New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) biggest tournament of the year, the G1 Climax, returns for its 27th edition, as 20 wrestlers compete in round-robin tournament matches. Two blocks of 10 competitors each will all face off against one another, with the two winners then facing each other, similar in format to the recent Best of the Super Juniors tournament, which saw winner KUSHIDA capture the Junior Heavyweight Championship in his victory title match. The overall winner of the tournament will receive a IWGP Heavyweight Championship match at Wrestle Kingdom in January next year. The A Block is up first, and all five first-round matches will take place, including Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jr., and Tetsuya Naito taking on the returning Golden Star of New Japan, Kota Ibushi. Participants from the B Block are also in action, including Okada, Kenny Omega, Michael Elgin and Juice Robinson.
+ Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi (G1 Climax 27 A Block Match): The return of the Golden Star, Kota Ibushi, and holy crap what a return. This was a frantic, back and forth contest, and I think there was less than three pin attempts, one of which was the finish of the match. Highlights include one hell of a lariat and perhaps the biggest german suplex you’ll ever see, and a piledriver you’ll wish you never see again. Holy crap, this was phenomenal, and may have dethroned Okada/Shibata as my favourite match of the year
+ Tomohiro Ishii vs Hirooki Goto (G1 Climax 27 A Block Match): two of my absolute favourites just beat the holiest of hells out of each other. With shades of Ishii/Shibata from a few years ago, this was hectic from the very beginning. Hard hits, thumping headbutts and clotheslines that will make you squirm in your chair, this was incredible, and one of the matches of the year
+ Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jr. (G1 Climax 27 A Block Match): much of the drama of this match came from Sabre countering Tanahashi’s well known offensive moves, as well as taking advatage of Tanahashi’s well-known elbow injury, which worked really well both for me and the live crowd as every submission hold was locked in. This was a good technical match, andI will call it a positive here, but following the incredible Ishii/Goto match it felt lacking
+ YOSHI-HASHI vs Yuji Nagata (G1 Climax 27 A Block Match): Nagata is so cool, for an older fellow; he just looks like a guy who has been through some shit and won’t hesitate to kick your ass. This was a very hard hitting, back and forth match that really held my interest. Fantastic start to the 2017 G1 Climax
+ Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & SANADA) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & Hiromu Takahashi): I’m a sucker for these intra-faction warfare matches, because of all the small character moments, such as SANADA’s fake handshake, and the fact they are all dirty cheats. Although everyone looked great, SANADA was the absolute standout here in a really solid match
+ Jushin Thunder Liger and Tencozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) vs Taguchi Japan (David Finlay, Juice Robinson & Michael Elgin): I’m not sure when Elgin joined Taguchi Japan, but who cares, because Elgin is awesome. Kojima looked like a beast early, and the live audience went crazy for Liger, and let’s be honest who doesn’t? Kojima’s machine gun chops are always great, even if they are a bit silly. It was interesting that Taguchi Japan had to play the bad guys almost by proxy, just because of how beloved the other team was. This was a good opening contest
– Togi Makabe vs Bad Luck Fale (G1 Climax 27 A Block Match): this was definitely not the best match I’ve ever seen. Fale works better against small(er) guys, and Makabe is not a small(er) guy. This was a plodding affair, and I was glad when it was over
– CHAOS (Gedo & Kazuchika Okada) vs CHAOS (Jado & Toru Yano): more intra-faction battling, and it looked like Okada had died his hair again. There was a lot of comedy in this match, and I don’t know how I feel about that, when the Heavyweight Champion is involved, but I guess it is par for the course for Yano. This was another that just didn’t do it for me, personally
– Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki & Taichi) vs Bullet Club (Chase Owens, Kenny Omega & Tama Tonga) some early shenanigans were the highlight, as this was a very short match. I assume this was meant to entice me to upcoming G1 B Block matches, but it just made me feel this was entire unnecessary
Should you watch this event: The Naito/Ibushi match, and the Ishii/Goto clugfest may well be two of my favourite matches of the year, which ahs already seen some phenomenal wrestling froma cross the globe. The in-fighting between Los Ingobernables de Japon was great, as was Tanahashi/Sabre Jr., and the opening tag match was well worth watching as well. Skip the matches listed as negatives above, but the rest will suit you perfectly.