Welcome to Fightful's NJPW G1 Climax block update. We're officially halfway through the tournament and Kenny Omega is proving why he's the best in the world. Elsewhere, the Firing Squad continues to drag things down, Broken Okada is slowly piecing himself together, and Kota Ibushi is a madman.
Night 9 Review (A Block - Fifth Matches)
Minoru Suzuki def. Michael Elgin - First off, great job on commentary by Rocky Romero to bring up Elgin's right arm injury from the EVIL match. The injury has largely been ignored throughout this tournament, both on commentary and in matches. Second, Elgin continues to have an outstanding tournament. Suzuki did his best to rip Elgin's arm off, but Big Mike kept coming at him. In the end, Suzuki picked up his third straight win while handing Elgin his third straight defeat.
EVIL def. Hangman Page - Huge credit to both guys. I had my doubts that they would work well together as both are better as strong seconds rather than reliable firsts. They showed me. The match started slow, built to a peak, and in the end the crowd was into every move and near fall. Page is impressing in losses while EVIL is being built strong for his eventual IC title match with Chris Jericho.
Bad Luck Fale def. Jay White - The match was fine, although the lack of commentary was a bit awkward. White just hates the English commentary teams. Then, of course, we had a ref bump and Firing Squad interference. White fending them off was weird seeing as he's the biggest heel in the company. If anything, he should be their leader. It's impossible for me to care about Fale and Tonga matches knowing the match won't be close to ending until the ref goes down. Fale is now back in the mix while White's hot start has been erased.
Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Togi Makabe - No one really bought Makabe winning, which hurt the drama in the match. They kept things short, Tanahashi did his thing, Makabe played his role. Tanahashi stays at the top of the standings, where he'll remain until the final night.
Kazuchika Okada def. YOSHI-HASHI - Much like Makabe against Tanahashi, HASHI never stood a chance. Unlike that bout, they tried to reel you in and make you believe HASHI could pull off the upset. Okada was great as usual and HASHI is having a solid tournament despite little upside. They played into the history of both men, which helped the overall package of the match. Okada keeps winning, but still doesn't quite look like himself and is running out of time to be the Rainmaker. He still has bouts against Block leaders EVIL and Tanahashi and the always tough Suzuki and Elgin. Plus, White holds the tiebreaker over him.
Match of the Night - Kazuchika Oakada vs. YOSHI-HASHI
A Block Standings
* EVIL: 4-1 (8pts.)
* Hiroshi Tanahashi: 4-1 (6pts.)
* Minoru Suzuki: 3-2 (6pts.)
* Jay White: 3-2 (6pts.)
* Kazuchika Okada: 3-2 (6pts.)
* Michael Elgin: 2-3 (4pts.)
* Bad Luck Fale: 2-3 (4pts.)
* Togi Makabe: 2-3 (4pts.)
* Hangman Page: 1-4 (2pts.)
* YOSHI-HASHI: 1-4 (2pts.)
Night 10 (B Block - Fifth Matches)
Zack Sabre Jr. def. Tama Tonga - It's never good when a match peaks with the introductions. This was every single Tonga match thus far. The work prior to the interference was average at best, Tanga and Fale got involved, Tonga got DQ'd. What is the point? Tonga has no interest in winning, which should be everyone's goal in the tournament, and he's not even impacting future matches. The B Block has stolen this tournament with the matches they've produced. Tonga is the police.
Juice Robinson def. Toru Yano - Juice finally wins! The match was about what you would expect. Nothing special, but fun interactions between two of the most likable guys in the company. The ending sequence with the spinning pulp friction counters was fun.
Kota Ibushi def. Tomohiro Ishii - This was borderline uncomfortable yet awesome at the same time. I'm all for laying it in and these two were straight up punching each other in the throat at one point. There's toughness and then there's whatever you want to call these guys. Ishii shrugging off Ibushi's strikes early on, Ibushi needing to take a huge risk to gain the advantage, Ibushi getting disrespectful, move stealing and both showing fighting spirit. It all mixed together for a war that Ibushi won, but no one survived.
Tetsuya Naito def. Hirooki Goto - Kevin Kelly said Goto was the first person in the tournament to kick out of destino. And that about sums up this match. Kelly was wrong -- literally everyone except Tonga has kicked out of the first destino -- and it highlighted everyone being just a step off. Naito wasn't as smooth as he usually is and Goto couldn't make up the difference. It didn't help that they had to follow Ibushi-Ishii. Naito keeps pace at the top of the block while Goto's dream of being IWGP champion will have to come via others means.
