Kagoshima is host to the eleventh round of G1 action, and it’s block A’s turn again for a card that has some promise on paper, but threatened to give away some final directions.

#TLDR: The dream died for Hiroyoshi Tenzan as the unlikely story finally came to an end in a less-than-inspiring G1 match against Bad Luck Fale. It was made up for somewhat by a fantastic, if not predictable, match with Tanahashi and Ishii in the main event, but overall it was still another turgid set of matches from block A.

The Full Review: Going into day 11, the pattern had already been set – block B was where the great matches were taking place, whilst block A was ambling towards a somewhat predictable finale.

Ryusuke Taguchi & David Finlay vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Tiger Mask
Finlay and Tiger start us off, and after a headlock, Finlay gets sent into the ropes, before taking a monkey flip from Tiger, and a back drop to the floor. Tiger Mask fakes out a dive, and Finlay’s on the run!

Both men tag out, and Liger’s already mocking Taguchi’s hip attacks. Liger scores a takedown then tries to get Taguchi in the seated surfboard, but he easily grabs a rope to break things up, before laying out both veterans with hip attacks in the ropes. More hip attacks to Liger soften him up for Finlay to get the tag in, and he hits a European uppercut before bringing Taguchi back into the fray.

Liger drops Taguchi with a tiltawhirl backbreaker, and then tags in Tiger Mask who scores a flying cross body off the top, then a kick to the head of a cornered Taguchi. Finlay runs to stop Tiger from climbing to the top, but it doesn’t work, and Taguchi lands a hip attack for another near-fall. Taguchi rolls out of an armbar attempt after some rolling suplexes, but spins around into a Tiger Driver as both men tag out once more.

Finlay takes Liger into the corner with a dropkick, before he and Taguchi combine for a hip attack and a Finlay roll, only for Tiger Mask to break up the cover at two. Out of nowhere, Liger scores the win when he shoots off the ropes and locks in an abdominal stretch in Finlay, then rolls back into a pinning predicament for the win. I liked how Liger outsmarted the youngster here after it seemed that Finlay was getting the upper hand. **¾

Katsuhiko Nakajima, Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI & Gedo vs. Yuji Nagata, Michael Elgin, Satoshi Kojima & Manabu Nakanishi
This is build up to two G1 matches tomorrow – Elgin/YOSHI-HASHI and Nagata/Yano. Hopefully Nagata won’t take Yano too lightly… YOSHI-HASHI was the only one with any tape around a shoulder today, and we started with Yano’s death wish against Nagata.

Yano started off with the “break” spot, and got kicked in the midsection by Nagata. Yodelling Yano got another kick and some forearms, before he ducked an enziguiri, only to take a “just kidding” dropkick to the knee. Another big boot saw Yano tag out to Nakajima, who then came in against Nakanishi for some big booted goodness.

Plenty of chops and kicks from Nakajima and Nakanishi, and it was the NOAH man who took down Nakanishi with a kick in the corner, before YOSHI-HASHI came in to help him suplex the veteran in the ring. In the middle of this, Toru Yano had stripped off a turnbuckle pad, whilst Nakanishi was left alone in the ring after YOSHI-HASHI tagged in and knocked everyone off the apron. A draping suplex led to a dropkick to the back of Nakanishi for a near-fall, but YOSHI-HASHI was taken down with a spear before he came face to face with Elgin.

Corner clotheslines sent YOSHI-HASHI into the middle of the ring, but he avoided a suplex, before running into a press slam that Elgin switched into a body slam for a two-count. Elgin battered YOSHI-HASHI with front and back clothesline-like blows, before the Canadian was dropped by a clothesline from the parrot lookalike. Kojima tagged in and knocked down Gedo with an elbow, and you know what’s next… rapid-fire chops!

Gedo dodged an avalanche and mocked Kojima with some rapid-fire chops of his own… but was cut-off and was about to take an elbow off the top, only for Yano to intervene. Nakajima and Gedo were left in the ring to kick away at Kojima for a near-fall, but the ring filled up briefly as everyone paired off again. Kojima blocked a jab from Gedo, then landed a DDT, and finally a lariat for the win. Say what you will about these undercard tags, but the formula, whilst barely changing between cards, is pretty fun at times. This was about what you’d expect, but I really wonder what more they can do between Nagata and Yano tomorrow… unless they just go for another shock roll-up? **¾

Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Katsuyori Shibata & Captain New Japan
You lose to Toru Yano, you tag with Captain New Japan. That must become a new law, and that seemed to thrill Shibata. Seriously, I couldn’t tell who had more of a “I’m being thrown to the wolves” look on them – either the Captain or Shibata!

