NJPW G1 Climax 26 2016 A Block Finals Preview
August 12, 2016
We Write Wrestling – @WeWriteWrestlin
Hello to both New Japan fans as well as those just curious about the King of Sports! My name is Derick and before I get into the 2016 G1 let me take a moment to tell you about myself. I have been watching wrestling since around 1978, since I was about 5. In fact, one of my earliest memories is sitting on my Grandmothers lap as she introduced me to Stampede Wrestling, seeing the start of careers of such legends as Bret Hart, The British Bulldogs, Owen Hart, and Brian Pillman the list goes on and on. As I grew I continued to watch each and every week, first being exposed to AWA, then NWA, and lastly WWF. I’ve been around for the start of Rock n Wrestling up today with no breaks in watching. Last year I decided to take a chance and try out some NJPW, which, due to not speaking Japanese always kept me away. I quickly found out that not knowing the language was not a barrier when it comes to enjoying New Japan; in fact, I prefer the Japanese commentary over anything being put on by WWE now. Since you are reading this you have at least some curiosity in the New Japan product so if you can I highly recommend getting a subscription to NJPWWorld, if only for a month, at 999¥ it is a bargain!
Let’s get into this year’s G1 and what it means. There were a lot of ‘experts’ who were going into this year’s G1 not expecting a lot and I am glad they were wrong! Sure, there have been some dud’s (looking at you Yano) but overall the match quality has been fantastic! It seems at times with the G1 that you need an advance mathematics degree to follow along, or see where booker Gedo is going and that is a good thing! I love that, even coming up to the final night for both blocks there is still a mystery over who will be winning this year. With the A block finishing on 8/12, and B block on 8/13, meaning everyone has one match left, here are the standings:
A Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Naomichi Marufuji, Bad Luck Fale, Kazuchika Okada and Hirooki Goto 5-3 (10 points); Togi Makabe 4-4 (8 points); Tama Tonga, Tomohiro Ishii and SANADA 3-5; 10 (6 points). Hiroyoshi Tenzan 2-6 (4 points).
B Block: 1. Tetsuya Naito 6-2 (12 points); Michael Elgin, Katsuyori Shibata and Kenny Omega 5-3 (10 points); Toru Yano and Katsuhiko Nakajima 4-4 (8 points); YOSHI-HASHI, EVIL and Yuji Nagata 3-5 (6 points); Tomoaki Honma 2-6 (4 points).
So, what does this all mean? Of course, the winner of A Block faces the winner of B Block to be the G1 Climax 26 champion, and receive that briefcase to face the IWGP Champion at WrestleKindom on Jan 4 2017 but who does Gedo see as being that person? The one thing to keep in mind is, unlike other briefcases in wrestling I can mention, the Jan 4th title shot briefcase is up for grabs for the next 4 months. Every match the winner has between now and January 4th he defends that right to face the champion. Which brings up an interesting question: The IWGP Champion has yet to become the G1 Champ, so we have not had to wonder what that would mean, but have a look at the A Block standings, the current champ Kazuchika Okada is tied for the top. During the run up to the G1, while Naito was still the IWGP champion he claimed that he would win and as such be allowed to book the entire Tokyo Dome show on Jan 4th, will Okada want to do the same? Time will tell.
The final night for the A Block should be a great show overall. The show is on 8/12, airing live on NJPWworld.com starting at 5:30 am EST the underneath matches will be multi-man tag matches as is the norm with G1. We have (not sure if this is the actual order or not):
Yoshitatsu & Captain New Japan (Bullet Club Hunters) vs Jay & Mark Briscoe
-The Briscoe brothers from ROH are the current IWGP Tag Team Champions and I don’t expect them to have much trouble with the lowest of the low here in New Japan. I still don’t understand why the ‘symbol’ of New Japan, the actual Captain New Japan is such a joke. His gimmick is that in multiman tags his own partners refuse to tag him in as doing so pretty much means your team is going to lose. The positive of Capt. NJ is at least the fans love him and are pulling for him to final get a win. Yoshitatsu with his mocking Tripe H gimmick is also just not over with the crowd at all. Funny thing about the Briscoe’s is that the Japanese commentary team used Mark having his long straggly hair as a way to tell the two brothers apart, now they both have shaved heads and I foresee a lot of joking about that. Not expecting much in this match as it will be a basic squash match just to help get the Briscoe’s over to the crowd.
Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi, Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, & Tiger Mask IV vs Tomoaki Honma, Ryusuke Taguchi, Juice Robinson, & David Finlay
One of the things I like about New Japan is how they treat the veterans or the New Japan Dads as they have been called. Rather than just getting a ‘wish you well in all your future endeavors’ they are kept around to help teach and guide the Young Lions as well as the up and comers. Juice Robinson, for those that don’t know, is the former CJ Parker from NXT. He didn’t see his career progressing the way he wanted so asked for his release and has ended up in New Japan. He is in a strange spot there as he is not treated as a Young Lion, but still does not progress out of the early match spot. David Finlay is the son of legend Fit Finlay and is one to watch. If you have not seen this young Irishman (by way of Germany) you are in for a treat. Even as a Young Lion he has won over the heart of the New Japan fans. Honma…oh Honma… the lovable loser, He is just one of those guys you just want to get behind and I don’t know why, is it the Kokeshi head-butt that missing at least 75% of the time? The deep gravelly voice? I don’t know what it is but fans just love this guy. Taguchi, king of the ass attack…and that’s about it. One thing I can say about Taguchi and his accomplishments in New Japan is he is the former tag team partner of a certain Irishman, Price Devitt (now known of course as Finn Balor) and was a big part of the JR division from 2007 until 2013. When Devitt turned on Taguchi it was to form a little wrestling group that some of you may have heard of… Bullet Club. The NJ dads they are facing, with the exception of Nakanishi are still guys that, despite their age, can still go! Look for Finlay to take the pin in this one.
Katsuyori Shibata, Michael Elgin, Satoshi Kojima, & KUSHIDA vs. Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI, Katshuiko Nakajima (NOAH), and Atsushi Kotoge (NOAH)
So we have CHOAS vs New Japan Faces (yes, the guys not in a faction are basically just called the New Japan Faces). Expect power moves from Elgin, hard strikes from Shibata, Kojima, and Nakajima, comedy from Yano, and straight out amazement from one of the best workers on the planet, current IWGP JR Heavyweight Champion as well as Ace of the JRs KUSHIDA. I am not familiar with Kotoge other than he is half of the NOAH GHC JR Tag Team Champions. This match is hard to call but I will go with Elgin pinning Yano to get his win back.
Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI, EVIL, & ROH World Champion Jay Lethal vs. Kenny Omega, Tanga Roa, Yujiro Takahashi, & ‘Hangman’ Adam Page
Basically, this is foreshadowing a future program of Los Ingobernables de Japon vs The Bullet Club. LIJ is, simply put, the hottest act in all of New Japan. All the members of LIJ are over with the crowd so much that it is only a matter of time before they become babyfaces, especially if being booked against Bullet Club. I think there could be an entire article on the difference between Bullet Club in Japan vs what we see in North America from them. In New Japan, while they are not quite the same after losing key members (Devitt, Styles, Gallows, Anderson) they are still a heel group and still a threat. This is a hard one to call…there is no way that Naito or Lethal will be pinned, Omega is protected to a certain extent and since Page/Takahashi will be challenging for the IWGP tag belts I don’t see them losing. Since BUSHI has been eliminated from the Super J Cup, I am going with him being pinned by Omega.
