Welcome to the Wrestling Headlines 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 Wrestling Headlines G1 MVP. This week covers matches from night’s one to four. To follow along through the week you can find either fella on Twitter @TheDamnImplicat or @Sir_Samuel.
Sam: Great to have you along for the ride Imp, we didn’t get to do a prediction column this year so before we get into the top fives, who is your pick to take this thing out?
Imp: Bloody hell it really could be a whole line up of folk this year! I’ve personally got it whittled down to either Jay White, SANADA, EVIL, Shingo Takagi or even double IWGP Champion Tetsuya Naito himself.
Leaning the heaviest to Jay White though, with him being the only NJPW lad left of the rotating Wrestle Kingdom main matches to have not won.
Sam: I’m tempted to pick Tetsuya Naito just so I can be wrong about him three years running. Jay White is very strong but given the restrictions, COVID could cause with travel, I think I’ll have to pick old faithful Kazuchika Okada. The heart is always cheering for Shingo though, perhaps I can be wrong about him in the New Japan Cup and the G1 in 2020.
Top 5 Matches of Week 1
5. Imp: Will Ospreay v Tomohiro Ishii (Night Three)
The weird feeling in watching Ospreay matches right now aside – you know because he blackballed a rape victim – this match was incredible. Seriously, the only reason it’s not higher is because of that aura. I just can’t enjoy Ospreay at that level right now.
Turns out Ishii standing right up after Will’s normally most devastating offence is such a perfect recipe. The kind of match that leaves you with a buzz, sitting there knowing you’ve just seen something special.
An absolutely amazing adjustment as Ospreay hoisted Tomohiro up for the Stormbreaker and instead dropped him down into a Piledriver. Bloody insane! Dropping the chap right on his noggin as I type ‘WHAAAAA??’ in all caps.
Living up to the Areal Assassin’s entrance music with the offence elevating more and more as the match went on. Ishii was driven to Brainbuster Ospreay to hell, the Brit desperate to hit a final string of blows. Leading to some fantastic runs of counters as both lads tried to wallop the other, a top notch ending to a damn strong match.
Ospreay with some killer performances right out the gate, this year’s G1 already really feels like NJPW are getting behind him as a big star. An incredible talent, but I don’t believe that aura’s fading any time soon.
Sam: Zack Sabre Jr. v Tetsuya Naito (Night Four)
In a tournament like the G1 I’m all about complementary styles and this match, the main event for night four, had that in spades. Sabre’s grappling holds and grounds the explosively quick Naito and then when Naito gets on the offence, his high flying moveset is great prey for ZSJ’s counters.
Sabre’s style isn’t for everyone, however, I love how creative he is with his grappling, he never holds still and is always tweaking to try and get that extra bit of leverage. I loved how at one point he even used the bottom two ropes to get extra torque on a guillotine choke or immediately hooked Naito’s outstretched arm when the champ did his Tranquilo pose. The final stretch was also a treat to behold with Sabre trying to catch Naito in an increasingly more ambitious series of pinfalls before having his own finisher reversed into the Destino.
This match was crisp, well-paced and even though it was twenty-five minutes, it flew by.
4. Sam: Jay White v Kota Ibushi (Night Three)
Great matches can sometimes be made simply by the dynamics of the two wrestlers in them and for me, Jay White v Kota Ibushi was more proof of that. Jay White is wrestling’s ultimate prick and can’t help but try to get under The Golden Star’s skin, a man who is known for turning into a remorseless psychopath when pushed to the edge.
After several meetings last year bad blood runs thick between this pair and I loved how vicious they got with each other in this match. White tossed Ibushi around, pushed him down into the ring and ground his elbow in Ibushi’s face while also ruthlessly targeting Ibushi’s knee with a bevy of stomps, dragon screws and even a reverse Figure Four. For Ibushi’s part, boy can that man throw one hell of a flurry of palm strikes and clotheslines when he wants to.
White is an absolute master of injecting himself into the action with slick counters and in the end, that was the difference in this match. While Ibushi was clearly the more dangerous of the two it was White’s timing that allowed him to reverse Ibushi’s momentum and pick up the win.
