YOSHI-HASHI vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima
Nakajima’s been slowly crossing the threshold from confident outsider to arrogant favorite since his win against Yuji Nagata during the previous set of B BLOCK matches. HASHI set him straight early on, getting the advantage with a couple of shoulder tackles and bodyslams. But he was too slow getting up to the top turnbuckle when Nakajima turned the tide with a spinning heel kick that sent HASHI to the floor. Nakajima followed that up with a standing PK from the apron and went to work with methodical strikes to a downed HASHI. Our first and second guardrail spot of the night came next when HASHI was sent through the gate and into the crowd, which Nakajima followed up with a front kick to HASHI’s forearm which he had wrapped around the steel railing.
Back inside the ring, HASHI wasn’t able to get much going, and what little he could Nakajima quickly repelled with a well-placed kick, well-timed dodge, or attack focused on HASHI’s injured, taped left arm. HASHI his usual underdog comeback spots but couldn’t get the pinfall. The finishing sequence was quite exciting, however, with Nakajima hitting three outlandish superkicks, a running PK and then having his brainbuster attempt reversed by HASHI who then hopped up and landed his big lariat after Nakajima missed a second PK attempt. This setup HASHI’s pump handle driver that he hit harder than I’ve ever seen before and looked like it might snap Nakajima’s head clean off.
I wasn’t a big fan of the outcome of this match even though I understand why it makes sense. With the first half of the tournament over it’s time to start wrapping up the unlikely possibilities (Tenzan winning, a deep run for either NOAH entrant, Tanahashi losing, etc.) and get into the fan service story telling. In that case, it meant adding a win to Hashi to give a New Japan guy some added credibility given that he likely won’t win another match for this tournament.
Michael Elgin vs. Yuji Nagata
Elgin started off by showing that he was not to be underestimated by the veteran Nagata—who has a tendency to look down on the younger generation—when he dropped him to his knees with an elbow strike that made Nagata grab onto his jaw like he was afraid it was going to detach from his skull. I’ve seen a lot of forearm strikes and smashes this tournament, but that was by far the biggest and strongest.
Nagata fought back with light kicks but got laid out again when Elgin rocked him with a spinning forearm smash to the back of his head. Nagata’s slower movement during this match and the cup therapy marks that covered his back are a sign that the grueling demands of the G1 are starting to wear on his old body and while his attacks were still impactful they couldn’t hold up to Elgin’s power and surprising endurance. A buckle bomb followed by a spinning sit-out powerbomb did the trick and Elgin picked up his third victory of the tournament.
Toru Yano vs. Katsuyori Shibata
Winner: Toru Yano
It would seem the New Japan gods are still not quite satisfied with the atonement of one Katsuyori Shibata. They are, however, big fans of cash and booze apparently judging by their decision to give Yano the beyond shocking win here. Shibata apparently showed no respect for Yano at the match’s start—something he might want to consider starting as it seems everyone he takes lightly beats him—aggresively attacking Yano with kicks and a suplex with little regard as to whether or not Yano could mount a comeback.
That led to Yano cowering in the corner, and removing its padding, but he was able to duck out of the way fast enough to cause a running Shibata to collide headfirst with the exposed turnbuckle. Yano then turned a low blow into a roll-up which got two but he caught Shibata’s kick immediately afterward for another roll-up, and that got the three count. Shibata can still run the table and have a share of the final lead but taking a late loss like this to someone of Yano’s “unique caliber” makes me think winning the tournament is quickly becoming out of reach for Shibata.
Kenny Omega vs. EVIL
Winner: Kenny Omega
Night ten’s battle of the bad guys started with the Bullet Club’s leader slapping and mocking Los Ingobernables de Japon’s second-in-command before tossing EVIL to the outside via huricanranna. EVIL attempted to bring a steel chair inside the ring but was rebuked by the ref. That distracted him long enough for Omega to take advantage and hit a hard baseball slide at full speed into the chair directly into EVIL’s face. How this didn’t split him open is beyond me. EVIL gathered himself and sent Omega into the guardrail for our second guardrail spot of the night.
Omega quickly recovered and attempted a springboard off the railing (but not before kindly thanking a fan for holding it still for him) but he caught a steel chair from EVIL to the gut for his troubles. Omega then blocked the steel chair wrap-around into the ring post attack that EVIL’s been using all tournament and narrowly avoided a crushing chair shot that knocked lose the seating portion of the weapon. Omega tried suplexing EVIL onto the broken chair but was blocked and then suplexed onto the floor before being suplexed again, this time onto the broken chair giving him a nasty laceration across his left shoulder blade area.
Oddly enough, the ref started his count at this point when EVIL returned to the ring, and it made me realize he hadn’t been counting for the entire early outside-the-ring sequence. The fans were for Omega by a nearly unanimous margin, and he wrestled this match much like a face-in-peril scenario, coming back and fending off EVIL’s power attacks. Omega won via pinfall victory after hitting the One-Winged Angel and grabbed a piece of the lead with this third win this tournament.
Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomoaki Honma
Winner: Tetsuya Naito
This was a dull and pedestrian match with its most interesting point being a spot wherein Naito lounged on the canvas to count along with the ref for a downed Honma who barely broke the count at 19. Other than that, the match was predictable; Honma sincerely wanted to win and demanded Naito take the proceedings seriously, and Naito looked like he could not have possibly cared less. Aside from that, Naito hit the technical spots of the match and Honma hit the power spots. Nothing great, nothing terrible, and Naito won with Destino.