Thursday, August 20, 2015

Top 10 G1 Climax 25 Matches

After hearing all of the buzz about last year's G1 Climax, I wanted to make sure I saw as much of this year's as possible. I made the decision to watch the entire tournament using NJPW World and I don't regret it. Now that it's over, I'll be going back and watching last year's, but I wanted to rank the top ten matches I saw this year. I really enjoyed a vast majority of the G1 so this is a difficult task.

10. Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tetsuya Naito (Night Three)
I was very close to picking Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi here but I give this one the slight edge. Two guys that I came out of this tournament really loving were Katsuyori Shibata and Tetsuya Naito and for completely different reasons. Shibata is an absolute beast. His hard hitting style is enthralling to watch. Naito on the other hand, had recently turned heel after a trip to CMLL, where he joined Los Ingobernables. His attitude and gimmick was an absolute joy to watch throughout. Here, early on in the tournament, these two wrestled a back and forth match. Naito, being the absolute dick that he is, decide to try and slap around Shibata, which I learned is a bad idea. Shibata retaliated with some big shots before winning after the sleeper hold/penalty kick combination. ****

9. Kota Ibushi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (Night One)
Right out of the gate, the G1 Climax got a great match on night one. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi took the main event slot and made sure to give the fans a match to remember. A buddy of mine was asked to try and explain these two guys to someone who only watches WWE. His comparison was to look at it as if John Cena (Tanahashi) was facing Cesaro (Ibushi). Considering Tanahashi has been the top dog for a while, we've heard the Cena comparisons a lot. The Ibushi one for Cesaro makes some sense since Ibushi is deceptively strong like a Cesaro, while also being a freakishly good athlete. There was a level of intensity in this that I didn't expect, especially since I had heard some talk about Tanahashi taking it easy this year. He came out on night one and showed that he was ready to deliver in the G1. He won following the High Fly Flow to cap night one on the road to winning the entire thing. ****

8. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoaki Honma (Night Sixteen)
I had to include the night that HONMAMANIA ran wild. In the 2014 G1 Cilmax, Tomoaki Honma went winless and started this year's tournament the same way. He entered night 16, the second to last match for him, going up against Tomohiro Ishii. Earlier this year, at New Beginnings, these two had a match that many gave five stars to. On a Block that featured IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada and Shinsuke Nakamura, they were given the main event slot and absolutely delivered. It was slightly below their New Beginnings match but the drama of Honma trying to get the win added to it. It was hard hitting and had a fantastic atmosphere before Honma was finally able to pick up his first G1 win. The place went absolutely ballistic and deservedly so. ****¼

7. AJ Styles vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (Night Seventeen)
On the final night for the A Block, AJ Styles met Hiroshi Tanahashi and the stakes were as high as they could be. Both guys entered tied for the lead with 12 points, so the A Block was on the line. These are two of the three guys that have been IWGP Heavyweight Champion since 2011. AJ Styles has been my favorite wrestler since 2005 and I love that his move to NJPW has rejuvenated him. Both guys traded low blows out of desperation and Styles nearly won with the Calf Killer, which actually got built up well throughout the tournament. It went nearly 30 minutes but they did very well with it. Both guys countered the other's finishers and the final few minutes of this were pretty frantic. Styles has had some great closing stretches in his matches that I've seen this year. In the end, Tanahashi was able to pick up the victory in a match that ha an absolute main event and big fight feel. ****¼

6. Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii (Night Fourteen)
In the early days of the G1 Climax, I enjoyed the A Block more than the B Block. Maybe it was due to the B Block getting those weird single camera, no commentary shows or because the A Block had guys I really liked (Styles, Ibushi, Naito, Shibata etc.). However, the B Block would surpass them after a few shows because of matches like this one. Tomohiro Ishii and the IWGP Intercontinental Champion Hirooki Goto went to war in the night fourteen main event. This was two guys beating the holy hell out of each other for seventeen minutes and I loved it. The red hot crowd at Korakuen Hall added to a lot of the later nights in the tournament, including right here. There were great near falls, obvious stiff work and some good selling from both guys. Again, since I am only just starting to really get into NJPW, these are two guys that I hadn't really seen before this year, but I was completely into this. Goto was able to pick up the win in a must see match. ****¼

