The A Block have their eighth night of tournament action at the Hamamatsu Arena. The main event between Kazuchika Okada and EVIL has EVIL in desperate need of a victory in order to keep his tournament hopes alive. Okada can mathematically win the block a day early if he wins and Ibushi loses. Let’s get started!
SANADA (3-4) def. Lance Archer (2-5) @ 10:28 via Japanese Leg Clutch – **1/2
Archer rushes SANADA upon making his entrance and throws him in the ring. SANADA catches the boot, lands a dragon screw and attempts the Paradise Lock but Archer sends him off. He catches Archer running in with a huricanrana, misses a plancha and takes a senton to the follow from Archer. After sending a young lion to the rails, Archer brings SANADA back in, eats a series of overhands before delivering one of his own that sends SANADA crumbling to the mat. SANADA tries firing back up but gets taken down with a forearm followed by a splash for a two count. Archer stands on SANADA’s throat, takes him to the corner and delivers an overhand chop followed by a pair of back elbows but SANADA cuts off the third with a dropkick to the knee, lands a dropkick that sends Archer to the floor and a plancha.
SANADA’s springboard dropkick is caught in position for a chokeslam but SANADA floats out, takes a reverse DDT for two count followed by a chokeslam for another two. Archer comes up empty on a top rope moonsault attempt, SANADA looks for the same but Archer gets his knees up and cradles SANADA for two. SANADA positions Archer in the Skull End, Archer breaks the hold by applying the EBD Claw and takes SANADA to the top rope for Blackout but SANADA slides back into Skull End. Archer floats out, comes up empty on the Blackout, EBD Claw and SANADA leaps over the pounce before trapping him in a leg clutch pin for the win.
Bad Luck Fale (2-5) def. Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-3) @ 10:05 via Backslide – **1/2
Fale dumps Tanahashi over the top when posing in the corner. Tanahashi skins the cat, lands a dropkick to the knee, hits the ropes but Jado is there with the cane. Fale tackles the referee while Owens and Jado go on the attack on the outside. After jamming Tanahashi’s legs into the post, Fale brings him back in the ring and stands on top of Tanahashi. He fights back, tries slamming Fale but Fale falls on top of Tanahashi for a two count. Fale sends Tanahashi to the corner but he bounces off and lands a pair of dropkicks to the knee, catches a boot and turns Fale in for a dragon screw. Tanahashi can’t turn Fale around for a Texas Cloverleaf so he dragon screws the knee into the mat and applies the figure four.
Fale reverses the pressure but they roll to the ropes to force the break. Tanahashi hits the ropes for a slingblade but gets shouldered to the mat. He brings Tanahashi to his feet, eats a slap but fights off a German suplex and sits on Tanahashi on the attempted sunset flip. Fale lands a running splash for two, gets turned into twist & shout, takes a High Fly Flow to the back but before Tanahashi can land one to the chest, Jado hits Tanahashi with the cane and Fale capitalizes with the Grenade for two. Tanahashi fights out of the Bad Luck Fall, wants the backslide but Fale reverses the hold into his own backslide and picks up the win.
Will Ospreay (2-5) def. KENTA (4-3) @ 16:34 via Stormbreaker – ***1/2
KENTA charges in with a boot, hits the ropes and eats a boot from Ospreay. They trade forearms, duck kicks, KENTA catches the Oscutter and they land simultaneous kicks they ground they both. KENTA hits forearms that wake Ospreay up, they trade slaps, KENTA drops Ospreay throat first over the top rope and throws him into the rails repeatedly before booting him over the top. Ospreay is slammed on the floor, KENTA kicks him across the back and drives Ospreay into the post before bringing him back inside for a two count. The crowd rally for Ospreay as he lands a chop but is staggered by KENTA’s forearms. KENTA lands a kick across the chest and sends Ospreay into the rope for a knee lift that gets him another two before applying a chinlock. Ospreay powers out of the hold but takes another kick across the back.
KENTA face washes Ospreay with his boots, Ospreay fires off chops and catches KENTA’s suplex into a Stundog Millionaire. Ospreay lads a flying forearm, KENTA sends him over the top and pulls Ospreay in with a draping DDT for a two count. KENTA drapes Ospreay over the top, delivers two kicks and takes to the top but comes up empty on the knee drop, giving Ospreay time for a springboard forearm followed by a handspring enzuigiri. KENTA hops the apron on the Sasuke Special and applies a sleeper, pulls Ospreay to the apron and drops him with a falcon arrow. Ospreay crashes to the floor, stumbles but makes it back in at nineteen. KENTA slips on the springboard lariat attempt, hammers Ospreay with forearms before connecting with a corner dropkick and a top rope foot stomp for another two.
