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.
A and B block competition ended in spectacular fashion as the final week of the G1 gifted us with some unforgettable encounters. Without question, we saw some match of the year candidates in the last seven days.
17. Toru Yano vs. Jeff Cobb – Night 18
A really fun little Yano shenanigan match. Cobb getting his arms trapped inside his singlet was a personal highlight, and the Tour of the Islands will never stop impressing me.
16. Jon Moxley vs. Hirooki Goto – Night 16
A short burst of a match that was surprisingly quick and ended in pretty shocking fashion. By no means a match of the year candidate, but definitely worth a watch.
15. Jeff Cobb vs. Tetsuya Naito – Night 16
Worth watching simply to witness an absolutely insane F-5. The way Jeff Cobb manhandles Tetsuya Naito like he’s a child is astounding. Not Cobb’s best showing in the G1, but by god is watching him do his thing always entertaining.
14. Taichi vs. Toru Yano – Night 16
The two kings of ridiculousness in New Japan collided in a singles match, and it was just as silly and fun as you would expect. Watching Yano and Taichi throw a turnbuckle pad at each other repeatedly made me smile probably more than it should have. Also, the finish to this is Yano mastery at its finest.
13. Lance Archer vs. EVIL – Night 17
Despite both being mathematically eliminated from the tournament, both men brought a burning fire with them into the ring for this match. EVIL was full of intensity as he played to the crowd and hit some stellar lariats, while Lance Archer continued his impressive streak of doing unbelievable things in great G1 matches. A fine way to end both men’s tournament journeys.
12. KENTA vs. Will Ospreay – Night 15
Starting out very strong in a brawling fury, KENTA vs. Ospreay was a pure fight. Despite the pace slowing down in parts, it was still a highly entertaining, highly physical match between a veteran and a young star who idolised his opponent as a teenager. KENTA’s brutal, precise striking mixed well with Ospreay’s lightning fast offence. Despite a few mistakes, it has got to be one of KENTA’s best matches in New Japan so far.
11. Jay White vs. Tetsuya Naito – Night 18
It may not have ended in a popular result, and it couldn’t really compare to the epic that closed off the A Block, yet White vs. Naito was still a great main-event match. The leader of Bullet Club and the leader of LIJ finally collided in a relatively quick bout. The crowd was hot and prepared for a Naito win, almost booing White out of the building. The bout peaked during a series of exciting counters that kicked off the closing sequence of the match. After a very poor start to the G1, Switchblade definitely stuck to his word, and finished off strong.
10. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. KENTA – Night 17
Submissions vs. Strikes: a simple formula that made for a great match. KENTA threw his arsenal of punishing strikes against Zack, which despite trying, ZSJ could not match in terms of power, so instead he favoured his expertise in technical wrestling and counters to attempt to overcome the Pro Wrestling NOAH legend. Watching Zack constantly try to target that arm, and lock in his many different submissions onto a man known for his toughness made for fascinating viewing. It was really hard to predict which way it was going to go, adding to the excitement further. A great performance to end their G1 journeys.
9. EVIL vs. Kazuchika Okada – Night 15
EVIL scored one of the most shocking victories in recent G1 memory when he defeated Kazuchika Okada back in 2017. Looking to recapture that magic from two years earlier, EVIL came hard at Okada with a torrent of lariats. It may start out pretty slow, yet please stick around for this one as it evolves into a thrilling, Okada-level main event match. The last five minutes are what make this probably their best encounter to date, and proved exactly why Kazuchika Okada continues to be one of the best performers in the world.
8. Juice Robinson vs. Jon Moxley – Night 18
Juice Robinson’s entire G1 journey lead to this match. Several months of obsession culminated in a punishing fight with the IWGP United States Champion. Much like in their first match, Moxley dominated and destroyed Juice for much of the match, once again targeting his leg and seemingly trying to end his career. After assuming he had won by submission only to find out Juice was still in the game, frustration set in for Moxley as he began to unleash his rage upon Juice.
Fighting back from the very edge of defeat, Juice reigned down punches on Moxley, and battled his way to the victory his career had been revolved around all summer. A fitting end to a career highlight showing from Juice.
7. Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – Night 15
Coming into this match with a bit of a winning streak after a horrendous start (thanks, Boris), Zack Sabre Jr. had a swagger in his step, and it showed throughout the match. ZSJ was at his cockiest when he fought Kota Ibushi, taunting him as he thrusted kicks right into his chest. Perhaps not the best idea as Ibushi responded by hitting him back with his own punishing strikes.
Zack and Ibushi always have great matches together, they just have that chemistry. Ibushi tries to match Zack’s technical prowess, while Zack tries to match Ibushi’s intense striking: a dynamic that always results in quality viewing. Watching Zack trying to ground anybody is fascinating, yet there’s an extra level of fascination with Ibushi as he himself is very technically skilled, while also being more than capable of busting out a lightning quick, insane move to change the entire dynamic of a match.
