Welcome to the a new installation of a weekly column, Kyle’s Choice. In this column, I will give my recommended wrestling matches for you to watch in your spare time. I have a long list of recommended matches for you to watch, so I decided to split these suggestions up by focusing on a theme. Each weekly column of Kyle’s Choice will have new theme for the matches I recommend. I will break down my top 5 matches for the weekly theme and recommend some others without the break down. For the debut of this column, I decided that this week’s theme will be NJPW’s G1 Climax 26 that was held earlier this year. If you are looking for wrestling matches to watch or revisit, this is the column for you!
We got so many great matches from this NJPW’s G1 Climax tournament. Each card during the tournament had at least one great match. I was blown away by the performances this year and I think most would say the same. I am going to give you my top 5 matches from this incredible tournament along with some hot takes! At the end, I will also give you some honorable mentions for this week’s theme.
5) Naomichi Marufuji vs. Kazuchika Okada (Day 1 - 7/18/2016)****1/4
This match was the main event on the first day of the G1 Climax 26 and it was definitely worthy of that spot. Going into this match, I was concerned about Marufuji because he wasn’t all that great this year. His performance were good leading into this over in NOAH, but nothing that was eye opening. Kazuchika Okada was just kind of going through the motions before this tournament as far as his performances went. So, I really wasn’t expecting much. These two guys proved me wrong! Just great storytelling here. You have the IWGP Heavyweight Champion (Okada) who wants to prove to everyone that he is the best and deserves to be the main event of these shows. You also have a wrestling veteran (Marufuji) who is going all out to get that prestigious title shot with a subsequent pin. These two men start this match with fire and a sense of urgency to finish the match quickly. Something that stood out to me a lot in this match was the selling from Okada. His facial expressions are the best in the business. Marufuji worked this match very methodically while showing spurts of fast paced action throughout. The finish was very well put together and had me on the edge of my seat. I was very happy with the outcome and storytelling. Very fun spots and not a dull moment in this contest. These two worked the crowd to perfection. Excellent stuff.
4) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada (Day 17 - 8/12/2016)****1/2
Whenever these two men hook horns, you know you are in for a classic match. This match was exactly what this was, a classic. Heading into this day of the G1 Climax 26, these two men were tied for first in the A-Block. The outcome of this match determined who would advance to take on the winner of the B-Block where the winner would ultimately win the G1 Climax 26 and get that IWGP World Heavyweight Championship Match in the Tokyo Dome at Wrestle Kingdom 11. This match was just insane! Both men get their signature moves in. Again, these two worked the crowd so well. The fans were so invested in every single move, pin, and submission. Hiroshi Tanahashi was the crowd favorite and was trying to prove that he is still the ace of the company. Okada wanted to prove that he was the new ace of the company. That was the story being told here. Okada and Tanahashi gave it all they had to prove that they are the top guy in the company. Overall, this match was just executed to perfection. Very close to being perfect, but I think it did get sloppy in some spots. You will for sure enjoy this match!
3) Hirooki Goto vs. Kenny Omega (FINALS - 8/14/2016)****3/4
Wait, Hirooki Goto made it to the G1 Climax 26 Finals!? I thought Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi had a match to see who the winner of their block would be? I didn’t tell you everything. Hirooki Goto found himself on top of the A-Block while Kenny Omega found himself alone at the top of the B-Block. Here we have the man who can never get it done (Hirooki Goto) and Kenny Omega who has had a fantastic year of wrestling. These two collided to determine who would be heading to the Tokyo Dome to take on Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 11. Going into this match, part of me kind of knew who was going to win. For some reason, another part of me wasn’t so sure who was going to win. This match was just fantastic. The crowd was super hot for this match, but the dynamic was off. Kenny Omega was supposed to be the heel that everyone hated, but this crowd loved him! Hirooki Goto was supposed to be the underdog who people cheered on, but the crowd wasn’t having any of it. These two men worked around the crowd’s responses and put on a wrestling clinic. Omega pulled out some insane spots. Hirooki Goto pulled out a few of his own. I swear, I couldn’t tell who was going to win this match about halfway through. Goto and Omega told a wonderful story of an underdog who can never get the job done, trying to dethrone the man that everyone hates (not really). The finish of this match was intense and I was going crazy by the end it.
2) Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kazuchika Okada (Day 13 - 8/6/2016)*****
Here we find two members of the same faction (CHAOS) locking up to see which man is better than the other. Tomohiro Ishii might be the best wrestler in their 40s. I can’t think of anyone who has better matches at that age. At Wrestle Kingdom 10, Ishii took Katsuyori Shibata to his limits and put on an instant classic. Tomohiro Ishii is something special and can get a good match out of almost anyone. This match was phenomenal. Kazuchika Okada acted cocky in the beginning of this. Ishii was portraying the older guy trying to prove that he can still hang with today’s best. I think these two told the story perfectly. Ishii trash-talks Okada at one point, which was fiery. Ishii gives Okada some vicious chops, Okada brings out his one-of-a-kind dropkick, and the crowd brings the fire that added to the match. Incredible match and easily a contender for Match of the Year.
1) Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito (8/13/2016)*****
Before this tournament even started, this was the match I was looking most forward to. These two wrestlers have had easily their best year in NJPW. I was interested to see how two heels would work this match. They ended up pulling it off better than I expected. For Kenny Omega, he had to win in order to win the B-Block. Naito had to either win or get a draw against Omega to win the B-Block. The story being told was two faction leaders trying to prove that they are the best. The crowd was so hot for this match, it was infectious! Kenny Omega did a Tope Con Hilo into the crowd and onto Tetsuya Naito. Such an impressive spot, it was the most memorable one from this match too. Naito worked Omega’s leg for most of the match. Omega sold it so well, I actually thought he was injured. Each move Omega did, he made sure to show that his leg was in serious pain. We get a Reverse Rana off the top rope from Omega toward the end of the match. Tetsuya Naito was very methodical and sold like crazy for Omega. The finish of this match was intense and emotional. I can’t tell you guys and gals enough how great this match is. This is currently my Match of the Year and I can’t see anything topping this one. This was the best match of the G1 Climax 26 and I’m sure a lot of you will agree with me!
Michael Elgin vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima (Day 18 – 8/13/2016)
SANADA vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (Day 1 – 7/18/2016)
Michael Elgin vs. Kenny Omega (Day 8 – 7/30/2016)
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tetsuya Naito (Day 8 – 7/30/2016)
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Naomichi Marufuji (Day 13 – 8/6/2016)
That’s all for this week. Next week I will go over my top recommended Hell in a Cell matches to watch as we are now in Hell in a Cell season!