August 4th, 19:00 from Item Ehime, Ehime
It’s Round Seven of A Block competition and today’s show features Tanahashi vs. Makabe, Ibushi vs. Nagata and Sabre Jr. vs. Naito. Let’s get to it.
The story so far…
Here we go…
- Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi defeated Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka
- Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & El Desperado defeated Hirai Kawato, Michael Elgin & Tiger Mask IV
- Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima defeated BUSHI & SANADA
- David Finlay & Juice Robinson defeated Chase Owens & Kenny Omega
- Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano defeated Hiromu Takahashi & EVIL
A Block – Round Seven
Yuji Nagata vs. Kota Ibushi
After some even grappling, both men scored with kicks, then Nagata denied Ibushi the opportunity to follow-up with a dive. Nagata’s attempted armbar was blocked, but he scored with an armbreaker to set up the Nagata Lock II (crossface), from which Ibushi dragged himself to the ropes. Another armbreaker led to a Fujiwara armbar, and again Ibushi made the ropes, then he hit a dropkick to kickstart a comeback which culminated in a standing moonsault for two. Nagata almost managed an Exploder, but Ibushi ‘rana’d him to the floor and the Golden Triangle moonsault connected! Back in the ring, Nagata countered into the Exploder then peppered Ibushi with kicks and a slap, to which Ibushi replied with palm strikes and some nasty stomps in the corner. They faced off and exchanged kicks, both targeting the other’s arms, then slaps and simultaneous head kicks put both men down. Elbows up from the knees, increasing in intensity and velocity until Ibushi nailed Nagata with an overhead kick, and a German suplex hold got a two-count. Ibushi signalled the Kamigoye (arm-trapped knee-lift), but Nagata countered to the Shirome armbar! After Ibushi made the ropes, Nagata hammered him with mounted elbow strikes, then picked him up and nailed the twisting brainbuster! Two-count only! High angle backdrop! One, two, no! Ibushi flipped out of a German and nailed a high kick to put Nagata down, then planted him with the sit-out Last Ride for the… two! Kamigoye! One, two, three.
This was great. They started slow, but the strike exchange mid-match kicked things up a notch and they continued to build to a thrilling closing stretch. I can’t get over Nagata’s form during these last few weeks. He should be leading the pack based on effort. ****
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Bad Luck Fale
Ishii faced off with Fale (best he could) and threw elbows, but Fale brushed him off with a pair of shoulder blocks and a scoop slam before applying the dreaded double claw hold. Ishii spat at the big man in response, dodged a charge, stomped at his leg and on his toes, and nailed a jumping DDT. He nailed Fale with elbows and corner clotheslines, and almost downed him with a pair of lariats, but the attempted third was reversed to a Samoan Drop and a big splash landed for two. The Vader Bomb missed, though, and Ishii hit back with a headbutt then somehow connected with a vertical suplex! Wow! A lariat finally floored Fale – two-count only. The sliding lariat was blocked, with Fale looking for the Grenade, but Ishii countered to a triangle choke then into an armbar. Fale reached the ropes and crunched Ishii in the corner, and this time the Vader Bomb landed for two. The Grenade! Fale opted not to go for the pin, instead attempting the Bad Luck Fall, but Ishii slipped out and nailed a Shining Wizard! Sliding lariat for two, then back into the armbar and triangle choke, but Fale lifted Ishii and powerbombed him back down. Clubbing forearms from Fale, headbutts from Ishii, spear from Fale! Two-count only. Bad Luck Fall! One, two, three.
Another damn good match. Fale doing his best Vader impression and Ishii busting out submissions? Yes please. Loved the little details and the hard work Ishii put in to try and down Fale, plus it felt unlike any match the two have had in the tournament before now. ***1/2
Hirooki Goto vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Yoshi struck first with a shoulder block, but Goto’s hip toss and kicks put him in control. Suplex, the chinlock was cinched in, and a back elbow earned two, then Yoshi hit back with a blockbuster and chops. The rope-hung dropkick and diving blockbuster connected for a two-count, but soon after Goto’s spinning heel kick and backdrop got the same. Discus lariat from Goto, left-handed lariat from Yoshi! Powerbomb pin for two and Yoshi transitioned into the Butterfly Lock. Goto powered to his feet, but Yoshi dropped him to the mat with a guillotine choke and back into the Butterfly Lock, then Goto rallied again to score an over-the-knee drop. He countered into a sleeper, nailed the Penalty Kick, and the Ushigoroshi got a near-fall. A series of counters saw Yoshi get a two-count with a small package, and he hit a super kick, but Karma was blocked and Goto hit the reverse GTR followed by the regular version for the win.
