With the start of the G1, Triplemania XXXI, NOAH's One Night Dream, and an extraordinary AEW Collision, this week has to be one of the best of the year so far. There was even a great match on NXT this week that surpassed my expectations and a passable Slammiversary show from Impact, with a solid main event.
- MJF & Adam Cole (MJF & Adam Cole vs Big Bill & Brian Cage, AEW, 13/7)
- Nick Wayne (Swerve Strickland vs Nick Wayne, AEW, 13/7)
- Yota Tsuji (Yota Tsuji vs Kaito Kiyomiya, NJPW, 15/7)
- Alex Shelley (Alex Shelley vs Nick Aldis, Impact, 15/7)
- Mikey Nicholls (Mikey Nicholls vs HENARE, NJPW, 16/7)
- Suzume (Suzume vs Shoko Nakajima, TJPW, 16/7)
#10 - Hiroshi Tanahashi
Tanahashi started his 22nd G1 Climax on the 16th against long time rival, Zack Sabre Jr. in a losing effort, but a good effort nonetheless. Tanahashi came into the match with a new look, sporting some sleeves similar to Elton Prince in WWE.
Him and Zack have always had great chemistry and they didn't disappoint this time either, putting on a 16 minute technical clinic. The match focused around Tanahashi targeting Zack's arm and Zack on Tana's legs, each of them trying to outdo the other at their own game. The ground work from the Ace was really smooth and quick and it was a great way to hide is deterioration, which is clearly visible when he's on his feet for the majority of a match. This also allowed him to be a bit more explosive when he did need to fire off a Sling Blade or two.
The match stayed on the mat most of the time, but Tana's (and Zack's) selling allowed the bout to progress in a logical manner without necessarily having to take it to the next level in terms of big moves and nearfalls. The submission work of both men was perfect and Tanahashi's work on Zack's arm was flawless. making for a dramatic finishing stretch, with Zack countering Tana's armbar into a super snug roll up to get the three count.
This was a really smart match and proved that even in the state Tanahashi is in nowadays his psychology is second to none. Pair that with an excellent worker like ZSJ and you've got a guaranteed banger.
#9 - Eddie Kingston
Staying with the G1 Climax, we have Eddie Kingston in his first ever match for the tournament against Shingo Takagi, also on the 16th.
Eddie came into the match with his signature intensity and respect for the Japanese style and took it to Shingo in a passionate 13 minutes of chops, bombs, and lariats. It started with a classic shoulder block off that quickly switched to a chop off where Eddie hit some of the best knife edges of his career while selling Shingo's like shotgun blasts to the chest.
There were a few points in the match were the communication between the two was rocky, and there would be times where Shingo would have to tell Kingston to get up repeatedly, but it's hard to blame Eddie when this was his first time in Japan in over a decade and his first time wrestling Shingo while calling it in the ring.
Eddie showcased his fighting spirit, keeping up with the fast and unrelenting offence of Shingo, popping up after lariats and suplexes ready to fire right back at the Rampage Dragon. He kicked out at one after a Northern Lights Bomb from Shingo and hit a couple of Urakens before landing a Northern Lights Bomb of his own to secure the three count.
This was a good first outing for Eddie in the G1, and although it wasn't as good as some of Shingo's previous G1 fights it still showcased Kingston's fighting spirit and I think the crowd will be more and more receptive to him as the tournament continues.
#8 - Shota Umino
Going back in time 24 hours we had Shota's first G1 Climax match ever, which was against fellow Musketeer Ren Narita.
The match started hot with both men going straight into a fierce striking exchange where they both beat each other down in the corner, only to fire back with massive strikes that sent the receiver back to the corner whence they came. Shota's offence was precise and explosive throughout the match, hitting a basement dropkick like he was trying to send Ren's face through the back of his head.
The match would slow down in the second act, as Ren would start working on Umino's leg with a series of submissions, but Shota managed to power through the pain and get some more offence in with the running uppercutt being a favourite of his. From then on they went back and forth with signature offence from both wearing each other down, bit by bit.
15 minutes in they would trade suplexes, popping up just like Eddie and Shingo did the next night, but simultaneous slaps would knock both of them down as the 3 minutes left mark was called. Shota would take control at this point and execute some amazing offence like his running spinning twisting Facebuster and the "Rampaige" style Death Rider for a two count, but got caught in the Cobra Twist by Narita at the minute mark. He managed to survive and reach the ropes and the time limit expired as the two jockeyed for control, desperate to get off one more move.
