NJPW G1 Climax 28 Round-Up

Our G1 champion and the champion of our hearts. Credit: NJPW

You thought I was finished? Of course not. It’s time for the G1 round-up. I am going to do report cards for each wrestler involved, a rundown of my favourite matches and links to all my reviews. The idea is that if you’ve missed the G1 and are looking for hints as to what to watch and what to avoid, this might serve as a helpful guide. Also, if anyone has enjoyed my G1 coverage and would like to give back a little, please consider donating to my Ko-Fi. Right, let’s get on with it.

A Block Report Cards

Hiroshi Tanahashi, 15 points – B+

The Ace and the winner of the 28th G1 had a good tournament, but I think it’s hard to call it great. His high points came at the start and at the end, as he started hot against Suzuki and finished in a flaming ball of genius against Okada and Kota. What knocks him down to a B+ is that a lot of the matches in between were merely good. Now, I don’t like to complain too much about good, it’s good, isn’t it? If you moan about that, you might as well give up on life. However, in a tournament where people are routinely hitting sublime, good sometimes isn’t enough.

Best Match – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kota Ibushi, 12/8/18

Kazuchika Okada, 13 points – A-

The Rainmaker is, well, not The Rainmaker anymore. He’s now a chap with some balloons and a jazzy theme tune. We’ve even seen him say goodbye to Gedo. That story played into his G1 as Okada started the tournament slowly, deliberately going out there and not having the best matches he could. However, as we went on, Kazu got better and better, before culminating with another five-star classic against Tanahashi. Perhaps most impressively, though, we’ve seen Okada embrace his broken character and become a genuinely fascinating wrestler. I’m not sure where he goes next, and that’s quite exciting.

Best Match – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada, 10/8/18

Jay White, 12 points – B+

Much like Okada, Jay White has perhaps not had the best matches. Also like Okada, he wasn’t supposed to be. This tournament has been all about establishing who The Switchblade is and, in that sense, it’s been an unqualified success. When Jay White turned up nine months ago, he seemed unsure of exactly who he was supposed to be. By the end of the G1, he was firmly entrenched in his character. We know he can go (check out his ROH match with Ospreay for proof), but now we know he can do the emotional stuff too. It’s clear New Japan has big plans for Jay White

Best Match – Jay White vs Kazuchika Okada, 14/7/18

Minoru Suzuki, 10 points – B-

I love Minoru Suzuki, and I’m sure many people reading this feel the same way. However, the mental old bastard is fifty-one-years-old. During the G1 it becomes clear that he can’t keep up his insanely high standards night after night. Even with that in mind, he very rarely had bad matches while his bouts with Okada and Tanahashi stood out as being exceptional. Murder Grandpa might not be delivering classics every night, but you’d be insane to think he’s lost it.

Best Match – Minoru Suzuki vs Kazuchika Okada, 2/8/18

EVIL, 10 points – C

I should probably just copy and paste what I said for Suzuki. However, EVIL doesn’t have the excuse of being in his fifties. It’s hard to say that EVIL fucked it during this G1, but he also seemed to miss a chance. The A Block lacked great matches, so this was a massive opportunity for him to stand-up and establish himself as the kind of workhorse that NJPW can rely on. Sadly, he never quite hit that mark. Like most, he peaked against Okada and Tanahashi, it’s just a shame he wasn’t able to truly stamp his personality on this tournament.

Best Match – EVIL vs Kazuchika Okada, 5/8/18

YOSHI-HASHI, 6 points – C+

YOSHI-HASHI still bores me. Wandering down to the ring he often looks like he’s taken a wrong turn and he has the personality of stale bread. However, this G1 might go down as a turning point for him. NJPW leaned into the fact that a lot of fans thought he didn’t deserve to be in this year’s tournament and made that his story. He was out to prove himself and, in kayfabe, often fell short. Yet, for the viewers watching at home, we got to see YOSHI-HASHI actually have some damn good matches. I still don’t think the man is a star, but this tournament needs people who don’t need to pick up many points and can deliver decent matches. YOSHI-HASHI is perfect for that.

Best Match – Kazuchika Okada vs YOSHI-HASHI, 27/7/18

A Piece Of Shit, 6 points – F

Fuck Michael Elgin

Best Match – Fuck Michael Elgin

Togi Makabe, 6 points – C-

As he gets up in years, Togi Makabe has established a G1 formula. He starts hot, reminding people that he was once a decent wrestler before tiring and putting on some averages performances in the middle. Then, he finishes off with a couple of decent matches and makes sure that people will want him back next year. You could get angry at him for it, but what’s the point? He’s earned his spot. Plus, he’s the perfect wrestler to put the likes of Hangman Page over to give them a credibility boost. Togi Makabe is an unessential yet still useful cog in the working of the G1.

