Time to crack your knuckles, settle down and begin the annual summer marathon of wrestling, as the 28th G1 Climax gets underway!

We’re in the sold-out Ota City Gymnasium in Tokyo for the first of nineteen nights of this mammoth tournament. Don Callis, Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero provide the English-language call.

Toa Henare & Ren Narita vs. Hirooki Goto & Jado
Jado’s back for the first time since King of Pro Wrestling last October… and in gear that makes him look like the bottom half of La Parka. Which is a thing.

Jado and Henare get us going, with Jado throwing some early chops before he’s taken into the corner for some headbutts. He’s staggering around the ropes, but he Flair flops as he’s about to tag out to Goto. Henare manages to make a tag to Narita, who’s forced to withstand some forearms to the lower back before Goto’s brought in. Henare’s back to turn it around as Goto’s isolated for a spell, leading to him taking a Samoan drop for a near-fall as Jado’s forced to break up the cover. Jado ribs us all by throwing Henare into the guard railings, while Narita almost shocks Goto with a sunset flip out of an ushigoroshi for a near-fall, before the eventual ushigoroshi followed for the win. A basic starter that served its purpose, but was missing a few things for me… not something you’ll rush back to rewatch. **½

Toru Yano & YOH vs. Tomohiro Ishii & SHO
An explosion of tag team partners, as Roppongi 3K and Ishii/Yano are on opposite sides!

Despite throwing water at Ishii before the bell, Yano doesn’t want to start… so it’s the explosion of Roppongi 3K that begins the match. There’s a lot of switches on the mat as SHO and YOH looked for any kind of hold, but it’s SHO who draws first blood with a nice dropkick. YOH’s instantly taken into the corner as Ishii comes in to chop his way through him… while laughing off YOH’s attempts to reciprocate.

Forearms from YOH are similarly shrugged off, but he’s able to sneak in a Dragon screw before bringing in Yano… and you know the drill. Except SHO stopped him as we go through the gamut of Yano “trying to be a straight guy”. Which lasts for all of thirty seconds as he swaps an eye rake for a forearm. Off come the turnbuckle pad as Ishii’s slingshotted into the corner, but the referee stops a low blow, and instead we’ve a heck of a Fireman’s carry from Yano!

A brainbuster follows as the ring filled up, with SHO and YOH having a high-paced interchange ending with SHO catching his man with a forearm. YOH’s back up as Ishii nails him with forearms, before recovering to hit some superkicks… only for his headscissors to SHO to get countered as things turned around quickly, ending with a sheer drop brainbuster from Ishii for the win. This was fun in parts, especially “clean Yano”, which should make for a fun and different G1 for him. Ah, who am I kidding? Low blows and roll-ups all the way! **¾

Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay
Maybe it’s teething problems, but the Guerrillas’ entrance video was full of Bullet Club logos, so perhaps the Firing Squad is another sub-faction? Like the nWo black and white/Wolfpack?

They replayed the announcement that if Juice uses the cast on his hand, he’ll be DQ’d… so expect that thread to continue for a while. We started with Loa and Finlay, and it was the former tag champion who looked to be making light work of things, before Finlay escaped and launched in with a barrage of back elbows… only for Tanga to charge him into the corner. Loa tries again for his slam, and gets it before Tama tagged in and choked away on Finlay in the ropes, as it seemed the (relatively) newlywed was there just to take a licking.

Juice leaps off the apron as he sensed Tama was about to knock him off, before Finlay finally sneaks in a back suplex, giving him enough time to tag out. Tama tags out too as Tanga Loa and Juice go at it… but a brief distraction from Tama allows Tanga to hit a lariat as the GOD again take the driver’s seat. A Stinger splash from Tama misses, as Juice is able to come out and double-team Tama with a double-team flapjack for a near-fall, while David Finlay borrows more than just a look from Cactus Jack with a Cactus clothesline. He’s not got long left though, as Finlay climbed the ropes for an uppercut, only to get caught with a Gun Stun as a no-nonsense GOD took home the win. A real good showing from Tama here, but I get the feeling the crowd were rather confused given what happened in San Francisco last weekend. **¾

Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Kota Ibushi & Yujiro Takahashi
Looking to add to his impressive year, Sabre’s in his second G1 – opening up tomorrow against Kota Ibushi. A nice and easy start, eh?

