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    Thursday, August 16, 2018

    The Smark Henry G1 Climax 28 Roundup: The Finals, and Looking Forward

    Phew, what a month of wrestling that was.

    After 19 gruelling shows (and bucketfuls of tears, in my case), New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax tournament has finally ended (insert sad face). Hiroshi Tanahashi survived—operative word survived because heck, it is the G1 freaking Climax—his field of 10 in the A block and overcame B block’s best, Kota Ibushi, in another G1 Climax Finals classic. In the process, he reclaimed his spot on top of Shin Nihon’s food chain and on the main event of NJPW’s biggest show of the year, Wrestle Kingdom 13.

    Let’s take a look at the final standings.

    A Block Final Standings

    Hiroshi Tanahashi - 15 (A Block and G1 Climax 28 winner)
    Kazuchika Okada - 13
    Jay White - 12
    Minoru Suzuki - 10
    EVIL - 10
    Michael Elgin - 6
    Togi Makabe - 6
    Hangman Page - 6
    Bad Luck Fale - 6

    B Block Final Standings

    Kota Ibushi - 12 (B Block winner)
    Kenny Omega - 12
    Zack Sabre Jr. - 12
    Tetsuya Naito - 12
    Tomohiro Ishii - 10
    SANADA - 8
    Juice Robinson - 6
    Hirooki Goto - 6
    Toru Yano - 6
    Tama Tonga - 6

    GO ACE!

    One cannot fault a lot of fans for thinking that the “G” in this year’s G1 stood for “golden,” because Kota Ibushi main eventing Wrestle Kingdom had already written itself years (and I mean years) ago. Sure, they have already given us the much-awaited Golden Lover versus Golden Lover face-off at the Budokan, but what will hold back New Japan from giving these two the biggest possible stage? Japanese and international fans have been asking for it; and a story like theirs only deserves to have the biggest payoff.

    But to everyone's pleasant surprise (or tragic heartbreak, wherever your fandom stands *sniff*), the Ace of the Universe, Tanahashi, is once again New Japan's top dawg. In a time when critics and fans think that he's the fading Ace—as shown in his seemingly dwindling down the Wrestle Kingdom card in the past two shows and big match losses—he silences them by winning the G1 with a freaking 7-1-1 record. Damn. He still is the Ace, after all.

    Just like the reigning champion Kenny Omega, Tana also has his share of history-making events. With his G1 win, he now has an opportunity to break the G1 curse and once again make history if he wins his eighth IWGP Heavyweight title at the Tokyo Dome.

    But before he marches his way to the Dome, he still has some unfinished business to settle. In A block's last tournament day, Tanahashi and his eternal rival, Kazuchika Okada, added another time limit draw under their belts, leaving this chapter of their story wide open. After the G1, Tanahashi expressed his willingness to defend his G1 contract against Jay White (his lone loss in the tournament), and Okada.

    With how their year is going so far, the next Tanahashi vs. Okada match will be more than for the G1 contract. Chris Charlton put it in the best way on English commentary: Tana and Okada's years are defined by what they lost—Tana was stripped of his record of most number of title defenses, Okada with his record-breaking title reign. It's going to be a chance to rewrite their narrative and turn the tides in their favor.

    G1 is G141

    If you haven't seen this year's tournament, then we might as well start off with all of Tomohiro Ishii's matches, in which he defeated all the champions in B Block. The Stone Pitbull has always been great, and this year's G1 was just him further proving his (and his fans') case as to why he more than deserves a shot for the heavyweight title.

    A running (sad) joke among Ishii's fans is how he still hasn't received his heavyweight title shot after he defeated then-champion Okada at the G1 two years ago. Now that he did the thing again against Omega (in a match that left Omega in stitches—literally), it's now set in stone (pun not intended) that he'll likely get his shot at King of Pro Wrestling in October, in what will surely be a barn burner.

    Firing Squad Fires Back, but Backfired

    Womp womp. This went from 100 to everyone just not giving F's in only three weeks. When Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, and their dad, King Haku, attacked everyone in Bullet Club back at the G1 Special in San Francisco, everyone yelped in excitement because it's about damn time that the Guerrillas of Destiny take what was theirs to begin with. That had a lot of potential! Until the G1 started, that is.

