After the thrills and spills of day 14, the A Block suddenly has something to live up to. Can they provide anything as exciting as Juice and Evil’s wins? Well, how about Tanahashi vs. Ishii? All the stars!
Yuji Nagata defeated Zack Sabre Jr.
After spending the whole tournament assuming Nagata’s job was going to be spoiling Bad Luck Fale on the final day, Gedo threw us a curve ball and had him spoil Zack Sabre Jr. on the second last. This was perhaps the most natural match up for both men as their styles are very similar. They are the guys that make chain wrestling fun, and there were some lovely exchanges. In particular, Nagata slipping out of a triangle choke into the Nagata Lock. It was when Nagata moved away from the mat that he got the advantage, though, and Sabre – like a few before him – couldn’t stand up to his barrage of strikes. There’s an argument to be made that these two were the surprise packages of this tournament. Zack because he’s been allowed to fly free without Suzuki-gun’s shit and Nagata as he’s brought it one last time. It was fitting then that their encounter turned into yet another great match for them to hang their hat on.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Kota Ibushi defeated YOSHI-HASHI
This was a very YOSHI-HASHI match in that it was good, but not spectacular. Which is a shame because Kota Ibushi is spectacular and I’m a big fan of his new finisher. The way he drives that knee in looks vicious as hell and you can fully believe it’s knocked an opponent out. Sadly, you can’t say the same for the Butterfly Lock which is about as ineffectual as they come. There’s not much else to say about this, like a lot of his matches YOSHI showed heart but the message this tournament has been that he’s just not on the top guy’s level and that proved to be the case once again.
Verdict: Three Stars
Bad Luck Fale defeated Hirooki Goto
It’s always a bit worrying when Fale begins to work over a body part. As big men go, he is terrific, but allow him to control the pace of the match, and you know you’re in for a bit of a slog. Which is what this match was. It’s no surprise as both men are at their best when up against more dynamic opponents. Despite all that, the finishing section was quite fun, and Fale’s ability to hit the Grenade out of a variety of situations has been a cool facet of this tournament.
Verdict: Two Stars
Tetsuya Naito defeated Togi Makabe
Makabe is at his best when he is trying to remove cocky young wrestlers’ heads, and Naito is at his best when he’s a cocky shit, so it is no surprise that this was a whole lot of fun. The basic story here was that Makabe was bigger and stronger than Naito and was able to soak up a lot of his offence. That story works because Makabe clearly is bigger and stronger than Naito. What also works is Naito being the smarter wrestler and eventually being able to slay the big King Kong bastard with Destino. Naito seems to have flown under the radar this tournament while simultaneously having a lot of good matches. Although that’s maybe the problem with being great all the time, you have to be sensational to stand out. This was another example of that as both men made the other look fantastic, but at the end of the night, no one was talking about this match.
Verdict: Four Stars
Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Tomohiro Ishii
I’ve talked about it a bit throughout these reviews, but the Tanahashi heel turn feels more likely the deeper we get into this tournament. While I think getting certain portions of the audience to boo him is going to be near impossible, the guy is acting like more of a puffed up dickhead every match. There is an arrogance being added to everything he does. It’s an arrogance that works perfectly against the Stone Pitbull who doesn’t take that kind of shit lying down. The story here was that Ishii wanted a fight and Tanahashi wanted a wrestling match. When Ishii was able to turn it into a fight, he was able to take advantage as he growled into the face of the former Ace. However, Tanahashi is one of the best for a reason, and he was just a step too fast and a little bit too smooth for Ishii to get a hold of. It was that which allowed him to finally hit a pair of High Fly Flows and get the win. This was an absolutely fantastic match and let’s face it, did anyone expect anything less?
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
A good show that was pushed up towards great by the final two matches. At this point, we should just be slapping four stars on every Ishii match out of principle because that is what he delivers. If you have the time check out Zack vs. Nagata and Ibushi vs. HASHI but don’t sleep on the final two fights.