KENTA signals for the end but Ospreay fights off the G2S and catches KENTA running in with the wallflip enzuigiri only to gets caught running in himself with a knee. They trade forearms on their knees, fight up to their feet where they continue the exchange, KENTA buckles on the float over sitout powerbomb but Ospreay hits the ropes and connects with the move. He takes to the top rope for a shooting star press, KENTA gets his knees up and turns Ospreay into a crossface but Ospreay finds the ropes. KENTA lands a knee to the back of the head followed by one to the jaw, pulls down his knee pad and looks for a G2S but Ospreay floats through and hits the ropes for an Oscutter that gets him two. The crowd rally for Ospreay who wants the Stormbreaker, KENTA fights it off, eats a hook kick followed by the hidden blade and is finished with the Stormbreaker. They shake hands after the match.
Kota Ibushi (5-2) def. Zack Sabre Jr. (3-4) @ 15:46 via Kamigoye – ***1/2
Sabre wants to lock up but Ibushi back off and ducks Sabre’s ambush, takes him to the ropes and gives Sabre a clean break. Sabre gets a hold of Ibushi, applies a headlock escapes Ibushi’s attempt, wants a bow & arrow but Ibushi scrambles to the ropes. They circle, Sabre pulls Ibushi into a waistlock and sets up for a cobra twist, they trade the positioning and Sabre pulls Ibushi into an armbar but he quickly gets to the ropes. Sabre gets the headlock, Ibushi finds the ropes, Sabre wants the kick but Ibushi blocks and hits one of his own that takes Sabre down to the mat. Ibushi hammers down elbows to the back of the neck and sends Sabre to the ropes for a hip toss but Sabre puts on the brakes and ties up Ibushi’s legs.
Sabre stays on the legs after Ibushi finds the ropes. Ibushi lets out a shriek, Sabre gives him the boots, Ibushi fires up with palm strikes and takes Sabre down with a hurricanrana followed by forearms and a kick across the chest. Sabre fights off a German suplex and sweeps out the leg but Ibushi leaps over his attack in the corner only to get caught up in the ropes by Sabre who ties up the legs and stomps the ankle. Ibushi eats a pair of uppercuts but catches a third and flurries with strikes followed up with a moonsault knee drop. Sabre catches the last ride into a guillotine and slides Ibushi into an STF.
Ibushi fights free of a knee bar and blasts Sabre with a lariat, picks him up for a last ride, Sabre escapes, looks for Zack Driver but Ibushi turns that into a half nelson suplex bridge for two followed by the last ride for another two. Sabre gets his knee up on the Kamigoye and ties up Ibushi’s knees, pulls him into Napalm Death but Ibushi gets the ropes. Before Ibushi can make it to his feet, Sabre stomps the knee and delivers a kick across the chest. He delivers more kicks to the chest, Ibushi catches one, eats a slap across the face, takes Sabre down with a palm strike, pulls down the knee pad, hit the YeaOh pose but misses the Boma Ye. Sabre pulls Ibushi into a trio of pin attempts, eats a kick followed by a Boma Ye and a Kamigoye for an Ibushi win.
Kazuchika Okada (6-1) def. EVIL (4-3) @ 27:00 via Rainmaker – ***
Dueling chants to start the match. Okada comes in, takes a boot to the gut and is pulled into a headlock. He sends EVIL off but is immediately shouldered into the mat and scrambles to the corner. EVIL lets Okada regroup and waits for his in the middle of the ring. Okada ducks a lock up and pulls EVIL into a headlock but EVIL reverses into one of his own, gets sent off and is hip tossed followed by a swinging neckbreaker. Bringing EVIL back to his feet, Okada hammers down elbows to the neck, snapmares EVIL over and connects with a basement dropkick that sends EVIL to the floor. Okada follows him out and drives EVIL into the rails. EVIL catches the boot, sends Okada to the rails and takes him over the top with a lariat. Okada rolls back in at seventeen but EVIL is waiting with his own swinging neckbreaker and pulls Okada into a chinlock.
