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The Smark Henry Guide to NJPW's G1 Climax (Block B & Overall Prediction)


Earlier, we gave you the first half of our official preview of NJPW’s G1 Climax, introducing the tournament structure and covering the competitors in Block A. Here’s the follow-up entry to that, covering Block B and an overall prediction for the tournament!

*****



Signature Moves: Shouten Kai, Goto Shiki
Accomplishments: IWGP Intercontinental Champion (2, current), IWGP Tag Team Champion, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, G1 Climax, New Japan Cup (3), World Tag League (2)

We start with Hirooki Goto, NJPW’s resident samurai. He looks like a traditional Japanese warlord, coming down to the ring in badass samurai outfits to some pretty awesome music. Goto is also a pretty good wrestler, having won numerous NJPW tournaments such as the New Japan Cup and the G1 Climax. For some reason, though, he has not reached the heights that his peers like Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura have. Goto has challenged for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship numerous times, but has always fallen short. Similar to Naito, Goto falls into that level that’s above most wrestlers, but just falls short of the elite—in other words, he’s your B+ player.

2015, however, has been quite the year for Goto. He won the IWGP Tag Team Championships in January with childhood friend Katsuyori Shibata. After dropping the titles, Goto would then move into a feud with then IWGP Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, whom he beat to win the title. Goto is coming off a successful defense against Nakamura, and is riding high coming into G1 Climax. He knows what it takes to win here, and a second G1 Climax win would help boost his case for being one of NJPW’s best wrestlers.



*****



Signature Moves: Gun Stun, Magic Killer (with Doc Gallows)
Accomplishments: IWGP Tag Team Champion (4, current), World Tag League (2)

Karl Anderson is one of the Bullet Club’s founding members, being part of the original incarnation that Prince Devitt (now Finn B├ílor in WWE) formed in 2012. With Devitt gone, Anderson serves as the Bullet Club’s mouthpiece, often holding the mic when the group wants to make a statement. He’s also their resident tag team specialist, often featuring in tag bouts with his Bullet Club brother Doc Gallows. Anderson has been a mainstay of NJPW’s heavyweight tag team division, having won the tag belts on numerous occasions. The Machine Gun is fresh off winning back the IWGP Tag Team Championship from Ring of Honor tag team The Kingdom, in a feud that he spent most of ogling the Kingdom’s valet Maria Kanellis. No, really, they even lost a match because he was staring at her for too long.

Despite being a tag team specialist, Anderson has managed to fare relatively well in his previous G1 Climax stints. He made the finals in 2012, making him the first foreigner to reach that level since Rick Rude in 1992. Since then, he’s usually finished in the upper half of his groups, often being 1-2 places short of the top spot. With a very talented block, though, Anderson may struggle to make it out this year. The competition is fierce this year, and the Machine Gun may end up sputtering.

*****


Signature Moves: Rainmaker, Red Ink, can make money rain down from the ceiling
Accomplishments: IWGP Heavyweight Champion (3, current), G1 Climax (2), New Japan Cup

Kazuchika Okada is often one of the names that pops up when discussing who the best wrestler in the world is. Okada is the current IWGP Heavyweight Champion, having won the belt earlier this month when he defeated AJ Styles at Dominion. TNA fans may remember him as that guy who served as Samoa Joe’s cameraman back in 2010, and for a forgettable run in a Green Hornet-inspired gimmick. Don’t let that stint fool you—Okada is one of NJPW’s elite wrestlers. At just the young age of 27, he’s going to be around for a long time.

Okada has won the G1 Climax two times before, and a historic third win would be an amazing stamp of superiority over the rest of NJPW’s roster. Look forward to watching this man go toe to toe with Shinsuke Nakamura, in a match between two of the best wrestlers in the world today.

*****






Signature Moves: Revolution Elgin Bomb, Crossface, lifting double underhook DDT
Accomplishments: ROH World Champion, PWG World Tag Team Champion

Every now and then, NJPW invites wrestlers from other promotions to compete in their tournaments. Guys like Ricochet/Prince Puma and Kenny Omega (well, back when he wasn't with NJPW) were often invited to the Best of the Super Juniors tournament, and this year the G1 Climax welcomes Ring of Honor mainstay Michael Elgin. He's no stranger to NJPW talent, having wrestled Okada and AJ Styles in the ROH/NJPW crossover shows. Elgin wrestles a pure power style, which makes him stand out in ROH, where faster and more agile wrestlers are abundant. The closest here would be Tomohiro Ishii, whom he'll have a chance to wrestle as the two are part of this block.

