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G1 Climax 32 opens with expected great matches, one unexpected result

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The 32nd edition of New Japan’s legendary G1 Climax tournament kicked off today (July 16) in Hokkaido. In an effort to capitalize on interest in their product generated by their recent Forbidden Door event with AEW, the company’s making the first two nights of action available free on their NJPWWorld streaming service. You can watch the English language commentary version of today’s show here.

For those new to NJPW and the G1, the month-long tournament is contested in a round robin format. Participants are assigned to “Blocks” (this year there are four — assignments can be found here), and will wrestle everyone within their Block once. Winners receive two points, losers none, and in the event of a draw both wrestlers get one point. Whoever has the most points when all Block matches are completed advances to the semi-finals. In the event two wrestlers finish with the same point total, the outcome of their head-to-head matches will be used as a tiebreaker.

The winner of the finals will receive a briefcase which is good for an IWGP World Heavyweight title shot at Wrestle Kingdom, New Japan’s biggest show of the year, held each January in the Tokyo Dome. The briefcase is typically defended at least once between the end of the G1 and Wrestle Kingdom. If the reigning champ wins the G1, he can pick his own opponent for the Tokyo Dome.

So how did this year’s G1 start off?

Each G1 card features several non-tournament matches. These are typically multi-man matches that build or continue feuds that will play out in Block action (and that give G1 competitors a bit of a breather in between grueling tournament bouts). For July 16, those were:

• Tom Lawlor def. Yohei Fujita via pinfall with the NKOTB

• JONAH & Bad Dude Tito def. Toru Yano & Ryohei Oiwa via pinfall (JONAH on Oiwa after a powerbomb)

• EVIL, SHO & Yujiro Takahashi def. Jado, David Finlay & Tama Tonga via pinfall (Yujiro on Jado following the pimp juice DDT)

• KENTA, Chase Owens, Bad Luck Fale & Juice Robinson def. Lance Archer, Taka Michinoku, Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr via pinfall (Robinson on Michinoku following the Left Hand of God)

• YOSHI-HASHI, Tomohiro Ishii & Hirooki Goto def. BUSHI, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito via pinfall (Ishii on BUSHI after a vertical brainbuster)

In G1 Block action, things started off with an upset: United Empire’s Aaron Henare pinned the Ace of the Universe, Hiroshi Tanahashi.

Business picked up from there with Will Ospreay’s latest banger. Whether his win over El Phantasmo or the main event was the Match of the Night will probably be debated (I’d vote for the main, but more on that in second), but this gave fans a good idea of what to expect from the G1.

IWGP World Heavyweight champ Jay White outlasted Sanada in the third G1 clash of the show, then we got our first taste of a storyline that’s had folks excited since the Block assignments were announced... Kazuchika Okada vs. the monsters. That angle started with Jeff Cobb in a rematch of the bout which decided their Block last year. Cobb hossed Okada around for most of this 20 minute affair...

... but after countering a Tombstone into one of his own, the Rainmaker got his groove back, eventually slaying beast number one with his finisher.

Which gives us the following way too early look at the standings:

A Block

Kazuchika Okada (1-0-0): 2
Toru Yano (0-0-0): 0
Tom Lawlor (0-0-0): 0
Jeff Cobb (0-1-0): 0
JONAH (0-0-0): 0
Bad Luck Fale (0-0-0): 0
Lance Archer (0-0-0): 0

B Block

Jay White (1-0-0): 2
Tomohiro Ishii (0-0-0): 0
SANADA (0-1-0): 0
Tama Tonga (0-0-0): 0
Great-O-Khan (0-0-0): 0
Chase Owens (0-0-0): 0
Taichi (0-0-0): 0

C Block

Aaron Henare (1-0-0): 2
Hiroshi Tanahashi (0-1-0): 0
Hirooki Goto (0-0-0): 0
Tetsuya Naito (0-0-0): 0
Zack Sabre Jr. (0-0-0): 0
KENTA (0-0-0): 0
EVIL (0-0-0): 0

D Block

Will Ospreay (1-0-0): 2
YOSHI-HASHI (0-0-0): 0
Shingo Takagi (0-0-0): 0
David Finlay (0-0-0): 0
Juice Robinson (0-0-0): 0
El Phantasmo (0-1-0): 0
Yujiro Takahashi (0-0-0): 0

Four more tournament matches will take place on Sunday (July 17). You can find those and the full G1 match schedule here. Tomorrow’s show starts at 1am ET, and will stream free on NJPWWorld.