As this summer will be a lot of people’s first time experiencing a G1 Climax tournament, and it is such a gruelling tournament that many people won’t be able to watch live or be able to watch in-full every show, so I’ve decided to post a weekly guide to the best matches of the past week. I invite everybody to try and watch as many live shows as they can, but if you haven’t got the time and just want to go back and check out the best of the best, get yourself onto NJPW World and watch the recommendations below.
At the end of the tournament, I will be posting a top 10-15 list of the best matches from the entire tournament.
As there have only been two shows so far, this is technically a first weekend review, but what a couple of days it has been.
6. Togi Makabe vs. YOSHI-HASHI – A Block: June 14th
One night into the tournament, and we already had one surprise standout. Although too short to be a true G1 classic, this clash between YOSHI and Togi was so full of fire from start to finish. These two used every second they had to fill it with as much punishment as possible, particularly YOSHI, who delivered a standout showing that displayed a lot of promise and a lot of enthusiasm for the rest of his G1 journey. If you like watching two guys trade shots and harm each other, check this one out.
5. Minoru Suzuki vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – A Block: June 14th
Minoru Suzuki and Hiroshi Tanahashi have a history of fantastic matches together, including one from earlier this year for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. In 2012, these two had the first New Japan match in fifteen years to get five stars from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Now, this G1 clash isn’t quite up to the standard of that 2012 classic, yet it is full of long, tension building submssions, a series of murderous slaps and strikes, a surprise comeback finish, and is more than worth your time.
4. Hirooki Goto vs. SANADA – B Block: June 15th
When put in with the right opponent, Hirooki Goto can pull out a fantastic match. Just look at his brawl with Minoru Suzuki at this year’s Wrestle Kingdom, and his outstanding G1 Finals match against Kenny Omega in 2016. In his first B block match, Goto went back and forth with SANADA in an impressive showing off constant finisher countering, some fantastic signature move variants, and as always, SANADA’s freak athleticism. Show this to any new NJPW viewer, and they’re guaranteed to become a fan of both men instantly.
3. Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White – A Block: June 14th
Any match that has one of the best in the world shouting “SCOOBY DOOBY DOO!” as he flies through the air, that’s worth watching in my opinion.
The story going into this main event bout was a clash within Chaos – this is one of the best parts of the G1 Climax: we get to witness stablemates forced to fight one another. Well, perhaps not forced in this case…
When Jay White became an official member of Chaos on January 6th this year, he instantly made it clear that at some point, he would fight the group’s leader, Kazuchika Okada. The Rainmaker believed that once White stepped in the ring with him, he would realise that he is on another level to Switchblade, and would not be able to compare.
Well, White finally got the chance to level up to his leader, and he certainly didn’t hold back. Sporting a new relaxed attitude and look, Okada seemed to not have the same focus he did when he was champion, whilst White had his eyes fully on the prize. After repeated throws into barricades, beautiful suplexes around the ring and on the outside, lengthy, and gruelling submission holds, combined with plenty of trash talking, White managed to pick up a major victory over Okada in controversial fashion.
Questionable circumstances or not, the record still stands that Switchblade has two points over Okada, causing a big impact and creating major momentum going forward for this future main-eventer.
2. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kota Ibushi – B Block: June 15th
Zack Sabre Jr. and New Japan are the perfect combination. Everywhere else we’ve seen the Vegan Tarantula, the commentators and promotions always just talk about how he’s a technical wizard, how he’s the best technical wrestler on the planet, etc (which is fine because he is), yet in New Japan, they add an extra level to that.
From day one, ZSJ has been portrayed as a genuinely dangerous wrestler, somebody who people should fear getting in the ring with. His submission and limb targeting skills are so advanced that NJPW always build his big matches around the fact he could seriously injure an opponent, with his foes often being banged up after their encounters with Sabre, regardless of whether they win or lose.
Throughout the G1, competitors in B block will have to wrestle ZSJ’s style when they come up against him, making him a unique threat and tough to beat, however, as we’ve seen early on, it is possible to beat Zack at his own game.
Thanks to his slim physique and high technical ability, Kota Ibushi was able to go hold-for-hold with Zack throughout their first B block match. It made for a fun and fascinating exchange of reversals, holds and transitions. Both men did not hold back with their strikes, at one point slapping the souls out of each other. Their styles mix superbly together, and this is certainly one no New Japan fan should miss.
- Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega – B Block: June 15th. MATCH OF THE TOURNAMENT (SO FAR)
Some wrestlers have an undeniable chemistry with each other that allows them to put on outstanding matches regardless of how many times they stand across the ring from each other – case in point: Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito.
In the 2016 and 2017 G1’s, Naito and Omega’s matches against each other were arguably the best bouts in both tournaments. For the third year in a row, they have crafted a masterpiece which will be hard to beat. Filled with the ridiculous set of knee strikes, inhuman springboard leaps, and drops on the head that we’ve come to expect from these two, this is as every bit as good as you could expect it to be.
Every G1 competitor has been put on notice after this bout: this match is the one to beat.
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