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.
8. EVIL vs. Hangman Page – A Block: July 27th
Two guys in A Block who have been putting their all into every match they’ve had in the G1 so far clashed on Friday, with fantastic results. A hard-hitting showing from both men that added to EVIL’s impressive G1 record, and endeared Hangman further to the Japanese fans. Marvel at how athletic and gifted at high-flying Page is for a big heavyweight country boy from Virginia, and always remember that EVERYTHING IS EEEEEVVVVIIIIILLLLLLL!
7. Kenny Omega vs. Juice Robinson – B Block: July 26th
Juice Robinson gained arguably the most shocking victory in G1 history when he rolled up Kenny Omega for the three count in last year’s tournament, and he looked to re-capture that lightning in a bottle for this year’s tourney. Juice had Omega on the ropes throughout this fight, bringing everything he has and surprising Kenny on several occasions. As usual, Omega is the best bout machine, delivering always impressive V Triggers.
It isn’t something that will set the world on fire, but as always with Kenny Omega, it’s definitely something worth watching.
6. Tetsuya Naito vs. Hirooki Goto – B Block: July 28th
When two wrestlers the calibre of Naito and Goto have a match together, both of whom have had at least one five-star match this G1, and it’s only the 7th best match of THIS WEEK, that”s when you know you’re watching an absolutely incredible tournament. If you’ve yet to see any match from this week of the G1, you may think being the sixth best out of fifteen matches over three shows may make it sound like a slightly above average match, but then you’ll watch it, realise it’s fantastic, and then have your mind blown by how unbelievably great the standard of G1 28 has been.
5. Kazuchika Okada vs. YOSHI-HASHI – A Block: July 27th
This match right here is exactly why I love watching Kazuchika Okada wrestle. Obviously, he’s really, really good at pro wrestling, no question, but that’s not the reason. Okada is one of those special few that no matter who is in the ring with him, he brings out the best in them. When somebody wrestles Okada, they are forced to better themselves, and unleash every bit of skill and technique they have in their bodies.
YOSHI-HASHI is not somebody who’s often talked about in New Japan, and he’s certainly not having main-event, star rating scale breaking matches like other members of the New Japan roster, but he’s definitely been putting on a good showing during this year’s G1. Then he stepped into the ring with Okada, showed off exactly what he can do, and it was brilliant to see.
Okada started off frustrated, and overly aggressive towards his Chaos teammate, yet in the end, showed some remorse towards him. However, HASHI wasn’t going to just lie down for his leader, as he brought so much fire and heart. HASHI brought out everything he had to keep up with The Rainmaker, and in the process, produced his best ever match to date.
4. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tomohiro Ishii – B Block: July 26th
Ishii and ZSJ have a brilliant chemistry together – similar in ways, yet couldn’t be more different in others. Zack targeted Ishii’s arms throughout, whilst Ishii went with the tried and tested tactic of trying to beat the crap out of his opponent. There was a point where Ishii placed Zack against the ropes, unleashed a torrent of forearms and chops against him, and each time ZSJ dropped to the floor in pain, Ishii picked him right back up and continued to punish.
One of the key ways the excitement of this match was built was through the commentary. Kevin and Rocky were making sure fans were aware of how rare it was for Tomohiro Ishii to tap out from submissions, whilst simultaneously hyping up how dangerous Zack’s submission ability is, as well as reminding us all that ZSJ has actually made Ishii pass out in the past. This all built up towards the finish, and it paid off superbly.
3. Kenny Omega vs. SANADA – B Block: July 28th
G1 28 is SANADA’s time to shine. If he hadn’t already, he has cemented himself as a main-eventer in this tournament, somebody who could easily be a future world champion. This match was an exhibition of just how good both of these men are. Starting off slow, the excitement built and built and built until in the final five minutes, the whole crowd were bursting with excitement as Omega and SANADA punished each other in entertaining fashion.
Considering he’s already holding the top prize in NJPW, Omega doesn’t exactly have to put on a great show every single night, especially when he’s working with a broken heel, yet here he is, every single night putting on one of the best bouts. So much for Kenny coasting through the G1.
2. SANADA vs. Kota Ibushi – B Block: July 26th
The battle of the handsome boys with teenager haircuts.
Along with SANADA, another competitor who is having an outstanding G1 is Kota Ibushi, one of the best in the world today. The fact that this bout is the first time these two have ever had singles match together is unbelievable considering how well they gelled together. Showing immediate chemistry, SANADA and Ibushi exchanged strikes and holds from start to finish in exciting fashion.
It was an impressive display between two of the best athletes in New Japan trying to display their technical prowess against the other, matching speed and fluidity throughout. It really felt like two of the best wrestlers in the world trying to prove who was the better athlete. Playing to a hometown crowd, this was arguably SANADA’s greatest ever performance in a wrestling ring, and certainly shows extremely high promise for the LIJ member for the the future.
- Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kota Ibushi – B Block: July 28th
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kota Ibushi was a gift to us all.
Take Ibushi, a crazy athlete who’s having a fantastic G1, take Ishii, a stone-hard fridge of a man known for pulling out amazing matches in G1’s, put them together and you have one of the greatest bouts of the year. You will be hard-pressed to find a match that fits in as much insanity and brutality as this one does.
From start to finish, these two go to town on each other without a single moment’s rest. Rather than a display of athleticism and speed which we saw with his aforementioned bout with SANADA, Ibushi channels his inner badass and goes toe-to-toe with Ishii’s punishing strikes. Despite that, there was one moment where classic Ibushi made an appearance, as he dragged his opponent out passed the crowd, climbed up a balcony, and delivered an insane moonsault onto Ishii (clearly getting some practice in for his match at the Budokan).
This wasn’t really a test of who was the better striker or the better wrestler, it was a test to see who had the most fighting spirit, who was tougher, and who had the most screws loose in their head. For them to craft a match that’s as captivating and wild as this is in 16 minutes, that is genuinely incredible. It’s almost impossible to separate this and Omega vs. Naito for match of the tournament so far for me, and there’s every chance that I may change my mind after a re-watch, but for now, I’m keeping the latter as MOTT.
Watch this match. Make your friends watch this match. Make everyone watch this match. It’s just that good.
MATCH OF THE TOURNAMENT (SO FAR): Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega – B Block: July 15th
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