We start with grappling from Sabre and Ibushi, with Sabre getting caught in the ropes… but he still finds time to tie-up a leg before he pie-faces Ibushi. Lucky, Zack’s able to duck away from an attempted kick as he returns to work over Ibushi some more… but Ibushi reverses a knuckle lock, only to get met with a Northern lights and an eventual uppercut as we entered the striking portion of the match.

Ibushi responds with a barrage of kicks and forearms to Sabre, who comes in with an upkick to the arm as TAKA enters the fray, only to get knocked down. Yujiro gets the tag in as the ring fills, but it clears as TAKA pokes him in the eye ahead of an enziguiri. Sabre’s quickly back in for some more uppercuts, but Ibushi’s in too with a missile dropkick to clear the house as Yujiro recovers, Sabre’s forced to escape the Pimp Juice DDT, quickly turning it around with an Octopus hold and… MICHINOKU DRIVER! Sorry, “Zack Driver”, according to TAKA, who’s a proud MC as Yujiro falls to an unexpected finisher… and now Zack’s more than a man who can tie you in knots, as he tells us he’s “bored of being the best technical wrestler in the world”. ***

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA) vs. Bullet Club (Kenny Omega & Chase Owens)
We’re continuing the theme with “matches that could well be G1 finals in any other year”, as our final prelim warms up tomorrow’s main event: Omega/Naito.

Those two look to start, but look, it’s Naito in a tag match. They spoof each other before Chase and SANADA hit the ring to attack them from behind as it’s LIJ who took the early advantage, courtesy of a plancha from SANADA! Thrown back into the ring, Omega’s choked in the ropes by Naito, who uses a cravat in a bid to twist his head off… only for Owens to come in and help turn things back around as Naito found himself in trouble.

A backbreaker from Owens nearly puts away Naito, before he tries – and fails – in a Paradise Lock, stopping to ask for directions from Milano Collection AT. SANADA just stares at the goofball as Naito recovers to hiptoss Owens, before tagging out SANADA… and yeah, I think we know what’s next. Owens gets tripped, and quickly tied up in a Paradise Lock as Milano gave SANADA the thumbs up.

Omega and Naito’s back with flurries against each other, but SANADA’s legal and takes out Omega with a springboard missile dropkick… double superkicks catch SANADA as a Flatliner/Kotaro Krusher takes down Owens. Naito’s tornado DDT gets rid of Omega before SANADA moonsaults into a Skull End on Owens for the quick tap. Decent stuff even if it looked a little rushed and wonky towards the end – the G1 match proper will be miles ahead of this tomorrow. ***¼

G1 Climax, Block A: YOSHI-HASHI vs. Togi Makabe
So, the G1 this year opens up with YOSHI-HASHI, the man who was mocked for even being in the tournament. It’s hard to argue.

The crowd were behind Makabe as he exchanged forearms with YOSHI-HASHI and his Shinsuke Nakamura-inspired gear. YOSHI actually gets the upper hand there, taking Makabe to the outside, whipping him chest-first into the guard railings before returning to the ring with a brainbuster to nearly get the upset.

Don’t break my picks on the first match YOSHI.

Makabe begins to fire back though, catching YOSHI-HASHI with a scoop slam off the ropes, before we’re into the ropes for the mounted punches and a Northern Lights for a near-fall. We’re back to the battling forearms, but YOSHI quickly crumbles, before regaining something with a Western Lariat as he tried to keep Makabe at close quarters. A sit-out powerbomb out of the corner almost saw YOSHI win it as he continued to try and prove a point… but Karma’s elbowed out of as Makabe again runs into a Western Lariat.

