We’re almost to the end of the line, folks. It’s the final B Block show before we hit Budokan for the last three shows of the tournament. We’ve got one of the most anticipated matchups of the entire tournament, as LIDJ members collide when Tetsuya Naito meets SANADA. Kenny Omega, Naito, and Kota Ibushi are all still alive with potential to win the blocks.
Toa Henare and Togi Makabe def. Michael Elgin and Shota Umino in 7:05
Chase Owens and Hangman Page def. SHO and YOSHI-HASHI in 6:22
Bad Luck Fale and Tanga Loa def. El Desperado and Minoru Suzuki in 5:52
BUSHI and EVIL def. Jay White and YOH in 5:46
David Finlay and Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Gedo and Kazuchika Okada in 6:55
The two men to beat Omega in Osaka the last two years. A first time ever meeting. Juice still can’t use his cast as a weapon, but Ishii said he could if he wanted. Because Ishii is one bad dude. Juice refused to back down, taking it right to Ishii with shoulder blocks and strikes that nearly matched his badass opponent. It was almost as if Ishii was challenging Juice to step up. He started busting out Juice’s jabs and Juice responded with a series of headbutts. It felt like a true test of just how tough Juice was. Juice waited until he was ready to remove his cast, rather than when Ishii dared him to. I thought that was a nice bit of storytelling as he wouldn’t let Ishii set the tone. Still, Juice fell into the trap of wrestling Ishii’s style and that’s not a battle he could win. Ishii hit the Brainbuster to go 3-0 against the champions in this G1 at 12:24. It lacked some of the drama that the top G1 matches had, but they told a great story and Ishii continues to be stellar in this tournament.
Last year, Goto went 2-0 against Sabre, beating him at Sakura Genesis (***½) and the G1 (***¼). Like those matches, I felt this was laid out the way it should be. Sabre came right at Goto with offense. Though he knows he has no shot at winning the block, he might as well try to earn himself a title shot. Goto was having none of that, throwing Sabre around outside the ring and using his power. It became a battle of Sabre’s technical acumen and Goto’s raw strength. They had a strong series of counters as the match progressed, ending with Sabre using the European Clutch to win at 10:43. He posed with the NEVER Title after the match, no holding wins over the US and NEVER Champions (and coming hella close to beating Omega). A good battle of power against mat work. It played to their strengths and featured a good crowd. I’m thinking the eventual title match will have the drama this lacked.
Surprisingly, Tonga was out by himself. He could ruin the big Golden Loves match on night eighteen by taking out Ibushi. He hid during his entrance and jumped Ibushi from behind in the aisle. It took several minutes before Kota got any offense in. Kota did well to bump for Tama, but a lot of the Tongan’s offense isn’t interesting enough to hold that portion of a match. Similar to Yujiro Takahashi’s old G1 runs. They fought into the crowd, where Kota disappeared to run up a flight of stairs and nail a moonsault off the balcony. HE’S AN ABSOLUTE MADMAN! Unfortunately, the match peaked there. Tanga Loa made a run-in, we got a ref bump, and Bad Luck Fale hit the scene. Kenny Omega showed up and drilled Fale with a V-Trigger, which got a pop. He then got taken out with a spear and Kota fell to a popup Gun Stun at 14:17. Some of the late stuff didn’t fully work as it felt too familiar. The middle portion was solid and saved this from being as dire as the other Tama matches.
Kenny then got hit with a powerbomb. Kota’s hopes of winning the block are in danger. Page and Owens showed up with chairs to send the Firing Squad away.
Omega beat Yano in the G1 26 (***) and 27 (*¼). A win for Yano would be the greatest points differential upset ever. Though Kenny was down, he gave the okay to start the match. Yano went for the pin instantly, but Omega kicked out. Yano exposed every turnbuckle, but Owens kept finding ways to prevent Omega from going into them, even throwing himself in the way as a shield. The fun stuff continued with spots like Yano suplexing Kenny onto a soft turnbuckle pad and Kenny getting taped to Young Lion Ren Narita, forcing him to slide back in the ring with Narita and beat the countout. Following a series of rollups and ref bumps, the Firing Squad showed back up. Kenny got hit with a Gun Stun and Yano covered to pull off the “greatest upset in G1 history” after 9:06. Another fun Yano match and a creative way to get him to beat Kenny without the champion getting embarrassed.
First time ever meeting. There’s been intrigue here, as SANADA hasn’t fist bumped Naito in tags at all during the tour. Naito offered one at the start of the match and SANADA finally gave it, but Naito pulled him in to start some action. Right off the bat, their knowledge of one another was clear, as SANADA tripped Naito before his tranquilo pose. Considering the athleticism and quickness of SANADA, it was almost like Naito was wrestling a version of his younger self. SANADA wasn’t intimidated, returning the favor when Naito disrespected him by spitting at him. Their history played a major part throughout the match, but the actual action was also great. SANADA hitting his own Destino legitimately popped me. In fact, SANADA kept having Destino scouted and found all sorts of ways out of it. Naito was in trouble in Skull End, but he managed to avoid the moonsault. Their next exchange was won out by Naito, who hit Destino and got the three count at 19:52. A great main event that lived up to the hype. We’ve only seen LIDJ members meet three times in the G1 and all delivered strong outings. I enjoyed the play off their friendship/mentorship, and the exchanges throughout ruled.
I usually ignore the show closing promo stuff, but this was special. EVIL and BUSHI showed up, with the former carrying Hiromu Takahashi’s ring jacket out. Naito put over LIDJ and when he got to Hiromu, the fans chanted for the Jr. Heavyweight Champion. Naito didn’t know when Hiromu would be back, but that he will at some point. The group all fist bumped to end things.
Naito must defeat Sabre and have Ibushi/Omega end in a draw to win the block.
Ibushi needs Naito to lose and to beat Omega to win the block.
Kenny just needs to win since he holds the tiebreaker over Naito.
Overall: . As we wrap up the pre-Budokan segment of the G1, the B Block ended on another high note. Tama Tonga wasn’t as bad as usual and everything else was at least good. The three guys you’d expect to be alive in the end are and I appreciated the creativity it took to set up Kenny’s loss. Naito and SANADA gave me the main event I wanted from them, Ishii/Juice was a blast, and Sabre/Goto was strong.
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||14 (7-1)||Kenny Omega||12 (6-2)|
|Jay White||12 (6-2)||Tetsuya Naito||12 (6-2)|
|Kazuchika Okada||12 (6-2)||Kota Ibushi||10 (5-3)|
|Minoru Suzuki||8 (4-4)||Zack Sabre Jr.||10 (5-3)|
|EVIL||8 (4-4)||SANADA||8 (4-4)|
|Hangman Page||6 (3-5)||Tomohiro Ishii||8 (4-4)|
|Bad Luck Fale||6 (3-5)||Hirooki Goto||6 (3-5)|
|Michael Elgin||6 (3-5)||Tama Tonga||6 (3-5)|
|Togi Makabe||4 (2-6)||Juice Robinson||4 (2-6)|
|YOSHI-HASHI||4 (2-6)||Toru Yano||4 (2-6)|