G1 Climax is the biggest wrestling tournament in the world. Held by New Japan Pro Wrestling, the second biggest promotion in the world. NJPW has been mostly been on top in Japan since the 70s and has been home of many legends-including a number of famous gaijin. From Andre the Giant to Owen Hart to Eddie Guerrero to Daniel Bryan and Finn Balor. G1 is currently in its 25 years and the last two years has been a puro geek and hardcore wrestling fan dream. Presenting several MOTYC (Match of the Year Contender) and becoming a jumping on point for new fans finding the matches on YouTube or DailyMotion.
G1 is a 20 man tournament. Split into 2 blocks, round robin style. Winners get 2 points, draws award each wrestler 1 point, loss gets 0. Winners of the blocks face off at finals. In event of a tie at the end of the block, win goes to whoever won the wrestlers encounter. This years tournament ran 19 days. Days 1-18 were split with undercard matches mostly teasing the next days block matches while one of the Blocks took the top half of the card. Day 19 featured the finals as well as the Block Runner Up match and much, much more. This year NJPW presented the entirety on their subscription service NJPWWorld (over a dollar cheaper than WWE Network). Despite some odd filming choices (single camera for several shows, several shows without commentary due to TV agreements) the whole tournament has ranged from good to amazing.
Here’s a run down on who is who, my thoughts, and my fave matches with them. All these shows available on NJPWWorld so check them out.
Hiroshi Tanahashi-Status as the Ace of NJPW might be in question but not only is he still a big star, having watched the tournament all the way through this year, my appreciation has grown. It never feels like he’s coasting, cutting it easy, and can usually drag a poor wrestler into a good match. Tanahashi is an amazing wrestler and thinking about it, if WWE had recruited him several years earlier would’ve gotten over in WWE with his look and technique. Winner of multiple NJPW titles including the Heavyweight title, won several tournaments including G1 in 07, and has been rewarded greatly by Wrestling Observer with multiple Five Star matches and three time Wrestler of the Year consecutively from 2011-2013, plus more.
Best Matches: vs. Kota Ibushi @ Day 1, vs. Tetsuya Naito @ Day 5, vs. Katsuyori Shibata @ Day 13, vs. AJ Styles @ Day 17, vs. Shinsuke Nakamura @ Finals/Day 19
G1 Next Year?: Every Tanahashi match has been in the very least good with several being among the bets of the entire tournament thus far.
Togi Makabe-Big brawler, NJPW mainstay and current NEVER Openweight Champ. Former Heavyweight champ and 2009 G1 winner. My feelings go back and forth but I’ve mostly enjoyed him through this tournament. When I haven’t, I was not turned off by his performance.
Best Matches: vs. Katsuyoshi Shibata @ Day 5, vs. Tetsuya Niato @ Day 9
G1 Next Year?: While no MOTYC a definite solid worker so I’d like to see him back next year.
Katsuyori Shibata-Shibata is one of the best strikers and technical wrestlers in NJPW. A couple years back I only saw one G1 match with him and Ishii and it loved up to the 5 Star hype. One of my fave matches of last year when I tried following the tournament on DailyMotion was against rival Tanahashi which also got 5 stars. Shibata is serious and aggressive. Shibata’s NJPW record is spotty, started with the company but left after five years and then returned 8 years later. Despite the lack of titles he’s upper midcard and usually looks strong. Waiting for that singles push and this tournament almost looked like that.
Best Matches: vs. AJ Styles @ Day 1, vs. Kota Ibushi @ Day 7, vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi @ Day 13
G1 Next Year?: Hell yes! His match with Ibushi is being called best of the tournament even though I like the AJ match more. Overall, like Tanahashi, his matches have ranged from good to amazing. Well… Maybe not against Yano…
Tetsuya Naito-Naito is that guy who seemed not to be able to break the glass ceiling. He was involved in my favorite feud of 2014 and one of my favorite matches and even I still didn’t put him in my top 10. However Naito, a former G1 winner, is back with a new look and attitude. Repping his Los Ingobernables buddies of Mexico’s CMLL Naito is the biggest heel and troll in NJPW and he has been amazing. Maybe not the best wrestler, but definitely the best character with the stalling, posing, and jerkiness.
Best Matches: vs. Hiroshi Tanahasi @ Day 5, vs. AJ Styles @ Day 7, vs. Kota Ibushi @ Day 11
G1 Next Year?: Yes. Naito has always been good but now he is next level asshole wrestler good.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan-An NJPW legend, multiple titles and 3x G1 winner. Current NWA Heavyweight champ. You like CM Punk? He got the Anaconda Vice from Tenzan who invented it along with the Buffalo Sleeper submission. Tenzan is a legend in Japan and an NJPW mainstay. I got nothing but respect-but I don’t like him.