These two are building quite the rivalry and I can’t wait to see what it goes.
Imp: Zack Sabre Jr vs Tetsuya Naito (Night Four)
Speaking of counters, your technical masterclass of the opening week! Over 28 minutes of the 30 time limit of two lads wearing each other down, gladly wrestling each other’s style and entering a mad string trying to score that fall.
ZSJ twisting and contorting Naito, who himself had some damn nice transitions into holds of his own. Both of these men like to take their time wearing down before entering sudden bursts, so it’s no surprise how well they gelled in this main event. Gradually building and building until arriving at that coveted final 10 minutes of a New Japan match, reversals and transitions galore in a pace increasing and increasing.
I loved the mad dash in the end, ZSJ showing his desperation and getting caught by the Tranquilo One, to only just wriggle out and attempt to roll the bugger over again. Zack coming so close over and over as the crowd who’ve been informed to be quiet start to fail in those instructions, the excitement of those final minutes proving just too good to hold back reaction.
A top notch main event, if anything it being just fourth on my list tells you how damn strong this opening week was. The first week’s meant to be the easy one, Sam! It only gets more difficult from here and I’m already leaving off bangers!
3. Imp: Hiroshi Tanahashi v Tetsuya Naito (Night Two)
Such a treat to see Hiroshi Tanahashi wrestling at this level, it’s been a wee while but this first round main event showed he still dances at such a high level. Same for Naito, the wear and tear may have slowed him down a tad, but when he’s going at such a pace in the first place… fair to say that’s not much of an issue on the entertainment front!
Tana countered so damn often, so many times Naito was having to fight back with the wind knocked out of him. The Ace on fire, refusing to give in to the Double IWGP Champion’s ideas of Tranquilo control.
Neither man may be at the level they were even just 2 years ago, but when they’re going at it like this who gives a crap? Both lads on fine form, really knowing exactly how to pull me in to their tricks of the trade and convince the hell out of me with their multiple false sways.
I totally bought Tana’s high flying flow of momentum, Naito’s destined float overs, but each time was met with the other fighting back or going full Zack Sabre Jr and incorporating the trusted tactic: “Just move out the way, dick’ead.”
If you thought Tanahashi versus Naito might not be the same level of experience in 2020, consider yourself proven wrong. These men are at the top of NJPW for a reason, still able to suck me in at such a level after all these years.
The year of Naito has finally arrived, Sam!
Sam: Tetsuya Naito v Hiroshi Tanahashi (Night Two)
Sometimes in wrestling, you can know how good a match is simply by listening to the crowd and boy oh boy was the New Japan faithful into this one.
Truthfully this was a match between two wrestlers who have lost a step or three since their athletic peaks, however, both men have more than enough tricks to create incredible drama with their selling, character and spectacular signature moves.
Within the match, it was two wrestlers who have tussled so many times before and know exactly what their opponent is capable of, so knew what to avoid and when to put their foot on the gas to push an advantage. Like Imp (and the entire arena) I absolutely believed that Tanahashi was going to get the win and set up a championship match down the line but it was good to see the IWGP Champion starting things off with a last gasp victory.
Just a roller coaster of a match between two pros who know exactly how to get it done.
2. Sam: Minoru Suzuki v Tomohiro Ishii (Night One)
Nothing says, “it’s G1 baby”, like two wrestlers filling an arena with the sound of meat slapping meat, while going life and death for two points. On night one it was Tomohiro Ishii and Minoru Suzuki who decided to truly kick the tournament off by throwing technicality to the wind and just throwing bomb after bomb at one another for fifteen minutes. These are just about the two perfect wrestlers to do this kind of match too, they are both super aggressive and have the auras of someone you would never want to come across in a dark alley but are masters of knowing exactly when to fire up and when to sell big time.
Even though these two are very similar characters they can’t help but rub each other the wrong way, Ishii particularly seems to get right under Suzuki’s skin when he refuses to back down to The King of Pro Wrestling. For me the peak of the match came when Ishii said something in Japanese that probably translated to, ‘you slap like a bitch’ because even with masks on, you could hear the crowd collectively gasp and Suzuki’s eyes bulged out of his face.
This match was not pretty, it was not super technical but it was violent, firey and had the crowd right behind it, exactly the kind of match I watch the G1 for.
Imp: Jay White vs Kota Ibushi (Night Three)
Jay White is such a bloody great heel. A perfect medium of baddie shenanigans whilst still going at a nice pace in the ring, mocking the crowd for being unable to chant support for Ibushi before wearing the muscly lad down.
This is not the same Jay White as a couple years ago, yes there’s shenanigans (he’s a heel, what do you want? Heels to not do things you don’t like?), but he’s wrestling at such a higher level. Both of his matches so far were fantastic, making him feel like a real A Block favourite off the bat.
The other side of a Jay White flow is the ending sequence with counter after counter, after counter. Which went into overdrive in this match, aided by the speed of Kota Ibushi. Bloomin’ heck, I’ve not even mentioned Ibushi yet! Don’t get me wrong, the flow of this was a Switchblade match, but Ibushi’s bursts and swings into momentum were as awe inspiring as always. Lifted to another level as they both countered back and forth at such an incredible speed.
Whenever Jay became amped up Ibushi was right there to send him crashing to the mat, to fly his boot into the Kiwi’s face. The ending following the flow too, no Gedo apron spot could hold back Ibushi on this night! So damn entertaining, the ending a fantastic peak as both lads reversed and reversed in exhaustion. The winner collapsing on his opponent after using his final breath of energy in one last hail mary, ultimate swing of a counter.
I really, really, REALLY enjoyed this match. Both lads in peak form, White wrestling so quick and smooth, paired with Ibushi jumping on his head like a mad man before flying with flips like he’s fresh as a daisy. These two are such a great pairing, they compliment each other so incredibly well.
1. Imp: Minoru Suzuki vs Tomohiro Ishii (Night One)
Phwoar, two lads slapping the crap out of each other for 15 minutes. Nom nom nom, give me that tasty Strong Style! You’re damn right this match was awesome.
The Murder Grandpa versus the Wrestling Fridge, laying in from the opening bell to the final count. No rest for these lads, as boulder and stone collided with absolutely no give. Throwing strikes to try and chip some strength off the other, only to be met with their opponent shouting in their face before charging in with their own lariat of force.
I love this style, giving everything to seemingly little effect… until it does! And they launch in with a flurry of power only for the lad to kick out at one. This is just some damn tasty steak, the gravy compliments the meat and everything. A magnifique combination of flavours.
I’m so happy they went 15 minutes too, often these Ishii bangers falling around 10 minutes or so. Normally enough time to energise you up, but give you no opportunity to become tired of it. But in this first round war they were able to go that extra step, to display the level of pain these two badass warriors were fighting through.
Such a down right fantastic battle, from start to finish with no let at all. No down time, just a full on war.
Thank you New Japan Pro Wrestling, this was an absolute treat.
Sam: Jay White v Shingo Takagi (Night One)
You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone and it was never more evident that on night one of the G1 Climax that boy have we missed Jay White over the last six months. The guy is the most effortlessly hateable prick in wrestling but still a phenomenally smooth and exciting wrestler.
In Shino Takagi, White had the perfect foil and on night one the pair put on a fantastic matchup of power and speed versus wrestling IQ. There was a beautiful exchange midway through proceedings, where Shingo blasted White with a lariat so strong it nearly sent him all the way out the ring before Jay immediately pulled off a counter, tripping Takagi as he charged in to try and capitalise, that typified the entirety of this back and forth match.
There was just nothing about this match I didn’t love. From the beauty of White taunting Milano with a Too Sweet as he rammed Shingo into the commentary table barricade, to the fantastic climax that had me believing that Shingo could pick up the huge scalp of The Switchblade it was wrestling nirvana for me. Yes, there were some shenanigans, but they served the match and White’s character instead of overshadowing them. I was genuinely pissed off when he hit The Last of the Dragon and the ref was down so couldn’t count it but that rise and fall of emotions is exactly what I want wrestling to do to me.
