We’re into the final week! Today, Kanagawa’s the host for the penultimate round of A block matches, and it’s building up nicely to a final day in Tokyo.
#TLDR: This may have not been as full of fantastic matches as the last round of A block outings, but the block is bubbling to a fine conclusion as we were left with a brain-hurting five-way tie going into the final round of G1 matches this Friday.
The Full Review: With only two matches left for each block, these cards will quickly be filling up with dead rubbers. Speaking of dead, who the hell did David Finlay upset to get this as an opening match??
Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. David Finlay
Nakajima starts with a headlock, and takes down Finlay with a shoulder tackle, before Finlay comes back with a leapfrog and a dropkick. An attempt at a repeat sees Finlay dropkicked in the knee, before Nakajima followed with a knee breaker, and he quickly moves into a Figure Four, with Finlay finally reaching the ropes for the clean break.
Finlay hits some uppercuts, but gets dropped by a kick to the knee, before a dropkick takes Nakajima into the corner. That’s followed with some European uppercuts in the corner, then a diving European uppercut off the ropes for a near-fall. Nakajima catches a kick and takes Finlay down with a Dragon screw, before rushing into the corner with a Yakuza kick.
Finlay tries to elbow a kick away, then lands an uranage for a near-fall. Some more kicks momentarily stop Finlay, before a kick to the chest swiftly takes him to the mat. Nakajima kicks away at the chest and back of Finlay, then hits a high angle back suplex that almost took his head off, with Nakajima getting a near-fall out of it. Nakajima drills Finlay with a brainbuster, and that’s it. Short, and sweet, with Finlay getting more offence than I thought going in. ***
Kenny Omega & Yujuro Takahashi vs. Satoshi Kojima & Captain New Japan
Hey, they’ve got a different guy doing the pre-match graphic voiceovers! We get the typical Bullet Club jump start, as Omega makes a beeline for Kojima, whilst Takahashi stomps away on the Captain in the ring.
Captain New Japan stops Takahashi with an uppercut to the throat, then lands a shoulder tackle… before falling for his own “hands up” trick by the Bullet Club pair. And then he misses the diving shoulder tackle. It was going so well for him before today…
A simple bodyslam gets Takahashi a two-count, before Omega needs some help in suplexing the Captain. He’s not that big! Eventually they double-suplex him, and Kojima ambles in to break up the count, before he stomps away out of disappointment on the Captain. Omega’s taken down with a shoulder tackle, then Captain finally tags in Kojima for the rapid-fire chops. Then some more to the bare-chested Omega after his t-shirt’s lifted… and then the leaping forearm, and then a few shots with Omega’s broom prevents Kojima from landing the flying elbow.
Omega stops Kojima with a chop off the ropes, then a leg lariat to the back of the head, as Takahashi comes in to deliver a big boot. Kojima moves away from a diving dropkick, then lands a Koji cutter, before tagging the Captain back in.
Kojima coaxes the Captain to the top rope, and of course he misses the headbutt, before shocking Takahashi with a roll-up for a two-count. An uranage gets another two as Omega breaks things up, but a Kojima DDT takes care of him. Takahashi ducked a clothesline and scored a two-count from a brainbuster on the Captain, and then hit his usual short DDT to pick up the win. Enjoyable, basic, but just what you want from these undercards. **¾
EVIL, Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI vs. Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI & Gedo
Well, Los Ingobernables are friends again after the G1 made EVIL and Naito go to war yesterday. This is building up YOSHI-HASHI/Naito and EVIL/Yano in Wednesday’s G1 matches.
YOSHI-HASHI’s still taped up, but he started by launching into EVIL with chops and elbows, before scoring a twisting neckbreaker off the ropes. EVIL gets whipped into the corner for a chop, before getting suplexed in place for the dropkick, but BUSHI and Naito combine to trip, then dropkick YOSHI-HASHI instead.
Naito kicks away at YOSHI-HASHI after putting him the Tree of Woe, before teasing doing the same to the referee. BUSHI finally kicked YOSHI-HASHI out of the corner, then used his t-shirt to choke him, before Naito came back in to add to the punishment. YOSHI-HASHI had won a battle of forearms, but was taken into the corner straight after for Naito’s outside-in dropkick, before he fought back… and took an enziguiri from Naito. The Bunker Buster from YOSHI-HASHI came next, and his only option was to tag out to Yano.
