The A Block had their ninth and final night of action in front of 6,180 fans at the Nippon Budokan. 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 A Block featured their last five tournament matches. Let’s get into what happened!
Togi Makabe (3-6) def. Michael Elgin (3-6) @ 8:45 via King Kong Knee Drop – ***
The exact big man battle that you come into this match expecting. They traded shoulder tackles and forearms to start off before Elgin took control with a belly-to-belly suplex and wearing Makabe down in the corner. As stubborn as always, Makabe continues to ask for more and goats Elgin into a mistake as they trade go-behinds until Makabe lands the Northern Lights suplex. More Lariats are exchanged back and forth as well as a German suplex apiece. Makabe goes for the Spider German off the top but Elgin fight out and drills the dangling Makabe with a pair of kicks to the face. If that wasn’t enough, Elgin then delivers a BT Bomb but Makabe refuses to stay down. Elgin begins laying in forearm after forearm, removing his elbow pad and delivers a ninth consecutive shot. He runs the ropes and Makabe uses the time to come back to life, hitting a desperation Samoan Drop and wastes no time, immediately climbing to the top for a King Kong Knee Drop and getting the win. Makabe has been an unsung hero of the tournament. We’re not getting anything out of this world but he keeps his matches to the point and consistently has shown great fire.
YOSHI-HASHI (3-6) def. Hangman Page (3-6) @ 10:22 via Karma – ***1/4
It’s fitting that two of the hardest workers in the A block collide on the final day. For a ten minute match, you couldn’t have gotten much better than this. Y-H gets the advantage early with an armdrag, elbow and scoop slam combo before sending Page over the top rope. Page holds on, catches Y-H running in and plants him with a neckbreaker on the apron. Y-H fails to the outside where Page meets him with a Shooting Star Press off the apron. Page wastes no time, immediately sending Y-H back in where he keep him grounded with a Gutwrench Suplex, a chop and elbow. Y-H fires up after Page shows some disrespect, dropkicking Page on the knee and nailing him with a Headhunter. He sends Page into the corner, following up with a chop and top rope Headhunter. Page’s boot is blocked but he turns it into a rolling elbow and Bridging German. Y-H fights off his shoulders, drapes Page over the top but is met with the Buckshot Lariat, soon followed by a corner dropkick and second rope swinging neckbreaker combination. Again, Page disrespects Y-H before setting up a Rite of Passage. Y-H rolls through into a Prawn Hold for a two count. Page escapes the Powerbomb, moves into position for Passage but Y-H turns into a Karma which Page Superkicks hiw way out of and sets up for Passage once more. Y-H turns the Rite of Passage into a Canadian Destroyer out of nowhere and finishes Page with Karma. Great back and forth. Huge surprise win for Y-H. Both men have worked very hard all throughout the tournament and ended strong with both having one of their best matches.
Minoru Suzuki (5-4) def. Bad Luck Fale (3-6) @ 8:52 via Disqualification – ***
Suzuki wasted no time going after Fale. He attacked before the bell and sent him to the outside but Fale’s power allowed him to whip Suzuki into the rails and gave him enough time to slam Desperado for good measure. Fale chokes Suzuki with a microphone chord and the two contiye their battle back in the ring. Suzuki is shouldered down but catches Fale running in and applied an armbreaker over the top rope. Now it’s Suzuki’s tuen to take advantage on the outside. He begins beating Fale down with a chair over and over until he looks to have the advantage. Suzuki brings him back in, delivers a PK but his next whip off the ropes in met by a desperation Samoan Drop. Fale looks to finish with the Grenade but Suzuki transitions into a cross-armbreaker. Before Fale could tap, Loa pulls the referee out of the ring and breaks the hold, freeing Fale for a couple of Splash variations and sets up for Bad Luck Fall. Suzuki slides out and applies a Sleeper but Fale drives him into the corner. Fale is peppered with a flurry of strikes yet still manages to let out a scream for more before he’s put to sleep with a Sleeper. Loa once again tries to get involved but Desperado holds him back. Suzuki puts Fale in position for the Gotch-Style Piledriver and that’s when Tama makes his appearance, hitting Suzuki with a Gun Stun and causing the DQ. I loved when Fale fired up and screamed at Suzuki while being peppered with strikes. That will be Fale’s standout moment of the tournament. The match was kept short and sweet so I have zero complaints. They actually made me want to see a longer, straight forward match so props to both men.
