The 25th G1 Climax Tournament concluded yesterday with an amazing final between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura. Time to look at what that implicates for NJPW story-lines in the coming month. But first let’s take a little look at the immediate future which is next Saturday with a joint ROH/NJPW card: Field of Honor. For those who are less than impressed with WWE’s Summerslam card, this will form a very welcome alternative. At time of writing the following matches have been confirmed:
ROH World and TV Champion Jay Lethal and Shinsuke Nakamura vs IWGP Junior Tag Team Champions ReDragon (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly)
IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada vs “Mr ROH” Roderick Strong
GHC Tag teamChampions Killer Elite Squad (David Boy Smith Jr and Lance Archer) vs War Machine (Hanson and Rowe)
IWGP Intercontinental Champion Hirooki Goto vs Michael Elgin
Marc and Jay Briscoe vs The Time Splitters (Alex Shelley and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion KUSHIDA)
Adam Cole vs Christopher Daniels
The Young Bucks, Matt Sydal and ACH vs The Kingdom and Roppongi Vice
Gauntlet for a Television championship match:
As you can see, quite an interesting and star-studded card. You can, of course, expect a review once the Summerslam Weekend Madness has subsided.
But let us now take a closer look at the 25th G1’s result and see what they mean for the coming months. And all honors to the winner of course so let’s start with Hiroshi Tanahashi. Despite having been “Mr NJPW” for years now and his impressive resume Tanahashi’s victory came as something of a surprise. Most were expecting Nakamura to win, leading to a showdown between the two leaders of CHAOS at Wrestle Kingdom 10. That being said, Tanahashi’s victory doesn’t come out of nowhere either. At the start of this year, at Wrestle Kingdom 9, then G1 2014 winner challenged then IWGP Heavyweight Champion Tanahashi. Okada suffered a soul-crushing defeat, so crushing indeed that he entered a storyline slump that would last month (until Invasion Attack). So, while Okada did manage to regain the IWGP Heavyweight title and extract revenge on A. J. Styles (at Dominion), the Tanahashi chapter of that story for revenge and redemption is still open. So if Okada is still Champion by the time WK10 rolls around and if Tanahashi is still challenger, we will likely have a passing of the torch story between the veteran and the young superstar.
I said if, because in wrestling as in life, nothing is ever certain. Traditionally, the winner of the G1 tournament receives a certificate or contract if you prefer for the Championship match at the next Wrestle Kingdom. That certificate can be challenged in the months between. Tanahashi has suffered two losses during this tournament, one against Bad Luck Fale, the other against Tetsuya Naito. Now Fale doesn’t pose much of a threat. There is no way the NJPW officials would want him in the main event of their biggest show of the year. If a challenge comes from the Bullet Club member, it will likely happen at one of the two Destruction shows in September. Naito is a much more credible threat, especially since his heel persona has encountered so much success. Aside from the smaller Destruction Shows (to be compared with the New beginnings shows earlier this year) and the 2 tag teams tournaments, there are two more big PPV’s for NJPW this year. King of Pro Wrestling in October and Power Struggle in November. While Naito will be busy with Katsuyori Shibata in September, expect him to make his move at one of those two big shows.
But what about the losing finalist, what about the King of Strong Style himself, Shinsuke Nakamura? Well he lost that’s the end of the story for him, yes? Well, no, not exactly. While Nakamura did fail in his attempt at winning the G1 Climax, he is one of only two wrestlers who managed to defeat IWGP Champion Okada during this tournament. As I have said several times in the past, in NJPW, everything has a meaning. Win or loss, it doesn’t matter, it will likely lead to something. That all important win against Okada gives Nakamura the right to challenge the Champion at some point. It’s that simple. So whether it is a Power Struggle or ar King of Pro Wrestling, it is likely a challenge will come.
