wrestling / Columns

Csonka’s Top 10 G1 Climax 26 Matches

August 18, 2016 | Posted by Larry Csonka

WELCOME back, back to the column that makes lists and hopes that you enjoy them. This week’s top 10 will look back this year’s G1 Climax tournament and the best matches from the 19 days of shows. The only criteria for the list are that the matches have to be G1 Climax 26 tournament bouts and that they have to be awesome. Lets get to work…

Honorable Mentions
From Night 15: SANADA vs. Tomohiro Ishii [****¼]
From Night 4: Katsuyori Shibata vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima [****¼]
From Night 4: Tetsuya Naito vs. Michael Elgin [****¼]
From Night 16: Tetsuya Naito vs. YOSHI-HASHI [****¼]
From Night 17: Hirooki Goto vs. Naomichi Marufuji [****¼]
From Night 8: Yuji Nagata vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima [****¼]

10. From Night 1 – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. SANADA [****¼]: The early story saw Tanahashi outwrestle SANADA, constantly staying one step ahead of the youngster. SANADA would finally get something rolling as he caught Tanahashi as he tried to get back in the ring; they went to the floor, where SANADA sent him to the barricade and then targeted the previously injured arm. After the Gedo-mandated countout tease, SANADA took the heat and maintained his focus on the arm. Tanahashi put together a good comeback, hitting the senton off the ropes (but only posing with the one arm) and then attacking the knee of SANADA. Tanahashi is in full G1 mode, hitting the high fly flow to the floor. Tanahashi then started to destroy the knee with dragon screw leg whips while SANADA was trapped in the ropes. He then worked the cloverleaf, which I was not a fan of due to the previous arm work by SANADA. SANADA escaped and hit a desperation missile dropkick but couldn’t follow up, a she clutched his knee. They traded strikes, with SANADA attacking the arm of Tanahashi to slow him down. SANADA finally hit a cutter for a good near fall and then got the dragon sleeper and dropped to the mat with it. Tanahashi struggled and tried for the ropes and finally got them. SANADA missed the moonsault and tweaked his knee. Tanahashi then got the sling blade and then an arms trapped German for a near fall. he went for the high fly flow and jumped into the cutter for a SUPER close near fall. SANADA then followed with a moonsault for a near fall, hit another and then got the dragon sleeper once again center ring and Tanahashi tapped! That was a HUGE win for SANADA, who will benefit hugely from it, and it was clean as can be on top of that. This was excellent work from both guys, as SANADA stepped up big time and Tanahashi was in pure G1 form here. This works because not only did they establish SANADA’s finish as legit, but it also plays off of Tanahashi coming back from injury. This was excellent, and will go a long way in SANADA’s rise; it’s exactly the kind of match he needed to have here.

9. From Night 8 – Michael Elgin vs. Kenny Omega [****½]: I am begging someone to clean up that IC Title strap, it looks even worse with Elgin carrying the ELITE Title with him. Takahashi attacked Elgin as he made his entrance and then Omega a hit a dive a we started the third match almost the same exact way because Gedo is drunk. I mean, seriously, can we have a little creativity here? Once the Gedo mandated grab ass on the floor was done, they worked back in the ring for a few minutes, and then we got… more Gedo mandated grab ass on the floor. Omega attacked the shoulder of Elgin, which was taped up, and we got another countout tease. Omega focused on the shoulder, even ripping some of the tape off. Elgin finally connected with a German to the corner, which allowed him to make a comeback where he got to do his power spots. Omega spit in Elgin’s face, which was not appreciated, and rather disgusting. Elgin hit the buckle bomb, which led to the two hitting a series of rapid fire back and forth moves, into a double down. Omega would hit a pair of dragon suplexes and then a reverse RANA, which got a near fall. They would battle up top, Elgin repeatedly sent Omega to the mat before hitting an air raid crash off the ropes for a near fall. Omega fought back and hit the buckle bomb and Elgin bomb combo for a near fall. Elgin then stole the one winged angel, which got a GREAT near fall. EVERONE STEAL MOVEZ! Elgin would follow with the spinning Elgin bomb for the win. Outside of the beginning, this was excellent stuff and maybe my favorite Omega vs. Elgin match, largely for the lack of shenanigans. They started out playing a Reader’s Digest version of one of their previous matches, playing the hits and seemingly keeping it safe. But then they hit the next gear, and did what great feuds do, and that is to build off of the previous matches and spots and evolve that to something new and I felt they did that here. This was excellent, one of the best matches of the tournament so far.