Shibata’s back to having a taped knee and shoulder, and he’s actually ordered to the outside by Captain New Japan, who started with Takahashi. Yeah, that went well. Takahashi kicks the Captain in the midsection, before getting floored with a shoulder tackle. Kenny Omega tags in and demands to face Shibata, but it’s just a ruse to attack the Captain from behind.

An elbow to the head and some face washing forces the referee to break the hold, and Omega takes Captain into Takahashi’s big boot before tagging out. Omega comes back in and hits a slam for a two-count, then goes to a rear chinlock before Takahashi knocked Shibata off the apron to prevent a tag out.

Captain New Japan eats a Yakuza kick and a back elbow in the corner, then a rear leg lariat from Omega before Shibata breaks up the cover… and stomps away at the Captain for good measure. Katsuyori Shibata – the voice of the frustrated masses, people!

Captain lands a shoulder tackle, then finally tags in Shibata who works on Omega in the corner with forearms, before a diving dropkick rocks Omega. Takahashi runs into try and break up things, but gets cut-off and Omega gets locked in a sleeperhold, before Takahashi cut-off a PK attempt with a knee to the back of Shibata.

A superkick from Omega dropped Shibata, as Takahashi unwisely started a slapping battle. Captain New Japan tagged in to land an uranage, then actually succeeded with a swandive headbutt as Omega broke up the cover. Shibata accidentally knocked Captain New Japan down with a big boot, as Takahashi and the Captain were left in the ring. A clothesline got Takahashi a two-count, whilst Captain did his usual roll-up for a near-fall, before a Fisherman’s brainbuster forced another kick-out, and the short DDT took the win for the Bullet Club pairing. At this point I’m no longer shocked by Takahashi winning, but this was a perfectly fine tag match. **¾

EVIL, Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI vs. Tomoaki Honma, KUSHIDA & Juice Robinson
Los Ingobernables de Japon bumrushed their opponents at the bell, with EVIL and Naito working over Honma in the opening stages. Honma recovered to chop EVIL against the ropes, before landing a bodyslam and missing a Kokeshi.

Naito came in to work over Homa, whipping in into the corner and landing the outside-in dropkick, as this became a three-on-one attack, with Naito and BUSHI hitting a double-team spinebuster that allowed EVIL to hit a back senton for a near-fall. Honma hit back with a deadlift suplex, but couldn’t make the tag as Naito and BUSHI leisurely made their way around to yank KUSHIDA and Robinson off the apron just in time.

Honma connected with a leaping Kokeshi off the ropes, before KUSHIDA tagged in against BUSHI. Plenty of kicks from the junior champion, who then hit an inverted atomic drop then a dropkick to send BUSHI to the outside… but Naito rushed along to trip up KUSHIDA before a dive could take place. Moments later though, it did, with a tope con hilo onto Naito and BUSHI on the other side of the ring.

BUSHI avoided a springboard dropkick, then landed an overhead kick in the corner and a missile dropkick, before tagging Naito back into the match. KUSHIDA’s handspring into a double elbow let him tag in Robinson, who jabbed away at Naito before scoring with a spinebuster. An avalanche clothesline knocked Naito down, and in ran Honma for a Kokeshi that actually hit. Robinson got a near-fall with a cross body off the top as the ring filled up, before KUSHIDA broke up a kneebar from Naito with a dropkick off the top.

EVIL and Honma collided, but EVIL took out the knee of Robinson before combining with Naito to get a roll-up for a near-fall. Naito again went back to the inverted figure four, and there’s your tap out. Another match that ended with a massive sprint and a hold out of nowhere, but hey, it meant the undercard was concluded in exactly one hour! ***

Post-match, Naito put a chair on Honma’s head, and EVIL batted it off with another chairshot, as Los Ingobernables ended the first half of the show riding high.

G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Whomever loses, essentially, is out of the running… neither man can make anything out of the first two tie-ups, and Fale resorts to a knee to the midsection before Tenzan lands a couple of headbutts. Some Monglian chops follow, and Fale gets clotheslined to the floor, before he whips Tenzan into the guardrailings.

