The G1 Climax is here! Awaiting us are 19 shows throughout one month, which promise to include some of the best wrestling we will see all year. Add to that all the drama that comes with the tournament points tallies, as feverish speculation ramps up the further into the tournament we go, with every New Japan fan will be working out just who needs to beat who in order to advance to the Final.

This is a big preview that will run down the biggest and most important matches on the tournament, the recent history of certain match-ups and highlight some of the more interesting non-G1 undercard matches. There’s nothing quite like the G1 in all of wrestling, so enjoy the unique month-long journey. For an in-depth G1 Climax 25 preview in audio, be sure to check out this week’s Voices of Wrestling podcast from Rich & Joe! Follow our YouTube Channel this month, as well, as we’ll feature a daily recap show of every event during this year’s G1 Climax 25.

The Contenders

At Dominion, Kazuchika Okada reclaimed the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, and with it, his place at the top of New Japan. He enters G1 Climax as the defending champion, and a two-time winner from just three attempts. Okada has a ton of momentum, but the favourites to win their respective blocks are Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles. Both lost in big matches at Dominion, but are very good candidates to battle Okada in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 10. Hiroshi Tanahashi can never be counted out, and a showdown against Okada in the Tokyo Dome would be a fitting way to end their classic series of matches. Kota Ibushi figures to be a solid contender, but it would be surprising if he went all the way. Tetsuya Naito is the tournament dark horse; he has been given new life thanks to his new heel ‘Los Ingobernables’ persona, which could propel him to a strong showing.

July 20 – Sapporo

G1 Tour Guide: The only stop in Hokkaido on the tour. Sapporo hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics, and holds the Sapporo Snow Festival annually, where, according to the official website, “Sapporo is turned into a winter dreamland of crystal-like ice and white snow.”

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kota Ibushi: A huge first-time match-up to main event Night 1. Ibushi is in many ways Tanahashi’s successor; the hair, the rock-star attitude, the big high-flying finisher. This is an important match for both to prove themselves; Ibushi is still looking for his first win against one of the ‘Big 3’, but has a good chance to get it here and establish himself on that top tier. Tanahashi will probably go ‘subtle heel’ here, and will aim to prove that he still belongs at the top of the New Japan hierarchy.

Katsuyori Shibata vs AJ Styles: Another great first-time match-up. Styles will aim to bounce back after losing the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, while Shibata will carry the hopes of every fan who hasn’t learned their lesson regarding the whole ‘Shibata doesn’t win tournaments’ thing. After this year’s New Japan Cup I’ll never back him again, but there are still some people soldiering on in unwavering faith.

Tetsuya Naito vs Bad Luck Fale: Naito is now a dick heel, and has had a fantastic start to this new gimmick. He’s gone from being a very good wrestler ‘making up the numbers’, to being one of this tournament’s most interesting characters. On his day, Naito can be the best wrestler on the entire New Japan roster, so I’m very excited to see how he’ll do in the G1 with his fresh coat of paint. Fale has had decent matches with Naito in the past, so hopefully he’ll get his G1 run off to a good start as well.

Plus: Togi Makabe vs Toru Yano, Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Doc Gallows

Pick of the undercard: Shinsuke Nakamura & YOSHI-HASHI vs Karl Anderson & Tama Tonga – Yoshi and Tama will be getting a lot of work in on these G1 undercards. They will go largely un-noticed and under-appreciated, but will be very important in keeping the tour’s wheels turning. Nakamura and Anderson will battle on the next show, and most of the G1 wrestlers will be matched with their next opponents on their non-tournament nights.

 

July 23 – Shizuoka

G1 Tour Guide: For the first time on the tour, the G1 competitors will fight in the shadow of Mt. Fuji. The city’s name means ‘Calm Hills’, but that serenity might be broken for one night.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs Karl Anderson: The G1 is a welcome break from tag team matches for Karl Anderson, who has really been dragged down by the Maria silliness in 2015 so far. Several singles matches against some of the best in the world, such as Nakamura, is just what Anderson needs to show just how good he is once again.

Kazuchika Okada vs Michael Elgin: Elgin’s first New Japan match will have some high expectations coming with it. If he produces a stinker with Okada, expect a lot of backlash against him. I’m not an Elgin fan, but I do think he’ll fit into the New Japan style, and his matches are probably best when kept to 10 minute ‘G1 length’ sprints. Okada has promised once again to win every one of his matches, and it will be fun to see how that statement plays into his tournament booking.

