Will Ospreay. Kazuchika Okada. Two wrestlers widely regarded as among the best in the world today. It’s gonna be a special main event…
It’s back to Korakuen Hall for the final night in a three-night stretch, with the usual trio of Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero and Chris Charlton on the alliteratively-pleasing commentary.
Jon Moxley & Shota Umino vs. Juice Robinson & Yota Tsuji
Moxley gets a pretty good reaction coming out through the crowd, like a slightly-less unhinged Takashi Iizuka…
Moxley’s got Shingo on Wednesday, so instead we’re getting an early teaser for the B block finale. We start off hot as Juice and Moxley threw out the Young Lions to start throwing rights at each other, while commentary threw in references to their days in WWE developmental. Juice’s early leg lariat got him a brief opening, before Yota Tsuji made a blind tag… but he couldn’t get in before Moxley charged Juice into his corner. Where Umino made a tag, as the Young Lions finally came in while their partners just rolled to the outside for a good ol’ brawl. The big lads headed to the back, so we’re left with the Young Lions special, with Tsuji almost winning with a slam. A Boston crab looks to follow as Tsuji rolled Umino onto his injured shoulder… only for Moxley to run back in and break up the hold with a Regal Knee. Juice is nowhere to be seen, as Moxley helps take down Tsuji with a Hart Attack, before a Boston crab makes Yota tap. Fun for what it was, and they were smart to keep the Juice/Moxley stuff to a minimum here. **¾
Post-match, Juice returns to get into it with Moxley again as more Young Lions tried to break it all up ahead of the return of Interrupting VTR!
Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano & Yuya Uemura
Of course, there’s a jump start, with Taichi stomping on Goto at the bell.
A brief comeback from Goto ends with him being hurled outside, then into the guard rails, with the rest of the match following suit. You know the drill here – chairs get used, with Suzuki wearing down Uemura too, before they returned to the ring for more of the same. Uemura’s in to try and break up Suzuki’s chinlock on Goto, and that’s exactly the kind of heart that’ll get a boy killed. We’re back to Goto and Taichi, with those trousers getting whipped off before Taichi almost ran into an ushigoroshi, and eventually falling to a lariat. That’s all for those two as Suzuki and Yano tag in… and oh boy. Like the changing of the seasons, it never ends as Yano wound up Suzuki with his usual shtick, only to get slapped. A PK nearly got Suzuki the win, before he countered an atomic drop… in comes Kanemaru to throw Yano into the exposed corner, as Uemura tagged in to try his luck.
Again, Uemura knocks Suzuki off the apron to continue his own death wish, before a release overhead suplex led to a near-fall as Suzuki broke up the pin on Kanemaru. Uemura keeps pushing his luck on Kanemaru with backslides and roll-ups, before he’s stopped by a clothesline as Kanemaru quickly took the win with Deep Impact. Perfectly decent undercard stuff, with Uemura’s fire being the clear highlight here. **½
Bullet Club (Jay White, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Jeff Cobb, Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare
Poor Jay White, standing alone at the bottom of block B after he lost to Toru Yano yesterday…
Honma and Yujiro start as the ghost of G1s past, trading slaps before a shoulder tackle and a slam opened us up for… a Kokeshi that was delayed, but still missed. Some brawling follows outside as White choked away on Cobb with a camera cable, while Honma remained in trouble in the Bullet Club corner. Chase Owens keeps up on Honma, before Honma finally began to fight back, avoiding a low dropkick from Yujiro before he finally hit Kokeshi. Jay White comes in to stop a tag out, Well, I say “stop”, “delay” was probably the better term as Jeff Cobb came in and quickly splattered White with a standing moonsault. White clings onto the ropes to avoid a Tour of the Islands, then raked the eyes to avoid an Athletic Plex, before he finally hit back in with a DDT.
