We are in the business end of the G1, folks. New Japan is back in Osaka, and you can bet that the wrestlers are kicking off that mid-tour lethargy. B Block has been the holy grail of wrestling in the last few weeks, and this show looked set to be no different. Juice Robinson vs Zack Sabre Jr, Tomohiro Ishii vs Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi? Damn, sign me up.
Sanada (4-3) defeated Toru Yano (1-6)
Look, we could talk about Sanada vs Yano. Or, we could focus on Rocky Romero being put in the Paradise Lock and Sanada then putting on his headset on so that we could listen to his desperate pleas to be released. Yes, it’s silly, but did that stop me laughing? No, not for a second.
I always enjoy this pairing. For two characters who couldn’t be more different, they have fantastic chemistry as they build their matches around the Paradise Lock. While it’s not outstanding wrestling, it is fun, and there is nothing wrong with having fun.
Verdict: Three Stars
Hirooki Goto (3-4) defeated Tama Tonga (2-5) by Disqualification
This was even more of a clusterfuck than usual as the timekeeper rang the bell too early. That ruined the moment when Red Shoes came down, gave the two-fingered salute and called for the DQ because everyone thought it had already been thrown out.
You know the deal by now, it was a mediocre match right up until the ref bump at which point it all went to shit. If you haven’t been watching the G1 go back and read any Tama Tonga review I’ve written. I can’t be arsed doing it again.
Verdict: Two Stars
Zack Sabre Jr (4-3) defeated Juice Robinson (2-5)
This result makes all the sense in the world. Zack is a perfect challenger for Juice especially if they are going to do the match in America. On top of that, Juice came in with an injury. Facing Sabre with an injury is like starting two goals down, so he doesn’t lose anything by being made to tap out.
These men couldn’t be more of a styles clash if they tried. Juice Robinson is all chest pounding passion. He’ll take dumb risks if it gives him the chance to get the victory. Sabre doesn’t need to take risks. ZSJ knows what you are going to do and he has already worked out a counter for it.
It would be one of those risks that would prove Robinson’s downfall here. Once again, he took off that cast, driven to frustration by Zack’s attacks on his hand. It allowed him to deliver that big left hook, but it also opened up an opportunity. With the lack of protection, Zack went to work. By the end, he didn’t just have Juice’s hand tied up, he had every limb on his body wrapped in an intricate submission. Who knew Robinson was that bendy?
This was a fantastically wrestled bout. Both men knew what they were doing and went out and executed it to a tee. There has been (and will be) sexier G1 matches. However, few will be as solid as this one.
Verdict: Four Stars
Tomohiro Ishii (3-4) defeated Kenny Omega (6-1)
I wrote in my review of the last A Block show about how my emotional investment in Hangman Page elevated his victory over Togi Makabe. Well, there isn’t a wrestler on the planet that I’m more invested in than Tomohiro Ishii. Everything I love about this mental world is summed up in that bowling-ball-shaped man and fuck me he got the big win.
And how unbelievably wonderful was he during this fight? He sold that neck like a star, to the extent that I was worried there might be a legit injury involved. Then there was that sequence where he powered through an Omega flurry of V-Triggers, staggering back before roaring forward, desperate to get his hands on the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. The blood pooling in his mouth only adding to the image of a warrior who was refusing to go down.
Omega was trying everything to put him down too. He’d thrown the kitchen sink ten minutes ago before that, but Ishii was still dragging himself to his feet. The only move he couldn’t hit was the One-Winged Angel, as the Stone Pitbull came to life, battering his way out of it whenever it seemed close.
Praise must also go to Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero. While they’ve been sublime all tournament, this was their masterpiece. From Rocky reflecting on a career of Ishii being dropped on his head to raise worries about that neck injury to Kelly’s lamentation that Omega was invincible and could not be beaten. They elevated the in-ring action to the next level.
By the closing stretch, both men’s faces were stained with blood. A testament to strikes that were left in rather than pulled. They were staggering as they once again fought to their feet and drove on, continually raising the bar. It would be the Pitbull, though, who got the final laugh. A Brainbuster put down the champion and inflicted Omega’s first defeat of the tournament.
Honestly, these two have had better matches. There were some sloppy moments here, that probably came from being deep into a tournament and muscles not working the way they usually would. However, if you’re looking for that combination of wrestling and emotion then look no further. Tomohiro Ishii won a big one folks, how can you not be excited about that?
Verdict: Four And Three Quarter Stars
Kota Ibushi (5-2) defeated Tetsuya Naito (5-2)
I adore Tetsuya Naito’s relationship with Osaka crowds. It’s a perfect example of why Japanese wrestling fans are the best in the world. In this match, Naito was leaning into their boos hard. Slowing things down as he worked over Ibushi’s knee and smirking at the fans as their anger got louder and louder.
Ibushi is the perfect person to play that game with too. His comebacks are like magnesium set ablaze. When Ibushi was able to get out from underneath Naito and build-up some momentum, the fans were roaring their approval. Screaming with delight when he took flight with a Golden Moonsault.
Now, there are problems with that. For one thing, Kota does have a tendency to completely forget about the limb that has been worked over for the bulk of the match. I’m sure a lot of people will complain about the way that leg went from being heavily injured to perfectly fine throughout the action. However, I honestly don’t give a flying fuck. Maybe that makes me a horrible wrestling fan, but it’s Kota Ibushi. He’s a magical flying elf man, and I’d rather watch him fly than watch him grab his knee and look sad.
It all built to a closing sequence that was genuinely breathtaking. Naito got Ibushi on the top rope and went for a Super Reverse Hurricanrana. It didn’t work. Ibushi backflipped out, and suddenly those crazy eyes appeared as he spiked Naito on his head with a Deadlift German Suplex over the ropes. The lead Ingobernable would have one last throw of the dice, hitting Destino, only to be thwarted as Kota kicked out. When Naito went for the second, Ibushi dumped him straight back onto his head. A Kamigoye later and B Block just got a lot more interesting.
I mean, do you need me to tell you this was good? It’s Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito, it’s wrestling at its very best. These two men are extraordinary. There’s nothing else that needs to be said and if you can’t see that then maybe you’re doing this wrong. I loved it, I’m sure you’ll love it too.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
Fuck me, what a closing stretch! From Juice vs Sabre onwards, this is unmissable. The two before that are very missable, but I did enjoy Yano and Sanada’s antics. As things stand, Naito, Ibushi and Omega are all still in with a chance of winning this thing. All three are 100% worthy of that honour.
Top Three Matches So Far
- Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii – Five Stars
- Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii – Four And Three Quarter Stars
- Tomohiro Ishii vs Kenny Omega – Four And Three Quarter Stars