Night 2 of the G1 Climax featured matches from the B Block. The B Block has less star power than the A Block, but that is balanced by Tetsuya Naito being in B Block. And I’m a big fan on Naito.
Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Toru Yano: Nakajima, like Marufuji in A Block, is from Pro Wrestling NOAH, and I’ve never seen him wrestle before. He’s young, and no doubt eager to prove himself in the tournament. Yano is an undisputed wrestling genius, and I love his gimmick. Not everyone does, but I find his constant cheating and shortcuts very entertaining. Yano is a threat to beat any wrestler at any given time. He provides an unorthodox challenge for Nakajima.
Yano busts out his bag of tricks, including undoing the turnbuckle pads and tying Nakajima to the barrier outside the ring. He is thrown into his own exposed turnbuckle though, and Nakajima finishes him off with kicks and brainbuster. This was a short showcase match for Nakajima. **
Kenny Omega vs YOSHI-HASHI: Kenny Omega has had a run of bad luck lately. He lost the Intercontinental Title, and lost the NEVER Openweight 6-man titles. The G1 is a big chance for himself to prove he belongs in the main event scene. YOSHI-HASHI is just trying to prove he belongs in the tournament at all. He rarely wrestlers in singles matches, and is the low man on the CHAOS totem pole. He’s had a few really good singles matches in the past year, so this is really a chance to show people how good he can be.
This is a really good match, with Omega showing a viciousness that is often missing. He hits two brutal dragon suplexes, which just folded YOSHI in half. YOSHI used up most of his signature moves early, and had to resort to a few moves I haven’t seen him use before. Kenny had some nice knee strikes, but YOSHI used a Boma Ye! Then he won with a, well, a wrist clutch driver? Not sure what I would call that, but the match was quite good, and YOSHI HASHI got a huge win. ***1/2
EVIL vs Michael Elgin: What a difference a year makes for Michael Elgin. Last year, people were disappointed that he was in the G1. After a very successful tournament, he really went on a roll, and is the current Intercontinental Champion. He signed a two year deal with New Japan, and really has impressed with his power game. EVIL came back to New Japan last year as well, joining Los Ingobernables. This is set up to be a hoss battle for sure.
EVIL dominated early, taking control out on the floor. Elgin is the stronger of the two, but EVIL is the more viscous. Elgin paid homage to his tag partner Tanahashi with a BIG splash off the top rope. That’s always so impressive when big guys do that. The match has been kinda slow, but they kick it into high gear with a series of strong strikes and suplexes, climaxing with EVIL hitting EVIL for the win. This was a fine match, but had trouble keeping my attention until the end. ***
Tetsuya Naito vs Yuji Nagata: I figured Naito was going to have a good year this year, and boy has he ever. He won the New Japan Cup and beat Okada for the IWGP title. Of course, he lost the title back to Okada, but he is my pick to win the G1 Climax. Nagata is a member of the Third Generation, and while he looks his age, he can still go in the ring.
Naito attacks Nagata’s leg, putting Nagata in a figure four leglock while mocking Nagata’s taunt. Naito’s character has come so far it’s amazing. In last year’s tournament, he was still working on his heel tendencies. Here they are in full display. Nagata is having none of that though, and just starts kicking the shit out of Naito has Naito scrambles to counter. The ending is really exciting, as the two counter and avoid each other until Nagata lands a Backdrop Driver for the win. ***1/2.
Tomoaki Honma vs Katsuyori Shibata: Honma broke his losing streak in last year’s G1, beating longtime rival Ishii. He went on to have the best year of his New Japan career, winning the IWGP tag titles with partner Togi Makabe. It will be interesting to see if he resumes his losing ways or not. Shibata is the current NEVER champion after having won a brilliant feud for respect from New Japan’s Third Generation. This two are going to go out and stiff each other, and it’s going to be great.
Sure enough, they open with brutal elbow exchanges in each other’s faces. The match doesn’t leg up either as they take turns chopping each other in the throat. Over and over again. The match is just a brutal as expected, and Shibata has a choke locked in really tight before Honma is above to turn it into a piledriver. He then piledrives Shibata two more times before hitting a kokeshi headbutt off the top rope for a big upset win! ***1/2
Night 2 was a night of upsets. I went 1 for 5 in my picks, which is… less then great. There was also no standout matches this night, but I wasn’t expecting 4 stars from any of these matches except maybe the main event, which didn’t quite kick it into high enough gear for me to go higher. Night 3 doesn’t look great either, though Ishii vs Goto and Okada vs SANADA should be good.