Time for some B Block action. Another relatively loaded card from the superior block. Can Kenny Omega remain perfect in a first time ever battle with Zack Sabre Jr? That’s the big question. We also must see if Tetsuya Naito can keep up.
Bad Luck Fale and Tonga Loa def. Michael Elgin and Shota Umino in 4:57
Chase Owens and Hangman Page def. Toa Henare and Togi Makabe in 6:40
SHO and YOSHI-HASHI def. Jay White and YOH in 6:37
BUSHI and EVIL def. David Finlay and Hiroshi Tanahashi in 6:55
El Desperado and Minoru Suzuki def. Gedo and Kazuchika Okada in 7:34
Tama won their only prior G1 meeting, in 2016 (**¾). Of course, Tanga Loa was with his brother here and did another cheap TAKA Michinoku rip off introduction. For most of this match, we didn’t get the typical Firing Squad nonsense. In fact, most of this was a straight up one on one match. Unfortunately, Tama is just not interesting enough for that to make up for things. Loa did eventually get involved and we got things like a ref bump and steel chair antics. How come nobody from CHAOS chooses to help each other? That’s a stable I’d never want to be part of. Ishii survived their attacks once or twice, but it became too much for him. He got put down by the Gun Stun at 10:34. It was better than most Tama matches in the G1 so far. The back half was too much of the same and it was nothing special to begin with.
SANADA won their G1 match last year (***¼). Juice is fresh off his first win in this year’s G1. Like that match, this was good but never sniffed great. It was ripe with Gedo booking tropes, like the double countout tease. The interesting part of this might have also been the biggest issue. Juice had SANADA totally scouted. He was one step ahead of him from start to finish. That included him applying his own Skull End on the master himself. That would’ve been great, except it made for an awkward atmosphere as the crowd seemed unsure of how to react to this. Maybe it was because they like SANADA a lot. Anyway, as the match neared its end, we got the sense that SANADA was too quick for Juice. The US Champ had to remove his cast to get back on track and keep up with SANADA. It worked as he scored with Pulp Friction to win in 12:39. I dug the story they told, it just had a strange crowd and some redundant Gedo stuff to make it stand out in a crowded tournament like this.
Naito won their G1 matches in 2016 (**¼), 2015 (**½), and a bloody one in 2014 (***) Yano won in 2010, 2011 and 2013 (**¾). Or maybe Naito got busted open in the 2013 one. I can’t remember. This time around, we got a fun twist on the usual Yano formula. This year, he’s been trying to be less of a cheat. So, it was Naito who was playing games. He refused the lockup, he taunted, he tied Yano up in the guardrail. Yano was in trouble, so he resorted to his old ways by removing the turnbuckle pad. It backfired as Naito swung it like a baseball bat at him. Yano survived that, but not Destino, losing in 8:28. The outcome never felt like it was in doubt, but this was silly fun. Naito looked like he had a blast.
I praised the B Block for having versatility in their main events, but there’s no way this shouldn’t go on last over Ibushi/Goto. I understand this show is in Kota’s hometown. Kenny remained the one NJPW Big Four guy that Sabre hasn’t beaten in 2018. They only met once before and it was years ago before they reached the levels they’re on now. Omega held serve with Zack on the mat at the start, but was quickly proven to be out of his element. So, he moved to using his power and aerial offense. Sabre cut those off with his brand of picking apart a limb, choosing Kenny’s right leg. I loved how Sabre easily got out of Kenny’s “YOU CAN’T ESCAPE” spot. Only Naito has done it that I’ve seen and it hammered home how great Sabre was in that aspect. Zack had an answer for everything and like his match with Okada in April, it forced the IWGP Champion out of his comfort zone. That’s a good thing, folks. A lot of what Kenny did felt like it was out of desperation and not like his usual tendency to throw big moves for the sake of extra stars. The One Winged Angle countered into the European Clutch made for a tremendous near fall, while Zack catching a V-Trigger into a submission was stellar. Though Sabre dominated, Omega refused to give up and used a rollup to steal this in 15:16. Great match that showed a different side of Kenny. It was the kind of performance that we should get more often from him. There was a lot of emotion and sympathy here, as Omega felt more like a great wrestler than a moves machine. Sabre was spectacular. Booking wise, I liked how great Sabre looked, but it does take a lot of away from the drama of the block as Kenny is nearly unreachable. I’m also happy they kept this relatively short.
Goto won their only prior G1 meeting (***), which was last year. This is Kota’s hometown, so he was the clear favorite. Also, he’s Kota and his opponent is Goto. Goto worked a slow style early, feeling out Ibushi and seeing how he’d react to the pressure. If Kota lost, in his hometown, he’d be eliminated. Goto controlled most of the early stuff and seemed keen to take advantage of Ibushi landing on his neck. It’s not a true Ibushi tournament run if he doesn’t get dropped on his head. Goto focused on the neck. The crowd came alive for Ibushi’s big comeback sequences. Those were the best parts of the match and it admittedly got better as it went on. They gave us the strong exchanges late, with Kota using Kamigoye to win in 18:10 and stay alive. A strong main event, but it was hard to live up to the previous match. Plus, they’ve goth had better in this tournament.
Overall: Guess what? The B Block put on another good show. Shocker. Tama Tongs wasn’t completely awful, helping the consistency of this show. It didn’t have as high a ceiling as many B Block shows, but Juice/SANADA and Goto/Ibushi were very good, while Yano/Naito was fun. Omega/Sabre was one of the better matches of the tournament so far. We’re about to hit the back third of the tournament, where things usually pick up again.
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||10 (5-1)||Kenny Omega||12 (6-0)|
|Minoru Suzuki||8 (4-2)||Tetsuya Naito||10 (5-1)|
|Jay White||8 (4-2)||Kota Ibushi||8 (4-2)|
|EVIL||8 (4-2)||SANADA||6 (3-3)|
|Kazuchika Okada||8 (4-2)||Zack Sabre Jr.||6 (3-3)|
|Bad Luck Fale||6 (3-3)||Tomohiro Ishii||4 (2-4)|
|Togi Makabe||4 (2-4)||Juice Robinson||4 (2-4)|
|Michael Elgin||4 (2-4)||Hirooki Goto||4 (2-4)|
|Hangman Page||2 (1-5)||Tama Tonga||4 (2-4)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||2 (1-5)||Toru Yano||2 (1-5)|