Hiroshi Tanahashi Wins the NJPW G1 Climax 28 tournament

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Photo: NJPW

New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) hosted the G1 Climax 28 tournament over nineteen days with several five-star bouts, breakout performances and with twenty competitors in two separate blocks vying for the Wrestle Kingdom 13 main event on January 4 at the Tokyo Dome. “The Golden Star” Kota Ibushi advanced to the Finals after defeating best friend and Golden Lovers tag team partner IWGP heavyweight champion Kenny Omega to get to 12 points in an instant classic in the B Block. Hiroshi Tanahashi didn’t defeat Kazuchika Okada in the Semi Finals of the A Block, but Tanahashi did go to the Finals by way of points with a thirty-minute draw against “The Rainmaker.” Tanahashi’s 15 points made it clear “The Ace” was still a very formidable opponent to anyone in the tournament and not even close to slowing down in the main event picture, even at 41 years of age. It all came down to three High Fly Flow’s to Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi won his third G1 Climax tournament in a nail-biting affair worthy of the Finals. It was a rematch from NJPW Power Struggle for the IWGP Intercontinental championship where Kota Ibushi did everything he could but still went down to the High Fly Flow. Tanahashi last won the G1 Climax tournament in 2015.

Katsuyori Shibata was in Hiroshi Tanahashi’s corner and Shibata even carried Tanahashi on his shoulders after the huge win against Ibushi in the finals, a beautiful show of respect and evidence of how far athletes can go after being rivals in the past. “The Ace” announced at the press conference after his victory in the G1 Climax 28 finals that he would be challenging for the IWGP heavyweight championship, which means if Kenny Omega remains champion the rest of 2018, we have a fresh main event for Wrestle Kingdom 13 – many thought Kazuchika Okada would redeem himself and claim the top spot again, or Tetsuya Naito would win the tournament a second year in a row. While Okada, Naito and others did exceptional, they have wrestled Kenny Omega several times in the recent past. NJPW is the best pro wrestling company in the world for long-term storytelling and Omega vs Tanahashi writes itself when you look at the history going into the match. Kenny Omega ascended to the main events of NJPW and became the top guy in Bullet Club with the losses of AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, so Omega traded the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship with a sound win over Hiroshi Tanahashi in 2016. The rematch was scheduled to be a NJPW’s very first Ladder match for the IWGP Intercontinental championship at NJPW Dominion 2016 but Tanahashi’s history of shoulder problems put a stop to that match and Michael Elgin replaced Hiroshi Tanahashi.

Even at 41, Hiroshi Tanahashi has a lot left in the tank and there is a reason why Tanahashi helped to make NJPW into the promotion it is today. Just over ten years ago, business wasn’t as great as it is now but Tanahashi held the NJPW flag proudly as the spokesman and “Ace” of the company, and role model to fans around the world not just Japan. Minoru Suzuki tested Tanahashi to the limit many years ago at Wrestle Kingdom and Tanahashi had to go through Suzuki again in the first round of the years G1 Climax tournament. Tanahashi survived a brutal barrage of strikes before rallying a big comeback even after having his leg attacked the entire match. Tanahashi had no easy route to the Finals by any means, “Switchblade” Jay White pinned Tanahashi and EVIL put up a fight as well. Now it’s up to arguably NJPW’s biggest star in history to gain momentum and possibly defend his ticket this Fall leading to Wrestle Kingdom 13, the G1 Climax briefcase against White and others before the showdown on January 4.

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