Hello everyone and welcome to Fightful's NJPW G1 Block Update. In this edition I'll be looking at the first four nights of the G1 Climax, breaking down all the action thus far and previewing the upcoming nights. Moving forward, these updates will hit your favorite combat sports website following the conclusion of each set of Block matches.
Night 1 Review (A Block - First Matches)
Togi Makabe def. YOSHI-HASHI - A good start to the tournament. HASHI showed good fire and got people believing he could pick up the victory. Makabe's time as a G1 competitor might be drawing to a close, but he's a former winner and someone who can be a potential threat.
Hangman Page def. Bad Luck Fale - Disqualifications are rare in the G1, so it was a bit of a surprise that they went with one here. I never like a wrestler just giving away two points in a tournament like this. Fale typically performs well in the G1, so he should be confident he can make up the ground, but it's still a dumb move. More than anything, this set the table for what was to come in future Fale matches.
Michael Elgin def. EVIL - I loved this match. Elgin can work many different styles and in this contest, these two just beat the hell out of each other. EVIL worked over Elgin's arm, but that didn't end up playing a big factors in Elgin's second match. EVIL is in a weird position because his next program (a IC title match against Chris Jericho) appears to be set up. Knowing that, he can take some losses, but still needs to be presented as a strong contender.
Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Minoru Suzuki - Tanahashi is great at fighting from underneath and Suzuki is great at just inflicting all kinds of damage on opponents. You can never sleep on either guy in this tournament. They made Suzuki look strong in defeat and set the stage for the banged up Ace to make another run.
Jay White def. Kazuchika Okada - Very few split the NJPW fanbase like White. Half think he has the character down perfectly and that he's one of the few guys in wrestling who can still draw legitimate heel heat. The other half believe he's being pushed too quickly and that he doesn't have the wrestling skills to be a main event player. I fall into the former. I've been in on White since he returned from excursion to challenge Tanahashi. Their Wrestle Kingdom match was disappointing, but he's had very good to great outings with Kenny Omega, Hangman Page, and Juice Robinson since then. Add this match to the list. Okada rarely disappoints, even though his Broken Balloon Okada persona weirds me out. White taking shortcuts and doing anything possible to win worked in this instance.
Match of the Night - Michael Elgin vs. EVIL
Night 2 Review (B Block - First Matches)
Tomohiro Ishii def. Toru Yano - We got serious Yano in this one, which worked given that he was facing his longtime tag team partner. Because of that, these two ended having a very solid match to kick-off the night. Yano can win or lose with little to no consequence. Ishii gets some good momentum heading into the big match with Naito.
Tama Tonga def. Juice Robinson - You knew after the Firing Squad angle that Tonga would end up playing a bigger role in this year's G1. Juice winning the US title from White increased his stock heading into the tournament while potentially setting up future title matches with any loss. Tonga would certainly make sense as a challenger when the tournament ends. The match wasn't anything memorable.
Hirooki Goto def. SANADA - Goto is an interesting story to follow this year. He won way back in 2008 and made the finals in 2016. He's never won the IWGP Title despite eight cracks at the belt in his career. SANADA pushed him in the opening bout, but he managed to emerge victorious. Keep an eye on Goto throughout this tournament and expect both guys to turn in good outings.
Kota Ibushi def. Zack Sabre Jr. - Sabre Jr. became a made man following his New Japan Cup victory earlier this year. Ibushi has a showdown with Kenny Omega in the final bout of the of block action so you know he's going to be booked strong throughout. ZSJ is as smooth as they come and Ibushi can adapt to any style. Ibushi gets his win back from the NJ Cup and hopefully they meet again down the line. Also, Taka is the best manager in wrestling.
Kenny Omega def. Tetsuya Naito - This match ruled. Omega winning puts even more doubt on Naito moving forward in the tournament. The big story coming into this match was Omega doing what Naito failed to do and Omega calling Naito and other Japanese wrestlers "lazy." Naito didn't look lazy, but maybe his "tranquilo" personality is coming back to bite him. He's lost his four biggest matches of the year and may need to show more fire if he wants to win the Block.
