A long summer of competition drew to a climax as Jay White and Kota Ibushi met in the G1 finals!

It’s back to Budokan as we had what some tagged as an underwhelming finals card. Yeah, we had some names on the card that missed the majority of the tour, but otherwise this seemed to be a line-up to build up future tours and shows. Like Royal Quest in London in a shade under three weeks…

Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero and Chris Charlton are on the call…

Clark Connors & Karl Fredericks vs. Ren Narita & Yota Tsuji
It’s dojo wars! Tsuji has a bee in his bonnet early, crashing into Fredericks with a dropkick at the bell before some chops left the LA Dojo lad on the back foot.

Fredericks throws in a nice leapfrog/crossbody combo to surprise Tsuji, who just tags out to Narita, who took Clark Connors down with a toe hold. It’s more measured, mat-based stuff here, before Connors got free and threw down Narita with a slam. A tag brings Fredericks back for a double shoulder tackle, as the LA Dojo team remained on the offence.

Narita tries to fight back out of the corner, but he’s got nobody to tag to… and nearly gets ended with a spinebuster from Fredericks. A Stinger splash and spear tackle helps Fredericks on the way to a near-fall, as I was wondering if Narita remembered what his corner looked like. Sure enough, that’s the cue for him to catch Fredericks with the overhead belly-to-belly suplex as tags brought us back to Connors and Tsuji.

Budokan “yay”s for chops, before Tsuji’s nice big back body drop propelled Connors into the air. A Boston crab attempt from Tsuji’s stopped as Connors got the ropes, but Connors got back in with a spear before he got in his Boston crab, dragging Tsuji away from the ropes, rearing back on him before we got the tap out. That’s gotta go down as a shock, as the LA Dojo won this odd-tempered opener. Yeah, it didn’t have the pace or the energy, but this got good – and broke down into another fight afterwards. ***¼

Suzuki-gun (Lance Archer, Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Jeff Cobb, Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask
It’s a final Budokan for Jushin Thunder Liger, and yeah, we’ve a jump start.

Taichi and Kanemaru double-team Liger from the off, with Taichi looking to unmask the soon-to-be-retired Liger. The BOOS. They cut away as we saw more of Liger’s face than usual here, before he fought free, taking down Taichi with a tiltawhirl backbreaker.

I buffer a little as Tiger Mask leaps in with a crossbody… but Archer just caught him as Taichi tried his luck on Tiger Mask’s mask. Archer’s back in with elbows and boots to Tiger Mask, as I’m sure Jeff Cobb’s glad he isn’t wearing a mask. Off come Taichi’s trousers, but he needs Kanemaru to stop him from taking a Tiger Bomb. Second time was the charm, as tags got us to Archer and Jeff Cob. Ahem. HOSS FIGHT!

Chops and forearms from Cobb have Archer on the back foot, as he was forced to elbow out of a Spin Cycle before booting Cobb to the mat. Archer goes for a spot of rope walking now, before a moonsault off the top looked goddamn effortless. Lance Archer continuing to impress, eh?

The EBD Claw’s next, but Cobb powers out and looked for a suplex, before he got shoved into the ropes for a Derailer. Tags bring in Kanemaru to keep up on Cobb… only for his Deep Impact DDT to get caught with ease. A clothesline from Cobb’s good for a near-fall, before Kanemaru rolled up from a gachumuchi-sault, only for Cobb to kick out and finish him off with a Tour of the Islands. This was there, I guess, and massively disappointing for anyone expecting a Liger farewell performance here. **½

Bullet Club (Chase Owens, Taiji Ishimori & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Will Ospreay & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
Part of me legitimately wants New Japan to use the recorder version of Will Ospreay’s music here… we’ll never get it. Tiger Hattori’s the referee for his final Budokan appearance.

We start with Ishimori and YOH as my feed gave out. It’s back as Ospreay dropkicks Chase Owens outside ahead of a triple dive tease… but Ospreay and Roppongi 3K get pulled outside, then thrown into the guard rails as the Bullet Club found their groove.

Owens’ near-fall on YOH led to YOH’s fightback, as Dragon screws took Ishimori down, before SHO came in and kicked Owens to the mat for a near-fall. Elbows from SHO have Chase rocked briefly, as does a spear off the ropes before a rebound lariat got Chase a breather. Ospreay and Yujiro tag in, with Will going full pelt with a forearm, following in with the springboard version after he’d been lifted onto the apron.

