This is one of the biggest A Block shows of the entire tournament. NJPW usually saves important shows and big matches for their trip to Osaka and that’s the case here. Ishii vs. Okada. Tanahashi vs. Marufuji. I wish Ishii was doing better so their match could really mean something special. Anyway, let’s jump into this. As always, I’ll just be reviewing the tournament matches.
Tonga had to be wearing his worst pair of leggings so far. Meanwhile, SANADA has one of the coolest looks in wrestling right now. It’s the awesome Los Ingobernables de Japon against the shitty Bullet Club. Tonga used his elusiveness and knocked SANADA out leading to the typical G1 countout tease. I’ll mention it each time but SANADA’s leap frogs are very impressive. They traded stuff for a while with neither man gaining a clear advantage. SANADA busted out a tiger suplex for two and Tonga retaliated with the headshrinker DDT. Tonga countered the dragon sleeper into the roll of the dice, picking up a very close near fall. After having the Gun Stun blocked, Tonga ended up hitting it anyway and winning. Fine match. It started slow but picked up near the end. I just don’t get why SANADA is doing so poorly. He has future star written all over him. Tonga doesn’t.
Instead of beating up the ring announcer, Fale chose to just rip his sleeve off. SHIRT RIPPER! That was for anyone that has watched King Pow: Enter the Fist. They instantly brawled at the bell, which I like because it’s really all they’ve got. Fale ended up standing on a chair on top of Makabe on the aisle. Fale was in control throughout, but Makabe continued to fight back and get hope spots, playing off of his toughness. Makabe went up for the knee drop but Fale pulled him down for the Bad Luck Fall. Makabe slipped free and nailed a lariat. Fale survived a few more of those before hitting a spear and the Grenade to hand Makabe his third straight loss after starting 4-0. This was kind of just there. Not bad but it didn’t stand out either. It was about as good as I expected from these two.
Gedo has made it almost impossible to care about Goto. He’s also fumbled the Tenzan’s final G1 run angle so far, but at least the crowd still loves him. They wrestled an even match early on and, though the crowd was mostly into it, I just couldn’t really get behind it all. Tenzan applied the Anaconda Vice, Goto fought out but got hit with a big headbutt. Goto came back with ushigoroshi and looked conflicted before pinning. Tenzan survived and nailed a scoop tombstone but missed the moonsault. He did fire up on some of Goto’s biggest shots and sent him down with a series of headbutts. When he went for the Koji lariat though, Goto caught him in a sleeper and finished him with the GTR. The final few minutes had the feel this match was going for. Tenzan was fighting for his last shred of hope in his last G1, but Goto put him down like Old Yeller. That story down the stretch bumped this up and saved it after a lackluster start. The awesome duo of Tenkoji hugged and left together.
I thought their G1 match last year was a big disappointment. Speaking of disappointments, Okada has been coasting along in this G1, putting in minimal effort. Okada seemed to take this lightly but Ishii immediately woke him up with a lariat. He hit another and tried the Brainbuster but Okada slipped free and tried the Rainmaker, but Ishii avoided it. Both guys were throwing big blows early. Okada tried to man up and take Ishii chops but that didn’t work for obvious reasons. Okada began a comeback but Ishii cut him off before he could do the diving elbow. They spilled outside where Ishii started to sell the leg before taking a hangman’s DDT (not to be confused with Hangman Page) on the floor. Okada hit the elbow inside but Ishii got up and interrupted the Rainmaker pose with a chop. SO AWESOME. They went into a series of blocking and avoiding each other’s strikes. Ishii then pulled an Okada and struck with a dropkick. Ishii came close on a top rope superplex and sliding lariat while the crowd and commentary lost their minds. Okada blocked the Brainbuster twice and scored on a dropkick to the back of the head. After a near fall following three basement dropkicks, Okada hit the big one. Ishii avoided three Rainmakers and hit two sick headbutts. He also countered the tombstone into one of his own and then hit the lariat for the closest near fall of the night. Brainbuster connected and Ishii pulled it off! Easily the match of the tournament. Okada FINALLY decided to show up and Ishii is always tremendous. This was organically great, with the crowd being perfect and everything just clicking. It never felt long, had some fantastic exchanges and sequences. Right from the start, Ishii let Okada know that just because they’re stablemates, this wasn’t going to be easy. It felt like he was desperate to win and that he had Okada’s number tonight. Amazing work.
The ace of NOAH against the ace of NJPW (yes, still over Okada). These guy had a tough act to follow for sure. They opened with a lengthy feeling out process, which is expected considering the two involved. A Tanahashi staple came into play as he began to work the leg. In a spot I can’t recall ever seeing, Marufuji hit Tanahashi with a piledriver ON THE APRON! Following a countout tease, Marufuji started working over Tanahashi, lighting him up with chops. Tanahashi started the comeback and got two on the second rope somersault senton. There was a cool moment outside when, after a Marufuji plancha, Tanahashi sent him into the guardrail and crawled back in. Unbeknownst to Tanahashi, Marufuji put the brakes on, went quick to the top and came off onto Tanahashi, stopping him from resting. Tanahashi blocked Shiranui twice, giving himself a breather after having his chest beaten red. Marufuji stopped High Fly Flow with a jumping high knee! Tanahashi managed to survive several more kicks and knees before hitting slingblade. He then hit two High Fly Flows to win. They had a tall task to follow the previous match but they did a good job. It was pretty much exactly what you’d expect from Tanahashi and Marufuji, playing to both of their strengths.
Overall: I’m pretty sure this was my favorite A Block show so far. The middle portion does drag a bit but everything is pretty good. The main event was really good and Okada/Ishii proved to be the match of the tournament. My biggest grip with the A Block is still the booking though. Tenzan’s story has gone nowhere and Okada’s second loss looks like it sets up Tanahashi to beat him on the final night and win the entire block. Regardless, this is a very easy watch and pretty much everyone put in a strong effort.
|Kazuchika Okada||10 (5-2)||Tetsuya Naito||8 (4-2)|
|Togi Makabe||8 (4-3)||Michael Elgin||8 (4-2)|
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||8 (4-3)||Katsuhiko Nakajima||6 (3-3)|
|Hirooki Goto||8 (4-3)||Katsuyori Shibata||6 (3-3)|
|Bad Luck Fale||8 (4-3)||Kenny Omega||6 (3-3)|
|Naomichi Marufuji||8 (4-3)||Toru Yano||6 (3-3)|
|Tama Tonga||6 (3-4)||YOSHI-HASHI||6 (3-3)|
|Tomohiro Ishii||6 (3-4)||Yuji Nagata||6 (3-3)|
|Hiroyoshi Tenzan||4 (2-5)||EVIL||4 (2-4)|
|SANADA||4 (2-5)||Tomoaki Honma||4 (2-4)|