Block A came to a conclusion in Hiroshima on Friday with just the three teams in the race – and a frantic finale!
We had a slight tweak in the undercards Hiroshi Tanahashi had to drop out of the remainder of the tour with a knee injury – preserving him for the Tokyo Dome more than anything else…
Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) & Leo Tonga) vs. David Finlay, Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka
Kitamura wasn’t best pleased with Tama Tonga’s chest protector early… I bet he wants to chop him. Instead, Kitamura had to make do with Tanga Loa, who was sporting snazzy new black-and-yellow trunks, based on the sorta-cliched “Rising Sun” design.
Despite the early offence, Tanga Loa knocks him down with a clothesline before bringing Leo Tonga in – a man whose left arm was almost entirely mummified with tape – to come close with a simple dropkick. Eventually Kitamura ends the flurry with a suplex to Tonga as David Finlay had a crack, but it’s miscommunication that nearly costs the Bullet Club trio, as Leo accidentally booted Tanga Loa as he went for Oka.
In the end though, Loa scored the win not long after that with a sit-out tombstone, which I swear the commentators called “Apeshit”. Standard stuff for an opener, but it’s good to see Leo Tonga being protected somewhat after that initial tour. **¼
Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Best Friends (Chuckie T & Beretta) vs. War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe), Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb
I wonder how cordial things were between one of these teams, given the news this week? Hanson goes through Yano first, putting his shtick to a stop before it could really get going, before Ishii suffered a similar fate, with added Hanson slammed onto him.
The Best Friends too taste War Machine slams, before Ishii finds out the hard way that headbutts don’t really faze Rowe. It’s only when Yano interferes from the outside when the tide changes, as Rowe’s forced to wrestle defensively. By which I mean, throw a few chops to try and stop the onslaught. Tensions between Elgin and War Machine flare up – but that’s just because they’re wrestling tomorrow and not anything to do with those stories. Wink wink. Elgin sort-of gets off the fallaway slam/Samoan drop combo to Ishii and Yano before the Best Friends knocked him down… and then they had to deal with Jeff Cobb. Sorry about that.
An errant diving knee from Rowe ends up taking out Cobb as a tornado DDT takes Rowe outside for a tope con hilo from Chuckie T – and it looks like the CHAOS quartet may have this sorted… until Cobb gets a pumphandle fallaway slam for a near-fall. Ishii takes a belly-to-belly too for breaking that one up, before Chuckie’s given a Tour of the Islands for the win. I’m sure some will read into Cobb racking up the falls, but let’s see how Saturday goes, eh? ***
After the match, War Machine had words with Elgin and Cobb… and that’s going to make their match in Ehime all the tastier, I reckon!
Suzuki-gun (Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.) & El Desperado) vs. Togi Makabe, Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Henare
I guess Liger gets to use his music for the trio’s entrance because he’s not gone zero points in the World Tag League? Liger gets jumped from behind as he expected to start against Desperado, and you know how this goes – Makabe and Henare go into the guard rails whilst Liger tries to tie up Desperado in a Romero special… only for Archer to quickly break that up.
Liger tries to fight back against Archer, but there’s no match as he’s repeatedly clotheslined in the corner, before the Bulldog pulls him into a Lion Tamer-esque Boston crab. Makabe breaks *that* up, and now Desperado has a go… at adding to his collection of masks.
Despy unlaces it, but Liger somehow keeps the hood on, before knocking him down with a Shotei as he finally gets the tag out. Togi Makabe doesn’t fare much better as his missed strikes led to a full nelson bomb from Archer, before Henare came in and managed to knock down the Bulldog with a forearm. Normality’s quickly restored though, with Henare having to fight out of a Killer Bomb attempt before instead taking a version of a Hart Attack.
Henare’s fight can only get him so far though, and a bog standard sit-out powerbomb from Smith does the trick, as Henare picks up another L. Pretty much par for the course on this tour, and now Henare (along with Makabe) has a wooden spoon match against Kitamura and Finlay tomorrow to avoid finishing on zero points. **¾
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Will Ospreay & Gedo
Finally, Hiromu’s figured out how to avoid an errant briefcase – fake it out!
We start with Ospreay and Hiromu taking shots at each other, but a snap ‘rana somehow meant that Hiromu could be triple-teamed for a spell, despite Gedo having gotten an actual tag. Things quickly end up on the outside, as Naito single-handedly wrecks the guard railing with Okada, taking him into the aisles to keep the beating going.
