Friday, July 17, 2015

G1 Climax 2015 Preview - B Block part 2

Today we take our final look at the G1 Climax. The show kicks off in just a few short days as it goes live at 1 a.m. Central time on Monday morning. While that isn't exactly ideal viewing time for most American fans, NJPW World will have replays up within a couple hours so anyone can watch when they see fit.

Let's finish the round up of B Block and then take a look at my guess for the winner.

Tomoaki Honma: Honma started out in Big Japan Wrestling (BJW) where he worked numerous death matches early in his career. He innovated the use of light tubes in matches (for good or ill). He found his most success during those early years in the much smaller BJW, but moved on to runs in both All Japan and Kensuke Office. He joined New Japan as a regular in 2013, but can best be described as a lovable loser. In 2014, he replaced the injured Kota Ibushi in the G1 tournament. He didn't win a single match, but his spirit and refusal to give up made him hugely popular with NJPW fans. "Honmania" was born and it carried him forward to a Tokyo Dome win over the Bullet Club. Don't expect Honma to win much this year. I would guess he will score a single victory in the tournament, but a key one against the likes of Goto or the next man on our list.

Kazuchika Okada: Despite still being known best to American fans for his short lived TNA run as Samoa Joe's assistant Okato, Kazuchika Okada is the current ace of New Japan. A massive star in Japan, "The Rainmaker" is a stupendous in-ring worker. His finisher, also called The Rainmaker, is just a short-arm clothesline but he delivers it with a devastating amount of force. The current IWGP Heavyweight champion in his third reign, he has put on spectacular contests in recent months against Hiroshi Tanahashi and AJ Styles. While neither of those men are in B Block with him, he will face stablemate Shinsuke Nakamura in a dream match. His opening round match pits him against the only gaijin visitor in a first time one-on-one dream match for many ROH fans.

Michael Elgin: A name very familiar to Ring of Honor fans, Michael Elgin is a former champion of that promotion. He is making his New Japan debut as ROH's representative in the G1. While many gaijin visitors in the G1 don't excel, I expect the hard-hitting Elgin to score a few wins in B Block though I doubt he has a chance against the current IWGP Heavyweight champion in the first round. But Elgin/Okada does offer potential for a great power-match and future battles with Goto, Tanahashi and Nakamura should also be stellar.

Karl Anderson: The rare example of a gaijin star that became huge in NJPW without a previous career elsewhere, he made a name for himself as one-half of Bad Intentions with Giant Bernard. For four years, the team was a dominant force in New Japan. But when Bernard returned to WWE as Tensai, Anderson started a short-lived babyface run in the company, a rarity for an American star. In 2012, he was the second non-Japanese star to make it to the finals of the G1 but came up short against Okada. He found success alongside Hirooki Goto as Sword & Guns, but would turn on Goto to join Prince Devitt (now Finn Balor) in the Bullet Club. When Devitt left New Japan, he became the new leader of the Bullet Club and brought them to dominance, at one time holding every single New Japan title. Alongside Doc Gallows, he is once again a IWGP Tag Team Champion (his fourth reign) and looks strong going into the G1. Though it is doubtful he can top his block this year, he should finish in the top half of his division.

Shinsuke Nakamura: The King of Strong Style plays one of the craziest men on the IWGP roster. Beloved for his wild antics by American fans, Nakamura can back up his weirdness with some of the finest in-ring work in the world today. Nakamura oozes star power and his Boma Ye is one of the most impressive finishers in modern wrestling. He is a three time IWGP Heavyweight champion and won the G1 in 2011. For the past few years, he has dominated the IWGP Intercontinental division becoming a four time champion and putting the title on equal footing with the Heavyweight belt. He even brought that title to the main event of a January Tokyo Dome event in a stunning battle with Hiroshi Tanahashi. Tons of buzz revolves around him in the G1 this year as not only will he face his stablemate Okada, but many suspect this will be his reentry into the Heavyweight title picture.

While predictions for a tournament the scale of the G1 Climax can sometimes be foolish, Shinsuke Nakamura is the likely favorite to win B Block. Many are guessing a first time conflict between AJ Styles and Nakamura will take place in the Finals of the tournament, though a Tanahashi/Nakamura rematch might be just as likely. However, I do join with most folks in predicting that Shinsuke Nakamura will walk out the G1 Climax winner and we will see him in the Tokyo Dome against his CHAOS stablemate Okada come January. But whether my prediction proves true or completely offbase, I can guarantee that the G1 will bring some of the best wrestling you will see anywhere in the world. If you have ever thought about giving New Japan a try, now is the time to do it.

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