TOA HENARE & SHOTA UMINO vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & Yoh) - 5.75/10
Umino was freakin' great here. Just watching him in this match made me think that the last match a Young Lion has before being sent off on excursion should always be him getting his first pin on veteran. That would not only make their nearfalls something people can actually buy into, but would start to really build excitement for a guy who everyone thinks is ready to go but we don't know when he's going to leave.. I think it'd be really cool.
GUERRILLAS OF DESTINY vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Zack Sabre Jr. & TAKA Michinoku) - 4.5/10
Suzuki-Gun jumped their opponents before the match. It has been shockingly long since I've had to type that sentence. TAKA put in a great babyface performance. That's a phrase I haven't had to type in even longer.
DAVID FINLAY JR. & JUICE ROBINSON vs. CHAOS (Toru Yano & Gedo) - 3/10
Pretty good for a three-minute match. Juice made Yano look dumb (well... dumber than usual). Yano and Gedo worked over Juice's hand, Juice made a comeback, Finlay pinned Gedo.
KOTA IBUSHI & YUJIRO TAKAHASHI vs. CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Sho) - 4.25/10
Kota and Ishii made me want to see them face off tomorrow night. Sho and Yujiro made me not want to see them wrestle each other ever again.
BULLET CLUB (Kenny Omega & Chase Owens) vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito & Sanada) - 6.75/10
Wow. It felt like they were actually trying to have an undercard wrestling match was opposed to treating it like an excuse to do a quick exchange or post-match bit between the guys in the G1 match tomorrow. And, quite frankly, that was the right move here. It's not like most people are going to need to be sold on the idea of an Omega vs. Sanada match after the year both guys have been having.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Michael Elgin(4) vs. Minoru Suzuki(4) (w/El Desperado) - 8.75/10
The good news is that the director seems to be learning, as they showed us the commentary table (in this case to highlight the fact that Yoh had joined the Japanese team) BEFORE the bell rang, and then immediately cut to the ring when it did.
Elgin using his strength to counter Suzuki's illegal hanging armbar in the ropes was a cool spot, and they made sure to do it early on because they knew their story wouldn't allow them to do it later.
El Desperado had the referee for, like, three straight minutes. Just eject the f*cker from ringside and get back to doing your job! And while you're at it, try doing your job right! Suzuki had Elgin in an armlock using the barricade, and the referee started a five-count like the barricade was the ring ropes. Either the barricade is fair game so long as you don't pick it up to use like a weapon, in which case there was no reason to apply a five-count, or it's a weapon and he should have immediately DQed Suzuki.
Elgin's arm got worked over, and props are due to Rocky Romero who, as soon as the work on the arm started, reminded us that Elgin's arm also got worked over by EVIL in their match (and, if I remember correctly, but Page worked it over as well). They did an excellent job of telling the story, finding various ways to show how Elgin's strength wasn't what it normally would be every time he tried to use the arm... when he used it at all. Elgin actually threw most of his strikes with the opposite arm. Elgin sold well, and Suzuki was a pretty great heel. I loved him baiting Elgin into a forearm exchange knowing that Elgin would have to use his weak hand. Suzuki got the win after a Gotch-Style Piledriver, even though he's freakin' Minoru Suzuki and he's been working over Elgin's arm all match. That part bothered me. I hate it when guys get obsessed with always having to win with one move, no matter what the story his and whatever else they have in their arsenal that might make more sense (and Suzuki and Tanahashi are the two worst culprits).
BLOCK A MATCH:
Adam Page(2) vs. EVIL(6) - 4.5/10
The referee pretty much let them do whatever they wanted, including hitting each other with chairs, because apparently this new initiative to actually enforce the rules only applies when the Firing Squad is involved. They had some big spots and Page got to show off his athleticism, but the match felt a little disjointed. EVIL getting the win was a bit surprising, just because of Gedo's tendency to keep things as even as possible, but these losses feel like they're really hurting Page, who felt as big as he ever has in New Japan coming off of his big matches with Omega back in April and then Okada on day. This is a spot where I might have gone to a draw, to keep EVIL's progress up while giving Page another long match in which to show his skills (and not lose) and just to throw some odd numbers into the standings, which I legitimately do think makes things more exciting than everything just working by twos.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Jay White(6) vs. Bad Luck Fale(2) - 0.5/10
Jay White attacked Tanga Loa on the outside to preemptively stop him from attacking. It didn't help. They spent almost the entirety of the first five minutes on out the outside while the referee did nothing. All of a sudden the referee remembered the rule about count-outs so we got the usual count-out tease that no one buys, and it didn't end the match this time, either.
