Following a G1 Climax second night from Korakuen Hall that some are calling the best card of the year, New Japan presented night three of the tournament from a packed Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.
Stars Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shisuke Nakamura, Tetsuya Naito, & Kazuchika Okada were looking to get on the board with their first points (they all did), while Lance Archer & Yujiro Takahashi looked to continue their surprising unbeaten starts (one did, one didn’t).
The iPPV broadcast opened with a highlights package of the first two nights. No guest commentator on this night.
1. Block B: Karl Anderson (4) vs Kota Ibushi (4) – Big matchup here, with the winner moving to 3-0. Ibushi went for his trademark quebrada on the outside, but Anderson caught the leg and took control.
Anderson was getting plenty of old school North American style heel heat from the crowd. This reminded me of a WWE style match, with the babyface shine early, and a long heel control period with Anderson using reverse chin locks and cutting off the comebacks. Ibushi tried his turnbuckle quebrada again, and this time hit it.
Then he went into his trademark stuff. Springboard dropkick, standing SSP, etc. Anderson went for a running powerbomb, but Ibushi reversed into a sunset flip for two. Anderson went for it again and got it for a near fall. Ibushi blocked a Stun Gun. A few more near falls, and a Phoenix Splash out of nowhere. Ibushi moves to 3-0. Ibushi is dynamic, but tends to be repetitive at times. All three of his matches have been the same. ***
2. B Block: Yujiro Takahashi (4) vs Shelton Benjamin (2) – Yujiro was with not one, but two ladies on this night. Shelton was sans MMA gloves again, so that appeared to be a one night experiment. Benjamin looked super confident, perhaps tipping the finish. Nobody tips finishes with body language quite like Shelton. Yujiro blocked Shelton from skinning the cat and took control as the match settled in. Shelton missed a spinning heel kick by about a foot but poor Yujiro had to sell it. Shelton hit a nice blockbuster. Yujiro hit a delayed German & followed with the Tokyo Pimps for the win. I guess Shelton didn’t tip his hand after all. Not much to this. Possibly the worst match of the tournament, but it wasn’t terrible or anything. Just a match. **
3. Block A: Prince Devitt (2) vs Tomohiro Ishii (2) – Devitt was coming off being upset by Archer, Ishii was coming off the biggest singles win of his life over Tanahashi, in what many are calling a MOTY contender. Fale was liberally pounding on Ishii on the outside early, in plain view of the ref. Ishii busted out the senton off the top rope to the outside on Devitt & Fale, then hit a superplex for a near fall. Crowd got behind him big at this point. Ref bump, and Devitt killed Ishii with a chair. Ishii avoided a second shot and hit a backdrop driver for a two count. It took two Bloody Sundays, but Devitt picked up the win. I don’t mind the interference & ref bumps every Devitt match, but the refs are starting to come off like the goofy Dragon Gate refs. Hide it better. ***
4. Block B: Minoru Suzuki (2) vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan (0) – I will never get tired of Suzuki kicking the young boys off the apron. Tenzan is neck & neck with Shelton at this point in terms of the worst matches of the tournament. Tenzan just isn’t moving around all that gracefully these days. This match dragged. Suzuki tried to wake things up with some hard slaps. Tenzan was fighting off chokes left & right. They did a long Gotch piledriver struggle. Suzuki fought off an Anaconda Vice, nearly reversing into a cross arm breaker. Tenzan finally gave up trying. They did an awkward spot off the ropes, and Tenzan overshot a moonsault badly for the pin. This was kind of a mess, and it didn’t take long for something to overtake Shelton/Yujiro for worst match of the tournament. **
5. Block B: Yuji Nagata (4) vs Tetsuya Naito (0) – They’re booking Naito for the comeback gimmick. At least that’s what i’m telling myself, because I picked him to win the tournament. Naito picked a slap fight, which was a bad idea. Nagata was beating him down pretty good.
There was a very excited dude in the crowd with a NAGATA LOCK sign. Nagata was really showing Naito who was boss here, delivering a solid old man teaching his kid a lesson style beating. Naito eventually made his comeback, and hit a quick Stardust Press. This was one of those G1 matches that felt hurt by the time constraints. The comeback was rushed. **3/4
Intermission. Interview with Goto. Then Shibata.
