It all started on July 14, and it culminates here. The Golden Star against the Ace, for a shot at the IWGP championship at WrestleKingdom. Let’s do this.
“I don’t know why don’t wanna know, Break the contradictions as you go” – that song will remain in my head forever after this… our final commentary team is Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero and the returning Chris Charlton!
Yuji Nagata, Shota Umino & Ayato Yoshida vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Michael Elgin
Technically a main show debut for Kaientai Dojo’s Ayato Yoshida here, who’s been in the Lion’s Gate Project shows. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end!
Nagata sent his partners to charge in at the bell, as they made the decision to focus on Honma from the off, but after taking a missile dropkick Honma eventually gets free and hits a side elbow on Umino. In comes Makabe, who easily slams Shota, before Honma’s brought back in to chop and club away on Umino, slamming him for… Kokeshi! Elgin tags in and floors Umino with some stinging chops, but the Young Lion’s able to try for a sunset flip… only for Elgin to pull him up and go for another chop. A dropkick from Umino misses, before he hits at the second attempt, and here comes Nagata! The stuttering low dropkick from Nagata hits Honma’s knee, before he goes after Elgin… only to get rocked with a superkick and an enziguiri.
Mounted punches from Makabe are next, but Nagata blocks the Northern Lights and eventually lands his Exploder. Yoshida’s brought in to complete the set, but his shoulder tackles to Makabe need three attempts before they succeed… before he ooh the crowd with a kick to the back, then front of Makabe. He continues to throw forearms before Makabe drops him with a lariat for a near-fall, as the veteran worked up to the King Kong Knee drop for the win. Fine for what it was – the Young Lions got some good exposure here, and the fact that New Japan put another group’s guy on this show can only be encouraging. ***
Toa Henare vs. Bad Luck Fale
Well. Be careful what you wish for, Henare…
Henare charged into Fale before the bell, throwing forearms a-plenty, before a leaping shoulder sent the big man staggering into the corner. A leap into the corner almost leads to the Grenade, but he escapes and hits another shoulder off the top rope. A Samoan drop perhaps wasn’t a good idea as Fale doesn’t go up… and there’s not much longer left for Henare after he takes a lariat, a Grenade then a Bad Luck Fall to complete the squash.
This is going to grow into something down the line…
Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka & Taichi) vs. Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI
“Some people wanted this guy in the G1.” We ignore those people, Chris…
Taichi managed to sing his whole song before we even got sight of Takashi Iizuka, so… is this a handicap match? Nah, Iizuka’s coming from behind with a chair and lays waste to Goto on the outside, while Taichi tried to work over YOSHI-HASHI, only to get taken down with a ‘rana. Iizuka sneaks in a chair shot as Taichi had the ref unsighted, and we’ve a tag in as Iizuka finally gets unchained to nibble away on YOSHI in the corner. Determined to get a better taste, he removes the tape that holds on YOSHI’s shoulder… but at least YOSHI gets free from his teeth and comes back with a Head Hunter.
Goto gets the tag in and instantly goes for Taichi, suplexing him onto Iizuka… but the Suzuki-gun tandem turn it around after some more biting. YOSHI-HASHI returns to dropkick Taichi off the ropes for a near-fall, but Taichi fights back with kicks as YOSHI tries to chop, only to run into a Western Lariat.
Taichi grabs the referee to block Karma, as Iizuka’s interference fails… not to worry though, a superkick from Taichi hits flush, as does his Axe Bomber lariat as he nearly puts away YOSHI. Off comes the tear away trousers, and Taichi quickly follows up with a Last Ride powerbomb for the win. I got up early for this?! Slow, plodding and didn’t really do much until the post-match as Angry Taichi resumed his focus on Goto’s title. Join the queue. *½
Bullet Club (Cody & Hangman Page) vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay
Thumbs up for David Finlay, as Budokan seemed to take to that little trophy…
Again, Juice removes the tape from his fist, but we start with Finlay and Page exchanging takedowns as the pair got in each other’s faces early on. A tag brings Cody in, then Juice, who looks to slap his ass rather than do push-ups, before he suckered Cody in with armdrags and dropkicks. Finlay’s back to knock Page off the apron, before Cody spits at him… giving up a Benny Hill chase that ended with Cody pulling Finlay down to the floor. Back in the ring, some kicks keep Finlay down, before Page tags in for the bridging pumphandle fallaway slam as Finlay found himself isolated for a spell… taking some nasty double-teams, including a front suplex onto Page’s knees for a near-fall.
