Bad Luck Fale (3-2, 6 Pts) v. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (1-4, 2 Pts) [Block A]: This was a good match, in the same way that any random pairing of two guys with zero forward momentum would be a good match. One of my favorite running subplots of this G1 was the pre-tournament statement by Naito that Tenzan was essentially washed up with nothing left to give, and this tournament has all but confirmed that Tenzan is exactly that. Fale continues to be just the absolute worst, and this match won’t convince anyone that he is worthy of being near the top of the leader board. Tama Tonga got involved a ton in this match, which at least put one guy who has shown consistent improvement over the past year in the match for the Bullet Club. Fale won with his 2 star frog splash, big splash off the top turnbuckle which is a significantly worse finisher than the Bad Luck Fall.
Toru Yano (1-4, 2 Pts) v. Katsuyori Shibata (4-1, 8 Pts) [Block A]: This mach includes definitive proof that Yano-mania is running wild in the G1 this year. Basically the entire match is Shibata kicking the shit out of Yano, until Shibata goes for the armbar, Yano rolls him up and gets the pinfall victory while locked in an armbar. When Yano gets the win, the crowd erupts! It’s not because they hate Shibata either, because nobody hates Shibata, Shibata is the f’n truth. It’s because Yano has been delightful in this tournament and deserves to pick up these sneaky, dastardly wins every once in awhile. It’s what separates Yano from Honma. Whereas Honma is capable of having great “wrestling” matches in the G1, Yano is able to win. I guess it’s a personal preference which of those scenarios you enjoy more. I love Shibata and he’s been awesome in this tournament, but I like that he got blindsided by a flash pin and Yano picks up the points.
Doc Gallows (1-4, 2 Pts) v. Hiroshi Tanahashi (3-2, 6 Pts) [Block A]: During this match, around the 2:09:00 mark on the New Japan World video player, Doc Gallows performs, what can only be described as the single worst attempt at an elbow drop in the history of professional wrestling and I mean that in all sincerity. Pretty much everything after that elbow drop was garbage by Gallows. He wiffed on catching Tanahashi in a choke slam when Tanahashi jumped from the top rope, he looked awful with a superkick on Tanahashi coming off the ropes and the rest of the match was equally “meh”. Tanahashi did the best that he could, but this really wasn’t working for me. Ultimately Tanahashi got the roll up for the pin and picked up two more points to move into the 8 point log jam.
Togi Makabe (3-2, 6 Pts) v. AJ Styles (3-2, 6 Pts) [Block A]: The pin off the Styles Clash is lazy and looks terrible — I’m not alone there right? I think for the most part Styles has been spectacular in the G1 this year, but this match — well it wasn’t great for me. Of course I have to give some leeway for the single camera, that wide angle takes away something from these matches, but Makabe continues to feel like a guy who is all bark, no bite. Watch Ishii and then watch Makabe. It’s apples to oranges, but I think they’re supposed to be guys with similar styles. AJ continues to be great, he’s even found a way to make his Pele Kick look awesome and natural. I genuinely think that AJ’s run in New Japan is the best work he’s ever done, and it isn’t even that close. Having Ibushi around has also caused AJ to really tighten up his own work, and I think he’s really excelled. Styles picks up the win after the Styles Clash and he joins the group at 8 points.
Tetsuya Naito (3-2, 6 Pts) v. Kota Ibushi (3-2, 6 Pts) [Block A]: I hope you’re not underestimating how incredible Naito is right now. Dude has found new and inventive ways to undress before a match, every, single, match. It’s not the same schtick every time — he’s switching it up, adding new wrinkles and expanding the act. It’s amazing and I hope everyone else is appreciating the work this guy is doing. With all that gushing about Naito out of the way, let me be very clear about one thing — Kota Ibushi is the best wrestler in the world right now, and I’m not sure it’s that close. Ibushi is so good he could have a compelling match with a blow up doll (I know this for a fact, because he’s done it). I would like to warn both of these guys not to try top rope reverse-rana’s ever again, and thankfully Ibushi doesn’t appear to be deceased after the one they did in this match. My only complaint about this match is that I wanted it to be even better. I know that isn’t fair because what they did here was excellent, but don’t you get the feeling that these guys have an *epic* five star style clash in them somewhere. Naito took the win with the Destino finisher and the crowd was almost audibly shocked that Ibushi lost. This was a very good match that continued to showcase the improvements that Naito has made in every facet of his performance.
Final Thoughts: This was a strange day for me, I never really got invested in it and I think that has a lot to do with the single camera. Some of the matches were very good, the final two were both quality and the main event was excellent. Overall, it was a strong day that didn’t really do much to help spread the field. We went into Day 11 with one (1) person at 8 points, and six (6) at six points and we left Day 11 with five (5) guys all at eight points. The field is not doing much to separate themselves, and Shibata in particular lost a great chance to create some distance by losing to Yano. With the performances from Naito, Shibata, Ibushi, Tanahashi and Styles this group could legitimately go any possible way and I wouldn’t be surprised — so I’m very interested to see how Day 13 plays out where I think we’ll finally see the cream rise to the top.
Block A Standings (Through Day 11)
Katsuyori Shibata (8 pts)
Bad Luck Fale (8 pts)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (8 pts)
AJ Styles (8 pts)
Tetsuya Naito (8 pts)
Kota Ibushi (6 pts)
Togi Makabe (6 pts)
Toru Yano (4 pts)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2 pts)
Doc Gallows (2 pts)