G1 Climax 28 Review Night One
14 July 2018
LIVE from the Ota Central Gymnasium, Oka-tu, Tokyo
We’re finally here, and I’m already exhausted thinking about what lies ahead. The G1 Climax, pitting 20 of the world’s top heavyweight wrestlers against one another in Round Robin format, commences from Ota Gymnasium in Tokyo. We are starting off with A Block singles action, along with B Block tag matches that should set us up for the following evening.
A quick disclaimer: Even by sticking to the tournament matches, this will be an ordeal to cover (a fun ordeal, but still an ordeal). I am going to start by giving my full attention to the tag matches, but don’t be surprised or disappointed if I cut it back to simply the tournament matches later in the month.
Your commentators this evening (for the English version) are Kevin Kelly, Don Callis and Rocky Romero.
Toa Henare and Ren Narita vs. Hirooki Goto and Jado (CHAOS)
This is Jado’s return match to New Japan after sitting out much of the year with a back injury. His new gear actually looks kind of cool compared to his plain green trunks. “Thank you, Jado-san, for the house,” Kelly and Romero sarcastically comment.
Henare and Jado to start. Jado wasting no time with the chop, delay, WHOOOOOO routine. Henare soon begins to violently headbutt the turnbuckle several times as I start to question the purpose of his gimmick. I like Henare. I’m just concerned that there are too many Samoans/Tongan/Maori gimmicks in wrestling for him to really stand out. We’ll see if he joins up with his island brothers in the Firing Squad. Narita manages to tag in and gives the forearms to Jado. I don’t think I’m too high on Narita as some others, but the whole point of Lions working these opening tag matches is for experience, so he can have as much time as he needs to get better.
Goto takes the boots to Narita and then whips him into the turnbuckle before Narita counters and then hits an impressive dropkick on the NEVER Champion! Henare tags in and slugs Jado to the floor before targeting Goto. Flying shoulder tackle to Goto before a bodyslam, and then Henare starts the war dance before hilarious randomly elbowing Jado on the apron again. Henare tags in Narita and hits a Samoan drop for a two count. Jado gives the laziest throw into the ringside barriers to Henare, and its Narita and Goto left in the ring. An Ushigoroshi from Goto to Narita finishes the match. Hirooki Goto and Jado def. Toa Henare and Ren Narita via pinfall. Short, painless and inoffensive, just like I like my Young Lion matches. **1/4
Toru Yano and YOH (CHAOS) vs. Tomohiro Ishii and SHO (CHAOS)
ROPPONGI 3K EXPLODES! Every year, the G1 features at least one fun inter-stable contest, and this year Yano and Ishii get the nod. To set up their contest for tomorrow, they each have a member of Roppongi 3K team up with them in a tag match. It looks like we might get some call backs to the days of Sho Tanaka and Yohei Kametsu from when they were Young Lions together.
