The best tournament in all professional wrestling is almost upon us. The G1 Climax, put on by New Japan Pro Wrestling, is a month-long grueling tournament where two blocks of 10 competitors will face each other round robin style, with the winners of each block facing off for the right to challenge the IWGP Heavyweight Champion at Wrestle Kingdom. Totaling 20 wrestlers, the G1, or OMG1 (we’ll get to that in a bit), normally has a vast array of wrestlers, from promising upstarts to main eventers to former main eventers hoping to relive their glory days. Emphasis on “former”.
For the past several G1 tournaments, of have had the likes of Yuji Nagata, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Togi Makabe, and Manibu Nakanishi all partake. All have been previous holders of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Not this year. This year’s field is consisting of legitimately the best talent from across the world. Even the Main Event star power of Minoru Suzuki is not in this field (however I can think of a couple of people who he could replace). I look at this field of 20 wrestlers and can’t help but think, Oh My God. OMG. OMG1. Get it? This is my sense of humor, and I think it is with out a doubt deserving of my unofficial nickname.
If you are unfamiliar with how the G1 Climax works, here is a rundown of everything you need to know.
The 20 wrestlers will be split up in to 2 blocks, the A Block and the B Block. Each wrestler will face the other members of their respective block in Round Robin Style. A win is 2 points, a loss is 0 points, and a draw is 1 point. In the event of a double count out or double dq, both wrestlers will get 0 points (yes ladies and gentlemen, wins and losses matter). Whoever has the most points in the A block will face whoever had the most points from the B block, with the winner receiving a guaranteed IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match at Wrestle Kingdom (NJPW’s equivalent to Wrestlemania).
Also, in this year’s G1, there will be two junior heavyweights in the tournament, including the reigning IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion! A lot of history will be made this year, and I cannot wait for it to begin. I will break down both Blocks and give a little insight on each participant, intriguing match ups, and who I think will be victorious. We begin with the A Block.
The John Cena of NJPW. The Ace. The Once in a Century Talent. The man has a lot of nicknames, and all of them are well deserved (except maybe the John Cena of WWE, not an official nickname). The man has done it all, including reviving a company that was dead in the water. Simply put, there is no NJPW today without Tanahashi. 8-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, 2-time IWGP Intercontinental Champion, 3-time winner of the G1 Climax, including last year. Tana is looking to go back to back, but time is not on his side. Last year the Ace was looking better than ever. This year though has not been kind to him. Just coming back from nagging injuries, Tana had a solid match with Jay White at the Best of Super Junior Finals. However, his match at Dominion told a different story. Tana looked like he was a step behind the younger guys, including hitting a move that resembles his finisher, but did not look like his finisher (I’m trying not to use the word botch, as botch has a negative connotation to it, and I try not to use it, especially when its someone I enjoy watching like I do Tanahashi).
One of the best pure athletes in the world, Kota Ibushi has had an up and down year. Suffered a concussion at the elbow of Will Ospreay at Wrestle Kingdom 13 in January. Ibushi then returned and beat Naito for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship but losing it back to Naito in his first defense. The former New Japan Cup winner is making his 5th appearance in the G1 and made the finals last year before falling to Tanahashi. Ibushi is looking to return to the Finals of the G1 and find his way to the main event at Wrestle Kingdom.
The reigning and defending IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada is making his 8thappearance in the G1, having already won the G1 twice (2012, 2014). Okada has all the momentum going into this G1, having been the Champion since dethroning Jay White at G1 Supercard in New York. The 5-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion is looking to win the G1 for the first time as Champion. If he is successful, then he will get to choose his challenger for Wrestle Kingdom. History is not on his side though, as the IWGP Heavyweight Champion has never won the G1 while being champion.
EVIL has an interesting track record in the G1. EVIL has never won his block in his previous 4 entries in the G1 but tends to play spoiler to those who are in it at the end. Including being the first person to pin Okada when he was in the middle of his historical title run just a couple of short years ago. EVIL again has some big matches and shows what he can do, but can the King of Darkness finally get over that hump and show how much of a player he can be in NJPW?
One of my favorites in NJPW, SANADA is on the cusp of breaking out into a huge star. SANADA has unsuccessfully challenged Okada a couple of times for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, but those matches have been amazing performances for the Cold Skull. SANADA has had a record like EVIL in the G1. Puts on great matches, but ultimately finds a way to stay in the middle of the pack. Not this year though. My opinion, SANADA is the future of NJPW, and he gets the chance to show that here with a huge G1.
