The G1 Climax 28 tournament from New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) this Summer has been an outlet for the top players in NJPW as usual, but there have been five performers in particular that have chosen the perfect time to break out and blossom into main event mainstays. The IWGP Intercontinental champion Chris Jericho isn’t even entered into the tournament due to The Chris Jericho Cruise among other ventures, allowing young heavyweights to step up into championship contender territory. EVIL has scored 8 points so far in the tournament, setting him up as a big threat to Chris Jericho’s Championship at the Chris Jericho Cruise. Let’s focus on the five competitors now that could lead NJPW into new heights as the North American expansion is in full force with several shows in the United Kingdom and the United States now annual events. The goal is to set up a number one contender to the IWGP Heavyweight Champion at Wrestle Kingdom on January 4, but that doesn’t mean the men that didn’t make it to the Finals are exempt from future Heavyweight Championship title matches or a bigger fan following as a result of peak performances in G1 Climax tournament action. Veterans like Satoshi Kojima were sidelined with injury or taken out of the tournament altogether, like “Blue Justice” Yuji Nagata, leaving the door wide open for debuts and upset victories in this year’s NJPW G1 Climax 28 tournament. You won’t want to miss any of the fantastic matches in the G1 Climax tournament streaming on New Japan World but if you have, let’s catch you up on the future stars of NJPW so far and the best performers.
“Hangman” Adam Page
G1 Climax debut. 27 Years old. 2 points as of Aug. 2.
“Hangman” Adam Page had perhaps the best match of his life at ROH Supercard Of Honor in April in a losing effort against Kota Ibushi and his career has only been on the rise since. Page has been known to perform an amazing moonsault and shooting star press but the question was could he bring the fight to talent like Kazuchika Okada? Bad Luck Fale and The Firing Squad tried to ruin Page’s G1 Climax debut before it even got started with a Disqualification in the opening match. Page wouldn’t let that affect his motivation or performance, “The Rainmaker” Okada was rebounding from a losing streak and defeated “Hangman” but it wasn’t an easy win for Okada. Adam Page was not hit the Right Of Passage but he did steal “The Rainmaker” pose and make the most of his first ever NJPW main event by bringing his best to Okada like the Buckshot Lariat. The “Hangman” gimmick of Page and his association with The Golden Elite is secondary now to his marvelous matches and that’s just the way “Hangman” wants it. Michael Elgin wasn’t expecting such a brawl with Page in the G1 Climax but a lot of people weren’t expecting Mr. G1 himself, Masahiro Chono to back Page in the G1 Climax and wear a “Hangman” t-shirt at the commentary booth either. Page is mathematically unable to win the G1 Climax tournament with his amount of points however he has put the world on notice that Page is more than a henchman to Bullet Club or Golden Elite, he’s got his whole career ahead of him at the age of 27.
Adam Page is early in his NJPW career for a far climb in the tournament and his 2 points aren’t what he was hoping for but there are many more tournaments to come for “Hangman.” Several losses will help Page to learn how he could improve in the future and pin the men that don’t think he’s capable of his position. ROH will certainly have their eyes on Page after this Summer, Page can have just as good of a match with a powerhouse like Michael Elgin as a veteran like Hiroshi Tanahashi and Page has yet to capture singles gold. Next, Page is up against Togi Makabe and YOSHI–HASHI in matches that won’t decide who wins the tournament but rather who has stamina left to bring their absolute best to the land of the rising sun.
Second G1 Climax, 29 years old, The IWGP United States champion, 4 points as of August 2
Juice Robinson has been a rare champion that has won by losing throughout the entire tournament, the IWGP United States champion thrives on adversity but his fractured right hand has been more of a determent to his matches than he would like to admit. Juice would have loved nothing more than to come off of his title win at the G1 Special In San Francisco and carry that momentum to a hot start in the G1 Climax 28 tournament but instead he suffered four straight losses. The IWGP United States Championship is still being established much like Juice in NJPW, it’s the job of Juice to elevate that title. The post-show interview showed Juice fired up and ready to defend his Championship against anyone that beats him and proclaiming he will never go back to WWE. The former NXT star is rebounding as we head deep into August, Pulp Friction is a game changer in any match and the audience chants Juice every time he is peril. The NJPW crowd has firmly supported Juice Robinson since his steady improvement the past two years. The cast on Robinson’s hand has even come off in the tournament to show how much he cares about the tournament above even his own well being. We can expect Tama Tonga to receive an IWGP United States Championship title match in the future but for now Juice is riding high on a mixed bag of wins and losses against the very best in pro wrestling.
Last year was really Juice Robinson’s breakout as an all-around performer during the G1 Climax tournament when he defeated Kenny Omega and had a near flawless match with Kazuchika Okada. We are witnessing the maturity of a fan favorite champion in promo ability and in singles matches, Robinson even earned the respect of Kota Ibushi after a great match and received a hug after the bout. Juice tests himself against Tomohiro Ishii in of the biggest matches of Robinson’s career on August 8 in B Block action.
