MICHAEL ELGIN & REN NARITA vs. CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI & Sho) - 4/10
LOS INGOBERNABLES DEL JAPON (BUSHI & EVIL) vs. BULLET CLUB FIRING SQUAD (Tanga Loa & Bad Luck Fale) - DUD!
A horrendously boring brawl for the first five minutes, during which they brawled all over the arena without actually doing anything of consequence. The last minute or so ALMOST manages to make this not a dud, but not quite.
SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki & El Desperado) vs. CHAOS (Jay White & Sho) - 5/10
Suzuki-Gun did not jump the bell on their opponents. Instead we started off with a nice, polite face-off between Jay White and Minoru Suzuki. Suzuki landed a kick to the back of White's knee/lower thigh... and White sold it huge and immediately tagged out. He's obviously faking this just to get out of facing Suzuki, but the fact that he put so much into trying to be convincing is what makes it so great.
White would later get involved to absolutely destroy poor El Desperado's back on the outside, running him into the ring and the guardrails repeatedly, but otherwise he stayed as far away from Suzuki as possible, even refusing to come in to break up the pin after Suzuki hit Sho with the Gotch Piledriver.
DAVID FINLAY JR. & HIROSHI TANAHASHI vs. BULLET CLUB (Adam Page & Chase Owens) - 2/10
The good news is that this made me want to see Page vs. Finlay. The bad news is that Tanahashi is the guy facing Page in the G1 tomorrow, not Finlay. Based on what Page and Tanahashi did here, we might well get a comedy match tomorrow.
TOGI MAKABE & TOA HENARE vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Gedo) - 4.25/10
BLOCK B MATCH:
Toru Yano(0) vs. Kota Ibushi(4) - 5.25/10
Yano is back to full-on cheating now, low blows and all. He even taped Ibushi's wrists together. This match had the most creative ref bump I've ever seen,.
BLOCK B MATCH:
Sanada(2) vs. Zack Sabre Jr.(2) (w/TAKA Michinoku) - 7.25/10
A technical wrestling clinic!
BLOCK B MATCH: Juice Robinson(0) vs. Tetsuya Naito(2) - 8.75/10
The story of this match was Naito working over Juice's injured hand, which they told wonderfully. The thing that set this match apart from others for me is that rather than just using hand submissions or stomping away at the hand, Naito found ways to turn some of his usual offense into moves that target the hand. The story allowed Juice to play the underdog role that he excels at, and they had one hell of a finishing sequence. Amazing match!
BLOCK B MATCH:
Kenny Omega(4) vs. Tama Tonga(2) (w/Tanga Loa & Bad Luck Fale) - 5.75/10
Tanga Loa and Bad Luck Fale both attacked Omega before the bell, in clear view of the referee, while Tama Tonga posed with the IWGP Heavyweight Title, then threw it down. They beat him up for a while before Bullet Club finally got off their asses and came out to make the save (although Ibushi was notably absent). The referee then called for the bell to be rung, despite that fact that one of the competitors (Tama Tonga) was not yet in the ring, and there were two outsiders (Page and Chase) in the ring. That was very odd. They went to the outside set up for Kenny doing his big dive. Kenny hit the dive, then got back into the ring... but he hadn't noticed that Tama Tonga had slipped way form the carnage on the outside and was hiding on the other side of the ring. Tama Tonga then slid into the ring behind Kenny and charged at him with a spear when Kenny turned around, marking our first official, legal contact of the match.
Tama Tonga shouted "YOU DIVIDED US!" at Omega, but if he blames Omega for dividing Bullet Club, then shouldn't he have been on Cody's side during the whole "Bullet Club Civil War?" And yet, despite apparently blaming Kenny for dividing them (and having interrupted their match in last year's G1 in order to lecture Kenny about promoting some segments of the group over others), in the big "Bullet Club vs. Bullet Club" match on the second day of Wrestling Dontaku this year, Tama Tonga (and Tanga Loa, and Bad Luck Fale) were on "Team Kenny." This is the sort of thing I'm talking about when I say that whole Bullet Club angle was an incoherent mess. They were so focused on doing things to create the maximum amount of drama in any individual segment of the story that they put almost no thought into how the drama from each individual segment should logically interact with the drama of the segment that came before it and the segment that would come after it.
