The G1 hits the road for day three, as Jay White looked to add another big name to his list of scalps in Hokkaido, taking on Hiroshi Tanahashi in the main event.
Wanna go high? Wanna go low? Break the contradictions… told you! Don Callis doesn’t do the smaller shows on this tour, so we’re left with Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero on the English language commentary. Once we’ve had a false start and a sneak view inside the Hokkai Kitayell…
Toa Henare & Shota Umino vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
Tama has SANADA on Thursday, but rather than go down the Firing Squad/LIJ route, we’ve got the “Bullet Club OG” in with the Young Lion and Henare.
Henare and Tanga Loa start us off, and if Henare had any ideas of being part of that Firing Squad, I guess he’ll have to prove himself first. Shoulder blocks are quickly nullified by a lariat from Loa… but Henare’s able to score with a shoulder tackle of his own before bringing in Shota Umino for a low dropkick to Tanga.
Tama rushes in to make a save, providing a distraction as Tanga hits a double clothesline. A stalling suplex to Shota Umino’s next as Tama gets the tag back in to dominate the Young Lion as things started to take a more familiar path. Tanga’s back for a slam and a legdrop for a near-fall, before Tama’s back in as he lived up to his t-shirt and stayed onnit… only to take a dropkick from Shota!
Henare’s quickly brought back in as he evades Tama ahead of a shoulder tackle, before a couple of corner lariats and a Samoan drop brings him a near-fall. A double shoulder tackle from Henare takes down both Tama and Tanga, and gives Shota Umino the incentive to gag in as they battered Tanga with lariats in the corner. The spear from Henare sets up for a missile dropkick from Shota for a near-fall, before the ring filled up as Shota shocks Tama with a German suplex! Problem was, Shota was a little too exuberant, and gets caught with a Fire Thunder Driver from Tanga Loa… and that’s all folks. Entertaining enough for the opener, and it’s always nice to see the youngsters adding new strings to their bows. **¾
Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Toru Yano & Jado
It’s Sabre vs. Yano on Thursday – and with Toru now going back to his grappling roots, it’s going to make for a rather different proposition for Sabre. Jado’s still got his La Parka-ish gear, while Yano’s on the apron with his fingers in his ears to make sure he can’t hear Zack calling him a dickhead.
We start with TAKA cheapshotting Jado after a break in the ropes, but Jado quickly returns fire with a shoulder tackle and some chops as he intersperses them with “whoos”. TAKA just stops it with a poke to the eye and a step-up knee in the corner before a superkick… wasn’t needed a Jado Flair flops instead. That’s the cue for Zack to rush the ring and take Yano down to the outside, mocking the Yano shrug… which is just too far Zack!
Zack tags himself in to wrench away on Jado’s arm, before TAKA’s back in to get slapped by Jado, who followed up with a back suplex. Tags bring in Yano and Sabre… but Yano’s gone to his usual game as he poked Sabre in the eye as the referee talks him out of it. Nevermind, off come the turnbuckle pad, but Sabre isn’t in the mood for pissing around as Yano backs up into an Octopus hold. It’s escaped as the pair begin to trade off on uppercuts, while Yano more than matched Sabre, taking him down with an armdrag.
Yano got a little too cocky though, and gets caught in a double wristlock as Sabre backs him into a corner for TAKA to take over. Jado barely comes in to break up a pin from a knee strike, but he’s restrained by Sabre… and the tables properly turn around as TAKA looked for a cobra twist, only to get rolled up by Yano for the win! I’m not used to seeing this Yano, but it’s a different kind of fun from the shenanigans we’ve seen in the past. Yano! Toru! Eh! **¾
Kota Ibushi & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay
Ibushi vs. Robinson is going to be a fun match, I reckon… as will this warm-up tag. Wonder what Kota thinks of Juice’s elaborate Paul Revere-ish gear…
It’s Yujiro and Finlay who start us off, but it’s Finlay who drew first blood in the early stages… only for Takahashi to bite back and hot shot Dave in the ropes. Kota Ibushi comes in to help with some double-teaming, scoring a nice flip splash as Kota forgot… he’s not legal! Finally Kota gets the tag in as he grounds Finlay with headscissors, but they roll into the ropes.
