On the penultimate day of B Block action, it was all to play for at the top of the table and today featured a very strong lineup. Hopefully good enough to forget a relatively lackluster day 14. Katsuyori Shibata squared off against his old rival, Yuji Nagata. Kenny Omega faced Katsuhiko Nakajima, and Tetsuya Naito faced YOSHI-HASHI. Today’s show emanated from the Yamagata, the last stop before the final three days at Ryogoku.
Kenny Omega (8) defeated Katsuhiko Nakajima (8) (****)
EVIL (4) defeated Toru Yano (8) (***¼)
Tetsuya Naito (10) defeated YOSHI-HASHI (6) (****)
Katsuyori Shibata (8) defeated Yuji Nagata (6) (***¾)
Michael Elgin (8) defeated Tomoaki Honma (4) (***¾)
Kenny Omega vs. Nakajima
The B Block MVP looked fairly confident before he squared off with the NOAH star, Nakajima, even offering him a handshake before spitting at Nakajima and beating him down. After the action had spilled to the outside, Nakajima dropped Omega with the same thunderous kick that has downed every other opponent. However, Omega got up and utilized the guardrail to his advantage, leaving Nakajima only just to beat the count out. The crowd remained hotly in Omega’s corner, no doubt paying testament to how refreshingly great he can be when he takes wrestling matters seriously.
The turning point came when Omega’s second rope moonsault was reversed, and Nakajima took charge for a short period, trying to exploit the injured back, courtesy of EVIL a few rounds prior. A superplex from Nakajima was canceled out by the cat-like agility of Omega who, after two suplexes of his own, still couldn’t get the advantage. This was a stunning opening match to Day 16, and it showed very little signs of a conclusion until, from seemingly out of nowhere, Kenny Omega hoisted a dazed Nakajima up for a One-Winged Angel and scored the pinfall.
Toru Yano vs. EVIL
While taking another moment to appreciate the wrestling God that is Yano, his G1 campaign was proving to be very successful, and he hoped to continue that feat against EVIL.
After another great moment came from the Japanese Megastar when Yano threw his jacket on EVIL, before rolling him up, only for EVIL to kick out at the very last second. (As @JackAction8 says) Every roll up attempt by Yano is so believable that it came as a shock every time EVIL kicked out of one of many improvised roll ups.
The finish came when the referee prevented a low blow attempt from Yano on EVIL and the Los Ingobernables member took advantage of the distracted Yano, delivering a brutal STO and claiming the 2 points.
Tetsuya Naito vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Naito, sitting at the top of the table, was hoping to provide more breathing space between him and the rest of the table heading into this match. YOSHI-HASHI stared down Naito throughout the Los Ingobernables leaders tedious suit-undressing routine and wasted very little time in attacking the man that’s caused his faction plenty of hard times over the past few months.
Naito violently retorted by continuing his excellent limb targeting wrestling style, which has given Naito the edge over most opponents in this year’s G1. Targeting the heavily bandaged shoulder of YOSHI-HASHI gave Tranquilo the upper hand, but it wasn’t for long as YOSHI-HASHI, willed on by the crowd, staged an epic comeback, even reversing a flying elbow into a Codebreaker to get back into the match. The comeback was complete when YOSHI-HASHI leveled the playing field by reversing a Destino into a swinging facebuster, allowing himself some much needed time to breathe.
This exhausting, enthralling encounter soon came to a close when, after a long period of back-and-forth action, Naito, seemingly out of nowhere, nailed a Destino for the victory. This means that he goes into the final day as Block B leader, regardless of any results today.
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Yuji Nagata
A match that always delivers, The current NEVER Openweight Champion squared off against the man that he won the Championship from, Yuji Nagata. This was a match that Shibata had to win to stay in the hunt for the top spot ahead of Sunday’s final.
Looking to get the job done early, Shibata immediately showcased his notoriously stiff strikes, prompting a strong reaction from the crowd, as they began chanting for him. It wasn’t long before Nagata replied with his own stiff strikes, Plenty of bruising strikes to the jaws of both men. As the slobberknocker waged on, Shibata built up to his basement dropkick, but after successfully landing it, Nagata got straight up and locked in his white eye armbar submission. After what seemed an eternity, Shibata reached the ropes and promptly retreated into the corner, Nagata not far behind.
While not as exciting as their first bout a few months ago, this was still a very brutal match between the two. The excitement was suddenly met with silence when Shibata locked in his rear naked choke hold, but instead of positioning him for the Penalty Kick, he kept it locked in and choked out Nagata for the victory.
Tomoaki Honma vs. Michael Elgin
While both men had been eliminated from this year’s G1, tonight’s main event showed little signs of just a polite wrestling match as both men instantly began whaling on each other with plenty of closed fist punches and power slams throughout the opening minutes. Both men were giving it their all, even if there was nothing to play for but a higher finishing position.
Honma really impressed me in this wrestling match, turning Yamagata into Suplex City as he unleashed a wide array of power moves and a variety of suplexes. This wasn’t to be outdone by the Canadian Boulder Elgin, who did the same and the match continued as a very even bout until a Buckle Bomb followed by a sit out powerbomb sealed the victory for Michael Elgin.
Final Word this was a day of wrestling that will stick well in my memory as one of the best rounds of G1 matches in recent years. No match was spectacularly brilliant as Ishii/Okada, however, the whole card was stellar. Even the undercard tag matches were pretty fun to watch. Kenny Omega has made a legitimate claim to be considered one of the best in the World after consistently producing **** singles matches on a daily basis. That can only be taken seriously when Omega wrestles seriously, to which he said ‘I’m only wrestling seriously to the final’ which is a big disappointment as he’s converted plenty of fans that dislike his goofy act.
The only thing that stopped this entire round from being graded an A+ was the choice of the main event. I understand why it was the main event, giving Elgin an opportunity to cut the post-match promo. Everyone felt a little worn out by the time the main event came around due to Naito/YOSHI-HASHI and Kenny Omega/Nakajima stealing the show early on. Special note goes to Toru Yano who is just brilliant. I will buy one of his DVDs to show my appreciation as to how good an entertaining wrestler he is.
Show Grade: A-
Tetsuya Naito (12)
Kenny Omega (10)
Katsuyori Shibata (10)
Michael Elgin (10)
Katsuhiko Nakajima (8)
Toru Yano (8)
Yuji Nagata (6)
Tomoaki Honma (4)