It’s the penultimate round in block B as New Japan rolled into Yokohama with a tasty main event on offer between Shingo Takagi and Tomohiro Ishii.

Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium is the host for the last stop before Budokan, and we’re back to the three-man booth as Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero and Chris Charlton are back to open things up in Japanese.

Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura vs. Shota Umino & Ren Narita
It feels like forever since we’ve had one of these Young Lion tags!

Narita and Uemura start us off with wristlocks, before they got into the ropes, where Narita refused to break cleanly, throwing chops to keep Uemura on the back foot. A tag brings in Umino, who helps with a double back elbow before he tried to wear down Uemura, following in with a neckbreaker. Narita’s back body drop nearly ends things, before a pair of tags brought in a fired up Yota Tsuji.

My feed dies as Tsuji goes dropkick crazy, before things steady out as Umino’s back in with a spinebuster for a near-fall. A Fisherman’s suplex is next… as is more buffering, and that’s enough for the win. This was fine, but lacked the usual Young Lion energy until Tsuji came in late on. **½

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI)
Time for our regular undercard check-in on BUSHI’s mask…

We’re building to SANADA/Fale on Saturday as Fale’s having a run of winning with wrestling holds. That feels like a weird thing to be celebrating. Those two start us off, but Owens cheapshots SANADA from behind to get us going as things spill outside. Standard stuff. Fale fills up the New Japan swear jar, before Chase Owens got step-by-step guidance to do a Paradise Lock on SANADA.

It goes poorly.

So the Bullet Club trio proceed to stand on SANADA’s back in the ropes. SANADA gets free and tries to slam Fale, but the weight is too much before SANADA opted to go in with a low dropkick. A springboard missile dropkick’s next as SANADA took down Fale, before tags brought in EVIL and Yujiro, as EVIL’s Fisherman buster almost ended things here.

Yujiro sweeps the leg as EVIL went down for a sliding dropkick, before Chase Owens came in to try his luck. He’s quickly taken down with a thrust kick as BUSHI comes in with his missile dropkick as LIJ triple-teamed him with low dropkicks for a near-fall. From there BUSHI, followed up with a rewind enziguiri as the ring filled up… allowing Yujiro to hit a Fisherman buster of his own as Owens’ knee gets a two-count, before Chase took the win with a package piledriver. By the numbers but pretty solid for what it was as that SANADA/Fale match on Saturday could well be one to skip over. **½

Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., Lance Archer & Minoru Suzuki) vs. KENTA, Clark Connors & Karl Fredericks
It’s KENTA/ZSJ on Saturday, but with both men out of contention, it’ll be something of a dream match for those with fond memories of the “old KENTA”.

Of course we’ve a jump start as things quickly got too wild to call. Karl Fredericks took a Derailer as Lance Archer donates to the swear jar, while KENTA and Sabre trade blows on the outside. Clark Connors ends up in the crowd and buried under crowd railings, as things started to calm down with the maniacal Archer laughing his way into some running elbows to Fredericks in the corner.

Suzuki tags in to kick away on Fredericks, who responds with uppercuts that Suzuki laughed off… as an elbow has the American staggering into the ropes. Thanks for coming, Karl! Sabre tries to pick apart the bones, but he’s caught with a spinebuster as tags bring in KENTA… and I suddenly want to see KENTA vs. Suzuki in 2019. KENTA throws some kicks before a Fisherman buster dropped Sabre for a near-fall.

A follow-up flurry drops Sabre again, but Zack begins to work on KENTA’s much-troubled arm, rolling in with armbars before kicking away at it. The other arm gets booted too as KENTA lands a clothesline, as tags take us to Connors and Suzuki. Clark has a good flurry from the start, throwing chops that Suzuki refused to register before he landed his receipts.

A double-handed chop has Suzuki down though as the ring filled up, with Suzuki getting triple-teamed for a near-fall. Connors’ Boston crab on Suzuki’s rudely broken up by Sabre, as the match spilled back outside… allowing Suzuki to try for a rear naked choke. Somehow Connors slips out and nearly wins with a roll-up, before Suzuki found the rear naked choke and a Gotch piledriver for the win. Some good stuff here, as Suzuki found some new Young Lions to kill. More of this, please! ***¼

Once again, Suzuki got the “Kaze ni nare” sang at him after the match. I get he’s in his home town of Yokohama… but I’m getting a feeling this may be the start of a farewell tour…

Kota Ibushi, Will Ospreay & Toa Henare vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi & YOSHI-HASHI
Of course, Ibushi/Naito is the big match for Saturday – but that Ospreay/Tanahashi outing could be special, especially as nothing’s riding on it…

Okada shepherds his partners into the corner so he and Ibushi could start, and we started with almost a Rock/Hogan like moment as both men surveyed the crowd. The early going is mostly Okada as he teased a Rainmaker, before some kicks from Ibushi led to him crashing and burning on a standing moonsault, as he ended up getting flapjacked by the champion.

