Match 1 – Chase Owens (w/Jado) v YOSHI-HASHI
In the past, both of these guys have more or less been around to eat the pins for their factions in tag matches. YOSHI-HASHI has had some decent showings in singles tournaments but never really gets very far. So, it was a bit of a surprise to see both of them advance to the second round to face each other.
That being said, while Owens has always been a solid performer, since retunring to Bullet Club in the wake of The Elite leaving, he’s went up a level and is showing a lot more confidence. Not long into the match he was showing some attitude as well, ramming YOSHI-HASHI shoulder first into the apron to recreate the incident that put YOSHI-HASHI on the injured list for several months when he slipped running to the ring and took damage to the shoulder (it was kind of like Titus World-slide but… strong style). Chase yelled that he had “just YOHI-HASI’d YOSHI-HASHI!”, showing that he fits right in with the Cut-throat era Bullet Club.
Following that, Owens continued to dominate the match, punching YOHI-HASHI straight in the face and dropping the elbow on him from the second rope. YOSHI-HASHI managed to mount a comeback, catching Owens with a spin-kick and then draping him over the top rope and hitting a dropkick to his back. They then went back and forth until Chase dropped YOSHI-HASHI with a stiff clothesline. YOSHI-HASHI kicked out and Owens went straight for the package piledriver but was rammed into the turnbuckle. YOSHI-HASHI forced Owens to the top turnbuckle but Owens blocked a superplex attempt, got YOHI-HASHI into a Tree of Woe and hit a double foot stomp from the top. Owens locked in a sharpshooter using the ropes for leverage out of sight of the referee but YOSHI-HASHI, screaming in pain, managed to grab the rope for the break. YOSHI-HASHI then reveresed a package piledriver attempt into qa backdrop and hit a flipping neckbreaker from the turnbuckle. He tried Karma but Owens fought out and grabbed the ref, allowing Jado to get in the ring. Jado distracted the ref long enough for Owens to hit YOSHI-HASHI with the kendo stick and a running knee to the back. YOSHI-HASHI kicked out and hit a superkick, Owens rebounded off the ropes with a clothesline, YOSHI-HASHI then reversed a Jewel Heist attempt, tried for Karma again, Owens reversed it but Jado accidentally cught him in the head with the kendo stick allowing YOHI-HASHI to hit doubler knees to Owens. After Owens kicked out of the pin attempt, YOSHI-HASHI got him in the Butterfly Lock, Owens powered out and hit an elbow, but YOSHI-HASHI came back with a big lariat and then hit Karma for the win.
Overall, this was a decent match with Chase Owens showing a lot of personality, I’m a lot more sold on him as a threat to Juice Robinson’s US Championship now. This makes it more surprising that YOSHI-HASHI took the win since he’s still just on the “solid but reliable” end of the mid-card scale, he’s certainly not bad, but there’s nothing that stands out about him either, although the crowd seems to be on his side. I would say Owens has a good year ahead of him, but I can’t see YOSHI-HASHI getting past Round 3.
Winner by pinfall – YOSHI-HASHI
Match 2 – Tomohiro Ishii v Taichi
I still hate Taichi, so I was happy to see he would be facing the Stone Pitbull, Ishii in Round 2 since I love to see him get beat up! Judging by how the match started, I don’t think Taich fancied his chances either. He rolled out of the ring to stall and grabbed a drink of water from one of the announce tables. I think his feud with Naito might have given him some ideas about tactics and playing mind games with opponents.
When he did get back in the ring, he kept a hold of the ropes. Ishii, who had taken to sitting in the middle of the ring waiting for Taichi, jumped up and went straight for his throat but Taichi gouged at his eye then jumped out of the ring again. He rolled back in at a count of 17 and Ishii, clearly getting frustrated now, stormed at him, knocking him out of the ring, throwing him at a barrier, into the ring post and then back at the barrier again. However, going outside backfired when Taichi threw a chair at Ishii’s face, hit him with it and then started choking him with it before the referee forced him to break it up. Back in the ring, Taichi gouged Ishii’s eye again and then hit a hard kick to the back. Ishii was unfazed and demanded Taichi do it again, Taichi obliged with hard kicks and stomps. Ishii back up with forearms to Taichi but Taichi went back to the eye. Ishii then hit a perfect vertical brainbuster. Ishii backed Taichi into the corner and pummelled him with chops. Taichi then got the upper hand, reversing an irish whip and then blasting Ishii with two enziguri’s in opposite corners. Taich then began taunting Ishii, wiping his foot on ihis head and then hitting quick Kawada kicks to Ishii’s face. Ishii had enough and is back up with brutal chops to Taichi’s throat followed by multiple headbutts, staanding on Taichi’s neck and hitting the Kawada kicks to Taichi. They then began trading kicks and chops before Taichi hit hook kick to Ishii, taking him down. Seeing the end in sight, Taichi tore off his trousers (it’s a thing he does) and hit the buzzsaw kick. Ishii kicked out and Taichi put him straight into a stretch plum submission, pinning him when he looked like he was ou, but Ishii barely managed to kickout before the 3 count. Ishii managed to come back to his senses and hit a big German suplex to Taichi, then pulled him up to batter him with elbows, a massive clothesline and a high Last Ride powerbomb, but it wasn’t enough to put Taichi away.
After this, Ishii missed with a sliding clothesline, accidentally taking out the ref. Taichi reached for the bag which we assume contains Iizuka’s iron glove, but decided against it and picked up his mic stand instead. Ishii goaded Taichi to hit him with the mic stand, but Taichi, in an unusual display of fighting spirit, drops it and the two men start trading kciks and chops instead. Ishii got the upper habd but was taken down with stiff mid-kicks, back up again and taken down with a stiff kick again, Ishii got back up but Taichi hit the ax bomber to the back and another to the front of Ishii but he kicks out. Taichi pulled him up and hit a powerbomb, but Ishii still wouldn’t stay down. Taichi then went for Black Mephisto but Ishii drilled him with a piledriver instead, Taichi somehow jumped straight back up, Ishii hit a headbutt and a big clothesline. Taichi reversed a brainbuster and hit a lowblow, got Ishii in a Gedo Clutch pin but Ishii kicked out again. Ishii went for the kill now with an ax bomber and a sliding lariat, Taichi kicked out but Ishii then ended it with a big brainbuster.
I enjoyed this match for the most part and Taichi continues his growth as a heavyweight wrestler. However, the way he jumped out of a couple of Ishii’s big power moves was too much for me, he’s never been that resilient, so it took me out of the match a bit toward the end. The pace was a bit slow to start with too, but that was partly Taichi stalling to wind up Ishii, so it could be argued that it was suitable for what they were trying to do, I’m not sure where the line is between it being effective and when it becomes just plain dull. Ishii is a phenomenal talent and can have great matches with anyone, I’m glad he’s going on top round 3, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens when he has to take on his Chaos stablemate, YOSHI-HASHI.
Winner by pinfall – Tomohiro Ishii