BULLET CLUB FIRING SQUAD (Tanga Loa & Bad Luck Fale) vs. CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI & Sho) - 4/10
Why is Bad Luck Fale wearing a shirt that declares him to be an "honorary Tongan?" Isn't he a legit Tongan, both as a shoot and in kayfabe?
SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki & El Desperado) vs. BULLET CLUB (Adam Page & Chase Owens) - 2/10
Suzuki-Gun jumped the bell on their opponents. The match continued with the same old Suzuki-Gun sh*t. Suzuki tried to choke Adam Page out with his own Hangman's rope. This attempted murder- via air choke (illegal) with a foreign object (illegal)- was not a disqualification. The match was mostly boring, and at over eight minutes is one of the two longest G1 undercard matches we've had so far, and while the other one that passed the eight-minute mark (LIJ vs. Omega & Chase) was the best of them, this one was one of the worst.
TOGI MAKABE & TOA HENARE vs. CHAOS (Jay White & Yoh) - 3.25/10
HIROSHI TANAHASHI & DAVID FINLAY JR. vs. MICHAEL ELGIN & SHOTA UMINO - 5/10
Damn that Umino is getting good.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (EVIL & BUSHI) vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Gedo) - 5.5/10
BLOCK B MATCH:
Toru Yano(2) vs. Sanada(6) - DUD!
Yano jumps Sanada from behind on his way to the ring, like a total heel. He can't get the Paradise Lock, so he uses his shirt to tie Sanada's legs together. Yano then runs to the ring and the referee begins to count Sanada out even though Sanada hasn't even been in the ring yet. Count-outs exist for two reasons: 1) to encourage the wrestlers to stay inside the ring, where it is safer, and 2) to punish wrestlers for cowardice by telling them they will lose if they don't get into the ring to meet their opponent. Sanada was attacked on his way down to the ring, and was still trying to get to the ring even before the referee started counting, so neither of those apply here. Throw in the fact that in this tournament we have seen referees refuse to count pinfalls because someone whipped his opponent into an exposed turnbuckle or rammed them into the ringpost and yet is willing to count here when Yano has jumped his opponent from behind before the match and used a foreign object to tie his legs together is utterly ridiculous. If I were Sanada, the moment this match was over, I'd punch the referee right in the face. As we've learned over the years, there are no consequences for doing so unless you're Tongan, so why not go for it?
The match starts and it's all roll-up teases and Paradise Lock teases... and the referee is willing to count a pin even though Yano not only clearly pulled Sanada down by his hair but is STILL HOLDING SANADA'S HAIR TO HOLD HIM DOWN. Again... we've seen referees in this tournament refuse to count pins because they resulted from an illegal action and obviously no referee should count a pin while an illegal action is going on... and here is a referee counting for both of those things!
Sanada eventually got Yano in the Paradise Lock on the outside and Yano was about to get counted out... but then Rocky Romero helped him get out of it so he could make it back into the ring in time. To make matters worse, this happened right in front of the referee, who was apparently perfectly fine with this. This is, of course, the same Rocky Romero, who has watched countless stablemates get beaten up in unfair fights due to the underhanded tactics- or just plain group assaults- of the Firing Squad and has responded by merely sitting on his ass and lamenting how terrible the whole situation is. So apparently, in Rocky's mind, it is okay to help Yano when someone performs a completely legal maneuver to him, but it is not okay to help someone who is becoming the victim of a gang-beating by a bunch of dirty cheaters who are intent on doing serious harm. WHAT. THE. F*CK.
Yano gets Sanada on the outside and tries to tape his arm to the guardrail, but the referee stops him. Well then why didn't you stop him when he was tying Sanada's legs together with his shirt? They're both foreign objects that Yano is using to impede someone's movement in an attempt to win via count-out, so why are they being treated differently.
The referee then just disappeared for a bit while Sanada put Yano in a Paradise Lock around the guardrail, then taped the guardrail to the ringpost. Okay... how is this going to stop Rocky Romero from just untying Yano again? The answer is that it doesn't... so what was the point of it? The thing that stopped Rocky from untying Yano this time was Sanada himself, who saw Rocky coming and tied him up as well... after just one kick to the guy. Apparently that's all it takes to incapacitate a completely fresh Rocky Romero. Isn't this guy an active wrestler?
