If the G1 Climax were a pregnancy, we’d now be in the second trimester… yes, it’s day seven of this year’s tournament, and it’s Saitama’s turn for the fourth round of block A matches.
#TLDR: An improvement from block A saw perhaps their best round of tournament action to date, with Ishii and Marufuji kicking seven shades of you-know-what out of them in a brutal war, whilst Hiroyoshi Tenzan’s G1 continued to falter.
The Full Review: I’ll be honest, the final two matches today look like they should be straight-forward, with Hiroshi Tanahashi expected to wrap claim his first win of the tournament. If we get a surprise here, then I’d expect there to be a bit of an outcry…
Ryusuke Taguchi & David Finlay vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Tiger Mask
Taguchi’s out with the jacket and microphone to plug his CD again, and thankfully the audio is muted (to hide Taguchi’s theme) so we don’t hear his dulcet tones. I guess the bonus of him plugging a CD means he doesn’t do the “Yea-Oh!” pose, as he’s scared of ripping the jacket…
Taguchi gets us going against Tiger Mask, and it’s Tiger who gets sick of waiting, and kicks Taguchi in the rear-end to start us with. Taguchi leaps over Tiger, then lands a dropkick to send Tiger to the floor, before wedging his rear in the ropes to take out a dive.
Finlay and Liger tag in respectively, and Finlay quickly gets tied up in a seated surfboard stretch, which then becomes a headlock with a shoulder takedown for Finlay. Liger tosses Finlay to the outside, and he then gets a baseball slide dropkick into the guard railings, before returning to the ring for another surfboard stretch. Tiger Mask returns to work over Finlay’s knees, before landing a double underhook suplex. Liger returned with a series of slaps to the chest on Finlay, before missing a corner charge and getting taken down with a dropkick from the middle rope.
Finlay tags in Taguchi who runs wild with hip attacks, but gets taken out with a tiltawhirl backbreaker from Liger. Another tag brings in Finlay, who nearly wins with a leaping forearm strike onto Tiger Mask, and Taguchi returns for another hip attack. A Finlay roll sends Tiger Mask down for a two-count, before Finlay misses a forearm smash, sending Taguchi out of the ring.
Taguchi returns to break up the pin as a Tiger Driver nearly won it for him, before a schoolboy got Finlay a two-count, but he then found himself dropped by a clothesline in the corner from Liger, and then taken down with a double underhook superplex as Tiger Mask picked up the win. I was surprised at who got the fall… not who took it. Good opening match, basic, but just what you want. **¾
Katsuhiko Nakajima, Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI & Gedo vs. Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima, Manabu Nakanishi & Tomoaki Honma
Honma takes no crap, and lays into Yano as he tries for the “break” spot to begin with… but Yano still rolls away from a Kokeshi. A whip into the corner is reversed, and Honma’s clotheslined to the mat, before rolling away from an attempted Kokeshi off the second rope, as YOSHI-HASHI gets tagged in.
Nakanishi tags in to square off with the parrot, but a headlock sees YOSHI-HASHI start – and fail – several times to budge the veteran with shoulder tackles. Out on the floor, Nagata gets sent into the guard rails by Nakajima, as Honma suffers a similar fate from Yano, and this becomes hard to follow thanks to the camera work. Oh, and the buffering, which made a really unwelcome return today.
My feed returned to see YOSHI-HASHI send Nakanishi into the turnbuckle, which had already had the padding removed (Toru, I’m looking at you!), with a dropkick to the back following. YOSHI-HASHI was speared (I guess) to the mat by Nakanishi, as Nagata and Nakajima came in to lay into each other with kicks and forearms. A Dragon screw took Nagata down, and if you weren’t looking forward to their match on Saturday, you will be now!
More kicks from Nakajima followed, but Nagata ducked a PK and landed an Exploder before tagging out to Kojima. Rapid-fire chops to Nakajima followed, and I really want to learn what Kojima shouts after those chops… a high kick knocked Kojima off the top rope, and Nakajima tagged out to Gedo to try and finish the job. Gedo’s rapid-fire chops mocked Kojima, and he got an instant receipt for it.
