Saturday, August 18, 2018

NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn IV Predictions

How good is the Velveteen Dream? This dude is special and everything he does is outstanding. I like EC3, but he hadn't been too interesting in NXT until coming up against the Dream. It's a tough match to call because I think Dream needs the win more, thanks to a poor TakeOver record, but EC3 hasn't felt like a major deal yet. I guess I'll say EC3, but Dream should win.

Winner: EC3

This is gonna be good and it's still my least favorite match on the card. That's saying something about this show. Their Mae Young Classic Finals match good and I think this will be better. Kairi has the one win over Shayna so far and, while she'd make a fine champion, I don't think it's time to end Shayna's run.

Winner: Shayna Baszler

What a series. Screw whatever is happening in any other tag team division (most aren't any good in 2018). This has been spectacular. Their first two matches were awesome. The first gave us a feel good moment to cap a banger and the second was one of the best told stories in a tag match ever. As great as Mustache Mountain is, I get the sense Undisputed retains. They're around more consistently. This might be MOTN.

Winners: The Undisputed Era

Two guys who I thought were good, but nothing special during their runs on the indies. Since coming to NXT, Adam Cole has improved dramatically and has become a weekly highlight. Ricochet has also been great, so I'm excited for a match that wouldn't have given me that feeling a year ago. I'm going to say Ricochet wins.

Winner: Ricochet

Their two matches have gotten ****3/4 and ***** from me. That's insane. The only combination of singles matches to get that across a six month stretch from me was Hart/Austin in 1996-1997. It's so hard to call this. I've never seen Gargano as a long reigning champion (as great as he is, it doesn't really fit his character), so I just can't see Ciampa having a short reign before his. I also have trouble seeing Ciampa beating him again. It's tough. I'm going with Ciampa.

Winner: Tommaso Ciampa

Sunday, August 12, 2018

NJPW G1 Climax 28 Finals Review

NJPW G1 Climax 28 Finals
August 12th, 2018 | Budokan Hall in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 12,112

It all comes down to this. After eighteen block shows, we’re left with Kota Ibushi against Hiroshi Tanahashi. Does Ibushi pull out the improbably or does the Ace get one final ride into the Tokyo Dome main event? With so many shows, I only focused on tournament matches leading up to this. Today, I cover it all.

Ayuto Yoshida, Shota Umino, and Yuji Nagata vs. Great Bash Heel and Michael Elgin
Great to see Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma back together again. This also marks the main roster debut for Yoshida. Nagata sent his kids to attack quickly. It worked somewhat, but they quickly found themselves in trouble. Honma surprisingly hit Kokeshi on his first try! He’s a new man. Give him the title, Gedo. Commentary noted that Yoshida was at the top of the Kaientai Dojo. Makabe and Nagata got to hit their stuff. I’ve missed Nagata, man. His sendoff in the G1 was great, but he’s so damn good still. The G1 could’ve used him this year. Anyway, Yoshida ate the pin on a King Kong Knee Drop at 7:12. Your standard NJPW opening tag. Fire from the young guys, the dads and Honma were fun, and Elgin existed. [**½]

Bad Luck Fale vs. Toa Henare
Fale wasn’t pinned and didn’t submit during the entire G1. The only guy who can make that claim. His six losses came via DQ. Henare brought a TON of fire to attack Fale. Fale weathered the storm and hit the Grenade, followed by the Bad Luck Fall to win at 1:49. That certainly went quickly. Fale could’ve sent similar messages in the G1 but instead chose to have dumb DQ finishes that accomplished nothing. [*]

NEVER Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI vs. Taichi and Takashi Iizuka w/ Miho Abe
As much as I missed Nagata, I’d say the opposite for Iizuka. According to commentary, some people wanted Taichi in the G1. I don’t think that, but he couldn’t have been worse than Tama Tonga, Fale, or YOSHI-HASHI. The best part of this match was seeing the fire Taichi brought because he feels wronged by being left out of the G1. Other than that, Iizuka was his absurd self, while Goto and YOSHI continued their tournament trend of kind of just being there and doing a lot of nothing. Taichi used a head kick and nailed a powerbomb to beat HASHI at 8:03, the guy people felt he should’ve replaced in the G1. Mostly lethargic. When Taichi is the best part of a match, you’re in trouble. [*½]

