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.
Four weeks in, and we’ve witnessed an insanely strong tournament, and the latest seven days have given us some of the best matches yet.
14. Jay White vs. Jon Moxley – Night 14
Furious after his loss to Toru Yano, Moxley was taking no chances when he exploded out of the gate and started reigning down shots onto Jay White. Throwing him around ringside and across the arena, Moxley was unleashing his rage onto White in the form of pure violence, but as you can expect with any Bullet Club match, it wasn’t long before Switchblade got the upper hand thanks to the crafty Gedo at ringside. While the actual in-ring action was nothing too special, the situations involved in the final few minutes of the match, and the overall result, definitely made for compelling viewing.
13. Juice Robinson vs. Tetsuya Naito – Night 12
We haven’t seen much of it lately due to his obsession with Jon Moxley, but we got a great look at Juice’s personality in this match. To mock his opponent Tetsuya Naito, who often delays the start of a match by slowing removing his suit, Juice decided to take all of his entrance gear off and carefully fold it. Then, he took his t-shirt off… and then another t-shirt… and then another t-shirt…. and then another t-shirt. It was hilarious, and it was comedy with a purpose. This wasn’t a random gag, it was to mock Naito and attempt to get in his head.
The match that followed was a solid showing from both men. Not their tournament best, but still worth your time watching.
12. Toru Yano vs. Jon Moxley – Night 12
As expected, this match was a seriously fun time. The spot with the DVD, the turnbuckle pad antics, involving Shota, the entire finish, Moxley’s perfect reaction, the backstage interview, all of this was wonderful to watch. It’s five minutes of joy that should definitely put a smile on your face.
11. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Lance Archer – Night 13
ZSJ’s style works just as well with heavyweights as it does juniors. When he faces behemoths like Archer, you can tell that a couple of good power moves could easily put his svelte vegan body away, that is, if he allows his opponent to do them. Zack has a counter for every move possible – watching him constantly look for new reversals and transitions is fascinating. Seeing Zack wrap himself around his Suzuki-Gun teammate’s massive body made for really interesting viewing which I highly recommend to everyone.
10. Kazuchika Okada vs. Lance Archer – Night 11
Once this year’s G1 is all said and done, without question one of the main talking points this tournament will be remembered for is going to be Lance Archer’s performance. The former IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion has had a standout showing this summer, putting on a series of impressive performances full of new moves and an increased level of intensity.
Going into his match with Okada, I was hoping for an Archer win as I really feel like he’s deserved the chance to fight for a heavyweight title after the work he’s been putting in. When it came down to it, Archer put on a dominating performance that forced Okada to endure more punishment than he has in any of his other G1 matches in 2019. Archer threw his opponent all over the arena, brought his strength and insane athleticism in full force to the Rainmaker, and almost took his head off at one point with a huge lariat.
After the match he put on during night eleven of the G1, it wouldn’t surprised me if Archer got more singles opportunities in New Japan going forward.
9. Jeff Cobb vs. Shingo Takagi – Night 12
Throughout his time in New Japan, Shingo Takagi has relied on his impressive strength to power his way through almost every match he’s had, that is until he met Jeff Cobb. For the first time in NJPW, he met an absolute unit that could overpower Shingo and outmatch him for size.
Cobb looked amazing in this encounter, throwing Shingo around with some truly inventive suplexes that were as impressive as they were impactful. Whenever his opponent attempted a move, Cobb would catch him in his arms like a child before hitting the counter. Watching Shingo trying to overcome these massive throws by showing off his impressive strength was wonderful. More of this Jeff Cobb in NJPW, please.
8. EVIL vs. Will Ospreay – Night 13
Bit of a surprising bout here, but given that both men have been on hot streaks of great matches lately, I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s surprising. EVIL vs. Ospreay is never a match-up I’d put together on paper, yet after watching them collide with their battle between brute power and unreal speed, it’s definitely a match I’d love to appear on a card in the future.
7. Toru Yano vs. Tomohiro Ishii – Night 14
This match combined two of the things I love the most in New Japan: Ishii’s hard-hitting style, and Toru Yano’s wonderful brand of nonsense. The chemistry between these two friends was absolutely wonderful, with Ishii trying to predict all of the shenanigans Ishii was going to throw at him, whilst Yano fired himself up to bring the fight to Ishii in impressive form. We saw Ishii manage to kick out of all the trickery Yano threw at him, and we also saw Yano absorb Ishii strikes like they were nothing. A surprising and highly entertaining effort from both men that makes me glad the G1 exists: without it, we wouldn’t get these kind of unique battles.
