Monday, July 10, 2017

NJPW G1 Climax 27 Preview & Predictions

The G1 Climax. A celebration of all things awesome in wrestling. Boys walk in, and Men limp out, typically with nagging injuries tht last them the next few months.

If you've never watched New Japan regularly, and wanted to get into the product, the tournament here is your best option. You may know some of the bigger names in the tournament already, from reputation, Youtube, wherever. This preview is for you, to give you the stats, need to knows, and opinions on the wrestlers involved in the G1 Climax tournament this year. Again, this is for newcomers into New Japan, or for those who are fresh into the product and would like to learn more.  That being made clear now, we can move on.


"The Once in a Century Talent"
Hiroshi Tanahashi
Age: 40
Debut: 1999
G1s: 16, Won 2 (2007, 2015)
Title History: 2x IWGP Intercontinental Champion (current), 7x IWGP Heavyweight Champion, 2x IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, 2x IWGP U-30 Openweight Champion, 3x NEVER Openweight 6-man Tag Team Champion, 1x GHC (Pro Wrestling NOAH) Tag Team Campion, 1x CMLL World Tag Team Champion

Justin: Tanahashi, the company's former "Ace," is in redemption mode these days.  After several months taking it easy in multi-man tags to heal nagging injuries, Hiroshi recaptured the IC Title last month and should put in several ****+ matches in the G1.  He's certainly not winning this tourney but he's always considered a favorite.

Landon: Justin calls Tanahashi the former Ace of the company (Ace being a person of extraordinary talent and charisma who typically acts as a standard bearer for his or her company), but there are a few who still argue he still is that Ace now. A man who's practically done everything in New Japan, Tanahashi is riding an immense wave of momentum coming into the G1 this year, with a Title win at the second biggest New Japan Show of the year, Dominion. However, the stat working against Hiroshi in the tournament is thus; that an Intercontinental champion has never won the G1. Since the winner receives the Wrestle Kingdom Title match for the Heavyweight crown, there is no logic behind the IC champ doing so. But each match he has in this tournament will be a barnburner for sure.

"El Ingobernable"
Age: 35
Debut: 2006
G1s: 8, Won 1 (2013)
Title History: 1x IWGP Heavyweight Champion, 1x IWGP Intercontinental Champion, 1x NEVER Openweight Champion, 1x IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, 1x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion

Justin: The former I-C Champion says he's all done with the secondary belt and generally that sort of comment means he's refocused on winning the big one again.  Naito was most people's top pick to win the 2016 G1 and is most definitely a reasonably safe bet this year.  He'll definitely be at or near the top of the A Block.

Landon: Tetsuya Naito is a bizarre story to see; a man who was slated to be the next top babyface, met with immense backlash, and took that rejection and ran with it. From dry toast babyface to an anti-hero who follows only his own whims and desires, gathering around him a select few who follow his views (We'll get to some of them in the B Block). None of this personal growth has changed his technique in the ring, however, as he remains as good a worker as what got him to that grooming spot. Probably the loudest character in his Block of the tournament, the Polarizing figure will prove a great foil to the other men in his block.

"Blue Justice"
Yuji Nagata
Age: 49
Debut: 1992
G1s: 19, won 1 (2001)
Title History: 2x IWGP Heavyweight Champion, 2x IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, 1x NEVER Openweight Champion, 1x GHC Heavyweight Champion, 1x GHC Tag Team Champion, 1x (All Japan Pro Wrestling) World Tag Team Champion

Justin: The aging veteran has declared this will be his final G1 tournament.  I don't see him going all that deep points-wise, but he could be something of a spoiler for a few of his fellow A-Blockers.  Nagata will put in some fine performances at any rate.

Landon: Yuji Nagata is a man who's prime has past. That's not a slight at the man, in fact I think it's something he would agree with. Wrestlers tend to stick around longer in Japanese companies than they would here in the United States. But Yuji, and his counterpart in the B-Block, Satoshi Kojima, should not be overlooked in this tournament. If you want a glimpse of what the "old style" of Japanese Pro Wrestling is, watch these two. They're gonna bring it.

"Unchained Gorilla"
Togi Makabe
Age: 44
Debut: 1997
G1s: 14, Won 1 (2009)
Title History: 1x IWGP Heavyweight Champion, 2x NEVER Openweight Champion, 2x IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion (1 Additional time as Interim Champion)

Justin: Makabe is usually good for some stiff, rugged action.  At this point in his career he isn't a major threat to anyone but he'll turn in some solid performances.

