After a decent start to Block A on Night 1, the G1 Climax tournament returns with the first set of matches for Block B. Block B looks to be the stronger of the two blocks, with IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, Tetsuya Naito and Zack Sabre Jr involved.
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Toru Yano was a entertaining battle with some decent wrestling and some Yano comedy involved (3/5). The story of the G1 Climax for Yano is that he is going to try and win without cheating…which might be a struggle for him. Nevertheless, Yano gave it a go and there were some nice counters in this one. In the end, Ishii beat Yano with a low blow and a roll up, like Yano does to everyone else every year. I enjoyed this one, just for the novelty of Yano actually trying to wrestle. Nothing special, but worth ten minutes of my time.
Juice Robinson vs. Tama Tonga on the other hand, felt like it lasted for thirty minutes (2.5/5) The action was good when it got going…but it felt like it took ages to get going. Add an outside interference distraction finish to the stalling and waiting around and I can’t say I was too keen on this one.
Hirooki Goto vs. SANADA was better than I expected (3.5/5) I’m a Sanada fan – he might lack charisma and struggle to connect with a crowd sometimes, but he’s s brilliant wrestler. I really like his moonsault and his Skull End (Dragon Sleeper) finisher so it was fun to see this match based around those two moves. Goto is Goto – I think he’s the definition of solid but unspectacular, but he always works hard and seems to step up during the G1. I liked the intensity of this match, it never slowed down, building to a great finish of Goto winning via a nasty looking GTR. These are two guys that won’t win the G1, but won’t have a bad match either.
Koba Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr was a superb match full of vicious strikes, evil looking submissions and lots of quick counters (4/5). There was the odd sloppy moment and I still think Sabre Jr looks a bit awkward sometimes when he’s not bending people like pretzels, but I’m just nitpicking because I’m far too hot. This was an engrossing encounter that had my full attention, simply because I had absolutely no idea who was going to win. I love matches like this – I do appreciate when a wrestler is in control and his opponent has to make a comeback, but I think that matches like this when the tide changes every minute or so are incredible.
Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito built up brilliantly – the last ten minutes were incredible, with a fired up crowd cheering every counter and move. The moves…yikes, there were some crazy ones in this one. We saw a top rope hurricanrana and a reverse hurricanarana from Naito and a J-Driller and a borderline Steiner Screwdriver from Omega, on top of the usual big moves from both. I liked this match a lot, I liked the story of both men’s familiarity with each and the lengths they had to go to to try and win the match. I’m not too sure where to rate this one, whether it’s a 4.5/5 or a 5/5…but my own personal rule is “If there is any doubt, don’t give a 5.5.’ So I’ll go for a high 4.5/5 that I’ll probably regret when watching Extreme Rules tomorrow and realise the error of my ways…My main takeaway from this match is surprise that Naito didn’t win here – if someone beats a champion during the G1, it normally guarantees them a title match after the tournament. Naito would have been a great challenger for Omega on route to Wrestle Kingdom (New Japan’s equivalent to Wrestlemania)
Overall – This was a really good show that flew by, I would probably recommend every match bar Tonga vs Robinson. Definitely watch the last two matches anyway, they are early highlights of the tournament so far. Overall score for Night 2 is 3.50/5.00, which is pretty good. Onto Night 3!