We’re into the second half of the G1 tour, and we’ve got a dream match main eventing today as Kazuchika Okada takes on KENTA!

Aichi’s Prefectural Gymnasium is the host for this latest pair of shows, with just Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero on commentary. Hey, I thought Chris was going to be in town here?!

Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Jeff Cobb, Ren Narita & Yota Tsuji
Let’s just say that Jeff Cobb’s coming into this with a bit of a handicap, given his partners…

He’s caught out by the jump start, but manages to reverse a whip as Taichi got taken into the guard rails. In the ring though, Ren Narita’s getting dismantled by Suzuki, and gets caught with a hanging armbar in the ropes while Taichi went back after Cobb, stealing a fan’s umbrella to jab him with it. Yeah, there’s typhoon conditions in Aichi, so there’s a LOT of brollies out. It’s like a big Marty Scurll convention…

We “calm down” as Suzuki dropped Narita with a forearm before a leg lock forced the Young Lion into the ropes. Kanemaru and Taichi keep up the pressure on Narita, who’s never really had a shout here, until repeated kicks from Taichi fired up the kid. Narita whiffs badly on a dropkick, but he’s able to bring in Cobb to clear house, with those chop/clothesline combos in the corner to Taichi. Cobb misses the gachimuchi-sault (standing moonsault – they’ve always called it that, but I never remembered how to spell it until I saw a VTR)… Suzuki-gun rush the ring to give Taichi an opening, but Cobb sidesteps a buzzsaw kick, before a Tour of the Islands was almost countered into a Stretch Plum. Except Yota Tsuji bravely wandered in to kick it away.

Taichi dispatches him, then misses an Axe Bomber as both men were eventually left laying. Tags got us to Kanemaru and Tsuji, with the Young Lion edging ahead with a shoulder tackle, before Narita held up Kanemaru for a spear that almost ended it. The Boston crab followed, but Suzuki slides in to break it up with a rear naked choke… Narita tries to help, but he’s killed with a forearm, as Tsuji almost lost to a pair of kicks before Deep Impact finally put him away. Very little in the way of Suzuki-gun shenanigans, and otherwise a perfectly fine opener. **¾

Bullet Club (Jay White, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Juice Robinson, Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare
This isn’t building to anything tomorrow, so it’s a throwaway Bullet Club tag.

We open with my perma-joke about the Ghost of G1 Past, but White and Owens rush the ring to attack Honma. He quickly recovered, only to miss a Kokeshi, which opened the door for White to come in and take apart Honma with chops in the corner. Owens keeps the slow-momentum going as the Bullet Club trio were racking up an endless series of near-falls, while I reach for the coffee. A leg trips ends Honma to the mat in slow-motion as he proceeded to miss a diving Kokeshi… and another one, this time on White. Finally he lands it, then made the tag out to Juice as commentary brought up how White derailed his G1 last year with that broken hand. Juice has to be a one-man wrecking crew with spinebusters and leg lariats, before some Dusty punches were eventually avoided.

White’s taken into the corner, but he countered a cannonball by rushing in for a DDT, before Juice’s full nelson slam hit. Tags got us to Henare and Owens, with Henare using Chase as a human ladder to “Terry Funk bump” Yujiro ahead of a standing suplex. Chase fought back, but his forearm was headbutted away… as was Yujiro, before Henare almost rugby tackled the ref.

Chase’s misdirection gives him an opening, as an eye rake and a package piledriver put Henare away to end this deathly slow-paced match. A hard pass. *¾

Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI
We’ve an intra-CHAOS tag here ahead of Goto/Yano tomorrow. Of course, Yano looked for the turnbuckle padding from the off, but he’s stopped and taken into the ropes.

A clothesline from Goto forces Yano to tag out, as we got Ishii and Goto trading elbows to the head for fun. Shoulder charges knock Ishii down, so Goto brings in YOSHI-HASHI, who absorbs elbows and keeps getting back up. He tries to chop Ishii, but they initially prove more irritating than effective, before a suplex from Ishii put him down. Yano’s back, but he’s again going for the turnbuckles as Goto returned to unload some kicks ahead of a Saito suplex. Yano’s double-teamed with a neckbreaker/GTR combo from Goto and YOSHI-HASHI for a near-fall… my feed gives out and we’re back as Yano beat YOSHI with a low blow and a roll-up. Exactly what you’d think, but that’s no bad thing here. **½

