The G1 Climax 2018 is just around the corner, but if you can’t wait that long for your G1 fix, take a look back over these classic matches from last year’s incredible tournament.
Yuji Nagata vs. Yoshi-Hashi
Nagata enters the G1 for the last time, and this match serves as a mission statement of sorts, as he leads Yoshi-Hashi to a great showing. The question is: Will Nagata’s last G1 mirror Jushin Liger’s last BOSJ, with a near whitewash run? Or will Nagata make one last go for glory?
Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii
You pretty much know what your getting with this matchup, and while there’s little here that’s going to surprise you in any way, they deliver the goods and the result is brilliant as always.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
A great clash of styles here, and the beginning of a brilliant rivalry between these two. A career making performance for Zack, as he targets the injured arm of NJPW’s resident hero, in ways only he can.
Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito
Ibushi’s first big singles match not under the Tiger Mask W hood for quite some time, and it’s an instant classic. They perhaps overreach with the mad spots, most of which centre around the neck area, and it’s almost hard to watch at times. It’s hard to deny though, that it makes for some awe-inspiring stuff.
Kenny Omega vs. Minoru Suzuki
Omega’s fear of Suzuki puts him on the backfoot early, and in a tournament setting against Suzuki, there’s the potential for a game-changing injury to occur at the hands of everyone’s favourite sadist. Fun match that plays off of both of the characters involved well.
Hirooki Goto vs. Yuji Nagata
Fairly run of the mill stuff early on, till Goto disrespects the veteran Nagata with a slap to the face. Nagata’s response? To kick the holy hell out of Goto. Awesome crowd and Nagata continuing to bring his a-game, make this a must watch match.
Togi Makabe vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Makabe is somewhat underrated in his later years, but has to be considered one of the weak links of the tournament, just due to the level of competition around him. Still, he has a great showing here. Ishii of course is a MOTY machine, and his hard hitting style brings out the best in Makabe, as the two men do what they do best and hammer in those forearms and lariats.
Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
You know Ibushi wants to fly around the place and do what it is he does, but Sabre does what it is he does, and traps Ibushi in a multitude of painful submissions. The result is the wrestling equivalent of a wasp caught in a spiders web, as Ibushi struggles to create space and deliver the big comeback.
Juice Robinson vs. EVIL
The G1 is the perfect battleground for wrestlers looking to make a name for themselves, and both of these men came out of the tournament way more over with New Japan fans then they did going in. It’s incredible just how good Juice got when he came to New Japan, and he shows here that when it comes to underdog babyface’s, he’s one of the best around. EVIL meanwhile plays the dominant heel, and is both the perfect foil and perfect dance partner to Juice here.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Michael Elgin
Elgin is far from a favourite to win the tournament, but a win over the champ (leading to a future title shot) seems plausible, and Elgin goes all out in maybe his most important match of the tournament. Okada churns out his first of several classic matches of the tournament, selling big for Elgins power moves, whilst still presenting himself as an unstoppable force of nature.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Yuji Nagata
With it being Nagata’s last G1, it was only right that these two revive their old rivalry once again and they did so in style. If you take away only one thing from this list, let it be that Nagata pulled out some of his all time best performances during this G1, and you need to go back and watch his matches if you haven’t. While even Tanahashi is showing his age at this point, they dig deep to pull out another fantastic performance for the crowd.
Kota Ibushi vs. Tomohiro Ishii
It’s crazy how matches as good as this get almost buried beneath the mass extent of classics the G1 tournament produces, but this is more then worth digging out for another look though. Both men are known for pulling out classics from wrestlers rated much lower then themselves, so when put together you can’t really expect anything less then wrestling perfection. Ibushi chooses to stand toe to toe with the heavy hitter Ishii, and it surprisingly works out quite well at times, but will it be to his detriment in the long run?
Kazuchika Okada vs. SANADA
Whenever SANADA enters a tournament or finds himself in a big match situation, there is always a hope from fans that all that potential he has is finally going to be unleashed, and his ascent into top flight status will be cemented. In the end, it turned out that the 2017 G1 Climax was not the year for that to happen, with SANADA having a decent tournament as apposed to a great one. Against the champ Okada though, we got to see a glimpse of that potential we all know is there, and the result is more then worth checking out.
