The G1 stayed at Korakuen Hall for the second round of block A matches, with Zack Sabre Jr. and Kota Ibushi finally meeting!

A year ago, that was a possible Cruiserweight Classic final, but sadly we didn’t get it… so instead it’s third from the top in today’s G1 matches. But first, our usual undercard of matches teasing stuff for Saturday’s block B outings…

Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay
Of course we have a sneak attack here as Hiromu attacked Juice from behind, but Robinson’s able to negate that as we quickly went to Hiromu and Finlay.

Juice and EVIL brawl outside as the other two continued in the ring, before EVIL’s back senton almost gets an early win over Finlay. A big clothesline to Takahashi gets Finlay back in it as they both tagged out as we got the clash between EVIL and Juice – and they went at it with some fervour!

EVIL avoids a cannonball from Juice, before running into a spinebuster as we went back to Finlay, whose diving European uppercut nearly ended things. A Russian legsweep/dropkick combo gets another near-fall, as Finlay again came close with a uranage backbreaker, before he found himself on the end of some vicious double-teaming as EVIL quickly went to the Banshee Muzzle for the submission. Short and sweet, with EVIL getting the win after his singles loss yesterday. **¾

At the end of the match, Juice gets thrown into the ring to take a Banshee Muzzle, which makes me think EVIL’s perhaps not getting that win on Saturday.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & BUSHI) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Taichi)
Poor, poor Ingobernables. Heck, poor SANADA, facing Suzuki twice in as many days. El Desperado was out with them, just because, and Suzuki jumped SANADA with a kick to the gut as the pair wandered into the crowd from the off.

They were joined elsewhere in the crowd by BUSHI and Taichi as this was an all-out war, and extremely hard to follow too! SANADA gets his eyes raked in the crowd, but he manages to fire back as Taichi casually stood on BUSHI’s throat at ringside. BUSHI makes a comeback, choking at Taichi with his t-shirt as SANADA continued to get some payback, eventually settling for a slugfest in the middle of the ring.

Suzuki continues to batter SANADA, landing a PK for a two-count, before countering a Paradise Lock attempt with an armbar. Regardless, SANADA escaped and hit a dropkick as he went for a Skull End, but Suzuki slipped out and tripped SANADA into a rear naked choke. Eventually that’s transitioned into a Gotch piledriver attempt, but SANADA fought free and dropped Suzuki with a Saito suplex instead/

We go back to BUSHI and Taichi, the latter of which lands a kick to the head for a near-fall, before he tried to unmask BUSHI… and nearly succeeded. BUSHI rebounds with an overhead kick in the ropes, before Taichi escaped an MX by using the ref as a human shield. Desperado comes into play as he grabbed the ref as BUSHI had Taichi pinned, but of course Taichi’s bullshit gets the win as he nails BUSHI with the mic stand before rolling him up for the win. Pretty decent and chaotic, and at least they kept the Taichi shtick to a minimum. ***

After the match, Taichi finally unmasked BUSHI, before mocking him… and despite needing three Young Lions’ t-shirts to cover his head, BUSHI went after Taichi… who left with the mask. He’s never looked better.

Bullet Club (Tama Tonga & Chase Owens) vs. Bullet Club (Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi)
During the entrances they teased that Tonga refused to lay down for Bad Luck Fale last year in the G1, and we start with a hug between Tama and Yujiro as they literally called it in the ring.

It’s all comedy until Yujiro gets blown up, and then they tag out to Chase and Kenny, who go for wristlocks and ultra-quick rope breaks. Chase keeps forgetting that Omega’s hurting, so Kenny orders him to tag in Tama who “knows what we’re doing”… which quickly gave way to Tama going after the bad wheel!

Eventually Omega sidesteps a charge in the corner as Tonga crashes into Owens, before bringing in Yujiro to sort-of make the save. It’s all a little goofy, ending with Yujiro’s Pimp Juice DDT being saved by Tama, who hit a reverse Gun Stun before a Samoan Drop/flipping neckbreaker almost got Chase the win over Yujiro. Omega takes Tonga to the outside, whipping him into the guard rails as Chase and Yujiro continue at it… Omega takes a Gun Stun from Tama as their flirtation continued, before the Pimp Juice succeeded at the second attempt as Yujiro got the win. Not too much of a match, but thoroughly enjoyable for what it was. **½

After the match, Omega and Tonga argued – with Tonga complaining that Kenny “only cares about himself, not Bullet Club”, as they continued to tease dissension there.

Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Michael Elgin vs. Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & Gedo
We open with Kojima and Yano – teasing tomorrow’s match – and Yano’s shtick is quickly stopped by Tenzan on the apron. Yano eats the machine-gun chops in the corner, but Gedo runs in to prevent a top rope elbow drop… and just gets some chops himself as Yano removes the turnbuckle padding.

Kojima charges into the exposed corner, and quickly finds himself taking some rather slower chops from Okada. The ring fills up a little, but tellingly Okada backs away when Michael Elgin broke it up. Yano comes back in and eats a Koji Cutter as we finally get Elgin and Okada, with Big Mike running over Okada in the early going with a big boot. A deadlift bridging German gets Elgin a near-fall, before teasing a buckle bomb into the exposed corner, before instead just levelling Okada with a forearm shot.

A flapjack quickly turns things back around for Okada, who went up top himself and had to abort things as he was pulled into another German suplex. Tenzan tags in and has a go at Okada with headbutts and Mongolian chops, before Gedo gets tagged in to superkick Tenzan for a near-fall.

Tenzan recovers to whip Gedo into the exposed corner, before a TenKoji Cutter almost ended things… and would have done had Okada not made the save. Elgin disposes of him to the floor as Gedo ends up getting caught in an Anaconda Vice for the quick submission. This was fine, a little brief, but otherwise perfectly fine at building up tomorrow’s matches. ***

G1 Climax, Block A: Hirooki Goto vs. Yuji Nagata
There’s no interval again, so it’s straight into the second round of block A action, and we start with some basics as Goto and Nagata traded takedowns as they kept it on the mat.

Nagata quickly goes for the arm, taking down Goto with a wristlock, but there’s a rope break before the Fujiwara armbar could be sunk in. Goto replies with a clothesline after absorbing some kicks, before heading outside as Goto whips Nagata into the crowd barriers.

Back inside, Goto works over a single leg crab, with Nagata reaching the ropes to force a break, and it’s all Goto here as he peppered Nagata with kicks as he looked to end this early. A chop in the corner rocks Nagata, but he recovers and sparks a stiff series of forearms as both men teed off on each other.

Nagata’s resurgence continued with a boot into the corner, then an Exploder for a near-fall, before Goto fired back, landing an ushigoroshi, only for Nagata to fight out of a GTR attempt. Goto continued the offence though, and ended up getting suckered into the Fujiwara armbar. Some armbreakers follow, as does a running knee into the corner, before Nagata pulls off a rope-hung neckbreaker to surprise last year’s finalist.

Nagata followed up with a suplex for a near-fall as the veteran continued to show flashes of his past, but Goto’s blocking of a Backdrop Hold earned him an enziguiri before a back suplex dumps Goto on his head for a near-fall. Just as you sensed Nagata was going to get the win, Goto blocks another Backdrop Hold and turns it into a bulldog, before teeing off on Nagata with clotheslines whilst being made to absorb more kicks to the chest.

Eventually, Goto blocks a kick and finally takes down Nagata with a clothesline… but his kick’s caught and met with a spinning heel kick from the veteran! Goto slips out of another Backdrop Hold though and grabs a sleeper, and although Nagata fights free, he’s spun into a headbutt as Goto finished him off with the GTR for the win. This got real good towards the end, and Nagata’s G1 of showing flashes of the past, but simply not being able to get the job done continued. An excellent match – add this to your “must see” lists if you’re cherry picking! ****

G1 Climax, Block A: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Togi Makabe
As you’d expect, this one was hard-hitting – with Ishii and Makabe trading off on chops and shoulder tackles early… except neither man budged!

Eventually, Makabe took Ishii onto the apron, then into the guard rail with shoulder charges… and Makabe continued the punishment by throwing Ishii into the guard railings some more. A whip’s reversed as Makabe takes a barrier a la Bret Hart – chest first – nearly propelling him into the crowd in the process!

