We're now deep into G1 season with some of the better shows behind us, but there's still some shining moments in the tournament to come, for sure. We also had great AEW Collision & Dynamite shows with fun tag team main events for both, and speaking of good main events, NXT also had their Great American Bash PPV on Sunday. It was definitely a weaker week compared to some of the past few, but there's always great wrestling to talk about!
- Tama Tonga (Tama Tonga vs David Finlay & Tama Tonga vs Shingo Takagi, NJPW, 26/7 & 30/7)
- The Lucha Bros (Lucha Bros vs BCC vs Best Friends, AEW, 26/7)
- Hikaru Shida (Hikaru Shida vs Nyla Rose, AEW, 28/7)
- Andrade El Idolo (Andrade El Idolo vs Buddy Matthews, AEW, 29/7)
- Saori Anou (Mariah May vs Saori Anou, Stardom, 29/7)
- Wes Lee (Dominik Mysterio vs Wes Lee vs Mustafa Ali, NXT, 30/7)
#10 - Shingo Takagi
Shingo's G1 campaign continued this week with matches against TMDK's Mikey Nicholls and G.O.D. 's Tama Tonga, both of which were hard hitting, physical matches, typical of the Rampage Dragon.
His match versus Mikey Nicholls wasn't anything too special, but compared to a lot of other undercard G1 matches it was exciting and both men tried hard and got a decent reaction from the Korakuen Hall crowd despite a bit of sloppiness from Nicholls at the finish. The Tama Tonga match was much better in my opinion, as the two went to the 20 minute time limit. They had good chemistry and Shingo brought out Tama's more hard hitting style. There was loads of fun counters and reversals as they closed in on the time limit and it really felt like they were on the same level before the bell rang.
Shingo really brought up some of the lower level guys this week and held off some of these G1 shows from being unwatchable, to be completely honest.
#8 + 9 - MJF & Adam Cole
This week Better Than You Bay Bay had their AEW World Tag Team Championship match against FTR on Collision, but were unsuccessful.
Both teams were on top form as FTR did some great tag team work, cutting off the ring and building some great heat for the inevitable hot tag to Adam Cole from MJF and we got a heated face off between Max and Dax that has been building for some time behind the scenes. The finish was baffling at first as MJF sacrificed himself for Cole, only to counter the Shatter Machine and get rolled up seconds later, but the post match angle was so good that I can accept Cole and Max losing.
The post match was where both men shined, however, as Max was crying in the corner, saying that he blew the opportunity for both of them as Cole tried to calm him, handing him the belt, turning his back, and waiting for MJF to turn on him. MJF couldn't do it, however. Normally he would cheat his way to a win to keep that claim of being "Better than you", but this time his bond with Adam outweighed this need for validation as he had Cole now, and so he threw away the belt and hugged Cole, solidifying their friendship, for now.
#7 - Zack Sabre Jr.
Zack got another two G1 matches under his belt this week as he took on Jeff Cobb in the main event of night 7 and Shane Haste on the midcard of night 9.
The Cobb match was one of Sabre's best of the tournament so far and lived up to the quality of their previous matches over the NJPW World TV Championship. It had smooth and fluid technical wrestling, mixed in with great displays of strength from Cobb that Zack hand some great counters to, especially down the stretch. There were great nearfalls from Zack and he locked him some brutal looking submissions that turned the tide of the match multiple times, but ultimately he fell to a Tour of the Islands, taking his first loss in the tournament.
The Shane Haste match wasn't as good, but the inter-faction warfare element was fun, especially with Haste's wacky personality in the ring. They both started with an agreement to only use technical wrestling, but that went out the window quickly as Shane "accidentally" hit a PK on Zack who was gobsmacked at this betrayal. Other than that it was a classic technical/striking match that ZSJ can easily lead anyone through if they're competent enough on the mat, like Haste is. Haste has been overachieving in this tournament, but with guys like Zack they're guaranteed to have a decent match at least.
#6 - Orange Cassidy
Orange continued his historic reign has AEW International champion as he defended the title against AR Fox on AEW Dynamite this week.
This was a really high paced match with lots of technical and highflying action, while OC was still selling the effect of his long and gruelling title reign. Obviously there was some hahas at the beginning as always, but that swiftly transitioned into unique counters and high risk dives from both men, like a moonsault off the ring post from Fox onto a wandering Orange. This was where the match picked up, as the International champion tried multiple times to hit the spinning DDT, but was thwarted each time.
There was lots of intensity as Fox became increasingly annoyed at OC's resilience and Orange having to find more innovative and desperate ways to retain his title. Orange finally got the DDT off after throwing Fox off the top rope and hitting him with a tope suicida and getting him back in the ring, following it up with a Beach Break for a two count. Orange dodged a 450 from Fox and rolled him up with the Mouse Trap for the win.
This was a really innovative match with both men going all out to win the title. One of OC's best International title matches so far in my opinion.
#5 - Ilja Dragunov
Ilja is back again this week after an awesome, yet unsuccessful challenge for Carmelo Haye's NXT Championship in the main event of the Great American Bash PPV this Sunday.
I think what makes Ilja one of the best in the world at the moment is his unique style surrounded by performance centre drones that a forced into working the same style as each other, and that makes it all the better when he can take one of the PC guys and force them out of their comfort zone and into a hard-hitting slugfest like this one.
In the opening minutes of the match it was clear that Carmelo was getting into the rhythm of an Ilja match, but once they found each other's frequency they started to have a really brutal match. Ilja hit some nasty looking German Suplexes that had Carmelo landing directly on his neck. Ilja has a different type of intensity to that of Hayes, but they meshed together really well, giving us a rare mix of highflying and reckless brawling which was best portrayed in one spot where Melo went for the Nothing But Net off the top and Ilja counted it with a powerbomb that nearly broke the champions neck.