Best Match – Togi Makabe vs Hangman Page, 2/8/18

Hangman Page, 6 points – B

There were a few grumbles of discontent when Hangman Page was given the nod for this year’s G1. It’s probably a fair claim to say that he wouldn’t have been there if it hadn’t been for the injuries to Beretta and Kojima. If Hangman was aware of that, he didn’t let it get him down. In fact, it may have proven his inspiration. This was a coming out party for Adam Page as he showed he is worthy of his spot in NJPW. His point total might not reflect anything remarkable, but if Page goes on to be a star, it will have started here.

Best Match – Hangman Page vs Minoru Suzuki, 5/8/18

Bad Luck Fale, 6 points – F

Bad Luck Fale wasn’t pinned or submitted in this tournament, Yet, he still managed to stink the place up. It’s not just The Firing Squad story that ruined Fale’s performances, he was awful without that. Somehow, dropping weight has caused Bad Luck to lose a step and get more clumsy. He barely made it through a match without fucking up. If anything the lack of bulk has served to highlight that he’s not very good. If anyone from A Block shouldn’t return next year, it’s this man.

Best Match – Bad Luck Fale vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, 20/7/18

B Block Report Cards

Kota Ibushi, 12 points – A+

What is there to say? My Magical Flying Elf-Man didn’t so much shine in this tournament as illuminate it so brightly that Japan won’t need any Christmas lights this year. He was majestic, putting on (by my count) three five-star matches and only producing two that I rated below four stars. What makes that even more spectacular, is that each has its own story. His technical battle against Sanada, his violent awakening against Ishii and his desperate war with Tanahashi. You could take every individual performance and point to a career-defining moment. He might not have won the G1, but it was still Kota Ibushi’s time, and if Gedo can get him to sign a contract, NJPW should be pencilling him in for a victory somewhere down the line.

Best Match – Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii, 28/7/18

Kenny Omega, 12 points – A

Kenny Omega is currently in Wrestling Twitter’s bad books, for some good reasons and some bad. It’s no surprise, new champions often find themselves there after a long chase, but it seems to have taken away from what was an outstanding tournament from Kenny. His bouts with Naito, Ibushi, Ishii, Goto, Zack and even Yano were fantastic. This was a chance for The Best Bout Machine (which I will concede is a stupid nickname) to prove himself as IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and I think he did it. I suspect Tanahashi’s victory means that Kenny will be holding that belt past January 4th (assuming he signs a contract) and there’s a good chance he proves himself more than worthy of it.

Best Match – Kenny Omega vs Kota Ibushi, 11/8/18

Tetsuya Naito, 12 points – A-

A lot of people seem to have forgotten just how good Naito’s tournament was. Part of that was because he wrestled some of his best matches in the early days of the G1. On the first few nights, he went up against Omega, Ishii and Juice, leaving him to wrestle Yano and Tama Tonga before a hot finishing stretch. Recency bias meant that many people had put those fantastic matches out of their head by the time the end came around. Then there’s the fact that he didn’t win the damn thing, which has annoyed quite a few of the LIJ faithful. I sit here writing this in my LIJ hoodie, on a laptop which has LIJ as its background and is emblazoned with an LIJ sticker, so I feel their pain. However, Naito’s time will come. I have faith, I suggest you do too.

Best Match – Tetsuya Naito vs Kenny Omega

Zack Sabre Jr, 12 points – B+

Zack has been knocked down a grade not because of his performance, but because he was out of the tournament so early that his last few matches didn’t quite have the impact they should have. In a perfect world, I think Gedo should have kept him involved till at least the second last night, but what do I know? In-ring, however, Zack has established himself in NJPW. He brings something different to the table and, in doing so, drags something we don’t usually see out of his opponents. They are forced to adapt to Zack’s style which almost always makes the matches interesting. Once again, Sabre was given a victory over Naito plus he can add Goto and Ishii to the big scalps he has taken this year. Zack isn’t just being established in NJPW, he’s already arrived.

Best Match – Zack Sabre Jr vs Kota Ibushi, 15/7/18

Tomohiro Ishii, 10 points – A+

If there is one man who can compete with my love for Kota Ibushi, it is Tomohiro Ishii. He is the wrestler in that company most deserving of a run with the IWGP Heavyweight Title, and yet he’s the one they should never give it to. Because if you want that belt to mean something, the fact that someone as talented as Tomohiro Ishii never held it is one hell of a way to make it mean the world. Something tells me he knows that as well as anyone and he still goes out and puts on matches that blow away people half his age. His attempt to murder Ibushi was my favourite bout in the tournament while his destruction of Kenny Omega was a hell of a lot of fun too. This man might be the best bell to bell wrestler on the planet. Anyone who wants to argue can bring it up with him.

