August 6th, 17:00 from EDION Arena, Osaka
A couple of doozies top today’s A Block card: Okada vs. Ishii and Tanahashi vs. Marufuji. Let’s get to it!
A Block – Current Standings
- Okada – 10
- Makabe – 8
- Marufuji – 8
- Fale – 6
- Goto – 6
- Tanahashi – 6
- Ishii – 4
- SANADA – 4
- Tenzan – 4
- Tonga – 4
Commentary for the first time since Day 4! Woo!
Here we go…
A Block – Round Seven
SANADA vs. Tama Tonga
A dead rubber in terms of the G1, but you wouldn’t have known it from the match, as both men had plenty of pride in their performance. For those keeping track, Tonga wore white tights today – brave man. He got a near-fall off an Alabama Slam and it was clear that crowds are starting to buy his match-winning ability. Sanada caught Tonga with his beautiful springboard dropkick, then we were into the strikes. Tiger suplex from Sanada for two, but he was dropped with the Headshrinker DDT for another near-fall. An excellent sequence of counter culminated in a TKO from Sanada and the crowd was losing it. The Gun Stun connected to give Tonga yet another win. Colour me surprised. Tonga’s best match so far and it gave Sanada the opportunity to bust out some new moves. Fast pace, strong effort, and the benefits of commentary can’t be understated. All good. ***1/2
Togi Makabe vs. Bad Luck Fale
Before the match, Fale ripped the ring announcer’s suit sleeve clean off. That’s just not nice. Believe it or not, this was a brawl. Fale dominated for the first five minutes, then Makabe fired back with a clothesline and mounted punches. After a double down, Makabe hit the Northern Lights suplex, then powerbombed Fale out of the corner for a two-count, but the Underboss replied with a spear and the Grenade for the win. Fale’s steadily been putting points on the board. I’m slightly concerned, although to be fair, he’s been decent these last few weeks. **3/4
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Hirooki Goto
Tenzan was the clear crowd favourite and it’s such a shame his story’s done (I’ll get over it). He got some offence in early on, but Goto shut him down and took over. Tenzan’s comeback was started with a spinning heel kick, and continued with Mongolian Chops and a suplex for two, then Goto stemmed the tide with kicks and landed the diving elbow for two, before Tenzan hit the Mountain Bomb and applied the Anaconda Vice. Goto powered up to his feet and hit Ushigoroshi for a near-fall, and the crowd was really into this. TTD from Tenzan – two-count only! Up top for the moonsault, but it missed, and a sequence of counters led to a Sleeper from Goto. Tenzan fired back with headbutts and signalled for Kojima’s Western Lariat, but Goto caught him in the Sleeper once more, and the GTR connected for the win. Poor Tenzan. Despite visibly struggling here, his effort was tremendous and the crowd really helped. Good match. ***1/4
Kazuchika Okada vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Despite being stablemates, there was no love lost here, and after Okada patronisingly patted Ishii’s chest on a rope break, Ishii hit back with a lariat and sliding lariat for a near-fall, then Okada slipped out of the brainbuster to hit the reverse neckbreaker! Elbows, then Ishii reversed a charge to a powerslam. He laid the chops in and Okada asked for more. The chops, my God the chops! Flapjack counter from Okada for a little respite, and a running back elbow got him back in the game. Seated dropkick for two. DDT, kip up, and the jumping uppercut for two. Ishii avoided the diving elbow, dumped Okada with a backdrop, and followed with chops and elbows, but Okada set him on top and swiftly dropkicked him to the floor. Outside, Ishii was kicked over the barrier then received a nasty-looking barrier-hung DDT, then back in, the diving elbow connected, but Ishii interrupted the Rainmaker pose with a huge chop! Amazing. German suplex, corner clothesline, powerbomb – two-count only. Okada blocked the lariat and hit Heavy Rain. The Dropkick missed, Ishii’s sliding lariat was ducked, then Ishii delivered a dropkick! Top-rope superplex for a near-fall! Sliding lariat for a near-fall! Okada slipped out of the brainbuster and hit a dropkick to put both men down. Shotgun dropkicks from Okada – two-count only. The Dropkick! Rainmaker ducked, enzuigiri from Ishii. Rainmaker ducked three times and a headbutt from Ishii that floored Okada! They fought over a tombstone and Ishii spiked Okada with the sit-out version! F---! Lariat! 2.9! F---! Brainbuster!!! One, two, three! Holy s---, what a match. Out-f-------standing. *****
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Naomichi Marufuji
They wisely started slow here, jockeying for an advantage which neither was able to claim. Tanahashi slipped out of the ring after ducking a kick and wrapped Marufuji’s leg around the ringpost. Smart. He continued to work over the leg, but failed with the Dragon Screw over the middle-rope and Marufuji delivered a piledriver on the apron! Tanahashi made it back in at 19, but Marufuji peppered him with chops. (And I repeat:) The chops, my God the chops. The NOAH man swatted away Tanahashi’s slaps, and floored him with a huge spinning chop. The Ace replied with a leaping elbow, then landed the flipping senton from the middle-rope for two. Cartwheel dropkick from Marufuji, then a rope-balancing kick sent Tanahashi to floor and was followed by a running plancha. Springboard dropkick back in, and then a long chop battle that had me wincing. Brutal. The crescent kick connected, but Tanahashi caught the side kick to finally deliver the Dragon Screw. Marufuji ducked a charge and hit a jumping knee in the corner, then a couple of side kicks, but Tanahashi blocked the Shiranui by slamming his opponent to the mat. Arm-trap German suplex for two. Sling Blade. High Fly Flow crossbody blocked with a jumping knee! Crescent kick and a superkick for a near-fall, then Tanahashi reversed an attempted Emerald Flowsion to a spinning neckbreaker. Sling Blade again, High Fly Flow crossbody, High Fly Flow. Game over. Really strong effort by both men. They had a tough job to bring the crowd back up again after the previous match, but they know what they’re doing. I liked Tanahashi’s tactic of working the leg to weaken the kicks, and in the end that did enough damage that he was able to survive them. Great match. ****1/4
Post-match promo and guitar schtick from Tanahashi and we’re out.
A Block standings after Round Seven
- Okada – 10
- Fale – 8
- Goto – 8
- Makabe – 8
- Marufuji – 8
- Tanahashi – 8
- Ishii – 6
- Tonga – 6
- SANADA – 4
- Tenzan – 4
Final thoughts: What a show! Fantastic crowd and the commentary was the cherry on top. Ishii and Okada delivered the match of the tournament and… I’ll leave it at that for now. The main event might benefit from being watched in isolation or even before Ishii vs. Okada, but top-to-bottom this show is a winner.
Back tomorrow for the next B Block show which features Nagata vs. Omega, Naito vs. EVIL and Shibata vs. YOSHI-HASHI. See you then.
Thirteen down, six to go.