Juice Robinson gets tagged in as he breaks into the Dusty punches on Kota… but he tries to end with a leg lariat as the left hand can’t be used. That’s missed as Ibushi flips out of a German suplex, only to get cornered for a clothesline before he escaped a cannonball and took Juice down for a springboard moonsault for a near-fall.
A flurry of strikes from Ibushi are met with a single punch, then a lariat as Yujiro’s brought back into keep up the tit-for-tat stufff. There’s a reverse DDT for Juice, and a chinbreaker for Finlay as he staggered into a dropkick from Ibushi as those two fought on the outside… Finlay restrains Kota as he’s unable to save Yujiro from a gutbuster and the Pulp Friction for the win. Decent stuff, and there’s a new wrinkle thrown in too as commentary mentioned that Juice may be losing the cast on his hand ahead of the next round of the G1… ***
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA) vs. Tomohiro Ishii & SHO
It’s Naito/Ishii next – and it’s a rather intriguing teaming here as Naito and SANADA are on the same side, despite the awkwardness surrounding them as they build up to their G1 match later in the tournament.
Naito and Ishii start us off, but Naito quickly takes his foe into the ropes as he brought the fight to Ishii… who responded in kind. A hiptoss and a low dropkick from Naito takes us to the tranquilo pose, and a tag out as I guess that’s our lot here. SHO and SANADA are in for a mis-match in terms of weight class, but SHO connects with a dropkick before he has a rope kicked into him as LIJ looked to pick apart the smaller of their opponents.
SHO manages to escape a neckbreaker from Naito, then evade a flying forearm as the LIJ leader ate a back cracker instead… leaving him open for a tag in from Ishii who swung, missed and finally score with a scoop slam. Both men quickly tag out as SHO looked to pick up where he left off on SANADA, taking him down with a quick spear before attempting a deadlift German… only to get tripped in the ropes as Naito and Ishii outdid each other with interference.
Ishii knocks Naito off the apron and into the railings as SANADA overcomes some double-teaming as the ring again fills. SHO eats a pair of low dropkicks for a near-fall… he nearly pulls it back with an inside cradle for a near-fall, but with Ishii and Naito restraining each other on the outside, SHO loses a Last Ride powerbomb and quickly gets caught in the Skull End, swung around the ring before referee Tiger Hattori waves off the match. Fun in parts, but this was a nice trial run for what you’d assume will be an eventual promotion to heavyweight for SHO… although the bulk of the Naito/Ishii action came afterwards when they threw each other into the railings. ***
Hirooki Goto & YOH vs. Bullet Club (Kenny Omega & Chase Owens)
The final of our warm-ups builds to Thursday’s main event – as Goto looked to pick up his first singles win over Kenny Omega.
Chase Owens sneaks up behind Goto to start us off, but Goto shrugs it off and brings in YOH for some double-teaming as the CHAOS pair put the boots to Owens. Things turn around when YOH’s taken into the ropes so Omega can rake his eyes, before Owens throws some punches into the face of YOH as the Roppongi 3K member was caught on the hop.
The double-teaming eventually backfires as Omega held YOH in place… but of course YOH sidesteps as Owens booted Omega to the outside… and now a tag brings in Hirooki Goto to unleash some kicks to Chase in the corner. Omega’s back to save Chase from an ushigoroshi, eventually hitting a superkick before YOH saved Goto from a V-Trigger! A plancha keeps Omega and YOH on the outside, while Owens superkicks a kneeling Goto ahead of a package piledriver attempt… But Goto escapes and counters into an ushigoroshi, following up with a GTR to Owens for the pin. I was a little distracted during this due to my stream buffering, which meant this match felt extraordinarily brief. Taking the win here pretty much condemns Goto to taking the L on Thursday, right? No matter how much they like to show off their belts to each other. **½
G1 Climax, Block A: Hangman Page vs. Michael Elgin
Both men come into this having won their openers on Saturday, although Page’s was perhaps more notable given how rare DQs are in New Japan.
