G1 Climax 2019 Preview

Grant McRobbie guest writes for Suplex Retweet as he previews the NJPW summer tournament spectacular, the G1 Climax.

G1 Climax 2019

It’s coming up to that magic time of year. The G1 Climax from New Japan Pro Wrestling is upon us.

Possibly the most prestigious tournament in all of professional wrestling and a true spectacle to watch each year. This year will see 20 men enter across 2 blocks with some absolute dream matches in store. So lets get cracking with details for those new to the tournament and a rundown of everyone entering this year.

Tournament Concept

This years tournament opens on the 6th July and concludes on the 12th August with a total of 19 nights of competition ahead. This sets the road to Wrestle Kingdom truly in motion.

For those unfamiliar with the format of the tournament and it’s history, allow me to give you a brief introduction.

New Japan introduced the G1 Climax tournament in 1991 as a way for the company to showcase their top heavyweight talents in round-robin format. The tournament is traditionally held in 2 divisions or blocks with the winner of each facing off in the finals.

Prior to 2012, the winner would get a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship provided they weren’t the champion already.

From 2012 this was altered to a contract for a shot at the championship at Wrestle Kingdom in January. Similar to WWE’s Money In The Bank, this is given in a briefcase which they must defend until the time arrives for their title shot.

Unlike the New Japan Cup, the champion enters the tournament which can often setup other title defences leading up to Wrestle Kingdom.

Format

The G1 Climax is also one of the longest tournaments in wrestling. It is generally held over 4 weeks with each night featuring half a card of tag matches and the other half the tournament matches for either Block A or B. Formatting the tournament in this way gives the fans teasers of the upcoming matches.

This year proves to be one of the most exciting with the addition of 2 junior heavyweights in the form of Will Ospreay and Shingo Takagi (the first time in 6 years that this has happened – last Junior entrant: Prince Devitt AKA Finn Balor, in 2013).

Alongside faces old and new, the tournament will also play host to several recent roster additions like Kenta and current IWGP US champion Jon Moxley. The tournament includes every singles champion competing in it, which also adds an air of unpredictability and helps set up new feuds for championships going forward.

Difference this year compared to others

This year also marks a big transition as many veterans who some would say filled the gaps previously (names such as Yuki Nagata, Hiroyoshi Tenzan or Satoshi Kojima) are out. A whole raft of fresh hungry faces are entering, all eager to prove they belong and claim the top spot on the mountain of NJPW.

Final standings are determined on a points system. All non final matches have a 30 minutes time limit with a win getting 2 points, a draw getting 1 point and a loss 0 points.

Where to watch

The entire tournament can be watched live on NJPW World and features the choice of English or Japanese commentary. A bonus for us in the UK is the time difference means these shows are in the morning for us instead of the usual US PPV’s resulting in sleepless weekends!

Facts and Figures

Before we go into the full list of entrants in detail here’s a few brief interesting facts about the tournament.

  • To this day, the G1 Climax has only been won once by a foreigner, or Gaijin. This happened in 2016 when the competition was won by Kenny Omega, besting Hirooki Goto in the final. This led to the Wrestle Kingdom match talked about around the world when he took Okada on in the first Meltzer-scale breaking six star classic. This was the first of the 4 big matches the two had over the following 2 years.
  • There have only been 4 years where the IWGP heavyweight champion did not compete in the tournament. These were 1992 (Riki Choshu), 2001 and 2004 (Kazuyuki Fujita), and 2008 (Keiji Mutoh).
  • This year will mark the first time when any G1 Climax show takes place outside Japan when the opening night is held in Dallas.
  • No one who has won the G1 Climax since 2012 has lost their contract for the title shot at Wrestle Kingdom at the subsequent shows before the January 4th spectacle.
  • Since 2012, however, of all the G1 winners only one winner has successfully converted this into a win for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. This occurred this year when”Ace of the Universe” Hiroshi Tanahashi beat Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom.
  • As stated earlier, Omega was the first foreign wrestler to win the tournament. Before him only 2 Gaijin have ever reached the finals – Rick Rude in 1992, and Karl Anderson in 2012. A very Elite group.