Landon: Recently celebrating his 20th anniversary with the company, Makabe is a veteran that many newcomers either miss out on or haven't gotten a truly good look at yet. While his most successful years may be waning, one shouldn't take anything away from the man who idolizes Bruiser Brody.
He's going to bring a blunt, smash mouth style, and a surprising amount of athleticism at points. He's a solid member of this block, and a great performance this next month could lead to a bigger spotlight for the sweet-tooth

"Golden Star"
Kota Ibushi
Age: 35
Debut: 2004
G1s: 3
Title History: 3x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, 1x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion

Justin: This is the participant I'm most excited about.  I've missed Ibushi dearly over the past two years.  Yes I know he's been back as Tiger Mask W since late last year but it's not the same, particularly when he's mostly been in opening multi-man tags.  We got the excellent Okada-W bout at the Anniversary Show but other than that Ibushi has essentially been absent since October of 2015.  In that year's G1 Ibushi was one of the MVPs, turning in half a dozen instant classics.  I can't wait to see what he does this year.

Landon: You might be familiar with Kota from either the Cruiserweight Classic of last year, or from any given "lol Japanese wrestling is weird" collection. You can expect to see much more of the former Ibushi in this tournament. A stalwart favorite by many people through the years, Kota has a wide arsenal, but generally likes keeping the matches fast paced. Another man to watch out for as a points leader this year.

"The Fierce Warrior"
Hirooki Goto (CHAOS)
Age: 38
Debut: 2003
G1s: 10, Won 1 (2008)
Title History: 2x IWGP Intercontinental Champion, 1x NEVER Openweight Champion, 1x IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, 1x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion

Justin: Goto made it all the way to the finals last year before coming up short.  I don't think he'll get that far this time, but I could see him getting some big wins to position himself as an I-C contender again.  He'll have some fine matches along the way.

Landon: Hirooki Goto has been consistently 'here'. He's never won the IWGP Heavyweight title, in fact having Seven individual shots at it, but he's always had good matches, and hasn't been naked of gold that whole time. To use a formally infamous term, Goto is very much a B+ player in a company of As and S Ranks. But occasionally he finds spurts of glory, and his matches are typically fun. (Plus, as a fun fact, his entrance gear is based off of Ieyasu Tokugawa's attire from the Sangoku Basara series of video games.)

"Stone Pitbull"
Tomohiro Ishii (CHAOS)
Age: 41
Debut: 1996
G1s: 5
Title History: 4x NEVER Openweight Champion, 1x IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, 1x ROH World Television Champion

Justin: Ishii is consistently one of the best workers in the entire company and I'd love to see him also get some big wins here and become an I-C contender (and maybe even get more Heavyweight Title shots).  He made it to the finals of the US Title tourney, so he'll obviously be challenging for that soon as well.  Just about any Ishii match in the G1 is gonna be must-watch.

Landon: 220 lbs of raw, solid, fuck you. Ishii isn't the biggest, can't lift the most, or always win in a fist fight. But what he's got on his side is just what his shirt says, "Strong and Hard". Underestimate Ishii and he will end you. He's not working a style that promotes longevity in any way, but while he's here I can watch him every day of the week. My sentimental favorite in every fight, I'll be watching every match up he's in, guaranteed.

"The Underboss"
Bad Luck Fale (BULLET CLUB)
Age: 35
Debut: 2010
G1s: 4
Title History: 1x IWGP Intercontinental Champion, 1x NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champion

Justin: Sigh....Again with the Fale.  He's never been a favorite of mine but he always manages to beat one of the top guys in the G1, often the winner, and thus gets a semi-main event match at Destruction or King of Pro-Wrestling or Power Struggle.  And then by Wrestle Kingdom he's back to the bottom of the card.  Time to move on from this formula.

Landon: I think if there's a creator's pet in New Japan that's not Okada, where Gedo (the booker) literally walks out with him as his manager every match, it's Fale. Gedo must have gotten a fascination with monster heels from his love of Mid-South wrestling, because The Underboss of the Bullet Club has been prominently featured constantly for longer than many fans like. That's not to say he's a bad wrestler, but he's the token large man. Who has token large man matches. Expect the same match 9 times.