6. EVIL vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – Night 11
Hiroshi Tanahashi is still a god level wrestler (with god level hair). Despite his body being broken from years at the top, practically held together by athletic tape at this point, Tanahashi is still capable of absorbing extreme levels of punishment in the ring before erupting in fighting spirit to get the massive comeback on his opponent. After a seriously strong showing from EVIL that featured some of the best lariats seen in the whole tournament, Tanahashi fired his way back up into the fight towards the end to create a thrilling final sequence.
5. Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii – Night 12
When Goto and Ishii fight, it’s hard to believe they’re actually really good friends, given how they legitimately look like they’re attempting to knock each other’s heads clean off their shoulders.
While this isn’t quite as insane and incredible as their G1 match last year, it’s a physical encounter fueled by strong style that is a delight to watch, as you would expect. Goto continues to have a solid showing in this year’s tournament, and Ishii is continuing to be the G1 MVP as he is every year.
4. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Will Ospreay – Night 11
A battle between two incredibly skilled pro wrestlers simply showing off how good they are. Starting off as a technical battle, ZSJ vs. Ospreay was a display of how well both men know each other, and how far they’ve come over the last few years. What made this bout so fascinating to watch was seeing how many different ways Zack Sabre Jr. could counter and transition the unpredictable and ridiculous offense from the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. Compared to the other top tier G1 matches we’ve seen this year, this one is less of a violent, vicious brawl, and more of a scientific showcase of incredible pro wrestling.
3. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi – Night 13
A rematch from last year’s epic G1 finals. While not quite up to that standard in terms of quality or length, this is still one of the best G1 matches under twenty minutes you’re ever likely to see. Tanahashi was a beast in this bout, taking the advantage early over the former G1 finalist, but Ibushi fought back with his impactful range of strikes. Easily my favourite moment was a callback to the unforgettable brutal slap battle from their last encounter, with this one possibly being even more stiff than their last.
In order to put the legendary Tanahashi away, Ibushi had to hit him with two of his hardest ever kicks straight to the head, followed by a Nakamura Bomaye, and finally, a Kamigoye for good measure. In around fifteen minutes, these two experts told a better story than most could ever hope to do in half an hour.
2. SANADA vs. Kazuchika Okada – Night 13
Ever since SANADA arrived in New Japan, his career has always gravitated towards Kazuchika Okada. SANADA made his first ever appearance in NJPW during an IWGP Heavyweight Championship match where he cost Okada his beloved title belt. Since then, SANADA has battled The Rainmaker on many occasions, yet every single time, the LIJ member has been on the losing end. With each victory that escaped his grasp, SANADA became more and more obsessed with beating the leader of CHAOS, but the losses carried on stacking up.
Going into this match, Okada was 6-0 against SANADA, and was yet to be beaten during the G1. Starting out as a pretty standard Okada vs. SANADA match, the tension built and built over time to lead to one of the best closing sequences in recent G1 memory. SANADA had Okada on the ropes but as was the case with all of their past matches, he just could not put him away. For minutes on end, he had his signature submission, Cold Skull, locked in deep, but Okada would simply not tap. When he released the hold and opted for the moonsault instead, The Rainmaker put up his knees and hit a couple of short-arm Rainmakers to seemingly ensure victory.
When going for the final blow, SANADA countered with a lariat of his own. With every near fall, finisher or major reversal, the excitement carried on growing until the match ended thanks to a tight Cold Skull, followed by a succession of two Muta moonsaults. The perfect G1 streak for Okada was finally over, and SANADA had finally earned the victory he had obsessed over for three years. A thrilling end to one hell of a main event.
- Shingo Takagi vs. Tetsuya Naito – Night 14
When Shingo Takagi arrived in New Japan Pro Wrestling, he brought with him a reputation for putting on high quality matches, so expectations were high. Ever since he broke out as a singles star in May of this year, Takagi has somehow exceeded all expectations significantly. Without question, he is one of NJPW’s best acquisitions of the last few years, and is contender for best wrestler of 2019. His combination of speed, strength and overall talent is staggering, and the matches he’s put on in the last few months alone have been sublime.
In one of his best showings so far, Takagi went up against one of his oldest friends in the industry, and LIJ leader, Tetsuya Naito. The dynamic of the two stablemates trying to prove themselves to each other made for a fantastic story inside the ring. Starting out reluctant, feeling each other out, Shingo began bringing the fire to Tetsuya, and from there, it was an all out war. They say that when you fight your friend, you hit them harder – well, these two must be really close because they tried to kill each other, particularly Shingo. The speed he was hitting lariats and shoulder blocks with was terrifying.
These LIJ teammates gifted us with one of the best matches of the entire tournament. It had a unique pacing and feel to anything else we’ve seen, and continues on the summer streak of Shingo Takagi. If this is what we’re getting from him in just three months, imagine what the next year of The Dragon is going to bring us.
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