G1 Climax 28 N4
July 19 2018
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall. This is my first day of falling behind thanks to a shift running over at work so I’m attempting this the day after, and right before another G1 show starts! These weekends are loaded with shows and it’s so hard to fit everything in. I feel for Mort who’s getting up at 4am on Sunday to make sure he gets DDT in live too.
There’s a brief tribute for Masa Saito who passed away this week after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Hosts are Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero.
Michael Elgin & Ren Narita vs. Jay White & YOH
Elgin vs. Switchblade is tomorrow. The knife pervert quickly realises he can’t go head to head with Elgin during this match but makes a point of carrying on in that vein to lull Elgin into a false sense of security for tomorrow. Elgin’s chops here are so fucking loud. YOH tries to act as White’s conscience, via the sage coaching wisdom of Romero, but finds himself in a troubling spot.
Narita shows some excellent fire here, going after YOH, barely above young lions level himself. YOH eventually beats him with the Boston crab, which is a great throwback to the young lions days. Jay goes to nail Narita with the Bladerunner but Big Mike runs him off. Switchblade gives YOH the thumbs up on his way out but adds he needs “more killer instinct”. Good start.
Final Rating: **3/4
YOSHI-HASHI & SHO vs. Minoru Suzuki & El Desperado
MiSu wastes no time in laying a marker on soft-headed YOSHI-HASHI. Who in their right mind turns their back on Suzuki to pose on the buckles? Suzuki scaring the hell out of English comms is a major highlight of this. It’s unfair of New Japan to put them in the firing line like that! Yeah, we’ll give you primo seats, right by the entrance. YOSHI-HASHI tries to fight Suzuki, go toe to toe with him and this goes badly. MiSu pretty much pounds him for it. Suzuki being 0-2 is one of the big shocks of the early tournament results. Surely he’ll beat Tacos? He beats SHO here by quickly hitting the Gotch Piledriver.
Final Rating: **1/2
Togi Makabe & Toa Henare vs. EVIL & BUSHI
EVIL has Makabe tomorrow. That should be a slobberknocker. This is the first bout today that feels like ‘just a match’. The joy of having Kelly on the entire tour is he gets to spend time with the boys and regales us with a story of Henare going to his first baseball game last night. Banshee Muzzle finishes Henare. One of the most ‘just a match’ matches I’ve seen in this G1. The post is better where Makabe tries to strangle EVIL. The King of Darkness takes it in his stride and even blows a little kiss to Togi as he’s leaving.
Final Rating: **
Hiroshi Tanahashi & David Finlay vs. Bad Luck Fale & Tanga Loa
Two things; 1. If I could remove one wrestler from this tour it’d be Tanga. 2. Fale is missing some dramatic head gear this year and it disappoints me.
Finlay does sensational work here, starting against Fale, getting knocked on his ass and immediately tagging out. You’d think this match would be Fale softening Tana up but the opposite is true with Hiroshi working over Fale’s big old legs. Finlay vs. Tanga is actually pretty good, which makes me consider rescinding my Tanga comment from earlier. His power and dynamism versus Finlay’s plucky gutsy underdog status. Tanga puts him away with Apeshit. This overachieved.
Final Rating: **1/2
Kazuchika Okada & Gedo vs. Hangman Page & Chase Owens
Final preview match. This one for Okada vs. Hangman tomorrow night in Korakuen (or as I write this, a couple of hours from now). Chase has done fine work on this tour already in the tags and his team with Hangman is solid. The crowd are very supportive of Okada’s goofy bastard transformation but I’m still confused by it. Package Piledriver puts Gedo away. This was fine.
Final Rating: **1/2
SANADA  vs. Tama Tonga 
This is by far the least interesting G1 match on tonight’s card with everything else fascinating me. There’s more bullshit here with Tanga Loa getting involved. Tama hits his usual ponderous pacing, which he only does because he’s playing heel. Also it’s the fucking G1 and he’s out here in a t-shirt trying to be all edgy. When the pace quickens it’s actually a decent match but everything that goes before it is nothing short of tedious. The counters are particularly good but they can’t help themselves and work in a shitty ref bump. Firing Squad run in and if all Tama’s matches are going to be this bullshit formula I might start skipping them. Oh heel faction that interferes in every match. HOW FUCKING EDGY. Anyway SANADA wins with a fuck you roll up to put Tama in his place.
Final Rating: *3/4
Toru Yano  vs. Zack Sabre Jr 
I am so excited for this match with Yano having promised to wrestle a more technical style. There are none more technical than Sabre.
