Metalhead Previews NJPW’s G1 Climax 26, Block A (Okada, Tanahashi, Marufuji, Ishii, Tenzan)

For the few fans of Metalhead’s rants out there who were wondering what in the world had happened to me, I was forced to take a “vacation” from writing due to personal health issues. I’m more or less back but, for the foreseeable future, I will only concentrate on NJPW and, perhaps, some other Japanese promotions as I have no interest in commenting on how WWE is trying to convince the world they’re changing while they’re really not doing anything different. Same goes for NXT and CWC where my my main issue is watching HHH congratulate the likes of Ibushi and Nakamura while he should be kissing the ground they walk on… Damn it, here I am saying I have no interest in making comments about WWE while doing it anyway. OK let’s just erase what came above and start talking about this year’s G1 Climax tournament.

First some facts. This will be the 26th annual G1 climax tournament. The rules remain unchanged from previous years, 20 wrestlers are divided in two blocks of ten, each wrestler has to compete against the 9 others wrestlers of his block, the winner of a match gets two points, a draw earns them one point, a loss is zero points. The winners of each blocks will then face each-others in the G1 final. The event starts this Monday, the final will be held on August 14 at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo. If there are any other questions about the tournament, please ask them in the comment sections as it’s now time to take a look at the participants.

Block A

Bad Luck Fale:

Well that’s not really an auspicious start. OK it’s not really a secret that Fale isn’t exactly NJPW’s best, but, it must be said, he has played to role of road-block with some success before. Also being dropped in a block including Okada, Ishii and Tanahashi almost guarantees him getting some decent matches at least. On the other hand, while still being NJPW’s resident gaijin heel monster, the fact that the Bullet Cklub gimmick is more or less on life support doesn’t really help his profile. Not a contender for the victory, but he’ll have a role to play, probably crushing the dreams of one of the early front-runners at some point.

Prediction: middle of the pack with one win over a big name under his belt.

Hirooki Goto:

Very difficult to predict what’s next for Goto. While his feud with with Los Ingobernables’ EVIl was certainly successful, one can argue that EVIL actually gained more in losing ( by entering a great performance) than Goto by winning (because it was the same old Goto, great work but not much else). So I predict that glass ceiling is still there for Goto and will probably be there until he hangs up his boots. That, of course, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a role to play here, but, interestingly, his biggest matches this year will perhaps not be against Los Ingobernables members (although his match against SANADA should be interesting) bus against fellow CHAOS members Okada and Ishii. Indeed, CHAOS has showed an exemplary unity this far during their war against Naito and Co, but what happens when they meet in the ring? Remeber, Okada promised Goto things would change for him if he joined CHAOS, but, the truth is Goto is still at the same level as he was before. So, will we get continued shows of unity after each matches, or the first signs of tensions? We’ll soon know.

Prediction: Top 4.

Tomohiro Ishii:

Ishii has almost become synonymous with the physically extremely demanding style of the G1 Climax format in recent years. Indeed, when you’re looking for someone to enter awesome, ass-kicking, bad-ass performance night after night you almost  automatically end up calling Ishii. Arguably one of the best in-ring performers in the world right now, Ishii certainly will have a major role to play, I’ll even go as far as making him the shadow favorite, behind obvious picks Okada and Tanahashi, to win this block. Aside from that, nearly everyone of Ishii’s matches is one to watch out for. Indeed, whether it’s against bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Marufuji, Tanahashi or SANADA, one thing is for certain, Ishii will bring the very best of each of his opponents. And what about his match against CHAOS leader Okada? Can he win that one? And, even more importantly, what happens afterwards? Whatever happens,  Ishii is definitely one to follow this year.

Prediction: very close to the top.

Togi Makabe:

It has grown quiet around Makabe since he (alongside Honma) lost the tag team titles to the Guerillas of Destiny. And it’s not really a surprise, since at 43 of age, Makabe can hardly be called the future of the promotion. With his former stomping ground (the NEVER title scene) now being dominated by Shibata, it is very likely the Unchained Gorilla will have to wait until the World Tag League to once again play a role. In this tournament, he’ll have some good brawls, but that’s about it. I don’t see him playing much of a role, or even score a big victory over a superior name.