Cobb shows off his strength with a pair of pumphandle suplexes to Owens and Yujiro. Henare’s brought back in to land a leaping shoulder tackle, then a lariat on Owens, before a spear tackle almost put Chase away. A Parade of Move Teases breaks out between White and Cobb, before Henare almost loses to a Final Cut… but instead he’s just plastered with a bicycle knee and a package piledriver for the win. This was fine, but not exactly spectacular – it ticked the box marked “build to the G1 match” and not much else. **¼
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) vs. Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI & Ren Narita
Ishii and Naito headline in Hiroshima on Wednesday, but it’s Shingo and YOSHI-HASHI who got us going with shoulder tackles and forearms until a Head Hunter dropped Shingo.
LIJ make a save as YOSHI went for the hanging dropkick in the ropes, before things spilled outside. Well, at least they did for Naito and Ishii, with the latter getting thrown into the ring post as YOSHI-HASHI took the brunt of things. A Western lariat manages to take Shingo back down as tags take us to Naito and Ishii, who tease their big stuff before Naito took a nasty landing from a scoop slam. Some brushing boots from Naito just wind up Ishii, but the aggression backfires as an atomic drop and a low dropkick stop him. Ren Narita took over, looking to finish off BUSHI with the overhead belly-to-belly, before a leg lace looked to force a submission… but BUSHI got to the ropes. From there, Narita’s swarmed and crashed into with a low Naito dropkick for a near-fall, before the MX put him away. By the numbers, but it did what it needed to I suppose. **½
G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Sabre’s had a rotten run in the G1 so far, having lost his opening three… a fourth loss pretty much kills his tournament. Again, Fale had Chase Owens and Jado out to help with the heavy lifting.
Zack made a point of charging in with a guillotine at the bell as submissions were definitely his game plan. A leg grapevine looked to take Fale down, but the big man just wades to the ropes for an eventual break. Eventually Fale tries to get into the game, but his elbow drop’s countered into a triangle armbar, before Fale again got free. A Bad Luck Fall’s’ countered into an Octopus as Zack climbed over his opponent, but Fale just backed into the ropes as Jado cracks Sabre in the back to ensure the hold’s broken. Owens dragged Sabre to the outside, where Fale throws him into the barriers as Chase had the really good idea of taking Sabre deeper into the crowd…
After taking a bit of a beating, Sabre fought back, slipping out of a Bad Luck Fall before countering a Grenade into a triangle armbar in the seating decks. The referee’s started counting, so Sabre clings on, then lets go so he can race back to get the count-out win. A fantastic tactical job, as Fale loses the foot race by a country mile – and the match too! **½
G1 Climax, Block A: Lance Archer vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Tanahashi jumped Archer before the bell, going for the leg as he tried to make sure that the big man couldn’t stand tall for too long.
It didn’t work too well, as Archer hits a chokeslam on the apron, before cannonballing off it a la Liger as Archer’s just pulling out all the stops in this G1. Chops from Archer rock Tanahashi ahead of a Black Hole Slam that almost ended it. Archer’s dominance was putting Tanahashi in deep trouble as the crowd were damn near split in their chants between the pair. Archer tried to apply a genuine Texas Cloverleaf, but Tanahashi blocks it before he caught Archer with a Slingblade. Tanahashi’s Cloverleaf didn’t come off, so he hits some Dragon Screws instead, before Archer just POUNCE’d him into the corner. Tanahashi tries to rope walk, but Archer just pulls him down with ease, then does it himself before leaping into the Twist and Shout.
