NJPW G1 Climax Finals Review – Top 5 Matches & MVP feat. Imp & Sam

G1 Climax

Welcome to the Lords of Pain weekly New Japan G1 Climax review where your intrepid New Japan guides, The Implications and Sir Sam rank the top five matches for the week and award the best and brightest performers for the week points towards being the LOP G1 MVP. Today we cover the final weekend of competition, night 17, 18 and the final. You can find either fella on Twitter @TheDamnImplicat or @Sir_Samuel.

Imp: Well here we are, the best weekend of the entire wrestling calendar worldwide. A great month wrestling, not so great for G1 Prediction contest entrants.

Sam: Also not so great for those Naito fans who thought that finally their boy’s time had come. Still can’t argue that the last six weeks haven’t been an absolute all you can eat buffet of star ratings.

Imp:  But this is it, Sam! The end of the G1 road. Another dose of the annual run of Match of the Year candidates being thrown at us three or four nights a week in the bag. What do we do now? Like… just like in life in general, what does one do when one is not up for the G1 every day?

Sam: Simply dream about what awaits us next year my dearest Imp.

 

Top 5 Matches of The Final Weekend

5. Shingo Takagi v Hirooki Goto (Night 18)

Fair to say these two big strong boys went at each other with not much consideration into possibly holding back a tad. Shingo’s lariats had so much force, Goto’s Goroshi’s absolutely devastating. The Last Dragon’s closing nights were some of the best matches of the entire tournament, night after night, after night. 

With that said Shingo was still the one with something to prove here, the man playing the upset, the spoiler. With Goto caught in the desperation of those final 4 in contention for that top spot on the last block night, the LIJ man was really only playing for pride. Turns out that’s more than enough of a motivator, the opportunity to end his first G1 on an impressive 8 points.

If you’re one of those fans that loves the Strong Style NJPW has become famous for showcasing, then I can’t recommend this match enough. The best ‘NEVER Strong Boy Match That Didn’t Have Ishii In It’ of the tournament, if you’ve been picking and choosing this tournament you need to go out of your way to watch Shingo Takagi’s final three matches. Rounded off an incredible G1 debut for the dragon.

Sam: Tetsuya Naito v Jay White (Night 18)

Yes, the match that broke the hearts of Naito fans worldwide made my top five matches and not just because I had a good old laugh at the Naito-Twitter meltdown after it finished.

This was a match between two wrestlers who have completely mastered their characters, they know how they will react in every situation and exactly how to provoke others. From the get go each man was throwing and dodging psychological jabs left and right, when Jay White rolled out of the ring, Naito hit the ropes and rolled into his tranquillo pose. When The Switchblade rolled back in Naito then rolled out, telling Jay White to calm down.

These kind of interactions peppered the match as things accelerated and both men began to hit some of their signature offence. While a lot of Jay White matches through the G1 have been marred with shenanigans from Gedo this one deserves praise for being suitably restrained in that vein.

Ultimately White was able to out-smart the quicker and more athletic Naito. The Switchblade caught Naito in trap after trap and ultimately caught him in The Bladerunner for a heartbreaking win. Given the result of the final I think it was for the best that White was the man to progress. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for those that love the LIJ leader but at least he was able to go out in a way that reminded us just how good he can be.

 

4. Sam: Shingo Takagi v Hirooki Goto (Night 18)

Oh boy. Imp I know you love to talk about BIG LADS doing BIG LAD wrestling but I’m going to have to steal your phrase for this one because boy did these two big beefy blokes lay into each other.

The chops, forearms and lariats came thick and fast as these two stood toe to toe, trading, tossing each other into the ropes and generally showing off the kind of explosive power that Strong Style is renowned for. The only thing that dwarfed the sound of these two smacking into each other was the thunderous ovation the Budokan crowd gave this match as it built up to its crescendo.

This match also fitted perfectly into each man’s story for the tournament, Shingo showing everyone he is at the forefront of the next wave of talent coming into the heavyweight ranks and Goto fighting not to get drowned by the deluge.

