For only the third time in G1 history, we’ve got Okada vs. Tanahashi… will the Ace make it to the finals, or will he slip up and let Okada or Jay White in instead?

“Wanna go high? Wanna go low? Break the contradictions” It’s the final stretch on the tour, and for the finals we’re inside Budokan Hall – New Japan’s first visit here in over fifteen years! Not since their Crush show in 2003 (no, not a Bryan Adams tribute card) has New Japan solely promoted an even there. We’ve Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero and Chris Charlton back on commentary! There’s a gem we’ve all discovered on this G1 – the understated historical tidbits from Chris, who I wouldn’t mind becoming a full time part of the commentary crew (or at least, as full time as his commitments allow!)

Toa Henare & Shota Umino vs. Tomohiro Ishii & SHO
My God, that is a huge stage in Budokan!

SHO and Shota started us off, but it’s Umino who gets us underway, with a little help from Henare as there’s some double-teaming, only for Ishii and SHO to take over with shoulder charges. Ishii tags in proper next, lighting up Umino with chops, as the poor Young Lion was taking a pasting… before he surprised Ishii with a dropkick.

Henare’s tagged in, as his clubbering of Ishii built him up to a Samoan drop, before a uranage was stuffed, with Ishii returning fire with a German suplex instead. SHO’s brought in, but he’s instantly reversed into a suplex, before Umino’s brought in… and almost shocks SHO with a backslide, then a La Magistral as he picked up some near-falls.

A forearm looked to do the trick, but SHO counters with a clothesline for a near-fall, before a deadlift, bridging German suplex put away the Young Lion. Smart to shift away from the Shock Arrow given the recent hubbub around neck injuries… and this was a decent opener considering this wasn’t building to anything direct (it’s Ishii/SANADA tomorrow). **¾

Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Toru Yano & Gedo
In light of the apparent directive from New Japan to cut down on swearing, Tama Tonga… did not wear any expletive-ridden shirts.

Toru Yano really didn’t want any part of this match, even refusing to spray water on the Guerrillas out of fear of riling them. Yano rolled to the outside as he and Gedo seemed to not even want to start this… the bell rings anyway, so we open with a count, which they beat, only to get beaten on by the GOD.

All four end up on the outside, before going back inside… where Yano instantly went after the turnbuckle padding. A back elbow from Tama knocks him down, so in comes Tanga Loa to run into an atomic drop. Except it doesn’t work… so Yano tags out to Gedo. Who’s stunned.

There’s a thrust kick from Gedo that nearly puts Tanga away, but the power kick-out forces Gedo to swear as he tries to snatch a win with a roll-up, then a crucifix… except it’s turned into a Samoan drop, before Tanga dumps him quickly with Apeshit. A short outing, but at least the opening spell raised a smirk. *¾

Hirooki Goto & YOH vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay
Tomorrow’s B block features a clash between the NEVER and US champions, with Juice looking to avoid finishing joint bottom.

Finlay and YOH begin, trading wristlocks and headlocks, before a diving uppercut knocks YOH down and into the ropes. YOH returns the favour with a forearm, only for a dropkick from Finlay to counter things… but Goto gets the tag in as we started a spell of double-teaming.

There’s a chinlock out of Goto, as he and YOH exchange frequent tags before Juice finally gets the lukewarm tag in, cornering Goto and YOH with corner-to-corner lariats and cannonballs. My God, the crowd’s roaring behind Juice as he unleashed Dusty punches before an attempted Pulp Friction to Goto was countered. A quick tag out looked to lead to some double-teaming on Goto, but that too is stopped as Finlay instead nails a uranage backbreaker for a near-fall.

Finlay looks for a Stunner, but it’s countered out of into a superkick, then an ushigoroshi, before Goto put him away with the GTR. Decent undercard stuff, with nice exchanges between Juice and Goto – that’s going to be a bit of a sleeper tomorrow, assuming Goto doesn’t settle into his understated groove. **¾

Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA)
Despite being tied for third, Sabre’s out of the G1 – while Naito is technically in with a shot as he needs to beat Sabre tomorrow and hope Kenny Omega loses.

