Three great matches and a contender for match of the year from block A today, as we’re in Osaka after the G1 took a day off.

#TLDR: Perhaps not show-of-the-year material, but absolutely match-of-the-year material here: Tenzan/Goto would have taken home match of the night in spite of Tenzan’s injuries, but Tomohiro Ishii and Kazuchika Okada ended taking that – and one of the best matches of the year – with an outstanding semi-final performance.

The Full Review: We know the drill by now… four undercard tags, five G1 matches, and for once, David Finlay isn’t in the opener!

Ryusuke Taguchi & Captain New Japan vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Tiger Mask
The Captain successfully convinces Taguchi to let him start, and his first order of action is to be thrown to the outside and given a baseball slide dropkick into the guard rails. Tiger Mask trades strikes with the Captain and wins out, and it’s all one-sided. Liger takes the Captain down with a drop toe-hold, but Liger’s met with a knee from Taguchi as he tried to lock in the seated surfboard.

Captain finally lands the diving shoulder tackle to knock down Liger and Tiger, and makes the tag out to Taguchi for lots and lots of hip attacks. Liger counters one with an atomic drop, but takes a springboard hip attack for a near-fall. A pair of tiltawhirl backbreakers put Taguchi down, and in comes the Captain again, who drops Tiger Mask with an uranage.

Taguchi literally shoves the Captain into the corner to go up top, and he continues to ascends after a Taguchi hip attack sends Tiger Mask to the mat again… but the swandive headbutt misses, and the veterans charge after Captain in the corner, before Taguchi makes a save from the Tiger Driver. The end is still near though, and Tiger Mask claims the win with a double armbar for an instant submission from the slightly-improving Captain. Good opener – not too long, and pretty basic to boot. ***

They play a promo from ROH champion Jay Lethal, and next weekend during the G1 Finals, he’s taking on Satoshi Kojima. Lethal’s promised to make this a quick win.

Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & BUSHI vs. Satoshi Kojima, KUSHIDA & Juice Robinson
Kojima starts by calling out Naito, and this is how we start… with EVIL attacking Kojima from behind and missing an elbow into the corner. Kojima connects with a shoulder tackle, then lights up Naito with the rapido chops in the corner, before a leaping hip attack in the corner cut off Kojima.

Naito’s left along in the ring as Kojima’s whipped into the guard railings, and when Kojima returns to the ring he gets choked by BUSHI’s t-shirt. EVIL rakes the eyes, then squashes Kojima with a back senton, and then the apron gets cleared so all three members of Los Ingobernables can hit corner charges on the veteran.

Kojima fights out of an attempted Gloria, then a tornado DDT attempt before hitting a lariat and a DDT. We finally get tags out, and KUSHIDA makes quick work of BUSHI before EVIL trips him as the Junior heavyweight champion went for a dive. KUSHIDA avoided an attempted double team, and ended up hitting a tope con hilo anyway to EVIL and BUSHI on the floor.

BUSHI avoids a knee trembler, but gets dropped with a clothesline from KUSHIDA, then replied with a lungblower. More tags see EVIL and Juice Robinson, with the latter landing a spinebuster for a near-fall. Robinson knocks Naito off the apron, before a flying cross body gets him a near-fall as Naito and BUSHI run in to break up the pin.

The ring empties briefly, but the Ingobernables return to triple team Robinson, with EVIL drilling him with a STO to pick up the win. A decent enough match, but it felt pretty chaotic at times – and not in a good, entertaining sense. **¾

EVIL and Naito eye each other up after the match – and tease a little bit of dissension ahead of their match tomorrow as EVIL took his time to join in with the Los Ingobernables salute.

Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi
Omega and Nagata get us going, and Omega grabs a wristlock which is reversed into a headlock by Nagata. A shoulder tackle is pretty much ineffective, and they get into a brief shoving match, and another shoulder tackle, this time with Nagata barely moving.

Nagata kicked away at the legs of Omega, and that sent him flying out towards the timekeeper’s table for cover. Two tags later, and we get Takahashi and Nakanishi, and it’s safe to say that Nakanishi won their early battle of forearm strikes. Yujiro bit away at Nakanishi’s hand, but was sent down with a shoulder tackle, before a trip from Omega took Nakanishi to the outside.

