Gutting his way through a hellish 19-night tournament, “The Cleaner” Kenny Omega has become the first North American wrestler to win New Japan Pro Wrestling’s prestigious G1 Climax tournament. Omega claimed the trophy after a brutal final match with Block A winner Hirooki Goto on Sunday, after previously vanquishing Tetsuya Naito to win Block B in perhaps the best match of the entire tournament on Saturday.
Winning the G1 isn’t just an honor in and of itself. The winner gets to challenge any current New Japan champion for the main event match at Wrestle Kingdom on January 4. It’s like winning the Royal Rumble in WWE: It guarantees you a championship match in the main event of the biggest New Japan show of the year.
Of course, Omega isn’t the kind to respect tradition. Instead of proudly waving the New Japan flag, as is customary after winning the G1 and accepting the cup, Omega threw that banner to the mat and mockingly unfurled a flag bedecked with the logo for the Bullet Club, the outlaw faction that Omega currently leads. It was almost like the Club’s previous leaders, AJ Styles and Prince Devitt (currently known as Finn Balor in WWE), were there in spirit, as Omega used signature moves by both them and his former tag team partner, WWE Cruiserweight Classic competitor Kota Ibushi, to finish off Goto. Could Omega have been hinting at his future in the business by echoing his now-WWE-based former partners, or is it just another example of the Bullet Club’s disrespectful showboating?
Either way, we now know the main event of Wrestle Kingdom in January: Omega challenged current IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada for the gold in the Tokyo Dome main event. Of course there are a couple of asterisks there: that match will only go down if Okada retains the title until January 4, and if Omega remains undefeated. If Okada drops the title, Omega will face whoever holds it at Wrestle Kingdom. If Omega loses a singles match between now and January 4, whoever beats him claims the right to the Wrestle Kingdom title match. As the ticket says, the card is always subject to change.
If you haven’t been following the G1, it’s well worth your time to catch up. The last three shows featured some of the best wrestling you’ll ever see in your life, including this unbelievable spot where Omega was apparently trying to kill himself:
Other final weekend highlights include Okada’s match with Hiroshi Tanahashi from the A Block’s final night. Of course there was more worth watching than just the last few shows—pretty much any match featuring Naito, Tanahashi, Tomohiro Ishii or Katsuyori Shibata needs to be seen, and there were numerous other highlights throughout the tournament. You can catch ‘em all at New Japan World, the company’s streaming video service. And if you do watch the Omega vs. Goto match, make sure you stick around for Omega’s post-match promo and press conference.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s wrestling, games and comedy sections. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.