Tenzan doesn’t look good at this point, as he was hobbling down to the ring and throughout the early parts of the match. He beat the count back into the ring though, and rolled into some stomps from Fale, who just stood on him for the hell of it.

Fale then stands on Tenzan’s back, which may be therapeutic (you never know!), and worked a nerve hold before getting a two-count from a lateral press. Tenzan rolled out of the way of a body splash, then landed some more headbutts and Mongolian chops, before running in with an avalanche clothesline into the corner.

Tenzan tried – and failed – to suplex Fale, but knocked him down with a spinning heel kick for a near-fall. A Samoan drop followed from Tenzan, getting a two-count from there, before tying up Fale in the Anaconda Vice. Fale stood up out of it, and fought free of that and an Anaconda Buster attempt, before missing an avalanche charge.

More Mongolian chops and headbutts followed, and Tenzan took down Fale with a clothesline to the back, before running into a big boot for a near-fall. Tenzan backdropped his way out of a Bad Luck Fall attempt, then resorted to more clonking headbutts, which sent Fale back to the mat again, before missing with a moonsault off the top.

Fale nearly took the win with a bodysplash off the ropes, but Tenzan kicked out, and fought free of a Grenade before giving more Monglian chops, only to run into a spear from Fale. Tenzan again kicked out at two, but had no answer for the Grenade… and Tenzan is OUT of the G1. This was perhaps his worst match of the tournament so far, and his mobility looked really bad. Like Kurt Angle at his worst bad. In spite of the story they came into this, given that they dropped it so quickly, I wouldn’t be too stunned if Tenzan withdrew from the remainder of the tournament, but equally not if we saw Tenzan gut through it. Fale goes to 3-3, whilst Tenzan drops to 2-4. **¼

G1 Climax, Block A: Tama Tonga vs. Hirooki Goto
The shocked crowd remained silent… but perhaps it was just Tama Tonga’s entrance that drew so little heat, it’d not melt an ice cube. He’s back with his compression tights and the ridiculous codpiece. Goto’s added an AJ Styles-esque “peek through your hood” look to his entrance, and I’m now expecting him to wear customised gloves with a message on the palms.

They start with a lock-up, and Goto gets taken into the ropes to force a break. Tonga grabs a headlock next, then gets shot into the ropes, as the pair trade shoulder tackles, with Goto finally winning out. Goto tried to climb the ropes, but Tonga yanked him to the mat, before scoring a dropkick that sent Goto to the floor outside.

Goto takes an Irish whip into the crowd barriers, and Tonga follows up by picking him up and hot-shotting him over the barriers after teasing another Irish whip. Tonga stays on top of Goto after he’d beaten the count back into the ring, and landed a big avalanche into the corner. Goto fought back with a back suplex out of the corner, and then clotheslined Tonga to the outside, following up with a slingshot plancha.

An elbow off the top gets Goto a two-count, before Goto tried for an ushigoroshi, but Tonga fought free and dropped him with a Fireman’s carry into a flapjack instead. Tonga caught Goto’s attempt to leap out of the corner and nailed him with an Alabama slam, despite Goto’s best efforts at pulling down those stupid long johns.

Goto fought back with an ushigoroshi after catching Tonga off the ropes, and from their knees the pair started trading forearm smashes. Goto won out with a forearm, then lifted up Tonga into a front suplex onto a knee, before Tonga floated out of a GTR and hit a spinning reverse DDT for a near-fall.

Tonga grabbed a headlock, but Goto easily spun out and into a headbutt, before Tonga nearly picked up a win with a spinebuster. After arguing with the referee, Tonga baited Goto into getting up – presumably for the Gun Stun – but he was shoved off and the wacky Tama Tonga rope running ended up with Goto catching a Gun Stun attempt and turning it into a GTR for the win. Tonga is out of the tournament with that result, and he’s gone out on a decent match, I have to say. ***¼

G1 Climax, Block A: SANADA vs. Naomichi Marufuji
The pair tentatively lock up, with SANADA losing a waistlock and instead grabbing a hammerlock, which is reversed, only for SANADA to gain a headlock and lose that too. Marufuji kips up out of a wristlock to reverse it back, and so does SANADA, and the grappling finally ends with a cheer and a stand-off from the Kagoshima fans.

