Back to the A Block for another show, featuring one of my favorite match combinations in the world, Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii. The block is still very much wide open and Yuji Nagata continues to search for the elusive first win, just like Satoshi Kojima over in B Block.
BUSHI and SANADA def. David Finlay and Michael Elgin in 5:14
EVIL and Hiromu Takahashi def. Hirai Kawato and Katsuya Kitamura in 5:09
Tama Tonga and Yujiro Takahashi def. Minoru Suzuki and Taichi in 5:24
TenKoji def. Chase Owens and Kenny Omega in 7:25
Gedo, Kazuchika Okada and Toru Yano def. Juice Robinson, Ryusuke Taguchi and Tomoyuki Oka in 8:25
Surprisingly, these two haven’t met in any G1s that I’ve seen. We got some standard back and forth early on. Makabe focused on the neck and shoulders of Nagata as he wore him down. Nagata had a bunch of cupping marks down his back from recent therapy. As Makabe did things like an exploder and lariats, Nagata truly looked like someone desperately fighting for his life. Nagata fought back with the armbar and a relentless series of kicks. He got great near falls on a brainbuster and saito suplex. Makabe fought back and hit the standing knee strike he used on Ibushi. A lariat and King Kong Knee Drop kept Nagata down after 10:45. This was good and had a great crowd. Desperate Nagata on his last stand continues to be a great story, though I’d say this was his worst match yet. It wasn’t bad, it just shows the quality of his work so far.
Fale ripped up a fan’s Daryl during his entrance and my heart broke all over again. These two met in the G1 25 (***). Kota floated like a buttery and stung like a bee. His strategy of sticking and moving backfired once Fale caught him and stepped on his leg. Ibushi got worn down, but fired up with his quick strikes and kicks. They eventually fought into the crowd, with Ibushi nailing a moonsault off a railing. They beat the count back in and the fans felt like it was Ibushi’s to take, but he ran into a lariat. Ibushi escaped the Bad Luck Fall, but made a mistake by trying a powerbomb. Bad move. Fale countered and scored the win with a successful Bad Luck Fall at 11:37. It was laid out well and I enjoyed them going into the crowd, but it wasn’t either man’s best effort.
Sabre pinned Goto in a tag match during his first weekend with NJPW, before losing a NEVER Openweight Title shot against him at Sakura Genesis (***½). Sabre’s best friend El Desperado was with him and he tripped up Goto almost immediately. It allowed Sabre to work his submission style. Goto combated it by using his power at any opening. The NJPW crowds still seem wowed at times by Sabre’s submission work. His style has gotten over much better (and been done better to be honest) here than in the CWC. The technical vs. power battle continued and Sabre nearly beat Goto with the European clutch pin again for a top notch near fall. Goto blocked a PK and they traded big strikes. Goto won out with a lariat and a PK of his own at 10:10. Compact match with the right amount of action. I dug their styles clashing and the crowd continues to be into Sabre. Slightly below their April outing. Sabre’s been the most consistent guy (and Ishii) in the tournament so far.
After a night one victory, YOSHI-HASHI has struggled. Tanahashi’s gone in the opposite direction. HASHI fired up with strikes in the early stages, looking like a guy who was desperate to get back on the winning track. Tanahashi came back with the stuff we’re used to from him, including a plancha and skinning the cat. He went after the knee, looking to set up the Texas cloverleaf. He applied it, but HASHI survived. HASHI made a comeback, hitting the swanton for two. Tanahashi countered Karma and it started a series of reversals. Tanahashi scored with slingblade and High Fly Flow to win in 13:34. This wasn’t bad, but something about it didn’t click with me. It lacked something to get me invested and fell rather flat. The worst singles match I’ve seen either guy have in quite some time.
It’s one my favorite in-ring rivalries ever. This combo and Shibata/Ishii are the only ones I’ve given at least **** each time they’ve met. ****¼ in both the 2014 and 2016 New Japan Cup, **** in the G1 Special earlier this month, ****¾ at New Beginning in 2014, ****½ at Invasion Attack 2014 and ****½ again at Wrestling Dontaku last year for the IWGP Title (the best IWGP Title match besides Shibata/Okada in years). Anyway, the crowd was pro-Naito here, chanting his name loudly during his entrance. We got the typical Naito antics to start, like spitting at Ishii and taking a powder outside. Naito grounded Ishii and held serve. Ishii had enough of his shit and kicked his ass in return. Naito focused on the neck in cutting off his hope spots. He hit his signature rebound attack and a gorgeous dragon suplex, but Ishii responded with a German. He got slapped, so he just headbutted Naito, before both men picked up more near falls. A series of counters led to Naito nailing a variation of Destino for a near fall. He hit another after a series of strikes, only for Ishii to pop right up with a lariat. Ishii turned him inside out with another lariat and won via BRAINBUSTER at 20:40. As usual, these two were great together. It started slow, but really picked up down the stretch. Naito working the neck was wise and well done. The hot crowd helped, as they loved Naito but couldn’t help but pop for Ishii’s stuff too.
Overall: Even with Tanahashi/HASHI being disappointing, this was another consistent outing from the A Block. Nagata/Makabe was solid, as was Ibushi/Fale, though neither was something to go out of your way to see. Sabre/Goto was an enjoyable match with both guys playing to their strength and another quality performance from Sabre. The main event is great, but there are better Ishii/Naito matches out there for sure.
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||8 (4-1)||Kazuchika Okada||8 (4-0)|
|Zack Sabre Jr.||6 (3-2)||Kenny Omega||6 (3-1)|
|Tomohiro Ishii||6 (3-2)||EVIL||6 (3-1)|
|Bad Luck Fale||6 (3-2)||Minoru Suzuki||4 (2-2)|
|Tetsuya Naito||6 (3-2)||SANADA||4 (2-2)|
|Togi Makabe||6 (3-2)||Tama Tonga||4 (2-2)|
|Hirooki Goto||6 (3-2)||Michael Elgin||4 (2-2)|
|Kota Ibushi||4 (2-3)||Juice Robinson||2 (1-3)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||2 (1-4)||Toru Yano||2 (1-3)|
|Yuji Nagata||0 (0-5)||Satoshi Kojima||0 (0-4)|