Welcome to the Wrestling Headlines weekly New Japan G1 Climax 30 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 Wrestling Headlines G1 MVP. This week covers matches from the final weekend of wrestling, nights seventeen, eighteen and the final, in case you missed last week’s review, you can find it here. To follow along through the week you can find either fella on Twitter @TheDamnImplicat or @Sir_Samuel.
Sam: We made it Imp!
Imp: We did it! I’m so worn down! My sleep pattern is all over the place, was it all worth it? You’re damn right it was! Once again so many incredible matches one after the other, every year the G1 Climax absolutely spoils us fans.
Sam: Agreed, I was 50/50 on doing the reviews again this year but am so glad I did. I feel like we both deserve our own trophy.
Top Five Matches of Finals Weekend
5. Sam: SANADA v Kota Ibushi (Final)
So I guess I have to talk about the final.
This was the worst G1 final of at least the last five years. I could tell who was going to win in the first five minutes because while Kota Ibushi worked his arse off, SANADA had what I call ‘boopey face’ from the start. He was slow in the ring, showed zero fire, zero desperation and zero heart in the biggest match of his career. There was not a single moment in this match where I thought SANADA was striving to reach the next level in his career, he just seemed to be going through the ropes. At one point I even saw him lying on his back, completely expressionless, casually reach up and stroke his beard when he should have been selling. SANADA has had a number of very high profile spots and more often than not he hasn’t delivered, I thought that through late last year and this G1 was that was changing but in the biggest match of the tournament he failed to deliver.
Thank God for Kota Ibushi. He worked so hard in this match and showed all the things SANADA did not, he also engineered one of the closest near falls I’ve ever seen which was the high point of the match for me. However, it takes two to have a great wrestling match and in this match, SANADA was poor. If this had third on the card in the middle of the tournament I wouldn’t be so scathing but it is the final of the best pro wrestling tournament in the world and it did not live up to the reputation of matches like Hiroshi Tanahashi v Shinsuke Nakamura in 2015, Kenny Omega v Tetsuya Naito in 2017 or my favourite New Japan match, Hiroshi Tanahashi v Kota Ibushi in 2018.
This was not number five for me. I much prefered Jay White v Tomohiro Ishii and Juice Robinson v Goto but it is the G1 final so it should probably be on the list and you should probably watch it. Just don’t expect too much of it.
Imp: Kota Ibushi vs SANADA (Final)
I don’t know if this is controversial, I was invested in all three finals, but I genuinely enjoyed both blocks more than I did the ultimate match itself. As in I thought this match was great, but it wasn’t quite up there as a G1 Climax Final. SANADA’s tranquilo nature sure as hell gave a unique aura to this final, the everpresent calmness on display and slowing the match down right until the final 10 – 15 minutes.
The question of the piece: how do you kill God? Turns out you don’t, you’ll just knacker yourself and he’ll knee you in the face.
And Jesus Christ the nearfalls, quite literally kicking out on the three count. You can’t kick out any later than that! Both of them nailing the exhausted late match drama, looking up in despair and questioning deity as their opponent refuses to die.
There was good in there, I just never got into the match at the same level I had for others on these G1 finale weekend shows. As in it was great, but also not? A solid 4 star match I probably won’t watch again. The feelings are a tad conflicting! I have rated this on my Top 5 matches of the week after all, so it did do some things right for me.
For example the final stretch pulled me right in, the excellence in last minute execution that I’ve come to expect from New Japan’s big main events. Plenty of dodging and countering, as both men successfully land increasingly huge shots to no avail. Upping the ante each time the momentum swung, that next attempt would be hit with even more force only to be not enough either!
The excitement from the crowd built as they became increasingly lost in it all, what was it going to take? That’s easy, just become God. Yeah, Kota’s on a bit of a mad one.
I may call it disappointing, but this was only my 5th favourite match of the week. As the block finals sure as hell delivered that tasty G1 drama!
4. Imp: TAICHI vs Kota Ibushi (Night 17)
How the F’ do you follow Okada and Ospreay? Yeah, just kick each other a lot. It’s genius! Sure you don’t want to build to something? … Naah, just the kicks, it’ll be great.
What a concept, the fact they pulled it off an even more impressive feat… or ‘feet’ given they did nothing but kick each other. The sheer audacity of both these lads, to go out and build a match purely out of leg-o blocks.
The Suzuki-Gun man holding Ibushi’s potential A Block crown in his hands powerful thighs, throwing away the usual shenanigans for a game of pride. Whilst Kota’s there playing Obi Wan to Lord TAICHI’s Vader, “You can’t win TAICHI, if you strike me down then I shall become more powerful than you could ever imagine.”
