The A Block is two for two in high quality shows, while the B Block’s one night didn’t impress too much. However, night four looks more interesting on paper. Michael Elgin vs. Kazuchika Okada and SANADA vs. Minoru Suzuki both have potential to be great. There’s also a collision of Bullet Club members on night four.
David Finlay, Kota Ibushi and Togi Makabe def. Gedo, Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii in 7:06
El Desperado and Zack Sabre Jr. def. Jado and YOSHI-HASHI in 7:35
Hiroshi Tanahashi and Katsuya Kitamura def. Tomoyuki Oka and Yuji Nagata in 8:58
Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi def. BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi and Tetsuya Naito in 7:33
The three saddest moments in wrestling this year were the Festival of Friendship, DIY splitting and Fale ripping Daryl in half. The last one hurt the most. I now go into the G1 matches in a somber mood.
I seriously want to know who laid this match out? I understood Yano going long with Okada, because apparently Okada MUST have long matches, but that’s not what I want from Yano in the G1. He’s to come in, do the Yano special and go, within about five minutes usually. He squirted water at Kojima and got some near falls, only to have it turned back on him. They went back and forth inside, with nearly no end in sight. The Koji Cutter was hit, but Yano pulled the hair to set up a comeback. Yano used the referee as a shield, hit a low blow and won at 9:12. Look, I’m one of those who enjoys Yano’s antics, but in no way should those matches go nearly ten minutes.
I came in pumped for this, since Juice has been great against LIDJ in tags. Juice came out firing, dropkicking EVIL at the bell. It was a change of pace and commentary was great about it. Juice got dropped throat first on the guardrail, swinging the momentum in EVIL’s favor. It was great because it allowed EVIL to wear him down for his new submission. Juice rallied and the crowd loves his fire. He and Elgin are great babyface gaijins. There was a great spot where Juice paid homage to Tomoaki Honma (Makabe was on commentary) with Kokeshi for a near fall. He got another after a Kojima lariat and powerbomb, with the fans going nuts for each. EVIL avoided Pulp Friction, they exchanged some great counters and EVIL reversed it into a tiger suplex variation. A lariat and STO later and EVIL won at 11:46. Both guys are two for two in rad matches so far. They worked a smart match. The neck work was well done, everything was crisp, Juice had the fans in the palm of his hands and the final stretch was great. More of this, please.
There’s potential for this to be amazing or disappointing. It depended on Minoru’s mood. He had El Desperado with him, which led to some typical Suzuki-Gun shenanigans. SANADA fought tough and showed no fear of Suzuki, but was met with a Minoru who gave no fucks and some Desperado interference. SANADA was the babyface here, with the crowd way behind him. He dropkicked Desperado to take him out, before overwhelming Minoru with his athleticism. The crowd popped hard when SANADA finally tied Suzuki into a knot. SANADA fought off the Gotch piledriver and came close after a TKO. Minoru won a counter battle and hit the Gotch piledriver for two points at 11:22. Another high quality match. Honestly, this was only behind the Shibata match for my favorite Minoru outing of 2017. He was a killer, the interference wasn’t overdone and SANADA looked damn good as the face. He continues to feel like a star in the making.
Tonga had Owens and Fale with him, while Omega had Yujiro. Callis instantly pointed out how Tonga isn’t a fan of “The Elite” concept within the Bullet Club. He attacked Omega and even said, “FUCK THE ELITE!” He even got to do a rare mid-match promo, telling Omega that if he’s gonna be Bullet Club, he should be Bullet Club. Tonga dominated at time, constantly yelling at Kenny. Omega showed he was just as quick as Tonga during his comeback stretches. He took out everyone but Fale with a dive, that Yujiro and Owens didn’t want him to do. They traded strikes inside, before Kenny went V-Trigger happy. He hit several, with a few counters (Tonga getting out of the One Winged Angel and Omega slipping out of the Gun Stun) in between, before a successful One Winged Angel wrapped this up at 11:41. A good match that felt different for most of it. Tonga’s personal vendetta made for fun TV. The finishing stretch went back to what we’re used to and I don’t care for the V-Trigger spam in almost every Kenny match.
Post-match, Kenny kicked at Tama Tonga a bunch, but they all left as friends. That sucked, because it took away from a lot of what Tonga did. Why is everything suddenly okay?
Elgin’s first match in NJPW was against Okada in the G1 two years ago (***¾). Regardless of my feelings on whether he’s had the best year in wrestling, I can’t deny how grueling Okada’s matches have been. He went the distance with Omega, got murdered by Suzuki, pounded on by Fale, etc. Like Fale, Elgin’s power was big here, as he brutalized Okada. For example, he caught Okada’s signature guardrail cross body, and body slammed him on the outside twice. He also made the ring move on some badass corner clotheslines. Okada eventually rallied with his trademark shit like the elbow and the dropkick to send Elgin to the outside. Elgin was ready once back in though, countering a missile dropkick with a powerbomb for two. The crowd was way into Elgin by this point, making him the favorite. He kept avoiding the Rainmaker and delivered a vicious lariat of his own. He coupled it with the Elgin Bomb for the best near fall of the night. The crowd totally bought it. Okada fought off the Buckle Bomb and deadlift superplex to get an opening. Elgin eventually hit those two moves, avoided a Rainmaker and hit another powerbomb for two again. OKADA WITH THAT ROMAN REIGNS RESILIENCY! Elgin wanted Burning Hammer, but Okada got out and hit the Rainmaker. He did his “I HOLD THE WRIST SINCE IT WORKED ON TANAHASHI” spot for another one. Elgin avoided a third, but ate a tombstone. A third Rainmaker finished things at 25:49. I dug how this didn’t follow the typical Okada formula of a super slow start that gets overshadowed by a big finish. Elgin had a purpose to his early stuff. The finishing stuff felt formulaic and a bit overdone, but I loved how the crowd got way behind Elgin. You believed he would win. Awesome main event, just below Elgin’s matches with Naito and Ishii as his best stuff in NJPW so far.
Overall: Three good matches sandwiched around a shit one and a great one. Yano/Kojima went way too long for what it was. I thought Juice/EVIL was a very strong back and forth contest, while Minoru/SANADA showed the best 2017 Minoru and flashes of a brilliant babyface in SANADA. Tonga/Omega was different, which I appreciated. The main event was great and the Korakuen faithful ate it up. Performance wise, Okada’s off to a better start than last year (I’m not counting the Yano match for much). Thumbs up.
|Tetsuya Naito||4 (2-0)||Kenny Omega||4 (2-0)|
|Hirooki Goto||4 (2-0)||Kazuchika Okada||4 (2-0)|
|Kota Ibushi||2 (1-1)||Minoru Suzuki||2 (1-1)|
|Zack Sabre Jr.||2 (1-1)||SANADA||2 (1-1)|
|Tomohiro Ishii||2 (1-1)||Toru Yano||2 (1-1)|
|HIroshi Tanahashi||2 (1-1)||EVIL||2 (1-1)|
|Bad Luck Fale||2 (1-1)||Juice Robinson||2 (1-1)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||2 (1-1)||Tama Tonga||2 (1-1)|
|Togi Makabe||0 (0-2)||Michael Elgin||0 (0-2)|
|Yuji Nagata||0 (0-2)||Satoshi Kojima||0 (0-2)|