeaten season, that first loss in the new season instantly brings up fearmongering…

Unexpected MVP
Since forever, while he’s rarely considered a serious pick to win tournaments in New Japan, Tomohiro Ishii has always been relied on as a bastion of consistency. While there were no absurd heights in the G1, Ishii’s low point was the gentleman’s three that he dragged out of Yujiro – which ordinarily would have had him continue to be lauded as Mr. Consistency…

However this year, there’s been a lot more talk around a rather unexpected pick: Taichi. While the lows were lower, Taichi did reach higher highs as he dropped the shenanigan-heavy matches… well, save for that Suzuki match, which some have seen as a potential marker for the future – with Taichi being mooted to overthrow Suzuki at some point, much like they did with Satoshi Kojima years ago.

Second Time Lucky for Ibushi?
Saving the big spoiler until the end… Kota Ibushi winning his second G1 in a row puts him in a unique group of wrestlers who’ve won the G1 in successive years. Until this year, only Masahiro Chono and Hiroyoshi Tenzan had achieved that feat (with Antonio Inoki and Seii Sakaguchi being added if you want to go back to the IWGP/MSG/World League days that preceded the G1).

Of course, Ibushi’s 2019 G1 win ended up being engulfed as part of the Double Gold Dash that took over WrestleKingdom this year. While Ibushi got his shot at Kazuchika Okada on night one, he would fail to unseat Okada in just under 40 minutes… while the story of the weekend saw Tetsuya Naito win the IWGP Intercontinental title from Jay White earlier that night, then go on to win the IWGP Heavyweight strap from Okada the next night.

As for Ibushi? He’d go on to lose the unofficial “third play playoff” on January 5, and would quickly form a tag team with Hiroshi Tanahashi after the Tokyo Dome shows. While that team would go on to win the IWGP heavyweight tag titles in February, holding them throughout the pandemic, those belts would be lost pretty soon after the restart, with Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi’s summer of torturing Hiroshi Tanahashi’s knee culminated in the Suzuki-gun tandem winning the belts at Dominion in July.

That “Golden Ace” team would split just before the G1, with Ibushi setting his sights on becoming a God. If he gets past Jay White (and possibly Shingo, given he was the only other person to beat Ibushi), then Kota will be looking to go at least one better, and leave the Tokyo Dome in 2021 with at least the IWGP title…

article topics :

G1 Climax 30, NJPW, Ian Hamilton