Yuji Nagata vs Tomoaki Honma: Honma failed to score any points in his first G1 appearance last year, but this year he has been scoring pinfall wins with surprising regularity. He hasn’t won a singles match though, and don’t expect him to go on a miracle run this year. I’m not saying it won’t happen, but ‘Honmania’ is all about falling on one’s own head repeatedly, but always coming back for more with a smile on one’s face every night. Nagata is an ageless wonder who always seems to impress when given the chance in singles matches, so expect a good tournament from him.

Plus: Hirooki Goto vs Yujiro Takahashi, Satoshi Kojima vs Tomohiro Ishii

Pick of the undercard: Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask vs Yohei Komatsu & Jay White

 

July 24 – Kyoto

G1 Tour Guide: Kyoto is a focal point of Japanese history and culture; it was the Imperial capital for over 1,000 years, and hundreds of shrines and temples are located there. The Daigo-ji or the Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion have probably been your desktop wallpaper at some point. 

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan: Tenzan had a surprisingly good G1 last year, and now gets the chance to main event a show this year. If the Kyoto crowd is receptive, this could turn out to be a sneakily good match from two veterans.

Katsuyori Shibata vs Tetsuya Naito: Another first-time match-up featuring Shibata. Both men are now permanently pissed-off, which should make for a very fun dynamic when the intensity rises.

Toru Yano vs AJ Styles: Perhaps the best Yano match in last year’s G1 was against Styles, who was entirely new to his tricks. At that point, it was almost surreal to see Styles, who had only wrestled about 5 matches in New Japan, get joked around with by Yano. Styles is a lot more comfortable in New Japan now, so should be able to get even more out of the Yano shtick.

Plus: Togi Makabe vs Bad Luck Fale, Kota Ibushi vs Doc Gallows

 

July 25 – Takamatsu

G1 Tour Guide: The tour stops on Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. Takamatsu isn’t exactly a tourist hub, but it does have the rather lovely Ritsurin Koen landscape garden to boast of.

Tomoaki Honma vs Kazuchika Okada: Honma gets his first G1 main event, which has the potential to be a special match. This one is likely to get emotional, with the dizzying highs of a possible Honma victory being dashed by the inevitability of a missed Kokeshi and a Rainmaker.

Yuji Nagata vs Shinsuke Nakamura: A re-match from one of the New Beginning main events from earlier in the year, with Nagata looking to avenge his title match loss against Nakamura. The theme of that match was old man Nagata getting a major title match for potentially the last time, and so getting a win back here would mean a lot to the veteran.

Hirooki Goto vs Karl Anderson: Swords & Guns re-union!

Plus: Satoshi Kojima vs Michael Elgin, Tomohiro Ishii vs Yujiro Takahashi

Pick of the undercard: Kota Ibushi & Jay White vs AJ Styles & Bad Luck Fale

 

July 26 – Hiroshima

G1 Tour Guide: Hiroshima Castle and the Peace Memorial Park are the highlights of the city’s cultural sites. The latter commemorates the victims of the atomic bombing.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Tetsuya Naito: Dick heel Naito gets a very exciting match against Tanahashi, who he was once primed to succeed as the high-flying rock star guy before things took a turn for the worse for Naito. Now Naito has a new lease on life, and will look to take out some of his pent-up anger on the Ace.

Kota Ibushi vs AJ Styles: The Invasion Attack Sumo Hall sellout re-match. These two had a very good match main eventing that show, and should be able to build off of that match with this sequel. Maybe this pairing could turn into another classic match-up a la Okada/Tanahashi with enough time and strong match-to-match build.

Plus: Togi Makabe vs Katsuyori Shibata, Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Toru Yano, Doc Gallows vs Bad Luck Fale

 

July 28 – Beppu

G1 Tour Guide: The tour moves on to Kyushu Island. Beppu’s major attraction is its hot springs; the ‘8 Hells of Beppu’. There are plenty of hot spring baths to relax in, and at this point in the tour, guys like Ishii should probably take advantage of them. 

Satoshi Kojima vs Kazuchika Okada: Kojima defeated Okada on the last block night of G1 23, before Okada got his win back in an IWGP Championship match a couple of months afterwards. This is their first singles meeting since then.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs Michael Elgin: This is a high profile match for Elgin, and will be expected to deliver a strong match here. Elgin has some very good chances to earn his stripes in Japan on this tour, and this is the match where he has the best chance to make an impression.

