After three days off, the G1 Climax returned as the tour moved to Niigata for the latest round of B block matches.

“Whatever you have down below is the key to let you go”… yeah, some of these lyrics do sound weird… We’re inside Ao-re Nagaoka in Niigata, with Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero on the commentary. It feels like it’s been forever since we’ve heard their voices!

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & El Desperado) vs. Michael Elgin & Ren Narita
Oh dear, Ren Narita, facing New Japan’s resident Young Lion killer… this may be a short night for you!

Yeah, there’s a jump start, what a shock! Elgin and Suzuki end up trading blows on the outside, while Desperado grabs a handful of hair in a bid to stop Narita. It doesn’t work, as Ren hits a belly-to-belly suplex on the Rogue Luchador, getting barely a one-count from that… and now we’ve got Elgin and Suzuki going deep into the crowd! Suzuki grabs a spare chair and uses it to choke out Elgin while Narita’s greeted to the guard railings off-camera. It meant that Narita was on his lonesome as Suzuki returned to the ring and tagged in, just to kick him in the back as the sadism started. Despy’s back in to chop and slam Narita, before a sickening STF from Suzuki almost snapped Narita in half.

Elgin wanders in to try and break it up, but that just earns him some elbows as tomorrow’s G1 opponents traded off. Big Mike gets the tag in not long afterwards, as he charges down Suzuki with a shoulder block before a slam and a slingshot plancha into the ring flattened the Rev Pro champion. Desperado’s in… and gets dropkicked right in the face as Elgin quickly drops Suzuki with a Falcon arrow for a solid two-count.

There’s more elbows and chops between the two, but Suzuki uses some misdirection to catch Elgin with a rear naked choke. A Gotch piledriver’s next, but Elgin puts on the brakes and backdrops his way to freedom, only to get caught in the gut with a knee. Both men tag out as Desperado cold-cocks Narita ahead of a suplex for a near-fall, before Despy just rolls him into a Boston crab as Narita was forced to drag himself to the ropes. Undeterred, Desperado goes for a chop, before a snap small package sparked a series of tempting near-falls for Narita… only for Despy to suddenly end it with the Pinche Loco. A solid opener, even if it had your standard helping of Suzuki-gun shenanigans… it’ll be a good outing for the two of them tomorrow, no doubt. **¾

Post-match, Yota Tsuji took the brunt of Minoru Suzuki’s assault, while Yuya Uemura tried to back Suzuki out of the arena… and got slapped for his troubles.

Bullet Club (Hangman Page & Chase Owens) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & BUSHI)
There was an interesting figure thrown in on commentary here – Owens and Page have yet to lose as a team on this tour.

We’ve an even but energetic start here as both men throw lariats as they try to club the other down to the mat… before they instead opted to tag out. BUSHI’s in, but his ‘rana’s stopped by Owens, who turned it into a death valley driver before Page returned to focus on BUSHI with a nice fallaway pumphandle slam for a near-fall. BUSHI continues to take the bulk of the offence, but he finally hits Owens with an enziguiri as EVIL got the hot tag in to clear the ring… suplexing Page onto Owens before squashing the pair with a back senton. Chase has to wriggle out of Darkness Falls as the Bullet Club pair smash EVIL with superkicks for a near-fall as the ring again filled up.

BUSHI earns himself a Buckshot lariat as he tried to interfere, while EVIL wriggled free of a package piledriver before countering Owens’ Jewel Heist lariat into Everything is EVIL for the win. A nice little tag – perhaps a little pedestrian, but Hangman looked good ahead of his next block match tomorrow. **½

Firing Squad (Bad Luck Fale & Tanga Loa) vs. Jay White & YOH
Having taken his first G1 loss last time out against Minoru Suzuki, Jay White’s gotten the biggest man in the tournament as nobody really expects this to be straight-laced.

