7. Jay White vs. Kota Ibushi – Night 3
After their matches at last year’s G1 Climax tournament final and Wrestle Kingdom, many expected another stand out performance between Kota Ibushi and Jay White. However, fans were surprised at just how excellent this rematch was. It started with Jay and his mind games. Knowing fully well that the crowds cannot cheer for their favourite Golden Star, the Switchblade goaded the crowd.
From there, it was a match mixing wrestling and storytelling. At first, it seemed as if Jay White was going for the smart plan of targeting Ibushi’s leg which is one of his strongest weapons. Jay did this with several painful-looking submissions and even a Dragon Screw through the ropes. However, despite this, Kota did not stay down.
At one point, both men treated the crowd to stunning suplexes which left fans across the world in awe. In particular, there was a perfectly executed and effortless snap suplex from White which echoed through the venue. Both White and Ibushi were out to show just how talented they are and get the advantage
Yet, despite the heart of the Golden Star, the finish of the match came down to one of Jay White’s strengths: his mind. After another distraction from Gedo on the outside, Ibushi tried to compose himself to hit his Kamigoye finisher. Unfortunately, as he went for the move, White transitioned it into his Blade Runner to put an end to a great match.
6. Tetsuya Naito vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – Night 4
Tetsuya Naito and Zack Sabre Jr. are two men that have always brought out the best in each other despite their differences. This main event match on the fourth night was no exception.
The pace seemed to be dictated by ZSJ with both men focusing on submissions. For many, it was different seeing Naito on the mat for so long. However, this just showed how versatile a wrestler the Ungovernable One is.
Luckily, the match soon quickened. Both men seemed to be flying around the ring. It was not surprising to see Naito execute some high-flying moves. However, crowds saw a different size to the Vegan Hydra who was adapting his style and produced a beautiful swinging DDT and something that resembled a Reverse Frankensteiner.
As the clock kept on ticking and the 30-minute time limit drew nearer, both men were giving it their all. At one point, Zack even managed to hit a perfect Zack Driver but, because of the intensity of the match, was unable to capitalise and get the win. Yet, when many expected to see the first draw of the tournament, Naito managed to hit a final Destino for the win.
Many have called this one of the matches of the tournament. It was because of the change in speed, style and pace throughout. It was dynamic, exciting and kept the crowds on the edges of their seats.
5. Tetsuya Naito vs. SANADA – Night 8
For many New Japan fans, this was the match that they were most looking forward too. It was a battle between two fan favourites and also two members of Los Ingobernables de Japon. If that was not exciting enough, going into the match, there was a lot at stake. Naito had been on an undefeated run. SANADA was yet to pick up a win.
The match began slow and methodical. It was like a feeling out process between two men more suited to be partners than opponents. It quickly changed pace with both men moving outside of the ring and causing some chaos. For most of the match, Naito was in firm control. It almost felt as if he was mocking SANADA. Luckily, this seemed to be the motivation the Cold Skull needed and, with one dropkick, the tide of the matches flipped.
It was a bout that combined two very similar wrestling styles that is a mixture of high-flying but also a solid mat game. It was style, flash and substance mixed into one. Also, you could see that both men know each other so well because they found counters out of nowhere. We even saw SANADA attempt to hit a Destino.
Even as the match passed the 25-minute mark, neither man seemed to let up for a second. Desperation started to kick in. Fans suddenly saw a change where both men just seemed to do anything to try and get the advantage. SANADA managed to pull off another upset and beat the champion for the second year running with two moonsaults.
After Naito threw up the LIJ fist bump and the lights of the venue dimmed and the fans torches lit up, it was the perfect ending for Los Ingobernables de Japon fans.
4. Kota Ibushi vs. SANADA – Final Night
Going into the final of the G1, nobody knew what to expect from Kota Ibushi and SANADA. They had a stand-out tournament match in 2018, but many saw their G1 29 bout as average due to the injuries sustained by the Golden Star. Luckily, they had no reason to worry as their match was probably the best.
The match itself started quite slowly and cautiously. It almost felt as if both men were feeling each other out again. They focused on using a more simple and traditional wrestling offence compared to what we usually see from the two. After the first few minutes, this slow and methodical pace seemed to continue with both men targeting a specific body part of their opponent.
This pace was perfect and reflected the longevity of the tournament. This match was not about being flashy and trying to shine. It was about winning the tournament and doing it in the best and safest way. However, what was also great about this match is that they did change pace. Fans did get to see some high-flying and risk-taking from the two both inside and outside the ring.
For most of the match, both men were on an equal footing both having the advantage at different times. There were near falls that had fans on the edge of their seats and biting their nails. After two extremely close calls, Ibushi managed to hit two Kamigoyes to get his second consecutive G1 victory.
In the end, this match had so many layers intertwining different paces, different styles and different combinations. It was the perfect babyface vs. babyface match that had crowds hooked from the second the bell rang.