Tanga Loa eventually came back out to interfere some more. The referee for this match was Red Shoes Uno, the same ref who so dramatically disqualified Fale last night because he was tired of the Firing Squad interfering in matches, and the same referee who ejected everyone from ringside earlier in this match. Well... despite clearly seeing a man he had ejected from ringside earlier in the match now come back out and apply a full nelson hold to Kenny Omega, he did absolutely nothing about it. The referring in New Japan is by far the worst in the entire history of professional wrestling. They even make the referees during Jeff Jarrett's 2005-2006 NWA World Heavyweight Title run in TNA look competent by comparison.
Tanga Loa had a five-minute long conversation with the referee so Omega and Tama Tonga could tease moves onto a chair. The referee finally turned around and caught Tonga about to hit a Styles Clash onto the chair so he kicked the chair out of the way and yelled at Tonga. Rather than just hit the Styles Clash- one the most devastating moves in the history of Japanese wrestling- without the chair being there, idiot Tama Tonga went to go argue with the referee, as if he thought he would somehow win this argument. He shoved the ref, so the ref shoved him back, so Tama Tonga hit the referee with a Gun Stun. Well... maybe they'll send out a competent referee this time.
Instead Fale came out... and then the referee called for a DQ a mere fifteen seconds after getting hit with the Gun Stun. You read that correctly. THE REFEREE- who is routinely knocked out for minutes at a time after merely being bumped into lightly- got hit with Tama Tonga's FINSIHER and was able to call for a DQ within fifteen seconds. Tama Tonga then hit IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega with this move, and Omega went down and sold for it big. They teased Tama Tonga hitting Omega another Gun Stun but with a chair wrapped around his neck, but Page, Chase, and this time also Ibushi made the save.
I thought parts of this match were quite exciting, but the shenanigans have become too much for me, and the result is now yet another Firing Squad DQ. I made a similar point on night one with White and Yano, but it bears repeating here because the inevitable defensive response to what I'm about to say is going to be something along the lines of a combination of "you're supposed to be angry, they're heels who are cheating" and "this is what makes the Firing Squad different," and my point shows exactly why those statements are inadequate defenses.
In my review of the main event of night one of this tournament I said "The reason I harp on the Yano stuff so hard is specifically because of situations like this. Jay White messed with the referee, tried to use a weapon, and hit Okada in the groin... which is basically the same as what Yano does on a nightly basis. So why when Yano does it do we just get the announcers laughing about it and determining it to be charming while when Jay White does it Kevin Kelly is screaming bloody murder?" Tonight I will say that the actions of the Firing Squad really aren't any different than what we've seen out of Suzuki-Gun (and, at times, LIJ and Bullet Club) over the past few years. The only difference is that this time the referees have actually decided to enforce the rules, with no explanation for why the referees have decided to single the Firing Squad out and yet never did so for the others. In other words, for practical purposes (meaning how things have been handled in practice rather than going by the rulebook [which they should be doing in all situations, but that's another issue]), it's not the Firing Squad causing the DQs, it's the referees, and in a completely arbitrary manner. Which is, of course, a dictate of the incoherent booking. At this point it is impossible for me to get excited about any future Firing Squad match.
BLOCK B MATCH:
Hirooki Goto(2) vs. Tomohiro Ishii(2) - 9.25/10
This was something of a "hit each other a lot" match early on, but when they really got going, they managed to turn the repetitive hitting into something that actually meant something. An awesome combination of power, desperation, heart, and striking prowess from both men makes this one hell of a main event. This was probably my favorite Ishii singles match that didn't involve Kenny Omega.
Another great show from New Japan in the ring, but the booking continues to vary from being bland to disappointing. Without individual stories, the G1 is just a pointlessly-long #1 contendership tournament, and like usual, Gedo's stories are either rushed or disappointing.