July 21st, 18:30 from Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
We’re back for a second day at Korakuen Hall and it’s A Block’s second show, which is headlined by Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. and YOSHI-HASHI vs. Tetsuya Naito. Let’s get to it.
The story so far…
Here we go…
- Hiromu Takahashi & EVIL defeated David Finlay & Juice Robinson ***1/4
- Minoru Suzuki & Taichi defeated BUSHI & SANADA ***
- Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi defeated Chase Owens & Tama Tonga **3/4
- Michael Elgin, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan defeated Gedo, Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano **1/2
A Block – Round Two
Yuji Nagata vs. Hirooki Goto
A slap from Goto set Nagata off and he targeted his opponent’s right arm with kicks until Goto was able to turn the tide with a clothesline. After beating on Nagata outside, Goto maintained control in the ring until, once again, he slapped Nagata on the head. Nagata was rightly furious and threw a knee to Goto’s gut before hammering him with kicks. They threw elbows, Nagata’s hit hardest, and he landed an Exploder after a couple of kicks for two. Goto freed himself to hit a spinning heel kick and backdrop for a two-count of his own, then nailed the Ushigoroshi for another two. Nagata blocked the follow-up, transitioning to the Shirome armbar, but Goto got a foot on the ropes. An arm breaker and the Justice Knee led to the Drive Screw, then a spinning brainbuster connected. Two-count only! A backdrop dumped Goto on his head, but again he kicked out, and he was able to use a bulldog to stop the onslaught. Elbows, then an exchange of lariats and kicks, until a discus lariat took Nagata down, but he popped back up with a spinning back kick! Goto grabbed a sleeper to block the backdrop, however, then a headbutt set up the GTR for the three-count. Some quality hard-hitting pro wrestling here. Funny to see Goto play the disrespectful youngster, but it worked. Great to see that Nagata, like Kojima, still has plenty left to give. ****
Togi Makabe vs. Tomohiro Ishii
They locked-up to start, but soon were into a back-and-forth of shoulder blocks and elbows, before Makabe floored Ishii, sent him off the apron and whipped him into the guardrail. Ishii replied in kind with a series of four whips and Makabe looked in pain as he returned to the ring, which Ishii seemed to enjoy. Makabe fought back to land a powerslam and mounted punches in the corner, which Ishii brushed off, but Makabe stayed on top with a clothesline and Northern Lights suplex for two. Ishii fired up and nailed a German suplex to put both men down, then, Ishii put his opponent up to and the superplex connected for a two-count. Makabe clubbed his way back into the match, getting back up even after a backdrop, and a lariat flattened Ishii, with the follow-up kneeling powerbomb getting two. Now Ishii wouldn’t die, but a couple of lariats were only got enough for a two-count. Makabe set up the Spider German up top, but instead, after some resistance, hit a super belly-to-belly. The King Kong Knee Drop missed the mark, then even after five double clotheslines neither man would fall! Lariat from Ishii – one-count only! Sliding lariat for two. Makabe blocked the brainbuster, and landed karate chops and a German suplex pin for two. Ishii fired up and nailed a huge lariat for a near-fall! Brainbuster from Ishii for the win! Nothing we haven’t seen before, true, but they played well off their familiarity with one another and the result was a pleasant surprise. ***3/4
Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Sabre easily grounded Ibushi in the opening moments, with Ibushi scrambling not to get caught in a heel hook. Once back to their feet, though, Ibushi floored Sabre with slap, then they exchanged snapmares until Sabre torqued Ibushi’s neck between his feet! Sabre then focused on the neck, standing on it while applying a single-leg crab and wrenching a surfboard, easily dealing with Ibushi’s attempted reversals. A straitjacket chinlock kept him in control, but eventually Ibushi found an opening for a high kick. He peppered Sabre with elbows and a strike flurry, but the standing moonsault was countered to a triangle choke and Ibushi dived for the ropes.
A snap German from Ibushi wasn’t enough to deter Sabre, whose lightning quick counter almost led to a three-count off a European Clutch, but Ibushi broke out of the Octopus Hold and landed a brutal double stomp. Ibushi nailed a couple of kicks, but again Sabre was quick enough to land a Penalty Kick. They fought up from the mat, Ibushi meeting Sabre’s uppercuts with elbows, then Sabre caught the overhead kick attempt and locked in a modified STF! Dragon suplex hold – two-count only! After a moment’s respite, Ibushi scored a big lariat and reversed a backslide into a knee strike. Sabre blocked the powerbomb and countered into a triangle choke, but Ibushi lifted him, initially looking for the Phoenix-Plex, but settling for the sit-out Last Ride! One, two, three.