A series of beard and hair pulls leave Gedo on his knees back in the ring, before BUSHI goes to his customary t-shirt choking as Naito finds time to take a shot at Gedo with the slingshot dropkick. There’s still enough room to spit at Okada, just to keep him wound up.
Eventually Gedo’s able to give himself a breather when he staggered into the ropes and crotched BUSHI up top, and now we get tags back to Okada and Naito, where the pace picks up. A back elbow almost dumped Naito on his head, but he recovers to take the champion down with a hiptoss and a dropkick of his own.
Naito tries to escape, but ends up taking a neckbreaker slam as both men tag out…and it’s back to Ospreay and Takahashi, with Ospreay edging ahead with a springboard forearm and a running shooting star press for a near-fall, before eventually getting a belly-to-belly suplex right into the turnbuckles.
From there, Takahashi almost gets the win with the Time Bomb, but Gedo broke up the cover… so Hiromu goes for it again. This time it’s escaped, but he superkicks away an OsCutter as the ring fills up, leading to Naito again getting caught in the grounded cobra clutch as Hiromu gets polished off with the OsCutter for the win. Another decent outing, but there’ll be parts some people will struggle with, I feel. Again, they’re trying to add another item to Okada’s arsenal, but you have to wonder if that’ll count for nothing at the Tokyo Dome in less than a month’s time? ***
Well, that’s the prelims done in just about an hour. Good form!
World Tag League 2017 – Block A: Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens vs. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi)
This is a dead rubber given that Fale and Owens are mathematically out, but at least he gets to kill the ring announcer. Finally!
Fale starts by cornering Nagata, but Yuji fires back with a series of kicks and boots, only for a shoulder block to knock the veteran to the outside. You know what’s next: brawling around ringside! The pace is slow for this one, and remains that way when Owens took over with shots to the leg, trying to prevent any more kicks form coming his way.
Nagata tries to fight back, but with Fale in the ring it’s easy to neutralise things, at least until Nakanishi tags in and chops away on Fale in the corner. Against a bigger man, Fale’s shoulder blocks don’t work, as Nakanishi tries to work up into the Argentine backbreaker… which isn’t happening to Fale today.
Owens returns to take Nakanishi into the corner, before he teases a package piledriver… but Nakanishi gets back out and ended up trying for a lariat, only to get rolled up for a near-fall. Another package piledriver’s attempt, but a back body drop puts paid to it, and after my feed freezes, I return to a shocking result: an Argentine backbreaker to Owens forces a submission! The New Japan Dads are leaving with more than just the one win this tour! Aside from the result, this was skippable, and plodding as hell. **¼
World Tag League 2017 – Block A: Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima
Another dead rubber, but perhaps Kojima and Tenzan might be able to avoid a share of what’d now be joint bottom of the block.
Yep, we’ve got a jump start, with everyone heading outside so Iizuka can choke Tenzan with a camera cable. Meanwhile, Suzuki’s just playing with Kojima like he’s a dying animal, before trapping him in an armbar in the ropes. It’s back to the outside, as Kojima’s dragged deep into the crowd, where Suzuki tears apart crowd barriers and piles them onto him, presumable in search of a count-out.
Kojima manages to crawl back towards the ring, and despite taking a bottle of water to the head and a chairshot, he beats the count. How’d that chairshot not turn into a DQ when the ref was looking right at it? Iizuka comes in next to snack on the feet of Kojima, and it’s pretty much one-way traffic as it was all Suzuki-gun for the first five minutes. Kojima finally starts a fightback, as he trades right hands with Suzuki, before eventually hitting a DDT as he manages to make the tag out to a fired-up Tenzan.
Tenzan delivers plenty of those Mongolian chops, before a Mountain bomb puts Suzuki down for a near-fall… followed by an Anaconda Vice that Iizuka wanders in to break up. Kojima’s back for those machine gun chops, but they barely faze Suzuki, who just looks to be angered by them… as seen when he boots away Kojima after the follow-up forearm to the corner.
Suzuki tries for the Gotch piledriver, but Tenzan breaks it up before they awkwardly dump Suzuki with a TenKoji cutter. That’s gonna get both of them a receipt down the line, I fear… and for some reason, when Suzuki side-stepped a Strong Arm lariat, he went for the rear naked choke, only for Iizuka to wander in with the Iron fingers as his funky oven glove causes another DQ. This was okay, all things considered, but the cheap DQ after some inopportune stumbles wasn’t exactly a great finish. **
World Tag League 2017 – Block A: Bullet Club (Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Death Juice (Sami Callihan & Juice Robinson)
Page came out with his ROH six-man title belt, just because, whilst Juice was back to his discount Hulk Hogan outfit as we started with… another jumpstart! The Bullet Club pair needed to win to have any hope of winning their block, and they went balls to the wall in the opening minutes, with Yujiro and Page throwing themselves at their opponents.
