NJPW G1 Climax Week 1 Review – Top 5 Matches & MVP feat. Imp & Sam

Welcome to the Lords of Pain weekly New Japan G1 Climax review where your intrepid New Japan guides The Implications and Sir Sam give you a spoiler free top five matches for the week and then award the best and brightest performers for the week points towards being the G1 MVP. This week covers matches up to the matches on Thursday the 18th of July. To follow along through the week you can find either fella on Twitter @TheDamnImplicat or @Sir_Samuel.

Sam: So Imp, one week in how are you feeling about your predictions?

Imp: Oh I’m feeling just absolutely sky high, genuinely getting to the point of considering getting myself tested for clairvoyance. I mean, come on, getting a maximum of 2 out of 5 correct each night? Incredible level of accuracy.

Sam: My strategy was to pick the order in each block and always go for the higher ranked wrestler. Sounds kind of ‘out of the box smart’ but I can safely inform you it is a long way from that. It’s still been a very fun tournament so far though, I think I get a perverse joy from just how bad my pick ‘em is actually doing.

Imp: This really was a damn strong first week to the G1 Climax, picking just 5 was such a difficult task. I could only pick one Yano match! I mean, erm, one Will Ospreay match… yeah, I totally didn’t struggle more when picking which of Yano’s matches over which of The Aerial Assassin’s… yeah.

Top 5 Matches of Week 1

5. Imp: Toru Yano vs Shingo Takagi (Night 4)

I absolutely love what Yano brings to these annual G1 Climax tournaments, he just breaths such a life of fun into an otherwise stern, serious, everything on the line run of competition. What helps is how every one of his opponents adapts to his style and tries to outsmart the devious scamp, even against NJPW’s current Mr Strong Style Tomohiro Ishii, you won’t be seeing many stiff strike exchanges.

That was the exact scenario in this match, as big boy Junior Shingo tried to embrace the nonsense in a match that was just a pure joy to watch. From start to finish I was smiling from ear to ear, laughing as Shingo tried to overcome the next ridiculous scenario Yano had trapped him in.

A month long tournament really needs a wrestler like this to break up the tension, this was such an enjoyable example of that in play. I can’t recommend it enough, such a fun match. If you’re not a fan of comedy wrestling at all though, Sam’s got a different Shingo recommendation for you…

Over to you, Sam!

Sam: Juice Robinson v Shingo Takagi (Night 2)

This was such a classic New Japan heavyweight match: hard hitting, full of intensity, character and left both men looking better for it. So far this G1 it has been great to see Juice exploring his more serious side to his character and that fire was on full display in this match. It was also fascinating to see Singo taking on someone who was bigger than him as opposed to the Junior Heavyweights who he has been able to bully. Felt like a proper gritty fight and stole the show on B Blocks first night out and was a great way for both men to start the tournament.

 

4: Sam: Zack Sabre Jr v Kazuchika Okada (Night 3)

Zack Sabre Jr. is one of my favourite characters in all of wrestling at the moment and everything around this match demonstrates exactly why. Firstly it was a match he openly targeted, looking for an easy way to pinch an IWGP Heavyweight Championship title shot with a win over the champ instead of having to win the entire tournament. Through the match he dominated many of the silky smooth exchanges but his cockiness and temper ultimately cost him a win he had the skills but not discipline to attain. Finally in the aftermath he chucked a tantrum a 5 year old would be proud of kicking over the sponsors board. Poetry from start to finish.

Imp: Jay White vs Tomohiro Ishii (Night 4)

I’ll have a full plate of CHAOS repentance for The Switchblade please, mister waiter.

We’ve become so used to Jay White countering everything into the Blade Runner. Suddenly when that itself starts to be foreseen by his opponents, man we’re in for some bloody fantastic closing sequences!

And who better to counter with force than Tomohiro ‘freakin’ Ishii? It was like Jay White was getting caught and immediately forced to pay for his crime with the punishment of a stiff as hell strike from the Stone Pitbull. Striking the fear into him like NJPW legend Masahiro Chono in a Gaki No Tsukai Batsu game!

Top notch counter wrestling and excellent strong style toughness both showcased together in one match, that makes for a hell of a combination.

