Eighteen shows, 90 block matches and one month later, G1 Climax 30 is complete and we have a new God to worship! I think we already worshipped him, but nevertheless, all hail Kota Ibushi! Having watched so much wrestling over the past month I’m hearing screams of “Larrriiaaatttooo!!” as I try to sleep, and keep wishing I had Jyushin Thunder Liger shouting “Chance! Chance!” whenever I need a boost.
It’s a fool’s errand to create a definitive list of the best matches: the variety on offer is overwhelming and there was an onslaught of classic matches that each deserve their own acclaim. Instead, I offer five matches that each standout in their own special way, all deserving of being on any best of list. A five course meal of strong-style, comedy, violence, story-telling and debauchery that would satiate any wrestling fan’s appetite.
Toru Yano vs Zack Sabre Jr. – October 8th, Night 12
The ace of mischief taking on the submission master, both man the perfect foil to the other. They have a tendency to outwit their opponents – Yano through his delinquency and ZSJ through his arsenal of pinning and submission combinations.
With both trying to out-smart each other – plus the knowledge that a Zack or Yano match can legitimately end at any moment – it all lends itself to being one of the most exciting gems of the entire G1 Climax.
What starts as a clean fight, with Yano trying to out-wrestle ZSJ, quickly breaks down into anarchy: Yano getting the upper-hand thanks to his trusted tape and ZSJ gaining the upper-hand through his wrestling intelligence. There are constant glimpses at how good of a wrestler Yano can actually be, taking Zack to the mat and even hitting a belly-to-belly suplex. It’s comedy gold, scorching fast action and a joy from beginning to end.
Kota Ibushi vs Taichi – October 16th, Night 17
The most unique match of G1 Climax 30, and a contender for the most unique match in all of wrestling: one that will be remembered for years to come.
For 17 minutes, Ibushi and Taichi blistered each other exclusively with kicks. The tally ended with a grand total of 158 kicks, 83 to 75 in Taichi’s favour. At its core, it was a fight for superiority between two supremely stubborn fighters. Taichi, the student of the legendary Toshiaki Kawada, versus Ibushi, the former kickboxer. Both men chiefly allow the other the opportunity to take the next strike, even sitting down on the mat and exposing their backs, inviting each other to freely take their best shot.
The obvious wear and tear of non-stop kicks is apparent as they begin to hobble, the cries of anguish and pain blurring the line between fiction and reality, are unthinkable that after 15 minutes of kicks the screams are anything but genuine outbursts. They have to walk around the edge of the ring to close the gap, reliant on the ropes to keep their weakened legs upright, even using each other to keep themselves standing, all the while delivering thumping kick after thumping kick.
Jeff Cobb vs Tomohiro Ishii – October 10th, Night 13
HOSS FIGHT! This year’s G1 cemented Jeff Cobb as the strongman in New Japan, and when he went up against the G1 MVP of many years past, it was always going to be something special.
Cobb’s otherworldly strength is as frightening as it is impressive: in no way should he be able to hurl the cinder block that is Tomohiro Ishii the length of the ring with such ease. It’s a showcase of raw power and clash of unrelenting spirits, Ishii refusing to stay down when Cobb constantly unleashes a multitude of suplex variations.
It’s everything you want to see from these two titans. Non-stop action from the start to the end, and a pure battle of strength and resilience with a definitive winner.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Tetsuya Naito – September 20th, Night 2
If Tanahashi goes for the High Fly Flow to the outside, you know it’s going to be a spectacular match. He reserves the dangerous variant of his finisher for only the biggest of occasions, and a chance to pin the double champ in the opening night of B block more than warranted the risk.
It’s Tanahashi doing what he does best. A step ahead of Naito throughout and a game plan he has mastered through the years, he gunned for Naito’s knee with surgical precision to setup for the Cloverleaf and to keep him down for an eventual High Fly Flow. Meanwhile Naito can only get spurts of brilliance, with Tanahashi constantly holding the lead.
As the match nears it’s end, the urgency from Naito is evident. Having taken his time with Tanahashi, who has had an answer for nearly everything, the pace quickens with Naito’s realisation that if he doesn’t move fast, then he may start his G1 with a loss. It’s Tanahashi, Naito and New Japan at their finest, a slow-build match with fantastic final sequences that make the wait worthwhile.
Jay White vs Minoru Suzuki – October 13th, Night 15
White is notorious for dictating the pace of a match – always drawing his opponent into a fight that benefits himself and wise enough to have a counter for everything. That was not the case when he was confronted by Suzuki, the match becoming about White’s survival more than his victory.
Suzuki brutalizes White who can simply not compete in the striking battle he finds himself in. White is offered plenty of time to stare up at the ceiling courtesy of Suzuki’s echoing forearm strikes leaving him disheveled on the mat. The standout moment is a contender for best Blade Runner counter of all time, with Suzuki turning the move into a sickening arm-bar that looks guaranteed to earn him the win.
It put White into a different position from what we are accustomed to, almost (only almost) feeling sorry for the punishment he is subjected to.
In a year plagued by uncertainty, New Japan managed to deliver a terrific G1 Climax. For a solid month 20 of NJPW’s best (well, 19 plus Yujiro) were gunning for glory and delighted us with a variety of matches. We had a lot more laughs thanks to Yano and a lot more hunks to marvel at thanks to…basically the entire roster! The road to Wrestle Kingdom 15 is speeding up, with Power Struggle around the corner, plus the World Tag League and Best of the Super Juniors tournaments. It’s always a joy to be a New Japan fan!