"The Technical Wizard"
Zack Sabre Jr. (SUZUKI-GUN)
Age: 29
Debut: 2004
G1: 1
Title History: 1x EVOLVE Champion (current), 1x Revolution Pro Wrestling British Heavyweight Champion (current), 1x Pro Wrestling Guerilla World Champion,  2x GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion

Justin: Another entrant I'm very stoked about, Zack Sabre brings a unique, European, mat-based style that should mesh well with just about everyone else in the block.  I'm especially excited that we'll finally get the Sabre-Ibushi match WWE planned on booking last year.  Sabre will probably finish in the middle of the pack, but he'll add some damn fine showings to his resume.

Landon: The man once known as Zacky Three-Belts (congratulations to Chuck Taylor, by the by), Sabre enters the G1 with something to prove. A man who's been known as a Junior Heavyweight most of his career, this tournament will be a proving ground for Zack. A lot of "What a Maneuver"s are gonna come out of this man, and men are gonna get the fuck stretched out of them.

"Head Hunter"
Age: 35
Debut: 2008
G1: 2
Title History: N/A

Justin: Yoshi is so hit-or-miss for me.  Every once in a while he surprises me with a really good match, but mostly it's hard to take him seriously.  He'll be at the bottom of the block.

Landon: So I feel like I need to explain factions in New Japan before I go into YOSHI (Who is not YoshiTatsu before you look it up). So in every faction of New Japan, there is a definite hierarchy. Besides Heavyweights always being over Junior Heavyweight, usually the heavyweights themselves are sorted into a hierarchy. Usually the lower HWs are who take the falls in tag team situations, and very seldom do these orders change within a group.

YOSHI-HASHI currently sits in the low end of the CHAOS pecking order, under all the other Heavyweights in the faction. But the past year has been his best yet, scoring big wins in the G1 last year, and picking up more shortly before that and throughout the year since. His biggest match so far of his career, a failed attempt at Minoru Suzuki's NEVER Openweight title, has been his best outing yet. But in a Block with two fellow CHAOS members, the Ace, and a second meeting with Naito coming up, YOSHI may be looking to make the most of his second G1.


Kazuchika Okada (CHAOS)
Age: 29
Debut: 2004
G1: 6, won 1 (2012)
Title History: 4x IWGP Heavyweight Champion (current)

Justin: Okada is at this moment the best wrestler in the world.  Okada is also in the midst of one of the greatest title reigns I've ever seen.  Any Okada match in this tournament is worth watching, and most of them will likely be stellar.  Okada could very well win the whole thing.  And I won't be complaining if he does.

Landon: A very young man to be on top of the company for sure, but Okada has proven himself to be one of the world's greatest wrestlers in the past 4 years. He has the inane ability to work with anyone's style, and to have a bad match with Kazuchika is impossible. If you want to see any wrestler in this block at his best, watch their match with Okada

"The Cleaner"
Kenny Omega (BULLET CLUB)
Age: 33
Debut: 2000
G1: 2, won 1 (2016)
Title History: 1x IWGP United States Champion (current), 1x IWGP Intercontinental Champion, 2x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, 1x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, 1x (AJPW) World Junior Heavyweight Champion, 1x PWG World Champion

Justin: Last year's winner is the only wrestler in the world giving Okada a run for his money as THE wrestler of 2017.  To think Omega was a Jr. Heavyweight fixture only 18 months ago and is now the #2 guy in the company is pretty astounding.  And it happened pretty organically too; Omega took over the Bullet Club and just began churning out classic main events to the point that he unseated Naito as the company's hot main event heel.  We're gonna get to see Okada vs. Omega III at the end of this tournament, and I think this will be when Omega finally gets a win over The One Winged Angel, thus setting up the third Title match between the two.  Omega could possibly repeat this year.  I'm not sure he will, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if he did.

Landon: Omega is Omega. I said earlier that Naito was a polarizing figure, but Omega is just as polarizing on almost a higher level. I've seen several arguments break out as to whether Omega is actually good, or if he deserves the spot he's in. For the record, I think Omega a fantastic worker and is on the level of Omega, Naito, and Tanahashi in terms of pillars of the company. He recently became the inaugural United States champion in Long Beach, and I don't think he's walking out of this year as a back to back winner of the tournament.

