With Best of the Super Juniors and Dominion over, New Japan Pro Wrestling is gearing up for the G1 Climax. Several wrestlers, some who had been in it before and some who would be first-time entrants, cut promos about G1 Climax 29 at Dominion, and during the June 16 Kizuna Road show, NJPW announced who will try to climb “the Mount Everest of pro wrestling.”
But First, How Does The G1 Climax Work?
In its current format, the G1 Climax features two blocks of wrestlers who wrestle each other, round-robin style. They earn two points for every win, one for every draw, and zero for every loss. The wrestler with the most points in his block advances to the final and the winner of the final match earns a contract for a match for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom on January 4 at the Tokyo Dome. (This year Wrestle Kingdom is a two-day event on January 4-5, so it’s possible the G1 winner will face the champion on the fifth instead.)
The G1 also sets up many of New Japan’s feuds and storylines for the next several months. Any wrestler who defeats a champion in the tournament is eligible to challenge for that champion’s title. Additionally, any wrestler who beats or draws the tournament winner can challenge him to a match for his Wrestle Kingdom contract – though since the beginning of, “the briefcase era,” the contract has yet to change hands.
Something different about the G1 this year is that part of it will take place outside of Japan for the first time ever. The opening night will take place at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas, on July 6. The tournament will pick up again a week later on July 13 at Ota City General Gymnasium in Tokyo and will end, like last year, at Budokan Hall on August 12.
Who Is In The G1 Climax This Year?
In A Block, we have:
- Kazuchika Okada (IWGP Heavyweight Champion)
- Zack Sabre Jr. (RPW British Heavyweight Champion)
- Hiroshi Tanahashi
- Kota Ibushi
- Bad Luck Fale
- Lance Archer
- Will Ospreay (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion)
In B Block, we have:
- Tetsuya Naito (IWGP Intercontinental Champion)
- Tomohiro Ishii (NEVER Openweight Champion)
- Juice Robinson
- Toru Yano
- Hirooki Goto
- Jay White
- Jeff Cobb
- Shingo Takagi
- Jon Moxley (IWGP United States Champion)
This is a much different field from G1 Climax tournaments of the past few years. Multiple wrestlers who were in G1 Climax 28 now work for other companies – Michael Elgin for Impact and Hangman Page and former tournament winner Kenny Omega for AEW. One half of the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions and a past G1 entrant in Tama Tonga is also absent from this year’s tournament, in kayfabe to focus on the tag division. Yoshi-Hashi, who wrestled in the last three G1s, is another performer sitting this one out.
G1 Climax 29 also doesn’t include some popular veteran wrestlers who have competed in the tournament within past few years and never declared a certain G1 would be their last: Togi Makabe, Satoshi Kojima, and Minoru Suzuki. Some might be surprised at the absence of Chris Jericho as well, but when he mentioned he might be in the G1 backstage at Dominion it sounded more like his characteristic riffing/trolling than an actual declaration.
All these absences have made room for G1 debuts while keeping the tournament at the 20-man size that has become the norm this decade. New Japan newcomers/former WWE Superstars KENTA and Jon Moxley will make their G1 debuts along with former NEVER Openweight Champions Taichi, Jeff Cobb, and Will Ospreay. Both Ospreay (the current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion) and the G1-debuting Shingo Takagi haven’t officially departed the junior heavyweight division yet, but have goals to find success as truly “openweight” competitors.
G1 Climax 29 also features two wrestlers who could be described as “returning” in different ways. Lance Archer, whose tag partner in the Killer Elite Sqad reportedly parted ways with NJPW recently, is in the tournament for the first time since 2014. This is the twelfth consecutive G1 for Hirooki Goto, but he’s been off of NJPW programming aside from the ROH/NJPW War of the Worlds tour since he lost the main event of Wrestling Hi no Kuni to Jay White in April.
Goto’s chance for revenge against White in B Block is one of several matches with heat behind them going into the tournament. Juice Robinson will have another chance against the man who took his United States Championship, Moxley, and last year’s tournament finalists, Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi, will face off again in A Block. In addition to other matches between established rivals, both blocks include L.I.J. vs. L.I.J. violence, something that hasn’t happened since last year’s G1, with tag partners Evil and Sanada in A Block and a first-time matchup of Naito vs. Takagi in B.
Another block match to watch out for – one some people might have thought could be the final – is Okada vs. the Ibushi character for the first time since NJPW’s 42nd Anniversary Show in 2014, when they wrestled an IWPG Heavyweight vs. Junior Heavyweight Champion match.
What do you think of this lineup? Is there one match you think will steal the tournament? Can you predict who’s taking this thing all the way to the Tokyo Dome? Let us know in the comments!