The current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion is making history just by partaking in the G1. He is not the first competitor to have participated in the NJPW Cup, Best of Super Juniors, and G1 Climax tournaments, but he is however the first one to do all three in the same year. Ospreay is bridging the gap between Junior Heavyweights and Heavyweights, having already won the NEVER Openweight Championship earlier this year, defending it and defeating several Heavyweights in the NJPW Cup.
Bad Luck Fale
How about this stat for you? Last year in the G1, Fale was never pinned or submitted. Impressive right? Well, what if I told you that Fale finished Block Play with a record of 3wins and 6 losses? Bullet Club was a mess last year, causing chaos all over Fale’s matches at the G1. Fale’s 6 losses were all by DQ. Such a shame since his victories were over Togi Makabe, Jay White, and Okada. Fale is making his 7th appearance, and if you forget about last year’s G1, Fale has always been a strong competitor in the G1.
Zack Sabre Jr.
The RevPro British Heavyweight Champion is in the G1 for the 4th time. ZSJ had to work for it though, defending not only his British Heavyweight Championship, but also his spot in the G1 against YOSHI-HASHI. Another strong competitor in the G1, ZSJ finds different ways to torture and defeat his opponents, especially in the G1. No reason to believe that ZSJ will be in contention in the end.
This one is a bit of a surprise for me. I assumed that Suzuki would have been in the G1, but alas, we get Lance Archer. Not saying he doesn’t deserve it, because he does. I just assumed, as well as Suzuki himself, that Suzuki would be in the G1. Nevertheless, Archer is here, and Archer brings a big difference in wrestling style than Suzuki. Archer, 6’8 265 pounds, is a massive man. Archer will be bigger than most of his opponents, except for Fale. Archer is aggressive, technically sound for a man the size of him, and will dominate most of his opponents. The tick will be if he can find ways to win these big matches. This is Archer’s 5th entry in the G1, and in a loaded A Block, I think Archer will be trying to play spoiler at the end.
Making his debut in the G1, KENTA will be looking to put NJPW and the wrestling world on notice. KENTA spent years in WWE, not really doing much due to a couple of major injuries that he suffered while stateside. Now that he is back in NJPW, KENTA has promised to bring his style of professional wrestling to NJPW. KENTA has as much potential as anyone to win this block, and with a big chip on his shoulder, I think KENTA has a realistic opportunity to be in contention to win A Block.
Those are the competitors for A Block. Absolutely loaded. So many stars, both past and present, looking to win the A Block and secure a spot in the Main Event of Wrestle Kingdom. These are the 5 matches I am looking forward to the most from this block.
– SANADA vs Okada August 8th
– SANADA vs EVIL July 18th
– Okada vs KENTA July 27th
– Ospreay vs KENTA August 7th
– Okada vs Tanahashi July 6th
This is going to be hard to predict who wins A Block, but that’s why I love NJPW. They are unpredictable. They make everyone look credible, even in losses. The old football saying, “Any team can win on and given Sunday” rings true in NJPW. Legitimately, anyone can come out of A Block as the winner, and I wouldn’t be surprised by anyone. I know who my heart wants me to pick, and that’s SANADA. I think his time is approaching us, and he is ready for the big stage. My brain however is telling me otherwise. So yes, I will be pulling for SANADA in this block, as well as EVIL (I am a huge LIJ mark). But my head is telling me that the winner of A block will be……
The leader of Los Ingobernables de Japon is making his 10th straight appearance in the G1, winning the tournament twice before, in 2013 and 2017. Naito is going into the G1 this year with the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, and he has only one goal in mind. Win the G1 to propel himself into the main event of Wrestle Kingdom. Now sure, that should be everyone’s goal in this tournament, but more so for Naito. Naito is looking to make history by being the first person ever to hold the IWGP Intercontinental and IWGP Heavyweight Championship at the same time. Naito has already won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship before, but what better way to make history by holding the two biggest belts that NJPW has to offer.
The NEVER Openweight Champion is making his 7th consecutive entry in the G1 and is looking to finally get over that hurdle. The hurdle of never being in contention at the end of Block Play. Ishii is a strong competitor in the G1 and wins some big matches, but also loses matches that could go either way. There are plenty of intriguing match ups for Ishii in the B Block, and I promise everyone of them will be hard hitting and physical.
