G1 Climax 28 N3
July 16 2018
We’re in Hokkaido, Japan at the Prefectural Sports Center and the G1 is already on the road after a rollicking start in Tokyo. However tonight we’re back in Block A and already that feels like the less interesting Block with Okada and Tanahashi not clashing again until the culmination of the Block in mid-August. Until then it’s YOSHI-HASHI vs. EVIL and Elgin vs. Hangman. There’s English comms on every show this year so despite leaving Tokyo there’s still commentary available from Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero.
Guerillas of Destiny vs. Toa Henare & Shota Umino
I’m just in from work so I’m eating my dinner. Just imagine my review of this being a scathing attack on the Firing Squad. The only thing that interests me here is Toa Henare’s inevitable heel turn. This being Gedo I expect a slow burn. Naturally Umino is here to eat the pin.
Final Rating: dunno
Final Food Rating: ***1/4. It was chicken and it had been keeping warm so I’ve probably got salmonella but it did taste good. The gravy was magic. I mean, it was only Bisto but Bisto is good shit.
Zack Sabre Jr & TAKA Michinoku vs. Toru Yano & Jado
I’m an inordinately excited by the prospect of Sabre vs. Yano. There’s no losers here. Whatever happens it’ll probably be hilarious.
The prospect of Sabre tearing poor Jado’s arm off here is also in the offing. Jado vs. TAKA is a tidy little cheat-a-thon. The execution is almost routinely horrible but it washes over me like a calming ocean at an isolated beach. Sabre vs. Yano is nothing short of amazing. Yano pulls all manner of counters out of his ass and Sabre looks confused at times. It’s great! Yano then rolls TAKA up for the win! Sabre vs. Yano is going to be fucking excellent.
Final Rating: **3/4
Kota Ibushi & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay
Kota vs. Juice is happening Thursday. Considering the great run Juice is on that is exciting. However this match has random Takahashi in it and I don’t like that. However it’s hard to get upset with any match where Juice comes out dressed like a…what is he dressed as?
A new age musketeer? The direct descendent of Louis XIII? Space Age Dandy Pirate? Captain of a merchant vessel in an anime? He’s over, whatever he is. His more traditional American style, albeit flamboyant, collides with Ibushi’s high flying, hard-hitting Japanese star. Juice gets the win here because Takahashi sucks.
Final Rating: **1/4
Tetsuya Naito & SANADA vs. Tomohiro Ishii & SHO
Naito vs Ishii on that awesome Thursday card.
Naito tries to provoke Ishii but there is no real way to take Ishii out of his game. His game is keep going, smash faces. SHO, despite looking like a million bucks, is guaranteed to take the fall here as he’s the only guy who’s not in G1. SANADA has the misfortune of wrestling Tama on the only match on Thursday’s card that I’m not super into. This is easily the best tag on this show with everyone looking motivated. SHO especially as he targets SANADA as someone he can beat and by god, comes pretty damn close. SANADA almost looks emotional when he slaps SHO in the Dragon Sleeper. As if he was a little salty at the kid coming after him. Meanwhile Ishii beats the fuck out of Naito post match to show he means business about Thursday.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Kenny Omega & Chase Owens vs. Hirooki Goto & YOH
Omega vs. Goto is on Thursday. Omega cheating with Chase here only serves to remind me that this fucking Bullet Club angle is still rumbling on. This leads to Omega doing a lot of shtick like Three Sweet, “gimme a boot buddy” and the frequent tags game. It’s good fun and Kenny and Chase have excellent chemistry. Chase does great work in this match. Especially looking to cut off a dive but arriving just microseconds too late. The timing on that was majestic. Unfortunately Goto just takes him out nonchalantly with the GTR and we’re done. Some good stuff here. I’d like to see Omega and Owens again. A stark contrast to Kenny’s tags in G1’s past. Basically Chase Owens is way better than Yujiro Takahashi.
Final Rating: **3/4
Sidenote: a word on comms. Kevin Kelly has done a great job of getting across the differences between Japan and the USA and the little things you don’t always pick up on. Rocky Romero meanwhile has added a tonne of heart to proceedings. When he’s around Don Callis is good too. It’s the best commentary team they’ve produced to date.