Another Slingblade followed for a near-fall, before he missed an Ace’s High (High Fly Flow crossbody) as Archer caught him with a chokeslam for another two-count. From there, Archer goes up for a twisting Vader Bomb, before Tanahashi went into the ropes to avoid an EBD Claw… Archer takes Tanahashi up top as he looked for Blackout… but Tanahashi counters with a Victory roll, and that’s the win! I’m really loving Archer in this G1, even if the results aren’t coming his way. ***½
G1 Climax, Block A: EVIL vs. KENTA
Unbeaten thus far in the G1, Kenta’s looking to save his spot at the top of the group here with another win. YOSHI-HASHI’s joined the Japanese commentary desk, with an ice pack sandwiched under his t-shirt…
EVIL tried to use his size difference to keep KENTA at bay. They head into the ropes, where KENTA mockingly wipes off some of EVIL’s mascara, before a mocking backheel just drew the crowd’s ire. EVIL responds by taking KENTA outside and into the guard rails, before he got hold of a chair and swung it off of KENTA’s head. The pair continued to brawl around the back of Korakuen, then into the seating decks as EVIL clears some chairs away, only for KENTA to land the suplex onto the flattened chairs. That looked like it sucked…
Back in the ring, the pair trade running boots, with EVIL swiping down KENTA with a lariat to stem the tide there, before some face-washing boots got caught as KENTA fought his way back in. A springboard missile dropkick and a running boot into the corner opened up for the Shibata-ish dropkick, before a flying stomp nearly put EVIL away. KENTA looks for Go2Sleep, but EVIL slips free as things descended back into a strike battle, which seemingly played into KENTA’s hands, only for him to get waylaid with a headbutt. Darkess Falls for a two-count as the pair started to scramble for pinning attempts… EVIL tries to change it back with the hunt for a lariat, but a Busaiku knee from KENTA changed the tide once more. A second knee gets another near-fall, ahead of a PK and a Go2Sleep as KENTA picked up the W. KENTA may not be at the absolute best that everyone remembered him for, but he’s slowly settling into this G1, throwing bombs and taking names as he blitzed through EVIL here. ***¾
G1 Climax, Block A: SANADA vs. Kota Ibushi
Jokingly referred to as a “handsome battle”, these two met last year in a fun match, even if it had a series of moonsaults off the apron that became the butt of jokes.
We start out slow here with Ibushi looking to work a wristlock before he took SANADA to the mat in the search for a leglock. It’s a surprisingly-technical opening stretch, but once SANADA flips out of a cravat the tempo’s turned up in a hurry as the pair rushed to a stand-off, albeit with the pair seemingly on very different pages. After the restart, Ibushi takes SANADA into the ropes before he looked for a Paradise Lock… it’s pushed away before Ibushi was low bridged to the outside as SANADA decided to do flips. I’m getting flashbacks to last year…
A grounded sleeperhold keeps SANADA down, but the ropes are there in the nick of time, and SANADA’s quickly back in with a leapfrog/dropkick/pescado combo to take Ibushi down on the floor. Back inside, Ibushi’s playing keepaway as he lands his powerslam/moonsault combo for a near-fall, only for SANADA to go back in with dropkicks… with a low dropkick avoided with Ibushi leaping into a double stomp instead. Both men fight from the ground up, exchanging forearms before they upgraded to kicks and uppercuts as a lariat from Ibushi flipped SANADA to the mat. A Ligerbomb’s next, but SANADA’s out at two, before he went for a Kamigoye… except SANADA doesn’t duck so Ibushi just swerves his knee around his head. It sounds stupid and looked even stupider.
Ibushi repeats the spot, but SANADA sidesteps into a backslide as they up the ante to try and make us forget, with SANADA actually landing a Kamigoye for a near-fall. The moonsault’s next, but Ibushi was out of harm’s way as he came back in with a Bomaye knee instead. They go back and forth on Skull End, until Ibushi counters with a lawn dart into the corner. More back-and-forth followed, leading to more Skull End stuff that Ibushi looked to counter with a Kamigoye… then a head kick, and a Bomaye for a near-fall. Look, since that SANADA screw-up, I’ve not been able to take this seriously, but at least it’s swiftly ended with a Kamigoye as I want these two to be nowhere near each other in singles action for a while. I get having a bad day at the office, but there’s ways to cover it… which they didn’t do. ***
G1 Climax, Block A: Will Ospreay vs. Kazuchika Okada
I’m resigned to Will Ospreay having overdubs for the remainder of the tour. I mean, can they not even dug up his old song so he’s not the odd man out?
