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.
16. Hangman Page vs. Michael Elgin – A Block: July 16th
While I am definitely not a fan of Michael Elgin as a person and would not normally recommend a match of his, this one is worth watching just to see how much the Japanese fans are already starting to get behind Hangman Page. His spirit and talent are going over so well at the moment, and by the end of this tournament, he will be a firm favourite.
15. YOSHI-HASHI vs. Michael Elgin – A Block: July 22nd
It seems as though YOSHI-HASHI is utilising this G1 to the fullest, as so far he’s been putting on a great performance. Filled with fire from start to the finish, this match saw HASHI put on one of the best showings I’ve seen from him in a long time, and the pure joy on his face when he got that victory was fantastic. We need to see more of this version of YOSHI-HASHI going forward.
14. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hangman Page – A Block: July 22nd
The battle of handsome men. It’s filled with air guitars, some fantastic hair, a bit of leg-based sportsmanship (or lack of from Tanahashi), and further evidence of why Hangman’s star continues to rise in NJPW.
13. Toru Yano vs. Kota Ibushi – B Block: July 21st
This right here is why Toru Yano is in the G1 – he brings something different. Yano’s matches during this tournament are a unique pallette cleanser that give you a little break from serious competition with wonderful ridiculousness.
His match against Ibushi was just pure fun, and evidence of how dangerous Yano’s unusual style can be if you’re not prepared for it. Turns out the best way to beat Toru is to put somebody who’s even more insane than he is across the ring from him.
12. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Bad Luck Fale – A Block: July 20th
Here we have a perfect example of a classic David vs. Goliath showdown with the smaller Tanahashi constantly trying to chop down the far larger Fale, taking multiple shots to make any real impact on the Tongan, whilst Fale could change the entire momentum of the match with one big move. Tanahashi immediately leapt across the ring and went on the offensive, with the crowd firmly on The Ace’s side. Interestingly though, the audience actually began to switch their allegiance part way through the fight, as they began to switch between fan chants for Tanahashi and Fale.
Much like the other Firing Squad tournament matches, this one ended thanks to outside interference, yet what would normally be spoiled by such shenanigans actually caused excitement and drama all thanks to the referee. A man that usually aims to go unnoticed as much as possible was put to the forefront as the legendary Red Shoes let his frustration get the better of him, decided he’d had enough, threw up the double birds, and disqualified Fale. It may not have resulted in a satisfying pinfall victory for either man, but it did certainly keep things interesting.
11. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jay White – A Block: July 16th
Despite not being Jay White or Tanahashi’s greatest match by far, it’s a Wrestle Kingdom rematch that sparks fascination due to White’s early burst of success in the tournament. I believe we are still yet to see White or Tanahashi’s best bout of the tournament, yet it is certain we are going to see Switchblade have one of the most impressive G1 Climax debuts of all time.
10. Tetsuya Naito vs. Juice Robinson – B Block: July 21st
The July 21st show was a true standout in the G1. Every match on that card was worth going out of your way to watch, and considering this is probably my least favourite tournament match from that show really says something as this could be MOTN on a regular NJPW card. With a super hot audience cheering along throughout, it’s hard not to get engrossed with this one.
9. Tama Tonga vs. Kenny Omega – B Block: July 21st
Admittedly, by Kenny Omega standards, this isn’t a particularly great match, especially considering it ends with yet another DQ, however it is fascinating to watch purely for storyline reasons. With Firing Squad’s feud against Red Shoes continuing thanks to a beautiful Gun Stunn to the veteran referee, and the war between the OG’s and the current Bullet Club continuing to flare as a result of outside interference and a Styles Clash attempt by Tama in honour of his former teammate and the support he recently showed, this match further laid foundations for the war between these two factions.
8. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Toru Yano – B Block: July 19th
As previously stated, Yano’s G1 matches are just ridiculous and fun. Whilst in this one we do see Yano getting up to his old tricks, we also get to witness some of his amateur wrestling skills on display in a much faster paced and competitive match than we are used to from The Director. This B Block bout is a lovely mix of entertaining antics with genuinely impressive pro wrestling. Plus, ZSJ catching Yano’s low blow between his legs and transitioning it into a hold will never not be entertaining.