Plus: Tomohiro Ishii vs Karl Anderson, Hirooki Goto vs Tomoaki Honma, Yuji Nagata vs Yujiro Takahashi

Pick of the undercard: Togi Makabe, Kota Ibushi & Mascara Dorada vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Katsuyori Shibata & Yohei Komatsu

 

July 29 – Fukuoka

G1 Tour Guide: Fukuoka has been named one of the world’s ‘most liveable cities’ for the last several years. Its baseball team, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (catchy name) are the current champions of Japan.

Tetusya Naito vs AJ Styles: A Wrestle Kingdom 9 re-match, but with Naito now being sleazy heel, this match-up will be fought under different circumstances. I was high on their WK match, and Naito’s new character only adds another interesting aspect to the match-up.

Katsuyori Shibata vs Kota Ibushi: Another first-time match for Shibata on this tour, and it should be very good. Ibushi works very well against intense strikers such as Shibata, and can really up the ferocity when he needs to.

Plus: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Bad Luck Fale, Togi Makabe vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Toru Yano vs Doc Gallows

Pick of the undercard: Hirooki Goto & Jushin Thunder Liger vs Kazuchika Okada & Gedo

 

August 1 – Osaka

G1 Tour Guide: Osaka Castle is not only a spectacular monument, it was featured prominently at Dominion, where shots of its exterior built excitement at important moments of the show. Universal Studios is also located here, so maybe Nakamura and Ishii will want to head there to patch things up after their match. 

Hirooki Goto vs Kazuchika Okada: Since winning the Intercontinental Championship, Goto has been asking for a Champion vs Champion match to see who is stronger, and he gets what he wanted here. Goto has been booked very strong since winning the title, and he has a good chance of defeating the Heavyweight Champion in the G1 environment. Whoever wins, the occasion of Champ vs Champ, which rarely happens in New Japan, should make this match very interesting.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs Tomohiro Ishii: Nakamura and Ishii had a great match at last year’s G1 that was perhaps overlooked due to taking place on the same night as the Styles/Suzuki Match of the Year. Once again they may be overlooked due to Goto/Okada, but the two friends should put on a great show in this semi-main event spot.

Tomoaki Honma vs Michael Elgin: BOLD PREDICTION – Honma defeats Elgin here and scores more points than him (and/or Ishii) in the tournament. Make it happen, Honma.

Plus: Yuji Nagata vs Karl Anderson, Satoshi Kojima vs Yujiro Takahashi

 

August 2 – Nagoya

G1 Tour Guide: Nagoya has been an important trading port for Japan since the end of the Sengoku period. The city is home to several arts museums and theatres, so some wrestlers could find some mid-tournament inspiration from them. 

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Toru Yano: Tanahashi finally defeated Yano with the High Fly Flow at Dominion, but hasn’t quite put him in the rear view, as he’ll have to overcome the trickster once more here. This show has the weakest line-up of the entire tour, and I was more interested when researching the city than looking over this card.

Plus: AJ Styles vs Doc Gallows, Togi Makabe vs Tetsuya Naito, Katsuyori Shibata vs Bad Luck Fale, Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Kota Ibushi

 

August 4 – Sendai

G1 Tour Guide: Sendai’s Aoba Castle was the seat of the Date clan, one of the most powerful Daimyo families in feudal Japan. The Zuihoden Mausoleum acts as the tomb for Date Masamune, who was one the earliest leaders to pursue relations with Christians, going as far as sending an embassy to the Pope.

Hirooki Goto vs Shinsuke Nakamura: A re-match from Dominion. Nakamura is likely to get a win back here, since he’s dropped three falls to Goto this year already. A shorter match will probably mean a better one than the Dominion match, which at times felt plodding to fill out time.

Kazuchika Okada vs Karl Anderson: This pairing might be the best in the world at end-of-match counter sequences, so expect fireworks in the last couple of minutes of this match.

Yuji Nagata vs Tomohiro Ishii: A re-match of a terrific, but meaningless, match from the final night of last year’s G1 blocks.

Michael Elgin vs Yujiro Takahashi: Potentially the worst match of the tournament, as this pair might create a black hole of in-ring charisma that swallows up the ring, Sendai and, eventually, the whole world.

