NJPW G1 Climax Week 4 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. This week covers up to the matches from night 13 to 16, the 8th of August. To follow along through the week you can find either fella on Twitter @TheDamnImplicat or @Sir_Samuel.

Sam: Now I know we’ve said every week has been a tough week to just pick five matches Imp, but boy this week was something.

Imp: Without a doubt the most difficult week for figuring my list out so far. The top ten is contested as hell, nevermind just picking five!

Sam: I know I didn’t even get to put Zack Sabre v Lance Archer, the great battle of the weedy British vegetarian and the giant meat-eating Texan.

Imp: And once again no room to feature the true ace of G1 Climax 29 Toru Yano. Can’t say I’ve laughed more this G1 than at the jokester ‘forcefully disrobing’ TAICHI before wrapping him up in a burrito sandwich with Kanemaru.

Top 5 Matches of Week 4

5. Imp: Shingo Takagi v Tetsuya Naito (Night 14)

The ultimate clash of Los Ingobernables de Japon, Naito has said in the past he’d love for one of his fellow stablemates to step up to his level and perhaps usurp him. Well there’s no doubt this year that EVIL, SANADA and Shingo have all risen to the occasion.

Here Shingo absolutely brought it to Naito (to be fair like he’s done all tournament), in an amazing match with so much on the line for The Tranquilo One. The situation of the G1 occasion reared its head towards the end of the match, if Naito didn’t win he’d be eliminated and there was no way in hell The Dragon was backing down from proving himself.

This match being 5th on my list really speaks to the quality of this week, the tension building and adding to the occasion as we reach the final stretch. Not just that, but Takagi & Naito also played off of both their personal and stable history. Not just an inter- LIJ clash, but a battle between two students who graduated together over a decade ago. Not just stable leader versus stable mate, but a fight to determine who has become the best after all these years.

Not forgetting if Naito lost that was curtains for his G1, just to add a little more drama to the occasion!

Sam: Zack Sabre Jr v Kota Ibushi (Night 15)

Have these two ever had a bad match? I’m sure there exists a parallel universe where these two had a 205 Live triple threat match with Hideo Itami and I’d bet even in those circumstances it would be an absolute banger.

Much to my own disappointment Zack Sabre Jr. has played the fool a bit this G1 with his admittedly entertaining backstage tantrums and post-match antics. This match was a reminder of exactly how vicious he can be, ruthlessly targeting Ibushi’s injured ankle and in the process bending Ibushi into all sorts of shapes. At one point Kota was screaming in what looked like very legitimate pain.

Ibushi fought back though and ultimately it was Zack’s hubris that cost him as he sought to strike with Ibushi. With the crowd on their feet for him The Golden Star overwhelmed the grappler and didn’t let up once he was on the front foot, hitting the Bomaye and Kamigoye for the win.

 

4. Sam: Tetsuya Naito v Shingo Takagi (Night 14)

One of the great things with the G1 is the inter-stable drama of normal allies being forced to face off against one another. Heading into this match I did have a question in my mind about what kind of mind games Naito would play against his stablemate and how The Last Dragon would respond.

In the end there were very few shenanigans but instead simply a very fast paced back and forth match that showcased the strengths of both wrestlers.

As Jon Moxley said, there is no freakin’ way Shingo is a junior and he looks more and more like he should never go back down to the lighter weights. All his matches are so perfectly paced, he looks comfortable in all different styles and he has the best larriot in the game.

As for Naito, what more can be said, the comeback is on and it looks more and more like he will be heading for the block finals this coming weekend off the back of another spectacular match.

Imp: Kota Ibushi v Hiroshi Tanahashi (Night 13)

Right, so any other week all of these Top 5 match picks of mine would be right up there for Match of the Week, thing is this just ain’t any ordinary week!

The perfect follow up to their G1 Climax Final epic from last year, a nice compliment rather than going for another 5 star classic. Lots of call backs, rehashing of situations Ibushi failed to overcome last time, but here stood up to them without hesitation. The story of Tanahashi increasingly struggling to keep up against an Ibushi who had entered the badass zone of taking no shit. Tana out did him in that respect in 2018, but he just wasn’t able to reach that level here.

