So here’s the thing, Day 1 of the tournament launched with a litany of great matches and that was on purpose. You’re not going to launch the G1 tournament with a lackluster event. But in fairness with so many guys competing in the event you’re also not going to have every show be as stacked as the first night. This Day 2 event was never going to live up to the hype of Day 1, it just wasn’t possible. All you’re trying to do with Day 2 is to build on the momentum you got from Day 1, move the tournament forward and give the fans something to talk about. I think Day 2 did all of that and more, though the biggest highlight of the day was the crowd who were electric throughout and at one point even convinced me that Toru Yano might beat AJ Styles. Let’s talk about the show though, shall we?
Block A: Satoshi Kojima (1-0-0, 2) v. Tomohiro Ishii (0-1-0, 0): Ishii appears to be the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles of the G1 as he kicked off Day 1 and Day 2, not a bad choice actually as his match today was really solid. Every once in awhile blood does add intrigue to a match and in this one Ishii got busted open in the mouth which immediately made it feel more intense. Really fun spot during the match where Ishii reversed the Kojima slap spot in the corner, Kojima humored him for a moment, reversed it back and laid into Ishii. The crowd was super into this match and the intensity of the striking really put it over the top. Ishii finally puts Kojima away with the brainbuster but this was a great match and a great way to open a show that I was a little iffy on before it began.
Block A: Shelton Benjamin (1-0-0, 2) v. Bad Luck Fale (1-0-0, 2): Well, there goes the neighborhood. So Shelton Benjamin pins the current IWGP Intercontinetnal Champion clean as a whistle after escaping a Bad Luck Fall, because of course he does – who didn’t see that coming? To be honest even Benjamin seemed legitimately shocked to have heard the bell ring indicating that he had won. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for Shelton — he deserved the win but it just felt like with Fale obviously on the fast track to super-duper stardom in New Japan that he wouldn’t struggle much with Shelton Benjamin.
Block B: Yujiro Takahashi (1-0-0, 2) v. Hirooki Goto (1-0-0, 2): Everything about Takahashi is hateable. I’m not even a huge Goto fan but I went into this match just wanting to see Takahashi get pummeled. I will give Takahashi some credit, I mean it is his job to get people to hate him and on that front he’s doing swimmingly. There were a ton of near falls in this match which did help to build the drama towards the finish. This match was without a doubt the best Takahashi match that I’d ever seen. I loved the finish sequence including Goto hitting a brutal head butt before the Shoten Kai and the three. Solid effort by both guys which is something I haven’t said about Takahashi, ever.
Block B: Lance Archer (0-0-0, 0) v. Tetsuya Naito (0-1-0, 0): The crowd, which has been good up to this point is so hyped for Naito it’s not even funny. The reigning G1 champion hasn’t had the best twelve month stretch since the last tournament but he’s very popular in this particular room. If you were looking for a match that was mostly just Lance Archer beating the shit out of Naito than this is the one for you. I did not particularly enjoy myself during this match but I must confess that Archer hit a great chokeslam that Naito took like a champ – that should have ended things but instead Naito kicked out at two, got a quick roll up out of the F’n Slam and scored the victory. I know this was Archer’s first match of the tournament so it sets the table for him but he got about 90% of the offense and lost, this match made him look like a goober.
Block B: Yuji Nagata (0-1-0, 0) v. Tomoaki Honma (0-1-0, 0): It’s crazy how popular Honma is with this crowd, especially when you take into account that he wasn’t even supposed to be in this tournament. At this point I could probably watch an entire match that is just Honma missing head butts. The crowd did their best to make this match better than it was. They love Honma and he does such a great job putting over other people’s offense but I don’t know I just wasn’t into it. Nagata wins with the backdrop driver with a bridge for the pinfall victory.
Block A: Shinsuke Nakamuara (0-1-0, 0) v. Davey Boy Smith Jr. (0-0-0, 0): I haven’t really read reviews of the show yet because I’m writing these thoughts while I watch Day 2, so I might be on an island with this thinking but I loved this match. Davey Boy Jr., more than held his own in this match and did a great job of pinballing Nakamura around the ring for long stretches of the match. Even though Nakamura won the match I don’t think Smith Jr., looked bad and in fact I’d argue that he looked spectacular in this match — the exact opposite of how I felt about Archer in his loss to Naito. Nakamura dug deep in this one and withstood everything that Smith threw at him, the fact that Smith Jr., was able to lay into Nakamura so much and really beat him up helped pay off the face burst at the end which was sold even better when Smith Jr., kicked out of the first Boma Ye. It took two Boma Ye’s to put down Davey Boy Smith Jr., and honestly even in losing I came away from that match looking forward to seeing more of him.
