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Top 10 G1 Climax Matches: 2012-2022

11 months ago

Top 10 G1 Climax Matches: 2012-2022

By: Shane Doorbeejan
The G1 is not just an annual tournament; it is a truly spectacular event hosted by New Japan Pro Wrestling, captivating fans year after year over a thrilling four-week period. With its rich history spanning over three decades, G1 has consistently served as a platform for showcasing the absolute excellence of puroresu and Japanese wrestling. The tournament draws in a diverse array of competitors, each vying for the esteemed title of being recognized as the best of the best in the industry and the covenant trophy.

Throughout its storied existence, G1 has treated audiences to an awe-inspiring collection of never-before-seen bouts and dream matches, etching unforgettable memories in the hearts of wrestling enthusiasts worldwide. From the explosive clashes of titans to the masterful displays of technical prowess, G1 has continuously pushed the boundaries of what is possible inside the ring and out to the delight of fans all over the world.

In this comprehensive list, we will delve into the very best matches that have graced the G1 tournament over the extensive 30 years from the last decade from 2012 to 2022, the encounters that will undoubtedly be discussed and revered for years to come from legends to future stars. The G1 never disappoints.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Shinsuke Nakamura – G1 Climax 22

Every time these two square off in the ring, something special happens. The crowd was electric, buzzing with anticipation, as Nakamura, the charismatic and enigmatic “king of strong style,” faced off against Okada, the young prodigy known as the “Rainmaker.” The contrasting styles and personalities of the two competitors added an extra layer of intrigue to the matchup.

The match itself was a masterclass in psychology and pacing. Okada and Nakamura expertly crafted a narrative that unfolded with each move, strike, and submission. They utilized their deep understanding of ring psychology to create a compelling story of struggle and resilience. The ebb and flow of the match kept the audience on the edge of their seats, as momentum shifted back and forth between the two competitors.

What set this match apart was the seamless blend of technical prowess and dramatic flair. Okada and Nakamura showcased their exceptional grappling skills, executing complex sequences and smooth transitions. Their chemistry inside the ring was evident, as they countered each other’s moves with precision and fluidity. It was a testament to their mastery of the craft and their ability to adapt to one another’s strengths.

Throughout the match, both competitors demonstrated a deep respect for their craft and for each other. They pushed each other to their limits, unleashing their most devastating moves and signature manoeuvres. Each near-fall and near-submission added to the mounting tension and drama, creating an atmosphere of excitement and unpredictability. With Nakamura’s cocky kicks to the young Okada both men show their attitudes within the ring, thunderous kicks and face to face attitudes collide in this early bout planting the seeds for many great matches like this one further down the line.

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Katsuyori Shibata – G1 Climax 23, 08/04/2013

Taking place during the 23rd edition of the G1 Climax, this was nothing short of explosive. From the very beginning, the match erupted into a fierce display of power and resilience. For the first three minutes, the ring was a battleground where the two warriors exchanged thunderous chops and bone-crushing kicks, each vying to demonstrate their immense strength and unwavering determination from turnbuckle to turnbuckle.

As the clash intensified, the crowd was captivated, their eyes locked on the mesmerizing spectacle unfolding before them. With every strike, the arena reverberated with a symphony of shouts, amplifying the raw intensity of the moment. The atmosphere crackled with electric anticipation, as the audience eagerly anticipated the next thunderous blow from either competitor.

Remarkably, both Ishii and Shibata showed no signs of relenting. They pushed each other to their limits, exchanging blow after punishing blow. The impact of their strikes resonated through the air, creating a symphony of sound that resonated within the hearts of the spectators. Each chop and kick showcased their extraordinary resilience and unyielding spirit, leaving the onlookers awestruck by their unwavering commitment to the fight.

As the minutes wore on, the toll of the relentless exchange began to manifest. Despite their incredible fortitude, the strain became evident, particularly for Ishii. It was during the fourth minute when Shibata’s heavy chest kicks finally took their toll, causing Ishii to collapse. His body unable to endure the relentless assault any longer but he kept on fighting with explosive bursts of adrenaline suplexing Shibata.

