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By Matthew Macklin on 2015-07-10 09:00:00


The 25th New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Climax begins on July 20th and runs until August 16th, making it the longest G1 Climax in history.  The G1 is the largest tournament held in Japan annually and pits the top heavyweights from New Japan in a round robin style tournament, with the winner earning an IWGP heavyweight championship match in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom at the Tokyo Dome on January 4th 2016.  This year there are twenty entrants, with the wrestlers split into two blocks, with everyone wrestling each other in their block once.  Wrestlers earn two points for a win, one point for a draw and zero points for a loss. The winner of Block A meets the winner of Block B in the final on August 16th at Sumo Hall.


The tournament has had winners such as Masahiro Chono, Shinya Hashimoto, Keiji Mutoh, Tatsumi Fujinami, Yuji Nagata and in more recent years names like Tetsuya Naito, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada.  Over the last few years in particular the G1 has been the place where you are almost guaranteed to find your match of the year.  Everyone goes out every night and wrestles like they are the main event of Wrestlemania, making the standard incredibly high and absolutely incredible to follow as guys manage to top themselves every single night.  The last two have been called by many, the greatest tournaments in pro wrestling history.  If you are unfamiliar with NJPW, the G1 Climax is an incredible introduction as you will see everything that is great about the company over those 19 shows.


This years tournament is laid out slightly differently with less competitors (20) and more shows, which means there are only five tournament matches per show, with the rest of the card made up of tag matches, lessening the workload for the tournament competitors.  Lets take a look at the blocks and who is involved.


Block A:

AJ Styles

Styles was the standout of last years tournament and the one guy that everyone was talking about afterwards.  With his performances, he won over the New Japan audience and became the top gaijin in the company to the point that he is featured on posters, something that is rare for a foreigner.  His match with Minoru Suzuki blew people away and he had incredible matches with everyone from Lance Archer to Tetsuya Naito.  Styles has become one of the finest on the planet and there is no doubt that he will have another string of amazing matches here.  Having recently lost the IWGP heavyweight title, Styles is a favourite to win.  His match on the opening day with Katsuyori Shibata looks mouth watering on paper and could be the match of the tournament right away.  


Hiroshi Tanahashi

Tanahashi is the winner of 2007 G1 Climax and enters his fourteenth consecutive tournament.  Due to who he is and his stature as one of the top guys in New Japan, Tanahashi will always be a favourite to win, or at least finish very high.  Tanahashi has been having somewhat of a rest this year in his feud with Toru Yano with his injuries mounting.  Tanahashi always delivers in the G1 and when he is on his game, he is one of the absolute best in the world with the ability to have a great match with anyone.  His match with Kota Ibushi on the opening day could be one of the best matches of the year.  


Doc Gallows

This is only the second G1 appearance for the Bullet Club member and one half of the IWGP tag team champions, having made his debut last year.  He will probably finish in the bottom half of his block, but he did score a huge win over Katsuyori Shibata towards the end of the tournament last year.  He will also do battle again with fellow Bullet Club members, Bad Luck Fale and AJ Styles. Gallows might not be the most refined in the ring, but there are a lot of guys in this block that can bring him to a really good match.   


Bad Luck Fale

The Underboss also makes his second appearance, also having debuted last year.  Last year Fale finished third in his block even scoring a big win over Hiroshi Tanahashi.  Fale is the brute of the tournament this year and I am looking forward to his matches with Naito & Ibushi as he always does well with a “David vs Goliath” story.  His match with AJ Styles will be interesting not only because they are part of the same faction, but because it could potentially be one of the best matches of Fale’s career.  


Hiroyoshi Tenzan

Tenzan is somewhat of a G1 legend as he enters his record 20th G1 Climax, meaning he has only missed five tournaments.  The current NWA heavyweight champion has won the tournament 3 times (2003, 2004 & 2006) and is one of the most decorated champions in New Japan history.  Now at 44 years of age, Tenzan has slowed down with mounting injuries, but always puts on his working boots in the G1 and shocks people with what he can still do.  


Katsuyori Shibata

‘The Wrestler’ enters his third G1 since returning to NJPW and his fifth overall.  Shibata is always an outside favourite to win and someone that the fans desperately want to see go further than he does.  But due to political reasons it doesn’t look like it will happen anytime soon.  Shibata is another guy that is always a standout G1 performer and had awesome matches last year with Tanahashi, Nakamura, Honma & Nagata.  This year he has first time ever matches with AJ Styles & Kota Ibushi, both of which could be something really special.  Shibata is always one of my personal favourite guys to watch in the G1 because he always looks like he is going out to prove a point.


