Wow, July is a busy month for wrestling, isn’t it? So is August when we get down to it, which is why this is late. Then again, it’s late every month, so at some point, it has probably stopped being late and turns up exactly when it’s expected. Anyway, this is quite G1 heavy because, well, it’s the motherfucking G1, but more than one match has rightly made its way in from elsewhere, so it’s not the New Japan wankfest you might expect.
Dragon Gate put on one hell of a Kobe World last month, and this was the jewel in their crown. If you’ve never dipped your toe into DG before, it might be the perfect introduction, a wild tag match that delivered a bit of everything. Considering how long it went at an incredible pace, it was as much an act of endurance as it was wrestling and I fail to see how you could watch this and not have a great time.
No-one needs more of me talking about the G1, so I’m going to keep these short. It shouldn’t shock anyone to know that Ishii vs Juice was a battle of heart, both men giving everything they had in an attempt to get the win. If you love impassioned pro-wrestling, you’re going to love this.
Ishii is going to pop up a lot in this list because the man is the master of the G1. He took Jeff Cobb to his best match of the tournament, dragging him into a hard-hitting brawl that played to the strengths of both men. These two beat the hell out of each other, and that is always fun.
Ishii and Naito have one of those magical feuds that always delivers. That means that while this might not be up with the very best of their performances, it was still fantastic. It’s Naito’s Tranquilo vs Ishii’s willingness to bite his way through a steel chain to drop his opponent on their head, it just works.
This match did two things. Firstly, it established that Shingo was not only going to be okay in New Japan’s heavyweight division but probably should have been there from the beginning. Secondly, it positioned Juice Robinson as a top heavyweight and not the heroic underdog he’s been in the past. In both senses, it worked to perfection, and the G1 got off to one hell of a start on Japanese soil.
The sight of Tomohiro Ishii flying through the air to Splash Moxley through a table will stay with me forever. Any scepticism about Mox’s ability to hang in New Japan was gone by the end of this war with Ishii as the Stone Pitbull once again got the best out of his opponent.
Two of the best wrestlers in the world doing what they do as Ospreay and Okada are capable of things that no-one else would even think of, nevermind try. It’s now time for this feud to move away from matches based around one-upmanship and into some story-driven action. When that happens, I have no doubt they’ll be topping future versions of this list.
The most inventive wrestling match I have seen this year as ASUKA and Akito wrestled around a single light tube. In so many ways, this could have been a disaster, but these two grabbed ahold of the crowd and danced them through an enthralling contest. And ASUKA is only 20! How good is she going to be?
A match that felt like a blood feud and was wrestled like one too. Hoshiki and Hazuki do not like each other, and they got that dislike across with everything they did. It was summed up by the sight of Hazuki wrenching back on a Crossface, grinding her chin into Arisa’s head and looking like she’d have happily added her teeth to the attack if she could have. Brilliant.
Ospreay and Ibushi had a brilliant match at the Tokyo Dome, but they went out and blew that away in this one. Working around their injuries (Kota’s ankle and Will’s neck) they were able to curb their more extravagant tendencies and tell the story of two sublime athletes going all out to get the win. Both of these men are set to play a huge role in shaping New Japan’s next few years, and on this evidence, let’s hope they get a chance to do that in the ring together.