G1 Climax 28 – 6 Potential Finalists

With only 5 nights of block action to go before the finals on Sunday 12th August, the potential winners of the 2018 20-man G1 Climax tournament have narrowed down to just 6. In the A Block, which only has 2 more nights, the winner will either be Hiroshi Tanahashi (12 points), Jay White (10 points) or Kazuchika Okada (10 points). In the B Block, which has 3 more nights, the winner will either be Kenny Omega (12 points), Tetsuya Naito (10 points) or Kota Ibushi (8 points).

pic201808021558257103247577063828069.jpg
A Block
Tanahashi was one of my picks to win the G1 before it began this year and the Ace is precariously close to making the finals. Having lost only 1 match, which was to Jay White, he currently leads the block and has 2 matches left, the first being against the injured Michael Elgin. More interestingly, on the final night of A Block, Tanahashi will meet the Rainmaker, Kazuchika Okada. The current record between the pair is 5 wins for Okada, 4 for Tanahashi and 2 draws, with the 2 draws coming in previous G1 action. If both men win their next matches, which is not a foregone conclusion as Okada’s next match is against the man who pinned him in the G1 last year, Evil, it could all come down to the final night where the winner takes all; If Tanahashi wins or draws, he heads to the final, but if Okada manages to defeat the Ace, then Okada will head to the final as he will hold the tie-breaking victory over Tanahashi, despite the pair being on equal points. But there’s a hurdle that could overcome both of these men, in the form of the devious Switchblade Jay White. White has had a career defining tournament in his first ever G1 and has shocked many as he is still a legitimate contender to win the block. He has one of the most compelling story-lines in wrestling at the moment, as he is the only heel in a Chaos stable filled with baby-faces, and his rivalry with the English commentary is a consistent highlight of every night. Jay’s final matches are against Makabe and Evil, which on paper are both winnable but nothing is certain in NJPW. One advantage White has over both Tanahashi and Okada is that he has beaten both of the men, so in the event of tied points he will win the block. Whilst the wrestling on show in A Block is arguably slightly weaker than that of B Block, the history between Okada and Tanahashi and the story being woven by all 3 potential winners gives the A Block a special persona that has me extremely invested to see who comes out on top.

pic201808021559208779731331144735465.jpg
B Block
Kenny Omega is still undefeated, leads the block and could potentially be the first IWGP Heavyweight Champion to win the tournament since 2000. Tetsuya Naito is hoping to become a back-to-back G1 winner and make the finals again, but has one defeat which was to Omega. Kota Ibushi is fighting to win his first G1 with fans exploding at the thought of a Wrestle Kingdom main event between Ibushi and Omega, but has a lot of work ahead of him to do so. However Ibushi has yet to face Naito or Omega and can turn this whole block on its head. In their next match, Naito and Ibushi will meet; if Naito wins then he will be 4 points ahead of Ibushi which will almost leave the Golden Star out of contention, but if Ibushi wins then it keeps the block open. Ibushi will then meet Tama Tonga for his 2nd to last match, which will no doubt involve skulduggery from the OG Bullet Club, which leaves the final night of B Block where he meets Kenny Omega in a match that invokes so much history I would have to dedicate an entire post to cover it. But the short of it is, that the match has all the potential in the world to be one of the greatest of all time, even with the G1 time limit imposed of 30 minutes. I can’t help but feel that this undefeated streak from Kenny Omega has to end and it could be in his next match, at the paws hands of the Stone Pitbull, Tomohiro Ishii. Kenny will then go on to face Toru Yano in his penultimate match and as fans will know, Yano can cause an upset against anybody, as he did earlier in the G1 versus Kota Ibushi. This leaves Tetsuya Naito, who in his 2nd to last match comes up against his LIJ comrade SANADA, a match that peaked fans interests from day 1 when the blocks were announced. On the final night of B Block, Naito will be taking on Zack Sabre Jr. in a re-match from the New Japan Cup in which ZSJ picked up the submission victory.

img_20180716_1400582047462670581641057.jpg

Every night of the G1 has had English commentary for the first time ever, supplied by the excellent Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero, who have been doing a stellar job. The pair manage to provide background information in a way which is informative to new fans and not insulting to long time fans and inject so much passion into matches, especially during closing exchanges and after finishers, reminiscent of the Japanese commentators. Kelly has seemingly got a trademark on a huge Destino call! Rocky being a part of the NJPW roster helps elevate stories, especially in the case of Jay White, who’s star has been made brighter by the commentary duo.

I also wanted to give a shoutout to @FraserJapan, who is attending every single night of the tournament and has been travelling the entirety of Japan to do so! His tweets have been a delight to read after every show and I highly recommend giving him a follow!

The G1 is always a memorable time of the year for wrestling fans and consistently offers the best wrestling on the planet, with if often providing match of the year contenders. Having attended the final 3 nights of G1 Climax 25 at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan I was able to experience the rush first hand and always look back on the shows fondly, it always leaves me excited for the tournament every single year. This 6 person race to the finals is one that cannot be missed and no matter who gets to the final on Sunday 12th August, it promises to be historic.

Be sure to sign up to NJPW World here for only ¥999 (£7/$9) to see all the action.

@CiaranRH