New Japan’s G1 Climax: The View From The Halfway Point
Who's coming out of the excellent G1 tournament on top?
After two relentless weeks of wrestling we are at the halfway point in New Japan’s G1 Climax tournament. Every competitor has wrestled five matches and a clearer picture is beginning to take shape. Here, we take a look at where each Block currently stands and make some predictions as to how the tournament will play out.
Hiroshi Tanahashi: 4-1 (8pts.)
Tomohiro Ishii: 3-2 (6pts.)
Tetsuya Naito: 3-2 (6pts.)
Zack Sabre Jr: 3-2 (6pts.)
Hirooki Goto: 3-2 (6pts.)
Togi Makabe: 3-2 (6pts.)
Bad Luck Fale: 3-2 (6pts.)
Kota Ibushi: 2-3 (4pts.)
YOSHI-HASHI: 1-4 (2pts.) Eliminated
Yuji Nagata: 0-5 (0pts.) Eliminated
Before this tournament started a lot of the talk was on who would win Block A, due to the sheer wealth of talent that it involved. This feeling that anyone could beat anyone else has bore itself out in the standings with only two wrestlers mathematically unable to win the Block.
Those two wrestlers would probably have been the two that most people would have deemed least likely to win the Block. Despite this the story that has been told with Yuji Nagata is fantastic and it has caused him to be the most over wrestler in the tournament. When the 49 year old finally picks up that win in his last ever G1, the crowd will lose their minds.
As far as the rest of the Block goes, there are four points separating first from eighth, with only one win difference between first and seventh. This leaves many possibilities for how the rest of the round robin stage could play out. A lot of people expected Kota Ibushi to make a run to the finals, and while on paper he may look like he is unlikely to achieve this I would expect him to have a winning streak and be in the running going in to the last night of Block A action.
I am of the opinion that Tetsuya Naito was the pre-tournament favourite and I still believe that. His remaining matches are against Goto, Sabre Jr, Makabe and Tanahashi, all of which could be make or break matches against other wrestlers with a winning record. His match with Tanahashi on the last night of Block A competition may well decide who makes it to the final.
Hiroshi Tanahashi currently has the lead in the Block, only losing to Zack Sabre Jr on the opening night. He has possibly the toughest run in of anyone though, with matches against Ibushi, Makabe, Ishii and Naito still to come. I would expect Tanahashi to drop points in at least two of those matches, increasing the stakes for his final match.
As far as the rest of the field goes, logic dictates that only one of them will remain in the running come Night 17, due to the fact that they will face each other on most nights. Who that person is is anyone’s guess. They’re as likely to go with Bad Luck Fale as Zack Sabre Jr, but if I was pressed into making a prediction it would be Tomohiro Ishii, as he has had another great year and has an intriguing last match against Sabre Jr.
Kazuchika Okada: 5-0 (10pts.)
Kenny Omega: 4-1 (8pts.)
EVIL: 4-1 (8pts.)
Minoru Suzuki: 3-2 (6pts.)
SANADA: 3-2 (6pts.)
Tama Tonga: 2-3 (4pts.)
Michael Elgin: 2-3 (4pts.)
Toru Yano: 1-4 (2pts.) Eliminated
Juice Robinson: 1-4 (2pts.) Eliminated
Satoshi Kojima: 0-5 (0pts.) Eliminated
Block B is less wide open than Block A, with three wrestlers already mathematically eliminated from making the final and two more having losing records. Despite this there are still a few potential winners. It’s just a smaller pool than in Block A.
Of those that have been eliminated it will have been the most rewarding for Juice Robinson, who has established himself as one of New Japan’s best true babyfaces. With regards to Kojima and Yano, it has been pretty much what would have been expected with Kojima putting over younger talent and Yano working comedy matches.
I would say that it would be fair to assume that both Tama Tonga and Michael Elgin are effectively eliminated too. For either man to top the standings they would have to win out while Okada loses three of his last four matches and Omega loses two of his. Even then there is a chance that they won’t top the group. This is a very unlikely scenario.
Kazuchika Okada is the only wrestler who is undefeated in this tournament. In fact, he hasn’t lost a singles match since Night 15 of last year’s G1 Climax. When someone does defeat him it is going to be a really big deal. New Japan has been establishing Okada as someone who is beginning to be more concerned with proving he is the best than picking up the win at the earliest opportunity. It is likely that his hubris will be his downfall, costing him this tournament, possibly against Kenny Omega on the final day of Block B action.
Speaking of Kenny Omega, I still believe that he is the most likely person to win this Block and make his second final in a row. If he finally gets the win over Okada it will set up a future IWGP Title match, which will allow the winner of Block A to pick up the tournament victory setting up even more future matches. This is just my opinion though, and I could very well be wrong.
With regards to the other three wrestlers in Block B, I don’t think that EVIL will win his matches against Omega and Okada, which will eliminate him. As for SANADA and Suzuki, I believe that either of them may win three of their last four matches but it won’t be enough to see them top Block B.