So Block B basically killed it in Korakuen Hall on the 9th (Day 14) and now Block A gets their chance in front of the Korakuen fans for Day 15. We’re in the home stretch of the 25th G1 tournament and this block is still pretty wide open. I confess heading into this day that I didn’t have very high hopes for these match ups, but I did expect that by the end of Day 15 we’d be a little bit closer to sorting out the logjam at the top.
Tetsuya Naito (5-2, 10 Pts) v. Doc Gallows (1-6, 2 Pts) [Block A]: There is a level of irony in Doc Gallows yelling at Naito about how dumb he is dressed, that I’m not sure Gallows appreciates. Other than that observation, what in the good hell happened here? I was all ready to talk about how great Naito is that he got me to enjoy a Doc Gallows singles match, and then, Doc Gallows hits a second rope double chokeslam and pins Naito? What planet am I on? Gallows has been basically atrocious during the G1, I’d probably argue he’s been the worst performer out of everyone in the tournament, and here is, pinning one of the best performers in the whole tournament. If this is a sign of things to come from Day 15, we are in for a wild ride.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (1-6, 2 Pts) v. Katsuyori Shibata (4-3, 8 Pts) [Block A]: Shibata is coming off that out of nowhere, roll up loss to Yano on Day 13. This match was the second consecutive “out of left field” match of the night. I wasn’t surprised that it was good. I was surprised as how good it was. Tenzan has been having some really good matches in this tournament but for the most part I’ve been crediting the other guys in the match for the quality. This match is the first time that I honestly thought Tenzan earned the accolade. Tenzan was a brutal, beast in this match. Shibata was excellent (because of course he was) but watching Tenzan lock in the Anaconda Vice and proceeding to headbutt Shibata unconscious was basically the best thing ever. Ultimately Shibata passes out in the Anaconda Vice and Tenzan picks up a huge win. This match felt like a goodbye. I know Tenzan isn’t retiring but there’s a good chance that this, his 19th appearance in the G1 will be his last one. Giving him a huge win over Shibata in this fashion is a nice way to tip your cap to a legend and I have no issues with giving Tenzan the win here, he deserves it.
Kota Ibushi (3-4, 6 Pts) v. Toru Yano (2-5, 4 Pts) [Block A]: This was, beyond a shadow of a doubt the best 2 minute wrestling match you’ll see all day. This match proved two things, 1) that Ibushi can’t possibly having a bad match, no matter what the parameters, and 2) Yano is absolutely KILLING it in the G1 this year. Basically the entire match is a mad cap sprint of Ibushi kicking Yano, Yano grabbing the ref, Yano hitting a low blow and Yano with the quick roll up/cradle for the pin. Yano pins Shibata and Ibushi in consecutive days and, yep Day 15 is officially a fever dream.
AJ Styles (5-2, 10 Pts) v. Bad Luck Fale (5-2, 10 Pts) [Block A]: I love the idea that they tease the finger poke of doom spot but Fale kicks out at 2, and AJ acts incredulous because “we flipped a coin and everything!” Styles goes for a too sweet as a sign of forgiveness, pokes Fale in the eye instead and Fale responds by double hand choke throwing Styles over the top rope and into the BC members at ringside. A description in words doesn’t do the visual justice, but it was one of the rare times where we can to see how freaky strong Fale really is. The story in this one was really well done, with the BC members being unable to stop Fale and AJ from beating each other up, but trying at every turn to keep them civil. Tama Tonga ripped a chair out of Fale’s hand, Styles had a chair taken away from Yujiro, and every time they’d get free they’d wind up furhter and further from the ring just beating each other up. At one point Fale goes for a Bad Luck Fall from bascially the top walkway in Korakuen, but before he can launch AJ into the crowd Gallows grabs his leg and pulls AJ to safety. Loved, loved, loved AJ getting out of the Bad Luck Fall and Fale trying to turn it into a Styles Clash (Styles escaped, because even AJ Styles won’t take the Styles Clash), and then AJ using the ropes to steal the pin. Cheating to beat your own teammate, so low. This match overall was gorgeous. The story was great, the action was really good. It’s by far the best Fale match I’ve ever seen, and once again AJ Styles proves that he’s a magic man.
Hiroshi Tanahashi (5-2, 10 Pts) v. Togi Makabe (4-3, 8 Pts) [Block A]: Makabe standing defiant before Tanahashi hits him with a High Fly Flow is maybe the perfect way to encapsulate Makabe. He looks dangerous and strong, but ultimately he just is there and doesn’t get out of the way. This match was really good. Makabe was Makabe, but Tanahashi is so good that he’s able to elevate Makabe into something that I want to see, and someone who seems really strong. I will never understand why the camera man insists on getting that direct angle shot from the floor of Makabe doing his corner punches because they look so terrible, it’s a bad shot. Tanahashi hit the aforementioned High Fly Flow on a standing Makabe, and followed it up with a second High Fly Flow for the win.
Final Thoughts: Well, Day 15 was a lot to handle. The first three matches were bananas. If you had told me that Gallows, Tenzan and Yano would win the first three matches against Naito, Shibata, Ibushi I would’ve laughed in your face. Things calmed down in the second half with Styles and Tanahashi winning and moving into the 12 point category. The results tonight put Styles and Tanahashi atop the leaderboard and *WHAT A COINCIDENCE* they’ll face each other on Day 17 to close out Block A. The winner will advance to the G1 Finals. Just like that, the main event of Day 17 has become bigger than it would’ve been had it *just* been Tanahashi/Styles.
Block A Standings (Through Day 15)
AJ Styles (12 pts)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (12 pts)
Bad Luck Fale (10 pts)
Tetsuya Naito (10 pts)
Katsuyori Shibata (8 pts)
Togi Makabe (8 pts)
Toru Yano (6 pts)
Kota Ibushi (6 pts)
Doc Gallows (4 pts)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4 pts)