I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that I *loved* Day 4, I was pretty effusive in my praise in my review and I thought the show had a number of really good matches, so Day 5 had a lot to live up to. Heading into Day 5 there were two matches in particular that jumped off the page for me, Shelton Benjamin and Katsuyori Shibata and Tetsuyo Naito and Kazuchika Okada. The rest of the card was less appealing and I wasn’t sure that this day could live up to Day 4’s standards (at least in my own mind). So, how did Day 5 stack up?
Block B: Lance Archer (2 pts.) v. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4 pts.): You know what I can’t get past when I watch Tenzan? That top rope bulldog he does looks like garbage. I always know that I’m going to see it, I always know it’s going to look terrible and it kind of takes me out of the match. This really wasn’t a bad match at all, pretty hard hitting and evenly matched. Archer ends up winning and even though I thought it was a solid effort I still found myself kind of uninterested by the end.
Block A: Tomohiro Ishii (4 pts.) v. Doc Gallows (2 pts.): I’m not sure it’s a totally good idea to have Gallows and Archer wrestle back to back as it’s almost impossible to not compare them. The size difference between Ishii and Gallows is pronounced to say the least, did add some excitement to a vertical suplex by Ishii but man that dude appears to be 5 feet tall (at most) next to Gallows. Gallows with a jumping nothing, looked like maybe he was going Vader Bomb but since he landed on his feet, bent at the waist and got a boot in the mouth I’m not sure what it was actually supposed to be. I will say that the distinct size difference made all the difference in this match as Ishii hitting the brainbuster for the three count was a great visual. Pretty average match but the end was hot.
Block A: Satoshi Kojima (4 pts.) v. Davey Boy Smith Jr. (2 pts.): This is like one of those matches that feels like the type of thing that I would like, and yet something never really clicks for me. These two went all out – probably the longest match that either of them has had in the tournament yet. Smith Jr., who has been impressive to me thus far picked up the win but I don’t know, it didn’t really work for me.
Block B: Minoru Suzuki (2 pts.) v. Yujiro Takahashi (2 pts.): So all the things I said about the previous match, about how it really didn’t do much for me – this was the exact opposite of that. There was something incredibly gratifying about a match that featuring a showboating dick like Takahashi just getting his face slapped as hard as humanly possible by Minoru Suzuki. I loved it, and I am giving Takahashi the credit as well because he is so utterly unlikeable that it gave the match some added weight. Ultimately Suzuki wins with the SAKA OTOSHI which as Jason Felix rightly points out is a really fun move to scream out loud, try it.
Block B: Toru Yano (4 pts.) v. Karl Anderson (2 pts.): I’m still confused about Yano, but Anderson jumping him before the bell, ripping off his robe and then doing the Yano, Rob Van Dam taunt to “MA-CHINE GUN” made me laugh, actually even the “YA-NO SUCKS” and “BUL-LET CLUB” chants made me laugh, anytime someone rips off Rob Van Dam I laugh is what we’ve learned here. I will say this about this match, I found myself absolutely loving it. I don’t know what that says about me, but I really loved this whole thing. Between Anderson stealing the stolen RVD taunt, and Yano doing it himself. Between Anderson dodging Yano’s attempt at low blows, only to ultimately find himself hit by a low blow and rolled up for the loss was great. This was a perfect example of a match that isn’t given much time but two guys doing a ton of work, incorporating a lot of fun spots and just killing it. Even as I write about this match I am enjoying it even more. Also who thought Yano would have 6 points after five days?
Block A: Katsuyori Shibata (4 pts.) v. Shelton Benjamin (8 pts.): Not going to lie, I was legitimately excited about this match heading into Day 5 viewing. Guys, for real New Japan is making me think that Shelton Benjamin might be one of the baddest men on the planet. At one point in this match Shelton caught a Shibata kick and dropped Shibata on his head, then rolled to the outside and giant swung Shibata into the guardrail a couple of times — Shelton Benjamin is a bad ass. Shelton’s strikes look so good right now — standing face to face with Shibata and throwing forearms in this match was excellent. If you don’t think Shelton Benjamin is a boss right now, watch him reverse a Go 2 Sleep into an ankle lock and tell me that isn’t a dude totally locked in. As bad ass as Shelton is you have to give a ton of bad ass credit to Shibata who took a beating in this match, found a window open and choked the life out of Benjamin before hitting him with the PK and getting the win. The magical undefeated run of Shelton Benjamin has now left the building, you will be missed.
Block B: AJ Styles (2 pts.) v. Hirooki Goto (6 pts.): I have a confession to make, I find myself enjoying AJ Styles more when he wears his Bullet Club ring gear than when he wears his AJ ring gear. It’s almost like when I see the black and white I know he’s going to carry his part of the match. That seems irrational but that’s how my brain works. I’ve never been a huge fan of plodding, methodical AJ Styles but I understand he’s older and a heel so it’s the way he has to wrestle, but I am starting to come around on derp faced, Bullet Club leader AJ Styles. All of that being said, this one didn’t really click for me. I don’t think Goto is the best guy to take a ton of offense. When I watch Goto I want to see him kick the crap out of people, not get slapped around and put in headlocks by pouty face AJ Styles. Things picked up a bit when Goto hit what I’m going to call a sunset flip destroyer from the top turnbuckle on Styles, the crowd started to get invested seeing Goto making a comeback, but the comeback was short lived and ended with a Styles Clash and AJ picking up the win. The finish picked this one up a bit but the early portion with Styles just dominating felt a bit flat to me, when I see Goto/Styles I want to watch Styles get pummeled for awhile.
