Block A gets to play in Korakuen Hall as the residency continued – with Hangman Page’s biggest singles match of his career to date, against the luckless Kazuchika Okada!
“Come along to witness the wind we waited so long woah oh oh oh…” – if that song isn’t burrowing deeper into your subconscious, then you’re probably not watching the pre-show loops.
So today’s undercard has a major highlight as we’ve the first major clash within Bullet Club since the Tongans split apart and formed their own Firing Squad (a name we’re using… but they’ve not been announced as such despite that being on their damned t-shirts in San Francisco) – Kenny Omega & Chase Owens vs. the Guerrillas of Destiny, which will be the first time I’m actually looking forward to the chaotic-yet-ineffective interference. Once again, Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero are on the English call, looking to dodge all of the interference today…
Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Toa Henare & Shota Umino
Zack’s got SANADA tomorrow, but first TAKA’s acting how we’re all feeling…
We’re only four nights in TAKA, there’s a lot more to go! On paper this ought to be an easy win for ZSJ. TAKA and Shota start, with the pair exchanging headlocks, before Zack gets the tag in and ties up Umino just like you’d expect him to. TAKA keeps that going with some grounded headscissors to Umino, prompting Henare to wander in and stomp the hold apart, but still Shota’s kept isolated. Finally the Young Lion throws in with some chops, prompting TAKA to kick him in the knee as he continued to outsmart the relative rookie. Umino manages to get free with a dropkick though, and now here comes Henare with forearms and a flying shoulder tackle. A scoop slam’s next, before Sabre gets involved to try and stop a falling chop… but to no avail as TAKA ends up taking the strike for a near-fall.
Zack manages to come in, but he’s instantly met with a Samoan drop… but for some reason Henare tags in Umino, who quickly goes for a Boston crab… and of course Zack blocks it. The Boston crab’s turned into a STF, with Umino getting wrenched on before he dragged himself to the bottom rope. Out of nowhere, Umino almost wins with a roll-up, then a backslide as Sabre’s finding himself caught on the hop, before Zack looked for the Zack Driver and instead turns Shota into a Cobra Twist… dragging him down to the mat for the submission. As straightforward as you expected, but a lot of fun. ***
Kota Ibushi & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Toru Yano & Gedo
Gedo was subbing for Jado here due to an injury… so we have perhaps the worst person for “Wrestling Machine” Yano to tag with in his quest to stay on the straight and narrow.
Gedo and Yujiro start us off exchanging bites as they looked to out-do each other, following up with beard and hair pulls before Kota Ibushi actually took advantage, flying in with an axehandle smash as Gedo was being held by his facial fuzz. It’s all Kota from there as a standing moonsault nearly puts away the “Raintaker”, who managed to rebound by ducking a big boot from Ibushi and take him down with a low dropkick.
Toru Yano’s tagged in and instinctively goes for the turnbuckle pad… but referee Marty Asami has to stop him as Yano and Ibushi instead slugged it out. That flurry of kicks from Kota is stopped by an atomic drop from Yano, who really has no willpower as he goes for the padding again, which almost leads to Ibushi running into the exposed corner. It backfired as Yano ended up running into it instead, ahead of a standing corkscrew moonsault as Ibushi takes advantage.
A RINGKAMPF-like belly-to-belly suplex sees Yano use the ropes to full advantage, but the ring quickly fills up as Ibushi and Yano took each other out ahead of their match tomorrow. It looked like Gedo was being left behind for Pimp Juice, but he countered with a roll-up for a near-fall, then a sunset flip, before Yujiro rebounded with the Pimp Juice DDT for the win. Another fun outing here, with Yano looking good… but until he gets a win, I’m still not sold on the longevity of this “wrestling machine” he’s becoming. ***
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA) vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay
It’s Naito/Robinson tomorrow, and that could well be a banana skin for the Ingobernable. This tag match though, not so much.
From the off, Naito instantly looked to go after Juice’s broken hand, focusing on that rather than anything else… including mockingly going for a test of strength on the hand before opting to tag out to SANADA. In comes Finlay, who scores with a dropkick before Naito tripped him in the ropes to allow SANADA to turn things around. In the meantime, Naito pulled Robinson off the apron and took him into the crowd as that broken hand was smashed into the English commentary desk, then into the guard rails as Juice was left in agony on the floor.