The Roppongi 3K boys are to start. They both start with multiple sit-out switches as they manage to remind you that they can WRESTLE. Ishii soon tags in and puts the headbutts to YOH. He then lands some insane chops to YOH as Yano hesitates tagging in. YOH returns some chops while Ishii forgets to sell them. YOH finally hits a Dragon Screw and manages to tag in Yano. Yano starts to undo a turnbuckle as SHO calls him out on it to the referee. So much for playing it straight this tournament Yano. Can’t even make it through the first tag match. Yano manages to undo a turnbuckle and promptly take an Irish Whip into the exposed steel by Ishii. FIREMAN’S CARRY BY YANO! What sort of magic is this!? BRAINBUSTER FROM ISHII!! YOH tags back in and then hits a double stomp on Ishii’s back. SHO and YOH then have a brief sequence before Ishii comes back in. Backbreaker into a neckbreaker combo by YOH. He’s pulling out new moves as the year’s been going on, as Romero noted. Powerbomb from SHO into an Ishii German, and Ishii’s team is on fire. Lungblower from SHO and a Brainbuster from Ishii gets the three-count. Tomohiro Ishii and SHO def. Toru Yano and YOH via pinfall. Besides previewing Ishii vs. Yano, this match reminded us that SHO and YOH will be great rivals when ROPPONGI 3K INEVITABLY EXPLODES! ***
Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa (Bullet Club/Guerrillas of Destiny) vs. Juice Robinson and David Finlay
Juice is rocking the same Pirates of the Caribbean-inspired outfit from the G1 San Francisco show, while meanwhile I can’t figure out what the hell Finlay is going for with his look. A Cactus Jack homage, perhaps, with the long tights and leopard boots? The announcer makes the same announcement as from San Francisco: if Juice uses his cast as a weapon, he could be subject to disqualification. Somewhere, Jay White must have steam coming out of his ears. Loa and Finlay start, and Loa quickly takes the upper hand with some impressive forearms. Finlay dodges a forearm and hits a European uppercut. Tonga comes in and breaks up what is an impressive display of stamina by Finlay. He formally tags in and hits a world-class dropkick on Finlay. Loa tags in and hits a slingshot senton for two. I’m not going to lie, if the upcoming Juice-Finlay matches are pretty much Finlay taking a beating for 10 minutes-plus before Juice comes in, I’ll tune out really fast. Juice is finally in and he quickly tells Loa to “eat shit!” Juice punches follow, as Romero reminds us that Juice (as CJ Parker) and Loa (as Danny Marlow) are former FCW Tag Team Champions. That’s pretty cool. Tonga comes in and misses a splash on Juice. Juice hits an excellent spinebuster and tags in Finlay. Loa throws out Juice, but then Finlay CLOTHESLINES LOA ONTO JUICE! That looked kinda painful. Finlay goes up top and dives but then EATS A SWEET GUN STUN FROM TONGA AS HE COMES DOWN TO THE MAT. That’s it, of course. The Guerrillas of Destiny def. Juice Robinson and David Finlay via pinfall. Too much Finlay, not enough Juice for my liking. I get that Juice is a really hot tag, but sometimes the first time sometime tags in, it doesn’t have to be the hot tag. Not their fault entirely, though, as it was probably how the match was booked for time purposes. **3/4
Zack Sabre Jr. and TAKA Michinoku (Suzuki-Gun) vs. Kota Ibushi and Yujiro Takahashi
TAKA does his awesome hype routine before Ibushi and Yujiro make their way to their ring. Wait a second! I get it when Omega wants Chase Owens to team with Ibushi, but now Yujiro’s getting into the fray as well? Bullet Club really is more confused than fine at this point. Sabre and Ibushi to start. Their match tomorrow will be a re-match of their New Japan Cup match when Sabre won via technical submission. Ibushi didn’t tap out then, and Kelly made sure to mention that Ibushi won their G1 encounter last year, so they are 1-1 entering tomorrow’s match. They mostly start slow until Ibushi whiffs on a kick to Sabre’s face and Zack has to take a powder outside the ring. Sabre comes back inside and starts torqueing the arm of Ibushi. Ibushi eventually reverses this hold and brings Sabre to the mat with his double arm hold. Ibushi monkey flips Sabre, and both man manages a bridge while maintaining arm control. Ibushi eventually sends Sabre to the ground with a kick to the stomach. Sabre gets the upper hand and tags in TAKA. Ibushi’s arm is