Eventually Finlay hits a diving uppercut before tags took us to Juice and Page, with the latter eating some nasty lariats before Juice headed up top for a crossbody. Juice outsmarts some attempted interference from the Bullet Club pair, only to run into a basement uppercut as he eventually set up his opponents for a cannonball.
Page quickly hits back with a discus forearm as the ring fills, and we settle down to Cody blasting Juice with some Dusty punches… before he’s met with a double-team flapjack. Cody’s gotta push out of Pulp Friction as the ring fills again, then empties as we get duelling Dusty punches, which led to Cody snatching the win with Dins Fire. So much for Zack Sabre Jr. challenging for that title, eh, as Juice has yet another name on his list of contenders! This got pretty good towards the end, which was a good way to snap us out after two nothing matches. ***¼
Cody grabs the mic afterwards, and decries how he’s Juice is “doing a bad impression of Kairi Sane”, before demanding a title shot. Huh.
NEVER Six-Man Championships: Taiji Ishimori & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Marty Scurll & Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) (c)
Well, we didn’t know what side of the “Elite/OG” divide Taiji Ishimori falls on, but we guess that because Tama Tonga brought him here… he’s with the Tongans. For now.
Tanga Loa calls his trio the “only Bullet Club”, then needs to be prompted about their opponents, who were less than impressed with their lack of entrance. They demand a trios title match, and with the approval of Harold Meij at ringside, we’ve got it.
Tama and Matt start off trading blows, before the ring quickly fills. They head outside as the camera crew has a hard time keeping up, with Marty Scurll and Taiji Ishimori being focused on by the production team, before switching to the Young Bucks tope’ing into the Guerrillas. Some punches from Tama turn it back around as Matt finds himself firmly on the defensive, eating a Tanga Loa jackhammer for a near-fall.
Ishimori gets the next tag in as he snaps at Matt’s neck, who just can’t get a break, or any sort of offence in as the OG crew tried to keep him isolated. Matt finally gets free and brings in Nick, who launches into the Guerrillas with kicks as he mounted a one-man comeback as the Bucks started to ease into their usual gameplan. Tama’s forced to fight out of More Bang For Your Buck, before he sidesteps as the Bucks collide into each other. A Tongan Twist spiked Matt awkwardly as Nick hit back with a superkick… before Scurll and Ishimori tagged in, with Taiji hitting a nice handspring corkscrew to Marty. The baseball slide German’s next, then a springboard seated senton as Ishimori came close, but the Elite trio tried to hit back with a trio of submissions, only for Tama Tonga to break it up with an eye rake.
Nick’s springboard moonsault laid out the Guerrillas on the outside as they looked to put away Ishimori with a triple-team. There’s a blind tag by Tama Tonga, who bides his time before coming in to try and Gun Stun the Bucks… only to get shoved off into a superkick as they tried a Meltzer Driver on Ishimori, who still wasn’t legal. In the end, the ring stays full, but Tama stays legal and hidden as the referee doesn’t enforce the whole legal man thing, which means he can hit Marty Scurll with a Gun Stun to save Tanga Loa from a finger snap… and we have new champions! So after one defence, we’ve another hot potato title change. This was… there, I guess. There was something about this match I just couldn’t get into – it’s another chapter of the Bullet Club story, but that’s perhaps all you need to take away from this. **¾
After the match, Tama Tonga does a Naito and throws down the belts.
They announce WrestleKingdom 13 for next year. Yeah, it’s January 4th. Big shock, eh?
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr., Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI)
Well, after Sabre spoiled Naito’s G1 last night, we’ve got this undercard tag as there’s presumably some afters to be had.
