We’re getting to that point of the G1. You know the one. It’s when people watching their first G1 get confused because they’re led to believe that everything in the G1 is great. However, when we hit these middle of the tournament nights, things tend to slow down. The B Block has delivered in spades so far, but this is an A Block. A middle of the tourney A Block show, so I don’t have high hopes. Let’s see if they can prove me wrong.
The Guerrillas of Destiny def. Toa Henare and Shota Umino in 4:36
Hirooki Goto and YOH def. Gedo and Toru Yano in 5:09
SHO and Tomohiro Ishii def. TAKA Michinoku and Zack Sabre Jr. in 4:47
David Finlay and Juice Robinson def. Chase Owens and Kenny Omega in 6:30
Tetsuya Naito and SANADA def. Kota Ibushi and Yujiro Takahashi in 7:32
I enjoyed their G1 26 match and match during the G1 25 finals (both ***½). Elgin won both. They’ve been booking YOSHI as kind of a sympathetic underdog, only nobody cares because it’s YOSHI-HASHI. He had momentum in the G1 two years ago. Now, he’s just a scrub. Elgin dominated the early stages, with HASHI looking especially rough. It’s not just that he’s losing, he’s also looked sloppy at points. His injury plays a factor in that. At least HASHI’s comeback stuff looked better. He seemed to figure out that bringing the fire in those spots is better than having early fire that dies out. He saved his best stuff for when it mattered more. YOSHI had great last second kickouts and survived a lot, before getting his first win with Karma in 14:22. These guys work well together, even when this year hasn’t been strong for either one. Like Elgin/White, if you shave off a few of the early minutes, this would’ve been better. YOSHI got going and things picked up in the back half.
Fale defeated EVIL in the New Japan Cup Semi-Finals last year (**¾). This is their first G1 meeting. EVIL is the one guy so far to be smart against Fale. He opened by baiting Tanga Loa into possibly hitting him for the DQ. He used their numbers against them, though it backfired after a bit. Still, at least he came in with a game plan. It played off previous Firing Squad matches, which is probably the most positive thing I can say about matches involving that group so far. The brawling outside was fine, though the in-ring stuff lacked. Following another ref bump, Tanga got involved. That brought out BUSHI, Tama Tonga, and eventually Tetsuya Naito, since Naito faces Tama on the next G1 show. EVIL hit the STO but the ref was out. Tama then hit EVIL with a Gun Stun right in front of the official for a DQ in 12:13. If you were just going for the DQ, why waste so much of our time? I get wanting to make an impact, but this is the wrong place. The Firing Squad don’t care about winning the G1, so why even be in it? It makes it feel unimportant to these guys. This was better than Tama/Kenny since EVIL at least had a plan, but was still shit.
White is the lone unbeaten man left in the A Block. This is a first time ever meeting and White was lucky enough to be a Young Lion during the time when Minoru was over in NOAH. Jay came in with a plan to frustrate Suzuki. Minoru is a guy who likes to fight, so when Jay stalled, it bothered him. However, Suzuki is no idiot. He’s been around the block and didn’t let Jay get into his head. Once the match got going, it was clear that it was Jay who may have been outmatched for the first time from a psychological standpoint. Even with all the preparations he made, once White got in there with Suzuki, he learned the hard way. Suzuki destroyed his arm. The heel/heel dynamic meant there wasn’t a major comeback sequence, but they made up for it with the psychological story. White took his first loss to the Gotch Piledriver in 10:35. Not the most exciting of matches, but I appreciated the time taken to tell this narrative.
I heard many were excited for this. They had a match in ROH recently, but I can’t bring myself to care enough about ROH to check the results. There was a light start to this with some air guitar antics. However, Page quickly got serious. He came close to beating Okada and understood that a win over one of the top guys in the block could go a long way. His only win has come via DQ. Interestingly, both men went after the leg. Page did it because Suzuki ripped Tanahashi’s apart and Tana did it because, well, he’s Tana. However, going this route kind of limits what you can do since both men will have bad legs. Anyway, Page called out Cody on a Figure Four spot. Despite that, he had the crowd behind him at points. Just when the match seemed to be kicking into the next gear, Tanahashi hit his signature flurry and won with High Fly Flow in 12:08. That was…lackluster. It was not the big star making performance Page needed. Tanahashi is usually game for that (See SANADA and Sabre the last two years), but this never truly got going. When it seemed like it might, it abruptly ended.
These two usually have better chemistry than you’d expect. Okada beat him in a title match at Dominion 2013 (****), but Makabe evened score in the G1 23 (****¼). Okada won again in the G1 24 (****) and G1 26 (**¾). Makabe always gets a main event or two towards the middle of the tournament, against guys like Tanahashi, Okada, or Goto. They’re not very good. This was more of the same. Okada still feel uncertain about how to handle his new character. He can hit the carefree attitude at certain times, but look kind of lost at others. He randomly reverts back to RAINMAKER Okada before realizing it. It’s understandable, as it’s potentially a big change. It felt like a paint by numbers, middle of the G1, Okada match. Slow start, lots of using your popularity to carry the action, and a pretty hot finish. The Rainmaker ended it in 15:11. It felt like a house show main event and a match that both men were using to take a rest before picking it back up late.
Overall: The A Block underwhelms again. They already had the worst night of the tournament on night five and this was a fair amount worse. Elgin/HASHI was pretty good and that was the match of the night. I quite enjoyed White/Suzuki, too. Okada/Makabe felt like they were sleepwalking, while Page/Tanahashi didn’t hit the levels it probably had the potential to. EVIL/Fale was another bad Firing Squad match. At least the B Block has SANADA/Ibushi, Omega/Juice, and Ishii/Sabre on the next show.
|Jay White||6 (3-1)||Kenny Omega||6 (3-0)|
|EVIL||6 (3-1)||Kota Ibushi||4 (2-1)|
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||6 (3-1)||Tetsuya Naito||4 (2-1)|
|Minoru Suzuki||4 (2-2)||Tomohiro Ishii||4 (2-1)|
|Michael Elgin||4 (2-2)||SANADA||4 (2-1)|
|Kazuchika Okada||4 (2-2)||Hirooki Goto||2 (1-2)|
|Togi Makabe||4 (2-2)||Zack Sabre Jr.||2 (1-2)|
|Bad Luck Fale||2 (1-3)||Toru Yano||2 (1-2)|
|Hangman Page||2 (1-3)||Tama Tonga||2 (1-2)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||2 (1-3)||Juice Robinson||0 (0-3)|