Block A: Shinsuke Nakamura (4 pts.) v. Tomoaki Honma (0 pts.): I’m not sure there is a pairing of two bigger personalities in this tournament, unless Honma and Yano were to somehow meet in a cross-block special attraction. Pretty solid Honma chant to open the match which just goes to show you that even if I’m not sold on the guy, the live crowd absolutely loves him. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that the highlight of this match was early on Honma puts Nakamura down and motions for his little falling headbutt, but before he even goes off the ropes Nakamura stands up and Honma had this amazing look on his face of disappointment that he didn’t get the chance to try (and ultimately fail) at the headbutt. I’m not saying that Honma should have beaten Nakamura, but I am saying that Honma needs to win one of these because throughout this whole match I found myself just blindly staring at the screen waiting for the inevitable BomaYe and three count. I get that he was a late replacement, and he doesn’t really win anything anyway, but there is absolutely no drama in these matches because you know how they’re going to end.
Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi (6 pts.) v. Bad Luck Fale (4 pts.):Is Tanahashi growing weird facial hair? I still have a hard time not seeing Fale as a guy who hasn’t really figured out how to be a big guy and hit like a big guy without actually murdering his opponent. Tanahashi doing the High Fly Flow to the outside when he’s basically held together with duct tape and Tylenol is always amazing to me. I don’t really understand the physics of Fale, on his back “catching” Tanahashi in the High Fly Flow and lifting him up for the Samoan Spike — I mean, he didn’t stop Tanahashi’s momentum in the air, wouldn’t the move still hurt? Semantics aside the end of this match was awesome, and the Bad Luck Fall continues to be the most bad ass finisher in the world. Fale picks up a big win over Tanahashi in a match that was probably what you should expect out of these two.
Block B: Tetsuya Naito (6 pts.) v. Kazuchika Okada (6 pts.): So it’s Day 5, and 3 of the previous 4 days have all been headlined by Okada, it’s fair to say that he’s winning this tournament right? Getting busted open by Yano has been great for Naito who I thought put on an incredible match with Styles on Day 4 and this was a match that I was very excited to see because I think both of these guys are capable of greatness. Watching Okada find inventive ways to get guys in position for the Air Raid Crash neckbreaker is one of the great joys of the G1 this year. Also on the list: Okada’s flying elbow, Okada’s drop kick and his ridiculously goofy finger points before the Rainmaker pose. When Naito hits the Stardust Press it looks awesome, so you could probably add that to the list of things that are amazing. In this match it looked like Naito landed right on Okada’s face, which probably didn’t feel super good but does explain why he was unable to kick out of the move. I’m not sure this was as great as I wanted it to be, but it was still a solid match. Naito continues to look amazing in this tournament with a ton of explosiveness and resiliency. He didn’t bleed on Day 5, which is probably good for his long term health, though I must admit that the blood added a ton of gravity to his match with Styles. Okada is a different animal entirely and it was good to see him lose here and a huge win for Naito.
So how does Day 5 stack up? It wasn’t as good as Day 4 top to bottom, but it wasn’t Day 2 either. I loved with all of my heart the Benjamin/Shibata match and I’d give high marks to the Yano/Anderson and Naito/Okada matches. Nothing stood out on this show as feeling lousy though the Davey Boy Smith Jr/Satoshi Kojima match was a complete non-entity for me. At this point nobody has really separated themselves from the pack though I think card positioning would tell you that Okada is the man to beat in Block B, even with a loss on Day 5 to Naito. Now that we’re at the halfway point though I don’t think you could say anyone is truly “out of it” other than Honma who was never expected to even be in the tournament so him being in that position doesn’t feel like much of a surprise. There are no undefeated performers left in the field, but I have to imagine that at the half-way point nobody predicted Shelton Benjamin and Tetsuyo Naito to be the leaders in the clubhouse.
Shelton Benjamin (8)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (6)
Bad Luck Fale (6)
Tomohiro Ishii (6)
Shinsuke Nakamura (6)
Katsuyori Shibata (6)
Satoshi Kojima (4)
Davey Boy Smith Jr. (4)
Yuji Nagata (2)
Doc Gallows (2)
Tomoaki Honma (0)
Tetusyo Naito (8)
Hirooki Goto (6)
Kazuchika Okada (6)
Hioyoshi Tenzan (4)
Togi Makabe (4)
Toru Yano (4)
AJ Styles (4)
Lance Archer (4)
Minoru Suzuki (4)
Yujiro Takahashi (2)
Karl Anderson (2)