Kojima took the parade of avalanches in the corner, before a superkick from Gedo almost stole the win. The ring filled up to break up the cover, then emptied, as Kojima and Gedo were left alone whilst everyone was sent into the guard rails. Kojima dropped Gedo with a Koji cutter, then turned Gedo inside out with a lariat, and there’s the match. As JBL would say, “Ball Game!”. Perfectly acceptable undercard tag, which build more than usual to the next round of G1 matches. ***¼
Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Michael Elgin & Captain New Japan
This may as well be a handicap match! Elgin’s actually carrying his two belts, rather than wearing them around his waist, and I have a feeling that’s code for “jump start”. Yep, I was right!
Omega works over Captain with an elbow to the back, before the Captain puts his hands up to stop the Bullet Club pair. They just kick him, and this time he’s learned not to do the leaping clothesline, and instead lands a slam onto Takahashi, before Omega rakes the eyes. Takahashi scores a two-count from a legdrop on the Captain.
Omega comes in and gets taken down with a double-leaping shoulderblock from the Captain, who then tags out to Elgin, and he makes light work of Omega and Takahashi. A clothesline in the corner rocks Omega, but he gets Yujiro to come in… and that goes wrong as Elgin lands an impressive double bodyslam to the Bullet Club team.
Elgin goes for a suplex, but Omega floats out of it, before he ducks a clothesline and dropkicks Elgin in the knee. The reverse leg lariat takedown gives Takahashi an opportunity once he’s tagged in, but Elgin again drops Yujiro with a lariat… and then tags out to the Captain. Elgin’s clearly not seen the Captain’s previous matches!
Takahashi kicks out at two after an uranage from the Captain, as he and Elgin combine on Takahashi, only for the Captain to be pulled into the path of an avalanche in the corner. Omega went outside with Elgin, whilst Takahashi got a near-fall from a small package brainbuster. Captain New Japan almost got the win with a roll-up, but it was a small DDT that was enough as Takahashi continued his impressive record on these undercard tags, since he’s got a tag title match at the end of the tour… **¾
EVIL, Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI vs. Katsuyori Shibata, KUSHIDA & Juice Robinson
This is building up to Naito vs. Shibata in Aichi on Saturday… and man, that’s only going to increase the run of good block B matches this year. Well, unless Shibata’s not hurting as much as he seemed to be here, as he took his time climbing into the ring.
Instead of Shibata/Naito, we got BUSHI/KUSHIDA to start us with, and BUSHI opened up with an eye rake, before landing a headscissor takedown on the junior heavyweight champion. KUSHIDA countered with an inverted atomic drop and a dropkick to BUSHI, who came back with a missile dropkick as the rest of the Ingobernables cleared the apron.
BUSHI choked at KUSHIDA with a t-shirt as Shibata was whipped into the guard rails by Naito. EVIL got the tag in and he grounded KUSHIDA with an arm-wringer then an eye rake, before curb stomping him into the mat. A back senton squashed KUSHIDA for a two-count as Shibata broke up the pin, before kicking Naito to the floor… only to be sent chest-first into the crowd barriers again.
Naito wrapped the taped-up left leg of Shibata in the barriers, whilst KUSHIDA was being stomped on in the ring by BUSHI. More double-teaming saw Naito and BUSHI combine for a see-saw sunset flip into a dropkick as Naito took a two-count over KUSHIDA, but he then launched a mini comeback, with a headscissors on BUSHI, then a handspring double back-elbow to Naito and EVIL.
Shibata eagerly accepted the tag in so he could lay into Naito with forearm strikes, then a diving dropkick into the corner. Naito fought back though, and quickly grounded Shibata as he targeted the taped-up shoulder, before kicking him in the knee. You can guess how well that was received, and a backdrop suplex took Naito out of the match, allowing Robinson and EVIL to come in.
Robinson took down EVIL with some jabs, then a diving clothesline, before landing an avalanche clothesline in the corner and a cannonball. Juice went up top and landed a cross body for a near-fall, as Naito broke up the cover then made another beeline for Shibata. In the ring, KUSHIDA nullified the threat of BUSHI, but was accidentally taken down by a leg lariat from Robinson as he aimed for EVIL.
Naito returned to hold Robinson in place for an EVIL lariat for another near-fall as Shibata broke it up, before being tied in a leglock by Naito… and an STO from EVIL polished off the young boy. A fun six-man, but the camera work meant that we missed a fair bit of it. ***½
G1 Climax, Block A: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Togi Makabe
From the opening lock-up, Makabe grabs a headlock, but can’t budge Tenzan with a shoulder charge, whereas Tenzan succeeds with his. Mongolian chops in the corner send Makabe to the mat, before they end up outside for our first Irish whip into the guard railings of the match.
