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10 NJPW G1 Climax 2019 Matches You Need To See

NJPW are set to have a big summer...

Every year, the announcement of NJPW's G1 Climax competitors causes much excitement and hype for the tournament ahead. But 2019's edition could be the most spine-tingling line-up in G1 history.

As well as the likely top dogs (Okada, Tanahashi, Naito, etc.) we have a quartet of utter wildcards - all of whom happen to be some of the best and most talked-about wrestlers in the world today. Best of the Super Juniors finalists Will Ospreay and Shingo Takagi have stepped up to take on the roster's top heavyweights, while recently-departed WWE stars Jon Moxley and KENTA  set the wrestling world ablaze by announcing their intention to compete.

As is the case every year, the G1 Climax has thrown up a large collection of highly-anticipated matches, so narrowing them down to ten has been very tricky indeed. Therefore, I feel it's only right to begin this list with a hefty helping of Honourable Mentions:

Okada vs. Tanahashi is set to (probably) headline Night 1 in Dallas, Texas, and despite Tanahashi's current injury woes, should still captivate on historic value alone.

Ospreay vs. KENTA is a real dream match-up, but both men have a whole host of fascinating match-ups in A Block - as you'll see later on.

Ospreay vs. Zack Sabre Jr. - an all-England clash of two of the nation's best.

Shingo Takagi vs. Jeff Cobb is an exciting partial-rematch of the 2018 PWG Battle of LA final (minus Bandido).

Naito vs. Ishii doesn't have any particular story to it right now, but you just know it's going to be good.

Moxley vs. Yano because obviously.

Now, without any further ado, on with the top ten!

10. Tetsuya Naito Vs. Jon Moxley - Night 10, July 28th


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Two of the most charismatic men in all of wrestling should provide a compelling contest on Night 10. It'll be interesting to see which style of match Naito and Moxley opt for here; will they lean more towards the brawling side of things, or offer up a more straightforward encounter? Both wrestlers are fully capable of doing both, so this is set to be a particularly intriguing one.

Prediction: Naito. Moxley is yet to lose in New Japan (although admittedly, at the time of writing, he's only had two matches), but Naito looks to be his most high-profile opponent in B Block. Going through the G1 Climax undefeated is a near-unimaginable prospect for even somebody like Okada, so Moxley's guaranteed to slip up at some point. The LIJ leader could well be his trickiest obstacle.


9. Will Ospreay Vs. Kota Ibushi - Night 5, July 18th


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The G1 climax usually provides a host of fresh match-ups for everybody to salivate over, but sometimes the most intriguing bouts are actually rematches. That's certainly the case here, as Ospreay defeated Ibushi in shockingly ruthless fashion at Wrestle Kingdom. It seemed as though a heel turn could be on the horizon, but that never materialised. Regardless, expect Ibushi to bring out the more brutal side of the current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion.

Prediction: Ibushi. I think the Golden Star is set to have a very strong G1 Climax, and getting revenge on his Wrestle Kingdom conqueror seems like a necessary step along the way. Should he win, it'll be interesting to see whether he does so in just as violent a fashion as Ospreay did back in January. I probably wouldn't bet against it...

8. Tomohiro Ishii Vs. Shingo Takagi - Night 16, August 8th


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Shingo Takagi's transition to New Japan's heavyweight division begins in earnest with the G1 Climax, and it was a huge relief to see him in B Block alongside Tomohiro Ishii. Of all the exciting match-ups Takagi's arrival brings, I think the Stone Pitbull is his most natural foe. Both are comparable, given their incredible resilience and  love of stiff strikes, and should hopefully provide a late tournament highlight on Night 16.

Prediction: Takagi. It's a particularly tough one to call, but the idea of Shingo gunning for Ishii's NEVER Openweight title is exciting. A win here would give him a claim to do so.

7. EVIL Vs. SANADA - Night 5, July 18th


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EVIL has been behaving strangely in recent LIJ tag matches, refusing to participate in fist bumps and generally seeming quite intense. Personally, I think that's less a sign of his discontent with the stable, and more simply a case of getting his game face on in the build up to the G1. Whichever it proves to be, it certainly makes his clash with tag partner SANADA more interesting as a result.

Prediction: EVIL. The pair have clashed in one G1 Climax before, with SANADA scoring the win over his stablemate in 2017. I'll tentatively go for EVIL, just because it'd even the score (and also because his actions could indicate that he's taking this more seriously than his partner).


6. Kazuchika Okada Vs. KENTA - Night 9, July 27th


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Okada and KENTA have never wrestled before, which alone should be enough to make this one of the biggest matches of the 2019 G1 Climax. They're also representative of different eras and decades - Okada the current ace of New Japan, KENTA a NOAH figurehead and one of the most revered wrestlers of the noughties. It remains to be seen how well they'll match up together, but both are renowned for their ability to put on spellbinding matches. If all goes to plan, this could be a Match of the Year candidate.