In short, this match had everything I want in a wrestling match; amazing action, compelling characters, a great story and a hot crowd.
G1 Climax MVP – Week 1
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: Jay White
It has only taken Jay White two matches to reinstate himself as the absolute best heel in wrestling. There was one moment for me that emphasised just how good he is: when he grabbed the mic early in his match against Kota Ibushi. He simultaneously teased the crowd about not being able to chant and subtly reinforced how they have been clapping out Ibushi’s name at the same time. It was just God tier work from a man who can wrestle as well as anyone but is such a prick you can’t help but hate him. His two matches in the G1 have been absolute masterclasses, I might even say he deserved the round of applause he gave himself after the Ibushi match.
Imp: Jay White
The Bullet Club Kiwi on fire this first week of the G1, two top notch encounters against Shingo Takagi & Kota Ibushi sure ain’t a bad way to kick things off. As Sam put it, the man’s arguably the best heel in the game, getting all the little things right whilst also putting on wrestling clinics. Being in the ring with such top level opposition doesn’t hurt, but Jay White feels deservedly the biggest deal in A Block. Two top level performances, my MVP wasn’t in doubt this week.
Imp: Tetsuya Naito
Two 25 minute+ main event showcases from the Double IWGP Champion would likely be enough for the Tranquilo One to top most people’s lists. But in a tournament like this, that kind of high calibre output guarantees you nothing! Going to the wire against both Tanahashi and ZSJ, the man finally able to display Tetsuya Naito’s Pro Wrestling and I’m all here for it. In no time at all making up for missed time, establishing himself as the top man in the promotion and doing so in style.
Sam: Tetsuya Naito
Hard to argue too hard with you here Imp. Naito has had his share of detractors this year after some fairly average championship showings but they have no choice but to take some humble pie after the first two rounds of the G1 this year where the champ has shined. Sure he isn’t as explosive as he once was but he is still as sympathetic and beloved as ever and sometimes in wrestling that is all you need to put on a show.
Sam: Shingo Takagi
The Last Dragon was one half of my favourite match of G1 so far, more than holding his own opposite a rampant Jay White and follow it up with a very fun heavyweight slogfest against Jeff Cobb.
He might not have any points on New Japan’s scoreboard after week one but he does here.
Imp: Tomohiro Ishii
How could I not? The man that bookended my top matches this week surely has to feature on my MVPs. Two incredible matches, which I know I’ve now said for all three of these men, but this year’s G1 is genuinely that stacked! Tomohiro Ishii delivers two flat out fantastic, hard-fought contests and only finishes third on my list. This is the level we’re working with, such a high bar set after this first week that it’s difficult not to get excited with what’s to come next!
It wouldn’t be the G1 without Ishii wrestling bangers left, right and centre. The sign we’re truly underway!
Jay White – 6 points
Tetsuya Naito – 4 points
Tomohiro Ishii – 1 point
Shingo Takagi – 1 point
A Block Standings
(After 2 matches)
1 | Taichi – 4 pt
2 | Will Ospreay – 4 pts
3 | Kazuchika Okada – 4 pts
4 | Jay White – 4 pts
5 | Kota Ibushi – 2 pts
6 | Tomohiro Ishii – 2 pts
7 | Jeff Cobb – 2pts
8 | Minoru Suzuki – 2 pts
9 | Yujiro Takahashi – 0 pts
10 | Shingo Takagi – 0pts
B Block Standings
(After 2 matches)
1 | Toru Yano – 4 pts
2 | Tetsuya Naito – 4 pts
3 | Juice Robinson – 4 pts
4 | Zack Sabre Jr. – 2 pts
5 | Hirooki Goto – 2pts
6 | KENTA – 2 pts
7 | EVIL- 2 pts
8 | Yoshi-Hashi – 0 pts
9 | Hiroshi Tanahashi – 0 pts
10 | SANADA – 0 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 @Sir_Samuel. You can also go deeper on the G1 thread or write a column about it yourself on the LOP Forums here.
Make sure you join us for our increasingly more incoherent ramblings next week. See you then!