Naito and SANADA isolate Finlay as he was left without a partner, but Robinson’s able to come back in and mount a comeback, taking down Naito with a clothesline before breaking into those Dusty punches… except Naito spits at him, which almost prompted Juice to use his cast. The referee stopped him… and now Naito goes for the hand, landing a low dropkick before using a wristlock as the damage looked to have been done, despite Finlay making the save. SANADA’s brought back in, but he eats a leg lariat as Juice gets the tag out, with Finlay working his way up into a uranage backbreaker on SANADA for a near-fall. Some double-teaming with Juice backfires though as the ring filled up again, clearing as SANADA ends up rolling Finlay into the Skull End, swinging him around by the head before the inevitable submission. Another fun undercard tag – and I liked how Naito actually made a point of going for Juice’s hand from the start. He doesn’t give a… ***¼
Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Bullet Club (Kenny Omega & Chase Owens)
Bullet Club OGs/Firing Squad against the remains of the Bullet Club here – and apparently that Firing Squad tee is a New Japan exclusive now.
There’s some understandable hesitance before the match, but that quickly gives way to a brawl as Owens and Omega hit the ring, with the Guerrillas quickly focusing on double-teaming Chase Owens as the numbers game was in full effect. Dividing and conquering backfired as a low dropkick and a double Kotaro Krusher from Omega wipes out the Guerrillas, before Tama sidestepped an Omega plancha on the outside.
Back in the ring, Tanga Loa tries to restrain Owens with a suplex for a two-count, before Tama Tonga keeps up the work on Chase. A back elbow dumps him down to the mat, as before he’s able to escape a running powerslam from Tanga Loa to keep the match going. Chase looked to tag out, but Tama pulled Omega off the apron at the last possible moment, meaning that Chase had to fight back all by himself.
Tanga lifts him onto the apron, but Owens rebounds with a superkick before Tama had to break up a package piledriver attempt, hitting him with a Tongan Twist as Omega returned to keep the Parade of Moves going. Kenny and his new fringed tights looked to go for a V-Trigger, but Tanga Loa saves his partner as Omega barely breaks up a cover on Owens. Tama’s back with Gun Stuns for all, and plenty of swears, before Tanga Loa took out Chase with the Apeshit sit-out tombstone. That was a lot more emphatic than I expected, but perhaps it’s making things too clear tomorrow… I don’t expect Omega to eat a L on Saturday, but I do expect interference a plenty there. ***
Post-match, Tama Tonga rushed back to the ring to catch Omega out with another Gun Stun… and some more swears.
Tomohiro Ishii & SHO vs. Hirooki Goto & YOH
We’ve gotten Roppongi 3K on opposite sides once more here, but it’s the G1 combatants who start us off here.
Goto initially finds no luck with his shoulder blocks as the two men charged into each other, ending when the Stone Pitbull barged through the NEVER champion. That leads to some tags out as SHO and YOH came in amid a Bon Jovi reference on commentary, with the Roppongi 3K teammates exchanging roll-ups and armbars before the eventual stand-off. YOH manages to hit back with a diving forearm, before he manages to outsmart the tagged-in Ishii with a Dragon screw.
YOH tags out himself as he doesn’t fancy handling a size-difference, as the action remained rather frantic, with Goto suplexing SHO onto Ishii. An elbow to the leg helps Ishii stay in it, but he’s caught with a back suplex for a near-fall from the NEVER champion. Another tag brings YOH back in to stay on top of Ishii, which he goes so with a gamengiri and a slingshot stomp as Ishii was finding himself on the back foot.
A teased German suplex looked to be a bridge too far for YOH, but he was able to hoist up Ishii for a Falcon arrow to come within a split-second of an upset. SHO blindsides his partner with a gamengiri as the pair went back at it, as a German suplex keeps YOH on the mat… but Ishii’s still the legal man and almost gets rolled-up for the win, before a series of double-teams ends with an Ishii lariat for a near-fall. From there, the sheer-drop brainbuster from Ishii leaves YOH down, and it’s elementary from there as a better-than-usual undercard was capped off. ***½
G1 Climax, Block A: Jay White vs. Michael Elgin
Someone’s 100% record is going here, and you’d probably bet on the Switchblade after he started his G1 with wins over Okada and Tanahashi. It’s going to be quite the tumble if he doesn’t make the finals…
Elgin’s in his G1 trunks (as opposed to tag match singlet), and once White’s done orbiting him, the Kiwi begins by throwing some forearms to the back as the feeling out process begins. A chop’s off target but caught as White tries for a back suplex and gets countered on before the chop battle began in earnest. Time for a plan B? White powders to the outside after taking some chops, then gets met with a tope from Elgin, who tried to follow up with a powerbomb on the outside. Instead, we get more chops as Elgin sets up some chairs in the crowd ahead of a suplex attempt across the guard railings – that doesn’t work though, as White slips out and pulled Elgin onto the guard railings ahead of a Saito suplex on the outside.