8. From Night 18 – Michael Elgin vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima [****½]: They set the power vs. speed dynamic early, working a really good pace to get you involved early. We got the Gedo Special, as Nakajima worked the arm and shoulder of Elgin, who’s taped up and working through a pec injury. Back in the ring Nakajima laid in no less than 12 kicks to the shoulder and pec area of Elgin, and then immediately worked an am bar. Really smart and focused work by Nakajima so far. Elgin fought back with a German into the corner, and then a powerslam for a near fall. Elgin was slowed as he tried to work the deadlift German, he countered out and then started to attack the legs of Elgin. Corino and Romero did a good job of explaining why Nakajima was attacking both levels (to ruin Elgin’s power game and base). Nakajima worked a good heat, with every time Elgin went to make a comeback or got a hope spot he was basically too slowed to take advantage of his chances, and Nakajima would cut him off. Elgin finally fired up and leveled Nakajima with a lariat, only to run into a dropkick and eat a PK. Elgin countered the brainbuster and hit rolling suplexes, set Nakajima up top and they battled for position. Nakajima sent him to the mat, went for a missile dropkick and Elgin about killed him with a powerbomb for a near fall. Elgin then went up top but missed the top rope splash. They fought to their feet trading strikes and kicks. Elgin then destroyed Nakajima with a series of forearm strikes and a sick lariat, which got a great near fall. Elgin then hit the deadlift super falcon arrow (HE DID THE DEAL) for a great near fall. Buckle bomb by Elgin, but Nakajima counters the Elgin bomb into a sunset flip and near fall. Sweet Jesus this has turned into an amazing match here. Nakajima fired back with a series of kicks for a near fall, went for the brainbuster and just BARELY got Elgin and picks up the spoiler filled victory. Wow, excellent match here with both guys working to their strengths and doing a very good job of escalating the action and violence to a great climax. This was so, so good. We need a rematch; actually we need Nakajima in fulltime here.

7. From Night 13 – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Naomichi Marufuji [****½]: They worked a slow and measured opening stretch, likely to allow the crowd to recover a bit from the previous match. Tanahashi worked to ground Marufuji and targeted his legs. Marufuji fired back and they worked to the apron, where Marufuji hit a sick kick and then a FUCKING APRON PILEDRIVER.

After a count out tease, Marufuji took the heat and was viciously chopping Tanahashi down. Tanahashi battled back, hitting the senton off the ropes, but Marufuji cut him off with the dropkick and then another sent Tanahashi to the floor, where Marufuji would join him after a plancha. Tanahashi wanted to trade chops with Marufuji, which is always a bad idea as Marufuji was beating his chest Raw. Marufuji started to light him up with kicks, but Tanahashi managed to catch one and hit the dragon screw leg whip to try and slow Marufuji down. It didn’t because Marufuji decapitated him with more kicks and scored a near fall. Tanahashi then countered the sliced bread into a sling blade. He then followed with the regular sling blade, but ate a kick when he went for the high fly flow. But the earlier work on Marufuji’s leg took hold here, as he crumbled to the mat and was slow to follow up. He then hit a beautiful kick to the face and a knee strike for a near fall. It broke down into a great back and forth segment, and then Tanahashi hit the high fly flow to a standing Marufuji, and followed with another to pick up the win. They had a tough task ahead of them to follow that previous match, but they were the right men for the job.