The longer the match went on the more in favour of Ibushi things swung. Tanahashi of course countered like a beast, but the match itself was an entirely different animal where that never really resulted in him having the upper hand of momentum. Instead taking the match into bloody brilliant back and forth sequences full of reversals and near falls, the bread and butter of some of Tanahashi’s best rated matches.

This may not have been a 7 star mega classic, but its what was exactly needed to move things on at this time. Will this be enough to drive Ibushi all the way to an ultimate G1 victory? In such a stacked tournament God knows, but it certainly was that final boost to carry him towards A Block’s final clash between The Golden Star and The Rainmaker this Saturday.

Simply put Ibushi and Tanahashi don’t have bad matches, this is only fourth on my list because I’m basically talking the difference between 4.75 and 4.76 star matches at this point. This week was insane! I just personally enjoyed a certain 3 matches a little bit more, 4.77 stars if you will.

 

3. Imp: Shingo Takagi v Tomohiro Ishii (Night 16)

The mega Strong Style fans among you may want to prepare a towel before watching this one.

Big strong boys in the G1, wrapping up an amazing week for Shingo and run for Ishii alongside the lads at the top of the Block. We had our assumptions about how damn well The Last Dragon would gel with Ishii, but the match still knocked our socks off regardless. Such force with every strike, every suplex, every lariat!

If you’ve seen an Ishii G1 classic before, you know exactly what to expect. This bout checked every one of those Strong Style boxes, but for me it hit another level after the two started hitting damn forceful looking suplexes, before just getting back up and launching their opponent again and again. Absolutely going to war on each other, spamming moves for as long as they could before their energy meters depleted.

Shingo was impressive as hell, matching Ishii almost step for step over the entire 20 minutes of constant back and forth offence – you chop me, I’ll chop yer tits off.

You want the perfect example of Strong Style wrestling in New Japan? This is it. Watch this match.

Sam: KENTA v Will Ospreay (Night 15)

On a night that featured ZSJ v Ibushi and Okada v EVIL someone forgot to tell these two they were only the third match of the night as they went out and absolutely stole the show with a lightning paced brutal war between two men trying to prove themselves. 

There was a fantastic narrative symmetry between these characters as Ospreay is very much walking the same road KENTA once walked in Pro Wrestling NOAH, a junior proving himself as a heavyweight contender. Yet for KENTA years on he is still trying to prove himself, now to the NJPW crowd after a largely disappointing run in America.

KENTA went about proving himself in a particularly brutal manner, assaulting Ospreay with his kickfire battery of kicks, all of them delivered with a little extra venom than normal.

For his part Ospreay got his licks in too, turning KENTA’s chest red and bouncing all around the ring as only he can on the way to picking up a huge win from the jaws of defeat.

 

2. Sam: SANADA v Kazuchika Okada (Night 13)

This was a story that has been building for quite a while now, can SANADA finally beating a man who jokingly called him his ‘great’ rival and boy did we get a payoff here with this classic New Japan main event.

I’m not someone who normally likes the Skulls End, SANADA’s finishing move, but I have to admit the combination of it with the ticking clock of a G1 thirty minute time limit made for an absolutely riveting final few minutes as SANADA had Okada down but had to unload everything he had to get the win.

For me this match rings of Kenny Omega finally beating Okada in their 2017 G1 match after trying and failing in their two preceding matchups. The next time the pair met was when Kenny beat Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight title. Could this win be setting up SANADA for something similar? Only time will tell.

Imp: Kazuchika Okada v EVIL (Night 15)

Everything’s coming up EVIL this G1. I mean, he’s not winning the thing, but he’s still had one mighty run. Establishing him that little bit more, adding to the narrative of he and SANADA progressing in tandem year after year. The light got the New Japan Cup run, the darkness got the G1 Climax run.