Block B: Toru Yano (1-0-0, 2) v. AJ Styles (0-1-0, 0): It’s somewhat comforting that AJ Styles has the exact same reaction to Toru Yano that I do which is sort of head scratching confusion. I liked this match because it was the IWGP Heavyweight Champion against Toru Yano, and AJ Styles dominated and won clean. The only moment of real note came on a near fall by Yano on a quick roll up, playing off his victory over Suzuki on Day 1, but AJ blocking the second attempt into the Styles Clash was perfect and this was a good reminder that AJ Styles is for all intents and purposes the top dog in the New Japan yard. I will comment that even though the roll through to the Styles Clash was a bit ugly, I give AJ credit because when he rolled Yano over for the pin he was so close to the ropes that it looked like Yano’s hand might go under the ropes, so AJ positioned himself to hold Yano’s hand away from the ropes to complete the pin — that’s professional work right there.
Block B: Hiroyoshi Tenzan (1-0-0, 2) v. Kazuchika Okada (1-0-0, 2): Wait, was the purpose of this match to make Tenzan look a lot like Yano because he kind of looked completely overwhelmed in this match to me. I am sort of feelin’ Tenzan right now, I loved him breaking away from a Rainmaker Lariat by headbutting Okada in the face, but other than that most of this felt like a vicious beating by the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Even when Tenzan hooked in the Anaconda Vice, which helped him win on Day 1 I never thought he belonged in the same ring as Okada.
Block B: Togi Makabe (0-1-0, 0) v. Karl Anderson (0-1-0, 0): This is another example of a match getting some added heat because of blood. Early on Anderson busted Makabe’s mouth open so he had that pink smile throughout that always makes a match feel a little more intense (as I said during the Ishii opener). The problem I have with this match is that it built up nicely and then ended, like abruptly ended with Makabe hitting the King Kong Knee and pinning Anderson. It all felt rushed and the ended really let me down.
Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi (1-0-0, 2) v. Doc Gallows (0-1-0, 0): Watching Doc Gallows come to the ring something strikes me, nobody current in the Bullet Club makes a convincing finger gun. Every one of them has these limp, tired, bored looking finger guns and Anderson of course has no concept of what a machine gun firing would look like, it’s all very distracting. Devitt used to commit to the finger gun — we miss you Prince Devitt. This match involved my favorite New Japan trope, red sleeve referee watching Doc Gallows hit someone with a steel chair and just shaking his head in disapproval. Does Doc Gallows have distractingly thin legs? Gallows did a good job of putting a beating on Tanahashi which made the baby face comeback more appealing. It took two high fly flow’s to put Gallows down. I’m not going to revisit this match by any means but it was perfectly acceptable and a decent way to the end the second day of the tournament.
With that, day two of the tournament ends with Tanahashi in the ring celebrating a victory over a Bullet Club member, after Okada received similar treatment on Day 1. I was disappointed not to see Shibata on Day 2 after his excellent performance against Nakamura on the first day of the event, but I do think that having the extra time off for performers will keep guys fresh and healthy through the duration of an otherwise relentless schedule.
Shelton Benjamin (4)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (4)
Bad Luck Fale (2)
Satoshi Kojima (2)
Katsuyori Shibata (2)
Tomohiro Ishii (2)
Yuji Nagata (2)
Shinsuke Nakamura (2)
Doc Gallows (0)
Tomoaki Honma (0)
Davey Boy Smith Jr. (0)
Hirooki Goto (4)
Kazuchika Okada (4)
Yujiro Takahashi (2)
Toru Yano (2)
Hioyoshi Tenzan (2)
Togi Makabe (2)
Tetusyo Naito (2)
AJ Styles (2)
Karl Anderson (0)
Lance Archer (0)
Minoru Suzuki (0)