Anyway, Yano was stuck and got counted out, mercifully ending an EXTREMELY stupid wrestling match.
BLOCK B MATCH:
Hirooki Goto(4) vs. Tama Tonga(4) (w/Tanga Loa) - -2/10
Yup, I'm going negative for this one!
They were on the outside forever without getting counted out. When the count-out finally started for the big tease, Tama Tonga decided to distract the referee at eight or so in order to allow Tanga Loa to give Goto a clothesline. When Tama Tonga let the ref's attention go the ref yelled at Tanga Loa a bit... but then just restarted the count from one again. And don't tell me the ref did it because he suspected Tanga Loa interfered because either 1) he has no proof and thus cannot take any action, or 2) last year in the G1 we got that bullsh*t DQ where Yano faked having been kicked in the nuts and the referee DQed Elgin without ever having seen anything, so if merely the suspicion if enough, then why doesn't he just DQ Tama Tonga here?
And while we're on the topic of suspicion, what suspicion is enough to justify doing is ejecting Tanga Loa from ringside. If the big story in all of this has been that the referees are getting stricter on the Firing Squad because of all of their bullsh*t then surely the referee should have ejected Tanga Loa from ringside if he suspected that he attacked Goto, but he just let him stay.
Anyway, Goto unsurprisingly made it back into the ring. Tama Tonga knocked him down and went for a cover but the referee refused to count it. I guess we were supposed to think that Tama Tonga was choking Goto with his knee, but every single time it looked to me like his knee was squarely on Goto's chest, not his throat, which isn't illegal.
Tama Tonga switched to working over Goto's knee and Goto started to sell it big... and then they just kind of forgot about that after two moves and Goto took over on offense. They did an odd spot where Tama Tonga powerbombed Goto out of the corner and Goto just... got up. Not in a fighting spirit way or even anything like that idiotic unaware self-parody of fighting spirit that Ishii and Ibushi were doing in their sh*tfest a few shows ago. It was like Goto's thought process was "oh sh*t he wasn't supposed to drop me but he did, so I had better get back up to my feel quickly and do thing" which was weird because Tama Tonga's releasing him for the powerbomb didn't look like an accident at all.
Goto then got a nearfall in off of a lariat reversing a Tama Tonga charge, then we got our ref bump to set up for more interference. Goto overcame it relatively quickly, making it feel pointless as well as annoying. Got and Tama Tonga did one cool sequence that would have worked just as well with the referee up, and lo and behold the referee was, in fact, and moving around with no problem right when he was needed for a nearfall after Goto hit a GTR but he was immediately pulled out of the ring by Bad Luck Fale. Just have the freakin' ref stay down and give Goto a visual pinfall or something. It's MUCH less annoying than having the referee get back up to count the pin and immediately get taken out again while he's making the count.
Fale then just whips the referee into the barricade. Shouldn't he be suspended for this? Even WWE got it right that when Ronda Rousey beat up some referees, she had to get suspended, and unlike with Fale here, Ronda was at least acting out of frustration (not an excuse, but I think it lessens the crime a bit) and when she did it the referees were acting in their role as security guards rather than in the process of officiating. Ronda was on a rampage and hit the people who tried to restrain her. Fale just walked down to the ring and assaulted the duly-appointed referee to make sure his buddy didn't lose a wrestling match (which didn't matter because despite being down for a good minute or so on his earlier bump, the referee was able to make the call to DQ Tama Tonga right after Fale whipped him into the ramp. How does that make any sense?).
