After the results of the August 7 event in Hamamatsu, the final card and match order for August 10 in the Nippon Budokan has been determined.
The time has finally arrived! The G1 reaches its climax this weekend in the famed Nippon Budokan. On August 10, we will see the last A Block matches as one wrestler books their place in the tournament finals. Just who will that be?
Main event: Kota Ibushi (6-2) vs Kazuchika Okada (7-1)
Overall singles record: 2-0 Okada
First G1 meeting.
After the events of Hamamatsu saw Kazuchika Okada and Kota Ibushi move to 14 and 12 points respectively, the A block boils down to this main event. With a draw giving Okada a one point advantage, the path to the final is clear; this is the match that Ibushi must win, and Okada cannot afford to lose.
Even without the high stakes involved in Ibushi vs Okada 3, it would still stand out as a dream match to any fan. This is the first time in over five years that we’ll see Okada versus Ibushi, and in very different circumstances to their March 2014 meeting.
Then, Ibushi was the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion taking on IWGP Heavyweight Champion Okada. A junior heavyweight versus heavyweight clash has become a semi-regular tradition of the annual Anniversary Events, and as has always been the case in these matches, the heavyweight champion Okada took the win. This would be one of the last matches for Ibushi as a junior heavyweight in fact; he would be injured in July and returned in the autumn as a heavyweight, going on to challenge Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 9.
Their one other match against one another, in August of 2013, saw Okada come out on top again, on the away turf of DDT. It’s 2-0 Okada, but in more ways than one, this feels like a first time meeting. In 2013, Okada was representing one promotion while Ibushi, under dual contracts but fighting in the DDT ring he found initial fame in, carried the burden of promotional expectation. In 2014, Ibushi had to represent his weight class and division, while few gave Ibushi any more than underdog status against the heavyweight champion. Now, perhaps for the first time, Ibushi and Okada stand as NJPW heavyweights, on a level footing and with everything to fight for.
8th Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-4) vs Will Ospreay (3-5)
First singles meeting.
After Ospreay won Best of the Super Juniors on June 5, he made reference to an old T-shirt design of Tanahashi’s: one that read ‘Attack for the Next Generation’. ‘The next generation is here!’ Ospreay would say, taking the mantle of leader for his generation of talent, and setting the stage for an inevitable clash. As it happened, the G1 Climax draw would see Ospreay and Tanahashi in the same block, and that first match will take place on August 10.
Mutual respect between Ospreay and Tanahashi is undeniably strong, but Tanahashi will refuse to accept any insinuation that his generation’s time is past just yet. Meanwhile, widely diverging styles between Ospreay and Tanahashi should make for a fascinating matchup; during the Road to Tokyo Dome tour last December, the two made a phenomenal tag team against Kota Ibushi and Kenny Omega, but how might they fare as opponents?
7th Match: KENTA (4-4) vs Zack Sabre Junior (3-5)
Overall singles record: 1-0 KENTA
First G1 meeting.
KENTA fairly exploded out of the blocks in this G1, but his first long form singles tournament in over five years, and first ever time in the ultimate of all tournaments taught a valuable lesson; the G1 Climax is a marathon, not a sprint. After a tremendous four match string of victories, he has sunk to an even record, and out of contention, now seeks to finish with a positive win loss record against the ever dangerous Zack Sabre Junior.
ZSJ also seeks a happy end to a disappointing G1, his first to end with a losing record. To end on a high note, he must beat a man he faced and lost to on home turf during a NOAH UK tour some eight years ago. Both will admit that much has changed in both Sabre and KENTA’s lives since that meeting, and close to a decade of hones maturity, experience and striking and submission skill will be on display Saturday night in the Budokan.
6th Match: Bad Luck Fale (3-5) vs SANADA (4-4)
Overall singles record 1-0 Fale (2016 G1– watch on NJPW World!)
After undergoing a mid G1 lull, it’s safe to say that SANADA has bounced back with authority, putting together a hot streak with defeats of KENTA, Okada and Lance Archer. Now at a respectable eight points, his last match will determine whether he can finish with the double digits that makes so much difference to egos and potential future match making going into the autumn.
In his path is the imposing Bad Luck Fale, who is on his own ‘hot streak’ of defeating top wrestlers ‘fairly’ with ‘wrestling moves’. Yes, the results read that Fale beat KENTA with a schoolboy in Osaka, and (after a years long drought against the Ace) that he defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi with a backslide in Hamamatsu. Yet if asterisks could be entered in the record books, they would say that Chase Owens and Jado played a far bigger role in those wins than mere moral support.
SANADA must be wary of outside interference in his last G1 match, but even then, he knows first hand that Fale is a tough enough customer on his own; it was in the 2016 G1 that Fale bested SANADA with no outside interference, and a thunderous combination of Grenade and Bad Luck Fall. Whether alone or with company, Fale presents a tough route to 10 for SANADA.
5th match: Lance Archer (2-6) vs EVIL (4-4)
First singles meeting.
Lance Archer has been the talk of the wrestling world this G1 for some electrifying performances that have brought him to the brink of victory six times. Unfortunately for him though, Archer’s first G1 in five years has seen him lose each of those six. While his prior record in the tournament saw him log a respectable if not top spot threatening eight points each time, he now sits at just four.
Archer’s performances this year will be remembered by many, but his record won’t be, and his last chance to deliver a convincing result comes against the King of Darkness. A factor all the way to the penultimate night, EVIL was only taken out of the mathematical running officially when he lost to Okada in Hamamatsu. Much like partner SANADA, he has a chance to finish th G1 with a positive win:loss record and he will be eager to take it. Some bitter feelings will doubtless be present for both of these men, and when combined with raw power and love of a fight, we should have an electric start to tournament action on Saturday.
On the undercard, the fourth match will see Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi and BUSHI of Los Ingobernables De Japon face Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi and Jay White. In match three, YOSHI-HASHI, Tomohiro Ishii and Hirooki Goto take on Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Minoru Suzuki and Taichi. The second match sees Tomoaki Honma and Toru Yano take on Toa Henare and Jeff Cobb, and in the opener, Ren Narita and Juice Robinson meet Shota Umino and Jon Moxley.