This has been very civilised, hasn’t it? We’re only four nights in yet we’ve already had a couple of days off. If this keeps up, the G1 might be a doddle. Wait, what? Four shows in a row? Ah for fuck sake. Well, better get on with it then. WRESTLING!
Sanada (1-1) defeated Tama Tonga (1-1)
Oh Tama, Tama, Tama. Much like the Juice Robinson match, this could have been his chance to impress. Much like the Juice Robinson match, we instead got a lot of interference, and this time the Tongan didn’t even pick up the win.
You can split this into three acts. The first saw Tonga Loa’s presence at ringside cause all sorts of bother. Too much in fact, as Marty Assami decided he’d had enough, sending Tama’s brother to the back. Suddenly, we had an opportunity for some decent action.
That leads us to our second act where we got some good wrestling. Sanada is ridiculously athletic and, for all his faults, Tonga kept up with him. These two were able to pick up the pace and show a little bit of what they can do.
Sadly, it would be short-lived. A ref bump kicked off our third act which brought Loa and Fale out. A big Powerbomb from Loa looked to be enough, but somehow Sanada survived. Then, despite the presence of the goon squad at ringside, he’d reverse the Gun Stun and roll Tama Tonga up for the win.
Three acts, only one of which is good. If Tama Tonga is going to get over as a main event level star, we’re going to need a lot more of act two and a lot less of one and three. Still, the one good thing to come out of this was how hot the crowd were for Sanada at the end. I’m just not sure if Sanada is the one who is supposed to be getting the push.
Verdict: Two Stars
Zack Sabre Jr (1-1) defeated Toru Yano (0-2)
Whisper it now, Yano is setting himself up to have a good G1.
Do you want an example of the attention to detail in NJPW’s booking? In his last outing, Yano established his amateur wrestling background. He tried to play it straight against Ishii and stunned many by being damn good. Who has he got next? Only the technical wrestling master Zack Sabre Jr. A contest that might have seemed wholly mismatched suddenly has a bit of intrigue to it.
And once again, Yano was trying to give up his Master Thief ways. He was out there wrestling with Zack, and while he was losing, he was giving a better account of himself than most. Zack was having to come up with inventive ways to tie Toru Yano up and almost resorted to getting the victory via count-out as he wrapped him around the barrier before running to the ring.
It would all prove too much for poor Toru. He snapped, going for the turnbuckle pad and resorting to his antics. However, Zack always seemed to have an answer. Every low blow was thwarted, and while he had a couple of agonisingly close two counts off of flash pins, it would be his destiny to fall to one of Zack’s instead. A European Clutch proved decisive as Yano must be left wondering whether this wrestling stuff is worth it.
Still, that puts Toru Yano, yes that Toru Yano, on two for two when it comes to good performances. Did anyone see that coming?
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Kota Ibushi (2-0) defeated Juice Robinson (0-2)
The battle of the lovely boys. Our magical elf man against our star-spangled babyface. I’m sure there is some fan fiction in that although we don’t want to make Kenny jealous.
Do I need to tell you this was good? Of course not. It was fantastic. There was a lovely bit of match to match storytelling as Juice became the second person to counter The Golden Triangle Moonsault. There is a feeling that Kota is too reliant on it, so wrestlers are now prepared for it every time they go against him. Although seeing as he would instead stand on the ring post and Moonsault to the floor, it didn’t discourage Ibushi too much. Combine that with an insane Hurricanrana that he hit off the apron and crazy Kota was in town.
It all led to Ibushi being very much the star. However, I do think Robinson deserves some credit. It’s easy for wrestlers to be swept along by Kota Ibushi’s chiselled abs and stunning features. They just stare dreamily at his face as he walks them through a four-star classic. Can you blame them? Have you seen the guy? Christ, he’s pretty. Kenny is a lucky bloke, ain’t he?
Sorry, that wasn’t the point I was trying to make. I was trying to say that despite being in the ring with one of the best wrestlers on the planet, Juice’s personality shone through. It was clear he was outclassed (something he admitted in his post-match promo), but he shows so much fire and heart that the fans love him anyway. In the end, they shared a hug of mutual respect, and it was the perfect end to a thrilling contest.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
Tetsuya Naito (1-1) defeated Tomohiro Ishii (1-1)
Guess what? Naito vs Ishii was outstanding. We got a rare showing from the snarling forearm throwing bastard version of Ishii. He becomes the big bad in a horror film, shrugging off attacks like Michael Myers. At one point, he no sold a fucking Missile Dropkick the mental bastard.
This also meant that Naito got to step into the plucky babyface role that Japanese crowds are so desperate for him to embrace. As Ishii hammered him with a combination of slaps, chops and headbutts, Naito shouldered on heroically. Even smirking back in the direction of the Stone Pitbull. Although in hindsight, that was probably a mistake.
As the action went on, it became clear that Naito’s only route out of this was through Destino. So, he started going for it at every opportunity. Meanwhile, Ishii was desperate to drop him on his head. It became a battle to see who could hit their finisher first and, in the end, Naito would end up turning Ishii’s into his. Sliding out of a Brainbuster, he connected with half of a Destino. It wasn’t enough to slay the beast, but it was enough to stun him, so he leapt at the chance to hit number two and pick up his first win of the tournament.
Look, it’s two of the greatest wrestlers on the planet who just happen to have previously had incredible matches. You didn’t need me to write several hundred words to convince you it was going to be good. Just go watch it.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
Kenny Omega (2-0) defeated Hirooki Goto (1-1)
Is that title belt going to Kenny Omega’s head? The Best Bout Machine is getting a bit cocky. He started off here by mocking Goto. Admittedly, he was firmly in control at that point, but still, be nice Kenny.
It also might have proven a mistake because it fired Goto up. As Kenny prepared his dive into the crowd, Goto seemed to figure fuck it and launched a chair at his head. It was a simple and effective counter. Unfortunately, the subsequent brawl in the stands would see Kenny slam Goto onto the bleachers and then Moonsault off a railing onto him (it’s no coincidence that he and Kota are pulling off similar mental spots by the way). In classic Hirooki style, he came out of that one on the losing side.
When they got back into the ring, it became the big move slugfest you’d expect from these two. Goto began to dig back into his past, pulling out a Code Red off the top (I think he has a name for it, but Wikipedia’s stupid decision to remove move lists means I have no idea what it is) and a Shouten Kai. He’d managed to turn the tide, and Kenny was on the back foot.
Sadly, Hirooki would fall foul to Kenny’s secret weapon. That damn V-Trigger. While I know people get annoyed at Kenny spamming it, I have to admit to being a fan. It’s his fallback, the thing he goes to when nothing else is working. Much like Okada with the Dropkick, he knows he can hit it at any time, and the momentum will instantly shift in his favour. It did exactly that here, and a One-Winged Angel kept the new champ’s winning start to the tournament alive.
Verdict: Four Stars
B Block delivers again. Tama Tonga aside, it’s been a near-perfect showing so far from this side of the draw. We’ve even got Toru Yano putting on great matches. By the end of the G1, I reckon you will be able to put together a MOTY list featuring only performances from this block. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Top Three Matches So Far
- Tetsuya Naito vs Kenny Omega – Four And Three Quarter Stars
- Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr – Four And A Half Stars
- Tetsuya Naito vs Tomohiro Ishii – Four And A Half Stars