Technically fine and they worked hard towards the closing stretch, but I felt my concentration drifting throughout. Not exactly compelling. **3/4
Tetsuya Naito vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (w/ El Desperado)
Naito pushed Sabre away before spitting at him and reclining in the ring, but Sabre caught the slingshot dropkick out of the corner and wrenched Naito’s neck with his feet. A surfboard cravat was transitioned into a brutal looking headscissors, then he scored with another neck twist. European uppercuts were met with slaps, but Sabre maintained control with an STF into a pinning attempt for two and Naito finally earned some respite with a neckbreaker. A hip toss and seated dropkick were followed with the slingshot dropkick, which connected this time around, but Sabre clamped back on with a guillotine choke before hitting a Penalty Kick and both men took a moment to recover. Uppercuts and elbows back-and-forth, and Naito’s armdrag set up the rope-hung over-the-knee drop, but the follow-up was blocked with a nasty wristlock and overhead kick to the arm. Dragon suplex hold – two-count only – and back into the headscissors until Naito made the ropes, then he reversed another wristlock to a German suplex. Sabre jumped right back onto him with an Octopus Hold, stretching the arm and forcing Naito to roll to the ropes, then more uppercuts put him to his knees, but Naito spiked Sabre with the tornado DDT. Sabre ducked the enzuigiri and manoeuvred into the Japanese Leg Roll Clutch! 2.9! Another pinning combination earned a two-count, then Naito’s jackknife pin was reversed by Sabre for a very near-fall. Leaping elbow from Naito and Destino planted Sabre on his neck for the three-count!
I enjoyed this quite a bit. The crowd was quiet, perhaps because Sabre Jr. controlled the vast majority of the match, but Naito escaping with wins rather than dominating has been the story of his tournament. Sabre Jr. got to looked every bit Naito’s equal here. ***3/4
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Togi Makabe
Tanahashi got the better of the early minutes, building in momentum and hitting a crossbody out the corner and a plancha to the floor, but Makabe fired back by sending Tanahashi into the guardrail and flattening him with a clothesline. Back in, a big powerslam earned two, and Makabe slammed Tanahashi to mat and demanded he fight back, which he duly did with a Dragon Screw and leaping forearm. Middle-rope flipping senton for two. Tanahashi cheekily used Makabe’s mounted punches in the corner, but Makabe wasn’t having that, and used his own and Northern Lights suplex for a two-count. A standing lariat from Makabe put both men down, then they threw elbows until Tanahashi went to the knee, but Makabe immediately fired back with a pair of lariats and kneeling powerbomb for two. The King Kong Knee Drop missed the mark and Tanahashi hit the swinging neckbreaker and Sling Blade, but the High Fly Flow missed too. Lariat and karate chops from Makabe, German suplex from Tanahashi for two, German suplex from Makabe for two! Tanahashi was set up top, but he blocked the Spider German, then skinned the cat and landed a German out of the corner himself for a nearfall. Sling Blade for one! High Fly Flow crossbody! Followed by the splash! One, two, three.
They didn’t go too long and the final minutes were fun, but this was continually let down by Makabe’s random selling/no-selling. It bugs the hell out of me. Anyway, the usual strong effort from Tanahashi, and the crowd undoubtedly got into it, but it won’t live long in the memory. ***
Post-match promo and schtick from Tanahashi and we’re out.
A Block standings after Round Seven
- Naito – 10
- Tanahashi – 10
- Fale – 8
- Goto – 8
- Ibushi – 8
- Ishii – 8
- Sabre Jr. – 8
- Makabe – 6
- YOSHI-HASHI – 4
- Nagata – 0
Final thoughts: Good, solid show today – nice and tight – with only the first match going beyond 15 minutes. Three very good matches and two that were merely okay. Nagata vs. Ibushi was my pick of the bunch, Naito/ZSJ and Ishii/Fale are definitely worth your time too. With two rounds to go in A Block, Naito and Tanahashi look to be headed towards a decider on Day 17.
I’m back with B Block tomorrow for Okada vs. EVIL and Omega vs. Juice. See you then.
Thirteen down, six to go.