Best Matches: vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi @ Day 3, vs. Toru Tano @ Day 5 just for the sick Diving Headbutt spot, vs. Tetsuya Naito @ Day 17
G1 Next Year?: No. Tenzans performances have ranged from ‘No’ to ‘Meh’ to ‘I can’t believe that was a good match.’ Even his matches were not his opponents best matches. Well… Maybe Yanos… Time to give his G1 spot to someone else.
Kota Ibushi-The Golden Star of wrestling. Legit one of the top 10 High Fliers in the world. Signed to both NJPW and the smaller DDT Ibushi is a star. He actually had a feud with NXT star Sami Zayn, with their encounter in CHIKARA at the finales of Rey De Voladores being the second match I’ve seen from Ibushi. His match with Shinsuke Nakamura at this years WrestleKingdom is MOTC status at the moment. Ibushi has been arguably the star of A block from a pure wrestling standpoint, only rivaled by Tanahashi and Shibata.
Best Matches: vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi @ Day 1, vs. AJ Styles @ Day 5, vs. Katsuyori Shibata @ Day 7
G1 Next Year?: Hell yeah. Ibushi got decent matches out of Bad Luck Fale and Tenzan which goes to show just how good he is.
Toru Yano-A comedy wretsler and cheat. Very troll. I don;t much care for him.
Best Matches: Vs. AJ Styles @ Day 3, Er….vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan @ Day 5 cause of the Diving headbutt spot, vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi @ Day 11 I guess…
G1 Next Year?: No. But he probably be in it to be a spoiler like he was this year with his roll up surprise win against Shibata.
A.J. Styles-There might be argument in the top 3 spots but no doubt Styles is #4 and #1 gaijin. The former TNA superstar has taken NJPW by storm after signing full time last year and joining the heel factio the Bullet Club. Already multiple time Heavyweight champ and this is his second G1 and was runner up last year for his block. AJ was my top pick to win Block A.
Best Matches: vs. Katsuyori Shibata @ Day 1, vs. Kota Kibushi @ Day 5, vs. Tetsuya Naito @ Day 7, vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi @ Day 17
G1 Next Year?: Hell yeah. Another guy dragging good matches out of people I don’t care for like Yano or Tenzan or even Doc Gallows. This is the second year in a row Styles placed as #2 in his Block.
Doc Gallows-Remember Luke Gallows in WWE? No? he was part of CM Punks Straight Edge Society? No? Well he’s one half of the IWGP Heayweight Tag champs and member of the Bullet Club. Not a fan, really, even if he does a few things I like.
Best Matches: vs. Katsuyori Shibata @ Day 17 and while it was the best Gallows match, I wouldn’t put it in the top 5 Shibata matches.
G1 Next Year?: No.
Bad Luck Fale-The Underboss of the Bullet Club, another gaijin monster. The Tongan wrestler has been a part of NJPW for a while. He’s won the Intercontinental title once and has been a stable of G1 and New Japan Cup tournament. I generally don’t like him but when paired with a talent he is okay.
Best Matches: vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi @ Day 7, vs. Katsuyori Shibata @ Day 9
G1 Next Year?: Preferably, no, but I wouldn’t bee too angry.
Satoshi Kojima-Wrestling legend. Only man to hold NJPW’s top title-the IWGP Heavyweight championship and the AJPW Triple Crown at the same time. Also G1 winner in 2010. Kojima is a throwback to All Japan heavyweights with the Kings Road style as it was called. A fave of mine to be honest. Him and Tenzan came up together, 5 time tag champs, yet Kojima still looks in great shape and working at a fine pace.
Best Matches: vs. Michael Elgin @ Day 4, vs. Yuji Nagata @ Day 14, If there was not serious shenanigans at the end of his match against Yujiro Takahashi I’d have put that up here because that ending killed it for me.
G1 Next Year?: Yes. Kojima may not be making it to the top of the mountain any time soon but he still delivers strong performances.
Yuji Nagata-47 and still dropping bitches on their heads. Nagata is the oldest man in the tournament and the former G1 winner and former IWGP champ is still putting on strong performances. I like Nagata, he’s cool. Another Puroresu guy CM Punk borrowed from by the way.