The switches and counters in this are just great. Yano is so good at the technical stuff but it’s been so long since he did any of it that it throws the audience to see it. It’s especially prevalent against someone like Sabre who so technically good. Sabre has stopped better technicians than Yano and when Toru resorts to outside violence Zack has armbars to counter that too. When Yano can slip out of a hold quickly he gets Sabre into trouble and actually hooks the abdominal stretch! That’s so wonderful. As is Sabre trying to tie Yano around the rail to get him counted out. With Yano being so good here it’s easy to overlook how phenomenal Sabre’s performance is. The submissions come from nowhere and my favourite is probably the flying triangle to block a punch/clothesline. It’s so fast and requires such skill and agility. The logic behind Yano resorting to a low blow, Zack blocking it, and then it being countered and countered back again is just beautiful. Sabre eventually outwits Yano and gets the pin but what a great fucking match they had. Maybe the best Yano match ever. I loved how little bits of Yano cheating (the low blow, the turnbuckle) came in at the end before eventually coming unstuck because Zack was just a better wrestler was prime wrestling psychology.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Juice Robinson  vs. Kota Ibushi 
Two clean cut young men going at it here. With SANADA and Sabre both recording their first wins can Juice get off the mark against highly fancied Ibushi?
Robinson still has an injured hand bug no one is going after it because it’s still in a cast. It definitely reduces his capacity to grapple because he can’t grab with that left hand. His high impact style here involves him throwing his body at Kota frequently. The result is a match loaded with big spots and heavy impacts. I’m am very into Ibushi attempting a springboard and getting chopped out of the air. Kota is completely nuts but Juice isn’t far behind and my word the rana off the apron is a sick, sick spot.
Then he follows with a moonsault off the ring post. Ibushi is insane. That spot is so hard to do and Kota made it look easy, after falling off the ropes because he was so excited that he was about to moonsault off the ring post, like a puppy who’s owner just got home with treats. The sequence that leads into the Kamigoye is excellent too with logic applied to Juice’s arm injury and Kota using that double wrist control to get into position from a straightjacket suplex/Phoenixplex set ups.
Final Rating: ****
Tomohiro Ishii  vs. Tetsuya Naito 
These two have a history and were feuding when I returned to New Japan a few years back. That was back when Naito was a blue-eyed babyface persona who everyone hated. I like the dynamic they have with Naito being creative and different while Ishii just comes at him straight up. Naito unloads with so much lumber here and Ishii just stands there and ignores it. I’ve seen him criticised for this but it’s what makes him, a relatively short guy with limited personality, stand out. Plus he sells like a champ when he does sell. It’s all about the timing. I love the response to Naito spitting at him; an enormous forearm smash that leaves Naito sprawling on the canvas. I’m also a big fan of Naito slapping Ishii on top of his head, which in turn provokes Ishii to chop him square in the throat for half a minute. Ishii has spent less time, over the past year, landing on his neck and he looks in decent condition here. Which bodes well for the remainder of G1. I love this match when they’re methodically beating each other up but there’s another level above that where they do it at pace. And that is fucking amazing. There’s a spot in this where Naito goes for Destino and Ishii just twats him with a lariat. That’s a perfect representation of how different they are as wrestlers. Naito pulls off one Destino as a counter before hitting a second one to get the win. If you’ve seen the many Naito-Ishii matches there was nothing particularly new here but it’s another incredibly solid bout between the two old rivals. Naito gets off the mark, the third wrestler to score his first win tonight.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Hirooki Goto  vs. Kenny Omega 
Logically Ishii vs. Naito was the main tonight so who knows what Omega and Goto have lined up to top it. This is a repeat of the G1 final from two years ago. The year where Goto eked his way into the final courtesy of Okada vs. Tana going to a 30 minute draw.
They head outside to mix it up a bit and Goto takes a slam on the bleachers. That is not a pleasant bump to take. It’s just a thin wooden bench.
Then Kenny hits a fucking mid-crowd moonsault off the dividing rail. Up in the bleachers. What a nutcase. The match settles into a not-unpleasant rhythm and I find myself chuckling out loud at every delicious V-Trigger due to the thigh slapping goodness of it all. Is the match is little indulgent? Sure, but the crowd seem into it throughout. My personal preference is for Kenny doing silly spots in the crowd and them duelling on strikes (and not Kenny hitting a lot of knees). V-Trigger is a move that looks deadly and shouldn’t be spammed. Same with Kevin Owens hitting too many kicks or Tommy End with too many kicks. If the move looks devastating you shouldn’t be littering the entire match with it. Anyway the One Winged Angel finishes and Kenny picks up another win. Goto an afterthought by the time this was over. Melty went full boat on this, which is just fucking crazy.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Obviously this was a great show. The last four matches all killed it. I wasn’t as into the main as some people but Yano-Sabre is must see and I’m very happy to report Ishii vs. Naito is still a good bout.
Kota Ibushi 4
Kenny Omega 4
Tomohiro Ishii 2
Tama Tonga 2
Hirooki Goto 2
Tetsuya Naito 2
Zack Sabre Jr 2
Juice Robinson 0
Toru Yano 0