The G1 Climax garners a lot of attention every year, drawing in casual and lapsed fans alike back to the product with its prominence. This is natural, though, considering that the winner of this month and a half long tournament will win a chance to compete for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at New Japans biggest show of the year, Wrestle Kingdom 10.
The scheduling of the shows is a little intimidating, happening almost every night of the week. It would be hard for even the most hardcore fan to keep up with, as it’s probably safe to assume that most people don’t have 30 hours a week to dedicate to watching wrestling. Some matchups warrant more attention than others, becoming essential viewing to anyone attempting to stay current with this sprawling tournament.
In the coming weeks, I will be highlighting the essential viewing to keep up with this masterful, meticulously planned tournament that leads to one of the greatest pay offs in professional wrestling today.
Kota Ibushi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Kota Ibushi vs. Tanahashi really popped off the page when I read the match listings for the first night of the G1 Climax. A veteran heavyweight (Tanahashi), facing off against a rookie heavyweight (Ibushi)–could the veteran still hang against the young gun? That’s not to imply that Ibushi is a rookie, though, just a new member of the most prominent division in the promotion. Ibushi joining the heavyweight division creates a whole slew of interesting matchups, and his bout with Tanahashi was just the beginning.
— LARIATOOOOO!!! (@SenorLARIATO) July 20, 2015
The pair worked expertly together, and Tanahashi really sold Ibushi as a threat, giving the Veteran some real trouble as the match played out. But, eventually, the veteran took over—targeting Ibushi’s knee–much to the audience’s chagrin. The crowd was solidly behind Ibushi, which is saying something when he’s in the ring with a man that performs a 15-minute air guitar solo to the adulation of his fans after a win. Kota Ibushi is a star on the rise, and it’s safe to say most of the matches he’s involved in will be a weekly mainstay on this list.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Karl Anderson
NJPW uses the tag matches that open the shows to build up tiny feuds that make these bouts much more intriguing. A simple, but nice touch that shows NJPW is paying attention to the smallest of details. Anderson and Nakamura participated in a tag match the night before, crossing each others paths only slightly, but still managing to creating intrigue for their official match on night two.
— LARIATOOOOO!!! (@SenorLARIATO) July 23, 2015
Nakamura vs. Anderson was a slow match with a surprising ending, and it primed me to see him feud with the Bullet Club, namely AJ Styles–which is an absolute possibility in the future if Nakamura wins the tournament like I expect him to. Anderson and Shinsuke worked very well together, bringing some original moves to the table that are scarcely seen. Nakamura countering the Stun Gun into an armbreaker is brilliant, and perfectly executed counter to the RKO-err-um- the Stun Gun. This was my favorite match of the night, though if you have time, Elgin vs. Okada was a surprisingly enjoyable outing. I can’t say I was pleased with the finish, but it’s interesting to see Anderson being positioned as such a strong singles competitor.
Toru Yano vs. AJ Styles
AJ has really won over the NJPW fan base, and despite being the leader of the biggest heel faction in the company, the crowd seems to still love cheering him. Yano served as a fresh opponent for AJ, and has become quite a pest for everyone he steps in the ring with. Yano works up his opponent so much with his antics that they begin to make mistakes, and while Yano is certainly not the caliber of wrestler that AJ is, he still manages to come off as someone who could easily sneak out a win over even the most credible wrestler.
— LARIATOOOOO!!! (@SenorLARIATO) July 24, 2015
Yano is on a course to get some big upset wins in this tournament. AJ, however, was not one of them. AJ out worked Yano, of course, but Yano was mere inches away from getting a win over a former IWGP Champion through the use of underhanded tactics. The Tanahashi vs. Toru Yano feud really re ignited his character, making his matches must watch due to the outcomes never being a certainty. This was my favorite match of the night despite being two matches under a great main event.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Yuji Nagata
Night four was a stripped down, smaller show, but Nakamura was on the card–instantly making it a must watch. Nagata and Nakamura have worked together for years, and their match up reflected that.
— LARIATOOOOO!!! (@SenorLARIATO) July 25, 2015
Everything flowed so well, and even with a static camera shot of the ring, Nakamura still managed to jump off the screen and demand attention. If you’re looking for a perfected wrestling match with more knee strikes than any torso and head should take, this is one to seek out. Shinsuke vibrates his way to another win, adding two more points to his tournament standings, solidifying his place as my current favorite to win the G1.
Kota Ibushi vs. AJ Styles
Night 5 was packed with fresh match ups, but the rematch between AJ and Ibushi leapt out at me instantly. These two men had RSVP’d for a spot on this list before they had even stepped into the ring.
AJ and Kota Ibushi spent an extended period feeling each other out, neither wanting to make a mistake. Former IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles was able to take the early advantage, pummeling Ibushi inside and out of the ring. Ibushi was never counted out, though. Always managing to stay in the fight by picking some great offensive spots against Styles. This match was very similar to the last time they squared off, but it always seemed to turn in a fresh direction to avoid being predictable.
— LARIATOOOOO!!! (@SenorLARIATO) July 27, 2015
AJ and Kota’s styles are extremely comparable, which means nothing was off limits. Pile drivers, a plethora of hurricanranas, and even an attempted Styles Clash from the top rope made an appearance. Despite being destroyed through 80% of the match up, Ibushi managed to defeat a top contender in the heavyweight division, redeeming himself from his big loss to Styles in one of his first outings as a heavyweight, and solidifying him as a serious threat to everyone in the division.
— LARIATOOOOO!!! (@SenorLARIATO) July 27, 2015
It’s hard to pick favorites this early on in the tournament, but Ibushi is someone that I would be elated to see take it all the way. If you only watch one match this week, make it this one. This was first class wrestling on every level.