This brings us to the final A Block match ups.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs SANADA
In my opinion Gedo blew it on the Tenzan story. For those not familiar Hiroyoshi Tenzan is a 3 time G1 winner, and a 4 time IWGP Heavyweight Champ (plus he was a tag champ 11 times). Those days of glory are far behind the stiff moving Tenzan, in fact, he was not even booked in the G1 originally until long time tag team partner Satoshi Kojima gave up his spot so Tenzan could compete in his final G1. The crowds have been solidly behind him as well, he started off so hot picking up wins against Tomohiro Ishii and Tama Tonga. Then, nothing. He is sitting at the bottom of the A Block. I was hoping to have Tenzan going into the final night with at least a shot at the finals but he is already mathematically done. As is his opponent SANADA which is also a surprise considering he picked up a win from the Ace Of The Century Hiroshi Tanahashi, as well as over both Ishii and Hirooki Goto. So this match doesn’t matter at all, so the question is will Gedo give Tenzan a win in his last ever G1 match? He has said that the match he had against Okada was the last time he would ever have a one on one match with the IWGP champion. Or will he go with SANADA who will be a big time player in the years to come.. I am not sure.
Tomohiro Ishii vs Togi Makabe
Another match that has no effect on the finals of the G1 as both are mathematically eliminated, but these two always have great hard hitting matches. Makabe started off very strong, going 4-0 picking up wins against SANADA, Tanahashi, Tenzan and Tonga but has not won since those matches. Ishii shocked everyone by pinning fellow CHOAS stable mate and IWGP champ Okada in what I currently have as my MOTY, Meltzer gave it 5*’s and I agree 100% with that. To be honest, it doesn’t even matter who wins this match…It will be great.
Bad Luck Fale vs Tama Tonga
Unlike the first two matches, this one has some implications on the final. We have Bullet Club vs Bullet Club in this match. I am seeing a win for Tonga on this one, but if Fale wins since he has beaten Tanahashi, Okada, and Marufuji he has a strong chance of going to the finals. The reason for this for those unfamiliar with G1 is in the case of a tie it goes to whoever won the match up. For example should it come down to Tana and Fale, Fale goes since he beat Tana in their match. Still, I see Tonga getting the win here. Other than the weird gear he has worn, which basically looks like underwear, he has been pretty impressive picking up wins against Ishii, Tana, and SANADA. I think it is time for Tanga to break out and be a real threat in NJPW.
Hirooki Goto vs Naomichi Marufuji
The last two matches here are important… and confusing. If Goto wins, since he has lost to both Tanahashi and Okada he is not going to the finals unless Tana and Okada go to a draw. And with Marufuji, if both he wins and Tanahashi wins then it will be Tana going to the finals, if that match is a draw then Marufuji advances to the finals. See what I mean about the math to this tournament? Either way this will be a hard hitting match, with lots of great looking spots. Goto seems to choke when it’s all on the line so I am going with Marufuji.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada
This is the first one on one meeting between The Ace of the Century and The Rainmaker since their epic show down at the last Tokyo Dome show. Former IWGP champ vs Current IWGP champ. These two have been the back bone of New Japan Pro Wrestling for years. There last match last Jan 4th was a 5* masterpiece and I expect no less this time. This is the match that really decides the A Block, the winner will end up with 12 points and advance, but a draw means it’s possible Marufuji would probably advance. We have had a count out this tournament and if anyone could pull off a draw it is these two. I am going to go with Tanahashi winning the block. His story, coming back from injury, losing his first 3 matches to come back and win is a story built for Tana. But remember, he then has to defend that briefcase… and just think of the heat of someone like Naito winning that briefcase, and the main event of Wrestle Kingdom would get.
I will have a run down and preview of the B Block finals before that show airs, and remember the A Block final is 08/12 at 5:30 AM EST if you are going to watch live. This show, along with the B Block finals, and the G1 Finals will also have English commentary from Ring Of Honor’s Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino, they will be joined by former IWGP Jr Tag Champ, a member of CHAOS, one half of Roppongi Vice, Rocky Romero. Hopefully Rocky does a better job than poor Yoshitatsu did!