Block A

Now onto the tournament entrants this year starting with the entrants in A Block and some details about them going into the tournament.

Lance Archer

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Previous years in the G1

2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014

Best Performance

8 points (all entries)

Archer comes in representing the heel Suzuki Gun faction.

The big giant from Texas moves well for his size and packs a lot of power. Normally working with Davey Boy Smith Jr as part of the Killer Elite Squad tag team, Archer returns to the G1 Climax after several years out of it with a vicious mean streak and looking to inflict some serious damage.

The shock factor of Archer being included was the head of Suzuki Gun – the terrifying Minoru Suzuki – did not get entered and has since wreaked hell on everyone for what he feels is an insult.

Rarely does something like this lead to infighting in the Suzuki Gun camp. Archer’s history in the tournament is not winning material but he has put on some great matches, including his losing effort with Will Ospreay in the New Japan cup.

We will see how many people fall to Archer’s claim that “everybody dies” and the expected Suzuki Gun shenanigans.

EVIL

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Previous years in the G1

2016, 2017 and 2018

Best Performance

12 points (2017)

EVIL comes into his 4th G1 Climax on the trot with a good track record in the tournament.

Normally partnered up with Sanada as part of the Los Ingobernables De Japon faction, EVIL is looking to further make a name for himself in singles competition and finds himself in the same block as his long term partner.

EVIL is an impressive guy in the ring who hits hard and moves fast. His entrance certainly makes him memorable alone along with him always saying “everything is evil” (check it on Youtube where Kenny Omega mocks this at a press conference, it is comedy gold).

EVIL is a strong addition to the mega stacked A Block and has history with another person in the block, the submission master Zack Sabre Jr.

These two have fantastic chemistry and styles that mix well together. Expect a good showing from the King of Darkness.

Bad Luck Fale

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Previous years in the G1

2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018

Best Performance

12 points (2014 and 2017)

The Rogue General enters his 6th consecutive G1 Climax tournament with no clear intentions being made yet.

An original founding member of Bullet Club from the Prince Devitt days through to AJ Styles, Kenny Omega and new leader Jay White, Fale remains a strong supporter within the faction with a no nonsense approach to things.

Fale’s history in the tournament has been fairly consistent. Usually a strong runner except for the controversial entry in 2018 where Bullet Club sought to wreak havoc on the tournament resulting in numerous disqualifications and his lowest score ever of 6 points.

This stirred a lot of fans in the wrong way as DQ’s were seldom seen in the tournament with the fans preferring a solid outcome to matches. Now that the Bullet Clubs internal affairs are sorted and the Elite are gone, will we see a newly focused Fale in this tournament seeking to get back on top?

Another big guy who, while slow at times, can catch opponents off guard and really hit hard.

A potential surprise hit this year for match quality.

Kota Ibushi

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Previous years in the G1

2013, 2015 and 2018

Best Performance

12 points (2018)

The Golden Star may not have been in as many G1 tournaments as some others but make no mistake about it, Ibushi is one of the favourites to win it this year.

This would be his 5th entry if he had not missed 2014 due to injury. Ibushi’s return to New Japan was huge especially when he reunited the Golden Lovers with Kenny Omega.

He has gone on to string together some of the best matches over the last year including his constant violent to the point of being scary matches with Tetsuya Naito and his Wrestle Kingdom match in 2019 with Will Ospreay.

Ibushi enters this years G1 Climax his own man and no longer in the shadow of his former partner Omega. He brings to the ring a style unlike any other. His past matches with many of his other block entrants sets the stage for some potential five star matches.

A fast and brutal striker, many have fallen to his vicious Kamigoye knee strike.

Thankfully for the safety of everyone involved, he and Naito sit in separate blocks. However, they could still collide in the finals if fate or booking powers have their way.

