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G1 Climax match rankings and recommendations (Nights 1-5)

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Hey folks! The G1 Climax is approximately one quarter done and I thought I'd give you a quick rundown of the matches that have happened thus far to let you know if they're worth your time or not. I've got a very simple five point scale laid out where a 1 is total skip, 2 you can probably skip unless you love one of the dudes in it, 3 is a match that's worth watching but not necessarily worth making time for, a 4 is a solid recommendation to make time for if you can, and a 5 is a must-watch.

Mind you, these are not star ratings. They're not meant to be absolute ratings in any sense, but rather a simple (and hopefully sensible) way to determine if a match is worth your time. A one is not necessarily a bad match, but rather just one I feel like you're best off skipping. I have my biases (sorry, fans of Goto and Okada!), of course, but hopefully I can make it easy for you to adjust for them.

Night 1 (A Block, July 18th)

Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Tomohiro Ishii (4): Old Man Tenzan has said this is his last G1, and that he intends to go out on a high note. Well, this match is certainly a high note. Despite being as broken down as he is, Tenzan shows an Undertaker-esque ability to will his body into ignoring the damage to have great matches a few times a year, and this is one of them. A very strong 4, this one.

Tama Tonga vs. Togi Makabe (1): Whether it was a failure of chemistry or simply an off night, this one just did not come together. Skip.

Bad Luck Fale vs. Hirooki Goto (2): A well structured and well executed but inessential David and Goliath story, this one. If you're a fan of either man or simply of matches where a smaller man has to attempt to slowly chop his bigger opponent down to size, you'll enjoy it.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. SANADA (4): This one suffers from a bit of New Japan Main Event Disease, where the early match is kind of perfunctory and meandering, but it heated up more than enough for me to give a solid recommendation.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Naomichi Marufuji (3): Marufuji put in a tour de force performance here, working Okada's arm and delivering his trademark innovative offense in ways that built logically on that limbwork. Okada was also there. More seriously, I commend the would-be new Ace for letting Marufuji take him away from his usual gameplan in places, but the sheer amount of times he tried to use the injured arm on the attack forces me to ding a match that I otherwise quite enjoyed down to a 3.

Night 2 (B Block, July 22nd)

Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Toru Yano (2): If you've watched New Japan for a while, you'll know that there are two kinds of Toru Yano matches-- matches where his shenanigans are executed to perfection and he strings them together in increasingly clever and fun ways, and matches where he takes it easy and just does a sort of "greatest hits" collection of trickery. This is one of the latter, so unless you're as big of a fan of the sublime master thief as I am, you can take a pass.

Kenny Omega vs. YOSHI-HASHI (4): Kenny Omega commented on his entrance that there would be no "funny stuff" in this one, and he delivered, giving YOSHI-HASHI exactly the kind of platform he needed to prove that he deserves his spot here in the G1.

EVIL vs. Michael Elgin (3): This was in large part an enjoyable HOSS fight, but it became clear pretty quickly that both guys were holding stuff back for an IWGP Intercontinental Championship match sometime later. While that match will likely be incredible, this one was merely pretty good.

Tetsuya Naito vs. Yuji Nagata (4): I really liked this one, built around the story that once Nagata dropkicked Naito in the leg, the Ingobernable One decided to return the favor to the old man. He spent the whole match working Nagata's leg over only to eventually get caught by Nagata, who had more left in the tank than Naito could ever have expected.

Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomoaki Honma (3): Another match marred by both men seemingly holding back. They had an excellent match for Shibata's NEVER Openweight Championship back at Kizuna Road, but lightning just refused to strike twice. Not bad, but a relative disappointment.

Night 3 (July 23rd, A Block)

Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Tama Tonga (1): Unfortunately, there's only so much gas in the tank and even with the better part of a week off to recharge, Tenzan couldn't make the magic happen again.

Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii (2): Like a lot of Goto matches, this was well executed but simply didn't grab me. I'm probably going a little low on it here as a result, but I just don't feel like I can recommend it more than his night one match against Fale.

