One of the best months of wrestling in the entire calendar year is finally here. The first stage of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax Tournament kicked off in the wee hours Monday morning in Hokkaido (or Monday night, depending on where you live or if you’re a time traveler).
A Block contestants rang in the 27th edition of the G1 Climax. Here’s how it unfolded (SPOILERS):
ZSJ scores big upset in G1 debut
Zack Sabre Jr. hasn’t even had the whole experience of a G1 Climax, and yet he already has a marquee win.
Sabre Jr. scored that victory over IWGP Intercontinental Champion and noted-bad entrance music wrestler Hiroshi Tanahashi. (Seriously, I know he’s had the music for more than six months, but it’s still bad).
For mat wrestling enthusiasts, this is the match you want to watch. ZSJ is a superbly talented mat wrestler. He’s one of the most technical wrestlers you’ll ever see.
The fact that he’s won the Best Technical Wrestler three years in a row, as awarded by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, should say it all.
Sabre Jr. used his skills to really work over Tanahashi’s (legitimately) injured right bicep, winning by submission. It’s impressive because Tanahashi doesn’t tap out often.
Given the rest of A-Block, I’m excited to see what ZSJ can do against Tetsuya Naito and Tomohiro Ishii. Sabre Jr. faced Ishii in the semifinals of the IWGP United States Championship Tournament earlier this month in California, and put on a clinic. The rematch should be just as spectacular.
I’m pretty sure ZSJ against veteran Yuji Nagata will also be fantastic.
Sabre Jr. might have been the winner and got the points. However, he made a really good point.
His hair was still absolutely perfect at the end of the bout, obviously. So who knows who the real winner is.
— Zack Labour Jr. (@zacksabrejr) July 17, 2017
Naito secures win in classic against Ibushi
The Naito-Kota Ibushi main event undoubtedly lived up to the hype. This was far and away the best match on the show.
Truth be told, it took me awhile to figure out which match I liked best. I really enjoyed both ZSJ-Tanahashi and Ishii-Goto.
It becomes a much more obvious choice when you see a deadlift over the rope German suplex like the one Ibushi performed. How can you not love a dead-lift suplex?
The piledriver from the top rope (okay Ibushi was actually on the second rope) was a fantastic spot, as well.
Ibushi may have lost after taking a second Destino, however there’s no denying that he’s a legit contender coming out of A-Block.
Goto and Ishii get physical
The hard-hitting match of the night undoubtedly goes to CHAOS stable-mates Ishii and Hirooki Goto. It was physical and very stiff, much like previous matches the two have had against each other.
I enjoyed it because I love Ishii. He’s a short, tough guy who has so much power. I’m not sure I haven’t seen an Ishii match that I didn’t like.
But don’t take anything away from Goto. It takes two to tango and he can give just as much as Ishii. Don’t sell Goto short in this A-Block. He did win and he’ll likely get a few more big wins.
Goto was runner-up last year. He’s won G-1 before. Never count out Goto!
The other A-Block matches were…good!
The other two match-ups in the G1 Climax A Block were Yugi Nagata vs. Yoshi-Hashi and Bad Luck Fale against Togi Makabe.
They weren’t quite up to par, compared to the other three matches. However, that doesn’t mean they were awful.
Nagata and Yoshi-Hashi was pretty great. Both guys brought it in a juxtaposition of the young up-and-comer Yoshi-Hashi scoring a pivotal win against the veteran Nagata, performing in his final G1 Climax.
On any other night, this probably would’ve stolen the show. It’s tough to stand out on Night One, though, especially with the matchups stacked towards the top.
Obviously, it was Yoshi-Hashi getting the win with Karma. However, don’t count out Nagata just yet. He’s got some good matches in him.
— John.gif (@DK1105) July 17, 2017
Even Fale-Makabe was pretty good. It’s not going to win best match of the show or get 8 stars from the Observer, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad match. It’s not fair to expect them to put on a match like Naito-Ibushi, given their size and more power-based styles.
That was a pretty hard-hitting match, as well. Fale and Makabe both battled hard, but it was Fale getting the win in the end. With Fale’s power and success earlier this year, including a competitive IWGP Heavyweight Championship bout against Kazuchika Okada in May, it probably won’t be surprising to see him in contention in A Block.
Bread Club Watch
If you don’t know what Bread Club is, you need to get on board. It’s a movement that will probably take over the world. And it’s led by none other than legit New Japan talent Satoshi Kojima. He’s the hero we need!
The Bullet club is strong.
But I'm a Bread club.
— 小島 聡【SATOSHI KOJIMA】 (@cozy_lariat) March 2, 2017
Kojima took part in the six-man match to open the show. He teamed up with Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Jushin Liger, to take on Michael Elgin, Juice Robinson and David Finlay.
This was a fun opener. You can always expect something to happen in New Japan’s six-man tag matches.
Our hero scored the win when he destroyed Finlay with a lariat. Hopefully, this is a good sign for Kojima’s chances in B-Block.
B Block intrigue; Plus never accept a handshake
The other tag matches were pretty good. We got to see Suzukigun take on Kenny Omega/Chase Owens/Tama Tonga. It was during that match, plus a few others, to never do handshakes.
Omega and the other two offered handshakes in hopes that Minoru Suzuki will fall for that old sportsmanship trick. It didn’t work as the Bullet Club got clobbered by Suzukigun and Suzuki took Omega outside the ring to beat him up.
Suzuki got the win thanks to his Gotch Piledriver on Owens. Before that, the interaction with Suzuki and Omega was fantastic. I’m very excited to see this match happen.
The next handshake trend took place in the Los Ingobernables v. Los Ingobernables tag match with EVIL and Hiromu Takahashi against SANADA and BUSHI.
SANADA offered a handshake at the beginning of the match to EVIL. Amazingly, it worked! EVIL bought the sportsmanship ploy, which SANADA used to his advantage. Never accept a handshake, kids! It’s just a trick to clothesline you.
It’s fun watching stable-mates go against each other. It allows everyone to be jerks to each other.
EVIL got the win, but this match got me very excited to see him face off with SANADA on Thursday.
The third handshake took place with Kazuchika Okada and Gedo versus Toru Yano and Jado in an all-CHAOS showdown.
Gedo offered a handshake to Jado and it led to Jado getting poked in the eye. REMEMBER THIS LESSON, KIDS!
Amazingly, Yano got the win thanks to a double low-blow and a roll-up of Gedo. As mentioned, it’s fun watching the guys be jerks to each other.
The next night of the 27th G1 Climax takes place Thursday at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. Omega and Suzuki will be the main event for B-Block. The other match-ups set for that night are Okada/Yano, SANADA/EVIL, Michael Elgin/Tonga and Robinson/Kojima.