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10 Most Anticipated NJPW G1 Climax 2018 Matches

G1 Climax 28 is utterly stacked, but which matches are set to impress the most?

In recent years, New Japan's G1 Climax has provided some of the best wrestling of the decade. 2017's edition was cited by Dave Meltzer as potentially the greatest tournament in the history of the business, featuring incredible bouts from the likes of Kenny Omega, Kazuchika Okada, Kota Ibushi, and eventual winner Tetsuya Naito.

If any tournament stands a chance of topping last year's incredibly high bar, 2018's G1 looks to have a pretty good chance.

For the unfamiliar, the G1 Climax sees 20 competitors split into two blocks. They then all wrestle in a round-robin format, after which the two block leaders face off in a final. The winner traditionally receives a title shot at Wrestle Kingdom - or, if the reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion wins, they're given the right to pick their challenger.

With the full schedule announced, we've managed to get a good idea of which days will feature the most anticipated matches. Of course, it's impossible to fully predict which bouts will deliver most, but by taking prior storylines into account, we've selected the 10 most unmissable matches.

From hotly-anticipated grudge matches to intriguing showdowns between stablemates, here are the bouts you absolutely cannot miss in this year's G1 Climax.

10. Kazuchika Okada Vs. Jay White - Day 1


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Immediately, Day 1 brings us one of the most intriguing bouts of the entire tournament. From the moment Jay White joined CHAOS, it seemed only a matter of time until the sinister New Zealander attempted to usurp his leader. While that hasn't happened yet, this match should act as a crucial milestone in the evolution of the man known as Switchblade.

It will also be an important bout for Okada, having recently lost his IWGP Heavyweight Championship to Kenny Omega in a truly epic Dominion main event.

White is also coming off a significant defeat, losing the IWGP United States title to Juice Robinson in San Francisco.

Okada will surely be the favourite here, having delivered one of the greatest title runs in wrestling history. However, New Japan are never shy of peppering the G1 with a few huge surprises. There'd be few bigger shocks than the company's ace being usurped by his wild young protege on the first day of the competition.


9. Kenny Omega Vs. Tetsuya Naito - Day 2


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Tetsuya Naito and Kenny Omega did battle in the final of last year's G1 Climax, a wonderful match that eventually saw the LIJ leader triumph. He came up short against Okada at Wrestle Kingdom, and although he's since won (and lost) the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, he hasn't quite regained the momentum he enjoyed in 2017.

In a bold booking decision, New Japan have scheduled a rematch of last year's final for the first night of B Block. The pair have a high bar to live up to, as their 2017 clash was a legitimate match of the year contender. However, nobody should doubt the ability of either man to put on a tremendous match when it counts.

This encounter sees both men in very different positions. The momentum is now all with Omega, riding high after his incredible victory over Okada at Dominion. Naito is in limbo, having lost to Chris Jericho at the same event - although this represents an early chance at redemption. Can he topple the promotion's new top dog?

8. Kota Ibushi Vs. Zack Sabre Jr. - Day 2


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Ibushi and ZSJ found themselves in the same block last year, and will do battle again this time around. Last year's clash was one of the most highly-anticipated of the tournament, with many billing it as the Cruiserweight Classic final that should have been.

WWE's 2016 tournament saw Ibushi and Zack as the two favourites, but both crashed out in the semi-finals (to TJ Perkins and Gran Metalik respectively). They delivered a great match in 2017's G1 - which Ibushi won - but ZSJ gained revenge earlier this year, tying the Golden Star in knots en route to his New Japan Cup victory.

The Brit will be looking to press home the advantage of this mini-feud, but Ibushi finds himself one of this year's favourites. With his tag partner currently positioned as IWGP Heavyweight Champion, the storyline implications of an Ibushi tournament win are mouthwatering.

7. Kenny Omega Vs. Tama Tonga - Day 6


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When the G1 Climax blocks were initially announced, the prospect of Day 6's bout between stablemates Kenny Omega and Tama Tonga was a little interesting - but no more than that. However, recent events have changed everything.

At NJPW's recent San Francisco event, Omega defeated Cody to retain his IWGP Heavyweight Championship and surprisingly reconciled with his bitter rival after the final bell. For the first time in a long while, Bullet Club looked to be united once again. Then, Tama Tonga, brother Tanga Loa, and legendary father Haku attacked - tearing off their Bullet Club shirts and presenting themselves as the new 'Firing Squad'.

Reigning champions rarely win the G1 Climax, which means that unless Omega pulls it off, he's going to have to slip up at some point. This could very well be the moment he does so, facing off against a new and uniquely dangerous foe. Although not the strongest on the mic - especially when compared to Bullet Club's array of charismatic fan favourites - Tama Tonga is a whirling dervish in the ring.

This match originally looked like a potential sleeper hit of the tournament. Now, with an intense storyline behind it, its chances of stealing the show are even greater.


6. Juice Robinson Vs. Kenny Omega - Day 8


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Although titles aren't on the line in the G1 Climax, it's always interesting to see champions clash. B Block promises to pit reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion Omega against the brand new United States Champion Juice Robinson.

