NJPW G1 Climax 28 Day 1

07/14/2018

Ota Ward Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan


Togi Makabe vs YOSHI-HASHI

G1 Climax 28 Block A Match

(reviewed live)

Weak elbows, wiffed punches, slightly better chops, and little else of note. Welcome to the G1 Climax. There’s something to be said about how no selling German suplexes and going (relatively) long in the first match of the tournament sort of undermines bigger matches later on but I’m not wasting that brain space on this review.

Hangman Page vs Bad Luck Fale

G1 Climax 28 Block A Match

(reviewed live)

Speaking of not wasting brain space, this match. It’s not horrible or anything, as Fale’s putting at least some effort into his monsterism and Page is more than good enough to bump and sell well for him, but there’s nothing interesting here beyond those occasional biels into rows of chairs. Fale’s boys are out on the floor and get more and more involved in the match, to the point that Tama Tonga eventually just hops into the ring and attacks Page for a rare disqualification.

Michael Elgin vs EVIL

G1 Climax 28 Block A Match

(reviewed live)

Fuck Michael Elgin.

Minoru Suzuki vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

G1 Climax 28 Block A Match

(reviewed some hours later on 07/14/2018)

It’s not shocking that these two men would have something of a sloppy match. Suzuki just turned 50 a few weeks ago and has produced a few notable main event level stinkers over the years. Tanahashi, while significantly younger, has suffered a variety of serious long-term injuries over the last decade while being one of New Japan’s busiest wrestlers. As these men get older and weaker, it’s no surprise that they’d accidentally slip out of holds during busy sequences or whiff strikes meant to act as big cutoffs. But I think, on some level, that’s part of why this match works. As much as this is a match about two men who know each other exceedingly well and who approach matches with each other in a very specific way, this is also a match about two men confronting their respective weaknesses. Still feeling the shame of a major loss to Tanahashi due to knee work six years ago and learning the lesson of giving a younger, faster, stronger man room to run, Suzuki opens this match with a focused strategy of going after Tanahashi’s ankle and knee. Tanahashi fights fire with fire and applies the same strategies that have worked against this opponent before, which includes baiting him in for tough guy strike exchanges. The latter ends up biting him in the ass but the former pays off in a big way when he hits a gnarly inverted dragon screw. Along the way these guys apply a few of my favorite things in wrestling, from quality limb work to a bunch of mean slaps to a few great rollups. As this is the G1 and not a marquee main event this match is quite a bit smaller than their title match back in January, but this is still the sort of thing that reminds you why these two greats are considered such. Very easily the match of the night.

Kazuchika Okada vs Jay White

G1 Climax 28 Block A Match

(reviewed some hours later on 07/14/2018)

A great match for people who were emotionally stunted in middle school and never moved on from the music of noted pedophile Dahvie Vanity. Wrestling is often pretty dorky and something I try to not expose people to outside of the bubble, but it’s rare that it actively does everything it can to be as embarrassing as this.

Snark aside, I really don’t think this match functions the way it’s meant to. I appreciate the idea of a huge loss lingering in a wrestler’s mind with lasting, tangible consequences, but Okada’s wacky makeover and mood since losing to Omega is in no way endearing and instead undermines his perception as either a capable competitor or a sympathetic underdog, neither of which I thought highly of to begin with. He’s largely lethargic here regardless of whether he’s in control of the match or not, putting more effort behind yelling “Scooby Dooby doo” during a crossbody than any sort of selling or emoting. White does a lot better to give this match a sense of stakes with some of his most dangerous-feeling offense yet as well as no small amount of good selling. Still, for every moment he feels dangerous there are two or three where he’s doing little of value, mainly due to Okada giving him nothing to work with. Even the crowd realizes how dull and aimless this match is, as they sit on their hands for long stretches of what is by far the longest match of the night. Thankfully White clobbers the dork with a chair and a fairly rough reverse STO as revenge. Hopefully the head trauma keeps Okada out of the rest of the tournament.

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