Hello everyone, and welcome once again to G1 Climax 28. The tournament is almost over, which means we made it through one of the most intensive viewing experiences a pro wrestling fan can have. If you’ve kept up to date so far, congratulations! You’re almost done. If you fell by the wayside, that’s okay too. There’s always next year, and now is a great time to get back into it. The next three shows are going to be awesome.

New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 28 – Night 16
August 8, 2018
Yokohama Bunka Gymnasium

Watch: NJPW World

Nothing interesting happens on the undercard. Since this will be the last G1 review I do this year, here are the best matches of the tournament so far, in this reviewer’s extremely humble opinion.

  • Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii 7/28 *****
  • Tomohiro Ishii vs Kenny Omega 8/4 ****3/4
  • Tetsuya Naito vs Kenny Omega 7/15 ****3/4
  • Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi 8/8 ****1/2
  • Kenny Omega vs Zack Sabre Jr 8/1 ****1/2
  • Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii 7/21 ****1/2
  • Tomohiro Ishii vs Tetsuya Naito 7/19 ****1/2
  • Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr 7/15 ****1/2

G1 Climax 28 – B Block
Tomohiro Ishii (8) def Juice Robinson (4)

Take a look at that list of top matches again. Tomohiro Ishii is on there four times. Half his matches this tournament have been 4.5 stars or better. That’s unreal. This man is the true Best Bout Machine. His only match below four stars was against Tama Tonga, and it was still the best Tama match of the G1. He’s equally good as the never give up underdog as he is the hard-hitting bully. He’s the best seller in pro wrestling, and it’s not even close. Everything he does in the ring matters, from the small things like leaning into forearm strikes to blunt the blow to the powerful blows of his clotheslines. If he gets a match for the IWGP title this year at a major show, he will make a strong case for Wrestler of the Year on match quality alone.

Juice has been very good this tournament too. The story of his broken hand has been the second-best story of the G1, after Jay White tormenting Yoh on the undercards. Losing his first several matches, it took him ripping the cast off and using that dangerous left hand as a weapon to start winning. But of course, that leaves his broken hand open to further damage. It’s a fascinating story every match. Will Juice sacrifice his potential future to win a match, even when nothing is on the line?

This match is really good. There’s a few small awkward parts, where they maybe weren’t on exactly the same page, but those are quickly forgotten as the match kicks into high gear. Juice sells his left hand so well after using it to club Ishii. The last five minutes especially is full of hard hits and counters. Juice looks like he has the match won when he answers an Ishii headbutt with one of his own, but Ishii swings out of the Pulp Friction and hits the Brainbuster for the win. ****1/4

G1 Climax 28 – B Block
Zack Sabre Jr (10) def Hirooki Goto (6)

Goto has had a very quiet G1, which is unusual for him. Despite being the NEVER champion, no one has really expressed interest in challenging him, as most of his losses have come against people higher on the card than him. So he’s in this weird no-man’s land of not being important enough to beat guys like Kenny Omega, but too important to lose to the SANADA’s of the block. His match ratings follow the same pattern, sitting around a 4 star average, but only one match breaking into elite levels. He’s not great, but he’s certainly not a waste of time either. He’s just Goto.

Zack Sabre Jr is a wrestler I love to watch. He is so different than everyone else on the roster that every match feels special, even if he’s in a tag or an opener. No one else wrestles like Zack Sabre Jr, so when you watch him, you know you’re going to see something unique. Zack’s limb manipulation makes a simple headlock feel dangerous. His tournament has been similar to Goto’s in that he’s unable to beat that top tier. But at least he has direction after the G1, as his sights seem to be set on Juice Robinson and the US title.

This is the hard strikes of Goto vs the submissions of ZSJ. There’s a great spot where Sabre has Goto wrapped in like, three different armbars while Goto screams, desperately trying to reach the rope before ZSJ grabs his grasping fingers and bends them back. Zack has a laser like focus on Goto’s arm, when usually he switches his attacks up more. Zack wins with a surprise clutch roll up just as it looks like they’re going into their finishing stretch. After, he grabs the NEVER title. Who knows how many titles ZSJ will be going for after this tournament? ***3/4

G1 Climax 28 – B Block
Tama Tonga (6) def Kota Ibushi (10)

Tama Tonga, along with his Firing Squad brother Bad Luck Fale, has had a terrible G1. Even if you discount the interference in every match, Tama’s matches have been average at best. If you are New Japan, there is literally no reason to invite Tama Tonga back to the G1 next year. I don’t mind many of the story driven matches this year, but Juice, Okada, and White are all able to back it up in the ring. The Firing Squad hasn’t.

