Block A of the G1 came to its conclusion as we found out who would fill in the first half of Monday’s final.

It’s the first of three nights at Budokan Hall as it all builds up to whether Kota Ibushi can beat Kazuchika Okada to take the block on the final night. Anything other than an Ibushi win in the main event puts Okada through to Monday’s G1 final. Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero and Chris Charlton are practising their Japanese and are doing commentary once again.

Jon Moxley & Shota Umino vs. Juice Robinson & Ren Narita
Tomorrow sees a singles rematch from the Best of Super Junior Finals, as Juice Robinson looks to get revenge on Jon Moxley.

Moxley dove in on Juice’s legs at the bell, taking him down to neutralise any early flurries before things quickly settled down into a bit of a slugfest. A spinebuster drops Moxley, before some Dusty punches were stopped only for a leg lariat from Juice to leave both men down as the Young Lions tagged in. Narita and Umino trade elbows and forearms for fun, with some really satisfying thuds until Narita landed his overhead belly-to-belly suplex. A suplex gets Narita a near-fall, as Juice and Moxley got involved – leading to Juice landing awkwardly with a pescado on the outside. Back in the ring, Umino drops Narita with a dropkick before Moxley returned with a Hart Attack clothesline, allowing Umino to finish things off with a Fisherman suplex. This did just about enough to keep things ticking over, and we’ve got the big target on Juice for tomorrow too as Moxley went after Juice’s knee after the match… **¾

Shota Umino tries to break it up, but Moxley shoves him away… interesting.

Jeff Cobb & Toa Henare vs. Toru Yano & Tomoaki Honma
Yano’s got a very slight chance of winning his block, but he’d need everyone else to forfeit their matches… so yeah, he’s as good as out.

Yano doesn’t want to start against Cobb, for valid reasons, so we open with Henare and Honma trading shoulder tackles. Honma misses a Kokeshi, and is held on the mat as Cobb tagged in to absorb some blows ahead of a dropkick for a near-fall. Henare’s back to deck Honma with a bicycle kick before his suplex was escaped as Honma finally landed a leaping Kokeshi. Tags get us to Yano and Cobb… eye rakes! Turnbuckles off… but Cobb caught him with a roll-up for a near-fall! Shoulder tackles follow as Cobb went for the Gachimuchi-sault, but he’s rolled up as Honma returned to land Kokeshi. Cobb sidesteps another Kokeshi from Honma as he tried to counter with a Spin Cycle… and did so for a near-fal, before a Tour of the Islands got the win. This was fine, but I’ve a feeling tomorrow’s block match is going to be all Yano shtick. **½

Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI
Yeah, we’ve a jump start here as the match instantly spills outside.

YOSHI-HASHI reverses an Irish whip to take Suzuki into the guard rails, while Hirooki Goto knocked down Kanemaru in the ring, following up with a back suplex for a quick two-count. A cheeky kick from Suzuki derails Goto as a hanging armbar has him in trouble, as we’re back outside with Taichi choking away on Ishii with the bell hammer. For some reason, Suzuki laid out Yuya Uemura with a chair, just for the fun of it, while Kanemaru continued to wear down Goto in the ring. Taichi tags in as Goto remained cornered, before Goto eventually fought back with a clothesline. Ishii tags in to absorb some boots from Taichi… except he stayed resolute and charged through Taichi with a shoulder tackle. More kicks from Taichi sting Ishii, who’s dropped with a buzzsaw kick for a near-fall.

Off come the trousers as Ishii sidesteps a superkick, eventually returning with a back suplex as tags took us to Suzuki and YOSHI-HASHI. Oh boy. YOSHI makes some decent inroads, hanging Suzuki on the ropes for a dropkick as the CHAOS trio triple-teamed Suzuki. The ring filled and cleared as it tends to do, before YOSHI-HASHI back body dropped out of a Gotch piledriver… following in with a Western lariat as he almost upset Suzuki, only to get Karma countered into a front facelock as Suzuki finds the rear naked choke and a Gotch piledriver for the win. A hell of a closing sequence, and all I can say is “Thanks for coming YOSHI, you were effective as always.” **¾

Bullet Club (Jay White, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI)
White vs. Naito is the main event tomorrow in what many are guessing is the defacto “winner takes all” match. You know the score here… time to check in on BUSHI’s mask…

We finally get going with Yujiro attacking BUSHI from behind… but BUSHI’s fighting back, as he and Chase went back and forth in the corner. An overhead kick in the ropes catches Owens, before BUSHI gets pulled off the top rope by White, all while Naito became rather acquainted with the guard rails. White tags in and wears through BUSHI with chops, as the Bullet Club were in firm control. Owens nearly wins it with a dropkick, before he blocked a rewind enziguiri as BUSHI finally came in with a regular enziguiri. Yujiro runs in to stop BUSHI tagging out, but he could only delay it as a double ‘rana gave BUSHI the opening to tag in Naito.

