Welcome to Fightful's NJPW Block Update. Block action is officially over, meaning we're one match away from crowning the G1 Climax 28 victor.
Night 17 Review (A Block - Ninth Matches)
Togi Makabe def. Michael Elgin - Elgin capped off his G1 with another good in ring performance, but one that yielded another disappointing result. He looked strong in every match, yet won just three out of nine. He probably should have won here, but I guess NJPW didn't want Makabe to finish with only two wins.
YOSHI-HASHI def. Hangman Page - Both guys worked hard, I just don't see why they are bothering with HASHI. Page just beat Suzuki and then he goes on to HASHI just so everyone ends up with six points? WWE is jealous of how NJPW 50/50 booked the bottom of the Block.
Minoru Suzki def. Bad Luck Fale - Fale racked up six losses and didn't get pinned or submitted once. His inclusion in this tournament was the biggest waste of time in G1 history. Not a single good match and literally every match was the same.
EVIL def. Jay White - And with this loss, White was eliminated from winning the Block. Early wins over Tanahashi and Okada were made less valuable as he couldn't beat the likes of Fale and EVIL. White's G1 run is proof that all wins are counted equal. In the long run, White will be better for beating the two biggest stars in the company. But in the G1, wins over EVIL and Fale were just as important. The match was every White match in the tournament, which didn't bother me as much as the Fale stuff for reasons I've mentioned before. But if this is your first time reading, I appreciate that White was at least trying to win every match. Fale was just being a dick and taking up space.
Hiroshi Tanahashi draw Kazuchika Okada - Once White lost, this match became for all the marbles. There were layers to this match. Callbacks to their classics, Tanahashi slowing the pace with the leg attack, Oakada rushing and being unable to connect with the perfect rainmaker, and Tanahashi going for broke even though he just needed a draw. This was by far the best match in A Block and up there with all of the B Block classics. Just two of the best ever wrestling with high stakes in front of a hot crowd.
The biggest complaint I've seen about the Okada story is that he's not broken when he's still finishing second in his block.
It's a valid point, but he never fell into a complete pit of despair. We just assumed he did because of the aesthetic changes. He just wasn't The Rainmaker anymore. He's still one of the best wrestlers in the world, he's just no longer perfect. And not being perfect puts him behind Tanahashi. Okada's G1 run showed that, even on his worst day, he's better than just about everyone in the world.
And given the Block, he should be better. Unless they were going full bore into "Okaka is now trash," he shouldn't be losing to Elgin, EVIL, HASHI, Hangman, or Makabe. I'll gripe about the loss to Fale (should have been a DQ win) and the win over Suzuki (should have been a loss), but the loss to White and draw against Tanahashi perfectly fit the story they are going for.
As for Tanahashi, he's the Ace again. For now.
Match of the Night - Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada
A Block Standings
* Hiroshi Tanahashi: 7-1-1 (15pts.) (Winner)
* Kazuchika Okada: 6-2-1 (13pts.)
* Jay White: 6-3 (12pts.)
* Minoru Suzuki: 5-4 (10pts.)
* EVIL: 5-4 (10pts.)
* Michael Elgin: 3-6 (6pts.)
* Bad Luck Fale: 3-6 (6pts.)
* Hangman Page: 3-6 (6pts.)
* Togi Makabe: 3-6 (6pts.)
* YOSHI-HASHI: 3-6 (6pts.)
Night 18 Review (B Block - Ninth Matches)
Toru Yano def. Tama Tonga - Come to think of it, Tonga may have been a bigger waste than Fale. He was on fire coming out of the San Francisco show and this G1 run was a dud. Much like Fale, he didn't have a single good match and every one of them was the same. Worse, he was in a Block that produced a Match of the Year candidate every night. I don't even care about the suspension angle. The presence of Tonga and Fale drained my patience this last month. If their goal was to make me never want to see a Firing Squad match again, they succeed. Except Haku. He can return.