Both men have been superb this G1 but special mention needs to be made for Shingo Takagi who in my mind has been the most consistent wrestler in the entire tournament.

Imp: TAICHI v Tomohiro Ishii (Night 18)

And after that, now we have the winner of this week’s ‘NEVER Big Strong Boy Award For The Match That DID Have Ishii In It‘.

There’s something truly special about that potato of a man, completely changes the aura of a match into a true test of strength and will. Just how many times are you willing to headbutt your opponent? Or constantly kick out after being kicked or dropped on your head with increasing force? Ishii was on rare form, but TAICHI more than rose to the occasion.

The Suzuki-Gun man was alert and on it with his counters and quick strikes/kicks to stop the Pitbull’s momentum, really stepping up and getting close to matching Ishii in his own game. If you’ve seen an Ishii match before you know that only gives you a short window for offence, but TAICHI was getting right in there and with it the pace of this match went right through the roof. Kick, suplex, kickout. Ki-no! Lariat, suplex, kickout!

The second top notch example of NJPW’s Strong Style on my list this week, if you’re a fan of that style you were sure spoilt this year.

 

3. Imp: Will Ospreay v Hiroshi Tanahashi (Night 17)

This match… man, this match!

An instant classic, like seriously one of the best matches of this whole tournament. Everything I love about the current era of NJPW all rolled into one package, with Tanahashi of the past facing off for the first time against Ospreay of the future. A clash of generations, where the respect was on display right front and centre.

I loved the story of The Aerial Assassin utilizing his off the charts athleticism, whilst The Ace of the Universe is reaching that point where he’s simply not able to fly at the rates he used to. Once one of the best, now The Ace has to be extremely considerate as to when he climbs for the High Fly Flo.

With every other aspect of his offence however, Tanahashi is still as great as he ever was. So the pace of this match became insane with the counters and reversals from the two, both proving they can go for entirely different reasons at opposite ends of their careers. I don’t have the words to express how much I loved this match, I was so engrossed and jumped up with a roar when Ospreay surprised the hell out of me with his eventual win.

I was just sat there waiting for Tanahashi to reverse the Stormbreaker yet again, I’d seen it a million times where The Ace looked out, only to reverse into an impressive Slingbade. He did exactly that earlier in the match, but on that final attempt he didn’t have anything left. Ospreay’s string of offence was too much: destroyed by the Hidden Blade, caught by the OsCutter and then finally finished off with the Stormbreaker.

Says something where after all that I was still expecting Tanahahsi to kick out or reverse at the last second. Such was the unpredictability of this match, right up until that final count I still didn’t believe Ospreay was going to win. Incredible stuff, watch this match now.

Sam: Kota Ibushi v Jay White (Final) 

The G1 final last year between Hiroshi Tanahshi and Kota Ibushi was my match of the year so I had very high expectations coming into this G1 Final weekend. What we ended up getting was something quite different that may not have hit the absolutely astronomical heights of the 2018 final but still concluded the tournament in an immensely satisfying way.

I will start by saying that Jay White’s performance in this match was absolutely masterful. He has copped his fair share of criticism over the last month but this performance deserves nothing but the highest praise. Everything he does, right down to the smallest facial expression is done to provoke the crowd into hating him more and more and having such a scumbag across the ring from the newly minted hero really elevated the atmosphere of this match. Whereas last year had an epic split reaction between the past and future Ace of the company, this year there was not one man or woman in the 10,000 strong crowd who wasn’t cheering and stomping their feet for Kota Ibushi.

With Jay White coming out early with the entire Bullet Club and toying with the ref, this was possibly the closest thing New Japan might get to embracing the melodrama of the WWE but in a good way. Once the action truly kicked off though the shenanigans were mostly shelved and on the biggest stage both men were able to shine a light on what makes them special. Ibushi an incredible natural talent fighting through the pain of a crippled ankle and Jay White the opportunist ruthlessly targeting the one weakness and countering everything that was thrown at him.

