July 26th, 18:30 from Sendai Sunplaza, Miyagi
It’s Round Four of A Block competition and the card is headlined by Naito vs. Nagata and Tanahashi vs. Goto. Let’s get to it.
The story so far…
Here we go…
- Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi defeated David Finlay & Juice Robinson
- Jado & Toru Yano defeated BUSHI & SANADA
- EVIL & Hiromu Takahashi defeated Taichi & Minoru Suzuki
- Ryusuke Taguchi & Michael Elgin defeated Chase Owens & Kenny Omega
- Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima defeated Gedo & Kazuchika Okada
A Block – Round Four
Tomohiro Ishii vs. YOSHI-HASHI
They got into a battle of elbows early on, won by Ishii, and he used a shoulder block to down Yoshi. Chops came next, with Yoshi faring better this time, but he again ended up floored by a shoulder block. Ishii stayed on top with more chops and elbows in the corner, as well as some dismissive slaps, but it was these that fired Yoshi up, and he hit the running blockbuster soon after. Rope-hung dropkick for two. He landed a bunch of step kicks, which only succeeded in pissing Ishii off, and despite Yoshi’s best efforts, Ishii nailed him several nasty chops to the throat. Yoshi was able to strike back with kicks, and hit a spin-out facebuster for two, but Ishii’s backdrop turned the tide. Up top, and Ishii connected with the superplex – two-count only. German suplex from Ishii, lariat ducked, lariat from Yoshi! Yoshi headed to the top-rope and the swanton hit the mark! Two-count only. He cinched in the Butterfly Lock, and dragged Ishii back to the middle of the ring, but an outstretched foot got the rope-break. Karma was blocked, but the backstabber landed, and double knees earned a near-fall. Ishii countered another Karma attempt to a DDT and both men struggled to their feet. Lariat from Ishii, followed by a folding powerbomb pin for two. Yoshi with a lariat – another two-count. Elbows from Ishii, slaps from Yoshi, headbutts from both men and Ishii clocked Yoshi to knock him down! Sliding lariat – one, two, no! Brainbuster for the win! This started slow, but built effectively to a strong finish and everything from the halfway mark was very good. ***1/2
Zack Sabre Jr. (w/ El Desperado) vs. Bad Luck Fale
Sabre tried to hook in a guillotine choke, then a sleeper, but Fale swatted him away and sent him to the floor. El Desperado was squished, leaving Sabre at the mercy of Fale, who drove him into the guardrail and ringpost, then he stayed on top of Sabre – literally – by standing on him. A slam and seated senton got two. Sabre’s attempted crucifix failed, but Fale was soon hit by a Penalty Kick and Sabre made inroads with European uppercuts. Octopus Hold applied, and when Fale tried to power out, Sabre transitioned to a sleeper. Fale backed into the corner with force, however, then crunched Sabre with a splash for two. Sabre slipped out of the Bad Luck Fall and rolled-through into a double heel hook, only for Fale to reach the ropes. Sabre continued to attack the legs until he was smashed with a lariat for two, but he countered the Grenade to a triangle choke. Fale lifted him, Sabre attacked the eyes, and the victory roll pin (just about) gave the Englishman the three-count!
I enjoyed this quite a bit. Both men are distinct in their styles and it ended up meshing very well. Fale’s having a good tournament so far, while Sabre Jr. brings a freshness to every match he’s involved in. ***
Togi Makabe vs. Kota Ibushi
Makabe’s elbows were effective, but he was sent to the floor by a dropkick, then floored by Ibushi’s plancha. Whips to the guardrail followed, with Ibushi almost counted-out, and Makabe took control in the ring. Ibushi again used a dropkick, this time to enable a strike flurry, chest kick and standing moonsault for two, and the springboard dropkick got the same. Makabe fought back to score the mounted punches in the corner and a Northern Lights suplex for two, then caught Ibushi with a hard counter lariat for another near-fall. Ibushi freed himself and scored a head kick, then both men charged with clotheslines before Ibushi’s lariat downed Makabe for two. Up top, a very nice leaping super frankensteiner brought another two-count for Ibushi, then he fired off a series of kicks, only for Makabe to turn him inside-out with a lariat. They exchanged kicks and clotheslines then, with Ibushi’s strike flurry preceding a snap German followed by an attempted top-rope piledriver. Makabe fought it off (thankfully) and smashed Ibushi in the face with a diving knee strike. Nasty. Powerbomb pin from Makabe – one-count only! King Kong Knee Drop for the win.
