After a solid start to the tournament, the B Block takes center stage. On paper, this block is WAY stronger than the A Block. It has all three champions in the tournament and is just loaded. Night two features rematches from two of the best matches of 2017. I’m ready.
Chase Owens and Hangman Page def. Michael Elgin and Shota Umino in 6:18
BUSHI and EVIL def. SHO and YOSHI-HASHI in 5:21
El Desperado and Minoru Suzuki def. Toa Henare and Togi Makabe in 6:44
Bad Luck Fale and Tanga Loa def. Gedo and Kazuchika Okada in 6:08
David Finlay and Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Jay White and YOH in 8:05
Surprisingly, this is a first time ever meeting. Interestingly, they’ve been within two points of each other in each G1 together, yet never in the same block. The tag partners faced off and we saw a different Yano at first. Instead of his “BREAK” spot, he got back in the ring and traded forearms with Ishii. Yano seemed like he’d avoid cheating, but still eventually tried to use a chair and exposed the turnbuckle. Yano won out in a strike exchange that blew the crowd’s mind. The same went for Yano popping up on a German and busting out a belly to belly. GIVE YANO THE TITLE, BABY! The finish was a cool twist, as it was Ishii who hit a low blow and rolled up Yano at 8:52. Look, I might be the high man on this, but I loved it. You probably won’t find something more fun in the entire tournament. They played off their personalities, brought some surprises, and gave us a clever finish.
Two guys who had their big moments at the G1 Special in San Francisco. Juice won his first title, while Tama jumped Kenny Omega and Cody to form the Firing Squad. Will this be the year Tama finally breaks out in a G1? Tama beat Juice in last year’s tournament (***). If Juice uses the cast he gets DQed, but Tanga Loa was also outside. They wrestled this at a slower pace than expected, with Juice not wanting to risk something happening to his hand. A Tanga distraction put his brother in control. Tama attacked the hand, even standing on it at one point. Juice rallied and Tanga got on the apron. Juice brought him in and laid him out with the cast covered left. Tama countered Pulp Friction into the Gun Stun to win in 14:06. It wasn’t bad, but it was the worst match of the tournament so far. It felt long, Tama still doesn’t work an interesting heat segment, and as much fire as Juice had, it didn’t help things.
SANADA beat Goto in his first G1 in 2016 (***). SANADA got off to a slow start, with Goto getting in the driver’s seat. Part of it could be experience, but part of it could be SANADA focusing on the big match with Naito later in the tournament. SANADA changed the tide a bit with some brawling outside. From there, it was an evenly matched battle. Goto hit one of the nastiest looking USHIGOROSHIS I’ve ever seen. Following some fun GTR/Dragon Sleeper teases and counters, SANADA hit his own USHIGOROSHI. The finish played into the GTR/Dragon Sleeper stuff, setting up a rope draped reverse GTR. Goto hit another for two points after 13:38. Back on track with some very good wrestling. The finishers and how well they play off each other was a highlight.
Oh, baby. Ibushi beat Sabre in last year’s G1, while Sabre bested him in the New Japan Cup this year. Both matches got ****½ from me. Commentary hyped Sabre as the best tournament wrestler around, with wins in BOLA, New Japan Cup, Super Strong Style 16, and more. Ibushi surprisingly tried keeping up with Sabre on the mat. It should be clear by now that’s where Sabre thrives. He switched tactics and started throwing harder strikes and brutal kicks. Sabre got sick of getting the shit kicked out of him, so he started bending and twisting Ibushi’s leg in vicious ways. Ibushi used it for offense, but it came back to haunt him. Each time Kota seemed to get something going, Sabre had a counter ready. They nailed some of the little things, like Kota kicking out at one from a PK and when Sabre hit another, he lifted his feet to do it again, but couldn’t and had to wait until two to kick out. Sabre continually had the Kamigoye scouted and checked it. They also teased a similar finish to last year’s G1 bout. They went into an incredible series of counters late, giving us fantastic teases and near falls, before Kota hit Kamigoye to win in 22:58. Just an outstanding combination of striking, counter wrestling, technical work, and drama.
In 2016, Omega beat Naito to win the B Block (****½). In 2017, Naito beat Kenny to win the entire G1 (*****). It’s the rubber match. They started this out by playing up their character work. Little things like Naito stealing Kenny’s gun taunt and both men being cocky. We saw them play up their history with callbacks to the other G1 matches. They had each other well scouted. I particularly liked Omega dropping to one knee for Naito’s corner sweep spot. Naito remained one step ahead of Kenny throughout and it felt like Kenny was getting outwrestled. He switched gears and brought out a wild dropkick spot that turned the tides. Combine that with Naito being a bit too tranquilo and the playing field was leveled. Once they built to the final minutes, this kicked up into the next level. So many breathtaking counters. Both men were looking for the death blow, yet the other was always ready for it. In the end, Kenny turned Destino into a STEINER SCREWDRIVER OF SORTS! A V-Trigger and One Winged Angel later and Omega wrapped it up in 23:19. Awesome match. It didn’t top their final last year, but was about on par with 2016. They so well off their past, it had a big fight feel with a crazy hot crowd that made for a unique atmosphere, and it gave us some dramatic final moments.
Overall: The B Block is awesome and they delivered as expected. Ishii/Yano was a blast of an opener, before Goto/SANADA delivered a good back and forth match. Juice/Tonga ended up dragging things down in the middle. No worries, because the last two matches picked it up. Sabre/Ibushi was outstanding and my favorite match of the night. Naito/Omega was just behind it and capped things in wild fashion.
|Jay White||2 (1-0)||Kenny Omega||2 (1-0)|
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||2 (1-0)||Kota Ibushi||2 (1-0)|
|Michael Elgin||2 (1-0)||Hirooki Goto||2 (1-0)|
|Hangman Page||2 (1-0)||Tama Tonga||2 (1-0)|
|Togi Makabe||2 (1-0)||Tomohiro Ishii||2 (1-0)|
|Kazuchika Okada||0 (0-1)||Tetsuya Naito||0 (0-1)|
|Minoru Suzuki||0 (0-1)||Zack Sabre Jr.||0 (0-1)|
|EVIL||0 (0-1)||SANADA||0 (0-1)|
|Bad Luck Fale||0 (0-1)||Juice Robinson||0 (0-1)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||0 (0-1)||Toru Yano||0 (0-1)|