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NJPW G1 CLIMAX 32: NIGHT 15 REPORT
AUG. 10, 2022
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN AT HIROSHIMA SUN PLAZA HALL
AIRED LIVE ON NJPW WORLD
Commentary: Kevin Kelly & Lance Archer (Archer on block matches only)
Non-spoiler thoughts on block matches: Okada vs. Lawlor is must-see, but all five matches are worth a look on a quicker than usual night of strong bouts and angles
(1) YOSHI-HASHI & RYOHEI OIWA & YUTO NAKASHIMA vs. UNITED EMPIRE (Will Ospreay & Jeff Cobb & Aaron Henare)
Yoshi-Hashi got a little work in, but it was mostly a quick squash of a couple of Young Lions. Henare finished Nakashima with Ultima.
WINNERS: United Empire at 5:36.
(2) CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) vs. TMDK (Jonah & Bad Dude Tito)
Ishii had a good match against TMDK in between comedy spots of Yano ducking Jonah. Yano pinned Tito after yanking him down by the hair and holding on during the rollup.
WINNERS: Chaos at 7:06.
(3) SUZUKI-GUN (Lance Archer & Taichi & Taka Michinoku) vs. BULLET CLUB (KENTA & Juice Robinson & Gedo)
Excruciating stall-fest before the match as Bullet Club couldn’t decide who would start the match. Juice screamed a lot, as is his usual these days. Taichi pinned Gedo after a Yokozuna forearm.
WINNERS: Suzuki-Gun at 7:05.
(4) LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi & SANADA & BUSHI) vs. BULLET CLUB (Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens & SHO)
A bit of a trudge here as LIJ was tasked with facing the low heavyweights on Bullet Club’s totem pole. Owens pinned Bushi after a C Trigger.
WINNERS: Bullet Club at 8:54.
(5) DAVID FINLAY vs. EL PHANTASMO – D Block match
The announcers ran through a scenario where D Block could end in a seven-way tie, spending enough time on it that it almost sounded plausible. Waistlocks and wristlocks to start. Finlay wrenched an arm and ELP took him down for a quick bow and arrow. Finlay escaped with a cover and reset. Phantasmo warmed up the crowd and the two jockeyed for fans for a while. Arm drag by Finlay and another reset. Headlock by ELP, who ran the ropes and hit a shoulderblock. Another rope run ended in an ELP huracanrana. Phantasmo backflipped off the second rope and posed.
Collar and elbowled to some quick reversals and covers. Finlay trapped Phantasmo for a near-fall and they reset again. Phantasmo went for a handshake but Finlay kicked it away. A slugfest ensued. Chop by Phantasmo, who ran the ropes into a Finlay dropkick. Phantasmo bailed and Finlay went for a plancha. Phantasmo went inside, which Finlay didn’t seem to know was happening, but he was able to reposition and land on his feet. Phantasmo hit a tope and both guys sold outside the ring.
Phantasmo hit a thrustkick out on the floor, then battered Finlay’s head into the apron and reentered. He went back out on the apron, threw a few rights, and hit an Asai moonsault off the apron. Action went back inside and Phantasmo hit a springboard senton for two. Phantasmo threw rights in the corner, then charged Finlay into a corner. Body slam by Phantasmo, who followed up with a second buckle forearm for two. Phantasmo stomped Finlay in a corner, then tried a powerbomb but got tossed by a rana. Finlay dumped Phantasmo and hit a plancha, then fired up the crowd by slapping the mat on the concrete.
Finlay took Phantasmo back inside and hit a corner uppercut and another for two. Finlay threw chops and the two went into another quick reversal sequence. They reset after a Phantasmo splash. Phantasmo tried the UFO but Finlay escaped and hit a uranage backbreaker, followed by a blue thunder bomb for two. Finlay signaled for the end. Sliced bread got two for Finlay. The two went up a corner and Phantasmo set up a superplex. Finlay tossed ELP from the top but ELP hit a step-up springboard enzuigiri, then hit a super huracanrana. Thunder Kiss ’86 got two. Phantasmo went for CR2 and the two exchanged attempts at their finishers. O’Connor roll by Finlay led to quick reversals and Phantasmo stunned Finlay with a crucifix rollup. Phantasmo sold elation at the win. Finlay wanted a handshake afterward, but Phantasmo made the two sweet gesture at Finlay’s forehead.