Yujiro avoids a Robinson special and returns with a low dropkick as the ring flooded. A Fisherman buster on Ospreay’s good for a near-fall, starting a Parade of Moves that ended with a reverse DDT on Ospreay. He’s forced to slip out of a powerbomb as Roppongi 3K eventually hit dualling dives to the outside, giving Ospreay a clear road as a Storm Breaker got the win. This was fine, but it felt weirdly muted at the same time. **¾

After the match, commentary teased a new signee for Bullet Club. I bet it’s Kurtis Chapman!

Juice Robinson & Toa Henare vs. Jon Moxley & Shota Umino
I was pleasantly surprised they didn’t go straight to a title rematch here… but this feels a little like a letdown too.

There’s a jump start as Moxley threw Henare out of the ring so he could go after Juice before the bell. Umino makes a mark too, coming in with a low dropkick for a near-fall on Juice, before a leg lock was put in to keep Juice grounded. A leg spreader keeps it going, before Moxley returned with a calf slicer to send Juice scurrying into the ropes.

An elbow from Juice prevents a dropkick to the knee, as he instead came back in with a Juice Box. Umino and Henare tag in from there, which led to a nice spot where Shota tries to small package his way out of a suplex, only for Henare to get him down anyway. Juice and Moxley go back to it on the outside as Henare teed up for a spear tackle on Umino, but it’s not enough, as Umino tried to win with a German suplex… only for a headbutt from Henare and the uranage to lead to the win. Again, this was fine, but strangely tailed off a little with the Henare/Umino stuff (in my mind at least). They’re keeping the Juice/Moxley rematch for a bigger show – which is at least telling us Moxley isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. **½

Afterwards, Moxley and Juice have a stare-off over the title, which quickly broke down as Moxley clocks Juice with it, before heading outside to set up a table and throw Juice through it with a uranage. It’s back to the jazzercise for Juice…

Hirooki Goto, Ryusuke Taguchi, Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Toru Yano vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito)
For the last time on this tour, how’s BUSHI’s mask?

Shingo Takagi is now officially a heavyweight, so he’s left the juniors behind without ever being junior heavyweight champion. I guess that means that Will Ospreay’s staying back for a little while longer…

EVIL and Makabe start us off, finally, as they exchange shoulder tackles before Taguchi joined in with hip attacks to EVIL. They’re finally countered with an atomic drop as EVIL and Taguchi looked for Everything is EVIL… both of them blocked as Taguchi just flung himself to the mat in vain.

In the aisle, we see that Yano’s gotten tied up in a Paradise lock as Naito began to spank Taguchi, while Hirooki Goto ran into the aisle to free Yano from the lock. BUSHI comes in for more of the same, before a missile dropkick finally woke up Taguchi, who scored with the hip attack. A dual reverse/regular DDT to Naito and BUSHI has Taguchi back in it, as Goto and Shingo tagged back in – and that crowd went wild for the do-over from yesterday.

Goto’s successful with a clothesline before landing a spinning heel kick and Saito suplex in and out of the corner respectively. A headbutt and a right hand from Shingo has Goto back on the mat, as SANADA tagged in, only to get caught with an ushigoroshi. Honma’s in to try his luck with a Kokeshi, but BUSHI delays it as Honma finally took down SANADA and landed the headbutt.

SANADA sidesteps a leaping Kokeshi as EVIL runs in to help double-team. A Skull End becomes the excuse for a mini Parade of hair-pulling, before Honma almost nicked the win with a wheelbarrow roll-up. From there though, he runs into a TKO for a near-fall, before SANADA went up for a moonsault, landing it for the win. Perfectly acceptable undercard graps – nothing that’ll blow you away, but this didn’t outlast it’s welcome either. **¾

After the match, SANADA initiated the LIJ fist-bump… is there moves afoot to usurp Naito?

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)) vs. KENTA, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI
We don’t speak of how the Guerrillas lost their ROH tag titles. They didn’t want them anyway…

Fale and YOSHI-HASHI start us off, as YOSHI was trying his hardest to send Fale into the corner… but ends up succeeding with a low dropkick and a spinning heel kick a la Tenzan. Tama Tonga interferes, but YOSHI outsmarts him as Fale charged Tama off the apron, before a shoulder charge finally has YOSHI-HASHI down… and now the Bullet Club trio look to make a mark.