5. Michael Elgin vs. Tomohiro Ishii (Night Eighteen)
When it was first announced that Michael Elgin would be in the G1 Climax, you could practically hear the entire world groan in unison. Elgin is a pretty polarizing figure to say the least. However, from his first G1 match, where he was made to look like a beast against IWGP Champion Kazuchika Okada, Elgin delivered. I can't think of a bad match that he had at all during the tournament and he saved his best for this show against Tomohiro Ishii. Ishii was pretty underrated throughout this, as he delivered consistently as well. Like a lot of Ishii matches I've seen, this was two guys just going to war with each other. Again, the hot crowd added to this. Elgin really got over during the G1 and it showed here. I never expected to love this the way that I did, but man, this was breathtaking. Ishii won, but Elgin came out looking amazing and I'm sure he will be welcomed back to NJPW with open arms. ****½

4. Kazuchika Okada vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (Night Eighteen)
Much like AJ Styles vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi on night seventeen, this would main event the eighteenth night and give us our B Block winner. Kazuchika Okada entered with 14 points and Shinsuke Nakamura entered with 12. This would also be a rematch of the G1 Finals last year, which was won by Okada. Again, I have to commend the crowd, which was hot throughout. Nakamura is someone that I've really come to enjoy in 2015, but the elbow injury that he suffered early in the G1 caused a lot of his performances to be lacking. It was clear early on in this match though, that he was feeling much better. It was like I was watching a different performer. Due to his popularity, Okada got a chance to play more of a heel role, which I like him much more in. He comes off as such a douche in an entertaining way. After an absolutely exciting back and forth match, Nakamura countered the Rainmaker into an arm bar in beautiful fashion. Okada submitted, setting the stage for our finals. ****½

3. AJ Styles vs. Kota Ibushi (Night Five)
This is a shining example of why I was really into the A Block early on in the tournament. I first saw Kota Ibushi in 2008 when he made some appearances for Ring of Honor and I obviously stated earlier that AJ Styles is my favorite wrestler. Ibushi won the New Japan Cup and chose to face Styles for the IWGP Heavyweight Title earlier in the year at Invasion Attack. I enjoyed that match but felt it went a bit too long for the work they did. Here, they stayed under twenty minutes and delivered a better match for it. Styles is a much smarter worker now than ever before and he played a great heel throughout this. Again, the finishing stretch here was magnificent. After a series of counters and Ibushi surviving Bloody Sunday, he won with the Phoenix Splash. This proved to be one of his biggest singles wins so far and was the best match of the first few days here. ****½

2. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (Finals)
To close out a tournament like this, the Finals should definitely deliver and this one did. Now, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura have met several times in the past. However, here I am again showing how new I am to the company, I have only seen them wrestle once before. When I first signed up for the world, I watched their match at Invasion Attack 2014. That one was great but I found this to be better. They were given more than a half hour and built to their climax. The leg work was well one throughout, they had a ton of close call near falls that the electric crowd bit on and everything was well done. I've seen a lot of people give it the full five star treatment, but I didn't. I asked about it and a lot of people mentioned that they played upon their past matches, which is something I always appreciate. However, having not seen many of their previous encounters, I overlooked these. Also, there was talk of how dramatic the final few minutes were and they were, but I had been spoiled of the result beforehand unfortunately, which took some of that away from me. I do feel like I may have gone with the perfect score if those two things weren't the case. Still, this is a must see match that is absolutely fantastic. Tanahashi won to become the G125 winner. ****¾

1. Katsuyori Shibata vs. Kota Ibushi (Night Seven)
I loved every single thing about this match. Kota Ibushi and Katsuyori Shibata were two of my favorite people to watch in the tournament, even though both guys unfortunately were less impressive down the stretch, losing some matches I would have liked to see them win. On this night though, they stole the show. They each hit each other incredibly hard, showed off some mat work and put everything together to make this the best match possible. Shibata won an absolutely blistering match with the sleeper hold/penalty kick combo. Seriously, this is required viewing and if you haven't seen it yet, go find a way to do so right this second. It's honestly hard for me to put everything about this match into words, since I loved it so much and have watched it multiple times. It is, hands down, the best under fifteen minute match I have ever seen. ****¾