August 11th, 18:30 from Ryōgoku Kokugikan, Tokyo
We’ve reached the last round of A Block competition, headlined by Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito to determine who advances to Sunday’s final. It’s the closing weekend of the G1 Climax and this is the first of three nights at Sumo Hall, so let’s get to it.
The story so far…
Here we go…
- Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & El Desperado defeated Hirai Kawato, Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka
- Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga defeated BUSHI & SANADA
- Satoshi Kojima & Juice Robinson defeated Hiromu Takahashi & EVIL
- Ricochet, Ryusuke Taguchi, Hanson, Raymond Rowe & Michael Elgin defeated Chase Owens, Cody, Hangman Page, Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson (Taguchi Japan all wore War Machine-like face paint and there were a bunch of fun spots. Good match.) ***1/2
- Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano defeated Yujiro Takahashi & Kenny Omega
A Block – Round Nine
Yuji Nagata vs. Bad Luck Fale
The whole crowd had “Blue Justice” signs for Nagata’s last-ever G1 match. He started well, but was soon whipped into the guardrail and Fale continued the beatdown until he was forced to crawl back into the ring at 17, where Fale stood on him and clubbed him with forearms. Nagata fired back with kicks, then feinted into a low dropkick before attempting an Exploder. That didn’t work, so a drop toehold into heel hook was applied until Fale made the ropes, but the big man landed a splash for two. Nagata again kicked the left leg of Fale and this time hit the Exploder! Two-count only. A flurry of kicks, then elbows, then slaps peppered Fale, but he clubbed Nagata to the mat and a standing lariat earned two. The Grenade was countered, however, and the Shirome armbar was cinched in! Nagata transitioned into a triangle choke, then into an ankle lock, then into the Nagata Lock! Fale quickly made the ropes, but Nagata landed the Justice Knee and a huge backdrop! One, two, no. The wrist-clutch Exploder was blocked and Fale scored a spear for two. Samoan drop for two. Counter-Grenade from Fale and the Bad Luck Fall connected! One, two, three.
Fale signalled “Too Sweet” to Nagata, Nagata replied with a salute and Fale bowed before leaving. Tears all round, and the crowd chanted for Nagata as he left the arena. What a moment.
Nagata’s 19th and final G1 tournament is over. Can’t say enough about the standard he’s maintained throughout. Every single match has been heated and compelling. He’s been nothing short of excellent. ***1/2
Togi Makabe vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Makabe pummelled Yoshi in the early going, but the CHAOS man hit a low dropkick and blockbuster to kickstart a comeback. The running chop and rope-hung dropkick were followed with a diving blockbuster from the top-rope for a two-count, only for Makabe to stop the rot with a powerslam. Mounted punches in the corner and a Northern Lights suplex earned two, and he flattened Yoshi with a counter-lariat, but more mounted punches were countered into a kneeling powerbomb. Karate chop from Makabe, superkick from Yoshi, King Kong Hammer and a powerbomb from Makabe! The diving knee drop missed, so Yoshi nailed a running knee, and a stiff left-handed lariat got a two-count. He applied the Butterfly Lock and dragged Makabe to the middle of the ring, but still the rope-break was made. Backstabber from Yoshi, Karma blocked, but a slap dropped Makabe to the mat. A last gasp Death Valley Driver from Makabe brought some respite and both men cracked each other with clotheslines until Yoshi was flattened. Makabe set Yoshi on top, dumped him to the mat with the Spider German, and the King Kong Knee Drop hit the mark for the win.
Very much by the numbers match until a strong closing stretch. Decent enough. ***
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (w/ El Desperado)
Sabre, as you would expect, ruled on the mat and was far too slippery for Ishii to keep hold of. Unwisely, he then tried to use European uppercuts and was promptly elbowed to the mat, where Ishii followed with some brutal chops. Sabre managed to catch one of the strikes, though, and delivered an overhead kick to Ishii’s right arm before stomping and twisting it horribly. Ishii scored a backdrop and followed with elbows, chops and a corner clothesline, but Sabre rolled-through out of the corner and applied the hammerlocked armbar from which Ishii made a desperate rope-break. Sabre swiped at the arm with kicks, aggravating Ishii, who leant into the strikes but was soon dropped to the mat.
Ishii suplexed out of a guillotine choke, then quickly lifted Sabre to the top and hit a superplex! Two-count only. Sabre clamped back on, but Ishii again used a suplex to free himself and a pinning powerbomb connected, only for Sabre to apply the triangle choke. Ishii powered to his feet and hit a lariat, but Sabre struck back with a half-hatch suplex and Penalty Kick, then into a heel hold! Ishii screamed in pain and scrambled to the ropes. Sabre brutally stomped at Ishii’s right knee, but Ishii fired the fuck up and nailed him with a chop to the throat. European Clutch from Sabre! One, two, no. Back into the heel hold, then an ankle lock, but Ishii reversed it! Headbutt from Ishii followed by a huge lariat for a near-fall. Sabre avoided the brainbuster and countered the sliding lariat into a crazy multi-limbed submission! He elevated Ishii’s leg and stomped his head. The Stone Pitbull faded and the referee was forced to call for the bell!
