New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 28 – Night 15
August 5, 2018
EDION Arena Osaka

Watch: NJPW World

Hello folks, this is John from Wrestling Omakase here. The written reviews are not normally my thing but with no one else available I’m here to bring you my first review of G1 Climax 28. Hope you enjoy!

The A Block has been a much maligned component of this year’s G1 Climax 28, and in some cases it’s well deserved. In my own average star ratings of all the competitors, the ‘ol A does indeed trail far behind the B; A leader Kazuchika Okada’s 3.59 average rating would put him in fifth place if he was in the B block, and fifth place Toru Yano (yes) would be second in the A with his 3.36. But that doesn’t mean the A block has been a complete waste of time, as there’s actually been a number of excellent matches. What’s really dragged down the A block for me and I think for a lot of people is: 1) having two guys in the block who have gotten repetitive involving outside interference and cheating to win, as opposed to just one in the B & 2) a lack of super high end matches compared to the B block. I have a number of matches at **** & ****1/4 in the A block, which are obviously excellent matches well worth your time, but that just can’t stack up to the B block’s staggering 8 matches at ****1/2 or better (including four at ****3/4+ and two ***** matches). How did this, the penultimate night of Block A, stack up? Of course you can read on to find out.

Before we get to the A Block matches, here’s the quick and dirty tag match results:

  • CHAOS (Ishii & SHO) def. Juice Robinson & Shota Umino in 8:14
  • LIJ (Naito & SANADA) def. David Finlay & Toa Henare in 6:35
  • CHAOS (Goto & YOH) def. Suzukigun (ZSJ & TAKA) in 5:44
  • Guerrillas of Destiny def. Kota Ibushi & Yujiro Takahashi in 3:31
  • BULLET CLUB (Omega & Owens) def. CHAOS (Yano & Gedo) in 6:42

With that out of the way, let’s get to it!

G1 Climax 28 A Block
YOSHI-HASHI [4] def. Bad Luck Fale [6] by DQ

The most shocking thing about this match for me was that, early on at least, I didn’t find it to be as complete of a waste of time as many other Fale matches. I’m a bit of a mark for the big man vs. little man formula and YOSHI plays an underdog very effectively, so once we got Fale’s boring heat segment out of the way I was actually getting into it during YOSHI’s firey comeback. However, as has been the case in virtually every match involving the BC OGs in this tournament, the moment it was starting to get really fun is when things came screeching to a halt. YOSHI managed to fight off an interfering Tanga Loa and hit a running double knee attack to Fale’s face before locking in an armbar, when Tama Tonga came running down for the disqualification. By the end of it this was actually one of my favorite Fale matches in the entire G1, though that isn’t exactly saying much. **3/4

G1 Climax 28 A Block
Hangman Page [6] def. Minoru Suzuki [8]

This was my most anticipated match of the night for a few different reasons: both Page and Suzuki have been two of my favorites in the A block, first of all, as both have turned in a number of excellent performances (though they have both had a few clunkers as well). The other big factor was that I simply had no idea what to expect from this first time ever singles match, which is exactly why you always want to have at least 1 or 2 outsiders/first time participants in any tournament like this. These kind of fresh matchups can really spice up the bottom league matches, and it certainly did so here as this match did not disappoint. It started off fast with Page attacking Suzuki right before the bell, which was a great moment if only because no one ever does that to Suzuki! Page even jumped El Desperado at ringside, which frankly seemed a little mean considering poor Despy had not interfered in Suzuki’s matches at all leading up to this (probably one of the major reasons why Suzuki’s having such a better G1 than last year, when his matches frequently did feature interference from Suzukigun, but the BC OGs have the market cornered on that this time around). It lead up to Page doing a perfect moonsault off the ramp onto both men in a very cool moment.

But a pissed off Suzuki is not a good thing to have, as he went completely wild at ringside, throwing chairs and barricades and generally acting like a complete crazy person. When the action eventually got back into the ring and Page got back control, he hit Suzuki with a wacky deadlift bridging pumphandle slam. In another awesome moment, Suzuki after taking that move and kicking out immediately popped back up to his feet with a look of pure fury on his face, as if he was saying “You dare hit ME with that BS pro wrestling move??”.  It lead into him just beating the crap out of Page with some of the stiffest shots he’s thrown all tournament- Page during that sequence actually spit in his face which honestly seemed to take Suzuki by surprise, and he may have put even more force into his strikes as a result. Suzuki yelling, in English, “COME ON F**KIN BOY!!!” in Page’s face as he battered him with stiff strikes is another image that will stick in my mind for a while. Finally the match came to an end with Suzuki putting Page in his trademark sleeper and then going for the Gotch-style piledriver, only for Page to suddenly counter at the last possible second and turn it into the Rites of Passage for the pinfall in maybe the best (and most shocking) finish of the entire tournament! This was an easy pick for match of the night, an outstanding battle that packed a lot of action and great moments into just over 12 minutes. Go out of your way to see this one. ****1/4

G1 Climax 28 A Block
Jay White [12] def. Togi Makabe [4]

This is a match I’m going to struggle to say much about, as it just didn’t hold my attention throughout. It felt like a total by-the-numbers performance from both guys, right down to the whips into the barricades and now daily harassment of the English announce team by White. Makabe had a great tournament early on but he has slowly kind of settled into a pretty routine pattern, which I guess is understandable at this point when you’re pushing 45 years old and not remotely in the mix to win the block. The spot where the other guy fights out of the spider German suplex only for Makabe to turn it into a spider belly-to-belly was cool at first, but when it’s happening in every single match of Makabe’s during this tour it comes off like near-parody. The now-cliche White cheating/ref bump finish wasn’t even one of the better ones here, as he simply kind of shoved the ref into Makabe’s path when he went for the King Kong knee drop, hit a weak chair shot (not that I’m blaming Makabe for getting his hands up or anything, gotta protect that sweet-eating mouth as that’s his real meal ticket nowadays), and then hit Blade Runner for the pin. As skippable of a match as you’re going to see, as you can pretty much just close your eyes and imagine what happened and you’d be pretty close. **