Although I don't have this as high as some other people do on their lists, its still one of the best NXT matches this year and proves that Ilja is one of the best in the whole of the WWE, let alone NXT.
#4 - Swerve Strickland
Swerve had yet another encounter with his eternal rival, Darby Allin, on this week's AEW Dynamite which lived up to the other bouts they've had in the past.
It started slow with an extended side headlock sequence, going back and forth between the two competitors, before they traded Irish Whip counters and Darby escapes to the outside closely followed by Swerve with a single vault to the floor. The two brawl on the outside and Darby positioned the stairs for a move, only to be countered and hit with a massive kick from Swerve who used them to leap off of. This was such a sick move as it came out of no-where and landed perfectly on the side of Darby's head.
Swerve also did some great heel work with Nick Wayne who was seconding Darby, brutally attacking Allin's arms right in front of his protegee. Strickland and Darby obviously have some great chemistry so it's no surprise that there were loads of perfect counters, including an awesome roll up exchange that ended with Swerve kicking out of the Last Supper for the first time.
The bump of the match had to be when Swerve hit a devastating Death Valley Driver off the second rope onto the apron which I'm surprised Darby survived. Swerve got the win when AR Fox attacked Darby while the ref was distracted and Swerve hit the JML Driver for three.
This was an amazing match that had a good finish, inducting Fox into the Mogul Embassy and protecting Allin in the process.
#3 - Kazuchika Okada
Okada had two amazing G1 matches this week. The one against CHAOS stable mate, YOSHI-HASHI, and the other against Will Ospreay in what was the most anticipated match of the whole tournament for most New Japan fans.
His match against YOSHI-HASHI in Korakuen Hall was a brilliant, drama filled bout that had everyone on the edge of their seats hoping for a YOSHI-HASHI dub. The match started with YOSHI-HASHI getting the bulk of the offence on Okada before a back and forth stretch where the two countered big moves from each other. HASHI did not feel out of place in this match at all and there were a few times where I thought that he'd actually beat Okada for the first time, but alas YOSHI-HASHI jumped onto Okada's shoulders in an attempt to hit his new Crucifix Bomb finisher, but got hit with an Emerald Flowsion instead and then ate a Rainmaker to finish the match. This was one of the best YOSHI-HASHI singles matches, and also one of Okada's best matches in the tournament so far.
Speaking of the best match of the tournament, Okada vs Ospreay was NOT one of them. Don't get me wrong I enjoyed that match, but it was far from what I was expecting, especially given that Will finally beat Okada clean in this one. I would use the term "disappointment" for this match, even though I did give it 4.5 stars. This should have been a draw, I have no doubt this should have been a draw. That win should have been saved for a G1 final or a Tokyo Dome match. That's just my opinion. The match itself was good and both guys gave a lot, hitting big and risky moves, but the story just wasn't there for me. Man I could talk about the negatives for a while so I'll just leave it there for now. Still, a great match.
#2 - Tomohiro Ishii
Now this was the best match of the tournament! Ishii vs Eddie Kingston in Korakuen Hall was so so good. This was the best of their trilogy in my opinion, but I can't really describe why. It was a classic Ishii match, which most people know how they go, but the passion from Eddie brought out an extra level in Ishii's game that night. The fact that they've wrestled two times before this and tagged together at Forbidden Door shored up their chemistry even more and they knew exactly what the other was capable of.
There were so many great near falls and counters that it made the fight feel like a real struggle, with Eddie trying to hit the Backfist and the Northern Lights Bomb, but Ishii either kicking out of managing to escape danger over and over. Ishii had some great spots in this one, like his running/flying headbutt that just looks so brutal and is a lot safer than a shoot one.
I think out of all of Eddie's Japanese Legend friends he has the best matches with Ishii and it seems like they're wrestling brothers. Or maybe Uncle and Nephew is the best way to put it. Ishii got the deciding win in their trilogy in this one.
#1 - Kaito Kiyomiya
For me Kaito has been the MVP of the G1 so far. Just this week he's had two very different, but amazing matches with SANADA in Korakuen and with Gabe in Ota Ward. Even though the Gabe match happened second I think we should talk about that one first.
This "match" was the most intense of the tournament so far as both men beat the shit out of each other all around the arena, neither one backing down from the other. They threw chairs at each other, threw each other at chairs, and just brawled non-stop for 11 minutes before they were counted out by the ref, resulting in a double count out and one point for each man. After the match it was clear that the two still wanted more, so I hope they have another match together at some point down the line.
The SANADA match was just as good, but in a completely different way. This was one of the most competitive matches of the whole tournament and saw some great intensity and action from Kaito specifically. Going into the match there was already that connection between the two from their time spent with Keiji Mutoh and they showcased this in the match too. Kaito would target the leg with the Dragonscrews and the Figure Four, whereas SANADA did the Shining Wizard (so did Katio) and the Moonsault to try and keep the NOAH representative down.
Kaito did some great limb work on SANADA's leg, keeping the pace of the match up by hitting great dropkicks to the leg rather than just using boring holds or slamming it into the mat. The two tried for move after move leading up to the time limit and with 2 seconds left SANADA managed to get a pinfall after a surprise Shining Wizard. This was one of the best matches of the tournament in my eyes and helped Kaito look strong against the champion. I have a feeling Kaito and SANADA are going to make it out of their blocks, and Kaito specifically deserves it after the great performances he's been putting on so far.
We've had a big shift in the leaderboard this week as Okada has now jumped up to 1st place: