NJPW: G1 Climax 28
July 14th & 15th, 2018
Commentators - Don Callis, Rocky Romero, & Kevin Kelly
So, over on the Up & Over Podcast we decided dive into the 2018 G1 Climax, so you know I had to a written review as well. Check out the podcast above and check out my review. LETS GET INTO IT.
JULY 14TH, 2018 - BLOCK A TOURNAMENT MATCHES
Togi Makabe (GBH) vs. YOSHI-HASHI (CHAOS) - Block A Tournament Match
This is Togi Makabe’s 15th consecutive G1 which is an astounding fact. He won the tournament in 2009. YOSHI HASHI here is still trying to find and reach his full potential. The match begins with the two throwing bombs and somehow YOSHI HASHI gets the early advantage and sends Makabe into the railing on the floor. He uses the to dominate for a few minutes, but Makabe fights up. Pretty soon, we are in a back & forth slugfest. The outcome of this was pretty up in the air given Makabe’s history and even though YOSHI always seems to fall short in big spots, he beat Kenny Omega in a huge upset in the 2016 G1 so it’s clear that he can dig down deep every now and again. Huge powerbomb off the top gets YOSHI a two count. He follows it up with a running meteors for another nearfall. Makabe looks very vulnerable as YOSHI puts him in the butterfly lock. The crowd begins to rumble as Makabe tries to fight his legs to the ropes and soon enough he breaks the plain of the ropes and the hold gets released. We get an awesome spot after this where Makabe tosses YOSHI with a german and YOSHI fires up. Makabe rebounds, though and follows through with a spider powerbomb off the top rope followed by the King Kong knee drop for the victory. Good opening tourney match here.
Match rating - **3/4
Bad Luck Fale (BULLET CLUB) vs. “Hangman” Adam Page (ELITE) - Block A Tournament Match
This is one of those matches that’s crazy to watch in retrospect. Page is on the literal cusp on becoming the handpicked homegrown star of the second biggest wrestling promotion in North America and he’s already quite popular in Japan. This was a great big man vs. smaller man match while it lasted. It ends in a DQ finish, which is rare in NJPW and I’m not even mad about it because everything up to the DQ ruled and the post match with Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, & Chase Owens running down to save Page from a beating from Fale and GoD got me in my feels. The Golden Elite was my shit. Anyways, yeah, Hangman gets the win and the points via DQ after GoD interfered.
Match rating - **1/2
Michael Elgin vs. EVIL (LIJ) - Block A Tournament Match
My appreciation for Michael Elgin was long gone at this point, even before he got cancelled. I still had a glimmer of hope for EVIL though. Watching this back in retrospect, it’s fine. The arm work by EVIL on Elgin was surprising and the most sound thing either man has done in a while. Elgin pretty much forgets it once he starts his comeback which is fine because fighting spirit and stuff, but also.. idk. I’m not gonna harp on dumb shit like a dork. But when you are these two guys, I feel like details are important because I don’t BELIEVE in either man enough to get riled up on them no selling for more than a minute or so. Regardless, the arm work is good and the finishing stretch is fun. A match that I enjoyed more than I anticipated. Elgin makes his big comeback after being dunked on all match and wins with the Elgin bomb.
Match rating - ***1/4
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Minoru Suzuki (w/ El Desperado) (Suzuki-gun) - Block A Tournament Match
This one has been building since Suzuki embarrassed Tana with a dominant victory over him in January. The story of that match was the knees/legs. At the bell, Tana tries to go right after Suzuki’s, but it bites him. Suzuki is ready and begins to dominant Tana all over again. With laser focus, Suzuki starts hammering on the leg of the ace. The work is fierce and executed in a way that only Suzuki can work it. Tana in peril is a role he’s comfortable in so that worked as well. They keep this short, sweet, and simple at 12 minutes. Suzuki tries to maim the legs of Tana and embarass him again, which builds the Tana comeback which is worked extremely well. This earns Tana the subsequent victory with the high fly flow to avenge his loss from earlier in the year.
Match rating - ****
Kazuchika Okada (CHAOS) vs. Jay White (CHAOS) - Block A Tournament Match
This is the very first meeting between these two. Both men are in the CHAOS stable with Okada obviously being the leader and White being the Young lion who just began to break into the main cards. White also has developed quite the shitty attitude whereas Okada is going through some sort of crisis having just had his record breaking IWGP Title reign ended by Kenny Omega. Okada’s hair is dyed, he has balloons, he’s acting goofy and sluggish. And for all these reasons, Okada sort of feels like this is just fun and games. White, however, well.. this is the biggest match of his career bar none. They do a phenomenal job telling the story of all these things. There’s several fantastic moments, but all in all, it’s nothing more than those moments. It’s a good match that went far too long and never fully grabbed me. White makes sure to be excessive as fuck taking the Rainmaker which causes a ref bump which leads to a chair getting involved and Jay White getting the biggest upset (albeit cheap) of his career. Rocky was fantastic on commentary during this and once again, the story was great, it just seemed to drag in between all the cool little spots they set up. What a crazy way to start the G1 with this finish, though.. JESUS.