Beforehand, commentary noted that Elgin is 3-0 in singles matches against Page, which perhaps gave a little impetus towards Hangman as he absorbed an early series of chops before eating a dropkick as he was taken to the outside. Elgin followed up with a tope suicida, before Page returned fire with a shooting star headbutt… and a standing shooting star press back in the ring for a near-fall.
Page keeps up the offence as he dropkicked Elgin under the ropes before slingshotting him under the bottom rope for a near-fall as the pace slowed down a little. Elgin fights out of a chinlock and throws chops, then a scoop slam as both men were left on the mat. Some back elbows from Elgin help him edge into the lead, but his stalling suplex is kneed out of by Page… only for him to leap into a sit-out powerbomb as the mid-air conversion earned the Canadian a near-fall.
Clubbering lariats to the front and back of Page are next as Elgin ends up blocking a superkick… only for Page to hit back with a flurry en route to a bridging German suplex. Elgin returns fire with an Exploder suplex as he took Page into the corner for some high-speed lariats and a superplex attempt… A slingshot cutter from Elgin sees him slingshot Page off the apron and into a cutter, before he borrowed Will Ospreay’s Storm Breaker for a near-fall. More elbows from Elgin keep Page wobbly, before a sunset flip nearly ends the match… they segue it into the indy’riffic back-and-forth pinning sequence, extending it as they reverse a wheelbarrow roll up before Page spiked Elgin with a package tombstone for a near-fall!
The pair end up on the top rope… but not for a superplex into the ring as Elgin instead teases one to the floor. Instead Page fights free and gets thrown into the ring before he crotches Elgin up top, only for his top rope ‘rana to be delayed! A snapping ‘rana takes Elgin across the ring, before a flying middle rope neckbreaker draws a near-fall.
Page looked to finish off Elgin with the Rite of Passage, but it’s escaped as Elgin returns fire with a series of kicks and enziguiri. That almost led to a double knockout, but they narrowly beat the count… and go back to their usual tricks with elbows and chops before they trade off on German suplexes. Page tries to elbow free, but he inadvertently ends up eating a Tiger suplex after his arms were trapped.
Somehow Page evades a lariat and ends up on the apron… his slingshot lariat’s swatted out of the air by Elgin, whi quickly hits another before the Splash Mountain earned him another near-fall. A buckle bomb follows before Page tried to hit the Rite of Passage, but Elgin stops that with a Tiger Bomb and the spinning Elgin Bomb for the win. Yeah, that’s my bracket done in the opener… a really good match with the usual hard hitting goodness, but there’s just something about this match that I wasn’t able to get on with. Worth your time to go back and watch, but neither of these guys are serious contenders. Yet. ****
G1 Climax, Block A: EVIL vs. YOSHI-HASHI
After his spirited showing against Togi Makabe on Saturday, can YOSHI-HASHI get his first points… or will EVIL break his duck here?
YOSHI tries to start aggressively against EVIL, going in for shoulder barges and eventually knocking him down before taking EVIL into the ropes for some chops. It backfires though as EVIL just clotheslines him to the outside, and we know what’s coming… we’re into the guard rails as EVIL wrenches YOSHI’s shoulder against the railings, as some chairs come into play. The makeshift baseball bat spot leaves YOSHI writhing in the aisle, but he beats the count-out and returns to the ring… only to be forced to scurry into the ropes as an armbar from EVIL saw him continue that focus on the taped-up arm and shoulder.
YOSHI’s able to roll away from a back senton after losing a brief chop battle, before he catches EVIL with the Head Hunter running Blockbuster. More chops follow from YOSHI, who quickly takes EVIL into the ropes for the hanging dropkick, but EVIL turns it right back around with the Darkness Falls for a near-fall, before YOSHI blocked the Everything is Evil STO, hitting a back cracker instead to get himself a breather. EVIL gets the better of a clothesline exchange, but the Western Lariat quickly restores parity before a powerbomb goes a little wonky as YOSHI loses EVIL, as both men spilled awkwardly to the outside.