Returning to the ring, White tries to go back to the chops as he cornered Elgin, but Big Mike throws big chops as he ended up falling to a neckbreaker for a near-fall, before a Muta lock forced him towards the ropes for a break. Undeterred, White traps Elgin between the ropes, only to get knocked down and crushed with a slingshot stomp from the Canadian, who keeps up with a corner enziguiri and a Northern Lights suplex for a near-fall.
White’s able to rebound with a German suplex, then a uranage as he continued to chip away on Elgin, but he can’t quite get him up for a Kiwi Krusher as Elgin looked to counter back with a Falcon arrow. Instead, they slugged it out, with White again edging ahead until he’s met with an enziguiri as things were reset once more. A Flatliner and a German suplex get chained together by Switchblade as somehow we’d only been going for ten minutes!
Elgin’s German suplex ensured both men stayed on the mat, before he backdrops out of a butterfly suplex attempt. Somehow, Elgin holds on, but gets caught with some rolling facelock suplexes for a new version of the Three Amigos, only for Elgin to reverse and take him up top for a thunderous superplex! Big Mike keeps up with a big splash off the top, but White finds it in himself to kick out at two, so he takes him into the corner as a set-up for a Burning Hammer… but White slips out onto the apron, where he’s forced to escape a half-and-half suplex.
— LARIATOOOO!! (@MrLARIATO) July 20, 2018
A sliding Downward Spiral dumps Elgin onto the apron though, before what looked like a Kiwi Krusher off the apron led to a nasty landing, which leads to Elgin almost taking a count-out loss… before he returned to the ring to eat a sleeper suplex. They keep going as Elgin throws forearms and elbows, then a half-and-half suplex, before a huge lariat set him up for a Tiger Bomb! White somehow kicked out, and we’re back into ref bump territory as White grabs hold of Marty Asami to save himself from an Elgin Bomb.
With no referee, White hits a low blow, then the Blade Runner… and the 100% run stays alive – by hook or by crook! Whether you like it or not, these shady finishes are here to stay for White in the G1, and I’ll say it again: it’ll be a massive collapse if he doesn’t make it to the finals from here. A fun match until the finish, but the Jay White build is becoming more and more obvious. ****¼
G1 Climax, Block A: Minoru Suzuki vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Well, someone’s getting points here, and personally my cash is on a battering for YOSHI-HASHI.
YOSHI starts the match by going right after Suzuki, throwing forearms and sending him down with a shoulder block… and he’s even able to catch him out on the floor, stopping Suzuki from using a chair before opting to chop him by the ring apron. That eventually backfires as Suzuki grabs the arm and wraps it around the ring post, before throwing YOSHI into the guard rails so hard he falls into the crowd.
You know what’s next… chairshots! Lots and lots of chairshots. YOSHI (unwisely) beats the count-out as Suzuki goes right back to the arm, catching it in the ropes for an armbar as the veteran was just toying with YOSHI, peppering him with shots ahead of a running boot into the corner. A PK’s caught though, as YOSHI comes back in with a DDT and some chops, before draping Suzuki over the ropes for the dropkick. You’re only going to make him madder…
Suzuki gets back up as he eats a Blockbuster off the top rope for a near-fall, but he can’t quite follow-up with a flipping powerbomb, and quickly gets dragged back down to the mat in a Fujiwara armbar. It segues into a cross armbar as YOSHI makes it to the ropes, before he’s pulled into a rear naked choke… but the Gotch piledriver’s fought out of! Backdropping himself free, YOSHI remains in trouble, but he stops Suzuki with a Western lariat, then a Bunker Buster neckbreaker for a near-fall, before he goes to the butterfly lock.
Suzuki eventually hauled his way to the ropes for a break, but his attempt at another armbar is caught and countered back into the butterfly lock once again, sinking it in as Suzuki again slid his way towards the ropes for an eventual break. Undeterred, YOSHI looks for Karma, but Suzuki deadweights him and ends up crushing YOSHI with a running dropkick in the ropes… NICE!
— LARIATOOOO!! (@MrLARIATO) July 20, 2018
A second wind from Suzuki sees him pepper YOSHI with a relentless barrage of strikes, but a superkick and an inside cradle out of nowhere nearly led to the upset. YOSHI goes to the well once too often for that butterfly lock though, and this time Suzuki rolls through and clocks him with a forearm smash as the Gotch piledriver levelled YOSHI… and gives Suzuki his first points of the tournament. Bloody hell, that was a hell of a showing from YOSHI-HASHI, but it looks like his tournament’s going to be characterised by that – with perhaps an upset at the end. ***¼
G1 Climax, Block A: EVIL vs. Togi Makabe
A first time singles meeting between these two, and they start off laying into each other with elbows, picking up where they left things last night.
