NJPW G1 Climax Finals (1991 – 2016) Review

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I was hoping to get this finished before this years G1 started, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case but I still wanted to get it done. Basically I decided to watch every G1 final as I had seen hardly any of them and thought they’d be good to review. So let’s get to it.

G1 Climax 1 Final (11/8/91) – Keiji Mutoh vs. Masahiro Chono

Incredible first final match. An epic back and forth contest with two now legends putting it all on the line. they spend the first half primarily exchanging big holds but once Chono hits the first couple of Kenka kicks, things turn much more intense and out comes all the piledrivers and suplexes as both guys try hard to keep each other down, in the end though Chono gets the win with a harsh powerbomb, making him the first ever G1 climax winner. The crowd was hot and the match was built really well, great stuff all in all.
Winner: Masahiro Chono(via powerbomb) ****1/2

G1 Climax 2 Final (12/8/91) – Masahiro Chono vs. Rick Rude

This is also for the vacant NWA World Heavyweight championship and is a really good match overall. The crowds were firmly behind Chono throughout and he definitely brought a good amount of energy and fire particularly in the beginning and ending, Rude on the other-hand keeps his methodical approach for most and focuses alot on Chono’s head and neck area. It’s quite an even match-up overall that I do feel drags a little in parts in its first 20 minutes which is more mat based, but it definitely escalates and builds well much like the previous G1 final and the last 10 minutes or so are great. In the end Chono lands a big flying shoulder block that keeps Rude down for the 3 count, making Chono the new NWA champ and giving him 2 back to back final wins.
Winner: Chono(via flying shoulder block) ****

G1 Climax 3 Final (8/5/93) – Hiroshi Hase vs. Tatsumi Fujinami

Another really good finals match, not as on par with the previous two but still very solid. Fujinami seems to have the upper hand in the beginning, until Hase gives him two Uranage’s to  the outside and proceeds to take control for a good portion working on Fujinami’s back. Fujinami then gains control attacking Hase’s knee and he proceeds to keep his focus on it including him locking in a lengthy figure four. Hase manages to get back into things using a few strikes and then starts hitting big moves to try to keep Fujinami down including Uranages, powerbombs and a dragon suplex. Fujinami won’t stay down though and comes back hitting Hase with two of his own Uranage’s and locking in a scorpion deathlock. Hase managed to make it to the ropes twice, but as soon as the hold was broken Fujinami would lock it straight back in right away each time and it’s the third time where Hase finally taps, making Fujinami the winner. The match may lack some of the drama of the first two finals but it’s still really enjoyable and I liked that some of the limb work lead into the finish.
Winner: Fujinami(via scorpion deathlock) ***3/4

G1 Climax 4 Final (7/8/94) – Masahiro Chono vs. Power Warrior

So Chono makes a return to the final this time against Kensuke Sasaki as Power warrior. it’s  a very solid match-up, another step below the previous 3 finals but still good overall. From the outset it gets quite physical and Chono even tears off the tape on his injured shoulder to showcase his toughness. Things calm down a bit when they start primarily exchanging a few holds which stagnates the match a little. But it picks up again in its finishing stretch as it essentially becomes the battle of submissions with Warrior wrenching Chono’s weak shoulder in the Stranglehold Gamma and Chono going for his STF, they both lock in these submissions a few times, but in the end Chono DDT’s Warrior out of the corner and locks in the STF one final times in the centre of the ring which causes Warrior to submit, allowing Chono to win the tournament for the third time. Match lacked the big drama of previous finals and was a little muddled but still a solid effort from both.
Winner: Chono(via STF) ***1/2

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G1 Climax 5 Final (15/8/95) – Shinya Hashimoto vs. Keiji Mutoh

Mutoh returns since the first one this time against Hashimoto. This was a really good final that is a step-up from the previous year. The first half is very submission heavy with Mutoh focusing alot on Hashimoto’s legs which proved to be ineffective but was nicely worked. Once Hashimoto starts dishing out the big kicks though they turn their focus to keeping each other down, Hashimoto seems to get the most offense in and things really fire up when he hits jumping DDT on Mutoh which re-opens a cut on his head that he has covered with a plaster.  At the end though after Hashimoto misses a diving elbow drop and Mutoh misses a moonsault, Mutoh catches Hashimoto out of nowhere with a hurricanrana and hits two moonsaults to get the pinfall and win tournament. Last couple of minutes were really great with the crowd super into it. Build up cold have been a  little better but otherwise very enjoyable stuff.
Winner: Mutoh(Via Moonsault) ****

G1 Climax 6 Final (6/8/96) – Masahiro Chono vs. Riki Choshu

Chono once again appears in the final a fourth time against veteran Choshu. This is also the shortest final so far, running under 15 minutes. It’s still really good though and quite different to the rest of the finals, this one seemed more about Choshu trying to show that he could still hang at the top, he had won every one his matches in the tournament and Chono was his final obstacle. The jump straight into things from the outset with Chono beating down Riki and going for his own Sasori-gatame but Choshu blocks it. Choshu manages to hit 3 backdrops in a row and looks like he has the upper hand but Chono attacks Choshu’s knee and dominates the majority of the match working on Choshu’s leg and locking in the STF, after a ropebreak, Choshu slides to the outside and Tasumi Fujinami who is out to support him, slaps him in the face to perk him back up. When Choshu gets back in the ring, Chono starts busting out the bigger moves, hitting piledrivers and Kenka Kicks, but Choshu will not stay down and even kicks out at 1 a few times. Then at the end Chono hits a Kenka kicks that makes Choshu rebound of the ropes and hit a Riki Lariat and make his come back, he manages to lock in the Sasori-gatame but Chono manages to reach the rope, he locks in it a second time though and this time Chono taps out making it his first loss in a finals match. Crowd were firmly behind Choshu to make the come back and win it, which definitely elevated the match somewhat and it was just really well worked overall.
Winner: Choshu(via Sasori-Gatame) ***3/4

G1 Climax 7 Final (3/8/97) – Kensuke Sasaki vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan

Sasaki makes a return to the final as himself this time, against Tenzan who was a part of the NWO at the time. This match is actually even shorter than the previous one, running under 10 minutes. They do well with their time though and deliver a good match that definitely gets physical. The last couple of minutes in particular get intense with both guys showing great resilience, in the end a second Northern light bomb gets Sasaki the victory. Just a straight up solid back and forth contest.
Winner: Kensuke Sasaki(via Northern Lights bomb) ***1/2

G1 Climax 8 Final (2/8/98) – Shinya Hashimoto vs. Kazuo Yamazaki

Hashimoto in the final a second time  and this was great, felt more shoot style so it was mainly made up of strikes with a lot of stiffness going on. Yamazaki focused alot of his attack on Hashimoto’s leg which does affetc him and make him minimise his kicks throughout most of it and every time Yamazaki locked in a submission the crowd went nuts and the atmosphere was great throughout anyway. Yamazaki even randomly busts out a plancha at one point, but despite his efforts he just couldn’t keep Hashimoto down and ends up eating a brainbuster that gives Hashimoto the pinfall and makes him the winner of the tournament.
Winner: Hashimoto(via Brainbuster) ****1/4

G1 Climax 9 Final (15/8/99) – Manabu Nakanishi vs. Keiji Mutoh

Mutoh makes his 3rd appearance in a G1 final and this match was pretty good overall. It was very back and forth with Nakanishi making good use of his power and strength, Mutoh tries to target Nakanishi’s leg throughout and at the end after hitting a frankensteiner locks him straight into a figure four, but Nakanishi’s manages to get the rope break and hoists Mutoh straight up into the torture rack which makes Mutoh submit. Now the finish does completely negate all the damage Mutoh inflicted on Nakanishi’s leg but it was successful in making Nakanishi look very strong,it was quite the upset win too as Mutoh was the IWGP champ at the time so it was certainly quite a surprise at the time. Nonetheless while its structure and execution may have been a little shoddy I still think the match is quite enjoyable though definitely weakest final so far.
Winner: Manabu Nakanishi(via Argentine Backbreaker) ***

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G1 Climax 10 Final (13/8/00) – Manabu Nakanishi vs. Kensuke Sasaki

Nakanishi gets to the final a second year running, whilst Kensuke makes his second appearance. This was a great, a very physical back and forth battle of power and strength including chop and lariat exchanges with a good atmosphere.  I really loved a bit at the ending where after taking out Kensuke with a bunch of spears(although Kensuke does reverse one with a knee to Manabu’s gut) Nakanishi hoists Kensuke up for the argentine backbreaker but after a good number of seconds ends up collapsing from exhausting( and possibly the effects of the knee to the gut) which ultimately leads to his demise as Kensuke gets back into things and ends up giving Nakanishi a northern lights bomb and then makes him submit with an elevated Boston crab. I feel like this match probably gets overlooked by many people mainly cause of Nakanishi’s involvement, I’ve even seen it be disregarded by people, but I honestly really enjoyed this and think. It’s the best I’ve seen Nakanishi and it’s just a great match full of fighting spirit.
Winner: Kensuke Sasaki(via elevated crab) ****

G1 Climax 11 Final (12/8/01) – Keiji Mutoh vs. Yuji Nagata

A now bald Mutoh makes his fourth appearance in the final tying with Chono in number of appearances. I loved this match and thought it was awesome. It’s primarily all mat grappling and submissions and minimal on big moves, they kept things simple and executed superbly. They spend the first 5 minutes feeling each other out and then Nagata starts to keep catch Mutoh out with submissions until Mutoh finds an opening and takes control taking out Nagata’s legs, after managing to keep the control for a good few minutes, Nagata blocks a figure four attempt and turns it into a heel hook, things go completely back and forth from then on and after a great exchange, Nagata blocks a shining wizard and locks in the Nagata lock II making Mutoh submit. That’s 3 out of the four finals Mutoh has been in that he has lost. I think what really elevates this match is the amazing atmosphere, the crowd were super hot and were reacting to every little thing, hell I myself was reacting excitedly to every little thing. This match certainly isn’t gonna be for everyone but for me it worked incredibly well.
Winner: Nagata(via Nagata lock II) ****1/2

G1 Climax 12 Final (11/08/02) – Masahiro Chono vs. Yoshihiro Takayama

This is Chono’s 5th finals match and it’s a very physical one as both guys try to match-up their toughness. It’s mainly made up of strikes and submission holds with Chono struggling throughout to get Takayama down who mostly gets the upper hand in things. At the end though Chono manages to get Takayama in the deathlock STF and after a considerable amount of struggling manages to get to the ropes. But it’s clear the submissions still took alot out of Takayama and so Chono delivers a bunch of Kenka kicks which keep Takayama down for the 3 count. Not exactly the cleanest match and you can see Chono begin to be more physically limited by this point, but the crowd were into and it was still enjoyable.
Winner: Chono(via Kenka Kicks) ***1/2

G1 Climax 13 Final (17/8/03) – Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Jun Akiyama

Tenzan makes his return to the final for the second time after 6 years, but this match is more than just about the G1 it’s a battle of two promotion’s NJPW vs. NOAH. They really made it feel like a big time epic match and it’s pretty darn great too. A very even contest with both guys getting a good portion of control, Akiyama working on Tenzan’s head and neck area and then Tenzan working on Akiyama’s midsection after almost murdering him with a mountain bomb on the apron. Then they have a big back and forth finishing stretch with the crowd all fired up reacting to every big move and near fall. In the end Tenzan locks in Anaconda Vice, Akiyama tries to get up out of it but Tenzan takes him back down with the Anaconda buster and keeps it locked in, so Akiyama submits and Tenzan gets his first G1 win. Excellent stuff.
Winner: Tenzan(via Anaconda vice) ****1/4