— LARIATOOOO!! (@MrLARIATO) July 16, 2018
YOSHI returns the match to the ring so he can try it again, this time scoring with the falling powerbomb for a near-fall, then a Butterfly lock… but EVIL’s able to squirm towards the ropes to force a break, despite YOSHI’s best efforts. With EVIL still on the mat, YOSHI heads up and lands a senton bomb for a near-fall as EVIL seemed to be unable to shrug off the earlier bad landing.
They go back-and-forth over each other’s finishers, with YOSHI losing Karma… and instead palm striking EVIL down ahead of some running knees that nearly ends things. Another crack at Karma’s blocked, with EVIL countering back with a half-nelson suplex, then a lariat, before swiftly putting YOSHI away with Everything is EVIL. This was fine, in spite of the eggy bit in the middle where you got the feeling that YOSHI’s powerbomb perhaps wasn’t meant to go as awry as it did. Still, a good showing from YOSHI-HASHI… but a sadly familiar result as I have a feeling he may be forced into some changes in the not too distant future. ***¼
G1 Climax, Block A: Minoru Suzuki vs. Togi Makabe
Well, this one started out hot as Makabe and Suzuki went right after each other with elbow strikes… before they clonked into each other with boots and more elbows.
Eventually one of Suzuki’s elbows told as it brought Makabe down to a knee, but he recovers with some strikes of his own, trapping Suzuki in a corner before choking him with a boot. The match inevitably spills to the outside as they continue to target each other with those elbows, before they upped the ante and grabbed chairs from the ringside area and smashed them into each other. They quickly decide to stop arsing around with chairs and go back to the strikes after the ref had been shoved down… which opens the door for El Desperado at ringside to slide in a chair that Suzuki literally bent on the back of Makabe. Getting bored, they go outside and brawl around the English commentary team, which leads to more chairshots and shoved referees.
Somehow, Makabe’s able to get back to his feet and stagger back into the ring, where those elbows continue, complete with the acoustic effects. Makabe remained down and out as referee Marty Asami threatened to stop the match… but Suzuki just pulls him back up and into the corner, where the fightback looked to begin, as Makabe throws some overhand chops, then a scoop slam as both men crashed back to the mat.
We’re back to those elbows, with Suzuki again wearing down Makabe, who was more than waning at this point, and after a desperation clothesline misses, Suzuki catches him in a rear naked choke… clinging onto the submission before switching it into the Gotch piledriver, which is blocked. Suzuki tries again, but this time it’s countered into a death valley driver by Makabe, who followed up with some lariats before taking Suzuki into the corner for a spider German suplex!
Somehow, the King Kong Knee Drop connected as Suzuki literally walked into it, before a second King Kong registered what would have to be considered the upset! As hard-hitting as you’d expect between these two, this was an absolute war – and that was just the elbows! Suzuki’s G1 is off to a rotten start with two losses from his first two matches – and perhaps he’ll have to change his game plan if he’s to be in with a chance? ***¾
G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. Kazuchika Okada
After going easy last time around, Fale instantly chased out the ring announcer as he looked to pick up another tournament win over Okada… whose recent form needs no introduction.
Fale starts by taking Okada into the ropes, before there’s a switch and a high five? Okada’s forced to powder and play a little cat and mouse, eventually backing up into Tanga Loa before shoving the Firing Squad crew into each other. Heck, Tanga Loa’s used as a step too, as Okada launches off of him into Fale.
Okada’s goofing around as he seemed to prepare to dive into Fale on the outside, but he thinks better of it… and that just angers the big Tongan who vowed to something him up with a something chair. You can guess what the missing word was! In the meantime, Tanga Loa gets involved, pulling Okada to the outside and slamming him behind the referee’s back. Fale capitalises by heading after Okada and whipping him hard into the guard railings, and I’m convinced now the English announce table has a target on it.
