Welcome to my break down of the 2014 New Japan G-1 Climax. In this article I will go through the list of participants in the tournament and decide whether they’re a legitimate contender, or simply there to fill the card. Also, for those of you who are new to New Japan, I’ll give you a quick little background of each participant and what to look out for in their matches.
First things first, the G1 is a round-robin tournament, with the winners of the A and B blocks meeting in the final. The IWGP World Heavyweight Champion is NOT excluded from the tournament, despite the G1 winner traditionally earning a future title shot. As of 2012, that title shot is usually at Wrestle Kingdom in the Tokyo Dome. Wrestle Kingdom is basically New Japan’s version of WrestleMania. So the G1 Climax is comparable in a way to WWE’s Royal Rumble. Except instead of a battle royal, its a round-robin tournament.
The G1 has a history of providing excellent quality matches, but also as a very gruelling, injury causing tournament. The 2013 G1 had a ridiculous amount of 4+ star matches. It also left Hirooki Goto with a busted jaw and Hiroyoshi Tenzan with rib fractures. Last year’s G1 took place over nine shows between August 1 and 11. This year the tournament is being held between July 21 and August 10 with 13 shows. Hopefully being held over a longer time will mean the participants will have more recovery time and fewer injuries. This year there are also 22 participants involved, making it the largest G1 Climax in history.
Non-Japanese competitors have not had a lot of success over the years. Since being renamed the G1 Climax, no foreigner has won the tournament. In 2012, “Machine Gun” Karl Anderson made it to the finals, but was defeated by Kazuchika Okada, who became the youngest ever winner of the tournament at 24 years of age. It was also Okada’s first G1, instantly making him a super badass.
The last foreign winner of the tournament was Big Van Vader in 1989, when it was known as the World Cup tournament. Andre the Giant won twice, in 1982 and 1985, while Hulk Hogan has won the tournament once, in 1983, when it was known as the International Wrestling Grand Prix.
With 22 participants, they can’t all be serious contenders. Some have a real shot of winning the tournament, others are there to fill the cards and have some great matches along the way.
The participants are split into two blocks, Block A and Block B. This year, Block A is certainly the stronger of the two, with names like Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii, Kota Ibushi and Katsuyori Shibata just to name a few. B block is no slouch itself, with Kazuchika Okada and AJ Styles, but it doesn’t quite match the star power of Block A.
Hiroshi Tanahashi – Contender
Tanahashi, for those unversed, is basically the John Cena of New Japan. He’s the top guy, the star, the headliner. At Wrestle Kingdom 2013 he was in the main event with Shinsuke Nakamura for the Intercontinental Championship. That’s right! The IWGP Intercontinental championship match went on last, after the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship match featuring Okada vs. Naito. That’s how big Tanahashi (and Nakamura) is. Even though it was for a secondary title, his match went on last at the biggest show of the year.
Tanahashi is also a former G1 Climax winner, defeating Yuji Nagata in the 2007 final. Having been out of the title picture in recent months, Tanahashi is primed for victory in this year’s tournament. Last year Tanahashi had a number of 4+ star matches. His match against Tomohiro Ishii being the best at 4.75 stars. Speaking of Ishii, his match against Katsuyori Shibata in last year’s tournament earned 5 stars. You can guess which category he’ll be in this year.
Satoshi Kojima – Filler
Kojima, one half of Tencozy with partner Hiroyoshi Tenzan, has had some success in the G-1 over the years, winning the tournament in 2010 by defeating Hiroshi Tanahashi. Kojima is a former IWGP Heavyweight champion and Tag Team champion. Though, at 43 years of age, time is catching up to Kojima. He’s still capable of putting on a good match, but the chances of Kojima winning the tournament are slim to none.
Keep an eye out for Kojima’s rapid chops in the corner and devastating lariat.
Yuji Nagata – Filler
Another former IWGP Heavyweight champ and 2001 G1 winner. But like Kojima, he is in the latter part of his career. He’s still and fan favourite and recently held the GHC Heavyweight championship – the top championship of Pro-Wrestling Noah. Expect some good, stiff matches from Nagata and watch out for his crazy eyes arm bar. Just don’t expect him to win the tournament.
Kota Ibushi – Contender ?
Up until about a month ago, Ibushi was looking very strong coming into the G1. He was the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight champion and was having great matches with guys like Ricochet and KUSHIDA. Unfortunately, in his last match with KUSHIDA, he not only lost the title, but he was also knocked silly from a handspring kick to the head. I’m not sure of the severity of the injury, but I’m not expecting the great matches I had been hoping for before the injury occurred. If Ibushi is fully recovered however, he’s a top contender for this year’s Climax.
Watch out for his Phoenix Splash and incredible high flying arsenal.
Katsuyori Shibata – Contender
Shibata is the exemplification of Strong Style. He is all stiff kicks and hard strikes. Heck, his finisher is called the Penalty Kick! He literally defeats his opponenets by kicking the like they’re soccer balls. Continuing the soccer theme, he also utilises the Free Kick and Goal Kick in his move set. Surprisingly, he doesn’t wear a football kit to the ring. He’s straight up black trunks, black boots. Nothing fancy, all awesome!