What a year Juice has had already. Winning the IWGP U.S. Championship, defending it several times before losing it in a war with the debuting Jon Moxley. Robinson cut his signature dreads to show how serious he was taking Moxley, and I believe that Robinson will carry out that aggression in to this G1. This is Robinson’s third G1, last year being hampered because of a broken hand. He may be physically 100%, but after his war with Moxley, how prepared is he mentally? Moxley and Robinson will face off in this tournament, as they are in the same block (more on that later). Can Robinson get Moxley out of his head and have the G1 he has been waiting for?
The biggest wild card in this entire tournament is Toru Yano. He has such a style that is so different and unique, that it catches both unfamiliar and familiar opponents off guard. Yano can win any match he is in. If you have never heard or seen Yano, be prepared to be entertained by his tactics and shocked when he wins. No one is picking Yano to win the G1, or even the B Block, but Yano will be the reason why your pick doesn’t win. Yano is the ultimate spoiler in this tournament, just ask Kenny Omega who lost to Yano last year. That’s right, Toru Yano has a victory in the G1 over Kenny Omega.
Making his 12th appearance in the G1, the 2008 winner is looking to get back on path for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Goto is often referred to the best wrestler in NJPW that can’t win the big one. Goto has been in high profile match after high profile match but has never won. Goto is looking to change that this year, by winning the G1 and finally capturing the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, a title he has challenged for, but never won.
Making his 2nd entry, Jay White is looking to build off what he accomplished in last year’s G1. White, fresh off excursion, defeated Okada and Tanahashi in his first two G1 matches. White fell off towards the end of last year’s tournament and is looking to not have that happen again. White is in the loaded B Block, but White has the experience, the guidance of Gedo, and the skills to have a good chance to be in contention in the last day and win the B Block. White is only 26 years old, and the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion is ready to get that title back.
Cobb is making his first G1 appearance, but this is not his first tournament in NJPW. Cobb has competed in the World Tag League, along side his partner Michael Elgin. Cobb has uncanny strength and can suplex anyone on the NJPW roster. What makes Cobb so scary is that he can match strength, speed, and athleticism with anyone. While Cobb won’t be doing any suicide dives or anything like that, the former NEVER Openweight Champion has been known to bust out a standing moonsault.
The biggest name in this tournament for non-Japanese fans, Moxley has the most momentum in the world right now, and he is bringing his style of wrestling to the G1. The NJPW crowd already got a glimpse of what he can do in his match with Juice Robinson, but now the “International Purveyor of Violence” will be ready to inflict his violence on the entire G1 field. Moxley being in B Block has Moxley facing enough of the top talent to wet our appetite and left some big names in the A Block for Moxley to hopefully feud with down the road. This is Moxley’s first G1, and hopefully not his last.
Takagi, representing Los Ingobernables de Japon, is the second Junior Heavyweight in the G1 (along with Ospreay). Takagi has one loss in his almost year with NJPW, that being the Best of Super Juniors Finals loss to Ospreay. Takagi has been asking for more competition, specifically with the heavyweights, including a victory over former IWGP Heavyweight Champion Satoshi Kojima at Dominion. Takagi is an interesting story to keep an eye on, as anyone who beats him is instantly a star.
Also making his G1 debut, Taichi is looking for validation in this years G1. Taichi was excluded last year, which he did not take kindly to. Now that the former NEVER Openweight Champion is in the G1, he will now get to face different styles of wrestling from different styles of wrestlers. This is the best time for Taichi to step up and show that he is a player in NJPW.
The B Block has a truly international feel to it. From Japan, to USA (Robinson and Moxley), to New Zealand (Jay White), to Hawaii by way of Guam (Jeff Cobb). Not to mention the A Block, with Japan represented, as well as England (Will Ospreay and Zack Sabre Jr), New Zealand (Bad Luck Fale) and USA (Lance Archer). B Block has more variables at play, with the unknown Moxley, the unique style of Yano, the physicalness Takagi, Ishii, and Cobb, and the determination of Naito wanting to make history. These are just a few matches that I am Looking forward to in the B Block.
– Shingo Takagi vs Tetsuya Naito August 4th
– Jon Moxley vs Juice Robinson August 11th
– Jon Moxley vs Toru Yano August 1st
– Taichi vs Jeff Cobb July 28th
– Tetsuya Naito vs Jay White August 11th
B Block has so many storylines inside of itself, that will be interesting to see who will come out of it as the winner. None goes undefeated, but I think one person comes out on top and gets one step closer to making history…
I have given my winner for A Block and my winner for B Block. Now its time for me to decide who will win the entire G1. I may be talking from my heart, but I think that they have been building up this story line for so long about Naito holding both titles at the same time, that it would be disappointing to at least not see the match happen.