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Cafe Puro (8/18/16): The Best and Worst of the 26th G1 Climax Tournament



If you think the 26th Annual G1 Climax Tournament is spared from the craziness that is 2016, then you are sorely mistaken. And that, my friends, is a good thing.

After 19 grueling days of top-notch physicality and athleticism from some of the best wrestlers on the planet, the summer tradition of NJPW finally ended with much praise and appreciation. If anything, it is a sign that the promotion has weathered the initial storm from early in the year and ended with a stronger, more well-rounded roster.

Now is as good a time as any to look back at the best and worst moments of this year’s G1 Climax, and what it could mean as we move towards the home stretch all the way to the company’s biggest show of the year, Wrestle Kingdom 11 in Tokyo Dome.

Spoiler alert: the positives pretty much outnumbered the negatives.

Best: Surprises. Surprises Everywhere



Look, the G1 has always been home to major upsets and unexpected victories, that much is a given. But who would have thought that the booking for this year’s tournament would be as crazy as this year’s?

Neither Honma nor YOSHI-HASHI were delegated as merely sacrificial lambs to the top stars as they managed to score major victories over some of the biggest stars like Shibata and Omega, respectively. SANADA forced Tanahashi to submit to the Skull End and secure a rare tap-out victory to the eternal face of the promotion. Heck, Marufuji emphatically defeated Okada at the main event of the first day, the champion falling to an outsider, albeit a more experienced outsider.

And all these happened on the first two days.

Management has finally decided to give the young stars a chance and give the an outlet to become successful in the post-Nakamura era, and everyone was happy to oblige. If anything, Nakamura’s departure opened the floodgates for new stars to take the spotlight, and none of them disappointed at all. If anything, this G1 is a sign that the next generation of NJPW stars has arrived, and they are here to stay.

To add, there was simply no way to predict who would win because of this complex method of booking, but one thing is for sure: it kept fans in suspense throughout the entire month, hoping that their chosen favorites will make it to the last day. Speaking of which…

Best: Just When You Have All The Answers…



Admit it: most of us had any combination of Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, or Katsuyori Shibata ending up at the Finals of the G1, which would have been a safe company bet. But with how this entire tournament turned out, nobody could have imagined the tie between Tanahashi and Okada that allowed perennial B+ player, Hirooki Goto, to win A Block. And with how red hot Naito is right now, it was a given that El Ingobernable would take B Block and win the whole thing. But Omega beating Naito en route to the Finals, winning at the skin of his teeth? Believe me, no one could have made the right picks for both blocks and managed to keep things refreshing for everyone.

Best: Glorious Matches (not necessarily the Bobby Roode kind)



But lest we forget, the G1 has always been known for one thing: top of the line matches that garner much adulation from wrestling fans all over the world. And this year’s G1 is no exception. In all honesty, there’s just so many great matches to check out that you’ll really want to subscribe to NJPW World and check them all out. Trust me, 999 yen for all these gems are worth it, and you’ll be supporting NJPW at the same time, which will allow them to perhaps give us a bigger and better G1 next year!

Best: OMG NOAH



The impact Pro Wrestling NOAH had for this year’s tournament has been nothing short of prominent. Naomichi Marufuji has always been an A+ wrestler when a fire lights up from underneath him, and we have definitely seen an A+ Marufuji in this entire tournament, so much so that he will get a future IWGP Heavyweight Championship match against Okada in an upcoming event.

Katsuhiko Nakajima might be a new face in the NJPW World-era of fans, a talented youngster with many reasons to show why he’s a must-see star. And for the past month, he certainly made a lasting impression in the B Block, which includes a win over IWGP Intercontinental Champion, Michael Elgin. The master striker has left his mark in this new era of New Japan, he’s bound to make a return to NJPW in the coming months.

And man, let’s not forget that crazy brawl at the last day of the G1 pitting NJPW stars vs NOAH stars, with Shibata giving a stiff headbutt to Nakajima that caused his head to split open. Talk about loads of animosity and heat between the two sides. The good thing is that if there has to be another NJPW interaction in the NOAH side of things, it will highly likely be better than the current and stale situation with SZKG, that much is for sure.

Best/Worst: The Tenzan G1 Farewell Tour



One of the most compelling stories in the G1 this year is how his long-time bro and lariat-disher, Satoshi Kojima, willingly gave up his spot in the G1 to Hiroyoshi Tenzan to allow his friend to go through one last meaningful run before he calls it quits. And since the star of the tournament, Tenzan’s been on a mission to treat every single match as if it was his retirement match, with Kojima cheering him on. While Tenzan did not win his block, he certainly made an impression throughout the tour, knowing that he will be able to retire in the future with no regrets.

And when we will look back at the career that was, surely, remembering Tenzan’s last G1 run will be bittersweet, especially for those who followed his career for years. But the you’ll remember he won the whole thing three times, and suddenly, you’ll imagine that he had it really good after all.

Worst: Goto, Choke Artist Extraordinaire



Yes, we all know that Hirooki Goto and Chris Panzer of PWR actually have something in common: they are arguably the greatest choke artists of their respective promotions. But we all knew of Goto’s misfortunes over the years. Yes, he did well enough in his career, but the ultimate prize has always eluded him over the years, and it seems that time is running out for him that he may end up being the Manabu Nakanishi of his generation: the man that has never won the big one. It was also a shame that he had to be used to put over Kenny Omega (we’ll get to him in a bit), knowing that they have yet to pull the trigger on a proper heavyweight title run that has been eluding him for years, all things considered.

Perhaps there will be a time that Goto will finally win the big one. But until then, the waiting game continues.

Best: THIS Kenny Omega



While there is always room for wacky Omega as one-third of The ELITE, when he turns up the volume to maximum, he will always deliver top notch main event matches, which has been the case since his DDT days. His Finals match with Goto is no exception, and man, it was good. As in, really good. Not only is he a well oiled machine in his own right, but he is also quite the storyteller, as evidenced with him selling his injured knee from a night before. And when he lived up to his Twitter handle’s namesake (@KennyOmegamanX), he pulled off moves from his former partner, Kota Ibushi, as well as former Bullet Club heads Finn Balor and AJ Styles, to weaken Goto long enough to get his with the One-Winged Angel for the three count.

With his win, he became the first westerner to ever win the G1 Climax and the first former IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion to win the G1 (among a lengthly list of firsts). If he is able to defend his right to compete at WK11 this year, we will see a first time bout with Kazuchika Okada, topping off what has been a very interesting year for The Cleaner after taking over Bullet Club, winning the IC Title, and being involved in the first major ladder match in NJPW history. Man, what a year.

Do you have any favorites during this year’s G1? Anything you didn't like? Sound off in the comments!

                                                                          *****

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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