We’ve a jump start as Suzuki kicks Naito while he stared down Sabre at the bell, and we’re quickly on the outside, with Naito getting tossed into those guard railings. Suzuki grabs a chair as the usual mass brawl continued, but Naito gets one too before the pair just exchanged slaps on the outside. Back in the ring, Suzuki elbows Naito repeatedly, before he wrenched away on the leg, then grabs a rear naked choke ahead of a Gotch piledriver attempt… but Naito fights free, only to get kneed in the gut. Naito remains cornered as he’s buried under a trio of boots, before he’s caught with a hanging armbar off the apron as Suzuki tried to detach his arm from his shoulder.
Naito tries to muster something when Sabre tags in, and manages to land an enziguiri and a neckbreaker… before Suzuki just rushed the ring again. A flying forearm from Naito works though, and finally he gets the tag into EVIL, who has to hiptoss away from an Octopus stretch from Sabre. The back senton squashes Zack for a two-count, as EVIL maintained the upper hand with a thrust kick to the gut, before Darkness Falls was countered out of and into a key lock! Nevermind, EVIL counters out into a Fisherman buster, before BUSHI came in and managed to take down the junior tag champs with a single ‘rana! In comes SANADA to trap Kanemaru in a Paradise Lock… Desperado quickly undoes it as SANADA gets quadruple-teamed, leading to a spear from Despy and a Deep Impact DDT from Kanemaru for a near-fall.
Kanemaru tries to block a suplex, but can’t avoid a trio of low dropkicks from LIJ as the ring again fills, with Suzuki again trying to remove a limb from Naito – not caring which one he goes for – while Kanemaru tries for the whiskey mist… it backfires though as SANADA ducks and takes him into the ropes for an O’Connor roll into the Skull End for the submission. This was really entertaining, although the key takeaway here is they’re going back to Suzuki/Naito. Hopefully with a better singles match this time around. ***½
Post-match, Suzuki went for the arms of any Young Lion he could get hold of, before Yota Tsuji took a rear naked choke, as Yuya Uemura had to save his fellow rookie from a Gotch piledriver. He gets slapped for that. As you should.
Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Jay White vs. Bullet Club (Kenny Omega, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens)
Hey Jay, try and boss one of your partners around today. No, not the one with the DVD…
Owens and White start us off, working over a hammerlock and reversals before White connected with a series of chops to try and keep the Crown Jewel at bay… except Owens broke free and issued some receipts before White scarpered into the corner and tagged in Yano. Yujiro’s in too, but he takes a chop to the back of the head before he bit at Yano. There’s an attempt to go for the turnbuckles, but Owens and Omega stop him, and it’s not long before Kenny’s gotten the tag in as the Bullet Club trio start to work over Yano with wishbone leg splitters.
— Italo Santana 🇧🇷 (@BulletClubItal) August 12, 2018
Yano’s partners go to make the save, but it backfires as we have some six-way rowing, with Jay White (and just about everyone but Kenny) just straight up ogling Pieter as she was invited in to dance. Omega breaks it up, but gets his hair pulled by Yano as in comes Tomohiro Ishii to light up the IWGP champion. Kenny tries to return the favour, but Ishii just laughs it off before he eats a pair of superkicks ahead of a Complete Shot/Kotaro Krusher combo for a near-fall.
With the numbers game against him, Ishii takes the fall as Chase looked for the package piledriver… but Ishii back body drops free as Yano and White hit the ring to turn the tables. Chase ends up 1-on-3 down, eating a spinning uranage from White and a sliding lariat from Ishii for a near-fall. Owens actually takes down Ishii from a lariat after a heck of an exchange between those two… but Chase again goes for the package piledriver and runs into a lariat from Ishii, who quickly finished off the Crown Jewel with the sheer drop brainbuster for the win. It’s a question of when, not if we’re getting Ishii/Omega… and I cannot bloody wait! ***½
There’s a weird video for the arrival of Sengoku Enbu – a wrestler patterned after the tour sponsor. Of course it’s fricking Taguchi.
Rey Mysterio Jr., KUSHIDA & Sengoku Enbu vs. Kazuchika Okada & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
So, after appearing in a trios match at Dominion, Glow-in-the-Dark Rey’s back in another six-man, where his partners included KUSHIDA on a hoverboard (kinda).