Finally we got Yano/EVIL, and Yano went straight for the turnbuckle padding. EVIL ran straight into the exposed corner, before lighting up Yano with forearms, and then having his hair pulled. Yano took a swinging neckbreaker before EVIL tagged out to BUSHI, who quickly got crotched, and in came Gedo.
Gedo kicked away a back body drop, then caught BUSHI in a crossface. BUSHI got free then landed his rewind enziguiri, and rolled up Gedo for a two-count, as Yano came in to reverse the roll. Yano tossed EVIL into the ringpost outside, but Naito ran in to assist BUSHI with a lungblower for a near-fall, before BUSHI’s MX was enough to take the win. Fun little match, but it did threaten to fall apart at times… and going by how long we saw YOSHI-HASHI/Naito today, I’d guess that’s going to be a short one on Wednesday. ***
Yuji Nagata, Tomoaki Honma, Manabu Nakanishi, Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Katsuyori Shibata, Michael Elgin, JUSHIDA Ryusuke Taguchi & Juice Robinson
The first half ends with a ten-man tag, and we started with Liger and Taguchi, and it was the latter who hit the first big moves of the match… and yes, they were hip attacks.
Taguchi runs into a tiltawhirl slam from Liger, who then goes for a surfboard, but KUSHIDA runs in to break it up. Juice Robinson renewed his rivalry with Nakanishi, and landed a cannonball in the corner before getting caught on the top rope and sent to the mat a la Ric Flair.
Nakanishi then went airborne himself, landing a cross body block off the top for a near-fall, and we then got Honma and Elgin. Chops-a-plenty between these two, before Elgin caught a leaping Kokeshi and turned it into a waistlock… with a second leaping Kokeshi getting turned into a press slam.
Honma avoided an avalanche in the corner and followed up with a forearm of his own, then missed another Kokeshi onto the mat. Elgin hoisted up Honma for a long stalling suplex, before KUSHIDA came in and got a near-fall with a low dropkick to Honma. Shibata got his turn with Honma next, and they traded forearms and knees for a while, before Nagata tagged in to renew his finished-rivalry with Shibata.
Shibata elbowed out of an Exploder suplex, then launched into Nagata with forearms, then a leaping dropkick into the corner. A kick to the back of Nagata angered the veteran,and they rolled back the months with their vicious strikes, before Nagata’s no-sold Exploder led to Shibata dumping him on the neck with a German suplex.
Tags were made to KUSHIDA and Tiger Mask, with KUSHIDA eating up strikes in the corner, then a Tiger Driver for a near-fall, before Elgin broke up a double armbar on KUSHIDA. Tiger stayed in, but quickly got caught in an armbar, which KUSHIDA moved into the Hoverboard lock for the submission. That finish looked a little wonky at the end, but the match did what it needed to do to set up Wednesday’s G1 stuff. **¾
G1 Climax, Block A: Tama Tonga vs. Naomichi Marufuji
Well, this works out as the 1,000th match I’ve seen this year. Number 900 also featured Tama, which has to be a rib on me…
Both men start by lowering themselves to the ground and slithering like snakes, before Marufuji grabs a headlock. The resulting shoulder tackle doesn’t move Tonga, who replies with one of his own that decks Marufuji. Tonga whips Marufuji into the corner, but gets a dropkick for his efforts.
Tonga kicked Marufuji in the midsection as a set-up for a suplex, but he’s taken into the ropes for a break, but both men ignore that and try for suplexes anyway. In the end, Marufuji gets suplexed onto the apron, before taking a Gun Stun to send him out to the floor. Back inside the ring, Tonga gets a near-fall, before he resorts to choking at Marufuji in the corner. A back elbow and a big boot rocks Tonga, before he’s met with a dropkick from Marufuji after he handstands out of an Irish whip.