Cody and Hangman Page vs. David Finlay and IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion Juice Robinson
Our first look at Cody since the loss to Omega. He sided with the babyface Bullet Club guys, yet was still acting heelish here. The fans gave a lot of thumbs up for David Finlay, who got a tiny trophy of the same pose for winning the “C Block.” The crowd also seemed ready to cheer for Cody. The Cody/Juice interactions were probably the highlight. Both teams have experience as partners, so the chemistry was there. Juice wrestled without his cast, free to use the left hand as he pleased. He got the hot tag of sorts of this, though only Cody seemed to be working as a heel. He mocked Juice’s signature punches and it backfired. In a surprise finish, Cody countered Pulp Friction and hit Din’s Fire to win at 8:56. With Juice already taking SIX G1 losses, you’d think his plate was full (though Omega and Ishii won’t ask for shots at his title, I suspect). I get him struggling with the bad hand, but after removing the cast, he should’ve done better. The match was mostly fun, with good action throughout. [***]

Post-match, Cody cut a promo saying Juice hadn’t improved and is just doing a bad impersonation of Kairi Sane. He held the US Title and said he’d be the next champion.

NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship: Marty Scurll and The Young Bucks [c] vs. The Guerrillas of Destiny and Taiji Ishimori
Originally, this wasn’t a title match, but Tama demanded the champs put them on the line. The way the Firing Squad has handled things and how mad NJPW was with them, you’d think they’d prevent this. Ishimori was handpicked for the Bullet Club by Tama Tonga, so he seems to have sided with them. At least he should be a fun member of the group. Hearing Matt call his team the best wrestlers in the world was comical. The match was about what you’d expect. Ishimori was the highlight and his stuff against Marty was strong. The Bucks and G.O.D. were kind of just there. They did their usual thing and wasn’t that interesting to me. In the end, Marty wanted the crowd to hush for his finger snap spot and got hit with the Gun Stun to give us a title change at 11:26. Like the rest of the Bullet Club feud, this was meh. Ishimori and Marty saved it from sucking, and there’s just little reason to be interested in any of it. [**¾]

Wrestle Kingdom 13 was announced and, as always, it falls on January 4th.

BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA, and Tetsuya Naito vs. El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and Zack Sabre Jr. w/ TAKA Michinoku
Though it was Sabre who spoiled Naito’s hopes of winning the G1 again, Naito and Suzuki were the focal point of the match. They picked up where they left off the IC Title. You remember that title, right? Naito was a placeholder with it so some dude in makeup could win it. Anyway, at one point, everyone got off the apron to watch Naito vs. Suzuki. As always, LIDJ are the masters of the multi-man tag. They’re so fluid with the in and out, while having chemistry with almost anyone. Even the eternally dull Kanemaru was kind of fun in this one. Following some great action, a staple of LIDJ stuff, SANADA got the win via Skull End on Kanemaru at 10:41. A fun match with some strong interactions. I also dug SANADA getting the win as a reward for a great G1. [***¼]

Chase Owens, IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega, and Yujiro Takahashi w/ PIETER vs. Jay White, Tomohiro Ishii, and Toru Yano
It would seem this is here to build to Ishii’s eventual shot at Omega’s title. Jay White normally doesn’t come out with his CHAOS mates. He did here, maybe because Ishii kind of scares him. In better news, YUJIRO BROUGHT OUT PIETER! Yujiro is the Bullet Club GOAT. Interestingly, Jay was a team player here. He cheered on his guys and seems to want to hammer home the idea that he’s the new CHAOS leader. There was a fun spot where the BC guys did a group row boat spot while PIETER danced in the middle. Everyone stopped to get mesmerized by her, except Kenny. Great stuff. Owens kind of played the underdog babyface I didn’t expect and did it well. He couldn’t hit the Package Piledriver and Ishii wrecked him with a lariat and Brainbuster at 9:40. A good blend of light hearted fun and serious moments. I enjoyed this quite a bit. [***]

After the match, Ishii made it clear that he wanted his shot at Omega. The champion seemed to accept.

