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NJPW G1 Climax 29 match recommendations: Nights 1-7

Jon Moxley and Tomohiro Ishii mid-match New Japan Pro Wrestling

It’s G1 Climax time and we’re running late, so check our New Japan section for results if you need ‘em. Otherwise, on with the show!

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 One (July 6, A Block)

Lance Archer vs. Will Ospreay (5): First off, boo to Will losing Elevated as his entrance music!

Second, this is a match in which Archer catches Ospreay off of a Sasuke Special and chokeslams him over the barricade and through a table. They fight all over the place, it’s basically nonstop violence... WATCH IT!

Bad Luck Fale vs. EVIL (3): EVIL hard out the gates, taking things to the floor, but of course Fale can’t be held down for long and we get a nice back and forth fight for a bit. To the floor, the horsecollar trick with the chair gets the King of Darkness the advantage but the Rogue General fights back, chairs of his own, a nearfall off of Grenade and referee Kenta Sato is down and the match heads into the final stretch.

SANADA vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (4): More entertaining than the last one, that’s for sure! Intense mat grappling to start, neither man with an advantage, trading nearfalls at length and finally stalemating. Turning the heat up, finally a fed-up ZSJ turns to striking! Escalating and escalating, grappling and striking and power moves in turn, this is awesome and definitely worth tossing on the pile.

KENTA vs. Kota Ibushi (3): I dunno, this one didn’t really work all that well for me-- it felt a little slow and methodical and I didn’t really buy into the “two expert strikers methodically laying into each other” story being told here, maybe because it felt a bit much like they were protecting a worn-down KENTA and making sure he wasn’t too greatly outshone by Ibushi.

It’s certainly not *bad* however, just not exactly what I was hoping for and let’s be real, a lot of our gut “this is good, this is bad” reaction to pro wrestling is based on how well a match conforms to what we wanted out of it. So, a middle of the road rating, but with the sense that it’s worth checking out to satisfy your curiosity all the same.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada (5): Y’all know these guys. Y’all know their series. And this one starts off strong and doesn’t waste a huge amount of time getting into the meat of it— no huge extended feeling out, just a cocky Rainmaker dominating a humbled, worn-down 1/100 Ace as Tanahashi tries to fight through the pain. Counters on counters, all the escalation you could want, and in a relatively tight little 25 minute package? Watch it!

Night Two (July 13, B Block)

Juice Robinson vs. Shingo Takagi (3): Robinson in control of the feeling out but Takagi drops him with a DDT on the floor. Tossing Juice around back in the ring, the flamboyant one comes back with punches but Shingo can play that game just as well. The action intensifies, a real good back and forth through to the finish, no real strong throughline here but it’s good solid wrestling.

Jon Moxley vs. Taichi (4): Taichi jumps Moxley as he’s entering through the crowd, dominating the early goings, including the obligatory big countout nearfall. Jon recovers, we got strikes being traded, action goes back outside and the heat turns way up as Taichi goes through a table! Referee down and out, Mox gets hardcore, and the story turns to Taichi desperately avoiding the Death Rider as we go into the final stretch.

Good stuff, energized Mox is always fun, heavyweight Taichi is good as long as his matches don’t get overlong or stall, worth tossing on the pile, this one!

Tetsuya Naito vs. Toru Yano (4): Naito stalling early, much to Yano’s frustration. Match gets going, the Stardust Genius turning the Sublime Master Thief’s playbook around on him and it quickly becomes a question of if ol’ YTR knows his own tricks well enough to stay a step ahead of Naito’s all-out assault. Some fun t-shirt shenanigans in this, it’s not a top tier Yano G1 match, but it’s very good and worth watching unless you’re super pressed for time.

Jeff Cobb vs. Tomohiro Ishii (4): Hey. Hey. Psst. You kids like a clubberin’? This is a clubberin’! Cobb brings his great strength to bear, of course, but this match is like 80% forearms by volume and I don’t think I need to tell you how much that rules when it’s done right, and here it is very right. It’s not quite on the level of the best matches of this style, but it’s damn good and it’s worth your time.