Marufuji chops into Tonga, then lands a leaping back elbow and a running double stomp to the face for a near-fall. Tonga shoved out of a Shiranui, before dropping Marufuji with a flapjack off the ropes. A series of roundhouse kicks from Marufuji are ducked, before Tonga takes one and snaps back with a reverse Gun Stun-style neckbreaker to Marufuji.
They go back to the chops and forearms, before Tonga’s rope running catches out Marufuji, who somehow got caught in a guillotine DDT that looked a bit like a spinebuster. Anyway, Marufuji kicked out at two, before blocking a Gun Stun, and having a Shiranui turned into an Alabama Slam/Fly Swatter for another near-fall.
Another Gun Stun was pushed away, and Marufuji gave a knee strike to the face for another two-count. After missing a kick, Marufuji landed another knee for a two-count, then went again for the Shiranui, this time landing it and getting the win. Tonga’s out of the G1 with that loss, and Marufuji’s got a slim hope. Tonga was as good as you’d expect here – not the best, but at a perfectly acceptable level for this point in the tournament. ***¼
G1 Climax, Block A: SANADA vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Ishii stalked SANADA to begin with, before forcing him into the ropes from the opening lock-up. A cheap chop comes from Ishii in the rope break, and he fired back with some more, then a clothesline as SANADA tried for the Skull End very early on.
SANADA took Ishii into the corner and choked away with a boot, before trying his luck with forearms. It didn’t go well, as those shots just angered Ishii, before an uppercut sent him backwards into the corner. Ishii avoided an elbow in the corner, and countered with a back suplex, then an avalanche clothesline, and a shoulder tackle out of the corner from a reversed whip. SANADA took a brief hanging vertical suplex for a near-fall, before his double leapfrogs led to a dropkick that sent Ishii outside.
SANADA followed up with a plancha to the floor, before rolling Ishii back into the ring, only to get caught on the top rope with some headbutts and was finally brought back in with a deadlift hanging superplex. SANADA punches free of a powerbomb, then lights up Ishii with forearms, which are returned with interest, before no-selling a German suplex and scoring a hurricanrana.
Ishii’s whip to SANADA saw him leap to the outside and come back in with a springboard dropkick, before a standing moonsault got SANADA a two-count. A bridging Tiger suplex got a near-fall for SANADA, as he continued to break out the big guns, before dropping Ishii in a Skull End. Fortunately, Ishii made the ropes and didn’t succumb to a shock loss just yet.
SANADA drops Ishii near the corner, but misses with a moonsault, before shoving Ishii into the ropes for an O’Connor roll… but Ishii rolled through the Skull End and dropped SANADA with a sliding clothesline. SANADA ducks an Ishii clothesline, but an enziguiri leads to a no-sold German suplex… then a forearm and headbutt which SANADA sells like a shotgun.
Ishii then dropped SANADA with a lariat for a near-fall, then a powerbomb for another two-count, before SANADA countered a suplex with a knee, and tried for an TKO. Reversals a-plenty ended with an Ishii headbutt, then a TKO for another near-fall.
From the kick-out, SANADA went for the Skull End, and with Ishii trapped in the middle of the ring, he was left with no choice but to tap-out as SANADA proved to be the spoiler to his wafer-thin hopes in this G1 campaign. That was a surprise result, but perhaps Saturday’s efforts took too much out of Ishii? ****
G1 Climax, Block A: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Tenzan’s G1 is already over, so can he throw another speed bump in the path of the “Ace” Tanahashi?
Tenzan’s the huge crowd favourite in Kanagawa, and he’s immediately taken into the ropes for a less-than clean break which deservedly gets Tanahashi some boos. Another lock-up sees Tenzan return the favour, but he misses a Mongolian chop and instead takes some shots to the midsection. A headbutt from Tenzan is followed by some Mongolian chops, and then a chop to the face as Tanahashi’s taken into the corner.
Tanahashi scores a crossbody from the middle rope, then dropkicks Tenzan in the knee, before going to work on the left leg of Tenzan, snapping it back on the mat. More boos for Tanahashi, who then takes some chops and replies with an uppercut, before he runs into a spinning heel kick from Tenzan.
