Hey folks! The G1 Climax is entering the final stretch and I thought I'd give you a quick rundown of the matches that have happened since the last time I wrote one of these (and also make sure to check out the first one if you missed it) 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 11 (A Block, August 3rd)
Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2): Mongolian chops and headbutts. Tenzan’s clearly feeling the wear and tear of the G1 at this point but he ain’t done yet. More of an equal fight than most Fale matches thus far, with the story being less that Tenzan needs to work to cut Fale down and more that his own body is betraying him.
Hirooki Goto vs. Tama Tonga (1): This match began and then continued until it was over.
Naomichi Marufuji vs. SANADA (3): A fine back-and-forth effort.. You get most of what you want (Yes, SANADA’s chest looks like ground meat by the end of it) from these two, but it never quite kicked into gear.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii (5): It’s a slugfest, folks! Not a lot of moves thrown, not a lot of holds applied, but they sure hit each other a bunch. It’s great, it’s intense, and it features one of the tightest nearfalls you’ll ever see. Well worth a watch.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Togi Makabe (2): I wouldn’t say this was outright bad, but it meandered back and forth a bit too much for my taste and never really developed a compelling through-line.
Night 12 (B Block, August 4th)
Toru Yano vs. Yuji Nagata (5): Yano’s shenanigans are as cheeky and fun as ever, but old man Nagata ain’t having it. Great, but why is this one a five? Greatest finish of all time. Check it out.
Michael Elgin vs. YOSHI-HASHI (3): The ongoing saga YOSHI-HASHI thinking he can be a people continues as he tries to take out Big Mike. Fun match, hot crowd, nothing too essential but if you got the time, check it out.
EVIL vs. Tomoaki Honma (3): EVIL hits hard, Honma takes hard hits, much like the previous match this is a solid encounter not necessarily worth going out of your way for, but it ain’t bad. Kind of damning with faint praise, but it might have been Honma’s best effort in the tourney thus far.
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Kenny Omega (5): Omega goes to town on the knee that Naito tore apart just a week ago, Shibata puts on a master class in salesmanship in response, and it is fantastic. Excellent match, another potential “best of the tournament” entry for Shibata’s resume, go watch it.
Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Tetsuya Naito (4): Naito’s anti-leg rampage continues! But two can play at this game, and Nakajima targets Naito’s own bandaged right knee. They lose the knee vs. knee plot late in the game, which is a bummer, but it’s still a really good match and worth your time.
Night 13 (A Block, August 6th)
SANADA vs. Tama Tonga (3): A bit of meandering on the outside early on aside, this is kind of match I’ve been hoping Tonga would have all tournament. Fast-paced and kinetic, it’s not necessarily worth going out of your way for, but it’s a good time.
Bad Luck Fale vs. Togi Makabe (2): Maybe it’s just seeing so many Fale matches this year where the whole story was his opponent slowly chipping away at him, but it was really refreshing to see Makabe go full Bull Moose on him here. Steady on, because it’s still a Bull Moose Makabe match and Fale’s still Fale, so don’t go hurrying out to check it out unless you’ve got time to spare.
Hirooki Goto vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4): Bless him, Tenzan’s still trying even after being eliminated from contention. And Goto, to his credit, puts in some good work supporting him and playing to his flagging strengths. I wasn’t expecting much, but this is surprisingly emotional and worth more than the sum of its parts. Go check it out!
Kazuchika Okada vs. Tomohiro Ishii (5): Chaos stablemates at war, this starts hot and only gets hotter. They know each other inside and out and it shows as they dip, dive, dodge, and cut off each other’s signature maneuvers left and right. Fantastic match, make a point of watching it.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Naomichi Marufuji (5): Finally, the 1/100 Dude seems like his old self again, with his initial losing streak behind him... but Marufuji ain’t rolling over for him. It’s Tanahashi’s will to redeem his broken body against Marufuji’s will to prove that Noah’s best can compete with New Japan’s, and it is a pretty compelling match as a result.
Night 14 (B Block, August 7th)
Michael Elgin vs. Toru Yano (3): One of the more effective Yano matches this year, and quite fun for it. Yano has to make corrections to account for Big Mike’s size and lack of hair, and Elgin for his part does a better job than anybody since AJ Styles in terms of making Yano’s shenanigans feel like part of the fabric of the match instead of being sprinkled on top. Shame it’s not longer.
Katsuyori Shibata vs. YOSHI-HASHI (4): YOSHI-HASHI’s struggle to prove that he belongs with the big boys continue, and he’s got one of the biggest boys of them all right here. Even with the injured shoulder to exploit, Shibata is nearly too much for him, but the man they call Tacos acquits himself quite well here and fights to the bitter end. Good stuff.
Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Tomoaki Honma (3): Now that he’s once again ensconced in the warm comfort of a losing streak, Honma’s managed to pick himself back up to an extent here. This continues to be the weirdest story coming out of this year’s G1, but I digress. Lot of strong strikes make for an enjoyable match, albeit one that never quite crosses the line full-on into compelling.
Kenny Omega vs. Yuji Nagata (3): Old Man Nagata’s left knee continues to be a problem and Omega attacks the living crap out of it, even going so far as to steal the Nagata Lock and add insult to injury. Solid effort, some good stuff here, but something just doesn’t quite click.
EVIL vs. Tetsuya Naito (3): You can tell Naito cares about his fellow Ingobernable by the way he doesn’t work the leg in earnest from the jump. Other than that, though, you’d be hard pressed to tell that this was a match between stablemates, as they just kind of throw their standard match at each other. The end of the match picks up enough that I can’t pan it, but this was a real missed opportunity.
Night 15 (A Block, August 8th)
Naomichi Marufuji vs. Tama Tonga (3): Proof positive that Tonga finally figured out his groove and his last match against SANADA wasn’t a fluke, this one. A bit sloppy in places but a fine wrestling experience.
SANADA vs. Tomohiro Ishii (4): Some really cool exchanges in this one, with SANADA looking for Skull End almost constantly and Ishii mostly denying him. It’s a good match, go check it out.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4): A Block’s two redemption stories collide and, despite Tenzan having been eliminated a while back, the crowd is still pulling for him. Tanahashi shifts to play the bad guy as a result, working the leg in a more methodical and less defensive manner than he usually does. While not the fever pitch must-watch it would have been if Tenzan was still in contention, it’s still worth your time.
Bad Luck Fale vs. Kazuchika Okada (3): Fale flashes Okada back to the first half of last year, when he had the Rainmaker’s number and beats him pillar to post here, focusing on his back in particular. Okada gets stuck on lifting the big man even with a bad back for some reason, and the result is pretty good.
Hirooki Goto vs. Togi Makabe (2): I wish I could love at least one of these dudes, I really do. It’d make my New Japan viewing experience so much better. But alas, that is not how it is. So I didn’t find this very interesting at all, just lifeless clubbering for the most part, but it’s not like there’s some critical failure here to make it a hard pass. If you like these dudes, you probably owe it to yourself to check it out, if not, give it a pass.
There you have it, folks.
Fifteen nights of G1 Climax action down, four to go.
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.