Sabre targeting the arm and then the leg paid off as he pretzeled Ishii up, earning a notable referee stoppage victory and capping an impressive debut G1. Ishii, as ever, delivered every time he stepped in the ring. Great match, every bit as good as their meeting in the US title tournament in July. ****1/4
Kota Ibushi vs. Hirooki Goto
Goto briefly had control, but Ibushi cut him off with a huge chest kick. The Golden Triangle moonsault was avoided, however, and the crowd booed after Goto clotheslined Ibushi onto the apron. He stayed on top with a suplex, chinlock and corner clotheslines before Ibushi landed a big dropkick and followed with kicks, then a strike flurry and standing moonsault earned two. They traded elbows, and a series of counters ended with a German from Ibushi and a lariat from Goto. Ibushi was set up top after a spinning heel kick, but he slipped out and hit an overhead kick, then a leaping super frankensteiner pulled Goto down to the mat for two! Simultaneous clotheslines, Ushigoroshi from Goto for two. Ibushi blocked the inverted GTR, but was caught in a sleeper and Goto followed with a Penalty Kick. A messed up pinning counter led to Ibushi scoring another big kick, but Goto blocked the Kamigoye with a headbutt. Inverted GTR followed by the regular version, and the three-count was academic.
Ibushi has been a real boon to this tournament and it’s disappointing to see him end with a loss. Goto, despite some early promise, has had a mostly uninspiring few weeks, but still ends up with five wins to his name and, in fairness, held up his end of what was a good match. ***1/2
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito
Naito backed out of a couple of lock-ups, drawing boos, then Tanahashi slapped Naito on a rope-break, also drawing boos. And then he slapped him again. Shoulder block and air guitar from Tanahashi, so Naito went to the floor to collect his thoughts. He returned to the ring and reclined on the dive fake-out, but Tanahashi was onto him, only for Naito to counter the crossbody out of the corner with a dropkick to the injured right arm. Naito yanked the arm and dropkicked it once more before applying a modified Fujiwara armbar. Tanahashi made the ropes then countered into a neckbreaker for some respite, and scored a flying forearm, elbow drop and senton for two as the crowd chanted “Go Ace!” The flipping senton was avoided, allowing Naito to score another seated dropkick, but Tanahashi countered the slingshot corner dropkick into a Dragon Screw, sending Naito to the floor, and followed with the High Fly Flow crossbody from the top-rope! Beautiful.
A Dragon Screw over the middle-rope looked to set up the Cloverleaf, but Naito scrambled to the ropes and scored an armbreaker and slingshot dropkick to the arm. An enzuigiri and leaping elbow set up Gloria for a two-count, but Destino was blocked, and Tanahashi dumped Naito with an arm-trapped German for a near-fall! He was caught up top, and Naito hit the super frankensteiner, but he countered the pin for a two-count and nailed a grounded Dragon Screw. Both men struggled to their feet and traded elbows, with Tanahashi forced to use his weaker left arm, then Naito spat right in his face! They exchanged slaps and Naito’s German earned two, but the Dragon suplex and leaping forearm were avoided, and Tanahashi hit a pair of Sling Blades! Two-count only. The High Fly Flow crossbody connected, but the splash missed the mark and duelling chants rang out as both men were down.
Naito manufactured a rope-hung neckbreaker out of the corner, but Tanahashi blocked the tornado DDT with a Dragon Screw and the Texas Cloverleaf was locked in! He dragged Naito to the middle of the ring and sank down. Naito clawed his way toward the ropes, Tanahashi sat deeper, but Naito just got the rope-break! Amazing. Naito weakly kicked at Tanahashi’s arm, then dropped him with the rope-aided tornado DDT. Swinging super Destino! One, two, no! The Destino proper was blocked and countered into a trio of swinging neckbreakers, but the Sling Blade was ducked and Naito hit a running Destino! He quickly picked up Tanahashi once again – Destino! One, two, three!
Good lord, what a match! The crowd heat for this was insane and the guys in the ring milked every last bit of emotion from them. The duelling limbwork was tremendous and thanks to Tanahashi’s submission win at Dominion the Cloverleaf had serious match-ending potential. Naito opting to forego a cover from the running Destino and hit a second one instead was a nice detail too. These two have now had three fantastic matches this year and I’m not sure I could pick a favourite (okay, maybe this one). I loved this. ****3/4
Post-match promo from Naito & Co. and we’re out.
A Block – Final Standings
- Naito – 14
- Tanahashi – 12
- Fale – 12
- Goto – 10
- Ibushi – 10
- Sabre Jr. – 10
- Ishii – 8
- Makabe – 8
- YOSHI-HASHI – 4
- Nagata – 2
Final thoughts: The significance of Nagata’s final G1 match, the tremendous Ishii/ZSJ bout and an excellent main event all contributed to making this a great show. Naito does what he couldn’t do last year and reaches the final – one of Okada or Omega awaits.
I’m back tomorrow for B Block’s final show, headlined by Okada vs. Omega. See you then.
Seventeen down, two to go.