Ultimately Gedo decided to send the fans home happy though and Kota Ibushi was able to overcome everything Jay and The Bullet Club could throw at him on the way to his first ever G1 win and a ticket to the main event of Wrestle Kingdom.

 

2. Sam: Will Ospreay v Hiroshi Tanahashi (Night 17)

I have a pet theory that while Will Opsreay may be a wrestling ninja, as a person he is actually a bit of a ‘basic bitch’. A guy who despite his skills has pretty gaudy tastes like flipping into that slightly ridiculous video-game pose, pulling out a sword for his Best of the Super Juniors Final and posing like it was the coolest things ever or getting overly worked up by things like ‘handing over the torch’. While that may sound like a negative take on him it is actually something I find quite endearing and it was that trait that I think shone through in this match that wasn’t exactly a handing of the torch but was certainly a milestone and marking point for the ‘boy from Essex’.

Despite both wrestlers being eliminated they came into this match with a full understanding of the significance of it. Could the surging Will Ospreay, a man in the form of his career, the wrestler most have already penciled in as wrestler of the year beat The Ace of New Japan? Could he show he truly belonged in the upper echelon of the heavyweight division of the company?

Tanahashi may not be what he once was athletically but when it comes to a big match he knows every trick in the book to draw the crowd in, get them on the edge of their seat and just making it feel like a huge deal. This wasn’t even the main event for the night but he took Will Ospreay to New Japan main event school and gave him a masterclass in how to fight like the ace.

There were some incredible moments here, Tana tearing into Ospreay’s knee with Dragon Screws, Will hitting Tana with a hook kick while The Ace was psyching himself up, Tana countering everything with a Sling Blade and up until the very end the result was still in question.

This was a coming of age for Ospreay, he is truly growing in stature with every match at the moment and a win over The Ace really cements his status in the company.

Imp: Jay White v Kota Ibushi (Final)

Could Kota Ibushi rise above the stacked odds, with White using all the cheap tricks in the book? These two created that feeling of dread around a possible Switchblade win so damn well, I was genuinely rocking back and forth muttering to myself, “Please not Jay. Kick his arse and win, Ibushi!”

This was full of the normal Jay White shenanigans, but with the added tension of the final there was always that feeling of it taking something more from him to win. However, damn did Ibushi rise to that occasion! He came across as such the veteran when taking it to the Bullet Club man, slapping him straight across to face in an attempt to get the lad to cut that shit out. Like he’d taken inspiration from how Tanahashi carried himself in the G1 Final last year, this time he was the one to demand more from his opponent.

Whilst Jay White trusted the system, the faith in his insane streak had carried him this far, why fix what’s not been broken? Well, because the Block Final is an entirely different beast to the rest of the other matches, that’s why. Kota Ibushi knew that, but I’m sure in the future Jay will value his time on work experience.

This was such a great match to end the tournament on, The Switchblade has become NJPW’s most despised heel and Kota Ibushi their shining star. The dynamic created such a tense atmosphere, not one person sat in the Budokan was cheering for Jay White, all behind the man who had come so damn close last year. I just loved it, I rate the 4th Bullet Club leader so highly because he really does make me hate him so damn much.

And those closing sequences! Jesus they were tense as the worry crept in that White might actually win this. The ‘counter culture’ in full force with the man seemingly able to reverse pretty much everything into a Sleeper Suplex, setting up a Blade Runner attempt in the process. Yet another absolutely incredible final 5 minutes of a G1 match, we’ve been so spoilt this past month. I’m truly going to miss it as my attention turns to America and the impending first week of October.

Final note: Jay white calling his Brainbuster with a Final Cut like rotation the ‘Bladebuster’ is a bloody fantastic name.

 

1. Imp: Kazuchika Okada v Kota Ibushi (Night 17)

And to think in the near future this will be looked at as the first go around before the Wrestle Kingdom main event. If this is the ‘preview’ then sign me right up for January 5th! This match executed so damn perfectly. Everything from soaking in the atmosphere of dueling crowd chants, to the counter crazy final sequences. Okada and Ibushi delivered a classic, something that was even elevated by the G1 stakes on the line; the winner took it all.

