|It's G1 time, baybay, so that means Okada's gone eat|
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
But rather than trying to think one step ahead of Gedo and his almighty booking prowess, perhaps we should step back and bask in the greatness that we will get to see in these 91 (YEP, 91) matches. "But Elliot," you say, "there is no way all 91 matches will be great." And you are quite correct. So let's take a look at the most interesting, juiciest matchup from each night, so you all can plan your July and August accordingly.
Night 1, 7/14 - Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White
The Ol' Switchblade is the most ill-fitting member of the CHAOS stable, of which Okada is the nominal leader. This will be a big test for the young White to show what he's made of. NJPW likes to pull a couple big surprises on the first nights of the G1, so don't be surprised if White takes this one.
Night 2, 7/15 - Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega
This was the final match of last year's G1, which Naito won. I don't think Omega is going to lose his first match since winning the IWGP Championship, but this will still be hotly contested.
Night 3, 7/16 - Togi Makabe vs. Minoru Suzuki
Makabe is mostly unpopular with the American audience, but he gets put in big spots like this because he is a minor celebrity in Japan. But he also can be relied upon for a good Strong Style match every now and then, and Suzuki will be the perfect guy to match him stiff strike for stiff strike.
Night 4, 7/19 - Toru Yano vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Sabre Jr. disposed of Yano in a tag match at Dominion, and he did so by making Yano tap out while doing Yano's signature "Who, Me?" hand gesture. Perhaps this has ignited that special fury in Yano's heart, and he'll be a killer here. Or maybe he'll still be a goofball. Either way, it should be fun.
Night 5, 7/20 - Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Bad Luck Fale
It needs to be mentioned that Fale has lost about 40 pounds, which is bonkers. Maybe he and Tanahashi can have a pose-down instead of a match, just like Ultimate Warrior and Rick Rude at the '89 Royal Rumble.
Night 6, 7/21 - Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Expect lots of headbutts and chopped throats. There will be pain.
Night 7, 7/22 - Michael Elgin vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Or like the Ben Folds Five song, "The Battle of Who Could Care Less." Let's see if they can pull off a miracle and make this worthwhile.
Night 8, 7/26 - SANADA vs. Kota Ibushi
We're all just gonna faint due to the overwhelming amount of attractiveness in the ring.
Night 9, 7/27 - EVIL vs. Hangman Page
EVIL and Page are two young guys who will be out to prove themselves, and on an otherwise boring night of matches, they'll probably steal the show.
Night 10, 7/28 - Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kota Ibushi
I'll admit some bias here, as these two guys are some of my absolute favorites. You just know Ishii will be looking to smash up Ibushi's pretty face.
Night 11, 7/30 - EVIL vs. Minoru Suzuki
EVIL and Suzuki absolutely destroyed each other last year, and we should expect no different this time.
Night 12, 8/1 - Kenny Omega vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Zack Sabre Jr. is one of the best in the world at getting his opponent to adjust to his style and still put on a compelling match. I really can't wait to see what kind of magic he and Omega can create together.
Night 13, 8/2 - Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki
In last year's G1, these two went to a 30-minute draw after slapping each other in the face so much that both guys looked like they were about to descend into madness. Suzuki always seems extra motivated when he's in the ring with the young ex-champion, so he'll probably have more slappin' on his mind in this one.
Night 14, 8/4 - Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kenny Omega
I saw these guys put on a dang clinic in person at last year's G1 Special in Long Beach, so anytime these guys get together again it will be a lovely reminder of one of the best nights of my life (behind getting married and the birth of my child and all that good stuff, but barely).
Night 15, 8/5 - Kazuchika Okada vs. EVIL
EVIL became the first person in over a year to pin Okada's shoulders to the mat in a surprise victory during last year's G1. Okada did get his win back a couple months later, but EVIL's win means he knows he can put down Okada at a moment's notice.
Night 16, 8/8 - Tetsuya Naito vs. SANADA
EVIL faced SANADA last year, Naito faced EVIL the year before, which means it's now time to do the only other remaining matchup between heavyweight members of Los Ingobernables de Japon. There will likely be some stalling and an extended "feeling out" process, but with the match being this late in the tournament (and Naito likely in the running for winning his block), don't expect them to go easy on each other.
Night 17, 8/10 - Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada
If you haven't figured it out yet, NJPW books the final nights of the tournament with optimal matchups in mind. The expected frontrunners will probably go against each other, and when you've got Tanahashi and Okada wrestling on the final night of the A Block, you can easily do the math. And what sweet, incredibly wrestled math it will be.
Night 18, 8/11 - Kenny Omega vs. Kota Ibushi
For the first time since 2012, the Golden Lovers will (if we're using WWE parlance) explode, but it's more likely they will have a ferociously competitive match that ends in one of their famed hugs that remind us this horrific world still has some love in it. I'm already exhausted and joyous just thinking about it.
And then, the final night on August 12th will see the winner of the A Block going against the winner of the B Block. Let's wait until a little closer to the actual tournament before predictions. Again, all we really need right now is to wait, and to be happy.