Kazuchika Okada and Roppongi 3K w/ Gedo vs. KUSHIDA, Pro Wrestler Sengoku Enbu, and Rey Mysterio Jr.
Sengoku is just a wacky masked character played by Ryusuke Taguchi. This was mostly just here so we could get a Rey Mysterio Jr. appearance. KUSHIDA rode a Hoverboard to the ring. It started with Mysterio against Okada, hyping it as a dream meeting. It isn’t for me. Commentary and the wrestlers had gun with Sengoku’s identity. They went after his mask and got some fun spots involving him using Taguchi’s moveset. In the end, Rey won with the 619 and springboard splash at 12:27. Nothing special. Just a Rey appearance in a decently fun match. [**¾]

G1 Climax Finals: Hiroshi Tanahashi w/ Katsuyori Shibata vs. Kota Ibushi w/ Kenny Omega
Tanahashi beat Kota in the G1 25 (****¼) and in an IC Title match last year (****½), but Ibushi beat him in last year’s G1 (****¼). A win for Kota makes him the first man to win the G1, BOTSJ, and New Japan Cup. As expected, Omega cornered Ibushi. However, in massive news, KATSUYORI SHIBATA cornered Tanahashi! There was so much to love about this match. They had each other scouted fantastically. I loved how Tana expected the Golden Star Moonsault, which Kota already expected and had a counter ready for his counter (leap and double stomp to avoid a low dropkick on the apron). Tanahashi knew how much the Lawn Dart affected him last year and avoided it this time, following up immediately with a Shibata like corner dropkick. Awesome. For everything that made Ibushi/Omega great last night, this was great in a different way. It wasn’t about the high impact moves, though there were several. It was more about Tanahashi’s usual game plan battling against Ibushi’s penchant for the unexpected and the impactful. The fatigue set in and led to a strike exchange that was fantastic. Tanahashi should theoretically lose that, but he seemed to channel Shibata and hung tough. It’s such an intense battle that continues even after both men fall out. Ibushi threw A TON at Tana near the end, including a sick Lawn Dart, deadlift apron German and Last Ride, only for two. That was excessive. Tana fought back with THREE High Fly Flows after avoiding Kamigoya and won at 35:01. A stellar main event, but one that did have some flaws to keep it from the full five. For one, like a lot of NJPW main events, it went overboard near the end. A bit too much on the big spots and kick outs. For another, Kota could’ve sold the leg better, especially after all the dragon screws and such. That being said, again, this is a stellar way to close out the tournament. It’s a beautiful match that played so well off their history and had great moments like the Shibata dropkick. [****½]

I know some people were upset about Tanahashi’s win, but I don’t get that. Kota’s not under contract, so I couldn’t see him winning. Now, we get one of two things happening.

1) Tanahashi loses the briefcase. I suspect Jay White (who beat him) gets a shot and probably Okada (who went to a draw). It would be a way for Gedo to get Okada back in the title match without having him win a G1. And he’d get to do Tana/Okada again. He’d love it!

2) Or, the scenario I’m hoping for, Tana/Omega headlines the Dome. It’s the only “big four” match we’ve only had once. Tana wants his spot at the top back and to show he can beat Omega. Omega bests him, giving us the one final hurrah for the “Ace.”

Overall: 6.5/10. Most of that show was wildly average. The undercard has nothing you need to see other than the Ishii/Omega challenge and a bit of the LIDJ tag. You came here for the G1 Finals and that delivered in a big way.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

NJPW G1 Climax 28 Night Eighteen Review

NJPW G1 Climax 28 Night Eightteen
August 11th, 2018 | Budokan Hall in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 12,023

The excellent B Block has blown away what those chumps on the other side have done. Will the trend continue for them the way it did for the A Block on their final night? Like the A Block, only three guys are still in place. There are two matches on the line for that, while some others see a small feud reignited and a battle of champions. Also, shoutout to the B Block for drawing about double what the A Block did last night.

Kenny Omega makes his third straight final with a win.
Tetsuya Naito wins the block if he beats Sabre and Ibushi beats Omega.
Kota Ibushi wins the block with a win and a Naito loss.

