Top 5 Anticipated Matches in the 2018 G1
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Top 5 Anticipated Matches in the 2018 G1

June 18, 2018
By: Lou Pickney

With work being done on Sumo Hall (Ryogoku Kokugikan) in Tokyo to upgrade the building ahead of Japan hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics, the last three nights of this year's G1 Climax tournament will be held at Nippon Budokan Hall instead. The massive Budokan building holds north of 14,000 fans (versus ~11,000 for Sumo Hall), and while the final night of the G1 is an easy sell, New Japan might feel it needs a little something extra for the respective final nights of each block in an effort to sell the building out on three consecutive evenings.

The blocks are out for the 2018 G1, and they improved the reveal for 2018 with a really fun video that unveiled the participants one at a time. I'm glad the video NJPW posted on YouTube includes the audible live crowd reaction, which really added to the overall effectiveness of the presentation.

Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, Togi Makabe, Jay White, YOSHI-HASHI, Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page, Minoru Suzuki

Block B: Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, Zack Sabre Jr., Juice Robinson, Tama Tonga, Toru Yano

The dates of the big matches in the G1 will be announced tonight/early Tuesday morning in the United States, so we will know the full schedule for sure soon. But one would figure there are two huge matchups that will be favorites to main event the last two nights: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada on August 10 and Kenny Omega vs. Kota Ibushi on August 11.

Here are the 5 matches I look forward to the most in the 2018 G1 Climax tournament:

1. Kenny Omega vs. Kota Ibushi (Block B)
The big surprise of the block split was Gedo opting to put Omega and Ibushi on the same side, setting up their first-ever NJPW singles match. It should be spectacular.

2. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada (Block A)
The rivalry that helped propel the current Golden Age of NJPW will be renewed once more. Interestingly, they have had two G1 matches in the past, in 2013 and 2016, both of which went to 30-minute time limit draws.

Going back to June 2012, Tanahashi and Okada have had eight matches rated by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter at ****3/4 or above. Their match from Wrestling Dontaku 2018, just last month, received an off-the-charts *****1/2 (yes 5.5 stars) rating.

3. Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega (Block B)
Naito and Omega have had two outstanding matches over the past two G1 tournaments. Their 2016 match in particular was memorable, not only because it had high stakes with the winner of Block B on the line, but also because it led to this photo:

4. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kenny Omega (Block B)
Ishii and Omega had a tremendous trilogy of matches in 2017, all ****3/4, including the final of the tournament in Long Beach to crown the first IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion. I was there at ringside at the Long Beach match in person, which at that point became the greatest match I had ever seen live. I'm glad we will be receiving a part four in 2018, just like we did with the Omega vs. Okada 2017 trilogy.

5. Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii (Block B)
These two mesh together quite well, as evidenced by their five ****1/2 or higher singles matches since 2014. Hopefully this will be given north of 20 minutes in a main event spot on one of the larger market shows.

I realize that this list is Block B heavy, but there are all sorts of great matches to anticipate in Block A, from Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki to Michael Elgin vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi. And on the Block B side I'm also very intrigued by the possibilities in the first-ever Tetsuya Naito vs. SANADA match, while Goto vs. Ishii seldom disappoints.

See any mistakes, omissions, or needed corrections? Please let me know: @LouPickney

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