Kenta

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Previous years in the G1

First time entrant

The former Hideo Itami has returned to his homeland after a run in WWE that some would deem as mediocre.

Returning to his former name and possibly even form, the hard hitting Kenta is looking to redeem himself and show the world who he really is after slipping into the cracks of 205 Live.

Despite being from Japan, Kenta has not wrestled for New Japan before. The majority of his career in Japan was spent in Pro Wrestling NOAH, a rival promotion with some fantastic talent and shows that are worth checking out.

The surprise announcement of him entering made by the legendary but sadly retired Katsuya Shibata. It was a huge shock that sent shockwaves around the wrestling community.

Kenta brings something new as it’s been so long since he wrestled outside the WWE style and there’s a lot of first time ever matches awaiting him in the tournament and beyond.

The fun here is the absolute mystery that awaits us in his matches and what his long term intentions are in New Japan.

We will find out soon enough.

Kazuchika Okada

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Previous years in the G1

2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

Best performance

Winner (2012, 2014); 16 points (2014)

The Rainmaker enters the G1 riding a large wave of momentum with a string of big wins in 2019 rebounding from the period he lost the IWGP Heavyweight Championship to Kenny Omega in 2018 and struggling to find his form.

The funny, balloon-carrying Okada from last year is gone and, after winning the New Japan Cup this year and reclaiming the IWGP Heavyweight Championship from Jay White at the G1 Supercard event this year, Okada means business.

Entering the G1 Climax as champion is a huge challenge with so few actually winning the tournament while carrying the belt but Okada has a renewed focus. On top of this, Okada’s history with the G1 is huge as he won his first ever G1, back in 2012, becoming the youngest G1 winner in the process.

A true record setter in the promotion with the longest title reign and most defenses, he truly has the largest target painted on him in the stacked A block and will no doubt be a huge part of some of the best matches going.

Will he win the block or will someone stop the rain like Jay White once did?

I’m excited to see what comes next especially with Sanada in the same block. These two had an amazing final match for the New Japan cup and a further match for the title after Okada reclaimed it.

The cherry on top comes with Okadas young protégé Will Ospreay being in the same block. These 2 have taken each other to the absolute limit and will no doubt prove why New Japan sets the bar for top rated matches.

Will Ospreay

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Previous years in the G1

First time entrant

Ospreay comes into the G1 Climax for the first time and as one ESSR member would say, makes it HISTORIC as Ospreay becomes the first ever person to enter the New Japan Cup, Best of Super Juniors and G1 Climax all in the same calendar year.

Ospreay’s momentum is so high right now Dave Meltzer has been quoted as calling him the best in the world and believes he will eclipse his mentor, Okada.

After a brutal Best of Super Juniors tournament where he slayed the dragon Shingo Takagi (handing Takagi his first ever loss by pin or submission since debuting last year), and claiming the junior heavyweight championship from Dragon Lee, Ospreay is entering as a junior wanting to smash the boundaries between the two weight divisions and cement his place against everyone, a mission he has had since capturing the NEVER Openweight Championship earlier this year.

As Ospreay is nearing the 100kg limit for juniors he has adapted his style to keep up with the juniors but power to match the heavyweights which he proved during the New Japan Cup with wins over Lance Archer and Bad Luck Fale.

Ospreay has some deadly competition with Ibushi looking to avenge his Wrestle Kingdom loss to Ospreay and the time on the sidelines from the concussion given by the Hidden Blade, a brutal unpadded elbow strike to the back of the neck.

Expect a lot of excitement from any match that Ospreay enters, and don’t be surprised to see him in the winner’s final.

Zack Sabre Jr.

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Previous years in the G1

2017, 2018

Best performance

12 points (2018)

The submission master ZSJ enters his 3rd G1 ready to manipulate joints, bend opponents backwards, all while calling them dickheads and complaining about warm beer.

Sabre also has the momentum of being the first person to put his G1 Climax spot in the line in a match against Yoshi Hashi from Chaos, a match which he won.