It should be interesting to see if Elgin can stand out here in NJPW much in the same way he does back home. This tournament is a very good chance for Elgin to establish himself in the eyes of the Japanese fans.


*****



Signature Moves: Kojima Cutter, Koji Crush Driver, lariat, Multiple corner chops
Accomplishments: IWGP Heavyweight Champion (2), IWGP Tag Team Champion (6), G1 Climax

Kojima is a part of NJPW's old guard, having wrestled since the early 90s. Together with his frenemy Hiroyoshi Tenzan, the two form the tag team Tencozy, and can often be found in NJPW's opening tag team matches with the Young Lions and the other junior heavyweights. From time to time he'll also be involved in the NWA World Heavyweight Championship scene, either with or against his buddy Tenzan. Kojima is known for his usual spot of cornering an opponent with several knife-edge chops as his eyes roll into the back of his head. It's like the Undertaker mixed with Ric Flair on fast forward, and is quite the sight to see. At 44, his time in the main event scene is long gone, but he can still go in the ring.

The G1 Climax is familiar territory for Kojima, having won the 2010 edition of this tournament. He'll pick up a couple of wins, but will probably not top the group. Kojima vs. Yuji Nagata might be a good show of old men who can still go at it, and his matches with the likes of Nakamura and Okada should at least be decent.

*****





Signature Moves: Boma Ye
Accomplishments: IWGP Heavyweight Champion (3), IWGP Intercontinental Champion (4), IWGP Tag Team Champion, G1 Climax, New Japan Cup

Ah, yes. Quite possibly the most popular Japanese wrestler in the world today. Shinsuke Nakamura is like that uncle you who simply radiates swag from every pore of his body. He makes goofy gestures look really cool, and can command attention similar to the likes of Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury. He’s also called the King of Strong Style, and is known as one of said wrestling style’s foremost representatives. In recent years, Nakamura has taken the IWGP Intercontinental Championship and turned it into a legitimate top title, giving it a strong boost in prestige from the quality of matches he has competed in.

He may have lost the IWGP Intercontinental Championship a couple of months ago to Hirooki Goto, but many think that setback simply paves the path for Nakamura to reign supreme at the G1 Climax. A win here would vault him back into the IWGP Heavyweight Championship scene, where we haven’t seen him for quite some time. Expect hard-hitting and intense matches with his CHAOS stablemates Okada and Tomohiro Ishii, as well as fierce rival Hirooki Goto.

*****





Signature Moves: Kokeshi
Accomplishments: has captured the hearts of millions of Japanese fans

Tomoaki Honma is NJPW’s resident underdog, notably distinct for his Hulk Hogan-inspired getup. His matches consist of him finding an opening to use his signature move the Kokeshi (a headbutt), attempting said move, and failing 99% of the time. Watching someone try a headbutt at every possible opportunity is actually very entertaining, and the Japanese fans go batshit crazy when Honma does manage to hit it.

The G1 Climax is a special tournament for Honma as it was in last year’s edition where he firmly established himself as a fan favorite. Coming in as a replacement for the injured Kota Ibushi, Honma lost all 10 of his matches, but not without capturing the hearts of many fans. That ordeal resulted in the birth of Honmania (well, he is themed after Hogan), and Honma finally picked up his first big win earlier this year at Wrestle Kingdom 9. With the past behind him, Honma can now look forward to what is hopefully a more successful G1 Climax this time. You never know, this might be the year when Honmania finally runs wild.

*****




Signature Moves: Lariat
Accomplishments: NEVER Openweight Champion (3)

At first glance, Tomohiro Ishii does not look like a star. Short and stocky, he’s the bodyguard to Nakamura & Okada’s Yakuza boss looks. He is, however, actually pretty good in the ring. He’s nicknamed the Stone Pitbull for his tenacity and ferociousness, finishing last year’s G1 Climax with a separated shoulder. Like Togi Makabe, his matches consist of him trying to cave your skull in with very stiff lariats until it actually caves in, or you stay down long enough for a pinfall. He’s been involved in a feud with Makabe for close to a year now, with the NEVER Openweight Championship being traded back and forth between the two. These two rivals actually make for some interesting matches, as it’s really just two men beating the living shit out of each other. No beautiful slams, no aerial manuevers, just a bunch of stiff shots and lariats being thrown all over the place.

