Welcome to the Wrestling Headlines weekly New Japan G1 Climax review where your intrepid New Japan guides, Matt Maher (aka Imp) and Jeremy Donovan rank the top five matches for the week and award the best and brightest performers for the week points towards being the WH G1 MVP. This final week covers matches from night’s one to four. To follow along through the week you can find either fella on Twitter @TheDamnImplicat or @JeremyLDonovan.
Imp: Here I am singing G1 blues, when good guys win and EVIL lose(s).
The grueling journey has finally reached its peak as a certainly unique G1 Climax tournament has come to a close. A fitting rollercoaster of a final few days as we: ‘Maxed The Max’ in live performance, watched Shibata do a wrestle in awe and witnessed God broken in a heartbreaking stoppage.
Hell of an up and down ride towards the end of truly turbulent time for the promotion, Jeremy!
Jeremy: Yes, tears of joy and tears of sadness were shed all throughout the tournament especially on the closing. Most importantly fans across the world found out who Max is the Max was. That song will be stuck in my head for a while. But enough about the G1 Theme. You ready to break down this last week, Imp?
Imp: Ready? Pfff I was born ranking top matches and MVPs from the past week of Japanese wrestling tournaments. My mum’s disappointed.
So for the final time this year, as we hurtle towards THREE NIGHTS of Wrestle Kingdom and a need to fill it with something… let’s get on to those lovely, tasty final top match picks of G1 Climax 31!
Top 5 Matches of the Final Week
Jeremy: Tama Tonga vs. Kazuchika Okada (Night 16)
Tama Tonga’s performance in this year’s G1 has been a pleasant surprise. I feared a similar output to his 2018 G1, but The Good Bad Guy really stepped his game up. For most of his matches, Tama wrestled like a red hot babyface. There was minimal cheating and high octane action. He had several great Gun Stuns out of nowhere Tama also added two new weapons to his arsenal. The Superior Flow, which is a splash from the top turnbuckle, and the Jay Driller, which is a double underhook piledriver.
This match with Okada was Tama’s best performance of the tournament. He was able to counter Okada’s Landslide sit-out driver into a Gun Stun. He then followed up with the Jay Driller to pick up the biggest victory in his NJPW career. The upset win didn’t stop Okada from going to the finals, but it did set Tama up to get a shot at Okada’s Wrestle Kingdom title shot. ****
Imp: TAICHI vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (Night 18)
TAICHI also capped off an applause worthy G1 run with a worthy win over an Ace. His final score may not display it, but the Suzuki-Gun musical prodigy had an incredibly strong showing over the course of the tournament. The lad quickly establishing himself as a reliable belter bout deliverer for the future.
With a final bout slotting perfectly into that consistency! Doesn’t hurt when you’re wrestling a top tier veteran like Tanahashi, but the high quality was clearly on display once again. Entering with his ribs taped Row Z heavy the Flow was always against him, but if anything that just added to the drama as he was aware of how easily this match could end for him.
Counters galore as TAICHI refused to let Tana’s rib focus end him and an error from the glorious haired ace let the lad snap into victory. A white hot ending as I assumed Tanahashi would Slingblade back on top, only for the back n’ forth to sweep him under the TAICHI waves of momentum.
Really strong final showing for both lads.
Imp: Jeff Cobb vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (Night 14)
The Beef Sandwich prepared and served for Kazuchika Okada’s B Block final. Our final precursor setting the big man up and swinging him straight into the final stretch limelight. That final points swing propelling Jeff Cobb to go toe to toe with a returning Rainmaker and what a top notch way to do so.
Tanahashi the perfect credible opponent for Cobb to show that grit and fighting spirit against, his power and athleticism on full display as he suplexed and Moonsaulted. The amount of times Tana flew at the man, me expecting to watch the beef topple, instead for the Ace to be caught and launched down to the mat.
Cobb looking a beast as he span round Tana with the Tour of the Islands. Job accomplished as look upon this unbeaten behemoth of a man, stampeding towards the final will all the momentum in the world.
Jeremy: Taichi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (Night 18)
Kayfabe wise, Taichi had a very bad tournament. He lost several winnable matches and finished below his point total in his last two G1s. On top of the losses, he had to deal with a rib injury (not sure it’s legit or a work).