Sabre has a style that has many lauding him as the best technical wrestler on the planet. He contorts his opponents bodies in ways that make you wince in pain and seems to have a counter for everything.

He’s had a lot of success being in Suzuki-gun and currently holds the Revolution Pro Wrestling British Heavyweight Championship and held the Tag belts with Minoru Suzuki.

Sabre’s creativity with his moves is matched by their names such as the horrific looking “Orienteering with Napalm Death”. An adept grappler with a submission game like no one else, Sabre brings something different to the table.

The only thing to his detriment is his temper can cause him to make mistakes and he sometimes tries to antagonise bigger opponents to his own suffering (google Walter chopping him at Defiant – his soul leaves his body during it) but with Suzuki-gun known for not following the rules, the resourceful Sabre will no doubt find a way to upset many.

This could very well be the year of Zack Sabre and, with Taka Michinoku in his corner, everyone should be ready to be welcomed to ZACK SABRE TIME!

Sanada

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Previous years in the G1

2016, 2017, 2018

Best performance

8 points (all entries)

The other half of LIJ’s main tag team, the “Cold Skull” enters his 4th G1 with a lot of fan support behind him despite his previous points never being in the double figures.

A student of the great Keiji Mutoh, Sanada is mostly associated with EVIL in tag action, but is a very accomplished singles competitor with plenty of good matches under his belt with particular highlights being his 2 singles matches with Okada in 2019.

A capable striker and confident grappler, Sanada brings a well-rounded package and remains cool even in the most frustrating of situations.

The wielder of the Paradise Lock will sadly not be against Toru Yano this year (one of the best comedy moments of 2018 when he used this against Yano to win their match and also locked it on Rocky Romero who tried helping his stable mate) but the other competitors in A Block will certainly prove stiff competition.

The big match will be against his tag partner EVIL. On the run up to the G1 Climax, EVIL has been very cold and distant with his partner similar to Sanada in the run up to the 2017 tournament.  Last time Sanada picked up the win but can he make it 2 for 2?

New Japan seem keen to tease his abilities as a singles star, but will this be the year they pull the trigger and launch the enigmatic man to the top?

Hiroshi Tanahashi

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Previous years in the G1

2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

Best performance

Winner (2007, 2015, 2018); 15 points (2018)

The Ace of the Universe (or the John Cena of NJPW, depending on your view) enters his 18th consecutive G1 Climax with the most history with the tournament of anyone across both blocks.

Tanahashi has made history in the tournament by being the only one to convert a G1 win to a win at Wrestle Kingdom since the 2012 format was brought in. There’s enough about Tana to do a full article on its own, that’s how big a deal he is.

A 2-time Intercontinental Champion and record setting 8-time holder of the IWGP heavyweight championship, Tanahashi has already won the G1 tournament 3 times, tying with Hiroyoshi Tenzan for second place on most G1 wins (most wins – Masahiro Chono with 5). Tanahashi is older than most of the entrants but revels in the competition of the young and hungry challengers.

A solid performer with more high profile matches than I could count, he enters the tournament with high expectations and a recovering elbow that was recently repaired via surgery (which will no doubt be targeted by Zack Sabre Jr). Tanahashi is resilient and able to endure long matches and keep his opponents working at his pace.

Tanahashi seeks to make further history with back to back G1 wins which has not been done since Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 2003/04.

B Block

Jeff Cobb

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Previous years in the G1

First time entrant

Cobb comes in representing Ring of Honor and their continuing working relationship with New Japan. Cobb is a powerhouse with athleticism to match.

He made several New Japan appearances starting in 2017 teaming with Michael Elgin in the 2017 and 2018 World Tag League tournaments. His first attempt at New Japan gold came in a losing effort to previous NEVER openweight champion Hirooki Goto.