G1 Climax Final 14 (15/8/04) – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan

Tenzan returns once again a year after his victory against Tanahashi who had just started rising up in the ranks, this is probably the biggest match of his career up to that point so he had a lot to prove here and he certainly brought it to Tenzan in a great encounter, using his speed and agility wherever possible to get the edge over Tenzan and there was definitely a  few time he was close to get a pinfall. In the end though his efforts weren’t enough and despite showing great resilience, 2 anaconda busters and the Anaconda vice make him submit, making Tenzan the second person along with Chono to have back to back G1 Wins. Really well worked match with a lot of drama that still made Tanahashi look strong even in defeat.
Winner: Tenzan(via Anaconda vice) ****

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G1 Climax 15 Final (14/8/05) – Kazuyuki Fujita vs. Masahiro Chono

Chono back once again in his 6th final. It”s a sub 10 minute match that’s really well worked. Chono takes a beating and tries his best to keep up before making the come back and getting the win with a shining Kenka kick. That makes 5 G1 finals that Chono has won. Crowd were completely behind Chono and Fujita made for an intimidating challenger. Very enjoyable.
Winner: Chono(via Shining Kenka Kick) ***1/2

G1 Climax 16 Final (13/8/06) – Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Satoshi Kojima

Tenzan back again now tying Mutoh for second most appearance in a final at 4. He’s against Kojima who at the time was apart of AJPW so once again Tenzan has to beat an outsider and the crowd are more behind him. This was a really solid match if a little unspectacular, just seemed to take a while to really get into it, the action was good but I didn’t fully connect to it, so it dragged a little but the end stretch was great and the crowd got really fired up for it as both guys show strong resilience, in the end though Tenzan wins his third G1 with a Ganso TTD.
Winner: Tenzan(Via Ganso TTD) ***3/4

G1 Climax 17 Final (12/8/07) – Yuji Nagata vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Both Nagata and Tanahashi in their second G1 final. This is another great final match that is the first one that feels like a modern-day New Japan main event. Just back and forth contest full of big enjoyable action that Tanahashi wins with a high fly flow.
Winner: Tanahashi(via high fly flow) ****

G1 Climax 18 Final (17/8/08) – Togi Makabe vs. Hirooki Goto

So this is the first G1 final since Hase/Fujinami where both people are in the final for the first time and it was really good. I’m not a big fan of Makabe but he worked really well here in his heel role, using dirty tactics to take control including doing an impaler DDT off the apron onto a chair and then busting Goto open with the same chair. Goto’s come backs were full of energy and the crowd really got behind him leading him to a win after hitting Makabe with a Shouten Kai. just a really enjoyable and physical  match that was honestly a lot better than I was expecting.
Winner: Goto(via Shouten Kai) ***3/4

G1 Climax 19 Final (16/8/09) – Togi Makabe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

So Makabe makes his return to the final second year running, this time as a face with the crowd fully behind him. Meanwhile Nakamura had turned heel a few months prior and had started using Boma-ye which up to this point had helped him be undefeated. The match it self is very solid, Makabe takes most of the punishment particularly to his one arm but he shows great resiliency throughout and despite Nakamura’s best effort, Makabe makes a big come back and wins it with a King Kong knee drop. Good stuff from both.
Winner: Makabe(via King Kong Knee Drop) ***1/2

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G1 Climax XX Final (15/8/10) – Satoshi Kojima vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Two former finalists make a return once again in a very good match up. Kojima targets Tanahashi’s leg for a small portion whilst Tana goes after Kojima’s taped up arm throughout, he even uses arm versions of a dragon screw to try to keep Kojima down to hit the High Fly Flow. But Kojima was more determined to finally get a G1 win and fought through all the punishment to deliver one final lariat that keeps Tanahashi down for the 3 count. I thought some of the first half dragged a little but they really picked it up in the finishing stretch and delivered well.
Winner: Kojima(via Lariat) ***3/4