Hirooki Goto vs. “Switchblade” Jay White (3): Switchblade stalling on the floor early, making sure Gedo has a good seat at ringside, but Goto follows after and finally gets to work. A back and forth grinding affair, scientific in its precision at times, but lacking some kind of spark or soul to make it really worth recommending. Good solid action, though.

Night Three (July 14, A Block)

Bad Luck Fale vs. Lance Archer (2): HOSS FIGHT! This is a brawl, folks. Is it a great brawl? No, it is not. It’s a good few clicks below Cobb/Ishii for sure. But it’s fun enough, has a good back and forth vibe with Archer fighting from underneath and struggling to get Fale off his feet, that even though I’m not quite willing to go three for it, it’s a very strong two, especially considering who’s involved.

SANADA vs. Will Ospreay (3): Exquisite fast-paced jockeying for position, dueling Paradise Locks, SANADA starts targeting the neck and Ospreay is on the back foot. Hard-hitting, violent, and a smidge heavier on the striking than I expected going in, this is a good time even if it’s not really a super strong recommendation.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (4): Fast-paced, and violent, they waste no time getting into it and this is like a greatest hits for both these guys in the best way. ZSJ ties Okada up in knots, counters and exchanges, it’s not quite a tippy top shelf mandatory watch, but it’s damn good, folks.

EVIL vs. Kota Ibushi (5): Brawling from the jump, Ibushi going full striker to keep up with EVIL. But EVIL targets the knee and Kota is forced to adjust as the match continues and he dips deeper into his palette of high flying tricks, and this is a hell of a contest overall. Watch it!

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. KENTA (5): Two warriors, injured and worn down, past their prime, absolutely laying it all on the line here. KENTA dominated the early goings, but you can’t keep Tanahashi down, and the back and forth hard-striking came together with the natural story of where both men are in their careers to make for a really good match that deserves your attention.

It definitely still feels like, at this point, they have to work around KENTA’s limitations, but this felt like a much better version of that than the Ibushi match, to me.

Night Four (July 15, B Block)

Shingo Takagi vs. Toru Yano (2): Shingo has Yano basically dead to rights the entire time and it’s a question of whether the Sublime Master Thief can use his bag of tricks to get him out of it. Fine match, but even as much as I like both guys, it’s not really worth going out of your way for.

Hirooki Goto vs. Juice Robinson (1): Hard hitting from the jump, Goto takes charge, Juice makes a comeback... this is all pretty by the numbers stuff. It’s enjoyable enough, it gets pretty physically intense by the end and it’s far from bad, but there’s just not much here. Pass.

Jeff Cobb vs. Jon Moxley (3): Cobb overwhelming Mox with his strength early, but a trip to the floor evens the odds and Jon starts bringing his grappling skills to bear. Brawling up the ramp and back down, good back and forth action but not quite worth a strong recommendation.

“Switchblade” Jay White vs. Tomohiro Ishii (3): Again White stalling early, but Ishii goes after Gedo and gets the match rolling his way. Switchblade cheats, the Stone Pitbull fills with determination, and the end result is... fine. It gets plenty exciting in the closing stretch but it’s just not quite the magic you wanna see.

Taichi vs. Tetsuya Naito (4): Taichi in control once the match really gets rolling, Naito keeps fighting back and making openings, there’s a ref bump section at one point, and as a result this has it all. It’s a bit of a theme of the night, however, but I just wasn’t feeling this as much as the pure work would suggest.

Night Five (July 18, A Block)

KENTA vs. Lance Archer (3): Archer leading with his strength but his leg is all jacked up and the story immediately becomes clear— David and Goliath, but Goliath’s got a bum leg and David’s one of the hardest strikers in all of Judea. This is a tad sloppy around the edges and I wish the leg was as important as it first seemed, but it’s a darn good match and worth tossing on the pile all the same.

