In my previous article, I introduced the NJPW G1 Climax and wrote about how the tournament would work, including running down the competitors in the A Block. My purpose in doing so was to introduce people to the all the major players and stories that led up to the tournament this year. If you are considering watching the G1 Climax this year, I recommend you read my first article, and then return to this one in order to get the full picture of all the competitors.
One of the things I neglected to mention in my previous article was how the winner of each block is determined. As I previously mentioned, the tournament is done as a round robin, but what I forgot to mention was how many points the winner gets. It’s rather simple: The winner gets two points, the loser gets none. If the match goes to a draw, each person gets one point. If at the end of the tournament two people are tied for the lead in their block, the person who won the match between the two advances to the finals.
Now with that out of the way, here are the competitors in the B Block:
The Canadian born Michael Elgin has won championships all over the world. His first major title was the Ring of Honor Championship, a promotion that he still makes appearances for, though not as frequently as he once did. Until last year, it seemed that Michael Elgin’s career was on a bit of a downturn. Everything changed at last year’s G1 Climax. It seemed like Elgin finally found where he fit in, and was soon thereafter signed to a full time contract with New Japan Pro Wrestling. During his time in New Japan, Elgin has forged a bond with company Ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and the two have formed a successful tag team. Elgin had his biggest win when he replaced an injured Tanahashi (who was out with shoulder surgery) in New Japan’s first ever ladder match against Kenny Omega for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. In a match that many critics loved, Elgin defeated Omega and is now the current IWGP Intercontinental Champion. The former holder of the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship has now risen far above expectations – Can he win the G1 and go on to unify the Heavyweight Championship with the Intercontinental, something that has never happened before? Also, what will happen when he faces off against Omega again in this block?
The “King of Darkness” EVIL has recently returned to New Japan Pro Wrestling after an excursion to America where he worked in several promotions, primarily in Ring of Honor. EVIL made an immediate impact by joining Los Ingobernables de Japón and helping Tetsuya Naito. Aside from having an awesome name, EVIL actually hasn’t made much of an impact in New Japan as of yet. This is his first G1 appearance, and it will be interesting to see what happens when he has to face the leader of his stable, as they are both in the same block.
Tomoaki Honma is an interesting character. This man can only be described as a lovable underdog, as he has lost far more matches in NJPW than he has won. His first appearance in the G1 Climax came in 2014 when he replaced an injured Kota Ibushi (now in WWE and participating in the Cruiserweight Classic), and lost all 10 matches he was participating in. As Honma joined the ranks for the G1 Climax for 2015, it looked like it was going to be much of the same, losing his first 7 matches. As each loss happened, you could see the pain on Honma’s face, even to the point where there were tears in his eyes. Finally, in a match against Tomohiro Ishii, Honma finally got his first win in the G1 Climax, finishing with a W/L in the G1 of 1-18. Honma finally achieved a championship when he and his tag partner Togi Makabe won the IWGP Tag Team Championships from Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows (The Bullet Club). Will Honma be able to get some more wins this year?
Katsuhiko Nakajima began wrestling at a young age (14!), and despite being only 28 years old, is a veteran of Japanese wrestling. Nakajima has made appearances for New Japan before in the past, but has primarily been involved in Pro Wrestling NOAH, NJPW’s sister company. This marks the first time that Nakajima is making a G1 appearance, and he will be looking to make an impact. The multi-time Junior Heavyweight Champion (in both NOAH and AJPW) will definitely leave his mark on the tournament.
Making his pro debut in 2008, YOSHI-HASHI hasn’t actually made a major impact in New Japan Pro Wrestling. YOSHI-HASHI has slowly been working his way up the card in New Japan, but has yet to win any major titles. However, YOSHI-HASHI has a huge distaste for Los Ingobernables de Japón, and has engaged in a feud with them over the last few months along with his CHAOS stablemates. Don’t be surprised to see YOSHI-HASHI go to war with EVIL and Tetsuya Naito this year, as that will likely be some of the more personal matches in the G1 Climax this year.
