Tomoaki Honma vs. Toru Yano
Winner: Toru Yano
I like Yano, I do, and I don’t want my criticism of his place in the tournament to be seen as me not liking him. He’s funny, he’s different, and he’s original and entertaining. After all, the guy’s all about the cash and booze, and who can’t support a philosophy like that? But his matches…geez. ”They’re good because they give the other guys a break,” is what I have to keep telling myself. Plus they provide a good break in the action for the live crowd.
Yano knows his role and plays it exceedingly well, and he certainly deserves praise for that. He even fooled me into thinking he was going to wrestle a legit match against Honma when early on he battled back during a suplex spot and seemed to be genuinely going for the win before reverting to classic Yano (tearing away the turnbuckle cover, pulling the ref into the action, etc.). And just as I was about to give up on the match, Yano suckers Honma in with a backslide for a three-count and his first win of the tournament.
YOSHI-HASHI vs. EVIL
The night’s second match pitted CHAOS’ YOSHI-HASHI against Los Ingobernables de Japon’s second in command. (Brief aside here, I think LIJ ends up eventually turning on Tetsuya Naito and EVIL takes over likely inducting or bringing in all new members to join him, SANADA, and Bushi.)
HASHI and EVIL, in addition to preferring their names capitalized, both won their first match of the tournament on night two and had gone winless since. EVIL rushed in as the aggressor but was fended off by HASHI who repelled the attack with a DDT. EVIL rebounded quickly, gaining the upper hand by clotheslining HASHI to the outside and proceeding to stomp him and throw him into the guardrail. (That’s our first guard rail spot of the night for those playing along at home).
EVIL then attacked HASHI with a steel chair, and I cannot stress how angry this makes me. It should be an automatic disqualification and maybe even a loss of points to attack someone with a weapon, and while it’s not the end of the world, it is something that damages the credibility of the tournament in my opinion.
Back in the ring, EVIL continued his attack by locking in half butterfly lock on the taped and presumably hurt or injured left arm of HASHI. In addition to the taped shoulder, HASHI had several large, visible bruises telling the story of what a grueling pace this tournament has been. Despite the injury and bruising, HASHI was the primary offensive force throughout the middle of this match, hitting EVIL with big power move after big power move before colliding with EVIL’s knees on a moon sault attempt.
Evil took over from their landing a big lariat and spinning sit-out powerbomb before calling for the end as the crowd cheered on HASHI. EVIL then missed with the STO attempt and had to drag himself to the ropes to break out of HASHI’s butterfly lock. It’s telling of HASHI’s character that he hasn’t switched up his attacks, namely ditching the butterfly lock as it hasn’t worked all tournament.
What has been working for him are his big running lariats, and he regained the advantage with one after an exchange of forearms and kicks. He went for another moon sault that the crowd seemed for certain would get three, but EVIL slipped his shoulder out at two to everyone’s surprise. HASHI was undeterred however and landed Karma (pump-handle driver) for a three-count victory. Both men were extremely slow in getting up and out of the ring, something we’re likely to see more from everyone as the unforgiving G1 drags on.
Yuji Nagata vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima
Winner: Katsuhiko Nakajima
The fourth match started hot with the relatively reserved Nakajima attacking Nagata before he could even get inside the ring and get his bearings about him. That incurred boos from the crowd and chants for Nagata as Nakajima stayed on the attack, throwing the veteran into the steel post and laying in his patented vicious karate kicks before Nagata rolled back into the ring, barely breaking the count at 18. Once he had gotten his wits about him, however, Nagata was having none of Nakajima’s nonsense as he too laid in a series of brutal forearm strikes and locked in a cross face that looked ready to pop Nakajima’s head off.
Beware the power of old man strength, kids. It’s real; especially when coming from Blue Justice himself. Nagata absorbed Nakajima’s kicks and returned with punishing strikes of his own along with his reputable array of suplexes.
Nakajima would not be denied, though, hitting a leaping snap kick to the back of Nagata’s head from the top rope and high side suplex that almost got three. Nakajima then missed with a running PK and Nagata locked in the sit-down armbar before the two were back up on their feet elbowing and forearming the hell out of one another. Nagata looked to have the upper hand, but Nakajima’s aggressiveness proved too much as he landed the running PK, brainbuster combo and got the win with a three-count.
Apparently, there was some talk pre-match from Nakajima that he and the new generation were better than Nagata’s, and he looked to prove himself in this encounter. Nagata took that about as well he takes any insult (see: not well) although Nakajima was able to back up his claim for at least one night.
Michael Elgin vs. Kenny Omega
Winner: Michael Elgin
The fourth match of the evening had huge implications as Kenny Omega looked to extend his two wins winning streak to three. Across the ring, however, stood IWGP Intercontinental and CMLL Elite Champion Michael Elgin, who, after beating Katsuyori Shibata in his last match vowed not to lose anymore this G1 tournament.
