The tournament continued with the first B Block matches Sunday
Spoilers ahead for New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) G1 Climax 30 night two
Juice Robinson vs YOSHI-HASHI: 2.75/5 stars
Juice Robinson made his flamboyant return to New Japan Sunday. Robinson had the crowd in the palm of his hand from the beginning to the end of the match.
In addition, he also got over a We Will Rock you style calp with the audience. Even the Japanese commentary team got into it.
Robinson was sporting a new look Sunday, which included a white tank top, black pants and a new hairstyle.
YOSHI-HASHI has been one of the bright spots for New Japan during the pandemic, which continued here. There were times in the match where it looked like he was going to pull off the upset victory.
In fact, the crowd which had strict instructions not to cheer, let out a loud gasp when YOSHI-HASHI nearly pinned Juice for the win.
The ‘Flamboyant’ Juice Robinson battled back in the match, hitting his patented running cannonball maneuver. However, it was YOSHI-HASHI who was in control at the 10-minute mark of the match, hitting a running powerbomb and knocking Robinson back down with a strong lariat.
It was a valiant effort for YOSHI-HASHI, but it was Robinson who took control in the final two minutes of the match. After absorbing a barrage of offense from his opponent, Robinson delivered a strong fist to YOSHI-HASHI and hit his finishing move, Pulp Friction for the win.
This was a great opener and a way better match than most had expected. YOSHI-HASHI had a great showing, took Robinson to the limit and looked strong in defeat.
Toru Yano vs SANADA 2/5 stars
This match was a classic display of Yano comedy. It wasn’t a technical masterpiece, but it was super entertaining.
SANADA thought he had Yano beat by wrapping up his limbs and leaving him unable to move outside the ring. Yano wouldn’t have beat the 20-count, but NJPW Young Lion trainee Yuya Uemura helped him escape.
Yano was free at the moment, but SANADA came charging back to confront Uemura. It was then that Yano taped the Young Lion and his opponent together, scurried back into the ring and caused SANADA to lose via count-out.
Hirooki Goto vs KENTA 3/5 stars
This was a bit of a weird match. After the card’s first two contests it felt as though this match would get the event to its next year, but we were wrong.
Goto and KENTA had a great match at Wrestle Kingdom 14 back in January however, this one did not reach the same level. KENTA’s stiff kicks were on display in this one, while Goto showcased his ability to mount a great comeback.
At one point it felt as though Goto might make a comeback, but every time he tried to muster up some momentum it was thwarted by his opponent. To his credit, Goto was able to counter KENTA’s Go To Sleep (GTS) finishing move.
KENTA was unable to hit the GTS in this match.
The finish of the contest was sloppy. KENTA tried to roll Goto over for his submission hold called Game Over, but failed on the first attempt.
They had to reset the spot and do it again, which led to KENTA locking in the hold and tapping out Goto for the victory.
It was a fine match that went a little too long. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as great as it had the potential to be.
Zack Sabre Jr. (ZSJ) vs EVIL 4/5 stars
Zack Sabre Jr. vs EVIL would’ve been the best match on the card if Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi didn’t close out the show.
This was probably EVIL’s best match since being injected into a main event position in NJPW. Sabre Jr. is usually one of New Japan’s bad guys, but on this night he played the role of the underdog perfectly.
In addition, he had the fans clapping for him the whole way through and the Japanese commentators chanting “Z-S-J” to the beat of the claps. It’s almost too bad ZSJ is tied up with the Suzuki Gun stable because he makes a great babyface.
The match started with EVIL’s lackey, Dick Togo getting in the face of ZSJ. EVIL used this to pull his opponent out of the ring, whip him into the metal barricade and immediately go to work on his back.
Togo also stomped on ZSJ's back while EVIL distracted referee ‘Red Shoes’ Umino with the threat of using a chair. After this, EVIL went to work in the ring, pulling off the ring padding in one of the corners.
Sabre Jr. found himself being whipped into the exposed turnbuckle. However, when EVIL attempted the same move later on ZSJ flipped off the exposed corner and used his momentum to build a comeback.
ZSJ landed a nasty neck breaker and delivered a neck twist to his grounded opponent. Sabre Jr. began to target EVIL’s shoulder with his impressive array of submission maneuvers.
In fact, Sabre Jr. nearly locked in an octopus stretch, but EVIL broke the move up by pinching his ear. This was a common occurrence in the match, as EVIL also raked the eyes of his opponent multiple times.
Dick Togo had seen enough and tried to distract the referee. Sabre Jr. was having none of this and used an attack to launch Togo off the apron.