SANADA cheapshots from a handshake and takes Marufuji outside for the obligatory barricade spot, and then uses his baseball bat to choke the NOAH man. Marufuji gets hotshotted onto the barricade, and SANADA rolls in to look for the cheap count-out win. After returning to the ring, Marufuji gets taken into the corner and choked by a big boot, before he floats out of a suplex, only to miss a dropkick.

Marufuji finally gets that dropkick after cartwheeling away, and follows with a pescado to the outside. In the ring again, Marufuji lands an avalanche back elbow, but has to fight out of a Fireman’s carry in return from SANADA. They trade chops and forearms for a while, before SANADA pulls off his double leapfrog and dropkick spot to take Marufuji to the mat. A bunch of kicks from Marufuji are avoided, and SANADA replies with a springboard dropkick, before Marufuji takes a Tiger suplex for a near-fall.

SANADA grabs the Skull End, but Marufuji rolls out and through into a Shiranui, but that’s blocked and countered into another Skull End, which Marufuji knees his way out of. Instead, SANADA grabs Marufuji in a Fireman’s carry and lands a TKO for a two-count, before following up with a Skull End that he sinks in, only for Marufuji to eventually break via the ropes.

SANADA goes for – and lands on his feet from – a moonsault, as Marufuji fights back with some more kicks in the corner, before a front suplex and a series of kicks and a knee strike gets a near-fall. Marufuji followed that up with the Shiranui, and that’s the win that knocks SANADA out of the G1. Good match, but it did very little for me outside of the finishing sequence. ***½

G1 Climax, Block A: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
This should be a show stealer, given that their match during the 2014 G1 got ****½ from Dave Meltzer… but is Tanahashi still restricted by his persistent injury? From the opening lock-up, Tanahashi grabbed a headlock and took Ishii down to a knee before seeing a shoulder tackle barely move Ishii. Hiptosses and dropkicks sure did though!

Ishii took an Irish whip into the corner, but bounced out with a shoulder tackle, and took Tanahashi into a corner for some chops. Tanahashi countered with a back elbow and a cross body off the middle rope, before Ishii hit a low dropkick and a Dragon screw in reply. Another low dropkick downed Tanahashi, and Ishii followed up with a stalling suplex for a near-fall.

Tanahashi retaliated with a Dragon screw of his own, before being taken into a corner where Ishii kicked away at his head. That led Tanahashi to get up and start a slapping war, and one actually staggered Ishi back into the corner. Ishii tried to fight back from the ground, but couldn’t connect with any upward kicks, before connecting with a clothesline out of the corner after Tanahashi’d Irish whipped him yet again.

Tanahashi blocked a superplex attempt from Ishii, and headbutted the “Stone Pitbull” back down to the mat, only for a single headbutt from Ishii to knock Tanahashi onto the apron. A clothesline was blocked by Tanahashi, who grabbed a leg and twisted Ishii with a Dragon screw in the ropes.

Ishii went back to a superplex not long after though, and was successful with a stalling superplex, bringing Tanahashi crashing to the mat. Once again, Ishii and Tanahashi traded an endless stream of forearms, with Tanahashi getting the upper hand barely, before Ishii started no selling shots. A single forearm took Tanahashi back down to his knees, with a headbutt setting up Ishii for a folding powerbomb pin that almost got him the win.

A lariat off the ropes took down Tanahashi for a near-fall, before a suplex attempt was blocked by a knee from Tanahashi. Another suplex was reversed as Tanahashi landed as spinning suplex, before he ran into the path of a Dragon suplex from Ishii. That quickly got a receipt, but Tanahashi needed a strait-jacket bridging German for a near-fall as the crowd got even more into this.

Tanahashi threw himself into Ishii with a Slingblade, before following with a High Fly Flow, but Ishii rolled out of the way and connected with a diving clothesline for the nearest of near falls. Another lariat from Ishii barely moved Tanahashi, who fell to his knees from an headbutt, before floating out of a vertical suplex and nearly winning it with a bridging Dragon suplex.

