I'm getting excited. It's almost time for the best wrestling event in the world. New Japan's G1 Climax tournament gives us multiple MotY candidates each and every time. What makes it so special is that, unlike in the WWE, everyone is presented as strong, not just the top three or four guys. Because of that, anyone can win the G1. Sometimes the superstars win but other times it's used to give lower tier guys a push, as the tournament winner gets a shot at any title they wish to challenge for at Wrestle Kingdom. The G1 Climax lasts from July 20th to the finals on August 16th, which features the two wrestlers with the best records from each block. Each wrestler faces everyone in their block at least once and there are always upsets.
Hiroshi Tanahashi - New Japan's "Ace" who held the HWC earlier this year.
Togi Makabe - Upper mid-card brawler.
Katsuyori Shibata - Ultra-stiff striker who many feel is on the cusp of main event status.
Tetsuya Naito - Won G1 previously but lost all momentum as a face. Seems in the process of a heel turn.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan - Older performer who is limited but can still have good matches.
Kota Ibushi - A rising star and one of the best flyers in the world.
Toru Yano - Older guy and a classic heel. He'll pick up a few wins by cheating.
A.J. Styles - Lost HWC to Okada in early July. Top dog in the Bullet Club.
Doc Gallows - Bullet Club and co- tag team champ.
Bad Luck Fale - Bullet Club brawler in the mold of Kevin Nash.
Satoshi Kojima - Older performer who can still go at times.
Yuji Nagata - Older performer and New Japan legend who is still quite good.
Hirooki Goto - Just won the IC title, which is a big deal in NJPW.
Tomoaki Honma - Perennial underdog who always loses yet always has fantastic matches. Absolutely loved by the fans.
Shinsuke Nakamura - One of the most highly regarded wrestlers in the world and one of the most charismatic. A true superstar in Japan.
Kazuchika Okada - The youngest of New Japan's "Big Three" and holder of the HWC.
Tomohiro Ishii - Hard hitting brawler that always delivers.
Michael Elgin - Eh. Chosen as the ROH rep.
Karl Anderson - Bullet Club and co- tag team champ.
Yujiro Takahashi - Bullet Club, lower mid-card.
First Round match-ups (and potential highlights). I've bolded the guys with a realistic shot at winning the whole event.
Monday, July 20
A Block: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Doc Gallows
A Block: Togi Makabe vs. Toru Yano
A Block: Tetsuya Naito vs. Bad Luck Fale <-- Fale has an outside shot at winning the event. He's not very good but he's big.
A Block: Katsuyori Shibata vs. A.J. Styles <-- Should be awesome, as both are fantastic.
A Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi <-- New Japan's biggest star of the last decade against its brightest rising star.
Thursday, July 23
B Block: Satoshi Kojima vs. Tomohiro Ishii
B Block: Hirooki Goto vs. Yujiro Takahashi
B Block: Yuji Nagata vs. Tomoaki Honma
B Block: Kazuchika Okada vs. Michael Elgin <-- Okada is the Champ so he probably won't win the tournament.
B Block: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Karl Anderson <-- Nakamura just dropped the IC title and some expect him to enter the HWC picture next.
Block A is fucking loaded. My picks are either Naito or Shibata. Naito was a babyface darling but the crowd turned on him. He got a push previously but it died out. He's very good inside the ring, though. He's just adopted a kind of selfish-type heel persona, which might be a prelude to another chance. Shibata is a guy who would have been one of the Top Dogs in New Japan but he left to try MMA and freelance work. He looks like he'd kick the hell out of people and then he goes out and does it. The only thing that could keep him out of the main event picture eventually is if people are still mad at him for leaving. Tanahashi, Nakamura, Ibushi, and Styles all have shots as they are all established stars and main event guys.
As reference, here are just a few of the top matches from previous G1 Climax tournaments. There are bunches more that people consider 4 Stars+.
*English Commentary* NJPW AJ Styles vs Suzuki G1 Climax 2014 Wrestling Observer MotY (and mine)
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kazuchika Okada (NJPW G1 Climax 24 Day 12 FInals 2014) MotY contender
*English Commentary* NJPW Shibata vs Honma G1 Climax 2014 GREAT introduction to why Honma is so over with the audience.
*English Commentary* NJPW Tanahashi vs Shibata G1 Climax 2014 I love this match, as both guys have real life heat with one another. Tanahashi was very harsh on Shibata in his autobiography. This felt bigger than just a tournament match.
Katsuyori Shibata vs Tomohiro Ishii - NJPW G1 CLIMAX 23 - 08/03/13 [5-STARS MATCH] This is from 2013 but I'm including it because people still talk about it. The kicks, chops, and headbutts were stiff and brutal.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Tetsuya Naito Many people picked this as their 2013 MotY. Nakamura is the best in-ring storyteller in the world.