Back inside, Takahashi mounted Nakanishi with punches and forearms, before Omega came back in… to take off his shirt. Nakanishi blocked a suplex and almost lifted up Omega, before Takahashi came in to try for a double-team suplex. That didn’t work either, and Nakanishi just suplexed the pair by himself.

Nagata came in and cleared the ring with a variety of kicks to Omega, including a Yakuza kick in the corner, then an Exploder suplex for a near-fall. Omega blocked a suplex, then had to block an armbar before Nagata’s “just kidding” dropkick to the knee. Omega replied with an enziguiri, then a Dragon suplex, before quickly tagging himself out.

Takahashi and Nakanishi were back in, and the latter hung onto the ropes to avoid an Irish whip, before dropping Yujiro with a pair of clotheslines. Omega broke up the count and was promptly sent to the outside by Nagata, leaving Takahashi prey for an Argentine backbreaker which Omega failed to break up… but a superkick and a reverse leg lariat dropped Nakanishi for a near-fall.

As Omega and Nagata fought on the outside, Takahashi tried for the short DDT, and at the second attempt he landed it for the win. This was the expected result given who was involved, but a lot of this match was pretty much uninspiring, by-the-numbers action. **¾

Katsuhiko Nakajima, Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI & Gedo vs. Michael Elgin, David Finlay, Tomoaki Honma & Katsuyori Shibata
David Finlay is so high up the card today, he’s getting a nosebleed! Yano throws water at Michael Elgin, clearly jealous of Two Belts Mike, and we start with the two of them as Yano tries to get anyone to take his place.

A shoulder tackle does nothing for Yano, but an eye rake and some forearms barely move Elgin… whose forearm smash sends Yano into the ropes for that “break!” spot. Yano then blind tags-in Gedo, and he looks far from happy at the fate he’s been given. Gedo compares beards, then pokes Elgin in the eye and gets shoulder tackled to the mat.

Gedo tries to lift up Elgin for a German suplex, and gets met with a hard back elbow, before YOSHI-HASHI and Katsuhiko Nakajima kick away to try and stop a hanging suplex. Yano actually had the right idea by raking the eyes to save Gedo, before removing the turnbuckle padding as Elgin gets whipped by three men into the exposed corner.

YOSHI-HASHI gets a two-count from a DDT, before Elgin blocked a suplex and hit an enziguiri to take the taped YOSHI-HASHI off his feet. In comes Shibata to add some pain, in the form of knees and elbows. Shibata stomps in the corner then levels YOSHI-HASHI with the corner dropkick before they trade forearms on their feet, ending with a big boot from Shibata.

A lariat from YOSHI-HASHI knocks Shibata to the mat, and we get Honma and Nakajima, with Honma chopping into Nakajima, before a bulldog and a missed Kokeshi headbutt. The CHAOS team flood the ring briefly, as Honma takes a four-way attack, ending with superkicks from Nakajima and Gedo for a near-fall with Elgin making the save.

Honma elbows out of a back suplex, then lands a forearm, before Nakajima kicks him and lands a high angle back suplex for a near-fall. Another superkick from Nakajima gets a jumping Kokeshi as a receipt, and in comes David Finlay, who clears the apron and then hits a back elbow and a twisting uppercut to Nakajima. A diving uppercut gets Finlay a two-count, before a kick to the chest knocked Finlay down for a near-fall.

The ring again filled, then quickly cleared, with Finlay nearly stealing the biggest win of his career with a schoolboy after ducking a Nakajima PK. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out too well for him as a second PK attempt hit the mark and Nakajima took the win. A pretty good eight-man tag to end the first half of the show – and the action kept going after the bell with Shibata and YOSHI-HASHI fighting through the crowd and to the back. ***¼

G1 Climax, Block A: Tama Tonga vs. SANADA
Tama Tonga’s back in his long johns, and it’s fair to say that the Osaka crowd are fairly muted for this one. They start with a tie-up, and the pair reverse around the ropes before the referee ultimately calls for a break.

Tonga grabs a headlock, then snapmared SANADA, but he landed on his feet, before SANADA grabbed hold of Tonga’s hair to prevent being shot into the ropes. A spinning uppercut saw Tonga knock SANADA down, before he low bridged Tonga to the outside as the even start continued.

