The final A Block show before heading to Sumo Hall for the final three nights. Yuji Nagata’s still looking for that elusive first win, as he remains the only winless man in the tournament after Satoshi Kojima won yesterday. The battle between rivals Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tetsuya Naito continues atop the standings, while guys like Tomohiro Ishii, Bad Luck Fale, Zack Sabre Jr., Hirooki Goto and Kota Ibushi remain alive.
David Finlay and Juice Robinson def. Katsuya Kitamura and Tomoyuki Oka in 5:27
EVIL and Hiromu Takahashi def. Hirai Kawato and Michael Elgin in 4:55
Tama Tonga and Yujiro Takahashi def. TenKoji in 8:34 (that just makes me sad)
BUSHI and SANADA def. Chase Owens and Kenny Omega in 5:06
Gedo, Kazuchika Okada and Toru Yano def. El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki and Taichi
It’s a young punk against a New Japan Dad. These are usually fun. Lots of ground based stuff to start, which made sense. Sabre went after the arm, while Nagata chose to lay into him with kicks. Nagata eventually also targeted the arm, looking to set up his armbar. He managed to lock it in after countering a triangle. He only countered because Sabre got too cocky and tried a headstand while holding the submission. They continued to work a very even match, filled with counters and escapes. After surviving a Brainbuster, Sabre nearly stole it with the European Clutch on a near fall I totally bought into. Nagata fired up and finally nabbed his first win with a Backdrop Driver at 15:08. Sabre and Nagata have been two consistently good performers in this G1 and they did it again here. I enjoyed the dual arm work and the veteran finally getting one over was a great moment.
Ibushi needs to win to stay alive, but also needs help in later matches. I appreciate that the last match didn’t feature the usual G1 fight outside, but it came roaring back here, complete with countout tease. HASHI grounded Ibushi inside for a bit. Ibushi found hope in stiff kicks, a moonsault and springboard dropkick, but HASHI cut off each attempted rally. The best spot came when Ibushi went for the knockout knee, only for HASHI to counter into a powerbomb. Ibushi escaped Karma, leading to a more even finishing stretch. The Golden Star Bomb got a near fall, because that no longer has match ending abilities. He won with a successful knee in 14:28. HASHI got in way more offense than expected. Typically, I like HASHI better when he’s wrestling from behind. It was rare to see him control a match and it didn’t work out as well.
Last year, they had a good match in the G1 (***). This traveled outside early, as expected. Fale slammed Goto’s knee into the ring post and did some limb work, which was unexpected. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Fale do that. I could just be forgetting stuff. Fale made a mistake and missed a corner attack, opening the door for Goto to turn things around. Though he hit a saito suplex, he couldn’t connect on USHIGOROSHI or the GTR. Goto escaped the Bad Luck Fall, only to still lose to the Grenade in 9:34. This was totally average. Not bad, not something you need to seek out. Credit for Fale for trying something different here. After his first two matches with Ishii and Nagata, Goto’s stuff felt like his 2016 G1 run, which was largely mediocre.
A Naito win officially eliminates Sabre and Ibushi if my math is right. These two have met five times in the G1, with Makabe holding a 4-1 advantage. The ones I’ve seen were in the G1 24 (****) and 25 (***¼). They brawled before the bell and, of course, had to fight outside. Makabe hit Naito hard throughout, including nearly decapitating him with a brutal lariat. Naito avoided the next one and scored on a neckbreaker. Most of his stuff focused on the neck to set up Destino. Makabe hit the Spider German, but missed the King Kong Knee Drop. He avoided Destino a few times, but eventually got hit with two (because why make a finisher an actual finisher?) and Naito won in 11:31. Solid match. I enjoyed the neck work and some of the hard hitting stuff. Good back and forth.
A Tanahashi win would eliminate Ibushi, Ishii and Fale here, making for a lackluster feel for the final A Block show. In the G1 23 they killed it (****½), the G1 24 was not their best but still high quality, (***¾) and the G1 26 was back to form (****¼). We got some great back and forth to start, with Ishii as the aggressor. He screamed at Tanahashi, only for the champ to dropkick the knee. When Ishii avoided the Texas Cloverleaf, Tanahashi made the mistake of trading strikes. Ishii clearly won out there, leading to a battle of suplexes. Tanahashi eventually applied the Texas Cloverleaf, but Ishii fought free. Then, in a great twist, Ishii delivered a dragon screw and went to a Sharpshooter! Tanahashi made it to the ropes after a dramatic struggle, though I never fully bought into him tapping out. Maybe if it was work on the injured arm. Both men racked up good near falls late, before they each kicked out at one from signature moves (Ishii on slingblade and Tana on a lariat). Tanahashi used a series of High Fly Flows to pick up the win in 23:30. As usual, these two are awesome. Some good drama mixed in with great exchanges. The intensity was great throughout, and I believed Ishii would win more than once. With one match left against Sabre (their G1 Special match was excellent), Ishii’s my pick for tournament MVP.
I must question the booking. If Ishii and Makabe won, five people would enter the final night tied with 10 points. That makes things harder to predict and allows for the last show to be fully engaging. You could still have it come down to Tanahashi/Naito, but there’d be reason to care for everything else.
Overall: Night fifteen was a good outing from the A Block, but not one of their best. Nothing on the show is bad, with consistent entertainment. Though Ibushi/Goto and Naito/Makabe were underwhelming, they were still very solid wrestling matches. Goto/Fale was about what I expected. Nagata winning was a cool moment and the match was Sabre was my second favorite of the night. Ishii/Tanahashi was clearly the best thing about this show, with them delivering as always.
|Tetsuya Naito||12 (6-2)||Kazuchika Okada||12 (6-1)|
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||12 (6-2)||Kenny Omega||10 (5-2)|
|Bad Luck Fale||10 (5-3)||EVIL||10 (5-2)|
|Kota Ibushi||10 (5-3)||Minoru Suzuki||8 (4-3)|
|Tomohiro Ishii||8 (4-4)||SANADA||8 (4-3)|
|Hirooki Goto||8 (4-4)||Toru Yano||6 (3-4)|
|Zack Sabre Jr.||8 (4-4)||Michael Elgin||6 (3-4)|
|Togi Makabe||6 (3-5)||Tama Tonga||4 (2-5)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||4 (2-6)||Juice Robinson||4 (2-5)|
|Yuji Nagata||2 (1-7)||Satoshi Kojima||2 (1-6)|