David Finlay and Michael Elgin def. Shota Umino and Toa Henare in 7:00
Bad Luck Fale and Tanga Loa def. Chase Owens and Hangman Page in 3:57
Marty Scurll and the Young Bucks def. Jay White and Roppongi 3K in 5:56
BUSHI and EVIL def. El Desperado and Minoru Suzuki in 7:38
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, and Tomoaki Honma def. Gedo, Kazuchika Okada, and YOSHI-HASHI in 9:00

B Block: Tama Tonga [6] vs. Toru Yano [4]
These two have kind of feuded in multi-man tags for a while, with Yano usually scared of him. Yano beat him in the New Japan Cup last year (½*) and again in the G1 (*¾). Yano is also fresh off a win over Omega and has been awesome in this G1, while Tonga’s done a lot of nothig. This was kind of the same match Tama has had with most guys. They did some stuff that was only mildly fun because Yano’s great. The Firing Squad showed up and a bunch of officials arrived to hold them back. Kevin Kelly calling this stupid on commentary was great. Yano won via DQ at 5:08 when Tama hit a Gun Stun on the referee. I appreciated Tama saying he didn’t care about star ratings before the match, because no wrestler should concern themselves with that. But when he said he didn’t care about points, that was dumb. Your goal is to win. This ultimately felt like another waste of time by the Tongans. Yano’s cool, though. [¾*]

B Block: NEVER Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto [6] vs. IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion Juice Robinson [4]
Here’s two champions who you might think were going through a storyline of struggling. Juice is, due to his hand, but Goto’s just below average. Juice has pinned Goto in tags, but lost two NEVER Title matches to him. Once at New Beginning 2017 (***¾) and earlier this year at Road to Wrestling Dontaku (****). Juice removed the cast as soon as the bell rang, hoping to avoid the issues he’s had throughout the tournament. Though this was a back and forth match, they made sure you got the sense that Juice wanted it more. There was a bit extra on everything he did. Juice kept missing the big left handed punch, but managed to look better than he has in a lot of matches in terms of control. They went into the typical closing stretch of countering moves. Juice won out and got the singles win over Goto he’s craved with Pulp Friction at 10:36. Even with the champions out there, it lacked some drama as a Gedo trope is to have basically everyone bottom out at 6 points, so a Juice win was expected. However, the in-ring stuff was strong and I liked the story of Juice finally getting back on track. [***¼]

It was announced that the Firign Squad left the building. It was better when we got that announcement about Tyler Breeze on NXT shows.

B Block: SANADA [8] vs. Tomohiro Ishii [8]
SANADA beat Ishii in his first G1 (***¾), but Ishii evened the score in the New Japan Cup last year (***½). This was great from the opening bell. They managed to make a chinlock spot, usually a moment of rest and uninterestingness in a match, work to dramatic effect in the first five minutes. SANADa ran into the same problem Omega had with Ishii. He threw everything at him, but this man was not to be denied. However, SANADA showed he could hang with Ishii as he would no sell strikes or popup after getting hit with a bit of offense. When SANADA’s knee became a problem, he started keeping the attack high, avoiding any issues. It was smart wrestling and one of those little things that is sometimes missing from his game. The finishing stretch was bonkers, with both men just giving it their all. The lariat bump SANADA took on his head was scary. Though he survived that, he could’t when he got hit with the Brainbuster, losing at 17:00. They did what other matches involving eliminated guys couldn’t. They made this dramatic and sucked me in. It felt like SANADA put everything together here and capped his best string of matches ever with a banger. Excellent exchanges and some unexpected emotion down the stretch. [****]

B Block: Tetsuya Naito [12] vs. Zack Sabre Jr. [10]
A win for Naito keeps him alive. Sabre said he was determined to play spoiler. Naito beat him in the G1 last year (***¾), while Sabre made him tap in this year’s New Japan Cup (****¼). Naito played some mind games to start, only for Sabre to grab at his “tranquilo” arm and wrap it in a submission. There was no time for games against someone as dangerous as Zack. He had an answer for everythig Naito did. There was a counter ready or a hold to catch him in. It wasn’t until Zack mocked his tranquilo taunt that Naito seemed to flip a switch and pick up the pace. From there, the battle was more evenly matched, but it still felt like Sabre had the upper hand. Naito was doing everything he could to not submit, wanting to stay alive in this important tournament. I must point out that the European Clutch continues to lead to fantastic near falls. In fact, every Sabre pin attempt seems to do that. Naito hit Destino, but since that move has been poop all year, he wanted another. However, Sabre countered into the finisher he’s been teasing all tournament, the Zack Driver. That got him the win in 18:17. Naito’s hopes of winning the tournament are dead. The match was great, with both guys playing to their charactes perfectly, filling things with drama, and giving us a great finish. [****¼]

In typical Gedo form, it all comes down to the main event. No way Naito was going to be allowed to be alive here.