Match of the Night - Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito
Night 3 Review (A Block - Second Matches)
Michael Elgin def. Hangman Page - The arm work set up in Night 1 against EVIL didn't really play a role in this match. After a DQ in Night 1, Page really got a chance to prove himself in this one. As mentioned earlier, Elgin can work many styles and he kept pace with Page while not sacrificing his power game. Elgin establishes himself as a force in the block with two wins, but will soon step up in competition.
EVIL def. YOSHI-HASHI - If you had any hope for YOSHI-HASHI to start the tournament, it's probably gone now. His outing with Makabe ended up being better than expected, but this match was just average at best. EVIL gets a nice bounce back victory after his close counter with Elgin.
Togi Makabe def. Minoru Suzuki - They are putting over Suzuki strong in defeat. He's now 0-2 and that's bad news for his opponents moving forward. They worked a hard-hitting match with far too many refs bumps in order to crowd brawl and use a chair. Makabe moving to 2-0 establishes him as a big win for someone later in the tournament.
Bad Luck Fale def. Kazuchika Okada - Okada was always going one of two ways in this tournament. Either he runs through everyone, goes undefeated, and reminds the world why he's the Rainmaker. Or he struggles out of the gate before finding himself at some point. The moment he came out with red hair, a t-shirt, and balloons, we knew it would be the latter. The match was fine, but the interference got to be a bit much. Obviously they wanted to protect Okada and push the Firing Squad story forward. But this was overbooked to a fault.
Jay White def. Hiroshi Tanahashi - My problem with this match is that it combined the worst aspects of the previous two matches. White inexplicably willing to get himself DQ'd before too many ref bumps and outside shenanigans. Had this taken place on any other night, it may have worked. But because we saw a similar pattern in the prior two matches, this just felt like overkill. White moving to 2-0 and showing he's willing to win by any means necessary is nice. But next time he brings a chair into the ring while the ref is still standing, why duck?
Match of the Night - Michael Elgin vs. Hangman Page
A Block Standings
* Jay White: 2-0 (4pts.)
* Michael Elgin: 2-0 (4pts.)
* Togi Makabe: 2-0 (4pts.)
* Hangman Page: 1-1 (2pts.)
* Bad Luck Fale: 1-1 (2pts.)
* EVIL: 1-1 (2pts.)
* Hiroshi Tanahashi: 1-1 (2pts.)
* Kazuchika Okada: 0-2 (0pts.)
* Minoru Suzuki: 0-2 (0pts.)
* YOSHI-HASHI: 0-2 (0pts.)
Night 4 Review (B Block - Second Matches)
SANADA def. Tama Tonga - The early dismissal of Tanga Loa seemed to set us up for a straightforward wrestling match. Nope. A ref bump led to more Firing Squad interference later in the match. SANADA ended up using the interference against Tonga to pick up the victory. You can miss me with any Firing Squad match moving forward if this is how they continue to play out.
Zack Sabre Jr. def. Toru Yano - Yano worked a serious style to start, but eventually reverted to his old ways. It's tough to have a bad match with ZSJ and the crowd loves everything Yano does. No surprise that ZSJ won after losing on his first night.
Kota Ibushi def. Juice Robinson - Juice falls to 0-2 while Ibushi remains undefeated. This may set up a potential title shot for Ibushi. With the way things are going for Juice, he'll have no shortage of contenders coming out of the G1. Juice held his own and looked good while Kota turned in his usual outstanding performance.
Tetsuya Naito def. Tomohiro Ishii - Ishii was an absolute monster in this one. Naito had to dig deep to pick up his first win of the tournament. I thought it should have ended after the first destino just because it was a bit out of nowhere and they've really hurt that finish this year with the amount of kickouts after the first one connects. That minor complaint aside, this match ruled.
Kenny Omega def. Hirooki Goto - I'm 100 percent here for Omega and Ibushi keeping pace while playing a game of "can you top this?" I figured this would be the story they would tell heading into the tournament with the two meeting on the final night. Thus far, they have not disappointed. Goto and Ishii losing wars with the top two guys in the Block two nights before they are going to knock each other's heads off makes that match all the more interesting. Omega has never won the NEVER Openweight title, so a victory here could set him up for something down the line. Goto's quest to capture his first IWGP Heavyweight title just got harder.
