Block A continues to head towards its climax as three men came into this show with a viable shot of winning the block.

The G1’s rolled into Shizuoka for the penultimate round of block A action at the Hamamatsu Arena. As ever, Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero are on commentary – big time Chris Charlton’ll be back tomorrow.

Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Toru Yano, Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura
It’s Taichi vs. Yano tomorrow, and it’s fair to say that Yano’s short-handed here.

Cue the jump start as Suzuki and Tsuji stayed in the ring, with the Young Lion edging ahead with shoulder tackles and forearms. It won’t last… and it didn’t, as he’s taken into the ropes for a hanging armbar. Taichi takes Yano to the English commentary team, as he force-fed Yano a microphone, before he chokes away with Kevin Kelly’s headset. For some reason that popped me, as the camera crew then tried to focus on a dark corner of the arena.

Tsuji manages to beat the count-out, but he’s just getting whaled on with some stomps from Suzuki… then from Kanemaru, as this was proving way too easy. Taichi’s in with a single-leg crab as Tsuji makes the ropes, before Suzuki’s in to fold him in half with a Liontamer-ish single leg crab. Yano came in to break it up as Tsuji finally mustered some offence, sending Suzuki flying with a dropkick as Yano got the tag in. Taichi’s waiting as we go straight to the usual playbook with Yano removing the turnbuckle pads for a game of pass the parcel. Taichi edged ahead as he ripped off his trousers before catching Yano in the corner with a gamengiri.

In comes Kanemaru to try and finish the job, but Yano tags out to Uemura… and we can guess how this ends, especially when Uemura knocked Suzuki off the apron. Tsuji’s in to help with double-teaming, but Kanemaru puts the brakes on to avoid Uemura’s overhead belly-to-belly. Regardless, Uemura tried his luck with small packages and roll-ups, but in the end Kanemaru fought back hitting a slam before rolling Uemura into a Boston crab for the eventual submission. Some good fight from the Young Lions, but ultimately this was only ever going to go one way, as after the match Taichi wrapped Yano in the ring apron for a little bit of post-match beating… **¾

Jon Moxley & Shota Umino vs. Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI
After losing two in a row in the G1, Moxley’s position at the top of block B is suddenly under threat.

Moxley and Goto start things off with some simple stuff, exchanging wristlocks as Goto went into the ropes. Some back-and-forth elbows puts Mox ahead, but tagging out to Umino perhaps wasn’t smart as Goto took the upper hand… at least until Moxley tripped Goto and started some double-teaming.

Things turned around when YOSHI-HASHI came in, hanging Umino in the ropes ahead of a dropkick that drew a near-fall, before Shota fought back with a nice suplex. Moxley tries to run in for a Hart Attack, but Goto pulls him outside as the Umino spinebuster followed for a near-fall. YOSHI-HASHI responds with a Bunker Buster as Moxley was being restrained on the outside, before a Butterfly Lock forces Umino to tap out barely five minutes in. This was fine, but way too short. **½

Bullet Club (Jay White, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) vs. Juice Robinson, Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare
It’s White vs. Juice tomorrow – a little over a year on from the match that saw Juice unseat him as US Champion.

The Ghost of G1 Past starts us off, as Honma took Yujiro into the ropes, before some biting put Honma on the back foot. A shoulder tackle is the response, before Honma hit a slam and… got kicked in the back as he went for a Kokeshi. A triple Kokeshi’s teased, but it backfires as everyone’s dragged outside. Back in the ring, Honma’s left in trouble as the Bullet Club picked their spots, leading to Jay White mocking Juice with some Dusty punches to Honma. Eventually Honma gets the tag out as Juice cleared house, before his back elbow aimed at White got ducked and turned into a Saito suplex.

Juice had to duck a running knee from Owens as the back-and-forth looked to build up into a package piledriver… but Juice escaped and tagged in Henare. Chase tries to resist a suplex, but ended up getting elbowed and clotheslined to death… or a near-fall, in this case. Yujiro’s in to help with some double-teaming as Juice had to save Henare… prompting a Parade of Moves that saw White powder outside… but it’s ultimately a formality as Owens dropped Henare with a package piledriver for the win. This was fine for what it was – Juice/White’ll be good until the shenanigans kicks in tomorrow. **¾

After the match, Jay White attacked Rocky Romero on commentary. I knew they were right by the aisle for a reason…

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Jeff Cobb & Ren Narita
Time for our favourite part of these G1 tags… the BUSHI mask check!

Meanwhile, Rocky Rocky Romero got spat on as Naito offered him a fist bump. Sadly, the resulting commentary replacement was… a little odd? Anyway, we’ve got a tease of Shingo/Ishii tomorrow, which should be as close to heaven as we can get at this stage in the G1.