B Block: IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega [12] vs. Kota Ibushi [10]
This hasn’t happened in six years. They’re best friends. Kenny started 6-0, but lost two straight. An Ibushi wins ties him with Omega/Naito/Sabre, but he’d make the finals due to tiebreakers over them all. Kota seemed to want to take this match as friends, but Kenny was more aggressive than expected. Maybe the thought of losing two straight forced Kenny to truly bring it. It threw Ibushi off his game and Kenny basically dominated the early stages. He wasn’t even holding back in terms of dropping his buddy on his surgically repaird neck. Ibushi finally had to stop taking his friend lightly and bring just as much aggression to level the playing field. Ibushi’s neck stuff added a lot to Omega’s V-Trigger to the back. I believe Omega became the first person to kick out of the Kamigoye, which was interesting since Ibushi is the only man to ever kick out of the One Winged Angel (though that was back in 2012). Ibushi nearly countered the One Winged Angel into a reverse rana, only to get dropped on his head. Omega wanted the super One Winged Angel, only for Ibushi to counter with a massive double stomp to the back of the head. He added the Golden Star Bomb off the top and the Kamigoye to advance to the finals in 23:13. I absolutely LOVE when NJPW main events stay under 30 minutes. Kenny had something similar with Okada in last year’s G1. Non-stop action. Their chemistry made everything click and they threw BOMBS at one another. Kenny came in aggressively and it took Kota stepping up to match him in that category to pull out the win. [****½]

Ibushi wins the block, facnig Tanahashi in the finals tomorrow. Regardless of how that match turns out, I can’t put this G1 near the top of the ones I’ve seen. It was about half a stellar G1. The B Block was incredible, but the A Block (and Tama Tonga) truly held this back. The A Block was the worst block I’ve ever seen in a G1, with only one match getting ****+ from me. Off the top of my head, I’d probably go 24 > 27 > 26 > 28 > 23 > 25. 

Overall: 8.5/10. It started with a whimper thanks to Tama Tonga, but it picked up right after. Goto/Juice was strong and the final three matches were all fantastic. Ishii/SANADA was awesome, Naito/Sabre was a dramatic battle of two guys playing to their strengths, and the main event was outstanding. The B Block ended with the same kind of bang they opened with.

Hiroshi Tanahashi15 (7-1-1)Kota Ibushi12 (6-3)
Kazuchika Okada13 (7-2-1)Kenny Omega12 (6-3)
Jay White12 (6-3)Zack Sabre Jr.12 (6-3)
Minoru Suzuki10 (5-4)Tetsuya Naito12 (6-3)
EVIL10 (5-4)Tomohiro Ishii10 (5-4)
Hangman Page6 (3-6)SANADA8 (4-5)
Bad Luck Fale6 (3-6)Juice Robinson6 (3-6)
Michael Elgin6 (3-6)Hirooki Goto6 (3-6)
Togi Makabe6 (3-6)Toru Yano6 (3-6)
YOSHI-HASHI6 (3-6)Tama Tonga6 (3-6)

Friday, August 10, 2018

NJPW G1 Climax 28 Night Seventeen Review

NJPW G1 Climax 28 Night Seventeen
August 10th, 2018 | Budokan Hall in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 6,180

Since I began watching the G1 Climax, the final set of shows was held in Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Hall. This year, we’re in Budokan Hall to wrap things up for each block. The lackluster A Block is coming to an end today. Only three members of the block are still alive, that being Jay White, and the obvious Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada. Will the A Block tell a compelling story on their final night? Or will we get more of the same?

White wins the block with a win and Tanahashi loss.
Tanahashi wins the block with a win or draw. A loss knocks him out.
Okada wins the block with a White loss and a win.