It’s Okada and Rey who get us going, with Okada finally back in his Rainmaker-ish gear after his summer of “finding himself”. Rey Rey’s quickly at Okada with headscissors before a slide under nearly gets caught and turned into a Rainmaker… before he impressively hit a Victory roll to the outside and ‘rana’d Okada back in. I have no other way to describe that! Back inside there’s a 619 that Okada avoids, before KUSHIDA and SHO tag in, exchanging shoulder charges before a dropkick takes SHO down for some arm scissors. The ring fills to clear the opposing apron… while Okada tries to rip off Sengoku Enbu’s mask on the outside. YOH’s in with a hiptoss to KUSHIDA for a near-fall as we keep it on the mat, but it’s the CHAOS team who seem to be in control here, making things look easy against KUSHIDA.
Finally in comes Sengoku with hip attacks, before he avoids a low dropkick out of SHO… a bulldog out of the corner works, before a standing moonsault sees Enbu land on his head en route to the landing. He able to get a near-fall before he pulls SHO into an ankle lock, but SHO escapes and counters a hip attack into a German suplex as Okada returned to the fray. Okada seems angry by the mere presence of Enbu, who manages to score with a hip attack before bringing Rey back into play. A springboard crossbody from Rey almost backfires as Okada looked for a tombstone, before he instead scored with a flapjack. YOH’s in to try and sneak a win with a roll-up, before Roppongi 3K cracked Rey with duelling knees. Rey counters the 3K with a tornado DDT, before he sent SHO and YOH into the ropes…
You know what’s next… Okada dropkick! The crowd HATED that! Instead, Okada and SHO get sent outside for a pair of dives from KUSHIDA and Enbu, while Rey looked to go back after YOH, wheelbarrowing him into the ropes ahead of a 619, before the springboard splash put away the former junior tag champ. A fun diversion, but you’d like to think that this is more than just Rey fulfilling contracts – which is the feeling I can’t help but get unless they built to something… ***¼
Post-match, Rey Mysterio gives out fist-bumps to the Japanese commentary team.
They play a video package recapping the G1, and how both finalists got here… will Tanahashi become a three-time winner, or will Ibushi win his first ever G1?
G1 Climax 28 Final: Kota Ibushi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
There’s no time limit folks, and given we’re not even two and a half hours in, I think we’re in for a long one! Kenny Omega was out in Kota’s corner, while Katsuyori Shibata was in Tanahashi’s corner. Goosebumps.
They start off slowly, with Ibushi and Tanahashi working on each other’s arm, before the pair rolled into the ropes. That feeling out process continued, with Tanahashi grabbing a headlock, but he’s taken down with headscissors as Ibushi tried to keep his foe at close quarters as somehow we’re already five minutes deep.
Ibushi manages to break free with a kick to the chest, but a low dropkick from Tanahashi puts Kota on the mat as he began to work over the legs. Can’t fly if you can’t stand! A triangle Scorpion hold – known in the West as the Edgucator – keeps Ibushi at bay before we get to a rope break, and Ibushi’s quickly back in with a kick. There’s a scoop slam out of the corner and a springboard moonsault for Ibushi for a near-fall, but his knee’s already hurting… not like that matters though, as a dropkick followed, taking Tanahashi to the outside, where he’s met with a double stomp on the apron as Ibushi avoided a Drive-By dropkick!
— Italo Santana 🇧🇷 (@BulletClubItal) August 12, 2018
Shrugging it off, Tanahashi baits Ibushi in with some kicks, catching one and turning it into a Dragon screw before he looked for a High Fly Flow. Ibushi looked to counter it into a lawn dart, but Tanahashi countered back with a Slingblade! The Shibata-ish dropkick in the corner followed, with a knowing nod, but Ibushi’s back up to trade some elbows before Tanahashi goes low. A low bridge looked to take Tanahashi outside, but he holds onto the rope and skins the cat… only for Ibushi to catch him and drag him in for a package tombstone that almost went horribly wrong.