Prediction: Bottom 4

Naomichi Marufuji:

The first of two Pro Wrestling NOAH participants, this won’t be Marufuji first ever G though. Indeed back in 2012, Marufuji made his G1 debut, finishing with a record of 4 wins and 4 loses. Can we expect better from him this year? Well that’s a good question and we need to look beyond the tournament to answer that one. First and foremost, the presence of 2 NOAH wrestlers might just be the start of more inter-promotional activities (see the ROH/NJPW for a good example on NJPW’s willingness to work with other promotions. The fact NJPW actually has an ownership stake in NOAH certainly tends to fuel those particualr rumors. And then there is the fact that Marufuji is the current co-holder of the GHC Tag team Championship (NOAH’s tag team title) with none other than Toru Yano. Yes, THE Toru Yano, still member of the CHAOS faction. With the war between CHAOS and Los Ingobernables far from over, could Okada be looking towards NOAH for re-enforcements? Or does Marufuji has his own agenda? We might soon know as one of the matches on the first day of the tournament is… Okada vs Marufuji. Of course, Marufuji’s goal could be very different than simply wrestle Okada and then you have to look at the second top star in this block. Indeed, Marufuji and Tanahashi have had something of a feud going on over the years. Indeed, they’ve had three previous encounters, with Tanahashi leading the score with two victories to one. their previous matches were always highly anticipated and their G1 climax clash §on August 6) is no different, even being announced as the biggest match of this tournament. So, could Tanahashi be Marufuji’s real target? We’ll soon know. Should be VERY interesting.

Prediction: Middle of the pack.

Kazuchika Okada:

It goes without saying that Okada is the top favorite to win this block, but things might not be as simple for the current IWPG Heavyweight Champion. In recent weeks, The Rainmaker has earned some criticism, mostly because of Gedo’s decision to put NJPW’s biggest prize back around his waist at Dominion. While I certainly understand said criticism, I’ve also been following NJPW long enough to know Gedo ALWAYS has a plan, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Okada lost his belt much sooner than everyone expects. But, that’s for later, the question here is, what can we really expect from Okada in this tournament? Well, that he’ll end in the top two is almost a given, but, during such event, the Champ traditionally also has the biggest target on his back. In other words, battling the IWGP is not only about the points but, in case one succeeds in beating him, also about the right to challenge him later on. For that reason Okada can’t even count on his CHAOS stable-mates to go easy on him, since Goto and Ishii wouldn’t hesitate in going after Okada’s title if they have half the chance. And that’s not even considering SANADA, Tanahashi (especially since Tanahashi vs Okada is scheduled for the last day) and Marufuji who would all love the opportunity. When you look at things this way, you can easily understand why Okada’s participation might be more after surviving than winning the tournament, since EVERYONE will be going after him. There is also the chance of Okada winning his block and then meeting Naito again in the Finals. If THAT happens, you can be damn sure that Naito will force him to put the title on the line. See what I meant about Okada losing his title much sooner than everyone expects?

Prediction: Top 2


There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that SANAD will receive a big push in the (more or less) near future. Indeed, he has everything NJPW looks for, look, in-ring skills, charisma and intensity. Whether his first successes will come on the NEVER title scne or on the IC title scene remains in question (my money is still on the IC title), but those successes ARE coming. just not right now. Indeed, with unresolved issues between Okada and Naito, Tanahashi, omega and Elgin and Shibata being prepped for the next big push (and don’t forget about Ishii), SANADA’s turn will more than likely come in 2017. So what can we expect from him here? Well, I believe he’ll win a couple here and there, but, his will be a case of quality over quantity. Indeed, what does it matter if he loses against Tenzan, Ishii, Fale or Marufuji if he can bag a win over Okada and/or Tanahashi (for example)? Keep your eye on him, he might very well become the guy who decides who wins or loses this block.

Prediction (Bottom 4)

Hiroshi Tanahashi:

Much like last year, Tanahashi status as top favorite is over-shadowed by his injury issues. Scheduled to face Kenny Omega in NJPW’s first ever ladder match at Dominion, he was forced to forfeit the match due to his lingering shoulder injury (Michael Elgin replaced him and went on to win the title). So, once again, the question is, will Tanahashi’s body hold up. If it does, he should come at least very close to winning, but, I don’t think this tournament is his to win this year. It would just make little sense to put Tanahashi back in the title picture at this point, because this would more than likely lead to a revival of his feud against Okada, and I think we’ve all seen enough of that for the moment. And a feud against Naito would come literally out of nowhere, since both have no issues to speak off (for now). No, If Tanahashi’s body holds up, he should go back to his feud against Omega once this tournament end, that’s the best place for him right now.