Juice Robinson def. Hirooki Goto - While I hated the 50/50 booking in A Block, it worked in B Block. Robinson, whose had a rough tournament, should have picked up a victory. Both guys had good tournaments from an in-ring perspective. Juice is great at getting the crowd behind him and working a great closing stretch. Who knows what would have happened for Juice had he said "screw it" earlier and gotten rid of the cast on his left hand. Goto will have to find another path to get the elusive heavyweight title.
Tomohiro Ishii def. SANADA - What a tournament for Ishii. At worst, he was second in the MVP race. If you want to put him ahead of Ibushi, I couldn't argue. That's how good of a tournament he had. He was the first person to beat Omega and he beat all three champions. He may not have won the Block, but we'll look back at the 2018 G1 and remember it as Ishii's tournament. SANADA got off to such a strong start and it was all downhill after the Omega loss. Expect SANADA to use this tournament as a learning experience. He's just 30 years old and should be in the G1 for the better part of the next decade.
Zack Sabre Jr def. Tetsuya Naito - Even though I picked ZSJ to win on the basis of thinking Ibushi would win the Block, I honestly didn't believe it. Especially after the final night of A Block when it came down to Tanahashi-Okada. I thought for sure Naito would be lurking in the background of Omega-Ibushi, ready to take the Block with an Ibushi win or draw. But ZSJ did it.
Not to take anything away from ZSJ's win because it's obviously huge. The real story here is Naito losing again. Aside from an IC title victory over Suzuki, this has not been Naito's year. Okada at Wrestle Kingdom, ZSJ in the NJ Cup, Chris Jericho at Dominion, Omega on Night 2, Ibushi on Night 14. And now, needing a win just to keep his G1 hopes alive, ZSJ again. Naito failed to beat the top guys in the Block and because of it, he won't repeat as the G1 winner.
How much longer can Naito be "tranquilo" with the big losses piling up?
Kota Ibushi def. Kenny Omega - This match was everything we hoped for. I lost my mind at least five times with the stuff they hit each other with. It wasn't the emotional draining match that it probably could have been, but we're not there yet. These two are recently re-united lovers who had one goal in mind: Win the G1. With that mutual understanding in place, they were able to have an outstanding match without all the storytelling drama of say Golden Lovers against Young Bucks earlier this year. There will be a time and place for that match. The final match of G1 Block action was not it.
Ibushi suffered some bad losses in the tournament. Who would have thought he would pull it off after losing to Yano and Tonga? However, unlike Naito, he came up with victories when it mattered most. Omega looked poised to go undefeated in the Block, but the loss to Ishii did more mental and physical damage than we suspected. Omega left a piece of himself in the ring against Ishii and could not find it before the end.
Match of the Night - Kota Ibushi vs. Kenny Omega
B Block Standings
* Kota Ibushi: 6-3 (12pts.) (Winner)
* Kenny Omega: 6-2 (12pts.)
* Tetsuya Naito: 6-3 (12pts.)
* Zack Sabre Jr: 6-3 (12pts.)
* Tomohiro Ishii: 5-4 (10pts.)
* SANADA: 4-5 (8pts.)
* Hirooki Goto: 3-6 (6pts.)
*Tama Tonga: 3-6 (6pts.)
*Juice Robinson: 3-6 (6pts.)
*Toru Yano: 3-6 (6pts.)
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi - These two met in the G1 last year with Ibushi picking up the win. We know we're getting a great match in the Finals. Ibushi remains my MVP of the tournament and Tanahashi is one of the best of all-time, especially in these big matches. When thinking of a winner, you have to think about Wrestle Kingdom. The winner will defend the briefcase in the months leading to Wrestle Kingdom, but thus far in history, no winner has lost the briefcase. Conversely, no G1 winner has won the Wrestle Kingdom main event. So ask yourself, "Who do I think is losing in the 2019 Wrestle Kingdom main event?" Then pick a winner.
You can make a case for both guys. With Tanahashi, the champion matters less. It's Tanahashi going after one last IWGP title run. Whether it's Omega, Okada, Naito, or someone else, the story of Tanahashi chasing the title sells itself. Ibushi winning makes sense if Omega remains champion. Again, the story writes itself.
My gut says Tanahashi wins because you don't know how many big matches you have left with him. One last headlining bout at The Dome makes all the sense in the world.