Eventually he would get another shot at the G1 supercard in a title vs title winner takes all match against Will Ospreay, which was a fantastic match. Cobb overcame the Aerial Assassin to lay claim to the Openweight belt and keeping his ROH TV belt in the process. He would only hold the belt for 27 days before dropping it to fellow block member Taichi.

Cobb comes in to this with not as many New Japan appearances so while not the possible favourite to win, expect him to make a large impact and give at least a few people a “Tour of the Islands”.

Hirooki Goto

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Previous years in the G1

2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

Best performance

Winner (2008); 12 points (2011, 2015, 2016)

Another veteran and member of Chaos, Goto has a good history in the G1, winning his first ever time entering in 2008 and making the finals against Kenny Omega in 2016.

Goto has held numerous belts in New Japan including the Intercontinental and NEVER Openweight titles but has never managed to capitalise and obtain the Heavyweight Championship belt. Goto is a hard hitter who puts on quality matches against other veterans and fresh talent including fellow block competitor Jay White who has made a few remarks in regards to Goto leading up to the G1.

The odds may not favour Goto this year but there’s still plenty of fight in him, and expect a brutal hard hitting affair when he and fellow Chaos member Tomohiro Ishii come to blows during the tournament.

Well-rested as he has been absent from some recent shows, a fresh Goto may be underestimated by some of the others at their own risk.

Tomohiro Ishii

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Previous years in the G1

2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

Best performance

10 points (2014, 2015, 2018)

The Stone Pitbull enters this years G1 ready to dole out some punishment and currently holding the Openweight championship.

Ishii has never won or made it to the finals but for some in recent years he has been the tournament MVP. He has had some of the most hard hitting and brutal matches in New Japan such as the Wrestle Kingdom match between him and Shibata and any time he has met Ibushi.

Ishii upset the then Heavyweight Champion, Kenny Omega, in a hard-hitting bout during the 2018 G1 tournament that was awarded a 5.5 stars by Dave Meltzer (even if you don’t rate his rating the match is incredible and worth a watch).

He is fast and takes punishment in crazy amounts, as well as boasting a stamina seldom seen in a 40+ year old. When he starts a forearm exchange, it feels like it never ends because he just keeps going and he has a unique style.

He’s no-nonsense and a personal favourite for me in the company and I can’t wait to see what he does.

Currently his main foil has been Taichi who he recently beat for the Openweight belt and it appears they have unfinished business.

Jon Moxley

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Previous years in the G1

First time entrant

The former Dean Ambrose has returned to the non-WWE scene reborn again under his original persona, Jon Moxley.

Setting the wrestling world afire when he confirmed his return and signing with AEW, it came as quite the surprise when the mystery man tormenting former US Champion Juice Robinson was none other than Moxley.

With his deal allowing him to work for New Japan (excluding their US dates), Moxley has made a huge impact claiming the US Championship from Robinson on his first match in an affair that was highly different from most other New Japan matches.

It was more a bar room brawl than a technical classic but it was effective with Moxley breaking Juice (who claimed after that CJ Parker, his old NXT name, was dead thanks to Moxley).

Moxley has plenty of brawling opponents to contest with in the block but it will be very interesting to see how he handles the other technicians or the master of shenanigans that is Toru Yano.

Moxley is a true unknown in this tournament and brings all eyes on New Japan this G1 and I can not wait to see what havoc he brings with him, especially now that the shackles of the WWE style are now removed.

Tetsuya Naito

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Previous years in the G1

2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

Best performance

Winner (2013, 2017); 14 points (2017)

The head of LIJ and Mr Tranquilo himself, Naito comes into the tournament on the back of a huge win over long-term rival Kota Ibushi at Dominion and back in control of the Intercontinental Title.

Naito has made a lofty and ambitious goal for himself recently in that he wants to become the first ever New Japan star to hold both the Intercontinental and Heavyweight belts at the same time.

A goal easier said than done when looking at the field of competition he has before him in the B Block this year. Naito is no stranger to victory as he won the G1 in both 2013 and 2017. Depending on who you ask some will be sad that Naito is not in the same block as Ibushi but as their matches get increasingly hard hitting and brutal it’s maybe a good thing they can’t fight yet.