The Champion himself will have a busy fall, that’s for sure. First opponent will be A. J. Styles (who also have to contend with the first signs of disunity within Bullet Club), likely at one of the Destruction shows. But afterwards he will have to deal with the repercussions of his two losses. Nakamura has already been mentioned, the other one is none other than the current Intercontinental champion Hirooki Goto. While a Champion vs Champion match certainly has potential, the cards doesn’t seem to be lying right for that to happen. But nothing says Goto will still be Champion by the time October or November rolls around. Goto has suffered three losses during this tournament, against Anderson, Nagata and Nakamura. Another match against Nakamura seems unlikely at this point but Nagata and Anderson will certainly challenge him in the near future. And then, there is Michael Elgin.
Elgin has been THE revelation of this tournament. Often criticized in the states, his detractors were waiting for him to fail in Japan. Needless to say they are still waiting and will likely continue to do so. The success story of the 25th G, it wasn’t only about his performances (which were all top-notch) but also about how quickly the notoriously difficult Japanese audiences took to him. As things stand now, NJPW would be foolish not to extend Elgin’s stay in Japan. He has ready-made feuds against Ishii, Honma, Makabe and all the hard-hitters in NJPW. But the first signs seem good for Elgin. The fact that his match against Goto next Saturday is ostensibly a NON-title match could very well be an indication that Elgin will win. After that, well you all know what happens when a challenger wins a non-title match. He simply challenges again, this time for the prize. Bright days ahead for Elgin in NJPW if all involved can find an agreement (and I daresay they will, NJPW officials were very impressed with Elgin, Elgin himself seemed to have a whale of a time and ROH hadn’t much planned for him anyway).
Next is the Never Openweight Title, still being held by Togi Makabe. But Makabe suffered several losses during this G1, against Styles and Tanahashi of course, but, more importantly, against Fale Shibata and Kota Ibushi. The later is already being pushed as Makabe’s next challenger. The booking of Ibushi has been somewhat erratic since April. After winning the New Japan Cup, Ibushi challenged Styles at Invasion Attack and lost. Afterwards he had some business to take care of in his home promotion, DDT, and then came back for the G1. Many were expecting him to go far, but with only eight points, it’s save to say his tournament was a tad disappointing. In the defense of NJPW, there are already a lot of movements in their main event scene, perhaps they simply thought it wasn’t the time (yet) for Ibushi. Directing him toward a secondary title might indeed be a good way to keep him in the picture and restart his ascent to the top. Also, do not forget that, while Ibushi has won quite a few Junior Heavyweight titles, he hasn’t won one heavyweight title yet. The NEVER title might be a good start for him.
While having reminded everyone how good a singles wrestler he really is, Anderson is still one half of the tag team Champions (with Gallows). But there have been sign of tension and irritation between the various Bullet Club member. And the Kingdom (together with Anderson’s kryptonite, aka Maria), is still around. If Gallows and Anderson lose their titles, that might free The Machine Gun to pursue some singles glory.
Speaking of tag team, the two tag team scenes (Junior and Heavyweight) will know some changes and (hopefully) some fresh teams in November and December with the Junior Tournament and the World Tag league. If Anderson indeed goes solo, The Kingdom might be the ones to carry the titles until then. i just hope that Adam Cole then joins the fray. Unless Tenzan and Kojima indeed reform their tag team.
As for the Junior heavyweights, the score between Champion KUSHIDA and Ricochet is now 1-1 (KUSHIDA lost to Ricochet in last year’s Best of Super Juniors Final), and Ricochet has already asked for one more match. Knowing those two, they will have reviewed their match on Sunday, noted the (small) flaws and will be eager to assemble a proper MotY contender next time. Mascara Dorada has been the star of the various tag matches during G1. No doubt he will join the party soon. And Kenny Omega is still around, together with Alex Shelley and veterans like Jushin Liger and young, ambitious wrestlers like Jay white or David Finlay Jr. The future certainly looks bright for this division.
There you have it, I think it’s clear NJPW wrestlers and official will have a busy time until the end of this year. And that’s all to the good for us, wrestling fans.
See you all later and have fun!
Tags: A.J. Syles, Bas Luck fale, Bulllet Club, Chaos, doc gallows, Field of Honor, hiroshi tanahashi, Hirroki Goto, Karl Anderson, Katsuyori Shibata, kazuchika okada, Kota Ibushi, Kushida, Michael Elgin, njpw, Ricochet, ROH, shinsuke nakamura, Tetsuya Naito, The Kingdom