SHO and Tomohiro Ishii def. Shota Umino and Toa Henare in 6:07
The Guerrillas of Destiny def. Gedo and Toru Yano in 4:11
Hirooki Goto and YOH def. David Finlay and Juice Robinson in 5:25
SANADA and Tetsuya Naito def. TAKA Michinoku and Zack Sabre Jr. in 6:16
Chase Owens, Marty Scurll and Kota Ibushi vs. Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks ended in a no contest in 5:20

A Block: Michael Elgin [6] vs. Togi Makabe [4]
Surprisingly, this has never happened before. Entering our final night, neither man has anything on the line, so the match loses a lot of interest. Commentary kept hyping how much Budokan means to Elgin and how this was his first ever match in this arena. I’m sad that Makabe didn’t get to keep his 8 point streak in the G1. Anyway, this was a solid battle of two hard hitting brutes. It’s the kind of match that works for Elgin, and especially for Makabe at this stage in his career. Elgin held serve for a lot of this, until Makabe rallied and started in with some desperation moves. He used the King Kong Knee Drop to pull into a tie with several others at six points at 8:46. As I said, a fine hard hitting match. It did suffer from a lot of what late G1 matches Gedo has booked suffer from. There was nothing at stake and no drama. [***]

A Block: Hangman Page [6] vs. YOSHI-HASHI [4]
Another first time ever match. A win for YOSHI-HASHI prevents him from sitting alone at the bottom of the standings. They managed to give this a greater sense of urgency than the previous match. It felt like two guys looking to prove themselves. YOSHI because he’s basically a scrub, and Page because it’s his first G1 and he’s only had two pinfall wins, though they did come over Suzuki and Makabe. They had some solid exchanges, but a few things feel like they didn’t click right. It was about as good as can hope for from YOSHI, who found a sweet Rite of Passage counter with a Destroyer. He then hit Karma and won in 10:22. Good stuff from two guys who work hard. [***¼]

A Block: Bad Luck Fale [6] vs. Minoru Suzuki [8]
Oh, boy. Fale and all his tournament shenanigans against Suzuki and his Suzuki-Gun antics. However, Minoru is the master and can have bangers because he’s one of the best in the world. Minoru is able to match up with Fale in the brawling department, having the kind of fight that mostly fits them. The Guerrillas of Destiny made their expected run-ins, though it came at a sensible time when Fale was in serious trouble. El Desperado got involved, showing Suzuki-Gun wasn’t going to go down without a fight. In the end, a Gun Stun led to the DQ at 8:51. Fale didn’t get pinned at all during this tournament. Three wins and SIX disqualification losses. And people complain about Raw. [*¾]

A Block: EVIL [8] vs. Jay White [12]
A loss for Jay White would complete a monumental collapse after starting 3-0 and beating Tanahashi and Okada. Of course, that’s exactly what happened. But, before we get to the official result, there’s the match to discuss. Thankfully, we got some legitimate moments of drama and intrigue as they went at it. Commentary noted how the people who beat White so far were the guys who didn’t play by the rules, Fale and Suzuki. That style was right up EVIL’s alley and he gave Jay a lot of trouble. They had a strong battle that mostly played to their strengths. Like the rest of this card, it was kept short and that’s good due to the lack of importance for most of them. We got the usual ref bump and EVIL ducked a chair shot, before hitting Everything is Evil to win in 11:36. Best thing on the show so far.[***½] 

A Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi [14] vs. Kazuchika Okada [12]
Of course it comes down to this. Classic Gedo. A ton has been said about this feud and some call it the best ever, though I’d put it behind more than a handful. Okada must win to take the block, while Tanahashi can just kill time for a draw. That works for the story as it allows Tanahashi to take a methodical pace. It’s his match to dictate. It works so the usual slow Okada start make sense. They kill about ten minutes, focusing on each other’s leg. Nothing major went down there. It was strange to see Okada struggle so much with Tanahashi’s knee work. You’d think he’d have figured it out after beating him so often. Tanahashi did what he could to pull me back in at a few turns. Fatigue set in and Okada couldn’t get the job done, with time expiring to give Tanahashi the block at 30:00. It wasn’t bad, but it kind of felt like a compilation of their matches rather than one that stood out among the crowded field. Going the route of the draw felt like the rest of this Okada “redemption” angle. Half-assed. It’s hard to take someone’s fall seriously when they go 7-2-1 in a tournament. At the very least Okada could’ve been stopped at the gates by his old rival. His character work also hasn’t been great in this tournament and it wasn’t here. Their chemistry always allows them to have a good match, but this wasn’t ANYWHERE near their best work. Though, it was still above their WK10 stuff. [***½]

Overall: 6/10. It was the A Block’s final opportunity to step up. They missed the mark and delivered more of the same. There was a sense of consistency from everyone. Some guys were solid (White, EVIL, Makabe, Page), some guys disappointed (Okada, Fale), some dudes were lame (HASHI), and one was strong (Tanahashi). In the end, this block was once again a massive letdown and it held back this G1 from being great. 

