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G1 Climax 2015: Recap and Revelations



After an entire month of grueling action that spanned throughout Japan, the 25th G1 Climax Tournament is finally over. The world's greatest wrestling tournament was the stage to a ton of quality matches, and thankfully for the rest of the world, it was made easily available through NJPW World for only 999 yen, or approximately 3 large orders of milk tea in a popular milk tea joint. This is a far cry from its old price tag, the entire show for around $100. No doubt, this allowed old fans to finally enjoy the G1 Climax at a very friendly cost, and for new fans to finally see why this tournament's hype for many years has been justified every single time it happens. It is safe to say that for the offer alone, this year's G1 has become the most accessible installment ever.

Now last year, we learned quite a number of things about the NJPW roster. This year, it's safe to say that we learned way more than we ever expected not just from the roster, but from the company as a whole. How can you tell?  For starters, let's look at the final standing:

Block A:

Hiroshi Tanahashi – 14 points

AJ Styles – 12 points

Bad Luck Fale – 10 points
Tetsuya Naito – 10 points

Katsuyori Shibata – 8 points
Togi Makabe – 8 points
Kota Ibushi – 8 points 
Toru Yano – 8 points 

Hiroyoshi Tenzan – 6 points 
Doc Gallows – 6 points 


Block B:

Shinsuke Nakamura – 14 points

Kazuchika Okada – 14 points 

Karl Anderson – 12 points 
Hirooki Goto – 12 points 

Tomohiro Ishii – 10 points 

Michael Elgin – 8 points 

Satoshi Kojima – 6 points 
Yujiro Takahashi – 6 points 
Yuji Nagata – 6 points 

Tomoaki Honma – 2 points 

  • The New Japan main event scene will still be around for a while

Tanahashi, Nakamura, Okada, Styles, Goto. These are the guys who were part of the main event scene in some form of another for past years. And based on the standings, it doesn't feel like the scene is going to change any time soon. While this might be a good thing for New Japan, it is best to learn from the mistakes of AJPW and Pro Wrestling NOAH and make sure that the future is further secured than rely too much on the past and present. Sure, you have Okada, but don't forget that you have a phenomenon like Ibushi who is waiting to break through. You also have a supreme singles worker like Anderson, a man who has felt right at home in wrestling again in Shibata, and even a man who's finally found his footing in Ishii. And speaking of the present...

  • "LOS INGOBERNABLES" NAITO!

Funny how Naito's career turned out. When he came back along with Yujiro Takahashi in 2010 after an excursion in CMLL, everyone saw him as the guy who would carry the future of the company. He was being cheered and supported despite being a member of then-heel CHAOS, kept getting huge wins, and even got spotlight matches in Wrestle Kingdom against Keiji Mutoh in a genius VS genius match, and Jeff Hardy for the TNA Heavyweight Championship. No doubt, Naito's star shined. That was, until his injury in 2012 which put him out of action for almost a year. Add that to the rising star of Okada, and Naito's push seemed to be put in hold. Fans began to boo the Stardust Genius while cheering the likes of Tanahashi, Okada, Styles, and others.

Then Los Ingobernables happened, and Naito showed a new side of himself that no one thought he had. He became an apathetic and uncaring human being, attacking referees and showing no concern to both his opponents and partners. And in the midst of all this, he became the most compelling man in the company. In a sense, he was more Bullet Club than Bullet Club themselves. He may be in a rivalry with Shibata right now, but expect more from this new and reinvigorated Naito in the near future.

  • #BigMike

The safest assumption about Michael Elgin before the tournament began is that other members of the ROH roster deserved it more than him. Perhaps ROH Heavyweight and TV Champion, Jay Lethal? The ever-so-talented Roderick Strong? Could it even be any of the Briscoes? One thing was for sure: no one expected Elgin to be the ROH representative, much less perform along the fantastic roster of New Japan. But by the end of the G1 tour, we wish we could see more of Elgin in Japan.

#BigMike became a highlight of the G1 Climax not only due to his awe-inspiring feats of strength, but also his ability to adapt to the Japanese style of wrestling. His matches with Goto and Ishii should be proof enough that while he has always been a fit for American wrestling due to his power, he is also a perfect fit in Japanese wrestling due to his toughness. You might as well even call Elgin the Tomohiro Ishii of ROH. Getting another invitation to an NJPW tour in the future is an inevitability.

  • Third Generation Sunset

If there was any sign that the new generation is here to take over, then look no further than by looking at the final standings. Kojima, Tenzan, and Nagata, the guys who helped support professional wrestling in Japan during its dark days in the mid-2000's, are giving way to the current generation for the most part. They may have their wins and moments, but for the most part, they took more losses than usual. And Manabu Nakanishi's presence was not even felt this year as he was with Pro Wrestling NOAH at the time. Take note, these guys are record-breaking wrestlers in their own right. And despite that, they did their best to pull off worthy performances against the young guys. If anyone understood what is best for long term sustainability, it's them.

