Zack Sabre Jr. and Tetsuya Naito isn’t the main event, but it’s certainly the most anticipated match as the 13th stop on the G1 tour sees the crew roll into Ehime for block A action.

Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka vs. Bullet Club (Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi)
Tama Tonga has Toru Yano tomorrow, so this match may well last longer! Tomoaki Honma’s doing Japanese commentary, and his voice is not in good shape – understandable given what he’s been through, but still…

Kitamura’s double-teamed early on, but he finds a way to blast through Tama and Yujiro before the Young Lions pulled off a pair of suplexes. Their offence sort of ended there as Tama was content slamming them to the mat before unloading with some punches to Oka in the corner. Oka eventually comes back with an overhead belly-to-belly to Yujiro before bringing in Kitamura… who has to deal with some interference from Tonga… who gets a big back body drop!

Kitamura spears Yujiro before throwing him around, but in the end the numbers game and experience comes into play as Yujiro manages to string together a brainbuster then a Pimp Juice DDT for the win. This didn’t grab me at all, with this match feeling way too disjointed and flat. **

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & El Desperado) vs. Michael Elgin, Tiger Mask & Hirai Kawato
It’s Suzuki/Elgin tomorrow, but Hirai Kawato’s had a bit of a thing against Suzuki on this tour, so Minoru’s got two people to kill!

Suzuki makes a beeline for Elgin though as the match starts on the floor, with everyone pairing off and trading blows before Taichi and Tiger Mask headed to the ring. Of course, Taichi’s still hunting masks, but he stops himself early as he ends up taking an early Tiger Driver.

Elgin comes in with Suzuki next, squashing the NEVER champion in the corner before a fireman’s carry nearly leads to a rear naked choke… but Big Mike’s able to land a rolling elbow for a near-fall. Suzuki gets the choke in and quickly moves to the Gotch piledriver… but Elgin backdrops free before Suzuki throws in a knee and brings in Desperado.

Of course, Big Mike’s easily able to bulldoze Despy as Kawato comes in to try and make a dent… landing a flying back elbow as the good guys went after Despy with charges and kicks in the corner. The springboard missile dropkick from Kawato gets a near-fall, but everything spills out to the floor again as Despy nearly falls to a small package.

Kawato ends up being fed to the wolves as a Desperado spear gets a two-count after Taichi and Suzuki had a go at him, before Elgin’s neutralised in a heel hook as the Pinche Loco helps Desperado get the pin over Kawato. Brief, but fun… although I do feel they gave us too much of Suzuki/Elgin ahead of their match. Elgin’ll be going in with an ankle injury, so I expect that one to be short! **½

Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & BUSHI) vs. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
I’m sure it’s not intentional, but SANADA always looks really unsure when he comes out wearing his new mask.

We have the jump start as BUSHI attacks Kojima from behind as we open with some double-teaming… which Kojima is initially wise to as the former tag champs gave a shout-out to Honma with a Kokeshi/elbow drop combo. Tenzan gets caught with a kick to the back as he tried to wear down SANADA, and then gets grounded with the BUSHI t-shirt choke. The Ingobernables wear down Tenzan briefly, before cutting off a Mongolian chop as SANADA eventually runs into a Mountain bomb… and we’re back to SANADA/Kojima ahead of tomorrow.

BUSHI tries to stop some machine gun chops but just gets some for himself before SANADA tied him up in the Paradise lock… and kicked him free. Kojima takes a bit of a beating as he takes dropkicks from both of the Ingobernables, before BUSHI caught a DDT as he looked to end Kojima with the MX… but Kojima avoids it and hits a brainbuster for a near-fall.

Tenzan’s back in to help out as SANADA eats a Ten-Koji Cutter, leaving BUSHI open for a Strong Arm lariat as Kojima picked up the win. Another decent undercard tag, but not one that’ll stick in the mind. **½

Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Bullet Club (Kenny Omega & Chase Owens)
Owens and Finlay start this one off, but it’s not too long before Kenny Omega gets involved to trip Finlay in the ropes as the Bullet Club were firmly in control.