We start with a fist-bump between Naito and SANADA, so they’re back on the same page after yesterday, before Naito tried to evade Sabre… who just tags out as he looked to play some of Naito’s own mind games. Nevermind, Naito jumps Sabre to the outside after tagging out to SANADA, and we’ve got out first guard rail spot of the match as Naito whipped the New Japan Cup winner into the steel.

Sabre returns the favour as he tripped Naito and dragged him to the outside in a toe hold, before tagging in to continue the offence on SANADA, using a cravat and a neck twist to keep him on the mat. SANADA flips out of a snapmare and catches Sabre with a low dropkick, just in time for Naito to come in and try and keep up that offence, throwing shots at Sabre in the corner before using a ‘rana.

TAKA tries to run in and gets a similar fate, before a neckbreaker on Sabre led to a corner dropkick… but Zack catches it and turns it into a guillotine suplex on Naito! Those two continue to go at it, but an enziguiri from Naito finally gets him an upperhand as the pair tagged out for the finishing stretch. SANADA has to overcome an eye rake before tripping TAKA and putting him in a Paradise Lock… wonder how that feels?

A low dropkick frees TAKA, who goes back to the eye ahead of an enziguiri, before SANADA quickly gets back in with a swinging Skull End for the quick tap. Simple and straightforward, doing exactly what was needed ahead of tomorrow’s feature match. ***

Post-match there’s afters as Naito riled up Sabre from a distance… and it worked.

Kota Ibushi, Marty Scurll & Chase Owens vs. Kenny Omega & Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson)
The Bullet Club’s… imploding again, as the NEVER trios champions are on opposite sides here as Kota Ibushi returned to Budokan to tempt fate.

Speaking of fate, why does Kenny Omega’s entrance video still say he’s the US champion?!

There’s clear trepidation before the bell, but it’s Marty Scurll and Matt Jackson who start us off, doing shtick before Matt avoids a low dropkick as we have a lot of swinging and missing ahead of a stand-off. Oh, and what I think may well be Flamenco…

Chase and Kenny tag in next, with a little more of the same with leapfrogs, dropdowns and a missed V-Trigger as we’re still waiting for our first contact here, before Kota and Nick tag in. More of the same, before we head outside as Ibushi avoids an apron PK before we have our third stand-off as we have an aborted Golden Triangle moonsault. It’s turning into comedy as everyone misses elbow drops, then clotheslines, before everyone flaps like a bird. Finally we get Omega/Ibushi after five minutes of no contact, but then all of a sudden the Guerillas of Destiny hit the ring to lay out Kenny Omega as Kevin Kelly broke the no swear rule. You see, the Tongans are going to ruin tomorrow’s final as this match was thrown out as a no contest. That’s a rare one.

So, after that little diversion… onto the block finals!

G1 Climax, Block A: Michael Elgin vs. Togi Makabe
A loss would ensure Makabe finishes at least joint bottom, and it’s a first-time singles outing here for these two.

Makabe starts by charging into Elgin with shoulders, then elbows, before he dropped some pennies into the swear jar ahead of an elbow. A missed clothesline from Makabe set up Elgin for a belly-to-belly that gets a near-fall, before he picks up Makabe for some chops into the corner. Ow.

There’s a big boot to keep the veteran in the corner, but he’s able to rebound with a powerslam. The pair look to elbow out of waistlocks, only for Makabe to hit with a Northern Lights suplex as he snatched at whatever opportunities he could… as did Elgin, whose enziguiri rocked Makabe ahead of a deadlift German suplex for a near-fall.

Makabe’s back with clotheslines as the pair rocked each other, but another German suplex from Elgin looked to cut it off… only for the pair to trade away on those ahead of a lariat from Makabe for barely a one-count. Another clothesline dumps Elgin for a two-count, and Makabe tries to go to the finish, taking Elgin up top for a Spider German.