This will be Ishii’s third G1 Climax, and while he hasn’t come close to winning, you should still try to check him out. Ishii has wrestled amazing matches in this tournament, including a critically acclaimed match against Katsuyori Shibata in 2013. Ishii vs. Elgin should be fun to watch in this block, as well as his matches with CHAOS stablemates Nakamura and Okada.

*****





Signature Moves: Backdrop Hold, Drive Screw, Nagata Lock
Accomplishments: IWGP Heavyweight Champion (2), IWGP Tag Team Champion (2), G1 Climax, G1 Tag League (2), New Japan Cup (2)

WCW fans may remember Nagata for his feud with Ultimo Dragon in 1997, but he's a completely different animal here in Japan. Another one of the old guard, Nagata is no longer at the top of most NJPW cards, but he can still go. For someone who's 47, Nagata is still a very good wrestler, and you'll often see him carrying the action for NJPW's opening tag team matches. He'll also get title shots from time to time, most recently against Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championships earlier this year.

Nagata is another previous winner, having won G1 Climax in 2001. I suppose it is possible that Nagata could win a sort of a last hurrah, but there are other likelier scenarios. You can at least count on him for good matches in this tournament, including a rematch with Nakamura.

*****



Signature Moves: Miami Shine, Tokyo Pimps
Accomplishments: IWGP Tag Team Champion, NEVER Openweight Champion, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion

Rounding out this year’s G1 Climax is Yujiro Takahashi, the only Japanese member of the Bullet Club. Yujiro is known for being a ladies’ man, often coming to the ring with very attractive eye candy. Beyond that, he’s mostly there to participate in tag team matches for the Bullet Club at the start of or in the middle of cards. As a junior heavyweight, Yujiro actually showed incredible potential (especially with former tag team partner Tetsuya Naito), but that seems to have been lost as he has transitioned to the heavyweights. When people remember you for the girls you bring to the ring and not your matches, that says a lot about you.

So, yes, Yujiro is in Block B, and nothing in his recent matches/storylines indicate that he’s up for winning this tournament. You never know, though, Yujiro may live up to his promise this year and make some noise.

*****

Block B Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura looks to be a heavy favorite to take this block and vault back into the IWGP Heavyweight Championship scene by winning the tournament. With his stake for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship resolved for now, many expect Nakamura to gun for NJPW's big title. Reigning champion Kazuchika Okada is the next likeliest to top the group, and a G1 Climax win for him would assert his dominance over NJPW. Expect the match between Nakamura and Okada (which takes place towards the end of the tournament) as a decider for who takes this group.

Overall Prediction: G1 Climax begins the road to NJPW's Wrestle Kingdom show, as the winner of this tournament gains the right to challenge the IWGP Heavyweight Champion at the Tokyo Dome next January. With that, AJ Styles (Block A) and Shinsuke Nakamura (Block B) are early favorites to top their group, and both men would meet in a blockbuster match that we have not yet seen before. That would be a good way to cap off what will turn out to be an amazing tournament, and we see the King of Strong Style winning to vault him back into the IWGP Heavyweight Championship scene. A potential match between Nakamura and Okada (assuming he holds on to the title until then) would be stellar, as the two do not really have much chances to face each other being CHAOS stablemates.

*****

If you want to catch all the action, the best way to do so is by catching a subscription to NJPW World, their main online streaming service. The site is in Japanese, but here's a handy post from Reddit detailing how you can subscribe. The cost is only ¥999 per month (around Php 365/$8), and that buys you access to a vast catalog of previous NJPW matches They usually have tournament matches up by the next day, so you can easily stay up to date. Aside from that, we'll be providing regular standings updates per week while the G1 Climax is ongoing, all the way until the final, so be sure to check back here for the latest news!

Who are your favorites to win G1 Climax? Got any bold predictions? Let us know in the comments section below!

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