So it begins…twenty wrestlers compete to win their round robin ten man league and move to the G1 Climax final and one blogger attempts to get through the entire tournament for the first time. I’m looking forward to the tournament and determined to watch every show this year, not just fade out after a few shows. I say that every year, but I’m determined to watch every G1 Climax show this year.
So, let’s dive straight in…
The first match of the 2018 G1 Climax, Togi Makabe vs. YOSHI-HASHI, probably wasn’t the best advert for the tournament. Neither man has set NJPW on fire this year and I was surprised to see them among the participants. Therefore my hopes weren’t too high for this opener but I was pleasantly surprised – this was a decent match that told a good story (underdog Yoshi-Hashi trying to upset Makabe with his big moves) and didn’t outstay it’s welcome. Maybe I’m being generous on the opening night, but I think 3/5 is a fair score. I was entertained throughout and there was certainly nothing wrong with the execution here.
Bad Luck Fale vs. Hangman Page was a 2.5/5 for me. I appreciate Bad Luck Fale’s role in G1 Climax tournaments as the big monster heel but I can’t say I enjoy watching all his matches. His slow, methodical style makes sense but it’s not something I want to watch nine times in quick succession. Again though, this match didn’t outstay it’s welcome and I got what I wanted from it, namely Page looking pretty good in his G1 Climax debut and some storyline advancement from the G1 Special between the Bullet Club and the Firing Squad. I was surprised Hangman Page won here, but the DQ finish makes sense – Fale stays strong and the interference from the Firing Squad sets the scene for the rest of the G1 Climax.
Michael Elgin vs Evil was an odd one for me…I wasn’t really into the match, until the last five minutes or so, which I thought were excellent. Lots of great counters and big moves, but there was a fairly slow ten minutes before we got to that point. My gut says 3/5, but maybe I’m being harsh on two guys who wrestled their first of nine matches at a sensible pace.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Minoru Suzuki was a continuation of their match from the New Beginning shows (3/5). This was a much shorter chapter in the story, but one I felt was necessary, mainly Tanahashi fighting back and getting a measure of revenge over Suzuki. The match itself was mostly Suzuki attacking Tanahashi with various heel hooks, knee bars and even a figure four leglock until Tanahashi caught Suzuki with a nasty looking inverted dragon screw, a Switchblade and two High Fly Flows. I think I expected a bit more from this match, but again, it’s sensible pacing from two veterans on the first night of a nine match tournament.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White was a match I was looking forward to and I wasn’t disappointed (4/5). This night was a coming out party for Jay White, following on from his superb match with Juice Robinson at the G1 Special. By the end of the post match I felt like White had been elevated towards the main event. The story here was Okada underestimating White and getting destroyed by the sadistic and opportunistic White. The in ring action was good, with White hitting lots of vicious chops and suplexes to Okada and generally controlling the match. I did like how they protected Okada’s Rainmaker finish, by having White smack the ref before Okada caught him with the lariat, that’s something I’ve not seen before and fits White’s devious character.
While the action was good, the presentation of White as someone looking to destroy the Chaos faction he and Okada are members of and the portrayal of Okada as the former champion in the midst of a slump were excellent. It’s this type of storytelling that makes the G1 Climax so unique – there’s now a hook to the next round of the tournament to see if White can continue his strong start (he faces Tanahashi next) and if Okada can bounce back from this defeat.
Overall – A decent first night of G1 action. I’d say every match was watchable, with the main event being a must see for both the action on display and the story line development. I’d give the card 3.10/5.00 overall.