The penultimate round of A block action hit Osaka – and will the three left in the race be thinned down any more?

Something something something, この世の摂理に 抗う力を, break the contradictions! Kevin Kelly and a free-again Rocky Romero are back in Osaka for commentary,

Tomohiro Ishii & SHO vs. Juice Robinson & Shota Umino
After yesterday’s lip-busting war with Kenny Omega, Tomohiro Ishii may well be looking for an easier night here…

Juice unwisely looks to start the match with shoulder tackles with Ishii, and you can guess how that ends. Big Tom barely shifts, until he knocked Juice into the ropes with enough momentum to knock himself down. Both men tagged out, with Umino and SHO going at it… but it’s Umino who’s quickly on the defensive, eating a pair of shoulder charges. A chop from Ishii snuffs out Shota’s comeback, as the poor Young Lion was being laid into… to the point where he has to mount a comeback to save his life. Some kicks are finally stopped as Ishii goes back to the forearms, but a missile dropkick off the middle rope connects as Umino looked to pull himself free into the path of a tag.

Juice comes back in and quickly squashes Ishii with a cannonball, before scoring a leg lariat as Ishii looked to hit back… some Dusty punches and a chop just fire up Ishii, who slams his way back in, before a suplex brings in SHO to finish the job. Some elbows from Juice see him escape a German suplex, then return with a full nelson slam… and of course, now Shota wants back in. Don’t do it… aaah.

Umino’s sprightly in with his forearms, knocking down SHO before even going for Ishii. Yeah. Don’t try that… even though he gets a spinebuster, then watches Juice give one to SHO, things quickly went sour, after a missile dropkick nearly gets Shota a win. Umino went for a Boston crab, but SHO gets free and quickly drops Umino with a leaping knee. He’s got to survive Umino’s pinning predicaments, but they end up in the ropes before SHO blocks an inside cradle and knocks him down with a lariat, before a bridging German suplex put Umino away. A pretty standard finish, but lots of heart as you’re want to get from Shota… and now Ishii has a couple of days off to heal up before his next match! ***

David Finlay & Toa Henare vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA)
Add “I forgot David Finlay had a video” to the list…

Naito and SANADA face each other on Wednesday, so… they’re teaming here? There’s a jump start as Naito and SANADA end up getting whipped into each other as Henare and Finlay took the early advantage, with Henare almost pinning Naito in the opening minutes. Henare builds himself up for the Haka, but SANADA kicks him in the rope to stop the falling chop as Naito hits a neckbreaker to help turn things around. While Naito and SANADA may not be on good terms, they did at least work efficiently with each other… but they barely did much to build up an advantage.

A headbutt from Henare puts Naito down as Finlay looked to keep up the tempo with running back elbows… before he leaps over Naito and ends up taking an enziguiri for good measure. There’s another neckbreaker and a low dropkick onto Finlay, who gets a back suplex on SANADA before tagging out to Henare one more. Henare’s Samoan drop dumps SANADA for a two-count, as did a spinebuster takedown, but Naito’s return helps to turn it around as Henare gets sandwiched with low dropkicks for a near-fall.

From the kick-out, SANADA tries for the Skull End, but it’s countered into a suplex… and back into a Skull End as a bit of swingign eventually forces the submission. This felt rather flat to me, and a little unpolished in places. I’ve a feeling if Hiromu wasn’t injured, this’d have been a LIJ vs. LIJ tag, which would have been a little more enticing than what we got. **¼

There’s finally a fist bump from SANADA after the match, but Naito tries to jump him… before he just Tranquilos out.

Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Hirooki Goto & YOH
It’s Sabre vs. Goto on Wednesday, but it’s a meaningless match… unless Zack wants to add “NEVER title shot” to the IWGP US title shot he’s already bagged himself against Juice Robinson.

It’s TAKA and YOH who open things off, and it’s YOH who’s got the upper hand early with a couple of dropkicks, at least until TAKA pokes him in the eye. That opened up YOH for Sabre to bend him around, going for a STF, before TAKA came back in to continue the beatdown. Some knees to the face are good for near-falls, before both men tagged out so Sabre could lay into Goto… and get laid out with a clothesline.

