The G1 returned for the first of two shows this weekend, with Aichi playing host to the fifth round of block A matches – with some real barn-burners on paper!

Jado’s ongoing knee injury meant the undercard was tweaked again, with the Young Lions being thrown onto the card as part of the rejig.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & BUSHI) vs. Michael Elgin & David Finlay
It’s been said before about David Finlay, but given how rudderless he’s been in New Japan lately, you have to think he’s due to be sent away on excursion sometime soon. He’s nowhere near Bone Soldier levels in terms of being a lug of a tag partner, but they at least did something with the Boner in the last year…

Here, Finlay was like a ragdoll early on against the Ingobernables, before Big Mike made a save of sorts, whacking SANADA with a forearm before utilising his slingshot into a slam. Of course, those two are wrestling in block B tomorrow, although Finlay did a good job of trying to make sure SANADA wouldn’t get that far, landing a uranage backbreaker for a near-fall.

SANADA and BUSHI worked to wipe out Elgin outside with a tope, before Finlay quickly succumbed to a Skull End. Way too brief to be anything really. **¼

Hirai Kawato & Katsuya Kitamura vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & Hiromu Takahashi)
The “beneficiaries” of Jado’s injury, Kawato and Kitamura get some more ring time here, starting with Kitamura barging down both Ingobernables early. Natural order was quickly restored though, as EVIL took him outside for a meeting with the crowd barriers… only for Kitamura to monster up against the smaller Takahashi.

Another shoulder tackle sent Hiromu down as Kawato came into the match, flying into Takahashi with a ‘rana before knocking him down with some back elbows. That springboard missile dropkick gets a near-fall before going for a Boston crab that Hiromu easily broke in the ropes. Undeterred, Kawato tried for a bunch of near-falls, only to get caught in a Boston crab as Hiromu eventually made him tap once again to his own move. Basic, but the ongoing development of Kawato and Kitamura is really fun to watch. **¾

Bullet Club (Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Taichi)
Tama came out looking remarkably chipper for someone who had a death sentence in front of him for two nights in a row… but he had plans… to hide in the aisle and attack Suzuki as he was coming to the ring!

That didn’t work as Suzuki quickly outfoxed him and took him into the crowd for a good ol’ fashioned murdering. Tonga ends up at the back of the arena whilst Yujiro and Taichi do stuff… but people tuned out of them like they always do, as Tama manages to turn the tables somewhat. They made it back to the ring where Tama tried to sneak in a Gun Stun amongst the flying forearms, before we had to get Taichi and Yujiro, because this is a tag.

Still, the cameras largely remained on Tama and Minoru, before Taichi lands a kick to the head for a near-fall… thanks to Tama breaking it up. We almost get a ref bump, but that just delays Tama being sent to the outside, allowing Taichi and Yujiro to swing and miss with their props (although Yujiro’s pimp cane was already broken before it was used), as a Pimp Juice DDT gets the win. That finish was wacky, but 90% of this match was Suzuki and Tama Tonga threatening to kill each other with whatever they could get their hands on… which is instantly entertaining! ***

There’s nothing like the ring announcer randomly shouting for the fans to be safe as Suzuki runs through rows of seating to get to Tama Tonga. Meanwhile, Yujiro and his lady of the night just didn’t give a damn…

Bullet Club (Kenny Omega & Chase Owens) vs. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Taichi’s mic stand had been left behind… so Kenny sings his theme music. Hey, it’s not as ridiculous as Taichi doing it…

It’s Omega vs. Kojima tomorrow, but given that the Bread Club leader’s yet to break his duck, you’d expect this to be one-way traffic. Omega quickly finds himself in the path of duelling Mongolian chops as he’s surprisingly on the back foot, at least until he gets to Tenzan’s eyes as an eye rake turned things back into the Bullet Club’s favour. Owens starts working over Tenzan with a rear chinlock, before hitting some Mongolian chops that bring out the boos… along with a Mountain bomb. Kojima makes the save with machine gun chops for all, but he’s press slammed away from a top rope elbow attempt, before landing a DDT on Chase.

A Downward Spiral nearly won it for Owens as he and Omega double-teamed Kojima, but in the end Kojima broke free to land a Ten-Koji Cutter, then a Strong Arm lariat to Owens for the win. Basic, fun, and just what you want from an undercard tag when there’s just so many of these! **¾

Juice Robinson, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tomoyuki Oka vs. Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & Gedo
We start with Gedo taking aim at the Funky Weapon, with Taguchi hitting a hip attack at the third go as Gedo then took everyone’s backside to the face. Even Oka’s!

From there we get shenanigans as Okada takes Juice to the outside… stacking up some conveniently empty chairs to throw Juice into. Yeah, Okada’s being more of a dick than usual today… In the midst of that, Yano had removed the turnbuckle pads and thrown Taguchi into them, leaving him prey for a slingshot senton from Okada for a near-fall, before Juice got the tag in and laid out Okada with a reverse DDT.

