At this point in the G1 I am burnt out writing these introductory paragraphs. Block B has been a weird one for me, because it’s the less interesting side of the tournament. Okada and Nakamura feel like this half of the bracket is a foregone conclusion. Anderson, Goto, Elgin and Ishii have all been excellent, and even the lower tier guys have shown signs of brilliance (Kojima in particular). But it never really feels like anyone else has a shot when Okada and Nakamura are on the same side. Meanwhile, the A block feels wide open because you can justify almost any of the top guys on that side being eliminated, or winning the whole thing. We get Nakamura/Okada on Friday (the last day of the block stage). I have to assume that things haven’t been laid out in such a way that two guys, neither of whom need to win to advance face each other, which means that one of those two won’t move on. The question now becomes, who positions themselves better to advance before that match?
Karl Anderson (4-2, 8 Pts) v. Michael Elgin (4-2, 8 Pts) [Block B]: We’re 14 days into the G1 and I think I have a pretty good handle on how these cards are laid out. The opening match is rarely very good. There have been exceptions — I really liked Elgin/Nagata from Day 12. But for the most part, the opening tournament match of each day has been a throw-away. In my head Elgin and Anderson knew that reputation and decided to go out and try to steal the show. The Korakuen Hall crowd did their part as they were completely into this match and Elgin and Anderson had, what has easily been my favorite Anderson match of the tournament, and what was probably my favorite Elgin match of the tournament. It was so good. Elgin fighting off Gallows and Tonga only to then powerbomb Anderson out of the ring and into those guys ringside was awesome. Anderson reversing the buckle bomb into a Gun Stun to pick up the pin was so great. The finish gave the win to Anderson (which makes sense) but also kept Elgin looking strong as he had Anderson on the ropes. Elgin continues to be a revelation in this tournament. The crowd is completely invested in him at this point and honestly I’d be SHOCKED if he doesn’t become someone who makes regular trips to Japan after his performance here.
Yuji Nagata (1-5, 2 Pts) v. Satoshi Kojima (2-4, 4 Pts) [Block B]: Holy smokes, who knew that these two had this match in them in 2015. Basically this was just two old bulls beating the snot out of each other. This was the best Nagata match from the G1, it was the best Kojima match from the G1 and it very well may have been better (or at least as good as) than the Elgin/Anderson match that kicked off the tournament matches on Day 14. This was excellent, and I’m actually surprised at how good it turned out. Really physical, both guys just unloading everything they had. In the end, Nagata picks up the win in a match that I genuinely would have been okay going to either guy, it was that good. I’m probably overreacting a little bit because I didn’t have very high hopes going in, but if I give them some extra credit for exceeding my expectations then so be it.
Kazuchika Okada (5-1, 10 Pts) v. Yujiro Takahashi (2-4, 4 Pts) [Block B]: I don’t have a lot to say about this — it was kind of terrible. Okada tried. There were times when Okada was clearly putting himself in harm’s way to make this work — launching himself over the barricade to take out Takahashi and Hall comes to mind right off the bat. But Takahashi stinks, and the crowd is so ambivalent about him that after his ring entrance they all go into a collective coma and don’t wake up again until they hear that the match ended. The third slot has typically been a great match, not so much tonight — in keeping with the theme of tipping everything on it’s head because the opening match on Day 14 was excellent and that’s usually the spot reserved for a lousy match. I confess that my bias against Takahashi probably impacted my rating of this match, but it wasn’t very good regardless and I’m not sad that it’s over. Okada had to overcome both Takahashi and Hall, which of course he did because Takahashi and Hall are the Bullet Club equivalent of two guys who set up the chairs.
Shinsuke Nakamura (4-2, 8 Pts) v. Tomoaki Honma (0-6, 0 Pts) [Block B]: I was really set to crap on this match a little bit because it was not nearly as good as I expected it to be, but the finishing sequence almost made up for any other deficiency. Honma lunging at Nakamura as Shinsuke came forward for a BomaYe was awesome, and then Honma being BomaYe’d out of mid-Kokeshi was also spectacular and Nakamura picks up the win. You have to think that if Nakamura hadn’t gotten injured he’d be comfortably at the top of the standings with 12 points instead of surging with 10. Once again we enter the final few days of the G1 still waiting for Honma to get that monkey off his back.
Hirooki Goto (4-2, 8 Pts) v. Tomohiro Ishii (4-2, 8 Pts) [Block B]: Oh man. This was war. This was everything that I wanted it to be and more. Ishii over the past two years has probably been the ace of the G1. He is basically Honma, if Honma had the opportunity to win matches. Ishii just kills it in the G1. His offense is so good, his strikes are brutal and everything looks great. But, the real secret to Ishii is that he makes everyone else look good. He can take a beating, so a guy like Goto can unload on Ishii and never seem like he’s holding back. I had never considered that I desperately wanted to see a match where two guys head butt each other half to death, then I watched this match and realized I had been missing out this whole time. Give some credit to the Korakuen crowd too, they were electric for this thing and the finishing sprint was just madness, and the crowd ate it up. Ishii and Goto lunging at each other with headbutts only to see Ishii crumple (the only way to describe it) was excellent leading into the Shouten Kai. Goto picks up the pinfall victory in another spectacular G1 match, and I’m not ready to count Goto out just yet.
Final Thoughts: This day was book-ended by two excellent matches. Anderson/Elgin and Goto/Ishii will be on my end of the tournament best of list, for sure. The rest of the matches on Day 14 were somewhere between very good and good with my least favorite match being the one that featured arguably the best wrestler in the world (Okada/Takahashi). It feels like Okada is moving on to the next round, which leaves one spot up for grabs in this group. I don’t think it’ll be Anderson, which leaves Nakamura and Goto. I don’t feel *super* confident in my pre-touranment selection (Goto) but he’s got but wins over Okada and Ishii, but the loss to Nakamura might prove fatal. Up next for this group, Day 16, which gives us Hirooki Goto v. Michael Elgin (yes, please) and a suddenly very interesting Satoshi Kojima/Shinsuke Nakamura match.
Standings (Through Day 14)
Kazuchika Okada (12 pts)
Shinsuke Nakamura (10 pts)
Hirooki Goto (10 pts)
Karl Anderson (10 pts)
Tomohiro Ishii (8 pts)
Michael Elgin (8 pts)
Yujiro Takahashi (4 pts)
Satoshi Kojima (4 pts)
Yuji Nagata (4 pts)
Tomoaki Honma (0 pts)