[Please note: By the time I post this, and indeed you read it, the tournament is over, and a winner has been crowned. I have no idea who that may be, and to save myself some time, I am only going to review the G1 tournament matches themselves. There are potential spoilers for every previous day of action.]
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. The even-numbered day 14 means the B Block is back in the spotlight, with Tetsuya Naito facing Kota Ibushi in the main event, and the IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega going to war with Tomohiro Ishii in the semi-main. Tama Tonga, Toru Yano and Juice Robinson are also each in action against their respective opponents Hirooki Goto, SANADA and Zack Sabre Jr.
+ Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi (G1 Climax B Block Match): for the first half or so, I was unsure as to why this would follow the incredible Ishii/Omega match, but then after about ten minutes these two went into absolute overdrive. The amount of times I honestly thought one of the others may be dead, or at least badly injured, doesn’t seem like a good number for any sport, performance or otherwise, and while it was hugely entertaining, just prepare to see some could-have-been dangerous stuff (since I’ve not heard of either man being dead right now, I assume they were more or less okay)
+ Tomohiro Ishii vs Kenny Omega (G1 Climax B Block Match): holy smokes. A few awkward and ugly botches were hard to overlook, but in the context of the knock-down, drag-out fight this became, they almost added to the match. Both men ended up with busted faces, and the crowd’s gasping echoed my own at a few key spots (I scared my dog because I accidentally said ‘holy shit’ out loud at one point). This was beautiful, terrifying and incredible
– Zack Sabre Jr. vs Juice Robinson (G1 Climax B Block Match): as the commentators were tying to put over that these two were an interesting matchup, because of their differences, I couldn’t help but feel the opposite. Juice has a flamboyant style (pun only slightly intended), in that his big moves all require a somewhat elaborate set-up or crowd involvement, while Sabre, conversely, just slaps on submissions moves and hopes the crowd goes for them (and if not, he’ll put a different one on instead – or as well). These two could have a better match if the stakes were higher, but as neither man could win the tournament from this point, it felt more like a test for future matches more than anything else
– Tama Tonga vs Hirooki Goto (G1 Climax B Block Match): you know the deal by now; the Tongans either cheat to win or lose in bad-guy circumstances. When you see who the opponent is each time, you can probably guess which of those options it is
– SANADA vs Toru Yano (G1 Climax B Block Match): this was essentially a comedy match, and surprisingly the first of the tournament so far. I didn’t much care for it, but don’t take this negative rating to mean there is nothing here for anyone
> At the beginning of this day, only Omega, Naito and Ibushi were still alive in the tournament. It basically meant the first three matches were inconsequential, no matter how good they were (in this case, hit and miss)
Should you watch this event: None of the matches listed as negative above were offensively bad, but as we get to the tail end of the tournament, it is just getting harder and harder to say most matches are must-see. I was really disappointed in the way Sabre/Juice turned out, in particular. The two final matches were great, of course, as any combination of Naito, Omega, Ishii and Ibushi is certain to be.