Kota Ibushi

The Golden Star enters his second G1 Climax.  His first was in 2013 while he was still a junior heavyweight and still a full time member of the DDT roster.  His incredible performances that year earned him a New Japan contract, but just before last years tournament, Ibushi suffered a concussion and had to pull out of the tournament. This year Ibushi will be looking to make up for lost time and I think he will be the guy that everyone is talking about after the tournament as he adds to his career making year.  He could potentially have show stealers against anyone in his block, especially Shibata, Tanahashi, Naito and his rematch with Styles.  After winning the New Japan Cup, I think Ibushi will finish high and possibly even make it to the final.     


Tetsuya Naito

The Stardust Genius is the winner of the 2013 G1 Climax and is always one of the standout performers of the tournament.  This year will be no different and I expect him to be even more of a standout as he goes through a huge personality change.  Over the last few weeks Naito has quickly become the most interesting character in NJPW as he teases a heel turn due to his association with CMLL heel group Los Ingobernables.  We don’t know exactly when, how, or if he will fully turn, so it is going to be very interesting to follow.  Naito vs Shibata is one I have wanted to see for a while.  We have a rematch of the 2013 final as he faces Tanahashi. That or his matches with Styles or Ibushi could all be potential tournament stealers.


Togi Makabe

The Unchained Gorilla, the winner of the 2009 G1 Climax and the current Never Openweight champion enters his twelfth G1.  Makabe is the kind of guy that will usually finish around the middle of his block, but with his history in New Japan as an established top guy, he will be one of those names that can easily beat anyone and do it believably.  Makabe is your typical “strong style” competitor, so his matches will be extremely physical and hard hitting.  His match with Katsuyori Shibata will be one to watch out for if you love hard hitting pro wrestling.


Toru Yano

The Sublime Master Thief will look to be the spoiler in the tournament this year.  He usually causes a few upsets, but after knocking Hiroshi Tanahashi out of the New Japan Cup in a couple of minutes earlier this year, all bets are off.  Yano can conceivably beat anyone at anytime by any means necessary.  Yano’s objective is usually to win his match in the quickest time possible, whether it be via a low blow, a hair pull, pulling the tights or an exposed turnbuckle.  Yano will face Tanahashi again in his block, so we will see a continuation of one of the most fun feuds of 2015.  


Block B:

Hirooki Goto

The current IWGP Intercontinental champion and the 2008 winner enters his eighth G1 Climax.  Goto is a guy that is usually found in the middle of the pack having really solid matches.  Now with the IC title around his waist Goto will probably finish in the top portion of the table.  There are a lot of guys in this block that fit his rugged style such as Ishii, Honma & Elgin.  That along with guys like Okada, Nakamura & Anderson, guys he always has great matches with, Goto has a real chance to have an outstanding tournament and win over some of the people that find it hard to get into him.  This will also set the course for the rest of his year as anyone that beats him will be lined up as he next title contenders after the tournament ends.  


Karl Anderson

One half of the IWGP tag champions, The Machine Gun enters his sixth G1 and is one of only two gaijins, along with Rick Rude to make it to a G1 Climax final.  He lost to Okada in the 2012 final.  Anderson gets forgotten about now that he spends most of his time in a tag team, but he is an incredible counter wrestler and always has amazing matches in the G1.  He has incredible chemistry with his former tag partner Goto as well as Okada, who he beat last year.  The vastly underrated Anderson finished third in his block last year and is one of the guys I’m most excited to watch this year.  


Kazuchika Okada

The Rainmaker, the current IWGP heavyweight champion has competed in three G1 Climaxes and has won two of them (2012, 2014). He is also the youngest winner of the tournament at 24 years of age.  So needless to say Okada has left his mark on G1 history already.  Okada won’t win, but he will be right at the top of the table.  It will be interesting to see who beats him and earns a title match later in the year.  He can potentially have countless great matches against the likes of Kojima, Nagata, Ishii & Goto, but the big one is on the final day of block matches when he faces the man he beat in the final last year, CHAOS leader, Shinsuke Nakamura.  That is likely where block B will be decided.