Those chest-first bumps continue as all four sides of the crowd get an up close and personal view of Makabe, who somehow beat the count-out as he rolled back into the ring. Makabe tries to make a comeback with some forearms, but Ishii lands a headbutt and a series of chops… but Zombie Makabe rises up and comes back with some right hands of his own. A scoop powerslam gets Makabe back in it, but another chop to the throat cuts him off as Ishii unloaded on the former G1 winner. Somehow, Makabe was able to get off a Northern Lights suplex for a near-fall, but Ishii’s able to reply with a German suplex, then a superplex for a near-fall.

They go back to the clubbing clotheslines, before Makabe nearly snuck the win with a powerbomb. More clotheslines take Ishii down again for a near-fall, and Makabe tries to follow up with the Spider German suplex… but Ishii escapes and headbutts Makabe… who replies with a spider belly-to-belly suplex! The King Kong kneedrop misses though, and they go back to the clubbering as Ishii eventually takes down Makabe with a clothesline, only getting a one-count from it.

From the kick-out, a sliding lariat followed for a two-count for Ishii, who then called for the brainbuster… but Makabe kneed his way to freedom before throwing in some overhand chops and a bridging German suplex for another near-fall. Remarkably, both men had plenty left as Ishii’s headbutt was punched away, before a second one connected as a running clothesline picked up yet another near-fall! In the end though, Makabe falls to the vertical drop brainbuster as this war of a match concluded… hard-hitting, and everything you’d expect from these two! ***¾

G1 Climax, Block A: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kota Ibushi
This was the match that many were waiting for since the second the G1 blocks were announced. Unfortunately, Desperado was ringside for the threat of Suzuki-gun bollocks, but surely that can’t spoil things.

Sabre instantly takes Ibushi to the mat as we have a rather cagey opening with plenty of feinted kicks. Zack kinda drew first blood when he wrenched away at Kota’s heel, but Ibushi tried to reply in kind before a rope break’s forced. Ibushi keeps a rather methodical pace as the pair swap snapmares until Sabre traps Ibushi’s neck in his legs… but again, they’re too close to the ropes!

After abandoning the submission game for a while, Sabre launched into some strikes before going yet again for a hold… but once more, they’re way too close to the ropes as Ibushi’s made to suffer. A single leg crab whilst standing on Kota’s head adds to that pain, as does a double armbar, which Ibushi reverses… but Sabre quickly kicks free.

A straitjacket hold follows as Ibushi’s again on the defensive, but this time his reversal succeeds as he then followed up by knocking down a charging Sabre with a kick to the chest. Unfortunately for Kota, his standing moonsault sees him land into an arm triangle as he’s forced to scramble into the ropes for freedom before shocking Sabre with a German suplex.

Just like that though, Sabre drags down a leapfrog from Ibushi and rolls him into a Euro clutch for a near-fall as he followed up with the Octopus. Ibushi broke free and stomped out of a sunset flip as both men kept going tit-for-tat – even if Kota was largely on the back foot. From the mat, both men threw kicks at each other, and of course that worked up into a battle of forearm smashes, before a backflip kick’s caught and turned into the STF as Sabre tried to force the issue.

Sabre switches up into a Dragon suplex, dumping Kota on his goddamned neck for a near-fall, but he recovers enough to catch a PK and level Zack with a clothesline! Sabre’s attempt to flip out of a backslide just earns him a knee to the face, but he too is able to recover to avoid a Golden Star Powerbomb before flying in with a triangle choke… only for Kota to switch it into the Golden Star Powerbomb anyway for the win! Engrossing. Exactly what we wanted. Not that I’d mind seeing a rematch away from the G1, but whilst it did feel this was pretty much the “first chapter” as opposed to a finale, this was spot on. ****½

G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
This nearly ended quickly via a wheelbarrow roll-up from Tanahashi, who looked to be opting for hit and run tactics here. Fale, on the other hand, looks to use his size to force Tanahashi down from a test of strength… which was broken up by a finger to the eye.

Remarkably, Tanahashi gets Fale down with a wristlock, but the giant Tongan slams his way free, only to get met with a myriad of dropkicks as Tanahashi tried to slam him back. It didn’t work… yet, as he went for a small package instead, sending Fale scurrying to the outside for cover.