Quite often in NJPW main events the wrestler’s offence starts to get delivered with increasing intensity as the match progresses, however here the counters themselves became immediate momentum changers and pinfall attempts. Instead of countering and then hitting your move, why not just counter with your move! A dropkick reversal that then leads into a suplex or something? Nah, not in this match. Now the dropkick is immediately shut down by the Last Ride Powerbomb! Ibushi’s suplexes are rotated straight into a Spinning Rainmaker! For some of them you like, “How’d he do that?”… if you didn’t know, Okada and Ibushi’s abilities are pretty insane.

Throughout these G1 columns I’ve praised Okada’s mastery of those final 5 – 10 minutes of his matches, but this match here might be the best out of the lot of them. The tension of the situation definitely elevated the significance of each and every move, the match built so damn well. I got lost in the flow of counters/reversals, sat on the edge of my seat as I thought the end was coming only for the momentum to completely swing in an instant.

I don’t I’ll ever get bored of these Okada final sequences, all these years later they still get me every single time. And to think, it’s less than 5 months till the next one. That’s really not that long to wait, we’re months away and Wrestle Kingdom is already shaping up damn nicely.

Sam: Kazuchika Okada v Kota Ibushi (Night 17)

The ending stretch of a Kazuchika Okada match as both combatants counter, dodge and parry one another’s finishing moves is a thing of beauty even in just a throwaway multi-man tag match. However those sequences truly transcend to another level when you add some stakes to a match’s outcome. When there are tangible stakes every single movement comes with elevated peril as the two wrestlers continually up the stakes hoping and praying they aren’t the first to put a foot out of place.

Both these wrestlers are supreme athletes and masters of their craft in the ring but for me that ending streak was the beauty of this match, that was the awe of it. Two incredibly athletic, evenly matched men fighting for the win and their position in the G1 final with everything they had. The Rainmaker v Kamigoye battle was breathtaking to see and while I loved the build up that saw Okada attack Ibushi’s ankle and The Golden Star fight back into things it was the ending stretch that left me with my mouth agape.

The current golden standard in the company against a golden star rapidly closing in on him. If this is what they did for the G1 Block Final boy we have something to look forward to at Wrestle Kingdom.

 

G1 Climax MVP – Finals Weekend

Over the course of the G1 we will be awarding points to three wrestlers for their performances each week and at the end use them to crown the MVP for the G1.

3 Points

Imp: Kota Ibushi
The Golden Era has begun! Could this week’s MVP possibly be any other man? Not only did he win the prestigious G1 Climax tournament, but also did it in style via two absolute bangers against Okada and White. As I said in the review, Ibushi really came across feeling like a veteran after his experience from last year. Never letting the emotion of the occasion override him and being the one demanding his opponent rise up to that next level.

What doesn’t hurt is the incredible ability The Rainmaker and The Switchblade both show in their closing 5 – 10 minutes or so with counter after counter after counter. Momentum up in the air as you sit on the edge of your seat as the match swings back and forth in such a dramatic fashion. Ibushi played into that so damn well, now mixing in more and more of his striking offence as well as his awe inspiring strength and athleticism.

Two Match of the Year contenders in a row for The Golden Star, two must watch affairs, both filled with so much tension thanks to the stakes on the line. Ibushi felt like the deserved winner, finally realising what seemed promised all those years ago after wrestling Nakamura in the semi-main event of the Dome.

Now he gets to actually challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship on that stage, I for one cannot wait.

Sam: Kota Ibushi
What more can I say about Kota Ibushi? While getting a chance in the final is almost a cheat code for these MVP standings, he was just undeniable this week with two incredible but quite different matches on the way to his first ever G1 win.

