Block B Shelton Benjamin [2 Points] vs. Karl Anderson [2 Points]
Both guys are heels, but it looks like Anderson is really going to drive home his heel character here. Thus, Shelton is babyface by default. Anderson was in control for a while until Shelton hit a neckbreaker and a Stinger Splash. Shelton avoided a powerbomb and hit his spinning heel kick. They avoided each other's finishers. Shelton hit a superkick and a bridging German for a nearfall. Shelton then got the Drunk Lock. Anderson rolled through and hit the Gun Stun: 1...2...3
Wow, this was pretty darn short. I feel like these two could have a good match, but the circumstances of this match did not really allow them to. Despite this match not being too good, I’d be somewhat interested to see a rematch. Anderson now has four points. Match Rating: *3/4
Block B Yujiro Takahashi [2 Points] vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan [0 Points]
Oh shit, this may really suck. Yujiro quickly took control with a tope suicida. He worked Tenzan over after that. Tenzan made a big comeback. He hit his weird diving knee drop thing for a nearfall. Tenzan got the Anaconda Vice, but Yujiro gouged his eye to escape. Tenzan went for a moonsault, but Yujiro avoided it. Yujiro came back with a brainbuster and a moonsault. Tenzan kicked out at one, but Yujiro then hit a lariat. He botched something. He hit a second moonsault: 1...2...3
This was moderately more entertaining that the opener. It was still nothing to write home about though. Yujiro now has four points. Match Rating: **
Block B Toru Yano [0 Points] vs. Yuji Nagata [2 Points]
This is not the most exciting matchup on paper, but I can see a scenario where the crowd is really into it. The match obviously featured a lot of brawling. Yano got advantage by repeatedly using an exposed turnbuckle. Nagata came back with a Yakuza kick and an exploder. Yano managed to slingshot Nagata into the exposed turnbuckle. He then hit a low blow and got a great nearfall on a backslide. Nagata fired back and hit the bridging back suplex: 1…2…3.
As I somewhat expected, the environment raised this match above the first two matches on the show. Both men are over and knew exactly what to do to get the crowd into their match. Thumbs up. Nagata now has four points. Match Rating: **1/2
Block A Lance Archer [2 Points] vs. Prince Devitt [2 Points]
I’m pretty sure I remember who wins this match. I have a feeling that knowledge will not make it any easier for me to swallow.
Much like the opener, Archer is the de facto babyface because the Bullet Club are pure villains. Devitt was able to get the advantage by going after Archer’s left knee. He then repeatedly did the “tree chopping” motion. Gimmick of the year. Five stars. Archer was eventually able to come back because he’s a heavyweight. Devitt tried to use a chair, but he failed. Archer then F5ed Devitt into the referee. Archer went for a moonsault, but he landed on the chair. Devitt came back with a Ghetto Stomp with the chair: 1…2…NO! BOOOO! Archer hit a chokeslam for a nearfall. Fale tried to save Devitt, but Archer sent him packing. Archer then gave Devitt the Blackout: 1…2…3
Nothing can properly prepare me to watch Lance Hoyt overcome interference and pin Prince Devitt clean. Nothing. The match itself was fine other that, but I just cannot wrap my mind around the idea that Archer pinning Devitt like that was a good idea. I know NJPW focuses on the heavyweights, but this was just so wrong to me. Archer now has four points. Match Rating: **3/4
Block A Katsuyori Shibata [2 Points] vs. Satoshi Kojima [2 Points]
This may surprise you, but this match started with a fair bit of striking. They traded submission attempts. Shibata hit the face wash kick. They ended up on the floor. Shibata hit a snap suplex. They got back into the ring, and Kojima got control of the match until Shibata locked in the sleeper. Shibata hit a couple of saito suplexes. Kojima avoided the Penalty Kick and hit a lariat. Brainbuster from Kojima! Kojima then hit the short-range lariat: 1…2…3 :/
This was a very entertaining match with a finish that I did not like at all. Shibata is so fucking fresh and exciting. I’m not saying he had to win the tournament, but Shibata losing to someone like Kojima is just so lame to me. I know Kojima is still quite over, but this felt like a missed opportunity. Kojima now has four points. Match Rating: ***1/2
Block A Togi Makabe [2 Points] vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr. [0 Points]
The match quickly spilled to the floor where Davey got the advantage. Smith worked him over after that. This was not an especially interesting sequence. Makabe avoided a piledriver and then made a comeback. They went back and forth. Makabe went to the top rope, but Smith hit a top rope superplex! Smith started selling his head/neck a lot after that. They traded strikes. Smith hit a big lariat and then hit a Liger Bomb: 1…2…3
This was a perfectly solid match. It was not especially exciting, but it got the job done. I’ve read a lot of praise for Smith’s work over the last year, but I’m still not seeing anything special in him. Smith now has two points. Match Rating: **1/2
Block B Kota Ibushi [2 Points] vs. Tetsuya Naito [0 Points]
This show should pick up with this match.