Taichi had a valiant performance against Tanahashi on the last night of B Block action. As soon as the bell rang he wasted little time and hit a DANGEROUS back suplex. However, the momentum wouldn’t last long in his favor. The Ace took advantage of Taichi’s injury and worked over his mid-section the whole match. One mistake from the Ace opened the door for Taichi to apply the Gedo clutch and pick up a big win. Dangerous T now has a claim for an IWGP U.S. title match. ****1/4
Jeremy: Kota Ibushi vs. Kazuchika Okada (Night 19)
Poor Kota Ibushi. The Golden Star has had a heartbreaking year. First, in kayfabe, he lobbies for the IWGP Heavyweight Title and the Intercontinental title to be merged. Fans hated the idea and blamed him when the merger happened. When in reality, Ibushi really had nothing to do with that. He then drops the newly merged IWGP World Heavyweight Championship on his first defense. After that, he suffers from aspiration pneumonia and is forced out of his title match against Shingo. And now he dislocates his shoulder off a Phoenix Splash in what was supposed to be the biggest and best match of the tournament. Absolutely heartbreaking.
Ibushi and Okada were on pace to have an all-time banger. Even with Ibushi getting hurt and Okada having to win by ref stoppage, this was still a great match. This is still worth a watch, but you might want to close your eyes on the Phoenix Splash. ****1/4
Imp: KENTA vs Kota Ibushi (Night 17)
KENTA trying to deny Yokohama of the potential striking classic they know these two could deliver. Instead they devolved into that exact style as they both landed knees and Ibushi fired those Kamigoye shots.
This didn’t feel like a grand block final, but I still bloody enjoyed watching KENTA in a spot like this. Placed as a whiley veteran willing to do whatever it took to win no matter how much it pissed off the crowd. That said, when Ibushi was fighting back the way he was it was only a matter of time before the fanged one flew in with a Psycho Knee.
Ibushi with the hot fight back as KENTA gradually lost his pace breaking control, those attempts to take the flow out of Kota beginning to fail as those strikes started flying. All building to us witnessing God make his 4th straight G1 Final, a result that was never really in doubt on this night, but my did I enjoy A Block’s final swing.
Imp: Kota Ibushi vs Kazuchuka Okada (G1 Climax 31 Final)
Okada & Ibushi were easily flying to a classic as the two men performed at the absolute peak of their craft. Building to a heart thumping crescendo, only for one of the most unfortunate injuries to stop the match in its tracks.
Ibushi landed hard on the missed Phoenix Splash – possibly breaking his wrist or dislocating his arm – Umino called for the bell and that was that. Medical staff surrounded Ibushi as they attended his arm and Okada consoled him, such a heartbreaking way for the night to come to an end. After such a difficult year for Ibushi as well, to then suffer an injury like that is such crappy luck.
We still got over 20 minutes of incredible G1 Final action beforehand. Ibushi hitting a picture perfect Asai Moonsault moments earlier and a string of Rainmaker counters really convincing me Ibushi might genuinely have this win in the bag. You never know with the constant back n’ forth swing of a big New Japan main event, but every time that Lariat charged Ibushi answered with a different counter.
The Pheonix Splash the moment the Golden Star decided to roll the dice, recognising he’d have to elevate his offence, pull out something special in order to beat the incredible in-form Okada.
Unfortunately that was the final beat as Okada rolled out of the way and Ibushi crashed hard on the mat. Suffering an awful injury right as the match was revving up to its final gears. As Jeremy said, they were heading to an all-time banger before the injury, but Ibushi’s safety obviously took precedence over a satisfying finish.
Jeremy: Great-O-Khan vs. Shingo Takagi (Night 15)
All the Great-O-Khan haters have to be quiet now. O-Khan had 3 great main events in a row including this one. If you still don’t like O-Khan after these performances then, you’re either not watching or you’re just a simple mark:: Brandi Rhodes voice.
This match was a banger. O-Khan used his size advantage to bully Shingo throughout this match. But the champ wouldn’t tolerate that. Shingo had to fight for every bit of offense he got. It took several big shots before Shingo could get O-Khan up for the Last of the Dragon. Shingo didn’t beat O-Khan, he survived him. ****1/2
Jeremy: Jeff Cobb vs. Kazuchika Okada (Night 18)
After a long hard tournament, the B Block came down to Jeff Cobb and Kazuchika Okada. Cobb came into this match with all the momentum. Heading to this match he won 8 straight matches in a row which has never happened in a G1 before. Also the last time these two wrestled, Cobb defeated Okada. Okada had a near-perfect record but suffered an upset loss to Tama Tonga on night 16. So this was winner take all.