A spinebuster followed from Juice, but Okada quickly showed his class to take him down with a DDT and a diving uppercut for a near-fall, before an attempted Rainmaker is ducked and met with a punch. Oka gets tagged in and unloads on everyone not named Okada, before Yano being Yano led to the finish – a bunch of misdirection, low blows to Oka and Taguchi, before rolling up the Young Lion for the win. Oka will learn… Okada displayed something different here – a more dickish side to his character that could well be masking him taking someone lightly. **¾

G1 Climax, Block A: Yuji Nagata vs. Togi Makabe
It was do or die for Nagata, as a loss here would eliminate him from the G1 – and judging from the cupping marks on his back, Yuji was feeling the strain already.

Makabe went for Nagata’s back, as you would, throwing him into the guard railings, then into the turnbuckles as Nagata finally came back to life with some kicks and forearms. It’s quite slow-paced, which is to be expected given these two have a combined age of 93, but at least the strikes they threw looked like they hurt. One such strike sent Nagata crumpling to the mat, before he snaps back into a Fujiwara armbar, as Makabe needed to rake the eyes to stop the arm-based assault. More kicks to the front and back left Makabe reeling on the mat, as did a brainbuster, which only got a near-fall.

A backdrop suplex similarly almost got the win, before catching Makabe up top for a super Exploder! Makabe blocked it and eventually knocked Nagata down with some chops to the head, before flying into him with a King Kong knee drop. However, Makabe kept up, getting a near-fall with a lariat before another King Kong knee drop ended Nagata’s final G1. This wasn’t awful, but despite several flashes, this was the first time in the G1 this year that it was clear that Father Time’s caught up to Nagata. ***

G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. Kota Ibushi
Pro tips: don’t say Bad Luck Fale’s name. Or give him a Daryl. He’ll kill you. Or it.

Ibushi starts by kicking Fale into the corner, as it’s speed and strikes that’ll get him a win. Sadly, Fale caught one and knocked him down with relative ease, taking the Golden Star into the corner so he could wrap his legs around the ring post. The right knee of Ibushi becomes the target for Fale, driving it into the mat as he tried to wear down Ibushi.

Kota’s able to come back with some kicks, but he’s unable to get enough into them as Fale gets back up… only for a Grenade to be flipped out of as Ibushi then unwisely tried to land a German suplex. Yeah, that didn’t work, at least until the third attempt when he gave his all to get the Tongan off his feet.

Fale rolled outside, and was joined by Ibushi who was taken into the crowd for a good ol’ fashioned Brookes’ing. Ibushi recovers and throws Fale into the back of the arena, then hops up onto a seating deck so he could… MOONSAULT OFF IT! Both men were able to make it back to the ring, as Ibushi then ran into a big lariat from Fale, before wriggling out of a Bad Luck Fall and rolling him up for a near-fall.

A superkick nearly does it, as Ibushi tried in vain to piledrive Fale, and instead eat a Samoan drop. Fale then went to end it with a Grenade, then a Bad Luck Fall, hitting both in quick succession as the big man picked up the win. Exactly what you’d expect in a Goliath-beats-David match, without Kota’s scary “I hate my neck” bumps… but with some added dives instead. Enjoyable, and that seemed to be the feeling from the fan who had the hollowed corpse of Daryl’s cousin! ***½

G1 Climax, Block A: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Hirooki Goto
This is their second singles meeting, after their excellent match for the NEVER title at Sakura Genesis back in April… and like that, this one was heavily ground-based, with Sabre tying up Goto into a knot as he manages to turn a submission attempt into a pinning predicament in the opening moments.

Zack’s not exactly rushing into this though, bellowing at Goto to hit him… and of course, was obliged, but on the whole Zack’s keeping his words to a minimum as he focused more on Goto, slipping out of an ushigoroshi before trapping him in an Octopus hold. Sabre’s using Goto as a climbing frame almost, looking for a submission attempt… but that climbing just got him in prime position for an ushigoroshi afterall!

Goto tries to end things with a GTR, but Sabre flipped into a Northern Lights suplex, before working into a PK that Goto instantly rose from to reply with a lariat. It’s engrossing stuff, with plenty of short flurries seeing each guy trying to eke out an advantage, with the latest seeing Sabre trip Goto to the mat before rolling into a prawn hold for a near-fall. Another prawn hold yielded similar results, as the pair just threw the technical stuff out of the window and decides to throw bombs.

An overhand slap from Sabre left Goto reeling briefly, as another lariat put the Brit down, but out of nowhere Goto hits a PK and a GTR for the win. A really enjoyable exchange of flurries, but given the flat-ish finish, I’d take their first match over this any day of the week. ****

G1 Climax, Block A: YOSHI-HASHI vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
YOSHI-HASHI HAS FIXED HIS GEAR! That’s my big takeaway anyway, as he started trading wristlocks and the like with Tanahashi, before a crossbody out of the corner and its reveral earned a couple of near-falls.