    After that fateful day, eyes were on the Bad Luck Fale vs. Hangman Page match from the G1's first day, but thanks to shenanigans from GoD, the match ended in a no contest and gave Page his first two points. Omega, Ibushi, and Chase Owens came out to save Hangman and that was about it. Sure, okay, that's fine. People can let that pass, I guess, but do that same shit over and over and over again in all of Fale and Tama's matches without any motivation but to just screw up the tournament, and you eventually get chirping crickets.

    Boy, this was a bust. Please keep them off our screens for a while.

    The Long and Winding Road to the Tokyo Dome

    Title matches here, there, and everywhere

    Aside from his aforementioned match against Omega, Ishii has a wide array of gold to choose from, as he defeated all the champions in his block. If he fails in his quest against Omega, he's likelier to challenge the NEVER Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto next in what is sure to be another war.

    Zack Sabre Jr. also had one heck of a treasure hunt this past G1. With his wins over Goto and IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Champion Juice Robinson, he will surely ride on the momentum that he gained after defeating Tetsuya Naito in the last day of B Block tournament. He has explicitly shown his desire for both the NEVER and U.S. titles.

    Struggle is an understatement to describe IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Champion Juice Robinson's G1 28, courtesy of his left hand that he hurt months ago at the Kizuna Road shows. It will be a busy fall for him with his long list of challengers, possibly starting off with the American Nightmare Cody, who added his name to the list during the G1 Finals.

    Matches to Watch

    G1 Climax season is when a lot of match of the year contenders are made. I decided to challenge myself, but apparently, choosing just six matches to watch from the entire tournament is hard work. Of course the main events of the last three days are essential viewing (so are the ones featured on #MustWatchMondays), so *sigh* here are six other matches that you have to see from this year's tournament (with obvious biases, of course).

    • Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii - B block, August 4: When I said that Ishii matches are just gosh darn war, I mean they're Omega lip-busting, gosh darn war. The arrogant champion bodied Ishii in the first few minutes of the match, but Ishii is the Stone Pitbull, so he fought through the strikes and V-Triggers. After some 20 minutes or so of war, Ishii gives Omega his first blemish in the tournament. It was brutal, bloody, and beautiful.

    • Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega - B block, July 15: These two are my absolute favorites in the world, so if you don't mind, my glowing words are very much biased. But hey, do you really need more reasons to watch this other than it's Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito? They have an undeniable chemistry that allows them to put together stellar matches regardless of how many times they face each other at opposite ends of the ring.

    • Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki - A block, August 2: What do you get when you put together a murderous Suzuki who's always out for blood, and balloons Okada in his looniest state? We almost got a crime scene, but The Rainmaker was fortunate enough to escape The King despite his cockiness and earn his 10th point.

    • SANADA vs. Zack Sabre Jr. - B block, July 21: A delightful technical masterpiece amid the high-flying and hard-hitting matches we got. This is a typical whatever-you-do-I-can-do-better match from two guys who are a title win away from breaking into the upper echelons of NJPW. We've always expected that a ZSJ match would hurt our limbs, but MAN, SANADA, MAN. He reminds us that he's a dangerous man who can fly and hang with the best technical wrestler around.

    • Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii - B block, July 21: This is what strong style is all about! The two CHAOS chums produced a masterpiece full of shoulder blocks, lariats, clotheslines, chops, and overflowing fighting spirit that makes it one of the contenders for match of the tournament.

    • Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi - B block, August 4: I imagine this is how they put their match together following the war that was Omega vs. Ishii.
    Ibushi: "Oh hey, Naito-san, I'm going to drop you a lot on your neck later in our match."
    Naito: "Sure, Ibushi-san, I'd gladly do the same."
    Ibushi: "Sounds good to me!"
    *Naito and Ibushi exchange high-fives*

    What did you think of G1 28? Did Tana's win hype you up for Wrestle Kingdom next year? What were your favorite matches? Sound off in the comments below!

    Images from njpw1972.com and @njpwglobal

    Ardelle Costuna works at a news organization somewhere along EDSA whenever she's not watching wrestling. As someone who just recently turned to Japanese wrestling (full-time ish), she is a sucker for no-sold German suplexes, kick-outs at one-count, and whatever the hell Tetsuya Naito is doing right now. Send her your (joshi) puroresu match recommendations and watch her swoon over Kenny Omega, and Jake Lee at @aandthejets.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry G1 Climax 28 Roundup: The Finals, and Looking Forward Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ardelle Costuna
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