This was the best match of the whole tournament for me and it really showcased Umino in the leading role of a match for the first time. He gave me a sense of what his style of match was going to be: stiff shots, shifting momentum, and high impact offence.
#7 - QT Marshall
I never thought that QT Marshall of all people would make the list, but here we are, after an amazing Ambulance match against Pentagon Jr. at Triplemania XXXI: Tijuana.
Although the card said it was an "Ambulance Match" it ended up being a straight up deathmatch, with barbed wire chairs, light-tubes, and the most dangerous weapon of all, TABLES (although this time no-one was chanting for them). They did use the Ambulance a couple times, but the first expedition over there was hindered by a lack of camera men so we couldn't see anything. As they came back to the ring the two of them really upped the ante, however, as QT ripped the mask of Penta and busted him open before handcuffing him.
QT sold really well in this match and made Pentagon look even more like a madman than he acts while in his home country of Mexico. Penta busted QT open with a bared wire chair in response and the head trainer of the Nightmare Factory started gushing blood even worse than his opponent. There were loads of great spots in this match that included thumbtacks, mouths, and kicking, that tested QT's resilience and love for the game more than ever before.
Although there was a botched Fear Factor off travel cases into some tables, the match was nearly flawless in execution and the crowd was on fire for it the whole time. A great showing by QT, once again proving that he is Quality Television.
#6 - David Finlay
Finlay's first match in this year's G1 was a rematch of his bout against Tomohiro Ishii from the New Japan Cup earlier in the year and followed a very similar formula (as most Ishii matches do), but didn't quite live up to he heights they reached back in March. It was still very good, however.
The match started hot, with the two trading blows in the centre of the ring, before Finlay would chop block the Stone Pitbull's leg, and focus on it for the rest of the match. David looked just as dominant in this match has he has in his previous singles matches, and the fighting spirit of Ishii only extenuates that feeling even more. Finlay was explosive in his offence, as well as his bumping, but his counters and reversals were a highlight of the match. He ducked and dodged Ishii's lariats and immediately hit a beautiful back breaker, before switching his focus back on the leg.
I touched on this in Finlay's first appearance in on these lists, but his resilience is his main attribute, as the latter stages of this match saw him take a lot of big offence from Ishii, but he still managed to find spots to hit his own while selling the damage he'd taken in the process.
The finish of the match gave us some brilliant reversal exchanges as you'd expect from big New Japan matches, with Finlay desperately trying to hit the "Into Oblivion" to end the match, but Ishii wriggled out and hit an insane running headbutt that Finlay sold like death. A few more epic nearfalls from Ishii, and the Leader of Bullet Club managed to a reverse Brainbuster into the Into Oblivion for the win! An amazing match.
#5 - Ilja Dragunov
Ilja and Bron Breakker had a great match on NXT TV this week, as the two battled it out to be the number one contender to Carmello Hayes' NXT Championship.
This was a heated match that pitted one of the most protected men in the company against one of the most resilient and hard hitting men in the whole industry, and it proved to be a perfect pairing. Because of how protected Bron is, and in turn his moves, it makes the dynamic and flow of the match super easy to understand and execute. Ilja would dish out strike after strike putting everything he had into each blow and Bron would hit a big move like a spear or a lariat that would send Dragunov half way across the ring, only for Ilja to scratch and crawl back to the plus position and repeat.
Because of the lay out of the match it was good that it was kept to around 15 minutes, as it allowed the crowd to reach the peak at just the right time for Bron to look like a monster without him repeating any spots. There were loads of great spots from Bron in this one too, as he speared Ilja out of midair and completely took his head off at one point with a brutal lariat.
In the end, however, it was Ilja who was obviously keeping the match together and putting his entire heart and soul into the bout like he always does. A great showing by Dragunov!
#4 - Kenny Omega
Kenny continues his worker of the year pursuit with another banger match against Vikingo in the main event of AAA Triplemania XXXI: Tijuana for Vikingo's Mega Championship.
The match saw Kenny play more of a heel roll than in the two's previous encounter in America, but it was much more of a light-hearted underestimation of Vikingo than a hate filled vendetta. Kenny's already beaten Vikingo and it was clear that he thought he could do it again. He took the champ around ringside and signed fan's merch on the back of Vikingo, before signing the back of Vikingo right afterward, and once they got back in the ring Kenny would have fun with Vikingo's helmet, hitting a Kokeshi with it.
