The Week in Japanese Wrestling: G1 Climax 26 hidden gems
The following originally appeared in this week’s Figure Four Weekly.
It was an incredible weekend in the career of Kenny Omega and for New Japan Pro Wrestling in general.
The 2016 G1 Climax came to an end in dramatic fashion with three epic shows at the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan. You’ll be able to find all kinds of in-depth discussion about that elsewhere on the site in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and on both the DKP and Wrestling Observer Radio shows, so to avoid repetition, we’ll take a different tact here.
You’ll have heard all about the Match of the Year caliber bouts that the G1 produced by now, but there were a few sneaky under the radar matches which didn’t get a ton of attention but are definitely worth watching.
Togi Makabe vs. Hirooki Goto, August 8th, Yokohama
If you like Big Japan, this was the G1’s “Strong BJ” match. Hirooki Goto and Togi Makabe have done the reps with each other before and as such are more than comfortable just going into the ring, meeting in the middle and throwing down.
Makabe being in front of his adoring hometown public helped matters, as did perhaps the hardest lariat of the whole tour which nearly knocked Goto into G1 2017!
Yuji Nagata vs. YOSHI-HASHI, July 27th, Nagano
YOSHI-HASHI was one of the stars of the tour with his stock really rising after some super exciting matches and a couple of surprising wins. This match may not have had the fireworks of some of his other outings but it was perhaps the most hard fought, gritty, and meaningful.
The reason it was so meaningful was that he was in there with the man who has watched over him since he walked into the famed dojo, Yuji Nagata. He was wrapped up like a mummy, but YOSHI fought tooth and nail, never giving up in an excellent contest.
SANADA vs. Kazuchika Okada, July 23rd, Machida
The future of the New Japan main event scene was on full display in the second meeting between IWGP champ Kazuchika Okada and new kid on the block SANADA. These two get more and more chemistry with each other every time they step in the ring, be it singles or tags.
The fluidity and timing on display in this one was to be marveled at. Really exciting, well executed match.
Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Kenny Omega, August 10th, Yamagata
With everything that Omega went on to do at Ryogoku, it’s easy to forget the excellent body of work he put together to get to that point. This was a rematch from a 2008 Ring of Honor bout (which Omega referenced) and it was evident how much both wrestlers have matured since then.
This was hard-hitting, fast paced, and provided an excellent contrast between Nakajima’s stoicism and Omega’s wild personality.