Anyway, it’s junior heavyweight champion against the heavyweight champion here – and only their fourth ever singles meeting, with Okada having won every single time. Watch that streak…
The pair soak in the crowd at the bell, but it’s Okada who’s the early aggressor, taking Ospreay down in a hammerlock, before a shoulder tackle had Will back on the mat. A monkey flip from Ospreay nearly Sabu’s Okada, who rolls outside for respite… then returned to take Ospreay outside with a dropkick as he was on the top rope. Rather than follow him out, Okada tried to hold the ropes for Ospreay, who just ends up rolling back in as a slam and a slingshot senton has him in trouble. Elbows to the injured neck don’t exactly help matters, but Ospreay defiantly tries to chop back into contention, only for a forearm to put him back in the corner. After a suplex, Ospreay hits the ropes and lands a handspring enziguiri, following in with the springboard forearm for a near-fall. A Storm Breaker looked to follow, but when Okada escaped he just got whaled on with a chop that rang around Korakuen.
The over-the-top 619 looks to follow, but Okada countered with a neckbreaker slam instead, as the momentum was put to a halt in a hurry. A shotgun dropkick’s next, then a plaintive bodyslam and elbow off the top, as Okada seemed to be in cruise control. The pace quickens as Ospreay slips out with an enziguiri, before he avoided a dropkick… and came back with a shooting star press into Okada’s knees as that dropkick landed at the second attempt. A tombstone followed from Okada, but Ospreay’s back with a Robinson special… only to get dropkicked to the outside as Okada countered an OsCutter. On the apron, Ospreay tries to hit back, but he has to wriggle away from Okada before sending him to the floor… where the back-and-forth ended with a hook kick and an OsCutter off the apron. How is that sort of balance even fair?!
Okada barely beat the count-out, but couldn’t avoid a Coast to Coast dropkick as Ospreay measured up and landed a second OsCutter for a near-fall as Ospreay was looking to find the death blow… but an OsCutter out of the corner’s countered into a German suplex, with Okada hanging on. Another dropkick dumps Ospreay on his head, before a Rainmaker’s countered into a Spanish Fly as Ospreay was pulling out the stops. A shooting star press? Near fall… Ospreay tries to finish off Okada with a Storm Breaker at the 20 minute mark, but Okada slips out as the pair reverse tombstones, only for Ospreay to land his in the middle of the ring. He ripcords Okada into a hook kick as the Storm Breaker’s insanely flipped out of into a Rainmaker… and Okada keeps hold of the wrist, so you know what that means.
A second Rainmaker lands flush, before a third was almost countered into Storm Breaker, only for the inhuman counters to end with Okada flipping out as another pair of Rainmakers finally put Ospreay away. A hell of a finishing flurry here, capping off a tremendous match – but one that, crucially, Okada never looked in any danger of losing as he stays atop of the block. ****½
Kazuchika Okada, KENTA (4-0; 8pts)
Lance Archer, EVIL, Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi (2-2; 4pts)
Bad Luck Fale, Will Ospreay, Zack Sabre Jr., SANADA (1-3; 2pts)
Jon Moxley (3-0; 6pts)
Tomohiro Ishii, Juice Robinson, Shingo Takagi, Toru Yano (2-1; 4pts)
Jeff Cobb, Hirooki Goto, Tetsuya Naito, Taichi (1-2; 2pts)
Jay White (0-3; 0pts)
In terms of the bell-to-bell, this third night at Korakuen was easily the weakest – even if it did explode at the end with that main event. Maybe it’s me being heavily sour on that Ibushi/SANADA match, but when you’re ranting and raving about the Grade One Climax, there’s a lot of expectations there – and every little slip gets magnified ten-fold. For my money, that match probably is going to harm any aspirations of this being a breakout year for SANADA… Okada and KENTA face each other next Saturday in A block action in Aichi, but first it’s Hiroshima on Wednesday with Naito and Ishii headlining.