This night had two matches I’ve been looking forward to, EVIL v SANADA and Kota Ibushi v Will Ospreay.
The tournament matches kicked off with KENTA taking on the monster Lance Archer, both of these guys have been having a great G1, although the crowd still haven’t fully accepted KENTA in NJPW. This was the first match KENTA’s had against such a huge wrestler in NJPW, I enjoyed watching him slowly breaking Archer down over the match. Archer got some great offence in too and continues a good run in the tournament. At one point he heckled KENTA by calling him “Hideo”, that was a nice little touch. KENTA couldn’t get Archer up for the GTS, so he pulled out another finisher, forcing Archer to submit to Game Over.
I’ve been enjoying the build up to the next match, SANADA v EVIL, with EVIL distancing himself a bit from his LIJ teammates to focus on it, and even attacking SANADA in their last multi-man tag. He eas going into this with something to prove. He was more aggressive than I would maybe expect teammates to be EVIL used the Paradise Lock! Feels like evil has something to prove in this match, he’s a lot more aggressive than you might expect teammates to be. There were a lot of great spots, including EVIL trapping SANADA in the Paradise Lock and taking his time to dropkick him out of it, EVIL also using the referee to hit SANADA with the Magic Killer, and SANADA almost winning with Everything is Evil. EVIL ended up proving his point by finishing SANADA off with a huige lariat followed by Everything is Evil. He’s every bit as good as SANADA and now we all know it. After the match, the two shared a fist bump to let us know everything is good in LIJ again (although we do still have Takagi v Naito to come later in the tournament).
Okada gave Fale one of the best matches of Fale’s year as he so often does. It wasn’t great, but it had some good stuff. Fale unexpectedly attacked Okada before he’d even made it to the ring to get the upper hand early on. Later in the match , Okada hit an extremely impressive Air raid neckbreaker on Fale. When he can do that, why bother with the attempted bodyslam spots? Chase Owens got involved in the match but Okada quickly dispatched him with a dropkick. Okada won with a quick roll-up on the big man to remain undefeated going into his hugely anticipated match with the other undefeated man of A-Block, KENTA.
Next up, it was another match in the great series of Tanahashi and Zack Sabre Jr. These guys work so well together now it’s ridiculous. Tanahashi adapts brilliantly to ZSJ’s style. Every time he seemed to be getting an advatage, ZSJ pulled out another submission. Tanahashi hit the standing High Fly Flow, tried for another but ZSJ got his knees up, then locked Tanahashi in a Triangle. Tanahashi managed to turn it into a pin for the win.
Ibushi v Ospreay was as great as you’d expect. There rerally sin’t too much to say beyond, “go watch it now!”. They are easily two of the best in the world and any time they’re in the ring together it’s going to be something special. With Ospreay out to prove himself among the heavyweights as Ibushi did a few years ago, it’ll be interesting to see if he enjoys the same success. On his showings so far this year, I think he definitely will! One thing that did stick out to me was Ibsuhi crouching down to Ospreay when he was in the tree of woe and slapping his face to goad him on. I think Ibushi wants him on his level to continue this feud and it’s another one that can keep NJPW at the top of pro-wrestling for years to come.
Seriously, go watch it now!