The G1 Climax is officially over with Kota Ibushi standing tall as its winner. ‘The Golden Star’ will be main-eventing Wrestle Kingdom against the IWGP World Champion in January, which is a huge nod to the fantastic work he has put in as part of New Japan Pro Wrestling. His performances in this year’s G1 were nothing out of the ordinary, but he wasn’t the only one who put in the hours this year and delivered some insane matches.
In this retrospective, we’re going to count down the 5 best matches from this year’s tournament, covering the MVPs and the breakout performances of 2019. So if you’re looking for a selection of go-to matches from this year’s G1, then look no further. Make sure you jot down your own personal highlights in the comments section below.
5. Kota Ibushi vs Lance Archer (Night 9)
The eventual winner of this year’s G1 put in some incredible performances against hard-hitting opponents like KENTA, Hiroshi Tanahashi and one of the breakout performers from A Block, Lance Archer. Archer has been a perennial performer in the G1 Climax tournament, but only recently getting back on people’s radars through matches such as this one with ‘The Golden Star’.
The psychology of the bigger powerhouse dominating the smaller athlete came together so well here. Archer looked like a total badass, mostly down to Ibushi’s expert selling. Lance Archer should certainly see the benefits of this fantastic run going forward, perhaps a shot at the IWGP United States title in the near future.
The G1 is a star-making factory and it’s achieved through performances such as these.
4. Will Ospreay vs Zack Sabre Jr. (Night 11)
Two of the biggest British exports met once again in NJPW and delivered one of the most exciting technical performances of the tournament. Ospreay has been on his career run this year, winning the BOSJ tournament and then going on to steal the show on several occasions throughout the G1. Zack Sabre Jr. on the other hand hasn’t had the best luck, and it’s all down to Boris Johnson. But fortunately for him, he managed to put together some incredible matches along the way.
These two guys can always be relied upon to string together some magic, whether that be on home turf or overseas in NJPW. Political backstories aside, these two shined in this year’s G1 better than anyone. Sabre Jr., with his backstage shenanigans and untapped charisma, shined through, while Ospreay absolutely excelled in the ring. This was the cherry on top for both Brits who are undoubtedly heading on an upwards trajectory in their careers.
3. Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (Night 1)
On the first night of the G1 tournament, NJPW brought one of the hottest feuds in New Japan history to Dallas Texas. IWGP Champion Kazuchika Okada fought old rival Hiroshi Tanahashi in the main event of Night 1, kicking things off in a way that really sold the G1 Climax to a whole new audience. Okada and Tana absolutely killed it in the ring — to no-one’s surprise — and gave us the hot start that we all needed.
It was quite special to see the US crowd lose their minds over Okada and ‘The Ace’ standing in the same ring together for the first time on American soil. You could tell that the two weren’t expecting the reaction they received and were totally overwhelmed, a genuinely heartwarming moment for a New Japan fan.
This match holds up as one of their best, if you’ve never had the chance to check out a bout between these two modern day legends, then this is possibly the most accessible for Western audiences.
2. Tomohiro Ishii vs Jon Moxley (Night 6)
Jon Moxley competed in his first G1 as United States Champion, making a name for himself as one of the hottest new stars in New Japan Pro Wrestling. In the meantime, New Japan mainstays such as Tomohiro Ishii delivered some of their best career performances. On this particular night, the pair’s momentum came together and gelled so perfectly that we were treated to an instant classic.
Ishii and Moxley have a very similar style that took them out of the ring and all over the arena. It was a very different match to see take place in the G1 tournament, but it was a hell of a lot of fun and somewhat of a palette cleanser after seeing so many straight-wrestling matches.
The current Never Openweight Champion would definitely be in the conversation for G1 MVP. With this match being a big hit, and his subsequent matches against Shingo Takagi, Jeff Cobb and Tetsuya Naito all being critically adored, Ishii is definitely due for a main event run.
Big credit to Moxley as well for adapting to the new promotion so soon, it goes to show just how successful Mox is bound to be in this new chapter of his career.
1. Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay (Night 7)
An obvious choice for the number one spot is the instant classic between ‘The Rainmaker’ and his Chaos running-buddy Will Ospreay. As I mentioned earlier, Ospreay has been on the run of his career and Okada is Okada, so naturally they were going to come together in the A Block for one hell of a match.
This was another one of those star-making performances. Ospreay came into this tournament with very high expectations and he met every single one of those. The match with Okada stands out as the moment where he proved himself as more than just a junior heavyweight mainstay: Ospreay is the future of New Japan.
The match itself was excellent and was one of the many peaks of this year’s G1 Climax. Okada is on a level of his own and should forever be considered one of the greatest of our time. Do yourself a favour and watch this match, these two could easily make the next Okada/Omega series, or the modern-day Flair/Steamboat. Make it happen, New Japan, money will rain.