Shinsuke Nakamura – Contender
Big time contender right here. Nakamura, along with Tanahashi is the top guy in New Japan. He was the 2011 G1 winner, and former IWGP Intercontinental and Heavyweight champion. He’s also probably the only guy on the New Japan roster to have wrestled Brock Lesnar, Kurt Angle and Kevin Steen. Nakamura is one of the most unique wrestlers in the world. He’s a cross between Michael Jackson and Strong Style wrestling, and a legitimate tough guy – being a former mixed martial artist.
Keep an eye out for his shaky foot choke on the corner and the Boma Ye knee strike!
Tomohiro Ishii – Contender
Ishii is my pick for winner of this year’s G1. And that’s not just because he’s my favourite New Japan wrestler, it’s also because he’s poised to take that next step to becoming a top guy in New Japan. If Tanahashi, Okada and Nakamura are THE top guys, Ishii is only one step behind. Winning the G1 would surely elevate him to the next level. Ishii’s style is similar to Shibata’s. Very stiff, very physical. Look out for his sickening headbutts with zero protection. Ishii’s build is very similar to that of Michael Elgin, or even WWE’s Rusev, though not quite as thick. On top of his very physical style, Ishii’s selling in second to none. Recently, Ishii lost the Neverweight title to former CHAOS member Yujiro Takahashi. I’m hoping Ishii bounces back from the loss with a great showing in the G1.
Shelton “X” Benjamin – Filler
Benjamin is a member of Suzukigun, formerly Kojimagun. A heel stable led by Minoru Suzuki and including TAKA Michinoku, Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr. among others.
For whatever reason, New Japan has never really utilised Benjamin’s ability in the ring. He’s mostly used for mid card filler matches and rarely puts on an above average performance. The G1 could be his time to shine, but I doubt it.
Davey Boy Smith Jr. – Filler
Fellow Suzukigun member with Shelton Benjamin, and one half of the Killer Elite Squad tag team with Lance Archer, Davey Boy Smith Jr. can have good matches when given the chance, but he’s not a serious contender for the G1. Expect some good matches and probably a few wins, but don’t expect him to go all the way.
Doc Gallows – Filler
Gallows is the current IWGP tag team champion with Bullet Club teammate Karl Anderson. Despite carrying some gold around, Gallows is not winning the G1. That’s not to say he won’t put on a good showing in the tournament. Gallows is fairly new to New Japan, but in his short time he’s had a lot of success with the hottest stable in all of wrestling, the Bullet Club. Still, he ain’t winning the G1.
Bad Luck Fale – Contender
New Japan’s and the Bullet Club’s resident monster, Fale recently captured the IWGP Intercontinental championship from Shinsuke Nakamura. He’s been booked like an almost unstoppable monster, defeating guys like Nakamura and Tetsuya Naito with authority – Nakamura left his last match with Fale on a stretcher. Despite being booked strong, Fale is limited in the ring and isn’t 100% convincing in the monster role. Nevertheless, he’s getting booked strong and is on his way up in the company. He could definitely be the guy to dominate in the G1, and put an end to the dry spell of foreigners not winning the tournament.
One thing that is great about Fale is his finisher, the Bad Luck Fall (Border Toss). The height his opponents get as they float through the air is mesmerising.
Togi Makabe – Filler
Makabe is another former G1 winner and IWGP Heavyweight champion to be competing in this year’s tournament. But he’s also another guy who’s maybe just passed his prime. Makabe is very reminiscent of Bruiser Brody, and isn’t too adversed to getting bloody, or bloodying others. Makabe’s jaw was recently jacked by a kick from Goto in a tag team match with partner Hiroshi Tanahashi against Goto and Shibata. He does seem to have healed up and looks ready to have a good tournament. But I can’t see him going all the way.
Hirooki Goto – Contender
Recent jacker of Makabe’s jaw, Goto is yet another former winner of the G1, winning the tournament in 2008 by defeating, funnily enough, Togi Makabe.
Goto is currently tag team partners with Katsuyori Shibata. Less than a year ago, Shibata and Goto were involved in a very heated rivalry, culminating in a fantastic match at Wrestle Kingdom 8, where Goto defeated Shibata, and earned his respect in the process. The two former high school classmates have been teaming together and kicking people to death ever since.
Goto was leading in points in last year’s A block when he suffered a fractured jaw and was pulled from the tournament. This could be his year of redemption. I just hope he makes it through the tournament in one piece.
Tetsuya Naito – Contender
The Stardust Genius, Tetsuya Naito won the 2013 G1 by defeating Hiroshi Tanahashi in the finals. He went on to challenge Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight championship at Wrestle Kingdom 8, but came up short. He then went on to have possibly the feud of the year with Tomohiro Ishii.
