The G1 Climax is upon us! As we do with New Japan’s big tournaments, we’re focusing strictly on the tournament action here, folks. For full results of each show, you can check out our NJPW category right here, and for previous match recommendations, you can click right here for the first batch, here for the second, here for the third, and here for the fourth.
As always, 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 folks 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, of course, but hopefully I can make it easy for you to adjust for them.
Night Sixteen (B Block, August 8)
Juice Robinson vs. Tomohiro Ishii (4): Going right for it, ramming into each other like bulls before moving into the striking, equally matched as rivals. Ishii pulls ahead eventually and Robinson turns the heat up with bigger moves and removes his cast to unlock the full power of his broken left hand. They continue going back and forth, this is just a violent slugfest of a match and absolutely comes with a recommendation that you should go watch it.
Hirooki Goto vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (4): Sabre right in with hard striking, trying to bait Goto into swinging for the fences and making a mistake he can capitalize on, but the grumpy NEVER champ hits him hard enough to cut that plan off before it can come to fruition. A trip to the floor proves to be what ZSJ needs to go to town, however, and he starts picking Hirooki’s arm apart.
Thus becomes the story of the match, alternating periods of submission and striking as the wear and tear grinds Goto down. Very good match, one to watch for sure.
Kota Ibushi vs. Tama Tonga (3): Tonga takes things almost immediately to the floor, narrating for the camera, but Ibushi’s got fire in his belly and is able to meet him strike for strike when the action heads back into the ring. Deep into the crowd, Kota is a crazy man who jumps off of balconies and unfortunately the Firing Squad shenanigans kick in.
Even so, it doesn’t come off flat (probably in part because Kenny Omega made the save), and this is probably Tama’s best match of the tournament. Not a strong recommendation, but worth throwing in the pile.
Kenny Omega vs. Toru Yano (4): Omega worn down from his involvement in the previous match and Yano nearly steals it at the bell! Shenanigans in full effect, Kenny’s Bullet Club allies doing what they can to mitigate the effect, a gentleman’s duel with the turnbuckle pads, taping young lion Ren Narita to Omega by the wrist, this match has it all and even some nonsense from the Firing Squad can’t bring things down too much. Worth watching!
SANADA vs. Tetsuya Naito (5): Mat grappling early, giving way to strikes as SANADA carves out an advantage. Naito to the floor to turn the tide, starting to work Cold Skull’s head and neck over to set up Destino. Back and forth, turning the heat and the pace up, some real epic counters and exchanges, and shock, this is a fantastic match. Watch it!
Night Seventeen (A Block, August 10)
Michael Elgin vs. Togi Makabe (2): Right into the bull moose strength testing, Makabe with an early advantage but Elgin is able to cut him off and keep it even. Escalating from base strength testing into actual wrestling moves, back and forth, a crescendo of striking, and a slightly abrupt ending make this a solid match that doesn’t quite make it into the bucket.
Hangman Page vs. YOSHI-HASHI (3): YOSHI-HASHI in control early, going hard to avoid losing on the last night of block action, but Page turns the tide with some big moves on the floor. From here the pace moves onto a more back-and-forth scrap, Hangman with a bit more of the edge but Tacos refuses to lie down for him and we get some really good intense jockeying for position in the finishing stretch.
Not either man’s best match of the tourney, but it’s a good hard-hitting scrap that’s fairly representative of the kind of performances they’ve been putting in and worth watching if you’ve got a bit of extra time.
Bad Luck Fale vs. Minoru Suzuki (2): Mean-spirited brawling from the bell, to the floor, and Fale’s well in control. Back inside, Suzuki’s face fills with resolve and some quick thinking turns the tide. Bringing a chair into the equation with referee Marty Asami distracted by El Desperado, Minoru giving Bad Luck a taste of his own shenanigans, eventually Fale makes a comeback and... then the standard Firing Squad nonsense starts in.
So, this is better than Fale’s average match of the tournament, but not by so much as to earn a real recommendation.
EVIL vs. “Switchblade” Jay White (4): A disdainful, arrogant White kicking off the match, telling EVIL that he’s not taking this from him and hammering him with strikes. The King of Darkness overcomes with raw strength but Switchblade isn’t beyond just cold suplexing him over the ropes to the floor to keep from being routed. Pressing the attack, destroying EVIL’s back, but the bigger man manages to give him a taste of his own medicine on the floor.
Escalating, big moves and tight exchanges in the finishing stretch, and overall this is a really good match that’s absolutely worth watching.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada (5): The opening exchange shows how well these men know each other, ducking and dodging and into a stalemate. Tanahashi pulls the first advantage, going to work on Okada’s leg, but soon enough the Rainmaker is returning the favor in kind and attacking the 1/100 Ace’s bad knee himself. Hiroshi stumbling, barely able to walk as we cross the ten minute line but he refuses to show the pain and gets into a slugfest before getting back on track with the leg.
So the story is set, an intense legwork-for-legwork back and forth between two men with a legendary rivalry with the clock ever looming over Okada’s head. An absolute instant classic. Watch it!
Night Eighteen (B Block, August 11)
Tama Tonga vs. Toru Yano (1): Yano looking to end it quick with flash pins, playing fair, but when Tonga starts hammering him he goes right for the turnbuckle pads. Trips outside and back in, Tama viciously attacking the Sublime Master Thief but after Tonga assaults referee Marty Asami for daring to tell him he needs to get out of the ropes, Yano manages a comeback. Firing Squad comes down and an admittedly somewhat fresh riff on the usual nonsense ensues. Pass.
Hirooki Goto vs. Juice Robinson (4): Robinson removes his cast before the match even begins, not wanting any restrictions on his capacity for violence in his last G1 match of the year. Targeting Goto’s injured arm, pressing the attack a good while until the grumpy NEVER champ fires up and we get into the hard striking segment of the match and then the trading of bombs on our way to the finish.
Just good friendly violent fun (to borrow a phrase) and definitely worth watching.
SANADA vs. Tomohiro Ishii (5): From grappling to striking in the feeling out and SANADA nearly wins the match early with a suffocating chinlock. Ishii recovers and walks his way through crushing forearms, some tight jockeying for position and really cool exchanges, this starts off a little slow but reaches a fever pitch in the back half and has an absolutely epic finishing stretch. Watch it!
Tetsuya Naito vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (4): Naito’s stalling gets Sabre hot at the jump but ZSJ keeps enough of his wits about him to start pretzeling the Stardust Genius up, trying to find a weak spot to exploit. Naito fights his way back into it, and a story unfolds, Sabre able to constantly reassert his dominance with submissions but Tetsuya never totally out of it, creating openings any way he can.
The end result is a really satisfying match, although one that never quite hits exceptional levels. Definitely worth watching, though!
Kenny Omega vs. Kota Ibushi (5): Playing nice in the feeling out, tensions rise through striking, trapped between love and the desire for victory, and the match pivots on a wheelbarrow tombstone piledriver on the apron from Omega. Kenny follows it up with all manner of violence, none of it able to put Ibushi away and Kota manages to crack the door open. From there, things swing back and forth, escalations on escalations, and your daily recommended allowance of “oh god, really?!” spots round the match out.
Visceral, violent, full of drama and heart, this match is everything you hoped it’d be when it was announced as the last match of block action, folks. Make haste, watch it!
There you have it, folks
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.