Minoru Suzuki (SUZUKI-GUN)
Age: 49
Debut: 1988
G1s: 7
Title History: 1x NEVER Openweight Champion (current), 1x IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, 1x GHC Heavyweight Champion, 1x GHC Tag Team Champion, 2x (AJPW) triple Crown Champion, 1x (AJPW) World Tag Team Champion, 1x All Asia Tag Team Champion

Justin: Suzuki's return in January was more than welcome, and he's become an asset to the company once again.  While not exactly taking New Japan by storm, Suzuki is always a threat to be taken seriously.  He exudes "badass motherfucker" with every fiber of his being, and a Suzuki win over any top guy at any time is wholly believable.  He'll get pretty far in this tournament I think.

Landon: The man that needs no nom de deed, as the man who may be the legitimately most dangerous wrestler in the world. Starting as a wrestler, he transitioned into the birthing world of MMA to became a decorated legend, returning to the world of Pro Wrestling in the early 00's to bring pants shitting pain to whatever company he graced. You want to see something completely different from the other matches this year? You gotta watch Suzuki.

"Mr. Strong Arm"
Satoshi Kojima
Age: 46
Debut: 1991
G1s: 16, Won 1 (2010)
Title History: 2x IWGP Heavyweight Champion, 7x IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, 1x NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champion, 2x Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion, 1x (AJPW) World Tag Team Champion, 1x All Asia Tag Team Champion

Justin: Kojima is probably fodder for most of the other guys.  Nothing against him, he's a perfectly solid hand at this point, but not much more. 

Landon: I love Uncle Koji, leader of Bread Club. But the same can be said about him that was said about Nagata. I just like him more than Yuji for multiple reasons. In lieu of more analysis, a fun fact is that Satoshi held both the IWGP and the Triple Crown championships at the same time. So, yeah.

"Sublime Master Thief"
Toru Yano (CHAOS)
Age: 39
Debut: 2002
G1s: 12
Title History: 3x IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, 2x NEVER Openweight 6-Man Champion, 2x GHC Tag Team Champion

Justin: Yano's matches in these tourneys are mostly skippable as far as I'm concerned.  He'll turn in some entertaining performances but he's not a serious threat except as a spoiler.

Landon: Oh Yano. Pudgy, shit eating grin Yano. All his matches are played for comedy, and if comedy based matches aren't your bag you can skip his outings. But, if you're looking for a break and a good laugh, I really have nothing bad to say about Yano as a performer.

"The Bad Boy"
Tama Tonga (BULLET CLUB)
Age: 34
Debut: 2008
G1s: 2
Title History: 3x IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, 1x NEVER Openweight 6-man Tag Team Champion, 2x CMLL World Tag Team Champion

Justin: Tama and his tag partner Tonga Roa have improved leaps and bounds over the past year.  Where their Tag Title bouts were once pee-break matches, now they're high energy fun.  Tama had a solid showing in last year's G1 but I think he'll improve on that immensely this time.

Landon: The adoptive son of Haku has, like YOSHI-HASHI, spent the past few years trying to find himself. He slipped comfortably into the tag team division with his brother, replacing Guns and Gallows as they left for better pastures. He had an okay G1 last yeah, and a performance here can be telling about what's next for him, with other Bullet Club members going for the Tag Titles now.

"King of Darkness"
Age: 30
Debut: 2011
G1s: 2
Title History: 3x NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champion (current), 1x NEVER Openweight Champion

Justin: Evil and Sanada are an odd case.  All the tools are there for them both to be upper-tier guys, but somehow it just hasn't happened for them yet.  Both guys looked great in last year's G1 but neither really seemed like a threat to the top stars.  They're in the less stacked block so they'll have a lot more room to shine.

Landon: EVIL (as Takaaki Watanabe) was on the first ever New Japan show I watched, in fact in the first match. So I feel a solid attachment to a man who dresses like the Grim Reaper for some reason.
He has a very good, hard hitting style, but he's been spending the past half a year in multiman matches for the 6-man titles. Those matches have been fun, but I think that either he or SANADA are ready to really show up and deliver as individuals.

"Cold Skull"
Age: 29
Debut: 2007
G1s: 2
Title History: 3x NEVER Openweight 6-man Tag Team Champion (current), 1x (AJPW) World Tag Team Champion, 2x All Asia tag Team Champion, 1x TNA X-Division Champion

Justin: See Evil.

