New Japan Pro Wrestling has announced that A and Blocks for the G1 Climax 28 tournament after the competitors were set last week. The annual tournament is nineteen days long with a Round-Robin style format with a points system. Each Block has ten wrestlers each and the wrestlers with the most victories (points) advance to the Semi-Finals to face the other top points-earner in his Block before meeting the winner of the other Block in the Finals. It’s a grueling schedule and the event of the year in pro wrestling as far as tournaments go because of the match quality and the chance to see fresh matches that we normally would not see booked. For instance, Los Ingobernobles De Japon and CHAOS are large factions that exist with three or more heavyweights each so it’s only natural Tetsuya Naito must meet stablemate SANADA this year to see who advances. The tournament takes place from July 14 to August 12, NJPWworld.com is where to stream with English commentary optional. The winner of The G1 Climax 28 will go on to main event Wrestle Kingdom for the IWGP heavyweight championship on January 4. Here is a quick breakdown of the competitors in each Block and then let’s look at who the possible winner should be in August.
The A Block
The G1 Climax last year may have been the best tournament to date from NJPW, highlighted by an amazing Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega rematch in the Finals. Not only does the G1 Climax tournament bring the audience new matches, rising talent like Juice Robinson and EVIL broke through the glass ceiling last year to become serious threats to any Championship. EVIL was legitimately knocked out by Kenny Omega last year by a V-Trigger in a remarkable match and this year EVIL also gets a rematch with the longest reigning IWGP Heavyweight champion in NJPW history, Kazuchika Okada. EVIL was only the second man last year besides Kenny Omega that pinned Okada out of all ten competitors in his Block last year in this tournament. “The Rainmaker” is a changed man after losing everything to Kenny Omega at Dominion and Okada either lost some of his confidence or he is waiting for this tournament to show everyone why he truly is “The Rainmaker.” Okada had some of the best matches last year, even against young stars like Juice Robinson and Okada will look to do the same this year. Hiroshi Tanahashi gets a rematch with Kazuchika Okada after their feud has gone down in history as possibly the all-time best in the companies history. Okada vs Tanahashi will be very interesting thing year as both went to a thirty-minute Time-Limit draw two years ago in the G1 Climax and it seems Okada has Tanahashi’s number after all these years finally. It would make a lot of sense if NJPW went the comeback route for this year’s winner of the entire tournament with Okada or “The Ace” winning but the spotlight should go on the future to grow and expand the NJPW’s vision to North America and a much larger worldwide audience.
When you look at future top stars involved, “Switchblade” Jay White sticks out as the IWGP United States champion. White was on excursion to Ring Of Honor Wrestling and the United Kingdom just one year ago and now he has a real chance of defeating such veterans as Minoru Suzuki. White has grown into his dark “Switchblade” character as he evolves in the ring at the same time. White is only going to get better year after year but in this tournament he gets the leader of his CHAOS faction, Kazuchika Okada. It seemed White was uneasy about that alliance from the start and maybe here we see White’s true colors and he pins Okada in a defiant fashion. Bad Luck Fale is always a heavy hitter in the G1 Climax tournament and he also made it to last year’s New Japan Cup finals so he could beat anybody on any given night. Togi Makabe is in the same position but his veteran status in the past shows that he is willing to give anyone a great fight but he will go down to future stars in the end. YOSHI–HASHI has been giving better performance in singles matches every time he gets the chance lately even if he doesn’t go very far against former champions with more of a killer instinct.
Minoru Suzuki enters his eighth G1 Climax tournament with a chip on his shoulder as Suzuki is no longer the NEVER Openweight champion but he will meet the new champion Michael Elgin in the A Block. It’s a rematch from last year that “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin and Suzuki gets to test himself against “The Rainmaker” again as well. Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki is another match that went to a thirty-minute Time-Limit but in last year’s tournament so it really could be Okada’s time to take the Gotch Piledriver. Elgin always has terrific slug fests against any opponent but he may not fare too well against the array of fast and strong opponents in this Block. Expect Elgin vs. Tanahashi to steal the show in the main event, both are friends in a former tag team “The Unbreakable Aces.” “Hangman” Adam Page heads into the G1 Climax for the very first time after impressing in tag team and singles action even if he is an ROH signed talent. Page showed how much he is willing to put into a match when he challenged Jay White to an IWGP United States Championship match and against Bullet Club buddy, Kenny Omega. Page is going to show a lot of people what he can do in a big match setting although he won’t be going to the Finals over established talent on the NJPW locker room.