Finlay nearly gets the win out of nowhere with a sunset flip, before he tagged in Juice… which is when things picked up as he delivered a tonne of Dusty punches before dropping Chase with a reverse DDT. Owens pushes away from a Pulp Friction as a pair of big boots dropped Juice for a near-fall, before Chase’s attempt to keep up the pressure is rudely ended with a punch and a Pulp Friction. That felt insanely short, but it gave Juice a win ahead of what’s almost surely going to be a loss tomorrow so… eh. **

Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano
EVIL looks to have shaken off the effects of those brutal Kenny Omega knees from Wednesday, so we get this final tag match to build up to tomorrow’s main event in Osaka. Those two instantly head to the crowd for a brawl as Yano and Takahashi head the other way, before everyone comes back in time for Okada to wear a chair and get thrown into the ringpost.

Hiromu drops Yano with a low dropkick as EVIL came in to squash the jokester with a back senton for an easy two-count, before Okada gets the tag as he runs into EVIL with a corner back elbow, before trapping him in a STF.

Hiromu broke that up as EVIL edges ahead with a thrust kick to the midsection, before the back-and-forth sees Okada land a boot to the chest, only to run into a sidewalk slam. Takahashi returns and takes a flapjack as Yano comes into run through his tricks… which involved undoing the turnbuckle pad and getting superkicked by Hiromu, who then used the padding to swing at the chest of Yano.

Toru tries to call for a break, but Hiromu starts to mug at him and lands a Dragon screw… but it’s not long before he manages to pull down Takahashi by the hair and get the win with a roll-up. No low blow, but that finish felt very wonky, if not guessable given which of these four weren’t in the G1. Takahashi’s mad at falling for that, and to be fair, nobody can blame him – although I’d be up for seeing a rematch between those two, based solely on their antics in this match alone! **¼

Right, that’s an uninspiring set of prelims over. Let’s get on with the G1.

G1 Climax, Block A: Kota Ibushi vs. Yuji Nagata
Nagata was fairly even with Ibushi early, trading kicks as he looked to ground Ibushi and go for submissions early, targeting the Golden Star’s left arm.

After escaping an armbar, Ibushi’s able to take down Nagata with a dropkick as we looked to be entering the oh-so-familiar phase of Nagata starting well and eventually getting outclassed. A barrage of kicks from Ibushi, then a standing moonsault didn’t help, before being taken outside after a ‘rana… which left him in prime place for a Golden Triangle moonsault!

Back inside, Nagata gets off an Exploder before kicking Ibushi repeatedly in the back and front… which just sparks Ibushi into a comeback, knocking Nagata down in the corner before we’re back to back-and-forth kicks, which eventually led to both men connecting with head kicks that sent the other crashing to the mat.

Both men fight back from their knees as they continued to slug it out, before Ibushi managed to get in a German suplex for a near-fall. Ibushi tried to capitalise, but he’s caught in a Fujiwara armbar that he eventually broke via the ropes as Nagata’s familiar G1 pattern continues to show. Another armbreaker’s avoided as Ibushi instead gets kneed in the gut ahead of a spin-out suplex that almost got him a win…

As did a backdrop suplex, but again Ibushi kicked out in time before escaping a German suplex and dropping Nagata with another high kick. I honestly thought Nagata had lost to the Golden Star powerbomb, but he got his shoulder up just in time… as Ibushi blasts him with the Kamigoye (knee strike with the arms held). Nagata’s 0-7 now, but my word, he’s had a heck of a tournament and is a good shout for perhaps the surprise package here. ***¾

G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. Tomohiro Ishii
One of these days, Fale is going to chase the ring announcer to all ends of the earth to avoid hearing his own name.

Fale invites some shots in the early going, but it’s a case of him taking half a dozen forearms before swatting away Ishii with a forearm and a shoulder tackle like he was nothing. Ishii eventually knocks Fale into the ropes with shoulder tackles, but Fale quickly hits back… then traps Ishii with… a double nerve hold!