Back inside, Makabe grabs a rear chinlock on Tenzan, before they move into a chop battle, which ends with a Makabe knee to the midsection. A spinning wheel kick sees Tenzan knock down Makabe, and it’s back to the Mongolian chops, with an avalanche charge in the corner setting up Tenzan for a suplex. After a brief pause, Tenzan made the cover and got a two-count, but quickly ended up on the mat after Makabe ducked a clothesline and connected with one of his own.
Makabe kept up the pressure with the mounted corner punches, before Tenzan elbowed out of a Northern Lights suplex attempt. Another lariat decked Tenzan for a near-fall, and Makabe immediately set him up for the Spider German suplex. Thankfully, Tenzan elbowed his way free, but kept climbing and came down with a swandive headbutt for a near-fall, before locking in the Anaconda Vice on Makabe.
Makabe fights to his feet and breaks the hold, before getting taken down with a Samoan drop. Another Anaconda Vice needed Makabe to make the ropes for the break, before Tenzan slammed Makabe into the corner as a set-up for a moonsault… only for Tenzan to miss. They traded clotheslines to little effect, so Tenzan just rocked Makabe with a couple of headbutts as we saw his eyes roll in the back of his head. Makabe blocked a third headbutt, then landed a clothesline for a near-fall, before a back rake (!) helped Tenzan set up for the TTD (Tenzan Tombstone Driver).
Makabe blocked the TTD, but took some more clonking headbutts, before Tenzan was dropped with the death valley river and then the King Kong Kneedrop for the loss. That win keeps Makabe on top, whilst the Tenzan hype train is really stuttering. As a match, it a good, hard-hitting, albeit slow affair, but what the heck do you expect when the combined age of these two guys is nearly 90?! ***¾
G1 Climax, Block A: SANADA vs. Hirooki Goto
SANADA laid into Goto with clubbing forearms at the bell, then went for a headlock, which Goto easily reversed. A shoulder tackle took down SANADA, as did a hiptoss, before Goto was lowbridged to the outside, in preparation for the Irish whip into the guard railings.
Back inside, Goto was taken into the corner with a headlock, as SANADA used his boot to choke Goto, whose attempt at a comeback was quickly cut-off with an uppercut. Goto blocked a suplex attempt numerous times, but SANADA reversed the reversal into a Skull End set-up, but Goto worked free and kicked him to the mat to end the exchange.
Goto tried for an ushigoroshi, but SANADA worked out of it and ended up scoring his usual pair of leapfrogs, then a dropkick to send Goto out to the floor, where he was met with a plancha from SANADA. A back suplex got SANADA a near-fall inside the ring, before catching a lariat attempt and dropping Goto into the Skull End submission.
Goto ended up crawling his way into the ropes for a clean break, before he was taken to the top rope for a superplex. Goto clung on to avoid it, and ended up using a headbutt to help free himself, before getting a two-count with a Yoshi Tonic/Code Red off the top rope. Okay, it was at a slow speed, but that was impressive, nevertheless!
The pair continued to pay tribute to Tenzan/Makabe by following their lead with the slow tempo, and just as I say that, SANADA picked up the pace with some forearms and uppercuts, before Goto ducked a clothesline and dropped him over a knee for a backbreaker. Goto scored an ushigoroshi on SANADA, but didn’t go for a pin, instead picking him up for a GTR… which was blocked, before SANADA’s suplex was countered with a sleeperhold from Goto.
Goto then hoisted up SANADA for a GTR, but again, SANADA slipped through and rolled him up for a near-fall. They traded Skull End/GTR attempts, before an enziguiri dropped Goto, as did a TKO from SANADA for a two-count. From there, SANADA locked in the Skull End, dropping Goto to the mat, before releasing the hold and landing a moonsault off the top for the win. Another fine match, but the slow tempo did hold it back a bit in my eyes. The win takes SANADA (and Goto) to a 2-2 record. ***¾
G1 Climax, Block A: Naomichi Marufuji vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Now to the match I’d personally looked forward to the most today… strong kicks vs. stiff strikes!
They started with a lock-up, with Ishii taking Marufuji into the ropes for a… clean break. If you don’t count the attempted chop, that is! Marufuji grabs a headlock, but doesn’t move Ishii with a shoulder tackle on any of his numerous early attempts. Ishii, on the other hand, does.