Fale gets his cardio in, running the ropes as YOSHI-HASHI continued to get worn down, with Tama Tonga coming in to… play Kid Lykos? Yeah, his brainbuster’s countered into a Bunker Buster before tags brought in Ishii and Tanga Loa. They up the tempo with shoulder tackles before Ishii just bounced off Fale on the apron. That exchange has Ishii in the corner as Tanga Loa took control again… and right when Ishii fought back to make a tag out…

KENTA pulls back the tag and leaps off the apron. He walks into the aisle as he watched the Bullet Club continue to dominate, until a Gun Stun from Tama was turned into a back suplex from Ishii. Fale’s in, as Ishii tries his luck with a suplex… and gets it! There’s a big lariat for Tama until KENTA ran in and hit Ishii with a Busaiku knee… and there’s the confirmation. Go 2 Sleep follows as Budokan rains down those jeers, while Tama scored the easy pin. KENTA is part of Bullet Club, as Katsuyori Shibata’s never been so disrespected. This was fine, but I’d have liked to have had more build to “new Bullet Club guy” than it being built up and paid off in the same show… ***

Katsuyori Shibata runs in, all PISSED as he laid into KENTA with plenty of forearms… Shibaa fends off the Bullet Club crew too before he smashes right into KENTA with the hesitation dropkick, as a rear naked choke squeezed KENTA to sleep. Jado cracks Shibata in the back with a Kendo stick, and there’s the turnaround. Man, I miss Shibata all fired up, and it’ll be a while before we see this again as KENTA sat on Shibata to too-sweet everyone.

I have absolute goosebumps from that Shibata sequence there – but at the same time, I’m more than happy if he’s only storyline fodder.

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada
We’ve individual entrances as I swear we’re building up to a pair of title defences. Royal Quest, eh?

Sabre and Tanahashi start us off, with Zack wearing down Tanahashi with headscissors… but they float back and forth as Tanahashi instead scores with a side headlock. A double back elbow from Okada and Tanahashi lured Tanahashi into a false sense of security though, as his elbow drop’s caught and turned into a cross armbreaker while Suzuki wore down Okada on the outside.

Sabre keeps up the pressure, stomping on the elbow before Suzuki came in to double-team the Ace with submission after submission. Eventually, Tanahashi got back in with a Cobra twist, but Sabre reverses it before Tanahashi countered with a Dragon screw. Okada tags in to take down Sabre, before he made a point of knocking Suzuki off the apron… that’ll work out well, I’m sure. I buffer at the worst possible time, recovering to see Sabre counter a neckbreaker slam with an Octopus hold before Suzuki got the tag in.

It was nice knowing you Okada. A running PK drops him for a near-fall, as does a diving boot before Okada finally hit back, countering out of a Gotch piledriver attempt to drop Suzuki with the neckbreaker slam. Tags get us back to Sabre and Tanahashi, with the latter swinging for the fences, only to get caught in an Octopus hold. More buffering and I’m back as Tanahashi High Fly Flowed into Sabre’s knees, before he got caught in a triangle armbar that he countered with a floatover for a near-fall.

Sabre kicks out and smashes into Tanahashi with a PK to give himself a breather. We’re back to Okada and Suzuki, with the latter eating a shotgun dropkick and a top rope elbow… cue Rainmaker zoom, but Suzuki elbows free before he peppered Okada with more elbows. Suzuki puts his hands behind his back as he demands Okada responds… but it just led to one more thunderous elbow from our favourite murder grandpa.

Suzuki avoids a dropkick and finds a way in with a rear naked choke, but Tanahashi’s here to make the save with Slingblades. Okada fought back with his dropkick, before they counter between Rainmakers and Gotch piledrivers, until Suzuki pulls off a La Mistica?! What the bloody hell. Lucha Murder Grandpa?! With Sabre holding Tanahashi back, it’s elementary as Suzuki finds his way into the Gotch piledriver, and there’s the big win over Okada as Suzuki showed just how rested he can be after not doing a G1. ***¾

Post-match, Suzuki mocks that Okada lost to a man “not allowed to be in the G1”, before issuing a challenge: he wants that IWGP title handed over to him. Okada’s helped to the back, as Suzuki lorded over him… and I would not say no to that being the Royal Quest main event. The King at Royal Quest is quite fitting…

Time for a video package highlighting past G1 winners. I miss Toru Yano singing to the G1 theme.

G1 Climax 29 Final: Jay White vs. Kota Ibushi
They threaten us with no time limit here, as Jay White came out with all of the Bullet Club. Including KENTA. So much for “no Gedo”…

Before the bell, referee Red Shoes threw out the Bullet Club hangers on, before Gedo tried to make a plea bargain. He got to stay and hug the ring post. At the bell, White powders outside, before we started with a tie-up in the ropes… which led to shenanigans as White tried to kick Ibushi in the ankle, before Gedo got involved… and got thrown out. Red Shoes is taking no guff today.