We looked to start with Fale and White… but Switchblade is already begging off as the crowd didn’t take too kindly to his stalling. Tanga Loa tags in to try and get something going, and of course Jay White tags out too as YOH’s thrown to the wolves, while Fale just pulled White off the apron as this quickly headed into the crowd. YOH takes some Snake Eyes into the guard rails while Fale Brookes’ White in among the chaos… before a snap powerslam in the ring from Tanga sees Jay White break up the pin. Fale quickly gives chase to him, and as Jay didn’t fancy charging at Fale, it’s rather simple as Tanga dumped YOH with the Apeshit for the win. This wasn’t much of a match, but outside of Jay White becoming a team player, we can all move along here. *¾

Togi Makabe & Toa Henare vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & David Finlay
After a good start, Makabe’s started to slip in the G1, while Tanahashi’s found himself with a share of the lead after four matches.

The crowd’s really hot for this one, as we start with Makabe and Tanahashi locking up… but a shoulder tackle from Makabe puts his side ahead as Makabe comes in and keeps up the offence with some strikes. Tanahashi hits back with a springboard crossbody out of the corner, before Finlay comes in to tease some “C block action”. There’s some rapid-fire boots to put Henare down, and Tanahashi’s right back in to keep up the offence on the New Zealander. A spear off the ropes from Henare puts a stop to that though, and in comes Makabe to bulldoze through the Ace. We’ve got the lariat in the corner and some mounted punches as a Northern Lights suplex drew a near-fall, before Tanahashi retaliated with a Dragon screw. Tanahashi can’t quite get a Slingblade going, so he hits a low dropkick before running into a scoop slam as both men tagged out once more.

Henare initially wins out with forearms and a flying shoulder tackle, before pasting Finlay with a lariat in the corner. A uranage backbreaker from Finlay turns it around for a near-fall as Makabe breaks up the cover, then charges through Finlay and Tanahashi with a double clothesline before Henare’s flying shoulder off the top rope nearly put away Finlay. Finlay elbows away an attempted uranage before he’s pelted with headbutts… but he comes back in with a lariat and the Stunner as Finlay picked up the W. Hey, there’s the theme I forgot he had! A fun tag team outing here, exactly what you’d expect off the undercard. **¾

YOSHI-HASHI & SHO vs. Kazuchika Okada & Gedo
Having finally gotten on the board with a win on Sunday, YOSHI-HASHI’s got to keep the run going as he looked nervous as all hell here for a tag match against Kazuchika Okada. Who was back with his lucky phallic balloons.

Gedo and SHO start us off here, with the pair working over headlocks… and while SHO wins out with a dropkick, he’s quickly booted in the head by Okada, who took YOSHI-HASHI outside in a bid to wreck him against the guard railing. For some reason Okada stomps on his own balloon too… symbolism? Okada followed up with a slingshot senton to SHO as the Roppongi 3K member found himself rather isolated. A chinlock keeps SHO on the mat, but the youngster looked to come back with a German suplex, instead having to make do with a spear as YOSHI-HASHI tagged in to try and get some retribution. He ducks a chop and catches Okada with the Head Hunter, then a chop of his own in the corner before a reverse kick set up Okada for the rope-hanging dropkick.

A DDT from Okada gets him right back in it for a near-fall, before YOSHI rolled him into a butterfly lock! Gedo rushes in to break it up, but YOSHI just turfs him outside and goes back to Okada for Karma… which is elbowed away with ease. Okada’s dropkick allows both men to tag out as Gedo decks SHO with a superkick for a near-fall. A low dropkick looked to set up for the Gedo Clutch, but SHO escaped and hits a lariat instead as his bulking up paid off… before a back cracker turns into an armbar. Okada broke that up as the ring fills up, but SHO’s able to get back on track as he set up Gedo for the Shock Arrow… and that cross-armed package piledriver gets the win. Brief, but fun… and I’ve a feeling YOSHI vs. OKADA tomorrow is going to be either real good or real bad depending on how goofy they are. **¾

G1 Climax, Block B: Toru Yano vs. Hirooki Goto
So much for “FAIR PLAY”… Yano went back to his usual ways last time around, and got on the board against Kota Ibushi. Will he continue the trend here?

