Typically, the middle nights of the G1 Climax are a cool down. We get lesser main events and guys take some nights off to rest before picking up the pace in the final stretch. However, this is the B Block, and it might be too loaded to have an off night. We have the IWGP Champion facing off against SANADA in our main event, plus the NEVER Openweight Champion against the man who has won everything in NJPW, and a battle of two of the best in the world. Yes, this block rules.
Bad Luck Fale and Tanga Loa def. Toa Henare and Togi Makabe in 6:14
Chase Owens and Hangman Page def. Jay White and YOH in 6:20
El Desperado and Minoru Suzuki def. BUSHI and EVIL in 7:06
SHO and YOSHI-HASHI def. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shota Umino in 7:47
David Finlay and Michael Elgin def. Gedo and Kazuchika Okada in 8:40
Tanga Loa did an impersonation of TAKA’s hype intro for his brother, which included, “He doesn’t need to cock his fist.” The Roman/Tonga feud continues. Though, Tama wishes he was in Roman’s league as a worker. Tonga quickly realized that he wasn’t going to hang with ZSJ on the mat. Loa took out TAKA and Tama took control with some brawling tactics in the ring. Sabre’s comeback did see him get in some cool spots. Of course, we had to get a ref bump to set up some nonsense. Sabre got a visual submission win but there was no referee. That brought out Bad Luck Fale to hit him with the Grenade for another DQ after 10:59. This is just so stupid. Why are you in this tournament if you don’t care about wins? It’s so repetitive and dull.
After losing to Kenny Omega, Juice cut a great promo and said if he goes 0-fer in this G1, he’ll hand the US Title in and go back home to Chicago. Juice beat Yano last year (**¼). Yano surprised many with a clean break, but didn’t keep it going when he offered Juice a handshake. He continued to be a man between styles, as he’d do some wrestling and some cheating, back and forth. They had some fun with this as we got a turnbuckle pad sword fight and an airplane spin that led to both dizzy men collapsing. Yano came close with several rollups and cheating spots, but fell to Pulp Friction in 8:28. This was entertaining. Though they threw out some comedy spots, it never felt like Juice wasn’t desperate to win. He brought out the new airplane spin and removed his cast despite the injury to hit a left hand. I can’t help but think this struggling story is what they should be telling with Okada instead of Juice.
Ibushi beat Ishii in last year’s G1 (****¼), but Ishii won a NEVER Title match back in 2014 (****¾). Right from the opening bell, these two went to war. It was just what I wanted from them. They just delivered strikes, slaps, and kicks galore. All that while throwing in some strong style moments, a stalling avalanche vertical suplex, and a signature Ibushi balcony moonsault. The point of the match near the end where they just disrespectfully slapped each other and chopped one another in the throat was insane. It was a battle of two warriors trying to outdo each other. Ishii hitting his own Kamigoye was incredible and the powerbomb near falls had me on the edge of my seat. It reminded me of the awesome Shibata/Ibushi match from the G1 25. The crowd was fantastic, which was an issue with their match last year. They hung on everything these guys did. When they began stealing each other’s moves and bringing the dramatic near falls late, it sent this match over the edge. Ibushi finally hit the Kamigoye that was enough to rack up the win after 16:13. Ishii and Ibushi are two of the best in the world and they showed why. An outstanding match and the best of the tournament so far. Each time it seemed to peak, it got better. Tremendous wrestling.
A lot of history here. Naito beat him in last year’s G1 (**¾) and the 2016 New Japan Cup Finals (***¾). Goto won at WK10 (***¼) and the G1 24 (***¾). I didn’t see it, but Goto won in the G1 22. These poor guys have to follow the last match. Goto feels like an A Block kind of guy at points. Matches like this are why. It was a good outing, but it lacked anything that felt like drama or urgency. Maybe it was because it follow Ibushi/Ishii, but they had a similar issue last year. They had some strong back and forth moments. It took two Destinos for Naito to win in 13:26. A good match, just one that felt extremely hollow.
Omega won a good match between these two last year (***½) in their only ever meeting. SANADA entered this with the momentum of three straight wins, including one over Ibushi. He felt like the most credible threat to Omega since Naito. Still, Omega took him lightly and slapped him around. SANADA got the upper hand and sent Omega outside, before holding the ropes to cleanly allow him back in. MIND GAMES. Though SANADA gave the clean opening, Omega, taking him more seriously now, didn’t let him back in and dropkicked him. It was a nice bit of him realizing that he was in some trouble. From there, the match was played out on a more even level. One thing that I didn’t care much for was how this felt extended. It seemed like they were working to extent this to the 20 minute mark purely because it was the main event. It’s an issue NJPW has too often. Their exchanges and counter sequences were great and very smooth. It was clear how great both men are. Omega struggled in Skull End, but avoided the moonsault and hit the One Winged Angel to win in 20:12. This was a very good match, though it suffered from some of the stuff I’m used to by now. It felt like they stretched it out a bit and Omega, great as he is, sometimes wrestles like he’s in WWE 2K18. Rather than do some logical things in matches, he can have a tendency to throw out moves purely in an attempt to raise his star ratings. Still, a strong main event that didn’t quite feel as big as it could have.
Overall: Even on a middle of the tournament night where the B Block didn’t fully deliver, they provided us with the match of the tournament. As expected, Tama Tonga delivered the worst match of the night. Goto/Naito lacked, but was fine, while Juice/Yano was entertaining. Omega/SANADA was a very good main event. Ibushi/Ishii is a must see match that was right up there with their 2014 classic.
|EVIL||8 (4-1)||Kenny Omega||10 (5-0)|
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||8 (4-1)||Tetsuya Naito||8 (4-1)|
|Minoru Suzuki||6 (3-2)||SANADA||6 (3-2)|
|Jay White||6 (3-2)||Kota Ibushi||6 (3-2)|
|Kazuchika Okada||6 (3-2)||Zack Sabre Jr.||6 (3-2)|
|Michael Elgin||4 (2-3)||Tomohiro Ishii||4 (2-3)|
|Togi Makabe||4 (2-3)||Hirooki Goto||4 (2-3)|
|Bad Luck Fale||4 (2-3)||Juice Robinson||2 (1-4)|
|Hangman Page||2 (1-4)||Toru Yano||2 (1-4)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||2 (1-4)||Tama Tonga||2 (1-4)|