I hope Ibushi wasn’t hurt by that knee to the face late on, because Makabe caught him flush. In any case, despite Makabe’s random no-selling, this was decent, although I felt it lack the urgency that might’ve taken it to the next level. ***
Yuji Nagata vs. Tetsuya Naito
A nice exchange of counters culminated in Naito’s reclining pose with added Nagata-style salute. The cheek of him. He landed a low dropkick, then whipped Nagata into the guardrail outside before applying a headscissors back in the ring. Neckbreaker for two. Naito used back elbows in the corner, but a slap to the head fired Nagata up, and he hit back with a knee to the gut and a series of kicks. Exploder suplex for two. Naito stopped the rot with the slingshot dropkick in the corner and the rope-assisted tornado DDT for a two-count of his own, but Nagata blocked Gloria and used Naito’s spitwad as motivation to fire up again and land more kicks. Slaps from Nagata, followed by a chest kick, then he pummelled Naito with mounted elbows.
The backdrop was blocked by Naito, but Nagata ran him into the ropes and spiked him with a German suplex. Ouch. High-angle backdrop – two-count only. Three hard knees to the chest from Nagata, then a Koppu kick from Naito followed by a German and both men were down. They slapped the hell out of each other, with Nagata refusing to yield, and despite Naito flooring him with a leaping elbow, Nagata was able to lock in the Shirome armbar! Naito fought up to his feet, then countered an attempted brainbuster into Destino! Two-count only! Destino! One, two, three.
Poor Nagata is still yet to win, despite an amazing effort in his four matches so far. He was the driving force in this match, with more heart and fire than his opponent, and yet Naito was again able to escape with the victory. The contrast in personalities was a strong thread and I got into this quite a bit as it went on. A bit more from the crowd almost certainly would’ve lifted it further. ***3/4
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hirooki Goto
After some brief initial success for Tanahashi, Goto clotheslined him to the floor from the top-rope, then attacked his injured right arm outside, tying it up in the guardrail and stomping it once they were back in the ring. The short-arm scissors had Tanahashi scrambling to the ropes, then a smoothly applied ZSJ-style hammerlocked armbar punished him. Spinning heel kick from Goto, but the follow-up was blocked, and Tanahashi hit a Dragon Screw and flying forearm, with the middle-rope flipping senton earning two. The arm-trap German was blocked, and Goto went back to the arm, but Tanahashi slapped him to the mat with his left hand. German suplex from Tanahashi, backdrop from Goto, and both men were down.
Main Event Elbow Battle time, somewhat to Tanahashi’s detriment, then he countered an Ushigoroshi into a Sling Blade, but the High Fly Flow missed the mark. Goto scored with his big kick to the chest for two, then grabbed a sleeper hold, cinching it in and nailing a Penalty Kick! Ushigoroshi – two-count only. Goto used a headbutt and nailed the reverse GTR, but Tanahashi countered the GTR proper into a swinging neckbreaker. Goto blocked another, clubbing Tanahashit to the mat, but the Shouten Kai was countered to a trio of neckbreakers and a half-hatch suplex. Sling Blade – two-count only! High Fly Flow crossbody, followed by the splash – one, two, three!
The armwork from Goto was a nice idea, it’s just a shame it didn’t play into the latter portion of the match. Tanahashi’s matches so far have all had the same focus and yet have all felt different in structure, which I appreciate, although it has to be said this was neither man’s best effort. A good if not entirely inspiring main event from these two. ***1/4
A Block standings after Round Four
- Naito – 6
- Sabre Jr. – 6
- Tanahashi – 6
- Fale – 4
- Goto – 4
- Ibushi – 4
- Ishii – 4
- Makabe – 4
- YOSHI-HASHI – 2
- Nagata – 0
Final thoughts: Five decent matches, with nothing dipping below three-stars, but nothing truly standout either. No lack of effort, it must be said, just that we’re into the middle rounds of the tournament and I imagine everyone’s feeling it by now. One more loss for Nagata and his final G1 hopes are ended. I really hope that’s not the case.
I’m back tomorrow for Round Four of B Block, which features Kojima vs. Okada and Elgin vs. Omega. See you then.
Seven down, twelve to go.