A running Meteora from YOSHI keeps the unlikely win on course, and with Karma out of the question Makabe’s trapped in a Butterfly Lock. Makabe fights back, but gets caught with a back cracker as YOSHI goes back to the Butterfly Lock, before hitting a Blockbuster off the top for a near-fall as you perhaps sensed that YOSHI’s going to find a banana peel. Again we go for Karma, but Makabe blocks it, and comes right back with a snap German suplex…

Except YOSHI’s right back up! He goes for another Western lariat, but Makabe meets it with one of his own, then clocks Makabe with a lariat to the back of the head in the corner as he quickly takes him up for a Spider German suplex! The King Kong Knee Drop is next, and that’s two points for Makabe! A wonderful, spirited effort for YOSHI-HASHI, but in the end it wasn’t to be as he started out with an achingly-familiar loss. ***½

G1 Climax, Block A: Bad Luck Fale vs. Hangman Page
We’re into the storyline stuff as we get our first round of Firing Squad/Bullet Club matches… and there’s new music for Page, which sounds very Spaghetti Western.

Fale jumps Page before he even gets to the ring, but the favour’s returned with a tope as Page laid waste to Fale by the guard rails. They head into the crowd as Fale doesn’t want to do it in the ring… and Page falls into the proverbial trap as the crowd scatters for an extended spot of Brookesing. We finally return to the ring as Fale stands on Page in the ropes, but Hangman’s back in with some clotheslines that too Fale down to a knee, before a sunset flip is countered. Fale missed an elbow drop and eats a standing shooting star press for a near-fall, just as Tanga Loa wandered down to ringside. Page tried unwisely to hit a German suplex, and he’s quickly backed into the corner as Fale squishes him with an avalanche, then a big splash for a near-fall.

Page again comes close with a roll-up, as this time he avoids a splash before clotheslining Fale out of the ring! There’s a tease of a dive, but Tanga Loa trips him… then gets clotheslined for his troubles as Page hits a dropkick through the ropes nevertheless. Tanga tries to console Fale, but the pair just get battered with a top rope moonsault as the Tokyo crowd roared behind Hangman, before returning to the ring with a slingshot lariat on Fale for a near-fall.

Commentary teases the Rite of Passage, as does Page… but now Tama Tonga hits the ring and chop blocks Page… and now we’ve a three-on-one beatdown on Hangman as the referee’s shoved… and there’s your DQ. This was a decent match until the run-ins, but perhaps we should have expected something like this – a first-ever DQ in the G1. Page brought a lot of fire, and looks to be set for a good showing… if the Bullet Club war doesn’t derail things. ***

Chase Owens, Kota Ibushi and Kenny Omega make the save for Page as the Firing Squad trio were about to hang him with his own noose – the Bullet Club are strong again in the face of their former friends having turned on them. That Spaghetti Western music fits here too!

G1 Climax, Block A: EVIL vs. Michael Elgin
A battle between former NEVER champions, although Elgin’s run was laughably short in the current era… he has managed to add his logo to his Create-a-Wrestler trunks though, so there is that.

Elgin throws first with chops, before we’re outside and into the guard rail spots as I’m wondering if they just did it in the first match as a rib. More chops ensue as EVIL’s left by the ring post… but he ducks as Elgin charged in with a clothesline, and now Big Mike’s arm is compromised. Having his arm wrapped in a chair, then thrown into the ring post doesn’t do much good either, as EVIL really focused on the arm and shoulder of the Canadian.

A surfboard arm stretch forces Elgin to reverse… but EVIL undoes it all and throws in a knee to the back before Elgin eventually muscles out ahead of a back suplex. We’re back outside with a tope from Elgin, who comes back in with a slingshot stomp to EVIL ahead of a nice deadlift, bridging German suplex that nearly ends the match. EVIL escapes a suplex and boots Elgin… who shrugs it off and hits a bunch of lariats, eventually dumping EVIL onto the mat ahead of a press slam… but he can’t get him up, and EVIL’s able to escape with a thrust kick to the gut. That arm’s again gone back to as EVIL goes for an armbar, only for Elgin to break free… and get thrown onto the apron as the back-and-forth continued. An armbreaker in the ropes keeps Elgin on the defensive, as does an attempt for another one off the apron as they crashed onto the guard railings arm-first.

