The A block continued to thin out as we entered the final week of block action in the G1. Let’s keep this truck rolling!

It’s the start of another weekender as we’ve got two shows in Osaka as we enter the final week (and a bit) of the G1. The Edion Arena’s the host, and we’re back to a three-man commentary booth as Chris Charlton returned alongside Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero.

Ren Narita & Yota Tsuji vs. Juice Robinson & Toa Henare
I think this result isn’t in any doubt…

Juice faces Taichi tomorrow, but we’ve no warm-up here. Henare and Narita lock-up, which led to Narita getting plastered with forearms before he landed one of his own. A double-team shoulder tackle gets a solid two-count on Henare, only for Narita to run into a Samoan drop as the tide turned. Juice is in next, taking Narita into the corner ahead of a stalling suplex and a leaping back senton. A dropkick from Narita catches Juice right in the noggin, but Ren still had to fight out as Juice and Henare came in to stop him… but somehow Narita managed to sidestep it all and bring in Tsuji.

A Boston crab from Tsuji just draws in Juice… who properly boots him away. None of this “I’ll withstand your chops” stuff, at least at first, as Juice ended up running into a spear. Henare’s still legal though, catching Tsuji with a clothesline for a two-count, before a spear tackle forces Narita to break up the pin, as a Toa Bottom gets the win with Juice restraining Narita on the outside. Some good fire from Narita and Tsuji, but in the end it’s the same old result for the Young Lions. ***

Toru Yano, Jeff Cobb & Tomoaki Honma vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI
Poor Yano’s gone from the frying pan of Jon Moxley, to the fire of Tomohiro Ishii tomorrow. Good luck.

Yano tried to join Ishii’s team so he could be with his CHAOS buddies, but it didn’t work. So he starts against Ishii, going straight for the buckles, the ropes and… you know the drill. Goto and YOSHI-HASHI try to stop him from his tricks, as Goto and Cobb tag in next for their series of near-misses. A Saito suplex from Goto lands for a near-fall, before he tried to counter out of a slam into a GTR, instead settling for a discus clothesline. YOSHI-HASHI’s in to get thrown around by Cobb, as Honma followed in with chops, a bulldog and… a missed Kokeshi. The leaping Kokeshi succeeds, followed by a regular one, as Ishii breaks up the count to spark a big ol’ Parade of Moves, ending with a Western Lariat and a Butterfly lock as YOSHI-HASHI forces Honma to tap. That’s what you call slotting, unfortunately for Honma… **½

Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI)
Since it’s Naito/Shingo tomorrow, why not pair them up on the same team? Anyway, it’s time to check in on BUSHI’s mask…

Of course we’ve a jump start, as poor BUSHI was there with Suzuki in the ring while everyone else headed outside. BUSHI heads to the ropes as he’s caught in a rear naked choke, and now everyone from LIJ tastes the guard rails. Good luck catching all of this! Things settle down somewhat when BUSHI and Suzuki got back to the ring, but it’s a familiar story as BUSHI’s getting bullied on top of the leg lock that Suzuki had him in. A low dropkick from BUSHI misses as Suzuki’s back to the knee, but tags follow as we get Naito/Taichi… and a nice headscissor takedown from Naito.

Kanemaru runs in illegally to get a low dropkick to the back, as Naito’s single-leg dropkick has Taichi on the deck. Taichi tries to mock Naito with a Destino, but an eye rake followed instead, then a leaping forearm, as Shingo comes in to clobber Taichi with a clothesline in the corner. A second lariat’s kicked away as a thrust kick greeted Shingo, allowing Kanemaru to come in and complete the set. Kanemaru’s low dropkick delays Shingo ahead of a satellite DDT, following up with Deep Impact… but Shingo catches him and pops him up into a death valley driver with ease. BUSHI’s restraining Suzuki as a Pumping Bomber awaited for Kanemaru, who then ate a Made in Japan for the win. They kept this light on shenanigans, obligatory brawl aside, as LIJ took the win – with Shingo tellingly taking the fall. **¾

Post-match, we get the obligatory tension as Naito and Shingo hem and haw over the LIJ fist bump – but they’re a lot easier than, say, EVIL or SANADA were in the past.

Bullet Club (Jay White & Chase Owens) vs. Jon Moxley & Shota Umino
Since nobody capitalised on Thursday, Moxley can still kill off half the block if he beats Jay White tomorrow.