Jon Moxley & Shota Umino vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi)
This was a surreal match, even compared to four months ago…

Naito’s trying to get Moxley to hold the ropes open for him, but we start with poor Shooter trading shoulder tackles and elbows with Shingo. Despite having almost his entire left arm taped, it went fairly well for him. Until Naito came in and elbows that taped up arm, stopping only to poke the proverbial bear that was Moxley. That’s going to be explosive tomorrow. Moxley shoves down the referee so he could go after Naito, who just low bridges him to the outside for some brawling. Thing is, that left Umino on his own against Shingo, before tags got us a brief, legitimate preview of Naito/Moxley, complete with spitting that fired up Mox. Crotch chops take us to a low dropkick to Moxley’s knee. My feed gives again, returning a Shingo’s sliding lariat’s caught by Moxley… who then turned it into a uranage as he brings Umino back in it.

Shingo runs into a spinebuster as Shota comes close, but he’s double-teamed by Naito as well before a short-range Pumping Bomber almost got the win. A second Pumping Bomber is much more effective, with no Moxley to make the save, as Shingo got the relatively straight-forward win. **¾

Post-match, Naito tries to Tranquilo, but Moxley swings a chair, forcing him to scarper…

G1 Climax, Block A: Lance Archer vs. Kota Ibushi
The A-block folks have had a full week off, so they’ll be almost refreshed. The Young Lions are glad too, they’ve had a week since Lance Archer tried to lamp them, despite Karl Fredericks trying to duck away.

Ibushi starts by trying to kick away at Archer’s legs, succeeding with a dropkick into the corner before his springboard took him into a chokeslam. A counter to the counter sees him ‘rana Archer to the outside, before an attempted Golden Triangle moonsault’s stopped when Archer pulls him down to the floor. The guard rails await Ibushi, as the pair head into the crowd, with Archer continuing to wipe out Young Lions. Back in the ring, Archer clubs away on Ibushi with forearms, following in with a thunderous short-arm lariat for a near-fall. Ibushi manages to counter the Derailer pounce, with a leaping stomp, before a scoop slam led to a delayed springboard moonsault as Ibushi slipped – then saved himself – into the corner.

Ibushi heads up top, but a knee from Archer stopped him as Ibushi ends up having to counter back with a powerbomb out of the corner for a near-fall. Archer turned up the “what the hell” factor with a flip senton off the middle rope into Ibushi for a near-fall, before he began to block kicks and just wreck Kota with a chokeslam for another two-count. Archer tries to polish off Ibushi with the EBD claw, but Kota gets to the ropes as he tried desperately to make a dent. A Bomaye knee drops Archer, before Kota measured up for Kamigoye… only for Archer to hit one of his own for a very near-fall. Jesus, Archer’s continuing to knock this G1 out of the park, save for the results.

From there, Archer lays Ibushi on the mat as he went for a moonsault… but Lance crashes and burns. Archer manages to get up to tease a Blackout, but Ibushi gets free and goes in with a Bomaye knee, then a Kamigoye… but Archer stays up! A second Kamigoye follows, with Ibushi falling on top of Archer… and that’s all. Good God, this was immense as Lance Archer is hurriedly shedding the “just a tag guy” label. ****

G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. Will Ospreay
Fale’s got Chase and Jado again, just because.

Chase holds Ospreay’s leg as he got into the ring, as we’ve got some pre-match beatings. Ospreay tries to fight back, eventually springboarding into the ring with a forearm for a near-fall as Fale nearly got beaten with the first move.

Jado interjects with the Kendo stick to stop Ospreay… and stop him he did as Fale slowed down the pace of the match to near-Honma levels, elbowing Ospreay in the neck. Chase helps remove some of the tape on Ospreay’s back, but it was a struggle, as was watching this match. It was to be expected. A nerve hold gives Ospreay something to work back from, as he handsprings in for an enziguiri, before taking Fale down for a standing shooting star press. Fale shoves the ref into Ospreay mid-springboard as we’ve more shenanigans for Will to avoid… but he ends up slipping into the ring and getting squashed, before a Grenade landed. There’s no ref at first, as we have a delayed two-count, before Ospreay slips out of a Bad Luck Fall and did the stupid thing.