clearly hurting as he tags in Yujiro. Some double team offense follows, as Ibushi hits a standing moonsault and Yujiro hits a massive leg drop on TAKA. TAKA hits an impressive jumping face kick and tags in Sabre. Yujiro manages a reverse DDT for two. IBUSHI HITS A SICK PLANCHE ON TAKA. Unfortunately, Sabre soon locks Yujiro in an Octopus Lock before HITTING A MICHINOKU DRIVER ON TAKAHASHI FOR THE PINFALL. Zack Sabre Jr. and TAKA Michinoku def. Kota Ibushi and Yujiro Takahashi via pinfall. Well, for those of you who thought Sabre only relied on the submissions for victories, there’s his response to that. TAKA over commentary: “It’s now called the ZACK DRIVER.” Zack: “Yeah, I got bored of being the Technical Wizard, so I thought I’d do a little bit of everything.” Very entertaining tag match that gave us a few hints of the G1 Climax action going forward. ***1/4
SANADA and Tetsuya Naito (Los Ingobernables de Japon) vs. Kenny Omega and Chase Owens (Bullet Club)
Gee, three G1 entrants, and then there’s Chase Owens. Wonder who’s taking the fall here. Naito’s new Tranquilo shirt is excellent. He and Omega start, and it sounds like the crowd is pro-Naito. Noticably absent are Kenny’s “house show” pants, which is a good sign that he’s gonna take every match seriously as the Heavyweight Champion. Chase and SANADA both get the idea to take out their opponents at the same time in a hilarious spot. SANADA manages a dropkick on Omega to knock he and Chase out the ring before an INSANE PLANCHE ONTO BOTH OF THEM! Natio’s back in and begins choking Kenny on the ropes. Owens trips Naito as he’s running the ropes and Kenny gets the upper hand before tagging Chase back in. Three Sweet double elbow drop on Naito. I thought we were doing One Sweets now. Omega controls Naito into the ropes before hitting a double axe handle before tagging in Chase. Chase attempts a weak pinfall on Naito for the two-count. Chase then begins attempting the Paradise Lock on Naito but can’t quite figure it out. Of course, instead of turning to SANADA, he asks Milano Collection A.T. (member of the Japanese commentary team) for assistance, to no avail. SANADA comes in and goes to town on both members of Bullet Club. You can guess what happens next. SANADA ties Owens up in the Paradise Lock, but thankfully Omega is there to save the day and roll Owens out of the ring. Owens and Omega hit a double superkick on SANADA before Omega hits the Kitaru Krusher from behind. Before you know it, however, Naito jumps in and helps SANADA enough to hit a Moonsault and Dragon Sleeper on Owens for the submission victory. SANADA and Tetsuya Naito def. Kenny Omega and Chase Owens via submission. I love Owens, and I think his mannerisms add so much to his tag matches. Naito basically took the night off and allowed SANADA to shine, and there’s nothing wrong with that for these matches. ***1/4
G1 Climax A Block Match: YOSHI-HASHI (CHAOS) vs. Togi Makabe
We’re finally at the G1 Climax tournament matches, and it’s YOSHI-HASHI vs. Makabe to start us off. Kelly notes that YOSHI hasn’t had any quality singles victories this year, but a win over Makabe, a former G1 Climax victor and Heavyweight Champion, could get everything rolling for a strong G1 this year. They come out slugging against each other, and this will definitely be a physical affair. YOSHI quickly gets the upper hand as the action quickly spills to the floor. Makabe eats the ringside barricade from an Irish Whip. YOSHI quickly picks Makabe up and repeats the action against a different barricade. The referee begins the 20-count, but YOSHI-HASHI rolls Makabe into the ring to keep the match going. A Flair chop to Makabe follows, as YOSHI-HASHI is showing some real aggression at the beginning of this tournament. DELAYED BRAINBUSTER TO MAKABE! Who is this guy and where has he been the last several years? They trade a series of clubbing before Makabe hits an Orton-esque powerslam off of an Irish Whip. Makabe manages to go up for the clubbing right hands/HA HA HA! combination for a two-count. Fifty-fifty offense for the next few minutes, as YOSHI-HASHI and Makabe eventually star trading punches in the middle of the ring. Western lariat sends YOSHI-HASHI crashing to the floor. Both men are slow to reach their feet, but then Makabe puts YOSHI-HASHI up on the top rope, attempting a Spider German Suplex. SITOUT POWERBOMB FROM YOSHI-HASHI gets a two-count.
