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  • Kota Ibushi will get a shot at winning the G1 Climax and inch closer to his first IWGP heavyweight title.
By Justin Barrasso
August 11, 2018

TOKYO — Two nights ago, New Japan Pro Wrestling turned to its past. On Saturday, it clenched its present.

Kota Ibushi defeated Kenny Omega in the main event of Saturday’s show at Nippon Budokan to win the B-block of the G1 Climax. He now advances to the finals in a match on Sunday against A-block winner Hiroshi Tanahashi.

“For a long time, I’ve been calling Tanahashi ‘God’,” said Ibushi, speaking through a translator. “But this is now the time for me to go beyond Kami, beyond God.”

Ibushi’s words were prescient. His finishing maneuver, Kamigoye, translates to “Beyond the God”. In order to win the G1, he will have to defeat two-time G1 winner and seven-time former IWGP heavyweight champion Tanahashi.

“This is Kota’s time,” said Omega, who fell prey to Ibushi’s Kamigoye—which is a vicious double wristlock knee to the head—at the 23-minute mark to end the match. “He has evolved throughout the course of the entire series.”

The history between Omega and Ibushi is complicated, but the best friends-turned-foes are now united again as the Golden Lovers. Despite being the one who wears the IWGP heavyweight title, which is not on the line during G1 matches, the loss now makes Omega winless in three tries against Ibushi.

“I don’t like to lose, and it’s especially difficult to accept a loss as champion, but today is special because the winner is my partner, my best friend Kota,” said Omega, who will serve as the cornerman in Ibushi’s fight against Tanahashi. “This is the fight I couldn’t resist. Someday, maybe, we’ll fight again.”

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The winner of Tanahashi-Ibushi will have a world title shot–likely against Omega–at Wrestle Kingdom 13 this upcoming January 4. Yet the last seven men to win the G1 were all unsuccessful in their bid to win the belt at Wrestle Kingdom.

“I accomplished my goal to get to the finals, but I’m not done yet,” said Ibushi. “I have one more fight and that’s against Tanahashi.”

Omega and Ibushi worked so well together because of their ability to intertwine both emotion and physicality into the storytelling of the match. They had also wrestled six years ago in Budokan, and though both of their careers have changed significantly in the past half-decade, the result of the match was the same.

The bout also included Ibushi’s dazzling array of kicks, Omega’s vicious V-trigger knee to the face, as well as freakish athleticism from Ibushi countered by Omega’s ability to kick out just when the crowd had finally believed the match was finished—until Ibushi delivered his final blow.

The G1 records will show that Ibushi, Omega, and Tetsuya Naito all finished the B-block with 12 points, but Ibushi was crowned winner courtesy of a tiebreaker by beating both Naito and Omega in the round-robin tournament. Naito’s bid to become only the third back-to-back G1 winner was derailed when he lost right before the main event to Zack Sabre, Jr.

“I set up the perfect situation for tonight’s main event,” said Naito, referring to the highly anticipated affair between Omega and Ibushi. “Unfortunately, throughout this series, I couldn’t place first. I feel the weight of the loss. I lost to Zack Sabre Jr. and I need to get my revenge on him in the proper place.”

The technical wizardry of Sabre, who seemingly has a submission in his arsenal for every situation, allowed him to play a perfect heel in the match. He won with the Zack Driver in just under 19 minutes.

“I’m mentally bueno, muy bien, because I just beat that d-------,” said Sabre, taking joy in mocking Naito. “Can Naito enter the finals now? No, no he can’t. So muy bien.”

In other G1 action, Juice Robinson ended his work in the tournament with some momentum by defeating Hirooki Goto, and Tomohiro Ishii delivered another outstanding match, this time against SANADA, to cap off one of the more impressive runs in this summer’s G1.

The night also included an important stop on Tomoaki Honma’s comeback. Honma wrestled in a six-man tag with Hiroshi Tanahashi and Togi Makabe against Kazuchika Okada, Gedo and Yoshi-Hashi, which was only Honma’s second match since returning from a cervical spine injury in March of 2017 that nearly left him paralyzed from the neck down.

“I am definitely the happiest pro wrestler on the planet right now,” said Honma, who counted along with the referee as Makabe pinned Gedo for the win. “I never thought I was going to cry in the ring, but I am very happy today.”

Okada also spoke with reporters after the match, admitting that he is now swimming in unchartered waters without a title around his waist after a record-setting 720-day reign with the IWGP heavyweight championship.

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“No matter how many times I think about it, I get different ideas on how to conquer not having the title or winning the G1,” said Okada. “For A-block, the star was Hiroshi Tanahashi, for sure.”

In addition to Omega, there was plenty of other activity in the Bullet Club. The Young Bucks and “The Villain” Marty Scurrl dazzled the crowd in Tokyo with a six-man tag win over “Switchblade” Jay White and Roppongi 3K. The Bucks and Scurll are the NEVER Openweight 6-man tag champs and are set to defend their titles on Sunday’s show.

Bullet Club OG’s Bad Luck, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa played no factor in the B-block finale, as they were escorted out of the building earlier in the show by New Japan Pro Wrestling president Harold Meij.

The eyes of the wrestling world will be sharply focused on the finals of the G1 Climax, with a card including the New Japan return of Rey Mysterio, set to start at 3 p.m. in Tokyo and airing on New Japan World.

Ibushi will attempt to win the G1 and set out on a path toward his first-ever IWGP heavyweight title, while Tanahashi looks to turn back time and capture the G1 for the first time in three years.

“My G1 is not finished yet,” said Ibushi. “I’ll finish by beating Tanahashi and becoming the champion.”

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Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
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