In that memorable encounter between Tomohiro Ishii and Katsuyori Shibata, the passion and unyielding determination of both competitors were on full display. Their fierce back-and-forth exchange, filled with resounding strikes and unwavering spirit, left a mark on the hearts and minds of all who bore witness to their epic clash and both competitors’ bodies.

Image courtesy of New Japan Pro-Wrestling

Minoru Suzuki vs. AJ Styles – G1 Climax 24, 08/01/2014

AJ Styles’ tenure in New Japan Pro-Wrestling was truly something special, and one match stands out as a defining moment in his career. It was a clash of titans, as Styles went head-to-head with the hard-hitting, no-nonsense powerhouse, Minoru Suzuki. As the two mysterious figures made their way through the crowd and stepped into the ring, a palpable energy filled the arena.

Their encounter took place during the G1 Climax 24 tournament on its seventh day. The match wasted no time in making an impact, as Suzuki unleashed a thunderous chest slap on Styles, resonating like a bell throughout the audience. What followed was an intense and physically demanding battle, with Suzuki’s raw power clashing against Styles’ lightning-fast agility.

Both competitors seamlessly blended their distinct styles, showcasing their deep understanding of each other’s moves. They expertly utilized their surroundings, with Suzuki trapping Styles’ arm in a wrenching armbar submission on the ring ropes, his legs tightly coiled around Styles’ limb. The match even spilled out into the crowd, allowing the competitors to engage in up-close and personal encounters. They skilfully incorporated the metal barricades into their arsenal, with Styles launching a forearm strike off them, while Suzuki delivered bone-crushing kicks, using the barricades as a weapon against his opponent.

In the end, AJ Styles vs. Minoru Suzuki proved to be a breath-taking display of athleticism, strategy, and sheer determination. It remains a significant highlight in Styles’ New Japan career as the crowd grew to love him. By the end, it was a match that solidified Styles’ legacy within the company.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Shinsuke Nakamura – G1 Climax 25, 08/15/2015

Compared to the other matches on this list, this match stands out due to the exceptional display of technical prowess exhibited by Okada and Nakamura. The story of this match with both men tied on the same points shows that it was either do or die and during this match we saw both put their bodies on the line to reach the finals.

The clash between the Rainmaker and the king of strong style was a masterclass in strategic manoeuvring, akin to a captivating game of chess. They skilfully countered each other’s moves and grapples, employing clever tactics to impede each other’s progress. counter after counter the two read each other like a book thus finding creative way to slow each other down and or take advantage of each others mistakes. The two men’s chemistry shine in the ring as they know each other well within this match. To Okada’s devastating tombstone piledriver to the outside of the ring and time stopping high dropkick that flattens Nakamura instantly. To Nakamura towering knees crashing down onto Okada’s skull. The match is high octane but not sloppy in its moves each is crafted to perfection that shows the two blend well in a wonderful match that you can watch again and never get tired of.

Building upon their previous encounter in last encounters of G1, this rematch seamlessly intertwines elements of their shared history with innovative new techniques. The result is a timeless spectacle of fluid transitions and gripping grappling exchanges, leaving spectators in awe. Nakamura flows so well with Okada within this match and the final moments of his transition counter of the Rainmaker is a timeless piece of art showing the knowledge of history between the two which as well cements their history within G1 creating a unique offence that is remembered by many.

Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega – G1 Climax 26, 08/13/2016

Omega and Naito’s clash in the B Block and performed and transformed into an epic spectacle that will be etched in the annals of G1 history. The sheer brilliance of their small details in storytelling elevated the encounter to new heights, leaving fans awe-inspired and emotionally invested from start to finish.

Every aspect of their performance was meticulously crafted, starting with their choice of attire with the classic Black look for Kenny being the cocky, young star who is patched up and bruised compared to Naito who has almost mob boss walk to the ring in all white slowly changing into his gear looking at Kenny, which this does not only reflected their individual personas but also served as a visual representation of the battle that was about to unfold.

As Kenny, his body covered in bruises and supported by a plastered shoulder tape, it was evident that he had already endured an arduous journey to reach this point. With each move, every ounce of energy seemed to be drained from his battered frame, a testament to his unwavering determination and resilience.

On the other side of the ring, Naito proved to be a cunning strategist, employing his quick thinking and astute observations to exploit Kenny’s physical weaknesses, making Kenny fall to his feet at times.

