It’s officially the back third of the G1. Each block only has three shows left. With things winding down, there are a few questions. Can A Block finally come close to the B Block standards? Will Jay White find a way to win this block? Will Gedo have it come down to Tana/Okada yet again? Will the Firing Squad continue to suck? Is it really Okada struggling if he’s winning most of his matches?
Gedo and Toru Yano def. Ren Narita and Toa Henare in 4:53
The Guerrillas of Destiny def. Hirooki Goto and YOH in 6:14
David Finlay and Juice Robinson def. TAKA Michinoku and Zack Sabre Jr. in 6:13
SHO and Tomohiro Ishii def. Chase Owens and Kenny Omega in 6:16
SANADA and Tetsuya Naito def. Kota Ibushi and Yujiro Takahashi in 6:52
No prior G1 meetings for these two but they split New Japan Cup matches in 2016 (***) and 2017 (*). These two managed to have some decent back and forth during this match. It was two powerhouses hammering away on one another. That’s fine. Of course, it couldn’t stay that way. Things had to go south. We got the ref bump, interference, chair stuff, etc. The biggest issues are that A) it’s redundant, B) it’s dumb in an important tournament, and C) it’s inconsistent from a character standpoint. If you don’t care about winning, why waste our time with lengthy matches? A Tama Tonga run in caused a DQ at 11:13. They destroyed Elgin’s arm with a chair. Lame.
A first time ever meeting between an ROH guy getting a big NJPW show and a G1 veteran. Togi, especially at this point in his career, is best suited for G1 sprints. That’s what we got here. He and Page had a little war with brawling around the ring and some hard hitting strikes. It felt like Makabe took Page lightly and Hangman was throwing out his best because he was desperate to get that first pin in his G1 career. Still, Makabe knows what he’s doing and got in control. He went for the King Kong Knee Drop but missed. Page surprisingly won a lariat battle and hit his first Rite of Passage in this tournament for the win at 9:10. About as good as I could’ve asked for from these two. A physical sprint that didn’t overstay its welcome.
Another first time ever meeting. Though White has attempted to take over CHAOS, one assumes YOSHI would stand by his buddy Okada over White. White jumped HASHI before the bell, as if one really needs that advantage against a guy of HASHI’s stature. He did a lot of his usual underhanded tactics, including threatening to bring a chair into play, a low blow, and a ref bump. Yes, there was another ref bump in the G1. Shocking. YOSHI brought his usual brand of fire. It was alright at best, like everything else he does. One thing I liked was how he didn’t go for a ton of Butterfly Lock attempts. That’s bitten him in the ass in past G1 matches. Still, he wasn’t good enough as the ref bump set up the low blow and Blade Runner finish in 9:48. Keeping this short worked to its advantage, but it’s just so hard to get invested in anything Tacos does. The fact that it was ripe with the worst of Jay White stuff and it didn’t work.
A win would be huge for EVIL in his hopes to stay alive. These guys split matches last year, with EVIL winning in the New Japan Cup (***¾) and Tanahashi taking the rematch at Wrestling Toyonokuni (***¼). They worked this with EVIL being the bully who beat Tanahashi up. However, the crowd hasn’t been keen on booing LIDJ guys, so it made for a strange dynamic. Still, the in-ring action was strong. There were good back and forth exchanges, with it being clear that they’ve developed some chemistry during their Taguchi Japan/LIDJ tags. My biggest gripe with this match was that it never truly felt like EVIL would pull this out. When Omega, atop the B Block, wrestled yesterday you got the sense Sabre would best him. I never felt that here. Tanahashi won with the High Fly Flow at 12:57. It was a fine match, but probably their worst together and not what you want from two guys near the top of the block.
I still get a laugh out of how I’m supposed to take Okada as a guy struggling when he’s doing so well. Okada beat Minoru in the awesome G1 24 (****¼) and in last year’s title match at New Beginning (*¾). They also went to draws in last year’s G1 (***¾) and at Suzuki’s 30th Anniversary Show this year. Anyway, Minoru jumped Okada during his entrance, done with his stupid balloon nonsense. Parts of this felt similar to Suzuki/Tanahashi, in that Suzuki just beat the hell out of his opponent. He was sadistic and dominated most of it. And yet, like EVIL/Tanahashi, it never felt like the outcome was in doubt. That’s one of the pitfalls of announcing matchups ahead of time. We all know that Tanahashi/Okada is on the final show and a loss here would’ve effectively eliminated Okada, so there was no way that happened. They have wrestled a lot and have strong chemistry, but this wasn’t their best effort together. Okada won the final exchange and stayed alive with the Rainmaker at 18:20. A fine main event, but one that felt hollow at times. We knew the outcome, they never pulled me in to believe anything else, and that kept it from being great. Still, very good stuff.
Overall: I guess this was one of the better A Block shows. I mean, there’s not a lot of good coming from this side. Everything seemed to be wildly average. Fale/Elgin was trash, while White/HASHI was kind of just there. Makabe/Page and EVIL/Tanahashi were both good, but nowhere near great. Okada/Suzuki was a fitting main event as they delivered a strong match, just not one that will stand out or be memorable.
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||12 (6-1)||Kenny Omega||12 (6-0)|
|Jay White||10 (5-2)||Tetsuya Naito||10 (5-1)|
|Kazuchika Okada||10 (5-2)||Kota Ibushi||8 (4-2)|
|Minoru Suzuki||8 (4-3)||SANADA||6 (3-3)|
|EVIL||8 (4-3)||Zack Sabre Jr.||6 (3-3)|
|Bad Luck Fale||6 (3-4)||Tomohiro Ishii||4 (2-4)|
|Michael Elgin||6 (3-4)||Juice Robinson||4 (2-4)|
|Hangman Page||4 (2-5)||Hirooki Goto||4 (2-4)|
|Togi Makabe||4 (2-5)||Tama Tonga||4 (2-4)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||2 (1-6)||Toru Yano||2 (1-5)|