Tonga dropkicks SANADA off the apron, and eventually joins him outside so Tonga could ran the head into the apron, before seeing an Irish whip reversed as Tonga was sent into the guard railings. SANADA took a chair from the front row and jabbed it into Tonga’s midsection, but again the tables were turned as SANADA got dropped throat-first across the barriers.

Back inside, Tonga caught SANADA in a rear chinlock, before the Ingobernables member pulled off the double leapfrogs and a dropkick, then landing a plancha as Tonga had gone to the outside for safety. Tonga gets drilled with a back suplex in the ring for a near-fall, before replying with a Fireman’s carry into a flapjack.

An Alabama Slam out of the corner nearly got Tonga the win after he’d earlier missed a leaping elbow. SANADA took a Ric Flair bump in the corner then leapt to the top for a missile dropkick, before the pair traded forearms, ending with a Tonga headbutt and an enziguiri from SANADA. A bridging (sort-of!) Tiger suplex almost got SANADA the win, but he went for a Skull End, which got reversed into a guillotine DDT for a near-fall.

SANADA shoves away from a Gun Stun, before flipping out of a German suplex, and takes a headscissors from Tonga’s rope running. Nevertheless, SANADA drops Tonga with the TKO for a close two-count, before Tonga flipped out of a Skull End and hit a spinning reverse DDT for another near-fall.

A backslide almost won it for SANADA, but Tonga kicked out and drilled him with the Gun Stun to pick up the win. This picked up a little towards the end, but my word, it was so flat and uninspiring for the bulk of this match. Tonga goes to a 3-4 record, whilst SANADA drops to a 2-5 record that eliminates him from the G1. ***¼

G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. Togi Makabe
Instead of shoving down the ring announcer today, Fale just rips the sleeve off of his suit jacket. Makabe leaps into Fale at the bell, lighting him up with strikes before tossing him to the outside, where Makabe… was whipped chest-first into the guard railings.

Fale grabbed an empty seat from the crowd and tossed it across the aisle, where he ended up using the chair to choke Makabe with. Fale stands on the chair on top of Makabe for a bit, but relinquishes and Makabe beat the count back in… so he could get choked in the ropes some more.

Makabe kicked out at two after all of that, and was knocked from his knees with a forearm smash. Fale sends Makabe into the corner once again, and continued to stomp on him, but Makabe fired back with a lariat off the ropes, and then an avalanche clothesline before some corner mounted punches. They battle back and forth with clotheslines, and Makabe gets a near-fall from one of his own, before a Northern Lights suplex gets a similar result.

Makabe climbs up top, but Fale catches him and lifts him into position for the Bad Luck Fall, but Makabe works free. Another lariat sends Fale into the corner, but Fale slips away and follows up with an avalanche, before Makabe countered some mounted punches from Fale with a powerbomb. Fale kicked out at two, before he blocked a German suplex attempt, and then dropping Makabe with a spear after absorbing some lariats. One Grenade later, and Fale took the win as Makabe’s losing streak continues. Both men go to 4-3 records, and this was a lot better than I expected ***¼

G1 Climax, Block A: Hirooko Goto vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
With Tenzan out of the G1, all he can do here is be a spoiler for Goto. Tenzan starts by taking Goto into the ropes, but misses a Mongolian chop as an unclean break, then barely budges as Goto tried for a shoulder tackle.

Tenzan connects with some Mongolian chops that send Goto to the mat, but Goto fired back with a clothesline that took Tenzan down, then a kick to the back for a near-fall. A neck crank kept Tenzan grounded, as did some headscissors which forced Tenzan to reach for the ropes.

Goto kept up the pressure with some slaps to Tenzan, but a spinning heel kick knocked Goto to the mat. An avalanche clothesline and a vertical suplex gave Tenzan a brief advantage, and a near-fall once he made a cover, before they went back to trading forearms. Tenzan cut off Goto with a headbutt, but was floored by a kick to the chest, and then took a spinning heel kick in the corner as well.

Goto went up top for a successful elbow drop for a near-fall, but an ushigoroshi was blocked as Tenzan elbowed free. Tenzan dropped Goto with the Mountain Bomb for a near-fall, then went for the Anaconda Vice, but Goto freed himself and turned around into a headbutt. An ushigoroshi was successful at the second attempt, but Tenzan kicked out at two, but he stayed down for so long afterwards that Goto made another cover, for another two-count.

