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.
Following on from a solid first week, week two continued to deliver quality pro wrestling to keep you from going outside and actually enjoying the summer.
14. Jeff Cobb vs. Juice Robinson – Night Six
A surprisingly one-sided and short match that showed off what an athletic, powerful beast Jeff Cobb is, while also exhibiting Juice’s aggressive, intense new aura. Juice Robinson is killing it so far in the G1. After being so deeply affected by his loss to Moxley, causing him to change his hair and his personality, Juice is using this G1 to hype up his rematch against the IWGP US Champion. His G1 journey leads to that match, and the more we see of this version of Juice, the more excited I will be for it.
13. Jon Moxley vs. Jeff Cobb – Night Four
Although cut shorter than I would have preferred, Cobb and Moxley fit a lot of offence into the nine minute they battled. Moxley looked wild and chaotic with his brawling style and ventures out of the ring, while Cobb looked insanely strong and athletic with his many throws and back flips (not to mention very handsome). A quick, entertaining brawl that made me wish for a longer bout between these two.
12. Taichi vs. Tetsuya Naito – Night Four
Without question, Taichi is the most divisive wrestler in New Japan. Some of you will love this, and some of you will despise it. Showing absolutely no respect for his Suzuki-Gun opponent, Tetsuya Naito started the match by literally laying on the mat, so confident of his seemingly inevitable victory that he left himself completely open to attack. Despite starting as tranquilo as ever, Naito quickly began to increase his efforts as it became clear Taichi was taking this match very seriously.
Showing a rarely seen violent, fired up side of himself full of fighting spirit, Taichi brought it to the LIJ leader. Combining his signature brand of dastardliness with some genuinely effective offence, it’s one of the best performances I’ve seen from the man in very tiny trunks… he’s still an annoying little bastard, don’t get me wrong, but still an impressive bout nonetheless.
11. Lance Archer vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – Night Seven
Admittedly, Lance Archer never stood out to me much as a singles wrestler, but 2019 he’s been changing my opinion significantly. In this bout, Archer pulled out moves that a twenty year veteran of his size has absolutely no right in being able to do. He’s an athletic freak that put on a really fun match with the legendary Hiroshi Tanahshi. By no means a contender to his match against Ospreay, but definitely a highly enjoyable watch with some great moments.
10. Toru Yano vs. Jay White – Night Six
Some of you will hate this, but if you love Toru Yano like I do, you’ll find this quick bout highly entertaining. It’s Yano at his peak level of shenanigans with Jay White playing along every step of the way. Switchblade even tried to use some of Yano’s tricks against him, but the G1 spoiler himself pulled out masterful trickery to best the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion. I smiled so much in such a short amount of time watching this, and the excitable scream let out by Rocky Romero to close off the match was the cherry on top.
9. EVIL vs. SANADA – Night Five
An all-caps brawl between these former IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions. It was an interesting dynamic to watch these two partners battle each other, helped along by the fantastic commentary provided by Kevin, Rocky and Chris which explained the relationship between EVIL and SANADA, and the feelings the former may have towards his position in NJPW. In the end, after a somewhat unremarkable start, this match ended up being far better than expected, with a good mix of cool moments and a healthy sense of sportsmanship.
8. Shingo Takagi vs. Taichi – Night Six
An admittedly slow and quite uneventful first half was saved by a fantastic closing sequence that made both men look fantastic. It seemed as though this one wouldn’t even earn a spot on this list before they kicked the action up majorly with a conveyor belt of big moves, exciting false finishes, and hard-hitting strikes. After mostly being dominated by Taichi throughout the match, Shingo fought back to look like the absolute beast that he is, once again proving why he’s one of the best in New Japan today. Also, he hit Taichi really hard with a lariat, which is definitely a reason why you should watch this match.
7. Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito – Night Six
Two New Japan veterans beating the crap out of each other – it was as simple as that. Naito and Goto hit each other seriously hard for sixteen minutes, and it was great. It lacked the main-event magic feel of an NJPW MOTY candidate, but still a solid effort from start to finish.
6. KENTA vs. EVIL – Night Seven
When KENTA returned to New Japan in Dallas, it seemed as though we weren’t getting his pre-WWE self. While the match against Ibushi was good, there was something missing. However, with every match, KENTA seems to be evolving more and more into his role in New Japan perfectly. Starting out as just a dream G1 entrant, KENTA is now the invader, the former NOAH and WWE star here to disrespect New Japan, and prove he is better than their top heavyweights.
By his fourth match in the tournament, KENTA was playing up to this heel persona perfectly. Feeling disrespected, EVIL was desperate to beat KENTA, willing to take the fight with him backstage and into the crowd. It was a really enjoyable brawl that further built KENTA up as a very interesting character in this year’s G1. If he keeps this up, KENTA vs. Okada is going to be absolutely fascinating.
5. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – Night Five
Zack Sabre Jr. made his G1 Climax debut in 2017. In his very first match of the tournament, he managed to tap out Hiroshi Tanahashi, one of the most popular and successful performers in Japanese wrestling history. With that one victory, fans were made aware that ZSJ was going to be a huge deal in New Japan.
Since then, Zack and Tanahashi have crossed paths in multiple major situations, including in the New Japan Cup 2018 finals, in this year’s New Japan Cup quarter-finals, and inside Madison Square Garden back in April. In their most recent encounter, Zack and Tanahashi both entered with zero points after two matches in the G1. With each man desperate to gain a win, they put on a fantastic battle based on the foundations laid by their deep history together.
Watching ZSJ constantly find counters for every move thrown at him, and always looking for new ways to transition a hold is absolutely fascinating, which is exactly why I really enjoyed this match. Not the best these two have had together, but still worth firing up NJPW World for.
4. Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay – Night Five
You’d have absolutely no idea based on watching this match that both had to be medically evaluated within the prior week so see if they were capable of continuing the tournament. As you would expect from a match between these two absolute lunatics, it was dangerous, thrilling and highly impressive. With it starting as a more technical bout, it seemed as though Ibushi and Ospreay were taking it easy to rest their bodies, but despite their nagging injuries, both men were trying to destroy each other in typical fashion by the end of the match.
Over the almost half an hour time span, Ospreay and Ibushi built to a thrilling end and an overall brilliant, brutal bout. The Ospreay hot streak doesn’t show any signs of stopping, and I’m sure it will continue to burn through right until the end of the G1.
3. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Jay White – Night Four
Tomohiro Ishii is already one of the best wrestlers in New Japan, yet during the G1, he somehow ascends to a new godly tier of his own.
Starting out with Jay White’s typical mind games and underhanded tactics, Ishii was quick on White’s gameplan, trying to counteract with some trickery of his own (as well as trying to launch a chair into his face). As he usually does, White was getting the upper hand thanks to his mind games and trickery (assisted by Gedo of course), but by god did Ishii fight back in the second half.
It’s hard for a man as hard-hitting and powerful as Ishii to work like an underdog, but he is a master of it. Fighting against the masterful heel tactics of White and Gedo, Ishii bulldozed through everything White had to throw against him. Every swerve Switchblade had was countered expertly by The Stone Pitbull. It was a true display of just how fantastic Tomohiro Ishii is – yet another cant miss bout from the king of the G1.
2. Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay – Night Seven
It is unfair how talented both men in this match are. By this point, after years of watching him as a champion in New Japan, I shouldn’t be surprised by how good of a professional wrestler Kazuchika Okada is, but my god, Kazuchika Okada is a really good professional wrestler. The timing on the near falls in this match were absolutely perfect: the split-second accuracy made an Ospreay win seem all the more plausible, building excitement throughout.
Despite being close friends, Ospreay did not hold back with his offence in this one, being vicious and bringing the fight to Okada with every opportunity. Ospreay even decided to use Okada’s move set against him with a deadly Tombstone that seemed to be the beginning of the end for The Rainmaker, but then the IWGP Heavyweight Champion hit an absolutely ridiculous counter straight into his finisher which secured him the win. Easily their greatest match to date that left me wanting to see more from these CHAOS teammates.
- Tomohiro Ishii vs. Jon Moxley – Night Six
Easily out of all of Moxley’s G1 matches, this was the encounter I had the most anticipation for: it’s fair to say I was not disappointed. Ishii vs. Moxley was a fight fueled by violence and desperation. It was clear there was no bad blood between them yet they obviously wanted to rip each other’s heads off at the same time. It was a wonderful dynamic that made for one hell of a brawl.
Beginning with Ishii squaring up to Moxley, the match quickly evolved into a violent exchange. Gaining the early advantage, Moxley rag-dolled Ishii around Korakuen Hall, slamming him into guardrails and walls. For somebody so powerful and dangerous, Ishii is incredible at playing the underdog, being beaten senseless before firing up with a major comeback. After several minutes of being battered, Ishii fought back to give Moxley his toughest test in NJPW so far.
Each man was desperate for the victory by any means necessary. They hit each other with the hardest strikes they could, and busted out brand new tricks in order to win I don’t think Tomohiro Ishii has ever even gone past the second rope before, yet he was willing to leap from the top to the outside onto a table just to get the advantage on Moxley. It was the closest thing I will ever see to a fridge flying.
A highlight was when after destroying each other with a flurry of trading forearms, Ishii and Moxley resorted to simply headbutting each other, using every part of their body to cause punishment. The closing minutes saw several exciting finisher reversals, a perfect running knee by Moxley, and a near-fall that definitely had me fooled. It was twenty minutes of wild wrestling goodness, and will be a hard match to beat for everyone else in the G1.
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