Best Matches: vs. Tomoaki Honma @ Day 2, vs. Tomohiro ishii @ Day 10, vs. Satoshi Kojima @ Day 14
G1 Next Year?: Maybe. Nagata delivers but his spot might need to go to a younger athlete.
Hirooki Goto-The current IC champ is a guy who gets close to the top of the mountain and never quite gets to touch the main belt. Still, Goto is upper midcard and the IC belt over top star Shinsuke Nakamura shows Goto is having a good year. I’ve always liked Goto and he had one of my fave G1 matches last year. I’m digging him this year too.
Best Matches: vs. Tomoaki Honma @ Day 6, vs. Kazuchika Okada @ day 8, vs. Tomohiro Ishii @ Day 14
G1 Next Year?: Yes. Definitely.
Tomoaki Honma-Honma is NJPW’s perrenial underdog. He went 0 points last years G1 where he was a replacement for Kota Ibushi who got injured before the tournament. Despite his 0 points the fans LOVED HIM! Honma’s been around for a while and is credited as the first wrestler to use a lightbulb in a match. Death match wrestlers thank you. Honma has been killing it again this year, turning in great performance after another to the cheers of the fans in every city.
Best Matches: vs. Yuji Nagata @ Day 2, Vs. Kazuchika Okada @ Day 4, vs. Michael Elgin @ Day 8, vs. Tomohiro Ishii @ Day 16
G1 Next Year?: Every Honma match is a blessing from God.
Shinsuke Nakamura-One of the biggest stars in Japan and a multiple time champ of various belts in NJPW. Daniel Bryan said he went to WWE brass to get a interpromotional match against him. Bray Wyatt sports his t-shirts. Jim Ross called him one of the most charismatic wrestlers in the world. Just one of the overall best… Too bad his run has been kind of lackluster. The injury did screw him up but even his matches before it were not his usual quality. My Block B pick to win.
Best Matches: vs. Tomohiro Ishii @ Day 8, vs. Tomoaki Honma @ Day 14, vs. Kazuchika OKada @ Day 18, vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi @ Day 19/Finals
G1 Next Year?: Yes but hopefully he’ll be more motivated.
Kazuchika Okada-The current IWGP Heavyweight champ, two time G1 winner including last years, and going back and forth with Tanahashi for the #1 spot. His two 5 Star matches (Wrestling Observer rated) were against his rival in the same year. The Rainmaker is a major player and one of the best in the world. Okada has been excellent this tour.
Best Matches: vs. Tomoaki Honma @ Day 4, vs. Hirooki Goto @ Day 8, vs. Tomohiro Ishii @ Day 12, vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
G1 Next Year?: Yes. For sure. he had the best match against Yujiro Takahashi and what a surprise that was. All his matches have been good.
Tomohiro Ishii-The Stone Pitbull. Straight forward ass kicker. One of my faves in NJPW. Ishii been killing it this year and last year too. Straight up tough guy and looks like on to boot. Ishii is one of the best and I hope he one day gets a shot at the main spot.
Best Matches: vs. Shinsuke Nakamura @ Day 8, vs. Kazuchika Okada @ Day 12, vs. Hirooki Goto @ Day 14, vs. Tomoaki Honma @ Day 16, vs. Michael Elgin @ Day 18
G1 Next Year?: Damn straight he who be included.
Michael Elgin-The former Ring of Honor World Champ has had an odd year with a lot of the indy fans turning on him. His inclusion in G1 was a surprise to some and many thought he’d flounder. This Canadian strong guy is not only doing well in his first tour in japan but really getting over. I had faith.
Best Matches: vs. Tomoaki Honma @ Day 8, vs. Karl Anderson @ Day 14, vs. Hirooki Goto @ Day 16, vs. Tomohiro Ishii @ Day 18
G1 Next Year?: Hell yeah. Elgin is getting over with every show and would be great to have him wrestle against some other NJPW talents.
Karl Anderson-Andersons been with NJPW since 2008, mostly known as a tag wrestler where he has had much success with Albert from WWE and currently Doc Gallows. Despite no singles titles he’s gone far in tournaments including finals in the G1 and a number of victories over top stars. I… am mixed on Anderson. I think he’s fine but not exactly a fan.
Best Matches: vs. Tomoaki Honma @ Day 12, vs. Michael Elgin @ Day 14
G1 Next Year?: Sure. I guess.
Yujiro Takahashi-The lone native in the Bullet Club. The most hated man in G1? Yeah probably.
Best Matches: If you can, skip them all. If you must… his matches with Elgin and Okada were okay.
G1 Next Year?: No. Give that spot to someone else.