However, a strong prediction could be these two end up in the finals together and create more magic as Naito is the Joker to Ibushi’s Batman. In the Block, Naito’s biggest challenge may come in fellow stablemate Shingo Takagi as this is a first time match.

Naito could be the favourite in B Block, if you ask me, but can he remain Tranquilo and claim his “Destino” in becoming a dual champion?

Juice Robinson

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Previous years in the G1

2017, 2018

Best performance

8 points (2017)

The former CJ Parker from NXT has been making a name for himself in the Land of the Rising Sun since 2015 and making a large impact in the year and a bit.

Robinson has recently not been his usual flamboyant self after his loss to Jon Moxley when he dropped the US Championship in a ugly brawl of a match that left Juice bloody and beat. Juice has a habit of being a spoiler for some such as his shock win over Kenny Omega in the 2017 G1 Climax.

He went on to have high profile feuds with Jay White and Cody Rhodes over the US Championship to mixed success but always a crowd favourite with the Japanese fans.

Still, early in his G1 career Juice hasn’t exactly shone the brightest but a new refocused and angry Juice should not be taken lightly, especially if he connects with the Right Hand of God on an unsuspecting opponent.

Taichi

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Previous years in the G1

First time entrant

Villainous, theatrical, cunning. Three words that perfectly sum up Taichi making his debut in the G1 Climax after only becoming a Heavyweight in 2018.

Taichi is part of Suzuki-gun and is somewhat a surprise entry when taking into account that faction leader and murder grandpa Minoru Suzuki is missing from this year’s field. Taichi will exploit anything he can to get around the rules and pick up a win whether on his own or with his brothers-in-arms from Suzuki-gun.

It will be interesting to see where he fits into this year as Taichi does not yet have the most stellar record in the top tier but has had some fantastic matches including his recent losing effort against Tomohiro Ishii where he dropped the NEVER Openweight belt.

Sometimes a bit jovial and lacking in focus, the G1 may be what is needed for Taichi to up his game and Ishii is certainly able to bring out the serious side (even when he rips off his popper trousers).

The Black Emperor has not made clear his ambitions as a single competitor going forwards but he may well surprise us in his first G1 Climax where anything can happen.

Shingo Takagi

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Previous years in the G1

First time entrant

The Dragon of LIJ is the only other junior in this year’s tournament but should not be taken lightly by anyone due to that fact.

Shingo entered New Japan on the 8th October 2018 and proceeded to remain unpinned and unsubmitted until Will Ospreay turned “dragon slayer” during the Best of Super Juniors tournament ending the run with a superb top rope Oscutter.

Shingo is not a flyer, he is a hoss. He exerts his power in the junior division where he easily outsizes almost all the competition.

A veteran in the ring with a very long run in Dragon Gate before PAC put him out to pasture, Takagi is breathtaking in the ring with his power moves and amazing agility. He has tested himself against Heavyweights and is looking to make a massive impact this year.

As with A block, the B block also holds an LIJ derby match with the leader against his newest member. There have been no signs of issues between both Naito and Takagi but this doesn’t mean it won’t be anything less than business when they enter the ring.

If this is your first time watching the Dragon then I assure you that you will want to watch more.

Jay White

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Previous years in the G1

2018

Best performance

12 points (2018)

The switchblade comes in arrogant and as loud as ever since he first returned from excursion in 2017 to challenge Hiroshi Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 2018. 

The leader of Bullet Club doesn’t even believe he should have to win this tournament for a shot at the belt he lost to Okada back at the G1 Supercard event.

A streak of big wins in the last 2 months has definitely given strength to his argument. White has divided opinions since he made the jump back into New Japan and how quickly he established himself in the main event scene.

The New Zealand native has enjoyed several tremendous matches against the likes of Tanahashi, Goto and Kenny Omega. White is not afraid to throw out the rules to obtain victory as shown in his vicious streak last year when he shocked everyone with an opening night win over the Rainmaker.