Of course, Fale makes a point of going after the arm, hanging Tanahashi in the ropes with it, before wrapping it around the guard railings. The 20 count’s beaten though, but that just earns some more punishment for that arm, before somehow Tanahashi got the big man up for a German suplex! He tried to follow up with a slam, but he fell on his back before rolling away from a splash from Fale. Fale keeps up the pressure with a sit-down splash and a big splash, but again Tanahashi keeps kicking out, before countering a Grenade into a spinning neckbreaker. A Slingblade attempt just sees Tanahashi thrown to the outside, but he manages to skin the cat to get back in, only to run into a massive spear from the ex-rugby player.

Tanahashi manages to escape the Bad Luck Fall with almost a Slingblade, and he follows up by going outside after Fale with a High Fly Flow! A Slingblade on the apron follows as the count-out kept going, but Tanahashi beat the count as we had a New Japan rareity – a loss by count-out! A heck of a sprint, and a good story as David overcame Goliath by using his own size against him! ***½

G1 Climax, Block A: Tetsuya Naito vs. YOSHI-HASHI
From the off, Naito went after YOSHI-HASHI, taking him into the ropes for a less-than-clean break, only for YOSHI-HASHI (and his new gear) to drop him with a simple slam.

After both men swung and missed with strikes, Naito scored with a hiptoss into a dropkick to the head, before a rope-hung reverse DDT left YOSHI-HASHI rolling onto the apron for cover. They headed outside as Naito whips his foe through the guard railings, before landing a neckbreaker back inside the ring as he looked to wear down YOSHI-HASHI.

YOSHI-HASHI finally got into the match with a running Blockbuster, before landing a ‘rana to take Naito into the corner ahead of a dropkick that earned a near-fall. Naito comes back with the slingshot dropkick in the corner, targeting the back of YOSHI-HASHI’s head as he was tripped, facing into the corner, before a tornado DDT’s blocked and met with a Bunker Buster attempt.

Instead, YOSHI-HASHI makes do with a double stomp after ducking an enziguiri attempt, before landing an old-school shoulderbreaker. A jack-knifed powerbomb gets a near-fall on Naito, who was the undisputed favourite inside Korakuen Hall, who managed to start edging back into the match, hitting a release German suplex.

YOSHI-HASHI hits a Bunker Buster at the second attempt as he kept on Naito’s neck, before heading up top for a senton bomb, which Naito quickly cut-off and countered with a top rope ‘rana before connecting with Gloria for a near-fall. Destino follows, but YOSHI-HASHI counters it into a facebuster to keep his match alive.

The pair tee off on each other with shots from there, before Naito’s levelled with a kick to the face. There’s an awkward spot where YOSHI-HASHI dropkicks Naito as he went for a flying forearm, which took Naito down for a butterfly lock that he’s able to stand up out of… only to get rolled through back into the hold once more. After reversing a reversal, YOSHI-HASHI hits a back cracker before heading up top for a senton bomb that connects, but Naito’s able to kick out at two.

Another Butterfly lock follows, with Naito being dragged again into the middle of the ring… but at the second try he’s able to wriggle his way to the rope to force a break! Instantly from the break, YOSHI-HASHI rushes in with a dropkick before pulling up Naito for Karma, but Naito elbows free and rolls in with a Koppo kick… only to take a left-arm lariat for a very close near-fall! Out of nowhere, Naito lands Destino… but it’s only good for a near-fall, so he hits it again, and that’s all folks! A very good back-and-forth outing, one that perhaps would have been more effective had the crowd not been so pro-Naito, but a good match nevertheless. ***¾

After two nights, block A’s knocking it out of the park in terms of that subjective measure – match quality. There’s also quite the log-jam in second place as we have an even spread: two sharing top and bottom spot, with the remaining six sharing a 1-1 record.

We’re back at Korakuen Hall on Saturday for block B action, headlining with Kazuchika Okada vs. Michael Elgin, before Tokyo’s Machida Gymnasium sees the next round of block A action on Sunday, headed by Hirooki Goto vs. Togi Makabe. Hmm…

G1 Climax 27 Standings
Block A (after two matches):
Hirooki Goto, Tetsuya Naito (2-0; 4pts)
Bad Luck Fale, Kota Ibushi, Tomohiro Ishii, Hiroshi Tanahashi, YOSHI-HASHI, Zack Sabre Jr. (1-1; 2pts)
Togi Makabe, Yuji Nagata (0-2; 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)