You read that right, it’s G1 B Block with me! Mathew is on vacation, so I agreed to cover this day as to not intrude on his fun. Hey, it’s not like I haven’t been watching B Block! It’s been outperforming A Block so far, so I’d be dumb not to keep up with it.
SANADA has a chance to make the whole block closer, while Ibushi and Goto have very good matches to prove themselves. Tomohiro Ishii has put on a clinic this G1, so maybe that continues. Or this could always be another average day so the A Block can start catching up in quality.
Perhaps, we should just get to the show to find out?
Zack Sabre Jr vs Tama Tonga
Sabre went from a dominant New Japan Cup, to looking marginally mortal. Tama as we know, doesn’t care about anything right now, so here’s to expected another DQ loss.
HEY LOOK! A DQ! But before that, the match was actually pretty solid. Taka and Loa played hype men to their respective wrestler, and we even see Taka get involved occasionally to try and balance out Tanga Loa’s interference.
So aside from an early bunch of outside shenanigans, the match took place in the ring, and really wasn’t that bad. Tama countered a few submissions nicely, pulling off a crisp Tongan Twist and Ghostface, for a near fall. Zack on the other hand, eventually got to do his submission thing. A bunch of Flying Triangles, Double Wristlocks and multiple variations lead to the ref bump. Yes I mention it like an eventuality, because it’s a Firing Squad match, it kind of is expected now.
Tama grabs the referee while in the middle of a submission which allows Loa to break away from Taka, long enough to get in the ring. Before it goes too far, Sabre moves and Tama Gun Stuns Loa, which gives Sabre the opportunity to sink in another Flying Triangle, causing Tama to tap. But no referee means no victory, so Zack breaks the hold to go get Marty Asami.
When the referee remembers how to see, Tama goes for a quick roll up, but only gets 2. Gun Stun attempt number 3 and Sabre counters into his Jim Breaks Armbar, but not for the submission, for Fale showing up and hitting Sabre with the Grenade, as Asami disqualifies Tama.
Winner: Sabre Jr via DQ
Juice Robinson vs Toru Yano
After his loss to Omega, Juice mentioned that if he lost every G1 match, he’s hand in the US Title belt and quit. Yano on the other hand is continuing his attempt at Fair Play, but still continuing to cheat here and there. Does Yano keep it clean, or does Juice get one step closer to an early retirement?
Well this was a lot of Yano trying his best to not take shortcuts, but he’s still Yano. At one point they both have a turnbuckle duel, which ends in Juice blocking nicely and turning things into an Airplane Spin, which sends both men wobbly and running into each other. From that point Yano pulls off a few amateur wrestling takedowns and pin attempts before we get to spinning Pulp Friction teases. Just round and round they went, until finally Juice got the best of the blender, and landed Pulp Friction.
Finally the US Champion is on the board. He doesn’t have much of a chance in the block, but at least he’s no longer the only man with no wins.
Winner: Juice via Pulp Friction
Rating: *** 1/2
Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii
Both men are in the middle of the block, and have a little bit of history. Ishii has been the MVP of the tournament so far, but we all know what Ibushi is capable of. So let’s see how this one plays out.
Girl damn. The start off driving into each other with Shoulder Tackles, and then we see a flurry of counters and misses that end in the good ole fashioned stare down. From there we go to Ishii being in control as he keeps baiting Ibushi to hit him harder, hit him for real, and just keeps sending Kota backwards with Forearm Strikes. The first few minutes were almost as brutal as the Ishii vs Goto match.
The Kota takes it into the crowd and does one of his signature second story/balcony Moonsaults onto Ishii as the crowd was in full throat with the Yes chant. From there Ibushi seems to almost channel his inner Shinsuke Nakamura. When they get back in, Ibushi starts with short kicks and slaps to Ishii’s head to insult him into squaring up. That goes on a few times, and both men trade ‘big brother’ kind of moments.
Kota hits his Last Ride Powerbomb while falling backwards a little so he just sits out, for a near fall. His first KamiGoye attempt is countered, as Ishii hits his own. Then when Ishii tries the Vertical Drop Brainbuster, Ibushi counters it with one of his own.
After both men steal a finisher, then we go back to strikes. Headbutts from Ishii rock Kota. Ibushi’s kicks glaze over Tomohiro’s eyes. The punishment was on full display as Kota hits a Sliding Knee for only a 1 count. At that point there’s a few more strikes until Ibushi grabs Ishii’s wrist, kicks him in the top of his head, which sends him down to his knees, and Ibushi takes the opening to land KamiGoye.
This match will be towards the top of most people’s lists in the G1. We’ve still got 9 more nights if you include the Finals, but this was tremendous.
Winner: Ibushi via KamiGoye Knee Strike
Rating: **** 3/4
Hirooki Goto vs Tetsuya Naito
Retracing the history between these two is an article itself. So let’s just say, they know each other well, Naito has gotten the better of most matches lately, but Goto has proven to be a challenge on occasion.
Coming off such a fantastic match, the sloppy aspects of this match were more obvious. An early slide in to intercept Naito looked odd, they had some weird tangle which made no sense and Goto transitioned a Destino counter very poorly. These all may seem like nit picks, but this match also didn’t do anything overly spectacular.
Naito took advantage of a lot of situations, Goto showed a lot of heart, but there is a noticeable gap between the level of these wrestlers. Goto landed a Reverse GTR, but could never land a normal one. The only real surprising spot was when Naito hit a full Destino, and Goto kicked out. This merely prompted Naito to do another, and pick up his 8th point of the tournament.
The match was fine, just poorly positioned, so the slip ups were more egregious than usual.
Winner: Naito via Destino
Rating: *** 1/4
SANADA vs Kenny Omega
These two men met up last year, and Omega moved passed him without much challenge. This year SANADA is in a position to not only help himself, but help his LIJ leader Tetsuya Naito, if he can put a blemish on Omega’s record.
Well SANADA was the overall favorite and played babyface in the match. Early on he knocks Omega to the outside, and Omega moves out of the way anticipating a Tope, but SANADA catches himself and holds the ropes open for Omega. Kenny never takes his eyes off SANADA, but SANADA allows him to get in. The crowd cheers, SANADA claps for good sportsmanship and as he tries to get in, Kenny dropkicks his knee.
That ends up playing a big part in the match, since many of Omega’s strikes aim for the injured knee, where a lot of SANADA’s offense needs his legs. Eventually we see Omega slip up and SANADA puts a few moments together, fighting through the pain to land a few dropkicks and a Plancha to the outside. At this point it seems a little more even, but a big highlight spot is when SANADA gets shot into the corner, does the Flair/Misawa up and over, then attempts a Springboard Dropkick only to get caught into a Powerbomb. I think Omega did something similar in one of his Okada matches, but the spot is still cool.
From there we see both men trading strikes, playing to the crowd and trying to get small advantages. SANADA is only ever really able to get Skull End once, but let’s go to attempt his Moonsault, but misses that. SANADA however has kind of turned into a greatest hits of AJPW with his moveset. Mutoh Moonsault, Misawa up and over with the ropes and even pulling off a few Tiger Suplexes.
Even though we did see a lot more from SANADA this year, the match went the way most predicted. Omega and SANADA jocky for position, counter a few moves, until Omega gets him mostly set for the One Winged Angel, and good night SANADA. Omega moves to a perfect 10 points, and SANADA is still positioned okay with 6, but someone has to figure out how to slow down the champion.
Winner: Omega via One Winged Angel
Rating: **** 1/4
B Block Standings:
Kenny Omega 5-0 (10 Points)
Tetsuya Naito: 4-1 (8 Points)
SANADA: 3-2 (6 Points)
Kota Ibushi: 3-2 (6 Points)
Zack Sabre Jr: 3-2 (6 Points)
Tomohiro Ishii: 2-3 (4 Points)
Hirooki Goto: 2-3 (4 Points)
Tama Tonga: 1-4 (2 Points)
Juice Robinson: 1-4 (2 Points)
Toru Yano: 1-4 (2 Points)
Ya know, just when I think A Block might start picking up steam, Ibushi and Ishii knock it out of the park. Nothing was bad this day. Hell, even the Tongan DQ City match was good until the ending. So hey, at least I got to cover one of these and know what it’s like to be on the side of the blocks with the good stuff going on.
Also it should be mentioned that Omega is playing up the brash confidence even going as far to say Sabre Jr isn’t anywhere near his level. So, maybe that’s a precursor to Omega picking up his first loss? Okada was 6-0 last year before he ran into EVIL. Just saying, Zack could always get a big upset to change the complexion of the tournament.