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NJPW ‘Top 29 Matches of the G1 Climax 29’ (1-10)

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Now that the G1 Climax 29 is behind us, it’s time to look at and rank the best matches. Today we’ll be looking at matches 1-10 and like always feel free to tell me how wrong I am and what matches you would put in these spots instead. Let’s get started!


10. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kota Ibushi (ENG/JPN)
Whether it’s a thirty-five minute match to decide the entire G1 or a fifteen minute match on day thirteen of the tournament, Ibushi versus Tanahashi is always going to rule. They both have their own special aura that when brought together creates something truly special. Ibushi is up there with the likes of Okada, Naito and Tanahashi in that he demands your attention. He’s awe-inspiring with every movement and when paired with who is unquestionably the best wrestler on the planet, magic things are bound to happen.


9. Kazuchika Okada vs SANADA (ENG/JPN)
After three years and seven matches, SANADA was finally able to best his rival. These two have been destined to be rivals ever since SANADA’s debut but Okada had stated it wouldn’t ever be a true rivalry until SANADA beats him. They went down to the wire but with less than thirty second remaining, SANADA was able to pull off the win. This was one of those unforgettable G1 moments and one that’ll define SANADA’s career. There’s debate on whether he’s the guy for the spot but it’s clear he’s been chosen and with performances like these it’s easy to see his potential as one of the top guys.


8. Jon Moxley vs Tomohiro Ishii (ENG/JPN)
When Moxley was announced for the G1, the opponent everyone wanted for him was Minoru Suzuki. Sadly, we didn’t get that but we got the next best thing. Have I mentioned before that Ishii gets the best out of every opponent? This was the hardcore brawl you could have only dreamed about until Gedo put it in the cupboard and it came to life. We had moments like Ishii channeling Masato Tanaka with a splash off the top rope through a table on the floor and the two swinging chairs at each other like maniacs, everything you could have possibly wanted and then some. This was the moment Jon Moxley arrived. He showed he can be something different for New Japan and in a positive way.


7. Tomohiro Ishii vs Shingo Takagi (ENG/JPN)
What happens when you put the most dynamic man in wrestling against the Stone Pitbull? Absolute domination. Shingo can do it all but here he decided to match up shoulder for shoulder, lariat for lariat with Ishii. These guys obliterated each other in ways only they can handle. Incredibly gross chops and forearm exchanges met with manly roars into each other’s faces. For a lot of fans, this is peak professional wrestling. There’s something to be said for watching guys destroy one another purely for your entertainment. The fact that we may be seeing a rematch in the near future…insane.


6. Tetsuya Naito vs Tomohiro Ishii (ENG/JPN)
If you were to make a list of guys in New Japan who care the least about their well-being, Naito is arguably number one. The amount of abuse he takes when he’s in the ring with Ishii never fails to be absolutely breathtaking. Ishii, as I’ve stated once before I believe, brings the best out of everyone. He can take a fair beating himself but no one seems to enjoy taking it as much as Naito. He just throws himself around the ring without a care in the world about where or how he lands. It’s always a spectacle when these two are in the ring together. This is a rivalry for those who enjoy the gut-wrenchingly gross parts of professional wrestling.


5. Kazuchika Okada vs Kota Ibushi (ENG/JPN)
The A Block decider came down to one of the most protected matches you can find in New Japan. These two hadn’t met in a singles match since Ibushi moved to the heavyweight division five years ago (if you exclude the Tiger Mask W appearance). Coming into the final day with only one loss, Okada could have advanced via time limit draw if he wanted but he had a point to prove. Ibushi came in on a hot six-match winning streak and simply refused to be denied. After making the final last year, he wasn’t going to let another opportunity slip through his fingers. He beat Okada for the first time in his career and gave Okada his quickest defeat since Wrestle Kingdom 13.


4. Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay (ENG/JPN)
Of the three matches in their series, this is far and away the best match yet. They wrestled like there was something at stake. This didn’t feel like a showcase match, it felt like Okada wanted to beat Ospreay to prove a point about where he needs to be in order to hang with the heavyweights in the G1. Wrestling is always better when it feel like a competition rather than an exhibition which was the trap the last two matches fell into. This match showed where Ospreay is within the ranks of the heavyweights and if he wanted to climb higher, he had to improve. An absolute classic in Ospreay’s career arc.


3. Jon Moxley vs Shingo Takagi (ENG/JPN)
HEAR ME OUT BEFORE SCROLLING PAST OR X’ING OUT OF THE ARTICLE.
Name another match like this one in the G1. Granted, you can say that about Yano, Archer and Fale matches but please keep reading. Unless you’re a part of Suzuki-Gun, or on the rare occasion Tanahashi, when do you see submission victories in New Japan? They’re so few and far between. Most tease them but is it really a tease if you never win with the move? Not only did Moxley win with the cloverleaf, he focused on the knee the entire way through. Not to mention you have the most dynamic man in the tournament, Shingo Takagi, selling the moves submissions. There was a story that paid off in ways you rarely see them get paid off in New Japan which is what makes this match stand out. Maybe it’s not your style but understand that at the very least this match gave you something different.


2. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Will Ospreay (ENG/JPN)
A bona fide game changing result in terms of the direction of both men’s careers. A star making performance from Ospreay as he beats the former (arguably current) ace of New Japan. Tanahashi is a magician and he proves it time and time again. He’s without a doubt the best wrestler on the planet, shown by his ability to adapt to any style while also changing up his game in order to best suit his body’s needs. The magnitude of this result cannot be overstated. A junior heavyweight pinning the ace of New Japan clean, in under twenty minutes mind you, is absolutely insane anyway you want to chalk it up. This is one of two G1 matches that are legitimate match of the year contenders. The significance of this result is one that has the possibility of being felt throughout the remainder of Ospreay’s career.


1. Tetsuya Naito vs Shingo Takagi (ENG/JPN)
Simmering below the surface of this match is that while Shingo is a part of Naito’s LIJ, Shingo is a leader himself. He’s gone under Naito’s wing in New Japan but this is a man fully capable of leading on his own. When they step in the ring and Naito spits on Shingo? That’s a heavy statement. I said this earlier in Naito’s match against Ishii but Naito’s willingness to completely destroy himself makes him one of the most amazing guys to watch. He baited Shingo with so much disrespect like he does with Ishii and caused a beatdown so incredible that this is both my match of the G1 and the year as a whole. There were so many gut wrenchingly gross-out moments. All the head drops, the headbutts, it was insanely physical and brought so much heat that at times it felt personal. A complete classic in every sense of the word. The story, the tension, the multitude of gross-out moments, this is a top tier professional wrestling match. There can only be one and this is without a doubt the one.

Robert McCauley hasn't missed an NJPW show since the launch of NJPW World. Always be on the look out for his reviews where he shares results and gives his honest opinions on the goings-on of New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

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