By Will Pruett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@itswilltime)
It is July, which aside from being my birthday month, means New Japan Pro Wrestling is ready to overwhelm us all with the annual G1 tournament. It’s wild how many matches they put on, the quality of these matches, and the joy they bring my heart. As of this writing (Friday morning, July 19), I’m all caught up, so let’s discuss the best of NJPW’s G1 Climax 29 thus far!
Will’s Must See Matches of G1 29:
Before we get to the matches, I want to discuss their length. My favorite thing about the G1 Climax tournament is the 30 minute time limit on each match. These aren’t 75 minute epics like NJPW has given us before. This list of matches won’t take you hours upon hours to watch.
Lance Archer vs. Will Ospreay (Night 1): The tournament began with the reintroduction of Lance Archer. After injuries, a tag career, and setbacks, Archer is back. Ospreay began his first tournament as a heavyweight as a favorite. He’s an international star and is very high profile. Ospreay is amazing in the ring and made Archer look great. Archer pulled off the surprise win and established his personality throughout the tournament. This match set a storytelling course for both men and delivered great action in doing so.
KENTA vs. Kota Ibushi (Night 1): Allow me to be Vince McMahon fearing the alliance of WCW and ECW for a moment and say I wanted the old Stone Cold KENTA back. Could KENTA be KENTA again? We all wondered going into this tournament just who he would be. While the Hideo Itami WWE run will forever be a mystery best not investigated, KENTA’s return to NJPW has been the best thing about this tournament thus far. It helps to have Ibushi, one of the best wrestlers in the world, as an opponent on night 1, but KENTA more than held his own. This match ruled.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada (Night 1): For the first time outside of Japan, the defining in-ring feud of the decade wrote another chapter in a one-on-one match. Okada and Tanahashi always deliver when against each other. This was no exception. Tanahashi has the uncanny ability to step up in big matches no matter how beat up he gets. Okada is the best wrestler in the world today. This match ruled.
Tetsuya Naito vs. Toru Yano (Night 2): I know I just said Okada is the best wrestler in the world today, but Yano might be the second best. I freaking love Toru Yano. Yano vs. Naito was an early surprise finish in a tournament known for them.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (Night 3): Zack Sabre Jr. is not having a great G1. He had high hopes of winning the tournament, beating Okada, and getting an IWGP Heavyweight Championship match in his home country. Now, ZSJ is just trying to get some points. Okada is always the professional in these matches and he is usually the IWGP Champion as well. Sabre and Okada put on a fun wrestling match whenever they’re together, so you should always watch,
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. KENTA (Night 3): As I write this, Tanahashi vs. KENTA is my favorite match of the tournament. The disdain for each other was palpable as this match began and they wrestled like two contemporaries out to prove they were always the best. KENTA continued being the old KENTA and stepped up to the beautiful challenge posed by Tanahashi (How the cuss is Tana so pretty?). If you only have time for 1 G1 match from this list, make it Tanahashi vs. KENTA and thank me later.
Toru Yano vs. Shingo Takagi (Night 4): Attention everyone: I truly love Toru Yano and he’s the best thing about the G1 almost every year. Yano vs. Shingo was delightful. Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero made it even better on commentary as they discussed the lack of silly opponents in the Best of the Super Juniors. Takagi’s outrage at Yano’s actions and eventual ability to use them against him was delightful. I wish everyone could be as entertaining as Yano.
Lance Archer vs. KENTA (Night 5): The breakout personality of the G1 thus far against the comeback performer of the G1 thus far. Two of the best stories of the tournament colliding in the middle of the ring made this one super fun. Arches calling KENTA “Hideo Itami” in the middle of the match was particularly enjoyable.
Will Ospreay vs. Kota Ibushi (Night 5): These two wrestlers get criticized a lot for the risks they take and a lack of storytelling in their matches. This match proved how unwarranted some of that criticism is as both men told a great story in a main event match. Ospreay was questionable prior to the show, so even seeing him here was impressive. These two built up to the risks they took, justified their big spots, and put on one of this G1’s classics. Wrestling can tell an old story in innovative and fun ways. This match is proof.
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Jon Moxley (Night 6): Tomohiro Ishii delivered a splash from the top rope to the outside to put Jon Moxley through a table. One of NJPW’s most consistent and enjoy performers is out here JUMPING OFF THE FREAKING TOP ROPE. Ishii is always awesome in the G1 and Moxley, in his first NJPW main event, proved up to the show-closing task. This was the best Jon Moxley singles match I can remember and is up there with my favorite Ishii performances. Watch it.
Hey! Hopefully I’ll make it back here next week with even more matches from the G1 Climax tournament you should see. Wrestling is the coolest thing and this July is proving to be filled with it. Enjoy the wrestles, my friends!
Will Pruett writes about wrestling and popular culture at prowrestling.net. Of interest to him are diversity in wrestling and wrestling as a theatrical art form. To see his video content subscribe to his YouTube channel. To contact, check him out on Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Will Pruett on the Roman Reigns whodunnit angle, WWE heading into SummerSlam, AEW's October 2 premiere on TNT, the New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Climax Tournament through Day 11, and more (77:45)...