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NJPW ‘Making a Case for Every G1 Participant’ (B Block)



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.

Tetsuya Naito
Last year’s tournament winner, one of three two time winners under Gedo’s era and the most popular star in NJPW, Tetsuya Naito must be one of the heavy favorites to win it all again this year. Since 2015, Naito’s goal has been to set out a distinct path for himself and being this era’s first back-to-back winner would certainly check that box. The winner main events the biggest show of the year and it’s foolish not having your top star in that position.

Kenny Omega
Although you may be telling yourself he doesn’t have a shot at winning since the IWGP Heavyweight Champion never wins the G1 Climax in the Gedo era, Kenny Omega isn’t just anybody. He is a former tournament winner and as champion, has been entrusted to carry the company to new heights. Winning the G1 Climax as champion means you received the right to name your challenger and Omega has been critical about how NJPW selects their challengers. Omega is someone who craves having all of the power in his hands so his motivation will be at an all time high.

Hirooki Goto
Redemption is Hirooki Goto’s middle name. He’s won every tournament, is a two time IWGP Intercontinental Champion as well as three time and current NEVER Openweight Champion but one major accomplishment has alluded him for over a decade, the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Despite eight attempts at the title, Goto has never walked away with the championship but now is the perfect opportunity for him to take another shot. Now that Kazuchika Okada is no longer champion, everyone in Chaos is free to take their shot and see if they can be the one to lead the group. Hirooki Goto joined Chaos because he couldn’t get it done on his own. Now we’ll see if being under their tutelage has helped him take the next step.

Kota Ibushi
Wins and championships are what motivates most wrestlers, but Kota Ibushi isn’t most wrestlers. Along with Kenny Omega, Ibushi wants to change the world and his goal is to use wrestling as a way to motivate people to achieve their dreams. While the IWGP Heavyweight Championship may not be in his sights, being in the main event of the biggest show of the year with his best friend is. Being able to showcase their vision of what wrestling can be is one of his dreams and will for sure be used as motivation to win this year’s G1 Climax.

Zack Sabre Jr.
Anyone counting out Zack Sabre Jr. didn’t watch him in this year’s New Japan Cup where he beat SANADA Naito, Ibushi and Tanahashi on his way to winning to entire tournament. Since his style is so different from the traditional style we see in NJPW, he presents a unique obstacle for the Japanese stars. Sabre even defeated Okada on July 1st in England. He’s certainly capable of beating anyone on the New Japan roster as he’s shown time and time again.

Tomohiro Ishii
Speaking from experience, no fan knows heartache quite like a Tomohiro Ishii fan. The guy has all talent in the world and time after time puts on the best matches of the night but his problem has always been his inconsistency to string together wins. Ishii refuses to win anyway other than his own. He fails to adapt, instead deciding to be a brick wall and challenging his opponent to break him down. This approach makes for fantastic matches but demands too much of his body to sustain any sort of consistency. If Ishii truly wants to win the G1 Climax this year, he must adapt because at the age of 42, he cannot continue with this style and expect to be the winner.

2018 looked to be the year SANADA would breakout. He received crowd support when challenging for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in February but since then has faded back into the shadows. Unlike his tag team partner EVIL, SANADA doesn’t have the luxury of representing LIJ in his own block. If he wants to get it done, he must surpass LIJ leader, Tetsuya Naito. Everyone sees loads of potential in SANADA but his inability to stay in the forefront causes concern from many of his fans. In order for SANADA to have a chance he’ll need to finally step out from the shadows of Naito and make a name for himself.

Tama Tonga
With the Bullet Club pendulum swinging every which way, now is the time for Tama Tonga to strike. Similar to SANADA, Tonga has been lurking in the shadows but unlike LIJ, Bullet Club is fractured and its future is in question. Tonga can make a name for himself by defeating leader, Kenny Omega, and declaring Bullet Club for himself. In order for that to happen, Tonga will need to show more aggression rather than stepping back and waiting for his opponent to make the first mistake.

Juice Robinson
Although he may be considered a laughing stock to western fans, Juice Robinson has become a crowd favorite in Japan. He works hard and fights with all his heart each and every time he enters the ring and that’s earned him an incredible amount of fan support. It’s this support which aided Juice into a win over Omega in last year’s G1 and his fanfare has only gone up since that time. Anyone taking Juice lightly may find themselves with their head in their hands just like Omega did last year.

Toru Yano
Laugh all you want but at least Toru Yano understands he needs to change. Think of him as a combination of Ishii and Tonga in that he’s relied on being one way for too long, and has allowed his opponents to come to him rather than making the first move. This way never has and never will bring Yano a G1 Climax victory and he has recognized the pattern. He’s declared that we will see a new side of him in this year’s tournament and while some of you may roll your eyes, at least he’s understanding of his situation.

Along with providing show reviews from across Japan, Robert McCauley is also an editor for FightboothPW.

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