We start with Moxley and Owens… and with no cheapshots to begin with Moxley went to work on Owens’ arm. Umino’s in early, taking down Chase with a shoulder tackle before Owens hit back with a series of chops. Shooter misses a dropkick, as Jay White comes into try and bait Moxley into the ring as the Bullet Club pair double-teamed Umino… all while Moxley charged through ref Marty Asami. It gave White the opportunity to charge Umino between the ring apron and guard rails, as White again played chicken, running for his life every time Moxley looked to encroach into the ring. Chase Owens comes in but takes a back body drop… only for White to pull Moxley off the apron so he couldn’t tag in. That swine.

A pissed off Moxley’s back in to chase White away as Umino almost took the win with a spinebuster. Umino followed up with a Boston crab, but White’s too busy brawling on the outside to make a save at first. They head outside as White trips over some cabling as Chase Owens managed to sneak in a dropkick through the ropes to Moxley, before White got back in to finish off Shooter with a Blade Runner. I liked the hit and run stuff from White here – clearly deathly afraid of Jon Moxley, but still able to get the job done. **¾

G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. KENTA
Chase Owens hung around at ringside to join commentary. That’ll not be all he’s doing, as he tries to win the “Match Fale Watchable War”. It’s a losing battle.

KENTA slaps Fale before the bell and instantly has to fight out of a tree slam, returning instead with some big boots before Jado cracked him in the back with a Kendo stick. Fale takes advantage with an elbow drop, before he took KENTA outside and into the guard rails. Back in the ring, KENTA’s stretched in the ropes before he got the receipt for that earlier slap. KENTA comes back, dropping Fale’s neck across the top rope ahead of a flying clothesline, before he took a swipe at Jado. There’s a DDT on Fale for a near-fall too, as KENTA’s second missile dropkick took the big man into the corner for some boots and the stalling dropkick. A double stomp off the top rope sees KENTA go through Fale for a two-count, but Fale gets back in thanks to KENTA’s aborted Go2Sleep attempt.

Chase Owens leaves commentary to run interference as KENTA pulled Fale into the Game Over… that allowed Jado to come in with the Kendo stick… but it’s caught. Fale’s up and rolls up KENTA… and that’s it. This wasn’t good, and that’s a real losing streak building up for KENTA after he started so hot. That win eliminates KENTA on tie-breakers. **¼

G1 Climax, Block A: Lance Archer vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
It’s an intra-Suzuki-gun match here, and with both men eliminated and tied on four points, they’re playing for pride here.

Zack’s playing to stick and move early on as he sidesteps Archer’s strikes, only to get thrown into the corner. Archer goes for a full nelson, switching into a side headlock and an arm wringer as he was looking to out-wrestle Sabre. Sabre rolls free as he busted out all the reversals… but he struggled to take Archer down to the mat, before an easy kip up and arm whip got him free. Sabre tries to play the striking game, but Archer just slams the door shut on that one with a choke, before a one-handed slam threw Sabre to the mat. Eventually Sabre managed to get a hold of Archer’s leg, but the big man’s too close to the ropes and easily forces the break. A mounted sleeperhold’s easily thrown away by Archer, before Zack’s tossed to the outside as Archer teased a cannonball off the apron.

Rolling back into the ring allowed Sabre to tie up Archer with an Octopus in the ropes, then a leg lock as Archer was stepping over the top strand. Going for the knee and the crotch in one fell swoop, eh? A derailer’s next, but Sabre countered superbly with a guillotine choke, only for Archer to get free and head up for a spot of rope-walking… except Sabre crotched him in the turnbuckles. Another guillotine on the top rope’s pushed away as Archer hits a crossbody for a near-fall, before Sabre countered a chokeslam into a triangle armbar. That’s transitioned into the omoplata, with Sabre grabbing a free leg before he was overpowered into the ropes. Archer’s straight back in with a scooped powerbomb for a two-count, before he telegraphed an EBD claw, with Sabre countering into an Octopus hold… transitioning into a triangle armbar only to let go and run into a Black Hole Slam. Still for a two-count though.

The EBD Claw’s quickly escaped, so Archer just lamps Sabre before a chokeslam brings Zack down with snow on him… but Archer pulls him up at two?! He wants to win with a Blackout, but Sabre slips down into a rear naked choke and then crucifixed Archer for the win! I feel like Lance Archer is on one of, if not the run of his life here, in spite of the results. This was excellent stuff for a match that the crowd was struggling to bite on, but hey, a few more losses may make Archer slightly more unhinged. ***½

After the match, Archer goes after the ref with an EBD Claw while Sabre cackled in the aisle.

