Trying to keep up with all of the greatness of the G1 Climax can be like having a part-time summer job. If you don’t have time to watch every show in full, or you only want to watch the absolute cream of the crop, I’m here to help. Every week I will be listing every match that I believe to be worth watching from A and B block competition, before finally rounding off the tourney with a list of my favourite overall matches.
This year’s G1 kicked off in style with a fantastic first week. We’re only three shows in so far, yet it’s clear we are in for one hell of a tournament.
13. EVIL vs. Kota Ibushi – Night Three
Still suffering from a recent leg injury, Kota Ibushi was a prime target for EVIL to take advantage of, and that’s exactly what he did. The LIJ member went repeatedly after the leg all through the match, with some really good selling from Ibushi in response. Not Ibushi’s best, yet with all things considered, a great effort, along with a solid, hard-hitting performance from EVIL.
12. Will Ospreay vs. SANADA – Night Three
If I was one tenth of the athlete that either SANADA or Will Ospreay is, I’d be about twenty times fitter than I am now. This was a well-paced exhibition of athleticism with both men trying to out-do the other. While not quite up to the standard that Ospreay has been setting throughout the year, still an entertaining watch regardless.
11. Jon Moxley vs. Taichi – Night Two
It was brave of New Japan to treat all of the Jon Moxley fans watching their product for the first time to have his introductory match against a stripping, lip-syncing opera singer, yet Taichi and Moxley managed to pull out a brief yet highly entertaining brawl. Ambushing Moxley before the bell, Taichi brought the fight to the former WWE Champion, but it wasn’t long before he was feeling the violence from his opponent. In swift fashion, Moxley put Taichi away with a brutal looking Death Rider in a great opening G1 contest.
10. Kota Ibushi vs. KENTA – Night One
Sadly, not quite the match it once could have been, yet still a great exchanging of slaps and kicks with glimmers of excitement. When the action picked up, it was superb. Both men hit hard and showed their prowess for the striking arts, if it wasn’t for the slower pace and long pauses in action, I’m sure it would have been even greater. Perhaps as the tournament goes on, “fucking” KENTA will be able to shake off some ring rust and have a true return to form.
9. Toru Yano vs. Tetsuya Naito – Night Two
You’ll either absolutely love or completely despise this match. It was three minutes of pure tomfoolery, and it was wonderful. Naito attempted to beat Yano at his own game by mimicking his shenanigans, yet nobody can better our lord and savoir when it comes to hilarious, underhanded tactics. As always, Yano provided a quick burst of comedy to cleanse the palette during a card of intense matches, something which is always welcome by me throughout the G1.
8. Hirooki Goto vs. Jay White – Night Two
Admittedly, this one does start off a little slow, but dear god does this pick up in the last five minutes. Hirooki Goto came into this match looking lean and focused on the task at hand after a disappointing first half to 2019. After getting manhandled by the leader of Bullet Club for the majority of the bout, Goto fired up to bring an intense fight to White, busting out classic hits from his moveset not seen in a long time, and even surprising us with fierce new variations on old moves. Goto gave us a glimpse of the top level competitor he can be, something which I hope we see more of throughout the tournament.
7. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. SANADA – Night One
Much like their 2018 G1 bout, this wasn’t a fight fueled by malice or disdain, it simply an exhibition of the grappling arts, a constant exchange of trading holds, strikes and transitions, with 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.
You’d be hard pressed to find two men that could do this style of match as smooth as ZSJ and SANADA did. They are both in the top tier of their game, and it’s fascinating to watch. This was never more apparent than when SANADA attempted to lock in his popular Paradise Lock several times on Zack, yet failed every time due to how technically sound The Submission Master is, forcing the LIJ member to alter the execution of the lock in order to be successful. Zack was determined to prove his grappling superiority, which made it all the more embarrassing for him when SANADA borrowed a trick from ZSJ’s playbook for the quick victory.
6. KENTA vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – Night Three
Two legends of Japanese wrestling collided for the very first time this week. A true dream match come to life. After a slightly shaky start in Dallas eight days before, KENTA looked far more true to form as he dominated Tanahashi with stiff strikes throughout. It was a decisive win that set KENTA up as a powerful force in this year’s G1. It would have been nice to have seen these two go at it in their primes, yet still a great match nonetheless.
5. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kazuchika Okada – Night Three
In July of last year, Kazuchika Okada battled against Zack Sabre Jr. in Manchester, England. It was Okada’s first singles match since losing his IWGP Heavyweight Championship after a record-breaking reign, and there was a noticeable difference about him. With his confidence shot, ZSJ managed to pick up a shocking victory over The Rainmaker after surprising him with a quick pinfall out of nowhere. It remains as one of the greatest live experiences of my life.
Fast-forward to this year’s G1 where the two met again for the first time since Manchester, and we got a far more confident Okada entering the ring. His hair was no longer red, there wasn’t a balloon in sight, and he had the IWGP Heavyweight Championship back around his waist. The entire match that followed was one big throwback to their previous encounter.
Along with his many, many submission attempts, Zack repeatedly tried to catch Okada out with the same quick pinfall that claimed him victory in the past. Given the surprising fashion of his previous win, this made for many exciting false finishes as you never knew when the victory would come. It’s a shame this match wasn’t longer, and I personally would have liked to have seen Zack take a bit more punishment to be put away, yet still a great watch nonetheless.
4. Juice Robinson vs. Shingo Takagi – Night Two
This war is worth watching just for the beautiful lariats alone. Two men that are on a roll lately collided in a first-time match-up which certainly did not disappoint. It was a non-stop barrage of hard-hitting strikes, and an exciting, promising start of B Block competition. Shingo Takagi competing in a G1 is a recipe for brilliance, and if Juice Robinson keeps up this level of serious intensity, this tourney could be a star-making performance for him.
3. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Jeff Cobb – Night Two
Have you ever wanted to see two fridges with legs fight each other? If so, I’m definitely concerned about what goes on in your mind, but this is about as close as you’ll ever get to witnessing that. Ishii and Cobb traded blows and suplexes for eighteen and a half minutes straight, trying not to show their opponent any signs of weakness. Each behemoth stood strong as they bludgeoned the other in a festival of throws and forearms. If you’re a fan of hoss fights, do not miss Ishii vs. Cobb.
2. Lance Archer vs. Will Ospreay – Night One
With this one match and a whole new hairstyle, Lance Archer established himself as the anime villain of this year’s tournament.
Back in the New Japan Cup, these two had easily the greatest match of Lance Archer’s singles career. The KES member took Ospreay to the limit by using his overpowering size to dominate the then reigning NEVER Openweight Champion. Despite his efforts though, Ospreay absorbed a barrage of grueling punishment, and managed to lift his much larger opponent up for the Stormbreaker, and a very impressive victory.
So when it was announced they would be facing again in the G1, many fans were hyped to see these two being matched up again, and it did not disappoint. When Archer attempted to get the upperhand immediately with a cheap shot lariat, only to be countered into a Spanish Fly by Ospreay, followed by a Corkscrew Moonsault to the outside, it was obvious we were in for a chaotic, thrilling brawl to kick off the tournament.
In what felt like a true, unpredictable fight, Archer came off looking like a dominating giant, particularly when he lifted Ospreay into the heavens for a hellacious Chokeslam through a table. Both men played their role well, and it made for a really exciting contest that set the tone for the rest of the tournament.
- Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – Night One
Yet another chapter in the most storied rivalry in New Japan today. While I don’t quite enjoy their legendary battles as much as most New Japan fans seem to, their encounter in the G1 last year had me on the edge of my seat. It is undeniable that there is a special aura in the air when Okada and Tanahashi are on opposite sides of a ring to each other. While they don’t quite hold the hatred for each other that they once did, the wealth of history between them and professional rivalry makes any match between them a monumental occasion. Throw in the fact one is the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and the other is the defending G1 winner, and you’ve got the most important match of this year’s tournament.
Placing this bout on the first show of this year’s G1 was the biggest way possible to start proceedings, and it was met with an incredible atmosphere from the Dallas crowd. Although it wasn’t quite up to their last encounter, it was still the best match of the night fueled by an exhilarating passion emanating from the audience in attendance. A pure big match main event feel fitting of the first night of a momentous tournament, rounded off by a major win from Okada, marking the first time in the four G1 meetings these two have had that has ended in something other than a thirty-minute draw.
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