July 23rd, 18:00 from Machida Gymnasium, Tokyo
The third round of A Block competition is headlined by Ishii vs. Ibushi and Goto vs. Makabe. Let’s get to it.
The story so far…
Here we go…
- Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima defeated Katsuya Kitamura & Michael Elgin
- Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & El Desperado defeated Hirai Kawato, David Finlay & Juice Robinson (Suzuki hammered Juice’s leg here, so expect that to play into Tuesday’s match)
- Hiromu Takahashi & EVIL defeated Chase Owens & Tama Tonga
- Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi defeated Jado & Toru Yano
- SANADA & BUSHI defeated Gedo & Kazuchika Okada
A Block – Round Three
YOSHI-HASHI vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (w/ El Desperado)
Yoshi initially dealt well with Sabre’s grappling and went on a brief run of offence, but Sabre caught him with an overhead kick to the arm and the punishment began. Sabre twisted the left wrist and stomped it, then applied the hammerlocked armbar only for Yoshi to make the ropes. A low dropkick and running blockbuster kickstarted the comeback, and the rope-hung dropkick and suplex-neckbreaker earned Yoshi a two-count, then after avoiding Sabre’s kicks, he hit the powerbomb pin for a near-fall. The swanton hit the knees, however, and Sabre’s Penalty Kick got two before he transitioned into the triangle choke. Yoshi tried and failed to lift Sabre, but he was able to stretch for the ropes. A counter-lariat from Yoshi got two, then Sabre slithered into the European Clutch, also for two. Yoshi looked to have powered his way into hitting Karma, but Sabre slipped out and applied the double-arm Octopus Hold, from which Yoshi was forced to submit. An assured and definitive win for Sabre, and a decent match to boot. ***1/4
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Yuji Nagata
After an even opening exchange, Tanahashi was able to duck Nagata’s kicks and wisely targeted his elder’s legs, hitting a grounded Dragon Screw before applying a figure-four. Despite attempts to reverse the hold, Nagata was forced to the ropes, and Tanahashi went back to the leg then mocked his opponent by hopping around the ring. This didn’t go down well, and Nagata peppered Tanahashi with kicks and stomped him on the mat. Time for a slap battle, which Nagata concluded with a big kick to the chest, before nailing an Exploder for two. Tanahashi landed a spinning neckbreaker in return, drawing boos, then hit a German suplex. Another Dragon Screw kept him on top, but Nagata was able to counter a charge to the Shirome armbar, forcing Tanahashi to scramble to the ropes. He continued to punish the arm, nailed the Justice Knee, then hit a super Exploder from the top-rope! Two-count only! Spinning brainbuster! One, two, no! Nagata went for the backdrop, but Tanahashi countered and scored a low dropkick to the leg, then they faced-off and slapped the hell out of each other, with Nagata rallying after fading, but eventually collapsing to the mat. He was bleeding from the cheek at this point. Sling Blade! Two-count only. Nagata caught Tanahashi up top and looked for another super Exploder, but he was finally dislodged after a barrage of elbows and a headbutt, whereupon Tanahashi nailed the crossbody and splash versions of the High Fly Flow for the well-earned three-count!
A simple and beautifully told story of Nagata’s refusal to back down and determination to score a big win in his final G1. He’s been tremendous in all three of his matches so far. Tanahashi, as he often does, played up the heelish tendencies, working with the crowd’s inclinations and getting plenty of reaction in return. Really, really good match. (Note: I rewatched this one, because my internet dropped out during the live watch and – damn – it jumped up half-a-star.) ****1/4
Bad Luck Fale vs. Tetsuya Naito
Naito launched a couple of spitwads early on, which resulted in Fale flooring him with a shoulder block and ramming him into the guardrail. Naito returned to the ring at 18, but was stood on by Fale, who began targeting the lower back of his opponent. Seated sentons, clubbing elbows and a t-shirt choke kept him on top, but Naito countered into an over-the-knee drop and dropkick, before utilising back elbows in the corner and hitting the slingshot dropkick. A missile dropkick merely rattled the big man, and a corner charge enabled the splash from Fale for two. Naito avoided the bearhug, however, and the reverse STO set up the little-seen Pluma Blanca submission, though Fale soon made the ropes. Naito failed in his attempts at a German suplex, but the jumping forearm landed, then Destino… was blocked. Fale flattened Naito with a lariat for two, then went for the Grenade, but Naito countered to a DDT! Another Destino was attempt, but this time it countered to the Grenade! Two-count only! Bad Luck Fall! One, two, three.