Young, talented and ruthless tactics make White a top level competitor who many could argue is a favourite to win the block and maybe even get a shot at some of the other titles available in the block. Will we breath with the switchblade come the end of the finals?

Toru Yano

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Previous years in the G1

2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018

Best performance

10 points (2011 and 2016)

The devious, cunning and hilarious Toru Yano is a veteran in the G1 Climax who may not have a proven winning track record but does have a cunning streak netting him wins over foes many think he’s a sure loser on.

The best example being his roll up win over Kota Ibushi in 2018’s tournament. Yano can be the serious wrestler with a vicious streak as he used to be years ago.

Most of the time though he is comedic with his quirky behaviour and constant cheating done in the most slapstick of manners. The master of the schoolboy roll up.

Yano can catch anyone at anytime when they are note ready. Check matches such as his losing effort to Sanada in the G1 2018 or even some of his previous encounters with the likes of Kenny Omega. Yano has a style hard to describe and is best experienced by watching. Expect turnbuckle pads to be removed and low blows to be delivered in abundance.

Never the bookmakers favourite to win the tournament. He could be the spoiler stopping some of the favourites from reaching the top spot. Comedy gold awaits during his matches.

Potential Top Matches and Predictions

As you can see there’s a wide variety of talent each with different motives and intentions for the tournament.

Some may not play the roles of top contenders but the G1 Climax has a habit of throwing in surprises that can catch you.

This tournament brings out the best of the best with top quality matches throughout. There’s a lot of matches to follow and lengthy shows to follow so I’m going to give you my top 5 matches for each block and my predictions for the final.

The following come in no particular order.

Block A

Ibushi vs Ospreay – Thursday, 18th July

A rematch from their wrestle kingdom effort where Ospreay came out on top. Unfortunately for Ibushi his prize was losing the openweight title along with a concussion from the hidden blade of Ospreay. Expect a fast paced, hard hitting and high flying affair. With the 30 minutes time limit they are sure to be flying out the block for this one that won’t disappoint.

EVIL vs Sanada – Thursday, 18th July

The LIJ derby of A block is a rematch from 2 years ago when Sanada picked up the win. Prior to that tournament Sanada went all business, becoming distant from his stablemates as he sought to make a name for himself. With EVIL doing the same approach will this tie them or could EVIL find redemption with Darkness Falls? These two will go all out in an exciting match where both men know each other like brothers.

Kenta vs Zack Sabre Jr. – Saturday, 10th August

Kenta is known for a strong hard hitting style while Sabre is known for his technical skills. The styles of these two sound promising enough together to potentially make a 5 star masterpiece. Sabre has the cocky, brash, antagonising behavior to lure Kenta in for his submissions. Kenta has enough power in his strikes to make Sabre regret winding him up. Any of Kentas matches have potential show stealer wring on them but this one stands out to me.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada – Saturday, July 6th

The dynamic between these two is changed for this meeting. This time it’s early on in the tournament as well as being their first meeting against each other outside Japan. Being fresh coming in rather than feeling the effects of the brutal schedule. Another chapter in a rivalry that has persisted for years. Lately they have been working together with common foes to tackle such as Chris Jericho, Jay White and Bullet Club. Their previous G1 matches have always went to a 30 minute time limit draw but does the new setting give change to break the deadlock?

Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay – Saturday, July 20th

Master vs Protege, Teacher Vs Student, a simple yet effective story. The fourth time these two go to war with each other. The first was at Rev Pro in 2015, which led to Okada bringing Ospreay to New Japan and Chaos. The second round was at the New Japan 46th Anniversary Show. The third occurred at the 2019 New Japan Cup. Each time Ospreay pushed Okada harder than the last. Edging closer to the victory he seeks to cement his legacy further. Okada always has an answer to his young student. Each match has been solid with great storytelling from both. Round four is exciting with even bigger stakes on the line. Could Ospreay finally beat the Rainmaker?

