Korakuen Hall got its first taste of the G1 this year, with a block B card featuring intra-Ingobernables action whilst the Suzuki-gun and Bullet Club leaders clashed in the main event.

Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & El Desperado) vs. Kota Ibushi & Hirai Kawato
The tease for Friday’s Sabre/Ibushi match sees poor Hirai Kawato thrown to the wolves. At least, on paper.

Of course, Kawato wanted to start against Sabre, and he was pretty quickly taken down by the arm but was able to hold his own. By which I mean “Zack nonchalantly took him down at every chance”, before trying to twist off Kawato’s head with a cravat. Desperado comes in and keeps up on Kawato, wrenching back with a camel clutch before rolling the kid over for a near-fall.

Poor Kawato gets chopped and kicked for fun, before finally getting some separation with a dropkick as he was able to tag in Ibushi! Sabre instantly launches into Ibushi with uppercuts, but a barrage of kicks and a standing moonsault got Ibushi a two-count, before an overhead kick and a German picked up another two-count for the Golden Star. Sabre manages to get back into it, targeting Ibushi’s arm with his litany of submission holds, wrenching away on the wrist until Kota kneed his way free. Kawato tagged in from there to try and capitalise, and actually succeeded with some kicks to the chest of Sabre, before having some more luck against Desperado.

Kawato slipped out of Desperado’s finish, then hit a snap small package as he tried to get the shock win, but a big spinebuster from Desperado turned things back around. A Boston crab looked to force a submission as Sabre tied up Ibushi with the Octopus hold, but Kawato makes the ropes, only to fall into the Guitarra de Angel as Desperado got the win. A fun outing, with Kawato showing plenty of fire… as always! ***

Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & Gedo vs. Togi Makabe, Yuji Nagata & Tiger Mask
Hey, we’re getting two G1 previews here! We open with Goto and Nagata exchanging strikes, before we went to Makabe and Ishii. They exchanged back-and-forth shoulder blocks until Gedo got involved… and knocked off the apron too.

Gedo comes in to superkick Makabe before bringing in Goto to stomp away on him some more, before kicking away some attempted help from Tiger Mask. Ishii nearly wins it with a brainbuster on Makabe, before the pair traded ever-stiffer lariats as we went back to Goto/Nagata for a spell.

Nagata blocked a back suplex and laid in some more kicks to Goto, before an Exploder suplex left Goto on the mat. Tiger Mask tags in and scored a crossbody to Goto, before clocking Gedo with a kick to the head as a Tiger Driver almost won it. The ring filled up to give Makabe some more bodies to clothesline, before Gedo nearly snatched it with a roll-up with his feet on the ropes.

The ensuing argument between Gedo and the ref left him prey for a backslide for a near-fall, but Tiger Mask eventually picked up the win with a crucifix. A decent tag match, but outside of the flashes for Friday, this was pretty much skippable. **½

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & David Finlay
Fale and Tanahashi opened up with Tanahashi wanting to go a test of strength, which is about the worst idea you can have against Fale… let alone when you have an injured bicep. Still, a poke to the eye remedied that as the Ace avoided a sit-down splash before both men tagged out.

Owens takes a double-team hiptoss as the Bullet Club’s lower-tier guy absorbed a lot of offence, whilst Fale fell to a double dropkick. Fale breaks up a senton flip to Owens by pulling down Tanahashi by the arm as he then wrapped it around the ringpost, before targeting the arm with a Fujiwara-esque armbar in the ring.

After dropping Owens with a Dragon screw, Tanahashi tags out to Finlay, who came close with a diving uppercut, only for an Owens backbreaker to nearly win it for the Bullet Club too. Finlay thought he’d won it against Fale, but he’s thrown into the air from the kick-out as Fale instead came close with a clothesline instead, before sealing the win with a Grenade. Another decent match, but nothing special. **½

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI) vs. YOSHI-HASHI & Jado
The final of today’s undercard matches is a warm-up for Friday’s main event… and we open with a jump start as the Ingobernables were unusually caught flat-footed.

YOSHI-HASHI kept Naito down briefly, before we got some tags as Jado lit up BUSHI with chops in the corner. Jado offers a salute to BUSHI, and that’s where things break down as Naito comes in to dropkick Jado away, then charge YOSHI-HASHI into the barricades as the veteran was left somewhat isolated.

BUSHI chokes Jado with a t-shirt, before he takes a clothesline as we go back to Naito and YOSHI-HASHI – the latter of whom scores with a ‘rana as he then hung up Naito for a dropkick in the ropes. Naito hits back with a tornado DDT before bringing BUSHI back into play for the final stretch, which saw Jado try to score a pin from YOSHI-HASHI’s running blockbuster.

Jado tried to set up for a rope-hung DDT, but instead he’s caught with Naito’s slingshot dropkick before ducking an MX and catching BUSHI in a crossface. BUSHI almost made the ropes, but Jado rolled back into the centre of the ring… and BUSHI kept on rolling as he put Jado in a pinning predicament to snatch the win! **¾

G1 Climax, Block B: Juice Robinson vs. Satoshi Kojima
Welcome to the G1, Juice Robinson! It’s a far cry from Full Sail!

