Kota Ibushi vs. Jay White from 2019

This was the 2019 G1 Climax final.

Kota Ibushi will break your fucking heart. You knew this tournament was going to be disappointing on some level the moment that Kota posted that photo of his bum ankle after the KENTA match. Now, we finally get to the final and he actually wins it. And the in-ring story is based around his opponent working over his leg. That is just never a story Kota has ever been able to tell well.

Now, to be clear, on the spectrum of matches with in-ring stories being based around Kota selling the leg, this was absolutely one of the better ones! In fact, it may have been the best on that scale (and certainly a good match overall). He just does not know how to sell a leg well. He alternates from being in such a state of pain that he may never walk again to casually doing deadlift maneuvers and jumping attacks from a standing position like they are nothing. It is objectively bad execution of pro wrestling. But it was not the mockery he often makes of this type of match so you it was only a minor net negative on the whole.

Thankfully though, that did not define the match. The match, oddly enough, hung together largely due to the work of Jay White. White is an incredibly underwhelming performer a large percentage of the time. He often drags his matches out in very artificial ways and he also of course is booked to take a million shortcuts. The combo of those two factors make him one of the least satisfying performers in the world at the moment.

He does however have a second speed that is much preferable. On the all-too rare occasion, he will just be an incredibly relentless and focused performer who goes in with a very specific in-ring strategy and sticks to it. Thankfully, that is almost entirely what happened here (beyond some relatively small Bullet Club shenanigans), and it was one of the best performances of his life.

When you combine White’s performance with the genuine emotion of Kota continuously fighting back, you have yourselves a satisfying G1 final.

The question will become if Kota decides to take on Okada or do another match with Naito at one of the two Wrestle Kingdom shows in 2020. My money is on the former as of now, but I am not confident about it. (***1/2)

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