July 22nd, 18:30 from Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
Welcome to Day 2 of 2016’s G1 Climax tournament. Monday’s opening show was stellar, so B Block have quite the standard to live up to. Today’s card is topped by Naito vs. Nagata and Shibata vs. Honma so let’s get to it.
If you’d like some background information on the competitors you can read my G1 Primer here.
Here we go…
B Block – Round One
Toru Yano vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima
Nakajima attacked before Yano had a chance to remove his t-shirt, but the joke was on him because Yano proceeded to use the t-shirt to choke Nakajima and tie his arm to the barrier outside, which almost resulted in a count-out. Back in, Yano dominated – in a sense – and nearly got the pin with the hair-pull roll-up, but Nakajima sent him into the exposed turnbuckle (the pad had earlier been removed by Yano, natch), then kicked him a few times before hitting the brainbuster for the win. Nothing to see here. *1/2
YOSHI-HASHI vs. Kenny Omega
Omega slapped Yoshi around a bit to start, but got rana’d to the outside where he was whipped into the barrier, only to return the favour. Omega slammed Yoshi into the barrier, covered him with the mat then springboard stomped him – that can’t have been fun. Yoshi made it back in before the count and Omega hit a second-rope moonsault for two. After a back-and-forth, Yoshi scored the running blockbuster and a neckbreaker for two, then Omega ducked a charge and hit a superkick and a couple of snap dragon suplexes for two, which had the crowd chanting for Yoshi-Hashi. The deadlift Doctor Bomb brought a near-fall, before Yoshi fought back which a powerbomb of his own, but the follow-up swanton hit the knees. Omega struck with a high knee, then nearly got rolled-up, so hit another for good measure. He hoisted Yoshi up for the One-Winged Angel, but it was countered to a DDT. The swanton connected – two count only! Yoshi cinched in the butterfly lock and Omega just made the ropes. Omega fought out of a German suplex, but ran right into a lariat, then a Sleeper put him to the mat and Yoshi-Hashi connected with the Boma Ye(!) for two. Pumphandle Michinoku Driver (aka Karma) for the three-count! I was not expecting that. Yoshi-Hashi with the skills. Really good action from beginning to end. ****
Michael Elgin vs. EVIL
Evil struck early with a lariat, but Elgin replied with the delayed vertical suplex. The slingshot splash missed and Evil dragged him outside, where he put his head in a chair and rammed him into the ringpost. Back in, Evil stayed on top, hitting a senton for two, then he grabbed a chinlock. Elgin powered out and hit an Exploder before catching Evil with a huge rolling elbow. Falcon Arrow for two. Evil blocked the German suplex to hit a regular garden-variety version of his own, then Elgin got the better of a strike exchange and dropped Evil on his head with a lariat. Elgin went up top and connected with a splash (or the Big Mike Fly Flow as it was called on commentary) for two. The bucklebomb landed, but Evil immediately replied with his fireman’s carry bomb to put both men down. German suplex, two hard elbows, and a half-nelson suplex from Evil for a near-fall. Lariat(ish) for a two-count, then Evil hit the STO for the win. A little below my expectations, but an enjoyably hard-hitting hoss match nonetheless, with an impressive victory for Evil against the Intercontinental champ. ***1/2
Yuji Nagata vs. Tetsuya Naito
Nagata was cut short with a low dropkick, then Naito wrapped his leg over the barrier and booted it. Back in, a shinbreaker led to an inverted figure-four while Naito mocked Nagata’s salute. Nagata eventually made the ropes. Naito got launched with a belly-to-belly and Nagata laid into him with kicks and an Exploder for two. Elbows from the veteran, but Naito went back to the leg and headed up top to hit a diving dropkick. The outside-in slingshot dropkick connected, as did Gloria for two. Nagata countered a dragon suplex attempt to the Shirome armbar, transitioning to the Fujiwara armbar before Naito made the ropes. A spitwad from Naito was met with hard elbows, hard knees, and hard kicks in the corner, but the LIJ leader rolled-through a backdrop attempt to lock in a scissored kneebar from which Nagata struggled to a rope-break. Leaping elbow from Naito, but Destino was blocked and Nagata’s brainbuster earned a two-count. Elbow battle, then a backdrop from Nagata – two-count only! Spinning heel kick, Backdrop Hold, one, two, three! Naito was grinning on his way to the back, but that’s a big upset from Nagata. Good match and I particularly enjoyed the dynamic of the insolent heel vs. no-nonsense veteran. ***1/2
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomoaki Honma
They went at it with elbows from the off, and the first Kokeshi attempt… missed. Shibata put Honma in the headscissors, then stomped on him. Honma replied with strikes and kicked Shibata over the barrier (and into a middle-aged couple) on the outside. Back in, Shibata invited Honma’s chops, then Honma batted away Shibata’s elbows to hit(!) the Kokeshi. Shibata struck a jumping kick in the corner and a hatch suplex for one, then hit the STO into a headlock. He dumped Honma with a backdrop, but Honma replied with a jumping Kokeshi to put both men down. They battled up from their knees, and Shibata locked in a guillotine choke. Honma went down initially, but powered back up to hoist Shibata into a Fire Thunder Driver. A German suplex from Shibata and a lariat from Honma both got a one-count only. Jumping Kokeshi from Honma for two. Another Fire Thunder Driver spiked Shibata, but he got straight back up! Honma spiked him once more, however, with a brutal Pillar Crash then connected with the diving Kokeshi from the top-rope for the win! Another upset! They’ve had better, and in amongst the brutality there was a fair bit of awkwardness here, but it was outweighed by the sheer effort. ***1/2
Post-match promo from Honma, he’s mobbed by the crowd, and we’re out.
B Block standings after Round One
- EVIL – 2
- Honma – 2
- Nagata – 2
- Nakajima – 2
- YOSHI-HASHI – 2
- Omega – 0
- Yano – 0
- Elgin – 0
- Shibata – 0
- Naito – 0
Final thoughts: Well, would you look at that. Losses for Omega, Elgin, Shibata and Naito. That was most certainly not on the cards. In fact, every reigning champion lost their opening G1 match. They couldn’t match A Block for in-ring quality on this occasion, but everything was at least good and YOSHI-HASHI vs. Kenny Omega definitely exceeded my expectations. Recommended.
I’m away tomorrow, so I’ll cover Days 3 and 4 in my review on Sunday. See you then.
Two down, seventeen to go.