Ishii sidestepped a Slingblade, but couldn’t avoid the second, and then fell to a High Fly Flow crossbody, and then the frog-splash version of the move as Tanahashi continued his comeback with another win. This started off real slow, but picked up towards the end – not quite the same as their classic from two years ago, but easily the best thing on this show so far. Tanahashi moves to 3-3, whilst Ishii is all but out with a 2-4 record. ****¼

G1 Climax, Block A: Kazuchika Okada vs. Togi Makabe
The leaders before today battle in the main event – and if Makabe loses this, then I think we’re safe to assume we’re going to be between Okada and Tanahashi for the winner of block A.

Makabe and Okada tie-up and struggle against each other, with Makabe sending Okada into the ropes. Okada switches around and does his usual mocking break. Kicks and elbows to Makabe follow, before a pair of shoulder tackles barely move the veteran, who proceeds to duck a clothesline and knock down Okada with ease.

Makabe misses an avalanche and gets lifted onto the top rope, before being dropkicked to the floor. Okada sends him chest-first into the barriers, a la Bret Hart, then drops Makabe with a neckbreaker. After just about beating the count into the ring, Makabe gets caught in a strait-jacket choke, before putting a foot on the chest of Makabe… but the referee refused to make the count. Eh?

Makabe fired back with some forearms, but got met with a knee to the midsection as Okada toyed around with him. A powerslam from Makabe took down the champion, who then absorbed a pair of avalanche clotheslines before Makabe lit into him with the mounted corner punches and a Northern Lights suplex for a near-fall. Okada took a clothesline for a two-count, before reversing an Irish whip into the corner and dropping Makabe with a DDT.

A spinning, diving uppercut got Okada a two-count, before he got caught on the top rope and slammed down a la Ric Flair. Another lariat from Makabe dropped both men to the mat, and they worked back up into a war of forearm smashes, which Okada just about edged before landing the Heavy Rain neckbreaker slam.

Okada followed up with a bodyslam and a top rope elbow as the cameraman missed his cue for the traditional Rainmaker pose, but caught Makabe pleading for more shots from the champion. Of course, Okada obliged with a boot to the face before getting dropped with a stiff clothesline from Makabe.

Makabe landed a powerbomb for a near-fall, then a death valley driver for another two-count. A clothesline to the back of a cornered Okada followed, and Makabe looked for the spider German suplex, but instead of a German, he ended up doing a spider belly to belly superplex instead. Okada avoided the King Kong kneedrop off the top, but took a clothesline from Makabe before responding with another big boot.

Makabe retaliated with another lariat, and took another boot, before Okada hit a dropkick, then missed one, and then took a German suplex for a near-fall. Okada fought out of a Dragon suplex attempt and spun into a forearm, before taking down Makabe with a dropkick, then a tombstone piledriver. From there, Okada picked up Makabe for the Rainmaker, and the expected win came to pass. Decent match, but you got the feeling that the crowd only expected one result – in spite of Makabe’s early surge in the G1, he’s no longer at the level of an Okada, and having this match after most of the shock results had been booked meant that it was kinda flat. ***¾

With three block matches left, Okada tops block A on ten points, with a two-way tie for second, and a three-way tie for third. We’ve gotten our first eliminations, and some of those led to today’s results feeling flat. I just don’t get why they swapped Kojima for Tenzan in this tournament, if the end result of his story was just going to be “win two, lose four, then have nothing to play for” this early on. There has to be a reason behind it, and I’m hoping it’s not just booking a story for the sake of it.

Block A Standings (not considering tie-breakers at this stage)
Kazuchika Okada (5-1, 10pts)
Togi Makabe (4-2, 8pts)
Naomichi Marufuji (4-2, 8pts)
Bad Luck Fale (3-3, 6pts)
Hirooki Goto (3-3, 6pts)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (3-3, 6pts)
Tomohiro Ishii (2-4, 4 pts)
SANADA (2-4, 4pts)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2-4, 4pts)
Tama Tonga (2-4, 4 pts)

Block B Standings (not considering tie-breakers at this stage)
Michael Elgin (3-2, 6pts)
YOSHI-HASHI (3-2, 6pts)
Yuji Nagata (3-2, 6pts)
Tetsuya Naito (3-2, 6pts)
Katsuhiko Nakajima (3-2, 6pts)
Kenny Omega (3-2, 6pts)
Tomoaki Honma (2-3, 4pts)
Katsuyori Shibata (2-3, 4pts)
Toru Yano (2-3, 4pts)
EVIL (1-3, 2pts)