YOSHI begins an attempt to hit Kharma, but Makabe is too big to pick up. WESTERN LARIAT INTO DOUBLE KNEES hits for two. BUTTERFLY LOCK! Makabe picks up YOSHI but falls to a back-cracker. YOSHI-HASHI LOCKS IN THE BUTTERFLY LOCK AGAIN! Makabe inches to the ropes and finally manages to break the hold after several seconds. TOP ROPE HEADHUNTER! TWO-COUNT! Kharma attempt fails again as Makabe begins delivering elbows to the back of YOSHI-HASHI’s head. German Suplex from Makabe. YOSHI NO-SELLS IT! They collide in the center of the ring with lariats. Makabe brings YOSHI to the top rope and attempts the Spider German Suplex again! IT CONNECTS! KING KONG KNEE DROP! Elementary at that point. Togi Makabe def. YOSHI-HASHI via pinfall. Well, as expected, that was the most inspired YOSHI-HASHI performance that I’ve seen since, well, his last G1 opening match. There were definitely points that I felt that he could pull off the upset. However, since he’s such a popular guy, it makes sense to give Makabe a quick win to start off the tournament. Hopefully, both of these wrestlers manage to change their fortunes over the next few matches, one for the better and one for the worse. ***1/2
G1 Climax 28 A Block Match: Bad Luck Fale (Bullet Club/Firing Squad) vs. Hangman Page (Bullet Club)
The Hangman debuts some sweet Ennio Morricone-inspired music for his first G1 match. Fale attacks Page before the bell rings to start us off, and they’re brawling outside the ring. Fale throws Page inside the ring before A HUGE TOPE SUICIDA FROM PAGE evens things out. Page continues the attack outside before Fale takes control. They brawl over the front row seats for a bit, before Fale goes back to the ring and awaits Page’s return. Romero: “Hey, those people paid good money for those seats!” Page makes it back inside at the seven-count. Fale continues to pound on Page, before Page starts to make his comeback. The Underboss eats a clothesline from Page, and then looks to eat defeat via Sunset Flip before PAGE HITS A STANDING SHOOTING STAR PRESS for two. The announcers make mention of Tanga Loa coming to ringside, as we are five minutes in. Big splash from Fale for two. Fale readies the Grenade, but Hangman rolls up Fale for a quick two. Page then quickly lariats Fale over the top rope, but before he can do anything else TANGA LOA PULLS HIM OUT OF THE RING! Page gets back inside and dropkicks Fale through the ropes. The Hangman HITS THE TRIANGLE MOONSAULT AND LANDS ON HIS FEET! Slingshot lariat for two! Page signals for the Rite of Passage but Tama Tonga comes in for the interference! The referee has no choice but to call for the disqualification. Hangman Page def. Bad Luck Fale by DQ. This worked more as an angle than a match, but it’s a good way to give Page his first two points in the G1. It also protects Fale from taking a pinfall in his first G1 match of the year. Omega, Owens and Ibushi come in to back up Page. ***
G1 Climax 28 A Block Match: Michael Elgin vs. EVIL (Los Ingobernables de Japon)
I didn’t mention this during my preview, but Elgin slimmed the fuck down over the last few months and generally looks pretty great. Callis: “Mike looks great.” Romero: “Mike does look good.” Elgin starts us off with a wicked Flair chop and then a tackle to put EVIL down. They brawl outside as EVIL eats a barricade toss… and then another Flair chop. And then another. Damn. Then EVIL gets out of the way as ELGIN EATS THE BRAINPOST WITH HIS ARM. EVIL then comes up with a unique variant of his chair spot as he laces Elgin’s arm through a chair and runs it into a corner post! EVIL quickly takes control of Elgin, but Elgin returns with more Flair Chops. He then begins to sell the right arm (remember this for later). Senton by EVIL for two. Mike than hits a Side Suplex to turn the tide around. Multiple elbows to knock EVIL down (remember, this is his bad elbow).