Mirroring what happened last year, Kojima had Hiroyoshi Tenzan in his corner, and he started by cinching in a headlock to Juice, who eventually fought free and landed a shoulder tackle as the pair’s feeling out process saw each other try for their finishers early. Kojima fires in with some Mongolian chops before booting Juice to the outside. Uncharacteristically, Kojima followed up with a DDT onto the apron, but Juice comes back with an Irish whip into the guard railings, before landing a back suplex and a back senton in a bid to get the win.

The pair trade forearms and chops, which led to Kojima’s machine-gun chops in the corner, and eventually a top rope elbow after a missed cannonball from Robinson. Again the tables turn with a spinebuster from Juice, who succeeded with the cannonball at the second try, but he was unable to keep the momentum as a powerbomb attempt ended up being slipped out of and turned into a Koji Cutter.

Robinson shoves away a superplex but gets crotched onto the turnbuckles by way of a Kojima lariat, before a top rope Koji Cutter sent both men flying! Juice kicks away some Strong Arm lariats, but can’t avoid one to the back of the head after his Pulp Friction attempt was blocked. Somehow, Juice kicks out after a brainbuster, but ended up running into a Strong Arm for yet another near-fall!

Another ducked Strong Arm earns Kojima a left hand, as Juice finally landed Pulp Friction to get his G1 underway with a win! A frenetic final sprint brought this up, and that was a result I was not expecting! ***½

G1 Climax, Block B: Tama Tonga vs. Michael Elgin
Tama opens up by being the proverbial wagon circling Big Mike, but that didn’t quite go to plan as a slam took the former tag champ down as Elgin followed up with a one-armed stalling suplex.

Things headed outside as Tonga tries to suplex Elgin, and actually succeeds, before missing a knee drop back inside as he ended up having to fight out of a powerbomb, instead eating a low crossbody from Big Mike. A slingshot splash off the apron squashes Tonga, before a Falcon arrow ensured that things remained in his favour, albeit for another two-count.

An enziguiri and a death valley driver/slam gets Elgin another two-count, but out of nowhere Tama hits the Tonga Twist to get himself a breather. Things descend into another slugfest until Tama went for the Veleno jumping double-arm DDT, and ended up connecting at the second try for a near-fall.

Tonga’s wacky rope running earned him a stiff lariat, but he recovers to catch Elgin with an Alabama Slam out of the corner before a Gun Stun attempt is easily shoved off. Tama replies with a dropkick as he went for a lariat, before catching Elgin’s slingshot and turning it into a Gun Stun! Elgin rolled to the floor though, meaning that Tama could only get a two-count back in the ring, before he was caught up… but Tama countered a top rope Falcon Arrow into a Gun Stun, and that’s enough for the win! A rather methodical match, but it had its moments and that finish out of nowhere… surprises will always make you pop! ***¼

G1 Climax, Block B: EVIL vs. SANADA
The first time match of the Ingobernables was also a chance to see SANADA’s wacky new Ligero x Liger x Tenzan mask. Which drew laughter at Korakuen Hall.

We open with a cheapshot, of course, as SANADA became the more favoured of the two as he flipped around… prompting EVIL to grab some chairs in response. One of them gets thrown at the referee, allowing EVIL to take SANADA outside for some whips into the guard rails. An impressive spot sees EVIL whack a chair off of SANADA’s neck… which then lands over the barrel of a cameraman’s lens – something I bet he could never ever repeat again.

EVIL keeps up the pressure back in the ring, but he’s unable to prevent SANADA’s double leapfrog and dropkick combo, along with a Paradise Lock as EVIL’s tied in a ball ahead of an inevitable dropkick. The back-and-forth continues with EVIL hanging up SANADA on the top rope, sending him to the floor… but EVIL looks to go up top and gets cut-off, only to hit back with a Skull End submission from the top.

SANADA slips to the floor, but rebounds again with an Ace crusher all the way to the floor! When they returned to the ring, the pair teed off on each other with forearms before EVIL lands a lariat… for just a one-count! They trade off suplexes for a spell, before SANADA’s attempt to moonsault into a Skull End sees him suplexed into the turnbuckles, before EVIL tried for the Banshee Muzzle, only to get shaken off and dropped with a TKO as SANADA almost earned the win.

Another Banshee Muzzle follows as SANADA’s made to reach for the ropes, before EVIL lands an appropriately vicious lariat for a near-fall. From there, he tries to set up for the EVIL STO, only for SANADA to slip out into a Skull End before switching to a Tiger suplex for a near-fall. The pair exchange Skull Ends, before SANADA flipped over into a Skull End, scissoring EVIL’s body… but EVIL slipped out and managed to get a foot to the ropes to keep on going.

Undeterred, SANADA slammed his colleague for a moonsault, and just like that, SANADA gets the win and the two points! A hell of a war between two whom you may have expected to have gone light… but that makes you wonder now, what repercussions will come from this! ****¼

G1 Climax, Block B: Toru Yano vs. Kazuchika Okada
This was always going to be a farce… and Yano lived up to his word! He had Jado out with him to counteract Gedo, but still he rolled towards the wrong cornerman as he went through his usual “break” shtick.