Plus: Satoshi Kojima vs Tomoaki Honma

Pick of the undercard: Tetsuya Naito & KUSHIDA vs Kota Ibushi & Mascara Dorada

 

August 5 – Morioka

G1 Tour Guide: Morioka might boast of having the most interesting rocks in the world; the ‘Mitsuishi’ rocks are part of a shrine said to protect local people from a troublesome ‘Oni’ demon, while the ‘ishiwarizakura’ is a unique 400-year old cherry tree growing out of a rock. Rocks don’t always have to be boring y’know.

Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi: These two had a great semi-final match in this year’s New Japan Cup, and once again, the ‘heel Naito’ factor makes this match-up even more interesting.

Togi Makabe vs AJ Styles: Perhaps Makabe’s best chance of having a really good match will be against Styles. I thought Makabe’s series against Ishii was better than most others did, but I’m not filled with excitement at the prospect of his G1 matches. Styles is nothing if not adaptable, and should be able to produce something that plays to Makabe’s strengths.

Plus: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Doc Gallows, Katsuyori Shibata vs Toru Yano, Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Bad Luck Fale

Pick of the undercard: Tomoaki Honma & Jay White vs Karl Anderson & Cody Hall

 

August 7 – Hamamatsu

G1 Tour Guide: Mt. Fuji will once again be on the horizon as the tour closes in on its final stop. Hamamatsu is an important industrial city for Japan, with motorbikes and musical instruments mainly produced here.

Kazuchika Okada vs Tomohiro Ishii: Editor – For Okada, this match is sandwiched in between battles against the Bullet Club. Could this be the hard hitting affair that sets up Okada for a shocker of a loss in an upcoming match, or is Okada going to remain in beast mode for much of the tournament? For Ishii, a potential match of the tournament possibility.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs Yujiro Takahashi: I don’t think anyone is excited to see a Yujiro match in this tournament. He’s in the semi-main event spot here, so if he’s going to get a good match at all in this tournament, it’s likely to be in this highlighted spot against Shinsuke.

Plus: Satoshi Kojima vs Hirooki Goto, Tomoaki Honma vs Karl Anderson, Yuji Nagata vs Michael Elgin

Pick of the undercard: Yohei Komatsu vs Jay White

 

August 8 – Yokohama

G1 Tour Guide: Yokohama is Japan’s second largest city, and was the first to officially open its port to foreign trade in the 19th century. As a result, the city has a significant foreign-born population and one of the largest ‘Chinatown’ districts in the world.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Katsuyori Shibata: The rivalry is renewed. In 2014, Tanahashi and Shibata went 1-1, with Shibata defeating Tana in the G1. It was a short but very compelling feud based on real life issues, and while the bad blood between them appears to have settled, there is still a continuing professional rivalry which should add a lot of excitement to this match.

Plus: Togi Makabe vs Doc Gallows, Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs AJ Styles, Tetsuya Naito vs Toru Yano, Kota Ibushi vs Bad Luck Fale

 

August 9 – Tokyo, Korakuen

G1 Tour Guide: Tokyo is the final stop on the tour, but 6 nights of wrestling from Korakuen and Sumo Hall mean that the end of the tournament will still be some way off. Both venues are landmarks for the world of wrestling in themselves, but the prize awaiting the winner of G1 Climax is a match for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in another famous Tokyo wrestling venue; the Tokyo Dome.

Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii: Ishii cements the ‘Mr. Korakuen’ moniker by main eventing both B Block Korakuen shows. His match against Goto last November was a Match of the Year contender, and if they deliver anything close to that performance in front of the hot Korakuen crowd, this could be a very strong way to end the first show in Tokyo.

Tomoaki Honma vs Shinsuke Nakamura: Whether Honma has 8 points or 0 by this point, you know Korakuen will be behind him. The fans’ split allegiance between these two could produce a very fun atmosphere.

Plus: Kazuchika Okada vs Yujiro Takahashi, Satoshi Kojima vs Yuji Nagata, Michael Elgin vs Karl Anderson

Pick of the undercard: Kota Ibushi & Mascara Dorada vs Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI

 

August 11 – Tokyo, Korakuen

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Togi Makabe: Makabe’s only main event of the tour. This comes across as a match that may not be technically good, but still should be fun due to the big personalities involved and receptiveness of the crowd to them.