It's no exaggeration to say that Juice is one of the fastest-rising stars in all of wrestling. Over the past year he has become one of the purest, most popular babyfaces on the entire NJPW roster, forging a real and raw connection with Japanese audiences. His brand of energetic, fun-loving charisma has really struck a chord.

This affection has crossed seamlessly over to the west, evident in Juice's San Francisco victory over previous champion Jay White. That match hit headlines for various reasons - partly its quality, but also due to a mishap sustained by Jim Ross, who was sent tumbling from his chair behind the announce table.

When Juice meets Omega on Day 8, expect to see a highly-charged affair between two of New Japan's most popular stars. It may lack the gravitas of some of the other matches on this list, but it should more than make up for that in terms of sheer energy.

5. Tetsuya Naito Vs. Kota Ibushi - Day 14


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Last year, Naito and Ibushi got the G1 Climax off to the hottest start imaginable, crowning Day 1 with a match of the year contender. It was also one of the most terrifying bouts of 2017, as both men took incredibly dangerous bumps - including, at one stage, an ungodly piledriver from the second rope.

This time around, the pair will meet much deeper into the tournament, by which point we'll have a much better idea of their respective chances of success. Ibushi is one of the frontrunners right now, and should he go into this match with a real chance of topping B Block, it's hard to see Naito pulling out another victory.

Then again, the LIJ leader came out on top last year, blunting Ibushi's widely-celebrated return to the tournament. It was a slightly surprising result at the time, given Kota's freshness - but all made sense by the time Naito saw off Omega in the tournament final.

Still, if that contest was anything to go by, the result of this match could be a footnote compared to its quality.

4. Kazuchika Okada Vs. EVIL - Day 15


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Last year's major upset saw EVIL topple then-IWGP Heavyweight Champion Okada. Not only did this lessen The Rainmaker's chances of progressing to the tournament final, it also set up the story of his later match with Omega. A physically worn-down Okada was (relatively) easy pickings for the Bullet Club leader, who ruthlessly targeted the neck and defeated his foe at the third time of asking.

That should be all the motivation Okada needs to avenge his tournament loss this time around - although a loss for EVIL isn't perhaps the easy prediction it should be. The LIJ member enjoyed a breakout year in 2017, with that victory proving to be the crown jewel.

He has since settled back into the tag division alongside regular partner SANADA, but may be again primed for a singles push - especially having lost the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship to The Young Bucks at Dominion.

Whatever the result, this could be one of the hardest-hitting bouts of the G1 - and in a tournament also featuring Minoru Suzuki and Tomohiro Ishii, that's really saying something.


3. Tetsuya Naito Vs. SANADA - Day 16


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Jay White and Kazuchika Okada's CHAOS vs. CHAOS bout on Day 1 is certainly full of intrigue, as is Kenny Omega's showdown with Tama Tonga on Day 6. However, both could well be overshadowed by this meeting of LIJ members on Day 16.

Compared to the likes of Bullet Club, the LIJ boys have been very well behaved indeed. The stable features minimal in-fighting, but this bout could prove to be a major flashpoint. SANADA was instrumental in Naito's IWGP Heavyweight Championship victory back in 2016, making his New Japan debut and attacking Okada.

Once Okada won the title back, SANADA had a title shot of his own - but he had to wait a long time to get it. That came earlier this year, and although he came up short, SANADA proved himself to be more than capable of delivering an excellent NJPW main event.

Given their status as stablemates, this is one of the freshest match-ups of the entire G1 - and could even sow the seeds of dissension amongst LIJ's ranks.

2. Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs. Kazuchika Okada - Day 17


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What more can be said about Okada vs. Tanahashi? For years, the pair waged war over control of New Japan - and even though they've clashed in numerous high-profile matches, each new instalment finds a way to be different from the last.

The pair share a truly rare chemistry, although the Rainmaker looked to be finally rid of his foe earlier this year, defeating him to reaffirm his status as the new ace of NJPW - and eclipse Tanahashi's title defence record in the process.

However, it looks as though New Japan's biggest babyface will have another chance to get one over on his nemesis. The pair have defeated each other in Wrestle Kingdom main events, snatched titles from one another, and seen their rivalry blossom into one of the defining feuds of the 21st century. What happens next is anyone's guess - but we'll certainly not be missing it.

1. Kenny Omega Vs. Kota Ibushi - Day 18


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When the G1 Climax blocks are announced, there's usually one bout that stands out above all the rest. 2017's big shock was the fact that Omega and Okada both found themselves in B Block, meaning that the third instalment of their historic trilogy would come around faster than anybody could have imagined.

This year, Omega is again involved in the marquee match - but it isn't against a rival. It's actually against his tag partner, fellow Golden Lover Kota Ibushi. The pair's reconciliation earlier this year was one of the biggest storylines of 2018, but this match could tear it apart.

The pair last fought in DDT, where Omega failed to take the promotion's top singles title from the Golden Star. That was six years ago, which only serves to give this bout an even greater significance.

Additionally, with both men considered frontrunners in the competition, many are predicting that this could be a straight-up epic to decide the winner of B Block.

If you're looking for the most anticipated match of this year's G1 Climax, look no further than Omega vs. Ibushi. It will almost certainly have high stakes, as well as years of history behind it - and, needless to say, two of the finest wrestlers in the world today.

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Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

Head of News at Cultaholic.com | [email protected]