EVIL (5-4) def. Jay White (6-3) @ 11:37 via EVIL – ***1/4
White needed a win in order for his block finals hopes to stay alive. The crowd upset White when they decided to side with EVIL. He took out his frustrations by slapping EVIL across the face to start the match. EVIL shoulders White to the mat, sends him into the ropes but White holds on and goats EVIL in, dropping him with a suplex over the top. He drives EVIL into the rails a couple times before landing a suplex, also into the rails. White becomes too cocky and begins disrespecting EVIL with some boots. EVIL fires up, sends White over the top and returns the favor by driving him into the rails and lets out a terrifying scream. He follows back in the ring with a corner Lariat and Fisherman’s Buster suplex but White is able to rebound by catching EVIL into a Flatliner + German suplex combo. White looks to finish with Blade Runner but EVIL grabs his nose to White shoves him into the ref and settles for a low blow. EVIL is able to escape a Blade Runner again and turns it into a Half & Half suplex followed by a nasty Lariat. White escapes EVIL, turns it into a Sleeper suplex and Kiwi Crusher for two. He bails out of the ring to find some chairs and shoves the referee when he tries to stop him. White runs at EVIL with a chair over his head but EVIL lands EVIL, putting White away and eliminating him from the tournament. Really smart match. All four of these openers were kept short and to the point. All killer, no filler. I really appreciated this approach.
Hiroshi Tanahashi (7-1-1) vs Kazuchika Okada (6-2-1) @ 30 Minute Time Limit Draw – ****3/4
The biggest rivalry in the modern New Japan era. Over the last seven years Tanahashi and Okada have had a dozen showdowns but in G1 meetings, neither man has been able to score a win in the thirty minute window. Huge Tanahashi chant as the bell rings. Okada misses an early John Woo, dodges a Tanahashi dropkick and both duck Lariats before settling into their holds. Okada backs them into the ropes and gives Tanahashi a clean break but Tanahashi doesn’t return the favor, delivering a forearm instead. Tanahashi swallows Okada, repeatedly grinding on the knee for several minutes but Okada manages to escape and jam Tanahashi’s knee with a Dragon Screw Leg Whip. He takes Tanahashi outside and continues the attack on the knee. They trade forearms and catch other’s kicks but it’s Tanahashi with the Dragon Screw this time. Tanahashi flurries with three combination strikes, each ending with a dropkick to the knee and slams Okada to the mat before landing his Senton off the second rope.
The crowd erupts with ‘Go Ace’ chants but Okada ducks the ensuing Slingblade and plants Tanahashi with a DDT. Okada follows with a huge John Woo into the corner and quickly climbs to the top, hitting another John Woo. He grabs his knee and yells but still attempts the Tombstone. Tanahashi transfers the weight and hits the Tombstone onto Okada. They trade forearms and European Uppercuts until Tanahashi sends Okada over the tope. Before Okada could regroup, Tanahashi dropkicks him off the apron and Okada goes flying into the guardrails. Tanahashi climbs to the top and lands a High Fly Flow onto Okada to the floor.
Okada struggles to break the twenty count and when he does, Tanahashi captures his leg for a Dragon Screw through the ropes. Tanahashi locks in the Texas Cloverhold but when Okada doesn’t tap, Tanahashi turns it into a Styles Clash and heads to the top for High Fly Flow. Okada rolls out of the way and dropkicks Tanahashi on the back of the neck. They trade a dropkick and Slingblade back and forth then trade forearms on their knees. Okada muscles him up for a Tombstone but Tanahashi escape once again, this time turning it into three consecutive Twist & Shouts before heading to the top in hopes of a standing crossbody. Okada dropkicks Tanahashi on his way down, hits the Tombstone and sets up for the Rainmaker but Tanahashi transitions into Dragon suplex position. After elbowing out, Okada plants Tanahashi with the Discuss Rainmaker and follows up with the standard version but Tanahashi cradles him for two. Tanahashi ducks out of another Rainmaker, hits the Dragon suplex, slaps his way out of a Rainmaker, causing Okada to collapse. High Fly Flow to Okada’s back for another two count and the bell sounds before either man can follow up. Tanahashi advances to the finals on points.
Post-match Tanahashi teases leaving without a speech but of course that doesn’t happen. He sends everyone home happy as he’s on his way to the finals for the first time in three years. This was an excellent addition to what is already a classic series. Personally, I have this positioned in my top three matches of the year and clear favorite of the tournament.
All throughout the tournament I’ve had my complaints about matches going long for the sake of going long. Here, everything stayed short (minus the main event) and the show was better off because of it. I have zero complaints about this show. They didn’t exhaust me with anything going longer than it needed to be and delivered a stellar main event. Tanahashi was the last guy I thought would advance to the finals between him, Okada and White. Page and Y-H tore it down in just ten minutes and the clever finish to White/EVIL was a lot of fun. Fale screaming at Suzuki while taking abuse was a great moment and Makabe/Elgin had the exact hard-hitting match they should have. All killer, no filler. A great wrestling show.
Tanahashi vs Okada
Y-H vs Page
EVIL vs White
(7-1-1): Hiroshi Tanahashi
(6-2-1): Kazuchika Okada
(6-3): Jay White
(5-4): Minoru Suzuki, EVIL
(3-6): Michael Elgin, Hangman Page, Togi Makabe YOSHI-HASHI Bad Luck Fale
Kenny Omega (6-2) vs Kota Ibushi (5-3)
Tetsuya Naito (6-2) vs Zack Sabre Jr. (5-3)
Tomohiro Ishii (4-4) vs SANADA (4-4)
Hirooki Goto (3-5) vs Juice Robinson (2-6)
Tama Tonga (3-5) vs Toru Yano (2-6)
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