July 22nd, 18:30 from Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
The third and final Korakuen Hall show brings us B Block’s second round of competition, headlined by Okada vs. Elgin. Let’s get to it.
The story so far…
Here we go…
- Kota Ibushi, Togi Makabe & David Finlay defeated Gedo, Tomohiro Ishii & Hirooki Goto ***
- Zack Sabre Jr. & El Desperado defeated Jado & YOSHI-HASHI **3/4
- Tomoyuki Oka & Yuji Nagata defeated Katsuya Kitamura & Hiroshi Tanahashi (the crowd loved the Oka/Kitamura sequence in this one) **3/4
- Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI & Tetsuya Naito defeated Chase Owens, Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi (Fale ripped up Daryl the Cat – Nooo!!!) **3/4
B Block – Round Two
Satoshi Kojima (w/ Hiroyoshi Tenzan) vs. Toru Yano
Yano got two-counts from a school boy and backslide, then a pissed off Kojima wailed on him with stomps and sprayed Yano’s own water bottle in his face. The beatdown continued, despite Yano’s protestations, until an inverted atomic drop turned the tide, then Yano hit Kojima with a turnbuckle pad and looked for the count-out. Back in, Kojima was sent into the exposed buckle, but hit back with Mongolian Chops and his usual routine in the corners. Yano rolled away from the diving elbow, but Kojima flattened him outside with a plancha! A DDT on the floor preceded a diving elbow in the ring, earning a two-count, then the Koji Cutter connected. Kojima brushed off a hairpull, but Yano manoeuvred the referee to disguise two low-blows and a roll-up got the three-count. Hmm. I don’t have an issue with Yano winning in his customary fashion, but I don’t need to see a ten-minute match before that. Moving on. **
Juice Robinson vs. EVIL
Juice started hot, immediately scoring with a running dropkick, the cannonball and a plancha! Outside, he hit some clotheslines against the guardrail, but Evil countered a charge into a drop toehold, sending Juice throat-first into the railing, then clotheslined him over into the crowd. Evil stayed on top after Juice rolled back in at 18, stomping him into the mat and hitting the senton before applying a chinlock. Juice powered out and soon after nailed a crescent kick to set off a run of punches, a facelock drop, and a senton of his own for two, but a trip to the top-rope was cut painfully short. A fast-paced back-and-forth led to Juice landing the spinebuster, and he returned to the top where he connected with a Kokeshi! Two-count only. Evil was able to fisherman suplex Juice into the buckle and both men were down. Darkness Falls was blocked, but Evil hit the side kick, only for Juice to nail a left-handed lariat! Falling powerbomb! One, two, no! Pulp Friction was countered into a nasty German suplex, but Juice fired up and strikes were exchanged before a fantastic sequence of counters culminated in a half-and-half suplex from Evil! Lariat! 2.9! The STO connected and Evil picked up the win!
Two hungry young guys out to prove their worth and delivering a breathless, brilliant closing stretch in the final minutes of a very good match. I’m sure I’ll be rating this higher than most, but I’m going: ****
Minoru Suzuki (w/ El Desperado) vs. SANADA
Suzuki slapped Sanada and Sanada got mad. He pummelled Suzuki, but ultimately got caught in the rope-hung armbar then kicked from the apron. Suzuki took him out into the crowd and smashed him with a chair, with El Desperado adding the afters. Back in momentarily, then Suzuki returned to floor where he dismissively swiped at Sanada with punches and slaps, and when Sanada tried to reply, Suzuki nailed him with elbow strikes. Sanada recovered to get rid of Desperado, then landed to springboard dropkick to Suzuki. The Paradise Lock was countered to an armbar, but Sanada made the ropes and countered a kick into a Dragon Screw. This time the Paradise Lock was applied, much to the crowd’s delight, and was followed by a Drive By dropkick. Suzuki was able to counter into a Sleeper, but couldn’t hit the piledriver, and Sanada landed a backdrop and the TKO for a two-count. Suzuki again countered into the Sleeper, and just when it looked like Sanada had slipped out, Suzuki spiked him with the Gotch-Style Piledriver! One, two, three.
