[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 2 will see see the first round of five matches for the B Block competitors, including current IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega, current IWGP United States Champion Juice Robinson, current NEVER Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto, Tama Tonga, Tetsuya Naito and the Stone Pitbull himself, Tomohiro Ishii.
+ Kenny Omega vs Tetsuya Naito (G1 Climax B Block Match): holy cow, after every other match I was not sure this would be able to be as good as I was expecting, but the same matchup that was match of the Tournament last year was again a phenomenal contest here. Omega and Naito’s continued attempts to one up each other, including mocking the signature poses, and it built the crowd into a frenzy. I won’t go on and on about this, but I’ll say it was easily the match of the night, best match of the first two nights, and potentially one of the best matches of the year
+ SANADA vs Hirooki Goto (G1 Climax B Block Match): I like both of these guys a lot, but I can never decide if they deserve more, or are just not quite good enough to warrant more. Both are great in the ring, but SANADA’s presence is so intimidating, and Goto can so realistically ‘fire up’ and go into ass-kicking mode that you can never count him out. The transitions in this match were my favourite part, as SANADA went for the Skull-End dragon sleeper and Goto attempted to hit the GTR, each from similar positions easily reversed into the other’s hold
+ Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr. (G1 Climax B Block Match): this was billed as a battle between technique and striking power, and golly gosh it lived up to that. Sabre’s ability to transition between submission holds is spectacular, even if it does perhaps weaken the impact of the moves themselves, but the strike exchanges between both men was leaving me dumbstruck at how they were not dead (Ibushi against Sabre, particularly). This was a great match
+ Tama Tonga vs Juice Robinson (G1 Climax B Block Match): Juice is going to be an absolute star in NJPW, and I know for a fact I’ve said that before. Tama Tonga’s new ultra-heel shtick doesn’t quite fit him, just yet, because he is still too good a wrestler to be such a bad guy. This was a good match, despite similar shenanigans from the first day’s Bad Luck Fale match, but it has more than just tournament implications for both men
+ Tomohiro Ishii vs Toru Yano (G1 Climax B Block Match): holy smokes, Yano can absolutely go when he wants to. Perhaps like I always say about Taguchi, when Yano wants to put on a good wrestling match, with limited comedy spots, he absolutely can hang with the best of them. This was a clinic from both men, and it was such a shock to not see the normal goofy stuff from Yano that it made everything Ishii did that much more impressive. This was great
> Perhaps the best thing about the Best of the Super Juniors and the G1 Climax tournaments are the time limits: with a few exceptions, now and then, you know you are going to get a winner either way. Omega/Naito here is the best example (assuming it wasn’t a tie) because everyone has a preference between these two.
Should you watch this event: Gosh darn this second night blew the first out of the water. It is not often that I run out of superlatives, but every single tournament match on this show was fantastic, and I cannot recommend watching all five of them enough.