Prediction: Top 2

Hiroyoshi Tenzan:

Believe it or not, Tenzan’s participation is THE story of the G1 climax up until now. Indeed, when the list of participants came out, it was his Ten-Koji team-mate Satoshi Kojima who was originally scheduled to participate. Having won the tournament three times (2003, 2004 and 2006) and holding the record for most matches won, Tenzan expressed his anger at being left out of what could possibly be his last G1. Kojima then came to his rescue and, in a touching moment, offered to give his spot to Tenzan if the latter made the promise to win the whole thing! This will be Tenzan 20th participation in the tournament (another record) and he has since confirmed this will be his last G1/ I’m gonna be honest here, when the list first came out, I fully approved of Kojima being chosen over Tenzan, simply because Tenzan is more or less broken down at this point, while Kojima has proven time and again that he can still go. And then they did the story and I was reminded that, in wrestling, a great story unfolding will often be even more entertaining to watch than all the five-star matches i the world. And what greater story can there be than the legendary Tenzan going at it one last time? Can he do it? Well, probably not… but, remember Riki Chosu in 1996…

Prediction: I don’t even care, just wanna watch this story unfold.

Tama  Tonga:

After an un-succesfull run as tag team champion alongside is brother Tanga Roa, Tonga is back in familiar territory. As a singles wrestler, his role has always been and will probably always be to make his opponent look good. And that’s exactly what he’ll do here. Nothing more, nothing less.

Prediction: last.


Conclusion: Tanahashi and Okada are the obvious stand outs, but watch out for Ishii. Also Marufuji and/or SANADA could very well end some major player’s dreams.

That’s all for block A, nbelow you’ll find the full schedule for this block:

July 18 at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center Kita Yell (2AM ET)
BLOCK A: Togi Makabe vs. Tama Tonga
BLOCK A: Hirooki Goto vs. Bad Luck Fale
BLOCK A: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Tomohiro Ishii
BLOCK A: Kazuchika Okada vs. Naomichi Marufuji
BLOCK A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. SANADA

July 23 at Machida Municipal Gymnasium in Tokyo (5:30 AM ET)
BLOCK A: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Tama Tonga
BLOCK A: Naomichi Marufuji vs. Bad Luck Fale
BLOCK A: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hirooki Goto
BLOCK A: Kazuchika Okada vs. SANADA
BLOCK A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Togi Makabe

July 25 at Fukushima Big Palette (5:30 AM ET)
BLOCK A: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Bad Luck Fale
BLOCK A: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Naomichi Marufuji
BLOCK A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tama Tonga
BLOCK A: Kazuchika Okada vs. Hirooki Goto
BLOCK A: Togi Makabe vs. SANADA

July 28 at Tokorozawa Citizen Gymnasium in Saitama (5:30 AM ET)
BLOCK A: Togi Makabe vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
BLOCK A: Kazuchika Okada vs. Tama Tonga
BLOCK A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Bad Luck Fale
BLOCK A: Hirooki Goto vs. SANADA
BLOCK A: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Naomichi Marufuji

July 31 at Gifu Industrial Hall (3AM ET)
BLOCK A: SANADA vs. Bad Luck Fale
BLOCK A: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tama Tonga
BLOCK A: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Kazuchika Okada
BLOCK A: Togi Makabe vs. Naomichi Marufuji
BLOCK A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hirooki Goto

August 3 at Kagoshima Arena (5:30 AM ET)
BLOCK A: Naomichi Marufuji vs. SANADA
BLOCK A: Hirooki Goto vs. Tama Tonga
BLOCK A: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Bad Luck Fale
BLOCK A: Togi Makabe vs. Kazuchika Okada
BLOCK A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii

August 6 at EDION Arena Osaka (Osaka Prefecture Gymnasium) (4AM ET)
BLOCK A: SANADA vs. Tama Tonga
BLOCK A: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Hirooki Goto
BLOCK A: Togi Makabe vs. Bad Luck Fale
BLOCK A: Kazuchika Okada vs. Tomohiro Ishii
BLOCK A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Naomichi Marufuji

August 8 at Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium in Kanagawa (5:30 AM ET)
BLOCK A: Naomichi Marufuji vs. Tama Tonga
BLOCK A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
BLOCK A: Kazuchika Okada vs. Bad Luck Fale
BLOCK A: Togi Makabe vs. Hirooki Goto
BLOCK A: Tomohiro Ishii vs. SANADA

August 12 at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo (5:30 AM ET)
BLOCK A: Bad Luck Fale vs. Tama Tonga
BLOCK A: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. SANADA
BLOCK A: Togi Makabe vs. Tomohiro Ishii
BLOCK A: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada
BLOCK A: Hirooki Goto vs. Naomichi Marufuji






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