Tomohiro Ishii is a machine when it comes to crafting fantastic matches. In recent years, he’s garnered a reputation for putting on physical classics in New Japan Pro Wrestling, especially during their annual G1 Climax tournament, gaining himself a lot of popularity for his in-ring efforts. So let’s look at the best work this Stone Pitbull has ever produced. These are my Top 10 Tomohiro Ishii Matches.
I’ve decided to limit my choices to only one match for each opponent, but this doesn’t mean he didn’t have multiple great bouts with everyone on this list. Also, I’ve avoided multi-man matches that are without question great to watch, yet don’t really show off what Ishii can do.
10. Vs. Minoru Suzuki – NJPW Strong Style Evolved UK
Perhaps I’m slightly bias for this one as I was live in attendance for it, yet this still remains an exciting back and forth battle between two of the best. Ishii and Suzuki had the entire crowd in the palms of their hands that night as they exchanged slaps for what seemed like minutes. It’s one of the best main events I’ve ever witnessed, and a memory which I will never forget.
9. Vs. Matt Riddle – Rev Pro British J Cup 2017
The Stone Pitbull vs. The Stoned Pitbull. Two beasts that start going at it as soon as that bell rings. It’s a quick burst of a match that does not slow down the tempo from start to finish. It’s a thrilling ten minute war between two extremely physical brawlers that is bound to get your heart pumping. It truly is a shame we never get to see these two go at it inside a New Japan ring.
8. W/ Will Ospreay vs. Golden Lovers – NJPW Road to Destruction 2018
For those unfamiliar with New Japan Pro Wrestling, Road To shows are the company’s way of building up a small amount of hype for bigger, more important, upcoming marquee events. Road To shows are almost exclusively filled with tag team matches that lay and build upon foundations for rivalries, offering pretty standard matches with little to get excited about. But back in September 2018, the Road to Destruction gifted us this absolute gem of a bout out of nowhere.
Without question, this has got to be the best match on a Road To show we’ve ever seen. Regardless of which combination of these four wrestlers were in the ring, magic occured. Fans got a glimpse of the amazing chemistry between Ospreay and Ibushi, and we instantly wanted more. Plus, whenever Omega and Ishii face against each other, it can never be less than pure brilliance.
These two teams went above and beyond what was expected from them on that night, and proved why they are some of the best around today.
7. Vs. SANADA 2018 – G1 Climax 2018
For many, Tomohiro Ishii was the MVP for this 2018’s G1. Even when he had nothing to gain from a match other than pride, as was the case with this final day bout, he still threw his stone, fridge-like body into everything. When he clashed with SANADA, an insane athlete who put on a star-making performance throughout the tournament too, he ended his incredible G1 journey with yet another MOTY candidate.
6. Vs. Chris Hero – RevPro/NJPW Global Wars 2016
Chris Hero’s independent run from 2015 to the end of 2016 was an lovingly-wrapped present to pro wrestling fans, and this match against Ishii for Revolution Pro is one of the highlights of that run.
This bout is a rare example of Ishii being the underdog: he’s undersized, underpowered, and fighting against the goliath stature of his opponent. The story of the match is that Ishii could not combat the power of Hero, and his larger opponent could not have been more confident about it. Hero spent the first half of the match dominating Ishii, and using every opportunity he could to show off how cocky he was feeling about his smaller foe.
But then, Ishii claws and battles his way back, finally being able to lift Hero off his feet after multiple attempts. And as you can imagine with a match between these two, a whole load of strikes are inevitably exchanged, in brutally entertaining fashion. The crowd in London that night could not have been hotter for this bout, and it’s really easy to see why.
If there’s one match on this you may not have seen that you definitely need to, this is it. It’s available to watch for free on YouTube, so you’ve got no excuses.
5. Vs. Kota Ibushi – G1 Climax 2018
Take Ibushi, a crazy athlete with no regard for his own safety, 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.
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.
Watch this match. Make your friends watch this match. Make everyone watch this match. It’s just that good.
4. Vs. Kazuchika Okada – G1 Climax 2016
Two members of CHAOS were pitted against each other thanks to the G1 Climax in 2016, and when they did, they pretty much stole the entire tournament. Two of the best going at it, each with something to prove: Okada needed to establish his dominance as champion and leader of the faction, and Ishii needed to show he deserved to be in the conversation too.
Okada wasn’t even taking Ishii all too seriously to begin with, which is what makes it all the more satisfying to watch when the punishment begins. They embarked on a wrestling masterpiece filled with some exhillerating near-falls, and they took the entire crowd along for the ride.
3. Vs. Katsuyori Shibata – G1 Climax 2013
The bell rings, both men run at each other, and the chaos begins. This is not a wrestling match, it’s a straight up fight. Limbs fly, boots collide with faces, and every step of the way both men are openly inviting the other to inflict more punishment. The first three minutes of this bout are some of the wildest opening moments I have ever seen, and the closing sequence sends the crowd into insanity. Got a friend that always bugs you by talking about how ‘fake’ pro wrestling is? Show them this barrage of pain.
2. Vs. Shinsuke Nakamura – G1 Climax 2014
The beautiful thing about the G1 Climax is that it creates matches we would never normally see. Two close friends in the same stable forced to fight each other, and OH MY did they fight.
Casting aside their mutual friendship, Ishii and Nakamura beat the absolute crap out of each other back in 2014. Knees, headbutts, lariats, insane counters, and just a whole load of strong style. It’s a punishing war Nakamura, who manages to be overloaded with charisma whilst throwing vicious strikes, against Ishii with his whole ‘I will completely destroy you’ vibe.
If you want an idea of what my kind of pro wrestling is, just look at this masterpiece.
Vs. Tomoaki Honma – New Beginning in Sendai 2015
Vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – G1 Climax 2018
Vs. Jeff Cobb – OTT ScrapperMania IV
Vs. WALTER – Rev Pro Summer Sizzler 2018
Vs. Hirooki Goto – G1 Climax 2018
Vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – G1 Climax 2013
W/ Kazuchika Okada vs. Golden Lovers – Fighting Spirit Unleashed
Vs. Tetsuya Naito – New Beginning in Osaka 2014
Vs. Keith Lee – Rev Pro/NJPW Global Wars 2017
- Vs. Kenny Omega – G1 Climax 2018
I could make an entire separate list just for the matches these two have had together. Of all of Ishii’s opponents, his chemistry with Kenny Omega is in my opinion the greatest.
If you like physicality, you will adore this match. The amount of punishment both of these men took in this match is truly astonishing. It was bloody, it was brutal, and it was beautiful.
Starting off slow, Omega was beaming with arrogance as he boded Ishii, yet after a good ten minutes or so of build, they turned up the intensity to maximum and did not turn it back down until the bell rung. Kenny was clearly on a mission to prove that the V Trigger is one of the most effective and re-watchable moves on the planet, whilst Ishii was clearly on a mission to prove that he genuinely is made of stone as he absorbed blow after blow from his opponent. By the end of it, they were left bloody and brutalised, thanks to this absolutely incredible match.
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