YOSHI-HASHI comes in to keep Ibushi down, with some double-teaming from Tanahashi for a near-fall, as Tanahashi became legal. Ibushi finds a way through with a double stomp as he evaded Tanahashi’s low dropkick, before Ospreay came in to give himself a preview of his Saturday match… while also pulling Okada and YOSHI off the apron.

Tanahashi avoids a springboard forearm, but couldn’t get out of the way from a handspring enziguiri for a near-fall. A Tiger flip kick and an enziguiri has Ospreay ahead as he teased a Storm Breaker… but Tanahashi’s out with a Twist and Shout as tags got us to Henare and YOSHI-HASHI.

They clatter into each other with shoulder tackles as Henare looked to force the issue, but duelling clotheslines didn’t find any clear advantage until a rugby tackle from Henare led to a near-fall. A Parade of Moves breaks out as the ring filled up, giving us one last taste of Saturday’s matches, before Henare ran into a chop from YOSHI-HASHI. He’s able to reverse a suplex though, only to get caught with a Western Lariat as YOSHI-HASHI pulled ahead, landing a Fisherman buster for the win. Well, the stuff that built to G1 matches was fine, but there was a clear drop-off when YOSHI-HASHI came in. ***

G1 Climax, Block B: Taichi vs. Toru Yano
“The less he wrestles, the better it is” – some real shade from Kevin Kelly towards Toru Yano there, who was trying to hustle Taichi into starting things.

Taichi rolls outside at the bell, looking to slow things down. It’s the Larry Zbyszko tactic! Yano walks away in disgust at Taichi’s tactics, but he’s attacked on the stage by Kanemaru’s whiskey bottle, then dragged back into the ring as the referee was distracted. Taichi takes over on the outside, wrapping up Yano in the ring apron, as Toru proceeded to make his swear jar donation before he hopped back into the ring, all wrapped up.

All freed up, Yano starts to go after the turnbuckle pads, playing pass the parcel before he stripped Taichi of his tear-off trousers. A roll-up gets Yano a near-fall before Taichi took him into the exposed corner twice, as he got his near-fall from a Gedo clutch, before an Axe Bomber’s curtailed with a low bridge to the outside.

Yano tries to wrap up Taichi in the ring apron, but had to deal with Kanemaru’s whiskey… before he proceeded to wrap the two of them up like a burrito. This is incredible… and it led to the count-out as Miho Abe couldn’t save Taichi in time! If you’re not a fan of Yano matches, then you may want to skip as this was all about the shenanigans, but at least they’re switching it up. For me though, this was hugely entertaining. **¾

G1 Climax, Block B: Tetsuya Naito vs. Jeff Cobb
Naito needs to win the rest of his matches and hope Jon Moxley keeps on slipping up if he’s to have any chance of winning the block.

Cobb starts us off with a thunderous lariat to Naito at the bell, before he hurled Naito across the ring with a Beele throw. Naito powders outside, but Cobb stays on him as they brawled back inside, where Naito’s ‘rana found its mark… before he charged into a big boot from Cobb, who instantly crumpled to the mat in a sweary heap.

Naito goes back in with a dropkick and a neckbreaker for a two-count as he proceeded to keep Cobb on the mat with a cravat. That’s broken as the pair went back and forth until Naito kicked out Cobb’s knee again… only for his Combinacion Cabron to be stopped with an overhead belly-to-belly instead! Cobb builds momentum with an uppercut into the corner, before a Samoan drop led to a delayed gachimuchi-sault as Cobb kept on.

A flying forearm misses from Naito as Cobb countered back in with a German suplex, before the pair ended up on the top rope, with Cobb’s search for a superplex coming off. The Spin Cycle follows, as he folded Naito up for a near-fall… but that earlier damage to the knee was starting to wear on Cobb.

Naito begins to respond with a low dropkick and a Koppo kick, before he wandered into a superkick from Cobb. They’re taken up top as Naito came back in with a ‘rana… but Cobb’s right back up as Naito’s forced to keep the pressure on. A tornado DDT’s blocked, but Naito’s straight back with a reverse ‘rana before a Destino got turned into an F5!

Naito tries to fight back with some forearms, but Cobb’s chops stop things ahead of a clothesline, only for his Tour of the Islands to get turned into a short Destino for a near-fall. All that’s left is for another Destino to land, and that’s the win for Naito as his dreams stay alive – but you have to wonder, if Cobb’s knee hadn’t gone early on, how different would things have been? ***½

G1 Climax, Block B: Jon Moxley vs. Hirooki Goto
Moxley’s G1 is threatening to derail after he won his first five – and he’s looking a little more aggressive as knocked away Goto’s offer of a fist bump.

