We’re so close to the G1 Climax that my excitement is beginning the bubble over. With ninety singles matches spread between twenty different wrestlers over a nineteen show period, who couldn’t possibly get swept up into the G1 craze? We all know the big ones to be excited about: Omega/Ibushi, Omega/Naito, Naito/Ibushi, Omega/Tama, Okada/White, Okada/Tana, Okada/Suzuki, and so on. But what about those under the radar matches? You know, the ones buried either underneath those big matches or hidden inside those lesser-profiled shows. I’ve devised a list of the ten matches I believe will be sleeper hits inside of this year’s tournament.
10. Tomohiro Ishii vs Tama Tonga – 8/1
These guys faced off in the 2016 G1 and I’d be lying to you if I told you I remembered that off the top of my head. You couldn’t have two guys with styles more opposite of each other than Tama and Ishii which, depending on how you look at it, can either be good or bad. This is a big tournament for Tama. It feels like he’s in a make or break situation and Ishii is able to have a stellar match with anyone. I’m optimistic that this one delivers but wouldn’t be shocked, only disappointed, if it didn’t.
9. Jay White vs Michael Elgin – 7/20
I’ve been on board with the Switchblade character since White hit Omega with the Blade Runner at New Year Dash. He’s continued to improve as this unhinged character, bullying everyone who stands in his way. Big Mike isn’t a man who can be bullied around to this dynamic is sure to be awesome. I truly expect great things out of this match with both men showcasing their freakish strength and next-level athleticism.
8. Minoru Suzuki vs EVIL – 7/30
One of last year’s bigger letdowns was the match between Suzuki and EVIL. They didn’t get enough time to kick into that next gear in order to produce a memorable match. This year, they have been given the semi-main event so I have high hopes that we’ll get something special. The 2017 G1 was meant to serve as EVIL’s coming out party and it’s proven to be effective as his popularity coming into this year’s tournament is at an all time high. I see these two beating each other up in a good, old fashioned brawl that’s sure to catch a lot of attention.
7. Kota Ibushi vs SANADA – 7/26
Arguably, the two premier athletes in a company filled with top level athletes. In an exciting, and equally surprising turn of events, Ibushi and SANADA have been given the main event of this show so it’s nearly impossible this match disappoints. We’ve all been waiting, some more patient than others, for SANADA’s breakout. He’s on the verge but we haven’t quite seen it yet and with a main event against Ibushi, this is a great opportunity to see SANADA shine.
6. Kazuchika Okada vs Hangman Page – 7/20
Who could possibly not be excited for Page’s inclusion in this year’s tournament? He’s excelled with every opportnity New Japan has given him whether it be in the World Tag League or facing Jay White for the U.S. title. This is going to be the Buckshot Lariat heard across the world where he faces off with Okada. G1 is all about these fresh matches and you don’t get more fresh than this one.
5. Zack Sabre Jr. vs Tama Tonga – 7/28
Like Tama Tonga’s other match I highlighted, you can’t be more stylistically different than these two. There is zero possibility that this won’t be fun. Sabre thrives in finding fresh ways to keep you guessing and make sure you never get bored. I’m cautiously optimistic about Tama this year. I really hope he swims rather than sinks and I think he is set up for success by having a match against Sabre that can showcase a different style than everything else we see on these shows.
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Hangman Page – 7/22
I cannot stress enough how excited I am to see Hangman get these opportunities. Is anyone doubting that he and Tanahashi won’t be able to blow the roof off the place? This is going to be very cool and a career defining tournament for Page so get on the hype train now because it’s going to take off soon. How can there be doubt in anyone’s mind?
3. Jay White vs EVIL – 8/10
Since this is the match just before Okada/Tanahashi, I see people overlooking what is sure to be an absolute show stealer right here. And I don’t say that lightly. I see this being one of the best brawls of the year. If you thought White/Juice was fantastic (it was) then this will be every bit as good. Say what you will about New Japan but they’ve produced two excellent wrestlers in White and EVIL. I’m so looking forward to this match.
2. Kenny Omega vs Tomohiro Ishii – 8/4
The Okada/Omega series received well-deserved acclaim last year but Omega had another trilogy which produced matches that some would argue were just as good. Omega and Ishii absolutely tore it down in the early months of 2017 that were unfortunately forgotten by most by year’s end. As a huge fan of Ishii, these were matches I couldn’t forget even if I tried. If you’re one of those fans who forgot then I encourage you to watch their 2017 New Japan Cup match and tell me you’re not excited for this rematch.
1. Kenny Omega vs Zack Sabre Jr. – 8/1
An absolute dream match that has all the potential in the world to be thee match of the tournament. Nobody works harder than Sabre at making his matches stand out above the rest. The wackiness that this match is sure to provide is already beginning to boggle my mind. There won’t be another match like this one all year, unless of course Sabre comes out with the win. Two of the world’s best innovators doing what they do best. Get pumped.
Who else is ready for the G1 Climax? I came out of writing this even more excitement than when I started. There are so many interesting and exciting matches we’re about to see. Let me know on Twitter what matches you’re most excited for, especially the ones under the radar.