In the match reviews above I did say a lot about the skills of Jay White and Kazuchika Okada but the X-Factor that Kota Ibushi brings to the ring adds something else entirely to every match he is in. Not only is he basically a Create-A-Wrestler that has had every single skill stat turned up to 100 and every single move switched on, he has a way of showing his emotions that is nuanced enough to come across on camera but is also big enough to bring in the live crowd. All the Kota Ibushi’s were on display this weekend, from the respectful and humble wrestler who calls Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura his Gods to Murder Kota, the Kota Ibushi that snaps when pushed too far by his foe and visciously stalks down his opponenet soley driven to deliver as much pain as possible.

This weekend New Japan went all in with Kota Ibushi and as a result so have I, giving him the full three points towards MVP.

2 Points

Sam: Kazuchika Okada
It only took one match but The Rainmaker takes two points from me towards the MVP finishing the tournament in the way he started it, putting on yet another classic main event. He may have ended up on the losing side but that hasn’t hidden the fact that all tournament he has been on a pretty incredible roll.

In the A Block final he pushed Kota Ibushi to the absolute end and perhaps gave Ibushi the confidence boost he needed to take the final win he couldn’t manage last year. On the way to it he showed off everything that makes him special: the ability to work as well as both the aggressor and underdog, the mouthwatering counter exchanges and the best dropkick in wrestling.

Okada is at the peak of his powers right now and it is a pleasure to have the chance to watch this once in a generation wrestler ply his craft.

Imp: Jay White
The Switchblade isn’t flashy or an athletic marvel, but he just gets all the little things right. Plus it’s hard to ignore the positive effect of being under the Okada learning tree has had, White is getting better and better at those rapid-paced, counter heavy, closing five minutes of NJPW main events. The G1 Climax Final match may have been his best outing yet, I got right behind Ibushi as White’s counters came thick and fast after 20 minutes of full on cheating and insult throwing.

At this point White’s got his character down to a T as well, he shows spells of fluidity in the ring but you can’t help but hate the man as he comes across as an absolute dick. In that way he’s a real call back to the first Bullet Club leader in Prince Devitt, shows all the ability in the world but would rather antagonise his opponent and cheat to victory. To be fair I think that also perfectly describes Toru Yano, he just does it in a jovial manner nowadays.

In spite of the loss this was a great G1 for The Switchblade, going on a 6 match winning streak and making the final, Coming so, so close to that Wrestle Kingdom main event. And with the rest of Bullet Club around him, to me this was the first time Jay White truly felt like a leader. This is his faction, setting a precedent and leading by example. Don’t be surprised if White makes the G1 Climax Final again next year.

1 Point

Imp: Kazuchika Okada
I simply could not ignore Okada’s effort against Ibushi in the A Block Final, hell of match where either man felt like they could win throughout. I praised Jay White’s counter ability, but the CHAOS leader really is the master of that style. His matches swing so dramatically and everyone comes off as a star because of it, The Rainmaker can be grounded but he’s very rarely out.

Such a fantastic way to close out the A Block, cementing what has been an absolute joy to watch over the course of this past month. God it’s great to have The Rainmaker back, as fun as it was I’m not sure Rocky could have survived another G1 with The Balloonmaker

Sam: Jay White

Jay White rounds out the MVP points earners in our final week with two utterly hateful performances. When it comes to getting booed in modern wrestling it is hard to get genuine heel reactions for non-meta reasons but Jay White manages to wrestle in an absolutely flawless manner but still be a completely unlikable prick the entire time.

I dread seeing my favorite wrestlers face him and never ever want to see him win that IWGP Title again and that is exactly why he earns his point this week.

G1 Climax 29 Wrap-Up

Top Match

Imp: Tomohiro Ishii v Jon Moxley (Night 6)
There have been so many incredible matches this G1, Match of the Year candidates thrown out pretty much every other day. So instead of trying to figure out the absolute best of the best, I’ve decided to just pick a personal favourite. In that vein, for me nothing topped the enjoyment of watching Jon Moxley arrive in this tournament with his Korakuen war against the Stone Pitbull.