“Oh shit, you gone done it now.” *puts on shades* -_-
This match was fantastic, go watch two lads kick each other a lot.
Sam: SANADA v EVIL (Night 18)
The B Block final pitted the former tag team partners against one another and you could tell that these two had long planned this kind of confrontation. When they squared off the crowd was so behind SANADA it couldn’t help but draw me in and you could tell that even though EVIL was trying to show he didn’t care about his former partner you could see that he really wanted to get one up.
Of course, the interactions had the kind of crispness that only hundreds of matches together can bring but for me, it was the interplay between these two that made this match so compelling. I loved that SANDA got Dick Togo in the Paradise Lock and dared EVIL to come get his new mate, and thought it was brutal that they hit Magic Killer on SANADA after they took control after.
It was also great to see SANADA, with the help of Hiromu, outwit the former IWGP Champ and took the flash pin for the win and entry into the G1 final.
3. Sam: Will Ospreay v Kazuchika Okada (Night 17)
This match was a difficult one for me to rate because while I absolutely loved where this match was heading and given a proper ending it most likely would have been my match of the week, it was a match clearly sacrificed at the end for a long term angle.
From the start you could tell Ospreay didn’t come to muck about, I love how he threw down the gauntlet by immediately trying to hit all his biggest moves, forcing the normally slow starting Rainmaker to take immediate action to regain control. It became obvious early on that this was more than just friendly competition and that it was developing into a true battle for Alpha status between these two men.
Ospreay and Okada’s styles match so well. Ospreay is athletic and explosive and Okada is all about countering his opponent’s strengths, it meant that this match built up as a high stakes game of chess as each man went back and forth trying to avoid their opponents biggest moves, while simultaneously setting up a trap of their own.
The ending was a frustrating anti-climax, in the moment, but it set up some very exciting long term developments for New Japan and I know these two will have an absolute barn-burner down the line.
Imp: Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay (Night 17)
And a new heel faction is born! Man, is it not time we got a nice group of lads together? Best friends being all nice n’ shit. There are so many baddie stables! Give Juice Robinson some dance friends or something. Look at him running around without David Finlay, the man needs a second fin!
Anyway, with it being October I’m assuming everything’s a set up for Wrestle Kingdom. This match being New Japan’s showcase of Ospreay and Okada’s amazing chemistry, before pulling the rug out right as the fire started burning. Show us the match would be great, but don’t actually give us that final third.
As Sam said, an odd one to rate for a G1 Climax Block Final show, but I did bloody enjoy it. Giving me plenty to chew on in terms of immediate intrigue, the birth of a new faction with Ospreay’s post-match Hidden Blade surely leading to a ‘sugoi!’ Tokyo Dome Okada counter.
The real start of Ospreay’s main event push: a stable of his own, paired with a feud against a top level star coming out of a strong G1 run. If you feel a tad uncomfortable watch Ospreay right now, it doesn’t look like New Japan are putting on the breaks any time soon. They really are elevating Ospreay to the stars.
2. Imp: Tomohiro Ishii vs Jay White (Night 17)
A masterclass in storytelling, in structuring a show to build to an expectation before then subverting in the most intriguing way possible. Year after year the final matches of G1 blocks have stories of triumph, a major achievement at the end of a grueling journey. Sanada’s arc to the top of B Block was exactly that, the hero with a literal triumph over Evil (can you get any more meta than that?).
However New Japan used that exact expectation to swing somewhere else entirely with Jay White’s run, he was in the final match of the card and after so many years that position has come to represent a positive story of accomplishment. But that was turned completely on its head this year, instead giving us one of failure. It was meant to be a cementing moment of his success, it’s what we’ve been told every year, instead Jay White fell at the final stone.
Just listen to the crowd’s reaction as Ishii goes to hit the final Brainbuster, outside of a pandemic Ryogoku Kokugikan would have been roaring. Jay White lost control at the most vital moment of the tournament, right at his crowning main event and the audience were going crazy for Ishii’s capitalising surge.
The entire time I’m watching it just expecting something to happen, this was meant to be Jay White’s night. Another Gedo interference, a last second counter into a Blade Runner, something with Jay snatching victory back into his grasp. But nope, he got dropped right on his noggin and there was no kick out coming.
The pure shock from the crowd tells it all, a subversion of expectations in the best way possible. With the mind quickly jumping to Bullet Club’s troubles and the not exactly smooth sailing relationship between EVIL and the Switchblade.
Making the next note so perfect, Jay White being the architectural control freak that he is, jumping in on Ibushi’s media parade and challenging for his G1 briefcase. Perhaps a final desperate attempt to snatch back control as his position atop the Bullet Club suddenly starts to look uncertain?
