Let’s just get straight to the good stuff, shall we?
Tama Tonga defeated Juice Robinson
By the end of this tournament, Juice is going to be stretchered out to the ring. The guy is selling everything, and it is working for him. I know there are some people out there that don’t like him, but honestly, they’re fools. He is a pure babyface, and the walking wounded act means that he looks heroic even in defeat. It also meant this match was more about him than Tonga, but the better half of GOD still deserves credit for playing his role. One thing I love about Juice matches is that they always end hot. I never bought Pulp Friction as a move when Christian used it but Juice makes it work, and it allows for some intricate reversals in the closing stretch as he tries desperately to hit it. All things said this was solid action but is worth watching for Robinson’s performance.
Verdict: Three Stars
Sanada defeated Toru Yano
I liked this match better than most Yano matches because it made Sanada look smart. He knew exactly what Yano was going to do and he was prepared for it. Sure he got caught with a few roll ups, but when the tape came out, he was ready and actually had a nifty use for it himself. It was by no means a classic, but for making Sanada look good, it deserves some credit.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Evil defeated Minoru Suzuki
This was everything that you would have guessed Evil vs. Suzuki would have been. Hard-hitting, riddled with interference and more of a fight than a wrestling match. The one thing I might not have guessed is that Evil would get his hand raised at the end. This is a big win for the embodiment of all things evil as he takes down one of New Japan’s more legit stars. The match itself was fine. As we said, it’s what you expect, and I’m tired of getting frustrated at Suzuki-gun interference. It’s going to happen whether we like it or not, so we might as well just go along with it.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Kazuchika Okada defeated Satoshi Kojima
If you are one of those that like to bleat about babyfaces and heels having no place in wrestling anymore, then watch this match. I’m all for shades of grey, but when you have two men playing their roles this well, there’s nothing better. Okada went out there and heeled it up, and the crowd ate it up. He is the better wrestler, and he made sure everyone knew that. What Kojima has, though, is heart and he came storming back desperate to prove he still has what it takes. In the end, he didn’t, but he gave the champ a scare along the way. It was a masterclass in storytelling and as simple as that story might have been it had everyone in the arena, and me at home, clinging to the edge of our seats. Well played.
Verdict: Four Stars
Michael Elgin defeated Kenny Omega
Here, what does Large Michael have to do to have people accept he’s up there with the best in-ring workers in the world? Because fuck me, he can’t do much more than he already has. This was incredible and establishes the third world class in-ring feud that Omega is part of this year, but yeah, let’s whine about the time he wrestled a kid. These two threw everything they had at each other and Elgin, coming off the back of his first victory, showed that he just wanted it a little bit more on the day. I assume this sets up a US Title match somewhere down the line and if for some crazy reason you have a problem with that then you probably shouldn’t bother anymore.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
Just as it felt like the G1 was slowing down, this came along. Everything on this show is perfectly watchable, and the two matches which I rated a bit lower are only because 1) I struggle to give Yano’s silliness high marks, as much as I enjoy it, and 2) Suzuki and Evil just did what I expected them to do. Both of those things are more than made up for by the quality of the rest of the card. This is up there with the best days so far and as we approach the midway point of the tournament, shows this G1 has plenty left to give.