I kept waiting for the intervention of Hiromu Takahashi, given the Fale’s heinous actions in yesterday’s tag match, but it never came. This was a surprisingly straighforward and shenanigan-free match, almost all of which took place between the ropes, and they worked the underdog (pseudo) babyface vs. monster heel formula to a tee, but it was undoubtedly lacking in energy and aggression. **1/2
Kota Ibushi vs. Tomohiro Ishii
A hard-fought lock-up brought about a sequence of missed offence and reversals concluding with a stand-off, then it was time to throw elbow strikes – a battle that was surprisingly won by Ibushi. Ishii hit back with a series of chops, flooring Ibushi, then he used headbutts and stomps to keep him in the corner. Ibushi stopped the rot by scoring an impressive suplex and earned further respite with a dropkick, capitalising with a springboard dropkick and plancha. Back in, Ishii fought back with a corner clothesline and backdrop, but Ibushi kept things even with a standing moonsault. He followed with several swift kicks to the kneeling Ishii, but Stone Pitbull was resilient and nailed two big chops to Ibushi’s throat. Then it was Ibushi’s turn to tough it out, and he peppered Ishii with kicks before a spitwad set off an exchange of slaps.
German suplex from Ishii, overhead kick from Ibushi, lariat from Ishii, and both men collapsed to the mat. Once recovered, Ishii lifted Ibushi to the top-rope and hit the delayed superplex for a near-fall! Ibushi blocked the follow-up lariat with a kick, and a snap German got two. Enzuigiri from Ishii and the sliding lariat connected – two-count only. Powerbomb blocked, German flipped out of, and a high kick from Ibushi pasted Ishii. A kick flurry earned one, as did a lariat from Ishii, then Ibushi hit a Dragon suplex for a near-fall! A big standing lariat and Omega-like knee strike set up the sit-out Last Ride, planting Ishii to the mat for the three-count!
This one went back-and-forth throughout, with neither man maintaining an advantage for long, and it was the first man to put together a significant run of offence who was able to secure the victory. In his three matches so far, Ibushi has delivered three very different performances, this one being a strike-heavy battle of wills. Ishii brought it too, naturally. Great stuff. ****1/4
Togi Makabe vs. Hirooki Goto
It took a while for either man to stay on top, but Goto was first to achieve it by clotheslining Makabe down to the floor from the top-rope. Returning to the ring, Goto applied a single-leg crab, then kept Makabe grounded with kicks and ill-advised swipes to the head. Makabe, of course, said “bring it on” then hit back with a shoulder block, with a second cementing the change in momentum. Corner clotheslines, mounted punches and a Northern Lights suplex earned a two-count, but Goto soon hit back with a spinning heel kick and backdrop. Duelling lariats then left both men on the mat, then it Main Event Elbow Battle time, after which Makabe ran right into an Ushigoroshi for a near-fall. German suplex hold from Makabe for two, and he won the the lariat exchange that followed, nailing a running lariat for another two-count. The King Kong Knee Drop missed the mark, however, and Goto’s lariat and chest kick almost got the job done. The sleeper was cinched in and Goto landed a headbutt before taking Makabe to the top-rope, looking for a super Ushigoroshi, but instead getting pushed to mat. King Kong Knee Drop to a kneeling Goto, followed with a powerbomb – two-count only! Makabe lifted Goto up top, dumped him to the mat with a Spider German, and nailed him with the King Kong Knee Drop for the win!
I’m not the biggest fan of either man, but they worked damn hard here and built to a strong finish, so I ended up enjoying this a lot more than I thought I would. Again, the action was almost entirely inside the ring and Makabe did a decent job in fighting from underneath, with the crowd very much in his favour. A good main event. ***1/2
A Block standings after Round Three
- Fale – 4
- Goto – 4
- Ibushi – 4
- Naito – 4
- Sabre Jr. – 4
- Tanahashi – 4
- Ishii – 2
- Makabe – 2
- YOSHI-HASHI – 2
- Nagata – 0
Final thoughts: On paper it seemed like Ibushi/Ishii would be the highlight and that’s how it turned out, but honestly, upon rewatch, Nagata/Tanahashi was right there with it. The main event was good too, but perhaps because of the way the card was laid out (including the largely uninspiring undercard) somehow it felt like the lesser of the shows up to now. That said, it’s simply a mark of the high quality we’ve enjoyed so far – the two standouts here are well worth seeking out.
I’m back on Tuesday for the next B Block show, headlined by SANADA vs. Kazuchika Okada. See you then.
Five down, fourteen to go.