Tonight sees the last night of the A Block and the focus is on the main event of Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi to see who will win the A Block and go onto Sunday’s final, with.Switchblade Jay White also having a chance of winning the Block if he can beat Evil.
The opening match, Michael Elgin vs Togi Makabe was the definition of ‘dead rubber match’ (2.5/5). Both men wrestled a fairly short, routine match…there was no issues with execution here but this match was pretty much skippable.
I found myself enjoying Hangman Page vs Yoshi-Hashi (3/5) even if it had no consequence on the top of the Block. Both men worked hard and there were some good sequences here, especially towards the end. I was surprised Yoshi-Hashi won as I think Page had more to gain from winning, but I guess there is no real repercussions to this match.
I was interested in Minoru Suzuki vs Bad Luck Fale solely to see how Suzuki dealt with the Firing Squad. Result? Fale loses by DQ. Same old, same old though I thought this is the kind of battle Suzuki always looks good in. It was good to see him take it to Fale as opposed to Fale’s methodical clubbering. A 2.5/5 for Suzuki’s efforts and because I don’t have to watch a Fale match again for a while. Fale is great as a menacing enforcer in a stable, but wrestling nine matches in three weeks? Nah….
Jay White vs Evil didn’t do a lot for me (3/5). I think it’s partly because Twitter spoiled the result for me, but also because I don’t think either wrestler’s style suits the other. I think they both need someone more dynamic, more sympathetic to play off. The other issue for me was the predictability of the match. I’ve seen both men wrestle eight matches now so I knew the formula to both men’s tournament matches. The action was good, but I’ve seen White’s low blows and referee positioning before and it’s getting old, as are Evils’s trademark moves. To be fair, at least the finish saw White get his comeuppance, with his cheating backfiring and Evil getting the win. It’s been a long road to get to that comeuppance, mind you, but I thought it was well done and at least meant something, if it stopped White winning the Block.
White’s defeat meant that Okada vs Tanahashi would decide the A Block. This match was always going to be epic and didn’t disappoint, with lots of focus from both wrestlers attacking the knees to begin. I was surprised at Tanahashi’s dominance and felt that Okada was going to come back to get the win he needed to progress. Yet Tanahashi kept fighting and this became a really engaging battle, one the crowd were completely in to. I really liked the finish too – the time limit expired, giving Tanahashi the point he needed to qualify for the final, yet Tanahashi wasn’t hiding – he was looking to pin Okada and get another win in their long standing rivalry. This match was a slow burner, one that got more dramatic and heated as it went on, with a fantastic last five minutes or so.
I would say this match was 5/5 for me. I’ve missed a lot of the Okada vs Tanahashi rivalry over the years (hence why I started reviewing old matches!) so I can’t fall back on my knowledge of their history or get all the reference points in their matches. However, as a stand alone experience, I enjoyed this match a lot. I though Tanahashi as the worn down but experienced veteran was excellent and I can see why he was the Ace (No.1 wrestler) for New Japan for so long – even with age and injuries catching him up, his in ring skill, charisma and timing are on another level. Okada was great here too and I’m intrigued where he goes from here, not he’s not on route to fight for the IWGP World Title at Wrestle Kingdom….
Overall – very much a one match show…the main event is must see. Feel free to skip everything else though. Overall rating is 3.20/5.00