AJ Styles vs Bad Luck Fale: Bullet Club explodes! This is by far the most interesting BC vs BC match in this G1, since Fale and Styles really haven’t interacted much, and Styles works well against bigger guys; check out his great match against Lance Archer in last year’s G1. In-faction tensions could be running high, since both men will likely still have a good chance of winning their block at this point. This could end up being Fale’s best match of the tournament.

Plus: Kota Ibushi vs Toru Yano, Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Katsuyori Shibata, Tetsuya Naito vs Doc Gallows

Pick of the undercard: Hirooki Goto & Yohei Komatsu vs Michael Elgin & David Finlay

 

August 12 – Tokyo, Korakuen

Tomoaki Honma vs Tomohiro Ishii: This is going to be a hell of a match. Korakuen loves both men, they both love killing themselves for our entertainment, and they are in the main event spot where they will get to go all out. Their match from New Beginning is still my favourite non-Wrestle Kingdom match this year, and I’m hoping for more great stuff from two of my favourites here.

Yuji Nagata vs Kazuchika Okada: The oldest man in the field faces the youngest. Amazingly, this is a first time match-up, and I’m very interested to see how these two will interact. I expect very good things.

Plus: Satoshi Kojima vs Shinsuke Nakamura, Hirooki Goto vs Michael Elgin, Karl Anderson vs Yujiro Takahashi

Pick of the undercard: Tiger Mask, Jay White & David Finlay vs Ryusuke Taguchi, Yohei Komatsu & Sho Tanaka

 

August 14 – Tokyo, Ryogoku

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs AJ Styles: A re-match from last year’s King of Pro Wrestling in the same building, this bout very well could determine the A Block winner. This will be the sixth Styles/Tanahashi match, although just the fourth during Styles’ current NJPW run. The series sits at 3-2, advantage Tanahashi. These two have good chemistry, but have yet to have a really great match, so maybe they’ll get there with the big occasion of a block-deciding match behind them.

Plus: Togi Makabe vs Kota Ibushi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Tetsuya Naito, Katsuyori Shibata vs Doc Gallows, Toru Yano vs Bad Luck Fale

Pick of the undercard: Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii, Kazushi Sakuraba & YOSHI-HASHI vs Kazuchika Okada, Gedo, Michael Bennett & Matt Taven – CHAOS and Friends explode!

 

August 15 – Tokyo, Ryogoku

Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kazuchika Okada: The big re-match of the G1 24 Final, which will almost certainly determine the winner of B Block. Selling out Sumo Hall on all three nights will be difficult, so New Japan have rolled out the big guns with this match-up. With Okada as champ and Nakamura favourite to win this tournament, will this final block match be a preview of the Wrestle Kingdom 10 main event?

Tomoaki Honma vs Yujiro Takahashi: If Honma hasn’t won a match by now, he does have a good chance to defeat Yujiro, who is probably the lowest man on the totem pole in the whole tournament, in this last match. Winning his final match would be a special moment, but I’d rather Honma defeat an opponent who actually meant something, rather than Yujiro, who he’s pinned more than once already this year.

Plus: Satoshi Kojima vs Karl Anderson, Yuji Nagata vs Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii vs Michael Elgin

Picks of the undercard: Yohei Komatsu & Sho Tanaka vs Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish; Jay White & Dave Finlay vs Young Bucks

 

August 16 – Tokyo, Ryogoku (G1 Climax 25 Finals)

G1 Climax Grand Final: I’m going to predict a Shinsuke Nakamura vs AJ Styles Final. It makes too much sense to have a big first-time match between two top stars in the final, which either man could win. There’s a risk being run with a Naito or an Ibushi in the final where fans won’t believe they could realistically win, so Nakamura/Styles makes sense for its unpredictability. It would also be a terrific match, and if not in the G1 Final, it needs to happen soon. As for the winner, I’ll go for Nakamura, setting up a rubber match with Okada at Wrestle Kingdom.

If you want to predict the winner, join Voices of Wrestling’s G1 Pick ‘Em contest.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship – Young Bucks vs ReDragon: Finally, we get to see a 2-on-2 Jr. Tag Title match. The RPG Vice/Young Bucks match from Invasion Attack was the best match in the division so far this year, but I expect this match to top it. Both teams have been booked very strong leading in, but ReDragon have been ultra-protected and a loss here would leave the Bucks without any obvious contenders, so expect a title change. This will mark one year since ReDragon debuted in New Japan, and they have made a very good impression in their short time in the promotion.