New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax tournament begins today. Held from July to August, this round robin tournament pits twenty wrestlers against one another to determine who will challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight title January’s at Wrestle Kingdom, the biggest show of the year.
With so many matches taking place over the better part of a month, the G1 Climax is gruelling on the wrestlers who participate. It can also be hard to keep up. For the time-challenged wrestling fan, the following article details this year’s must-see matches.
1) Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega, Ryogoku Sumo Hall, 12 August
When Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega first met at Wrestle Kingdom 11, the result was Dave Meltzer’s first ever ‘six star’ rated match. Running at over 45 minutes in length, it was an effort that many have called the best pro wrestling bout of all time. Okada emerged victorious, retaining the IWGP Heavyweight Title. Their rematch at June’s Dominion show ended in a draw when the one hour time limit expired (Meltzer rated this bout slightly higher than their previous effort). Omega/Okada III may end up being the B block final, determining which man will advance to the G1 Climax final the next night. It may also mark the match where Omega finally defeats his rival.
With a 30 minute time limit, the match is bound to be shorter than their previous efforts. This won’t stop these two stars from delivering a classic, however, as they try to top the other tournament performers.
2) Tetsuya Naito vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryogoku Sumo Hall, 11 August
Throughout 2017, Naito and Tanahashi’s feud has produced matches that would no doubt be considered MOTY contestants if not for Okada and Omega’s efforts. One of the factors that has really made this feud work is the way each man’s character works diametrically to the other: while Tanahashi is a classic, white meat babyface who embodies NJPW’s traditions, Naito is an obnoxious heel who treats championships and rules with disdain.
While their Wrestle Kingdom and Dominion bouts were contested for the Intercontinental Title, that belt will not be on the line here. Instead, they will vie for G1 Climax points and to outdo their previous efforts.
3) Minoru Suzuki vs Kenny Omega, Korakuen Hall, 20 July
The only bout on this list to emanate from Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall, this is an intriguing match for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is that it is a rare heel vs heel contest between the leaders of competing factions (Suzuki-Gun and the Bullet Club). It is also a match-up between two champions (the NEVER Openweight Champion and IWGP US Champion) and previous G1 Climax winners.
This match marks the first time Suzuki and Omega have faced off. Stylistically, it should prove to be a fascinating combination of Suzuki’s MMA background and Omega’s athletic style. More than any other match on this list, it is difficult to predict what will happen here.
Addendum: Possible Finale-Kenny Omega vs Kota Ibushi, Ryogoku Sumo Hall, 13 August
While it is obviously impossible to tell who will compete in the G1 Climax Finale, a match between these former tag team partners has been long rumoured and talked about by each.
Omega’s tweets regarding Ibushi (and the latter’s comments that someone may die should they face off) give this potential finale a sense of inevitability and urgency. Should this match go ahead, it has the potential to eclipse everything else in the tournament.
Agree with this list? Is there another G1 Climax match you think is must-see? Comment below!
The 2017 G1 Climax tournament begins on 17 July and is available on New Japan World