New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 28: Night 8
July 26, 2018
Aore Nagaoka
Nagaoka, Niigata, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

After a couple of days off, the G1 Climax resumed with a B Block event in Niigata. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega came into this show not only as the leader of the B Block at 6 Points, but also as the only undefeated competitor left in the entire tournament. Would Juice Robinson be able to repeat the upset over Omega from last year’s G1 Climax to keep his hopes alive in this year’s tournament, and would the rest of the be able to keep up with the “Best Bout Machine”? These questions (along with many others) would be answered on this night, but before diving into the B Block bouts, here’s what happened on the undercard:

  • Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & El Desperado) def. “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin & Ren Narita
  • Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & BUSHI) def. The Bullet Club (“The Hangman” Adam Page & Chase Owens)
  • The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Tanga Loa) def. CHAOS (“Switchblade” Jay White & YOH)
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi & David Finlay def. Togi Makabe & Toa Henare
  • CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI & SHO) def. CHAOS (“Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada & Gedo)

I only watched the first two undercard bouts on this particular show, and both were actually pretty good. The opener was very entertaining, with Elgin and Suzuki going at it while Ren Narita got some time to shine, while the Adam Page/Chase Owens team lost their first match of the tour to the LIJ duo of EVIL & BUSHI. Elsewhere, YOH once again took the fall in a tag team bout where Jay White was his partner, while SHO picked up another pinfall victory on this tour.

G1 Climax 28 B Block
Hirooki Goto (4) def. Toru Yano (2)

The last time that these two were in the same block was 2014. In that meeting, Yano managed to defeat Goto in under ninety seconds. This rematch only went about a minute or so longer than that previous encounter, but Yano wasn’t as lucky this time around, as Goto managed to pick up the win. Yano resorted to his usual tricks at the very start, as he used on of the turnbuckle pads on Goto before the bell even rang, and tried a couple of quick roll-ups once the bout officially got underway. He did hit a belly-to-belly suplex, but once Goto took control, Yano was pretty much finished. After blocking a low blow attempt, Goto hit Yano with three headbutts, a Ushigoroshi, and a GTR for good measure. This was by no means bad, but it was clearly the weakest Yano match of the tournament thus far. The first thirty seconds or so were pretty fun, but it soon turned into a dominant victory for Goto. I suppose we were do for a more traditional G1 outing from Yano, and I’m sure it was a welcome break for Goto, who was coming off two incredible battles in Korakuen Hall with Kenny Omega and Tomohiro Ishii. For what this was, it was perfectly fine. **1/4

G1 Climax 28 B Block
Tetsuya Naito (6) def. Tama Tonga (2)

I went into expecting the worst, based on what we’ve seen from Tama Tonga thus far. When the dust settled, however, this ended up being a relatively solid match. Of course, Tanga Loa was at ringside, and he did get involved at various points, but until the major shenanigans kicked in towards the end, the actual bulk of the match was pretty decent. There were some fine exchanges between the two, and if we got a clean closing stretch, it had the potential to be very good.

Alas, that didn’t happen, as Tanga Loa, EVIL, Bad Luck Fale, and BUSHI all got involved after the referee got knocked down. This was essentially a repeat of what we saw in the Bad Luck Fale/EVIL match from Night 7, but it didn’t actually lead to a DQ (since the referee was never blatantly attacked by someone). The crowd was very much behind Naito in this one, and they really reacted when the other LIJ members ran down to even up the odds. Once everyone else was on the floor, we got a quick low blow exchange between Naito and Tama Tonga, which led to Naito hitting the Destino for the win. It’s interesting to note that, while we’ve all been upset about all of the crap going on in matches involved Bad Luck Fale and Tama Tonga in this tournament, the latter has only been disqualified once (against Kenny Omega). Even with all of the interference, at least we’re (for the most part) getting actual finishes with Tama Tonga. As a whole, this was a fairly decent bout that was helped by a crowd that was really behind Naito. At this point, I’m happy with getting actual finishes instead of seeing DQ’s left and right. ***

G1 Climax 28 B Block
Zack Sabre Jr. (4) def. Tomohiro Ishii (4)

These two were 1-1 against each other (in New Japan) coming into this bout. While Zack Sabre Jr. came up short against Ishii in the semifinals of the IWGP United States Title Tournament last year, he evened things up on the final night of the A Block in last year’s G1. If you take all of their matches into account, then Ishii took a 2-1 lead in the series after winning the RevPro British Heavyweight Title from Sabre during WrestleMania Weekend in New Orleans. All of those previous encounters were awesome, and this bout was no different. We saw some typical hard-hitting Ishii offense early on, but the match soon swung in Sabre’s favor, as it became focused more around technical wrestling and submission exchanges.