EVIL vs. SANADA (4): This is a really fun back and forth from two tag partners who know each other intimately. Not a total barnburner, but enough fun borrowing of each others’ spots and the like to be worth a recommendation.

Bad Luck Fale vs. Kazuchika Okada (1): This is very much your standard Fale/Okada match and that match has become played out, especially on a night when the same kind of David and Goliath action was done better by KENTA and Archer. Pass.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (5): Shocker, two guys that always have really excellent grappling-oriented matches had a really excellent grappling-oriented match. A game Tanahashi took a strong lead early this time, Sabre fighting from underneath, maybe not the best of their series but definitely a match worth watching!

Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay (5): A grappling-heavy opening gambit, with Ospreay soon lighting on Ibushi’s bum leg and going to town on it, gives way to all the high-flying action you expect from these two. My one caveat here is there’s a lot of quite brutal head dropping here, so if you have serious mixed or negative feelings to that kinda thing, maybe this one isn’t quite so much a must-watch.

Night Six (July 19, B Block)

Shingo Takagi vs. Taichi (3): Outside and back in, Taichi dominates the proceedings early, Shingo fights his way back in, we get some good escalation and this is a solid match that maybe runs a little too long and could maybe have used a real spark of interest.

Jeff Cobb vs. Juice Robinson (3): This one is all about Cobb’s strength weighed against Juice’s never say die attitude and it makes for a pretty fun time, really.

“Switchblade” Jay White vs. Toru Yano (2): White stalling out the gates, Gedo plays the difference maker but Yano gets stuck in doing his deal soon enough. Gedo cheats, the Sublime Master Thief cheats, we get a fun back and forth and, overall, this is fun but not essential.

Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito (4): An aggressive Goto taking no shit out the gates and choking Naito with his t-shirt is enough to wake me right up! Vicious Goto is in full effect here and takes no quarter with the Stardust Genius, this is short and snappy and violent and definitely worth your time, folks.

Jon Moxley vs. Tomohiro Ishii (5): Now this is what I’m talking about! This was one of my most anticipated matches coming into the tourney— the idea of CZW vet Mox against New Japan’s finest brawler Ishii had me salivating, and the actual match delivered every bit on the promise of violence! Outside and back in, this has a little bit of everything, from full-on Frye/Takayama punching to technical wrestling, to a chair fight, to tables, to New Japan main event type reversals and exchanges late...

In short, this is an incredible match. Watch it!

Night Seven (July 20, A Block)

Bad Luck Fale vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (4): Ever wanted to see Zack Sabre, Jr. spend five minutes trying to take a giant off his feet and nothing else? Well, a) me too, that does sound pretty cool and b) This is the match for you! Add in some really cool stuff in the stands and a clever finish, and I like this match more than I’ve liked a Fale match in ages.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Lance Archer (3): Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the monster heel absolutely brutalizes our plucky-if-worn-down hero until he fights his way back and attempts to overcome adversity. Okay okay cynicism aside, this is a good fun implementation of this kinda match even if it doesn’t ascend to mandatory viewing. The very definition of “one for the pile”

EVIL vs. KENTA (3): This is a wild brawl, to the back and up into the crowd, to a point where part of me is like “get this under control, referee” while the rest of me is super into seeing KENTA brainbuster EVIL through a chair deep in the crowd. It’s a little slow once we settle into the ring, but it’s still a good time and worth tossing in the mix if you can spare the fifteen minutes.

Kota Ibushi vs. SANADA (4): Very much an “anything you can do, I can do better” match between two versatile masters, escalating from friendly feeling out to “okay, die now” striking and big moves, this is a really good match that nonetheless failed to totally grip me, so I’m stopping just shy of a must-watch here.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay (5): This is about what you’d expect out of a G1 match between these two guys— feeling out is a bit abbreviated, we get some escalations and learned psychology, and a finishing stretch that’s an absolute tour de force of borrowed moves and counters. Good stuff!

There you have it, folks

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

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