KENTA, Lance Archer and Kazuchika Okada are setting the early A Block pace! Something’s gotta give. Who comes out undefeated?
Shmoxley in the opening tag team match means we should start off fun. Tanahashi and Sabre are in the battle of, well, someone needs to get at least a point out of that.
Then we’ve got Ospreay and Ibushi who are banged up but most likely still going to be psychopaths in the ring. Let’s get ready for the carnage, I mean, no…I meant carnage.
- Shota Umino & Jon Moxley vs Tomohiro Ishii & Yuya Uemura: Shooter wins via Fisherman Suplex Hold @5:45 – ***
- Hirooki Goto, Jeff Cobb & YOSHI-HASHI vs Toa Henare, Yota Tsuji & Juice Robinson: YOSHI wins via Butterfly Lock @9:30 – ** 1/4
- Tomoaki Honma, Ren Narita & Toru Yano vs Jay White, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi: Owens wins via Package Piledriver @8:50 – ** 1/2
- BUSHI, Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi vs Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru: Suzuki wins via Gotch Style Piledriver @8:35 – ** 1/2
- A Block: KENTA vs Lance Archer: Kenta wins via Game Over @12:00 – ***
- A Block: SANADA vs EVIL: EVIL wins via Everything is Evil @18:10 – **** 1/4
- A Block: Bad Luck Fale vs Kazuchika Okada: Okada wins via Double Legged Cradle @10:15 – ** 1/2
- A Block: Zack Sabre Jr vs Hiroshi Tanahashi: Tanahashi wins via Triangle Counter Pin @13:55 – *** 3/4
- A Block: Kota Ibushi vs Will Ospreay: Ibushi wins via Kamigoye Knee @27:15 – **** 3/4
Moxley and Ishii start off trying to kill one another. This is a great opener and the respective Young Lions have to pull their veteran off as to not incur a disqualification. The Young Lions then take the bulk of the match and Shota has definitely picked up a few mannerisms from Moxley that we slowly see him unlocking. This may be our evolution of Shooter, but for an opening match this was very fun and the fact Moxley and Ishii just want to fight added for a neat dynamic.
Juice and Cobb are both respectful Gaijin faces, so not a lot of heat for this match. Plus YOSHI-HASHI was in it, so I could’ve downed a few Valium and been more invested in staring at a wall. Pork Chop Sandwiches later, and YOSHI-HASHI wins with that awful Butterfly Lock. Great…I can now taste colors.
So Yano wanted to get him a piece of the Jay White on the down turn, but Jay tried to still play the calculating heel. Honma put in a bit of decent work but Narita was obviously the one sent out to eat the pin. Narita held his own against Yujiro and Chase, but Chase eventually stopped playing with his feud and hit the Package Piledriver to tie things up in a nice little bow.
Shingo took a hell of a beating in this match. Kanemaru played random interference and Taichi took Shingo to the woodshed. Naito also continued his distaste of Taichi and Suzuki while being a little protective of Shingo at points. Now being the unabashed fanboy of Shingo, yet also a subscriber to Holy Emperor weekly, I’m very torn about this whole thing. The match played up the G1 tensions and the LIJ vs Suzuki-Gun tensions very well, but my heart knows not which to root for.
Lance is a good foot taller than KENTA and that was the story of the first 75% of this match. Lance was shrugging off the strikes of our returning striker. KENTA was getting effectively crushed, until Lance pushed the anime comeback button and said “You’re fucking Hideo! That’s who you are! HIDEO!” – which prompted the anime comeback in KENTA. KENTA managed to even lift Lance for a few things, but relied heavily on the dropkicks and strikes. He couldn’t quite pull off the Go 2 Sleep, so he went to his Crossface submission, Game Over. And boy howdy, it was game over! (I will see myself out after that)
EVIL and SANADA have this brotherly rivalry in LIJ. Being former 2 time IWGP Heavyweight Tag Champions, familiarity is obvious. SANADA starts off the match quickly and this is definitely a match of quick bursts when the one gets an advantage. I guess they are transitioning SANADA away from the Paradise Lock since this is the second match where he had it mostly on, but “something happened” and the opponent gets out of the move. We get a bunch of great back and forth, but something that continues to plague SANADA is his limited moveset when it gets down to crunch time. EVIL pulled out a plethora of tricks, including using the referee as an anchor for the Magic Killer. Whereas, SANADA sticks to Dragon Sleeper variants, into Skull End attempt or a Moonsault. With how over SANADA is, I really expect him to start getting more crunch time maneuvers. EVIL wins and quickly wants to bury the hatchet by extending the LIJ fist bump. SANADA bumps fists, and all is fine in our ungovernable world.
Fale tends to have Okada’s number in tournaments, and he starts off by attacking him in the back and dragging him out. So we get a typical Bullet Club brawl with heel tactics and ref bumps, but Okada perseveres. Okada is able to lift Fale a few times, but can’t hit the Rainmaker, and wins via the wrestling move he tends to fall back on, the Double Legged Cradle.
Well both Tanahashi and Sabre come into this match 0-2, so there’s a level of desperation that both bring to the table. Sabre wrestled circles around Tanahashi, and Tanahashi just tried to keep up for most of the match. After countering the High Fly Flow, Sabre locks in a Triangle Arm Bar, but Tanahashi floats over for the bridging pin counter. The Ace finally has 2 points!
There have been well known injuries for both of these men, and they played into the story of the match well. Focusing on each other’s injuries, calling back to their Wrestle Kingdom match and just a generally high energy and high impact match. Watching this match, you have to assume one of them will die with their style, but it is damn entertaining. Everyone expected this to be a great match and it delivered.
Overall Score: 8/10
Well we had a lot of good storylines and matches that mostly paid off. Lance Archer has been doing great work, Fale and Okada was at least somewhat entertaining and the cripple fight in the main event was fantastic. The inner faction turmoil was now squashed, so we can have a nice tournament while The Ace gets a few points over the petulant British child.
So great show, great entertainment, and generally a good time. I can only hope the B Block carries equal weight.
Block A Standings:
- Kazuchika Okada: 3-0 (6 Points)
- KENTA: 3-0 (6 Points)
- Lance Archer: 2-1 (4 Points)
- EVIL: 2-1 (4 Points)
- SANADA: 1-2 (2 Points)
- Hiroshi Tanahashi: 1-2 (2 Points)
- Will Ospreay: 1-2 (2 Points)
- Bad Luck Fale: 1-2 (2 Points)
- Kota Ibushi: 1-2 (2 Points)
- Zack Sabre Jr: 0-3 (0 Points)