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NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING G1 CLIMAX TOURNAMENT PREVIEW

By Matthew Macklin on 2017-07-12 11:18:00

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax kicks off this coming Monday, July 17th, starting the month long tournament.  The G1 Climax is the biggest tournament of the year and will see 20 men compete for an IWGP Heavyweight championship match at Wrestle Kingdom 12 on January 4th, 2018. 

The tournament hosts two blocks of ten wrestlers, with everyone wrestling each other once in their block.  Two points are earned for a win and one for a draw. The winners of each block meet in the final on August 13th in Sumo Hall.

G1 Climax is known for producing some of the best matches of the year, anywhere in the world.  With every match wrestled like a big time singles match of the upmost importance, the in ring quality of this tournament, despite it’s gruelling schedule is staggering. 

The tournament is known for its upsets, and is always hard to predict. If anyone says they predicted that Kenny Omega vs Hirooki Goto would be last years final, they are lying to you.

Let’s take a look at the competitors involved…

A Block

Bad Luck Fale

“The Underboss” is a man that is presented as a guy that can beat anyone, at any time.  He has scored wins over Kazuchika Okada in the past, so while Fale is not going to win this tournament, he is a guy that will play spoiler for many.  There are some good physical guys in this block for Fale to work with, such as Goto, Ishii & Makabe, so those should be some fun brawls.  His match with Zack Sabre r is a major clash of styles and could create something very unique.

Hirooki Goto

Goto, the 2008 winner, and last years surprise finalist, is someone that is always guaranteed to deliver some great matches.  Goto started the year by beating Katsuyori Shibata to win the NEVER Openweight Championship, which was a match that was presented as Goto finally wining the big one. Goto has since lost the title to Minoru Suzuki, and has again fallen into the same holding pattern that he has spent most of his career in.  He is a guy that’s a step below the main event and can occasionally be slotted into a top spot, but no one really buys him as a very top guy.  Goto has one of the most devastating looking move sets in pro wrestling, so he is always great to watch.

Kota Ibushi

If we ignore that Tiger Mask W guy, who looks and moves a lot like The Golden Star, this is Ibushi’s return to NJPW after two years away.  Ibushi is one of pro wrestling’s strangest enigmas, walking away from a top spot in New Japan to start an “institute” and go in search of what he wanted wrestling to be.  Who knows if this is leading to a full time return, but the major story here for Ibushi is Kenny Omega.  They have a rich history, and a match between the two has been teased ever since Omega came to the company.  It’s a very real possibility that they could meet in the final, or at least do something to set up a Wrestle Kingdom match.  Ibushi is one of the most spectacular wrestlers on the planet and there are some mouth watering clashes for him here.  He had a classic with Tomohiro Ishii in the past, and also an amazing match with Hiroshi Tanahashi in a past G1.  His match with Zack Sabre Jr. is a dream match that has been getting a lot of buzz.  I expect Ibushi to produce some killer matches and to go very far in this tournament.

Tomohiro Ishii

To me, The Stone Pitbull is Mr. G1.  Every single year since 2013, when he had so many classic matches that launched his career, this tournament has been his time to shine.  Ishii is the greatest wrestler in the world that doesn’t get called that.  There are no off days for this man, every night he goes out he is there to have the best match he can possibly have.  No one in pro wrestling is as much of a bad ass as they are a sympathetic figure that can draw very real emotion from the crowd through his selling.  Ishii has some potentially great matches this year. He will revisit strong style wars with Goto & Makabe. He always has amazing chemistry with Tanahashi & Naito and has had outstanding matches against more unique wrestlers like Ibushi & ZSJ.  If I were to pick one guy that I wanted to win this year, it’d be Ishii.

Togi Makabe

The veteran Makabe will be a middle of the pack guy that will pick up some decent wins and have some good matches with opponents that he has good chemistry with.  Makabe tends to be very predictable and never really strays away from his formula of brawling and hard strikes.  His match with ZSJ could be very interesting. Makabe has a storied rivalry with Ishii that has produces some of the stiffest matches I have ever seen. We get another round of that here.

