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The Smark Henry Guide to the 26th G1 Climax Tournament: A Block


The 26th G1 Climax Tournament is upon us! And as promised, much like last year, we are going to look at this year's participants in what should be one of the freshest tournament rosters in many years.

This week, we will start with A Block, which, based on the participants involved, will have a more unique identity this time around and should make for an interesting change of pace during the tour.


Accomplishments:  Most IWGP Heavyweight Championship reigns (at 7) and defenses (at 11), IWGP Intercontinental Championship, two-time G1 Climax Winner

What else needs to be said about the Once In A Century Talent? He's practically a legend at this point in his career that even if he decided to retire today, his accomplishments alone would garner him a spot in any Hall of Fame. And while he may now play the role of secondary face as he's passed the torch to Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 10, his drawing power remains unmatched, and his popularity, undeniable.

The question coming into this year's tournament is his shoulder injury, which resulted to him being taken out of his scheduled Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match at last month's Dominion. After so many years of being the top dog of the company and helping the company reach new heights without any rest, is the injury bug finally catching up? This year's G1 will very well determine his future in the company, and whether or not he will be able to continue with his level of performance for the years to come. In other words, this will be the litmus test to his longevity, and we will see if he can pull off his usual magic in the next number of weeks.


Accomplishments: Current IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Youngest G1 Climax Winner in History

Once again, the Rainmaker and current face of the company will come in to the tournament as the reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion, with the intention to prove he is the true face of the company. In order to drive that point home to everyone, he will have to win the G1 Climax as IWGP Heavyweight Champion. It may sound easy, but take note that the last time that happened was 16 years ago when Kensuke Sasaki won the entire tournament in 2000 as a currently-reigning champion.

Nonetheless, with the roll he's on after managing to win back the title from Tetsuya Naito, he has more momentum now to achieve that rare feat. And let's not forget the fact that on his first try, he won the entire tournament, and was the sole reason for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship opportunity at Wrestle Kingdom since 2013. Can he secure a tournament win for the second time in his career?


Accomplishments: IWGP Intercontinental Champion, IWGP Tag Team Champion, G1 Climax Winner

The unending saga of Hirooki Goto continues to be the central theme of his career. A year ago, we mentioned that he is the equivalent of a "B+ Player," a man who may have been successful in various facets of his New Japan stay, but has never won the "big one." Much has happened since then, having aligned with CHAOS after his unsuccessful championship challenge against Okada early in the year. He has been involved with the CHAOS vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon feud since then, and has shown a more aggressive side as of late, even introducing a new and vicious finisher known as the "GTR."

Goto's challenge these days is if he can prove he isn't just a gatekeeper challenger for the championship aspirants, and can finally win the big one in his career. A G1 victory will put him one step closer to that goal, but given his position, a win is highly doubtful. However, he will definitely put in some great matches, and perhaps even secure a win over Okada during the G1.


Accomplishments: IWGP Heavyweight Champion, NEVER Openweight Champion, IWGP Tag Team Champion, G1 Climax Winner

The complete opposite of Goto as far as title successes go, the King Kong has already been on the top of the mountain, having won the G1 Climax in 2009 and winning the heavyweight title in 2010. His brutal, no-holds-barred style has become an endearing trademark of his to the fans, and will bring an in-your-face style to the tournament.

His star power and approach to wrestling will make for some interesting encounters this year, including some first time bouts that fans are sure to enjoy. Makabe is one man the company can depend on for quality tournament matches. Don't be surprised when you see Makabe deliver in the biggest tournament of the year.


Accomplishments: NEVER Openweight Champion

Three years ago, Tomohiro Ishii finally made his G1 debut and, right then and there, made a lasting impression by beating Shibata and Tanahashi in high-stakes block matches. While he lost the rest of his matches, winning these two outstanding matches finally made Ishii a major player in the company, making him the face of the NEVER Openweight Championship for a significant amount of time.

This year, he will be coming to the tournament as a legitimate player, a hardened warrior with loads of main event experience under his belt. And as fans already know by now, you can never look away from an Ishii match. Not only will he be facing familiar foes like Tanahashi and Okada, but he will also have some new singles bouts that should pique the interest of wrestling fans all over. Expect Ishii to impress as usual, especially after having recently challenged Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestling Dontaku.


Accomplishments:  IWGP Heavyweight Champion, 11-time IWGP Tag Team Champion, NWA World Heavyweight Champion, three-time G1 Climax Winner

To call Tenzan a legend is an understatement; he is one of the most decorated icons in professional wrestling history, as evidenced by his accolades over the years. However, like all wrestlers of any longevity, his body is broken down from the wear and tear of the business.

That is why his entry to this year's G1 Climax is a unique case. In reality, Satoshi Kojima, Tenzan's BFF, was supposed to participate in the tournament while Tenzan was pushed to the sidelines this year by NJPW management, breaking the legend's G1 Climax participation streak in the process. Those who know Tenzan's public medical history will attest to that. To say the least, Tenzan was infuriated. 

However, after Cozy won the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Titles alongside Sydal and Ricochet at Kizuna Road, he decided to give his spot to Tenzan, thinking this may very well be the latter's last G1 ever. NJPW eventually approved the request, and Tenzan is officially in.

