New Japan’s G1 Climax is without question the greatest test of physical performance in Professional Wrestling, regardless of promotion. Over 3 weeks, 20 competitors are paired off in two blocks where they will compete round robin style for the ultimate prize of being called the winner of the annual tournament, as a well as a shot at the IWGP Championship at WrestleKingdom the following January.
Regardless of what naysayers who may think it is just a bunch of matches say, the matches are part of the larger story of the tournament, where excellence is rewarded, in addition to first and last shots at glory. The booking of these tournaments is so precise, it is best to let things play all the way out. Stunning upsets are usually a thing; however, you never tend to know where they might occur.
While some of the following may end up being 5-star matches or above, the reasons I can’t wait to see most of these go beyond the wrestling. Hell, Toru Yano is on this list and he isn’t sniffing a 5. Without further ado, here are the 8 matches I can’t wait to see in the G1.
#8 – Tetsuya Naito vs Yuji Nagata
Tradition vs Defiance, age vs youth, old school vs new school. Anything you want to say in that regard will apply in this match. I remember Yuji Nagata competing in WCW in 1997. He’s a crusty old dude now that still can deliver, and seeing what Naito will do to draw his ire will certainly be something I’m looking forward to. If Naito throws the dress shirt in Nagata’s face, all hell may break loose.
#7 – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Tomohiro Ishii
I have an irrational love for Ishii. He’s the greatest bad bodied wrestler I’ve ever seen hands down. Give him a match against the Ace emeritus Tanahashi, and this looks like something special on paper that may translate into future IC championship matches. Tanahashi will always come ready for whatever while wearing perfect hair that doesn’t move.
#6 – Toru Yano vs Minoru Suzuki
Toru Yano is the funniest man in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Minoru Suzuki is the old tough warrior who hasn’t taken an ounce of shit by accident even. We all need to see Yano crack Suzuki. Suzuki’s facial expressions will make this entire match. They can end this match on a chop across the chest for all I care, Yano + Suzuki = an instant moment.
#5 – Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi
Naito threw flames on this match by trashing Ibushi in the press, stating that Kota Ibushi will not win a single match in the G1 and that wrestling in WWE won’t prepare him for what is to come. Stylistically the potential for greatness is fantastic, with Ibushi’s well-known ability to fly, and Naito being a literal wrestling genius with the creativity he brings to each contest. His match against Elgin earlier this year which was given 5 Stars by Dave Meltzer featured some of the most creative and original spots I’ve ever seen. This will be incredible.
#4 – Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr.
Back to back appearances on the list for Mr Ibushi. This match appears simply because it is the match everyone wanted in last years CWC in WWE, that we didn’t get when both men decided against signing with Vince & Co. A year later, New Japan is here to pick up the pieces and bring their contrasting styles together. Ibushi, as much as he is a high flyer, is a tough and willing trader of strikes. I’m not a huge Sabre guy, but people dig em. I understand the anticipation.
#3. Kazuchika Okada vs Michael Elgin
This is just interesting. Okada and Elgin both do things men their sizes don’t usually do. Each man has been in a 5-star match this year, so for me this one is easy; it’s about the wrestling. Maybe it leads to a future title match for Elgin, and this gives Okada another shot to continue his legendary year.
#2. Kenny Omega vs SANADA
Sanada is a future star. If this was the mid-90’s Jim Ross would call him a blue chipper like he did Rocky Maivia once upon a time. He’s got the cool factor in the bag, in addition to having a ridiculous moveset. He is a future building block for the main event rotation a few years down the road. The other guy is the best wrestler on the planet, Kenny Omega. I’ll get to him next.
#1. Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada
The authors of the Six-Star and Six & 1/4 star matches at Wrestle Kingdom and Dominion respectively will meet in their 3rd contest which will be a shorter version of the previous two. The 30 minute cap adds another style of match to their already all-time great catalog. I’m not here to argue about which of the matches they’ve already had is better, but keep in mind this will be a shorter version than them both that should be balls to the wall for the entire match. Is 7 stars within reach? Only Omega and Okada will decide. Meltzer too.
Kenny Omega vs Kota Ibushi
The former tag team partners are not currently scheduled to meet, and can only do so by meeting in the finals. They’ve long wanted a huge stage to face each other on, and this may offer one of the final chances in the immediate future to do it. Expect nothing less than genre forwarding wrestling from these two innovators. Omega is hell bent on showing he is the best in the business, and Ibushi is his near equal.
The beauty of the G1 is that sometimes the greatness shows up in unexpected places. I’m sure there is a match you’re not even thinking of that will make its mark on this year’s events. Hirooki Goto is just waiting the wings ready to have great matches with everyone in his block, and you can bet Juice Robinson is going to take full advantage of getting ring time with Okada and Omega. Whichever way it plays out, this tournament is set to be a hell of a ride. Let’s see who gets the flag at the end!