Toru Yano is a character. It is really they only appropriate way to describe him. While he is not a particularly good wrestler, that doesn’t mean he isn’t worth watching. Yano is a member of CHAOS, and is always attempting to sell DVDs and merchandise in order to make some money. His entrance video even includes the prices. Not only is he always trying to sell merchandise, but he abides by a philosophy in all his matches: Always cheat. The amazing thing about it is that the crowd loves him. He is the perfect comedy character that will always get a laugh, and is one of the few that will draw cheers from the audience when he goes to remove the turnbuckle padding or while smacking people with chairs. Don’t be surprised if he points to the audience to distract the referee and then hits a low blow in order to roll up his opponent for the win. Yano probably won’t win many matches, but they’ll all be fun. I can’t wait to see what he does with Shibata.
If you have been a long time wrestling fan, you likely know the name Yuji Nagata. He has worked for New Japan Pro Wrestling for many years, and even had a brief time in WCW. Nagata is a living legend, and at 48 years old is still a fantastic wrestler capable of producing awesome matches. It might be easier to list the championships Nagata hasn’t won, rather than the ones that he has, but the list is impressive. He has won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship twice, the IWGP Tag Team Championship twice, and most recently the NEVER Openweight Championship when he defeated Shibata. He has also been the GHC Heavyweight Champion for Pro Wrestling NOAH, and has previously won the G1 Climax. Nagata is making his 18th appearance in the G1 Climax, and stands as the only man who has won the three major tournaments in Japan – The Champion Carnival for AJPW, the Global League Tournament for NOAH, and of course, the G1 Climax. Expect the match he has with Shibata to be hard hitting and one of the highlights of the tournament.
“The Cleaner” Kenny Omega recently made the jump from Junior Heavyweight to Heavyweight in New Japan Pro Wrestling after destroying AJ Styles and kicking him out of The Bullet Club to replace him as leader. Omega went on to defeat Hiroshi Tanahashi for the vacant IWGP Intercontinental Championship before going on to lose it to Michael Elgin. This marks Omega’s first appearance in the G1 Climax, and you can expect to see some great matches out of him, especially with Michael Elgin. One of the intriguing stories in the tournament will be the clear struggle for power between The Bullet Club and Los Ingobernables de Japón. When Naito and Omega clash, you can expect that to be a fantastic match. Throw CHAOS into the mix, and the story of which stable will dominate New Japan becomes even more interesting.
Katsuyori Shibata is one of the most interesting stories in wrestling. He started off in New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1999, but left the promotion in 2005 in order to become a freelancer. He made his MMA debut in 2004 and continued that career when he became a freelancer. Shibata’s MMA career was not spectacular, as he finished with a 4-11-1 record, but don’t take that to mean the man isn’t tough. Shibata made his return to NJPW in 2012 and was still largely seen as an outsider who betrayed the company and has been attempting to earn respect since then. Shibata had his first singles title win last January at Wrestle Kingdom 10 when he won the NEVER Openweight Championship from Ishii. Shibata lost the title to Yuji Nagata, but managed to regain it recently and is the current NEVER Openweight Champion. Can Shibata finally cast off the rejection of his past and earn a IWGP Heavyweight Championship match at Wrestle Kingdom 11? Is this finally Shibata’s time? Going in, he’s definitely one of the favourites to win.
Tetsuya Naito is the man that I personally think is going to win the whole thing this year. Of course, I could be entirely wrong, but he will no doubt have a huge impact. Naito’s career was at a bit of a standstill in his early years, but after a tour of CMLL in 2015 he joined Los Ingobernables, and with it came a huge attitude change. When returning to NJPW for the G1 Climax last year, he returned with a new look and his new attitude was quickly displayed in his ruthlessness in the ring. He gained huge victories over AJ Styles and Hiroshi Tanahashi, but didn’t manage to win the tournament. Soon afterwards EVIL debuted to help him and Los Ingobernables de Japón was formed. Invasion Attack 2016 became one of the most important nights in his career when SANADA and EVIL helped him win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship from Okada. Okada did manage to regain it, but Naito finally won the championship that seemed destined to be his many years ago. Naito is making his 7th G1 appearance, and looks to be the favourite going in. There is a strong possibility of seeing Okada and Naito in the finals, and their feud is even more personal because of how much disrespect Naito showed for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship when he held it by swinging it around his head, throwing it in the air, and simply dropping it and leaving it on the ramp. His attitude of not caring about anything has become a great strength for him – will this year be his year?
So that is all the competitors for the G1 Climax! If you want to sign up for NJPW World to watch the events, you can do so here.
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