Wrestling Review: NJPW G1 Climax 29 (Day 1) (2019)

[Please note: To save myself some time, I am only going to review the G1 tournament matches themselves. If there is a really good undercard match, and I get the time to watch it, I will make a note of it eventually. There may be spoilers for previous days.]

The 2019 edition of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual heavyweight tournament, the G1 Climax 29 begins, live from the American Airlines Centre in Dallas, Texas. For the next few weeks, two blocks of ten competitors will compete in a round-robin format, with winners earning points en route to a final one on one match between the two block winners. For the first time ever outside of Japan, the main event of this show wil be reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada versus his long time rival, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and after three successive time limit draws, one man will be looking to gain the upper hand. KENTA takes part in his first ever G1 Climax when he goes to war with Kota Ibushi, whilst Will Ospreay also has his first G1 match against Dallas’ own, Lance Archer. Bad Luck Fale will face EVIL, and Sack Sabre Jr. and SANADA have a rematch from last year’s tournament.

+ Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada (G1 Climax A Block Match): this was the first time these two have faced each other outside of Japan, and the first time two Japanese stars (ultra mega super stars, no less) have faced off in the main event of a non-Japan show. Considering my rapid decline of putting up with broken down Tana taking the spotlight — he ended up winning last year, remember, and I hated his tournament until right near the end — this was still pretty good. The crowd was electric for the whole show, and both guys busted out their greatest hits to appease the audience. Overall, this was hardly the best match they’ve had, but it was certainly good enough to be the main event of this show
+ KENTA vs Kota Ibushi (G1 Climax A Block Match): I was giddy from the moment this was announced, because gee whiz do I love me some KENTA – I was stoked when he was signed to NXT, before the subsequent ruining of every NXT-to-main-roster callup and his horror run of injuries. Ibushi is Ibushi, and Ibushi does what Ibushi does, so you know that there were going to be some stupid-hard kicks, some wild forearms and at least one moment where one or either guy could have died (though the last one might be a bit of hyperbole). Truth be told, whoever won, however they won, and whatever happens next I was always going to enjoy this match, and I did
+ Zack Sabre Jr. vs SANADA (G1 Climax A Block Match): this was a rematch from the B Block in last year’s tournament, and I’ll essentially just restate here what I said then: the speed at which these two were able to transition between submission holds, pinfall attempts and then strikes was almost unbelievable, and it made for a fantastic showing. One moment between Sabre and a fan outside the ring in particular made me literally laugh out loud at my screen
+ Lance Archer vs Will Ospreay (G1 Climax A Block Match): really good as Ospreay’s first foray into the G1 Climax led him up against the hometown monster in Archer. A new look and some devastating new offence were the trademarks for Archer, but Ospreay is one of the best in the world for a reason, and whether it be against Dragon Lee for a championship, entering the lion’s den against Robbie Eagles or facing big Lance Archer in the wrestling world’s most gruelling tournament, Ospreay is just so damn good. This was probably the best match Archer has had, if not ever then in a very long time

Bad Luck Fale vs EVIL (G1 Climax A Block Match): okay, but easily the weakest match of the first night. I’ll drop a minor spoiler and say that at least this wasn’t a repeat of last year’s constant DQs for Fale, who looked like a monster here, even against the not-small EVIL. The crowd was perahps getting a bit tired here, because this did also get the least reaction of the tournament match

Should you watch this event: Overall, each of the five matches were good, even the weakest entry in Fale/EVIL. KENTA/Ibushi and Ospreay/Archer in particular were really good, but there was nothing to avoid in this first quintet.

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