Hiroshi Tanahashi vs AJ Styles
G1 Climax 25
A Block Night 17 (Final Night)
14th August 2015 in Ryōgoku Kokugikan
This match was for all the marbles, with the winner guaranteed to win the A Block and march into the G1 Climax Final. A match so great that Tanahashi has previously said it is his best match ever and AJ Styles is the best person he has ever worked with. Styles echoed the sentiment and complimented Tanahashi for helping him learn more about the subtleties of in-ring psychology.
AJ Styles was hoping to be only the 2nd foreigner to reach the G1 Climax final; up until now the only foreigner to reach the final was Styles’ Bullet Club brother Karl Anderson who reached the final in 2012, although he was defeated by Kazuchika Okada. As for Tanahashi, he was looking to not only reach the final and win the entire tournament for the 2nd time in his career, but also get revenge for the loss he suffered to Styles 6 months earlier for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
This match is the definition of a slow-burner. Things start very deliberate and methodical, with each man taking their time to ensure the moves they deliver are lasting, with a major focus on each other’s legs that would come into play later. The action massively kicks up a few gears the moment Styles locks Tanahashi in a grueling Calf Crusher and the crowd explodes, fearing that this is the end for Tananashi, with some women in the front row even crying. From this moment onwards the crowd becomes wild as they endlessly cheer for Tanahashi to overcome the villainous Styles.
In one of my all-time favourite ending stretches, Tanahashi hits Styles with his own Styles Clash before Styles returns the favour by hitting his own variant of Tanahashi’s High Fly Flow. Both men truly doing everything in their power to gain the upper hand as the match reaches it’s definitive end.
This match holds a soft spot for me as I was in the Ryōgoku crowd going crazy! This was my first trip to Japan and my first NJPW show so it set a high bar that has thankfully always been lived up to on my return trips. I couldn’t have asked for a better main event than seeing 2 former IWGP Heavyweight Champions give their all.