Yuji Nagata

The legend Nagata enters his 19th and final G1 Climax.  At 49 years old, Nagata can still go at the highest level, but is bowing out, just like Jushin Thunder Liger did just a few months ago in his final Best of the Super Juniors. Nagata is one of the all time greats and will be a sentimental favourite with the crowd, especially when he faces the bigger names in the block like Naito and Tanahashi.  Nagata will hopefully pick up a couple of memorable wins to give him the G1 send off he deserves.  You can be sure that Nagata will be going all out to have the best matches he can have to leave his fans with something special. 

Tetsuya Naito

Naito is my pick to win this year.  Having recently lost the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, the Los Ingobernables de Japon leader is free to move on to the heavyweight title picture.  Naito’s popularity is through the roof right now and is one of the most captivating characters in pro wrestling.  There is a huge backstory here with his G1 win in 2013 that caused the fans to turn on him being the catalyst for his current character and attitude.  A G1 win this year in Sumo Hall, a building that has been behind him for big matches in the last couple of years would be some major irony and a great full circle moment for Naito.  Naito is an elite in ring performer and has some major matches in this block with the likes of Tanahashi, Ibushi and Ishii.  Naito is one of the guys to watch this year.

Zack Sabre Jr.

New to NJPW as the newest member of Suzuki-Gun, Britain’s Zack Sabre Jr. enters his first ever G1 Climax as the first Brit to do so since Steven Regal in 1997.  Sabre turned down WWE one year ago and it has proven to be the best decision he has ever made. He is one of the top independent wrestlers in the world, holding titles all over and having the best matches of his careers against a variety of opponents.  Sabre has always wanted to be in NJPW. Now he gets that opportunity and gets to show that he can hang with the best the company have to offer. Sabre is the wildcard with his unique ring style as he clashes with so many people he has never been in the ring with before.  This will also see him clash with a lot of bigger wrestlers than he is used to facing.  His first match is against The Ace, Tanahashi, and I am predicting that Sabre wins that. After that there are several standout matches that could produce something really great. I can see a lot of people talking about Zack Sabre Jr by the time August 13th comes.

Hiroshi Tanahashi

The current IWGP Intercontinental Champion is nursing a serious bicep injury and probably shouldn’t be in this tournament.  But as things go in Japan, he will tape it up, carry on and probably produce a string of amazing matches.  Tanahashi is arguably the greatest main event performer of this generation and will always be in the running to win.  The Ace will likely be one of two or three guys close to entering the final when he walks into his last block match.  Tanahashi has history with many in his block, especially Naito, who he win the IC title from.  Tanahashi will probably suffer some losses to set up future challengers for his title. 

YOSHI-HASHI

YOSHI enters his second G1 after debuting last year.  He has been one of the breakout stars in NJPW in the post Nakamura era and had some fantastic matches last year.  YOSHI will be the underdog of the block that will suck the crowd into rooting for him no matter who he is up against.  His matches with Sabre, Ibushi and particularly his CHAOS mate Ishii could all produce memorable matches that will catch people by surprise.  YOSHI will be out to prove that he is just as good as anyone else in this tournament.

B Block

Michael Elgin

Big Mike made his NJPW debut in the 2015 and made an immediate impression. Since then, Elgin has become a top babyface, even having a reign as IWGP Intercontinental champion.  This year Elgin has been slightly off the radar in NJPW ever since he returned from his injury, so this is a chance for him to re-establish himself.  He has matches here with wrestlers he has history of having good matches with such as Omega & EVIL.  His match with Okada is one that people will be looking at as a big opportunity for him. 

EVIL

The King of Darkness made his G1 debut last year where he turned a lot of heads.  The name and gimmick are tacky, but when the bell rings you forget all that.  EVIL is an extremely physical wrestler and he will hopefully have a strong run this year.  His opening match will be against fellow LIJ member, so that will be a really interesting match. 