Shoulder tackles are next, then chops, but it’s EVIL who’s forced outside first as he tastes those ring barriers… but so does Makabe, courtesy of a drop toe-hold. That gives EVIL the chance to grab some chairs from under the ring, and batter up! The chair barely moves from Makabe’s neck, which looked to suck, before the pair brawled into the crowd and up into the seating decks. Makabe squirms out of the Darkness Falls, before blocking a running clothesline as he threw a lariat of his own!
— LARIATOOOO!! (@MrLARIATO) July 20, 2018
The pair wander back towards the ring, with a brief stop by the ring post for EVIL, before some mounted punches in the corner kept EVIL on the back foot. Another lariat dumped him for a near-fall, but EVIL catches a boot and with the help of the referee lands a superkick to take the veteran down.
EVIL comes right back in with a Bronco Buster into the corner for a near-fall, before catching Makabe in the middle of the ring with a guillotine, rolling him down to the mat and into the Banshee Muzzle. Makabe gets a foot to the rope to save himself, before he has to escape another Darkness Falls before throwing some Mongolian-like chops in a bid to dominate EVIL… it doesn’t work as he’s caught with a release Fisherman buster for a near-fall though.
Third time was the charm for Darkness Falls, with Makabe barely kicking out in time, before he’s forced to elbow away from Everything is EVIL. More lariats from Makabe are effective, but EVIL hits back in kind, eventually taking him down before swiping away the leg for the Everything is EVIL STO… and EVIL has the W, leaving Jay White alone at the top of the block with the perfect record. An enjoyable hoss fight, as Makabe continues to try and slug his way to victory in the tournament… will this be anything more than a speedbump for him though? ***½
G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
This is the fifth year in a row these two have met in the G1, with a 2-2 record in their prior meetings… and it’s Tanahashi who shoots out of the blocks in a bid to take Fale down, trapping his leg in the ropes. A drop toe-hold takes down a charging Fale as Tanahashi looked to be outsmarting the Tongan, taking him to the outside as a cannonball senton off the apron kept the match in the Ace’s favour. Fale mounts a comeback with an Irish whip that sent Tanahashi into the guard rails and over into the lap of SHO on the Japanese commentary, before he grabbed a chair in frustration. It’s just to distract the referee as Tanga Loa stomps on Tanahashi in the crowd, because Lord knows we need shortcuts in multiple matches on the same card!
Tanahashi comfortably beats the referee’s count, but Fale’s in control now, standing on him in the ropes as those 40 pounds lost by Fale probably didn’t make too much difference for Tanahashi. More choking ensues in the ropes as Tanahashi was firmly on the defensive, taking a scoop slam as Fale just sits on him for a near-fall. Clubbering lariats trap Tanahashi in the corner as Fale declared that the match was “too easy”, just in time for Tanahashi to mount a low-dropkick spamming comeback!
Except he tries to go for a German suplex, which Fale easily thwarts before he’s tripped and met with a Dragon screw on the mat. A cloverleaf is next, after Tanahashi struggled to turn him over… but Fale shoves him away and sent Tanahashi to the outside, right by Tanga Loa. Tanahashi rushes back in, but his bid to knock Fale off the apron backfires as he has to make do with a Dragon screw between the ropes, but a sunset flip goes horribly wrong as Fale just sits on Tanahashi for a near-fall.
The big splash off the ropes is next for another two-count, as Tanahashi looked to fight back once more, only to run into a lariat. He swats away a Grenade, but instead eats a Samoan drop, before the Bad Luck Fall was teed up… it’s countered into a ‘rana that almost wins it for Tanahashi… who looked for a Slingblade, before rolling up Fale for another sloppy two-count. Fale blocks another small package and looked to counter, but he’s met with a rolling neckbreaker instead, before a Slingblade put him down… just in time for Tanahashi to head up top… but his High Fly Flow comes up short!
From there, Fale takes Tanahashi into the corner for a splash and a Grenade, before going right back to the Bad Luck Fall… but it’s countered into a Slingblade! Tanahashi goes back up top, and nails a High Fly Flow, only for referee Red Shoes to get pulled out by Tanga Loa as the match was about to be won! Tanga puts the boots to Tanahashi as the ref was down on the floor, but that too backfires as Fale ends up clotheslining Tanga!
