August 8th, 18:30 from Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium, Kanagawa
B Block’s penultimate show takes place in a significant venue and on a significant date for the company, more on which below. After the shocking upsets of Day 14, Okada faces Suzuki, Omega faces SANADA, and EVIL takes on Michael Elgin. Let’s get to it.
To paraphrase what Lion’s Pride author Chris Charlton said on Twitter about the importance of today’s date and venue:
On August 8th 1988, New Japan held Super Monday in Yokohama, a show headlined by Tatsumi Fujinami’s one-hour draw with Antonio Inoki. Though Fujinami didn’t win the IWGP title that day, this was considered the torch-passing moment and the start of a final chapter for Inoki that lasted nearly ten years. The match was so important that NJPW has run the Yokohama Gymnasium on August 8th every year since, and along with Wrestle Kingdom, New Year Dash and Wrestling Dontaku it’s one of only four show that are held on the same date and in the same building every year. In the opener of 8/8/88, Osamu Matsuda beat Minoru Suzuki, today – 29 years later – Suzuki headlines against Okada.
The story so far…
Here we go…
- Chase Owens defeated Tomoyuki Oka
- Zack Sabre Jr. & El Desperado defeated Syota Umino & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
- Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi defeated Katsuya Kitamura & Yuji Nagata (Special note should be made of Fale’s atrocious new Bullet Club t-shirt.)
- YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii defeated Hirai Kawato, Kota Ibushi & Togi Makabe
- David Finlay, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Ryusuke Taguchi defeated BUSHI, Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi
B Block – Round Eight
Satoshi Kojima (w/ Hiroyoshi Tenzan) vs. Tama Tonga
Tama attacked Kojima and stole his robe (a bad habit he’s picked up this G1), then stole the machine gun chops. Kojima managed a back body drop, but his plancha missed the mark and Tama capitalised and applied a camel clutch in the ring. He continued with Mongolian Chops, but received several in return from Tenzan and then Kojima, who unleashed machine guns chops and the leaping elbow, but Tama blocked the follow-up to hit a fireman’s carry flapjack. Stinger Splash and a jumping neckbreaker for two. After fighting over a suplex, Kojima scored the Koji Cutter and sent Tama to the floor, and both men took a moment to recover. Kojima threw Tama back in at 18 and nailed a brainbuster for two, but an attempted lariat was countered to the Tongan Twist, then Tama pummelled Kojima’s right arm only to be floored by a left-handed lariat floored for a near-fall. Emerald Flowsion! One, two, no. The lariat was ducked once more and Tama hit the Gun Stun for the win. Just a match. **3/4
Juice Robinson vs. Toru Yano
Yano quickly slipped from the ring then crawled under it and Juice followed! We saw Yano emerge only to get dragged back under, then both men jumped from under the apron and back into the ring at 19. Yano then threw Juice into the guardrail and tied his dreadlocks to it! Juice managed to untie his hair and ran back in at 18, but was sent straight into an exposed turnbuckle and Yano got a roll-up for two. Snap DDT from Juice for two. The follow-up was countered, then the referee missed one low blow but blocked a second and Juice nailed the haymaker before planting Yano with Pulp Friction for the win! Short and sweet, this was a fun little match and thankfully Juice was able to pick up another win. **1/4
Michael Elgin vs. EVIL
Evil went on the attack, but Elgin fired back and hit the slingshot splash for two. Evil retreated to the floor, where he whipped Elgin into the guardrail, then put a chair over his head and rammed him into the ringpost. Back in, the surfboard curb stomp and senton got two, but Elgin fired up and dumped Evil with a powerslam, and a German suplex into the turnbuckle earned him a two-count. Evil hit the ref-assisted side kick and discus clothesline, but was caught diving from the middle-rope and planted with a Falcon Arrow for another two-count. The powerbomb was blocked, however, and Evil hit the fisherman buster to put both men down. After simultaneous clotheslines, Evil hit a German suplex and turned Elgin inside-out with a lariat before nailing Darkness Falls! Two-count only. Elgin blocked the headbutt and hit a German of his own for some respite, then a pair of corner clotheslines set up a top-rope superplex! One, two, no. Buckle bomb, Elgin Bomb blocked, headbutt from Evil, Enzuigiri from Elgin! Sit-out crucifix bomb for a near-fall! A lariat dumped Evil on his head and the Elgin Bomb landed for the three-count.