Their time may be over, and they may never get another run at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship ever again, but the G1 reminded everyone why they are legends in their own right by the end of it.

  • SZKG is MIA

If you want to see how sustainable NJPW is as compared to years past, then take a gander at this year's participants, particularly, the absence of Suzuki-gun for this year's G1.

As some of you might know, Suzuki-gun has been absent for most of the year due to their ongoing invasion storyline in Pro Wrestling NOAH, in the process capturing every single GHC title there is. And while it is disappointing that Minoru Suzuki was not involved in any 5-star match in the G1 this year, the line up goes to show that NJPW has no shortage of quality talent. If you consider how New Japan previously has various guest talents participating in the G1 last time to help boost interest, and compare that to recent years' participants, it's easy to say that the company is in very good hands with their current crop of talent. 

Since NJPW and NOAH have a very good business relationship for many years, offering Suzuki-gun to the latter can only lead to good business as a whole as professional wrestling in the country.

  • HONMANIA IS RUNNING WILD!

Yes, he is not exactly the guy who has an envious G1 win-loss record. But in this case, does it really matter?

If you're Tomoaki Honma, that won't matter at all.

When Honma made his G1 debut last year, he went through the tournament without a win in his resume. Fans always wanted the underdog to win, and this year, fans finally saw the payoff when he defeated Tomohiro Ishii in a match worthy of everyone's praise. There is no turning back for Honma, a man who has finally become a must-watch performer in the company for being such a top tier underdog. Imagine if he won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, think about the kind of reaction he will be getting.

While people don't seem to like his win-loss record in the G1, let's not forget how Tomohiro Ishii capitalized on his G1 performance. On his debut G1 in 2013, he was practically the guy taking the losses. But people have warmed up to Ishii after branching out as an elite badass in singles action. So when he defeated Katsuyori Shibata (in a Match of the Year candidate) and Hiroshi Tanahashi, the crowd exploded! Sure, he only got 2 wins throughout the tournament, but who cares? He beat the 2 elite guys in the company, and has not looked back since. His NEVER Openweight Championship reigns and continued reliance from the company will tell you where he stands, and that's all thanks to his G1 debut. Don't wonder if Honma's career will improve even further after that amazing run.

  • Overall G1 MVP: Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tetsuya Naito

Normally, the MVP slot would have been reserved for only one person. But in this case, it is hard to question the success of these two individuals during the tour. Thus, the slot for G1 MVP would be shared between these two guys. In the case of Naito, that was already explained previously.

But for Tanahashi, his case is an interesting one. Just when you think Tanahashi was going to slow down after achieving V11 title defenses (the most number of IWGP Heavy defenses in history) and even having the most IWGP Heavy title reigns in history (at 7), he surprises us even more by winning the G1 Climax tournament for the second time in his career against eternal rival (and undeniable favorite to win the whole thing) Shinsuke Nakamura. At age 38, you would think he has already done it all and retire at that age. But for the man born in every thousand years, nothing is ever too late for the guy. He once again pulled off the victory against Nakamura in a 5-star classic. And in the process, he managed to pull off multiple top tier matches while making his opponents look good. There's this unusual talent that Tanahashi has: the ability to make everything good with whatever is given to him. From a bizarre rivalry with Toru Yano to his main event rivalries, he always makes them look good in the eyes of the fans. And the same can be said with the quality of his G1 matches. He is the ultimate card New Japan has, and for good reason. And while it can be argued that he is practically the John Cena of New Japan (see first point above), he will always deliver by the end of it.

So yes, while the Nakamura loss is a bitter pill to swallow, at least it is by the capable hands of Tanahashi. And if anything, it felt like this had to happen in order to witness the conclusion of the Okada VS Tanahashi rivalry, which recently saw the former leave in tears after the latter retained the title at Wrestle Kingdom 9. It has that "one year in the making" vibe to it, and if this will truly be the main event of Wrestle Kingdom X, then at least will it have a sense of finality to it.

  • For the G1 Next Year: Tama Tonga and YOSHI-HASHI

Next year will be a brand new G1, and as such, a set of fresh new faces are in order. So who better to join next year's cast than the two guys that impressed during the entire tour?

Tama Tonga has been Karl Anderson's sidekick for so long, and was a founding father of Bullet Club in its inception. Lately, he has been pulling some great material on his end, winning multi-tag matches during the tour. And his crazy painted persona seems to fit him very well. At this point, he deserves to get a shot at the big time and enter this year's tournament. Who knows, he might even get some amazing performances during the tour next year.