At various points, Sabre went after Ishii’s arms, but the “Stone Pitbull” still fought back hard (as he always does). He even managed to turn to the tables on Sabre when he went after his leg. It was pretty cool to see Ishii in a bout that’s very different from the matches we usually see him in. While he wasn’t able to fully match Sabre like SANADA did on Night 6 (in terms of the technical wrestling), Ishii held his own on more than one occasion in this match. He’s more versatile than we give him credit for. There was plenty of great action in this one, particularly in the closing minutes as they went back and forth. Ultimately, the damage that Sabre did to Ishii’s arm proved to be too much, and Ishii finally tapped out to an armbar. That might be the first time I’ve even seen Ishii tap out. As for Sabre, this was a much needed victory, as he risked falling behind in the standings if he lost for a third time. From start to finish, this was pretty fantastic. You always wonder how a styles clash like this would turn out, but they’ve put together great matches every single time they’ve faced off. ****1/4

G1 Climax 28 B Block
Kenny Omega (8) def. Juice Robinson (0)

Coming into Night 8, these two were in completely different situations. Kenny Omega got off to a great start, as he entered this show with a 3-0 record (his most recent win was via DQ over Tama Tonga). Juice Robinson, however, was in a very dire situation. Not only is his broken hand still not fully healed, but he came into this show at 0-3 and in desperate need of a win. This was a good chance for Robinson to finally get on the board, as he did upset Omega during last year’s G1 Climax. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, as Omega eventually got the victory after hitting the One Winged Angel. The result was a bit of a shock (even though I didn’t pick Juice to win this bout in the Voices Of Wrestling G1 Pick ‘Em Contest, the fact that he started 0-3 had me believing that he might upset Omega again to get his first two points), but the match itself was great, which wasn’t much of a surprise.

The action throughout was really good, and they kept me engaged right from the beginning. At various points, it seemed like the fans weren’t that invested (there were certainly moments that were meant to get a big reaction, but didn’t), and while they were far from dead, those moments that didn’t feature much in terms of crowd noise did hurt the match to some degree. I’m sure that hurt it more in the eyes of others, but for me, the wrestling was so good that it overcame that issue. As for what we saw during the bout, Omega did his best to avoid going after the injured hand of Juice, though there were times when he unintentionally inflicted damage on the hand (one instance of this was Juice naturally putting his hands up as Omega went for the V-Trigger). Omega did specifically target the hand one in the closing stages, but it was never a big focus of the bout. These two had some very entertaining exchanges, and Robinson appeared to be close to victory on a few occasions (he managed to hit the Juice Box, and nearly caught Omega later on with a similar rollup that got him the upset win last year), but once again, he came up short. This result does create an interesting situation for both men going forward.

We all know that Omega probably isn’t finishing undefeated, and Juice definitely won’t be losing the rest of the way, so there are going to be some upsets coming. As for the IWGP United States Title, I don’t see Juice’s current predicament as being indicative of what New Japan really thinks of that title. He did lose to Tama Tonga on Night 2, but his next three bouts were against the three guys who are unquestionably the upper tier of the A Block (Ibushi, Naito, and Omega), so him losing to those three isn’t a total shock in hindsight. We’ll see what happens with both Juice and Omega as the tournament goes on. As far as this match is concerned, it wasn’t the absolute best outing from either of them thus far, but it still delivered. ****

G1 Climax 28 B Block
SANADA (6) def. Kota Ibushi (4)

It’s always cool to see first-time meetings in the G1 Climax, but I was especially excited to see this match. I had a feeling that it was going to be incredible, and while it didn’t quite reach the level that some of the other B Block bouts have thus far, it was still a fantastic main event. It didn’t get off to a quick start, but there was a lot of entertaining action once they got going. The story was that both men were evenly matched, and for the most part, neither competitor was able to gain a clear advantage.

They went back and forth, move for move, and when it appeared that one of them was going to finally take control, the other quickly responded with a counter or a reversal. The fans in Niigata were really into this match (especially compared to the bout that came before it), and their enthusiasm just added to it. The only knocks I have against this match were that Ibushi could’ve sold his right leg a bit more after SANADA worked on it during the first half (though I’m not totally bothered by something like that, to be honest), and that this match, as a whole, could’ve been just a little bit better. It felt like that they could’ve gone up from fourth gear to fifth gear (in other words, it could’ve gone from great to absolutely amazing), but they never did. This was still an awesome match, don’t get me wrong, but given how talented these two are, it easily had the potential to be one of the top matches of the tournament. Still, both guys worked hard, and they certainly put on a show in this main event.

SANADA getting the win here wasn’t much of a surprise to me, since he’s from Niigata, but it’s interesting to see that Ibushi has now dropped his last two bouts. It should be fascinating to see how he’ll be able to bounce back, and if SANADA can keep up the momentum, after getting his third consecutive win. ****1/4

Final Thoughts

Night 8 was the weakest showing from the B Block thus far, but it was still a very strong event overall, and that just speaks to the quality of talent in this block. The first two tournament bouts were perfectly fine for what they were, but those last three matches were all great to varying degrees. If I had to pick, I would say that the main event was the best tournament bout on this card, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who picked Ishii/Sabre.

Here are the updated standings for the B Block after Night 8:

Kenny Omega – 8 Points
Tetsuya Naito – 6 Points
SANADA – 6 Points
Hirooki Goto – 4 Points
Kota Ibushi – 4 Points
Zack Sabre Jr. – 4 Points
Tomohiro Ishii – 4 Points
Tama Tonga – 2 Points
Toru Yano – 2 Points
Juice Robinson – 0 Points

I already talked about the situations that Kenny Omega and Juice Robinson are currently in. The former is going to be on the receiving end of some upsets, while the latter should be scoring a lot of wins in the second half. Another interesting development is that SANADA, much like his regular tag team partner EVIL, has quietly worked his way towards the top of his block. Now unlike EVIL, SANADA hasn’t had a strong track record when it comes to finishing towards the top of his block (he only scored 8 Points in 2016 & 2017). While I believe he’ll at least be in contention until his match with Naito, he’ll probably be out of it by the time we get to Budokan Hall. Naito being right behind Omega isn’t much of a shock (as he’ll be a strong contender to win the block all the way until the last night), but I do expect Goto, Ibushi, and Sabre to all get closer to the top during the second half of the tournament.