With summer here that means that New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax 28 will be starting soon and it looks like it could be a great one. This year the tournament runs from July 14th with the finals taking place on August 12th. If you’re not familiar with the tournament it is a round-robin format and is not single elimination (that’s the New Japan Cup). There are 2 blocks and whoever has the most points from their block will have to wrestle against the person who has the most points from the other block. It makes for interesting match ups and sets up feuds for the rest of the year as well. It’s a grueling schedule and the winner could go on to main event Wrestle Kingdom 13 on January 4th 2019. I say could go on to main event because they will have to defend their spot. Most often it’s defended against people that the winner lost against in their block. If the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, currently Kenny Omega, should win the tournament he would be able to select his opponent. This hasn’t happened since they started having the winner of the tournament receive a title shot, which started in 2012 at the 22nd G1 tournament. The winner also hasn’t been successful in capturing the title at Wrestle Kingdom so far as well. There are a lot of matches to look forward to and I’ll be spotlighting some of the matches from each block that I’m the most interested in.
Kazuchika Okada vs Jay White (July 14th)
The first night has a pretty big match where both combatants have a bit of a chip on their shoulder. Okada and White are both in the stable CHAOS with Okada being the leader. Both men also have the shadow of Kenny Omega hanging over them. Okada’s record breaking IWGP Heavyweight title reign was recently ended by Kenny Omega. White beat Omega earlier this year for the United States championship, but hasn’t been able to take that title to the same heights as his predecessor. There’s always seemed to be tension between the two (CHAOS is fine) and this will only add fuel to it.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Minoru Suzuki (July 14th)
Another first night match, but this one shouldn’t disappoint. Earlier this year Suzuki basically tortured Tanahashi to the point where the ref had to stop the match and give Suzkuki the Intercontinental Championship. Tanahashi never surrendered and never got a rematch with Suzuki. These two have had wars in the past, but I don’t know if they’ve had one as emotionally charged as this one. It remains to be seen if the rest of Suzuki’s group, Suzuki-Gun, will be involved in his matches but they could be a factor.
Jay White vs Hangman Page (July 30th)
These are both first-timers in the G1 tournament and they had a solid match earlier this year for White’s United States Championship. I think this tournament helps advance both White and Page’s careers since a lot of eyes will be on them. If they’re able to get over any jitters they might have, this could make for a very fun contest and could lead to bigger things for both men later on down the line.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs EVIL (August 2nd)
I think this has the potential to be a sleeper match. EVIL had a solid showing in the G1 last year and is one of the only people in 2017 that held a pinfall victory over Okada. So you can argue that EVIL is on his way up. You can also argue that Tanahashi is on his way down, but for someone who is getting older he seems to only be getting better. While it remains to be seen how the Ageless Ace manages to deal with an unforgiving G1 schedule I think he and EVIL have the potential to have a killer match.
Kazuchika Okada vs Minoru Suzuki (August 2nd)
The last two times these two men have faced it has been a 30 minute time limit draw. It’s possible that could happen here again, but I don’t think so. This match is late enough in the tournament that the victor will be obvious once it’s clear what type of story is being told with Okada. If it is a redemption story and Okada is on his way to his third G1 victory then he gets the win. If Okada spends most of the tournament having issues with weaker opponents like YOSHI-HASHI or Togi Makabe then his redemption won’t be found in this tournament. In fact Suzuki will probably torture the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion for most of the match before he puts him away.
Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (August 10th)
On the final night for Block A these two will look to add another chapter to their rivalry that has been going since 2012. This contest will be fantastic regardless, but like Okada’s match with Suzuki it all depends on the story. Tanahashi is older and has more injuries and was dispatched relatively easily by Okada earlier this year. If Okada is still dazed after losing his cherished title, then Tanahashi picks up the win.
Kenny Omega vs Tetsuya Naito (July 15th)
I was honestly surprised to see this one announced so early in the tournament. Omega has taken some shots at Naito since winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and Naito has seemed to downplay them. Naito is another one that has a possible redemption story to tell since he lost the Intercontinental Championship to Chris Jericho. He’s also seemed to make it clear that he wants to headline Wrestle Kingdom again, but as champion or winning the championship. These two have torn down the house in their matches at the previous two G1 tournaments so I expect nothing different.
Toru Yano vs Zack Sabre Jr (July 19th)
I hesitated to include this one since it’ll be the usually Yano buffoonery, but ZSJ is a part of Suzuki-Gun and his mentor Minoru Suzuki is 0 for 4 against Yano in G1 tournaments. Can ZSJ succeed where his mentor has failed? Probably not, but it’ll be fun to see him try.
Kenny Omega vs Tama Tonga (July 21st)
Kenny Omega is currently the contested leader of Bullet Club. Tama Tonga is one of the original members of Bullet Club and seems to be getting sick of the Cody Rhodes/Kenny Omega drama. I think things build to a head here and Tama could end up with the leadership of Bullet Club along with an IWGP Heavyweight title shot in his future.
Juice Robinson vs SANADA (August 1st)
This should be a good one. Since coming to New Japan, Juice has improved so much and gotten himself over. His over the top nature will make an excellent for the Cold Skull SANADA. SANADA is another one that has improved since making his debut in New Japan and joining Los Ingobernables de Japon. He definitely seems to be destined for bigger things, but it’ll be interesting to see if that time is now.
Hirooki Goto vs Zack Sabre Jr (August 8th)
Goto was involved in my favorite match at this year’s Wrestle Kingdom when he had an absolute war with Minoru Suzuki. While I don’t expect the match to be exactly the same, ZSJ can bring the pain and Goto can absorb it pretty well. I expect this one to be very hard hitting and Goto will probably get twisted into knots before the match is through.
Kenny Omega vs Kota Ibushi (August 11th)
The Golden Lovers collide in what will no doubt be an incredibly emotional contest. These two have had death-defying matches in DDT Pro, but haven’t locked up in New Japan as of yet. I see this match as advancing their story, but it’ll also probably be one of the best matches in the whole tournament. Ibushi has hinted that he wants gold, but can he go through Omega to get it?
It was really hard to pare down both blocks to a few matches. Especially since literally every match in B Block is one that I’m looking forward to. I think A Block is definitely the weaker of the two and I’d probably make substitutions if I was booking everything. I’m not sure who will win the whole thing, but I’d love a final of Minoru Suzuki vs Kota Ibushi with Ibushi winning the whole thing. I think it’s too soon for Okada’s redemption since he just lost the title. I could see Naito winning it again, but he just won it last year so I don’t think he’ll get it. I really think this tournament could end up being something special though and it does have a little bit of something for everyone.