If this would very well be his last G1 (and it wouldn't be surprising), then he will very well give his greatest performances this year despite being past his prime. The Tenzan Farewell Tour would be a sight to behold for a man who is well associated with the G1 itself, and he will definitely bring the nostalgic feels this year.


Accomplishments: IWGP Tag Team Champion, one of the founding fathers of Bullet Club

year ago, we predicted that Tama Tonga would become a player at the G1 Climax Tournament after his string of satisfactory performances at that year's G1 tour, securing wins in tag team matches while showing everyone what he is capable of.

Since then, he's evolved from Bullet Club's young gun to bonafide Bad Boy, continuing the momentum that both Prince Devitt and Karl Anderson established since the birth of Bullet Club, with a Tag Team Championship reign to show alongside his brother, Tanga Roa. Despite an interesting year for the man, however, this will be his first official showing as a singles star when he participates in his first ever G1.

While a G1 win for the son of Haku is unlikely at this stage of his career, this tournament is still extremely important for both his career and for the future of Bullet Club at a time when the faction is in dire need of talented stars after a string of acquisitions by WWE in the past few years. If anyone can make a huge first impression, Tonga's the one to do it.



Accomplishments: IWGP Intercontinental Champion, one of the founding fathers of Bullet Club

The Underboss will once again compete in the G1, bringing the dominant big man vibe in a tournament filled with some of the best talent in the world. The question for Bullet Club's big man, however, is if he has already reached his peak as a wrestler?

Not that it is a bad thing, of course. In his own right, he is a man full of presence. However, given his position in the card as of late, relegated to opening multi-man tag matches, and considering he is a former IWGP Intercontinental Champion, will he be able to make a refreshing impression in the eyes of the audience, given the state of New Japan today?

With much of the focus given to the rest of the Club (particularly The Elite), he will have to work his damnedest, same as Tonga, if he wants to remain in a better position in the card, especially when Yujiro Takahashi is effectively not considered in this year's G1.

Speaking of which, it is interesting to see what happens when Tonga and Fale do meet one on one...



Accomplishments: AJPW World Tag Team Champion, AJPW All Asia Tag Team Champion, first-ever GAORA TV Champion, TNA X-Division Champion

If we are going to be perfectly honest, Seiya Sanada's arrival to New Japan, much less the G1 Climax Tournament, is a long time coming. The man known today as "Cold Skull" was previously in a position to be one of AJPW's Aces, a young man destined to become one of the top stars of the company. Sadly, the unfortunate situation involving Keiji Mutoh and Nobuo Shiraishi (which we covered months ago) resulted in a long and winding journey that led him to companies such as Wrestle-1, TNA, GFW, and other wrestling promotions, winning championships along the way. It seemed that we would never see Seiya in the pinnacle that is New Japan, given the circumstances.

That is, until Invasion Attack, when he made a surprise debut by helping Tetsuya Naito win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, equipped with a new sinister demeanor. Now known as SANADA, he became a member of Los Ingobernables de Japon, and will make his long-overdue G1 debut.

What many people tend to forget when looking at SANADA today is that he is an elite-level performer who can dish out great matches given the opportunity. So when he gets to face off the likes of Tanahashi, Okada, and Ishii, among others, expect some top notch performances that will surely impress the audience. That's what happens when you gain experience all over the world, after all.


Accomplishments: GHC Heavyweight Champion, current GHC Tag Team Champion, GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, only man in history to have held the top Jr. Heavyweight Championships in NJPW, AJPW, and NOAH, two-time Super J-Cup winner, Vice President of Pro Wrestling NOAH

This year's G1 will see the return of special guests invited by NJPW to participate in the tournament. And for this installment, two wrestlers from NOAH are going to participate with one representative per block. For A Block, it will be the dynamic genius himself, Naomichi Marufuji.

If there was a list of wrestlers in the world who deserve all the hype and respect in the world, then the Genius of the Ark is definitely on it. Besides the long list of accomplishments he has achieved over the years (seriously, just look at the list), he is also a true innovator in his own right, having come up with the Shiranui and even the rarely seen combination of Mitsuharu Misawa's Emerald Flowsion and Tiger Driver known as the Tiger Flowsion. And even after the death of Misawa and departure of KENTA (AKA NXT's Hideo Itami) and other NOAH wrestlers like Jun Akiyama years ago, he remained a loyal soldier of the company and helped keep the company alive.

These days, he is involved in NOAH's war against Suzuki-gun, and is even a current GHC Tag Team Champion alongside Toru Yano (who we will cover in B Block). But his G1 inclusion is more than welcome, opening up a plethora of new dream matches including the likes of Makabe, SANADA, and even Okada himself! For new fans who are introduced to Marufuji for the first time, all I can say is simply check out various videos on YouTube to see why he is justly included in the tournament this year. You won't be disappointed.

*****

As you can see, based on the majority of the participants involved, A Block may be initially called the "Ace's Block" due to the star power involved. But looking past that, one can also say that the block is most associated to the style of western-style pro wrestling, which puts emphasis on story and emotions in their matches, the best example being Tanahashi vs. Okada.

You might be wondering, "Why are you guys making this kind of comparision right now?" Well, that is something you will find out when we have the preview to B Block coming up! If you think A Block is quite a cast of characters, wait until you see B Block.

What do you think about A Block right now? Any favorites you wanna see win for this block? Sound off in the comments!

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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.

All images are taken from NJPW.

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