They head into the crowd as Fale prepares to Brookes Okada, before he literally stands on him as they got back in the ring. Elbows from Okada looked to edge him back into it, but Fale charges over him for a near-fall, then pulls him into a camel clutch before letting go… so Okada could try and slam him. That’s not happening yet… although we did get the Andre slam at the third attempt! Okada looks to keep the momentum going with a DDT for a near-fall, following up with something off the top that misses, as Fale looked to counter with a Grenade, only to get clotheslined to the outside instead, as Okada finally flies with a tope cong iro to the Firing Squad pair!
— LARIATOOOO!! (@MrLARIATO) July 16, 2018
Okada brings it back to the ring, rather than take the count-out, so he could climb the ropes for a flying elbow and the obligatory Rainmaker pose. A Rainmaker misses though as Fale counters into a Samoan drop, before a big splash nearly adds to Okada’s losing streak. The Bad Luck Fall’s escaped as Okada ends up running into a lariat, all while Gedo screams in disbelief as he saw Fale prepare for a top rope splash.
Thankfully, Okada stops it and press slams him down a la Ric Flair as Fale flew, following up with a dropkick as the former champion started to feel it. Okada calls for a tombstone, but that was always going to be a struggle, as Fale blocks it only to get walloped with a Rainmaker out of nowhere! Okada keeps hold of the wrist so he can hit a second, before knocking Tanga Loa off the apron.
The Okada resurgence continues with a dropkick and another Rainmaker attempt… but Fale elbows out before he’s sent crashing into the referee. Fale holds him in the corner as Tama Tonga rushes out to hit Okada with a Gun Stun, prompting some boos from the crowd as Fale was left to pick up the win with a Bad Luck Fall. Until the interference, this was fine, but I can see people quickly tiring of the Firing Squad motif here. Okada’s still on his losing streak in singles matches, and he finds himself in the unfamiliar place propping up his block. ***
G1 Climax, Block A: Jay White vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
With Jay White having wins over Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada so far in 2018, it’d take a brave man to pick against him. Yeah, I did in my Voices of Wrestling picks, but those are already trash after three rounds of matches!
Still, six months deeper into this character, Jay White should be able to have a better-received match than the one he had with Tanahashi at WrestleKingdom. Even if he is a little misguided in dedicating the match to a “better CHAOS”. Tanahashi started out on top, going for Switchblade’s arm with a wristlock, taking the New Zealander down to the mat… but White’s quickly in with chops as he took Tanahashi into the corner… only for a hair-pull to get him free. Wash, rinse, repeat, as White ends up shooting Tanahashi into the ropes, but a shoulder tackle takes him down as their feeling-out process continued.
A dropkick takes White down, but he recovers to chop block the knee of Tanahashi into the corner as he starts to pick up on the leg work that Minoru Suzuki had done earlier in the tournament. Tanahashi tries to stop White going for the leg, but to no avail as Switchblade faked out a shot before utilising an old-school knee breaker to keep the Ace on the mat. White pulls out another trick as he slams Tanahashi’s knee in the apron, before pulling him into the corner to wrap the leg around the post. The referee refuses to count the pin when White brings it back into the ring, so White goes for a reverse Figure Four in a bid to force a submission… but Tanahashi’s able to hand-walk his way into the ropes for a break, only for his knee to give way as he tried to fight back out of the corner.
A rather compromised Tanahashi has some luck with forearms and uppercuts, before a flying forearm saw him land awkwardly on the knee. He’s back up with more shots before a slam and a flip senton off the middle rope connects… but again, the knee’s jarred as Tanahashi delayed his pinning attempt. Tanahashi’s able to follow-up with a Dragon screw, but his attempt at a Cloverleaf is far too close to the ropes as White snatches the cable to get an instantaneous break.