Those two start us off with a tie-up that took Shingo into the ropes, ahead of a cheeky chop from Ishii. Of course, it’s not taken lightly as elbows and shoulder tackles from Ishii gave way to Shingo’s shoulder tackle to knock the NEVER Openweight champion down. A tag brings in Naito, but Ishii fights back until he got double-teamed, as Cobb ends up getting baited in to mask some more attacks. BUSHI’s in with a missile dropkick as he proceeds to choke Ishii with his t-shirt, until Ren Narita threw himself to the wolves to break it up. He got beaten up for it, as Ishii tried to fight back with elbows, eventually stopping Shingo with a powerslam.

Tags get us to Naito and Cobb to preview their match tomorrow. Naito goes to the eyes before he got caught with a dropkick to the gut. A gachimuchi-sault keeps Cobb ahead, before he caught a headscissor takedown attempt from Naito, who had to fight his way free, only to get taken into the ropes with some stiff forearms. A tornado DDT from Naito’s blocked as Naito finally got in with a one-legged dropkick, before Cobb powered his way back, as tags got us to Narita and BUSHI. Ren’s got quite the sense of urgency around him as he hit the overhead belly-to-belly to BUSHI. The ring fills for the obligatory Parade of Moves as Narita got laid out… but he still had plenty in to try and shock BUSHI with roll-ups. In the end though, BUSHI came back with a swinging neckbreaker before the MX got the win. Can it be Thursday already? I want my Shingo/Ishii NOW. **¾

G1 Climax, Block A: Lance Archer vs. SANADA
Both men are playing for pride, as this block’s literally down to EVIL, Okada and Ibushi.

Archer jumps SANADA in the aisle, purely so he could steal the sparkly mask. Oh, and to get a headstart on things too. They get to the ring, where SANADA scored with a Dragon screw, only for things to swing around on the outside as Archer crashed into SANADA with a cannonball off the apron. The cameraman’s used as a weapon too, but SANADA tries to fight back in the ring… only to get decked with a chop.

Undeterred, SANADA stomps on Archer’s foot, only to run into a Black Hole Slam as his night almost ended right there. A twisting Vader Bomb splash out of the corner gets another near-fall as Archer was getting increasingly annoyed… and that just opened the door for SANADA as he came back in with a double leapfrog/dropkick combo. SANADA manages to keep up the pressure, but a Skull End’s swiftly countered into a reverse DDT for a near-fall, before a chokeslam led to a similar result. Archer heads up top as he teases a moonsault… but there’s no water in the pool. Ditto SANADA, who landed in Archer’s knees for a near-fall, before another Skull End got countered… this time into the EBD Claw.

SANADA ends up falling into the ropes as he resorted to Skull End again… only for Archer to flip back and lift up into a Blackout… which SANADA escapes. More finisher teases led to a Derailer that SANADA leaps over, before a Euro clutch got the win! In spite of his breakout performances, Archer’s G1 is threatening to end with a share of the wooden spoon, as SANADA builds up his momentum… albeit too late for it to matter. ***¾

G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Yeah, Fale’s got his goons with him.

This is the earliest Tanahashi’s been out of the G1 in over a decade, as the talk of him being “past it” intensifies. He’s a little cagey during his entrance, wary over Fale’s propensity to attack him… and sure enough, that happened. Although Tanahashi skinned the cat and started to go after Fale’s knee, Jado’s in to stop Tanahashi with a Kendo stick shot. You know the drill from here: Chase Owens attacks Tanahashi on the floor to soften him up for Fale, who throws Tanahashi into the guard rails as he focused on the bad wheel. A saluting pin gets a two-count as Marty Asami weirdly allowed the cover after those shenanigans. Tanahashi tries to fight back, but he goes to slam Fale and ends up on his back – and almost in defeat too.

It’s back to the leg as Tanahashi’s trapped in the corner, but he’s able to get back in with a Dragon screw, taking Fale to the mat, following up with a Figure Four as Tanahashi was trying to get the win without doing too much damage to his kn… oh wait, Fale rolls over and he’s in bigger trouble than before. They end in the ropes, as Fale ends up having to back into the corner to avoid a German suplex attempt. A sunset flip from Tanahashi goes south when Fale sat on him for a near-fall, before a Grenade got countered with Twist and Shout. The Slingblade’s next as Tanahashi came close, following up off the top rope with a High Fly Flow to the back… before another Kendo stick shot from Jado saved Fale from a second.

It looked to be elementary from there as Fale hits a Grenade for a near-fall, before Tanahashi slipped out of a Bad Luck Fall and looked for a backslide. Not really the best idea, I guess, as Fale reverses it… and there’s the win. Shenanigans aside, this was a pretty decent match with Tanahashi’s injuries coming into it, but the Tanahashi naysayers now have some more ammunition to play with. ***¼

G1 Climax, Block A: KENTA vs. Will Ospreay
This is going to be tasty, I reckon. Apparently KENTA’s still got a slight chance, but for all intents and purposes he’s out of the G1.