The B Block
The B Block consists of the most fresh matches to sink the teeth into, Kenny Omega comes into this year’s tournament as the IWGP heavyweight champion after winning the 2016 G1 Climax tournament as the first ever Canadian to due so. The most explosive and exciting match of the whole tournament is Kota Ibushi vs Kenny Omega as “Golden Lovers” tag team partners collide for the first time in many years in DDT. A match like that is going to stun the fan base with brutality from best friends and leave memories as well as a five-year performance. (Seven-stars if you wish.) It would be quite fitting if Omega was the first IWGP heavyweight champion to win the G1 Climax tournament since the man he beat for the title, Okada, but that is only reserved for times when the champion must choose his challenger while Omega already gets Ibushi in his Block. “The Golden Star” has been pegged as a favorite this year and his matches get fans on their feet every time so why not give him a Championship match? Tama Tonga is going to try to spoil all those plans even as Omega’s friend in Bullet Club but that may all change after this Summer. Tonga came close to pinning Omega last year and he gets just as big of competition this year against smaller athletes like Zack Sabre Jr.
“The Technical Wizard” defied all odds to become the 2018 New Japan Cup winner, any opponent may have the size advantage but they can all be chopped down like tree’s eventually. Sabre vs Omega is a match wrestling fans have never seen or thought they would see so don’t sleep on that main event when it comes up, Sabre is capable of trapping anybody’s arm or leg in a technical clinic to get the victory. Another tag team that clashes this year is Tomohiro Ishii against Toru Yano, the comedy will meet smash-mouth and Ishii wants more than a mixed bag of wins and losses. “The Stone Pitbull” pinned Kazuchika Okada in this tournament three years ago when Okada was the IWGP heavyweight champion, Ishii will bring the ultimate fight to the finish to prove his status as the gatekeeper of NJPW with rematches against Tetsuya Naito and Hirooki Goto.
There are not many that have earned as much respect from the NJPW roster and fan base as Hirooki Goto who enters his whopping eleventh G1 Climax tournament. Goto is a former Finalist, he actually gets another chance to pin or submit Kenny Omega who beat him in the G1 Climax Finals in 2016. The roster tends to get more exhausted by the time it’s halfway through the tournament but Goto seems to only get more motivated by the challenge every single night. Juice Robinson only gets better with every hard fought match as well, he has yet to hold any Championship in NJPW and that just lights a fire even more under Juice and it’s showed in his recent profanity ridden promos. SANADA is a much better singles wrestler than a tag team specialist so he should excel in long matches. SANADA has previously tested himself in everything from IWGP heavyweight Championship matches to X-Division Championship matches in Impact Wrestling so he is ready for all-comers of all styles. Tetsuya Naito has possibly the biggest chance to reclaim glory (or Gloria), Naito was tapped out by Sabre in this year’s New Japan Cup tournament and Naito doesn’t want that to happen again, if ever. Naito and “Best Bout Machine” Omega will face each other for the third time in three years in G1 Climax as only one can go to the Finals.
Kazuchika Okada may be the obvious choice for NJPW booking to win the G1 Climax 28 although the story would be a bit too similar to the path KUSHIDA took last year without the losing streak, losing the Championship only to win the biggest tournament of the year (KUSHIDA won Best Of The Super Juniors last year) to earn a rematch for the top prize in his division. Okada has absolutely established himself as the money maker, pun intended, for NJPW main events and his matches are some of the best you will watch all year long. Okada may go down to “Switchblade” Jay White who could surprise a lot of people to make it to the Finals. The ideal Final match between the A Block winner and the B Block winner this year is Hiroshi Tanahashi against Kota Ibushi or Tetsuya Naito. Naito, Omega and Ibushi will fight to the finish to make it to the Finals by way of points and Kota Ibushi would be just a couple wins away from challenging Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom for the IWGP heavyweight Championship. NJPW does a fantastic job of protecting big matches to not give away too much for the future, Omega vs Ibushi is a match that NJPW fans have clamored for and NJPW can give the former New Japan Cup winner Kota Ibushi the biggest win of his career. Kenny Omega is ready for the best in NJPW but what would he think about the best friend he just reunited with, challenging him for the title he worked his entire career for?