Elbowing out of the hold, Okada hammers forearms, takes a double overhand but rolls away from EVIL’s senton. EVIL goes to bring Okada to his feet, Okada pushes off, lands a forearm and hits the ropes for a back elbow that sends EVIL to the floor to regroup. Okada lands a plancha before EVIL has time to regroup and brings him back in for a corner back elbow and DDT for a two count. He slams EVIL, climbs to the top for the elbow drop but EVIL makes it back to his feet, avoids the attack and takes Okada to the corner, drapes his legs over the second rope and stomps Okada into the mat. EVIL fires up with a bronco buster that gets him a two count but Okada fights off a fisherman’s buster and catches EVIL coming in with a flapjack. Okada nips up and waits for EVIL to join him. EVIL fights off the reverse neckbreaker, catches a boot and sends it to the referee for an assisted thrust kick.
EVIL rushes in for a corner lariat but Okada catches him and drops EVIL in a reverse neckbreaker, slams him to the mat and climbs to the top for the elbow drop. Rainmaker pose. EVIL drives Okada to the corner and delivers a series of back elbows to break free, charges back in but Okada sets him on the top rope and dropkicks EVIL to the floor. He follows EVIL out and drives him to the rails, boots him over the top and wants the crossbody over the rails but gets blasted with a chair. EVIL pulls more chairs out from under the ring, sets one over Okada’s head and hits it off with another before sending Okada back inside. Taking Okada to the corner, EVIL charges in with a lariat and takes him to the top rope for a superplex that gets EVIL a two count. He signals for the end, pulls Okada in for the STO but Okada fights it, eats double overhands, sends EVIL to the ropes, EVIL hopes on and Okada omes up empty on the dropkick.
EVIL hits the corner, charges in for a lariat, eats a dropkick from Okada instead both are down but they meet forehead to forehead and exchange forearms on their knees. They fight up to their feet and continue the exchange which Okada cuts off into a series of uppercuts that take EVIL down. EVIL fights back up, lands a series of forearms that crumples Okada, powers him up on his shoulders but Okada slides off into position for a tombstone, EVIL fights that off and looks for a half and half suplex which Okada fights into a tombstone and shrieks. EVIL fights off the Rainmaker, Okada sets up for the STO, EVIL elbows free and drops Okada with a lariat followed by Darkness Falls for a two count. Okada turns the STO into a backslide and pulls EVIL up into a lariat, collapses but keeps wrist control and pulls EVIL into another lariat.
EVIL ducks the Rainmaker, drops Okada with a half nelson suplex, immediately follows with a half and half suplex, fires up, Okada ducks the lariat and dropkicks EVIL in the back, hits another to the front, sets up for the Rainmaker but EVIL ducks, sets up for the STO, Okada avoids it but eats a headbutt. EVIL pulls Okada up to his feet and drops him with a lariat for a two count, lets out a shriek of his own and pulls Okada back up to his feet. Okada hits a lariat, follows with a John Woo dropkick, ducks a lariat and lands a discuss lariat before finishing EVIL with the Rainmaker.
Okada takes the mic and says he’s the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, he won the New Japan Cup and he will win the G1 Climax.
Definitely my least favorite main event of the tournament and possibly my least favorite show of the tour. There wasn’t any drama or payoff to justify the main event going twenty-seven minutes. It was a fine match technically, but I can’t justify saying you should spend twenty-seven minutes to watch that match. Okada and Ibushi are the only two with a chance of winning the block. Ibushi must beat Okada in order to advance, Okada goes on to the final even with a tie.
The two matches in the middle were the show’s highlights. Ospreay tried hard to make this KENTA match feel important and while it had the right aura, KENTA was sloppy in key places. It’s still a match worthy of watching because of its historical significance but underdelivered on its potential. Ibushi and Sabre had another strong match in their series. They had a singular focus throughout the match and Ibushi did a fine job at keeping that focus.
This entire block hasn’t been hitting for me on a consistent basis like the B Block has but we still have Okada/Ibushi and Tanahashi/Ospreay to go, both of which look like tournament stealers on paper. I don’t think you can chalk this show up to G1 fatigue from a fan’s perspective, I genuinely feel it missed its mark. Two cool matches to watch but an overly long main event. Perfectly fine but underwhelming, especially for this stage in the tournament.
Ibushi vs Sabre
Ospreay vs KENTA
Kazuchika Okada (7-1)
Kota Ibushi (6-2)
KENTA (4-4) ELIMINATED
Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-4) ELIMINATED
EVIL (4-4) ELIMINATED
SANADA (4-4) ELIMINATED
Will Ospreay (3-5) ELIMINATED
Zack Sabre Jr. (3-5) ELIMINATED
Bad Luck Fale (3-5) ELIMINATED
Lance Archer (2-6) ELIMINATED