We open with back and forth strikes as elbows and forearms got the crowd going, before Goto got clotheslined over the top to the outside… where Moxley quickly followed to send Goto into the guard rails. They brawl again, trading forearms as they almost got themselves counted out, rolling in in the nick of time so they could pick up where they left off.

Some misdirection from Goto looked to lead to a clothesline, eventually taking Moxley down after a few of those were absorbed. A spinning heel kick trapped Moxley in the corner, as a Saito suplex took him out of it for a near-fall, before Moxley switched things up and tried to land a Tiger suplex. Instead, he gets off a release German suplex, as Goto went into the corner and found himself in the path of a uranage, before a quick Regal Knee was blocked.

Moxley finds his way in with a double wristlock, forcing Goto to squirm into the ropes for a break, but they go straight back to the forearms as some knees from Moxley switched things up. He follows in with a clothesline too, almost ending things there, before he dove in with a Regal Knee for a near-fall, but Moxley stopped to argue with the ref and found himself caught with an ushigoroshi instead.

The pair charge at each other with duelling clotheslines, as they collapsed to the mat in unison… but it’s Moxley who’s up first, only to get caught with a headbutt and some kicks from Goto. A kick’s caught as Moxley rolled into a death Rider, but a second one’s shoved away as Goto tried to counter with an ushigoroshi into a GTR… and that’s the win! A wonderful sprint of a match here, going well under ten minutes, as Goto turned around from being nearly counted-out to being the latest man to beat Moxley, whose G1 is now out of his own hands. ***¾

G1 Climax, Block B: Jay White vs. Juice Robinson
A little over a year ago, Juice beat Jay to win the US title – a repeat result here would end White’s G1.

As usual, Jay powders outside at the bell… so Juice wipes his arse with a Switchblade towel. That prompts White to offer a handshake “like old times”, but Juice isn’t dumb, as he instead came in with an armdrag… as White again wanted that handshake. Someone watched Beyond…

Gedo provided a distraction as White pulls down Juice by the hair and begins to stomp away on him, before a leg lariat sends White outside. Gedo cowers again as Juice followed him out with a pescado, with White taking advantage by throwing Juice into the guard rails. White tries to use a chair, but Juice ducks as instead the chair’s handed off to the ref.

Yeah, Gedo’s involving himself again as he holds Juice on the apron, allowing White to pick apart Juice’s left leg. We’re back outside as Juice gets run between the apron and railings, before they headed into the crowd, where Juice got dropped knee-first on a chair. Back in the ring, White keeps up on Juice’s left leg, rolling him over into a single-leg crab as Gedo gave us another entry for the swear jar.

White mocks the “Juice” chants, but it seems to fire him up as the Dusty punches were started… then quickly ended as Jay used a Dragon screw to whip the leg into the mat. Hey, there’s a few more pennies going into the jar. Eventually Juice hit back with a spinebuster, before those Dusty punches were again stopped by White going to the leg… only to get pushed outside as Juice crashed in with a pescado.

Robinson follows up on that with a nasty Irish whip into the barriers, before he looked to go for White’s legs, wrapping them around the ring post. Back in the ring, Juice charges in with clotheslines in the corner, before his search for a cannonball was stopped, leading to him countering a counter into a Jackhammer.

There’s more damage done to the knee as White runs into the ropes to stop Juice’s crossbody – instead sending Juice crashing to the mat as the former IWGP champion took the initiative. A DDT and a twisting suplex puts him ahead for a near-fall, before the Saito suplex flung Juice into the ropes. Another Saito suplex sends Juice flying from the ring to the floor as Gedo screamed in delight – and White rushes to take him back inside for a uranage that almost led to the win.

Juice finds a second wind, catching Jay with a powerbomb and folding him for a near-fall, before he rolled Jay over into a Tenzan-esque Boston crab, dragging him into the middle of the ring. White clubs his way free and goes back in with Dragon screws to the leg, before he busted out the TTO that he used last year… but Juice dragged his way to the ropes once more!