This match against Okada was bloody fantastic, with The King of Darkness proving he can more than hang in the counter heavy world that is the second half of a Rainmaker main event. Feeling every part the main eventer as the champion himself, knowing if he won the two of them would be level on points going into the final night. It wasn’t to be, but boy was it dramatic as hell getting there.

It reached a point where it felt like Okada just wasn’t going to hit the final blow, the LIJ man simply had the wits to counter or avoid the offence every single time. To be fair the same can be said about the champion, who wriggled out of every Everything Is Evil STO attempt, no matter how devastating the move before it. Both men entered that zone I was talking about with Ibushi, hitting nothing but big moves in those final minutes in an increasing desperation to secure that win.

Such an incredibly tense final stretch, looking back it’s insane my number one match pick was even able to top it. Really speaks volumes about this tournament, yet another Match of the Week worthy pick where I can’t argue with anyone who does award it such. However for me, there was one match that just pulled me in to a point no other match this G1 has.

 

1. Imp: SANADA v Kazuchika Okada (Night 13)

I genuinely fist pumped the air after the final pinfall. Jesus Christ what a dramatic finish. One of the best final ten minutes of a G1 match I’ve ever seen. I’ve spoken about how well other matches on this week’s Top 5 built their tension, but this was by far the best out of the lot of them.

With the announcer having an increasingly greater anxiety attack every time he realised how little time was left. Both Okada and SANADA unable to hit that final move, neither submitting, staying down, nor allowing their opponent to string offence together. The more tired they got the more moves they were able to hit, but that doesn’t mean said moves actually put anyone away or had them down. Hell, Okada hit two Rainmakers and SANADA still countered the third into the gazillionth Skull End of the match.

When I watch wrestling I very rarely have reactions where I react physically, like jumping for joy, or shouting, “YESS! COME ON!” I might type it on Twitter on the odd occasion, but I’m not really someone who reacts to wrestling like that in real life. I just mostly dance and bop to the wrestler’s themes and then sit in absolute silence like a normal person.

So the fact this match actually got me both shouting and throwing my fist in the air, that is so damn rare for me. It takes something truly special to get me to that level, but my God Okada and SANADA did it. That investment I had, there is no way I could place any other match at number one this week.

Plus SANADA’s win opened the door for the rest of the A Block blokes to deliver a tense as hell penultimate round, so that didn’t hurt.

Sam: Kota Ibushi v Hiroshi Tanahashi (Night 13)

Kota Ibushi v Hiroshi Tanahashi’s G1 final epic last year was my match of the year so these two had a lot to live up to when they went on as the co-main event of night thirteen.

While I certainly won’t be saying they topped that particular match, what they did put together was a fitting next chapter in their ongoing saga, one that repositions the pair and shows both the progress Ibushi has made and Tanahashi’s decline.

The match was so full of emotion from both performers, who are beginning to realise the importance of their rivalry with one another. For Ibushi beating Tanahashi is more than just cementing himself at the top of the company, it is usurping a man he calls ‘his God’, overcoming the mental demons that forced him to leave New Japan years ago just when he was getting to that position. For Tana the Ibushi loss is only further evidence that the pack is catching up with The Ace.

Given all of that, this match was fittingly emotional with a number of callbacks to their previous match, particularly Ibushi being able to dodge the second High Fly Flow that finished him in their previous encounter.

My only hope is that their next match has some more tangible stakes attached to it and a higher profile that will truly end this rivalry with an exclamation mark.

 

G1 Climax MVP – Week 4

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: Kota Ibushi
WHAT A WEEK for Kota Ibiushi! An emotional performance opposite Hiroshi Tanahashi was complemented by a cerebral match with Zack Sabre Jr. The Golden Star really is one the most versatile men in wrestling and is heading full throttle towards a mouth watering block final with Kazuchika Okada.

He is peaking at the right end of the tournament too after starting out perhaps a tad off the pace in the first few rounds. I think the shape of his G1 shows that Ibushi is a long term big deal for New Japan. While at the start of the tournament it was the likes of Mox and KENTA grabbing headlines, come the business end it is Ibushi that is sitting pretty.