Ishii choked away with a boot on Marufuji, before shrugging off some chops. A forearm smash has Marufuji fall like a tree to the mat, before Marufuji changes his offence into kicks, which started to work. One of those sent Ishii to the outside, where he was met with a plancha from the NOAH man, who just rolled back into the ring instead of adding any more attacks.
A bodyslam off the ropes dropped Marufuji, as Ishii tried to regain his advantage. Marufuji wriggled out of a powerbomb and started a long chop battle with Ishii… yeah, that didn’t work out well for either man, who were rocked, but it was Marufuji who dropped to a knee first, before Ishii intentionally hooked himself in the corner to take a handful more. He’s a madman. A sadist… an inspiration? Jesus, Ishii started walking into some chops, before a single strike to the throat decked Marufuji. That was nuts.
Marufuji was planted with a folding powerbomb for a near-fall, before he swerved a diving clothesline… only to be given a headbutt from Ishii. Some more kicks rocked Ishii briefly, but he returned fire with a clothesline into the corner, before going for a stalling superplex, which Marufuji countered in mid-air into a Shiranui-like drop.
A knee to the head momentarily dazed Ishii, as Marufuji scored another near-fall, before Ishii fought out of a Fisherman’s suplex. A kick to the head dropped Ishii instead, getting Marufuji a two-count in the process, before Ishii caught a Shiranui attempt and turned it into the Emerald Fusion. From there, Ishii sat up Marufuji for a diving clothesline for a near-fall, before the pair traded a series of stiff kicks, with Ishii taking the worst of them.
Ishii caught a high knee from Marufuji and returned with a headbutt, then a lariat off the ropes for a near-fall as Ishii so nearly won the whole thing. One brainbuster later though, and the job was done. That was a war… a slow-paced one, but exactly what I expected and wanted out of these two. Ishii goes to a 2-2 record, as does Marufuji, and that log-jam of guys on four points continues. ****
G1 Climax, Block A: Tama Tonga vs. Kazuchika Okada
Tonga’s now in grey camouflage, with a t-shirt to try and co-ordinate his ever-expanding collection of Sleefs compression tights… and his music seems to be camouflaging him too, since there was again zero reaction. Poor Tama. Poor, poor Tama. His opponent today, Kazuchika Okada, is the only one left today who can move into second place by himself, whereas a loss for the champ would be a) ridiculous and b) mean that we’ll have at least a seven-way tie for second before you factor in tie-breakers.
They start with a lock-up, and the usual Okada mocking clean break, which Tonga apes… prompting Okada to launch into him with some elbows and a headlock, and finally a shoulder tackle takedown. A snapmare takes down Tonga, who takes a low dropkick and a neckbreaker for a near-fall. Okada switches into a rear chinlock, before dropping Tonga with a slam… but sees a slingshot splash back into the ring countered with a Gun Stun from Tonga.
Outside, Tonga drops Okada chest-first across the barriers, but Okada beat the count back in and took a leaping headbutt from Tonga. Yeah, this crowd is having a real hard time accepting anything Tama Tonga is doing here.
A rear chinlock keeps Okada grounded, but the champion elbows free, before missing an elbow avalanche. Okada does fire back with a back body drop, then connects with a leaping elbow into the corner and a DDT out of it. Tonga kicked out at two from a diving uppercut, before countering a tombstone piledriver into a flapjack and then a spinning reverse DDT for a near-fall.
Okada returned with a flapjack of his own, before being taken down with a clothesline from the middle rope. Tonga tries a guillotine, but Okada counters it with the Heavy Rain neckbreaker slam, then a top rope elbow drop. Tonga tried a Gun Stun, before succeeding with a headscissor takedown, only to run into an Okada dropkick.
Okada picked up Tonga and went for a Rainmaker, but he ducked and countered into a guillotine DDT that almost stole the win. To the point where the crowd went “ooh” in shock that he’d gotten that close to a win. Another Gun Stun was shoved off by Okada, before he saw a tombstone piledriver reversed.