Deadlift German from Elgin gets two. Elgin hits multiple lariats in the corner before stupidly removing his elbow pad. EVIL knocks Elgin silly via a kick to the solar plexus. Big bulldog from EVIL gets two. EVIL settles Mike into a modified Fujiwara armbar, and now I can skip to the finish. Elgin kicks out of two after a seated Senton from the top rope. Elgin and EVIL share lariats as I start to question his selling of the arm. DARKNESS FALLS FOR TWO! Fuck. EVIL teases Everything is Evil, but he can’t follow up for the pin. Elgin brings up EVIL to the top rope, and then hits the Falcon Arrow! HE’S DONE THE DEAL! Buckle Bomb, then a Burning Hammer tease followed by an Everything is Evil tease. But, then a proper Elgin Bomb finishes the match for Elgin. Michael Elgin def. EVIL via pinfall. This was pretty good! I’m always a fan of wrestlers selling an injury over the course of the tournament. However, I’m less forgiving of wrestlers forgetting to sell an injury over the course of a match. Good luck to Elgin. If he’s to have a great New Japan career, his reputation will basically be tested over the course of this tournament. ***3/4
G1 Climax 28 A Block Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Minoru Suzuki (Suzuki-Gun)
This is, of course, a rematch of their IWGP Intercontinental Title match from Sapporo in January. If you recall, that match featured A LOT of leg work from Suzuki. Suzuki comes out flying with his striking combo to star, then the two trade misses before Suzuki locks in his Rear Naked Choke! Suzuki then starts his long, arduous attack on Tana’s knee. Tana reaches for the ropes as the crowd continues to chant for the Ace. Suzuki’s facial expressions are amazing during this match. Kelly: “A look of sadistic glee [during the leg lock].” Suzuki switches to an ankle lock as the crowd begins to worry for Tana’s health. Gasps of relief emerge when the Ace makes it to the ropes. They trade strikes back and forth until Tanahashi hits a deadly-looking Dragon Screw out of desperation. Tana goes for the Somersault Senton, BUT MISSES! PENALTY KICK! Suzuki goes back to the Achilles Lock as Tana begins to fade. Suzuki turns his hold into a Figure Four, but Tana reverses the pressure! Suzuki reverses it back. Minoru unleashes another flurry of strikes before locking in another Rear Naked Choke. He sets up for the Gotch-Style Piledriver, but Tana blocks the maneuver. Tana manages a quick roll-up attempt for two and then A CRUCIFIX ROLL-UP GETS TWO-POINT-NINE-NINE-NINE. TANAHASHI WITH THE SICK-LOOKING INVERTED DRAGON SCREW. Suzuki looks like he’s in legitimate pain, here, so good job, guys, you got me. Sling Blade for two. High Fly Flow, followed by another High Fly Flow, finishes the match. Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Minoru Suzuki via pinfall. Great contest between two legends. Suzuki’s overworking of the leg was an obvious callback to their New Beginning match earlier this year, but Tana managed to pull off the one move that turned the tide in his favor. An obvious early highlight of the tournament. GO ACE! ****1/4
G1 Climax 28 A Block Match: Kazuchika Okada (CHAOS) vs. “Switchblade” Jay While (CHAOS)
White promised Okada several months ago that, while it was necessary for him to join CHAOS, Okada should continue to watch his back, as White was destined to come after him at some point. White with his new red attire, channeling his inner Nakamura (the one man who always seemed to have Okada’s number during the G1). Okada has a new, lower-pitched remix of his theme song, and for some reason has balloons tied to his ass as he walks down to the ring. White begins by offering a handshake, but THEN ATTEMPTS THE BLADE RUNNER! OKADA ATTEMPTS THE RAIN MAKER! Okada’s all smiles as the match gets going. Okada does the rope break spot and pats White on the head endearingly; in response White lays in some of the most vicious chops I’ve seen in some time. Ground headlock by Okada as we start to settle in for a looonnnnggg match for G1 standards. The action spills to the outside, as Okada hits a boot to White to send him over the barricade. White manages to get out of the way before Okada can sail over with the crossbody, but Okada delivers a BICYCLE KICK MAGGLE to the small of his back in response. SAITO SUPLEX FROM WHITE ON THE FLOOR. White alternates between slamming Okada on the apron and slamming Okada on the barricade. Jesus, White looks vicious. Back to a slugging/chopping standoff in the middle of the ring.
