G1 Climax is the biggest tournament in New Japan. Held annually in July and August, it encompasses some of the greatest stars in New Japan mixed with a few guests of high note. Its purpose is similar to WWE's Royal Rumble: it will crown the contender for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at the January dome show, presumably called Wrestle Kingdom 10.
While this year's tournament only features 20 stars, two less than last year's record breaking 22, it will be the longest G1 tournament in New Japan history, stretching over 19 shows between July 20 and August 16.
I am always interested in informing American fans about the talent they might be missing without a NJPW World subscription, so over the next four days I will cover the talent in the tournament, broken down by the A and B blocks of the round robin tournament, each split into five easy to cover talents. I will cover them by match listings for the two opening round days of the tournament.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan: Tenzan is a New Japan living legend. A twenty year veteran of the promotion, his accomplishments in the company are massive. An eleven time IWGP tag team champion and a four time IWGP heavyweight champion, he has completed in 20 straight tournaments, by far the most of any competitor. He is the current NWA champion after scoring a win over Rob Conway in February. While he has lost a step since his heyday in the early 2000s, Tenzan can still put on great matches, but don't expect his numbers to sail too high in the tournament, especially with his initial contest against the next competitor.
Doc Gallows: Formerly known as Festus and Luke Gallows in WWE as well as TNA as D.O.C., Doc Gallows is one of the most hated men in NJPW. One of the meanest members of the reviled gaijin stable, The Bullet Club, Gallows is also the current IWGP Tag Team champion. Last year, he finished on the low end of the totals, but Gallows has only become more fearsome since that time. I expect Gallows to go far this time around, especially if his wife Amber gets involved from outside.
Togi Makabe: An American promotion might get in trouble for comparing an ugly wrestler to King Kong, but the wild brawler Togi Makabe embraces his nickname as the Bousou ("Runaway") King Kong. The Unchained Gorilla is a former IWGP heavyweight champion, a 12 time G1 Climax participant (with a 2009 win) and a former IWGP tag champion. American fans might remember him from his one appearance on a TNA Global Impact Special, where he and partner Toru Yano, dropped the tag belts to Team 3D in a brutally epic battle. While he is the current NEVER Openweight champion, he is now one of the most solid and consistent midcarders in the promotion. With a style similar to the late Bruiser Brody, he will bring some wild brawls to the tournament, especially against his former partner and first opponent.
Toru Yano: The longest standing midcarder in the NJPW roster, Toru Yano has never accomplished much in New Japan. He's a two time tag champion, once with his first opponent Togi Makabe and once with the absolutely insane Takashi Iizuka (who is now part of a NOAH invasion angle). But despite his flabby build, Yano is capable of some great in-ring work as recently shown in the renewal of his long time feud with Hiroshi Tanahasi, a man he is destined to meet again in the tournament. His nickname is "The Super Athlete", just another goofy bit about this CHAOS regular.
Tetsuya Naito: American fans might remember Tetsuya Naito from his time in TNA as one half of No Limit with his former partner Yujiro Takahashi. They worked for several months there as they sought to reclaim the IGWP Junior Tag Team titles from the Motor City Machine Guns. Naito and Takahashi would upgrade to heavyweights upon their return to New Japan. Takahashi turned on Naito shortly after that time and the two men have been rivals ever since. Much like Yano, Naito has remained a consummate midcarder, though he has had brushes with stardom including a G1 Climax win in 2013 and a run with the NEVER title. The Stardust Genius can still pull out great matches, but it is doubtful this will be the year he gets a push to the top, even if he will get a shot at Takahashi's stablemate in his opening round match.
We will continue with that opponent and the rest of A Block tomorrow, including the most decorated IWGP Heavyweight champion of all time! See you then!