Day 5 was the strongest day of the tournament thus far and right now Block A is absolutely KILLING the G1. On the other end of the spectrum, the last time we saw Block B, on Day 4, we were having the low point of the G1 in my opinion. Sooner or later a Block with Okada, Nakamura, Goto, Ishii and Anderson has to turn things around and there is some pressure on the Block B participants after Block A murdered Day 5. At least for one day Block B can stop feeling like it’s inferior in the eyes of New Japan, as we’ve got a multi-camera shoot for I believe the first time with this group (if my memory serves me).
Yuji Nagata (1-1, 2 Pts) v. Yujiro Takahashi (0-2, 0 Pts) [Block B]: I’m sorry did I just see Takahashi win a match? I kind of wanted to hate this, especially as this was the match that Block B had to start with following that amazing Day 5 for Block A. But I have to confess that I didn’t hate this. You pretty much know exactly what you’re going to get out of both of these guys, but Takahashi seemed engaged, and at no point did I think he almost killed someone with laziness. I liked that Cody Hall finally got involved at ringside, even if it was directly in front of the official. At least Yano has the decency to pretend to distract the official before doing something untoward. If I had to guess, I’d say that a combination of Day 5 out of Block A, and having this day actually involve something other than a single hard camera brought out the best in these two, I’m hoping that keeps up throughout the day. Takahashi broke out the Miami Shine to pick up the pinfall on Nagata and Yujiro moves into the land of points.
Hirooki Goto (1-1, 2 Pts) v. Tomoaki Honma (0-2, 0 Pts) [Block B]: Goto needed this match. I have thought that Goto has looked like a dope in the first two matches of the tournament, essentially having like 5% of the entire offensive output in each respective match. What he needed, was a chance to look like the brutal striker that he is, and nobody is better at making someone look offensively gifted than Honma. This was the perfect match at the perfect time. Honma was Honma. He got the crowd behind him, and he them excited at the right parts, and he convinced everyone that he might actually win. In the end, he was there to do a job, and part of that job is to sell offense — which he did, extremely well. For the first time all tournament, Goto looked like he belonged as someone who might be predicted (by me) to win the tournament. The crowd still loves Honma and are desperate to see him win a match during the G1, but that wouldn’t happen here. After some nice back and forth, Goto finishes the match with the Shouten Kai and picks up the pinfall win.
Karl Anderson (2-0, 4 Pts) v. Tomohiro Ishii (2-0, 4 Pts) [Block B]: The third match during the tournament block of these dates has traditionally been excellent. There were things during this match that I liked, but overall it felt a bit plodding to me. Anderson had the weirdest offense in this match because it felt like every time something would happen his response would be a leaping push kick. It almost felt like Anderson was in the back and said “guys, I totally know karate” but he only knew one move, so he just went out and did that move over, and over, and over again. It didn’t really work for me. It started to heat up a bit at the end, and Ishii just driving his head through someone’s body is always going to pique my interest. The match felt much longer than it was, and that’s not a compliment. I also don’t understand why a gun stun KO’s you, but if Anderson hits a leaping (from the second turnbuckle) neckbreaker, you can kick out 100% of the time. Is the difference between hitting your face, and the back of your neck an instant KO, because for real the moves are identical. Ultimately, Ishii won, which I actually thought was a surprise. I thought Anderson was getting the Shelton Benjamin surprise push from nowhere, but maybe it was Ishii all along.
Satoshi Kojima (1-1, 2 Pts) v. Kazuchika Okada (2-0, 4 Pts) [Block B]: Maybe it’s not fair. In fact, I know it isn’t, but this match — yeck. The truth is that Okada is amazing and he’s capable of having a passing match with a broom stick. But Kojima isn’t much further along than a broomstick right now. I liked Okada’s match with Tenzan, because there was some passion there and Tenzan has a bit of a story heading into the G1. This match was similar in nature, with none of the passion. It felt plodding (a theme today), it was pretty boring, and even a crowd that desperately wanted to be involved didn’t save it for me. I can’t be too mad at the nature of this match, it’s Okada, and he had a shit hand to work with because a match was cut from the show. I’m sure he wanted to give the fans the time, so they probably stretched this match out more than it needed to be, but I felt it and it hurt the overall product. Okada picked up the win with the rainmaker and he joins Ishii at the top of the heap with 6 points.
Final Thoughts: Obviously the biggest story of Day 6, and likely the entire tournament is the injury that Nakamura suffered that kept him out of action today. Michael Elgin, by proxy, picks up his first New Japan victory via forfeit, but the whole situation sucks because Elgin/Nakamura had potential to be excellent, especially with how well Elgin has been doing during this G1 run. The injury probably effectively knocks Nakamura out of contention, and at this point we’re not even sure he’ll return to the tournament. The lack of Nakamura does add some interest moving forward. I still have my pick of Goto who is now looming as the potential beneficiary of the Nakamura injury. Ishii is also in play, though nothing would scream New Japan like missing the boat on a guy for a year, spending that year killing his momentum and then jumping on him a year too late. Overall, the lack of Nakamura/Elgin hurt Day 6 a ton and I think the last two matches suffered because they stretched and it showed. Honma/Goto was the best match on the card and in my opinion it wasn’t even close. Block B continues to struggle though, this is a snake biten half of the tournament.
Standings (Through Day 6)
Tomohiro Ishii (6 pts)
Kazuchika Okada (6 pts)
Karl Anderson (4 pts)
Hirooki Goto (4 pts)
Satoshi Kojima (2 pts)
Shinsuke Nakamura (2 pts)
Yujiro Takahashi (2 pts)
Yuji Nagata (2 pts)
Michael Elgin (2 pts)
Tomoaki Honma (0 pts)