 

3. Imp: KENTA v Hiroshi Tanahashi (Night 3)

Long story short, I absolutely loved the narrative of this match. The man who is the embodiment of New Japan Pro Wrestling versus that of Pro Wrestling NOAH, a clash of styles a decade and a half in the making. With Tana saying his opponent is a great wrestler, but his style is not one that fits New Japan. Which in this match begged the question: does KENTA care? Especially if his style means he wins?

It really was like the crazy level of will and passion of Tanahashi versus the stiff, strong, technical brilliance offence of KENTA. Both wrestlers showing the embodiment of their wrestling upbringing AKA a dream match’s promise met in every way. The match built up incredibly, the ending sequence unpredictable as hell and a post-match encounter that promised more. Sam’ll go more into that later though. This not have been an athletic showcase, but I loved so much about this.

Side note: Tanahashi has been bloody fantastic these first three G1 matches.

Sam: Jay White v Tomohiro Ishii (Night 4)

I agree with everything Imp said, The Switchblade has become the master of putting together great sequences of counter wrestling. In this match those skills combined with a relentless pace that Ishii set to really showcase the talent of both men. The match was also chock full of some great little character bits including where Jay White dodged a lariat by petulantly laying down only for Ishii to change direction and take his head off with a sliding lariat. The ending felt like a genuine moment of catharsis WHEN Ishii, a man that bleeds CHOAS, managed to get one up over the man who tormented his stable most of last year.

 

2. Sam: Hiroshi Tanahashi v Kazuchika Okada (Night 1)

The defining feud of the decade for New Japan got another chapter added to it on the opening night of the tournament at Dallas. These two have been masters of building up sequences of moves and counter moves across all their matches and this match was no different. This particular installment did feel a little like a run through of their greatest hits for the American audience experiencing it live for the first time however when you’re greatest hits are as good as these two’s are then that is still a hell of a match.

Imp: Will Ospreay v Kota Ibushi (Night 5)

“My heart can’t take much more of this, Rocky.”

I think it’s fair to say these two didn’t have a ‘we’ve got injuries, let’s take it a little safer tonight’ match. Sasuke Specials, high suplexes, a Michinoku Driver vertically driving Ospreay onto his already injured neck. Man, this was everything you were expecting it to be going in, maybe a tad more given the injuries. Not forgetting Ibushi’s currently purple foot, with him grimacing as he walked round the ring before doing backflips and delivering Bomaye knee strikes.

Two out of this world athletes, targeting each other’s weak points and making wince every single time. Not a match for the weak of heart! The ending was dramatic as hell to boot, with the two almost going the full 30 minute time limit distance and collapsing in the middle of the ring. Ospreay had to hit the Robinson Special with the Golden Star still crumpled in a ball, purely because the man never got up, he was even unable to simply lift his head off the mat from exhaustion.

Hell of a match!

 

1. Imp: Hiroshi Tanahashi v Kazuchika Okada (Night 1)

The Dallas main event kicked off the G1 in style!

You would have thought the American Airlines Center was sold out by the noise generated by the US crowd for this match. An audience who believed they’d never get to see the feud of this generation in person, presented with (as Sam said) the greatest hits from Okada and Tanahashi’s matches together this past decade.

Starting A Block with the same match that closed it out last year, where going in neither man had beaten the other in their three previous G1 meetings. The battle of wills, could one of these men finally find a way to beat the other? Which is a fancy way of saying GOD DAMN there were a lot of counters, smooth as hell reversals over two extremely familiar opponents.

It’s going to take some doing to top this one. This is the G1 Climax though, if there was one competition that constantly topped its own peaks.

Sam: KENTA v Hiroshi Tanahashi (Night 3)

A dream match that well and truly lived up to the hype of two of the biggest names in Japanese wrestling of this decade meeting for the first time.

The match centered around the animosity between the pair as KENTA sought to prove himself and Tanahashi fought to protect his home soil. Small things like how KENTA interrupted Tana’s signature air guitar by punting him in the head or how they continually called out each other’s names added so much passion to this match.