Kenny Omega def. SANADA - This was as good as advertised. The early knee work by Omega didn't exactly play later in the match, which is my only complaint. Otherwise, both guys delivered the goods. Omega had a counter for everything SANADA threw at him. Maybe SANADA pulls it off if he doesn't go for that moonsault when Kenny looked out from skull end. But it paid off against Ibushi, so why wouldn't he try it again? Omega is on fire right now and if NJPW wanted to put him over as the best wrestler in the world, they're doing a fine job. SANADA's time will come.
Match of the Night - Kota Ibushi vs. Tomohiro Ishii
B Block Standings
* Kenny Omega: 5-0 (10pts.)
* Tetsuya Naito: 4-1 (8pts.)
* SANADA: 3-1 (6pts.)
* Kota Ibushi: 3-2 (6pts.)
* Zack Sabre Jr: 3-2 (6pts.)
* Tomohiro Ishii: 2-3 (4pts.)
* Hirooki Goto: 2-3 (4pts.)
* Tama Tonga: 1-4 (2pts.)
* Juice Robinson: 1-4 (2pts.)
* Toru Yano: 1-4 (2pts.)
Night 11 Preview (A Block - Sixth Matches)
Togi Makabe vs. Bad Luck Fale - Not expecting a whole lot in this match. They'll hit each other hard for a bit, Firing Squad will eventually get involved, and Fale will likely pick up another victory. Hopefully this is short and semi-sweet.
Jay White vs. Hangman Page - This is a rematch from their US title match at Strong Style Evolved. The work was very good in that match, but the crowd didn't exactly care about either man. The Japanese audience should be more receptive, especially with the work Page has done thus far in the tournament. Unfortunately, a scheduled ref bump could hurt the final product. Expect White to get back on track with a victory.
EVIL vs. Minoru Suzuki - EVIL got the better of Suzuki in last year's G1. If this is kept short and hard-hitting, I'll have no complaints. The longer this goes, the worse it likely becomes. With a 4-1 record, EVIL is in a good position to take a loss. That said, with matches against Tanahashi, Okada, and White still to come, an EVIL victory here keeps him strong heading into the final stretch. Always good when a match can go either way.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. YOSHI-HASHI - HASHI has been great as the underdog in this tournament, but if Tanahashi doesn't feel like going long, the match will suffer. This is at the end of the weekend, taking place on Monday morning instead of Sunday, so fatigue could certainly set in. After seeing Tanahashi against Makabe, my expectations are low for this one. HASHI represents no real threat to win, which doesn't help.
Michael Elgin vs. Kazuchika Okada - After the focused attack by Suzuki, I have to imagine Elgin's injured right arm comes into play here. It would certainly help tell Okada's story of doing just enough to win, but not turning in a flawless performance. Elgin has arguably been the best performer in the Block, so this match should be great.
Night 12 Preview (B Block - Sixth Matches)
Juice Robinson vs. SANADA - It'll be interesting to see what happens with SANADA following the Omega loss. Does he slip after blowing his shot against the IWGP heavyweight champion or does he rebound and knock off the US champion? And can Juice afford another loss in this tournament? With Juice being streaky and my guess that they want to maintain some prestige with the US belt, it seems likely that Juice wins here. If they get time, the match should be good. Both guys are best as strong seconds, but I think they can elevate here similar to Hangman and EVIL.
Hirooki Goto vs. Kota Ibushi - Goto defeated Ibushi in last year's G1 while Ibushi knocked off Goto in the Finals of the 2015 NJ Cup. This could go one of two ways. Either Ibushi is crazy enough to go strike-for-strike with Goto just days after going strike-for-strike with Ishii. Or Ibushi wants to take it easy and relies more on his athleticism than his fighting spirit. Never bet against Ibushi not being crazy. Ibushi needs the win more to stay in the hunt leading into the final night against Omega.
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tama Tonga - I don't care. You shouldn't care. Tonga has been the biggest disappointment in the tournament and it's not close. The good news for Ishii is that he gets a night off after that Ibushi war.
Toru Yano vs. Tetsuya Naito - Yano will have fun, Naito will play it up. This will be short and harmless.
Kenny Omega vs. Zack Sabre Jr. - I can't wait for this match. They've only met once in a one-on-one bout and that was way back in 2013 in 4FW. Both men have come a long way since then. Omega is running out of chances to lose and still has Yano left, which is a nearly guaranteed victory. He'll have to lose to ZSJ or Ishii if they want to create any drama on the final night. Kelly keeps mentioning Omega's fractured heel. That has to come into play at some point, right? ZSJ working the leg/foot and Omega living to fight another day rather than risking long-term damage is on the table. As is the Firing Squad actually having a goal and costing Omega. Then again, maybe the final night drama is simply, "Can Omega go undefeated?" Plenty of options here, which only adds to my excitement.
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