SUZUKI-GUN (Zack Sabre Jr. & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. BULLET CLUB (Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale) - 3/10
Bullet Club jumped the bell on Suzuki-Gun. They eventually won a match that went less than five minutes.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI & TOMOAKI HONMA vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer) - 5.75/10
Suzuki-Gun jumped the bell on their opponents and we immediately spilled to the outside. We actually wound up right back in the ring for a bit, but it was a fake-out and we eventually spilled to the outside again for the usual stupid bullsh*t. Honma eventually makes the hot tag to Tanahahsi, Tanahashi runs wild for a bit... and then actually ahs a pretty darn good segment with Archer that has me excited for their match tomorrow. More good stuff happened, with Archer eventually beating Honma with the claw. This was shocking good for an undercard Suzuki-Gun match that also involved 2019 Tomoaki Honma.
CLARK CONNORS, KOTA IBUSHI, & KENTA vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (EVIL, Sanada, & BUSHI) - 7.25/10
This was fantastic for a G1 undercard match. The action was great and it did an amazing job of getting me hyped up for Sanada vs. Ibushi and EVIL vs. KENTA.
TOA HENARE & WILL OSPREAY vs. CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI & Kazuchika Okada)- 7/10
Holy crap! Another great G1 undercard match.
BLOCK B MATCH:
Shingo Takagi vs. Taichi (w/Miho Abe) - 6.75/10
Shingo jumped the bell on Taichi, but made sure that they were facing each other when he started charging to keep himself on the babyface side of the line. After that brief shine we got Taichi using Miho Abe as a human shield. For some reason the referee decided he had to get between Shingo and Miho, and then Miho distracted him so Taichi could hit Shingo with the microphone stand. From there we got the usual heel beats babyface up on the outside with no count-out, weapon shot in front of the referee with no DQ, then count-outs magically apply again just so we can get a count-out tease, then we go to the "heel chokes a babyface a bunch of times in a row, always breaking on four" spot, then the forearm exchange where the heel is cocky and the babyface is able to recover and knock the heel down. Basically, it's every Suzuki-Gun match ever- and especially when Suzuki or Taichi are involved. So if all we're getting from Taichi is a worse version of 85% of Minoru Suzuki matches, why is Taichi in the G1 instead of Suzuki?
I'm serious here. Why isn't Suzuki in the G1 this year? This isn't a Tenzan or Nagata situation where they haven't been portrayed as competitive main eventers in years so the "aging out" thing makes no sense. So why isn't one of the company's top singles stars in their biggest tournament of the year?
This feels like a big missed opportunity here. Why not explain why Suzuki isn't in by doing some sort of angle where he does something heinous to Liger at Dominion so he is punished by not being included in the G1. Then you can have him come back on the day of the block A finals and interfere in Okada's match to mathematically eliminate Okada (not in the final match of the night, but we all know Okada isn't winning the G1 so why not write him out in a creative way), then you can do a confrontation on the night of the finals where Okada demands a match with Suzuki but Suzuki laughs and walks away. Then you have Okada tell management he wants Suzuki unsuspended, but Suzuki says he'll only face Okada if the title is on the line so that has to happen and now you've set up a title match for the Destruction tour without actually having to beat Okada cleanly (or even at all, if Suzuki's interference leads to a draw and not a loss), set up a secondary challenger for one of the USA shows, set up an excuse for book something like Okada & Liger vs. Suzuki & Kanemaru around the loop on the Destruction tour, and broken up your usual pattern.
Oh, right. There is a match to talk about.
After that point the match was very good, with them targeting each other's heads with big kicks and lariats and head-drops. It's matches that like this that I find so frustrating because all of this stuff just serves as an example of what the rest of the match could have been (and could have built to) as well if they had stayed focused on their story the entire time instead of throwing away the first third or so of their match on patterned, formulaic crap that has the additional detrimental effect of undermining the match by inhibiting suspension of disbelief by exposing that the enforcement of the rules is dictated by the needs of the needs of the performance rather than what it is supposed to be, which is a key part of the premise on which the performance is based.
BLOCK B MATCH:
Jeff Cobb vs. Juice Robinson - 7.25/10
They told a great story with Juice needing to use physics (mostly leverage and momentum, both Cobb's and his own) to try to overcome the size differential, but getting goaded into a strike exchange towards the end being the beginning of his downfall.