TAKA takes a suplex onto Zack too, as a Saito suplex nearly gets Goto the win, but Sabre goes back with his submission game and starts to kick out at Goto. One of those kicks is caught and met with a lariat, before YOH returns… and gets his arm twisted off. Sabre’s overhead kick leaves him reeling as TAKA tags in… and falls to a superkick after YOH’d skinned the cat. A Falcon arrow’s next, but TAKA’s out just in time, and quickly traps YOH in a Bully choke on the mat, while Sabre stretched Goto in an Octopus hold. Fortunately YOH gets to the ropes, then escapes a Michinoku Driver before he O’Connor rolled back into the choke… only to counter out into a roll-up as YOH snatched the win! A fun finishing stretch, but otherwise an utter nothing match. **¼

Kota Ibushi & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
It’s Kota vs. Tama on Wednesday, and it’s a match that Tama really needs to win to keep his hopes alive…

Before the match, the Guerrillas try and offer Yujiro the chance to jump sides… he turns his back, and there’s a jump start to get us going. Yujiro manages to outsmart the Guerrillas as Tama gets subjected to some two-on-one, with a low dropkick and a handstand splash by Ibushi taking him down before Tanga Loa clears house.
Tama and Kota head outside as Loa suplexed Yujiro, who was taking the lion’s share of the assault here, with the Guerrillas making frequent tags either side of single moves. It’s like I’m watching 80s WWF squashes here. A stalling backdrop suplex from Tanga drops Yujiro, before Kota finally comes into stem the tide, unleashing on Tama with kicks and a standing moonsault.

Yujiro takes advantage with a low dropkick to Tanga as the ring remained full, ending with Kota taking Tama outside for a plancha. Tanga tries for the Apeshit it seems, but he’s countered with a reverse DDT before the Pimp Juice DDT was blocked, then turned into Apeshit for the win. Brief, and not much to write home about. *¾

Toru Yano & Gedo vs. Bullet Club (Kenny Omega & Chase Owens)
Last year, Yano and Omega had a hell of a fun comedy match… this year, Kenny’ll need to be more focused, given how tight it’s becoming in B block.

Omega’s here, all stitched up after Tomohiro Ishii tried to remove his bottom lip yesterday, but it’s Chase and Gedo who start. Owens starts with a poke to the eye as he dares Gedo into swinging at him… but he too gets poked in the eye as we’re all Three Stooges here. Omega’s in to hit a… double elbow on Gedo? It’s good for a near-fall, as the Bullet Club pair do their wishbone leg splitter series, complete with all the tags, and some rowing once Yano tries to run in.

Owens and Omega go after Gedo’s beard next, as he really should look to shave that damned thing anyway, before things backfire when Kenny’s thrown into Chase’s boot in the corner. Finally a tag’s made to Yano, who of course goes for the turnbuckle padding… but Chase Owens holds the pad in place! Another pad’s off, but Chase interferes, and instead the Bullet Club duo look to conchairto Yano with the pads…

Except Toru ducks, and they hit each other!

Hair pulls a plenty come next as referee Marty Asami reads the riot act, and we’re en route to a double clothesline as they poke fun as the usual tag team tropes. In comes Gedo and Owens next, with Chase taking, then giving Dusty punches, only for Gedo to knock him down. There’s a fun spot where Chase tries to package piledrive Gedo, only to fall back over a kneeling Yano as the pratfall nearly leads to the end, but in the end it’s a uranage backbreaker and another package piledriver that gets the win as Chase took the pin. Really enjoyable stuff – and plenty of “nudge nudge” comedy without it being too unsubtle. Kenny vs. Yano on Wednesday will definitely be a match you’ll remember. Just make sure you bring your own wrist tape! **½

G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Apparently Fale’s never been pinned or submitted in this G1. He’s sure eaten a lot of DQs though…

I fast-forward past “Road Dog” Tanga Loa, and I really fear for this match. YOSHI-HASHI starts by throwing forearms at Fale, but there’s bodyblows in return as YOSHI refused to go down… only to get tripped in the ropes by Tanga, as Fale scores with a clothesline. Fale grabs the referee in a headlock so he can’t see Tanga suplexing YOSHI on the floor, before Fale hurled YOSHI into the guard rails. You know what we’re all waiting for. YOSHI beats the count, gets stood on, I can probably write this in my sleep. There’s a slight change as Fale yanks on YOSHI’s arm in the rope, but YOSHI responds with a Headhunter to finally take the big man down.

