History was made this past weekend as New Japan began their annual marathon tournament outside of Japan.
Dallas, Texas played host to day one of the G1 Climax 29 with a who’s who of the big leagues to open up the tournament. KENTA making his bow against Kota Ibushi, Will Ospreay looking to upset the odds like he did in the New Japan Cup against Lance Archer and the small matter of NJPW legends Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi starting their A Block journey going head-to-head.
With the second day a few short days away, let’s take stock with what we witnessed and discuss what we can take away. Here are five things we learned from Day One of the G1 Climax 29.
1. Small Crowd Can Sometimes Equal Big Noise
Many people commented on the fact that New Japan failed to sell out the 20,000 seat American Airlines Centre in Dallas, and only really managed to fill it to about 25% capacity.
However, with the 4-5,000 in attendance you would not have noticed, as they were rabid from the off and kept that tempo up all night long. By the main event, the crowd were still as vocal as ever and added to an already epic Okada-Tanahashi match.
2. Zack Sabre Jr Cannot keep His Promises
Sadly, ZSJ isn’t going to do a clean sweep as he prophesied, falling to SANADA in his first match. I was looking forward to him tapping out all and sundry, and coming into Royal Quest on a super hot run of victories.
Sadly he lost his opener so can’t complete the clean sweep, but on the flip side, maybe he can follow his dream of tapping out Okada, and once he’s dispatched Kazuchan he can go to Ibiza and “‘av it large”.
3. Ospreay Falls At First Major Hurdle
I did wonder how Ospreay and Shingo would maintain their high level of performance coming out of BOSJ. The truth is, Will couldn’t get the win when he came against Lance Archer.
It remains interesting if he can recapture that form and get back to winning ways or whether this will be a very long tournament for him as he lurches in increased states of tiredness from match to match as his exertions from earlier in the year catch up with him.
4. KENTA is the real deal
In beating Kota Ibushi, Kenta has proven that he’s not in New Japan for a quick buck and to just make money – he’s here to win and with the endorsement of Katsuyori Shibata, he’s proving his worth to the company. I’m hugely excited about his potential with his new employees and I believe that this change of scenery could reinvigorate him and his career. I can’t wait to see how far he goes in the tournament because a tournament with sustained success would do him a world of wonders.
5. Okada can beat Tanahashi in the G1
They’ve had 3 matches in the tournament’s history so far and all had gone to time limit draws, so it must have felt like a huge weight of his back for Kazuchan to get a win within the time. It looks like he’s primed for a big tournament this year and if he makes it to the final he gets to choose his opponent for Wrestle Kingdom.
My hope is either he wins every match and picks ZSJ as he pushed him the closest to losing (in my virtual story I’m creating), or that this match is an unprophetic fallacy and he doesn’t win many other matches in the G1 and my favourite Zacky boy gets him to tap out, so he can take him on in the UK in August.
Saturday night set the tone for this years tournament as a real all-star league, showcasing the best of New Japan have to offer. In spite on the lack of major crowd for a major promotion, you would not have noticed as everyone played the part to deliver a fantastic opening day salvo.
New Japan are returning to the US in September, but a key question to be asked is should they do something this big again? For me, my answer is yes, but not here. The American market is so crowded as it is, New Japan is gonna get hounded out by some of the more flashier promotions. Starting in the UK (we can dream) or even Australia would be a nice idea, especially with the Olympics there next year.
It was a bold experiment that left New Japan with far more positives than negatives, that’s for sure.
You can find me on Twitter @PBWrites92. Thanks for reading.