Later on, White manages to rip off part of the ring apron and snuff Okada out with it. Callis: “Oh, look, he’s trying to put it back together. What a gentleman.” Ten minutes in, and White hits a Pump Handle Backbreaker for two. He then hits his version of the Muta Lock and begins grabbing at Okada’s nose and mouth. That can’t be sanitary. White follows with a thick kick to Okada’s back but in an awesome spot OKADA JUST STANDS UP AND GRABS WHITE BY THE THROAT BEFORE LAYING IN WITH THE FOREARMS. I have a feeling these two are not getting a beer together after this match. Okada flapjack gets two. I forgot how to spell flapjack all of a sudden. White hits another Saito Suplex outta nowhere as start to head toward the closing stretch of the match.
Switchblade attempts another Blade Runner but Okada manages to lock in the Cobra Clutch (to this day, I still haven’t been convinced that this should work as Okada’s finisher. I mean, he already had Red Ink, and that was a fine submission, so why does a guy who rarely needs to win via submission need a SECOND finishing submission?). White locks in his own chokehold soon afterward. White channeling his inner Zed S J: “Just tap out, Okada. JUST TAP OUT.” We really need to get to the end of this match; this review’s getting too long for its own sake. Okada hits a shotgun dropkick to send a loopy White into the corner. Connects with the diving elbow, Rainmaker pose, Rainmaker attempt, misses, WHITE WITH THE SICK GERMAN BRIDGE ATTEMPT for two. A hard lariat from White also gets two. Okada attempts to pathetically strike White from his knees, and White’s response is to SAITO SUPLEX OKADA OVER THE RING ROPES TO THE FLOOR. Back to the floor action, and White suplexes Okada into the barricade, mirroring several spots from the San Francisco match against Juice. White goes under the ring and grabs a chair, bringing out several boos from the Tokyo faithful in the process. Swing and a miss from White, and Okada lays into him with the Dropkick from Hell through the chair. Tombstone piledriver follows. Rainmaker hits, but White backfists Unno at the same time! This is a ref bump I can get behind. Low blow from White after he recovers. White grabs the chair AND JUST THROWS IT RIGHT INTO OKADA’S FACE! That looked gnarly. Blade Runner connects, one, two, three. Jay White def. Kazuchika Okada via pinfall. Wow. Just wow. White continues the momentum from San Francisco and ends up killing it in his first G1 main event. Sure, the match was long, and they probably went outside of the ring one too many times, but White came off as a dickish heel who showed he would stop at nothing to pick up victories, even against his CHAOS stablemates. Okada continues to evolve as a lost soul who doesn’t know how to perform at his best without the Heavyweight Championship. Great first main event, in what’s shaping up to be an excellent G1 Climax. ****1/4
White: “Boo all you want, I couldn’t give a shit about any of you! I don’t care about any of you, I don’t care about the people watching at home, I don’t care about what you feel. Okada, you’ve been dominated week after week. And, just, I had to pull the plug. Well, well, well, fuck all of you! I said this would be my year. Okada, it’s now my Rainmaker, it is now MY CHAOS. This is my G1, and all of you have no choice by to breathe with the Switchblade.”
Final Thoughts: Three matches hovering or above the four-star match makes for a great beginning to this month-long tournament. The undercard teased some fun action for night two, while the Bullet Club Civil War got some time as we wait for Tama vs. Omega. I’m smiling from ear to ear thinking about the month ahead of us.