It also finished promising plenty more to come in this story as Tanahashi refused to shake KENTA’s hand. All in all this was two masters of their craft building an emotional and incredibly effective match.

G1 Climax MVP – Week 1

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

Sam: Hiroshi Tanahashi
The memo that Hiroshi Tanahashi was working wounded that seemed to go out to every commentator pre G1 must have been missed by the man himself who has put on a trio of fantastic matches to kick off his G1. All three have blended classic Tanahashi work rate with the kind of character and story only The Ace can provide. He may not be doing so well on his win ratio but he gets my three points here.

Imp: Hiroshi Tanahashi
Go Ace!

A common census has been reached, week one of G1 Climax 29 belonged to The Ace. In a way a lot like last year, with Tanahashi reminding us with each subsequent match why we all fell in love with him in the first place. Boy am I happy to be wrong in predicting that story to have just been a thing last year, in 2019 we’re getting a whole second dose of reminders. Not that he’s winning, it’s great to him with that same level of will and determination, just now the talent around him has risen up.

Really this is the best way to use a veteran talent, looking great whilst elevating everyone around him. Results similar to as predicted, but performance wise Tanahashi was smashed my expectations so far.

2 Points

Imp: Will Ospreay
I simply could not ignore the quality of Ospreay’s first three matches, all of them were right up there for my Top 5 of the week. I had more than one on there until I finally realised I had to make a decision, brilliant output from a man who’s already had an incredible first half of the year. All three bouts against Lance Archer, SANADA and especially Ibushi were fantastic. The underdog Junior rising up to the Heavyweights one at a time, with every match ending at an even level where either one could win.

He may not win the G1, but if he continues like this the Aerial Assassin will be in for a damn strong shout for the tournament MVP. Well, only if Yano falls down our rankings (which I highly doubt)!

Sam: Jay White
Jay White has been copping it left and right from his former CHAOS stablemates this G1, firstly losing to Goto and then getting battered by Ishii. In both matches though he was able to demonstrate exactly why New Japan have put so much faith in him. The opening match with Goto was everything we could want from either man and the match with Ishii is one of my favs from the tournament so far. Big turnaround from last year’s G1 for the kiwi.

1 Point

Sam: Toru Yano
In the G1 Yano really is a joy to watch. He has started out this tournament with absolute comedy gold, building on his initial upset against Naito with one of the most logical comedy matches I’ve ever seen against Shingo. He is a perfect change of pace who knows his role and executes it perfectly. He’s never going to win the G1 but he has won a place in our hearts and on this list.

Imp: Jay White

Jay White’s offence caught everyone off guard in last year’s G1, this year they’ve adapted and it’s led to some fantastic matches involving the Switchblade so far. Really building up nicely to the Bullet Club leader finding his own way of countering to these new adaptations later on in the tournament. A fantastic first week, leaps and bounds above last year’s ‘cheat-fest’.

MVP Standings

Hiroshi Tanahshi – 6 points
Jay White – 3 points
Will Ospreay – 2 points
Toru Yano – 1 point

 

A Block Standings
(After 3 matches)

1 | Kazuchika Okada – 6 points
2 | KENTA – 6 points
3 | EVIL – 4 points
4 | Lance Archer – 4 points
5 | Bad Luck Fale – 2 points
6 | Hiroshi Tanahashi – 2 points
7 | Kota Ibushi – 2 points
8 | SANADA – 2 points
9 | Will Ospreay  – 2 points
10 | Zack Sabre Jr – 0 points

B Block Standings
(After 2 matches)

1 | Jon Moxley – 4 points
2 | Juice Robinson – 4 points
3 | Tomohiro Ishii – 4 points
4 | Hirooki Goto – 2 points
5 | Shingo Takagi – 2 points
6 | TAICHI – 2 points
7 | Toru Yano – 2 points
8 | Jay White – 0 points
9 | Jeff Cobb – 0 points
10 | Tetsuya Naito – 0 points

 

That’s all from us this week. What were your favourite matches and who were your favourite performers in the G1 Climax this week? 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 also check up on our predictions for A Block and B Block. Make sure you join us for our increasingly more incoherent ramblings next week. See you then.

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