MICHAEL ELGIN, JUICE ROBINSON, & DAVID FINLAY JR. vs. JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER, HIROYOSHI TENZAN, & SATOSHI KOJIMA - 4/10
Seeing Tenzan in the opener instead of in the tournament itself. I kind of wish they would have farmed him out to RevPro or CMLL or whoever for a chunk of this tour.
The very first spot in this match reminded me of why I enjoyed Juice Robinson so much as a heel during his former life as C.J. Parker: there are very few people who are anywhere near as hilarious-looking when they get angry. Stuff happened. Kojima pinned the young Mr. Finlay.
BULLET CLUB (Kenny Omega, Tama Tonga, & Chase Owens) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, & Taichi) - 4.75/10
So Suzuki has Kenny in a Kimura way out in the crowd and Kenny taps like crazy... but why did Suzuki break the hold? He knows he can't win it on the outside, but maiming Kenny will help him in their match at the next show. Plus, just letting a submission hold go for no reason seems very un-Suzuki-like.
After that point the match was short, but good for the time it got, with Tama Tonga particularly standing out and the same old Suzuki-Gun sh*t being held to a minimum.
HIROMU TAKAHASHI & EVIL vs. BUSHI & SANADA - 5/10
Another disappointingly short match, although at least these guys tried to make it interesting. EVIL wins with what appears to be a new submission, making BUSHI tap. We get a tease of dissension after the match, but how am I supposed to believe that if a bunch of stables stay together after actual betrayals or guys picking sides and hitting each other with chairs and kicking each other in the nuts for no reason, that Sanada would storm off angrily because EVIL made BUSHI tap out cleanly?
KAZUCHIKA OKADA & GEDO vs. TORU YANO & JADO - 0.5/10
We begin with Gedo indignantly charging into the ring to protest Yano having done what appeared to me to literally be nothing. When Gedo eventually tagged in, the first thing he did was poke his longtime tag team partner Jado right in the eye for no reason. Dumb comedy happened with Jado. Stupid Yano Tricks happened. They burned through all of their spots that could have been good false finishes for Yano in Thursday's G1 match and then Yano hit the leader of his stable in the testicles to beat him in this essentially meaningless wrestling match... and I do mean meaningless because even though he did this, I have absolutely no doubt that he won't still be in CHAOS come Thursday. Even if he hits Okada in the nuts on Thursday (which he undoubtedly will), he still won't be kicked out of CHAOS, because nothing that happens in New Japan means anything unless IWGP World Heavyweight Title, IWGP Intercontinental Title, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title, or a tournament final are on the line. So that's an average of about five matches every three months.
BLOCK A MATCH: Yuji Nagata vs. YOSHI-HASHI - 7/10
YOSHI-HASHI, the consummate babyface, showing no respect to the veteran Nagata felt painfully out of character to me. The story of the match seemed to be Nagata refusing to stay down, even after taking pretty much all of YOSHI-HASHI's big moves, because he wants to put up a good showing in his final G1... and then he just got beat. Why is it so hard to Gedo to tell a story about someone not being a total failure in their final big tournament? There are fun, happy stories that practically write themselves, but instead Gedo goes against what everyone wants to see- the legendary hero making a run of it in his final shot at glory- and delivers us a story that basically confirms that "yeah, this guy is old and he probably shouldn't even have been in it this year." He did it with Liger in this year's BOSJ, did it with Tenzan in last year's G1, and now he's doing it to Nagata, too.
BLOCK A MATCH: Togi Makabe vs. Bad Luck Fale - 4/10
Fale assaults the ring announcer for no reason, and there will be absolutely no repercussions for this because there are never repercussions for anything the heels do in New Japan, so what's the point of doing it? He would later try to strangle Makabe with a chain and shove a referee who took the chain away from him. Neither of these things warranted a DQ. They were on the outside for well over a minute before any sort of count-out was started, and once Fale got back into the ring it noticeably sped up, apparently just to make Makabe's journey back more dramatic... except that this actually made it less dramatic because it forced Makabe to get up so soon and move so fast that it felt like the stuff Fale did to him on the outside didn't really affect him much. This promotion would be so much better if they would just take the simple step of telling the wrestlers to stop treating the referees (and the rules) like doormats. If you don't like having distractions or ref bumps then you don't get to do this sort of thing, either.
From that point on the match was a relatively dull hoss fight. At least they finally learned to shoot the Grenade from an angle that can hide it whenever Fale f*cks up the timing.
BLOCK A MATCH: Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii - 5.75/10
According to Kevin Kelly, the referee "is going to give both men a chance to get back to their feet on their own before starting the ten count." How does that make any sense? Isn't the whole point of the ten count that if you can't get back to your feet on your own before it finishes you are determined to be unable to continue?
They hit each other a lot but usually didn't go down. Lariat then get back up and lariat the other guy, Ishii kicks out at one, blah blah blah. I get that the story is that they withstood a lot of punishment before going down, but when no one ever goes down and stays down for too long (unless it's those one or two times where they stay down forever) it makes it hard for me to buy any of the nearfalls. I don't care how much legitimate punishment the wrestlers are taking or how much fighting spirit they are showing; I don't find these matches to be exciting in any way. Doing just one or two of these spots during a match will make them mean a lot more than doing an entire match full of them, and I'm not looking forward to Ishii having the same exact match with everyone else in the block aside from maybe Zack and maybe Ibushi.
BLOCK A MATCH: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (w/ El Desperado) - 7.75/10
Tanahashi worked the knee while Zack obviously went after Tanahashi's injured arm. Yes, Zack got the big upset win, but as far as I'm concerned those big upset wins in the G1 don't mean anything because 1) they're never followed up on with anything even resembling a push, and 2) the round-robin format of the G1 plus Gedo's decisions to expand the tournament to all manner of undercard jamokes and to not tell any stories other than "everyone is very close together in points" means that such wins are required for the sake of the (lazy) story that Gedo always tells. These upsets aren't not surprising; they're inevitable.
BLOCK A MATCH: Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito - 9/10
It was nice to see Naito taking things a lot more seriously in this G1 than he did last year or the year before. He played your basic credible heel here, working over Kota's neck. Kota, on the other hand, appeared to be trying to paralyze Naito. There were lots of scary-looking bumps in this one, which made for some excellent false finishes, but was also quite terrifying to watch.
A frustrating show from New Japan, aside from the main event. The lack of consequences for things really bothers me, especially when you're doing things that should have consequences in these totally pointless undercard matches which are already given an extremely low ceiling to begin with, so not letting them just be cleanly-wrestled matches makes them even more frustrating. I was quite disappointed that Zack and Tanahashi didn't click quite as well as I'd hoped, because that was the one match in this tournament which I thought had the most potential to be something truly memorable, and if it turns out that the reason for that is that Tanahashi is impaired due to his injured arm, I'm going to be even more annoyed. The man clearly needed surgery. I understand coming back for the match at Dominion, but if they wanted the IC Title off of Naito they could have taken it off of him during the Kizuna Road Tour or in Long Beach, and that way we wouldn't have to subject Tanahashi to yet another G1 that he is going into in questionable shape (and much more questionable this year than last year), we could have opened up another slot in the tournament (maybe for the much-needed, missing surprise/outside guy, or at the very least to not bury Tanga Roa so much by having his partner in the tournament but not him), and from there built perfectly to the idea of Tanahashi's big comeback tour redemption where he wins next year's G1 and uses the briefcase to challenge for the IWGP Intercontinental Title to elevate that belt a bit.
Okay. I'll stop now. In conclusion, f*ck Gedo's booking, but thank G-d for Ibushi and Naito.