Elgin escapes that and a spider belly-to-belly, before instead sitting Makabe up for a Splash Mountain out of the corner, landing it for a two-count. An Elgin Bomb’s blocked by Makabe, who has to endure more elbows from the Canadian, then clotheslines… before he fires back in kind, trading shots before he shocks Elgin with a death valley driver.

Togi heads up top after that, and connects with the King Kong Knee drop pretty quickly… and that’s the win after a relatively sprightly, hard-hitting match here. Good stuff, but I can’t help get the feeling that we’re not too far away from Makabe getting a winless farewell G1. ***½

G1 Climax, Block A: Hangman Page vs. YOSHI-HASHI
After that result, YOSHI-HASHI needs to win to avoid finishing bottom of the block.

Page takes the early advantage, taking down YOSHI, before running into a back elbow and a slam as YOSHI tried to fire back… only to get dumped with a neckbreaker through the ropes and to the floor. A shooting star headbutt’s next from Page to the outside, then a bridging pumphandle fallaway slam back inside as Page almost ends it early.

YOSHI’s able to slip in with a Bunker Buster after he went after Page’s knee, following in with elbows and chops before the Head Hunter neckbreaker catches Page out. The momentum continues with more chops and a top rope Headhunter, but Page comes right in with a German suplex to stem the tide and almost take the win.

Page fires in with some more chops, then a forearm as the match descended into tit-for-tat shots, ending with YOSHI hanging Page in the ropes… but the dropkick is blocked as Page slingshotted back in for a Buckshot Lariat for a near-fall! The Rite of Passage was teased next, but Page instead hits a ‘rana before taking YOSHI up top for a swinging neckbreaker off the middle rope.

That nasty landing helped Page get a near-fall, and after a brief stoppage to ensure YOSHI could continue, he quickly rolls up into a Rite of Passage attempt… which is countered out into Karma, which too is blocked, as was another Rite as YOSHI somehow turned it into a Destroyer! Bloody hell!

Again, YOSHI goes for Karma, but instead has to settle for a back cracker, before nailing Karma at the third time of asking for the win! So he’s finishing with a share of bottom place, after ending the G1 with a strong showing. ***½

G1 Climax, Block A: Minoru Suzuki vs. Bad Luck Fale
There’s only ever been one prior match between these two one-on-one, with Suzuki beating the then King Fale in November 2011.

Suzuki gets revenge for the ring announcer as he jumped Fale at the bell, but they’re straight outside as Fale takes Suzuki into the barriers. El Desperado’s given a shot too as Suzuki is bringing the fight to the big man, but Fale uses some cabling to choke out Suzuki as there’s quite the leeway being given here.

Back inside, a shoulder tackle knocks down Suzuki, who replies with an armbar in the ropes as he took every chance he could, before dragging Fale back outside and into the guard rails. Suzuki grabs a chair from under the ring and uses it on the doubled-over Tongan, hitting and choking him with it as I really want to see Marty Asami and El Desperado have a discussion about Brexit.

Suzuki keeps up with the chair, despite the referee’s attempts to disarm him, and they’re back in with shots in the corner as Suzuki tried to keep Fale down. A PK is next for a near-fall, but Fale’s able to turn the tide with a Samoan drop, then a slam, as Fale’s size started to be put to use, with an elbow drop almost ending the match.

Suzuki counters a Grenade into a cross armbar, but Tanga Loa pulls out the referee as Fale was about to tap. Hey, there’s your ref bump, so you know what’s next… Tanga Loa runs in as he and Fale splash Suzuki in the corner, before a big splash off the ropes almost gets the three over Suzuki. A Bad Luck Fall is next, but Suzuki slips out and gets in a rear naked choke briefly, before some forearms take Fale down to a knee.