Michael Elgin  vs. Hangman Page 
Masa Chono picked Hangman Page to win G1. I guess you don’t have to know what you’re talking about when you’ve won a bunch of G1’s. Elgin is 3-0 against Page in ROH. So Page comes in with a mountain to climb although Elgin has an arm injury it’s not part of the psychology of this match. They are in the dead spot, five from top, and take exception to that. Coming out hard and fast. Elgin is out to prove his switch in appearance is not a detriment to his goals of high card success here and Page wants to show, in every match, that he belongs and he got fucked by the booking on the opening day. Now he’s fifth from top? He’s hot about that. You can tell.
The strikes in this are great and in ignoring injuries and just hammering each other they are free to go all out. The match is very well received because it changes pace so effectively. Whether they’re throwing lumber out of nowhere, or flipping out of stuff or doing near fall sequences; it’s exhilarating. It’s a well put together wrestling match. They even tease an utterly ridiculous spot where Elgin thinks about superplexing Page to the floor. Anyone doubting Hangman Page’s credentials will be looking at this match and realising he belongs in the G1. Meanwhile Elgin’s flurries of offence are incredible now. The speed he’s picked up matches the existing power base he had. He’s downright terrific. If he’d not had such issues away from the ring he’d be a huge fan favourite. His strikes here are brutal. Page gets leathered with these massive clotheslines. This match is genuinely fucking great. Fair play to both. Elginbomb finishes. I’ve heard complaints that this is “movesy” and I get that but the idea was to introduce the world to THE Hangman Page and this did that. Now people will be excited for his matches in the G1 going forward. Pre-tournament people were less jazzed.
Final Rating: ****1/4
YOSHI-HASHI  vs. EVIL 
Now these guys are in a tough spot following two ambitious gaijin who just left it all in the ring. Tacos comes in hurt and EVIL decides to target that heavily taped shoulder. This match does very little to grab me. EVIL is quasi-ruthless. Probably because Tacos’ shoulder issue is a real thing that’s been going on for months. Meanwhile HASHI’s injury issues prevent him getting really into it. Him ripping his tape off is pretty badass and this is the second match where he’s shown fire. Then he attempts a powerbomb and fucks it, with both guys falling over the top rope.
— Arn – no sleep only #g128 (@ArnoldFurious) July 16, 2018
I mean, if you’re going to fuck it then you might as well fuck it this spectacularly. Then he repeats the fucking spot. I’m sure EVIL wasn’t keen on taking another one pal. The big botch causes major flow issues. Neither guy looks right afterwards and the timing is off. Everything gets a wee bit untidy. Everything is EVIL puts Tacos away and he’s on his way to being blanked this year. Good.
Final Rating: ***
Togi Makabe  vs. Minoru Suzuki 
This isn’t so much a wrestling match as a fucking fight. It’s all brawling and that’s fine as that’s where Makabe’s strengths lie. Suzuki throws a magnificent forearm too. You don’t see him slapping his fucking thigh on it. It’s all forearm to face impact. This is Japanese Fighting Spirit personified.
It’s gets pretty damn feisty with them going after each other with chairs before going back to strikes. Togi takes a thrashing with that chair. He’ll be sore for the rest of the tour. Minoru Suzuki doesn’t give a fuck.
— Arn – no sleep only #g128 (@ArnoldFurious) July 16, 2018
As Makabe staggers back into the ring you can see Kevin Kelly pointing at him. “THAT’S A BADASS RIGHT THERE”. Makabe is Kevin Kelly’s Stonecold. I love how the match changes with Makabe going from bossing Suzuki to being equal to being hammered every time he goes toe to toe. Makabe’s biggest issue is a lack of technique. He just throws punches wild whereas Suzuki feels like a surgeon with those forearms. I swear I typed that before comms went on to call them “surgical precision”. Basically the set up for the match feels like the basis of UFC. A streetfighter versus an actual martial artist. Plus Makabe’s comeback has no strategy to it. He just stops selling and goes to his finishers. Suzuki does a decent job of selling but Togi matches should be wars where he’s not in compromising submissions. Scrap the sleeper and this was fine. Pretty insane that Suzuki goes 0-2 as well. We’ll see how it plays out. Although Makabe often starts strong.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Kazuchika Okada  vs. Bad Luck Fale 
I’m torn here because Fale got himself deliberately disqualified in his first match, which makes him an idiot but Okada comes in a balloon waving loon rather than the companies ace. So he doesn’t deserve to win anything either. I guess I side with Okada, for old times sake, and because he doesn’t have Tanga Loa in his corner. Honestly it just feels like Okada is fucking around in this G1. The weight of the title off him at long last. Which is all fine until you have to bring that character into a match with Fale.
