New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Climax 29 ended in epic fashion Monday morning with Kota Ibushi defeating Jay White in the finals of the grueling tournament. The win earned him a briefcase awarding him a match against Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP heavyweight championship at Wrestle Kingdom 14 taking place on Jan. 4 and 5 at the Tokyo Dome.
The tournament once again lived up to the hype with incredible action over its six weeks in a showcase of strong-style wrestling with some of the best matches of the year.
Every night featured awesome action and played out in dramatic fashion as to who would win each block and face off in the finals. In the end, the popular Ibushi outlasted the field and earned the title shot.
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With the tournament now over, here’s a look at the top ten matches of the NJPW G1 Climax 29.
10. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Will Ospreay (Night 17)
Even though both of them were out of the running for the “A” block at this point in the tournament, it didn’t stop either from bringing their “A” game. This was old school versus new school with the veteran Tanahashi against the youngster Ospreay.
Tanahashi knew he had to slow down and ground the high flying Ospreay so he continually went after his knee and even put on a Cloverleaf at one point. That didn’t keep Ospreay down for too long and he kept on the offensive from a shooting star press to an Oscutter and finally hitting his Stormbreaker to get the win.
9. Kazuchika Okada vs. Kota Ibushi (Night 17)
That same night saw this brilliant showdown with the winner advancing to the finals. Ibushi showed so much emotion and wanted so badly to win this tournament but he had to get through everything the IWGP champion offered to get there. Even when Okada leveled him with a shotgun drop kick, Ibushi immediately fired back with a big lariat.
He simply would not be denied, and when he connected with the Kamigoye twice in a row, he got that pleasing win to take the “A” block. As good as this was, there was still a feeling that they could get to another level when they square off again at Wrestle Kingdom.
8. SANADA vs. Kazuchika Okada (Night 13)
Okada had SANADA’s number going into the match having beaten him six previous times. So, the question was whether the streak would continue or would SANADA finally beat the champion and get the biggest win of his career. The answer would be the latter.
This went down to the wire of the 30-minute time limit with both men laying on the mat exhausted after hitting each other with just about every move in their arsenal. When Okada went to finish him off with yet another Rainmaker, SANADA turned it into a pop-up TKO and quickly capitalized on the moment by hitting back-to-back moonsaults to score the win with just 12 seconds remaining in a dramatic finish.
7. Will Ospreay vs. Kota Ibushi (Night 5)
The expectations for this match were incredibly high even before the G1 began and many wondered how far they would push the boundaries of risk-taking to put on a classic match.
It never came down to that as they had a fantastic match without going too far. They were pretty much forced to do that with Ospreay dealing with a bad neck and Ibushi slowed down to an ankle injury. That turned into the focus of the match with each going after the other’s weak spot. There was still plenty of athleticism and storytelling with minimal risks with Ibushi winning their latest great encounter.
6. Shingo Takagi vs. Tomohiro Ishii (Night 16)
This was an absolute war of attrition as these two blasted each other with hard-hitting moves over and over. And they never stopped as they kept up a brisk pace for nearly 23 minutes.
It’s exhausting just watching this match and flinching every time either connected with a move. Takagi, who was considered a junior heavyweight before the tournament, hit his Pumping Bomber not once, not twice, but three times with Ishii surviving each one. It took a Last of the Dragon at that point for Takagi to beat the tough veteran and prove he belongs in the heavyweight division going forward.
5. Shingo Takagi vs. Tetsuya Naito (Night 14)
The tournament had already passed the halfway point going into this match and Naito, the reigning IWGP Intercontinental champion and one of the favorites entering the G1, was only 3-3 and still looking for a signature moment. He got it here.
This was that classic slow start match that built to a crescendo as it progressed. Takagi looked like he had something to prove as he connected with lariats and suplexes while Naito kept trying to hit his trademark Destino. After nearly 27 minutes, Naito finally hit a Canadian Destroyer and two Destinos later he got thehard-foughtt win over his LIJ brethren.
4. Jon Moxley vs. Tomohiro Ishii (Night 6)
An all action war as they used everything but the proverbial kitchen sink against one another. The wild brawl spilled into the crowd but the referee used his better judgment in not counting these men out or else facing a possibly riot from the crowd who didn’t care one bit about rules.
The typically grounded Ishii even went to the top rope and hit a splash on Moxley that set him crashing through a table. Somehow, Ambrose survived to the end while scoring the victory and earning the respect of the Japanese audience. This is far from the Dean Ambrose we saw for years in WWE; this is someone not handcuffed by any limits and fits so much better with this system and style in NJPW.
3. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi (Night 13)
By the end of this one, it felt like a changing of the guard with Ibushi winning an emotional match. The “Ace” has been the featured star for so many years, but now he’s 42 with plenty of wear and tear on his body.
That doesn’t mean he can’t deliver an incredible match, though. As arguably the best storyteller in all of wrestling, he relied more on emotion than big moves he tried to keep Ibushi grounded while selling his bad knees.
Ibushi simply had too much in the tank as he withstood a High Fly Flow before connecting with his Kamigoye to score the emotional win that left him in tears.
2. Kota Ibushi vs. Jay White (Finals)
The crowd at Budokan Hall were electric as they came out to the ring, firmly behind the beloved Ibushi and hoping that he would defeat the most hated man in New Japan.
NJPW referee Red Shoes sent Bullet Club to the back before the bell to truly make this a 1-on-1 contest and it was that way for most of the match. But after he went down, it opened the door for Gedo to come back and help White but Ibushi wouldn’t be denied.
Give White credit for surviving the Bomaye twice and but when Ibushi hit it a third time, that was the finishing blow as the crowd exploded in cheers. This was a heart-pounding roller coaster that took everyone on an incredible ride, especially considering the stakes.
1. Will Ospreay vs. Kazuchika Okada (Night 7)
Ospreay and Okada have such great chemistry together that is nearly impossible for them to not have a great match. And this was a special one.
They make it look so graceful and easy as they moved around the ring, countering each other at every turn. The IWGP junior heavyweight champion was trying to do the impossible, beat the reigning IWGP heavyweight champion. But it didn’t feel impossible during the match the way he fought with such heart and determination.
Ospreay hit Okada with about everything in his arsenal but couldn’t keep him down. Just when he was one Stormbreaker away from the win, Okada found yet another counter and hit a pair of Rainmakers for the win.
A magnificent match and an awesome showcase of two wrestlers at the top of their game.
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