With the G1 Climax 30 a few weeks away, New Japan Pro Wrestling fans are looking forward to one of the most exciting times of the year. With the line-up and potential matches set to be as hot as ever, there is no telling what could happen this year.
However, the landscape of competitors will look very different from last year due to the current climate. In the lead up to the start of the tournament, here is a look at the top 5 matches from last year’s G1 Climax 29.
5. Tetsuya Naito vs. Toru Yano – G1 Climax Night 2 (July 13)
Toru Yano is known to play spoiler over the last few years ruining the hopes of winning for the likes of Minoru Suzuki, Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi. This year was no exception. It came at the cost of many, including the IWGP Intercontinental champion Tetsuya Naito.
In a match that lasted just over three minutes, Yano proved that not all matches have to be technical masterpieces to both win and entertain the fans. Even before the bell rang, he was a firm fan favourite with chants of Yano Toru echoing around the arena. At first, it seemed as if Naito was trying everything to avoid falling to these sneaky tricks by playing his game.
Turnbuckles were removed; roll-ups were attempted and Naito even tried to copy Yano’s tactics. However, the Ungovernable One should never try to beat Yano at his own games. As Naito went to hit Yano with a turnbuckle, the referee got distracted twice. With this, it led to a low blow to Naito and allowed Yano to lift the LIJ leaders shirt over his eyes to get the roll-up victory.
It was not a pure piece of wrestling genius. Yet it was effective in getting Yano two points, putting on a great show for the fans and helping to spoil Naito’s chance at winning the G1.
4. EVIL vs. SANADA – G1 Climax Night 5 (July 18)
Despite everything that has happened over the last few months, there was a time where EVIL and SANADA were one of the best tag teams in New Japan. However, that never stopped them from producing amazing singles matches in the various tournaments throughout the year. The G1 Climax 29 was no exception.
You could see from the second that both men made their entrances that faction loyalties were thrown out of the window, especially EVIL. Yet, despite this, it was obvious that these two men had amazing chemistry both as a team and as opponents and it came from years of tagging with each other.
Fans immediately saw the contrast of styles between the two Los Ingobernables de Japon members. Whereas SANADA is known for his athleticism and mixture of high-flying and submission skills, EVIL’s offence lies in his power and strength. These two styles surprisingly blended very well. There were also some fun bits for LIJ fans as they saw EVIL successfully attempting his version of the Paradise Lock and SANADA hitting an Everything is EVIL.
In the end, in a match just under 20 minutes, EVIL hit his patented Everything is EVIL for the win. Once that bell rang, it seemed like everything was back to normal as both went for the LIJ hand signal. Little did fans know what a difference a year can make.
3. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Will Ospreay – G1 Climax Night 11 (July 30)
For many British wrestling fans, both Zack Sabre Jr. and Will Ospreay are names synonymous with the independent scene. These two men also know each other so well and take pride in how different their styles are. On one side, there is the ‘Submission Master’ Zack Sabre Jr. and then you have Will Ospreay, AKA the ‘Aerial Assassin’.
You couldn’t find two more men different from each other if you tried.
Throughout the match, this was evident as it perfectly mixed their two styles effortlessly. Also, fans even saw each of them taking on parts of their opponent’s offences. We saw Ospreay utilising more traditional British moves and there was some risk-taking from ZSJ with a spinning DDT. It was a match that could have been won by either man.
However, in the end, it seems like ZSJ’s experience triumphed. From the very start, Zack targeted Ospreay’s neck in different ways – this was the key to his success. After 20 minutes, the Vegan Hydra caught Ospreay in his ‘Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than the Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness’ for the submission win.
This win was a much-needed win in the tournament for Zack in a far from successful G1.