2. Jay White vs. Kota Ibushi – G1 Climax Final (August 12)
As the tournament ended and New Japan reached the final night, fans were treated to a traditional babyface vs. heel match to determine the winner of the G1. Nobody knew what to expect from this match-up between Kota Ibushi and Jay White. Neither man had competed against the other in a singles match.
These are two men who are as different as possible from their personalities, philosophies and wrestling styles.
As expected, Jay came out with the whole Bullet Club faction by his side. However, Red Shoes Unno has been a referee long enough and knew that the only way to get a fair fight was to banish them from ringside. So, with only Gedo for support, the match seemed to be fairer and a mixture of both men’s wrestling style.
The Golden Star was as fearless as ever with his moonsaults, blistering strikes and dives over the top rope. The Switchblade maintained a ground-based offence with picture-perfect suplexes and chops that echoed throughout Nippon Budokan. He also used his brains and the aid of Gedo from the outside who’s aim was to damage Ibushi’s leg even more.
Both men put their blood, sweat and tears into this match. They gave their opponent everything they had to offer. Yet, despite the crowd cheering for Ibushi, it seemed like the fans were on their way to seeing another Jay White victory.
However, in the end, fans got the fairy tale ending they wanted. After hitting two Kamigoyes on the Switchblade, Kota Ibushi not only won the match but the entire tournament.
1. Kazuchika Okada vs. SANADA – G1 Climax Night 13 (August 3)
Going into this match during last year’s G1, SANADA was not fulfilling his potential. He had already lost quite a few matches in his block. Many expected this match against Kazuchika Okada to be the same. Okada was on a hot streak and the Cold Skull had never managed to beat the Rainmaker in singles action.
Yet, this didn’t seem to faze the LIJ member. The crowd were firmly behind SANADA in this bout. As expected, this was a match between two athletes and entertained the audience from the second the bell rang. It started quickly with both men utilising their preferred offence combining a technical, high-flying and flashy wrestling style. We saw dropkicks, clotheslines, attempted Rainmakers and a Skull End.
As the minutes on the clock started ticking and the match reached the 25-minute mark, it felt like either man could pick up the win. Yet, as time carried on, it felt like we might see the first time-limit draw in the G1. Neither man seemed to be in a position to pick up the win after several failed attempts at utilising their finishers.
However, with only 13 seconds until the bell would ring, SANADA hit a picture-perfect cutter and managed to get to the top rope for a final moonsault. With that one move, SANADA managed to pin the Rainmaker and get one of the biggest wins of his career.
It was a magnificent bout between two men who have this unrivalled in-ring chemistry with each other. It was also the start of a beautiful yet unconventional relationship and the best match of the tournament.
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