We got Naito/White for a brief exchange, as Naito scored with a neckbreaker in the ropes and a Combinacion Cabron as White… looked to fight back. A swinging DDT stopped that as we got back to Shingo and Yujiro, as the ring filled up a little. Yujiro’s Fisherman buster and a diving Owens knee nearly put away Shingo, but it then became LIJ’s turn to swarm Yujiro, leading to him getting dropped by a Pumping Bomber for a near-fall. The ring clears, with BUSHI’s tope suicida helping things as a pumping bomber and Made in Japan dropped Yujiro for the win. Perfectly decent, but that opening stretch with BUSHI on defence was perhaps a little too long for my tastes. **½

After the match, Jay White fills a few swear jars as he jaw-jacked with Naito… who responded by spitting at him.

G1 Climax, Block A: Lance Archer vs. EVIL
Archer’s not won a G1 match in almost a month, which’ll explain why he’s in such a foul mood. That poor sod who fell between the railings…

Archer needs a win to make sure he’s not guaranteed of finishing bottom of the group, and these two started off by charging into each other like bulls. Swear jars come out as Archer demanded to be hit, as commentary fell silent so we could hear all the swears. A Black Hole slam sends EVIL rolling outside… where Archer eventually hits a moonsault off the apron into EVIL and the Young Lions. IMPRESSIVE.

Archer does a Yano and removes a turnbuckle pad, whipping EVIL into the exposed corner, before he suplexed him into the same corner. That looked rough. It’s all Hoytamania here as Archer set up for a springboard senton, but EVIL rolled away and managed to follow in with a Bronco buster in the corner that barely got him a one-count. A clothesline from Archer gets him back in, before he got caught on the top rope as EVIL brought him down with a superplex. EVIL tries the hand-off kick, but the ref’s taken outside by the sheer size of Lance’s leg as Archer took down EVIL with a Derailer, before Archer grabbed a chair and wedged it between the turnbuckles.

Of course, Archer ends up running into it as EVIL followed up with a lariat, just as the referee was getting back into the ring. A rope-assisted Magic Killer follows for a near-fall, but Archer’s quickly back in with a chokeslam for a near-fall… then a F5 as the EBD Claw beckoned… eventually getting it in as he pinned EVIL in short order! Well, Lance ends the G1 strong, and if you count this as a reinvention, this G1 has been a success for Archer. ***½

G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. SANADA
Yeah, Fale has his goons out.

Chase Owens distracts at the bell as he reached into the ring to try and grab SANADA… and that has Fale on offence from the start. Jado teases a Kendo stick shot, but SANADA puts on the brakes before he ran into the shot. Fale takes the match outside as he choked SANADA with a microphone cord while adding to the swear jar. Back in the ring, SANADA foolishly tries to slam Fale, but it doesn’t work as he’s instead taken down with a nerve hold. A claw to the ribs puts SANADA down, before he again went for a dumb slam, and had Fale fall back on him. You know he’ll power up and get it the next time, right?

Elbow drops keep SANADA on the deck, but Fale goes to the well once too often and comes up short as SANADA rolled away. SANADA hits the ropes and opens up with some dropkicks before clotheslining Fale outside, following in with a pescado to the outside. There’s one for Jado too, before Chase Owens ran in and took the double leapfrog dropkick spot because Fale’s too tall for SANADA to leap over. Fale’s thrown back in as SANADA prepped for a springboard missile dropkick, before he tried for a TKO. Geek. Fale pancakes him and flattened him with a big splash for a near-fall. The Bad Luck Fall’s escaped as SANADA… yes, does the slam at the third time as he’s hitting Kokeshi levels of success, before the TKO lands for a near-fall. A Skull End follows, as Chase Owens just pulls the referee out of the ring as Fale tapped. Yup.

Cue Jado and his stick, but he swings and misses before he got tied up in a Paradise Lock. Ditto Chase. A springboard missile dropkick has Fale down and… is he going to complete the hattrick? Nah, SANADA heads up for a moonsault, but lands on his feet before he runs in with a Skull End, only for Fale to roll out and beat SANADA with a SMALL PACKAGE. I’m howling, especially as Fale leaves Chase Owens stuck in a Paradise Lock like the clutz he is. This wasn’t bad bad, but this one probably isn’t setting your world on fire. **¾

G1 Climax, Block A: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. KENTA
There’s been one prior singles meeting between these two, with KENTA beating Sabre on a Pro Wrestling NOAH tour in Wolverhampton (of all places) in May 2011.

