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Hiroyoshi Tezan vs. Togi Makabe
Winner: Togi Makabe
This match had the built-in drama of giving designated sympathetic favorite Hiroyoshi Tenzan a chance at grabbing part of the points lead. The veteran hero still bore the marks of torn skin, made freshly raw on his chest suffered at the hands of the near-murderous Naomichi Marufuji in the previous night of A BLOCK matches. Despite all that, you could have never guessed there was any urgent for need Tenzan to win judging by the pace.
It was a slow, mostly plodding affair that even included a counted-punches-in-the-corner-spot by Makabe at one point. The remainder of the match consisted of trading chops, of both the Mongolian and knife edge variety, head butts, lariats and Tenzan’s usual spinning heel kick and moon sault spots.
Makabe weathered Tenzan’s attacks and won with the Gorilla Knee drop. An interesting bit of drama occurred after the match, when Satoshi Kojima was consoling a visibly upset Tenzan, Makabe conferred with the ref and seemed genuinely surprised he got a three count. It is unlikely that there was a legitimate mistake made in giving the win to Makabe, but it would be curious to learn Tenzan missed a kick-out. Even still, a nice little touch of realism from all involved.
SANADA vs. Hirooki Goto
Goto was in control early on when the match began inside the ring, but when it spilled outside SANADA took over, executing an Irish whip into the guardrails and a fireman’s carry’s toss that had Goto take the brunt of the impact from the steel railing with his throat. Goto fought back to the offensive after hitting a standing side kick on a running SANADA followed by a spinning heel kick in and suplex out of the corner. SANADA regained control after Goto errantly flew over the top rope, landing some back elbows and locking in Skull End for an extended period.
The pace picked up after Goto hit a top rope sunset flip power bomb and SANADA responded with a series of forearm elbow strikes delivered with much more aggression than normal from the young star. Goto landed the ushigoroshi (fireman’s carry that drops the back of the head onto the knee) and went for a second attempt SANADA reversed and which Goto countered with a sleeper.
An interesting exchange occurred when SANADA locked in Skull End off a back flip only for it to get reversed into a GTR attempt which itself got reversed back into Skull End and back into the GTR capped off with the escaping SANADA landing an enzuigiri then later a fireman’s carry cutter. He eventually locked in Skull End, but Goto fought it off only for SANADA to relinquish the hold voluntarily and end the match with a quick top rope moon sault for the pinfall victory.
Naomichi Marufuji vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Winner: Tomohiro Ishi
Fun exchange of running shoulder blocks to start as both men run at and crash into each other with complete abandon. Marufuji then starts in with chops and Ishii with headbutts and forearms. Ishii looked like he regretted taking the chops early on. Everyone from A BLOCK is going to have scars all over the right side of their chest for life. Ishii is as tough as they come and he took Marufuji’s chops as good as anyone, calling for more to the raucous cheers of support from the crowd even stepping into them at one point.
After knocking Marufuji back and down, he was able to land a pinning power bomb. He then missed with the sliding lariat and wound up taking a snap kick to the head for his troubles and got his top rope brain buster reversed with a blockbuster. Marufuji went quickly back to the offensive, hitting a knee lift, lariat, and crescent kick after having his fisherman suplex fought off. Ishii blocked the blockbuster move into a running side slam which Ishii followed up with the sliding lariat that surprisingly only got two.
Ishii played to the crowd before attempting a lariat that got blocked for a crescent kick, returned with an enzuigiri and then with another crescent kick. Ishii was able to get two off another lariat, and the crowd was at a fever pitch by this point, counting along after Ishii hit a brainbuster to get a pinfall victory.
Tama Tonga vs. Kazuchika Okada
Winner: Kazuchika Okada
Tell me, how can a jacked up, scary-looking Samoan guy with a painted face manage to be so annoying? I don’t know how, but Tonga manages somehow. As for the match, Okada started off a little more confident than he’s been for this G1, likely because he doesn’t respect Tonga’s abilities. Notable early moments saw Okada connecting with a basement dropkick to the back of the seated Tonga’s head.
