JON MOXLEY & SHOTA UMINO vs. TOMOHIRO ISHII & YUYA UEMURA - 5/10
Moxley shoved the ref when the ref was ordering him to stop using closed fist punches and wasn't DQed. Umino ran in to pull Moxley off of Ishii, but I don't understand why. If shoving and disobeying the referee won't get you DQed, then why does Shota feel the need to pull Moxley off? Eventually Uemura ran in to hold Ishii back as well, and while this was a good segment to build up to their G1 match tomorrow, it made no sense in the middle of a match.
The young-boys fought, then Ishii got tagged in and beat on Umino, then Moxley got tagged in and they did more great stuff to build up tomorrow's match. Moxley and Ishii wound up brawling on the outside while the young-boys fought in the ring until we got the finish. After the match we got more stuff between Moxley and Ishii ending in another pull-apart. This was an excellent match for the time they got and did a fantastic job of building up tomorrow's match.
JUICE ROBINSON, TOA HENARE, & YOTA TSUJI vs. JEFF COBB & CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) - 6.5/10
Very good babyface vs. babyface undercard stuff.
TORU YANO, REN NARITA, & TOMOAKI HONMA vs. BULLET CLUB (Jay White, Chase Owens, & Yujiro Takahashi) - 2.5/10
Usual goof stuff from the goofball babyfaces, usual BS of everyone fighting on the outside without being counted out, usual dull heat, usual Stupid Yano Tricks. This just isn't stuff I find in any way appealing. Throw in the inevitability that the young-boy is going to get pinned and you've got a match devoid of anything interesting or exciting.
LOS INGOBERNBALES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, & BUSHI) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, & Taichi) - 4.5/10
Speaking of usual, Suzuki-Gun jumped the bell on their opponents, where we spilled to the outside for the usual bullsh*t. More stuff happened. Heels win when Suzuki pins BUSHI. Cue forced post-match segment to build up tomorrow's matches.
I think I've hit the point where I've really just had it with these formulaic Suzuki-Gun and Bullet Club undercard matches. It's the same repetitive, stupid, frustrating sh*t over and over again, and the post-match angles never feel natural because they happen so often and always with the guys who are facing off the next night even though there are six/eight/ten guys in the area that it feels like something that happens because the booker ordered it, not because of any real natural animosity of the intensity of a situation. I just sat through it for most of BOSJ from May to June and now I've got to sit through another six weeks of it here for the G1.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Lance Archer vs. KENTA - 6.75/10
Archer shoving the referee down was not a DQ. This sort of thing annoys me on its own, but this one was made even more frustrating by its context. This happened when Archer and KENTA were both on the apron and Archer had a hold of KENTA in a completely legal way (he was not goozling him yet) and the referee, after getting Archer's attention and pointing into the ring several times, ran over and grabbed Archer's arm to try to stop him from hitting a move on KENTA because they were outside the ring.
Archer shoved the ref down, then he chokeslammed KENTA onto some young-boys but the young-boys caught him so Archer dove onto all of them. By the time this happened the referee was back up and ordered Archer to bring the match back into the ring. Archer refused, and instead kept beating KENTA up on the outside. Based on what we've seen him do so far, I think it's fair to surmise that this referee wants the match back in the ring. One would think that he would start to count them out... but that would be a New Japan referee actually doing something that makes sense, so the referee just stands there for a while instead.
Eventually he starts ordering the count, at which point Archer snatches the microphone from the timekeeper like it's the timekeeper's count that matters, not the referee's. The referee goes out to order Archer back into the ring again, and this time Archer just listens to him.
Look... Archer not getting DQed for the ref bump is dumb, but if you're going to do it then why not have the referee actually get bumped by it and use that as your excuse for why he isn't counting them out. Instead they turned one dumb thing into four dumb things, with this referee being so passionate about the wrestlers getting back into the ring... until he randomly wasn't and didn't do anything about it... until he randomly did start to care again... and then Archer decided to listen to him all of a sudden even though his previous disobedience was not with even the threat of punishment for violating the rules (which is what a count-out really is).
Anyway, Archer got KENTA into the ring and began to trash-talk him, saying "you're not KENTA. You're Hideo. That's who you are. You're f*cking Hideo." This fired KENTA up and he gave Archer the big KENTA slap in the face... and then Archer ran him over with the POUNCE. Archer began to pound on KENTA, at which point the referee yelled at him for using a closed fist. Archer responded to this by shoving the referee down, which was once again not a DQ.
