This summer, the NJPW G1 Climax 28 tournament from New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) had not one but two near unstoppable forces in Kenny Omega and Tomohiro Ishii, both of which could be considered the MVP of this year’s annual tournament. Omega looked to show why he is “The Best Bout Machine” with five-star matches, while “The Stone Pitbull” won match after match. Ishii defeated every single singles heavyweight champion in NJPW clean during the G1 Climax 28 with the exception of Chris Jericho, who wasn’t entered in the tournament. IWGP United States champion Juice Robinson and NEVER Openweight champion Hirooki Goto went down to Ishii and the IWGP heavyweight champion was next.
Kenny Omega and Tomohiro Ishii battled on the fourteenth day of G1 Climax 28 in a war that left both bleeding from the mouth by the time the bell rang. Kenny Omega struck with V-Trigger knee strikes and Ishii answered with Lariat’s. Kenny Omega may have pinned SANADA and some of the best in NJPW but it would be his best friend and tag team partner, Kota Ibushi, and Tomohiro Ishii that would pin the IWGP heavyweight champion’s shoulders to the mat. Kenny Omega did everything he could to beat Ishii including standing toe-to-to with one of wrestling’s best brawlers, all with a fractured heel. Tomohiro Ishii has proved year after year to be the man to beat in the G1 Climax tournament, even Kazuchika Okada was pinned by Ishii in the G1 Climax tournament in 2015 when Okada was the IWGP heavyweight champion. Ishii went so far as to attempt to steal the One Winged Angel that Omega used but it would be the deadly Brainbuster from Ishii that would pin Omega and secure a future IWGP heavyweight championship match for “The Stone Pitbull.”
It is not necessarily tradition that anyone that beats the IWGP heavyweight champion in the G1 Climax tournament gets a shot, but it is a way to secure a top contender heading into NJPW’s biggest event, Wrestle Kingdom on January 4. Hiroshi Tanahashi was the winner of the G1 Climax 28 tournament, “The Ace” heads into the main event with the title shot briefcase firmly in hand. Kenny Omega has come a very long way to reaching the top spot in NJPW and it wasn’t easy, coming from a Junior Heavyweight to the heavyweight division, taking the main position in Bullet Club along the way. Omega is one of the most complete pro wrestlers on the planet, able to go from high-flying to strong style in an instant. Even though Tomohiro Ishii is the veteran going into NJPW Destruction In Hiroshima this is quite possibly the biggest match in the career of Tomohiro Ishii. The main events have been reserved for Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito in the past few years in NJPW, Tomohiro Ishii has outstanding matches just like the men above him on the card yet Ishii never got his title shot. Omega and Ishii feuded last year in three bouts, in the NJPW New Japan Cup and NJPW Wrestling Dontaku, with the third culminating at the NJPW G1 Special In USA for the inaugural IWGP United States Championship in the Finals that Kenny Omega won.
NJPW has been the home of twenty-two year veteran Tomohiro Ishii since 2006 full-time when the NEVER Openweight Championship held a certain kind of prestige as a new championship in the company. Ishii not only helped to elevate the careers of Katsuyori Shibata, Tomoaki Honma and Tetsuya Naito but Ishii made the championship mean more in his grasp – it was the “prizefight” title in NJPW for quite some time. The IWGP Heavyweight Championship has to be the elusive prize at the end of a hard-fought career for Ishii, the real reason every competitor in NJPW wrestles night after night for a living. Kenny Omega has more than deserved his spot and smart money says Omega retains but Tomohiro Ishii will always be the best wrestler in NJPW to never be “the man” if Ishii loses.
Tomohiro Ishii is a member of CHAOS going into the September 15th main event and Kenny Omega represents The Golden Elite with The Young Bucks and Kota Ibushi. The blood will be likely spilled like the last time and there are no thirty minute time limit restrictions this time. Kenny Omega will surely retain his second title defense after beating Cody at the NJPW G1 Special In San Francisco, gearing up for a first time IWGP Heavyweight Championship defence against either Hiroshi Tanahashi or Kazuchika Okada, depending on who wins that match at NJPW Destruction In Kobe one September 23.