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    Tuesday, December 20, 2016

    31 Days of Wrestling (12/20/16): Hirooki Goto vs. Kenny Omega, G1 Climax Finals

    Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. It's that time of year again when we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match a day for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling this calendar year produced for us.

    Today, we’re looking at a truly historic moment in the world of professional wrestling.

    The one thing that has become a theme for NJPW in 2016 is that just when you thought you had all the answers, the questions keep on changing. There was no other time in 2016 when this rang so true than during the recent G1 Climax Tournament, which saw so many unexpected upsets, twists, and turns during the entire tour. From victories such as SANADA over Hiroshi Tanahashi to YOSHI-HASHI over Kenny Omega, this tournament was relatively unpredictable compared to previous years, and it was pretty much anybody’s game. The result of such an exciting G1 tour? The finals nobody saw coming: Hirooki Goto vs. Kenny Omega at the Sumo Hall.

    Goto, the forever-bridesmaid of the NJPW roster, known for winning tournaments but never winning the big one, managed to win A block by virtue of an unexpected tie between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada. This meant by virtue of points won, Goto got the lead and a pass to the finals. A win by Goto in the finals would validate a career-changing move he made earlier in the year: accepting Okada's invitation and joining CHAOS in the hopes of turning his career around. Meanwhile, Omega managed to beat Tetsuya Naito in the last B Block match to gain the lead, making him eligible to compete in the finals. Funnily enough, Naito was the heavy favorite to win given an amazing 2016 that saw him win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and gain a legion of fans valiantly supporting Los Ingobernables de Japon. The Omega vs. Naito bout even garnered a rare 5-star rating from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, a high honor in and of itself.

    When the finals match finally came, however, fans knew they were in for something special as Goto and Omega pulled off a spectacle fitting for a G1 Climax finale. Goto, almost a decade after his last G1 win, tried to outdo the aggressive Omega, making use of his veteran instincts. The Cleaner, on the other hand, brought a hybrid Jr. Heavyweight style to a G1 Climax finals match, integrating Jr. high-flying and heavyweight prowess. 

    As both men were spent from the bout, Omega had to pull out a Megaman and used the moves from former Bullet Club leaders to finally vanquish the Aramusha: a Bloody Sunday (1916) by Prince Devitt (Finn Bálor), a Styles Clash from AJ Styles, and finally, his own One-Winged Angel. With this win, he has forever etched his name in history as the first non-Asian gaijin to ever win the G1 Climax tournament (Masahiro Chono and Riki Choshu, previous winners, are both Japanese with mixed foreign lineage), something that’s never happened in its history. Omega is also one of the rare stars to win the whole thing in his first try, the last being the man he will face for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 11, Kazuchika Okada.

    Early in the year, there were doubts that NJPW would not be able to sustain the momentum they garnered in recent years due to the likes of Nakamura and Styles leaving for the WWE. But fans would forever remember 2016 as the year NJPW managed to prove everyone wrong. With many stars being given opportunities to finally shine and new stars emerging in the scene, the sky is the limit for the second largest wrestling promotion in the world—a company that is already actively capturing the world market. The faith the company has towards its own stars was solidified with Omega’s win in the G1, furthering establishing The Cleaner’s position as a new generation megastar, alongside Okada, Tanahashi, and Naito. This win also managed to save the Bullet Club—a faction that sorely needed validation in the midst of the more popular Los Ingobernables de Japon—as a force, despite the departures of Devitt, Styles, Gallows, and Anderson.

    Don’t be surprised if Omega will define 2017 with an IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign and help make NJPW even more of a household name.


    31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2016.

    Read our previous entries:

    #1: The Final Deletion
    #2: Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE Universal Championship, SummerSlam
    #3: Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Wrestle Kingdom 10
    #4: Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, NXT Takeover: Dallas
    #5: Main Maxx vs. Crystal for the PHX Championship, PWR Renaissance
    #6: Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte for the RAW Women's Championship, Hell in a Cell
    #7: Prince Puma vs. Rey Mysterio, Ultima Lucha Dos
    #8: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, Wrestle Kingdom 10
    #9: American Alpha vs. The Revival
    #10: TJ Perkins and the WWE Cruiserweight Classic
    #11: One Versus All Royal Rumble match
    #12: Kenny Omega vs Tetsuya Naito, G1 Climax Block B Finals
    #13: Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens, Payback
    #14: Ricochet vs. Will Ospreay, Best of the Super Juniors Tournament 2016
    #15: #DIY vs. The Revival, NXT TakeOver: Toronto (2 Out Of 3 Falls)
    #16: Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg, Survivor Series
    #17: Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomohiro Ishii for the NEVER Openweight Championship, Wrestle Kingdom 10
    #18: The Return of the Brand Split
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    Item Reviewed: 31 Days of Wrestling (12/20/16): Hirooki Goto vs. Kenny Omega, G1 Climax Finals Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lance Tan Ong
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