G1 Climax 28 A Block
Hiroshi Tanahashi [14] def. Michael Elgin [6]

I know some people have been enjoying Elgin’s G1 (and others haven’t been watching at all for reasons unrelated to his wrestling ability), but I haven’t really been one of them. He’s been having pretty much the same matches he’s had all year, which are very heavy on the fighting spirit cliches and power moves, but without the in-ring charisma to really draw you in and make you care about that style of match. Watch him and then watch Hirooki Goto back to back and hopefully you’ll see what I mean here. On top of that he’s been noticeably more winded in his matches this year as well which certainly hasn’t helped. But that wasn’t really a problem in this match if only because he and Tanahashi did virtually nothing most of the way in one of the most boring matches of the G1 so far, at least for the first 10-12 minutes or so. It also featured probably the fakest looking spot of the entire tour: Elgin was supposed to push Tana off with his legs and send him all the way to the floor, but he clearly didn’t push him hard enough or something because Tana barely moved and then had to leap over the top rope in a spot that looked like two guys on the first day of wrestling class. The closing stretch did pick up (and finally got the Osaka crowd going crazy after they were largely quiet early on), but even that comes with the caveat of an extremely messed up finish. The idea was supposed to be Tanahashi escaping Elgin’s spiral powerbomb finish and rolling him up for the pin, but the execution was just amazingly terrible as both men nearly fell over and then awkwardly had to turn it into a cradle for the pinfall. Honestly, if you’re going to bore me to tears most of the way and then turn things on at the end, you simply just cannot have a finish that botched. A botched finish is always a bad thing anyway but it’s especially awful when said finishing stretch is all you had going for you to begin with. *3/4

G1 Climax 28 A Block
Kazuchika Okada [12] def. EVIL [8]

Last year Okada and EVIL had two singles matches, one of which I loved (their G1 match) and one of which I found immensely disappointing (their King of Pro Wrestling title match). This one ended up landing somewhere in between. There was nothing really wrong with it per say, but it never grabbed me on the level of the G1 match last year. It didn’t help that we went into the rest holds pretty early on, which is a tendency that EVIL has had in a lot of his matches in this G1 quite honestly. It picked up afterwards with EVIL nearly decapitating poor Okada with essentially a neckbreaker from the apron into the barricade on the floor, quite the vicious looking spot that was befitting of his name. Later in the match there was a minor ref bump that briefly had me fearing we were entering Jay White city, but thankfully it turned out to be pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of the match. Down the stretch this turned into a counter fest by both guys, with both looking to hit the Rainmaker/EVIL and in fact hitting each hitting their opponent’s finisher. How you feel about that closing stretch will probably impact how you ultimately felt about this match; if you were into it more than me you probably will have this match rated much higher, but personally I found it to be one of those “too cute by half” sequences that ends up coming off more like a synchronized dance than two men trying to win a wrestling match (it reminded me of back in the day when Okada and Karl Anderson would have their long closing sequences fighting over the Rainmaker & Gun Stun respectively, and I felt the same way about those as well). You can compare it to a sequence like Naito and Ibushi the previous night fighting over the Kamigoye and Destino and in my opinion that felt more like an actual struggle, or even the infamous Okada/Tanahashi sequences fighting over wrist control. Anyway, I fully expect to be the outlier on this one and it’s not like I thought it was a bad match or anything, but ultimately I just didn’t see it as an excellent one. ***1/4

A Block Standings

By now you probably know where we stand in the A block entering the final night on Friday at Budokan, but just in case you don’t, here’s our recap: Tanahashi leads the block at 7-1 with 14 points, while Okada & White are each at 6-2 and 12 points. Those are the only three who can win their block. Here’s the various scenarios:

  • If Jay White loses to EVIL in his final match, Tanahashi vs. Okada becomes “win and you’re in” for both guys, with either advancing to the final with a victory.
  • If Jay White defeats EVIL in his final match, Tanahashi can still advance to the final by defeating Okada. However, Okada would then be fighting to send Jay White on to the final rather than himself. An Okada victory in this scenario results in a three-way tie at 14 points, but White would advance based on the tiebreaker, as he defeated both Okada & Tanahashi earlier in the tournament.
  • No matter what happens in White vs. EVIL, Tanahashi can also advance to the finals if his match with Okada ends in a draw.

So for Tanahashi it’s simple: either beat Okada or go to a 30-minute draw and you’re in the finals. For Okada, he has to beat Tanahashi AND he needs Jay White to either lose to or draw with EVIL. For White, he needs to beat EVIL and then he needs Okada to beat Tanahashi. Those are your clinching scenarios in the A block.

Final Thoughts

Overall this was an above-average show, especially on the sliding A block scale. I would highly recommend Page vs. Suzuki, which was excellent. I would also recommend watching Okada vs. EVIL, as I think it’s likely many of you will enjoy that one more than I did and even I have it rated as a solid match. The other three matches are probably skippable, especially if you’re suffering from G1 fatigue at this point in the tournament. But the G1 is almost over folks, as all we’ve got left is a B block show in Yokohama on Wednesday (where Tetsuya Naito could be eliminated if Kenny Omega can defeat Toru Yano and/or Naito loses to LIJ stablemate SANADA in the main event) before we hit the final three nights at Budokan Hall this coming weekend.

VOW G1 Climax Pick’Em Standings

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