|Posted on June 29, 2016 at 10:35 AM|
By Joe Arcidiacono
Wednesday Wrestling Minutes/Solid B+ Podcast
Before I get into the blocks, just a brief summary of the G1 Climax. The first G1 was held in 1991, though the annual New Japan tournament which would turn into the G1 had been held since 1974. The G1 is the annual heavyweight tournament and is one of the most highly anticipated portions of the New Japan calendar, since it always produce many incredible matches and sets the stage for the biggest show of the year, WrestleKingdom.
In WWE, the Royal Rumble is used to determine the title challenger for the main event of their biggest show of the year, and in New Japan, the winner of the G1 Climax earns a shot at the champion in the main event of WrestleKingdom (another annual event which didn’t always have that name but has been held on January 4 in the Tokyo Dome since 1992). Another interesting aspect of the G1 is that the title shot that is earned by the winner can be put on the line in matches and lost, as opposed to the spot guaranteed by the Rumble.
The G1 Climax is a round robin tournament, meaning that the 10 entrants in each block face each other once over the course of 19 shows. A win is worth 2 points while a loss earns nothing and at the end of the tour, the wrestler with the most points in Block A meets the leader of Block B to determine the tournament winner. And with that, let’s get into the blocks.
On the surface, Block A seems to be the more impressive of the blocks with the starpower of guys like Tanahashi, Okada, and Marufuji. Ishii will put on great matches with everyone, as will Goto most likely. Tama Tonga and SANADA make their debuts in the tournament and will no doubt be looking to make memorable debuts. And Makabe and Kojima may be a little bit older but they can still have good matches. Oh yeah and Bad Luck Fale is also in this block.
In Block A, we’ll get a Tanahashi/Okada meeting, which has produced several 5-star matches in the past, as well as several faceoffs of Chaos members since Okada, Ishii and Goto are all in this block. G1 could also be make or break for SANADA, since it is so early in his NJPW career. If he’s impressive, he will prove he belongs in the company and will be a solid addition to Los Ingobernables de Japon going forward. But if he struggles, which I don’t think he will, but if he does, it could hurt the image of LIJ and really downplay his importance.
Hopefully Tonga will use his first G1 to make a big impact, since he’s always been an afterthought in Bullet Club. I’m also looking for some good matches from Marufuji. He’s a Pro Wrestling NOAH mainstay who’s won the GHC Junior title once and the Heavyweight title 3 times and it’ll be really interesting to see how he stacks up with the biggest names in New Japan.
Overall, with its starpower, Block A should produce some classic matches. I’m seeing a face like Tanahashi pick up the victory in Block A, though I could also see Goto or Ishii winning and facing a heel from Block B. Marufuji could also win this block to shake things up and give NOAH a little more credibility. But, I’m gonna play it safe and make Tanahashi my top pick to win this block. If Okada weren’t the champ, he’d also be a frontrunner to win, but since he’s the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, there’s no reason that he would win his block.
While Block A has the outright starpower, Block B has plenty of stars in its own right, as well as many guys looking to make the most of the spotlight that the G1 provides. There are many newcomers to the tournament in Block B, such as Katsuhiko Nakajima, YOSHI-HASHI, EVIL and Kenny Omega, while it’s only Honma’s third and Elgin’s second G1. Shibata and Nagata will also face off again after their NEVER battles and Yano returns to NJPW while he competes in NOAH.
Nagata brings the most experience to this block, but it’s also surprising that Hiroyoshi Tenzan wasn’t included in the G1. Sure, he’s well past his prime and on the downturn of his career, but he is still capable of putting on decent matches and had a good G1 last year. But it’s gotta be rough for the guy since he’s been in every G1 since like, 1995 (with the exception of a tournament in the 2000s because of injury), won numerous tournaments, and allegedly only found out he wouldn’t be in the G1 when they announced the entrants at a show earlier this week.
Block B should offer a lot of exciting match ups. Shibata will no doubt kill it in this G1 and to see him face Naito, Omega, and Elgin will be awesome. But as popular as Shibata is, I doubt he has a real shot of winning. Give it a year or two and he might have a real chance. He could get some big wins this year, since there are plenty of easy wins for the eventual winner.
To me, Omega and Naito are the frontrunners to win Block B. A WreslteKingdom 11 rematch between Okada and Naito would be a classic. Unfortunately, a gaijin winning the G1 is pretty unlikely, but I’m still holding out hope that Omega has a chance of winning. I’d be surprised if anyone but Naito wins, but Omega also has a shot and Elgin and Shibata are long shots as well.
Though Yano is mainly a comedy wrestler, he is capable in the ring and he’s had run-ins with Naito before so seeing them face off will be interesting. Usually Honma struggles in the G1, having only won 1 match in the 2 tournaments he’s appeared, and this could continue though I could see him getting two or three wins this year. But since YOSHI-HASHI is another G1 debut, I could see him being the new perennial G1 underdog. I’m also kinda surprised YOSHI isn’t in the same block as SANADA, given their issues lately, but they could just put that on hold for the G1. This may be Nagata’s 18th G1 but he can still go for a guy who is 48 and been wrestling consistently since debuting in 1992. He’s not gonna light the world on fire anymore but he’s still a capable opponent. EVIL has been putting on good matches since returning to NJPW so I think he’ll have a good showing as well. And finally, I’m not familiar with Nakajima at all so I can’t say what my expectations are for him, but I haven’t seen anyone upset with his inclusion.
Overall, I think Block B has the potential for just as many high quality matches as Block A, if not more. The potential for great sleeper matches is much higher with Block B and it’s got a great mix of styles and experience. Obviously Naito is my pick to win Block B, but also I see him winning the G1 Climax 26 and resuming his feud with Okada and hopefully regaining the title at WrestleKingdom 11.