Tonga leapt off the top rope and missed, ending with a German suplex, and then Okada secured the win with a Rainmaker. A solid match, nothing spectacular, but with one glaring problem. For a champion, Okada sold way, way too much here, especially against someone like Tama Tonga who’s been “just a tag team guy”. It’s not going to kill Okada, but likewise, it’s not done anything to build Tonga, who at this point is pretty much a lost cause as a singles act. Okada now breaks free of the pack and stands alone in second place with six points from a 3-1 record, whilst Tama Tonga is pushed towards the bottom on a 1-3 record. **¾
G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Fale came out looking like La Parka with a skull mask, and started by trying to ease Tanahashi into a test of strength. Not with that arm he’s not…
They finally start with a tie-up, which Tanahashi switches to a waistlock that gets easily reversed. Fale picks up Tanahashi from a waistlock with ease, before blocking a drop toe hold attempt. Tanahashi grabs a headlock, and eventually lands a shoulder tackle – to no effect – and then goes to bodyslam Fale… which didn’t happen.
Equally, Fale’s bodyslam was unsuccessful, as Tanahashi worked free only to get taken down with a shoulder tackle, before they went to the outside, as Fale tossed him through a barrier that was conveniently placed in the crowd. That blue barrier was then lifted up and dumped onto Tanahashi twice, before slowly ambling back into the ring in search of a count-out victory.
Tanahashi beat the count, but came straight into some stomps from Fale, before going for a sunset flip… and that ended badly as Fale just sat on him for a two-count. A kick to the side of the head kept Fale on top, as he then targeted Tanahashi’s recovering arm, before decking him with a clothesline for a two-count. Fale kept on top with a nerve hold (to the injured shoulder, naturally), forcing Tanahashi to gut his way back to his feet.
From thee, Tanahashi rebounded off the ropes several times with a forearm smash, with a third one finally knocking Fale off his feet… and then he shocked Fale with a body slam. Tanahashi tried to go up top, but was knocked to the floor with a clothesline, before Fale left his feet with a baseball slide dropkick that sent Tanahashi into the crowd.
In the ring again, Tanahashi caught Fale’s leg and gave him a Dragon screw in the ropes, before being dropped with a clothesline. Fale missed an avalanche in the corner, but caught a cross body from Tanahashi, then dumped him in the tree of woe, before finally making that avalanche splash. A big splash off the ropes got Fale a near-fall, before he went for the Grenade, which was easily brushed aside… before a Tanahashi DDT got turned into a uranage-like move for a near-fall.
Fale signalled for the Bad Luck Fall, but of course Tanahashi countered into some Frankensteiner for a near-fall, before powering up Fale into a German suplex. Next came a Slingblade, then a High Fly Flow to the back of Fale… and another one to his front… except Fale got the knees up just in time.
Fale worked some more shots to Tanahashi, but he fired back with forearms, only to be grabbed by the throat for a Grenade. Tanahashi pushed the arm away and slapped Fale to the canvas, before going for a High Fly Flow which looked wonky, and almost got turned into a Samoan drop.
Fale succeeded with the Grenade for a two-count, before picking up Tanahashi for the Bad Luck Fall, but Tanahashi slipped out and scored a backslide for the win! Really good finish, even with the weird-looking High Fly Flow… and wouldn’t you know it, the Ace pulled a good match out of Fale! Tanahashi’s on the board with two points, and shares joint-bottom with Fale and Tama Tonga with a 1-3 record. ***
This was a surprisingly good round of action, as block A had been stuttering with uninspired matches throughout. We’ve still got someone with a 100% record, but now everyone has at least one win under their belt – and in the case of Tonga and Fale, you really have to question where win #2 will come from for them.
The G1 takes a day off on Friday (phew!), but returns on Saturday in Aichi for block B action featuring Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tetsuya Naito.
Block A Standings (not considering tie-breakers at this stage)
Togi Makabe (4-0, 8pts)
Kazuchika Okada (3-1, 6pts)
Hirooki Goto (2-2, 4pts)
Tomohiro Ishii (2-2, 4 pts)
SANADA (2-2, 4pts)
Naomichi Marufuji (2-2, 4pts)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2-2, 4pts)
Bad Luck Fale (1-3, 2pts)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (1-3, 2pts)
Tama Tonga (1-3, 2 pts)
Block B Standings (not considering tie-breakers at this stage)
Yuji Nagata (3-0, 6pts)
Tomoaki Honma (2-1, 4pts)
Tetsuya Naito (2-1, 4pts)
Katsuhiko Nakajima (2-1, 4pts)
Kenny Omega (2-1, 4pts)
Michael Elgin (1-2, 2pts)
EVIL (1-2, 2pts)
Katsuyori Shibata (1-2, 2pts)
YOSHI-HASHI (1-2, 2pts)
Toru Yano (0-3, 0pts)