B Block

Jon Moxley vs Toru Yano – Thursday, August 1st

A left field one this but allow me to explain. Moxley in New Japan has shown a violent brawling style but his backstage comments post match have been comedy gold. Going so far as to adopt a young lion as his personal student. Yano is a natural comedian in the ring these days and pulls enough shenanigans to derail even the most brutal opponents. These two together could put something different from the rest of the field that gives a break from the hard-hitting technicals bouts with some light hearted fun.

Taichi vs Tomohiro Ishii – Sunday, August 11th

Fresh of a recent outing where Ishii defeated Taichi for the openweight title. During the match Ishii brought out a more serious and focused Taichi. Ishii has been a consistent G1 Climax MVP bringing out the best in every opponent he comes up against for some of the hardest matches in the competition. Taichi will be wanting to reclaim the title he lost on his first defense. As per normal New Japan booking the quickest way for a title shot is to pin a champion in a non title match. Taichi will use every trick, hook and cheat to claim victory but that won’t be easy in such a formidable foe as the stone pitbull.

Tetsuya Naito vs Shingo Takagi – Sunday, August 4th

Another block and another LIJ derby. A different style of match from the A block one. A first time ever match up as well. Naito is always teaching tranquilo but can he remain that against the fast powerhouse that is Shingo? Unlike the other two LIJ members who are against each other, these two have still show unity and respect. Chances are that will go out the window as soon as the bell rings. Both men have high ambitions with Naito seeking to become a double champion and Shingo looking to be the first Junior to win the tournament ever. These two are guaranteed to go to war with each other at a crucial point in the tournament. This could be a game changer and an absolute classic.

Hirooki Goto vs Jay White – Saturday, July 13th

These two had a fantastic match during the Dontaku tour where White overcame Goto through his usual nefarious means. Since then White has antagonised Goto verbally in there meetings during tag matches. Goto is a proud fighter and will be wanting to punish the young upstart for his behaviour. This personal vendetta adds the depth to this tournament match. Will White’s outside helper Gedo strike to make the difference or can Goto keep this a one on one affair in his attempt to become a two time G1 Climax winner?

Jon Moxley vs Juice Robinson – Sunday, August 10th

Ugly, violent, chaotic, bloody. A few words to describe the first time these two met when Moxley was unveiled as the myserious Death Rider who had been tormenting Juice with a simple message from a neon lit, sleazy looking, dive bar. Time’s up. Moxley had his first post WWE match successfully challenging for the US championship. It was a brawl of a match that differed from what many expected. Juice was wounded physically and mentally. Now he gets another shot at his tormentor. I sense the quietness in Juice lately is going to open into a violent resurgence when he gets his hands on Moxley. Beat him and he’s one step closer to reclaiming the belt he lost.

Finals Prediction

As much as I have my favourites personally and would love to see a Sanada victory in A block leading to his first G1 Climax victory because he’s my boy. The fresh and diverse field has had me pondering who will take it to the finals and beyond?

My guess is an Ibushi vs Naito final. These two have both got good G1 Climax records currently with plenty of fire and fan support behind both. The resident New Japan Batman and Joker. The finals make the possibility of an ultimate or penultimate meeting of the two depending on the outcome.

An Ibushi win sets up a further match where the Intercontinental title could be on the line robbing Naito of the destiny he claims to have as a future double champion.

A Naito win means Ibushi is out of the picture for the near future as the G1 title shot would be defended against whoever in B block picked up a win over Naito.

Either winner has a credible chance of stopping the Rainmaker based on previous encounters over the years. Both men have the capability of delivering a main event at the Tokyo Dome that continues to set the bar high for not just New Japan but promotions all over the world.

How to watch?

With all this ready to kick off on 6th July, get subscribed to New Japan World and be ready for the best wrestling the world has to offer currently.

Full schedule information can be found on the special G1 website setup by New Japan at https://www.g1climax.jp/en/

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