Imp: Kazuchika Okada
The IWGP Heavyweight Champion’s run these past two weeks couldn’t have been any more up my street. In particular his two bouts this week against the LIJ boys, EVIL & SANADA, were both simply amazing. Fantastic examples of that champion calibur contest we’ve come to expect from those at the top of the New Japan cards, Okada himself has become a master in those ‘Counter Culture’ final sequences.

Two of my favourite matches from the entire tournament so far, Okada has been solid throughout but he’s been able to build some damn impressive consistency.

Now the question is can he be the first Heavyweight Champion to win the G1 since Yuji Nagata in 2000? Can The Rainmaker become the first champion to do so since the briefcase/Wrestle Kingdom main event was introduced as the ultimate prize?

2 Points

Imp: Kota Ibushi
Speaking of folk who have seemingly kicked into another gear, Jesus what a run to the final The Golden Star has had. He’s gone from a hobbling start to a sprint finish, his matches amping up further and further the closer we get to that final round. His match with Tanahashi in particular once again just fully engrossed me and I became so damn invested in every single movement.

It’s really showing how the two men at the peak of A Block are also the same blokes at the top of our MVPs. Those high positions really are reflected in their performances and I for one cannot wait for their ultimate clash this Saturday.

Sam: Kazuchika Okada
The Rainmaker has been a very quiet achiever this G1, when I went back over my top five matches for the first three weeks I found out that he is one of the most prominently featured wrestlers but for whatever reason hasn’t scored a single MVP point off me.

Well consider this a make good Kazu and well earnt too, with an epic showdown against SANADA and an extremely solid main event against EVIL.

The pipedream from here of course is for him to become the first champion in years to win and then have the chance to call out whomever he wants for his Tokyo Dome Main Event, perhaps a certain Canadian who beat him for the belt a bit over a year ago. Call it fanciful but don’t tell me that wouldn’t be one of the most exciting crossovers in all of wrestling.

1 Point

Imp: Shingo Takagi
Shingo has been one of those consistently great performers throughout this G1, but with the sheer quality across the board I’ve just not been able to reflect that in my MVPs. Well after that Strong Style classic against Ishii, consider yourself reflected, Shingo!

Not forgetting the other bout of his on my list this week against LIJ stablemate Naito, I think it’s fair to say The Last Dragon has more than earned his place among the MVPs. Once again showing how great this G1 has been, he’s just been one of those guys Sam and I would praise whilst also realising we wouldn’t actually be able to fit the man into the column.

But Jesus, if you’re going to check out two matches from this week’s G1, you can’t go wrong with Shingo’s two main events. It’s going to be bloody weird to see this man go back to the Juniors.

Dear Gedo, Ospreay vs Shingo II to main event the first night at the Tokyo Dome pretty, pretty please.

Sam: Shingo Takagi
You won’t get any argument from me whatsoever on the merits of Shingo Takagi. Every week of this tournament he has had one of my favourite matches and this week was no different, starting things off against Naito in a match that really showed off the best of both men and finishing with a strong style slugfest with Tomohiro Ishii.

With a win over Ishii you would have to think a challenge for the NEVER Openweight Championship is on the cards in the next few months and I cannot wait to see him mixing it up with even more heavyweights in the future.

MVP Standings

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

 

A Block Standings
(After 8 rounds)

1 | Kazuchika Okada – 14pts
2 | Kota Ibushi – 12pts
3 | EVIL – 8pts
4 | Hiroshi Tanahashi – 8pts
5 | KENTA – 8pts
6 | SANADA – 8pts
7 | Bad Luck Fale – 6pts
8 | Will Ospreay – 6pts
9 | Zack Sabre Jr – 6pts
10 | Lance Archer – 4pts
B Block Standings
(After 8 rounds)

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

 

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 find last week’s review here. Make sure you join us for our increasingly more incoherent ramblings next week. See you then!

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