The G1 Climax is over for another year and it has been a memorable tournament. The unmatched wrestling of New-Japan was on show for all to see for 19 nights of incredible action. Wrestlers were able to shine bright; rivalries had many new chapters added to their story’s; hearts were broken; a great commentary team was born and the Ace returned to the mountain top. So what’s next? After a solid month of irrepressible action, what is next for NJPW?
The G1 Climax 28 Winner – Hiroshi Tananashi
After an emotional match in the final against Kota Ibushi, that for many was the match of the tournament, Tanahashi was victorious and now has the opportunity to challenge Kenny Omega for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 13. The pair have only had one singles match which was at the New Beginning in February 2016 and since then they haven’t been close to each other, not even in tag matches. There’s a good chance this was by design as NJPW are known and loved for their long-term booking, often keeping feuds alive and fresh for years. Whilst this isn’t the match I wanted, it makes sense. There was a feeling that Tanahashi would have to slow down soon as a result of injuries he has suffered throughout the years, but the Ace has made a statement by winning the tournament and simultaneously reminding the doubters that he is still one of the best wrestlers in the world. Tanahashi vs Omega is a big money match that demands a big stage and there is no bigger stage for the pair than the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 13 at the Tokyo Dome. This is the opportunity for Tanahashi to see his true return as the Ace following Okada’s fall from grace since losing the Championship. But first, Tanahashi will put his contract to the main event of WK13 on the line, and based on his comments at this morning’s press conference it will likely be against Kazuchika Okada or Jay White, perhaps both.
Kota Ibushi & Kenny Omega
I just really wanted Kota Ibushi to beat Tanahashi. I love Tanahashi (who doesn’t), but Ibushi vs Omega in the Tokyo Dome main event is my dream match and I would have been looking up flights to Tokyo from London right now. Admittedly, I was heartbroken when Ibushi lost. The match between Omega and Ibushi in the B Block finals was magical. It was 6+ years in the making and I know that what we saw that night was only a small taste of what the two can really do. The pair were limited in that match with a 30-minute time limit and the venue enforcing restrictions such as no fighting through the audience. So my mind is racing as to what they would do with a full 60-minute Championship match in the Tokyo Dome. My hope now is that the match is saved for the Dome. When the blocks were announced and it was revealed that Omega and Ibushi would be meeting in the G1 Climax, they both publicly admitted to wanting their next match to be at the Dome, with Kenny even trying to amend the G1 match with the higher-ups. For now, Omega has Tomohiro Ishii to worry about when the pair face off for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. A re-match to an instant classic from the tournament that saw Ishii pin the Champion.
Kazuchika Okada is in an unusual place, a place I’ve never seen him before. Okada has always been around the IWGP Heavyweight Championship scene but having not won the tournament, his only opportunity now relies on him beating Tanahashi for the Tokyo Dome contract. If that doesn’t happen, what happens to The Rainmaker? Without the Championship to hold or chase where does Okada go?
Jay White has been a breakout star the past few months in NJPW. Surprisingly this was all set off when he lost the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship to Juice Robinson but in the process a devilish heel was born. His star only grew brighter throughout the G1 in which he pinned both Okada and Tanahashi and was a real contender to make the finals. Whilst Jay may not be around any Championship at the moment, he shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Perhaps we will see Jay face Okada to take control of Chaos?
Tetsuya Naito looks set to lead Los Ingobernables de Japon into war against Suzuki-Gun. Naito lost to Zack Sabre Jr. on the final night of B Block action; had Naito won he would have made the finals instead of Ibushi. Naito also lost to ZSJ in the New Japan Cup so the tranquilo leader of LIJ seems set on getting revenge against the submission specialist.
On a side note, it was a special moment to see Katsuyori Shibata be in Tanahashi’s corner for the final. I hope he can one day return to the ring if it is safe for him to do so.
One thing that has had the Internet Wrestling Community abuzz throughout the tournament is the commentary duo of Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero. There has been a large outpouring of support for both men who have done a tremendous job in calling all the G1 shows in English for the first time ever. They managed 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. A late but great addition to the team for a few of the last shows, including the final, was Chris Charlton (@reasonjp). Chris’ role was to be a translator but he offered so much more; he chimed in with insight on multiple matches, gave history on the competitors and the venue and added so much to the story on show, especially during the Ibushi Tanahashi match. Chris has garnered a Twitter following over the years and I was chuffed to see him calling the shows. Chris has even written 2 books on Japanese wrestling; Lion’s Pride which goes through the history of New Japan and the recently released Eggshells which offers a complete look at every wrestling show to ever be held at the Tokyo Dome, a book which I am currently reading.
New Japan returns on September 5th to begin the Road to Destruction shows which build towards 3 Destruction shows before returning to USA for Fighting Spirit Unleashed on 30th September.
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