6. From Night 11 – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii [****½]: Ishii tried to use his power early, so Tanahashi smartly picked up the pacing to try and put a stop to that. They did some good back and forth based on that, and then Ishii attacked the knee to slow Tanahashi. Ishii was being such a dick here, playing with Tanahashi and making fun of his hair. After some stiff shots from Ishii, Tanahashi smartly targeted his leg to try and stop the powerhouse. Ishii then just beat the hell out of Tanahashi, who fired up and answered the challenge, beating down Ishii in the corner. This was pure back and forth, with both men fighting with all they had and refusing to give into the other. They did a great battle spot on the ropes, which led to Tanahashi attacking the knee of Ishii again. But it wasn’t enough to stop him, and he connected with that sweet delayed superplex to a great reaction; these people were into this battle. My God this totally broke down into a pissing contest as they stood middle ring, beating the shit out of each other to the delight of the crowd. Ishii then hit a head butt to the face of Tanahashi, and scored a near fall with the powerbomb. He then got an awesome near fall off of a great lariat spot, which the crowd bought. Tanahashi escaped a brainbuster attempt, and then Ishii actually countered the sling blade and dropped Tanahashi on his head with a dragon suplex, Tanahashi then did the same and Ishii said FUCK YOUR SUPLEX and popped right up, only to eat a German for the near fall. Tanahashi finally hit sling blade, but MISSED the high fly flow, leading to another great near fall by Ishii off of the sliding clothesline. THIS FUCKING MATCH. Ishii lit into Tanahashi again, breaking him down to the point where he could barely stand, but Tanahashi countered the brainbuster into another dragon suplex for the near fall. Tanahashi it sling blade, and followed it with two high fly flows and finally put Ishii away. That was just fantastic on every level, this was G1 Tanahashi working an Ishii who has been one f the most consistent guys over the last 3-4 years and delivering. It was everything I had hoped for, and is one of the best matches of the tournament so far.

5. From Night 1 – Kazuchika Okada vs. Naomichi Marufuji [****½]: They did some nice counter work early, which led to teases of their respective finishes in the early moments of the match. Marufuji hit a double knee strike to the arm of Okada, sending him to the floor. He followed and then posted Okada, trying to take away the rainmaker with the attack on the arm. Marufuji then trapped the arm of Okada in the barricade and attempted to crush it, maintaining that focus on the arm. Marufuji continued to dominate when they returned to the ring, working the arm and keeping the champion on defense and beating him down with chops. Okada put a good comeback together, trying to shake off the pain in the arm, but Marufuji leveled him with a lariat. They went back to the floor, where Marufuji again attacked the arm. It’s a simple and well-executed gameplan from Marufuji. Gedo’s facials on the floor, selling the pain for his man, were also well done and added to the work as he was doing everything he could to motivate his man to fight back. Okada kept trying to fire back, but there was nothing on the strikes and he kept clutching his arm. Marufuji then kept chopping him down, and Okada’s chest was really beaten up. Marufuji’s work has been nearly flawless here, dissecting the champion; he hit the coast-to-coast dropkick, but Okada managed to counter sliced bread with the neck breaker. Okada managed the top rope elbow drop, but still was selling the arm. Marufuji then lit him up with kicks, but Okada again managed to counter the sliced bread. Marufuji fought out of the tombstone, but ran into the dropkick. Rainmaker gets countered, but Okada gets a German. The rainmaker is again countered with strikes to the arm, a series of kicks and then hit the modified emerald flowsion to pick up the win. They had a tough act to follow, but not only were they able to follow, they exceeded the previous match. This was a rather amazing match, with both men performing well, but Marufuji especially locked in and performing as if he had something to prove. Everything worked, the crowd was completely invested, and they went home at the right time to maximize everything they did. I loved everything about this match, and it sets up a fresh title match down the line if they so choose.