Match rating - ***3/4
NIGHT 2 - JULY 15th, 2018
Tomohiro Ishii (CHAOS) vs. Toru Yano (CHAOS) - Block B Tournament Match
It’s CHAOS vs. CHAOS again. And what a hoot we have on our hands this go round. Yano actually wrestles and hangs in there with Ishii when it comes to strikes and throws, but he’s still himself and we get our fair share of comedy thrown in as well. The commentary is the actual hilarious part of all this with Don Callis, Rocky Romero & Kevin Kelly having an absolute blast with this match.. and how could you not? This was your perfect opener for the tournament matches on this show. Ishii uses a low blow to get the victory over Yano and grab the first two points of Block B.
Match rating - ***1/4
Juice Robinson (FINJUICE) vs. Tama Tonga (BULLET CLUB) - Block B Tournament Match
Juice is the ultimate white meat babyface at this point in time. Tama is here to prove a point after leading the dissension of BC. It’s a fine enough back and forth contest with Juice having the crowd in the palm of his hand. Gun stun for the victory off a Tanga Loa distraction for Tama. Everyone on the pod hated this. For me, it was what it was.
Match rating - **1/4
Hirooki Goto (CHAOS) vs. SANADA (LIJ) - Block B Tournament Match
This was the definition of a 3 boy for me. The finishing sequence was fire, though. Goto wins with the GTR after one hell of a fight from Sanada trying to avoid it and for that.. I chose to “break” my scale and go 3.125.. yeah motherfuckers. I’m losing my mind. This was a blast.. more of a blast than it should’ve been and for that I rest my case. Goto wins and gets on the scoreboard. What a time.
Match rating - ***1/8 ???
Kota Ibushi (GOLDEN ELITE) vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (Suzuki-gun) - Block B Tournament Match
I remember this match like it was yesterday. This is the tie breaker in the series of matches these two were having around this time period. The first match was in the G1 in 2017 where Ibushi beat ZSJ, the second round came in the New Japan Cup Finals earlier in 2018 where Sabre forced Ibushi to tap, and that leads us here. Both of those matches ruled so I remember skipping right to this the day after this show aired. So much so that when the Taka Michinoku introductions for Zack started on this re-watch, it was like a rush of nostalgia in my veins. This isn’t like an all time favorite match of mine, but it stuck enough with me for me to immediately remember where I was sitting when I watched it for the first time. And that’s something I didn’t expect heading into this, but once the match began I realized it held a special spot in my heart. The match begins with ZSJ working holds on Ibushi and basically not breaking wrist control for the first six or seven minutes. When Ibushi finally lands his first kick of the match, it gets a HUGE pop from the crowd. They love that man and I do too. Zack sorta targets the knee/leg of Kota and Kota sells it like a king, as is to be expected. He’s already immediately sympathetic, then you see him worked over and struggling like this and pulls even more at the ol heart strings. Zack has a sick counter to the Kamigoye when Kota finally attempts to hit it down the stretch. The entire final quarter of the match is essentially Ibushi trying his god damnest to hit the Kamigoye because he knows it’s his key to victory. The struggle and fight for this is just fucking great. That combined with the selling and the story that led both men here made for a super dramatic match that pulled me to the edge of my seat. Eventually, Ibushi is able to slide his knee pad down and smack ZSJ with the Kamigoye to put him away. This was a barn burner and I’m going up a quarter star on my rating on this rewatch. It more than holds up.
Match rating - ****1/4
Kenny Omega (ELITE) vs. Tetsuya Naito (LIJ) - Block B Tournament Match
“The two most popular wrestlers in NJPW.”
This is a rematch from last years G1 finals where Naito beat Omega. It is also a clash between the last two winners of G1 as Kenny won in 2016. The two begin by trading taunts during the intro which sets the stage for a big match feel. Omega taunting Naito with the title he’s failed to win is such a nice touch during this. Something about facing Omega or Ibushi just sends Naito into fucking insane mode. I truly don’t think we ever see this side of him until he’s in the ring with one of those guys and this was no different. The bell rings and the feeling each other out, countering big moves, and doing each other’s taunts fill the opening moments of the match. They work at a pretty fair pace for the middle portion then when they kick into gear.. they kick into fucking gear. You know what I’m talking about. Just insane shit for probably 10 minutes. Multiple moments to take your breath away and make you gasp. Omega attempts a One Winged Angel off the top turnbuckle, Naito counters it into powerbom which absolutely SENT ME. Great nearfall off that. Omega goes for the Jay Driller and gets another two count before FINALLY nailing the One Winged Angel and you KNOW, no one is kicking out of that one. I initially rated this 4.5 when I watched it as it happened in 2018, during the opening moments, I felt like this could be the five star match that Meltzer saw, but by the end I settled on 4.5 as the rating I’m most confident in. What a main event.
Match rating - ****1/2