Elgin was attacked pre-match by Buller Club member Taguchi who received a big fist to the throat for his trouble, but it distracted Big Mike long enough for Omega to land with an over-the-top-rope senton. Elgin didn’t stay down for long, though, hitting Omega with a running front kick on the outside and sending him crashing over the guardrail for our third guardrail spot of the night. And yes, we’re counting now, because there’s at least two in every match it seems.
Elgin made an impassioned speech at the end of the night of the previous B BLOCK matches thanking and praising the fans for their interest and support. It seems to have worked as they were hugely behind him in this match. The last time they faced one another, Elgin defeated Omega in the first ever ladder match in New Japan history in addition to crossing paths in various tag matches.
I liked the way this encounter played off the two’s previous contests with Elgin no longer looking like the recent signee eager to prove himself and defeat the villainous Omega, but rather as someone who now has bigger goals in mind and needed to rid himself finally of a bothersome pest. Omega maintained an offensive advantage for most of the match, but Eglin’s reversals and rebound attacks were swift and powerful. A desperate Omega even resorted to trying to pull Elgin down by his beard at one point but was shrugged off with a series of crushing lariats.
Omega managed to land two suplexes and a reverse hurricanrana for two before setting Big Mike on the top turnbuckle for a move that never came as Elgin fended him off three times as Elgin landed a modified belly to back driver which got two. Elgin landed the buckle bomb after that but had his next attempt blocked and reversed into an Omega buckle bomb and then spinning sit-out powerbomb for a close two count. The Bullet Club leader then pointed the fingers and called for the win, but his one winged angel finisher was reversed for a shocking Elgin one winged angel that just barely missed a three.
A reinvigorated Elgin called for a big lariat but was fought off with a knee lift. When Omega came back in a second time with the lariat, he connected but Elgin was unphased, and he then hit a huge spinning sit-out powerbomb for the three-count and victory. With one match down since his vow to lose no more, Elgin has kept his word so far.
Tetsuya Naito vs. Katsuyori Shibata
Winner: Katsuyori Shibata
One of my favorite things about a Naito match is watching him walk to the ring as his toddler-aged fans looked on in glowing admiration of their favorite anti-hero. LIJ may be villains, but people adore Naito. I think the successes seen by EVIL and SANADA this tournament bode well for a legitimate Naito face turn later on this year or early next as they will both have gained enough clout to take over the group, or form a new one, on their own sans Naito.
As for Shibata, you would never know he was a fan favorite judging by the disdain he shows for those who cheer him. He shrugged off their handshakes on the way to the ring, but I saw him crack the smallest of smiles before entering that made me wish he would show a bit more personality than being the ice-cold wrestler he claims to be.
The match began as most do when a smartass like Naito pairs up against a hardass like Shibata. Shibata called for the tie up, and Naito faked out on several attempts before Shibata had finally had enough and delivered a running front kick, sending Naito to the outside. Shibata then ran Naito into three separate guardrails making for our fourth, fifth, and sixth guardrail spot of the night. Naito continued the psychological games on the apparently nonplussed Shibata, faking a reentry to the ring on numerous occasions long enough to break the referee’s count.
Of course, as soon as he did enter, Naito received another running Shibata front kick, but he gained the upper hand on the outside sending Shibata into the railing for the seventh guardrail spot of the night. Naito then went to work, tying up Shibata’s ankle in the security railing and dropkicking it from the apron. Shibata barely broke the count at 18, and I think starting next article I’m going to count the number of barely breaking the ring count spots.
In addition to having his right shoulder and upper arm taped up, Shibata also had tape wrapped around his left knee and Naito focused his attacks on both of these areas throughout the match. He tried laughing off most of The Wrestler’s stern mannerisms but its hard to smile when you’ve got a guy’s elbow rearranging your jaw and kicking you in the face over and over again.
Though Shibata was able to wrest control and maintain an advantage at times, Naito was always able to reverse momentum by returning to his attacks on Shibata’s left knee. He overreached though at one point, and Shibata was able to lock in a heel hold his own to counter Naito’s leg lock, and Shibata was unable to get back to his feet and resume his striking offense. Naito beat him back down to the mat, then landed a top rope shotgun dropkick but caught an STO after Shibata blocked his sweeping shotgun corner kick.
The men then turned to an exchange of exhausted strikes, battling up from their knees to a standing position. While Naito certainly held his own, he could not sustain the pressure and Shibata landed a sleeper then sleeper suplex on a weakened Naito. Sensing victory perhaps, Shibata tried to pick his pacing up but only got a kick to his injured leg from Naito.
Shibata tried going for the running PK, but Naito rolled through and onto his injured leg into a cross knee lock. Shibata battled out of the hold though and after a series of strike exchanges, locked in another sleeper then running PK and guillotine choke that had Naito’s face turn purple and looked ready to pop as he eventually passed out to the hold, giving Shibata the victory.