While G1’s B Block has seen most of the field eliminated, A Block went into night thirteen with half the wrestlers still active. Would that be the case at the end of the show? Well, no, of course not. Don’t be daft.
Ignoring all the maths, it’s time for Okada vs Suzuki, and you can guarantee that will be good because it always is. So, let’s stop blathering and get to it.
A piece of shit (3-4) defeated Bad Luck Fale (3-4) by disqualification
Although, I did catch the last few minutes. It was a lot of fun watching Tama Tonga beat the bastard with a steel chair. Brightens up a dull day.
Verdict: Fuck Michael Elgin
Hangman Page (2-5) defeated Togi Makabe (2-5)
That a boy, Hangman! I legit popped out of my chair when Bullet Club’s handsomest member got his first pinfall victory of the tournament. Adam Page has won me over in the last year as I’ve gone from not giving a flying fuck about him to being a huge fan. I fully expect to be the high man on this match because of that.
However, I thought it was fantastic. There was nothing fancy about it as these two went out and had a hard-hitting suplex-fest. Thankfully, I like people who hit hard and I love suplexes, so I had nothing to complain about. Page stood in the centre of the ring and exchanged Lariats with a New Japan mainstay like Togi Makabe while not looking out-of-place for a second.
He’s getting better at hitting his signature moves too. The Buckshot Lariat used to be a bit hit and miss with how it looked, but it’s getting crisper and crisper as the one he hit here was particularly vicious. It would prove decisive too as it set him up for the Rite of Passage and the victory.
I can 100% understand why a lot of people will see this one as just another Togi Makabe performance. It’s fair enough. The difference for me was that I got emotionally invested. Connecting with wrestling is a beautiful thing as it elevates the alright to good and the good to great. There’s a chance that’s what has happened here. I’m not going to examine it too much, though.
Verdict: Four Stars
Jay White (5-2) defeated YOSHI-HASHI (1-6)
You’d struggle to describe Jay White vs YOSHI-HASHI as a tremendous wrestling match. However, if you want an example of two people nailing their characters, you could do a lot worse than study this.
It’s nothing new either as Jay White has been doing this all tournament. In there with one of his CHAOS brethren, he was even better than usual. Right from the start, he appeared to be educating YOSHI. Driving him into barriers and berating him for not coming to his way of thinking. While on commentary Rocky Romero is doing a fantastic job of selling his frustration with Switchblade. He has to watch White meddle with his group of friends, and it’s driving him insane.
YOSHI-HASHI, meanwhile, has finally found a character that works for him. It’s a character that leans on the fact that he’s ultimately a bit useless. The new look YOSHI-HASHI knows he doesn’t get the job done and that’s he’s not in the league of those around him. Even so, he is going to work his arse off to try to get to that level. He’s not quite Tomohiro Ishii levels of underdog excellence, but he’s still doing a fantastic job of fighting from underneath, and fans are getting behind him during his hope spots.
Sadly for poor YOSHI, it was once again not his night. Despite surviving White’s inevitable cheating and getting on a tear, he’d eventually walk into the Bladerunner and with it the three. It would serve as a sweet cleanish victory for Knife Pervert and continued the stories of both men brilliantly.
Verdict: Three And A Half Star action, Four Star character work
Hiroshi Tanahashi (6-1) defeated EVIL (4-3)
Spotting the legitimate injuries in New Japan is easy. If someone comes down to the ring with a strapped up limb and it’s not worked over, you know they’re hurting. Hiroshi Tanahashi even went out of his way to hit a Dragon Screw Leg Whip on the unwrapped leg of EVIL. Fingers crossed he’s not working through anything too serious.
I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot about Tanahashi recently, but this was alright. Nothing spectacular and at the same time quite good fun. It seems likely that Tana is saving himself for the Okada bout and I don’t blame the guy. He’s forty-one years old and wrestles at a level that men a lot younger than him would struggle to hit. Merely being good isn’t a crime.
Plus, Tanahashi is a master of the simple things. Listen to the roars of the crowd as he tries to escape from basic submission holds. Their agony as he can’t quite power out of EVIL’s clutches and their joy when he finally pulls it off. The only time I saw him live I was so giddy to be in his presence that I genuinely can’t remember what he did. Quite frankly, he works a lot harder than he has to.
And, as is the norm with EVIL matches, they had a cool closing stretch. EVIL came within seconds of hitting the EVIL on multiple occasions only for Tana to slip out and eventually connect with one of his own. From there, he took to the top rope and, well, we know how that story ends.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Kazuchika Okada (5-2) defeated Minoru Suzuki (4-3)
Okada vs Suzuki is one of my favourite match-ups in New Japan. There is something about these two that brings a huge smile to my face. They have these brutal wars, where Okada seems to give Suzuki carte blanche to smack the shit out of him. I love Little Kazu, but fuck me is it fun watching him get beat-up.
MiSu doesn’t need a second invitation to do it either. He was wonderful here. All grinning malevolence as he got to work taking the former champion apart. Murder Grandpa attacked before the bell, booting Okada to the ground and dragging him into the crowd to throws chairs and barriers at him. It was when they got back to the ring that the action really picked up, though.
Because Kazu has apparently developed a death wish. Not only did he trade forearms with Suzuki, he actually went as far as inviting the crazed psychopath to hit him. Imagine standing there and presenting your face to Suzuki for him to elbow you? You couldn’t pay me enough money to do that.
It did make for one hell of a spectacle as these two men slugged it out in the centre of the ring. While they both gave it everything, it quickly became apparent that Suzuki had the upper hand and Okada knew it. He started desperately going for big moves, hoping against hope to put New Japan’s greatest villain away.
Thankfully (at least for those who predicted he’d win this thing), Kazu finally managed to hit a Gotch Style Tombstone. That set him up for the Discus Lariat followed by the Rainmaker. Kazuchika Okada once again managed to slay the big bad, and there is just an inkling in his promos and the way he’s carrying himself that the old Rainmaker is coming back. If I were sitting at the top of B Block or perhaps holding the IWGP Heavyweight Title, I’d probably be worrying about that. Eh, Kenny?
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
Right, back to the maths. By my count, this block is down to White, Okada and Tanahashi. Everyone else either doesn’t have enough points or is eliminated because they’ve lost to Tanahashi. Am I right? Feel free to correct me in the comments. That aside, I actually really enjoyed this show. It might be one of my favourites from this side of the draw as I got the joy of a big Hangman win and I didn’t have to watch Fale’s nonsense. It was an easy way to pass a few hours.
Top Three Matches So Far
- Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii – Five Stars
- Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii – Four And Three Quarter Stars
- Tetsuya Naito vs Kenny Omega – Four And Three Quarter Stars