Best Match – Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii, 28/7/18

Sanada, 8 points – B+

Last year, everyone went into the G1 expecting it to be Sanada’s time. The natural ability was there for all to see and it seemed the perfect chance to let him free. We were wrong. It turned out that his LIJ partner EVIL was the man being prepped for the shine and more than one person began to wonder if Sanda’s day would ever come. Well, we needn’t have worried. A year later Sanada has finally shown the potential that we all knew he had. Not only did he pick up a decent points tally, but he also had great matches with Ishii, Goto, Kota and finally got to show some personality in his tournament-long issues with Naito. This was the year that Sanada finally started to live up to the hype.

Best Match – Sanada vs Kota Ibushi, 26/7/18

Juice Robinson, 6 points – B

Ah, Juice. From a kayfabe point of view, this wasn’t a great tournament for my favourite guy. He’s promised more title shots than NJPW has shows for him to have them on. However, from a non-wrestling canon perspective, Juice did a lot to impress this year.

For one thing, he told a fantastic tournament long story, using that broken hand to explain his losses and finally building up to the moment where he ripped it off and smacked Sanada in the chops. Plus, he finally put down Goto who has been his white whale in the last year. Then there were the backstage interviews. It’s not an exaggeration to call Juice one of the bests promos in the industry right now as every word seems to come from the heart. Even in a year when Juice wasn’t in a position to pull up trees in the narrative of the G1, he still shined.

Best Match – Juice Robinson vs Tetsuya Naito, 21/7/18

Hirooki Goto, 6 points – B-

I was all ready to give Goto a bit of a kicking at the end of this tournament. It doesn’t feel like he achieved much as, like Juice, there was no narrative hook for him in the 28th G1. However, as a reviewer who tends to appreciate work rate, it’s hard to argue with the matches that he had. Ishii vs Goto was the dictionary definition of a fucking fight. Few people have the legitimacy that Hirooki Goto brings to the ring. He looks like a hard bastard which makes every victory against him meaningful. This won’t go down as a classic G1 for Old Hirooki, but it definitely wasn’t a bad one.

Best Match – Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii, 21/7/18

Toru Yano, 6 points – B

I am happy to announce that I rediscovered my love for Toru Yano during this G1. The man was fantastic from start to finish as he brought his own little narrative into the tournament. Our beloved Sublime Master Thief started out by trying to play it straight, yet as the losses racked up, he quickly realised that was a stupid idea and went back to his cheating ways. Before that, though, we saw him put on two genuinely good matches with Ishii and ZSJ before he let loose with the comedy against Sanada, Omega and Ibushi. This was Yano’s best work in a long time, and he had me chuckling all month.

Best Match – Kenny Omega vs Toru Yano, 8/8/18

Tama Tonga, 6 points – F

It was fucking bollocks. Ignoring all Twitter rants and the potential assault of a fan, Tama Tonga proved to me once and for all that he is not a good enough wrestler to be a headlining act in NJPW. If I hadn’t been reviewing every night, I’d have stopped watching his matches after night four.

Best Match – Tama Tonga vs Kota Ibushi, 8/8/18

My Five Favourite Matches

  1. Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii
  2. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kota Ibushi
  3. Kenny Omega vs Kota Ibushi
  4. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada
  5. Kenny Omega vs Tomohiro Ishii

The Reviews

Night 1 – Kazuchika Okada vs Jay White

Night 2 – Kenny Omega vs Tetsuya Naito

Night 3 – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Jay White

Night 4 – Kenny Omega vs Hirooki Goto

Night 5 – Kazuchika Okada vs Hangman Page

Night 6 – Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii

Night 7 – Kazuchika Okada vs Togi Makabe

Night 8 – Sanada vs Kota Ibushi

Night 9 – Kazuchika Okada vs YOSHI-HASHI

Night 10 – Kenny Omega vs Sanada

Night 11 – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs YOSHI-HASHI

Night 12 – Kota Ibushi vs Hirooki Goto

Night 13 – Minoru Suzuki vs Kazuchika Okada

Night 14 – Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito

Night 15 – Kazuchika Okada vs Evil

Night 16 – Sanada vs Tetsuya Naito

Night 17 – Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

Night 18 – Kenny Omega vs Kota Ibushi

The Final – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada

Overall Tournament

I fucking loved this tournament. Many people have put forward the opinion that while the highs were very high, the average performance was lower than last year which is a viewpoint I can’t really argue against. However, what it had over last year, was a variety of match types. Whether it was ZSJ’s technical work, White’s story fuelled cheating or Yano making me giggle, I rarely felt I had to slog through these shows. In my head, this G1 will go down as a classic.

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