Out of nowhere, Tenzan hit the TTD (Tenzan Tombstone Driver), before dragging himself to Goto for a near-fall. Tenzan then looked to roll back the years yet again with a moonsault, but Goto rolled away (and nearly got squashed in the process). Goto got up first and levelled Tenzan with a kick, then a clothesline, but Tenzan didn’t move. A sleeperhold from Goto looked to send Tenzan to the mat, but he took Goto into the corner to break the hold, then landed four strong headbutts to knock Goto to the mat… before missing a lariat, and getting caught in another sleeperhold, then the GTR backbreaker as Goto took the win. If Tenzan had still been alive in the tournament, this would have been a much hotter match, but G1 standings aside, this was exceedingly good given Tenzan’s obvious limitations. Tenzan drops to 2-5, whilst Goto is 4-3 in the tournament. ****¼

G1 Climax, Block A: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kazuchika Okada
They start with a lock-up, and the usual Okada teased break. Remind me how he’s a babyface when he’s doing this to his own stable-mate? Ishii nails Okada with a lariat, then hits his sliding lariat early on for a near-fall in what would have usurped any Yano win as the surprise of the tournament so-far!

Okada avoided a brainbuster, before Ishii got out of a Rainmaker, only to take the Heavy Rain as we’ve had teases or deliveries of all of their big moves in the opening minute. Ishii throws Okada back into the ring, and knocks him with a headbutt, then a series of chops to the chest, but Okada fought back with forearms before being given a powerslam off the ropes.

Ishii mockingly kicks away at Okada, then delivers some chops as the champion’s seated… but Okada stands up and walks into more chops, then a headbutt. Okada tries some forearms, but Ishii barely registers them, before he runs into a flapjack off the ropes.

Okada runs off the ropes with a forearm, then snapmares Ishii down into a low dropkick for a near-fall, before a DDT and a diving uppercut got him another two-count. A bodyslam set up Okada for a top rope elbow, but Ishii popped up and drilled Okada with a back suplex, before taking Okada to the corner for the chop/forearm combinations.

Okada ducks away from an avalanche, then dropkicks Ishii to the outside. Ishii took an Irish whip into the guard rails, before being booted into the timekeepers area, and brought back into the ringside area really hard with a draping DDT off the barriers. That looked nasty!

Back inside, Okada goes for a slam, then his top rope elbow… but Ishii popped up with a chop to the throat as Okada went for his Rainmaker pose. That looked fantastic, particularly as the cameras kept zooming out for the pose as if it were unexpected.

A German suplex dumped Okada on his back, and Ishii ran in with an avalanche, then a folding powerbomb for a near-fall. Ishii ran into a big boot, before a lariat is blocked and turned into a suplex from Okada. A headbutt attempt is blocked, and Ishii works out of a bodyslam, before holding onto the ropes to avoid an Okada dropkick.

Okada avoids a sliding lariat and goes back to a big boot and some uppercuts, but again he’s cut off by a dropkick from Ishii. Okada’s taken to the top rope by Ishii, and is brought down with a superplex for a near-fall, before Ishii lands the sliding lariat for yet another near-fall. This crowd is really buying into Ishii getting what’d be a shock win based on his G1 form this year.

Okada knees his way out of a brainbuster, before working out of a suplex and dropkicking Ishii in the back of the head. Another dropkick from Okada sends Ishii into the ropes, and he hits a series of sliding dropkicks to a sat-up Ishii, with three of them getting a two-count. Ishii tries to block a tombstone piledriver, and does so by stomping on Okada’s feet before some more forearms only delay Ishii from taking a nice dropkick from Okada.

Ishii gets lifted to his feet, but he ducks a Rainmaker and connects with an enziguiri, only for a lariat to be ducked by Okada and turned into a German suplex… and two quickly-blocked Rainmakers in a row. A stiff headbutt from Ishii drops the champ, but Ishii counters a brainbuster with a tombstone attempt, and drops Okada with a sit-out tombstone!

Another lariat in follow-up gets a near-fall, but then a brainbuster puts it beyond all doubt. Tomohiro Ishii takes what has to be upset result, in a match that will be up there – if not at the top – of a lot of match-of-the-year ballots. Almost the full five, but not quite for me: ****¾

Good luck, whomever’s following that!

