Kliq Bait: Top Five NJPW G1 Climax 29 Finals Matches We Want to See
It's that time of year again! The G1 Climax is one of the most famous and respected professional wrestling tournaments in the world today and this year, I, D-Rock, was there live and in person (with my sister-best-friend Renee!) as the G1 kicked off in the U.S. for the first time ever with a very special Night One show in Dallas, TX. Now, as the G1 progresses and we see some separation happening in the standings, it's inevitable that we start thinking about who we could see meet in the finals of this prestigious tournament. There are so many stories to be told and so many great matchups to choose from (especially with newcomers like Moxley and KENTA in the mix), it was excruciatingly difficult to choose five (well, sort of...) but these are the five(ish) matches we here at Vundablog would LOVE to see in the G1 Final:
5. (Kota Ibushi -or- SANADA) vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Between SANADA's low place in the current standings and the fact that his last A Block match is against Bad Luck Fale, it seems unlikely that he'll be in the finals which is a shame, in my opinion. There is perhaps no NJPW star more poised to break out than SANADA and it seems like it could happen any day now. He's been making slow, steady progress and building hype but has yet to really have that breakthrough moment. Ibushi is a guy who seems like he's long overdue to finally achieve his goal of becoming IWGP Heavyweight Champion (a goal that Kenny Omega publicly stated is what kept him from asking Ibushi to come with him to AEW, knowing that he would if he asked). I'm kind of blown away that the two aren't meeting on the last day of A Block with a trip to the final on the line.
Both would also make excellent opponents for the Stone Pitbull. SANADA is one of the most versatile wrestlers on the planet and is as likely to stand toe-to-toe with Ishii as to blind him and wear him out with speed and quickness. Ibushi is one of the most sympathetic babyfaces in the world but also has that "switch" inside him when matches get really violent (such as his matches with Naito and his recent G1 encounter with EVIL) that could make for a brutal match. There's not much story to be told between Ishii or either guy but the story of Ibushi or SANADA's breakout moment (especially SANADA with his incredible history with Okada) would be more than enough to carry the match.
4. (Kota Ibushi -or- SANADA) vs. Jon Moxley
This would basically function in the same way as #5 except with the added storytelling of Ibushi or SANADA having to go through an American in his first ever G1 (reaching the finals in his first go, no less) who won the US title in his first match in the promotion. Fighting the wrestling gatekeepers of the West is a little simplistic but I love it in large part because the West has so often used jingoistic "foreigner vs. patriot" tropes in its own brand of wrestling and I enjoy seeing the shoe on the other foot. Not to mention both of these guys could have phenomenal matches with Mr. Moxley.
3. Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito
For my money, no one makes more sense than Tetsuya Naito to win the A Block. Ever since he began his quest to hold both IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles, I've been saying that Naito should win the G1 and finally beat Okada at Wrestle Kingdom to finally get that monkey off his back. It's time. Everyone thought it was going to happen last year at Wrestle Kingdom 12 but it was not to be. Now is the time to pull the trigger on Naito, who might secretly be the best all around talent in NJPW--or even all of wrestling.
Not only that, but matching him up with Ibushi would also be incredibly entertaining--although possible also very uncomfortable and dangerous considering how they've raised the bar of violence progressively throughout the past several months. Their last match was much-discussed for Ibushi's absolutely horrifying head/neck bump on the apron that, miraculously, didn't leave him paralyzed or even with a broken neck or concussion. To raise the bar again in this one seems impossible and definitely ill-advised. I would have put this higher if I didn't feel like the story they were telling has reached its ending. I'm not sure I want to see them try to raise the bar again. But it would sure be something to behold if they did.
2. Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito
If you are planning on going with Okada/Naito at Wrestle Kingdom 14, this seems like a slam dunk (until you consider the #1 matchup, which I'll get to in just a minute). You give the fans a little preview, set the stage for the next five months of storytelling leading up to January 4th, and give them one of the most consistently great and compelling matchups and clash of characters they can get. The places the story goes from here are full of possibility. The obvious choice is Naito winning the final but almost more compelling than that would be Okada winning, which accomplishes a couple things: 1. somehow powering up an already incredibly overpowered Okada, especially after also winning the New Japan Cup (that's about as good a year as a NJPW wrestler can have: winning the NJC, winning the IWGP title, and winning the G1), to give Naito the most formidable Okada-related challenge he's maybe ever had; 2. letting Okada choose Naito, tell him this is his last chance, this has gone on long enough, he knows Naito can beat him so he needs to get serious and do it or he'll never have another chance again. Or. Okada could choose SANADA--another guy who can't seem to get the Okada monkey off his back but who hasn't been dealing with him for quite as long and who seems to get closer and closer every time--and create a ready-made feud between the Los Ingobernables de Japon stable-mates. Which brings us to...
1. SANADA vs. Tetsuya Naito
This one is absolutely money. This is the one I want to see. It pains me to know that it probably won't happen because there is SO MUCH story to tell here, as I hinted at above. SANADA had a breakout match with Okada at last year's New Beginning In Osaka and ever since then he's been getting closer and closer to taking down the juggernaut. Naito has fallen short time and time again but perhaps doesn't appear to be making quite the same progress. This match sets the stage for something we really haven't seen in LIJ: tension and challenging of leadership. No matter who wins this match, it sets the stage for five months of power struggles and tempers flaring and taking sides and a series of what could only possibly be spectacular matches between two of the most burgeoning superstars in NJPW. I really, really wish they would do this. I'll probably have to settle for Okada/Naito (which I'm totally fine with) but this one is a storytelling (and wrestling ffs) dream match.