Satoshi Kojima

The veteran Kojima missed out on last year’s tournament as he gave up his spot to his tag partner, Hiroyoshi Tenzan.  This year Mr Strong Arm is back.  Kojima spends most of the year hidden away in multiman tag matches, and the G1 is always where he reminds people just how good he is, despite his age.  A great Kojima vs. Okada match has almost become a G1 tradition, and we get another round here.  His match with Omega could be a great match that no one talks about as they have had fun exchanges in tag matches in the past.

Kazuchika Okada

The current IWGP Heavyweight champion is in the midst of a legendary title run.  The quality of his title defences has been absurd and if he puts together a run of great matches in this tournament, this is going to go down as an all time great year for any wrestler.  As the champion Okada is automatically in the running to win, or probably make the final, although its highly unlikely that he will actually win.  Okada will probably suffer a couple of losses to set up future title challengers.   He faces some of his greatest rivals such as Omega, Suzuki and Kojima.  Okada is the sort of wrestler that can make younger wrestlers look great in defeat, so he could help out the likes of EVIL, Tonga & Juice with stature enhancing performances.  You do not want to miss Okada’s matches this year because he is on the form of his life.

Kenny Omega

Last years winner enters his second G1 as one of the most talked about wrestlers in pro wrestling today.  Last year Omega walked into the G1 as just a Bullet Club guy with very little buzz.  From his very first match it was obvious that Omega was hell bent on stealing the show and he did that almost every single night, having arguable the two greatest back to back matches ever in the last two nights.  His win over Hirooki Goto was a major surprise and ever since Omega has had his classic series with Okada.  The biggest match of this block will be their meeting.  After a 60-minute draw, where do they go? G1 matches have a 30-minute time limit, so it will be interesting to see how they evolve their story. I am expecting Omega to get the win there and go on to face Tetsuya Naito in the final. Omega vs. Suzuki is one of the biggest first time ever matches this year that is getting a lot of buzz. 

Juice Robinson

What a year Juice Robinson has had.  He has gone from a lower level opening match guy, to earning NEVER & IC title matches and becoming one of the most popular white meat babyfaces in the company. This is his first G1 and you can bet he is both nervous and very ready.  Juice has a chance to show that he can hang with the cream of the crop in NJPW and continue to build his reputation.  His match with Suzuki could make for an incredible babyface vs heel dynamic.

SANADA

“Cold Skull” is destined for great things.  You can bet big money that SANADA will be the IWGP Heavyweight champion within the next five years.  His pure athleticism is frightening at times and is entering his second G1 this year.   Last year SANADA picked up some big wins and made people take notice, and hopefully that will be built on this year. This is the tournament that can be a launching pad for a guy like SANADA if NJPW chose to do so. 

Minoru Suzuki

The current NEVER Openweight champion made his return to NJPW and is entering his first G1 since 2014.  A lot of people are very excited about this because he has had some of the most memorable G1 matches from the last few years with the likes of AJ Styles & Okada.  Since returning, his matches have relied heavily on Suzuki-Gun interference, which has led to speculation that the 49-year-old legend is starting to slow down.  This will be telling for Suzuki.  He has some opponents here that on paper could be amazing if they don’t get saturated with outside shenanigans. 

Tama Tonga

Tama Tonga had a breakout year last year, which earned him a spot in last years G1.  This year he has grow further as his tag team with brother Tanga Loa has really hit its stride.  Tonga is a very charismatic wrestler and has a very unique approach in the ring and just like last year he needs some big performances to show the NJPW brass that he is good enough to carry the weight on his own. 

Toru Yano

The Sublime Master Thief has earned the reputation as G1 Climax spoiler. Yano gets in the ring with the intention of ending his match as quickly as possible and by any means necessary. There will be eye rakes, exposed turnbuckles and roll ups.  Every single near fall in a Yano match is believable because he can beat literally anyone at any given time and it really adds unpredictability to the block. 

Every single show from this tournament will be live on njpwworld.com.  Most shows kick off at 5.30 AM Est/10.30AM UK.  Every second day focuses on a block. For example, Day 1 has 5 A Block matches and Day 2 has 5 B Block matches.  The first half of every card features tag matches with anyone not involved in tournament matches that day and other NJPW wrestlers. 

The full schedule and cards are available at G1Climax.jp. 

 

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