Elgin just about beats the count-out, but he’s quickly caught in a Banshee Muzzle attempt. It’s escaped as Elgin goes back in with clotheslines – using his bad arm – and a German suplex as EVIL suddenly was on the back foot. Out of nowhere, EVIL hits the Darkness Falls fireman’s carry sit-out powerbomb for a near-fall, before Everything is Evil is countered out of as Elgin hits a Falcon Arrow!

Despite not being able to make a cover, Elgin’s back up with forearms, before EVIL hits some misdirection and a lariat, before a superkick cuts off the STO. There’s another German out of the LIJ member though, but he runs into a lariat from Elgin, who followed up by taking EVIL into the ropes for a superplex! From there, the buckle bomb followed, before EVIL tried to sneak in with a STO, only to get hit with a Splash Mountain and an Elgin Bomb for the win. A hell of a war from out of nowhere – perhaps not the result I was expecting, but definitely hard hitting stuff between two guys who may be limited to spoiling things rather than challenging at the end. ****

G1 Climax, Block A: Minoru Suzuki vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Yes, they really are keeping the Suzuki music that debuted in the UK… and that’s a match we have to get to someday.

These guys are 3-3 in prior singles matches, with the last match coming at the New Beginning in Sapporo back in January, where Suzuki unseated Tanahashi for the Intercontinental championship in a brutal outing. Suzuki pulls no punches as he instantly takes Tanahashi into the ropes with a flurry of palm strikes, but a follow-up boot is caught as Tanahashi tried to come back… but Suzuki quickly goes to a rear naked choke as it looked like there’d already been damage done. A low dropkick takes Tanahashi down, and Suzuki’s going straight to the knee-bar as we’ve shades of Sapporo right away!

Suzuki wrenches away on the knee for a prolonged period, laughing as he goes, before letting go… so he could drag Tanahashi back to the ring and reapply the hold again! Third time looked to be the charm, but Suzuki just rolls through and turns it into an ankle lock as he continued in his bid to stop Tanahashi from walking. Eventually, after many minutes in holds, Tanahashi’s able to make it into the ropes, but he’s having to prop himself up in the ropes, as Suzuki just unloads with a series of kicks to the leg… with Tanahashi catching one and turning it into a Dragon Screw to give him a brief respite.

Limping back into it, Tanahashi hits a running forearm before he whiffed on a flip senton of the middle rope, allowing Suzuki to go right back in with a PK and another knee bar! Tanahashi’s in the ropes again after spending a large portion of the opening ten minutes on the mat with his knee getting wrenched on. Now it turned into kicks to the face as Suzuki was measuring him up, upgrading the boots to those clunking elbows to the head, before more palm strikes left Tanahashi on the proverbial jelly legs.

Suzuki stops it to trap Tanahashi in a rear naked choke, before switching it to the Gotch Piledriver attempt. Tanahashi blocks it, so Suzuki goes back to the knee before ALMOST snatching a win with a crucifix roll-up… but Suzuki’s right back in with the rear naked choke. The Gotch attempt’s stopped as Suzuki’s met with a Dragon screw, and now we’ve got both men with bad wheels! Tanahashi looks to capitalise with a Slingblade for a near-fall, then by going up top for a clunking High Fly Flow… he goes for it again, and despite having his leg twisted off, the frog splash High Fly Flow puts Suzuki away! This was an enduring performance from Tanahashi – a real come from behind win, and proof that while he can never be counted out, Suzuki perhaps isn’t as invincible as he likes to think. ****¼

G1 Climax, Block A: Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada
A G1 debut for the Switchblade, who comes into this having lost his US title one week earlier… and perhaps being a favourite for the mother of all underdog wins against CHAOS stablemate Okada.

Who hasn’t recorded a pinfall victory in quite some time. No pressure, Kazu!