“Elevated” fights to get heard underneath the overdub, as the pair had a rather tense staredown before the bell. They don’t hold back though, throwing shots at each other once we got going, with KENTA blocking a monkey flip as the pair ended up landing duelling strikes before teasing their finishes… with duelling headkicks leaving both mend own. The pair trade chops once they got back to their feet, before a tornado DDT hung Ospreay in the ropes ahead of a flying clothesline as KENTA was making it obvious which body part he was working on. A big boot takes Ospreay outside, where he’s acquainted with the guard rails before getting sent into the crowd. Some kicks to the back keep Ospreay down as KENTA had the junior champion rocked, following up with a kitchen sink knee for a near-fall.

Ospreay eventually fought back, landing a leaping forearm only to get pulled in from the apron with a draping DDT for a near-fall. Still, Ospreay’s able to respond with a springboard forearm for a near-fall, before an attempt at Storm Breaker was countered… with Ospreay instead flipping into the ropes for a handspring enziguiri. KENTA rolls outside, but he catches an attempt at a Sasuke special as someone in the crowd screamed, dragging Ospreay onto the apron for a Falcon arrow onto the edge of the ring. Ow. Ospreay slumps to the floor as he tried to beat the count-out – eventually pulling himself back in at 19 as KENTA chose to measure him up… and slipped off the ropes with a springboard. Oh man. He saves things with a running boot and some elbows in the corner, before the hesitation dropkick crushed Ospreay.

KENTA’s next flirtation with the ropes went to play as a double stomp had Ospreay retching, but he’s still able to kick out at two. A Busaiku knee stopped Ospreay in his tracks as any plans of a comeback were instantly stopped. Elbows follow as Ospreay got stopped again, recovering to flip over a clothesline… only to get caught with a guillotine as KENTA was making life more than difficult. A rear naked choke puts Ospreay down ahead of a PK… but Ospreay ducks and hit back with a powerbomb for a near-fall. Ospreay’s shooting star press off the top ends in KENTA’s knees, as things quickly transition into the Game Over crossface, only for Ospreay to drag himself to the ropes for a break. KENTA keeps the pressure up with a knee to the back of the head, then a Busaiku knee for another near-fall, before Ospreay looked to get desperate.

KENTA kicks out of a roll-up, but couldn’t avoid a follow-up OsCutter as the match nearly ended there… and good God, this crowd is massively pro-Ospreay. Another Storm Breaker’s escaped as a hook kick and Hidden Blade wiped out KENTA, before the Storm Breaker landed to end KENTA’s chances in the G1 once and for all. A hell of an outing, with some unfortunately slips from KENTA perhaps dragging it down a touch, but this is yet another feather in Ospreay’s cap as his insane year continues. ****¼

G1 Climax, Block A: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kota Ibushi
Sabre could ruin Kota Ibushi’s G1 here with a win here – but if Ibushi wins his last two, he wins the block.

Ibushi starts by taking Sabre into the ropes as some grappling led to a bit of a stalemate. Sabre edged ahead next with a Fujiwara armbar, but they’re right by the ropes as Kota got free. He checks a kick from Sabre, then shot him into the ropes for an armdrag, then a mid kick as Ibushi seemed to be getting the better of things here. Well, until Sabre started to go for submissions, as Sabre looked to go after Ibushi’s ankle.

Kicks served to only rile up Ibushi, who threw a chop back before spiking Zack with a ‘rana. Another mid kick keeps Sabre on the deck… but Zack’s back with kicks and a leg sweep as Ibushi was right back to square one. Another kick hangs Ibushi in the ropes, allowing Sabre to go after the leg, tying it in the ropes before he was forced to break the hold. More strikes have Ibushi on the back foot, until he replied in kind and scored with a standing moonsault double knees a la Mike Bailey for a near-fall.

Sabre’s back with a modified STF, but lets go and ends up taking a lariat as Kota was forced to dig deep. More back-and-forth ends in a German suplex from Ibushi for a near-fall, befoe a sit-out powerbomb drew another near-fall as Ibushi seemed to be targeting Sabre’s ever-problematic neck to try and stifle those submissions. An attempt at Kamigoye’s caught as Sabre instead rolled Ibushi into Orienteering with Napalm Death, before switching it up into a modified calf slicer and back again, before Sabre did his usual thing of rolling into the ropes as he tried to switch holds again.