Although the match started kinda goofy it got to the point where Vikingo's comebacks knocked Kenny onto the back foot and forced him to go 100%. Vikingo hit his usual dives and flips, but Kenny powered out of them all, even kicking out of a inverted 450 splash from the champ, which normally finishes matches for Vikingo. Omega fired back with V-Trigger, Dragon Suplexes, and a Croyt's Wrath for some great near falls.
The finish saw Kenny take a Super Poisonrana from the top rope, double knees in the corner, and then the 630 senton, losing clean to El Hijo del Vikingo! This was a great performance by Kenny were he gave Vikingo so much throughout, making the fans go crazy for his highflying offence where it would have just been a normal match for the champion otherwise. Kenny definitely elevated the AAA Mega Champion to the next level with this match.
#2 & 3 - Jay White & Juice Robinson
After winning a title opportunity against FTR on last week's episode of AEW Collision, Bullet Club Gold requested a 2/3 Falls match against the them for this weeks episode and it delivered in DROVES! Although I don't think it was as good as their first match, it was still an amazing one, which solidified all four guys as "Top Guys" on Saturday nights.
The match went 58 minutes, taking up half of the show with flawless tag team wrestling that ramped up in intensity at a perfect pace. The first third of the match was classical tag team wrestling done really well, and although there wasn't much to differentiate it from their first encounter you can't critique it for its perfect execution.
Jay and Juice's tag team work is like nothing I've seen before to be quite honest. You have teams like FTR where their tandem offence is what makes them so great as a team, but Bullet Club Gold's chemistry seems to be on a deeper level than even that of FTR's. They know when to come in and help at the right time and are communicating constantly throughout the match to bring both of their skill sets together, whereas FTR focus on being one homogenous unit.
Jay's heelwork was great in this match, which isn't a surprise, but helped bring a lot of heat to bout. He parodied Shawn Michaels when he tuned up the band before locking in the Sharpshooter on Dax, and BCG's general heat segment with Cash was perfectly done and resulted in a great hot tag for Dax after the cut off the ring for around ten minutes.
The only points of critique I have with the match was the weird spot on the outside with Dax and White, where they both seemed to have landed awkwardly on the outside and stalled the match for a few minutes. The finish of the also seemed to come out of no-where as Dax and Cash collapsed while applying stereo Sharpshooters only for Dax to counter the Pulp Friction into a Sharpshooter for the win right after.
Regardless, it was another great edition to the saga of BCG and FTR, but those last points I made stopped it from being better of the two tag matches between them.
#1 - Kento Miyahara
In one of the most anticipated matches in Japanese wrestling today, Kento Miyahara and Katsuhiko Nakajima tore down a red hot Korakuen Hall for NOAH's One Night Dream event, with a 35 minute classic that many are calling the match of the year!
This was a match 10 years in the making, as the two men had trained together under the tutelage of Kensuke Sasaki, with Nakajima being four years ahead of Kento. The two would occasionally team up from '08 to '10, and had a few singles matches together (which Nakajima won), but their rivalry never stopped brewing when Kento left NOAH in 2012.
The match in Korakuen started slow as you'd expect from a 35 minute bout, but quickly spiked in intensity as the two traded strikes and Sasaki moves on each other, getting the crowd white hot super early into the match. Kento's selling and comeback spots are what really captured their attention though, as the menacing and aggressive Nakajima kept knocking the Ace of All Japan down with kicks and, most memorably, a massive slap to the jaw of Miyahara, only for Kento to explode back with knees and strikes.
These comebacks were placed perfectly and had the crowd in the palm of Kento's hand as he hit the Blackout knee multiple times only for Nakajima to stay in the match and come back with strikes of his own. Kento was still cocky throughout the match however as he knew that him and Nakajima were now on the same level at least, and that he was still in the match from beginning to end.
The final stretch saw Kento desperately trying to hit the Shutdown suplex on Nakajima, catching his arms as he tried to make it to the ropes, but Nakajima wriggled out, blocked a Blackout and slapped the shit out of Miyahara, sending him crumbling to the mat and punt kicking his head in for a great near fall. This glimmer of hope didn't last long for Kento, however, as Nakajima hit the Vertical Spike Brainbuster right afterward to put Miyahara down yet again.
This is definitely a MOTYC and I recommend ever seek this out if they can. Kento's charisma and selling is some of the best in the world at the moment and this match brings it all together in a 35 minute banger for your enjoyment.
This week was one of the most influential of the whole year when it comes to changes in the leaderboard, so lets have a look at how thing's changed: