New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 28 – Night 11
July 30, 2018
Takamatsu City Gymnasium
Watch: NJPW World
This is the part of the G1 Climax where it simultaneously feels like the tournament just started and has been going since humans could walk upright. Through happenstance of scheduling (and also the far greater popularity of the B Block amongst reviewers), this will be my third A Block review. Despite being the lesser block, there’s still a lot to like about the A Block. The B Block just happens to be so stacked that it’s hard not to be overshadowed by it. This card has some match-ups that I’m very keen on, at least on paper, so I’m looking forward to it.
G1 Climax 28 A Block
Bad Luck Fale (6) def. Togi Makabe (4)
Remember what I said about there being matchups that I’m very keen on? This is not one of them. Makabe usually has a handful of matches I quite like during the G1 – his match with Suzuki on Night 3 is still in my top 5 for the tournament (caveat: I’m woefully behind, although I’m pretty caught up on the A Block due to these reviews).
This sucked. The brawling was lifeless, and the bout as a whole highlighted how reliant Fale is on his chemistry with top-tier workers who can essentially wrestle around him. Makabe is not one of those top-tier workers. The action improved when Makabe started to make his comeback and Tanga Loa interfered, but the referee counted the fall as if he hadn’t been attacked by Tanga Loa. I loved Red Shoes calling a DQ in the Omega/Tonga match, because it’s silly that referees get amnesia when they’re bumped, but apparently that was the exception and not the rule. Nobody will remember this by tomorrow. *3/4
G1 Climax 28 A Block
“Switchblade” Jay White (8) vs. Hangman Page (2)
I didn’t see the Strong Style Evolved match between these two, so this is the first time I’m seeing them paired together. The more I watch Jay White, the more I’m becoming convinced that the “switchblade” element of his character is smoke and mirrors – it’s a front to appear cool and hide his character’s insecurities about whether or not he can really hang at the top of the card.
The opening sequence of this match already blows away its predecessor – the missed shooting star into the backdrop suplex on the floor and apron was significantly more exciting than anything in the Makabe/Fale match. White’s control sequence is dull, however. It’s becoming a habit for him. When the momentum is shifting back and forth, White’s strengths – he has cool offence and sells well – are highlighted. When he’s in control, he has a hard time holding my attention.
The story in this one was compellingly executed – White’s attack on Page’s back, and the rugged Hangman doing everything in his power to gut his way through it really worked for me. The narrative did a good job of highlighting both men’s core character traits – White’s sadism and reliance on breaking the rules to take the easy way out; Page’s toughness, grit, and explosive offence. Anyone who’s read my reviews or Twitter feed in the past is likely well aware that characters who show grit, toughness, and heart connect with me very easily. You’ll surely be shocked to learn, then, that I’m really getting behind Hangman Page as this tournament progresses. Page countering the Blade Runner by spitting in Jay White’s face got me so fucking hyped, even if all it did was lead to the now-standard Switchblade low blow/Blade Runner finish. ***3/4
G1 Climax 28 A Block
Minoru Suzuki (8) vs. EVIL (8)
EVIL seems primed for a slow climb into the main event, and I am all in on it. Last year’s clash between the King and the King of Darkness was one of my favourites of the tournament, so I’m very excited to see what chaos these two unleash this year.
Suzuki wasn’t great in last year’s G1, but in 2018 he’s been an absolute killer. Suzuki projects danger in a way that few wrestlers can, and has wrestled this tournament like a malevolent whirlwind of violence. EVIL is one of the few guys in the block willing to engage Suzuki on those terms. As a result, a lot of this match takes place on the floor, where the two men clatter each other with furniture at every opportunity. Suzuki and EVIL roaring insults at each other and trying to elbow through each other’s faces is pretty close to my Platonic ideal of pro wrestling, and that also marks the beginning of the finishing stretch, which is unfortunately very short.
This one disappointed. I loved their match last year, but this one just didn’t have a lot to it. Without the dramatic fighting spirit forearm sequence, this would have been a pretty nothing match. A few more minutes of high-energy counters and bombs would have really helped propel this to a level more aligned with my expectations. As is, this was fine and certainly not a bad match, but not worth going out of your way to see. ***
G1 Climax 28 A Block
Hiroshi Tanahashi (10) vs. YOSHI-HASHI (2)
This starts with Tanahashi taking YOSHI-HASHI lightly, and focusing more on playing to the crowd than actually fighting his opponent. There’s an early skin-the-cat spot that is incredibly clunky, and feels like it’s going in slow motion. That’s really not an ideal transition into a control period.
YOSHI-HASHI had a lot of fire in his previous G1s that seems absent this year. In this match, the HASH is largely working from the top until his first attempt at Karma, which doesn’t suit his style nor his character. After the first Karma attempt, though, the pace picks up and some emotion starts to seep in. YOSHI-HASHI hit a really cool brainbuster thing that twisted out of a powerslam lift, which I don’t think I’ve seen before – he should keep using that, it was really impressive. Just as they start to hook me emotionally and get me really invested, Tanahashi catches YOSHI-HASHI in an interesting cradle variation and it’s over. Huh. Five more minutes and I think this turns into a great match that ends up as an under-the-radar gem. What we got is a good match that starts slow and really catches fire in the second half. ***1/2
G1 Climax 28 A Block
Kazuchika Okada (8) vs. Michael Elgin (4)
The worst part about Ass Balloons Okada is that his entrance no longer fires me up. The Rainmaker entrance made Okada come off as a god-tier star, and while his current entrance is narratively perfect, it’s also pretty uninteresting to watch. Elgin, on the other hand, has pretty perfect theme music for his role as a Dr. Death-style ass-kicking foreigner. Elgin has been having an excellent tournament, and every time Elgin and Okada meet in the G1, they either make my MOTY list or come close, so I’m looking forward to this one. Hopefully that doesn’t bite me like it did with EVIL and Suzuki.
Unlike the previous bout, the first few minutes of this one are a ton of fun. Okada trying to match power with Elgin and failing hilariously was a great way to establish the narrative of the bout. Finally accepting that he is not as strong as man-gorilla hybrid Michael Elgin, Okada employs a vicious series of DDTs on the floor to launch his attack on Elgin’s head and neck. There’s far more back-and-forth in this match than there has been earlier on this show – I think it plays to both men’s advantages. Okada’s offence centres on DDTs and strikes to the head of Elgin, while Big Mike sticks to his usual strategy of trying to turn his opponent into a human superball. Okada sells Elgin’s chops like he’s having his sternum ground into powder – they serve as a narrative touchstone throughout the bout. Whenever Elgin needs to regain control or set Okada up for a big move, he throws a thundering chop. It also serves the “Elgin is a dumb gorilla” storyline, as whenever he thinks “what do I do?” his answer is always “hit him.”
This match is like 60% finishing stretch, and it rules. Michael Elgin has some of my favourite offence in wrestling right now, and Okada is such a smooth, exciting counter-wrestler. Okada’s kickout of the Splash Mountain Bomb at the last possible micro-second got me FIRED UP, and shortly after that the Rainmaker put the exclamation point at the end of the story. An awesome match that lived up to my lofty expectations, and really helped save this show. ****1/2
Okada vs. Elgin really saved this show, which is the first one I’ve reviewed this year that didn’t have multiple matches breaking the four star mark. As far as G1 shows go, I can’t recommend this one as a whole, but definitely go out of your way to watch the main event.
VOW G1 Climax 28 Pick’Em Contest Standings:
View updated standings at voicesofwrestling.com/forum.