Sunday, May 15, 2016
The second night of the tournament picked things up, so hopefully this show can continue the momentum. I’m going to try more of a recap style instead of a play-by-play review here and see how it goes.
I was surprised to see this opening things as both guys are not only really good, but they’re leading their block. Karl Anderson held an early advantage with power and having a lot of Kota Ibushi’s moves well scouted. Anderson tried to put away Ibushi several times, but he was always resilient and ended up being able to hit moves that Anderson had avoided earlier in the match, like his moonsault to the outside. Ibushi continued to bust out some of his aerial offense. Anderson was ready for most and came close to winning after a running kick and powerbomb. They went into an exchange of strikes, which is common in most of these G1 matches, before Ibushi hit the Phoenix Splash and scored the pinfall.
I found that to be a really enjoyable opening contest. It got the crowd going with two notable names and a good back and forth match. Anderson was good at having Ibushi scouted, while Ibushi was a great resilient babyface. Smart, compact and well done by both men.
Here we have a guy that I like in Shelton Benjamin against one of my least favorite guys in Yujiro Takahashi. Takahashi did well in his role here, going outside to talk to the ladies he brought to ringside. Shelton went after him and then flirted for a bit too. Taka Michinoku had to remind Shelton that fun comes after the match. Inside, Shelton stayed in control, showing that he was still very athletic, while also being one of the stronger men in the tournament. Takahashi surprised me by hitting a suicide dive, which is more than he does in recent shows. They continued to go back and forth, with some of it being good, but some being a bit off. At one point, Shelton clearly whiffed on the dragon whip but made up for it with a nice blockbuster. Takahashi ended up taking his third straight with Tokyo Pimps.
That was better than expected. While I still don’t think he’s that good, Takahashi was much more tolerable in 2013 than he has been in recent memory. The early stuff with the girls was fun and the end result was a decent showing.
This is one of the matchups I was most looking forward to when I saw the blocks. Right off the bat, they played into the Devitt is small role, with Ishii just running him over. He just destroys him with some of the shots he hits. Like a smart, smaller heel, Devitt played the cat and mouse game, allowing Bad Luck Fale to take out Ishii outside. Again, I don’t mind the interference here since it makes sense given Devitt’s role in the tournament. There is a point where it’s clear the official could see and hear what Fale was doing, but he did a poor job of looking away. It just takes you out of the match. Ishii did a goddamn somersault onto both men outside which was nuts. Ishii continued to impress with a deadlift second rope suplex. Devitt is able to score on a Brainbuster before going up top and hitting the diving double foot stomp for a near that I totally bit on. They went with a ref bump and Devitt used a chair but still had to survive a lariat. Finally, it took a belt shot from Fale and two Bloody Sundays to win.
Okay, I know I said I didn’t mind the interference earlier but they ended up doing too much stuff here. A bunch of Fale, the ref bump and the chair was overdoing it. Outside of that, they had a really good match with some great false finishes.
They started this by doing their typical stuff. Tenzan got in the Mongolian chops and Suzuki did his rope armbar. Suzuki was his usual relentless heel self, as he threw Tenzan around outside. There are a lot of strikes thrown here, but none of them seem to have the impact that the best strike throwing matches have. To be fair, Suzuki’s shots seem much harder. Suzuki looked for the Gotch piledriver but Tenzan was ready with a counter. The highlight of the match comes when try reverse the Anaconda Vice to an armbar and back, which results in Tenzan just simply releasing the hold. Tenzan scored with a moonsault shortly after to get his first two points.
Yea, I liked almost none of that. None of what they did ended up being bad, but it was just so boring. Things picked up slightly near the end, but not enough to save it for me.
Man, you can tell that the “A” Block is the stacked one since the “B” Block keeps getting put early on in the card. Their early feeling out process is fun as Nagata stole Naito’s trademark eye taunt. As a response, Naito slapped Nagata shortly after, leading to a battle of them and then Nagata just taking every slap like it was nothing before unleashing some on Naito. That is kind of a trend for the match as old man Nagata takes Naito to the woodshed. Naito did his best to match Nagata’s strikes but he just kept firing up. Nagata hit a second rope exploder for two, which was pretty cool. Nagata ended up targeting the knee. There is another battle of strikes before Nagata hit the backdrop driver for two. Naito started a rally before picking up his first win of the tournament with the Stardust Press.
Considering the old man kicking the brash youngster’s ass stuff was so good, this got off to a great start. Then the ending stretch came. Naito had his leg worked on nearly all match long, only to forget to sell it during his comeback, which is always irritating to me. With some better selling, this would have ranked much higher.