I don’t get the ‘Fale is motivated now’ concept behind his weight loss. So before he didn’t give a shit? Why should I care about someone who’s been in NJPW for years and doesn’t care? Once it gets going this match is fine, because they’ve wrestled each other a lot and Okada looks weirdly motivated/eager to show off his lucha skills. I really don’t know what to make of him right now. On the plus side for Fale, having dropped weight he takes a bump off the top rope and it looks pretty darn smooth. The match is too long though, the only one tonight that really outstays its welcome. Then Tama Tonga sneaks in behind the ref’s back and hits a Gun Stun. Boo! I’m really not cool with the Firing Squad bullshit. G1 should be about clean finishes (or relatively). It helps the bookers creativity to take away bullshit crutches. Sadly they want these Firing Squad goons to set themselves apart from the pack so here we are.
Final Rating: **3/4
Hiroshi Tanahashi  vs. Jay White 
Tanahashi started with a win but had his leg destroyed in the process. Jay is young, healthy and has already beaten Okada. He really has nothing to fear here. It’s odd that he’s baited into a technical match in the early going. You’d think he’d bring the same bullshit that caught Okada unawares, or target the knee. Instead he’s there trading holds. It doesn’t take long for Jay to take the knee and the bullshit isn’t far behind but it’s surprising how long it takes him to get going. White had a terrible re-debut at WK as Switchblade so this is a big issue for him, to better that WK match and to prove he belongs in there with the likes of Tanahashi. The trouble with this match is that it feels long almost immediately. The approach is very slow and Jay’s ‘submission attempts’ just feel like rest holds. Sure, they target the bad knee but there’s no urgency to anything. It’s only Tanahashi’s selling that makes me convinced he’s going to submit.
The only thing that’s really great about this match is that it’s not the ‘fall flat on its face’ failure that Jay vs. Tana was at WK. Jay seems more at home working hard grafting midcard bouts with the likes of Juice Robinson. There’s a generational gap when it comes to Tanahashi. Jay makes it a generational match too, focusing not on the knee but on Tanahashi’s age and broken down body. His high angle suplexes target the neck, as he switches gears. Which comes across as smart unless you figure he can’t make a leg match interesting for 25 minutes. That said his ‘physical dissection’ approach allows him to dominate Tanahashi without doing 20+ minutes of leglocks so it has that going for it. The biggest issue is them doing 25 minutes in the first place.
Luckily there’s more to it than that with Tanahashi getting mad enough to bring a chair in although Jay’s gimmick now seems to be Nut Puncher a la Nakamura. Tana has a receipt for that too, which is a nice touch. Having overcome all this bullshit you’d think Tanahashi would just plough to the win. I’ve seen it a hundred times. Then there’s the ref bumps. The one against Okada was well done. The one on Red Shoes here is a blatant DQ. Bladerunner and Unno is all ‘this seems legit’. I hate ref bumps. In a positive for Jay, this was better than WK but the finish brings it down.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Mixed bag. Elgin/Hangman way overachieved. Okada/Fale wasn’t very good. The Firing Squad crap continues. Jay White/Tana had a poor finish that brought the match down. Evil/HASHI struggled because of a botch. Only Togi vs. MiSu delivered exactly what I expected. A slobberknocker. Block A is definitely bringing me less thrills so far. The tags here reminded me what is happening next in Block B and it’s exciting stuff. Very hyped for Naito vs. Ishii and Sabre vs. Yano.
Bit early to make comment on the standings but Okada and Suzuki being blanked after two is a little surprising. I think Suzuki’s 0-2 is more surprising. He’s felt important this year. Okada’s mid-life crisis approach to losing his title made his poor start more inevitable. As per usual Makabe starts strong and Jay White is off to 2-0 in his toughest two matches in his first G1. Calling it here for YOSHI-HASHI btw; he’s going 0-9.
Togi Makabe 4
Michael Elgin 4
Jay White 4
Hangman Page 2
Hiroshi Tanahashi 2
Bad Luck Fale 2
Kazuchika Okada 0
Minoru Suzuki 0