Zack Sabre Jr
Second G1 Climax, 31 years old, Rev Pro tag team champion (with Minoru Suzuki), 6 points as of August 2
The Bullet Club Originals attempt to make of a mockery of the most prestigious tournament in all of pro wrestling while “The Technical Wizard’ attempts to score his third major tournament win of the year, after the New Japan Cup and the PROGRESS Wrestling Super Strong Style 16 tournaments. Tama Tonga was tapped out by Zack Sabre Jr before Bad Luck Fale got involved in the match, the way Sabre has tied up even the top talents of NJPW has proved his stock is only just starting to grow. With Suzuki–Gun by his side and the grappling ability of classic British wrestling icons, Sabre has forced Tomohiro Ishii to tap out and “The Stone Pitbull” submits to nobody. Not only did Sabre submit maybe the tournaments MVP in “The Stone Pitbull” but his match with Kota Ibushi was one of the best matches all summer long so far. Ibushi and Sabre traded big kicks and strenuous holds for twenty minutes but more importantly, Sabre could hold his own against the biggest and the baddest to the most athletic as well on the roster. Kenny Omega pinned Sabre in a match that hasn’t happened since 2013, it was a terrific outing from Sabre who came so close to giving the IWGP heavyweight champion his first loss of the tournament with counter after counter into submission holds. There aren’t many in the world that know as many unique holds as Zack Sabre Jr, his advantage is being able to lock in a triangle choke or any variation of submission from any angle on anybody.
NJPW signed Zack Sabre Jr to a contract after he debuted in the G1 Climax tournament last year, Sabre is the size of a Junior Heavyweight but with the technical abilities of someone way beyond his years. Sabre’s momentum started with a victory over Kazuchika Okada at Strong Style Evolved UK, a joint show with Rev Pro on July 1 and Sabre hasn’t come close to exhaustion yet halfway through the tournament.
Third G1 Climax, 30 years old, 6 points as of August 2
Last year it was EVIL from Los Ingobernobles De Japon that rose to the next level when he had unforgettable matches with Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada, EVIL was legitimately knocked out by Omega and EVIL gave Okada his only pinfall loss in last year’s G1 Climax. Now it’s SANADA that has the fans eating out of the palm of his hand with amazing match after amazing match against a wide variety of opponents in his Block. The B-Block has largely been dominating the tournament with blow-away matches and SANADA is proving to be a future “ace” in the company. What SANADA lacks in charisma he makes up for with his repertoire fused with training from The Great Muta and a repertoire loaded from other living legends like Ultimo Dragon. Kenny Omega found the answer to pinning SANADA and that was with speed and innovation in a near five-star bout. Zack Sabre Jr on the other hand couldn’t outwrestle SANADA and succumbed to his own bridge after being shown up with grappling skills. SANADA showed the world what he could really do that night against Sabre, forgoing the silly Paradise Lock for a serious move-set of submissions and counter holds transitioning right into the Skull End. Tetsuya Naito and SANADA will clash on August 8, it may be SANADA’s moment to prove he is an equal to the Los Ingobernobles De Japon leader and beat him in the process.
“Switchblade” Jay White
G1 Climax debut, 25 years old, 8 points as of August 2
The improvement shown by “Switchblade” Jay White from Wrestle Kingdom 12 in January to the G1 Climax in July is really astounding when you look at not just the matches but the character development from the Kiwi competitor. Jay White has taken the cheap way out to win his matches and earn 8 points in the A Block but White defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi in the process in a rematch where “The Ace” had pinned “Switchblade” seven months prior. The first day of the tournament was White vs Okada in the main event, Jay White made the most of that big match by manipulating the referee and throwing a steel chair in the face of “The Rainmaker” before winning with the Blade Runner. That finishing move has earned White every Marquee win in NJPW since his return from excursion in Ring Of Honor Wrestling and the United Kingdom but a lowblow has helped White pin the best in NJPW as well. This means much more for White in the future as a member of CHAOS and his uneasy alliance with Okada, Okada forgave him because he understands what it takes to win sometimes but will he be so forgiving the next time?
It’s not the wins over top stars Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada right away in the G1 Climax that have fans questioning if it’s too much too soon, it’s the way White has won those matches. Right now NJPW needs to be all about creating new stars in case someone in the main event decides not to resign a contract combined with the North American expansion. Jay White is very smooth in the ring and once his rougher edges are smoothed out, White will be on track to being one of the most successful New Zealand competitors in history. Michael Elgin brought out the best of White in the G1 Climax, White has improved his game to blend power moves with strikes and explosive offense like the dangerous Saito Suplex on the floor. We may see A Block leader Jay White against the undefeated B Block winner, the IWGP heavyweight champion Kenny Omega in the Finals if the tournaments winning trend continues for both. “Switchblade” came into the tournament with a chip on his shoulder from losing the IWGP United States Championship to Juice Robinson at the G1 Special In San Francisco to a rollup and White has been winning ever since. Jay White gets EVIL in a surefire brawl to claim supremacy of the A Block on August 10.