Ibushi throws a protesting White back into the ring as the Kiwi looked to be playing keepaway with himself. Kota went for a Golden Triangle moonsault, but got hung in the ropes by Jay, who made a beeline for that injured leg, wrapping it around the guard rails before he took Kota into the ring… using the ring post to up the ante. From there, White uses a simple suplex to keep Ibushi down, before a Dragon screw into the mat got him a pinning attempt.

A suplex into the corner keeps Kota down, before a ‘rana attempt was pushed down with Ibushi still unable to get into any kind of gear. Ibushi lands an enziguiri to stop White in the corner, before a slam and a single-legged moonsault followed for a two-count as Ibushi was determined to stick to his regular game. A kick and a standing moonsault proves that some more, before a standing moonsault kneedrop saw Kota crash and burn.

At least it wasn’t on the apron, a la Mike Bailey…

White follows in with a DDT, but doesn’t go for a pin, instead taking Ibushi into the corner to jar the knee again, before the Bladebuster spin-out suplex led to a near-fall. An attempted chop block from White’s countered as Ibushi leapt over him… and came down with a double stomp! Just like that though, a Complete Shot and a German suplex rocked Ibushi as White borrowed from the Gedo playbook again.

White takes Ibushi up top for a superplex, raking the eyes to end the resistance as he sent Kota crashing down to the mat. Somehow, Ibushi looked to come back in with the Bastard Driver, spiking White with the package tombstone, as the pair resort to throwing elbows at each other as they were on the mat. A lariat from White just rules up Ibushi… but he runs into a uranage as White looked to put him away with a Kiwi Krusher… only to get a near-fall out of it.

A nonchalant Blade Runner looks next, but Ibushi rolled through and dropped White with a sleeper suplex. We get the obligatory ref bump next as White throws Ibushi into the referee before a low blow… and here comes the shenanigans. First comes Gedo, as he brought in a chair that White used to focus on Ibushi’s leg, leading to the TTO as the referee’s rolled back in, just in time… only for Ibushi to claw his way towards the rope for the eventual forced break.

Gedo’s playing hide and seek to avoid being seen, as White played dumb. Even dumber once he got caught with a backflip kick from Ibushi. The lawn dart into the corner follows, before Ibushi tried to lift White on the apron for a deadlift German suplex… and scored it for a two-count! White tries to slap Ibushi, but Kota just swings back, taking White into the corner as he shadowboxed, dropping White back to the mat as Ibushi was looking to be indestructible. Until White went back to the leg with a Dragon screw…

Ibushi shrugs it off to come back with a Last Ride before White… pancaked to avoid a Bomaye. Of course, checking on White is a moot point, as it just proved to be a distraction so Gedo could try and use the knuckles. He’s caught by Ibushi, who White tries to drop with a sleeper suplex… only to put him into the ropes as Ibushi rebounded with the Bomaye regardless. The referee gets Rocky Romero to drag Gedo out of the ring, as a second Bomaye nearly wins it… but we’ve got plenty to go as this match doesn’t feel like it’s dragged at all.

White kicks away the leg as Ibushi looked for a Bomaye, eventually scoring with a slow-motion headkick. A second one’s got more oomph behind it, before a Kamigoye’s turned into a Blade Runner… with Ibushi falling just too far away for White to make a pin on. From there, White looked for a brainbuster, but Ibushi reverses the wrist control and headbutts White to the mat before the strait-jacket German rolled through into… a sleeper suplex as White countered in the nick of time!

A second one spikes Ibushi again, as does a cross-arm brainbuster as the tension rose. Standing Kamigoyes drop Ibushi, before a regular one landed flush for a near-fall! One more does the trick, and Kota Ibushi wins the G1 with perhaps Jay White’s best match of his career! This was genuinely tense going into the final stretches, as I was fully expecting run-ins aplenty, but it was not to be. Thank God. He fell short 12 months ago, but Kota Ibushi’s done it in 2019 – and looks to be on the way to the main event at the Tokyo Dome in January! ****½

It’s been a long summer, but one that hasn’t disappointed. Almost every night of the G1 provided us with memorable matches… and while today perhaps underperformed if you only look at star ratings, this is perhaps the most memorable “meh” finals I can think of. Until the main event, of course. The KENTA turn, while rushed, led to a goosebumps moment with Shibata, while LUCHA SUZUKI is a moment that I’m going to struggle to forget.

In terms of live streams, New Japan’s got a deserved few weeks off – as of writing, Royal Quest isn’t live streamed, as the Super J Cup shows will be following on-demand before they return live with the Road to Destruction show from Korakuen Hall on September 4. It’s a deserved rest for everyone…