YOSHI-HASHI (Tacos from this point on c/o Shinsuke Nakamura) and Kazuchika Okada made their returns to New Japan in 2012 at Wrestle Kingdom 6, but it was Okada that became the bigger star while Tacos remained in the undercard. While he had short flashes of opportunity here and there (and a failed NEVER Openweight Championship match against Yujiro), he was still wallowing in his current spot.

However, recent booking will suggest that Tacos might finally get some momentum on his end after securing more wins and being highlighted more, just like Tama Tonga. It would be a disservice to Tacos if he once again gets ignored next year.

  • Recommended Viewing: G1 Climax 25 Matches
Since there are so many good matches in the G1 this year, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle when it comes to checking out which matches deserve your attention. So without further delay, here are the matches that you might want to check out when you have the time (in no particular order):

Night 1:

AJ Styles VS Katsuyori Shibata
Hiroshi Tanahashi VS Kota Ibushi

Night 2:

Yuji Nagata VS Tomoaki Honma
Tomohiro Ishii VS Satoshi Kojima
Michael Elgin VS Kazuchika Okada
Karl Anderson VS Shinsuke Nakamura

Night 3:

Tetsuya Naito VS Katsuyori Shibata

Night 4:

Satoshi Kojima VS Michael Elgin
Karl Anderson VS Hirooki Goto
Shinsuke Nakamura VS Yuji Nagata
Kazuchika Okada VS Tomoaki Honma

Night 5:

Katsuyori Shibata VS Togi Makabe
Kota Ibushi VS AJ Styles
Tetsuya Naito VS Hiroshi Tanahashi

Night 6:

Hirooki Goto VS Tomoaki Honma
Kazuchika Okada VS Satoshi Kojima

Night 7:

Kota Ibushi VS Katsuyori Shibata
Tetsuya Naito VS AJ Styles

Night 8:

Karl Anderson VS Yuji Nagata
Michael Elgin VS Tomoaki Honma
Shinsuke Nakamura VS Tomohiro Ishii
Kazuchika Okada VS Hirooki Goto

Night 9:

Tetsuya Naito VS Togi Makabe

Night 10:

Satoshi Kojima VS Tomoaki Honma
Tomohiro Ishii VS Yuji Nagata
Kazuchika Okada VS Karl Anderson
Hirooki Goto VS Shinsuke Nakamura

Night 11:

AJ Styles VS Togi Makabe
Tetsuya Naito VS Kota Ibushi

Night 12:

Karl Anderson VS Tomoaki Honma
Michael Elgin VS Yuji Nagata
Hirooki Goto VS Satoshi Kojima
Tomohiro Ishii VS Kazuchika Okada

Night 13:

Hiroshi Tanahashi VS Katsuyori Shibata

Night 14:

Karl Anderson VS Michael Elgin
Satoshi Kojima VS Yuji Nagata
Shinsuke Nakamura VS Tomoaki Honma
Hirooki Goto VS Tomohiro Ishii

Night 15:

Hiroshi Tanahashi VS Togi Makabe

Night 16:

Shinsuke Nakamura VS Satoshi Kojima
Tomoaki Honma VS Tomohiro Ishii

Night 17:

Kota Ibushi VS Togi Makabe
Hiroshi Tanahashi VS AJ Styles

Night 18:

Yuji Nagata VS Hirooki Goto
Michael Elgin VS Tomohiro Ishii
Shinsuke Nakamura VS Kazuchika Okada

Night 19:

The Young Bucks VS reDRagon for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Championship
KUSHIDA VS Ricochet for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi VS Shinsuke Nakamura

The next time New Japan will have a major event will be on Destruction 2015 in Okayama and Kobe on September, a two-parter event that will kickstart the road to Wrestle Kingdom X. Official matches are yet to be announced, but expect an announcement sooner rather than later. Until then, how'd you like the G1 Climax this year? Like it? Hate it? Sound off in the comments!

And lest we forget, this Sunday and Monday will be the viewings for NXT Takeover: Brooklyn and this year's Summerslam, respectively. So hop on to Skinny Mike's and have fun with the rowdiest wrestling fans in the country!

*****


Lance Tan Ong has been a banking guy for the past few years but a wrestling guy for most of his life. And after checking out matches of Mitsuharu Misawa and Shinya Hashimoto at an early age, he's also pretty much a puro guy as well. Currently checking out WWE (mostly NXT), NJPW, DDT, and other promotions that catch and demand attention. He currently handles NJPW news and coverage for Smark Henry.

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