WINNER: El Phantasmo at 14:23. (***1/2)
(Wells’s Analysis: The match took a minute to get going, but it really went hard once it did. It seemed determined to go to this kind of finish given their inability to hit their signature impact moves. Phantasmo’s having a very good tournament and Finlay might be having the best matches of anyone. The murky D Block has gotten murkier)
(6) TAMA TONGA (w/Jado) vs. THE GREAT-O-KHAN – C Block match
Khan is eliminated from winning the block, but Tonga is still in it, even if he loses. Khan shot in and Tonga fought him off early. A quick grapple session led to an escape and reset. Tonga hit an arm drag and grounded Khan with an armbar. Tonga wrenched the same arm and Khan broke with a yank of Tonga’s ears. Khan put Tonga up in a corner and bealed him to the floor. Action went outside and Khan leaned on Tonga with a boot. Khan reentered the ring and the ref started counting; Tonga got in at ten.
Body slam by Khan got two. Khan threw some shots to the midsection, then sat on Tonga with his corner taunt. He yanked back on Tonga’s arms until the ref started counting. Khan tried to force Tonga to kiss his boot. He elbowed Tonga in the back of the head and Tonga fired up. Tonga blocked a shot and threw some of his own. He shrugged off an elbow and took down Khan with a lariat to get a breather. Another lariat, then a back elbow by Tonga followed by a dropkick. Tonga tore off his shirt to cheers.
Corner splash by Tonga got two. Tonga threw an elbow at the back of Khan’s head. The two jockeyed for position until Khan hit a snap suplex, after which both guys sold on the mat. Khan threw rights in a corner, then drove Tonga to a corner and bashed his head into the corner pad repeatedly. Tonga fought off Khan and returned the favor with bashes in the corner. Khan blocked a couple of shots and nailed a Mongolian chop. He drove Tonga into the pad, then ran the ropes for a bicycle kick. Enzuigiri by Tonga, who charged at Khan but got caught in a judo throw. Both guys sold again.
The two got to their knees and exchanged forearms. They made it to their feet and continued the exchange. Khan won the exchange as Tonga went to the mat, and he nailed another Mongolian chop, then a third. He stalked Tonga and hit another to put him back on the mat. Tonga tried to throw quick shots to avoid another, but another came anyway. Tonga managed a Death Valley driver to finally take back momentum. Tonga went to the top and hit Supreme Flow for a very long two. Tonga called for the Gun Stun and slapped the mat rhythmically. Khan fought it and caught Tonga, then stretched him over his back and did an airplane spin and slammed Tonga. Khan worked the Sheep Killer and hit a backbreaker. He went for a submission, cranking Tonga over his knee. Tonga didn’t drop his arm all the way when referee Kenta Sato checked it. Khan went for the Eliminator, but Tonga turned it into the Gun Stun.
WINNER: Tama Tonga at 14:31. (***3/4)
(Wells’s Analysis: Satisfying, hard-hitting action as Tama Tonga continues to be positioned as the only guy who might be able to keep Jay White from the finals. He’s had a very strong year or so worth of singles matches and continues to be elevated in a meaningful way. Khan is 1-4 in the tournament now, though has had a strong slate of matches himself)
(7) ZACK SABRE JR. vs. EVIL (w/Dick Togo) – C Block match
The C Block is also very muddy water right now, and stands to become more so if Evil wins here. Zack was wearing a hat that covered his face while entering and doing his pre-match routine, and Evil attacked him there but found it was actually Kosei Fujita pretending to be him (it was clear it wasn’t Sabre, but Fujita’s impression of Zack’s was pretty remarkable). Dick Togo went to the entrance, where Sabre was waiting to wrench his arm. Sabre and Evil brawled their way to the ring.
Sabre rolled up Evil several times, and trapped Evil for a very quick win. Sabre celebrated with Kosei Fujita in an extremely rare scene of a Suzuki-Gun guy working with a Young Lion. This eliminated Evil from contention in the block. Sabre’s eight points likely positions him to lose in the deciding block match to Tetsuya Naito, though several are still alive in the block.
