Are you and your friends arguing over who will win the G1 Climax? Does it look like your favorite doesn’t stand a chance? Here are a few points you can use to help make the case for your guy winning this year’s tournament.
Since 2013, Okada has been in every IWGP Heavyweight Championship match at Wrestle Kingdom. He’s one of three wrestlers to win the G1 Climax on their first attempt and is one of three to win the tournament more than once since Gedo took over in 2006. If Okada wants to continue his Wrestle Kingdom streak he must win the G1 for an unprecedented third time. He doesn’t have the luxury winning a title shot by beating the champion in tournament action so this is make or break for Okada. History is on the side of the Rainmaker and counting him out would be a mistake.
Do you know how many people have more IWGP Heavyweight Championship matches at Wrestle Kingdom than Okada? That’s right, only one, Hiroshi Tanahashi. The “Once in a Century Talent”, “Ace of the Universe”, “Mr. Tokyo Dome”, Hiroshi Tanahashi. Just like Okada, Tanahashi is a multi-time winner of the G1 Climax and his only path to another main event is by winning the tournament for a third time. This is the man who carried NJPW back to relevancy. History teaches us that if anyone can be counted on, it’s Hiroshi Tanahashi.
The bar was set high for Jay White with his first match back from excursion being at Wrestle Kingdom against Tanahashi for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. The next month he followed up by being the one to end Kenny Omega’s 210 day reign as IWGP US Heavyweight Champion. Two of his Chaos brothers, Okada and Hirooki Goto, won the G1 Climax on their first attempt and the only other wrestler to do so is Kenny Omega, who White defeated. With his career trending upwards and the G1 Climax in his sights, Jay White certainly seems capable of being this year’s winner.
This may surprise some but the fasting rising babyface in NJPW right now is EVIL. In a recent Japanese fan survey, EVIL received the highest amount of votes to win his block. His G1 performance last year jumped up significantly from his debut. He finished in third place, only one win over Kenny Omega away from winning the tournament. After an injury kept him out of action for a month earlier in the year, EVIL’s return saw major crowd approval. A win in this year’s G1 Climax would both please fans as well as solidify EVIL as one of the company’s next top stars.
This version of Minoru Suzuki is the most focused we’ve seen in years and that should scare everyone in his block. His thirty year wrestling anniversary took place earlier this month and at the age of fifty, one wonders if he feels his window of opportunity is closing. Throughout his career, the IWGP Heavyweight Championship is the one major title that has alluded Suzuki. Time catches up with everyone but if Suzuki feels determined to win, no one will be able to stop him.
Bad Luck Fale
With the uncertainty of Bullet Club’s future, everyone’s eyes have shifted from Omega, to Cody, to Tama Tonga but what about Bad Luck Fale? He is an original Bullet Club member and has participated in more G1 Climaxes than all of the others. Each year, Fale comes out of the G1 with a winning record and now he’s entering the tournament in the best shape of his career. All it’ll take is a little more focus and we can see The Underboss take the G1 and possibly the Bullet Club by extension.
Although it’s been nearly a decade, we mustn’t forget that Togi Makabe is a former G1 winner. His performances over the last several years haven’t been great but he will come inspired this time around. With his long-time friend, Tomoaki Honma, returning from injury, this year is the perfect opportunity to show the power of positive thinking. Just like Honma never gave up on his hopes, Makabe shouldn’t give up either. He’s shown in the past that he’s capable of winning, the only thing stopping him today is himself.
Winning the NEVER Openweight Championship should be the shot in the arm Michael Elgin needed after a disappointing 2017. We saw him defeat Kenny Omega in NJPW’s first ever ladder match in 2016 and he came out of that year’s G1 with a winning record. An injury in late 2016 derailed his momentum and he’s struggled to find his groove until this month when he captured the NEVER Openweight Championship. Maybe that was the spark Elgin needed to put his ghosts behind him and take that next step forward.
While his record is far from the best, for the first time since YOSHI-HASHI’s G1 Climax eligibility there has been a power shift within Chaos. This is his third year in the tournament but in his first two, Chaos was in control of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Now that the control has shifted and the championship is in the hands of Bullet Club, maybe YOSHI-HASHI shows more fire. His first ever G1 block win was over Kenny Omega so with Omega now being the champion, Y-H must feel motivated to prove himself once again.
Despite the chaotic nature of Bullet Club right now, Hangman Page has devised a smart strategy. He’s clearly picked a side and isn’t focused on being the leader. Instead, he’s keeping his head down and focusing on what he can do to make himself better. Everyone else can bicker while Page hangs out in the background quietly putting together wins and before Bullet Club realizes it, Page has won the tournament. At the end of the day it’s about wins, not who’s leading Bullet Club. If Page were to win in this fashion, he’d be able to lead the Bullet Club back to the correct mentality.