He ingeniously targeted the injured areas, capitalizing on every opportunity that presented itself. It was a true display of ring psychology, where every move, counter, and submission maneuver had a purpose, further intensifying the drama unfolding before the audience’s eyes, furthering the story of G1 long harsh tournament, taking the tolls of both competitors’ bodies and the will to win.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega – G1 Climax 27, 08/12/2017

When discussing the greatest G1 matches, it’s nearly impossible to overlook the monumental contributions of two absolute stars who have consistently delivered extraordinary moments throughout their illustrious careers. Of course, we are referring to none other than “The Rainmaker” himself, Kazuchika Okada, and the renowned “Cleaner,” Kenny Omega.

Their epic clash in 2017 has rightfully earned its place as an instant classic, showcasing the remarkable skills of these two future legends. The atmosphere was electric, with an enthusiastic crowd setting the stage for a captivating encounter. From the explosive start to the innovative sequences, Okada and Omega delivered a show for the ages.

Despite his taped-up neck, Okada exhibited a ferocious demeanour, forcefully hurling Kenny around the ring, onto the unforgiving apron, and crashing him into the steel barricade. In a display of athleticism, Okada leaped over the barricade, causing a cascade of chairs to tumble down as he landed on Kenny.

However, Kenny proved his mettle, countering with targeted kicks to exploit Okada’s weak spot and seeking revenge by splashing him into the unyielding steel barricade. The match reached a spine-chilling moment when Kenny executed a reverse Frankensteiner on the concrete floor, nearly breaking Okada’s neck.

This match is an absolute must-watch, delivering an edge-of-the-seat, shout-at-the-screen rollercoaster experience that will leave viewers enthralled. The sheer intensity and high-stakes action make it a spectacle that deserves the attention when discussing best G1 matches.

Kota Ibushi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – G1 Climax 28, 08/12/2018

Tanahashi and Ibushi, “The Ace of the Universe” vs. “The Golden Star”, left the crowd in a state of frenzied excitement. Their final showdown created a cacophony of voices, making it difficult to discern the dominant favourite among the two future legends. The crowd seemed evenly split, with a perfect 50-50 divide, highlighting the immense popularity and fan support for both competitors. The atmosphere surrounding the match was electrifying, exuding a sense of grandeur and significance.

Even the wrestlers themselves had their loyal supporters, with Ibushi benefiting from the unwavering encouragement of his Golden lover, Kenny Omega, while Tanahashi found solace in Katsuyori Shibata. Each participant’s desire for victory was palpable, evident in their unwavering determination and dedication. Both warriors poured their hearts and souls into the contest, leaving no doubt about the high stakes and immense personal significance attached to emerging triumphant. The battle unfolds with a rapid and intense pace, showcasing Ibushi’s relentless energy and his ability to break sound barriers with his devastating kicks.

Despite sacrificing his own knee in the process, his unwavering spirit keeps him going, executing flashy and effective moves to bring down the formidable Ace. However, with every impact, Ibushi finds himself clutching at his knee, a testament to his enduring determination. Sensing an opportunity, Tanahashi adapts his strategy, shifting his focus to target Ibushi’s vulnerable knees in an attempt to slow him down. But Ibushi refuses to yield, going the extra mile by nearly caving in the Ace’s chest with a thunderous double stomp on the unforgiving apron.

Unable to halt Ibushi’s momentum through physical means alone, Tanahashi delves into the mental game, pushing his opponent to unleash his ferocity and take the battle to even greater heights. In a pivotal moment, Kenny’s repeated shouts to Ibushi to finish the match go unheeded, causing Tanahashi to tap into a wellspring of inner strength and drive.

With relentless determination, he corners Ibushi, asserting his dominance. As the climactic conclusion nears, the match weaves a tale that extends beyond the boundaries of the ring, captivating not only the wrestlers within it but also the audience surrounding it.

Ultimately, the match poses a profound question: Did Ibushi fulfil his dreams, proving his mettle against the odds? Or did Tanahashi, the Ace of the universe, showcase why he reigns supreme, solidifying his status as an unparalleled force in the wrestling world?