Kota Ibushi… what is there to say about beautiful Kota Ibushi? He’s been in the best match of the tournament, and his match with Omega is the most anticipated wrestling match this year. Every match with Ibushi has the opportunity to be the best match of his opponent’s career. His only match this tournament below 4 stars was against Yano, and that was ***3/4. Saying he’s consistently great doesn’t feel like doing him justice, but it will have to do.

Tama attacks Ibushi on the entrance ramp, so we’re not off to a great start. Unlike when Yano did this to SANADA the last B block show, there’s nothing particularly entertaining about it. This gets back into the ring and is, uh, actually pretty good. Then I groan as they go back outside the ring, but then a sequence of the year happens. Ibushi stuns Tama in the crowd, vanishes behind a set of double doors only to reappear moments later on the balcony, tightrope walks along the railing, high fives a fan, and moonsaults into Tama and the Young Lions. Hilariously awesome. Anyways, some more stuff happens, there’s some interference from Tanga Loa and Fale, Omega comes out to even the score, and Tama wins with a pop-up Gun Stun for a shocker of the win. The Firing Squad lay waste to the Golden Lovers until Hangman Page and Chase Owens make the save. This was actually fun, with a really surprising ending. ***1/2

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G1 Climax 28 – B Block
Toru Yano (4) def Kenny Omega (12)

It’s weird, but Kenny Omega’s tournament has been quietly great. The IWGP champion has won most of his matches, and has three of them on my top list, but has been relatively quiet about doing so. Maybe it’s because Naito and Ibushi have taken their fair share of main events, but Omega hasn’t been making waves with great matches like I thought he would. Still, he’s been in the driver’s seat of the Block the entire tournament. I just wish he felt like a bigger deal.

Meanwhile, Toru Yano was the talk for the tournament for the first week. “Fair Play” Yano opened the G1 with three great matches but earning no points. The conflict as Yano tried to balance his cheating tendencies with his amateur skills was highly entertaining. He has since devolved back into the more devious Sublime Master Thief, but he’ll always have those three matches to prove his cred.

Omega is still laid out from the Firing Squad attack when Yano’s music hits. What happens next is pure comedy. Some highlights include Chase Owens diving across the metal turnbuckle links to save Kenny, Yano suplexing Kenny on a nice cushy pile of turnbuckle pads, and Yano taping Omega to Ren Narita on the outside. Omega is able to hit some of his signature offense, but Tama Tonga comes back out, Gun Stuns everyone, and rolls Yano over Omega for the win. I don’t even know how to rate this, but I laughed like, four times, so I guess it’s ****

G1 Climax 28 – B Block
Tetsuya Naito (12) def SANADA (8)

SANADA is, other than Tama Tonga, my least favorite guy in B Block. There’s just nothing that sets him apart from the pack. Everyone can rave about his athleticism all they want, being athletic doesn’t make an interesting professional wrestler. None of his major matches have ever done much for me, and in his G1 Tournaments, including this one, he’s just kind of there. He makes a great straight guy for Toru Yano though, so I guess that’s something.

Naito is having an almost identical tournament to Omega in my eyes. Three great matches, but has kind of been under the radar most the tournament. Splitting main event time between so many great wrestlers has made everyone feel just a little less important individually. Naito is also hurt by losing to both Ibushi and Omega. In any case though, Naito rules, and everyone should love him. This clash between LIJ members has been building all tournament, so let’s see how it shakes down.

SANADA is putting up with none of Naito’s shit today. He grabs Naito’s leg when he runs the ropes, he dropkicks Naito out of the tranquillo pose, and spits in Naito’s face when Naito does the same to him. SANADA’s got some edge to him here, which is a nice change of pace. He even shows some emotion as the match hits its apex, screaming as he lifts Naito up to his shoulders for a TKO, but Naito counters into Destino! It’s not enough though, and SANADA uses Destino, dropping Naito on the back of his head. Leave it to Naito to take the sickest Destino bump. We get a typical New Japan counter ending, which is fun because the Destino and the Skull’s End shift to each other very well, then Naito puts down his factionmate with Destino for the win. ****1/4

Final Thoughts

This was a really good show, especially if you like antics. No elite tier matches, but some incredibly fun stuff on the undercard, and a main event that delivered. This was a nice appetizer for the big three shows coming up.

VOW G1 Climax 28 Pick’Em Standings

View updated standings at voicesofwrestling.com/forums.