The B Block had their fifth night of action in front of 5,735 at the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium. Including the tags, there were ten matches on the show but all throughout the tournament I’ll only be discussing what happened in block action. Tonight the B Block featured five tournament matches. Let’s get into what happened!
Zack Sabre Jr. (3-2) def. Tama Tonga (1-4) @ 10:59 via Disqualification – **1/2
TAKA comes out and does his usual hyping for Sabre before his match but today Tanga Loa comes out and does the same for Tama. When he took the microphone I audibly groaned but it actually wasn’t too bad, all things considered. Both Sabre and Tama traded outside help with Loa tripping Sabre and TAKA tripping Tama. There was a fun exchange with Sabre countering out of the Tongan Twist and trading go-behinds and roll ups. Tama went for the Gun Stun but Sabre pushed him off, applied the Sleeper and transitioned into the Triangle Choke. Throwing the referee to the ground, Tama buys time for Loa to come in and lay the boots to Sabre but counters Loa’s Powerbomb into a Guillotine Choke which opens him up for a neckbreaker from Tama. Sabre sidesteps another Gun Stun, puts Tama into a Triangle, forcing a tap but the referee is still down. When Sabre lets go to wake up the referee, Tama rolls him up for two but Sabre transitions into an armbar. Fale runs in, hits Sabre with a Grenade which results in another DQ for the Firing Squad. Nothing huge but these Tama Tonga matches have gotten better since his win over Juice on the opening day. These tactics aren’t offensive to me as long as they’re not getting away with the shenanigans.
Juice Robinson (1-4) def. Toru Yano (1-4) @ 8:28 via Pulp Friction – **1/2
The losing streak is over! Juice finally won the big one! Okay, maybe it wasn’t a big win but he scored his first of the tournament. The usual Yano goofiness with the added drama of whether Juice would drop his first five. Yano had control early on, attacking Juice’s hand and trying to get the win by any means necessary. Juice stopped the momentum by picking Yano up for an Airplane Spin which results in both men dizzily stumbling around the ring. The referee stops Yano’s low blow attempt so Yano rolls Juice up instead. Juice snaps, officially done playing, and rips the cast off his hand and takes a swing. Yano ducks, double underhooks Juice which is countered back and forth until Juice is able to connect with Pulp Friction. Fun, goofy match but now that Juice is on the board, I’m ready to see him get some serious wins over guys more noteworthy than Yano.
Kota Ibushi (3-2) def. Tomohiro Ishii (2-3) @ 16:14 via Kamigoye – ****1/4
Argueably the match of the tournament. Ishii is G1. This tournament without him would be a disappointment. He brings out the best in every single opponet that stands across from him. Absolutely violent match. Ibushi had no problem going all out and standing toe to toe with Ishii. Early on we got the special trademark Ibushi Moonsault off the balcony but the ten minutes after that was a straight up slugfest. Ibushi lays in some mid-kicks which Ishii brushes off and asks for more. Ishii crumples Ibushi with a forearm before delivering a stalling Brainbuster off the second rope. Completely no-selling the Brainbster, Ibushi pops up and hits a German Suplex that Ishii no-sells and the favor is returned again by Ibushi after another Ishii suplex. They trade slaps across the face until Ishii is the one who crumples and Ibushi picks him up, dumping Ishii into the corner with a Lawn Dart. More slaps are exchanged until Ishii has had enough and begins chopping Ibushi’s throat. Ibushi fires back with straight punches to the throat, a huge Lariat and Last Ride Powerbomb but Ishii headbutts his way out of the Kamigoye so Ibushi hits a Straightjacket Suplex instead. Ishii ducks a second Kamigoye, hits one of his own, stacks Ibushi with a Powerbomb and levels him with a running lariat for a two count. Ibushi counters a Brainbster into one of his own but Ishii no-sells once again and kicks out at one after a knee strike. They trade slap once more and begin headbutting each other before an Ibushi head kick followed by a finishing Kamigoye. Excellent match and one of the year’s best. They went out and delivered a show-stealing match that basically killed the crowd for the rest of the show. You couldn’t have expected anything more between these two.
