G1 Climax: The top 8 A Block matches we’re most looking forward to
The 2019 G1 Climax kicks off on July 6th in Dallas, Texas, bringing the tournament to the United States for the first time.
This year’s A Block features two former winners in Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada, and the opening night will see them face off in a match that is sure to have major implications for both men going forward in the tournament.
The A Block also includes Kota Ibushi, Evil, Sanada, Zack Sabre Jr., Will Ospreay and the debuting Kenta, making it one of the most star-studded blocks in history.
With so many epic encounters on the horizon, we’ve selected the eight matches that we’re most excited to see, featuring first-time pairings, friends forced to become foes and old rivalries being reignited, all for the chance to make it to Wrestle Kingdom and the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada July 6, Dallas
The opening night of the G1 Climax in Dallas will see perhaps the tournament’s two greatest rivals, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada, face off for the fourth time.
Tanahashi enters the tournament as last year’s winner, having begun a career resurgence after he defeated Kota Ibushi to take the briefcase.
Meanwhile, Okada enters as the reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion, something which may look favourable on paper, but a champion hasn’t won the tournament since Kensuke Sasaki in 2000.
Each time these two great rivals have met in a G1 Climax the result has been a time limit draw, but this will be their first-ever meeting outside of Japan. If a winner can finally be decided between the two, it will certainly set the victor firmly on the path to G1 glory.
Kenta vs Kota Ibushi July 6, Dallas
Last year Kota Ibushi made it all the way to the finals of the G1 Climax, beating his Golden Lover Kenny Omega in his final B Block match.
But this year Ibushi’s tournament will begin in unfamiliar territory, as he faces Kenta on the opening night.
While Kenta and Ibushi have a past history outside of NJPW, they’ve never faced each other one-on-one and the stakes couldn’t be higher for their first singles encounter.
Both men are certainly well matched in the striking department and we can expect a hard-hitting match that could leave them both severely weakened for the rest of the tournament.
While Kenta will have everything to prove as a newcomer, a victory is just as important to Ibushi, who has now pledged himself fully to New Japan and needs to let the rest of locker room know he has what it takes to survive.
Will Ospreay vs Kota Ibushi July, 18
At Wrestle Kingdom 13 in January Will Osprey defeated Kota Ibushi in brutal fashion, taking his NEVER Openweight Championship and leaving him on the shelf for two months with a concussion.
After suffering such a devastating loss, there’s no better time for Ibushi to take his revenge than at the G1 Climax.
But while Ibushi recovered from his loss to Ospreay with an Intercontinental Championship win at Madison Square Garden, he is now once again without a title, having been defeated by Naito at Dominion.
In contrast, Ospreay is entering the tournament as both the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and this year’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament winner.
But will Ospreay’s momentum be enough to overcome Ibushi’s desire for revenge?
Evil vs Sanada, July 18
The G1 Climax is every man for himself and no one seems to be following that mantra more this year than L.I.J.’s Evil.
In the 2017 tournament he faced his tag team partner Sanada and lost. Now two years on he has the chance to even the score and in recent weeks there’s been a growing distance between the partners as Evil turns his focus to the G1.
Before the 2017 match, Evil and Sanada shook hands as a symbol of their respect for each other and their brotherhood. But just weeks ago, Evil rejected a fist bump from his partner before the tournament draws were even announced.
While it will undoubtedly be one of the toughest tournament matches for both men, perhaps the real question is, will they be able to go back to being a team once the better man has been decided?
Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay, July 20
Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay have both worked to ensure that CHAOS is on top in both the Heavyweight and Junior divisions.
But while Ospreay has Junior gold, his aspirations are firmly fixed on the Heavyweight division, and there would be no better way to make an impact than to score a G1 Climax victory over the IWGP champion.
While Okada may have overlooked Ospreay in the past, his record so far this year is something not even the IWGP champion can afford to ignore. Plus Ospreay also has the advantage of having Okada as his mentor, leaving us to wonder if Okada has taught him just enough to beat even The Rainmaker.
Kazuchika Okada vs Kenta, July 27
With so many years at the top of New Japan’s heavyweight division, Okada has managed to defeat every opponent that’s come his way.
But in this year’s G1 Climax, The Rainmaker faces an unknown threat as he takes on Kenta for the first time in his career.
However, it’s not just the fear of the unknown that could derail Okada when he steps into the ring with Kenta. The Rainmaker could also find himself suffering from flashbacks to his 2016 G1 Climax opening match with Naomichi Marufuji.
At the time Okada was in his historic fourth reign as IWGP Heavyweight Champion, but he still managed to lose to the outsider Marufuji.
Could we see history repeat itself with Marufuji’s former tag team partner Kenta? Or will Okada be able to put his ego aside and learn from his past mistakes and not let Kenta cause an upset that could mar the champion’s entire tournament?
Will Ospreay vs Zack Sabre Jr., July 30
New Japan’s two top British talents are no strangers to each other, but this time they’ll face off with more to prove than ever.
While Ospreay has been dominating the Junior division, Zack has established himself as the British Heavyweight Champion, even managing to tap out Tanahashi at Madison Square Garden.
With both Ospreay and Zack at the top of their games, a chance to prove themselves as the dominant British wrestler in New Japan is on the line.
Zack Sabre Jr. vs Kota Ibushi, August 7
This will be the third G1 Climax meeting for Zack Sabre Jr. and Kota Ibushi and so far the British Heavyweight Champion has always fallen short, losing in 2017 and 2018.
However, the rivalry between the two hasn’t been totally one-sided, as in the 2018 New Japan Cup Zack was the winner, and ZSJ was victorious again this year.
But just as it seemed Zack had the upper hand, when Ibushi’s Intercontinental Championship was on the line at Sengoku Lord in April, it was The Golden Star who was able to pull off a Kamigoye and keep his belt.
Now at the 2019 G1 Climax will it be a case of third time lucky for Zack? Or will Ibushi once again be able to outmanoeuvre him and prove his dominance once and for all?