Naito got the early advantage by going after Ibushi’s left knee. Ibushi eventually came back with a hurricanrana and his moonsault to the floor. Naito managed to cut him off again by going after the injured left knee. Ibushi managed to hit a Pele Kick, but Naito maintained control of the match. They traded German suplexes. Naito used a couple pinning combinations, but Ibushi survived them all and hit a roundhouse kick to take Naito down. Ibushi hit a powerbomb: 1…2…NO! Ibushi then hit the Phoenix Splash: 1…2…3!!!
Yay! A result I love! This match was great fun, which should not be surprising as it featured two of my favorite wrestlers (I have many favorite wrestlers). The only real critique I had of the match was that Ibushi did not really sell his knee down the stretch in meaningful ways. It seems wise to just not work over his legs in a match like this. If he sells it, the “injury” takes away his strengths as a performer. If he doesn’t sell it, the work on his legs would feel like a waste of time. Ibushi now has four points. Match Rating: ***1/2
Block B Minoru Suzuki [0 Points] vs. Shinsuke Nakamura [0 Points]
Minoru Suzuki’s entrance theme is amazing. I do not say that enough. The match spilled to the floor. Suzuki went after Nakamura’s left arm. He used a kimura in the ring, but Nakamura survived. Nakamura fought back using knee strikes and cocaine shakes. They went back and forth. Nakamura hit a backstabber and then dropped Suzuki on his head with a funplex. Nakamura called for the Boma Ye, but Suzuki hit a dropkick. Suzuki got the sleeper. He went for the Gotch Piledriver, but his injured arm was too weak. Nakamura hit a dropkick and then a diving Boma Ye! Suzuki avoided another Boma Ye, but Nakamura transitioned into a cross armbreaker. Suzuki just managed to escape, and he quickly snapped off the Gotch Piledriver: 1…2…3!!!
This was delightful. They didn’t get the crowd into a frenzy or anything, but it was really smartly worked with a lot of small touches that went a long way. This is the MOTN so far. Suzuki now has four points. Match Rating: ***1/2
Block A Kazuchika Okada [0 Points] vs. Hirooki Goto [0 Points]
I knew Okada was for real in 2012 when he started producing good matches with Goto! I really don’t care for Goto as a performer, but there is no denying that he has produced some great stuff this year with Shibata.
Goto was completely dominant at the beginning of the match. Okada fell to the floor and got back into the match by using the guardrail for an assisted DDT. Okada was in control after that. Goto managed to connect on a lariat, and he then made a comeback. Okada hit an Air Raid Thigh Crash. RAINMAKER POSE! Goto avoided it, but Okada got the Red Ink. Goto survived and hit a neckbreaker on the knee. Okada tried for the Rainmaker again, but Goto nailed him with a headbutt to the neck. Awesome. Goto hit an avalanche neckbreaker for a nearfall. Goto then hit the Shouten: 1…2…3!
While these two do not put on the classics like they do with other opponents, they clearly have a great dynamic that the crowd eats up. It’s somewhat surprising that Okada’s second loss in a row would be used on Goto (who probably doesn’t need it, but I could be off in that thought). I would have rather seen Shibata get that win. Regardless, this was a good stuff. Goto now has two points. Match Rating: ***3/4
Block A Hiroshi Tanahashi [0 Points] vs. Tomohiro Ishii [0 Points]
This has a lot of hype to live up to. The crowd is very willing to boo Tanahashi and rally behind Ishii. This is like Cena vs. RVD in some alternate universe or something. Ishii hit a snap powerslam on the floor. Tanahashi got the advantage with a dragon screw. He then sent Ishii to the floor, skinned the cat for no reason, and hit a slingshot plancha. I need THIS Tanahashi all the time. Back in the ring, Tanahashi posed and then failed to do a senton. Five fucking stars. They traded strikes. Ishii hit a saito suplex and a powerbomb for a nearfall. Sling Blade from Tanahashi. Tanahashi called for the High Fly Flow, but Ishii crotched him. Ishii hit a superplex that I believe the commentators called a brainbuster. It did not really look like one to me. Ishii then hit the LAST RIDE: 1…2…NO! Ishii then hit a nasty headbutt and a lariat: 1…2…N!O!O!O!O!!!!!!! Fuck, I thought that was it. Tanahashi hit a reverse DDT. Tanahashi hit the dragon suplex and a sling blade: 1…2…NO! The crowd is molten. Bridging dragon from Tanahashi: 1…2…NO! Ishii avoided the High Fly Flow and got the People’s Magistral Cradle: 1…2…NO!!!! THAT WAS THREE! They traded a bunch of strikes. BRAINBUSTER FROM ISHII: 1…2…NO! What is going on????? Ishii then killed him with the Ishii Driller: 1…2…3.
This was completely bananas. While I would not put it on the level of Okada and Tanahashi’s very best matches over the last year, I would say it’s just a notch below it. The match was built around big kickouts, and the environment completely justified it. This is easily the best match of the tournament so far. Ishii now has two points. Match Rating: ****1/2
After two days of competition, here are the tournament standings:
The 411: This was a noticeable improvement from Day 1. While there were more weak matches on this show compared to Day 1, the stronger matches more than made up for that. The MOTN was clearly the main event, which absolutely lived up to all the hype I saw for it. Ishii looked like a superstar in that match, and it's discouraging to know that his push since this tournament has not been of any significance.