A Blockbuster off the top connects as Tanga Loa’s a little late to his run-in, but then YOSHI goes for a Fisherman’s suplex. Which is bad, and he should feel bad. Fale resists, and charges back with a shoulder tackle and a big splash, before YOSHI escapes a Grenade and scores a lariat! I’m still waiting for the ref bump… Tanga Loa again interferes as YOSHI was up top, allowing Fale to grab him for a Fireman’s carry… but YOSHI slips out and shoves Fale into Tanga! A roll-up’s good for a near-fall, before a sunset flip… was sat down on… but YOSHI rolls away! Tanga Loa hits the ring and takes a lungblower before he’s clotheslined to the outside, as a running Meteora from YOSHI nearly gets the win.

YOSHI goes to a cross armbreaker afterwards, but Tama Tonga hits the ring to boos… and hits YOSHI with a chair for the blatant DQ. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. At least after the G1 they’ll need a new pattern for this… it wasn’t even that good a match before the shenanigans! ½*

Post-match, Tama Tonga goes after a fan in the crowd and grabs someone by the throat. Perhaps he recognised his Twitter? Instead, he just lays out Yota Tsuji with a chair to keep up looking mean.

G1 Climax, Block A: Minoru Suzuki vs. Hangman Page
Page took a page out of the Suzuki-gun playbook, knocking Minoru to the outside at the bell – while forearming Desperado into the railings.

He’s a one man wrecking crew, with Despy flying into the timekeeper’s table, while he brawled with Suzuki down the aisle, leading to this…

Yep, Hangman Page took down Minoru Suzuki with a moonsault by the stage! Desperado took some of it too, but Page isn’t letting up, throwing Suzuki into the ring in a bid to take the pin… but Suzuki grabs his arm and tried to snap his wrist instead, before he goes after Page on the outside to cash in those receipts. They’re back in the crowd as Page gets thrown into the crowd, then buried under guard railings as referee Marty Asami just got assaulted by Suzuki. Who knew you could use your own t-shirt to break your arm?

After waffling Page with a water bottle, they make it back to the ring for Suzuki to continue the beating… but Page hits back and dropkicks Suzuki into the corner. A pumphandle bridging fallaway slam just angers Suzuki though, as he goes back after Page’s arm, but Page gets to the rope to save himself as Suzuki just egged on his foe.

Page spits at Suzuki, which is REALLY inadvisable… as it leads to elbows to the head, then a rear naked choke as Suzuki was clearly looking for the Gotch… but Page fights out and instead hits a rolling elbow! A superkick keeps Suzuki down, before they worked around into the Buckshot lariat as Suzuki hit the deck hard. The Rite of Passage looked to follow, but Suzuki counters into a sleeperhold, before his Gotch piledriver’s countered into the Rite of Passage… and Page gets the massive upset! This was on the way to being a really good match, but don’t sleep on that result. New Japan see Page as a star in the making… and wins like this will help make that a reality. ***½

G1 Climax, Block A: Jay White vs. Togi Makabe
Jay White needs a win to really stay in contention – especially since Okada and Tanahashi face each other in Friday’s final block match…

White starts out with chops as he rocked Makabe early on, and they end up outside as Jay White makes his daily trip to the English commentary table. You know the drill: Makabe’s thrown into the ring post, then the guard railings – nearly sending the unattached segment flying – before he’s bounced between the ring apron and the commentary desk. He really, really hates English commentary. Or he’s overcompensating for JR.