ZSJ then used his momentum coming off the ropes to try and land a PK on EVIL who caught the kick attempt. EVIL then pushed his opponent into the referee, momentarily removing him from the match.
Like many EVIL matches over the past few months, a referee bump usually meant Dick Togo wasn’t far behind. EVIL and Togo each landed a senton on ZSJ and the match looked as good as over.
Sabre Jr. started to fight back, first catching Togo in a submission hold and getting him out of the ring. EVIL used the distraction to try and land a low blow, but it was blocked by Sabre Jr.
The crowd was electric as Sabre Jr. applied an ankle lock on EVIL before being flipped into the exposed turnbuckle, which took the wind out of everyone’s sails.
EVIL hoisted up ZSJ for a driver and it looked like the match was over.
Just as EVIL was about to hit his finishing move, Sabre Jr. dropped down, slid through and applied the European Clutch pinning maneuver for the upset win!
The fans in attendance went wild along with the commentary team. One fan on social media said the reaction felt as though Sabre Jr. had just cured world hunger and COVID-19 in the same night.
This contest and the one that followed helped take the show from good to great.
Hirohsi Tanahashi vs Tetsuya Naito 4.75/5 stars
IWGP Intercontinental and Heavyweight Champion Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi put on an absolute spectacle Sunday. This felt like Tanahashi’s best match since his clash with Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 13.
The first portion of the match was used to set the pace, but once the timekeeper gave the announcement that 10 minutes had passed it shifted into overdrive.
Tanahashi spent a lot of time working on Naito’s knees. Almost midway through the match, he grounded Naito with a scoop slam and nailed a middle rope flip.
Naito rolled to the outside for a breather, but Tanahashi wasn’t done with him yet. The crowd erupted in thunderous applause as the ‘Ace’ of New Japan lept from the top rope for his signature High Fly Flow.
Tanahashi scurried back into the ring, while Naito just broke the count at 19 seconds. The ‘Ace’ continued his assault, delivering two vintage dragon screw leg whips to Naito’s damaged knees.
Naito wouldn’t go down without a fight and ended up delivering a top rope Frankensteiner to Tanahashi. However, Naito’s momentum came to a halt as fast as it started, with Tanahashi countering his move for another pair of dragon screw leg whips.
Tanahashi then locked in a Texas Cloverleaf submission hold, continuing his assault on Naito’s knee. At this point the crowd and commentary team was going ballistic, it felt like the ‘Ace’ was about to tap out New Japan’s top champion in the middle of the ring.
Naito scratched and clawed his way to the ropes and broke the hold, but he couldn’t escape a straitjacket suplex from his opponent. Tanahashi bridged up into the cover with Naito kicking out just in the nick of time at 2.9999 seconds.
It legitimately appeared as though Tanahashi had just pinned Naito. However, referee ‘Red Shoes’ Umino quickly let everyone know there was in fact a kick out.
Naito began to storm back and hit a swinging DDT. As the match hit its 20-minute mark, Tanahashi hit his signature sling blade maneuver.
Right when it looked like he was about to finish off his opponent, Naito reversed a suplex attempt and both men came crashing to the canvas.
The crowd clapped thunderously as both men rose to their feet, exchanging a series of dueling elbow strikes.
As the match reached its climax Naito was able to deliver Gloria, one of his signature moves. Tanahashi responded by hitting a signature move of his own, Twist and Shout.
Twenty-five minutes had passed when Tanahashi connected on a pair of sling blades. This is always the setup for his High Fly Flow finishing move.
Tanahashi took to the top rope and landed a High Fly Flow on Naito. However, rather than go for the pin Tanahashi attempted another High Fly Flow, but nobody was home and his body crashed down on the canvas!
Naito used the opportunity to hit his finishing move, Destino, but Tanahashi kicked out.
A small flurry of offense led to Naito hitting another Destino, this time for the win. The crowd erupted and applauded both men for an epic match.
This contest is definitely worth going back and watching. It was five minutes away from earning the full five stars.
If Naito’s comeback at the end of the match was drawn out just a bit more, this contest would’ve been picture perfect. However, that’s not to say this match wasn’t still amazing.
It felt as though although the crowd was happy to see Naito emerge with the victory, what they really wanted was to see Tanahashi stand tall. As the tournament rolls on, it’ll be interesting to see if anyone pins Naito and earns the right to challenge for his championships in the future.
Next up: G1 Climax returns Sept. 23 in Sapporo, Japan with A Block action! Shingo Takgaki takes on Jeff Cobb, Will Ospreay takes on Tomohiro Ishii and Kota Ibushi meets Jay White in the main event. As always you can find coverage of the event right here on The Intermission!