August 6th, 16:00 from Act City Hamamatsu, Shizuoka
We’ve arrived at A Block’s penultimate show and seven men are still in with a shot of reaching the final. Headlining today are block leaders Naito and Tanahashi against Makabe and Ishii respectively. Let’s get to it.
The story so far…
Here we go…
- Juice Robinson & David Finlay defeated Tomoyuki Oka & Katsuya Kitamura
- EVIL & Hiromu Takahashi defeated Hirai Kawato & Michael Elgin
- Yujiro Takahashi & Tama Tonga defeated Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima
- BUSHI & SANADA defeated Chase Owens & Kenny Omega
- Kazuchika Okada, Gedo & Toru Yano defeated Taichi, El Desperado & Minoru Suzuki
A Block – Round Eight
Yuji Nagata vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (w/ El Desperado)
Plenty of support for Nagata, who started promisingly, besting Sabre on the mat and forcing him to the ropes with an armbar. Nagata downed Sabre with a low dropkick and stomps, until finally Sabre clasped onto a stray arm and began targeting it with kicks and a wrenching twist. A knee lift and trio of kicks from Nagata were followed by an Exploder for two, but Sabre hit back with an overhead kick to the arm, leg sweep and Penalty Kick. Elbows and uppercuts up from the knees, then they traded sleeper counters and Nagata locked in the crossface, transitioning from the Nagata Lock II to III before Sabre almost scored a roll-up. Nagata punished Sabre with kicks and stomps, but another Exploder was countered to a guillotine choke then into the hammerlocked armbar. The rope-break was made, but Sabre grabbed a triangle choke, only for Nagata to rally and cinch in the Shirome armbar. Sabre rolled to the ropes, and both men stung the other’s left arm with kicks before Nagata’s spinning heel kick put both men down. Backdrop countered to an Octopus Hold and this time Nagata rolled to the ropes. Knees from Nagata set up the twisting brainbuster – two-count only. Japanese Leg Roll Clutch from Sabre for a near-fall. High-angle backdrop from Nagata! One, two, no! The Justice Knee landed in the corner and Nagata followed with the Backdrop Hold! One, two, three!
Nagata finally gets a win! Yes! He looked great here, matching Sabre Jr. with technique and beating him with pure determination. The loss puts ZSJ out of the running, but I’d say his debut G1 has been an unqualified success nonetheless. This was damn satisfying and a quality pro wrestling match. ****
Kota Ibushi vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Ibushi brushed off Yoshi’s initial efforts to score a kick to the chest, but Yoshi was able to drag him to the floor, where he rammed him into the guardrail and nailed a running chop. Back in, a vertical suplex earned two and the chinlock was cinched in until Ibushi made the ropes, then Yoshi hit another running chop only to be downed with a counter dropkick. Strike flurry and a standing moonsault from Ibushi for two. Yoshi landed a running blockbuster, but was ‘rana’d to the floor and Ibushi flattened him with the Golden Triangle moonsault! Back in, a very nice springboard dropkick connected, but Yoshi managed a desperation lariat to stop the rot. Swanton! Two-count only. The Butterfly Lock was applied, into a guillotine choke and successfully, then Yoshi blocked Ibushi’s Kamigoye with headbutts. Ibushi kept hold of the arms, however, and brutally stomped Yoshi, but Yoshi countered the Kamigoye into a powerbomb! They exchanged elbows and slaps, with Ibushi’s chest kick flooring his opponent, only for Yoshi to fire up with chops and a superkick in reply. Backstabber and double knees from Yoshi – two-count only. Karma attempted, but flipped out of, and Ibushi nailed a head kick! Sit-out Last Ride! One, two, no! Kamigoye! One, two, three.
An unusual dynamic with Yoshi largely in control, but it was well laid out, and built effectively. Yoshi-Hashi’s dead eyes can be a struggle to get past; they give the unfortunate and lingering impression that he’s going through the motions. Not so. This was a strong effort, even if his face belied that fact. Also, Ibushi’s powerbomb seems to have lost its magic now that he’s got the Kamigoye, but such is wrestling. This was a good match. ***1/2
Hirooki Goto vs. Bad Luck Fale
Goto invited Fale to bring it, and the big Tongan RSVP’d by clotheslining him to the floor. He tied Goto’s leg in the guardrail, wrapped it around the ringpost, then continued to punish it back in the ring. An early attempt at the Bad Luck Fall was blocked and Goto dodged a charge, then eventually he floored Fale after a third lariat. Spinning heel kick, backdrop blocked, high kick for two. Goto went for the Ushigoroshi, but Fale clubbed him down and crushed him in the corner, although the big splash missed the mark. Goto nailed a kick and this time connected with the backdrop! Two-count only. Fale’s Grenade was countered, as was the GTR, then Goto’s headbutt was replied to with a huge lariat for two. The big splash connected for a near-fall and Fale followed-up with the Grenade for the win.
I appreciated Fale’s briefly attempted limbwork, even if it didn’t go anywhere, but this was otherwise a fairly standard match. Fine. **3/4
Togi Makabe vs. Tetsuya Naito
A furious Makabe attacked immediately and sent Naito over the guardrail and into the crowd, then ran him into the wall at the back of the hall. Naito hit back and twice whipped Makabe into the guardrail before returning to the ring and applying a chinlock. Neckbreaker for two, and Naito took some dismissive swipes at Makabe, upsetting the brawler (which I imagine was the intention). A powerslam and mounted punches came in retaliation, but Naito cut off the comeback with a seated dropkick and the slingshot corner dropkick. The tornado DDT was blocked, though, and Makabe turned Naito inside-out with a lariat! Kneeling powerbomb – two-count only. Naito struck back with the rope-hung over-the-knee drop, then the super frankensteiner connected for two, but the King Kong Hammer dumped him to the mat and both men struggled to their feet. German suplex hold from Makabe for two, and he set up Naito up top, ramming his head into the ringpost before hitting the Spider German! The King Kong Knee Drop missed the mark, allowing Naito to nail a Koppu kick and leaping elbow, but Destino was blocked and he was again dumped on his head with a lariat. Somehow he connected with a counter Destino! One, two, no! Destino for the win!
A hard-fought battle with palpable aggression. Unlike the Tanahashi match, Makabe’s random selling was kept at bay and Naito seemed to relish poking the bear, even if it got him dropped on his melon more times than is advisable. Nicely done. ***3/4
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii
A persistent Ishii eventually downed Tanahashi with a shoulder block and followed with chops, and despite Tanahashi hitting a crossbody out of the corner, Ishii succeeded in dropping him onto the apron with a clothesline. Back in, Ishii nailed Tanahashi with a chop and a delayed vertical suplex earned two, then more huge chops followed. Tanahashi’s attempted headbutt did not go well for him, although he did score a leaping forearm, and the middle-rope flipping senton got two. Ishii-style elbows and chops were met with the real thing, then Tanahashi went low with a dropkick and stomps only to receive a powerslam and backdrop in return. Tanahashi was set up top, but slipped out, and he yanked Ishii down to the mat with a Dragon Screw! The Cloverleaf was blocked, so they traded elbows instead. Ishii stood firm and blasted Tanahashi to the mat, but it was clear his leg had been damaged. German suplex from Ishii, followed by a pinning powerbomb! Two-count only. Ishii brushed off a dropkick and German to land a Dragon suplex, but Tanahashi popped up and planted him with the Sling Blade! Both men down.
Ishii peppered Tanahashi with elbows and a lariat, but Tanahashi stood firm and scored an arm-trapped German for two. The High Fly Flow missed the mark, but the sliding lariat was countered to a crucifix pin for two, then Tanahashi dissected Ishii with two more Dragon Screws! The Cloverleaf was locked in, and Ishii was forced to lunge desperately for the ropes. Another brutal Dragon Screw was met with an enzuigiri, then Ishii hit a Dragon Screw of his own! Low dropkick and an over-the-shoulder legbreaker from Ishii, followed by modified kneebar until Tanahashi stretched for the rope-break. The attempted shinbreaker was countered to a crossbody, but Ishii floored Tanahashi with a lariat then applied the sharpshooter! What?! Tanahashi faded, but somehow willed himself to the ropes. He blocked a suplex in from the apron to hit a Dragon Screw over the middle-rope, but Ishii caught him up top and connected with a huge top-rope superplex! One, two, no! Sliding lariat for a near-fall. Tanahashi blocked the brainbuster and hit a pair of swinging neckbreaker and a Dragon suplex! Two-count only! Headbutts from Ishii, Sling Blade from Tanahashi for one! Lariat from Ishii for one! Another Sling Blade from Tanahashi was followed with the High Fly Flow crossbody, then he climbed up top once more and the High Fly Flow connected! One, two, three!
I loved the pace, the focus on competing limb work and the amazing intensity that was maintained throughout. It was almost entirely kept within the ring and favoured flow over high-risk moves, which was refreshing. Ishii always makes me believe he can win and here he delivered a whole lotta punishment to Tanahashi, who goes into Friday’s decider significantly worse off than Naito. Great match. ****1/2
A very brief post-match thank you from Tanahashi, who collapsed to the mat, and we’re out. Both men needed to be carried to the back.
A Block standings after Round Eight
- Naito – 12
- Tanahashi – 12
- Fale – 10
- Ibushi – 10
- Goto – 8
- Ishii – 8
- Sabre Jr. – 8
- Makabe – 6
- YOSHI-HASHI – 4
- Nagata – 2
Final thoughts: A brilliant surprise in the G1 opener, an intense fight between Makabe and Naito, and a blowaway main event. I am sated. The result of said main event means it’s down to Naito vs. Tanahashi on Friday, as only those two men can now reach the final. I can’t wait.
I’m back on Tuesday for B Block’s penultimate show on a significant date and location for New Japan. See you then.
Fifteen down, four to go.