Once they were back in the ring we got about three minutes of decent stuff with Fale trying to use his size to his advantage while Jay White worked on Fale's knee a bit... and then we got another f*cking ref bump and more interference from the Firing Squad. Tama Tonga was going to hit White with a chair but instead decided he wanted to do a Gun Stun onto the chair, which allowed White to reverse it and temporarily fight off all three guys like a big babyface before eating a Gun Stun, then a Bad Luck Fall, and finally a pin.
Not only have they now stopped White's momentum cold with these two losses, but they did so tonight in a way that made the company's top heel right now look like a big babyface. Yes, there are ways that this could interact with White's storyline. For example, no one coming out to help him tonight might make him realize that he actually does need a stable, which could lead to him reconciling with CHAOS (which would be terrible) or breaking off and forming his own faction (which wouldn't be bad, but would kill his cool loner vibe), but so much of Gedo's booking involving factions has been so terrible that I have no faith that anything will come of his.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Togi Makabe(4) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi(6) - 7/10
I take back everything I said on last night's show. This match started off with Makabe showing off his ground game by putting Tanahashi in a bunch of leg locks. I realize that I am the only person in the world who that appeals to, but I loved every second of it.
The usual Makabe clobbering with suplexes mixed in began and was fun. They found a nifty new variation on Makabe's Spider Suplex to set up the King Kong Knee Drop which missed. Makabe managed to hit a lariat for a nearfall but then Tanahashi made his comeback, hit his stuff, and won with the High Fly Flow.
BLOCK A MATCH:
YOSHI-HASHI(2) vs. Kazuchika Okada(4) (w/Gedo) - 9/10
Okada took his shirt off and threw it right in YOSHI-HASHI's face, so YOSHI-HASHI charged at him to start things off. He kicked him in the gut and threw him into the crowd. The ref let them do stuff on the outside forever, and Okada even started chucking chairs at YOSHI-HASHI like Cheerleader Melissa throwing chairs at Wesna Busic. What did poor YOSHI-HASHI do to warrant this?
The big "count-out tease that no one ever believes" spot came off of a draping DDT by Okada, which set up the story of Okada working over YOSHI-HASHI's head and neck. YOSHI-HASHI worked over Okada's neck as well, but the real story for YOSHI-HASHI here was that he became 100% determined not to lose this match no matter what. He pulled out lots of cool, old stuff to try to get the win here, including the powerbomb floated over into a bridging pin, which is one of my favorite moves and more people need to start using it. This was intense enough and YOSHI-HASHI was such a great determined underdog babyface that they actually had me thinking he might, especially after he countered that Rainmaker with a lariat of his own.
If there has been one thing lacking in Okada's game in my opinion (and consequently why I would say Omega is a better worker right now) it has been an ability to bring greatness out of lesser opponents. Admittedly Omega has had more of a chance to do that due to the way Okada has been booked, but even when they have matched up against the same guy (EVIL being the name that immediately springs to mind) I think Omega has consistently gotten better matches out of him, never mind guys like Trent. Okada got to show us his ability to do that here tonight.
A very up-and-down show from the A Block. Elgin vs. Suzuki and Okada vs. YOSHI-HASHI were amazing and Makabe vs. Tanahashi delivered to an acceptable level for those guys at this point, but the other two matches were frustrating as hell. The undercard was mostly pretty good for the time it got, with the Bullet Club vs. LIJ match standing out as something that felt like it was too good for a G1 undercard, which always makes a G1 show better by making the undercard feel a lot less paint-by-numbers.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES
1. Kevin Kelly insisted that Hangman Page was "very much his own man" while "the fracture between Kenny and Cody was going on."
Are you kidding me? Page was the one guy who started on one person's side and never once wavered in his support! And this is all even more frustrating because there was absolutely no reason for Kevin to say anything about this. No prompt of any sort. He just randomly started talking about how Page might be a member of Bullet Club but he's also "his own man now." I hate when announcers start saying random sh*t instead of just calling the match, and this the exact reason why. He could have just kept walking straight along the perfectly fine path he was already travelling but instead he decided to stop and dig a hole in the middle of the road for absolutely no reason, then proceeded to trip right into it.