Tetsuya Naito (4-1) def. Hirooki Goto (2-3) @ 13:27 via Destino – ***1/4
A lot of history between these two over the last couple of years. Naito is excellent at getting under Goto’s skin and taking him off his game. Goto wasn’t having any of that, instead keeping his cool and being the one to aggravate Naito. Two times in a row, Goto cut off Naito’s signature fake-out dive so Naito stopped with the games and went all out from that point on. He focused his attack on Goto’s neck with several neckbreaker variations, loosening Goto up for Destino. Goto blocked a Destino and turned it into a Reverse GTR but Naito hits an Enziguri to avoid the follow up GTR so Goto settles for two headbutts before setting up for another GTR. Again, Naito is able to block it, this time landing Destino for a two count but immediately sprints for a follow up Destino before Goto could recover and scores the win. They went pedal to the metal, producing a nice and compact thirteen minute match. I always appreciate when top guys have no problem sprinting rather than extending the match time for the sake of not looking weak.
Kenny Omega (5-0) def. SANADA (3-2) @ 20:10 via One-Winged Angel – ***1/4
After three consecutive wins, SANADA came into this match with Omega the most relevant he’s ever been. He seemed to be Omega’s most credible opponent since Naito on the opening day but Omega took him down early and put him away with relative ease. He attacked SANADA’s knee, making the Dropkicks and Moonsaults even riskier moves. Both men toyed with each other’s ego. Omega started by putting SANADA to the mat and letting him back up. SANADA would retaliate by dumping Omega to the outside but then sit on the ropes to allow him back inside, uncontested. This was the complete opposite of the Naito/Goto match. Instead of a sprint, they took their time to extend the match into the twenty minute range which is a pet peeve of mine. Just because you’re a main event doesn’t mean you have to go long. SANADA would dodge some knees but wound up eating more than he avoided. He did manage to slide out of a One-Winged Angel into a Skull End, spin Omega around and climb to the top for a Moonsault. Omega would move out of the way though, put SANADA back up on his shoulders and finish him with the One-Winged Angel. Both men have been some of the most consistent of the tournament but this didn’t feel as big of a deal as it looked to be on paper. The crowd hardly reacted, possibly still burnt out over Ibushi/Ishii but these two didn’t stay in that next gear long enough to get as exciting as it should have been. While it was by no means bad, it was longer than it should have been and the ending didn’t feel as epic as a match of its length should have made it feel. If this were an A Block main event, I’d be more positive but as far as the B Block goes, this was the weakest main event they’ve put on to this point. Still a great match but their standards were higher than what was achieved here. Omega remains undefeated while SANADA’s three match win streak comes to an end. Sort of feels anticlimactic after how great the build for SANADA has been over the last two weeks. Hopefully he’s able to regroup.
Ibushi and Ishii absolutely stole this show. Nothing else even came close to what those two did tonight. They seemed to have burned out the crowd and made the case that they should have been the main event. That’s twice now that an Ishii match (vs Naito) out-performed the main event. All together though, this was my favorite night of the tournament. I felt every match was really good even if the main event didn’t feel as significant as it looked to be on paper. Ishii is for sure the MVP of the entire tournament to this point. It’s not a shock, he does this every year but it needs to be said so that people are aware. This man is one of, if not thee, best in the world. Omega’s win all but eliminates Juice and Tama from winning this year. Goto, too, looks to be done and Ishii will need to go on a serious run if he wants to have any shot. I know I was pretty negative on the main event but don’t let that stop you from watching. It was still really good but was a relative letdown at the same time.
Ibushi vs Ishii
Omega vs SANADA
Naito vs Goto
(5-0): Kenny Omega
(4-1): Tetsuya Naito
(3-2): SANADA, Kota Ibushi, Zack Sabre Jr.
(2-3): Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto
(1-4): Tama Tonga, Juice Robinson, Toru Yano
Kazuchika Okada (3-2) vs Michael Elgin (2-3)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-1) vs YOSHI-HASHI (1-4)
EVIL (4-1) vs Minoru Suzuki (3-2)
Jay White (3-2) vs Hangman Page (1-4)
Bad Luck Fale (2-3) vs Togi Makabe (2-3)
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