Tenzan landed an avalanche clothesline, then a standing suplex, before the pair traded chops to the chest. Tanahashi countered a Mongolian chop with a slap, then mocked them himself, and got met with a headbutt to the chest for good measure.
A leaping forearm from Tanahashi took down Tenzan, with a senton flip getting him a near-fall. Tenzan countered with a Mountain Bomb off the ropes for a near-fall, and then an Anaconda Vise, but Tanahashi rolled back and scored a near-fall from that position.
Tanahashi took down Tenzan with a Dragon Screw, before running into a series of headbutts, and then a Tenzan Tombstone Driver for a near-fall. Tenzan placed Tanahashi on the mat, but out of position for a moonsault… which he tried for and made some contact even though Tanahashi rolled away. That can’t be good for Tenzan’s knees.
Tanahashi returned fire with a bridging German suplex for a near-fall, before he missed a High Fly Flow frog splash. Tenzan ripped off his elbow pad and dropped Tanahashi with a Kojima-like lariat for a near-fall, since the arm was not strong. Another Anaconda Vice followed, before Tenzan stood him up for an Anaconda Buster for a near-fall.
Tenzan signalled for another TTD, but Tanahashi blocked it, and landed a spinning neckbreaker, then a Slingblade for the near-fall. Tanahashi leapt up top, then connected with the High Fly Flow as the crowd screamed in disappointment, and Tenzan took another loss. With a final round match against SANADA, right now the best Tenzan can hope for is just to share bottom place in this block… As for the match, this was a lot better than I expected, with Tenzan pulling out a decent performance in spite of his injuries. The hot crowd helped, and had this been earlier in the tournament, they may have had the result they wanted. ***¾
G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. Kazuchika Okada
The ring announcer just leapt out of the ring to avoid the Fale attack. Like Captain New Japan, he’s learning… If Okada wins, he’ll all-but-won the block, barring a loss to Tanahashi on the final day and the brain-ache of tiebreakers that’ll ensue. Speaking of future matches, why is this semi-final?
From the opening lock-up, Fale takes Okada into the ropes, but gets reversed for the usual mock clean break. Okada tries for a drop toe hold, but just gets stomped on, before finally pulling off the move and dropkicking Fale to the outside. Fale takes a breather by the guard rail, and ends up getting rammed into said railings, before smashing Okada with a shoulder tackle.
Fale takes the fight into the crowd, as Okada gets thrown into some seats right next to some really stubborn fans who refused to move. After wandering back to the ring to take the count-out, Fale watched as Okada staggered back in at the count of 18, and was quickly choked in the ropes… except the bottom rope came nowhere near his throat. Whoops!
Okada bounces to the mat after being whipped into the corner, before he’s wrenched up in almost a modified camel-clutch like move as Fale knelt on his back. Fale followed by standing on Okada, then rolled him over for a near-fall. A big bodyslam took down Okada, who rolled away from a big splash, then landed a diving uppercut to take Fale to the mat.
Okada ducks a clothesline then DDT’s Fale to the mat, but struggles with a bodyslam attempt as Fale picked him up with ease. After slipping out, Okada pulled off the slam at the second attempt, only to be downed with a Samoan drop.
Okada backdropped out of a Bad Luck Fall, before avoiding a corner charge, and somehow pulling off the Heavy Rain Fireman’s carry/neckbreaker slam. That was impressive, even if it had to be done in super slow mo on such a big guy. A top rope elbow followed next, and we know what’s next… Rainmaker pose, and this time no chop to the throat!
Fale elbowed out of the Rainmaker though, and took Okada to the corner and landed a big splash for a near-fall. Okada slipped out of the Bad Luck Fall, but ran straight into a hell of a spear for another near-fall, before dropkicking out of a Grenade. Another dropkick takes down Fale, and Okada tried for the tombstone piledriver, only to see Fale elbow free and try the Grenade again.