Match of the Night - Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii
B Block Standings
* Kota Ibushi: 2-0 (4pts.)
* Kenny Omega: 2-0 (4pts.)
* Tomohiro Ishii: 1-1 (2pts.)
* Tama Tonga: 1-1 (2pts.)
* SANADA: 1-1 (2pts.)
* Hirooki Goto: 1-1 (2pts.)
* Zack Sabre Jr: 1-1 (2pts.)
* Tetsuya Naito: 1-1 (2pts.)
* Toru Yano: 0-2 (0pts.)
* Juice Robinson: 0-2 (0pts.)
Night 5 Preview (A Block - Third Matches)
YOSHI-HASHI vs. Minoru Suzuki - Poor YOSHI-HASHI. I fully expect him to get killed here, dropping him to 0-3. Maybe Suzuki goes too far in his quest to murder a man and ends up on the wrong side of a disqualification, but that would mean a lot of victories for Suzuki moving forward.
Michael Elgin vs. Jay White - Arguably the most interesting match on Night 5. Both men are 2-0 and getting it done in different ways against different opponents. Elgin has beaten two lesser guys, but looked strong in the process. White has beaten the two top guys, but used a lot of tricks to do so. At some point, those tricks will backfire. With Elgin having a tough schedule remaining, he can win here and take losses down the line.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Bad Luck Fale - If the first two Fale matches are any indication, we can expect more Firing Squad interference. I've gone back-and-forth on this match. Since Fale is kept strong in the G1, I could see him winning in a similar manner in which he beat Okada. I could also see Tanahashi overcoming the interference and scoring the win. If the interference is kept to a minimum, the match should be solid. My gut says Fale wins.
Togi Makabe vs. EVIL - Makabe has had some impressive outings to start. Expect these two to beat the snot out of each other. EVIL should walk away with the victory to leave just one undefeated competitor in the Block and a logjam behind him.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Hangman Page - Do they really put Okada behind the eight-ball or finally give him a sign of life. On paper, it feels like a foregone conclusion that Okada wins. Page is a mid card guy for the company and Okada is 0-2 and in need of an easy victory. However, putting Okada down 0-3 and telling the comeback story would not be surprising. I'd still lean towards Okada winning. This has the potential to be a low key Match of the G1 bout. Page has proven he can hang with the right guys and Okada is Okada.
Night 6 Preview (B Block - Third Matches)
Kota Ibushi vs. Toru Yano - At some point in this tournament, Yano is going to pick up a surprising victory over a big name. With Ibushi being 2-0, it's very possible Yano sneaks out a win here. I could see Ibushi doing something nuts on the outside, hurting himself, and Yano grabbing a count out victory.
SANADA vs. Zack Sabre Jr. - These two had a really good match in the semifinals for the New Japan Cup. SANADA is a guy who can step up against the top guys and ZSJ's style is so smooth and defined that it's tough for him to have a bad match at this level. They probably won't get as much time as they did in NJ Cup, but the contest has night stealing potential. I'm going with the submission master.
Juice Robinson vs. Tetsuya Naito - It's been a tough start for Juice and things don't get any easier against Naito. Having the US champion start 0-3 doesn't seem ideal, but Juice is a guy who has gotten over by looking strong in losses and fighting from underneath. I expect the same thing here.
Kenny Omega vs. Tama Tonga - The Young Bucks have dates in America on Friday and Saturday, so there's a less than one percent chance they are able to accompany Kenny. If Kenny is smart, he'll make sure to have Page and Chase Owens by his side because we know Loa and Fale won't be far behind Tama. The Firing Squad leader needs a good showing here, but I fear it'll be an overbooked mess. Feels like Tonga wins here and Omega gets the victory back down the line.
Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii - You know what you're getting from Goto and Ishii. Four years ago, they had a classic at Power Struggle. In last year's G1 they had another hard-hitting affair that was just below their Power Struggle bout. They are going to hit each other really hard, it's going to be slightly uncomfortable at times, and we're going to go crazy for it. Goto won last year and I'm going with him to win this year as well.