Okada, Cobb out in front on six points in B Block
The G1 Climax hit Korakuen Hall for the first time in the tour on September 29, as B Block competed to end the first phase of their campaigns in strong form. The Korakuen NJPW faithful loves an underdog, and even without the ability to verbally chant, seemed wholly behind YOSHI-HASHI in the main event as he stepped to CHAOS leader Kazuchika Okada.
The Headhunter unleashed stinging chops early as he attempted to prove his worth in the biggest spot imaginable, but it was a pair of DDTs on the floor that granted full control of the match to Okada. With neck weakened, YOSHI-HASHI would suffer in the Money Clip, fading to the point referee Red Shoes Unno was close to calling for the bell, but able to hang on to the match. Okada would respond with a top rope elbow and looked for a Rainmaker finishing sequence, but a well timed counter at a critical instance would keep YOSHI-HASHI in the hunt.
With a headhunter neckbreaker, a Kumagoroshi and a rarely seen blockbuster from the second, YOSHI-HASHI mixed offence from his past and present. A Loose Explosion Swanton was not in his future, as Okada escaped to regain control but with full knowledge of his opponent, YOSHI-HASHI brought his own evasiveness to the table, avoiding contact on a shotgun dropkick at the last possible moment.
As the fans got fully behind YOSHI-HASHI, the Headhunter found the Butterfly Lock, and transitioned into a rear naked choke to stop Okada making the ropes. When that didn’t provide the desired result, he would mislead Okada with a Karma feint transitioned into an inside cradle, but when Okada kicked out, YOSHI-HASHI’s end was nigh. A Landslide Tombstone and Rainmaker gave Okada the win, though YOSHI-HASHI had nothing to be ashamed of.
Tama Tonga’s defeat to Hiroshi Tanahashi was entirely one of his own doing. His school boy error to bring him to a 1-2 would definitely send the BULLET CLUB member out of Korakuen with a sense of deep regret. With a lot of BULLET CLUB history from its origins to the present day centered on Tanahashi, this was a big spot for Tama, and one where he was determined to deliver. Indeed, Tonga dictated the pace over the Ace for the bulk of the match, Tanahashi only seizing control occasionally with a Dragon Screw and a somersault senton.
Tama would not let Tanahashi dominate, instead slowing his opponent with a sleeper before deciding he wanted the win in a more showy fashion. The BULLET CLUB member would land his own version of the Slingblade, before heading up and connecting with High Fly Flow, Tanahashi barely kicking out.
Tanahashi would remind Korakuen what the original Slingblade looked like as he rallied, and went upstairs for his own High Fly attack and then the High Fly Flow, only to hit empty canvas as the crowd, sensing an upset, gasped despite themselves. Adrenaline and momentum on his side, Tonga struck with Gunstun, but was so caught up in the moment that a celebration meant a late cover. When Tama did make the cover, an arrogant back first pin that was a clear visual shot to Karl Anderson was quickly countered with a crucifix and a painful loss.
Hirooki Goto also tasted a difficult loss as he slid to a career worst G1 opening record of 0-3 against Jeff Cobb. Working hard to counteract the Imperial Unit’s power, Goto was able to strike effectively in turns, but rarely with the combinations needed to put Cobb down for long. With lower back tortured for much of the match, Goto nonetheless caught an Ushigoroshi on the run, and a reverse GTR, but couldn’t get the full version. In the end, Goto resisted one Tour of the Islands, but not a second attempt, Cobb hoisting his man cleanly into the air for an emphatic and powerful victorious strike.
Joining Goto and YOSHI-HASHI at the bottom of the standings was Chase Owens on the night, who fell to SANADA. Having wrestled cleanly against Tama Tonga and Jeff Cobb in his opening matches, Owens seemed to be going back to dirtier habits tonight, dancing with a formula that brought him past success. That meant shots into the guardrails and, when in danger of falling to an O’Connor roll, grabbing the referee who took a tumble as he escaped.
Owens would not be able to hit the Package Piledriver however, as SANADA rolled into a hurricanrana for a near fall. Owens would try his own O’Connor Roll, but was countered with Skill End, and as the lights dimmed, a Moonsault sealed the deal.
The deal was sealed for EVIL against Taichi with a referee stoppage in sickening form on the night, bringing the King of Darkness to four points where Taichi remains. EVIL was quick to the filthy punch, bringing Taichi outside and into the timekeeper’s position, while the corner pad was predictably removed by Togo. Taichi would fight back against both Togo and EVIL, using the exposed buckle to his own advantage, and crushing both BULLET CLUB foes with lariats. Yet as momentum built, Togo grabbed Taichi’s muse Miho Abe. The distracted Taichi would fall victim to EVIL, and with the Holy Emperor already laid out, the Darkness Scorprion was applied. With Taichi unable to submit, Togo again grabbed Abe and forced her to watch as the match was ended via stoppage. As Taichi came to, he was desperate to get his hands on EVIL once more, a deeply personal issue arising out of the G1 conflict.
B block continues in Shizuoka on October 1, with SANADA facing Tanahashi in the main event, and Okada taking on Goto. A Block convenes in Korakuen before then on September 30, with Shingo Takagi vs KENTA top of the card.