This time, Okada countered with a German suplex, before Fale switched a Rainmaker into a lariat, then landed the Grenade for the nearest of near-falls. Third time around, Fale succeeded with the Bad Luck Fall, and would you believe it… Fale has a share of the lead of block A. That’s two losses in a row for Okada, and the shock result actually improved this for me. Fale brought his working boots today! ***¾
G1 Climax, Block A: Hirooki Goto vs. Togi Makabe
After that shock result, this is a win-or-die match for both men – and they start with a lock-up, before Makabe grabs a wristlock, and gets taken down with a Goto headlock… and then a stand-off.
Another Goto headlock leads to a shoulder tackle, and Makabe doesn’t budge. A clothesline from Makabe sends Goto over the top and to the floor, and we’re back to the Irish whips into the barriers! Goto returns the favour by shoving Makabe into the rails, then into the ring post, before Makabe beat the count-out at 16.
A snapmare and a kick to the back got Goto a near-fall, and he kept up the pressure with a neck crank to a seated Makabe. Some headscissors followed, which were locked on until Makabe made the ropes. Makabe invited some kicks from Goto, and got some forearm strikes as well, before a lariat dropped Goto to the mat.
Makabe followed up with a lariat in the corner then his mounted punches as his hometown crowd (yep, that’s why this was the main event) cheered along, before a Northern Lights suplex got him a near-fall. Goto elbowed out of a waistlock, but took another lariat for a near-fall.
Goto landed a spinning heel kick into the corner, then a back suplex as he followed up with a lariat and an elbow off the top, forcing Makabe to kick out at two. A clothesline from Makabe at close-range dropped Goto, and from their knees the two men fought back and forth with forearm strikes.
Goto yanked Makabe back across a knee for a neck breaker, before he pulls himself back to his feet for some duelling clotheslines. A lariat off the ropes sees Goto win that particular battle, before he drops Makabe with a front suplex onto the knee, only to have a GTR blocked entirely.
Makabe counters a sleeperhold by backpedalling into the corner, then drops Goto with a bridging German suplex for a near-fall. That was followed with Makabe placing Goto on the top rope in preparation for a spider German suplex… and Makabe pulled it off, before Goto rolled away from the King Kong kneedrop.
Goto fired back with a kick, but Makabe invited more… and delivered some himself, before running into the path of a sleeperhold from Goto. Makabe fought up and dropped Goto with a lariat to the back of the head, before Goto landed a headbutt and was then turned inside out with a Makabe lariat for a two-count.
Makabe signalled for another lariat, but got caught by Goto who landed an ushigoroshi for a near-fall, and then quickly followed with the GTR for the win. That came across as another flat finish for the crowd, but my word, it opens up a really tantalising final day of action. ***¾
So, on Friday for the final round of block A matches, we have Marufuji/Goto, Okada/Tanahashi, Fale/Tonga… if you didn’t know any better, you’d swear that this had been planned out!
In a nutshell: Okada will need to beat Tanahashi and hope that Marufuji and Fale lose on Friday in order to get to the finals… if Tanahashi beats Okada, he’ll win any tie-breakers as he’s beaten Fale and Marufuji. Fale has beaten Okada and and Marufuji, but not Tanahashi, so he’d need two draws, whilst Goto will need to win and have Okada/Tanahashi be a draw to have any chance of getting through.
Got it? It’ll all be clear by the end of Friday at Sumo Hall!
Block A Standings (not including any tie-breakers)
Kazuchika Okada (5-3, 10pts)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (5-3, 10pts)
Naomichi Marufuji (5-3, 10pts)
Bad Luck Fale (5-3, 10pts)
Hirooki Goto (5-3, 10pts)
Togi Makabe (4-4, 8pts)
Tama Tonga (3-5, 6 pts)
Tomohiro Ishii (3-5, 6 pts)
SANADA (3-5, 6pts)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2-6, 4pts)
Block B Standings (not including any tie-breakers)
Tetsuya Naito (5-2, 10pts)
Michael Elgin (4-3, 8pts)
Toru Yano (4-3, 8pts)
Katsuhiko Nakajima (4-3, 8pts)
Katsuyori Shibata (4-3, 8pts)
Kenny Omega (4-3, 8pts)
YOSHI-HASHI (3-4, 6pts)
Yuji Nagata (3-4, 6pts)
EVIL (2-5, 4pts)
Tomoaki Honma (2-5, 4pts)