White keeps up, jamming Juice’s knee in the corner before dumping him with a sleeper suplex… we cross the 20-minute mark as a Blade Runner looked to follow, only for Juice to roll him up for a near-fall. Another Blade Runner is countered, until Juice had his knee chopped out from under him. A Left Hand of God stops another Blade Runner…

Finally, Juice looked to be on track, but Gedo’s back to distract as a low blow and a ref bump ensues. Yeah, these Gedo distractions are really becoming a drag. The Left Hand of God stops White from using a chair, as Juice prepared to drop him on it with a Pulp Friction… but White pushes away and proceeded to batter Juice’s knee with the chair, before he re-applied the TTO for the inevitable submission. Juice is out of the G1, but has personal pride to play for against Jon Moxley on Sunday, as Jay White’s match against Naito could well be the block decider. ***¾

G1 Climax, Block B: Shingo Takagi vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Ishii’s as good as out as he needs to win to avoid relying on a bunch of no-contests to be involved with a tie-breaker on Sunday.

This has all the ingredients of an instant classic, and we start with both men locking up strong as referee Red Shoes did some stretching. Shingo takes Ishii into the ropes for an unclean break, before shoulder tackles ensued, leading to a flurry of shots that saw both men miss sliding lariats ahead of a stand-off.

Elbows ensue as we’re back to the shoulder tackles, with Shingo knocking Ishii down, following up with elbow drops and a back senton for barely a one-count. We’re back to the strikes as Shingo and Ishii trade chops, which put the Dragon down as a series of kicks landed in the back of the head as Ishii was looking to prove a point.

A chop exchange prompted Ishii to throw his chops towards the throat as he looked to have Shingo weakened… back-and-forth headbutts follow as this looked to descend into a game of “can you top this?”, which led to yet more chops as Ishii barely registered anything… until he was sent sailing into the corner with a double-handed chop.

A punch from Shingo leads to a suplex as he finally made some headway, following in with an elbow drop. An attempt at noshigami was switched into a DDT as Shingo changed things up, following up with a backdrop suplex as Takagi looked to be coasting. Some Bryan Danielson elbows follow, as does a knee drop, before Ishii began to fight back, catching Shingo off the ropes with a powerslam.

Ishii picks up the pace with chops and forearms in the corner, but Shingo turns the tables with some receipts before he nudged aside the referee. That left Ishii down on the mat briefly, as he ended up inviting more shots from Shingo… leaning into the myriad of forearms before a short Pumping Bomber knocked him down. A suplex got Ishii right back in, as again the pair lay into each other with rapid-fire elbows (beh-beh), then with running clotheslines until they traded snap Saito suplexes.

Ishii finally has Shingo on the ropes after that massive exchange, as he looked to follow in with a superplex, sending Shingo flying for a near-fall. Shingo blocks a powerbomb, but couldn’t avoid a series of kicks as his latest attempt at a fightback ended with him taking a forearm to the mat. A powerbomb’s next as Ishii folded up Shingo for a near-fall, all while blood continued to trickle from Ishii’s left ear.

Shingo escapes a brainbuster and teased a Made in Japan, before another lariat dropped Ishii with ease. A noshigami and a sliding lariat has Ishii firmly on the defensive again, before another Made in Japan was stopped… so Shingo could wallop him with a clothesline. Ishii’s back with a headbutt, but his sliding lariat’s avoided as Made in Japan finally lands for a near-fall, followed by a Pumping Bomber for another near-fall. From there, Shingo tries for Last of the Dragons, only for Ishii to fight out before his enziguiri got pushed away.

A desperation German suplex has Shingo in the corner, as Ishii followed up with some more huge lariats, falling on top of Shingo immediately for a near-fall. The sliding lariat’s next, but Shingo’s still able to kick out as we crossed the 20-minute mark, as Ishii looks for the sheer drop brainbuster… but can’t quite get it as Shingo countered with a snow plow!

Shingo’s back up to land a Pumping Bomber… but Ishii just pops right back up! More of them led to a headbutt, then a retaliatory enziguiri, before a lariat from Ishii flipped Shingo to the mat for a one-count. He pops right back up for a Pumping Bomber, for similar results, before one final, running Pumping Bomber… still didn’t get the job done! Yokohama is wild for this, shrieking as Ishii’s pulled up for the Last of the Dragons… and that’s it! Shingo wins, and Ishii’s G1 is done for another year! This wasn’t ever a case of “is this a perfect match?”, but rather an excellent match between two stout fellas who laid it in and loved to get it back in return. A fantastic hoss fight. ****¾

As ever, the G1’s still good for a great match every night – and it’s curious how we’ve got half the block technically open for Sunday’s block B finale. I’m not going to go through tiebreakers and other permutations, as there’s one match on Sunday’s card that sticks out like a sore thumb as a “winner take all” finale.

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:
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

So, that’s the travelling almost over – the G1 rolls into Budokan on Saturday for the first of a three-night swing. Block A’s finals are on Saturday, headlined by Okada/Ibushi, while Sunday looks likely to be headlined by Naito/White as technically half of block B is still alive!