WINNER: Zack Sabre, Jr. at 0:44.
(Wells’s Analysis: These extremely quick matches are always a fun way to inject surprise into the tournament, and it was a thrill for the crowd, who as always were wildly against Evil)
(8) KAZUCHIKA OKADA vs. TOM LAWLOR (w/Royce Isaacs) – A Block match
Archer was especially interested on commentary, as his one remaining block match is against Okada. Lawlor took down Okada briefly but he escaped as quickly. Mat grappling sequence led to some reversals and a headscissors by Lawlor. Okada reached a rope to break. Lawlor worked a wristlock and Okada again reached a rope. Okada went to the outside and Lawlor removed his over-shorts to reveal the denim trunks to cheers. He went out after Okada and stomped him on the floor. Chop by Lawlor, who showed off his large hands afterward.
Back inside, Lawlor threw chops, which Okada no-sold. Okada no-sold some forearms as well. Lawlor ran the ropes and kicked Okada’s arm, then ran the ropes again to be hit by an Okada flapjack. Okada put Lawlor in a corner and hit a big back elbow. DDT by Okada got two. Okada tuned up the crowd, then shot in but Lawlor fought him off and hit a European uppercut. Lawlor got the audience to clap along to the syllables in his name. He went to the corner and Okada dropkicked him from the top to the floor. Both guys sold where they were.
Okada went out after Lawlor and charged him into a barricade, then booted him over. Okada draped Lawlor over the barricade for an attempt at a DDT, but Lawlor fought that off and booted Okada’s left arm against the barricade. Lawlor rolled Okada into the ring into a body scissors, continuing to work the wrist on the arm he’s been working all match long. Okada reached the rope to break.
Lawlor threw repeated knees to Okada, then ran the ropes and managed a spinning heel kick. He ran the ropes again but Okada hit his great dropkick. Time to sell again for both guys. Okada tried the Money Clip and Lawlor escaped and hit an enzuigiri. Shotgun dropkick into the corner by Okada, who continued selling the lower left arm. Okada hit an air raid crash neckbreaker on Lawlor, then went high. He tried an elbow drop, but Lawlor trapped Okada in his armbar finisher. Okada broke by desperately kicking his way to the bottom rope.
Both guys hit their feet and went to a forearm exchange. Okada won the exchange and Lawlor staggered. European uppercut by Okada. Lawlor worked the arm again with some wrenches and pumphandles. Lawlor threw forearms to Okada’s face in the rhythm of his name. Okada caught one and smacked Lawlor, but Lawlor threw another big haymaker and both went down. Shoulder breaker by Lawlor into a wicked-looking arm submission that’s hard to describe. Lawlor tried to trap the legs as well to avoid another rope break, but he could only trap one and Okada reached again.
Lawlor waited for Okada to reach his knees and went for a knee, but Okada evaded and hit the Landslide. He uncorked for the Rainmaker but he lost grip, selling the arm work that Lawlor had done. Okada missed a lariat and Lawlor hit a uranage. Lawlor fired up and hit a hard knee. He set up for NKOTB (Nasty Knee on the Brain) and Okada fought back and managed a backdrop. Lawlor got to his feet first and did the Rainmaker pose. He set up NKOTB again but Okada trapped him with a rollup for two. Lawlor missed a kick and Okada schoolboyed him for two. Lawlor kicked the arm and wrenched it again. He missed a lariat and Okada trapped Lawlor with another rollup, this time to finish. Archer and Okada had a tense moment after the match before Archer applauded him sarcastically. I suspect Okada wins and moves on to the semifinals, but this block has been as awesome as advertised.
WINNER: Kazuchika Okada at 16:14. (****)
(Wells’s Analysis: The Okada vs. underdog dynamic works every single time. This was even better than most, as the psychology of Lawlor’s attack made for a very enjoyable story and led to some real doubt about whether Lawlor might be put over in this big spot. Lawlor is eliminated from contention but has had an incredible debut in the tournament.)