Kenny Omega vs. Michael Elgin
Bit of a move-fest, but man what a move-fest it is! Elgin is desperate for that big tournament win, and just like he did against Okada, he pulls out all the stops. Omega’s selling is a little goofy at times, but all in all, this is a really fun match.
Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii
These two have great chemistry, and while this rarely looks like topping their very best bouts, its a brilliant match nonetheless. Naito is in full heel mode, and soon gains a clear advantage, choosing to work over Ishii’s neck. The only downside of Naito’s strategy is, well, Ishii doesn’t have a neck, and soon responds with his smash mouth style of offence.
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Yuji Nagata
The two low-key MVP’s of the tournament, proceed to have a straight up, unfiltered, stiff as you like, fight. Nagata, who has yet to pick up a win despite his outstanding performances, once again finds himself being disrespected by his younger opponent, and responds by letting the stone pitbull know he’s in a battle.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi
The story going in to this match was that Ibushi perhaps respected Tanahashi a little too much, going so far as to refer to him as a ‘God’. Also Ibushi hasn’t been his mad, high flying self since the start of the tournament. If Ibushi wants to pick up the big win in his hometown though, he’s going to have to channel some inner demons and unleash a more ferocious side, on the man he seems to view as an idol. Tanahashi meanwhile, heels it up somewhat, as he looks to tear apart Ibushi’s leg. There’s some dodgy selling involved, but otherwise this is just a wonderful match.
Kota Ibushi vs. Yuji Nagata
Its the ultimate battle of new school vs old school, as the two most outright babyfaces in the tournament slug it out with some big kicks and suplexes. Nagata keeps up with the younger, faster Ibushi throughout, making some big kick-outs along the way.
EVIL vs. Kazuchika Okada
Okada is an unstoppable force, set on wiping out the whole block with rainmaker after rainmaker, and EVIL is hardly poised as the man to end the winning streak. The overconfident Okada soon runs into a chair to the face courtesy of EVIL though, and the crowd twigs on that just maybe EVIL has a shot here. Amazing transitions and great storytelling provide everything you want from a big Okada match, in what is a star-making performance for EVIL.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Both men try to outdo each other at their own game, with Tanahashi going blow-for-blow with Ishii, and Ishii getting more technical. In the end though, with G1 Final ramifications on the line, they revert to using their own techniques and begin throwing bombs for the win.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki
Okada barely survived against Suzuki in their last meeting, and now he’s no longer undefeated, there’s something of a chip in his armour and perhaps a in his confidence too. As dramatic as their last match was, they worked themselves into something of a corner with the level of punishment Suzuki inflicted on Okada’s leg. They’re not trying to convince you Okada might lose his belt this time around though, and we get a much more back and fourth affair as a result.
Night 17 Block A Finals
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito
Storytelling, counter wrestling, callbacks, big kick outs and close calls, all in front of an incredibly hot crowd. Thanks in part to the Omega/Okada matches, the Natio/Tanahashi trilogy is sometimes overshadowed despite being one of the all-time great feuds, with this serving as the brilliant climax.
Night 18 Block B Finals
Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega
Last time these two met, 60 minutes wasn’t enough to separate them, and here they have only half of that, so there’s a desperate sense of urgency from the get-go. Okada can get by with just a draw, but he wants to remove the blip on his growing legacy in the worst way. Omega meanwhile, is still searching for that allusive win over the rainmaker, but can he finally hit that one-winged angel in the centre of the ring? This is probably their weakest match, and yet its also one of the greatest matches of all time, such is the case when these two share a ring.
Night 19 Final
Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito
A truly intense final to cap off one of the greatest wrestling tournaments of all time, as these two leave everything that is left of them in the ring. The “botches” whether purposeful or not, only add to the sense of danger and desperation in this match, but nothing says desperation more then when Naito reverts back to his stardust genius ways for a few brief moments. If Naito wants to achieve his dream of headlining the Tokyo Dome, he’ll have to go through the man who crushed his dream last year, and if Omega wants another shot at the IWGP championship, he’ll have to crush that very dream once again.
Agree with out list? What other matches do you think deserve to be here? As always don’t forget to comment, like and share and follow @PuroresuRoad to keep up to date with the latest articles.