After two nights off, the G1 Climax returned for more B Block action. Their first show featured some great matches, though this card is less interesting on paper. However, we still have a G1 26 Finals rematch, one of the best in-ring rivalries in the world, and an intriguing first time ever bout involving the US Champion.
The show opened with a tribute to Masa Saito, who recently passed away.
Jay White and YOH def. Michael Elgin and Ren Narita in 8:11
El Desperado and Minoru Suzuki def. SHO and YOSHI-HASHI in 9:07
BUSHI and EVIL def. Toa Henare and Togi Makabe in 6:14
Bad Luck Fale and Tanga Loa def. David Finlay and Hiroshi Tanahashi in 6:15
Chase Owens and Hangman Page def. Gedo and Kazuchika Okada in 5:44
They’ve met in the past two G1s (***¼ and ***), with Tonga winning both. He comes in with more momentum after a win on night two and the way the G1 Special in San Francisco ended. Commentary tried getting over how even these guys are because of their athleticism. To anyone watching, it’s clear SANADA is superior. Tonga tried stealing the Paradise Lock but couldn’t do it properly. Anyway, the Firing Squad have had their matches riddled with interference lately. Tanga Loa got involved but was ejected. With him gone, it allowed Tonga and SANADA to compete at the level we were used to in their past two matches. Alas, that couldn’t last. We got a ref bump, followed immediately by another. SANADA hit his own Gun Stun and out came the Firing Squad. Surprisingly, it didn’t lead to the finish. SANADA survived an attack, knocked Tanga off the apron and won with an O’Connor roll in 10:46. The middle portion was pretty good, but we got too much of this interference and overbooking stuff. I get it at times, but having it in every match is already tiresome.
After their interactions in the San Francisco tag, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this. Yano’s vow to just go out and wrestle immediately was turned on when he went for the turnbuckle. Still, Yano surprised many by wrestling and trying to trade holds with Sabre. When he finally got the upper hand, Korakuen went nuts. Sabre kept trying to win by countout to give Yano a taste of his own medicine, but Yano kept surviving. Though he was twisted like a pretzel a bunch, Yano still found a way to nearly this thing on more than one occasion. He made the mistake of trying for the turnbuckle again. Sabre ducked and pulled him into the European Clutch to win in 10:34. That was so much fun. Yano is 2-2 in good, fun matches. The crowd was into it, it was different from other G1 matches, and they did plenty of great things throughout.
I was so excited for this match. They shook hands before the bell because they’re both good boys. Juice had Kota scouted early, avoiding the Golden Star Moonsault and hitting a somersault off the apron. Surprisingly, that drew boos from the usually pro-Juice Korakuen crowd. When Kota got going, Juice again had the moonsault scouted and cut it off. The champion did his homework. He just had an answer for everything Ibushi tried. It wasn’t until Kota busted out a SICK rana off the apron that the tide was turned and he hit a moonsault, but this time off the ring post. Insane. That triggered a great finishing stretch, capped by Kamigoye and an Ibushi win in 13:03. I’ll probably be the high man on this, but I loved it. Juice had Kota’s number at every turn. Kota had to do something crazy to turn things around and go higher risk than usual.
What can I say about this rivalry that I already haven’t? Naito beat him in the New Japan Cup (****¼) and in an IWGP Title match (****½) in 2016. Ishii bested him in the US Title tournament (****¼) and G1 last year (****), but Naito got the last laugh at King of Pro Wrestling (****¼). Ishii took it right to Naito with a ton of chops. Naito spat at him and smiled, acting like they didn’t bother him. There were ref shoves in this one but it wasn’t to set up interference nonsense. It was done as a way to show how aggressive these guys are with one another. They played off their past matches and used a more dramatic build than one filled with big spots. Granted, there were still big spots, just not as many as we sometimes get from these two. Once things truly got going late, the crowd was in the palm of their hands. Naito countered the Brainbuster into a modified Destino for a near fall. He added another to win in 19:13. Another great match from these two. Despite having wrestled eight times in the past, they always manage to bring us something different. This felt fresh, was entertaining, and had some great drama.
Kenny beat Goto in the finals of the G1 26. I’ve still never watched that match. Kenny beat him again that October (***). Commentary hyped an intriguing idea that Kenny might want a NEVER Title shot if he won here, to complete the Grand Slam of heavyweight singles titles. For reference, Naito is also only one title away (US). This picked up early, with Kenny looking for a springboard dive, only for Goto to launch a chair at him. That drew plenty of boos. Not to be outdone by his fellow Golden Lover earlier, Omega busted out a huge moonsault in the crowd. As the match got back to the ring, they began to reel off some of their bigger moves. The crowd was invested, even buying into the wild notion that Goto might pull out the victory. Of course, a series of V-Triggers and the One Winged Angel eventually put Goto down for good at 19:25. It was a good main event and though the fans bought a near fall, I never believed there was any chance of a Goto win. They kept up a quicker pace than expected, which was nice to see.
Overall: Other than the highly disappointing opener, this was a fun show. Sabre/Yano was a really fun blast, while Omega/Goto was a strong main event. The show really hit on the great Naito/Ishii match and Ibushi/Juice. If it wasn’t for the Firing Squad, the B Block would have all-time great block potential.
|Jay White||4 (2-0)||Kenny Omega||4 (2-0)|
|Togi Makabe||4 (2-0)||Kota Ibushi||4 (2-0)|
|Michael Elgin||4 (2-0)||Tetsuya Naito||2 (1-1)|
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||2 (1-1)||Hirooki Goto||2 (1-1)|
|EVIL||2 (1-1)||Tomohiro Ishii||2 (1-1)|
|Hangman Page||2 (1-1)||SANADA||2 (1-1)|
|Bad Luck Fale||2 (1-1)||Zack Sabre Jr.||2 (1-1)|
|Kazuchika Okada||0 (0-2)||Tama Tonga||2 (1-1)|
|Minoru Suzuki||0 (0-2)||Juice Robinson||0 (0-2)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||0 (0-2)||Toru Yano||0 (0-2)|