BLOCK B MATCH:
Toru Yano vs. Jay White (w/Gedo) - 0.5/10
This was all Gedo interference attempts and the usual Stupid Yano Tricks. I actually thought the finish (Yano getting his hands on Gedo's brass knuckles and hitting White in the balls with them to get the win) was very clever (albeit a little too over the top due to it also being a nut-shot), but it is completely undermined by Yano's own constant cheating. Outsmarting heels who are trying to cheat you by turning their attempts to cheat against them is a babyface thing to do...but only because they are being immoral and you are merely evening the playing field. If you're someone like Yano who already cheats all the time, then they're the ones leveling the playing field by trying to cheat against a known cheater- you- so you're not the babyface (at best, it's heel vs. heel).
BLOCK B MATCH:
Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito - 8.75/10
Goto choking Naito early with his shirt early was nice revenge for all of the times Naito has done that to people. Naito is not a babyface. He's just a douchebag who people inexplicably cheer for.
They fought on the outside for a long time while Red Shoes stood there watching. Once Naito had done a sufficient amount of damage to Goto's knee, Naito got back into the ring and count0outs magically began to apply again so that we could have the Count-Out Tease That No One Ever Buys™. Spoiler alert: Goto got back into the ring before twenty.
Other than that one spot, this was an AWESOME match. These are two guys whose matches I often find very same-y, so it was nice to see them take a track they don't usually take with Naito working over Goto's knee. They had some extremely exciting sequences and great nearfalls, Goto's selling was great and the match built extremely well. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for both guys in this tournament.
BLOCK B MATCH:
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Jon Moxley (w/Shota Umino) - 6.5/10
After a good opening sequence in the ring, they brawled all the way through the crowd to the back of the building. The ring announcer is constantly warning the fans to be very careful so that they don't accidentally get hurt by the rampaging wrestlers... which just makes it even more ridiculous that Red Shoes is just standing there not doing anything rathe than counting them out to encourage them to get back to the ring where they won't accidentally hurt any fans.
They stayed out there forever, doing mostly dull punch-kick stuff. This was one of those brawls where it felt like they brawled into the crowd just for the sake of brawling into the crowd. Eventually they headed back to the ring, with Red Shoes only starting to count when they were 90% of the way there. Why is he still employed?
Silly me thought we would actually get out of this match without any more bullsh*t, but after a few minutes in the ring they wound up back on the outside, where it was time for not just fighting out the outside without being counted out, but also for chairhsots right in front of the referee that don't cause DQs.
Moxley set up a table that they teased putting each other through off the apron while Red Shoes constantly told them not to. Keep that in mind later. After a few more moments back in the ring Ambrose sent Ishii to the outside and dove onto him. He then hit Ishii with a chair right in front of Red Shoes but this wasn't DQ. After the chairshot, Red Shoes tried to take the chair away from Ambrose and lectured him not to use it. WHY DIDN'T YOU TRY TO GET IT AWAY FROM HIM BEFORE HE HIT ISHII WITH IT?! And do you really think a another f*cking lecture is going to get him to stop when every other time you have told Moxley not to do something he has ignored you, including a previous warning not to do this exact thing?
Ishii blocked a chairshot with his forearm, but managed to knock he chair back into Moxley's face so he was able to get control of the chair after recovering. He, too, ignored Red Shoes' command to not hit his opponent with the chair and was not disqualified. He then put Ambrose on the table and ignored Red Shoes' commands to not dive off the turnbuckle onto Moxley and was not disqualified for that either.
From there on these two had a great match, with exciting nearfalls, a great fighting spirit spot for Ishii, and a wonderful bit where Moxley bit Ishii where it actually felt like he was doing it out of the craziness created by desperation instead of doing it just to show us all that he is crazy or weird or gross like you often see in indy wrestling. There was so much that I loved about this match... but I can't give it any higher rating than 6.5/10 because there was so much stupid frustrating crap in here as well. If this had been a no DQs match I would have LOVED it... but it wasn't a no DQs match. You can't just have everyone ignore the rules because you want to have a different type of match.
And what's even more frustrating is that the solution here was so simple: JUST DO A F*CKING REF BUMP! Or two. Or three. Or however many you need to do to ensure that the referee is always down for the cheating. I eagerly anticipate the NJPW-fanboy internet ignoring all of this while continuing to bury WWE for the similarly stupid things that WWE does.
Well... the undercard definitely over-delivered tonight, but other than that, Naito vs. Goto was the lone highlight, with most of the G1 matches proving disappointing, even with tempered expectations. Maybe that's just going to be Block B's thing year. Tomorrow's Block A show looks pretty nuts, though, so we have that to look forward to.