4. From Night 19: Kenny Omega vs. Hirooki Goto [****¾]: Here we are, the finals that no one predicted. The last two nights have provided awesome main events, so they have a lot to live up to. The crowd is very pro- Omega. They started off with a deliberate pacing, going back and forth and seemingly setting the stage to go long. Goto attacked the knee of Omega, which Naito worked on big time yesterday, and the crowd was not pleased with that. They aren’t booing because of his work, but because he’s a massive choke artist. It’s making for a great atmosphere, and I love that he knee stuff from yesterday was not ignored. They worked to the floor, where Omega battled back and hit a moonsault off the barricade but immediately started to favor the knee. He then slammed Goto on the apron and then hit the apron bomb to turn the tide. Back in the ring, Omega did a little Rick Rude neck breaker with the hip swivel towards Chono for added emphasis. Omega grounded Goto, working a modified camel clutch to follow up on the apron bomb. Nice focused work by Omega here, and was rolling until he missed the corner elbow. Goto got a good hope spot, but was cut off with a bulldog for a near fall. Goto fired up as they traded chops center ring and then decapitated Omega with a lariat. Goto finally put together his first sustained series of offense, hitting the top rope elbow drop for a near fall. Omega battled back, hitting the Finlay roll into a second rope moonsault for the near fall. Omega sent Goto to the floor with the dragon snap suplex, and followed with a great plancha. Omega kept favoring the leg, having issues getting to the top and selling it after a missile dropkick. It slowed Omega enough that Goto scored with the ushigoroshi, and then ht a lariat to Omega on the apron that folded him inside out. They battled up top. Goto with the USHIGOROSHI off the second rope, which got a great near fall. He then worked the sleeper, Omega kept fighting and countered the German ad hit the running knee strike and then the suplex onto the knee. Omega trying to fight through the pain, hits the running knee strike but Goto escapes the one winged angel and works the sleeper again. Omega then climbed the ropes with Goto on his back and did the Nestea plunge off the top with Goto on his back, taking a SICK bump on the fall. My God. They struggled to their feet, exchanging strikes center ring. Omega then kicked Goto o the face and hit the sit out last ride for a great near fall again! Omega struggled to his feet and MISSED the Phoenix splash! Goto fired up here, Omega countered a suplex but his knee buckled and Goto hit a spinning faceplant for a near fall. Goto went for the GTR, but Omega hit a knee strike, they traded strikes and Omega then ht the snap dragon suplex for another near fall. Goto caught a knee strike, turns Omega inside out with the lariat and hits the shouten kai but Omega somehow kicks out as the crowd is going crazy for this. GTR countered, bloody Sunday by Omega! Styles Clash by Omega but the ode to Bullet Club only gets 2. One winged angle then connects, and Omega wins! Omega was the third westerner (Rick Rude and Karl Anderson) to make the finals and the first to win the G1. In all honesty that was a brilliant match, especially from Omega. Omega digging deep into the past to use moves by Ibushi, Devitt and Styles to try and win were beautiful homages, but in the end he won on his own with his own move. And take nothing away from Goto, he was half of a finals that no one predicted or really wanted, but he brought his A Game, and they delivered an absolutely awesome main event. The pacing was excellent, the build felt organic, the crowd was amazing and they went home at the right time and didn’t try to go way too long to make it “feel” like an epic, it didn’t need that because it was one. Some want to point to the way overbooked Tanahashi match as Omega’s coming out party, but that true moment was tonight, all of the reactions he received were star reactions and after a lot of work and some misfires, they have finally made Kenny Omega. Kenny Omega, from junior comedy guy wrestling kids and dolls to a Bullet Club stooge to G1 winner. Wrestling in 2016 is a hell of a thing. This is a top 5 G1 finals match, all time.

