Ha ha ha ha I’ll catch up before the end of the weekend… anyways, let’s keep this train moving. There’s nothing that stands out immediately in these shows, so we’ll see if there’s any surprises in store for us.
I’m not sure what building they’re in, or even what town they’re in for this show, but it’s one of the coolest buildings they’ve been in. One wall is practically all giant windows, flooding the arena in natural light and providing a very different backdrop than normal.
Tomohiro Ishii (2-2) vs Tama Tonga (1-3): Ishii is my favorite wrestler, so I’m hoping he mops the floor with Tonga. Tonga has been improving as the tournament goes on, and he’s still much better than fellow Bullet Club member Yujiro Takahashi. Ishii is on a roll though, winning his last two matches against Marujuji and Fale, two big names. In theory, Tonga shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Tonga’s entire strategy seems to be that he wins any brawls outside the ring, even against a guy like Ishii. He has a few moves in his arsenal specifically designed to be used against the barricade. So he’ll take advantage out there, dominate for a few minutes inside the ring, but then get murdered. Tonga continues to add moves to his repertoire in general, this time an Alabama Slam. Tonga won by countering the brainbuster into a Gun Stun, then another Gun Stun for the pin. ***
SANADA (2-2) vs Bad Luck Fale: (1-3): Fale needs to get back on track pretty badly. You can always count on him to finish in the top 3 of his block, but he needs wins now. SANADA though has proven that he can’t be taken lightly, and his Skull’s End finisher is deadly. But few moves compare to the Bad Luck Fall, which Fale has yet to hit this tournament.
SANADA took the fight to the floor, and choked Fale with his bat, but soon enough Fale snapped. He dragged SANADA down the ramp, slamming the guardrail into him several times. SANADA countered the Grenade until a hurricanrana, but Fale powered out of the Skull’s End. Fale avoided his kryptonite, the backslide, and finally landed the Grenade. Visibly annoyed, he hoisted SANADA up and ended it with the Bad Luck Fall. ***
Togi Makabe (4-0) vs Naomichi Marufuji (2-2): Makabe is the only undefeated wrestler in the tournament. Huh. Didn’t see that coming. Makabe always does well, but doing this well as been a surprise. With one more win, Makabe would almost be guaranteed to win Block A. It would take an epic collapse to go 5-0 and still not win the block. But he’ll have to get through Marufuji, who has proven extremely dangerous this tourney, with victories over Okada and Tenzan.
Marufuji has cool entrance music. Everything Makabe does besides his finishing combo just bores me. Marufuji tries to add some energy to the match, and has mixed results. Makabe no sells Marufuji’s kicks, and the look at Marufuji’s face is priceless as he gets clotheslined. Marufuji eventually won with a series of kicks and the Shiranui, handing Makabe his first loss. **1/2
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2-2) vs Kazuchika Okada (3-1): After losing on Night 1, Okada has been on a roll, winning three in a row. This is going to be do or die for the Tenzan Retirement Tour. A loss against the IWGP champion will give him a losing record, and I’m not sure he can come back from that. But it’s no small task to beat the champ, and Okada certainly isn’t going to go easy on Tenzan.
Okada is super cocky against Old Man Tenzan. That’s really the most interesting thing about this match. Okada gets hurt by Tenzan’s Mongolian Chops, but is never in any real danger, at least until Tenzan lands a scoop piledriver followed by the Anaconda Buster. Tenzan’s chest looks like it still hasn’t healed from his fight against Marufuji. Okada goes for the Rainmaker, but eats a headbutt straight to the face! And another! Tenzan is too slow climbing the turnbuckle for the moonsault, and is grabbed from behind for a German Suplex/Rainmaker combo. The last few minutes saved this from being completely average. And you have to feel for Tenzan a bit, whose body just couldn’t get it done. ***
Hiroshi Tanahashi (1-3) vs Hirooki Goto (2-2): Tanahashi got the monkey off his back by beating Bad Luck Fale in his last match and earning his first points. But he needs to keep winning. With Makabe and Okada pulling ahead in points, Tanahashi pretty much can’t lose the rest of the way. Goto will certainly be looking to put Tanahashi down for the count. Goto needs to prove he can hang with the main eventers, especially when guys like SANADA or Tama Tonga have wins over them.
