Well, cross one off the bucket list. I’ve just returned home from the G1 Climax 26 finals. After a great show, two performances stick out in my mind on Night 19.

Katsuhiko Nakajima

Wow! Did I get worked? The seeds were planted at LION’S GATE PROJECT 2 amidst heated exchanges between Nakajima and Nagata. Jump to the G1, Nakajima was brash and cocky in his match against Shibata. However, just last night I wrote about Katsuhiko’s gradually increasing respect for his NJPW opponents. Oh, how quickly things can change.

After tonight’s madness, I’m anxiously looking forward to match announcements that will undoubtedly initiate this new NOAH vs. NJPW inter-promotional war. I was halfway expecting Tsuyoshi Kikuchi to come nail someone with an elbow. As an added bonus, it looks like Nagata and Shibata will proudly represent the Lion Mark. Both of these guys have a history in NOAH. I’ll take tonight’s events as a sign that NJPW isn’t backing out on NOAH, and it looks like this may just be the spark NOAH needs. Kudos to the decision makers for changing course with the Emerald Ark.

Kenny Omega

First of all, it goes without saying that Kenny Omega is my G1 MVP. Yesterday he and Naito delivered my match of the year frontrunner and the best match I’ve ever seen live. Tonight he and Goto came through with a performance worthy of its illustrious spot. I questioned Goto’s placement in the final, but it’s logical in hindsight. Sure, Goto had some initial support in Ryogoku, but I’m guessing he was put in this spot because it was correctly assumed Kenny would win the crowd over. The match itself was excellent. It built off of Naito’s legwork from last night; from the moment Goto attacked his knee, Kenny had the crowd on his side. Then there was this:

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but this was a great hint about tonight’s match. The good brothers in question were former NJPW stars Kota Ibushi, Prince Devitt and AJ Styles. The power came in the form of a last ride power bomb, a Phoenix splash, a Bloody Sunday and a Styles Clash. Omega’s use of these moves was a great touch that elevated an already memorable match. Fittingly, Kenny went over with his own move, the One-winged Angel, to capture the G1 crown. After the match Kenny cut a “one-time only” promo in Japanese that got a great reaction from the Sumo Hall crowd. We are fortunate that Kenny appears to be staying in NJPW for the long-haul; he’s a legit star with unique and limitless potential here in Japan.

I’ll be back next Sunday with a live reaction to the J-CUP finals.