This was good, though it didn’t quite sustain the promise of the opening minutes. Sanada succeeding in applying the Paradise Lock was quite something, as it’s not often Suzuki is embarrassed liked that in New Japan, but he never looked like winning, despite (or perhaps because of) his aggression. ***1/4
Kenny Omega vs. Tama Tonga
Tama had no remorse in attacking his Bullet Club leader before the bell, ripping off his The Elite t-shirt and throwing it out into the crowd. He used his pace to outmanoeuvre Omega, and clotheslined him on the floor before flapjacking him onto the apron, then he got on the mic and said “Who the fuck is The Elite? If you wanna be in the Bullet Club then you be one of us.” The beatdown continued with a back suplex, punches and a neckbreaker, then he DDT’d the damaged leg of Omega into the mat. Omega made the comeback with a clothesline and some double axehandles, and the leapfrog bulldog earned two. They exchanged frankensteiners, and despite the Bullet Club’s discouragement Omega scored a tope con hilo onto all of them! Uh oh. Back in, a missile dropkick was followed by a deadlift Doctor Bomb for two-count, but the attempted V-Trigger knee was countered to a spear. Elbows back-and-forth, overhead kick from Tama, jumping knee from Omega, and the cross-legged Ushigoroshi landed. The V-Trigger knee connected, but One-Winged Angel countered to a spinning neckbreaker. Shortly thereafter, two more knee strikes from Kenny set up the One-Winged Angel and that was plenty to give Omega the win.
Post-match, Omega kicked at Tama, but everyone Too Sweeted to make up and they hugged. The break-up tease was great, and those moments added a frisson, but the crowd seemed oddly flat for the most part. ***
Michael Elgin vs. Kazuchika Okada (w/ Gedo)
Elgin made a good start, landing a big chop and replying to the condescending rope-break with elbow strikes before sending Okada over the top-rope with a clothesline. Okada was able to drop Elgin into the crowd, but the follow-up crossbody over the guardrail was caught and Elgin slammed him onto the floor! And again! A back suplex onto the apron earned a two-count, but the slingshot splash was avoided and Okada picked up the pace, hitting a seated dropkick then whipping Elgin into the guardrail outside. Back in, a neckbreaker was followed by the straitjacket chinlock, but Big Mike powered out, nailed a chop, then once again caught Okada and dumped him with a German. A pair of corner clotheslines and a pair of Germans led to an arm-trapped German suplex pin for a near-fall. Okada was able to flapjack Elgin for some respite, and a back elbow, DDT and leaping uppercut earned two, but series of counters ended with Elgin’s powerslam and both men were down.
Elgin floored Okada with a huge elbow strike, but was caught out of the corner with the reverse neckbreaker, which Okada followed with the diving elbow before signalling the Rainmaker. Elgin blocked it, so Okada dropkicked him to the floor instead. With Elgin back in, Okada went for a missile dropkick, but Elgin countered mid-air to a sit-out powerbomb! Two-count only. Front-and-back clotheslines punished Okada, then more counters led to an enzuigiri. Okada ducked a lariat, landed a German suplex, and hit a dropkick before hitting The Dropkick! Elgin countered the Rainmaker with a lariat of hit own and turned him inside-out with another! Sit-out crucifix powerbomb! One, two, no! Okada blocked the buckle bomb, but was floored by a rolling elbow, and Elgin looked for the deadlift superplex only for Okada to flip out. The diving shoulder block was met with a dropkick and after both men looked for a tombstone, Okada was set up top then taken back down with a top-rope superplex! One, two, NO! Buckle bomb from Elgin, Elgin Bomb blocked, Rainmaker countered to a sit-out powerbomb! 2.9! Elgin looked for a Burning Hammer, but Okada flipped out and hit the Rainmaker, holding firm to the wrist before hitting a second. It looked like a definitive third had been blocked, but Okada countered again, this time into a tombstone! Rainmaker! One, two, three!
This had that big time, main event feel – a title match without the title on the line, if you will. Elgin never fails to deliver in these situations for New Japan – this despite coming into the tournament cold – and obviously it’s where Okada excels. I’m always a fan of Okada’s usual routine being counteracted in interesting ways and Elgin proved a great foil in that respect. If I’m being picky I’d say the match peaked about five minutes before the end, but there’s no doubt it plays into the narrative of Okada’s inability to finish opponents like he used to. A tremendous match and a superb effort from both men. ****1/2
Post-match promo from Okada and Gedo, and we’re out.
B Block standings after Round Two
- Okada – 4
- Omega – 4
- EVIL – 2
- Robinson – 2
- SANADA – 2
- Suzuki – 2
- Tonga – 2
- Yano – 2
- Elgin – 0
- Kojima – 0
Final thoughts: Two great matches, two good matches, and one not so good. That’s a decent return, I’d say. If you can stomach it, I’d say Fale’s destruction of Daryl the Cat has to be seen to be believed, but if you’re short on time then Juice/EVIL and Elgin/Okada are where it’s at.
I’m back tomorrow for A Block – Round Three, which features Kota Ibushi vs. Tomohiro Ishii. See you then.
Four down, fifteen to go.