[Please note: to save myself some time, I am only going to review the G1 tournament matches themselves. If there is a really good undercard match, and I get the time to watch it, I will make a note of it eventually. There may be spoilers for previous days as we progress.]
New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual heavyweight tournament begins, where for the next few weeks, two blocks of ten competitors will compete in a round-robin format in the G1 Climax 28. The two winners – one from the A Block, and one from the B Block – will then face off in the final, with the winner receiving the main event title match at the annual January 4th show, Wrestle Kingdom. Day 1 sees the first round of five matches between the A Block competitors, including Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, Minoru Suzuki, EVIL and the up and coming Hangman Page.
+ Jay White vs Kazuchika Okada (G1 Climax A Block Match): I don’t know what to make of this new Okada. Is he meant to be that little it pathetic? Because that’s how I see him. Switchblade is one of the top bad guys on the NJPW roster right now, because of that fantastic performance against Juice at the G1 Special, and that carried over here. The crowd still loved Okada, but you can tell they are a bit uneasy with him lacking all the flash that made him the Rainmaker in the first place. Nonetheless, this was a good main event, and probably the best match of this first night
+ Michael Elgin vs EVIL (G1 Climax A Block Match): I don’t much care for Elgin, especially after his claiming-cum-dropping of the NEVER Openweight title so soon – he just looks like a geek. EVIL, on the other hand, is one of my boys, so I know who I was cheering for this entire match. Elgin is still ridiculously powerful, even after losing all that weight, so there was lots of strength on display here. This was fun
+ Hangman Page vs Bad Luck Fale (G1 Climax A Block Match): every time I write about Hangman I flop around on whether I like him – but holy cow he was on fire here. This went in an interesting direction, and a direction I see continuing for the next few weeks, but it certainly added some intrigue to the show. And damn that Hangman has an awesome entrance theme
+ Togi Makabe vs YOSHI-HASHI (G1 Climax A Block Match): I was iffy at this starting the G1 proceedings, but by the time it was done I had a new respect for both guys. I’m not a huge fan of either, but both men really impressed me, especially considering the crowd, like myself, had no hope that YOSHI-HASHI would be able to defeat Makabe (whether he did or not, who can say)
– Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Minoru Suzuki (G1 Climax A Block Match): like all Tanahashi/Suzuki matches, this was good. However, and I think this may be blasphemy to say, Tanahashi is not doing it for me lately. Suzuki will always be terrifying, but with the new crop of Jay White, Juice, Finlay, Hangman, as well as Ibushi being back properly and the matches Okada and Omega had, etc, Tanahashi is just not ticking the boxes for me. This being in the negatives doesn’t mean it was a bad match, it just means you’ve seen it all before
Should you watch this event: The first night of the NJPW tournaments are always known for their upsets, but whether there were any here will depend on who you expected to win (and, frankly, some of them could have gone either way). Perhaps everything looked better in comparison thanks to that horrid WWE event just a week earlier, but I enjoyed this show, and it has set the stage for a big few weeks.