White rakes the eyes of Tanahashi on the apron to get himself some more time, but he’s caught between the ropes with a Dragon screw. They tease some of their big stuff, but White hits hard with a release German suplex that dumped Tanahashi on his neck after a Blade Runner attempt had been stuffed.
— LARIATOOOO!! (@MrLARIATO) July 16, 2018
Back to his feet, White lays in with chops as Tanahashi remained somewhat defiant, only for White to snap the leg into the mat repeatedly to snuff out that fire for a while. A sleeper suplex dumps Tanahashi again, but Tanahashi somehow escaped the Blade Runner again before eating a lariat as the tit-for-tat stuff continued, with White ramming Tanahashi’s head into the turnbuckle repeatedly.
On the outside, White sets up for the snapping Saito suplex, again leading to another nasty landing for Tanahashi’s neck… before the same body part was repeatedly sent into the guard railings by the English commentary team. White eventually rolls Tanahashi back into the ring to finish him off, but the limp body of the Ace took a little more than he expected to lift as some rolling suplexes only increased the suffering. After two of them, White just lets go as Tanahashi slumps to the mat… only to get pulled back up as a twisting brainbuster gets White another near-fall.
A Kiwi Krusher’s next out of White as he continued to edge ahead, before he headed under the ring for a chair as he perhaps looked to add an exclamation mark here. White swings and misses as Tanahashi comes back in with a Slingblade, before it was the Ace’s turn to try and have a go with a chair. Again, referee Red Shoes tries to intervene, but Tanahashi just throws down the chair and gets his eyes raked before Switchblade pulled out a page from the Toru Yano playbook – pushing Tanahashi into the referee in the corner, ahead of a low blow.
Again with the chair, White’s disarmed by the referee as Tanahashi dished out an instant receipt for that low blow, before returning with the swinging neckbreaker and another Slingblade. Tanahashi gets a near-fall then heads up for a High Fly Flow… but White rolls through and goes for a Blade Runner, only for it to be blocked as a strait-jacket German suplex out of Tanahashi almost puts him away!
Tanahashi again climbs the ropes for a High Fly Flow, but White literally grabs the ref and throws him into the corner to crotch the Ace up top… and now he gets to use the chair again. It’s thrown into Tanahashi’s face, before pulling him up into a Blade Runner as the referee comes to… and counts the pin! Jay White’s 2-0 as his impressive list of scalps continues to grow. Can it continue all the way through to the G1, or is that going to be too much, too soon? As a match, this was an improvement on their WrestleKingdom outing, although the ref bumps, while important for the story and Jay White character, dampened the match a little for me. ****
After the match, Jay White grabs the mic and tells the crowd “I told you so”, as he bragged over his latest victim. He continued to mock the virtues that the crowd get behind, saying that things like fighting spirit get you nowhere, before declaring that this is his G1… and that everyone will all breathe with the Switchblade. It’s no Walk With Elias, that’s for sure.
While a good show from top to bottom, the third night of the G1 tour didn’t fully click with myself… and I’m struggling to put my finger on exactly why. Maybe it’s because I’m continuing to bomb with my pick ’em guesses? There was nothing wrong with the show, with all of the G1 matches being solid at worst, but with wins over both Okada and Tanahashi, some could argue that A block is already Jay White’s to lose at this point. The G1’s off for a few days, which means no birthday G1 for me, but they’re back on July 19 for the first of three nights in Korakuen Hall, with B block action headlining with a clash between the NEVER and IWGP champions, with Hirooki Goto taking a shot at Kenny Omega.
Michael Elgin, Togi Makabe, Jay White (2-0; 4pts)
EVIL, Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page, Hiroshi Tanahashi (1-1; 2pts)
Kazuchika Okada, Minoru Suzuki, YOSHI-HASHI (0-2; 0pts)
Hirooki Goto, Kota Ibushi, Tomohiro Ishii, Kenny Omega, Tama Tonga (1-0; 2pts)
Tetsuya Naito, Juice Robinson, Zack Sabre Jr., SANADA, Toru Yano (0-1; 0pts)