Hiroshi Tanahashi15 (7-1-1)Kenny Omega12 (6-2)
Kazuchika Okada13 (7-2-1)Tetsuya Naito12 (6-2)
Jay White12 (6-3)Kota Ibushi10 (5-3)
Minoru Suzuki10 (5-4)Zack Sabre Jr.10 (5-3)
EVIL10 (5-4)SANADA8 (4-4)
Hangman Page6 (3-6)Tomohiro Ishii8 (4-4)
Bad Luck Fale6 (3-6)Hirooki Goto6 (3-5)
Michael Elgin6 (3-6)Tama Tonga6 (3-5)
Togi Makabe6 (3-6)Juice Robinson4 (2-6)
YOSHI-HASHI6 (3-6)Toru Yano4 (2-6)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

NJPW G1 Climax 28 Night Sixteen Review

NJPW G1 Climax 28 Night Sixteen
August 8th, 2018 | Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium in Yokohama, Kanagawa | Attendance: N/A

We’re almost to the end of the line, folks. It’s the final B Block show before we hit Budokan for the last three shows of the tournament. We’ve got one of the most anticipated matchups of the entire tournament, as LIDJ members collide when Tetsuya Naito meets SANADA. Kenny Omega, Naito, and Kota Ibushi are all still alive with potential to win the blocks.

Toa Henare and Togi Makabe def. Michael Elgin and Shota Umino in 7:05
Chase Owens and Hangman Page def. SHO and YOSHI-HASHI in 6:22
Bad Luck Fale and Tanga Loa def. El Desperado and Minoru Suzuki in 5:52
BUSHI and EVIL def. Jay White and YOH in 5:46
David Finlay and Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Gedo and Kazuchika Okada in 6:55

B Block: IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion Juice Robinson [4] vs. Tomohiro Ishii [6]
The two men to beat Omega in Osaka the last two years. A first time ever meeting. Juice still can’t use his cast as a weapon, but Ishii said he could if he wanted. Because Ishii is one bad dude. Juice refused to back down, taking it right to Ishii with shoulder blocks and strikes that nearly matched his badass opponent. It was almost as if Ishii was challenging Juice to step up. He started busting out Juice’s jabs and Juice responded with a series of headbutts. It felt like a true test of just how tough Juice was. Juice waited until he was ready to remove his cast, rather than when Ishii dared him to. I thought that was a nice bit of storytelling as he wouldn’t let Ishii set the tone. Still, Juice fell into the trap of wrestling Ishii’s style and that’s not a battle he could win. Ishii hit the Brainbuster to go 3-0 against the champions in this G1 at 12:24. It lacked some of the drama that the top G1 matches had, but they told a great story and Ishii continues to be stellar in this tournament. [***¾]

B Block: NEVER Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto [6] vs. Zack Sabre Jr. [8]
Last year, Goto went 2-0 against Sabre, beating him at Sakura Genesis (***½) and the G1 (***¼). Like those matches, I felt this was laid out the way it should be. Sabre came right at Goto with offense. Though he knows he has no shot at winning the block, he might as well try to earn himself a title shot. Goto was having none of that, throwing Sabre around outside the ring and using his power. It became a battle of Sabre’s technical acumen and Goto’s raw strength. They had a strong series of counters as the match progressed, ending with Sabre using the European Clutch to win at 10:43. He posed with the NEVER Title after the match, no holding wins over the US and NEVER Champions (and coming hella close to beating Omega). A good battle of power against mat work. It played to their strengths and featured a good crowd. I’m thinking the eventual title match will have the drama this lacked. [***¼]

B Block: Kota Ibushi [10] vs. Tama Tonga [4]
Surprisingly, Tonga was out by himself. He could ruin the big Golden Loves match on night eighteen by taking out Ibushi. He hid during his entrance and jumped Ibushi from behind in the aisle. It took several minutes before Kota got any offense in. Kota did well to bump for Tama, but a lot of the Tongan’s offense isn’t interesting enough to hold that portion of a match. Similar to Yujiro Takahashi’s old G1 runs. They fought into the crowd, where Kota disappeared to run up a flight of stairs and nail a moonsault off the balcony. HE’S AN ABSOLUTE MADMAN! Unfortunately, the match peaked there. Tanga Loa made a run-in, we got a ref bump, and Bad Luck Fale hit the scene. Kenny Omega showed up and drilled Fale with a V-Trigger, which got a pop. He then got taken out with a spear and Kota fell to a popup Gun Stun at 14:17. Some of the late stuff didn’t fully work as it felt too familiar. The middle portion was solid and saved this from being as dire as the other Tama matches. [**¼]

Kenny then got hit with a powerbomb. Kota’s hopes of winning the block are in danger. Page and Owens showed up with chairs to send the Firing Squad away.