White offered a handshake, but it’s not taken as the pair locked up, before Okada took White into the ropes for his customary mockingly-clean break. Jay didn’t like that, and instantly lashed out at him with chops before he’s taken down with a headlock. They’re outside as White’s taken into the crowd, but Okada has to put on the brakes as the leap over the barriers was stopped… so Okada just followed Jay through the crowd and kept up the fight.

Okada perhaps takes a little too long in throwing him into the barriers again as White counters with a snap side suplex, before throwing Okada between the ring apron and the barriers. Yeah, they went there. Another throw takes Okada into the gate, but White doesn’t want to take the count-out and instead throws Okada back into the ring for another spell of back-and-forth shots.

White uses the ring to his advantage as he pulls off the ring apron and tries to smother Okada with it, before defly re-applying it out of politeness. Gedo pounds the ring to try and rally behind Okada, which sort-of works as Okada fought back up… and quickly gets snapped down to the mat, following in with a pumphandled backbreaker for a near-fall. A Muta Lock followed as White trash-talked Okada… who was able to crawl towards the ropes. Okada’s finally had enough of White’s petulance, but his comeback’s delayed as he hits a DDT to Switchblade, before landing a crossbody off the top by screaming “Scooby Dooby Doo!”. Clearly a fan!

Another Saito suplex from White stops the cartoon dog-loving former champion in his tracks, before a spin-out brainbuster draws a near-fall. Okada fights out of a Blade Runner and traps White in a Cobra Clutch though… only for Switchblade to slip out on the mat and apply one of his own! There’s a lot of mirroring between these two, almost like White’s trying to out-do Okada… and it doesn’t quite work here as Okada got free to hit the neckbreaker slam to buy himself some time. Okada’s able to get back up for a top rope elbow, and we know what’s next… Rainmaker zoom-out! The Rainmaker’s quickly thwarted though as White ducks and turns into a German suplex to almost nail the upset, before he returned to the chops from earlier. Those are returned by way of uppercuts from Okada, only for a lariat from White to draw a near-fall as Okada’s shoulder barely got up.

White turns up the intensity with a huge Saito suplex from the ring to the floor, which almost ended badly for Okada. They replay the San Francisco spot as Jay White suplexes Okada into the railing by the English commentary team, before going back into the ring with a chair. Red Shoes tries to remove the chair, but he gets shoved down as Okada hits White with a dropkick through the chair… followed by a second dropkick as he surged ahead some more. A tombstone dumps White, who then gets caught with a Rainmaker… but the Kiwi accidentally knocked down the referee with a backfist as the ripcord motion spun him out. Oops.

With the referee down, White’s able to cut corners, dropping Okada with a low blow as the Tokyo crowd rained down with boos, as we’re into the final five minutes! A chair’s thrown into the face of Okada as more boos follow… and with the referee still down, White hits the Blade Runner. Red Shoes comes to… and that’s the win! Kazuchika Okada’s miserable run continued – by hook or by crook – as he almost broke his streak, only for Jay White’s underhanded means to steal it. A really good outing here, but one that was lacking something for me… but hey, the story of Jay White going rogue is going to be a fun one to watch during the tournament. ****

Post-match, Jay White gets more hatred from the crowd… he says that he doesn’t care about anyone, least of all Okada, who has been “dying” since his fall at Dominion. Switchblade doesn’t mince his words, and vows that CHAOS is his… as is the G1. We’ll see about that.

So this year’s G1 got off to a really good start, with three top tier matches capped off with the Minoru Suzuki submission parade against Hiroshi Tanahashi. This was the block that was perceived as the “weaker” of the two, so if block B’s opener is going to be a step ahead of this, then tomorrow’s opener is going to be as close to a home run as you can get.

For what it’s worth, here’s block A after their first round:

Michael Elgin, Togi Makabe, Hangman Page, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jay White (1-0; 2pts)
EVIL, Bad Luck Fale, Kazuchika Okada, Minoru Suzuki, YOSHI-HASHI (0-1; 0pts)