Sam: Hiroshi Tanahashi v Zack Sabre Jr. (Night 18)
A little NJPW secret is that Tanahashi and Zack Sabre Jr. are always excellent together. Whether it is on the top of the card, in one of the openers, or in the middle as they were on night 18, they work together so seamlessly and know exactly how to get the crowd engaged. This match was simply flawless in execution, it speaks columns about how good they are that they only hit the ropes a few times in the entire fifteen or so minutes that they wrestled for.
There was, of course, the classic ZSJ grappling, which I love and Tanahashi fire but for me, the thing that keeps me coming back for more with these two is the clash of characters, the petulant and vicious Sabre and proud, fiery and charismatic Tanahashi. The two just so naturally clash as the Sabre wants to cut the feet from under The Ace and the Britt constantly brings out the fire in Tanahashi, as evidenced by him holding ZSJ down for far longer than needed in the final pinfall, just to make the point.
I have watched these guys wrestle at least fifteen times but I’m still excited to see them come together.
1. Sam: Kota Ibushi v TAICHI (Night 17)
Another incredible flex from New Japan: a match where these two stubborn mules simply refused to be the one who gave in first. In a display of wrestling psychology at its finest, they went from testing each other with lighter kicks, to starting to lay everything in, to starting to absorb and show a bit of damage, to being completely out on their feet but still refusing to be the one who stopped kicking. In the final stretch, I was half expecting TAICHI to try some sort of cheapshot or for Ibushi to pull a giant lariat but I am so glad they didn’t. Both of these characters have shown how they let their pride drag themselves into hard-hitting exchanges and this was the ultimate payoff to that aspect of their character.
The courage to try and do a match with just kicks was only matched by the skill these two wrestlers showed in being able to pull it off. This was either going to be horrible or brilliant and the mad lads pulled it off!
Imp: EVIL vs SANADA (Night 18)
LIJ drama all coming to a head in the ultimate B Block main event. I have become so invested in the rise of Naito’s children, teased by the man himself as the faction became a juggernaut of popularity in Japan. It was only a matter of time before they began to rise up and challenge for his crown, after years of calls from fans, 2020 was finally that time.
SANADA and EVIL kept apart ever since the latter’s split away to the Bullet Club, that’s New Japan’s big money match, the constantly bubbling rivalry for the next generation. A fantastic case and example of how to actually brew a long term story, who would have thought keeping them apart and building the anticipation would yield results and have us so much more invested (gotta sneak my WWE jabs into these columns)?
That said, if anything the weight of the occasion overshadowed their personal beef, both men sitting on 12 points, knowing whoever were to win would top the block. With so much at stake that became the central focus, not the “You were my best friend!” meal we get served over and over in the west, but the reason they’re all competing in the first place: the prestigious G1 Climax and the Wrestle Kingdom prize that comes with it.
EVIL and Dick Togo threw all the shenanigans they could at SANADA, but with the help of Hiromu Takahashi the Cold Skull was able to fight through it all. Both men just surviving after getting caught, the 30 minute time limit edging closer and closer as antics and near falls reigned supreme.
A match that built really well: from EVIL’s usual deeds, to SANADA outsmarting his former stablemate, Dick Togo interfering to swing the match back, Hiromu evening the odds, EVIL capitalising, but SANADA surviving and showing heart to fight back and lead into your awesome New Japan main event back n’ forth.
I really enjoyed this match, Ibushi qualifying the night before threw just enough uncertainty into the mix and you never know when EVIL’s shenanigans might pay off!
If this is the first building block of the EVIL v SANADA epic, then count me in.
Match of the Tournament
Imp: Shingo Takagi v Kota Ibushi (Night 9)
Or Tagaki v Ospreay, or Tagaki v Ishii. In his second G1 the Dragon absolutely ran this tournament. So many awesome matches, carrying that consistency torch right in tow with Tomohiro Ishii’s incredibly high standard. An amazing output from one hell of a performer, but my personal favourite was his clash with G1 Climax 30’s ultimate winner.
That mix of raw strength, speed and agility made for a match made in heaven. A first time clash for the ages, meat slapping muscle in a perfect wrestling tale. They showed amazing chemistry as Shingo once again proved he can have an amazing match in just about every style New Japan offers. A true G1 chameleon, we may have a new contender for the Ishii crown!
Sam: Shingo Takagi v Will Ospreay (Night 5)
This one feels quite clear to me, while there were a number of great matches this G1, the best match of the tournament was clear cut from the moment I saw it, Shingo Takagi v Will Ospreay. The combination of Shingo’s speed and power and Ospreay’s athleticism and new found arrogant character created an incredibly explosive matchup filled with lightning paced sequences and hard hitting exchanges. These two are just about the perfect matchup for one another, it created the match of the year last year and it was the match of the G1 this year.
