Toru Yano vs. Yuji Nagata
Winner: Toru Yano
Yano starts by powdering and screaming—so much screaming—while a frustrated and impatient Nagata looks on from the ring. The crowd has a big laugh at the proceedings, and all I’m thinking is, “Can we just get an arm-bar, some rolled back eyes and be done with this already?” Nagata goes back on his word as Yano attempts to reenter because apparently, Blue Justice doesn’t give a damn about keeping his words. After that, Nagata started putting the boots to him and working over the left arm. After a bit of squirming, Nagata finally locks on the armbar, but because Gedo has a dumb sense of humor, Yano gets to the ropes then rolls out of the ring. And here is where the dumbest, most inane, idiotic, worthless and, if I’m honest, most brilliant wins of this year’s G1 Climax.
As Yano rolls out of the ring, he reaches under it grabbing an object, at first I thought it was maybe talcum powder, but it turns out to be trainer’s tape. Nagata gives chase, landing some hard kicks but Yano trips him up and starts binding his legs together with the tape out in the aisle near the entrance. Yano finishes at the count of 15, returns to the ring, and leaves a helpless Nagata to take a count-out loss giving Yano his third (yes, third…THIRD!) win of the tournament.
YOSHI-HASHI vs. Michael Elgin
Winner: Michael Elgin
Hashi took the early advantage when the match spilled to the outside, attacking Elgin’s hurt and taped left arm in the steel guardrail (first spot of the night) then ramming into the ring post. HASHI’s offense continued in the ring, focusing on the left arm, while Elgin fought back with big chops. HASHI became overzealous in his efforts, though, and Elgin blocked a move attempt from the apron with a high kick to HASHI’s skull and an over-the-top splash back into the ring followed by two massive German suplexes.
And that was the fundamental tone and pattern to this match; HASHI would mount a series of attacks that seemed to be building toward his winning momentum only for Elgin to power out or respond with a thunderous lariat. HASHI would have a major power spot, like power bombing Elgin out of the corner from the second rope only for Elgin to kick out and then respond moments later with an even bigger move of his own, like perplexing HASHI from the outside apron and off the top rope. You can’t out-big Big Mike, YOSHI. Elgin won with the buckle bomb, spinning sit-out powerbomb combo for a three count victory.
Tomoaki Honma vs. EVIL
These two started off tentatively in the ring before going to the outside where EVIL landed a gnarly chair attack. He wrapped the seat of the chair around Honma’s head and then bashed in that chair with another chair. Everything is evil, indeed. EVIL maintained control for most of this match. Though it looked like Honma might make a late comeback after hitting the Kokeshi Otoshi, he missed the top rope headbutt, and EVIL quickly took advantage. One fireman’s carry bomb and an STO later and EVIL had a pinfall victory.
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Kenny Omega
Winner: Katsuyori Shibata
Shibata started this match over-aggressively as he no doubt looked to overcome his previous losses by not holding back and risking it all early on. Omega, still a heel technically by way of his position in The Bullet Club, but sort of a face, by the way the crowd cheers for him and from how well he fights from underneath and elicits sympathy for his efforts. I feel like there’s a crossroad coming soon in his future where he’ll need to cement his heel status with a single horrendous act or give the fans what they seem to want, which is a heroic Kenny Omega. In this match, though, Omega just couldn’t mount a capable response to Shibata’s onslaught and eventually had his One-Winged Angel reversed into a sleeper which set up Shibata’s running PK and gave Shibata a three-count and victory.
Tetsuya Naito vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima
Winner: Tetsuya Naito
The “Battle of I Don’t Want To Be Here Any More Than You Do, But I Will Kill You If I Have To” started off slow and painstaking with Naito feigning disinterest and Nakajima looking bored with having to go more than a few minutes without kicking off someone’s face. Naito primarily worked over Nakajima’s legs both to slow down his kick focused offense and to possibly set up the heel hook he’s been using during the tournament for later on. Nakajima sold the leg consistently throughout, attempting to revive it on occasions prefacing one of his kick attacks. The two went back and forth with several near fall moments, but Naito got the win after reversing Nakajima’s brainbuster attempt into Destino for the three-count victory.
It would seem that as we move into the second half of the G1, New Japan is settling into its likely preferred outcome of having Okada or Tanahashi win BLOCK A and either Naito, Elgin, or Shibata winning BLOCK B. Right now the popular opinion is behind Naito emerging as victor with a smaller contingent thinking Shibata is finally poised to make good on his long-delayed promise and potential. But I’m holding out for the emerging Elgin as BLOCK B winner. I think his vow not to lose after his first victory coupled with the growing fan support might be enough to sway Gedo into putting him the finals and even winning the whole thing. Stay tuned G1-eers, things are about to get interesting in BLOCK B.