Prediction: Okada. It's a tough one to call, particularly in the G1, where champions can often lose to set up future title matches - but I'm going to have to go for the Rainmaker here. It remains to be seen how permanent KENTA's involvement with NJPW will be, but if a bona fide feud with Okada is in store, I think it'll be saved for next year rather than the back end of 2019.

5. Juice Robinson Vs. Jon Moxley - Night 18, August 11th


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Another rematch, this one rife with storyline possibilities. Juice lost his United States Championship to Moxley in the latter's NJPW debut, and hasn't quite been the same since. He hasn't been displaying overtly heelish tendencies, but this certainly a more serious, gritty Juice than we're accustomed to seeing. If a heel turn is indeed on the horizon, who better than Moxley to act as the catalyst? Whether or not Robinson actually does see red upon meeting the foe who took his gold, this should still be a hugely enjoyable, hard-hitting brawl (if their previous bout is anything to go by).

Prediction: Robinson. I think Juice will pick up the win, scuppering Moxley's chances to top B Block, and potentially turning heel in the process. There are many ways to get heat, but cheating to deprive the tournament's biggest name of a finals appearance is surely among the most effective.

4. Jon Moxley Vs. Tomohiro Ishii - Night 6, July 19th


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Without wanting to dampen everybody's enthusiasm for an amazing tournament line-up, it's probably fair to say that Ishii finds himself in the less stacked of the G1's two blocks. Despite this, I think he's in with a great chance of being the competition's MVP when all is said and done, simply because he matches up so well with so many of his B Block opponents. Goto, Cobb, Takagi, and Naito could all have incredible matches with the Stone Pitbull - but the one I'm looking forward to most is Moxley. Few wrestlers infuse their matches with as much intensity and wild energy as Ishii and Moxley, making this an instant must-see encounter.

Prediction: Moxley. Another coin flip, but I've given the edge to Moxley because his US Championship is higher in the pecking order than Ishii's NEVER Openweight title (in theory). Still, it's an incredibly tough one to call - particularly because both champions are so early in their respective title reigns.


3. Kazuchika Okada Vs. Will Ospreay - Night 7, July 20th


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This isn't a fresh match-up, but the timing of it makes Okada vs. Ospreay one of the 2019 G1's most exciting prospects. At the moment, they are regarded by many to be two of the best wrestlers in the world - perhaps the best - and can be relied upon to add another classic to their small collection of encounters. Ospreay has never realistically been taken seriously as a threat to his stablemate, but if there was ever a time for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion to defeat his mentor, it'd be this summer.

Prediction: Time limit draw. Try as I might, I can't see New Japan allowing their Junior Heavyweight Champion to defeat their Heavyweight title-holder. Despite that, I don't see what purpose another valiant Ospreay loss serves. He's on the roll of his career, and this opportunity could be used to sow the seeds for a major future push.

2. Kota Ibushi Vs. KENTA - Night 1, July 6th


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Despite sharing a ring several times over the course of their careers, Ibushi and KENTA have never competed one-on-one. That seems outrageous, given just how well both men match up in terms of style. As two of the most natural talents of their generation, and two of the most feared strikers in the game, I also find it crazy that the pair aren't being relied upon to headline a night (if Okada vs. Tanahashi does indeed close Night 1 in the States). This demonstrates the importance with which New Japan value their Dallas show, but it's still disappointing in my opinion. Regardless of its position on the card, though, Ibushi vs. KENTA is a legitimate dream match, and one which could captivate the wrestling world.

Prediction: KENTA. Again, it's partly because I think this could be Ibushi's year, but I can see KENTA picking up a huge victory on Night 1 - thereby giving Kota an early loss to overcome as the tournament progresses.

1. Kazuchika Okada Vs. Kota Ibushi - Night 17, August 10th


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This could very well be the A Block decider, given the status of both men and the fact it takes place on Night 17. Regardless of its position, it would still feature highly on this list - but the potential stakes push it into the no. 1 spot. Ibushi and Okada also haven't wrestled one-on-one for years, and even their latest singles encounter was during Ibushi's stint as Tiger Mask W, so it can definitely be considered a fresh match-up. Both are among the very best in the world today, and could well put on the match of the entire tournament. If ever a contest screamed quality, it'd be this one.

Prediction: Ibushi. This prediction again centres around my prediction of the Golden Star winning this year's G1, but even if he doesn't, I feel it's important to stress that this match doesn't guarantee an Okada or Ibushi appearance in the finals. It could also be used to knock one or both men out of contention, leaving another A Block frontrunner to top the table on points. Night 17 also features Tanahashi vs. Ospreay and KENTA vs. Zack Sabre Jr., so there are various possibilities in play.

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Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

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