Every summer, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) hosts a 20-wrestler tournament known as the G1 Climax. This year is the 27th iteration of the tournament and it features some of the best wrestlers from around the world today, including some that might be familiar to fans of WWE. NJPW announced that they would be airing weekly episodes of the G1 Climax on AXS TV through the next month or so, and we are going to recap all of it while providing context for wrestling fans that might not normally watch NJPW.
The tournament is set up with a point system as opposed to a typical single-elimination format. One win of any kind (pinfall, submission, disqualification, or count-out) grants the victor 2 points. A 30-minute draw grants both competitors one point and all matches will have a 30-minute time limit. If you lose, of course, you get no points. There are two blocks of competitors, the A Block and the B Block. The G1 Climax is setup in a Round Robin style, meaning that each wrestler will face every other competitor in their respective block before the tournament is over.
Before the show gets underway, Jim Ross takes us through some of the matches that happened earlier on. Yoshi-Hashi defeated Yuji Nagata, Bad Luck Fale of the Bullet Club defeated Toki Makabe, and Hirooki Goto defeated Tomohiro Ishii.
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Hiroshi Tanahashi, known as the “ace” of New Japan Pro Wrestling, is the current IWGP Intercontinental Champion. According to Jim Ross, Tanahashi has been battling for months with a torn bicep, which could be very detrimental to his health. This is a bad strategy against Zack Sabre Jr.
WWE fans will recognize Zack Sabre Jr. from the WWE Cruiserweight Classic last year. Sabre is known for a ground-based, technical style of wrestling focused on submissions that stretch out the body. If Sabre can get his way, he can take advantage of the injured arm of Tanahashi. Sabre also holds some gold of his own, as he is the current Revolution Pro Wrestling British Heavyweight Champion.
Zack Sabre Jr. coils up Hiroshi Tanahashi’s good arm and removes the supportive bandage from Tanahashi’s bad arm to get a bullseye on the target that is the IWGP Intercontinental Champion’s bad arm. Tanahashi has absolutely no way to fight out of the submission, and he has no choice but to submit (he couldn’t tap out because his arms were tied up). Winner (via submission) Zack Sabre Jr., +2 Points
Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito
This is Kota Ibushi’s first appearance in NJPW in about two years. In his time out, he also competed in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic last year, where he showed his incredible talents and put on an instant classic with current 205 Live star Cedric Alexander.
His opponent, Tetsuya Naito, is the leader of Los Ingobernables de Japon and is one of the most critically acclaimed wrestlers in the world today. When Naito plays mind games with Ibushi about being “Tranquilo” like NXT’s Andrade “Cien” Almas, Jim Ross says, “I don’t get it, but it’s entertaining.” To Naito’s credit, being entertaining is what wrestling is all about.
Somehow, Tetsuya Naito kicks out of a piledriver from the top rope and that is exactly what he needed to do because he was on top for the rest of the match. Kota Ibushi kicks out of the Naito’s first attempt at the Destino somersault reverse DDT, but after hitting his signature move for the second time, Naito scores the victory. Winner: Tetsuya Naito, +2 Points
After the match, Naito grabs a microphone and says that this is the second time that Los Ingobernables de Japon have come to Sapporo and he hopes the fans enjoyed his performance. He celebrates by chanting along with the crowd, then it switches gears to him being interviewed backstage. Naito says that he is here to win the entire G1 Climax, so his win over Kota Ibushi is just a warm up.
At the end of the first day, All of today’s winners (Bad Luck Fale, Hirooki Goto, Tetsuya Naito, Yoshi-Hashi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) are all tied for first place at two points at the top of the A Block.
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