A rope break thankfully stops that, but Fale goes back to it for a spell as Ishii finally fights back with chops to the throat before trying in vain for a suplex. Instead he gets a leaping DDT off on Fale, only for his brief offence to end by way of a Samoan drop as Fale then went for a Vader bomb… but Ishii got a foot up to block it before finally landing that suplex!

Fale gets back to his feet, but instantly gets knocked down again with a lariat for a near-fall, before a sliding lariat is caught and turned into a Grenade attempt… but Ishii too counters that into an armbar as Fale squirmed to the ropes.

The big man speared Ishii into the corner as he again went for that Vader bomb, this time connecting as Ishii barely kicked out in time. A Grenade follows, but Fale doesn’t go for the cover, instead waiting for Ishii to get back up so he could hit the Bad Luck Fall… but Ishii escapes and hits a pair of enziguiris then a Shining Wizard before the sliding lariat earned Ishii a near-fall. From that kick-out he goes back to the armbar, before switching it to a triangle armbar that Fale powerbombed his way out of.

Another Ishii comeback gets cut-off with a spear as Fale edged closer to the win, before one Bad Luck Fall sealed another two points. I really enjoyed this in parts – a solid big lads’ match, with Ishii throwing in some rare submission attempts that eventually led to his downfall. ***½

G1 Climax, Block A: YOSHI-HASHI vs. Hirooki Goto
This battle of CHAOS stablemates started off fairly even as they charged at each other off the ropes, with YOSHI-HASHI scoring the first takedown off of a shoulder tackle.

Goto gets back into it, knocking YOSHI-HASHI down with a back elbow for a near-fall as they took turns, next with YOSHI-HASHI landing a running Blockbuster as he looked to end Goto’s latest offence. A running chop in the corner helped put YOSHI-HASHI ahead, ad did the dropkick with Goto hung in the ropes, but there’s still no pinning attempt as YOSHI-HASHI decided to hit a Blockbuster (or “diving Head Hunter” as they called it) for a near-fall.

Goto backdrops away from a powerbomb attempt, then lands a backdrop suplex before YOSHI-HASHI connected with a left-arm lariat and a flipping powerbomb for a near-fall, as the Butterfly lock followed for our first submission attempt. That’s turned into a guillotine before Goto’s attempt to roll free puts him back into a Butterfly lock… but Goto gets free and works YOSHI-HASHI into a PK, then an ushigoroshi for a near-fall.

Goto tries for a GTR, but it’s escaped as YOSHI-HASHI almost snatches the win with a roll-up, before they clatter each other with clotheslines. Goto escapes Karma, then just headbutts YOSHI-HASHI before landing a pair of GTRS, and that’s enough to condemn the Head Hunter to a familiar defeat. A technically fine match, but like with a lot of the inter-stable matches in the G1, it lacked until the end as this felt like an exhibition match with no clear good guy or bad guy… nor, indeed, any reason for this match outside the confines of the G1. ***¼

G1 Climax, Block A: Tetsuya Naito vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Both of these guys are going into this match with a 4-2 record… so someone’ll be escaping the log-jam that exists amongst the seven guys who were on eight points at the start of this match.

There’s a rather tentative start here as Naito pushes away Sabre’s head then spits at him, before taking Zack outside… and fakes out a dive. Yeah, that’ll piss-off the self-proclaimed “dickhead hunter”. Thing is… it did just that, as Sabre caught Naito with some headscissors before tying him up in one of his wacky submissions that forced the Ingobernable into the ropes, before going back to the raised headscissors as he folded Naito in half.

It’s all brutal Sabre stuff here, but Naito fights back… and just earns himself some uppercuts as Sabre gave as much as he received. An STF follows as Naito really is being humbled… not like that. Eventually Naito gets some offence in, by way of a neckbreaker, but he’s quickly stopped when Sabre locks in a mounted guillotine, before letting go and pulling Naito down into a PK.

Unwisely, Naito spits at Sabre again, like he’s not learned his lesson, and the pair go back to throwing forearms at each other before Naito finally hits an atomic drop and a reverse DDT onto the knee as Sabre’d been hung in the corner.