We start of scrappy as both men looked for a takedown, with KENTA edging ahead first before Sabre took him into the corner for a clean break. KENTA didn’t return the favour as he swung with a head kick that Sabre ducks, as it seemed any kind of “friendly” part of this went out the window. Zack throws some uppercuts, only to get dropped with a simple forearm time and again as KENTA out-struck Sabre. A grounded sleeperhold just puts KENTA in Sabre’s ballpark, and of course Zack went after the oft-injured shoulder with a kick to get himself free. KENTA’s back with a cocky backheel, but that just angered Sabre more as he resumed the focus on the left arm of KENTA… as again, KENTA went back in with kicks.

Sabre slips out of a chinlock as he again goes in for submissions of his own, folding up KENTA in a myriad of holds, but we return to strikes until Sabre rolled KENTA to the mat and twisted his neck in his legs. KENTA retaliates with a tornado DDT, hanging Sabre’s neck on the rope ahead of a top rope clothesline for a near-fall. Sabre’s almost mocking slaps earned him a retort from KENTA, taking him into the corner for the hesitation dropkick. KENTA has to abort a flying stomp off the top as Sabre hits a spiking Northern Lights suplex, before he rolled KENTA into a proverbial pretzel, again going for a series of submissions as he went back to that left arm again. Arm wringers earn Sabre forearms from KENTA, so Zack just tries to rip it off as a spinning backfist had him down on the mat.

Uppercuts follow between Sabre and KENTA, as Zack was continuing to have a hard time with strikes… but he finally drops KENTA before a PK got caught and met with a discus lariat. From there, KENTA teases a Go 2 Sleep, but Sabre slips out and sweeps the leg as his PK finally lands. For a one-count, as KENTA just got up and walked away! Elbows keep the crowd in it, as some palm strikes catch Zack unawares. A Euro clutch nearly snatches the win for Sabre, who then tried to follow up with an omoplata, before having to settle for a triangle armbar. KENTA slips free into the Game Over crossface, but it’s stopped in the ropes as KENTA ends up following back in with a Busaiku knee for a near-fall. Sabre’s back in with a rolling triangle armbar, taking KENTA into the middle of the ring for an omoplata, hopping the leg and throwing in some backheels to the head as a verbal submission ends things. This was fan-bloody-tastic – the hesitation from KENTA wasn’t as evident as in other matches, and it felt like he was back in a comfort zone that he’d long since left. If you’ve more of a grounding in NOAH, your mileage will improve, but this was REAL good without that historical base. The historical arm injury is the natural Achilles heel for KENTA these days, but with the right opponent, he can still go. ****¼

G1 Climax, Block A: Will Ospreay vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
A win for Ospreay means Lance Archer ends the G1 rock bottom of the block. Think about THAT.

There’s duelling chants at the bell, which seemed to rile Tanahashi a little as the pair started with a long tie-up, ending with Tanahashi in the ropes. We got a clean break, before a knuckle lock forces Ospreay to bend backwards, only to break free as the pair remained at close quarters. Tanahashi used his foot to knock out Ospreay’s knee, only for headscissors to see Ospreay take out Tanahashi… then fake out a dive as this crowd was goddamn electric. Ospreay gets caught in the ropes with a dropkick and a Dragon screw as the wily veteran Tanahashi was picking his spots. A knee spreader keeps Ospreay on the mat, forcing him to drag his way towards the ropes… so Tanahashi stands up and beautifully bridged back to add some pressure, before Ospreay managed to wangle his way into the ropes. Will’s back with a handspring enziguiri, before he hit a leaping forearm.

Tanahashi’s in the corner as he lifts Ospreay onto the apron… before he blocked a springboard and knocked Will back onto the apron… only to get low bridged to the outside as Will eventually set up for a Sasuke special! Back in the ring, a standing shooting star press gets a near-fall. My feed buffers a little, returning as Tanahashi looked for a Cloverleaf, only for Ospreay to get out and land a delayed enziguiri… but Tanahashi grabs the leg and sets him up for a Dragon screw! The Cloverleaf follows, with Tanahashi leaning all the way back on Ospreay like a Liontamer, before Ospreay powered up and into the ropes to force the break.

Tanahashi looked to follow with a Slingblade, but Ospreay ducks before a wheelbarrow roll-up nearly nicked him the win. A Robinson special is next, before an OsCutter was countered with what I guess was meant to be a Slingblade-alike? A Dragon Suplex was next, but Tanahashi switches into a strait-jacket German suplex for a near-fall, before another Slingblade was countered into a standing Spanish Fly! Ospreay heads up top for a shooting star press, which lands beautifully for a near-fall, before an OsCutter planted Tanahashi… but it’s not enough! Ospreay paces as he looks for a Storm Breaker, but Tanahashi counters it into a Slingblade! Finally a regulation Slingblade lands for a near-fall as Tanahashi heads up top… it’s a calculated risk, but he goes all out with Ace’s High… only for Ospreay to roll him through for a near-fall!