Back in the ring, Makabe fires back with some right hands, but White’s still got those chops… which don’t stop him from being taken into the corner for the mounted punches. A clothesline’s next for a near-fall, followed by a Northern Lights, but White’s quickly back in with a spin-out suplex for a near-fall as he tried to find a foothold back into the match. Makabe keeps inviting on those strikes, which he gets, with chops, forearms and lariats just angering the Unchained Gorilla… before a Complete Shot and a deadlift German just ended up with Makabe throwing a desperation lariat to put the brakes on. A Spider German suplex looked to follow, but White had to grab hold of the turnbuckle iron to cling on… only to get caught with a Spider Belly-to-Belly instead, as White ended up using the referee as a human shield to prevent anything worse.

Not to worry, Makabe keeps up with a German suplex and another lariat for a two-count, before a slam looked to set up for a King Kong Knee drop. Makabe comes up short as White rolls outside to grab a chair… but it doesn’t work as Makabe just clotheslines the chair into Switchblade! Red Shoes Unno disarms Makabe, then gets shoved down… before White grabs a second chair and whacks him with it. The referee eventually rolls in as White knows he shouldn’t go for the pin, as a Blade Runner dumps Makabe on his head instead for the win. Decent, but unspectacular – White’s matches are following the same pattern, but at least they’re nowhere near as egregious as others we’ve seen on this tour. ***¼

G1 Climax, Block A: Michael Elgin vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
There’s only ever been one prior outing between these two in a singles match, with Tanahashi taking the win on a ROH show in 2015… and Tanahashi’ll need to make it 2-0 to keep his chances of winning at their best.

Elgin starts by taking Tanahashi into the corner, before he engaged in a test of strength, taking Tanahashi to his knees… but when Tanahashi aimed for Elgin’s injured arm he found a little more success before getting taken into the ropes. A shoulder tackle from Elgin seemed to affect Tanahashi a little more than it ought to, but the Ace is back with a hiptoss, before his springboard crossbody is caught with Elgin going for an electric chair… and then an inverted Alabama Slam as Tanahashi was taken down hard.

Elgin keeps up with a backbreaker, a slam, and a slingshot splash from the apron as Tanahashi looked to be on the proverbial ropes… but he comes back with a flying forearm after he’d been sent into the ropes. A back senton and a flip senton’s good for a near-fall as Tanahashi turned it around. Tanahashi ducks some attempted foul play from Elgin, as he found his way into a Dragon screw on the Canadian, but Elgin’s able to shrug it off as he starts to trade elbows, before a Falcon arrow draws a near-fall for Big Mike. Elgin takes too long in trying to go for a superplex, as Tanahashi slips out… and eventually catches him with a Dragon screw off the top! OW…

A cloverleaf from Tanahashi is powered out of, but Tana has to skin the cat as he tried to bring Elgin outside (and does it the hard way)… but Elgin’s quickly back inside with a gamengiri in the corner ahead of a big superplex! Elgin tries to follow up with a bucklebomb, but instead he’s got to counter a backdrop into a deadlift powerbomb as Tanahashi was almost clinging on!

The buckle bomb’s next, but Tanahashi rebounds instantly with a Slingblade for a near-fall! Tanahashi keeps up with a crucifix for another two-count, before he has to resist a German suplex and a Tiger suplex?! Tanahashi holds firm, but takes an elbow before finally countering a powerbomb into a rolling neckbreaker as the comeback rolled on! Slingblade! High Fly Flow… but Elgin rolls through! Tanahashi slips out and ends up exchanging strikes, before a huge lariat from Elgin scores… one more lariat puts Tanahashi down, as does a Splash Mountain, but it’s still not enough as the reaction inside the Edion Arena in Osaka became deafening. Another bucklebomb followed, but Tanahashi slips out of the Elgin Bomb and into a small package… and that’s the win for the Ace! A hell of a closing stretch, if not a little off at times (that’s what happens this deep into the tour, I guess), and Tanahashi remains very much alive at the top of the table. ****

G1 Climax, Block A: EVIL vs. Kazuchika Okada
Okada needs a win to have a chance – as he needs to win here and on Friday, while hoping Jay White slips up in Budokan. The pressure is on!