Sabre comes back with a wristlock on the top rope, which he of course has to let go of… so he drops down and hits an overhead kick to the arm anyway as Naito then finds a tornado DDT turned into a bridging Dragon suplex for a near-fall… and then go straight back to the armbar. An Octopus hold comes next in the middle of the ring, with Sabre yanking away on Naito’s arm in the process, but again the Ingobernable’s able to fight his way into a rope break, this time when his shin made contact with the strand.

Eventually Naito manages to get his tornado DDT in, but Sabre again responds with an uppercut before rolling up Naito into a Euro clutch that almost got a three-count. Naito tries for a Destino, but it’s turned into an Octopus clutch that again turned into a pin as Sabre edges further and further ahead, before Naito swerves a PK and mounts another comeback shocking Sabre with a Destino for the win! That was almost an upset given how one-sided the match was… great stuff, and almost a humbling performance for Naito who had his backside handed to him throughout. Had this been more competitive, I’d have enjoyed it more, but it was largely an exhibition for Sabre until Naito roared back at the end. ****¼

G1 Climax, Block A: Togi Makabe vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Makabe and Tanahashi were fairly evenly matched in the early going, with the usual array of armdrags and the sort as the Ace was forced into Makabe’s slow-paced match.

A shoulder tackle gets Tanahashi down, but he replies with a crossbody out of the corner, then a dropkick to take Makabe outside for a plancha! The tables turn as Makabe charges him into the barriers as the pair slugged it out, leading to Tanahashi being thrown into the guard rails as he narrowly beat the count back into the ring.

Makabe keeps up with a powerslam for a near-fall back in the ring, but his power-based offence only works if he can hit it… and when Tanahashi sidestepped a charge, then caught a kick, it was only a matter of time before Makabe was Dragon screw’d. Tanahashi mocks Makabe’s mounted punches in the corner, which gets him some of the real thing, before a Northern Lights suplex gets another two-count.

Tanahashi continues to mock Makabe, which really isn’t wise, as he’s pulled into a clothesline… but Tanahashi keeps up at it, and gets another clothesline as Makabe charged out of the corner. Another clothesline leads to a kneeling powerbomb that gets a two-count, but Makabe gets too confident and missed a King Kong Knee off the top rope. Makabe quickly shrugs it off though, only to get caught with a twisting neckbreaker, then a Slingblade!

From there, Tanahashi heads up for a High Fly Flow, but Makabe rolls away in time, only to get caught with a German suplex as Tanahashi clung on. Makabe switches the hold and lands a German of his own, dumping Tanahashi on his head, before taking him into the corner in preparation for the Spider German suplex. Tanahashi escapes, then skins the cat back into the ring as he lands another German suplex, dumping Makabe off the top rope for a near-fall!

Another Slingblade followed… but Makabe kicked out at one! So Tanahashi goes up for a High Fly Flow, before chaining it into the frog splash version… and that’s enough for the win to ensure he joins Naito at the top of the leaderboard! This was another decent match, but much like Makabe’s last main event, not perhaps what some would perceive “main event quality”. ***½

Business as usual here – an undercard that barely delivered, leading up to a quintet of G1 matches that at the very least met expectations. Naito/Sabre shouldn’t be slept on, despite how one-sided it was on paper… and continues the build to next Friday’s Naito/Tanahashi match, which could well decide the block. At the moment, that match is opening next Friday’s final G1 matches, which is… odd to say the least!

G1 Climax 27 Standings
Block A (after seven matches):
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito (5-2; 10pts)
Bad Luck Fale, Hirooki Goto, Kota Ibushi, Tomohiro Ishii, Zack Sabre Jr. (4-3; 8pts)
Togi Makabe (3-4; 6pts)
YOSHI-HASHI (2-5; 4pts)
Yuji Nagata (0-7; 0pts)

Block B (after six matches):
Kazuchika Okada (6-0; 12pts)
Kenny Omega (5-1; 10pts)
EVIL, SANADA, Minoru Suzuki (4-2; 8pts)
Michael Elgin, Tama Tonga, Toru Yano (2-4; 4pts)
Juice Robinson (1-5; 2pts)
Satoshi Kojima (0-6; 0pts)