Everyone’s officially had their G1 match and things are moving right along. We return to the A Block, who had an all-time great night one. The B Block under delivered for the most part in my eyes, but still put on a solid show. Today features Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. in a match that I’m sure is gonna piss of Triple H. Again, I only decided to check out one undercard match.
EVIL and Hiromu Takahashi def. David Finlay and Juice Robinson in 7:13
Minoru Suzuki and Taichi def. BUSHI and SANADA in 8:13
Kenny Omega and Yujiro Takahashi def. Chase Owens and Tama Tonga in 7:45
Michael Elgin and TenKoji def. Gedo, Kazuchika Okada and Toru Yano in 8:12
I saw them meet in the G1 25 (***) and the 2016 New Japan Cup (***) and neither wowed me, but both were good. Nagata went for the armbar early, but Goto escaped and just wore him down. Like YOSHI-HASHI on night one, Goto slapped Nagata, which awoke and angered the vet. Nagata proceeded to kick his ass like only a dad can. After more exchanges, Nagata looked to be out cold, but was playing possum as he pulled Goto into the armbar. Goto reached the ropes, but took a Backdrop Driver for a great near fall. They moved into an awesome battle of strikes that had the crowd going nuts. Goto countered a Backdrop Driver to a sleeper that Nagata countered by going after the arm. Goto headbutted him and won with the GTR at 15:02. Nagata is trying to go out with great performances and I love it. Both guys left it all in the ring and I love the story of Nagata giving his best, only to come up short. He did it on night one as well. It’s like Liger’s final story and I dig it. The perfect match for Korakuen.
After the match, Nagata exited to his name being chanted.
Sometimes, the G1 gives you fresh matches. Sometimes, you get this. We saw this so many times in 2015. Some were great (WK9 and KOPW) and some were just tiresome. Their G1 match last year was good (***½), though. By now, you know what to expect from them. They went right at each other with strike after strike. Ishii tossed Makabe into the guardrail several times, affecting his sternum. Once inside though, it was back to going to war. It’s like Ishii is one of the few guys that Makabe puts in effort against. He even took a superplex bump. Ishii fought off the spider German, but took a super belly to belly, only to avoid the King Kong Knee Drop. Makabe survived a bunch of lariats, before falling to a brainbuster in 15:51. As always, these two had a quality match. There’s just something about Makabe that doesn’t suck me in the way other guys do, even when he’s putting in the effort like he did here. Good, hard hitting stuff. This was the first Ishii singles match this year that I didn’t give four stars.
Kevin Kelly said this had been booked about five times in the past, but never officially took place. Ha. They both tried goading the other into their game, Sabre to the mat and Kota with the strikes. Sabre gained control first, twisting Kota’s leg in odd ways. He used it to take away Kota’s kicks, before turning his focus to the neck. Commentary was good at noting how Kota took way more damage than Sabre on night one. Each time Kota found an opening, Sabre closed it by trapping him in some kind of submission. The fans popped for Sabre’s impressive work. Kota fought back by bringing strikes and kicks, but again, Sabre caught the Pele into an ankle lock, wowing the crowd. Kota nearly knocked Sabre out with a brutal knee. Sabre ended up catching him in a triangle choke, but may have made a mistake by doing a head stand for extra leverage. It allowed Kota to power up and counter with the Golden Star Bomb to win at 15:51. They lived up to the hype. Sabre came in with a plan that mostly worked. He took Ibushi off his game and Kota had to find small windows to get anything going. Sabre lost, but honestly dominated until Kota finally hit the one move that was just enough to win.
This is Fale’s fourth G1 Climax. He’s met Tanahashi in each one (***½, ***½, ***¼) and they’ve also had three other matches (Destruction ’15, Road to Wrestling Dontaku ’16 and New Japan Cup ’16). Fale won most of those. Knowing his struggles against Fale, Tanahashi went for early flash pins in the hopes of Yanoing this. Fale withstood that and did the smart thing by attacking Tanahashi’s taped up arm. After nearly getting counted out, Tanahashi rallied and busted out a goddamn release German suplex. Tana sold the arm well mostly, even doing his skin the cat spot with one hand. Tanahashi escaped the Bad Luck Fall and delivered a slingblade on the apron. He beat the count back in at 19, while Fale couldn’t, resulting in the surprising countout finish at 11:05. Typical stuff from them. Solid work and I liked the finish because it’s different from what we’re used to with them.
Naito won their G1 match last year (***¾), but YOSHI feels like a guy who could get the “unexpected hot start” run that Yujiro, Shelton Benjamin and Honma had in recent years. Naito got in control early and was happy to rest while YOSHI had to beat a countout. The always calm Naito looked to be taking his advantage for granted, allowing YOSHI to rally. Though he’s the heel, the fans were behind Naito, making some of YOSHI’s comeback attempts fall flat. They went back and forth, with YOSHI gaining a few believable near falls. Naito escaped the Butterfly Lock, but got hit with a lung blower and swanton for yet another close call. Naito got put back in the Butterfly Lock and seemed to fade, before making the ropes out of desperation. YOSHI kicked out Destino (I hate how often that happens), but not a second, giving Naito the win at 22:19. It dragged a bit in the middle, but had a strong closing stretch. The crowd didn’t want to see YOSHI win, so a lot of his babyface fire didn’t work. Still, a good main event. Like Ishii earlier, this was the first Naito singles match this year that I didn’t give four stars.
Post-match, LIDJ joined Naito as he cut a promo.
Overall: The A Block is two for two in good shows. Nothing on this card was bad, with everything clocking in at ***+. Tanahashi/Fale was good, but we’ve seen it a ton and there isn’t much more they can do to alter it. YOSHI/Naito and Ishii/Makabe were good matches that just didn’t quite reach the great level. The two things you must see are Goto/Nagata and Sabre/Ibushi. One was a war and the other was a brilliantly executed match between the two most exciting additions to the G1. Thumbs up.
|Tetsuya Naito||4 (2-0)||Kenny Omega||2 (1-0)|
|Hirooki Goto||4 (2-0)||Kazuchika Okada||2 (1-0)|
|Kota Ibushi||2 (1-1)||SANADA||2 (1-0)|
|Zack Sabre Jr.||2 (1-1)||Tama Tonga||2 (1-0)|
|Tomohiro Ishii||2 (1-1)||Juice Robinson||2 (1-0)|
|HIroshi Tanahashi||2 (1-1)||Minoru Suzuki||0 (0-1)|
|Bad Luck Fale||2 (1-1)||Toru Yano||0 (0-1)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||2 (1-1)||EVIL||0 (0-1)|
|Togi Makabe||0 (0-2)||Michael Elgin||0 (0-1)|
|Yuji Nagata||0 (0-2)||Satoshi Kojima||0 (0-1)|