G1 Climax, Block A: Naomichi Marufuji vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Well, they start tentatively – so as to give everyone a bit longer of a breather after that last match, I suspect – and Tanahashi takes Marufuji into the ropes, before ducking a dirty break attempt.

Marufuji grapevines Tanahashi’s leg, but it gets rolled out of and turned into an attempted cross armbreaker, which ended up with a tentative clean break. Tanahashi takes Marufuji into the corner, ducks some kicks and then slides him into the ringpost, before smashing a leg into the post from the outside.

Tanahashi kicks at Marufuji’s leg, and goes for another grapevine in the middle of the ring, before lifting up and driving the left knee into the mat. The knee’s lifted up again, but this time dropped across Tanahashi’s upper leg rather than the mat, and Tanahashi’s going for a technical start to this, as he ties up Marufuji’s legs in a hold-stretch that looked like a prototype of a figure four.

Tanahashi follows that up by trying a Dragon screw in the ropes on Marufuji, but a kick put paid to that, before Tanahashi tried for a knee breaker on the apron. That too was blocked, as Marufuji instead dumped Tanahashi on the apron with a piledriver.

Tanahashi barely beat the count to get back into the ring, and got taken to the corner for some chops from Marufuji, and then a rear chinlock as the pace slowed down once more. Tanahashi fires back with chops, but Marufuji’s replies stun him, as does a chop after he’d caught a Tanahashi kick and spun him around.

More chops from Marufuji follow, but Tanahashi flies back with a leaping forearm to take his foe down, and then set up Marufuji for the senton flip off the middle rope. Marufuji cartwheeled out of an Irish whip, then dropkicked Tanahashi onto the apron, before springboarding onto the top rope and dropkicking Tanahashi into the guard rails. A plancha to the outside took Tanahashi onto the floor, and Marufuji blocked an Irish whip into the guard rails before leaping back into the ring for another dropkick for a near-fall.

The pair go back to trading chops, which Marufuji barely wins the war on, and comes close to drawing blood yet again, before Tanahashi landed an uppercut then a Dragon screw after catching one of Marufuji’s many kicks. Marufuji replied with a leaping knee strike in the corner, before a suplex was blocked by Tanahashi, only to be quickly met with a stiff kick.

Marufuji goes for a Shiranui, but he gets shoved into the corner where he comes back a with more kicks, and a second Shiranui is blocked with a clothesline. Tanahashi lands a strait-jacket bridging German suplex for a two-count, before the Slingblade set up Tanahashi for the High Fly Flow… but the crossbody-style move is countered with a knee-strike in mid air from Marufuji!

A savate kick from Marufuji knocked down Tanahashi yet again, as he went for a Fisherman’s suplex, but Tanahashi countered with a spinning neckbreaker instead. Marufuji ducks a slingblade and misses some kicks, before another Slingblade takes him down, and this time Tanahashi lands the cross-body High Fly Flow, then the frog splash High Fly Flow… and there’s the win! Yes, they found a way to follow-it – and with a completely different style of match to boot. Absolutely amazing stuff! ****¾

The final three matches of this card were up there with the best you’re going to see all year, and whilst a lot of this card could easily be written off as “just another A block night, but the G1 portion of this show absolutely has to be seen. At the very least, you have to block out time to see the Okada/Ishii match – and for me, that usurped Ospreay/Taguchi as my favourite for this year. Hard hitting, back-and-forth action – the only thing that spoiled it for me was the (wrong) assumption that Okada would have taken it given the roll he’d been on.

Definitely not the show of the year, but by God, those final three matches have given a lot of fuel for debates come the end-of-year awards season.

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

Block B Standings (not considering tie-breakers at this stage)
Michael Elgin (4-2, 8pts)
Tetsuya Naito (4-2, 8pts)
YOSHI-HASHI (3-3, 6pts)
Yuji Nagata (3-3, 6pts)
Katsuhiko Nakajima (3-3, 6pts)
Kenny Omega (3-3, 6pts)
Katsuyori Shibata (3-3, 6pts)
Toru Yano (3-3, 6pts)
EVIL (2-4, 4pts)
Tomoaki Honma (2-4, 4pts)