Another rear naked choke’s tried, but there’s more interference as Tanga Loa’s on the apron… before Tama Tonga comes down the aisle. He attacks Suzuki from behind, then hits a Gun Stun for the DQ… and that’s another half-decent match spoiled. I’m numb to this now. **

Post-match, Suzuki grabs a chair and charges after the Tongans…

G1 Climax, Block A: EVIL vs. Jay White
Switchblade NEEDS to win to have a shot of taking the group.

White slaps EVIL from the off, building up some early momentum before he’s charged down out of the corner. The pair go tit-for-tat in the ropes with chops and elbows, before a Saito suplex from White dumps EVIL awkwardly on the outside… and right by the English commentary desk. You know what’s next…

There’s a head-and-arm suplex into the railings for EVIL, who’s able to make it back into the ring, only to get met with a backbreaker as White had that target to aim for. EVIL’s able to get into it as he catches a boot and connects with a thrust kick to the gut, before clotheslining White to the outside where those guard rails come into play. Yes, Jay’s thrown towards the English commentary desk, who almost were knocked offline again, before a release Fisherman’s suplex nearly earned EVIL that W.

Some suplexes help White back into it, but a rake to the eyes from EVIL helps him avoid a Blade Runner… but a teased ref bump not long after ended up with White low blowing EVIL instead. EVIL just about had enough in him to hit Darkness Falls, but he can’t follow-up instantly, taking his time with a half-nelson suplex before a huge lariat almost ended Switchblade’s G1.

The crowd is loudly behind EVIL here, but White escapes Everything is EVIL and hits his half-nelson suplex, before he busted out the Kiwi Krusher for a near-fall! Frustrated, White goes under the ring for a pair of chairs, but he doesn’t get to use any of them as EVIL hits a lariat. EVIL tries to go for the chairshot, only to get dumped on his head with another half nelson suplex.

We counter counter and counter, as White shoved EVIL into the ref… and here come the chairshots… except EVIL counters into Everything is EVIL! Red Shoes gets back up pretty quickly and counts the pin… and Jay White’s G1 ends with something of a whimper. Despite his tactics throughout the G1, he just couldn’t get the job done against folks who aren’t squeaky clean… so A block comes down to our main event. In spite of that, this was a nice little outing, albeit with a rather weird finish with a quickly recovering ref. ***¾

G1 Climax, Block A: Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
It’s winner take all, but really Okada needs to win to get to Sunday’s finals with the tie-breaker.

There’s no balloons for Okada, as they’re on the Budokan banned list alongside balcony dives. Not to worry, Budokan was scorching hot for this one!

Keep an eye on the clock as we’ve got a 30 minute time limit here, and since neither guy shot into a tie-up, we may be eating up more of that time than usual. Okada eschews the tie-up and crushes Tanahashi with a shotgun dropkick, before they both miss back sentons en route to a stand-off. Okada goes back in with a headlock as the pair continued to search for a foothold, with a cheapshot from Tanahashi after a break looking to get him ahead, before a hiptoss took Okada down to the mat.

Tanahashi keeps it there with a leg grapevine, grinding his fist into Okada’s knee in the process, before he was forced to work for the inverted Sharpshooter. Hey, the old Edgucator! After a speedy rope break, Okada’s legs get wrapped around the ropes, then the ring post, as his vertical base was again chipped away at.

After trying for a tombstone, Okada shocks Tanahashi with a Dragon screw, before following him outside for a knee breaker on the outside. With his plan now clear, Okada takes Tanahashi back inside as he wrapped the leg and knee around the middle rope ahead of a dropkick to the knee. Okada keeps going though, and it backfires as Tanahashi catches a boot, hitting a Dragon screw of his own as the crowd roared behind Tanahashi – hoping or one more G1 final for the ace.

A flip senton off the middle rope keeps Okada down, but the record-setting former champion’s able to come back with a nasty, spiking DDT on Tanahashi for a near-fall. Another shotgun dropkick takes Tanahashi sailing into the corner, before he’s met with another one off the top as Okada flew!