Tanahashi dropped YOSHI-HASHI with a plancha as the Ace took over, stomping away at the left leg and knee as a knee spreader forced YOSHI-HASHI to scoot on his butt towards the ropes for a break. YOSHI-HASHI came back with a running Blockbuster, before a Bunker Buster neckbreaker saw him get a near-fall as he looked to keep Tanahashi on the back foot.

Until he was taken down with a Dragon screw and a low dropkick, that is, as Tanahashi quickly switched into a cloverleaf, as that left leg was targeted once more. YOSHI-HASHI tries to fire back, but gets dropped with an uppercut as he was made to look a distant second-best here, despite hitting an old school shoulderbreaker and some diving double knees for a near-fall.

YOSHI-HASHI does manage to avoid a Slingblade, eventually landing a left-arm lariat before a flipping powerbomb picked up a two-count. The top rope senton bomb also connects, but again Tanahashi kicks out at two… but for some reason this YOSHI-HASHI offence just isn’t clicking. It’s almost like it feels futile, especially when his attempt at Karma was easily countered, before Tanahashi shrugged off some clotheslines to hit a Slingblade.

From there, Tanahashi heads up for a High Fly Flow, and that’s enough for the win. Poor YOSHI-HASHI – all the steam he had a year ago has completely dissipated, and has left him in a worse state than before. As for the match, it was pretty good, but hampered by YOSHI-HASHI not been seen as anything close to an equal… even in his home town. ***¾

G1 Climax, Block A: Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii
It’s an understatement to say that these two have worked well together in the past – and that’s left the crowd eating up everything that’s served up here.

Naito plays the mind games, rolling in and out of the ring to wind up Ishii, to the point where he’s knocked off the apron for trying that once too often. They take turns throwing each other into the barriers, with Ishii coming off worse, before Naito just slaps away at the Stone Pitbull in the ring. You can probably guess how that worked out for the Ingobernable.

Quite poorly, was the answer.

The pair tee off on each other with chops and elbows in the corner before Naito dumps him with a GTR-like over-the-knee neckbreaker out of the corner. From there, some legscissors to the head wear down Ishii, as do a series of elbows in the corner as it looked to be a case of when, not if for Naito.

Just like that though, Ishii catches Naito out of the corner with a scoop slam, and it’s a bit of a violence party for Ishii as he wears down the Ingobernable to the mat with forearms in the corner, before a brainbuster dropped Naito for a two-count. A slingshot dropkick to the back of Ishii’s head in the corner helped to turn things around, albeit briefly as Ishii switches a tornado DDT out into a German suplex as both men were left on the mat.

Naito tried to fire back, but quickly gets squashed with a corner lariat, before countering out of a superplex and dumping Ishii with a neckbreaker out of the corner. A German suplex dumped the Stone Pitbull onto what passes for a neck for another near-fall… and it’s all the Germans from Naito as he edged further ahead.

Of course, Ishii replies in kind, before winning a brief battle with a simple headbutt. Simple, and effective! A folding powerbomb gets a near-fall, before Ishii popped straight up from a tornado DDT… only to get left laid out once again with another bloody German. Naito’s attempt to hit a running Destino ends up with Ishii only delaying it as Naito was put into position for a reverse DDT before hitting the move. Another near-fall’s followed up with an enziguiri from Ishii, who fired back with a clothesline before another Destino… just led to Ishii popping up and hitting a sliding lariat for a closer near-fall!

My God!

Naito knees away brainbuster before a lariat wipes him out – but it’s still not enough as the bloody-mouthed Ishii had to keep on for a little while longer, with a sheer-drop brainbuster getting the win as Naito was denied a share of the lead! Another bloody great main event, with both men damn-near killing each other – which seems to be their forte! ****½

So, another round of solid, if not blow-away action… but this is where we are with the G1 – the early rounds spoiled us! Regardless, the tournament action, save for Nagata/Makabe, was good viewing, and as we’re now past the halfway mark in block A, it’s becoming clearer who’s in real contention, and who’s just there to be a spoiler.

G1 Climax 27 Standings
Block A (after five matches):
Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-1; 8pts)
Bad Luck Fale, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Togi Makabe, Tetsuya Naito, Zack Sabre Jr. (3-2; 6pts)
Kota Ibushi (2-3; 4pts)
YOSHI-HASHI (1-4; 2pts)
Yuji Nagata (0-5; 0pts)

Block B (after four matches):
Kazuchika Okada (4-0; 8pts)
EVIL, Kenny Omega (3-1; 6pts)
Michael Elgin, SANADA, Minoru Suzuki, Tama Tonga (2-2; 4pts)
Juice Robinson, Toru Yano (1-3; 2pts)
Satoshi Kojima (0-4; 0pts)