A palm strike from Tanahashi earned him a hook kick as Ospreay dove in with a Hidden Blade, and the writing’s on the wall… Storm Breaker’s next, and that’s it. Very much a statement win here as Will Ospreay – the IWGP Junior champion, remember – cleanly put away a heavyweight Ace on his first attempt, and if you’re looking for any other signs that Tanahashi’s career is very much starting the downward swing, well… this is it. This is right up there as one of my favourite matches of the tournament – and will be up there on those MOTY ballots come December. ****¾

G1 Climax, Block A: Kota Ibushi vs. Kazuchika Okada
It’s win-or-bust for Ibushi here, and this is the time you expect and want them to soak it in. ALL THE CHANTS.

There’s a tease of Okada rushing in on Ibushi, but they have a measured start with Okada looking to work over that previously-injured ankle, before he rolled Ibushi to the mat for a one-count. A break in the ropes leads to some back-and-forth elbows that an Ibushi dropkick stops, before Okada lifts a charging Ibushi up top and dropkicks him to the floor. Okada followed him out for a DDT, as he looked to take a count-out win, but of course Ibushi beats the count as Okada stayed on top of him. A chinlock’s used to wear him down, but Ibushi got free and took Okada down with a snap ‘rana, as Kota began to find his target with a series of kicks, following in with a standing moonsault for a near-fall as I became fascinated with what looked like a massive burn mark on his shoulder.

Right on cue, Kevin Kelly tells us it’s a friction burn, as Ibushi followed Okada outside with a pescado. Back inside, Okada dumps Ibushi with a sliding back elbow, before another DDT in the middle of the ring earned a near-fall. The momentum doesn’t last though, as a leaping kick from Ibushi turned the tables as we got a replay of things, before a strike exchange had Ibushi rocked. Saying that, Ibushi’s back in with a scoop slam before he moonsaults into Okada’s knees. A flapjack from Okada gets a near-fall, as we crossed the 15 minute mark. Ibushi pops up to avoid a Rainmaker elbow, catching Okada on the top rope, only to get pushed onto the apron… which allowed him to springboard back in with a top rope ‘rana for a near-fall. Ibushi follows that up with a falling sit-out powerbomb, but they landed too close to the corner as Okada got the ropes to stop the pin.

Okada responds by drilling Ibushi into the mat with a bridging German suplex… before he rolled him up for a Rainmaker… but Ibushi escaped and earned himself a wrecking ball of a dropkick instead. A tombstone’s teased, but Ibushi wriggles out, reversing it into a “Bastard Driver” (package tombstone), as the pair looked spent. Having a lot of near-30 minute matches will do that, Kazu… The pair exchange elbows as they were kneeling, with Ibushi leaving Okada in a heap again… until he got caught with a short shotgun dropkick. Ibushi popped right back up with a clothesline to nullify any advantage Okada had gotten, before they counter, counter and counter as Ibushi’s lawndart was somehow converted into a Rainmaker. A second one followed, leaving Ibushi in a heap… but Okada’s not done. That may be his undoing.

Picking Ibushi up by his waistband, Okada searches for a third one, but it’s countered into a strait-jacket German before the search for a Kamigoye was blocked. A dropkick to the back of the head rocks Ibushi, before a second dropkick got brutally countered into a powerbomb for a near-fall. Cue bomaye… but that’s stopped with another Okada dropkick, before a Rainmaker was ducked and met with a head kick. Ibushi goes for another Kamigoye, but Okada ducks as we almost got the SummerSlam 92 finish, with a back body drop/sunset flip being leaned down on for a near-fall. More head kicks from Ibushi have Okada wobbly, before a leaping knee stopped a Rainmaker! Kamigoye’s next, landing flush, but Okada kicks out! So Ibushi goes to it again, waffling the champion and that’s it! Kota Ibushi nicks the block on tie-breakers, after another excellent match – following the Okada G1 pattern, but thankfully a little pacier than usual. ****½

It’s back-to-back G1 Finals for Ibushi, who’s got a relative day-off as he crawls to the back, knowing his spot in Monday’s finals is in the bag. All I can say for today… wow. If you’re the kind to skip the undercard, this is probably going to go down as one of the best G1 nights in the entire tournament, with the top three matches all delivering – and really, everything hit the right spot in some form. Perverse or otherwise, in the case of Fale/SANADA…

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

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

Eliminated: Cobb, Ishii, Robinson, Taichi, Takagi

We’re back at Budokan tomorrow (albeit not live for us), as Tetsuya Naito vs. Jay White in the main event looks to be the decider – but there’s a veritable minefield of permutations that could see Jon Moxley sneak through, while Hirooki Goto’s threatening too.