Yano offered a handshake before the bell, but he quickly takes off the turnbuckle pad and whips Goto with it at the bell. Using his t-shirt, Yano chokes and rolls up Goto for an early near-fall as he looked to be getting in and out of this one early… but Goto responds with a lariat as you felt that Yano’s window of opportunity was slamming closed. A spinning heel kick into the corner, and a Saito suplex out of it gets Goto a near-fall as Yano retaliated with a Timothy Thatcher-like rebound belly-to-belly suplex. Just like that though, Goto drags him down with a rear naked choke before a pinning attempt garners a near-fall. Yano tries a low blow, but it’s blocked as Goto throws some headbutts, then an ushigoroshi before the GTR puts away the Sublime Master Thief. They toned way down on the gimmicks here, and this match suffered for it. Fine, but disappointing. **¾

G1 Climax, Block B: Tama Tonga vs. Tetsuya Naito
Straight out of Twitter Jail, it’s the corn chip-loving Tama Tonga… accompanied by Tanga Loa, so you know what that means.

Naito’s not best pleased with the chaperone that Tama’s brought along, and after some discussion it looked like Tanga’s heading to the back… but it’s a ruse as it’s just used to distract Naito for an attack. Shrugging it off, Naito hits an armdrag before he takes Tama outside… but a dive’s cut-off by a trip from Tanga Loa, who quickly gets thrown into the guard railings before we inevitably… tranquilo!

Back in the ring, the pair trade shots, before Tama sweeps the leg to block Naito’s slingshot dropkick. They’re back on the floor as Tama suplexes Naito on the floor, before he acts all friendly with the referee so he can mask Tanga Loa attacking Naito. Naito beats the count-out and rolls into some ground and pound before a dropkick wipes out the Ingobernable for a near-fall. A neckbreaker from Naito sees him end that spell, before he built up to that slingshot dropkick in the corner… and a spit out to Tanga Loa on the floor. Naito connects with a tornado DDT off the ropes as he almost took home the win, before a Gun Stun turned into a hot shot as Naito was hung on the ropes. Tanga Loa gets involved again as he takes Naito off the apron and powerbombs him on the ramp while the referee’s distracted.

Tanga quickly scoops him up and rolls Naito back into the ring, allowing Tama to collect a near-fall. A Tongan Twist gets a similar result, before a Gun Stun’s countered into a German suplex by Naito! The Ingobernable’s firing back with a leaping forearm before it’s time for Destino… only for the referee to get wiped out as Naito was thrown into him. Poor Marty Asami… hope he gets danger money!

Tanga Loa hits the ring again, but there’s a save by EVIL! Bad Luck Fale wanders out too and wipes out EVIL with a shoulder charge… so here comes BUSHI, who sprays his way out of a Grenade before wiping out Tanga with a tope! With the interferers gone, Naito’s back up and looks for Destino, before he eats a mule kick low… he’s still able to block a Gun Stun and return with the foul before he slowly worked up into Destino for the win! Hey, if we’re having interference-riddled matches, at least match it consistent and entertaining… and still Tama Tonga’s merry band of goofs can’t convert their mayhem into victories. ***

G1 Climax, Block B: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tomohiro Ishii
A familiar foe for ZSJ here, with Ishii having taken the Rev Pro title off of Sabre in New Orleans earlier this year. Ishii’s got a 2-1 lead in singles matches… which is making me a little nervous over my pick here.

We start with Sabre trying to grab a hold of Ishii, eventually doing so as he looked for a test of strength… and lost out to the Stone Pitbull. They keep tussling away, before Sabre takes Ishii down to the mat… but it leads to another stalemate as Ishii seemed to be more than even to Zack’s game. Chops from Ishii keep Sabre pinned against the ropes, with Ishii picking him up to throw some more, before Zack caught one and takes him down to twist the arm between his legs.

Sabre continues to work over Ishii’s arms as the Stone Pitbull was forced to stretch his only free leg to the ropes for freedom, before mounting a comeback with a nice clothesline. Ishii’s back with chops and forearms as Sabre was again trapped in the ropes… before he rebounded again with a Northern Lights suplex that floated over into a cross armbreaker. Again, Ishii gets to the ropes for freedom, but Sabre keeps up the wrist manipulation, only for Ishii to jack the leg and follow up with a Saito suplex in a mini flurry of offence.

Out of nowhere, Ishii catches Sabre with a heel hook… but Sabre escapes and has to get to the ropes, before an enziguiri looked to catch Ishii off guard. A follow-up thrust kick takes Ishii off his feet, before Sabre started to unload with uppercuts as he looked to catch Ishii with more submissions. An omoplata turns into a double armbar as Sabre tried to force a submission, only for Ishii to again sneak a foot onto the rope for some more respite.