The match was full of drama and suspense especially for all of Cobb’s near falls. Throughout the match, Cobb worked on Okada’s back while Okada worked on Cobb’s neck. There were a ton of great spots. One of my favorites was Cobb hitting a tombstone on Okada, standing up while still holding him, then hitting another tombstone. I thought they were going to tease a time limit draw since Cobb could have advanced with a time draw. Instead, Okada put Cobb with the Rainmaker in 23 minutes. Awesome match! ****1/2
Imp: Jeff Cobb vs Kazuchika Okada (Night 18)
Big match Kazu strikes again! Firing on all cylinders against the unbeatable Jeff Cobb. Jeremy hit on all the beats so I’ll just be here like the friend of a high school bully, standing off to the side shouting, “Yeah! You tell ‘em!”
These two have wrestled a fair plenty this year, a familiarity that only added to the collision of perfect G1 form. I felt pretty certain Okada was going through, but this is the G1 and it certainly isn’t an alien concept to launch a lad into the final in one mighty losing showcase. The Kazu special if you will, managing to convince me his opponent might actually have this… before the inevitable happens and he makes it rain. But he had me for that split second and that’s all that matters.
A belter of a block final to round things off!
G1 Climax MVP – Final Week
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.
Jeremy: Kazuchika Okada
After 7 long years. Okada has won a G1 again. The Rainmaker is back and ready to take NJPW by storm. In this final week, he had 3 great matches.
Imp: Kazuchika Okada
A highest points clashing with Cobb and victory in a G1 Final that was headed to instant classic fame before the stoppage rounded off a hell of a week. The Rainmaker returned to form and only continued to make positive waves since.
The Ace New Japan needs in this desperate time has answered the call.
Imp: Kota Ibushi
Winning the A Block in striking fashion before launching into an absolute banger of a final secured Kota’s place on my list this week. His injury obviously scuppered any G1 gained momentum, but his final two matches up that point more than solidified his ranking.
Four G1 Finals in a row for the Golden Star! Fingers crossed for the recovery after falling in such a heartbreaking way, the fan in me looks at Wrestle Kingdom as a repeat almost writes itself.
Jeremy: Jeff Cobb
Cobb had an incredible tournament. He made history by being the only to get 8 wins a row. The Aloha Maker was close to winning the whole tournament. Despite coming up short, the match was Okada was great. Plus he gets bonus points for making sure EVIL didn’t have a chance of winning,
Imp: Jeff Cobb
Just like his bread namesake, Cobb rising up in the heat of the G1 oven.
Baked to perfection as New Japan serves up a fresh, talented big beefy boy for the new generation. Such an incredibly consistent G1 run backed with the booking of the unbeatable. A fittingly strong ending as nothing but greatness proves upon his horizon.
Jeremy: Kota Ibushi
A bittersweet week for the Golden Star. He defeated KENTA in a hard fought match to make it to his 4th G1 Final appearance. Unfortunately he sustained the shoulder injury in the finals and G1 hopes were thrown in the bin with Naito’s knees.
MVP Final Standings
Kazuchika Okada – 11 points
Shingo Takagi – 6 points
Tomohiro Ishii – 6 points
Jeff Cobb – 4 points
Kota Ibushi – 4 points
TAICHI – 3 points
Zack Sabre Jr. – 3 points
A Block Standings
(After 9 matches)
1 | Kota Ibushi – 14 pts
2 | Shingo Takagi – 13 pts
3 | KENTA – 12 pts
4 | Zack Sabre Jr – 12 pts
5 | Tomohiro Ishii – 10 pts
6 | Toru Yano – 10 pts
7 | Great O-Khan – 8 pts
8 | Tanga Loa – 6 pts
9 | Yujiro Takahashi – 5 pts
10 | Tetsuya Naito – 0 pts
B Block Standings
(After 9 matches)
1 | Kazuchika Okada – 18 pts
2 | Jeff Cobb – 16 pts
3 | EVIL- 12 pts
4 | Hiroshi Tanahashi – 8 pts
5 | Hirooki Goto – 6 pts
6 | TAICHI – 6 pts
7 | Yoshi-Hashi – 6 pts
8 | SANADA – 4 pts
9 | Chase Owens – 2 pts
10 | Tama Tonga – 2 pts
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 @JeremyLDonovanl. You can also go deeper on the G1 thread or write a column about it yourself on the LOP Forums here.
Thank you for joining us throught the G1 and to Wrestle Kingdom we ride. See you then!
Jeremy also hosts the #1 New Japan podcast ‘Keeping Strong Style’ over on the Social Suplex network!
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