(9) HIROSHI TANAHASHI vs. HIROOKI GOTO – C Block match 34:40
Collar and elbow. Goto walked Tana back to the ropes and broke clean. Another collar and elbow saw Goto walk Tana to the ropes again. Tana turned around, broke clean for a moment but then threw a low left and Archer said he loved the little hints of heelish Tanahashi. Tana took down Goto and worked a headlock and Archer put over Tanahashi’s ability to work the way the crowd wants him to work in a conversation that surfed along the edges of kayfabe, but was all absolutely correct. Tanahashi worked a headlock and hit a hip toss and a tackle to ground Tanahashi.
Goto stomped Tanahashi, then charged him to a corner. Tana came off it with a cross-body and did a little air guitar. Tanaran the ropes and Goto dumped him. Tanahashi attempted to skin the cat but Goto slipped out and threw rights. Back inside, Goto stomped Tanahashi into a corner. Irish whip to the opposite corner, and Tana exploded out of it with a basement dropkick. Goto tried to bail but Tanahashi rolled him right back in and worked his leg with some kicks. Tana wrenched Goto’s leg around his midsection, then kicked the back of Goto’s leg and went into a leg lock. He tried to transition to the Indian Death Lock but Goto reached a rope.
Tana threw down some kicks on Goto, who got to his feet and threw a big palm strike and some rights before Tana went back to Goto’s leg with some kicks. Goto hit a spinning lariat to gain separation and both guys sold. Goto put Tana into a corner, hit a spinning heel kick and brought him out of the corner with a bulldog. Cover for two. Goto tried a fireman’s carry and Tana wriggled free twice to avoid the ushigoroshi and took down Goto by the head. Tana tried the Indian Death Lock again and settled for a dragon screw, then a second. Tana put Goto in a Texas Cloverleaf. Goto struggled his way toward the rope and Tana leaned back deeper. Goto made it to the rope on the second effort.
Goto went out to the apron and put Tana’s head into a turnbuckle pad. Goto went up in the corner but Tana sprung to his feet and went up with him. Tana wanted a superplex and the two threw rights. Tana eventually managed a superplex. Tana went back to a Cloverleaf, but Goto saw it coming and transitioned to his own submission, wrenching Tana’s right arm. He leaned back and added a headlock and Tana reached a rope to break.
Goto put up Tana and hit the ushigoroshi. Goto went for the GTR and the two went into some reversals. Goto leveled Tana with an elbow. Tana hit his feet and they exchanged big rights. Headbutts and palm strikes got into the mix. Goto was bleeding from the mouth. Archer pointed out that Tanahashi took Goto out of the tournament in 2012 with the same strike, breaking Goto’s jaw. Sling blade got a long two for Tanahashi. Tana tried Aces High and hit it. He went up for High Fly Flow but Goto moved out of the way. Blood was pouring from Goto’s mouth and referee Red Shoes Unno lapped some of it up with a towel.
Goto caught Tana with a Russian leg sweep and trapped him in a believable near-fall. Goto caught a charging Tanahashi and hit a reverse GTR in the corner. Archer said this match was the definition of strong style for anyone who wanted to understand it. Goto unleashed a huge kick to the chest. He put up Tana for another ushigoroshi but Tana hit an inside cradle for two. Reversals led to a huge Goto slam for two. GTR finished.
WINNER: Hirooki Goto at 19:01. (***3/4)
(Wells’s Analysis: Another very strong block match on a night clear of Yano comedy and Bullet Club stalling and shenanigans in singles matches. Hopefully Goto’s jaw isn’t broken again, because he’s having a very strong tournament (he always does, but he’s winning as many matches as he loses for the first time in a few years). He’s likely primed to be eliminated from contention in his final block match against Evil, clearing the way for Sabre-Naito to finish the block and a year-long story after Sabre eliminated Naito from last year’s tournament with an injury)
FINAL THOUGHTS: A very strong night of block matches again, with all five worth seeing for various reasons. Additionally, the night really clipped along, with one ultra-quickie and no matches that reached the twenty minute mark. The night didn’t clear up the blocks so much as it made them even muddier in most cases, though if one squints and looks at the schedule, it’s probably becoming very clear who’s going to the semifinals and how. This was my fourth and final G1 recap this year, barring an audible by one of the other guys, and as always it’s a blast to provide this coverage for the tournament. Tyler Sage will cover the next show after a pair of days off.