Callihan and Juice try to turn it around though, throwing Page into the guard rails before sending Yujiro the same way, but the Bullet Club regain the upper hand, and almost steals the win with a standing shooting star press from Page. Despite that, the Bullet Club pair can’t take advantage, and the match slips into a tit-for-tat affair, with Juice’s spinebuster to Yujiro and a crossbody off the top almost getting the result.
Juice and Sami bombard Yujiro with a series of avalanches in the corner, building up to Juice’s cannonball that picked up a two-count, before Sami segued between the powerbomb and a high-angle Boston crab. Page eventually comes into superkick the hold apart, before getting wiped out with a big boot from Callihan, whose follow-up was blocked and met with a slingshot lariat as Page returned to the ring.
The feed freezes once again (yay!) after Yujiro tags back in, and once it works again, Callihan pushes away from the Pimp Juice DDT. More freezing… and we come back to Page taking a death valley driver onto the apron. Yujiro gets a kiss from Sami, before the shoulder breaker and Pulp Friction ended their chances of winning the block. This match was fine, but whatever drama was there was shot by the buffering. ***
World Tag League 2017 – Block A: Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) vs. Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI
After much coercion, I was able to get the stream going for the main event… and whomever wins this goes through to Monday’s finals.
It’s typically tense to get us going, with EVIL and Goto trading shoulder blocks, before Goto edges ahead with the CHAOS pair combining early on. Some attempted SANADA interference manages to distract YOSHI-HASHI as the Ingobernables took over, sending YOSHI-HASHI into the crowd in a rather lackadaisical effort to win by count-out. Look EVIL, trying up the gate with a bit of string’s never going to work.
YOSHI-HASHI ends up getting tied up in a Paradise Lock, just as we return to the land of the buffering. We’re back as EVIL tries to suplex YOSHI-HASHI, but instead finds himself countered into a Bunker Buster as the CHAOS pair looked to pull ahead, only for EVIL to cheat his way back into it, courtesy of a ref-assisted kick to the gut.
The momentum continues to swing, with a rope-hung dropkick taking SANADA down for a near-fall, as the Ingobernable was targeted with a double-team Bunker Buster/over-the-knee neckbreaker combo. A top rope senton bomb nearly gets YOSHI-HASHI the win, only for an attempt at Karma to get countered out as the Ingobernables seamlessly went back on top with a back suplex.
SANADA tries for the Skull End, but YOSHI-HASHI makes it to the ropes as EVIL had Goto restrained on the floor. From the break, SANADA tries for the same move, but it’s countered out of, as the CHAOS pair worked back up, with Goto dumping EVIL on his head from a lariat… but it’s still finely balanced, and at the snap of the fingers the Ingobernables suddenly find themselves back on top.
At least until EVIL clotheslined his own man as YOSHI-HASHI returned to help with a superkick-assisted ushigoroshi, before a double team GTR’s avoided. The GYR – the double team reverse GTR – only gets a two count as EVIL finds a way to kick out, and we’re now long past the point of tags being a thing as Red Shoes has lost all control. YOSHI-HASHI’s wiped out with a Magic Killer, but Goto escapes a similar fate, only for EVIL to force a near-fall out of Darkness Falls! Another Magic Killer attempt succeeds this time, and that’s the Ingobernables into Monday’s final! Yet again, Hirooki Goto misses out as the Ingobernables have gone from bottom of the block to winners. Quite the turnaround, capped off with a finale that managed to build drama – and keep it, despite streaming issues! ***½
Block A (Final):
EVIL & SANADA (5-2; 10pts)
Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHIl Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan; Yujiro Takahashi & Hangman Page (4-3; 8pts)
Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens; Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka; Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan (3-4; 6pts)
Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata (2-5; 4pts)
Beretta & Chuckie T; Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer; Hanson & Raymond Rowe; Jeff Cobb & Michael Elgin; Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa; Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano (4-2; 8pts)
Henare & Togi Makabe; Katsuya Kitamura & David Finlay (0-6; 0pts)
Main event aside, this was a run of the mill show, not unlike the rest of the World Tag League tour, it has to be said. Saturday sees the B block finals, with a six-way pile-up at the top of the group – we’ll hopefully have that covered by the end of the weekend!