G1 Climax MVP – Week Four
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.
Sam: Kota Ibushi
Your G1 Champion for 2020 finishes off the G1 with two fantastic efforts. The match with TAICHI was incredibly creative and could not have been pulled off without incredible selling and fire from both men. As for the final, well just about everything good about it came from Kota’s side of the ring as he tried to fire up in the face of a stone wall.
Imp: Kota Ibushi
Could it be anyone else? A damn entertaining flex of a match against TAICHI, before winning the whole thing in the final. The third man in history and first since Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 2003 & 2004 to win back to back G1 Climax tournaments and first to reach 3 finals in consecutive years.
This stamp of approval has well and truly cemented Kota Ibushi as a pillar of the company. Now let’s just pray Naito vs Ibushi in the main event of a Wrestle Kingdom ends with both necks intact.
The final may not be up there in terms of not just best G1 Final matches, but simply matches of this G1 alone, but his B Block closer against EVIL really sank its hooks into me. I bit every near fall and on that night was truly behind the Cold Skull’s career elevating win. The rise of the Ingobernable boys continues, with EVIL’s in the New Japan Cup, the G1 was SANADA’s turn.
A statement for the future, but one that felt a lot more gradual. More of a stepping stone for SANADA than a full on ladder. That’s probably the point though, walking the honourable road rather than taking a shortcut to the top.
Minus two points for Low Energy SANADA TAICHI
I’ve said it all about the Ibushi v TAICHI match and it couldn’t have happened without TAICHI. Really the match was something of a fulfillment of his character whose pride and stubbornness constantly gets pulled into slugfests he knows he can’t win. The final phase of the match when both men were out on their feet and fighting to stay standing was completely riveting and I can’t see myself giving these points to anyone else.
Sam: Will Ospreay
Will put on a fantastic performance in the face of Kazuchika Okada, showing off his usual explosive athleticism and impressively pulling together the threads he has been laying out with his new character all through this tournament to launch a new stable. Make no mistake this is a titanic development for New Japan and sets Okada up to be one of the long term pillars of the company going forward.
Imp: Jay White
Ishii may have won, but the A Block main event was all about The Switchblade. After the bell had rung the cameras and post-show interviews were focused on one man, a complete shift in performance as Jay White faced the shock of defeat. The Kiwi’s character work has been sensational all tournament, absolutely peaking on the final night and confrontation with Ibushi.
MVP Point Standings
Kota Ibushi – 14 points
Jay White – 13 points
Shingo Takagi – 7 points
Tomohiro Ishii – 7 points
Tetsuya Naito – 5 points
Will Ospreay – 5 points
Kazuchika Okada – 3 points
TAICHI – 3 point
Zack Sabre Jr. – 2 points
Hiroshi Tanahashi – 2 points
SANADA – 2 points
Minoru Suzuki – 1 point
Personal MVP of the Tournament
Sam: Shingo Takagi
The MVP points tell a slightly different story and while I certainly respect our process, when I look back across my list of favourite matches for this tournament, one man’s name dominates the top end of the list, The Last Dragon, Shingo Takagi.
Sadly this wasn’t a tournament built for him storyline-wise but he didn’t need that to put in banger after banger against just about everyone he came up against. In fact for the three of the five weeks we reviewed it was a Shingo match that topped things for me. The secret sauce for Shingo is how he can adapt his explosive power and speed-based style to match anyone he comes up against. Strong Style with Ishii or Suzuki? No problem. New Japan main event style with Okada or Jay White? Easypeasy. Fast, high-flying back and forth with Will Ospreay? Match of the Tournament.
Big shout outs to Jay White and Kota Ibusi, they were damn close, but every night it was Shingo Takagi who I most looked forward to seeings and every night he crushed it.
Imp: Jay White
I debated this a fair tad, after singing Shingo’s praises over my internal Match Of The Tournament debate, how could I not pick him for my personal G1 MVP? Well because he wasn’t the only man whose work I enjoyed endlessly throughout, whose charisma ran so damn strong and gave me so much entertainment, before then absolutely killing it in the ring.
That man is no other than the Bullet Club leader and Tanahashi’s abs rival, The Switchblade Jay White. Showcasing some of the best character work in the tournament to the point of me struggling to avoid hyperbole and call him the best heel in wrestling. From trying to goad the Japanese crowd to cheer during a pandemic, to the absolute shock of defeat at the hands of the stone stalwart.
In an A Block for the ages Jay White managed to stand out and deliver every single week, his entire act, everything about it he has down to a T. I cannot wait to see what his 2021 holds.
That wraps up the G1 for us. What were your favourite matches and who were your favourite performers in the G1 Climax 30? 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.