Coming into this, I did not expect these two to have the records they currently hold. Early on, Kazuchika Okada frustrated Lance Archer and dove out onto him. Archer has been booked like a pretty big monster heel though, so he turned that around and beat up Okada outside. Archer just continued the assault in the ring, making it look like the IWGP Heavyweight Champion was in grave danger of falling to a dreadful 0-3. Okada got in somewhat of a babyface rally before Archer stifled it. Surprisingly, he called for the Rainmaker and it wasn’t after the diving elbow. Okada tried the Red Ink submission and did a good job of showing ho tough it was against an opponent of Archer’s size. Archer came back with some big offense, nearly picking up what would be the biggest win of his singles career. Okada is able to persevere and score with the Rainmaker to finally get on the board.
Lance Archer has kind of been one of the models of consistency in this tournament so far. All three of his matches have had very well done big man/little man dynamics. This was more of the same as he dominated at times but Okada, being the Champion, was able to outclass him and win out.
These men are part of the same stable, Chaos. They opened with a feeling out process and it was kind of clear that this was going longer than most Toru Yano matches. They fought outside where Yano had no problems hitting his buddy with a steel chair which led to a countout tease. It’s a smart technique because Yano knows that he isn’t in Nakamura’s league and resorts to whatever possible to beat him. Nakamura started to come back with some of his signature stuff including the corner running knee lift. Yano being Yano, almost steals the win with some flash pins. He’s like, the master of the rollup. Yano avoided the Boma Ye and nearly stole the match again. Nakamura then wrapped it up with the Boma Ye.
Whenever Toru Yano does actually have relatively lengthy matches with the top guys, they seem to work a good performance together. This was no different. Yano had to be extra smart and cunning against someone like Nakamura and it played off well as Nakamura had to fight from behind.
These guys hold wins over Okada and Tanahashi in the tournament so far. Just by the way this started, I knew we were in for a manly fight as they just hammered away on each other. They managed to slow the pace a bit after the rapid start and gave us a countout tease following Kojima hitting an apron DDT. Goto got his mouth busted open at one point. Once back inside, they battled with slaps, which Kojima won out since Goto was clearly in some pain. Goto ends up doing that sunset flip bomb off the top but it doesn’t come off looking as good as it could have. Kojima just absolutely walloped him with a massive lariat to the back of the head and both men went down. As this winded down to the finish, it picked back up to the pace it started with, full of big shots and offensive bursts. Goto connected on Shouten Kai to score the victory.
On a night filled with mostly good matches, this was probably the best so far. They started fast, slowed it at a smart time and then picked back up right as things were getting near the climax. It was hard hitting, featured some false finishes and just a really fun match.
I’ve seen these two go at it before and it’s usually a good old fashioned fight. That seemed to be the case in the early goings here. They just kick, slap and lariat each other for most of the match. There literally isn’t that much to really comment on since it was just two guys beating each other up without using many wrestling moves until the end. Shibata hit a release German that Makabe got right up from to hit one of his own and then a lariat. Makabe went into his bag of tricks with a Death Valley Driver and powerbomb, but Shibata would survive. Shibata blocked another lariat and busted out the Go to Sleep. The Penalty Kick put the final nail in Makabe’s coffin.
Fine little match here but they’ve had better. The short burst should have worked better for them because they could have had a great, compact war, but it just never reached that level for me. It was good though it never reached anywhere near great.
Yea, I was pretty sure who the winner of this would be from the moment I saw the card. In about a year, Smith would ruin Tanahashi’s chances at making the finals, beating him on the last day. They worked an early test of strength and played into the fact that Smith, like his daddy, is a powerful dude. They ran with the “Tanahashi is overmatched” stuff for most of the match. Smith has become quite good in that role and showed off some cool spots like a body slam on the edge of the guardrail. I like Tanahashi fighting from behind, but I was surprised to see Smith get so much offense. Tanahashi did what we’ve come to expect as his standard comeback and won with the High Fly Flow.
Not quite as good as their match a year later but still a serviceable main event. Smith was very impressive as the powerful heel and Tanahashi is almost always a good babyface. The crowd was very into his rally, making this fun.
Overall: Like the first night of the tournament, this was a really solid wrestling show. Only one match on the card was bad and everything else was good. Nothing was must-see, but it’s a solid way to spend three or so hours, with some diverse matches which are mostly all entertaining.
Block A Standings
Hirooki Goto 4 points
Satoshi Kojima 4 points
Lance Archer 4 points
Prince Devitt 4 points
Katsuyori Shibata 4 points
Kazuchika Okada 2 points
Tomohiro Ishii 2 points
Hiroshi Tanahashi 2 points
Davey Boy Smith Jr. 2 points
Togi Makabe 2 points
Block B Standings
Kota Ibushi 6 points
Yujiro Takahashi 6 points
Karl Anderson 4 points
Yuji Nagata 4 points
Shelton X Benjamin 2 points
Minoru Suzuki 2 points
Shinsuke Nakamura 2 points
Tetsuya Naito 2 points
Hiroyoshi Tenzan 2 points
Toru Yano 0 points