G1 Climax, Block A: EVIL vs. Will Ospreay
EVIL still has a shot of winning the block, but he needs to win out and hope Okada goes on a losing streak. Hmm…

Ospreay starts by looking to work over EVIL’s arm, before taking him outside as we had a faked-out dive. EVIL has a little trouble getting a chair into the ring, so Ospreay just hands it off to the ref as a quick-fire exchange saw Ospreay so a standing shooting star press into EVIL’s knees before he got clotheslined to the floor. On the outside, EVIL has more luck with chairs as he hit a home run, which opened the door to an extended spell of offence from EVIL as my feed handily buffered. A Stundog Millionaire gave Ospreay a way back in, following up with a leaping forearm, then a springboard forearm to knock EVIL down for a two-count. EVIL’s right back with a suplex into the turnbuckles for another two-count, before he caught Ospreay in the corner with a clothesline having been tripped as a set-up for the Shibata-ish dropkick.

Ospreay fights out of a superplex attempt, but EVIL ducks a dive and uses the ref as a human shield… then an unwanting partner as EVIL looked for a Magic Killer… only for Ospreay to slip out and land a handspring enziguiri instead. A Sasuke special followed as EVIL’s attempt to get respite on the floor failed, but things turned around again back in the ring as some misdirection got EVIL back on top with a lariat. The pair exchange forearms as they fought back to their feet, allowing EVIL to land a Darkness Falls for a near-fall. Ospreay’s back as he countered a clothesline into a Ligerbomb for a near-fall, before the hook kick set up for a Hidden Blade… which EVIL ducks! Another head kick drops EVIL, but Ospreay just runs into a clothesline and a headbutt, before landing a Spanish Fly out of nowhere that almost won it!

From there, an OsCutter lands flush… and EVIL barely kicks out in time! This is getting good! A Storm Breaker’s teased, but EVIL countered out, with Ospreay landing on his feet from a German suplex. The Robinson special’s next, but a top rope OsCutter’s blocked and turned into some half-and-half suplexes. Will lands on his head from a nasty lariat as he still found enough to kick out, before he got folded in half with Everything is EVIL. Holy hell, this took a little while to get going, but when it did, they knocked it out of the park. EVIL’s technically still alive, but one more win for OKADA rules him out. ****¼

G1 Climax, Block A: Kota Ibushi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
It’s a little weird that the rematch from last year’s finals is “only” a semi-main event… but let’s see. A loss for Tanahashi means he’s out on tie-breakers (at least), while a loss for Ibushi means he’ll be relying on Okada to lose the rest of his block.

They keep it even early on, with Tanahashi tripping Ibushi as he looked to work over the sorta-healed leg and ankle of last year’s runner up. A leg spreader’s next from Tanahashi, but Ibushi drags himself to the ropes for a break… and Tanahashi just stays on top of him. A quick flurry of kicks and a standing moonsault gets Ibushi a near-fall as we crossed the five minute mark… and this is just about going at the sort of pace you’d expect if you’re expecting this match to be a draw. Catching a kick, Tanahashi takes down Kota with a Dragon screw, before he turned him around in a high angle Cloverleaf. Sitting down on Ibushi only added the pressure, but Kota’s able to drag his way to the rope to force another break. Another Dragon screw in the ropes takes Ibushi outside, but he’s quickly up with a flying ‘rana into the ring as Tanahashi teased a High Fly Flow to the floor!

Tanahashi’s now on the defensive, with Ibushi measuring him up for a deadlift German suplex off the apron, bringing the Ace back in with a thud for another two-count. Some swipes from Tanahashi get a response from Ibushi as the pace was quickening. Yeah, this isn’t going 30 minutes if they’re paint brushing each other like this… and a lariat from Ibushi decked both men! Those strikes looked to bloody up Ibushi, who called for a Kamigoye… but Tanahashi counters with rolling Twist and Shout neckbreakers before the Ace’s High crossbody dropped Kota. A High Fly Flow’s next, but Ibushi rolls away as there was no water in the proverbial pool for Tanahashi. From there, Ibushi nails a Bomaye knee for a two-count, before a Kamigoye’s countered into a wheelbarrow roll-up for a near-fall!

Kota’s straight back up and at it with the head kicks, before one swift Kamigoye put away Tanahashi… who now cannot win back-to-back G1s. This may have “just” been their greatest hits in a sprint, but this was absolutely fantastic. Not quite the end of the road for Tanahashi, but the peak is definitely behind him, you’d have to say. ****½

G1 Climax, Block A: SANADA vs. Kazuchika Okada
SANADA has never beaten Okada… is this the night that SANADA gets the job done?