I had a hard time getting into this match. Probably because of Goto-malaise, and the fact that the narrative pretty much assure that’s Tanahashi is winning out at least until his match against Okada. They’re doing all the big spots, like the High Fly Flow to the outside, but I just don’t care. Maybe it’s the repetition of the tournament. Goto powers up like a Dragonball Z character, but his kick still can’t keep Tanahashi down. Goto keeps trying to put Tanahashi to sleep with a sleeper hold, but can’t. Tanahashi wins with the High Fly Flow, and Goto loses another main event. ***
Katsuhiko Nakajima (3-1) vs YOSHI-HASHI (2-2). Both these guys have done very well for themselves so far. It’s both of their first G1, but Nakajima definitely feels like he belongs. YOSHI is still finding his footing I feel, but as a scrappy underdog he is getting the crowd behind him. Nakajima has worked best as heel, so I expect so vicious kicks while YOSHI runs around coming from behind.
Nakajima veers from his normal course, and targets YOSHI’s arm instead of just kicking willy-nilly. YOSHI still has his shoulder taped, I think since he took a top rope kokeshi from Honma on night 4. YOSHI hit his usually goofy offense, and showed some “fighting spirit” as Nakajima suplexed him a few times. YOSHI got a surprising win (well, I was surprised) with his pump-handle driver, which has so far been devastating in this tournament. ***
Yuji Nagata (3-1) vs Michael Elgin (2-2): Nagata got off to a hot start, but hit his first roadblock against Nakajima in his last match. It will be interesting to see if that affects him going forward. A win vs Big Mike would be big for Nagata, and get him back into a title picture, which is something he always craves. Elgin has been super impressive this tournament, but if anyone knows how to counter his overpowering strength, it’s a veteran like Nagata.
One of the things that makes Elgin so good is he’s not just a big strong guy. He’s also very quick and agile with some stiff strikes. It’s a hard combination to stand up against, especially when your as old as Nagata and your body doesn’t work like it used to. We saw it on the last show with Tenzan not climbing the ropes fast enough, and we see it here as Nagata is unable to follow up the backdrop driver with a pin. For these older guys, the grind of the tournament is especially tough. Nagata counters the Elgin Bomb with an armbar, so Elgin gives him a Death Valley Driver on the apron. That seems excessive. Elgin eventually wins with the Elgin Bomb. ***
Katsuyori Shibata (2-2) vs Toru Yano (1-3): It’s also time for Shibata to start to pull away from the rest of the pack. But Yano is the great equalizer. However, if there’s one guy who isn’t going to put up with any of Yano’s shit, it’s Shibata. Yano goes into every match with an equal chance of winning or losing, but at least we know its going to be quick either way.
Sure enough, Yano throws his water at Shibata, and gets a boot right in the face. Yano ducks past a sleeper attempt and traps Shibata’s leg for a pin and win. Yep, that was quick. *1/2
Kenny Omega (2-2) vs EVIL (1-3): It’s the Bullet Club Elite vs Los Ingobernables. B Block is a logjam of people with no one really pulling ahead, but I think it’s time for Omega to start to separate himself from guys like EVIL. Also, I will love a Bullet Club/LIJ feud, but I will love most things LIJ does, so there ya go.
These two brawl outside early until EVIL nails Omega with a Fisherman Suplex on a propped up chair. Omega has a big gash on his back from the chair. EVIL counters Omega’s attempts at a comeback with brute strength. Omega his a very impressive deadlift powerbomb. Omega has these long longs that makes his knee strikes so impressive and quick. The One-Winged Angel finishes off EVIL in a short but good match. ***1/2
Tomoaki Honma (2-2) vs Tetsuya Naito (2-2): I don’t think anyone had these guys with the same record going into this match. Naito’s casual attitude often hurts him when it comes to actually earning victories, but not as much as Honma’s affinity for missing diving headbutts. I have Naito winning the whole tournament, so while Honma will certainly knock him around some, Naito should get a victory here. Interesting note, it was while teaming with Honma last year that Naito’s heel character really started to show.
Naito goes after Honma’s leg, and then drops him down near the stage for a close count out victory. This is the epitome of a Heel Naito style match, where there’s a lot of stalling and laying around, but it’s still entertaining. It also sets Honma up for the inverted Figure Four, which Naito has been using this tournament. Honma makes his comeback of course, ending with a brutal looking brainbuster. There’s some really good back and forth near the end, with Honma missing the top rope Kokeshi before Naito finally hits Destino. The slower part at the beginning stops this from being much higher then ***1/2
A little over halfway through the tournament, let’s take a look at the blocks. In Block A, Okada and Makabe are pulling away with 8 points apiece, with Marufuji right behind them and every one else lagging. Keep an eye on Tanahashi though, moving his way up. Block B… Block B has a 6-way tie for first place. It’s literally easier to list the people not in first place. Some wrestlers are gaining momentum, some are losing it, but it’ll take a few more shows to sort things out.