Ah, it’s time for the annual Osaka show. Traditionally, this is a big night for the G1. It usually comes near the end of the tournament and features some big time battles. Last year we got Juice/Kenny & Okada/EVIL, 2016 gave us Okada/Ishii & Marufuji/Tanahashi, 2015 had Okada/Goto, and 2014 had Tanahashi/Nakamura and Shibata/Honma. So yea, some big events here. B Block, already a stellar block (except you Tama Tonga) puts on one of their stronger cards of the entire tournament.
Bad Luck Fale and Tanga Loa def. SHO and YOSHI-HASHI in 5:34
El Desperado and Minoru Suzuki def. Chase Owens and Hangman Page in 8:05
Jay White and YOH def. Toa Henare and Togi Makabe in 7:07
David Finlay and Michael Elgin def. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shota Umino in 8:21
BUSHI and EVIL def. Gedo and Kazuchika Okada in 6:17
SANADA won their prior G1 meeting last year (**¼). Yano, with just one win so far, attacked SANADA during his entrance to gain the upper hand. Oddly, they rang the bell while they fought on the aisle so SANADA nearly got counted out when he was tied up into the Paradise Lock. He had to hop back to the ring to beat it. With the match in the ring, we got a complete blast of a match. Yano called for Rocky Romero to help him escape the Paradise Lock. He did and when SANADA questioned him, he did the Yano shrug. Amazing. SANADA put Yano back in the Paradise Lock and tied him to the guardrail. Rocky tried helping again and got put in the Paradise Lock while still on commentary! SANADA won by countout at 5:22 as Rocky shouted, “HELP ME! SOMEBODY GET MILANO! HE’S THE ONLY ONE THAT HAS THE KEY!” on commentary. Yano continues to be a nonstop source of fun. Outstanding.
Goto beat Tama in the 2016 New Japan Cup (**¾) and again in that year’s G1 (***). This match means nothing. Usually, though both men are eliminated, Tama would be fighting for a potential NEVER Title shot. Instead, he doesn’t care about winning. Tanga did his shitty TAKA impersonation. Goto’s G1 has been like his career. He’s had some good matches and a few wins, but had no shot against the big dogs in the block. Anyway, there’s no need to recap this because it was everything the Firing Squad has given us in this tournament. They had a boring match until the run-ins and shenanigans began. Red Shoes ran down after a ref bump to take over and flipped off the Firing Squad. It was less effective here than when he did it earlier in the tournament. It led to a DQ win for Goto at 11:15. What a giant waste of time.
Sabre eliminated Juice from the US Title Tournament at last year’s G1 Special in USA (***¾). TAKA’s pre-match promo featured him saying Zack would become the US Champion, so this match now has meaning. THANK YOU! Juice has always been a “heart on his sleeve” kind of guy. He has more guys than brains and against a guy like Sabre, that’s not good. Cocky Sabre was more than happy to goad him into stupid mistakes and would capitalize by twisting him up when given the chance. It was like Sabre took pride in bending and cranking on Juice’s injured hand. There were great exchanges that told the story it needed to from start to finish. Speaking of the finish, it was a wild one. Sabre twisted Juice up, but the US Champ refused to give up. Sabre just kept adding new variations on his existing submission, to the point where he used some kind of inverted figure four stump puller chicken wing. You must see it to believe it. That got the win in 13:39. Damn good match featuring two great wrestlers playing to their strengths. I’m pumped for their eventual title match.
Last year, these two had a stellar trilogy. Ishii won in the New Japan Cup (****¼), while Omega won in the US Title Finals (****½) and at Wrestling Dontaku (****½). There’s the added intrigue of Ishii possibly getting a title shot with a win and Omega wanting to avoid another Osaka upset after last year. I’ve criticized Kenny for feeling like a moves machine at times. Here, like the Sabre match, he brought a lot more. He showed a big arrogant side early, seemingly overconfident after two straight wins over Ishii and six straight in this G1 (plus the wins over Okada and Cody since June). It’s such a good contrast from his Sabre match where he felt desperate. After winning that, the man thinks he’s bulletproof. However, Ishii was a different animal tonight. As Omega kicked away at him, Ishii laughed it off. WE GOT A SMILE FROM ISHII! After Omega hit his tope con hilo, he seemed to favor his heel, showing his first signs of weakness in the tournament. Ishii started to get going and it became a case of Kenny having to throw everything at him to try and keep him down. It meant he threw an ABSURD amount of V-Triggers. My buddy Dante counted and he threw 13 of them in this match (38 in the entire tournament). It was a bit much, but I popped when Ishii no sold some. That set a tone for Ishii being able to survive whatever Omega threw at him. We got a great visual late of Omega bleeding from the mouth as it was clear he was in danger. Ishii finally hit the Brainbuster and secured the win at 22:42. A banger of a match. Again, Omega brought more than just moves and it was masterful. Ishii, a guy who typically doesn’t win big matches, beat the IWGP Champion in a war. They beat the hell out of each other and told a masterful story that opens the block for Naito (and possibly Ibushi), while hopefully setting up an Ishii title match. Intense action and dynamite storytelling.
Ibushi beat Naito in his first G1 in 2013 (****) and in the 2015 New Japan Cup (****). Naito won their G1 25 meeting (***¾) and an incredible G1 match last year (****¾). These two are willing to land on their necks for the sake of a match and they did a fair amount of that here. Early on, Naito brought out more heel tactics than he has lately, turning the crowd against him a bit. He went after Ibushi’s knee to start but they sort of drifted away from that rather quickly. That portion of the match didn’t work that well for me. However, once Naito went after the next, things picked up. It made more sense because of Ibushi’s history and the set up for Destino. This featured some horrifyingly unsafe looking spots that would make anyone cringe. They threw bomb after bomb, fitting of the matches we’re used to from these two. Ibushi, like almost everyone else, survived Destino. That move really means nothing anymore. I did truly like Ibushi hitting a Boma Ye before the Kamigoye to win in 25:09. Not quite on the level of Ishii/Omega, but a worthy follow-up and main event. Insanity in terms of spots and a crazy pace that made for a wild main event.
Overall: Again, if it wasn’t for Tama Tonga, this would be an all-time great single block G1 show. He and Goto sucked the life out of the building. Other than that dire match, everything ruled and was different. SANADA/Yano was a delightful sprint, Juice/Sabre set up a future title match with great storytelling, Ishii/Omega did something similar but in a completely different and epic way, while Ibushi/Naito was a ridiculous main event. The B Block delivers yet again.
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||12 (6-1)||Kenny Omega||12 (6-1)|
|Jay White||10 (5-2)||Kota Ibushi||10 (5-2)|
|Kazuchika Okada||10 (5-2)||Tetsuya Naito||10 (5-2)|
|Minoru Suzuki||8 (4-3)||SANADA||8 (4-3)|
|EVIL||8 (4-3)||Zack Sabre Jr.||8 (4-3)|
|Bad Luck Fale||6 (3-4)||Tomohiro Ishii||6 (3-4)|
|Michael Elgin||6 (3-4)||Hirooki Goto||6 (3-4)|
|Hangman Page||4 (2-5)||Tama Tonga||4 (2-5)|
|Togi Makabe||4 (2-5)||Juice Robinson||4 (2-5)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||2 (1-6)||Toru Yano||2 (1-6)|