Jay White vs. Kota Ibushi – G1 Climax 29, 08/12/2019

In the highly anticipated G1 Climax 2019 Final, the stage was set for an unforgettable clash between Jay White, known as the “Switchblade,” and Kota Ibushi, the revered “Golden Star.” With both competitors vying for the trophy and the ultimate glory, the stakes were exceptionally high. Neither man had ever claimed this honour before, intensifying the magnitude of their confrontation.

From the opening bell, it was clear that this battle would be a gruelling test of endurance. Jay White showcased his technical prowess, relentlessly targeting Ibushi’s legs with excruciating submissions in the center of the ring. Ibushi, however, demonstrated his resilience by countering with lethal piledrivers and powerful knee strikes, even at the expense of his own well-being.

As the match progressed, the level of sacrifice reached new heights. Both men tore into each other with a ferocity that knew no bounds. Jay White repeatedly crushed Ibushi’s legs against the unyielding ring post, inflicting further damage on his already battered body. In response, Ibushi unleashed a barrage of bone-crushing knee strikes, aiming to shatter Jay’s ribs. It was a relentless exchange of punishment, each wrestler pushing their limits with every hold and strike.

The culmination of the match left both men on the brink of collapse, lying almost lifeless in the centre of the ring. Their bodies bore the marks of their unwavering aggression and unyielding passion to emerge victorious. With each move and strike, they were willing to sacrifice everything. Even Jay’s Bullet Club members couldn’t escape the sheer intensity of the battle.

In the end, this showdown between Jay White and Kota Ibushi epitomized the essence of professional wrestling—a fierce and unrelenting contest where victory comes at the highest cost.

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Jeff Cobb – G1 Climax 30, 10/10/2020

Jeff Cobb and Ishii as they engage in a mesmerizing exchange of blows. Each strike lands with bone-jarring impact, leaving spectators in awe of the raw power and precision on display. The resounding slaps, thunderous punches, and thunderclap kicks reverberate through the arena, painting a vivid picture of the immense damage being inflicted.

As the match intensifies, the physical toll on both competitors becomes an amazing sight to behold. Their bodies bear the marks of a fierce battle, displaying the sheer brutality of the strikes exchanged. The resilience of these warriors is evident as they endure blow after blow, their determination driving them forward despite the mounting damage in this absolute slug fest.

The audience is captivated by the incredible resilience shown by both Cobb and Ishii, refusing to back down in the face of such punishment. It’s an awe-inspiring sight to witness the unwavering spirit of these athletes as they absorb each strike and unleash their own devastating counterattacks.

In the midst of this thrilling encounter, the visible damage inflicted upon their bodies becomes a testament to their endurance and unwavering commitment to victory. This heart-stopping exhibition of strikes leaves an indelible impression, reminding us all of the extraordinary physicality and spectacle that professional wrestling can deliver.

KENTA vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – G1 Climax 32 – 07/17/2022

In a fiercely contested battle that showcased both technical prowess and relentless trash-talking, Zack Sabre Jr. and KENTA delivered a hidden gem within G1 CLIMAX 32. This clash of egos and striking power featured a captivating exchange of heavy kicks and harsh words. The chemistry between these two competitors was a sight to behold, combining moments of comedic trash-talking of their ego’s with displays of their respective strengths and grappling abilities.

Zack Sabre Jr. demonstrated his mastery of submissions, strategically targeting KENTA’s legs by contorting them against the ring ropes, steel barriers and executing twisted wrenches on his neck and arms with an almost artistic precision. On the other hand, KENTA retaliated with his signature heavy kicks and strikes, eliciting painful shouts from Sabre as he targeted his opponent’s back. A particularly devastating punch from KENTA nearly rendered Sabre unconscious, highlighting the intensity of their contest.

This encounter stood out as a hidden gem within the recent G1 Climax, as it brought forth an element of seriousness amidst the trash-talking. Both competitors showcased their skills with unwavering confidence, backing up their moves with impactful execution and a relentless exchange of verbal barbs which is a sight to see and also hear.

These are only a selected few of the matches from the last decade of G1. Many competitors have proven themselves worthy of the tournament to put in a top 10 but these matches are a great indicator to showcase what G1 Climax is about and there will be many more standout matches to come from future G1’s making it a must watch every year.