After a breathtaking first night, featuring a near four star match (YASHI/Nagata), two ****+ matches (Tana/Sabre and Ishii/Goto) and my first ***** match of the year (Ibushi/Naito) the B Block has a lot to live up to on their first night of action. On paper, I’d say this is one of the stronger B Block shows, with three matches standing out.
The only undercard match I checked out was El Desperado and Zack Sabre Jr. def. Kota Ibushi and Hirai Kawato in 10:20
Tiger Mask IV, Togi Makabe and Yuji Nagata def. Hirooki Goto, Gedo and Tomohiro Ishii in 8:51
Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens def. David Finlay and Hiroshi Tanahashi in 8:29
BUSHI and Tetsuya Naito def. Jado and YOSHI-HASHI in 8:34
I did catch Tetsuya Naito chase Don Callis into the crowd, because he simply doesn’t like him.
This is the first of the matches I said sounded interesting. Kojima had Tenzan in his corner, like Tenzan did with him last year. That added to the intimidation and nerves for Juice, seeing two legends across from him in his first G1 match. Both men went for finishers early, but had them scouted. Kojima got a pop for busting out Tenzan’s MONGOLIAN CHOPS! Juice fought back from some DDTs, only to get lit up with Kojima chops. Juice picked up rare boos when he cut off a signature Kojima spot. Juice went for a high risk move, but Kojima took him out with a lariat to the leg, crotching him. He nailed a super cutter and Juice blocked several lariats. Despite that, he still got hit with two huge ones and a brainbuster, but somehow managed to kick out at the last second. He ducked another, hit the big left and scored the win with Pulp Friction at 11:48. That ruled. It told the veteran vs. legend story well. Juice knew enough about a mentor to have him scouted, while Kojima taught him enough to know the same. Juice refused to die, playing the resilient babyface he’s role he’s nearly mastered.
The two shook hands, the fans chanted for “Kojima” and on his way out, Juice told commentary, “There’s a reason I do everything Kojima tells me.”
After wowing people in the G1 25 and having a great 2016, Elgin hasn’t done a ton in NJPW in 2017 after a great match with Naito in February. Tonga came in with a game plan, using his evasiveness to avoid Elgin at all costs and attempt to tire him out. They fought outside, where Tama took control by sending him into the guardrail and hitting a suplex. Elgin turned the tide inside and DID THE DEAL, but only got a near fall with it. Again, Tama used that quickness to stop his momentum, which was a good strategy. Elgin avoided the Gun Stun once, but slingshot himself into one. He wisely rolled outside, preventing the instant cover. The finish came shortly after, where Elgin tried a super DVD, but Tonga countered it into a huge Gun Stun for the upset at 13:46. The match had a well thought-out structure, with Tonga having a plan to shut up his doubters. Elgin can’t seem to shake his recent struggles, letting this slip away. Good stuff.
Los Ingobernables de Japon explodes! SANADA’s new mask sucks. EVIL was quick to resort to cheating, with a cheap shot and bringing a chair into play. That made SANADA the babyface, as he fought back with his incredible athleticism. He still managed to do just enough cocky heel stuff to not fully be face, like posing after tying EVIL up on the mat. They had some great exchanges, including a massive cutter to the floor by SANADA. It felt like they were trying to outdo the other, not just for the tournament, but to solidify themselves as the number two man in LIDJ. Callis made a great point that Naito seems to see EVIL as his go-to guy, while SANADA is his project. As things progressed, we got a look at how evenly matched they are. A great series of counters led to the Skull End, which the crowd went NUTS for. Easily the biggest pop of the night. EVIL made the ropes, but was still down, so SANADA hit a moonsault to win in 15:46. Shit, that ruled. They went hard at one another, with both men out to prove something. They nailed the little things throughout and built to a great finishing stretch. SANADA screams major star.
EVIL and SANADA fist bumped after the match.
Considering Okada’s schedule this year, a night off to start the G1 is fine. Yano was with Jado, while Gedo cornered his man crush, Okada. Kevin Kelly did a good job putting over how Yano wins quickly in G1, mentioning several wins in the past few years that came in under five minutes. Unfortunately, this went about double that. This had the expected stalling and Yano wackiness. There was some fun, like Okada tying the turnbuckle pad back on after Yano undid it. Yano picked up several near falls through flash pins and low blows, while also nearly winning via countout. Okada eventually won with the Red Ink submission at 10:31. This went way too long. It’s an issue I’ve had with several Okada matches, but some of those are understandable. They could’ve accomplished the same stuff in a much shorter match. Okada gets Elgin next, which should be a massive improvement.
The last time Suzuki wrestled a Bullet Club leader, it was in this building in 2014 and was a MOTY candidate (vs. AJ Styles ****¾). Omega did a fantastic job selling his fear of Suzuki before the match. Once Minoru shoved him though, Omega fired away and things got going. When Omega tried fighting Suzuki, he got his ass kicked. He had to use his athleticism for any openings, but Minoru would stop him with a brutal kick or forearm. He used chairs and viciously twisted Omega’s leg in the guardrail. Kenny sold the leg well. Suzuki pulled the referee in the way of V-Trigger, leading to interference. Desperado, TAKA and Taichi jumped Kenny, bringing out Fale and Owens. Owens got beat up, but Fale fared better and Kenny hit a springboard dive to take them all out. Back to the match, as Suzuki worked a knee bar. Sure, Minoru. Because that worked so well against Okada. The rest of the match was solid, with Omega having to fight from behind, but remaining defiant by doing things like spitting at Minoru. Omega went too V-Trigger happy down the stretch, like that leg wasn’t worked on extensively. I understand adrenaline kicking in to overcome it, but not that often. He won with the One Winged Angel at 21:24. It reminded me too much of the Okada/Minoru shit fest back in February. Minoru looked like a killer, but it mostly forgotten so the finishing stretch could feature signature offense. The interference wasn’t that bothersome to me, though it didn’t add anything to the match. Disappointing, like everything involving Minoru in 2017. Omega has the two weakest guys in the block in my opinion (Tonga and Yano) next, but the quality of his matches should go way higher after that.
Overall: A solid start for the B Block, but nowhere near the level of A Block’s opening night. To be fair, that was asking a lot. Still, it didn’t live up to the potential of B Block. I thought the opener was a blast and Tonga/Elgin was very solid. SANADA/EVIL stole the show, which was on the way to being something very good. Unfortunately, the final two matches lacked, which I’m not expecting to continue when they involved Omega and Okada. Okada/Yano was always going to be a night off for the champ, but Omega/Suzuki was a massive disappointment.
|Tetsuya Naito||2 (1-0)||Kenny Omega||2 (1-0)|
|Zack Sabre Jr.||2 (1-0)||Kazuchika Okada||2 (1-0)|
|Hirooki Goto||2 (1-0)||SANADA||2 (1-0)|
|Bad Luck Fale||2 (1-0)||Tama Tonga||2 (1-0)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||2 (1-0)||Juice Robinson||2 (1-0)|
|Kota Ibushi||0 (0-1)||Minoru Suzuki||0 (0-1)|
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||0 (0-1)||Toru Yano||0 (0-1)|
|Tomohiro Ishii||0 (0-1)||EVIL||0 (0-1)|
|Togi Makabe||0 (0-1)||Michael Elgin||0 (0-1)|
|Yuji Nagata||0 (0-1)||Satoshi Kojima||0 (0-1)|