From the break, Sabre stomps on Kota’s leg again… but Ibushi got free and set him for a Bomaye knee… and ended up running into the turnbuckles as Sabre tried to snatch the win with a series of roll-ups. Kota’s back with a Bomaye for a near-fall, but with Sabre on jelly legs it’s inevitable as a Kamigoye followed for the win. Kota Ibushi stays alive – and regardless of the result of our main event – he’ll be in a winner take all main event on Saturday, unless EVIL can play spoiler. ****

G1 Climax, Block A: EVIL vs. Kazuchika Okada
EVIL needs to win if he’s to have any chance – but if he wins his final two matches, he’ll win the block on tie-breakers. That’ll be a result nobody predicted…

EVIL starts off with a headlock as I was left in awe at Milano Collection AT’s sequined EVIL shirt. We’re at a slow pace here as Okada tried to fight free, eventually doing so as a hiptoss got EVIL down on the mat. A neckbreaker follows for a one-count from Okada, who was already picking his spots as he worked on EVIL’s head and neck, using a sliding dropkick to take him outside.

Both men taste the guard rails as EVIL proceeded to clothesline Okada into the crowd, before a chinlock grounded Okada back in the ring. Getting free, Okada sends EVIL outside with a back elbow, following quickly with a pescado, as the IWGP champion found his way. A DDT’s good for a two-count, only for EVIL to catch Okada in the ropes and stomp him out of them. A running Bronco Buster keeps Okada in the corner as we crossed the ten minute mark, but Okada again tries to fight back, looking for a neckbreaker slam, only for EVIL to wriggle free. Okada finally gets the neckbreaker slam after catching EVIL in the corner, before the top rope elbow drop led to the delaaayed Rainmaker pose. The Rainmaker’s next, but EVIL backs into the corner before he got lifted up top and dropkicked down to the floor. . Rocky Romero steps aside as he got a frog in his throat, while EVIL ended up getting booted over the guard rails… but he’s able to stop Okada’s running crossbody by throwing a chair at him. Erm, DQ?

EVIL follows that up with some chair baseball, before a running clothesline trapped Okada in the corner. A superplex is next as EVIL followed up with some misdirection, only to run into a dropkick. The pair get back to their feet, trading forearms as we crossed the 20-minute mark, as Okada’s uppercuts leave EVIL on his knees… but the tables looked to turn as EVIL went for Darkness Falls, only to get caught with a tombstone as Okada countered out. A Rainmaker’s ducked, as they looked to hit each other’s finishers, only for EVIL to deck Okada with a forearm and a lariat for a near-fall. Darkness Falls is next for another near-fall, before Okada slipped out of Everything is EVIL and hit a Rainmaker. The wrist control’s kept, as Okada built up to a second one, before a third was ducked and countered into some half-nelson suplexes as EVIL stayed alive!

EVIL swings and misses with a lariat as Okada lands a dropkick instead, then a second, before a headbutt from EVIL ended the finisher teases. Another lariat from EVIL drops Okada for a near-fall, but a lariat from Okada stops another Everything is EVIL attempt, before a shotgun dropkick took EVIL into the corner. One spinning Rainmaker later, Okada’s right back up for the regular Rainmaker… and that’s your lot! EVIL is out, and we’re down to one match on Saturday for the block! This match was good, but it never really clicked with me at a higher level. I don’t know, maybe I’ve had my fill of Okada epics for the time being. Just because you can go 30 minutes shouldn’t make that something to aspire to unless you’re able to bring something to the table other than a hot closing streak, perhaps it’d be an idea to do something with those opening stretches? ****

You know the drill by now – another excellent G1 show out of the A block as things look to culminate in Budokan on Saturday. Okada/Ibushi was a match many circled as a potential decider – and sure enough, that’s what it’s become. Sure, the remainder of the block matches on Saturday look like more than suitable warm-ups ahead of the real deal.

Block A:
Kazuchika Okada (7-1; 14pts)
Kota Ibushi (6-2; 12pts)
EVIL, KENTA, SANADA, Hiroshi Tanahashi, (4-4; 8pts)
Bad Luck Fale, Will Ospreay, Zack Sabre Jr. (3-5; 6pts)
Lance Archer (2-6; 4pts)

Eliminated: Archer, EVIL, Fale, KENTA, Ospreay, Sabre, SANADA, Tanahashi

Block B:
Jon Moxley (5-2; 10pts)
Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Tetsuya Naito, Jay White (4-3; 8pts)
Jeff Cobb, Juice Robinson, Taichi, Toru Yano (3-4; 6pts)
Shingo Takagi (2-5; 4pts)

Eliminated: Cobb Taichi, Takagi

We’re nearly there… tomorrow is block B’s penultimate round in Yokohama, topped by Ishii vs. Shingo, before block A begins a three-day swing at Budokan Hall in Tokyo – with the match ordering for that yet to be decided.