NJPW takes us away from Dallas and back to Japan for the opening night one of B Block action. The show came to us from Ota City General Gymnasium and offered up a slew of delectable tournament matches for the audience. We got Shingo’s first G1 match against Juice Robinson, Tomohiro Ishii and Jeff Cobb squaring up, Taichi making his G1 debut against Jon Moxley and Steel Chair favourite, Toru Yano looking to potentially score an upset victory against the IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito. Plus, the show was main evented by Jay White taking on Hirooki Goto. Let’s see if B Block can match the standards set by A Block.
EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI defeated Yuya Uemura, Will Ospreay & Kota Ibushi via Codebreaker to Uemura
Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Lance Archer via Package Piledriver to Kanemaru
KENTA, Clark Connors & Karl Fredericks (LA Dojo) defeated Ren Narita, Shota Umino (Japan Dojo) & Hiroshi Tanahashi via Single Legged Boston Crab to Narita
Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr defeated YOSHI-HASHI & Kazuchika Okada via Arm Bar to Hashi
B Block Match: Juice Robinson vs Shingo Takagi
This is how you open your block. You put two of the best strikers in NJPW together and watch the sparks fly. The two went strike for strike and power move for power move in a game of one upmanship as Shingo tried to prove he could hang with the heavyweights. He already had a win over Kojima before the tournament but now had another challenge in the form of fan favourite and former US champion Juice Robinson. Shingo took Robinson to the limit as the pair knocked each other out time and time again, even reversing Pulp Friction into No Shigami. Unfortunately, he was unable to tank the Left Hand of God and finally fell victim to Pulp Friction. Had Shingo hit Last of the Dragon or Made in Japan, I feel we’d be telling a much different story. As first matches go, this loss is nothing to be ashamed of as it was as close as close gets. With this loss, it now means both Jr heavyweights in the tournament have lost their first match.
B Block Match: Taichi vs Jon Moxley
Credit to Taichi here, he did try. He attacked as Moxley was making his entrance and ran him ragged until the bell was rung. From there it was an 8 minute-ish brawl that resulted in Moxley pummelling the hell out of Taichi for the sneak attack, putting him through a table with a Uranage and pie facing him with a chair when Taichi tried to use it after a ref bump. Moxley got pissed and murdered Taichi for his troubles. There were a few dramatic struggles to hit Death Rider and an almost pinfall from the Gedo Clutch. Taichi had control early but the second the tearaway pants came off, Moxley found an opening, forcing Taichi to reverse and come back. However, he was not able to do so and tasted Death Rider and his first tournament loss. Moxley looked like a beast here, he flew, brutalised with strikes and got out the hardware when he realised, he could get away with it. He even spoke to the camera post-match to say “It’s not a good idea to piss me off.” He is going to be an interesting one to watch as he takes on more sizeable opponents. The same goes for Taichi who will most likely be scheming ahead of his next match.
B Block Match: Toru Yano vs Tetsuya Naito
Toru Yano does it again and spoils someone’s G1 by pulling the surprise win. He shouldn’t have had a chance but Naito was too busy mocking him and throwing his own moves back at him as he mimicked the turnbuckle pad removal and the screaming in the ropes. He tried to roll up Yano countless times and even use the shirt to blind Yano. Instead, Yano escaped a turnbuckle pad strike, nearly landed several roll-ups and was able to blind the ref, hit a Low Blow and win with a T-Shirt assisted Roll Up. It was all a bit daft but fun enough, especially seeing an amused Naito mimic Yano’s moves or altering his own to impact Yano. If you watch this one expect to see lots of turnbuckle pad antics, roll-ups, hair pulling and a lot of audible screaming. Some people will hate this and the fact Naito lost to Yano but to me, this was a fun little comedy match to break up two very serious strike fests.
B Block Match: Tomohiro Ishii vs Jeff Cobb
Now, this was a proper big man battle. This match consisted of chops, forearms, fists, Suplexes, Superplexes and Slams. It was a brutal 18-minute slugfest that mirrored Shingo/Juice except with even more strikes and no selling. Cobb would often fire up off of Ishii’s offence whilst Ishii often returned in kind to deliver harsher strikes. This one was not for the faint of heart as the strikes sounded like bricks and probably felt like them too. It was all a battle to hit the finisher as Brainbuster and Tour of the Islands attempts were blocked and reversed, usually with more strikes. It was the perfect slow burn smash and throw match the card needed. It was less about athleticism and more about just how much punishment you could take, shake off and rebound from. We saw both guys kick out of a mix of Stalling Superplexes, German and Dragon Suplexes, Lariats and even a Piledriver. In the end, Ishii was the better competitor, reversing the Tour of the Islands into a Vertical Drop Brainbuster. He wins and Chaos racks up yet more points. Cobb definitely put in the effort and his harsh strikes should have endeared him further to the Japanese crowd.
B Block Match: Jay White vs Hirooki Goto
Okay, I’ll admit this was a feel-good moment for Goto. To have the chance to avenge the insults, mocking and losses to Jay White in the past and succeed. Goto now has 2 points on the board and prevented Switchblade from gaining an instant win. The match itself was okay but there was nothing truly special about it, especially compared to the match that preceded it. Goto was overwhelmed by dirty tactics then came back and won. It had its moments and a motivated Goto is fun to watch, especially when he’s not selling death but again it was just missing a certain spark. White has the crowd’s hatred and knows his role as a heel but even he couldn’t truly add an extra dimension to the match. Hopefully White starts racking up wins and Goto continues to be this motivated against all his opponents.
So, there you have it, B Block now has some scores on the board. There were some surprise wins (Yano and Goto) and some surprise losses (White and Naito.) The pre-tournament tag matches saw some great previews of A Block fights and the first look at some of the LA Dojo’s talents in front of a Japanese audience. Shingo has had a strong first showing in defeat and Juice proved that he can start strong in the tournament when his hand isn’t broken. Many may have started strong but now we need to see if they can keep their momentum going and if everyone who lost today can rebound from the crushing first day. Only time will tell and in such early stages of the tournament, it’s still anyone’s chance to win.
Juice Robinson – 2 (1-0-0)
Jon Moxley – 2 (1-0-0)
Toru Yano – 2 (1-0-0)
Tomohiro Ishii – 2 (1-0-0)
Hirooki Goto – 2 (1-0-0)
Shingo Takagi – 0 (0-0-1)
Taichi – 0 (0-0-1)
Tetsuya Naito – 0 (0-0-1)
Jeff Cobb – 0 (0-0-1)
Jay White – 0 (0-0-1)
All images courtesy of njpw1972.com