Sabre returns with some more kicks to Ishii, but the Stone Pitbull stands back up and nails a discus lariat after swatting away the kicks. A sliding lariat’s blocked, but Ishii saves it with a German suplex, before the sliding lariat gets a near-fall at the second attempt. We again go back and forth, with Sabre almost winning with the Euro clutch, before he goes right back to it after a PK… and still only gets a near-fall. Zack tried to win with a small package, but Ishii blocks it… only to get a Pele kick to the arm for his troubles as the Zack Driver looked to follow. A pop-up headbutt stops all that, before Zack rolled him to the mat in a crucifix as he goes for another triangle armbar… which he clings onto despite Ishii powerbombing him, and that’s the difference maker as Ishii quickly tapped to the armbar! Ishii perhaps tapping to save himself for later on in the tournament, after a fine outing that meshed technical wrestling with Ishii’s clunking style… clean as a sheet, which is a nice change in this tournament! ****¼

G1 Climax, Block B: Juice Robinson vs. Kenny Omega
This time a year ago, Juice Robinson shocked Kenny Omega in Osaka… can he repeat it this year and avoid the ignominy of being the only guy left with no points after four matches?

Juice is still banned from using the cast on his left hand as a weapon, and we start with Omega easily taking Kenny down to the mat as we’ve a callback to a prior outing when Juice had a hard time morally going after Omega’s injured knee. Headlock takedowns looked to be the order of the day, but Juice is able to use headscissors to nullify things, and hit an impromptu piledriver as he spiked Omega on the mat.

Robinson keeps up on Kenny, whipping him hard into the turnbuckles, before things turned around with Kenny looking for a Terminator dive… only to get hit with a slingshot back into the ring as Juice seemed to have the edge. A slam and a back senton keep it going, but Omega escapes a suplex and punts Juice in the ribs ahead of a Kotaro Krusher for a near-fall. That sent him outside, with a baseball slide keeping him there… but the Terminator dive wasn’t happening quite yet as Juice charged Omega into the guard rails. Complete with an apology for the English commentary crew…

Another trip to the guard rails is blocked as Omega ends up getting suplexed on the floor, then met with a cannonball off the apron as the English commentary area was taking a pounding with their monitors and sound going wonky. Back inside, Omega’s able to get a near-fall out of a crossbody, before Juice avoids a V-Trigger and throws in some Dusty punches, ending with a delayed chop. Kenny swings and misses again, but he eventually goes for Juice’s arm, kicking at it before a standing leg lariat from Juice put Kenny back on the mat.

A full nelson slam’s good for a near-fall for Juice, but he whiffs on a cannonball as he took that corner hard… allowing Omega to begin a comeback with a Finlay roll, only for the follow-up moonsault to get blocked with the knees. Juice tries for Pulp Friction on Omega, but Kenny tries to reverse, only to have to escape as the counters ended with Juice taking a pair of V-Triggers. Omega stacks up the snap Dragon suplexes, before he counters a lariat into a Fujiwara armbar, targeting the injured hand of Robinson. That ends in the ropes, as Juice looked to come back with a German suplex… he gets a receipt before dumping Omega with a lariat for a near-fall. The Juice Box attempt gets countered into a reverse ‘rana as Kenny went for the One WInged Angel… only for that to get countered into a Juice Box for a near-fall.

Another comeback from Omega sees him catch Juice with the Aoi Shoudou, then another V-Trigger before the One Winged Angel’s countered into a roll-up as the successive upset was again teased. One more V-Trigger’s next, before Juice falls to the One Winged Angel at the third attempt… and he’s still pointless. This was another cracking match, with plenty of callbacks to their prior outings, but in the end the story of Juice Robinson wrestling hurt, coming up short continued to play out… and I’ve a feeling this’ll be his lot for the remainder of the G1. ****

G1 Climax, Block B: Kota Ibushi vs. SANADA
It’s a first-time singles outing here, as SANADA main events in his hometown!