From the start with the two head-to-head, shouting in other’s faces, there was such a unique aura around this match. The brawl into the crowd, the bit with them both wildly swinging chairs at each other, the flying Ishii! So many memorable moments, an absolute joy to watch that absolutely flies by. All the questions of Moxley in New Japan were answered on this night, he well and truly could hang with the folk at the top.

It’s a shame he’s going to AEW to have even more dream matches to be honest!

Sam: Will Ospreay v Kazuchika Okada (Night 7)
If you go back to the week two wrap up you will find something a little odd given me and Imp’s picks here. I originally rated this match below Ishii v Mox and Imp originally rated that match below what is now my pick for match of the tournament, Okada v Ospreay. While Ishii v Moxley was absolutely wild fun I will stand by what I said at the time, the combination of Ospreay’s athleticism and Okada’s skill made Ospreay v Okada “the best pure wrestling match of the tournament”.

This match told another chapter in a story as old as time of a young up and comer nipping at the heels of the top guy. Okada and Ospreay have met before and each time Ospreay has come just a little closer to beating his CHAOS leader. In this encounter each time Okada upped the ante, Ospreay was able to hold on right until the bitter end. While Okada is safe in the knowledge he took the win this time you get these two are just getting started and The Rainmaker should keep an eye over his shoulder for the up and coming Assassin in his ranks.

MVP Winner

Kota Ibushi – 11 points
Kazuchika Okada – 10 points
Tomohiro Ishii – 7 points
Hiroshi Tanahashi – 6 points
Jay White – 6 points
Will Ospreay – 5 points
Jon Moxley – 5 points
Shingo Takagi – 4 points
Tetsuya Naito – 3 points
Toru Yano – 1 point
Lance Archer – 1 point
Juice Robinson – 1 point

Sam: Kota Ibushi
This is a little bit of a surprise for me, I would have picked at least two others ahead of him, (Okada & Ishii) but the points don’t lie. When Ibushi was on this G1 he was incredible, be it his emotional meeting with Tanahashi, his athletic back and forths with Will Ospreay & SANADA, his cerebral match with ZSJ, a monster match with Lance Archer or these two final matches there is no denying The Golden Star’s place amongst the tippy top of the rankings.

This win really should come as no surprise to New Japan fans, the company has always been extremely high on The Golden Star and with the former free agent signing a ‘lifetime contract’ the one thing holding them back has been rectified.

It’s easy to forget that Ibushi is in his late 30s however as shown this G1 he is still at the absolute pinnacle of his powers athletically and mentally as well. It truly is a treat to see over a number of years such a talented guy fulfill the potential we all know he has.

Imp: Kazuchika Okada
With an honourable mentions list that pretty much includes everyone on our MVP Standings. Be it Tomohiro Ishii, Lance Archer, Hirooki Goto or Toru ‘freakin’ Yano; this G1 was bloody stacked and every single person delivered. That’s an insane amount of depth to be able to say that about a 20 man tournament.

That said, over the course of the tournament I slowly realised that Okada was either in the top or second best match of the week. Consistently, round after round delivering against every single opponent. The wrestlers around him definitely delivered, but every week The Rainmaker was at the top end of my lists. His matches with Tanahashi, Ospreay and Ibushi in particular are three of my favourite G1 Climax matches ever

He’s IWGP Heavyweight Champion for a reason, this G1 he gave us one hell of reminder. Even to a point where we believed he could legitimately be the first champion to win the whole thing of this generation, got to have a hell of a run to have us believing that. The champions never win! I fell right for it!

 

That’s wraps it up from us for the tournament. What were your favourite matches and who were your favourite performers in the G1 Climax? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @TheDamnImplicat and @Sir_Samuel. You can also go deeper on the G1 thread or write a column about it yourself on the LOP Forums here.

In case you missed it you can find last week’s review here. See you all next year!

80s Wrestling Con takes place on Saturday, October 26th in Freehold, NJ at iPlay America. The event features Ted DiBiase, Sgt. Slaughter, Bob Backlund, Paul Orndorff, Demolition, Brutus Beefcake, and more! For Superstars, Attractions, and Ticket information go to 80sWrestlingCon.com.

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