Landon: SANADA is sneaky athletic. A man his size you wouldn't expect to move as fast as he does, and he's recently shown he has a lot of potential to go far. He and his stablemate should have a fun match to watch. And he pseudo-dresses like Ghost Rider. Which is fun.

Michael Elgin
Age: 30
Debut: 2004
G1s: 3
Title History: 1x IWGP Intercontinental Champion, 1x NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champion, 1x ROH World Championship

Justin: Hard to believe this is already Elgin's third G1 tournament.  Feels like he just got here in a way.  Elgin's become a stalwart addition to the New Japan roster, roughly in the same tier as Goto.  He's a reliable upper midcard guy who can always deliver a damn good match but probably not destined to win the HW Title anytime soon.  However, we're all but guaranteed nine good matches out of him.  He'll probably be in the Block B hunt but won't end up winning it.

Landon: The token power man in the tournament, Elgin transitioned great coming out of Ring of Honor two years ago.He seems to always deliver great matches with everyone, almost in the same style as Okada. He does, however, tend to rely more on a tried and true set to perform, rather than Okada who will alter his. But Elgin's matches are always fun, his spectacular power moves are always a fan favorite. BIG MIKE!

"Moon Child"
Juice Robinson
Age: 28
Debut: 2008
G1s: 1
Title History: N/A

Justin: What a difference a change of scenery makes.  The former CJ Parker in NXT has become a very entertaining midcard attraction who looks real good even in a loss.  In a way he's filling the void left by Tomoaki Honma, who rarely won matches but was a super-over babyface.  Juice has plenty of opportunity in this tournament to prove himself and move up the card.  We should see some nice stuff from him.

Landon: There's no "in a way" Justin, he's filling the injured Honma's spot (who's a lot better now and rocking an awesome beard). Juice is a great example of re-imagining yourself and what you can do. If you haven't seen him since NXT, I implore you to watch him now before you just pass him up. He's developed an insane natural charisma, and a connection to the crowd only beaten by the Top Four right now. It'll be interesting to see how he does in this field

Prediction for the Finals

Justin: There are four likely final matches, none of which I'd have a problem with.  Okada vs. Naito would be a safe bet, as would Omega vs. Naito in a rematch of their 2016 tournament stealer.  Less likely but just as exciting would be Okada vs. Ibushi, and even more exciting to me is Omega vs. Ibushi (This match needs to happen sometime in the next six months).  Initially my overall pick was Okada but then I remembered that Okada vs. Omega III is happening the last night of the regular tournament.  I can't see Omega losing that one, and if Okada makes the finals even after losing to Omega on Night 18 that's some pretty weird storytelling.  Still I suppose the story there would be "Okada dominates but can't beat Omega, who now deserves ANOTHER Title shot."  Ya know what, I kinda like that.  Let's go with it.  Okada SuperCenas his way through the tournament and beats Naito in the finals, but loses to Omega on Night 18.

Landon: Not to be bland, but I agree with Justin on all of this. Though I think there's a mathematical way to have Omega beat Okada on the last day, but Okada moves on. This could set up the rematch at Wrestle Kingdom if Okada wins the G1. Barring this ridiculous idea, I think Naito is the front runner to win the whole tournament. He could beat Tanahashi on the last night, closing that book for now, and move on to trying to get his belt back from the man who took the title from him in the first place: Okada.

Justin's Top Three Matches

Block A

Ibushi vs. Sabre
Ibushi vs. Ishii
Ibushi vs. Naito

Like I said, I'm REALLY excited Ibushi's in this thing.

Block B

Okada vs. Omega
Okada vs. Elgin
Omega vs. Suzuki

Landon's Top Three Matches

Block A

Ibushi vs Sabre (Cruiserweight Classic final we never got)
Ishii vs. Nagata (This is a strange choice, but Nagata was one of Ishii's first big rivals in the company. This would be the last time these two could meet one on one, so I want to see it badly.)
Goto vs YOSHI (Stable mates and could end up being an important match in YOSHI's career)

Block B

Okada vs Robinson (How much offense Juice gets on Okada will be telling)
Suzuki vs Okada (Rematch from New Beginning I'm interested in seeing)
EVIL vs SANADA (Same idea of Goto YOSHI)

This tournament is gonna be 17 Kinds of Fucking Awesome.  It's actually going to be hard to keep up with how awesome this tournament is.  This is fuckin' wrestling, my friends.  Soak it in.  Savor it.  Be thankful you live right now.


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