Bad Luck Fale vs. Naomichi Marufuji (3): Marufuji wants that Shiranui so bad, you guys! But Fale is so big and he keeps fighting out of it. More quality David and Goliath stuff, and Marufuji puts enough work in that I'm going a little higher than I did the Goto match, although they're not that far off each other.

Kazuchika Okada vs. SANADA (1): Structured much like their previous encounter at Wrestling Dontaku, this one saw SANADA straight try and murder Okada in the early stretch before the Rainmaker gradually fought back to his own match. And, much like that one, I'm not a fan of that structure at all. Some cool reversals (because it's an Okada match, and cool reversals are his greatest strength), but I just can't recommend this one.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Togi Makabe (1): Tanahashi did his damnedest, but a 1/100 Dude at 60% just couldn't give enough to make this compelling. Makabe took it pretty easy as well, not following up on the arm as much as I'd like or even putting his usual Bull Moose offense on full power to try and deny Tanahashi breathing room. Pass.

Night 4 (July 24th, B Block)

Tomoaki Honma vs. YOSHI-HASHI (2): YOSHI-HASHI is clearly trying to put his best foot forward in this, his first G1, but this one just didn't come together.

EVIL vs. Yuji Nagata (3): A fine followup to Nagata/Naito from night two built around EVIL trying to finish what Naito started with Nagata's leg. Not quite as good as that one, between EVIL's assault on the leg being more limited and Nagata's comeback being more overpowering, and so I give it a correspondingly weaker recommendation.

Kenny Omega vs. Toru Yano (3): I'm on the record as being a bigger fan of Kenny Omega's the more seriously he works a match, but against the sublime master thief Toru Yano, that all goes out the window. Like, look, there was a strike exchange with both men holding their gentleman's area in pain and a game of what I can only refer to as referee dodgeball. Forget numbers, you read that sentence and you'll know right away whether you want to watch this one or not.

Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Katsuyori Shibata (5): If you're like a lot of us, you saw this matchup when they started making announcements and you were like "Oh." As a result, you're probably planning on watching it no matter what, but if you weren't, do so. It delivered, maybe not every ounce of its promise (would love to see a rematch sometime), but more than enough.

Michael Elgin vs. Tetsuya Naito (5): Tetsuya Naito hates left knees now. Not that I'm complaining! I keep making comparisons to it but this is a bigger, better version of the Nagata match from night two. With crazy escalation towards the end, it's matches like this that are worth waking up at butt o'clock for and that make people fall in love with the New Japan main event style.

Night 5 (July 25th, A Block)

Bad Luck Fale vs. Tomohiro Ishii (2): Another A Block night, another attempt to cut the big man down. The difference here is that Ishii can occasionally go toe-to-toe with the big man instead of having to chop away at the edges. Would have been more fun if it was more of an even fight, but what you got here isn't bad, just inessential.

SANADA vs. Togi Makabe (2): Not a bad match, structured around Makabe fighting to come back after SANADA choked him out on the outside with a baseball bat, but again, inessential. Always weird seeing a guy like Makabe fight from underneath against a guy like SANADA, although it's not like he was dominated or anything.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Naomichi Marufuji (2): Tenzan may be out of gas, but he's not out of fight. I'd expected him to be down to Mongolian Chops and headbutts by this point, but here he is, still dropping moonsaults and whatnot. Marufuji, for his part, does a fine job staying on him and pressing his offense. The result, while not exactly a can't miss classic, isn't bad at all.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tama Tonga (2): When this one is going fast, it's great. It's the parts where it slows down for Tonga to work the injured arm or batter the 1/100 Dude on the outside that don't quite work. Add that to an abrupt ending and I can't give it a strong recommendation at all.

Hirooki Goto vs. Kazuchika Okada (2): Much like Goto/Ishii from night three, this was a fine match that just didn't grab me. Felt too much like they were just doing stuff to pass the time until the finish for the most part, although it did heat up a little after things went to the outside. Fairly good final stretch, too.

There you have it, folks.

Five nights of G1 Climax action down, fourteen to go.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.