EVIL starts by trying to ground Okada in a headlock, but it’s barely for starters here as EVIL tried to put him away early with the Everything is EVIL… only for Okada to escape and hit a neckbreaker slam instead. They head outside, where Okada’s reversal to an Irish whip is reversed… and the former champ thuds into those railings, before EVIL heads under the ring for some chairs. It’s not a case of batter up though, as Okada just gets a chair put on his head before he’s thrown into the ring post.

Back inside, EVIL wrenches on the arm as a set-up for a curb stomp that picks up a two-count, before he continued to wear down on Okada with chops in the corner. Finally, Okada manages to get some separation with a DDT, but he can’t capitalise, as he takes a moment before kipping up… and here’s the comeback! EVIL’s knocked down with a back elbow, before a flapjack nearly put him away, with Okada starting to settle into a groove.

Elbows from Okada follow in the corner, but his attempt to dropkick EVIL off the top rope is thwarted as the Ingobernable came back with a back senton, but that latest run came to a brutal end as the pair fought on the apron… with Okada being thrown into the guard rails.

Still on the outside, EVIL takes Okada up the aisle… but it’s a little more effective than we saw with SANADA and Ibushi, as Okada lands a DDT instead, before a shotgun dropkick sent EVIL rolling back down the aisle, with Okada helping him back into the ring… for another shotgun dropkick! Another missile dropkick off the top catches EVIL in the face, but he can’t quite follow up with a tombstone as EVIL grabs a leg… before he slipped out and pulled the referee into harm’s way. Red Shoes ends up becoming an inadvertent partner as Okada eats a Magic Killer… which was quite the thing.

Okada’s able to get a boot up to stop EVIL in the corner, but he can’t avoid a clothesline as Darkness Falls for a two-count. A dropkick from Okada misses, but he’s back quickly for a Rainmaker… which EVIL ducks before landing one of his own for a near-fall as the tempo begins to rise. A half-nelson suplex dumps Okada from there, as does another lariat, but Okada’s still able to kick out, and eventually hit EVIL with his own move!

Everything is EVIL only got Okada a two-count as I guess Okada hadn’t stored up enough finishers, so he’s back with a dropkick and a tombstone, only for another exchange of finishers to end with another EVIL Rainmaker! Okada’s quickly back with a spinning Rainmaker, then another… and that… is… that! A hard-fought slog, with a testing exchange at the end as Okada almost let it slip through his grasp… but the G1 dream is still alive! Even if it’s not in his own hands… ****¼

The end of New Japan’s brief stay in Osaka was a decent show, as we’re getting towards the “squeaky bum moment” in A block. Yeah, the undercard was skippable as hell, and we’re still loathing those Firing Squad/Bullet Club OG matches, but the end of the G1 (and that match template) is in sight. With just one match left… A block is still wide open, even if it’ll need an unlikely result. The A block final round is in Budokan on Friday, with Jay White vs. EVIL and Tanahashi vs. Okada being the two stand-out matches… White needs to win and hope that Tanahashi loses in order to win the block, as even a draw will rule out the Switchblade, while Okada need to beat Tanahashi and hope White doesn’t.

Next up though, is the penultimate B block round in Kanagawa on Wednesday, with Tetsuya Naito vs. SANADA being perhaps the pivotal match in that block, while Kenny Omega looks to avoid the banana peel that is Toru Yano as he tries to keep hold of the lead.

Block A:
Hiroshi Tanahashi (7-1; 14pts)
Kazuchika Okada, Jay White (6-2; 12pts)
EVIL, Minoru Suzuki (4-4; 8pts)
Michael Elgin, Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page (3-5; 6pts)
Togi Makabe, YOSHI-HASHI (2-6; 2pts)

Block B:
Kenny Omega (6-1; 12pts)
Kota Ibushi, Tetsuya Naito (5-2; 10pts)
Zack Sabre Jr., SANADA (4-3; 8pts)
Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii (3-4; 6pts)
Juice Robinson, Tama Tonga (2-5; 4pts)
Toru Yano (1-6; 2pts)