Michael Elgin

Ring of Honor’s Michael Elgin is the absolute wildcard of this years G1.  Having never performed in New Japan or Japan at all for that matter, Elgin has been thrown in at the deep end and it is difficult to predict how he will do or what will happen.  Elgin has always said that his goal was to perform in the G1, well he has achieved that goal and it’s time to see if he will sink or swim.  I am hoping that Elgin surprises a lot of people and silences the critics.  Elgin’s style is a perfect fit for New Japan.  He won’t be afraid to get physical with the likes of Goto or Ishii, and someone like Okada who he has faced before, will always have a great match with him. I am one of the few that was happy to see his name announced for this and Elgin vs Ishii is something I have wanted to see for a while.  


Satoshi Kojima

Mr Strong Arm is the winner of the 2010 G1 Climax and this year will be entering his fourteenth tournament. The 44 year old veteran is one of those guys that floats around in tag matches all year and reminds everyone just how damn good he is once the G1 starts, leading to people begging for him to have a bigger role in the company.  Kojima won’t come close to winning, but he will have lots of awesome matches and will put up a believable challenge against any of the block favourites.  Kojima has a history of having great G1 matches with Okada, and they meet again this year.  One I am personally looking forward to is his match with Yuji Nagata.  They had a great match last year and will again show how they are the two most underused veterans on the roster.


Shinsuke Nakamura

The King of Strong Style is the winner of the 2011 G1 and is the out and out favourite to win it all this year.  After losing the IC title, it looks like Nakamura is being positioned to finally get back into the IWGP heavyweight title picture.  With Nakamura’s growing international popularity and New Japan constantly looking to expand, now is his time.  He faces Okada on the final day, a match that he will most likely win to send him to the final.  It looks like the Wrestle Kingdom main event will be Nakamura vs Okada for the IWGP title, so lets see if that is indeed the plan.  He has several opponents this year that he has had many amazing matches with, so we are guaranteed a whole lot more great Shinsuke Nakamura matches this year.  


Tomoaki Honma

Honmamania was born last year in the G1 Climax.  Last year Honma entered the G1 at the last minute as the replacement for Kota Ibushi, and after not winning a match the entire tournament, Honma became the biggest underdog and one of the most over performers in New Japan.  He went from an afterthought to one of the most talked about guys of the year.  Some of his underdog performances were beyond incredible.  His match with Shibata was my personal favourite from last year.  This year he will be expected to once again lose every match while looking like he can pull off the upset.  I expect at least one huge upset this year and it wouldn’t surprise me if he won his opening match, throwing all predictions out the window.  His match with Okada is one I can’t wait for and we will have another entry in what has become a classic series between Honma and Ishii.


Tomohiro Ishii

After all the years that The Stone Pitbull has been in New Japan, believe it or not this is only his third G1 Climax. Ishii stole the show in 2013 with his amazing underdog performances and never die attitude.  He went through a world of punishment last year and was held together by sticky tape by the end of it.  No one sells quite like Ishii, although it’s always a question if he is actually selling or really is in that much pain.  He has had several of the best G1 matches over the last two years and this year will be no different with some of the opponents he has.  His match with Nakamura last year was a fantastic battle between friends.  This year they do it again and he also faces another CHAOS member, Okada.  Another match that I can’t wait for.  Let’s just hope he makes it through without completely destroying his body.


Yuji Nagata

Blue Justice, Mr Anti Ageing, Mr IWGP, whatever you want to call him is the 2001 winner and enters his 17th consecutive G1 Climax.  Like Kojima, Nagata always has several incredible matches in the G1 and the 47 year old proves that he really is anti ageing.  Nagata will face Okada for the first time in the tournament, which will be one of the sleeper matches of the tournament.  Nagata always delivers in the G1 and has matches a 47 year old should never have.


Yujiro Takahashi

Let’s face it, Yujiro Takahashi is pretty awful in the ring.  It takes a special performer to make him look good.  I’d have preferred to see anyone else in the G1 in his place (except Captain New Japan).  If he brings Mao along there’s some hope that he will be tolerable, but other than that it’s gonna take big performances from the likes of Okada, Ishii and Nakamura to make him look good.  It has been done before, so hopefully it will happen again.


It seems a sure bet that Shinsuke Nakamura will win Block B.  There is more of a question over who wins Block A.  For me it comes down to Hiroshi Tanahashi, AJ Styles or Kota Ibushi.  If I was to bet on it, I’d say the final will be Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles, with Nakamura coming out the winner.  


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