And if Gedo's idea with all of this interference is to get heat on the heels for ruining everyone's nice clean G1 and give this G1 a different feel, here's an idea for you: Kick Bad Luck Fale out of the tournament. You heard me right. Fale is ejected from the tournament, and the rest of his matches are now forfeit losses. The two men who benefit from this are YOSHI-HASHI, who has just two points right, now... and on the final night of Block A competition... Minoru Suzuki. Suzuki currently sits at eight points. If he were to defeat Adam Page tomorrow night (which we'll suppose he will), he will then be up to twelve points. If, on tomorrow's show, EVIL beats Okada, Elgin beats Tanahashi, and Jay White beats Makabe, that would leave us with a final A Block night of:
YOSHI-HASHI vs. Page
Elgin vs. Makabe
Suzuki def. Fale by Forfeit
EVIL def. Jay White
Okada def. Tanahashi
Maybe Suzuki-Gun even sticks their heads in the Jay White vs. EVIL match to help EVIL, and maybe they attack Tanahashi after his match the night before to weaken him. Why? Because this scenario of results would create a five-way tie with twelve points each at the top of Block A, which each person having a tie-breaker win over two others, while the other two guys have the tie-breaker win over him. This would necessitate a five-way tie-breaker match... but Suzuki is completely fresh while the other four have spent the past hour beating the sh*t out of each other. You can even make it an elimination match to emphasize how Suzuki's freshness is such an advantage, and have it come down to Suzuki vs. Okada, with Suzuki eventually managing to win. This would have Suzuki win a match while still feeling like he cheated and like Firing Squad screwed up the tournament, sets up Suzuki vs. Ibushi as your finals (yeah, I think we're getting Ibushi vs,. Omega at the Tokyo Dome), which is a singles match that has only happened once before, back in the 2013 G1, and would certainly make this year's G1 feel different from any others. How's that for an idea?
This whole thing also sets up various cool future dynamics, such as a Suzuki vs Okada program (aside from this year's G1 match, their past two meetings have been draws, and this scenario would get Suzuki his win back, albeit in a semi-heelish way)- where Jay White is also gunning for Suzuki for screwing him out of winning the block, so you'd get Okada and White forced to work together even though they don't trust each other over the Destruction Tour. I could even see this eventually leading to some sort of scenario where White leaves CHAOS for Suzuki-Gun (give Suzuki-Gun the six-man tag belts, then at Power Struggle you have Okada beat Suzuki while White & Roppongi 3K lose to Suzuki-Gun because Roppongi 3K won't go along with White's cheating, which leads to him trying to "help" them again against Suzuki-Gun during Super Jr. Tag Team Tournament to create more friction with Okada in advance of a scheduled tag match at Power Struggle where White turns on Okada a la Flair on Sting at Halloween Havoc 1995, which could set up White vs. Okada at the Dome with White winning, then White taking over Suzuki-Gun the next night giving Suzuki a final babyface run before phasing him out (he is already fifty, which seems to be a bit past Gedo's mandatory retirement age for figuring into the singles booking, plus it would create a much-needed open top star slot).
Oh. Right. This is a G1 review, not a fantasy booking. Post. Whoops.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT.... Wait? Is the Goto match still going on? Because I'm dead sure I heard the timekeeper ring the bell and the announcer make some sort of announcement. Anyway, Fale gets into the ring and Goto gets some shots in on him before Fale "lays him out" with another horrendous-looking Grenade. Fale then pulls Tama Tonga into the cover on Goto while Tanga Loa gets the referee (Red Shoes) to the ring and orders him to count. Red Shoes gets down to count, but then flips the Firing Squad off instead and orders the bell rung for the DQ for real this time. If this sounds familiar, it's because they did the exact same spot on day five, two weeks ago... which just begs the question of whether the Firing Squad is mentally deficient. Did they really think Red Shoes would make the count this time even though he didn't last time and they've abused him several more times since then?
BLOCK B MATCH:
Juice Robinson(4) vs. Zack Sabre Jr.(6) (w/TAKA Michinoku) - 6.5/10
Zack worked over Juice's arm like you'd expect. He did things to Juice's injured hand that made me scream. At one point Juice took his cast off so he could throw a bunch with his left hand and both eh and Zack sold it big and it came off like a big spot, but ultimately felt wasted when Zack just took right over again, did more sickening things to Juice's arm and made him tap. I would have saved a spot like that for a title defense. It certainly wasn't worth doing at any point in this G1 from which Juice has been mathematically eliminated for a while (maybe during the Kenny match it would have made more sense).