B Block: IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega [12] vs. Toru Yano [2]
Omega beat Yano in the G1 26 (***) and 27 (*¼). A win for Yano would be the greatest points differential upset ever. Though Kenny was down, he gave the okay to start the match. Yano went for the pin instantly, but Omega kicked out. Yano exposed every turnbuckle, but Owens kept finding ways to prevent Omega from going into them, even throwing himself in the way as a shield. The fun stuff continued with spots like Yano suplexing Kenny onto a soft turnbuckle pad and Kenny getting taped to Young Lion Ren Narita, forcing him to slide back in the ring with Narita and beat the countout. Following a series of rollups and ref bumps, the Firing Squad showed back up. Kenny got hit with a Gun Stun and Yano covered to pull off the “greatest upset in G1 history” after 9:06. Another fun Yano match and a creative way to get him to beat Kenny without the champion getting embarrassed. [***]

B Block: SANADA [8] vs. Tetsuya Naito [10]
First time ever meeting. There’s been intrigue here, as SANADA hasn’t fist bumped Naito in tags at all during the tour. Naito offered one at the start of the match and SANADA finally gave it, but Naito pulled him in to start some action. Right off the bat, their knowledge of one another was clear, as SANADA tripped Naito before his tranquilo pose. Considering the athleticism and quickness of SANADA, it was almost like Naito was wrestling a version of his younger self. SANADA wasn’t intimidated, returning the favor when Naito disrespected him by spitting at him. Their history played a major part throughout the match, but the actual action was also great. SANADA hitting his own Destino legitimately popped me. In fact, SANADA kept having Destino scouted and found all sorts of ways out of it. Naito was in trouble in Skull End, but he managed to avoid the moonsault. Their next exchange was won out by Naito, who hit Destino and got the three count at 19:52. A great main event that lived up to the hype. We’ve only seen LIDJ members meet three times in the G1 and all delivered strong outings. I enjoyed the play off their friendship/mentorship, and the exchanges throughout ruled. [****]

I usually ignore the show closing promo stuff, but this was special. EVIL and BUSHI showed up, with the former carrying Hiromu Takahashi’s ring jacket out. Naito put over LIDJ and when he got to Hiromu, the fans chanted for the Jr. Heavyweight Champion. Naito didn’t know when Hiromu would be back, but that he will at some point. The group all fist bumped to end things.

Naito must defeat Sabre and have Ibushi/Omega end in a draw to win the block.
Ibushi needs Naito to lose and to beat Omega to win the block.
Kenny just needs to win since he holds the tiebreaker over Naito.

Overall: 7.5/10. As we wrap up the pre-Budokan segment of the G1, the B Block ended on another high note. Tama Tonga wasn’t as bad as usual and everything else was at least good. The three guys you’d expect to be alive in the end are and I appreciated the creativity it took to set up Kenny’s loss. Naito and SANADA gave me the main event I wanted from them, Ishii/Juice was a blast, and Sabre/Goto was strong.

Hiroshi Tanahashi14 (7-1)Kenny Omega12 (6-2)
Jay White12 (6-2)Tetsuya Naito12 (6-2)
Kazuchika Okada12 (6-2)Kota Ibushi10 (5-3)
Minoru Suzuki8 (4-4)Zack Sabre Jr.10 (5-3)
EVIL8 (4-4)SANADA8 (4-4)
Hangman Page6 (3-5)Tomohiro Ishii8 (4-4)
Bad Luck Fale6 (3-5)Hirooki Goto6 (3-5)
Michael Elgin6 (3-5)Tama Tonga6 (3-5)
Togi Makabe4 (2-6)Juice Robinson4 (2-6)
YOSHI-HASHI4 (2-6)Toru Yano4 (2-6)