We start with the usual feeling-out process as SANADA gets tripped to the mat by Ibushi before wowing the crowd as he bamboozled Ibushi with switches, go-behinds and the like as the pair raced into the dual-dropkick stand-off. Ibushi tries to get the next step up with a side headlock, but it’s replied to in kind before Kota scored with a hiptoss and a snap ‘rana as he looked to be edging ahead. SANADA rolls to the outside from that, and in prime place for the Golden Triangle… but it misses as instead SANADA lands his moonsault off the apron, turning it into a Skull End before they fought on the ramp, with a low dropkick sending Ibushi down hard.

They return to the ring, but Ibushi’s attempt at a kick is countered into a Dragon screw as SANADA followed up deftly with a Figure Four, before they rolled into the ropes for freedom. The pair trade elbows once they’re back to their feet, but Kota cuts it off with a nice dropkick, then a flurry of kicks that put SANADA down for a standing moonsault. That gets Kota a near-fall, but SANADA’s right back in with a double leapfrog dropkick, then a plancha as the match returned to the outside.

SANADA looked to climb up top, but Ibushi cuts him off with a backflip kick as he looked to join him up top… SANADA shoves him down but can’t avoid a springboard ‘rana off the top as Ibushi nearly took home the win. They’re back outside, where Ibushi’s dive is avoided, before he hit a sweet Asai moonsault to SANADA, taking it back inside for a springboard missile dropkick… but SANADA returned with one of his own as the back-and-forth continued. SANADA pulls up Ibushi for a German suplex… it’s flipped out of, as was the receipt, before a Skull End attempt was flipped out of as Ibushi cracks him in the head with a kick. An attempted Kamigoye’s avoided, as was the lawn dart, with SANADA coming right back with a Skull End, swinging Ibushi around. They counter back-and-forth there, with SANADA pulling off the lawn-darting action, before a Tiger suplex saw SANADA come within a hair’s width of the three-count.

Looking for the exclamation mark, SANADA slammed Ibushi ahead of a moonsault… he has to abort it in mid-air as Ibushi instead hits a low dropkick, then a double stomp as he avoids the receipt. From their knees the pair trade elbows to the head, with the frequency and intensity increasing as time wore on, before SANADA catches a kick and returned fire with some uppercuts. Another uppercut’s countered as he backslides SANADA for a lariat as we crossed the 20 minute mark, just in time for a Golden Star Powerbomb to get Ibushi another near-fall!

Ibushi looks to win with a Kamigoye, but SANADA avoids and goes for the Skull End… a rope-hanging neckbreaker followed instead as they kept on countering, before SANADA just drags Ibushi to the mat with a scissored Skull End as the referee looked to wave off the match… only for SANADA to let go so he could go up top for the moonsault, which connects and gets him the three-count! A popular win in Niigata as SANADA left it all on the line to claim victory… and interestingly tie him on points with fellow Ingobernable Tetsuya Naito ahead of their collision course towards the end of the tour. ****¼

Another solid night’s action here, with two matches worth going out of your way to see (SANADA/Ibushi and Sabre/Ishii) – and I think by now we’re all in the phase of recognising the ongoing storylines and tropes in this G1. Still, as long as the Firing Squad are causing mayhem without generating any real results from it, more fool them, eh? There’s no rest for the wicked as we’re back on Friday in Shizuoka, with Okada vs. YOSHI-HASHI headlining on a card that doesn’t have any instant headline-grabbing matches, but should be quite decent nevertheless.

After four matches in each block, we’ve got a rather spread-out field in B block, with Omega and Robinson at opposing ends of the spectrum – rather unlike A block, which is all crammed together in comparison.

Block A:
EVIL, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jay White (3-1; 6pts)
Michael Elgin, Togi Makabe, Kazuchika Okada, Minoru Suzuki (2-2; 4pts)
Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page, YOSHI-HASHI (1-3; 2pts)

Block B:
Kenny Omega (4-0; 8pts)
Tetsuya Naito, SANADA (3-1; 6pts)
Hirooki Goto, Kota Ibushi, Tomohiro Ishii, Zack Sabre Jr. (2-2; 4pts)
Tama Tonga, Toru Yano (1-3; 2pts)
Juice Robinson (0-4; 0pts)