7. Hangman Page vs. Kazuchika Okada – A Block: July 20th
After a bit of a slow start, this main-event clash certainly got going with very interesting results. Highlighted by a standout performance from Hangman, featuring a Buckshot Lariat over the barricade and a moonsault to the outside, Page had the Japanese fans on the edge of their seats throughout. By the end, the crowd was on fire in support of both of these G1 warriors.
It’s hard to come out of this one without being a fan of both Okada and Hangman Page, and by the end of the tournament, NJPW will have a new heavyweight star in this Bullet Club member.
6. Kota Ibushi vs. Juice Robinson – B Block: July 19th
In his match against the current IWGP US Champion, Kota Ibushi once again proved that he’s a world-class pro wrestler, and also completely and utterly insane. Along with displaying some fantastic technical wrestling ability, the Golden Star also displayed his superior core strength and lack of mental stability by standing with both feet on the steel ring post, a surface that somebody couldn’t even fit both of their feet fully on, and then somehow proceeded to moonsault far enough from aN unstable, standing position to reach his opponent, who was stood past the guard railings in the crowd.
Things to take away after this great match: Juice is gaining more popularity by the day, his entrance outfit is constantly getting more fabulously flamboyant with every show, and Kota Ibushi is without question in the top handful of pro wrestlers in the world today.
5. Minoru Suzuki vs. Togi Makabe – A Block: July 16th
If you like just watching two guys stand face-to-face and lay into each other as much as possible, you will love this. Two legends of New Japan squared-off in a punishing exhibition of physicality, in which no time was wasted before tearing each other apart. A display of simple yet exciting and violent offence that sparked plenty of excitement from the crowd, and resulted in a great G1 match.
4. Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii – B Block: July 19th
I implore everyone to watch this match purely to hear how long Kevin Kelly can scream, “DESTINOOOOOO!” for – it is genuinely impressive.
With several prior matches to build upon, Ishii and Naito traded counters throughout in entertaining and impressive form. Ishii exploded at one point with a sequence of torturous chops, something which will never not be entertaining, yet Naito didn’t break his state of tranquilo-ness as he just smiled through punishment that would make any normal man crumble into tears. Also, it’s fascinating to see how somebody so cocky that regularly spits on people, as we saw in this clash, can still remain the most popular wrestler in the whole of Japan. That’s the wonderfully weird world of pro wrestling for you.
3. SANADA vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – B Block: July 21st
You will be hard-pressed to find a pure exhibition of technical wrestling in 2018 better than this one. With barely any elements of an actual fight or malice between these two, this was simply a constant exchange of trading holds, strikes and transitions, with the aim to out-do each other in the grappling arts to prove who the better technician is. The crowd and commentators did their part in building the suspense and excitement this battle of master craftsmen deserved, making it one of the most interesting and thrilling matches of the tournament so far.
2. Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii – B Block: July 21st
In what many people are heralding as match of the tournament so far, Goto and Ishii put on a perfect prototype of what a strong style match should be. Full of exchanging shoulder blocks, chops, clotheslines, and a whole lot of fighting spirit, neither man would stay down in order to win those two points, even if it ended in both of them collapsing in pain. You’ll need to prepare yourself before you watch this one, as you’re guaranteed to be leaping out of your seat with excitement.
- Kenny Omega vs. Hirooki Goto – B Block: July 19th
When Hirooki Goto is in the ring with the right person, he can have an absolutely fantastic match (just look at his match against SANADA in the first B Block show). When Kenny Omega is in the ring with anyone at all, he can have an absolutely fantastic match. Put these two together, and what do you get? A five-star epic.
Following on from their incredible 2016 finals match, and their 2017 G1 encounter, Omega and Goto shot out of the gate intent on gaining 2 points in any way possible. Clearly inspired by his fellow Golden Lover’s insane performance earlier in the night, Omega wasn’t going to be out-crazied so he slammed his opponent onto the wooden bleachers in the crowd, climbed up the stands, and hit an incredible moonsault onto Goto and some unlucky young lions. This match is certainly much more than one crazy spot, yet this best bout is worth watching for that athletic spectacle alone.
Goto put up a great showing against the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, hitting a reverse GTR with Kenny dropped on the ropes, yet Omega once again bested the first ever man to win this prestigious tournament in his debut attempt.
MATCH OF THE TOURNAMENT (SO FAR): Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega – B Block: June 15th
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