Naito could be the first back to back G1 winner since Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 2003 and 2004.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan – Filler
Speaking of Tenzan, the 3-time G1 winner, 4-time IWGP Heavyweight champion, former tag team champion, and current legend, probably shouldn’t be competing in this year’s G1. Tenzan was pulled from last year’s tournament due to a fractured rib, and has only recently started moving again like his old self. There’s no way he’ll even get close to winning this year, and really, his spot should have been given to someone else, like say…Tomoaki Honma! But more on that later.
Kazuchika Okada – #1 Contender
2012 G1 winner Kazuchika Okada is probably the favourite to win this year’s G1 Climax. Okada recently held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, and defended the belt successfully against the best that New Japan had to offer, but was eventually dethroned by AJ Styles…with a lot of help from the Bullet Club. AJ defeated Okada for a second time in their rematch in a slightly more convincing manner, but still with some Bullet Club interference.
If you want to see a guy make his way to the ring with a giant sword and a DINOSAUR, go back and watch Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 8. And if you want to see his talent wasted, go watch TNA in 2010.
Watch Okada destroy his opponents on his way to the finals with the Rainmaker lariat.
Toru Yano – Filler
Ugh. I don’t even want to bother. Yano is currently (and forever) involved in a never-ending, unbearable feud with Minoru Suzuki.
Yano will not win the G1. Moving on.
Minoru Suzuki – Filler
Semi ugh. The other half of the never-ending, forever unbearable feud with Toru Yano. I’m actually looking forward to watching Suzuki in the G1, if only because I will finally see him wrestle someone besides Toru Yano. And I saw Suzuki in last year’s tournament so I know he’s capable of having a good, if not great match.
He’s still not winning though.
Lance Archer – Filler
Lance Archer is the other half the Killer Elite Squad tag team with Davey Boy Smith Jr, and recent life threatener of the great Brandon Stroud. Archer towers over a lot of the smaller Japanese wrestlers in New Japan, and has had some good matches during his time in the company. Archer has had most of his success in the tag team division, being a former IWGP tag team champion. However, after losing the titles to the Bullet Club’s Anderson and Gallows, Archer and Smith have been in a bit of a slump, recently losing to Tencozy (Kojima and Tenzan). His luck is not likely to change in the G1, but you never know.
AJ Styles – Contender
AJ Styles is the newest member to the New Japan roster. In his first appearance in New Japan, he attacked Kazuchika Okada and challenged him to a match for the IWGP title and revealed himself as a new member of the Bullet Club. In his first match with the company, he defeated Okada at Wrestling Dontaku 2014 to become the new IWGP Heavyweight champion. Styles later defeated Okada again in their rematch, though both wins came with the help of the Bullet Club.
I expect Styles to do well in his first G1 Climax, as he’ll be wanting to prove himself and gain the respect of his peers in New Japan.
Yujiro Takahashi – Contender, Unfortunately.
Ugh, the Val Venus of New Japan, bath towel and all, and the Bullet’s Club most recent member. Yujiro Takahashi has made quite the name for himself in recent months. First, he turned on CHAOS stablemate Kazuchika Okada and joined the Bullet Club, helping AJ Styles defeat Okada for the title. Then he went on to defeat my hero, Tomohiro Ishii, for the Neverweight championship. Suffice to say, I’m a bit put out by Yujiro Takahashi. Personal feelings aside, given his current run of success, Takahashi is surprisingly a contender for this year’s G1. What a world!
Karl Anderson – Contender
Karl Anderson is the leader (I think), or at least the mouthpiece of the Bullet Club, and current IWGP tag team champion with Doc Gallows. He’s also the only gaijin to make it to the finals of the G1 in recent memory. Anderson was defeated by Kazuchika Okada in the finals of the 2012 Climax. This could certainly be the year for Anderson, New Japan’s most experienced non-Japanese veteran.
Look out for Anderson’s exceptional use of the Ace Crusher, known here as the Gun Stun.
Honorable Contender: Tomoaki Honma
Tomoaki Honma is one of those guys who forever seems to be overlooked, despite being hugely talented and incredibly over with the New Japan crowds. If this were a fairer world, Honma would be in and Tenzan would be out. But, here we are. If he were in the G1, I’d tell you to watch for Honma’s beautiful flying (falling?) headbutt. Another time I guess.
That’s it for my break down of the 2014 G1 Climax and mini introduction to some of the New Japan roster for the newbies out there.
Make sure you purchase the iPPV package on Ustream by July 20th so you can save $50. The package, which includes all the live shows, is currently $110, but after July 20th it will be $160.
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New Japan G1 Climax Day 1 Card Monday, July 21, Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Bad Luck Fale (A Block)
Shelton X Benjamin vs. Doc Gallows (A Block)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Karl Anderson (B Block)
Satoshi Kojima vs. Yuji Nagata (A Block)
Toru Yano vs. Minoru Suzuki (B Block)
Tetsuya Naito vs. Yujiro Takahashi (B Block)
Togi Makabe vs. Hirooki Goto (B Block)
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi (A Block)
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Katsuyori Shibata (A Block)
AJ Styles vs. Kazuchika Okada (B Block)