Plan C came into effect pretty quickly as Tama Tonga hits the ring and dumps Tanahashi with a nasty looking Gun Stun… but referee Red Shoes comes back in and refuses to count the pin, instead flipping off the Bullet Club OGs and awarding the DQ!
— LARIATOOOO!! (@MrLARIATO) July 20, 2018
Another decent outing until the mandated interference, and I’m starting to get fond of how the Firing Squad’s interference plan isn’t getting results. Unless they’re just salaried by New Japan, and therefore don’t care about wins… ***¾
G1 Climax, Block A: Hangman Page vs. Kazuchika Okada
Our main event is another first-time singles match… and one that could well define Okada’s G1 as he’s never been 0-3 in these tournaments before.
Those balloons are a little, err, phallic, no?
Okada, who’s gone over 40 days without a win, started up as normal, tying up with Page before finding himself having to fight out of a wristlock as the pair looked for an early advantage. A drop toe hold from Okada sees him catch Page off guard, but he’s taken outside with a clothesline… and can’t get up in time as Page just topes into thin air, catching Okada on the way down.
Back inside, Page catches Okada with chops, then a standing shooting star press as the Hangman looked to have the better of the record-breaking former IWGP champion. A slingshot senton back into the ring traps Okada, who finally comes back with a DDT as he finds his footing, taking down Page with a running back elbow, then a flapjack for a near-fall. They miss elbows into the corner as Okada just lifts Page up top and dropkicks him to the floor, where he takes Page into the crowd… before falling to a Buckshot lariat as Page slingshotted from the barriers.
— LARIATOOOO!! (@MrLARIATO) July 20, 2018
Returning to the ring, Page takes his time climbing the ropes for a moonsault, and he pays for it as Okada rolled away, and after avoiding a Rite of Passage, he ends up going for a tombstone… which Page countered into the package tombstone for a near-fall! Okada clings onto the rope to avoid the Rite of Passage, and after hitting a forearm he’s back up top… but Page stops him from screaming for a cartoon dog.
A superplex from Page gets blocked by some bodyblows from Okada, as he shoved down the Hangman, only to get clocked again with a forearm and then brought down with an avalanche swinging neckbreaker! Okada rolled out to the floor for some respite… which he didn’t get as Page follows him out for a moonsault off the middle rope! Page quickly throws him back inside for another Buckshot lariat, but Okada’s up at two to fight another day. Okada’s almost resorting to sneaky roll ups here as Page retained dominance, catching him in the corner for a dropkick, before a slam was countered out of and into a tombstone as Okada hits it out of desperation. Page realises he has to find another gear, right as Okada catches him with a big boot… and Page returns the favour with a discus forearm, only to run into the classic Okada dropkick.
A superkick out of nowhere stuns Okada, but he’s able to lift Page onto the apron as a third Buckshot lariat is countered into a Rainmaker… which is countered into a powerbomb for a near-fall! Another rolling elbow decks Okada, as the Rite of Passage was again attempted… but Okada slips out and lands a discus lariat! Not a Rainmaker, mind you, as that was to follow, and ONE RAINMAKER gets the win. Huh. That was a little anticlimactic given how dominant Page was, but it worked in the sense that Okada hasn’t completely become a washout… and all it takes is one solid Rainmaker for him to get back to winning ways. Regardless of the loss, this tournament is well on its way to making Page a star in this company – and I’m thinking you’ll be solidifying two stars out of this block by the time we’re done. ****
So, after yesterday’s show which was good but not overly great, I think we’ve finally found our first great top-to-bottom show of the tournament, in spite of no stand-out matches. Perhaps it’s just me accepting that we’re going to have those tropes with Switchblade and the Firing Squad throughout the tournament. Still, my own little narrative that “the Squad’s interference isn’t working and they’re just being made to look like dummies” continues, so I get both my own personal storyline satisfaction on top of the good wrestling here.
The G1 returns on Saturday morning, staying at Korakuen, for another round of block B action, with Kenny Omega vs. Tama Tonga and Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii headlining as two factions collide against each other. As for the blocks… here’s your latest standings:
Jay White (3-0; 6pts)
EVIL, Michael Elgin, Togi Makabe, Hiroshi Tanahashi (2-1; 4pts)
Bad Luck Fale, Kazuchika Okada, Hangman Page, Minoru Suzuki (1-2; 2pts)
YOSHI-HASHI (0-3; 0pts)
Kota Ibushi, Kenny Omega (2-0; 4pts)
Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, Tama Tonga, Zack Sabre Jr. (1-1; 2pts)
Juice Robinson, Toru Yano (0-2; 0pts)