He teases a Storm Breaker, but despite lifting up Fale his back gives out. A Hidden Blade-like elbow’s in next for a near-fall, before an OsCutter landed flush… only for Chase Owens to pull out the ref. Wow, they need ALL the smoke and mirrors here. Jado tries to use the Kendo stick, but Ospreay disarms him, only for Chase to try a package piledriver. That’s escaped before an OsCutter’s swatted away with a Kendo stick… One package piledriver later, and Fale’s got an open door to walk through. But there’s still no ref… Red Shoes Unno comes in to count the pin, but he stops at two to flip off Fale and then run for his life as Will’s awarded the win by DQ. Let’s never speak of this again. You tried, Will, but some millstones are just too big to overcome. *½

G1 Climax, Block A: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. EVIL
These guys are 1-1 in prior singles matches, and we start with EVIL looking to take the match to the mat, before a quick flurry of strike attempts led to a stand-off.

EVIL keeps up on the mat, using a double-arm stretch on Sabre, but Zack gets back in with some of his usual stuff, using a cravat to keep EVIL at bay. A guillotine from Sabre’s countered out into a suplex, before a Bronco buster into the corner almost bloodied ZSJ’s nose on the way to EVIL getting a near-fall. On the mat, Sabre countered back with a triangle armbar, which EVIL countered out of with a powerbomb, before Sabre surprised EVIL with a Sharpshooter… one that quickly ended in the ropes. They end up outside, where EVIL used the ring apron for assistance for a Magic Killer on the floor, before they made it back to the ring as I wonder just what the hell they’ve done with these last ten minutes.

Sabre tries to kick back, but he countered EVIL’s superkick by turning it into a heel hook, only for EVIL to counter into a Sharpshooter as Sabre had to scramble for the ropes this time. A lariat’s next from EVIL, before a series of pinning attempts drew a bunch of near-falls. Another thrust kick from EVIL lands, but Zack’s right in with a PK, before he caught EVIL with an Octopus… but couldn’t sink it in too deep as EVIL countered back with Darkness Falls. From there, EVIL went for Everything is EVIL, but Sabre slips out and into a crucifix pin for a near-fall, before his switching around took him into Everything is EVIL for the win. This was fine, but never really got my attention – it wasn’t as bad a pacing issue like that Honma tag earlier, but at least we’re back to Sabre throwing a wobbly afterwards as his G1 is all but over. ***½

G1 Climax, Block A: SANADA vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
It’s another rematch from the New Japan Cup, and SANADA’s got the advantage when it comes to tournament outings.

The crowd’s slightly more in favour of SANADA it seems by the cacophony of duelling chants, and we started with SANADA grabbing a headlock, forcing Tanahashi to power free as he looked to work the arm instead. The pair go back-and-forth on each other’s wrists, breaking it up with forearms before they caught each others’ kicks in another stalemate. SANADA edges ahead with a Paradise Lock, tying in Tanahashi as the pair continued to work a slow, deliberate pace. SANADA misses a standing moonsault, giving Tanahashi an opening for a flip senton as we’re just about still in the feeling out processes. A Dragon screw takes SANADA down again, but he’s able to reply with one of his own as both men were selling their bad wheels, with SANADA slightly better off as he hit a springboard missile dropkick ahead of a pescado to the outside. Now the tempo’s finally rising.

The pair go back and forth with forearms as SANADA tried to leap in with a Skull End… but Tanahashi counters with a Twist and Shout… and rolled SANADA back to his feet, only for SANADA to respond with a Magic Killer, using the ropes as the second man. Tanahashi retaliated with a Slingblade, before he teased going up top… but the High Fly Flow misses as SANADA rolls away. Tanahashi repeats the trick as SANADA whiffs on his moonsault, but SANADA’s right back with a Skull End, swinging Tanahashi around before he got caught with a small package for a near-fall. Tanahashi keeps up with the pinning attempts, but a Euro clutch got kicked out of and turned into a grounded Skull End. It’s escaped as Tanahashi looks for one of his own, which SANADA eventually flipped back out of to reverse the hold, only for Tanahashi to hit back with a Shiranui-like takedown.

Tanahashi heads up for the Ace’s High (High Fly Flow crossbody), then another High Fly Flow, which actually connected for the win. Much like EVIL/ZSJ, this was fine, but it didn’t connect with me much, as it again veered too far into the path of being methodical. Matches don’t have to be balls-to-the-wall sprints, but this felt like it was at a snails’ pace for far too long. SANADA’s G1 is pretty much toast, while Tanahashi… if that High Fly Flow did too much to his knees, he could be at the risk of derailing from here on in. ***½

G1 Climax, Block A: KENTA vs. Kazuchika Okada
“Someone’s 0 has to go!” – the match that many have dreamt of, as the former NOAH star took on the record-setting IWGP champion.