This picked up significantly once they got to the throwing bombs stage, although it was noticeably flat before then, and I don’t often criticise the booking, but it irked me that Elgin (who’s been a non-factor outside his main events with Okada and Omega) got the win over a man who just beat Okada. Still, a fun closing stretch for sure. ***1/4
Kenny Omega (w/ Chase Owens) vs. SANADA
A very nice opening exchange, in which both men dodged several attempts at finishers, culminated in Sanada’s Dragon Screw sending Omega to the floor. Outside, Omega scored an asai moonsault from the guardrail, almost spiking himself in the process, then returned to the ring and cinched in facelock while smoothing Sanada’s mohawk. The pendulum backbreaker got two, and Omega choked Sanada with his own vest before they traded chops, then Sanada’s springboard dropkick was caught and countered to the Finlay Roll/moonsault combo for two, but he did manage a suplex for some brief respite. Chops and elbows back-and-forth, and Sanada hit the double-leapfrog dropkick followed by a plancha! Back in, the Paradise Lock preceded a seated dropkick, much to the crowd’s delight, but Omega flipped out of the backdrop and landed the leapfrog bulldog for two. Suplex blocked, Sanada’s standing moonsault avoided, and Omega nailed a delayed cross-legged Ushigoroshi. The V-Trigger connected, but Sanada reversed the One-Winged Angel to a frankensteiner and hit the TKO for a two-count, then the moonsault missed the mark, but he scored with the Dragon Sleeper by flipping out of the corner, and grapevined Omega to the mat. The rope-break was made and Sanada missed with another moonsault, then Omega hit a Snapdragon suplex and a running knee strike for a near-fall. They traded chops and elbows again, and Omega hit a knee lift for another two-count, but the V-Trigger missed and Sanada nailed a spinning back kick. He looked to be attempting his version of Destino, but Omega blocked him and countered to the One-Winged Angel! One, two, three.
Good match and a strong effort, but the crowd was flat again and that dragged the whole thing down. In the right environment this might’ve been something special. ***1/2
Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki (w/ El Desperado & Taichi)
Okada scored with a snapmare and seated dropkick, then he blocked the rope-hung armbar and sent Suzuki to the floor and into the crowd. Taichi and Desperado attacked, but Okada took care of them and admonished referee Red Shoes for his lack of control, and the young lions dragged the Suzuki-gun boys to the back. In the ring, elbows were traded, with Suzuki targeting Okada’s taped neck and shoulders and striking him as his head was draped over the apron. Knee lifts from Suzuki, and he rammed Suzuki into the guardrail neck-first! Ouch. Red Shoes prevented the use of a chair (to applause), but the beatdown continued as Suzuki pummelled Okada with kicks before a straitjacket neckbreaker enabled Okada to hit back with a sequence of back elbows, a DDT and the leaping uppercut.
Suzuki fired straight back with elbow strikes, but Okada kept him at bay with uppercuts and Heavy Rain. Reverse neckbreaker, the diving elbow connected, and the Rainmaker was signalled. Suzuki avoided it by clinging on with a guillotine choke, then blocked the tombstone and nailed Okada with a dropkick to the jaw. He applied the sleeper, but Okada slipped out and planted him with a Gotch-Style tombstone, drawing boos! He attempted a second after Suzuki blocked the Rainmaker again, but Suzuki hit a tombstone of his own! Back to the neck went Suzuki, and he cinched in a facelock then transitioned to a headscissors before Okada made the ropes. Kicks and stiff elbows floored Okada, and Suzuki enjoyed the support of the crowd before nailing an enzuigiri and locking in the Octopus Hold! Okada sank to the mat and Suzuki got a two-count. The piledriver was blocked, though, and Suzuki charged straight into The Dropkick! Okada nailed the shotgun dropkick from the top, then a German suplex, but the Rainmaker was ducked and reversed into Saka Otoshi! Suzuki cinched in the sleeper in the middle of the ring, but somehow Okada managed to stretch his foot to the bottom-rope. Strike flurry from Suzuki, then slaps, dropping Okada to the mat, but Okada scored a desperate Rainmaker and kept hold of the wrist to smash Suzuki with a second. He crawled to the cover and Suzuki kicked out weakly, so Okada lifted him again. Brutal slaps from Suzuki, then more, then Okada replied with his own, and Suzuki put his hands behind his back to invite Okada’s strikes! Okada desperately blocked the piledriver and they smiled at each other as they returned to slaps. With seconds to go, Okada countered the sleeper and a nailed a third Rainmaker, but collapsed to the mat and was unable to make the cover before the bell signalled the 30-minute time limit. The match ends in a draw.
Very good, if somewhat predictable once I twigged what they were going for. I felt that they went to the attempted finishers too early to sustain the tension in the final fifteen minutes, but that said, Suzuki’s tributes to Inoki were a fun detail and the slap exchanges were fantastic. I can see this being a match that some people really dig, whilst others don’t get into it at all. For me, while not up to their title match in February, there was enough here to go: ****1/4
B Block standings after Round Eight
- Okada – 13
- Omega – 12
- EVIL – 10
- Suzuki – 9
- SANADA – 8
- Elgin – 8
- Robinson – 6
- Tonga – 6
- Yano – 6
- Kojima – 2
Final thoughts: A decent show with a strong main event, but for such an historic date and venue the crowd wasn’t half flat for the most part. Omega must now beat Okada on Saturday to reach Sunday’s final.
I’m back on Friday for A Block’s final show. See you then.
Sixteen down, three to go.