6. Block A: Lance Archer (4) vs Kazuchika Okada (0) – Archer is 2-0, and has had two excellent matches. Okada is a surprising 0-2. Basic back & forth match. Crowd woke up when Archer hit a chokeslam for two. Archer reversed a tombstone into a reverse DDT for a near fall.
Archer used all of his power moves but couldn’t put Okada away. Okada hit his high dropkick out of nowhere, and followed up with a Rainmaker for a hard fought win and his first points. Started slow, but ended strong. ***
7. Block B: Toru Yano (0) vs Shinsuke Nakamura (0) – CHAOS vs CHAOS here. Neither have points. Crowd was buzzing for this. Yano being goofy, but in a good way, early. Things pick up as he absolutely murders Nakamura over the railing, then beats him with a chair. Yano used a half crab. Nakamura made the ropes, and reversed out of the corner with a dropkick to take control. Knee strikes all over the place. This match is hard hitting. Yano used a reverse atomic drop and a slingshot into the corner that popped the crowd. These guys were throwing each other all over the place. Nakamura missed a running knee in the corner, and Yano hit a powerbomb for a near fall.
Nakamura rolled out of a schoolboy and hit a surprise Boma Ye for the win. Good match, much better than I thought it would be. ***
8. Block A: Satoshi Kojima (4) vs Hirooki Goto (2) – Goto worked over the taped up right arm early. Nothing happened for a long time. Goto hit a sunset flip from the top rope. That was cool, and woke up the crowd.
Goto went for Shouten, but Kojima slipped out and hit a lariat from behind. At this point I was smelling a draw. Kojima used an Ace Cutter for two and teased the lariat. Goto kept pounding away at this arms and hit a lariat of his own. Turns out my nose was off, as Goto hits a Shouten for the win. Took forever to get rolling, but picked up at the end. ***
9. Block A: Togi Makabe (2) vs Katsuyori Shibata (2) – The battle of dubbed entrance themes. They teased a double count out almost immediately, and both guys stopped fighting at 19 and dived back in. That was fun. Big highspot was Makabe hitting two Germans and a big lariat, followed up by a DVD. Makabe folded him in half with a powerbomb for two. Shibata came back with hard strikes, including some scary kicks to the skull. Then he hit a GO 2 SLEEP, followed by the PK for the win. He’d been promising the G2S, taught to him by his buddy KENTA, all tournament long. ***
10. Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi (0) vs Davey Boy Smith Jr (2) – Davey tossed Tanahashi around early, and added some BIG APPEAL. Test of strength predictably did not go well for Tanahashi. Tanahashi has no answers for DBS power. DBS used a camel clutch, and turned it into a surfboard. DBS barking at the crowd. Tanahashi snuck in a small package that fooled no one. DBS caught a powerslam to regain control, and went back to working the back. They were telling a fine story to this point. Tanahashi hit two flying forearms to finally get DBS off his feet. Tanahashi escaped a running powerslam that might have finished him. He got caught going for a HFF way too early, and DBS superplexed him off the top.
Both men sold the big move and the fans started to get into it. Tanahashi missed the slingblade and got tossed.
Smith’s power moves are fantastic. Tanahashi escaped a powerbomb attempt and hit a dragon screw. Big boot and a lariat from DBS for a two count. This time he hit the powerbomb, but Tanahashi kicked out. This was turning into something special at this point. And then just like that, Tanahashi slipped a Killer Bomb, hit the slingblade, got his dragon suplex blocked, switched to German, then hit the HFF for the win.
Like many of the matches tonight, the ending was abrupt. But this was my favorite match. Davey Boy Smith Jr is just awesome to watch these days, he’s really turning into the goods. Tanahashi did the guitar gimmick after the match. Would have preferred five more minutes of action for that match to hit he next level instead. Still the best match of the night. ***1/2
Overall, a good show despite the mediocre first half. Look, every night isn’t going to knock people’s socks off. But this was still very entertaining and well worth a watch if you skip some of the early matches.
More action, courtesy of the great @SenorLARIATO:
Here are the standings, courtesy of @HulkaMatt. Yujiro co-leading Block B. YES!
Block A: http://i.imgur.com/MARgLQn.png
Block B: http://i.imgur.com/f5pKSd0.png