G1 Climax 21 Final (14/8/11) – Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Tetsuya Naito

Nakamura returns to the final after losing two years prior against. This time he’s against fresh-faced Naito who was continuing his rise to be one of New Japan’s top stars. It’s another really good final match, that has a bit of a slow first half but really picks up and builds well to the finish. Nakamura gets control of Naito early on appears to be taking him lightly, but Naito finds an opening and starts working Nakamura’s leg to try to stop him using the Boma Ye, it does have some effect on Nakamura but despite Naito efforts and some dramatic nearfalls, Nakamura manages to fight through the pain and hit a Boma-ye to win the G1 for the first time.
Winner: Nakamura(via Boma-ye) ****

G1 Climax 22 Final (12/8/12) – Kazuchika Okada vs. Karl Anderson

2012 was the year Okada came back from his excursion at TNA and was very quickly shot to the top of card winning the IWGP title just one month after his return. He would lose the title 4 months later. But there weren’t no stopping Okada as here he would enter his first G1 climax and win it, in a great main event final Karl Anderson. It’s a very back and forth match that flies by with lots of good action and fun counters, it was a strong effort from Anderson too, who tried hard to hit the Gun stun to end things but Okada just kept blocking especially in the finishing sequence that I really liked, where in the end Okada blocks the Gun Stun one final time and dropkicks the back of Karl’s head, allowing hin to hit a tombstone followed by the Rainmaker which gives Okada the pinfall.
Winner: Okada(via Rainmaker) ****

G1 Climax 23 Final (11/8/13) – Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Incredible match from these two. This is Naito’s second G1 final and he was determined to get the win and he did just that in an awesome finishing stretch full of drama and the crowd going wild. Naito went in with one of his knees taped up, so Tanahashi focused his attack on it throughout. Naito’s selling varied but he certainly had his moments. A smart strategy from Tana but not enough to the keep determined Naito down. Great stuff.
Winner: Naito(via stardust press) ****1/2

G1 Climax 24 Final (10/8/14) – Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kazuchika Okada

The two main CHAOS members battle it out in a superb final. A complete back and forth affair that’s really well paced and full of good action. I absolutely loved the finishing stretch, full of drama and nearfalls. I loved this match when it first came about and I still love it now.
Winner: Okada(via Rainmaker) ****3/4

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G1 Climax 25 Final (16/8/15) – Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Another incredible hard-fought final between two former winners. They went over 30 minutes and even kick out of each others finishers which can be quite rare to happen with the crowd going nuts, especially during the big awesome finishing stretch. At the time it seemed a certainty that Tanahashi would win it, so that Okada could finally beat him in the dome, but Nakamura for sure still made it look like he had a good chance. Fantastic stuff.
Winner: Tanahashi(via High Fly Flow) ****3/4

G1 Climax 26 Final (14/8/16) Kenny Omega vs. Hirooki Goto

Last year’s G1 was the one that Omega stood out, after a stellar final Block match against Naito, Goto almost felt like an afterthought. there were even a couple of times that I forgot that this was the actual final and not Omega/Naito. But having said that this still a superb match with both men giving it their all in another action packed back and forth contest full of great drama. I really liked how Omega used the finishers of the former Bullet clubs leaders Styles & Devitt, as well as Ibushi’s to help him get the victory. It was a nice little tribute to all those men as Omega pulled out all he knew to be the first ever Gaijin to win the final. Goto didn’t go down easy though and showed great intensity, it was a strong effort from both, with a very hot crowd providing a great atmosphere.
Winner: Omega(via One Winged Angel) ****1/2

And that’s the lot. Definitely lots of great finals here and barely any are less than very good, I’m glad I decided to go through them all.  Lets hope for another great final this year, which judging by how the G1 is going so far I’m sure that we’ll get one.

Sayonara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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