Just brilliantly done. They never left the ring and only once did Ibushi leave his feet. I was excited to see how Sabre Jr. would match-up with his opponents during the tournament and so far it’s been a joy to watch. He’s excelled in this role. Proof too, as if it were needed, that Ibushi is capable of far more than high-risk spots and angering Jim Cornette. A tremendous match. ****1/2
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Bad Luck Fale
Tanahashi immediately went for a victory roll, getting a two-count, then used an eye poke(!) to gain an advantage. Fale swatted him away, and Tanahashi’s several dropkicks only rattled the big man, before a small package got another two-count. Fale then drew Tanahashi into an armbreaker over top-rope and continued to work the right arm(!) by twice ramming it into the guardrail. Back in, he stepped on the arm and used Vader-like forearms in the corner, but Tanahashi ducked a clothesline and landed a German suplex! An attempted slam was countered by Fale, and although he missed the follow-up splash, he reversed a sunset flip for a two-count. The splash connected second time round, earning two, but the Grenade was countered to a spinning neckbreaker. Tanahashi awkwardly skinned the cat (due to his arm), and Fale capitalised with a spear. Bad Luck Fall… countered to a Sling Blade! With Fale outside, Tanahashi scaled to the top-rope and connected with a High Fly Flow crossbody to the floor! As they got onto the apron, Tanahashi nailed a Sling Blade, sending Fale back to the floor, and the 20-count gave Tanahashi the win!
Fale working a body part? Truly these are the end times. This was another good match, among the most enjoyable of their encounters, with a different and unusual dynamic helping give a tried-and-tested formula some new life. Really liked the finish too. ***1/2
YOSHI-HASHI vs. Tetsuya Naito
Yoshi started well, using a couple of shoulder blocks, a scoop slam and chops, but Naito’s pace allowed him to score a low dropkick and the rope-hung over-the-knee drop. After a brief trip to the floor, Naito continued to target Yoshi’s neck with back elbows and a neckbreaker, but his cockiness eventually gave Yoshi an opening for a running blockbuster. The ‘rana connected, and Yoshi fired up to hit a rope-hung dropkick for two, although Naito cut him off with another over-the-knee drop and the reverse version of his slingshot dropkick. Naito’s tornado DDT was blocked, as was Yoshi’s neckbreaker, but the latter scored a double stomp instead. Shoulderbreaker and a pinning powerbomb for two. Naito again used his pace to block the follow-up and hit a German suplex, but was unable to land Gloria.
Yoshi’s mule kick led to the suplex-neckbreaker and he headed up top, only to get cut off, with Naito scoring a super frankensteiner. Gloria – two-count only! Yoshi countered Destino into a face-first slam and both men were down. Once up, they pummelled each other with elbows and strikes, Naito was wobbled by Yoshi’s kicks, and Yoshi followed a counter-Codebreaker with the Butterfly Lock. Naito powered up, so Yoshi hit a backstabber then landed the swanton! Two-count only. Back to the Butterfly Lock, with Naito twice pulled to the middle of the ring, and just when he looked to be fading he dragged himself to the ropes. Naito desperately blocked Karma, and hit a Koppu kick, but was turned inside-out with a lariat for a near-fall! Karma was countered mid-air into Destino – two-count only! Destino! One, two, three!
I thought this was very good. The crowd reaction – firmly in favour of Naito, cheering him as though he were the underdog – made for an interesting dynamic in a YOSHI-HASHI match, and it seemed to me they were playing off Naito still suffering the effects of Monday’s match with Ibushi. The build was steady, but eventually, somehow, they had the crowd believing that Naito would have to escape with the win. Which he did. ***3/4
Post-match promo from Naito and crew, and we’re out.
A Block standings after Round Two
- Goto – 4
- Naito – 4
- Fale – 2
- Ibushi – 2
- Ishii – 2
- Sabre Jr. – 2
- Tanahashi – 2
- YOSHI-HASHI – 2
- Makabe – 0
- Nagata – 0
Final thoughts: One of the most consistently enjoyable shows I’ve watched this year, as much for variety as quality. From the undercard tag matches to the main event, nearly everything felt fresh. The G1 matches themselves were top notch – every one of them was good to great – with Ibushi vs. Sabre Jr. the pick of a very strong bunch. Just watch the whole thing.
I’m back again tomorrow for B Block’s second show. See you then.
Three down, sixteen to go.