Okada looks to follow up with a tombstone, but Tanahashi wriggles free to reverse it, spiking Okada for good measure as we crossed the 15 minute mark in the match. Back to their feet, Okada and Tanahashi exchange elbows, but it’s Okada who crumbles first before they resume. A low bridge sends Okada onto the apron, where he’s met with a dropkick as Tanahashi sends him crashing into the railings… before Tana heads up for the High Fly Flow to the floor!

Remember when Tanahashi said he was going to stop High Fly Flow crossbodies to the floor?

Okada has to fight to beat the count-out, and he gets met with a series of Dragon screws in the ropes as Tanahashi seemed to have his number. The Texas cloverleaf’s next, as we’re into the final ten minutes of the match, with Okada having to drag himself to the bottom rope… but instead Tanahashi sits down on him, then turns the hold into a Lion Tamer and eventually a Styles Clash?!

Tanahashi quickly heads up top after that for another High Fly Flow… but he crashes and burns! Good Lord, this crowd is LOUD.

Okada’s able to hit back first with a dropkick, before missing a second… but the third connects as Okada rushes into a Rainmaker, which is countered into a Slingblade. Yes, we’re sprinting folks! They’re back to their knees, exchanging more elbows, as Tanahashi gets knocked down cold with a single elbow to the head… so Okada again goes for a tombstone, eventually hoisting him up before Tanahashi slips out and countered with a rolling neckbreaker.

FIVE MINUTES REMAINING! All Tanahashi has to do is hang on…

Another Twist and Shout neckbreaker’s up, then another, as Okada’s left down as my speakers are peaking because of this crowd roar… then again from a Slingblade as Tanahashi collected a near-fall! Hopping to the top rope, Tanahashi teases another High Fly Flow… but Okada gets up and swats it away with a big dropkick!

Now we get the tombstone as Okada tried to capitalise with the clock ticking down, into the final three minutes, as he goes again for a Rainmaker before having to settle with a dropkick. Another try, another miss, before a discus Rainmaker finally connects! Okada picks up Tanahashi again, but a Rainmaker’s stopped with a small package as Tanahashi almost cut him off in the cruellest way possible!

Okada keeps going for Rainmakers, but a Dragon suplex counters and nearly gets the win as we hit the final sixty seconds… can Okada do it? Another Rainmaker’s fought for, but Tanahashi elbows out, then slaps Okada before he heads up top once more… High Fly Flow to the back of Okada… but Okada kicks out, and the time limit runs out! Our thirty minutes are up, and had this continued by another minute or two, I’m almost sure Tanahashi would have won. Kazuchika Okada’s rough start to the G1 costs him, and while he’s on track, he’s still not quite there as after another classic, A block truly ended up as the Ace Block (cheers Chris Charlton!) ****¾

This was a fun show all around, with yet another classic Okada/Tanahashi match to close us out. Sure, the Tongans/Bullet Club stuff was present and wore thin, but if you’ve followed the entire G1, I’m sure you’re expecting all that… and probably have your own coping mechanisms to not let it get to you. I was disappointed the block came down to one match, rather than have anything playing off of Jay White – but in spite of how his G1 fell away, this has been a star-making tournament for everyone’s favourite Knife Pervert.

So we’ve got one night of block action left, with B block climaxing tomorrow (ahem). Will the Guerrillas of Destiny spoil the Ibushi/Omega main event, or will the rest of the Bullet Club’s Elite be able to prevent a repeat inside Budokan, especially now they’ve been bolstered in number for these final few shows?

Block A Final Standings:
Hiroshi Tanahashi (7-1-1; 15pts)
Kazuchika Okada (6-2-1; 14pts)
Jay White (6-3; 12pts)
EVIL, Minoru Suzuki (5-4; 10pts)
Michael Elgin, Bad Luck Fale, Togi Makabe, Hangman Page, YOSHI-HASHI (3-6, 6pts)

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