The pair wait in the corner at the bell, soaking in the crowd, so you know this is going long! Perhaps even 30 minutes long, as they eventually go to ground, going back and forth other a cross armbreaker, before Okada locked in a particularly grunty side headlock, forcing SANADA to push his way free as… a shoulder tackle takes him down. A lock-up ends in the ropes as SANADA’s teased with a mockingly-clean break. SANADA took down Okada in the search for a Paradise Lock, but it’s pushed away as Okada hit the ropes and came back in with a sliding back elbow. A DDT spikes SANADA for a two-count, but Okada couldn’t get an elbow drop off, instead leaping over SANADA before he scored with a dropkick to the floor.

On the outside, SANADA’s thrown into the guard rails, then met with a draping DDT as Okada was keeping the pace slow and deliberate, chipping away at his opponent rather than going in all guns blazing. The look on Okada’s face when the ten-minute call was announced was a bit of a sight, as SANADA managed to make a slight inroad back into things with a low dropkick. Forearms follow, but it’s the double leapfrog/dropkick combo that finally turned the tables, sending Okada outside for a pescado. The Paradise Lock followed as Okada’s finally trapped, and freed with a low dropkick as SANADA got a two-count from all of that. A pancake from Okada stops the tide, which was more waves lapping at a shore than any kind of gushing torrent. SANADA tries to get back ahead with a back suplex, getting a near-fall as we crossed 15 minutes of a match that was being played at barely half-speed.

Okada countered a handspring into a nasty-looking neckbreaker slam on SANADA, before a slam and a top rope elbow drop led to the Rainmaker zoom-out. That seemed to be the cue for SANADA to start teasing Skull Ends, but Okada walks up the turnbuckle to reverse it and counter back into a tombstone. A Rainmaker’s teased, but SANADA countered with a Magic Killer in the ropes to leave both men down. Okada’s begging for SANADA to show some fire as he plastered him with forearms, and he gets… some glowing embers as we cross the 20 minute mark, with the pair swapping forearms and uppercuts before Okada picked up the pace with a couple of dropkicks. SANADA ducks a Rainmaker so he could try and flip back into a Skull End, labouring over it before he eventually caught Okada with a Tiger suplex for a near-fall.

SANADA springs up for a moonsault, but has to land on his feet as he ended up going for another Skull End… Okada rolls free and into a Rainmaker, dropping SANADA to the mat. A second Rainmaker’s reversed as SANADA landed one of his own, before a swinging Skull End drags Okada to the mat as we entered the final five minutes. Okada gets his head out of the hold that many criticise SANADA for never locking in tight enough, as the struggle for the hold continued until Okada wriggled into the ropes. SANADA goes back to the hold, pulling Okada down in the middle of the ring… and again Okada escaped to try and pin SANADA. We’re back in the hold as we enter the final three minutes, with SANADA keeping a Skull End in for a final minute before he misses a moonsault, as Okada got the knees up. Now I’m hooked – is this how they get to the draw, with both men spent on the mat?!

The final sixty seconds are called out with SANADA again going for Skull End, but Okada gets free with a dropkick, before he pulled up SANADA for a Rainmaker… which is countered into a pop up cutter! SANADA heads up for a moonsault again, landing on Okada’s back, before rolling him over for another as Red Shoes Unno acrobatically leapt across the frame to count the pin with just TWELVE SECONDS REMAINING. The curse of Osaka lives on as the IWGP champion loses his G1 block match here! I’ll give them credit – for a match that was played at a low pace, they managed to keep the crowd on tenterhooks throughout. Considering this flew in the face of what the “New Japan main event house style” is, this worked for me by the time we got to the closing stretch… even if I’d have preferred this have been a shorter match – but I guess when their entire history’s predicated on long matches, teasing the draw but swerving us late on was as close to a natural result they could go when they had a hard time limit to work to. ****¼

So, Marmite main event aside, this was a fantastic stretch of matches in the G1 portion of the card – and as we head into the real nitty gritty of the tournament, expect more balls-to-the-wall outings. The field may be thinning, but those who have something left to play for won’t be going half speed…

Block A:
Kazuchika Okada (6-1; 12pts)
Kota Ibushi (5-2; 10pts)
EVIL, KENTA, Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-3; 8pts)
Zack Sabre Jr, SANADA. (3-4; 6pts)
Lance Archer, Bad Luck Fale, Will Ospreay (2-5; 4pts)

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

Block B:
Jon Moxley (5-1; 10pts)
Jeff Cobb, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Tetsuya Naito, Juice Robinson, Jay White, Toru Yano (3-3; 6pts)
Taichi, Shingo Takagi (2-4; 4pts)

Eliminated: Taichi, Takagi

We’re staying in Osaka on Sunday with the battle of LIJ main eventing as Naito takes on Shingo in a match that could be for nought if Jon Moxley beats Jay White in the semi-main – as almost all of B block wait on tenterhooks to see if their eliminations are confirmed.