The Aichi crowd was massively pro-Okada here, which drew something of a satisfied smirk from the champion. When we got going, KENTA looked for the waist of Okada, but they’re quickly in the ropes as he had to force a break… into the patronising pat on the chest. KENTA tries his luck with a front facelock, this time deliberately taking Okada into the ropes so he could slap him. KENTA followed up with some kicks after he took Okada into the ropes, topping that off with a springboard knee drop. They head outside as more kicks from KENTA drew a one-count, before a neck crank and some headscissors grounded Okada. It’s a slow-paced, but aggressive showing from KENTA here, as more kicks plastered Okada ahead of the backheel kick. Oh, and the cocky Rainmaker pose, just to rub it in…

Okada fires back from that, scoring a back elbow and a DDT for a two-count, but a tornado-DDT like neckbreaker hangs Okada in the ropes as KENTA’s right back in it. At least until Okada landed a flapjack as the match degenerated into a slugfest, with back-and-forth elbows. Okada mounts pressure, lifting KENTA to the top rope as he dropkicked him to the floor, before a boot took KENTA over the guard rails. We pass the 15 minute call, as KENTA avoids a draping DDT and lifted Okada onto the rails near the English commentary table as a flying double stomp off the apron took Okada back to the floor. Back in the ring, KENTA charges into Okada with a diving dropkick in the corner as he began to build a head of steam, but Okada quickly cuts him off with a shotgun dropkick!

A slam sets Okada up for the top rope elbow drop, but KENTA gets up to punch Okada on the top rope. Okada fought back with some rights, only to get slapped as he eventually shoved KENTA down as that top rope elbow… is countered into an arm triangle as KENTA went for the Game Over crossface! Okada gets a foot to the rope to force a break as KENTA smashes right back in with a pair of Busaiku knees. A crushing stomp off the top nearly puts KENTA’s boots thru Okada’s gut, but Okada tries to fight back, scooping up KENTA for a tombstone, only for it to be reversed, then countered into a Go2Sleep… but Okada blocks it!

A dropkick to the back of the head has KENTA down, as does another, before a tombstone planted KENTA in the middle of the ring. From there, Okada goes for a Rainmaker, but it’s ducked and met with a discus lariat from KENTA, as we headed into the final five minutes with the pair exchanging more forearms. A series of palm strikes from KENTA saw him fire up with some fury, but a whiffed kick opens the door as he had to duck a Rainmaker… only to come back with a sleeper. A PK’s stopped by a dropkick from Okada, who then countered a Go2Sleep into a spinning tombstone, before he made damn sure to pull up KENTA. You know what’s next. Rainmaker, 1-2-3… Okada keeps his 0, and KENTA slips to 4-1. This went long, but unlike the prior two matches, never really felt it. Who knew that Okada and KENTA had that extra gear? Oh wait… all of us. A low key “very good match” that left plenty on the table for the inevitable rematches down the line… and those will undoubtedly eclipse this. ****¼

After the match, we’ve a tense staredown, as Okada offered a handshake… and it was taken as KENTA begrudgingly showed respect to the better man. On this night, at least…

Block A:
Kazuchika Okada (5-0; 10pts)
KENTA (4-1; 8pts)
EVIL, Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi (3-2; 6pts)
Lance Archer, Will Ospreay (2-3; 4pts)
Bad Luck Fale, Zack Sabre Jr., SANADA (1-4; 2pts)

Block B:
Jon Moxley (4-0; 8pts)
Juice Robinson (3-1; 6pts)
Tomohiro Ishii, Tetsuya Naito, Taichi, Shingo Takagi, Toru Yano (2-2; 4pts)
Jeff Cobb, Hirooki Goto, Jay White (1-3; 2pts)

This may have been the first show of this G1 that wasn’t particularly great from end-to-end. Both halves of the show were skewed by matches that – for me, at least – stood out for the wrong reasons. The Bullet Club undercard tag was agonisingly slow, while the “middle” portion of the G1 matches just never really got going. Definitely a show to cherry-pick from on this weekend…