BLOCK B MATCH:
Kenny Omega(12) vs. Tomohiro Ishii(4) - 9.75/10
I've buried Gedo's booking so much this tournament that I feel like I should acknowledge that the game of "who will be Kenny's stumbling block?" has been set up and executed very well, but I think it would have worked much better if his match with Yano happened earlier in the tournament, as despite the stumbling block being Yano's general role in all G1s, we all know he's not beating the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. With Kenny having beaten Juice already and only having the Ibushi and Yano matches left after this one and Ibushi not having enough points to tie Kenny and win on the tie-breaker on the final day if both kept winning out, it made it kind of obvious going in that this was the match where Kenny had to lose.
I'm saying that here at the beginning to stress just how impressive it was that they had me biting on every single one of Kenny's false finishes here. There was even a spot where Kenny hit Ishii with a Double-Underhook Piledriver- a move that I don't think Kenny has ever actually pinned anyone with before- that I was so certain that it had to be the finish that when Ishii kicked out, my brain lapsed and I rewound it to make sure that I hadn't just seen Ishii kick out of the One-Winged Angel. That's how certain Kenny's victory felt at that moment.
These two had a completely brutal and insane match. They worked over each other's heads pretty much the whole time, everything was paced wonderfully and all the fighting spirit spots all worked perfectly. I can normally tell pretty easily when someone is going to kick out of something at one, and that, to me, is usually a sign that they've been overdoing the fighting spirit in a promotion recently and it's starting to feel forced and contrived. The moment Kenny hit the Ishii Driller I knew Ishii was kicking out of it at one, but in this time it felt completely natural.
This is going to sound mean and I guess it is but I think it does a good job of illustrating a point I'm about to make so I'm going to say it: The best way I can describe is this match is that Ishii made a script of his usual stuff and brought it to Kenny to edit and anywhere Kenny saw some sort of "dumb Ishii match" sh*t, he cross it out and replaced it with a spot that blended his own stuff with Ishii's style, leaving the match as nothing but the best of Omega and the best of Ishii.
It has dawned on me in the last eight months or so, that many of New Japan's top guys and up-and-comers (and I'd specifically put Naito, Ishii, Tanahashi, Goto, Suzuki, and EVIL in this category as top guys who are guilty of this) basically have their matches by saying "we'll do my stuff and then we'll do your stuff and then more of my stuff and then more of your stuff" until it just stops at the finish. As a result, a Naito vs. Goto match is any other Goto match when Goto is on offense and any other Naito match when Naito is on offense, and it just alternates. But Okada, Omega, and recently Sanada (and also, to a lesser extent, Jay White and Juice) seem to take more of an approach of trying to craft a match that blends their own "usual" match with the opponents "usual" match, resulting in something that feels more fluid and exciting and usually makes better use of psychology throughout the match. I think that has really been what has set Omega and Okada apart from even guys like Naito: because Omega vs. Naito or Okada vs. Naito never feels like "any other Naito match" whereas Ishii vs. Naito or Tanahashi vs. Naito often do.
Anyway, these guys just brutalized each other's heads the whole match, to the point where both were bleeding from the mouth by the end, and both men absolutely refused to stay down and the match was freakin' amazing... and then, on the finish, they were tragically spoiled from getting the full 10/10 because Kenny's shoulder pretty clearly came up before the three.
BLOCK B MATCH:
Kota Ibushi(8) vs. Tetsuya Naito(10) - 8.25/10
Naito continued his efforts from the previous show, working over Ibushi's knee. Unfortunately they didn't do too much with that afterwards because they switched to a story that can best be described as "BRM screams in terror while people (but mostly Naito) get dropped right on their head and/or neck." I was actually happy the match ended when it did because I was afraid someone was going to get seriously hurt if it continued. Maybe I was still kind of scarred from seeing both Omega and Ishii bleeding from the mouth after the last match, but I was just getting that kind of bad feeling that something could happen.
This was a bad show from New Japan. Yes, I am willing to go that far, even with that incredible Omega vs. Ishii match. It really is a testament to the utter horrendousness of a lot of the sh*t that goes on in this company if that division's main eventers aren't involved. People want to look at Gedo's run as a golden age of New Japan Pro Wrestling, but the reality is that it's more like the Attitude Era WWF before Russo left: the stuff with the main eventers is great (if sometimes very convoluted) but everything else underneath it is terrible.