IT’s almost here, the biggest wrestling tournament of the year. The G1 Climax starts in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow, and is going to go on for the next four weeks. Last year, the G1 Climax had over a dozen four star and better matches, and came down to two of the biggest names in New Japan, Okada and Nakamura, with Okada winning the tournament for the second time and going on to challenge for the IWGP Title at Wrestle Kingdom 9. Okada goes into the tournament as champion this year, but will that help him win the G1 two years in a row?
The tournament is a round robin tournament with two blocks with twenty wrestlers, ten per block. Everyone in A Block will fight everyone else in A Block, and the same with B Block. Winning earns points, and the wrestlers with the most points in each Block will fight to determine the G1 Champion. I’m just going to highlight a few of the major wrestlers and stories that will be prominent over the next month of wrestling.
The Potential Winners
In all likelihood, there are only four realistic winners of the G1 Climax. In the A Block, AJ Styles and Hiroshi Tanahashi are the favorites, and in B Block, IWGP Champion Kazuchika Okada and stablemate Shinsuke Nakamura are the most likely winners. All four are former IWGP Champions, and with the winner of the G1 receiving main eventing Wrestle Kingdom 10, a former champion is the best bet. Each has their reasons for and against them. AJ Styles would be only the third foreigner to reach the finals, and no foreigner has ever won the G1. Tanahashi is perpetually hurt, and this G1 may be his last big run at the top. Okada is current champion, so winning the tournament to determine his challenger would be odd. The most reasonable winner is Nakamura. Nakamura is the most popular guy on the roster, and hasn’t been IWGP champion in five years. Common sense says Nakamura is winning by beating Styles in the finals, but I’m picking Tanahashi.
This is probably Tanahashi’s last run at glory on the top of the card, so I can absolutely see him being given one final main event push. Plus, Tanahashi challenging Okada for the title at Wrestle Kingdom 10 would bring Okada’s story and their rivalry in full circle. It just makes too much sense not to do. It’s not what I hope happens, but it is what I expect.
The Bullet Club
Three members of the Bullet Club are in A Block. AJ Styles, Bad Luck Fale, and Doc Gallows will all have to face each other at some point. Styles, as former champion, is obviously the Ace of the Bullet Club, but Bad Luck Fale is always made to look strong. It will be interesting to see if they are able to have a respectful match with each other, especially since Styles and Fale rarely interact. I’m predicting a second place finish in A Block for Styles, and a third place finish for Fale, with Styles winning their match on August 11th.
The other major faction in NJPW, CHAOS has always seemed like a loose coalition then a group working towards anything. With both Okada and Nakamura in the group, it’s inevitable they will butt heads from time to time. Okada and Nakamura fight on the last day of the round robin portion of the G1, and Block B will almost assuredly be decided by that match. There’s a third member of CHAOS in B Block. Tomohiro Ishii is one of my favorite wrestlers. His smash-mouth style is awesome to watch, and I feel there’s some strong upset potential with him.