Zack attempted to ground Ibushi and ultimately get a tapout victory by targeting his injured ankle, however Ibushi managed to fight through the pain, and responded with a fury of intensity. Despite only being a fifteen minute bout, it’s definitely one of the best matches both men have had this year.
6. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Taichi – Night 18
Tomohrio Ishii can bring out a competitive fight in anyone. Usually willing to do anything to get away from any resemblance of sportsmanship in a fight, the devious Taichi seems to step up his game whenever he is stood opposite the Stone Pitbull. For the third time this year, we got a vicious and chaotic punch-up between Ishii and Taichi. Clocking in at around twelve minutes, this may be my favourite Taichi match to date. Even the biggest hater of this Suzuki-Gun member has to check this one out.
5. Shingo Takagi vs. Hirooki Goto – Night 18
Surprise, surprise: Shingo Takagi had yet another great, really physical match. It was a slow builder leading to a good ol’ strikefest of uncomfortable proportions, capped off with one of the hardest damn lariats I have ever seen in my many years as a pro wrestling fan. It;’s exactly what you would expect from these two strong style enthusiasts, and it was brilliant.
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Will Ospreay – Night 17
The reigning IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion got a clean victory over one of the most legendary heavyweight champions in New Japan history. That is no small achievement, a testament to how highly NJPW see Ospreay as a star in their company, and it’s easy to see why they do with matches like this. Fitting that epic Tanahashi drawn-out battle mold, the crowd was burning hot with excitement for this one, with two crowd favourites stood in opposite corners of the ring.
As the veteran heavyweight, it was clear Tanahashi was trying to out-power and outsmart the junior Ospreay, but it quickly become obvious that wasn’t going to work. Targeting the leg, Tanahashi gained the advantage for a lot of the match, before an absolutely thrilling closing stretch saw Ospreay unleash all of his greatest weapons upon The Ace of New Japan. Possibly Tanahashi’s best match of the tournament, and the biggest win of Ospreay’s career.
3. Jay White vs. Juice Robinson – Night 16
G1 29 is a coming out party for Juice Robinson. This entire tournament has been an exhibition for his in-ring abilities, and powerful, emotional intensity. We saw this play out brilliantly in a match against his old rival, Jay White. It plays out like you would expect from a Switchblade match: the Bullet Club leader dominates for a good portion of the bout, with the magic deriving from the comeback Juice makes towards the end.
The way their final five to ten minutes plays out is absolutely superb. Juice did a fantastic job of showing how good he is in the ring, how intense he can get, and how dangerous his godly left hand can be. It’s a wonderful piece of storytelling that makes you root all the more for Juice, and despise that little bastard Switchblade massively. The highlight for me has got to be the final two minutes which featured some really surprising turns, and a really well played end to the match. Whatever you do, do not miss this one.
2. Kazuchika Okada vs. Kota Ibushi – Night 17
The decider for the A Block came down to a match five years in the making. The last time Kota Ibushi and Kazuchika Okada had a singles match (let’s ignore that strange Tiger Mask W bout) was in March 2014. At the time, Kota Ibushi was still in the junior heavyweight division, and didn’t have a chance of besting the then IWGP Heavyweight Champion, but now, with far more experience and several years competing as a heavyweight under his belt, Ibushi entered the final match of A Block competition with a serious chance of making it to the finals.
As you would expect from a match with over five years of build and so much at stake, the atmosphere was electric inside Budokan Hall. My heart was pounding throughout this bout thanks to the tension built from two masters of their craft. It was a simple and well-paced story of a cocky champion confident of victory, and a desperate challenger willing to do anything to capture victory. And the best part of it all was that Ibushi didn’t try to absolutely destroy himself, which is always a bonus.
Both men came out of this match looking fantastic, not that they needed it. It’s a clash befitting of that NJPW main-event reputation caliber. It was an incredible way to end the A Block, an unmissable encounter every New Japan fan cannot miss.
- Shingo Takagi vs. Tomohiro Ishii – Night 16
Jesus Christ, this was intense. Tomohiro Ishii and Shingo Takagi are without question two of the best wrestlers in the entire world in 2019. Their burning intensity, bone-shaking power, and ability to captivate audiences and bring them into the emotion of a match make them masters of their craft, so it’s no surprise when they collided against each other, it was one of the greatest matches of the entire year.
How either man has a head still attached to their torso after this match is beyond my understanding. Simply put, this match had some of the greatest lariats I have ever seen in my life. The force they were striking each other with was both concerning and beautiful. The more punishment they took, the more Shingo and Ishii were determined to display their fighting spirit by no-selling the inhuman levels of pain they must have been suffering.
Shot after shot, they just kept getting back up and raising the intense levels of excitement even higher. Ishii and Takagi have no bad blood or really any kind of relationship, they’re simply two physically dominating units that were determined to prove they were the better man inside the ring, and by god did it make for an incredible, thrilling, competitive contest.
Tomohiro Ishii is amazing. Shingo Takagi is amazing. This match is amazing. Whatever you do, do not miss this absolute masterpiece.
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