3. From Night 17 – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada [*****]: The winner here takes the block, but if there is some form of draw, Goto wins. They went slow early, both teasing one another and then Tanahashi slapped the shit out of Okada. This fired up the champion, hit the neck breaker and top rope elbow. Went for the rainmaker, but Tanahashi got a near fall off of a roll up. Great sequence there. Okada kept control, hitting the slingshot senton and then working a pendulum submission. Tanahashi escaped, and then attacked the knee of Okada. Corino is talking about the draw A LOT here, I hope he’s not giving away the finish. Tanahashi continued his attack on the leg, looking to slow Okada. Okada made the ropes as Romero did a great job of discussing how Tanahashi always attacks the knees of Okada, and wondering how long Okada can take the abuse. Okada fired back with a series of elbows, and then planted Tanahashi with a DDT. Okada took control, grounding Tanahashi after a good, but slowed comeback due to the knee. Tanahashi rebounded out of the corner to hit a flying forearm; they then traded forearm strikes center ring, which led to Okada hitting the corner dropkick and sending Tanahashi to the floor. Okada looked to work over Tanahashi on the floor, but Tanahashi fought back and worked Okada’s knee on the steel barricade. Tanahashi opted not to try for the countout and hit a high fly flow to the floor! It looked as if we were getting the countout tease, but Tanahashi foolishly went to the floor and Okada scooped him up and hit a desperation tombstone on the floor. They did the double countout tease, and with Goto’s situation that worked well. Okada struggled to go up top, but missed the missile dropkick and Tanahashi went right back to attacking the knee and working for the cloverleaf, but Okada got the ropes. Okada tried to battle back, but Tanahashi hit the arms trapped bridging German for a near fall. Tanahashi up top, but Okada cut him off with an uppercut. They battled up top, both fighting for position and Tanahashi sent Okada to the mat and then MISSED the high fly flow. Okada hit a pair of dropkicks and is not really selling the knee. Come on brother. Tanahashi hit the sling blade to counter the rainmaker and we got a double down. They fought to their feet, Tanahashi to the apron and trading forearms with Okada. The crowd is into every strike, Tanahashi caught a kick and stunned it off the ropes and then slammed it off of the apron. Tanahashi then got the cloverleaf locked in, Okada fighting as Tanahashi pulls him center ring but he manages to power to the ropes. Tanahashi looks totally frustrated here, looks to follow up and avoids the dropkick and hits a reverse sling blade. HIGH FLY FLOW CONNECTS! ANOTHER try but he eats knees. They worked to their feet, Okada fought off a suplex and then they did the tombstone reversal spot and Tanahashi planted Okada! Neck breaker by Tanahashi, up top. HIGH FLY FLOW countered by a dropkick! Rainmaker countered, GERMAN by Okada, rolls and Tanahashi slaps him to counter the rainmaker. Okada holds on and hits a rainmaker, but then Tanahashi hit s a dragon suplex for an INSANE near fall. Gotch style tombstone by Okada gets another near fall. Shit is getting real here kids, this is insane. Tanahashi counters the rainmaker, hits sling blade and then up top for the HIGH FLY FLOW. Back up top and Tanahashi hits another AND THE BELL RINGS AT 2 for the time limit draw! This was an absolutely amazing match; they played the time limit draw perfectly. The match beautifully built all the way to the finish, with great drama and the finish is awesome (a great play off of one of my favorite finishes between Windham and Flair). The emotion was off the charts and the crowd was insane for this, really adding to he great work from both. Okada had some lackluster performances in the tournament, also delivered two of the tournament’s best matches. I love the wrestling.

2. From Night 13 – Kazuchika Okada vs. Tomohiro Ishii [*****]: Okada made the mistake of messing around a bit, which led to devastating lariats from Ishii for some near falls in the first minute that the crowd actually bought into. Ishii took control from there, working over Okada and doing those little tap kicks to mock him while he was down. He then lit him up with chops, telling him “come on motherfucker!” Okada’s forearms looked like little old lady strikes compared to Ishii’s. Outside of the forearms, Okada made a strong comeback, and planted Ishii with a sick looking DDT. Dropping Ishii on his head only pissed him off as he lit into Okada with chops. Okada did the corner dropkick spot t send Ishii to the floor, but Ishii’s foot got caught up, delaying his trip to the floor. He looked in pain on the floor and favored his leg. Okada hit the hangman’s DDT on the floor, which led to him hitting the elbow drop in the ring. Okada went to do his rainmaker pose, but Ishii fired up and attacked with a chop to the throat, and then hitting a backdrop suplex and powerbomb for a near fall. They did some great things down the stretch, constantly fighting back and not only countering each other’s trademark stuff, but Ishii did the big dropkick. They then got an awesome reaction to a near fall off of a superplex as well as Ishii’s sliding clothesline. This was straight up fire here. Okada was able to keep escaping the brainbuster, and the crowd was INTO this shit, as was Liger on commentary; he was going insane. Okada hit repeated dropkicks for a near fall, went for the tombstone but Ishii fired up and fought out, only to run into a dropkick. Ishii countered the rainmaker, ran into a German but then countered again and laid into Okada with head butts! They both fought for the tombstone, Ishii PLANTED Okada with the sitout version and then destroyed him with the lariat, AWESOME near fall. BRAIN BUSTER by Ishii and HE WINS! THIS FUCKING MATCH! The crowd is losing their shit, Liger is losing his shit, and I am losing my shit! This was simply amazing, everything done at the right time with a purpose all culminating with the perfect climax point. I LOVE THE WRESTLING! Seriously, everything meant something, the reactions were perfect, it never felt long and just all came together; it just all happened and never felt like they were trying for the epic match, it was the perfect storm. The best thing about this is that we’ll get a title match after the G1 due to this, and it will be glorious.