Okada gets sucker punched from a Yano handshake, and of course he runs into the ropes for cover. Yano followed up by throwing Okada into the ring post as we had some brawling outside the ring, where Okada tied-up the turnbuckle padding that Yano had tried to undo. Things got a little headed as Okada threw Yano into the guard railings, before continuing to work over Yano back in the ring… at least until Yano purposely bumped the ref and went back to the turnbuckle pad… which he whacked on Okada’s head like a pillow.

Ah, what a satisfying thud!

Okada gets whipped into the exposed corner as a schoolboy nearly gets Yano the not-so-surprise win, but Yano ends up running into the same corner as he falls to a neckbreaker slam. On the outside, Gedo tries to get involved, and pays the price, before Jado stopped Okada from launching into Okada… and then falls to a low blow as Yano punched everyone in the balls.

Somehow both men beat the 20-count as I expected the “ATTACK!” sting to play, but no… this lunacy is in New Japan. Yano nearly scores the win with a schoolboy or two, before going for another low blow… which is countered back and forth into another cover that had the crowd shrieking.

Okada comes back with the Red Ink STF, and that’s enough for the submission. Wacky enough for it to not stink, but this was just about threatening to go too long. ***

G1 Climax, Block B: Kenny Omega vs. Minoru Suzuki
Going in, Omega played up being petrified of Suzuki, but he threw the first shots as he unloaded on Suzuki with right hands and chops… which of course were graciously replied to in kind.

A stiff slap rocks Omega, as did a pump kick as Omega thought he’d created an opening with a ‘rana, only to get caught with a rope-hung armbar as Omega was a-tapping! It gets worse, courtesy of a running PK on the apron, before Omega was taken into the barriers as his knee gets wrapped around the metal.

Yep, it continues as Suzuki takes them into the bleachers and uses a chair on Kenny’s knee. Suzuki heads back to the ring with the chair, where he swings and misses before falling to a Finlay roll from Omega, who couldn’t follow up with the springboard moonsault… before settling for a single-leg springboard moonsault for a near-fall!

They go back to chops and shots, leading to Suzuki grabbing a rear naked choke which Omega escaped from and countered back with a cross-legged over-the-knee brainbuster. A V-Trigger follows, but referee Red Shoes took the blow… and although Kenny took out Suzuki next, the Suzuki-gun bullshit starts as El Desperado, TAKA Michinoku and of course Taichi hit the ring to lay waste to Kenny.

Of all people, Chase Owens comes out to try and make the save. Yeah, he doesn’t last. Out comes Fale, who no-sells a Taichi chair shot and then monsters away Desperado and TAKA! That’s cleared the ring, and Omega decides to put an exclamation mark on there with a springboard crossbody into the crowd! Once Fale got rid of Despy and TAKA, Suzuki pulled up the referee to watch him grab Omega in a knee bar, but Omega’s instead forced to kick himself to some kind of freedom… only for the knee bar to be reapplied. Finally, Kenny makes the ropes, and tries to hit back with chops… that Suzuki barely registers.

It’s almost like men against boys, with Omega constantly having to counter or avoid shots as Suzuki kept on at him like a rabid wolf, kicking away the knee to send Kenny down to the mat. Omega spits back, but that just angers Minoru into punching away like Kenny was a heavy bag, at least until Omega hit back with a V-Trigger and a snap Dragon suplex for a near-fall.

Somehow, Kenny went up for the One Winged Angel, but Suzuki rolls out and grabs an ankle lock, then a sleeper, the latter of which Kenny escapes by bumping onto his back. Suzuki reapplies it though, then pulls Omega up into a Gotch Piledriver… but Kenny tries to fight back by back body dropping his way free. Instead, he has to make do with another V-Trigger, before taking a dropkick.

Another V-Trigger nearly gets the win for Kenny, before a reverse ‘rana goes kinda awry as Suzuki took a bad landing. We get some more V-Trigger spamming as Kenny set up for a One Winged Angel, this time connecting as last year’s G1 winner got his 2017 campaign off to the best possible start. So hard hitting, exactly what we expected, but I could have lived without the run-ins midway through! ****

Overall, the entire card was not quite up to the levels of night one. The main event was exactly as good as expected, but EVIL/SANADA was an unexpected treat, as was Robinson/Kojima. Today’s undercard was completely skippable, but when you’ve got 19 days of G1, not everything’s going to be a hit!

G1 Climax 27 Standings
Block A (after one match):
Bad Luck Fale, Hirooki Goto, Tetsuya Naito, YOSHI-HASHI, Zack Sabre Jr (1-0; 2pts)
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Togi Makabe, Tomohiro Ishii, Yuji Nagata (0-1; 0pts)

Block B (after one match):
Kazuchika Okada, Kenny Omega, Juice Robinson, SANADA, Tama Tonga (1-0; 2pts)
EVIL, Michael Elgin, Satoshi Kojima, Minoru Suzuki, Toru Yano (0-1; 0pts)