After that point they proceeded to have a very good professional wrestling match for a bit. They did some good stuff with the size differential and teasing their signature submissions before KENTA picked up the win to take over sole possession of first place in the block.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Sanada vs. EVIL- 8/10
Sanada got the advantage and almost hit the moonsault in the opening spot so EVIL got frustrated and got a chair... and slid it over to Sanada? Sanada picked it up and the ref took it away from him, and EVIL used this as a distraction to attack Sanada like a dick.
Their camera angle when EVIL went to dropkick Sanada after putting him in the Paradise Lock exposed exactly how bullsh*t the Paradise Lock is, as Sanada clearly pulled himself out of hit before EVIL touched him. Can we please stop doing this stupid move now?
We later got a spot where EVIL was put in the Paradise Lock around the ropes and the referee shooed Sanada away so he could untie EVIL, but before he could make any progress Sanada ordered him to move out of the way and he just did so, letting Sanada do the exact thing he had ordered Sanada not to.
Even in the extremely rare for New Japan situation of tag team partners fighting each other, we've still got to do the "got the outside and whip someone into the barricades" spot. And of course the referee didn't count them out.
There was a bit of a story with Sanada's midsection getting worked over, but the real story here was that these two tag team partners were fighting. Some tension had actually been built up between them and EVIL was clearly the heel here, doing some rather morally ambiguous things like using the referee to his advantage. The problem was that I've been down this road with Gedo-booked New Japan so many times before where one partner using shady tactics doesn't lead to anything so I never once believed that this would be any different, and thus a lot of the emotional drama in this match didn't work for me because it felt hollow. Athletically it was still awesome, though, and definitely worth your 18:11 to watch it.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Kazuchika Okada vs. Bad Luck Fale (w/Chase Owens & Jado)- 5.5/10
Fale attacked Okada backstage before the match and they emerged from the curtain with Fale already knocking the staggering Okada around. Fale would later clearly be purposely restraining the referee to impede him from doing his job, but Red Shoes didn't DQ him for this.
This match had two stories- Fale's size advantage and Bullet Club's interference- and neither of them was a particularly good rendition that particular story. The camera angle they used for the Grenade clearly exposed that Fale's arm made absolutely no contact with Okada. Even Okada's magical powers to carry Fale to good matches have now run out.
The finish itself was a roll-up that went a lot smoother than many of Fale's other roll-up losses have. This ties Okada for the lead in this block. From a booking point of view, the "Fale beats Okada in the G1" streak had to end at some point and I do feel that having Okada lose to Fale again this year would feel repetitive (it has happened every time they've been in the same block), but at the same time, it feels like something of a waste to do it so early in the tournament. It feels like there could have been a bigger moment. That being said, having tried to fantasy book G1s before, I understand how difficult it can be, and because it does actually seem like we're getting some stories this year, I'm not going to complain about the wasted potential here. I just wanted to note that this is something that should be considered an important moment.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi- 8/10
The usual awesome match wrestling and Zack doing a lot of stretching. Tanahashi's facial expressions were great. Tananashi won to pick up his first points of the tournament. Zack was completely despondent after suffering yet another loss.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Will Ospreay vs. Kota Ibushi- 9/10
Because I've been burying the camerawork so much, let me put over the angle that they used for Ibushi's German Suplex off the ropes. Between the camera angle and Ospreay's selling, I was kept in total suspense as to whether he had landed on his head or managed to complete the flip and landed on his feet and was pausing to gather his energy due to the exhaustion and relief at managing to avoid landing on his head. Which is really more a credit to Ospreay than anything else, but I'm trying to be nice here.
Unfortunately, for the pin big after that, Red Shoes was counting from a position where he clearly could not see Ibushi's far shoulder. Then, when Ibushi got his hand on the ropes, Red Shoes dove over to see it, and started selling exhaustion like he was one of the wrestlers. Is there any other referee in wrestling who does so much sh*t to draw attention to himself?
Shockingly, though, that was really the only thing Red Shoes did in this match that pissed me off. That allowed me to concentrate on the fantastic match these guys were having, rather than all of the spots that didn't make sense... because all of the spots here MADE SENSE. Both guys worked the head and neck because that's what their respective big moves all target, but this put Ospreay at a disadvantage because his neck was injured going into this match. They had some very exciting nearfalls, did a great job of playing off of their first match, and the finishing sequence was set up very well earlier in the match. Ibushi picks up the win, making a rubber match between these two inevitable.
This was a very good G1 show from New Japan. The G1 stuff delivered to a reasonable expectation given the match-ups and some of the undercard stuff was actually pretty darn good for the time it got (although the second half of the undercard almost killed that). Ibushi vs. Ospreay has been one of the best matches of the tournament so far, and tonight's show got me psyched up for Moxley vs. Ishii to the point where I think that one could be even better. See you tomorrow.