— Italo Santana 🇧🇷 (@BulletClubItal) August 12, 2018
Somehow, Tanahashi’s able to leap back in with Dragon screws, before he catches Ibushi with a cloverleaf. We’ve a rope break, but there’s a Dragon screw to take Ibushi outside, as Tanahashi meets him there with a High Fly Flow! My feed stutters at the worst moment as they trade places, with Ibushi crashing into Tanahashi with Golden Triangle moonsault from the middle of the ring!
— Italo Santana 🇧🇷 (@BulletClubItal) August 12, 2018
Returning to the ring, there’s a springboard missile dropkick from Ibushi, then a top rope ‘rana, spiking Tanahashi on the way down for a near-fall after the Ace had looked to have fought free. Ibushi keeps up the tempo with a half-nelson suplex for a two-count, before he seemed to set up for Kamigoye… Tanahashi barely avoids it and rolls up Ibushi for a near-fall, before he takes a Bomaye knee instead.
A series of thunderous palm strikes put Ibushi back in front, with Kota throwing some rather petulant back heel thrusts as Tanahashi was trapped in the corner… and that fires up the Ace as he Hulked up, taking Ibushi into the opposite corner for some good old fashioned receipts, before a lariat from Ibushi left the cameras SHAKING! There’s more strikes as the pair looked to get back to their feet, relentlessly going back-and-forth with elbows, then uppercuts before another palm strike rocks Tanahashi. Nevermind, a short-range Slingblade nearly gives Tanahashi the win, as did a strait-jacket German suplex, before a High Fly Flow crashed and burned into Ibushi’s knees. Another Bomaye knee strike connects as we sail over the half-hour mark – and this feels like it’s flown by… much like those moonsault double knees saw Ibushi fly into the chest of Tanahashi, bouncing off of his sternum!
— Italo Santana 🇧🇷 (@BulletClubItal) August 12, 2018
After being used as a human bouncy castle, Tanahashi’s lawndarted into the corner, then taken onto the apron as the deadlift German suplex loomed large… and connected with surprising ease given how deep they were into the match. A Last Ride powerbomb quickly followed, but Tanahashi gets a shoulder up at the last possible second as there seemed to be just one thing left. Down goes the knee pad… but Tanahashi escapes Kamigoye and takes a strait-jacket German for a near-fall.
But Ibushi still has the wrists, and he rolls Tanahashi up… only to get met with Twist and Shout! Tanahashi clings on now, chaining those neckbreakers together before Ibushi escaped and starts back with the palm strikes. One misses and gets met with a Dragon suplex for a near-fall, but Tanahashi’s able to head up for a High Fly Flow to the back… and this time there’s no time limit to run out! A second High Fly Flow… has to be a crossbody as Ibushi’s back to his feet, so Tanahashi goes up for a third time… it connects, and your Ace wins the G1! Three-peating in the G1 after an insane match that left Budokan in a mixture of heartbreak, awe and joy. Simply put, this is another match to stick to your “I have to watch this” list, as somehow Hiroshi Tanahashi has put himself right back up towards the top of the mountain. *****
Kota Ibushi looked broken after that, but he backed off to give Tanahashi his moment in the sun, and please don’t break the flag again Tanahashi!
Cue the air guitar celebration as Budokan were left happy… and that’s the G1 done. What do we do with out lives now?!
As a finals, this was a card that only needed to be a one-match show… which is just as well really. While it had its moments, a fair bit of the show was underhelming in parts, furthing the Bullet Club story while planting seeds for down the line. There’s pretty much a month off for New Japan after this, returning on September 5 in Aichi for the start of Road to Destruction, a tour that’s almost surely guaranteed to give us Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii. I. Cannot. Wait.
And since you’ve read this far – you’ve probably watched it all… but we cannot finish without heaping praise on the English commentary team throughout the tour: Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero were understated throughout the tour, and the late addition of Chris Charlton for translation and historical tidbits was like unearthing a gem. As much as the English commentary team on the “other” live productions of New Japan shows have been buried, this crew was the total opposite. President Meij, can we keep Kevin, Rocky and Chris forever?