Okada missed with an over the top senton from the apron when Tonga countered with a cutter that dropped the champion out to the floor where Tonga draped him throat first over the guardrail as has been the fashion for most outside encounters this tournament season. Being the arrogant, cocky heel that he is, Tonga leisurely capitalized with easy pin attempts and that most dreaded of all moves, the reverse chin lock. Okada picked up the pace with a flying spinning back elbow and corner splash followed buy a running heel kick. Okada’s tombstone attempt was blocked and countered by Tonga’s fireman’s carry flapjack into a reversed twisting neck breaker out of an inverted DDT position.
Tonga had the advantage here but opted to mug for the crowd rather than go for the win and soon Okada fought back with a flapjack of his own. Tonga responded with a top rope clothesline that got two, but he chose to rest rather than follow up. Okada landed a back-to-belly-neck-driver he then followed with a top rope elbow drop.
The finishing sequence saw Tonga reverse the Rainmaker into a cutter attempt which Okada fended off only to be overtaken by a Tonga hurricanrana. Okada rebounded with his patented dropkick to then have the Rainmaker blocked again as Tonga managed to connect with a cradle DDT. He only got a count of two before having another cutter attempt blocked. Tonga blocked a Tombstone before missing with a top rope clothesline which Okada turned into a German suplex and then the Rainmaker for three.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Bad Luck Fale
Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi
Tonga came to the ring looking for the entire world like a changed man, including visible gray hairs peaking through his usually golden-colored mane (though it may have just been white coloured streaks themselves). In a recent interview he claimed that his third loss was his breaking point, but upon entry, it remained to be seen if that means he was broken beyond repair or finally decided to stop accepting losses.
The crowd chanted Tanahashi’s name as Bad Luck Fale looked with more concern and respect than he had shown any other opponent throughout the tournament. The start was reminiscent of Hulk Hogan’s fights against WWF’s big man monster of the month club in the 1980s. It was long before Fale had enough of the pesky Tonga and threw him outside the barricaded ringside area and began beating him with one of the detached railings (yes, the whole railing).
Back into the ring, and Tanahashi suffered a sit out splash after failing to get the big man over on a sunset flip attempt, Fale continued his assault with short arm shoulder charges, strikes and stomps go Tonga. The match continued along the similar path of smaller hero versus giant monster with nostalgic moments like a nerve hold and body slam spot. Fale’s not just any big man and he can be surprisingly versatile when he wants to be, though, like when he hit a huge baseball slide on Tonga and the followed up with a second instance of outside the ring attacks. Tonga absorbed more punishment back inside the ring including a giant splash that was preceded by a running knee lift while he was caught in the tree of woe.
Fale went for the Grenade only for Tonga to fight out and try for a failed leaping DDT which Fale reversed into a sidewalk slam. Fale then had his crucifix powerbomb reversed into a roll up pinning combination that got two. Building on his momentum, Tanahashi connected with a sling blade and then the high fly flow. But Tanahashi got greedy, and caught a knee to the face on his second HFF attempt and soon found himself on the losing end of a forearm exchange with Fale, who again was denied the Grenade when Tanahashi laid him out with a palm strike.
Tonga’s third HFF attempt failed, and Fale was able to finally land the Grenade but only got two. The crowd was screaming when Fale picked up Tonga for another try at the crucifix powerbomb but lucky for them and Tonga, he reversed it into a back slide for the win and his first victory of the 26th annual G1 Climax Tournament.
Match Most Likely To Make Me Weep for the Unforgiving Passage of Time: Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Match Most Likely To Make Me Remember How Incredibly Long and Tiring the G1 Is: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Togi Makabe
Match Most Likely To Make Me Miss A Time When Samoans Were Wild Instead Of Boring: Tama Tonga vs. Kazuchika Okada
Match Most Likely To Remind Me I Could Never Be a Wrestler: Naomichi Marufuji vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Match Most Likely To Make Me Wish the Tournament Blocks Had 8 Men Instead Of 10: SANADA vs. Hirooki Goto