After feeling apathetic towards wrestling for Night 11 on Monday, I’m feeling a lot more positive now. Maybe that was just a hump I had to get over in order to enjoy the rest of the tournament.
I’ve been looking forward to Kenny Omega vs Zack Sabre Jr since the blocks were announced, so I’m excited for that match. Let’s hope the rest of the card can meet that expectation level!
Tomohiro Ishii vs Tama Tonga was a little better than most of Tonga’s G1 matches (3/5) mainly because Ishii was involved. We got the usual Firing Squad interference, but Ishii plays the tough underdog really well and his comebacks were superb in this match, I enjoyed him taking the fight to Bad Luck Fale and Tonga Loa too. I liked the finish – I thought Ishii had it won with a Brainbuster, so seeing Tonga counter with a mid-air Gun Stun surprised me. Discounting the interference, I thought Tama Tonga looked pretty good here too, this was probably his best showing in this tournament.
Juice Robinson vs Sanada was a hidden gem of a match (4/5) and I really enjoyed it. The first few minutes were excellent, full of fast counters and oneupmanship (i.e. Sanada going for a plancha, but Juice moving and trying his own plancha) and I was hooked from there. The match did slow down from there, but the finishing stretch, with the Skull End/Pulp Friction teversals picked up nicely. I really like back and forth matches where I’m left guessing who the victor will be and this match is a great example of this.
Tetsuya Naito vs Toru Yano was above the usual ‘Yano match’ level, thanks to some good in ring interactions from both men and some good comedy in Yano dealing with being tied to the guard rail. His solution to beat the count down was to bring the guard rail into the ring with him, which had me laughing. 3/5 for me, a decent Yano comedy match, but not on the level of Yano’s G1 matches with Omega and AJ Styles a few years ago.
So…Kenny Omega vs Zack Sabre Jr…did it live up to my expectations? I’d have to say yes – this was a great match that was only let down by an abrupt roll up finish (4.5/5) Both men’s styles meshed perfectly, with Omega looking for his big moves and Sabre Jr countering with a variety of submission holds. I really liked the focus on Omega’s injured left leg (he has a legit heel injury from the G1 Special) and the selling from Omega was superb. I was just disappointed by the end – Omega countered Sabre Jr’s attempted submission into a cover that barely pinned Sabre Jr. I understand that quick pins will be used in the G1, but this match is one that could have been a classic if it was a little longer and had a definitive finish. I’m hoping the nature of the finish means we get a rematch.
The main event of Kota Ibushi vs Hirooki Goto couldn’t follow Sabre Jr vs Omega, but it was a good effort to (4/5) There was lots of new takes on moves in this one (i.e. Ibushi countering a top rope Code Red into a moonsault, landing on his feet) and the effort level was really high. Lots of hard strikes in this one, in another really close back and forth battle.
Overall – a fantastic card, Night 12 has really refreshed me on the G1, I’m looking forward to Night 13 tomorrow. If you are struggling for time, try at least to watch Omega vs Sabre Jr, but the whole evening is worth watching. Overall rating is 3.70/5.00, which is up there with the best cards of the year.