Welcome back for Part 4 of Get Into This, the official WithSpandex introduction to New Japan Pro Wrestling! As a reminder, here are your links to Part 1 (general info), Part 2 (the heavyweight roster), and Part 3 (the junior heavyweight roster). Today’s installment is a pretty big deal, because I’ll be covering one of the biggest tournaments not just in NJPW, but in all of professional wrestling. SummerSlam might call itself the biggest party of the summer, but this one might be even bigger. Welcome to the world of G1 Climax!
(Please note: GIFs via SquaredCircle subreddit.)
What is G1 Climax?
It’s a tournament held annually by New Japan. It’s been happening since 1974 under various names and formats. The current format is round-robin. There are two groups of wrestlers, with each competitor facing off with everyone else in the group once each. A win is worth two points, a draw is worth one, and a loss gets you nothing. The champions of each group wrestle a final match to determine the big winner. Originally called the World League, NJPW founder Antonio Inoki is a 10-time winner of the tournament. The prize for the victor has also varied over the years – as of now, it’s a guaranteed heavyweight title shot at Wrestle Kingdom. More on that later.
Other than Inoki, are there other tournament victors who stand out?
You bet! Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, and Vader are all G1 winners that probably ring a bell with American wrestling audiences.
Cool. So, what do I need to know about this year’s tournament?
With 22 wrestlers, this G1 tournament is the biggest in history. Also, the tournament finals received a BIG venue upgrade, going from the 13,000-seat Ryogoku Sumo Hall to the 18,000-seat Seibu Dome.
Nice! So, when is it?
When WAS it, you mean.
The tournament ended late Saturday night (in America, at least).
Aw, man! So this is more of a recap, then?
Yep! I’ll walk you through some of the big stories of this year’s G1. Let me go ahead and show you the roster first. Remember to consult Part 2 of Get Into This if you need a refresher on any of these guys!
- Hiroshi Tanahashi. The high-flying ace, unfairly compared to John Cena.
- Satoshi Kojima. Master of lariats, current NWA World Tag Team Champion.
- Yuji Nagata. “Blue Justice,” the man immune to aging.
- Tomoaki Honma. Heartbreaking loser, can’t stop doing diving headbutts.
- Katsuyori Shibata. Punishing striker, basically the Davey Richards of Japan.
- Shinsuke Nakamura. The King of Strong Style, coolest man in Japan and several other countries.
- Tomohiro Ishii. Underrated workhorse, capable of absorbing tons of punishment.
- Shelton Benjamin. Invading American star, making his third G1 appearance.
- Davey Boy Smith, Jr. Just like Benjamin, he’s an outsider representing Suzukigun.
- Doc Gallows. Current IWGP Tag Team Champion, and one of five Bullet Club members in the field.
- Bad Luck Fale. Current IWGP Intercontinental Champion, the “Underboss” of Bullet Club.
- Togi Makabe. The Unchained King Kong, specializing in brawling.
- Hirooki Goto. Shibata’s running buddy, and a former G1 champion in his own right.
- Tetsuya Naito. Last year’s G1 winner, now riding an arrogant streak that the fans love to boo.
- Hiroyoshi Tenzan. Kojima’s NWA Tag Team Champion partner, and a three-time G1 winner.
- Kazuchika Okada. The Rainmaker, looking to reclaim his heavyweight championship.
- Toru Yano. Wily prankster, trying to sell his DVDs with every breath.
- Minoru Suzuki. Maniacal former shootfigter, hates Yano’s guts.
- Lance Archer. One of Suzuki’s henchmen, returning to the United States later this month to kill my editor.
- AJ Styles. Current IWGP Heavyweight Champion, leader of Bullet Club.
- Yujiro Takahashi. Another Bullet Club crony, high sleaze factor.
- Karl Anderson. IWGP Tag Team Champion partner of Gallows, rounding out the Bullet Club contingent.
Now then, let’s start at the beginning, with the unlikely rise of Shelton Benjamin…