1. From Night 18 – Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega [*****]: If Naito wins or draws with Omega, he wins the block. Omega has to win here to win the block. Omega was fired up early but Naito was like, “nah, trquilo brah” and posed. Naito then attacked the knee of Omega, looking to set for the heel hook. Omega pulled Naito tot the floor and went for a plancha, but Naito sidestepped him and while Omega landed on his feet, it bothered the leg and Naito again went on the attack. Omega slammed Naito to the barricade and then slammed him off of the apron. This allowed Omega to take control, he worked to ground Naito ands lowed the pace as he kept trying to shake out the knee, even stretching at times to get it to work better. Omega hit the Finlay roll, but when he popped up to go for the moonsault the leg slowed him down so much that Naito was able to cut him off. Naito then out together a run of offense for the first time in a while, hitting the corner dropkick combo and scoring a near fall. Naito then went back to the leg and worked a modified figure four. Omega made the ropes, but Naito made sure to work the full count. Omega managed a bulldog and he wanted to charge, was slowed, but hit a dropkick to send Naito to the barricade. Omega then powered Naito up and powerbombed him over the railing and through a table! Sweet Christ Omega then followed with a springboard over the barricade and onto Naito! They did the countout tease; Omega hit a dragon suplex on the apron and another in the ring for a near fall. This has escalated quickly. Naito then countered a powerbomb into a DDT and both men were down. They traded strikes center ring, Omega hit a jumping knee strike but Naito came back with the tornado DDT. Naito then set Omega up top, worked elbows to the knee and went for the RANA but Omega rolled into a sunset flip for an insane near fall. Omega kept battling back, countered a lariat and then countered a suplex but his leg buckled on him. Naito was slow to take advantage, and Omega leveled him with a lariat. Another nee strike by Omega, One winged angel countered into the heel hook by Naito! Omega fought, clawing for the ropes but Naito pulled him back center ring and Omega teased tapping but he made one last desperation lunge for the ropes and made it. Naito hit the Flair knee breaker; Omega countered the second try and hit a German and then a gut wrench powerbomb for a near fall. Omega hits a knee strike, one winged angel countered into Destino but both men are down. We’re in the final five minutes here as Naito sets Omega up top; he follows and hits the SUPER REVERSE RANA for a super close near fall. THIS FUCKING MATCH! Destino countered into a reverse dude buster for the near fall as the crowd is going ape shit. Short knees by Omega, one winged angle try but the knee buckles on Omega. They slap the shit out of each other, enziguri by Naito and then Omega hit a knee as Naito goes for the lariat. Omega then gets the German and a running knee for the near fall. One winged angel FINALLY connects and Omega wins! This was an absolutely amazing main event match; awesome action, tremendous drams and they played not only the knee work perfectly but also the tease of the draw. On back-to-back nights, closing out the blocks, we get two five star matches. This was a simply amazing effort from both men, I thought it would be good, maybe even great, but this was next level and it surpassed Ishii vs. Okada as my top match for the tournament.

– End scene.

– Thanks for reading.

 photo fe36ffd0-0da4-4e3b-a2d3-b026b341dd87_zps41ef5d61.jpg
“Byyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyye Felicia!”

article topics :

G1 Climax 2016, NJPW, Larry Csonka