This was the first night of A-Block back in Japan. It started with a good big man match between Lance Archer and Bad Luck Fale. Archer put on another fantastic performance and got a solid match out of Fale who can be very hit or miss depending on his opponent. Was glad to see Archer pick up another victory to keep his momentum going.
Next up we had two of the best guys in NJPW, Will Ospreay and SANADA. They put on an excellent performance, they work so well together that I can genuinely see them having an Okada/Omega level feud in the future. SANADA’s been hovering around the main event for a while, I hope this is his breakout year. This wasn’t his night though, as Ospreay got the win when he finally hit an OsCutter after multiple attempts during the match and followed up with Stormbreaker for the pinfall. For me, Ospreay is the one to watch in this tournament, it may be his first G1, but he’s more than proved himself as a top guy in the last few months.
IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada took on the submission master, Zack Sabre Jr. in the next match. Both men can adapt to any opponent’s style, so this was a great match full of the usual insane submissions by ZSJ, with him targeting Okada’s Rainmaker arm as much as possible, but Okada managing to counter or find the ropes to break out of all of the holds, including Orienteering with Napalm Death. Okada got the victory with the Rainmaker clothesline, and I was a little disappointed as I hoped ZSJ would win and get a title shot in the UK later in the year at Royal Quest. Still, there’s always Ospreay.
EVIL then took on a tournament favourite in Kota Ibushi. Prior to the match, Ibushi had revealed on social media that he’s working through an ankle injury, EVIL must have read the same tweet because he relentlessly targeted the ankle throughout the match. Ibushi still managed to perform at a high level was but less mobile than usual and seemed to be testing the ankle at points. In the end, EVIL picked up a surprise victory with Darkness Falls followed by Everything is Evil.
The main event saw KENTA take on the Ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi. This was a good match with KENTA continuing to be dominant with his brutal kicks and strikes. Tanahashi got the upper hand on a few occasions, near the end he hit a High Fly Flow, then tried to follow up with another but KENTA got his knees up to counter it. He finished the match with a PK and GTS for the pin. Having missed his NOAH run, I’m continuing to enjoy seeing KENTA in NJPW. He clearly has something to prove after his time in WWE and he’s already showed he’s capable of a lot more. It seems he still hasn’t proved himself to Tanahashi, who refused to shake his hand, we might just see more of these two going at it in the near future.