Ah, one of the greatest wrestling days of the year: the announcement of the NJPW G1 Climax schedule and participants!  After months of speculation, wonderment and predictions we finally know who will represent New Japan Pro Wrestling throughout July and August in G1 Climax 26.

In recent years, the annual tournament has gained tremendous popularity worldwide in one part because of accessibility: this will be the second straight year where every show is available on NJPW’s streaming service NJPWWorld.com. Secondly, the tournament has been spectacular with multiple Match of the Year candidates sprouting out during the many weeks of the tourney with some nights reaching Show of the Year status as well. Each year it’s an unbelievable grind to keep up with the shows and matches, but many wrestling fans (ourselves included!) wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Let’s take a look at each block participant and a quick listing of dates and matches announced thus far.

A Block Participants:

  • Hiroshi Tanahashi: 15th G1 Climax Appearance
  • Togi Makabe: 13th G1 Climax Appearance
  • Satoshi Kojima: 15th G1 Climax Appearance
  • Kazuchika Okada: 5th G1 Climax Appearance
  • Tomohiro Ishii: 4th G1 Climax Appearance
  • Hirooki Goto: 9th G1 Climax Appearance
  • Bad Luck Fale: 3rd G1 Climax Appearance
  • Tama Tonga: G1 Climax Debut
  • SANADA: G1 Climax Debut
  • Naomichi Marufuji 2nd G1 Climax Appearance

Definitely the more star-power driven block this year, A Block features a number of former winners as well as two of NJPW’s biggest stars in Tanahashi and Okada. Making their debut in this year’s tournament is Bullet Club long-timer Tama Tonga and Los Ingobernable de Japon’s SANADA. Also returnig to the G1 Climax and representing Pro Wrestling NOAH is Naomichi Marufuji. Once one of Japan’s hottest prospects, the hope is Marufuji returns to some of his old glory with the extra motivation of the tournament. Ishii has been one of the standout performs over the past few G1 Climax tournament and has the capacity to steal the show again with a block full of solid workers that Ishii either has proven to excel in the ring with, or have a style conducive to Ishii. This Block will be a ton of fun.

B Block Participants

  • Katsuyori Shibata: 6th G1 Climax Appearance
  • Yuji Nagata: 18th G1 Climax Appearance
  • Tomoaki Honma: 3rd G1 Climax Appearance
  • Michael Elgin: 2nd G1 Climax Appearance
  • Toru Yano: 11th G1 Climax Appearance
  • YOSHI-HASHI: G1 Climax Debut
  • Kenny Omega: G1 Climax Debut
  • Tetsuya Naito: 7th G1 Climax Appearance
  • EVIL: G1 Climax Debut
  • Katsuhiko Nakajima: G1 Climax Debut

The story in the B Block is the amount of G1 Climax debuts as CHAOS’ YOSHI-HASHI, Bullet Club’s Kenny Omega, Los Ingobernable’s EVIL and Pro Wrestling NOAH representative Katsuhiko Nakajima all join the tournament for the first time. Even the “veterans” of the B Block are relative newbies with Katsuyori Shibata only make his 6th appearance, former IWGP Heavyweight Championship Tetsuya Naito making his 7th trip and Tomoaki Honma, a favorite among fans during the summer, making his 3rd appearance. The elder statesmen, Yuji Nagata, will have his 18th go in the summer spectacular. He’s one away from tying Hiroyoshi Tenzan for most ever. A Block has obviously great matches and star power up and down but don’t sleep on the B Block. Many of these guys have a lot to prove and there could be some sleeper individual performances and matches throughout.

July 18, 2016
Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center

A Block: Kazuchika Okada vs. Naomichi Marufuji
A Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. SANADA

SANADA gets quite the warm welcome to his first G1, battling NJPW legend Hiroshi Tanahashi in what will surely be a fantastic match. On the flip side, Marufuji gets to prove his worth right off the bat facing off with IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada on our opening night.

July 22, 2016
Korakuen Hall – Tokyo

B Block: Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomoaki Honma
B Block: Yuji Nagata vs. Tetsuya Naito

Shibata and Honma is must-see and Nagata vs. Naito has a real chance to surprise a lot of people, barring too many shenanigans from Naito’s Los Ingobernables stablemates.

July 23, 2016
Machida Municipal Gymnasium – Tokyo

A Block: Kazuchika Okada vs. SANADA
A Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Togi Makabe

You enjoy the break? We’re back at it the very next day with Tanahashi and Makabe and Okada vs. SANADA, a rematch of their good but not great contest at April’s Invasion Attack.

July 24, 2016
Korakuen Hall – Tokyo

B Block: Tomoaki Honma vs. YOSHI-HASHI
B Block: Katsuyori Shibata vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima

This is about the point where sleep has been thrown out of the window in favor of the G1 Climax. Don’t give up yet… it’s going to get a lot worse. Honma vs. YOSHI-HASHI should be a lot of fun with new cult hero YOSHI-HASHI taking on steady cult favorite Honma. All eyes should be on Shibata and Nakajima though as that match has the capacity to be the very best of the tournament and one that people will surely be talking about for days, weeks and months to come.

July 25, 2016
Fukushima Big Palette

A Block: Kazuchika Okada vs. Hirooki Goto
A Block: Togi Makabe vs. SANADA

Alright if the 24th didn’t kill ya, this might. This will mark our FOURTH day in a row of G1 Climax shows and looks to be one that may be skippable. That’s not to say Okada and Goto can’t get it done but Makabe/SANADA has a good chance of disappointing.

July 27, 2016
Nagano Big Hat

B Block: Katsuyori Shibata vs. Michael Elgin
B Block: Toru Yano vs. Tetsuya Naito

To steal from our good friend @Alan4L, #BigMike in Big Hat. Yes, the day off did everyone well and we’re back at it with Shibata vs. Elgin (literally zero chance it’s not great) and Yano vs. Naito (oh there’s plenty of chance this isn’t great).

July 28, 2016
Tokorozawa Citizen Gymnasium – Saitama

Ishii vs. Marufuji has a chance to really shine or be a tremendous disappointment, there’s almost no in-between while Goto vs. SANADA will be a great continuation of the already stellar CHAOS vs. Los Ingobernables feud.

A Block: Hirooki Goto vs. SANADA
A Block: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Naomichi Marufuji

July 30, 2016
Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium

B Block: Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tetsuya Naito
B Block: Michael Elgin vs. Kenny Omega

Definitely one of the more stacked cards of the tournament thus far with Shibata and Naito sure to create greatness and Elgin/Omega will hope to re-create the glory of their highly-rated ladder match from this month’s Dominion 6.19 show.

July 31, 2016
Gifu Industrial Hall

Fun night featuring Marufuji vs. Goto, two guys who are seemingly prepetually disappointing fans and Makabe vs. Tanahashi, a match that’s been great in the past but could be dangerous given Makabe’s recent regression. You know Tanahashi will bring his A game though!

A Block: Naomichi Marufuji vs. Hirooki Goto
A Block: Togi Makabe vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

August 1, 2016
Takamatsu City General Gymnasium – Kagawa

B Block: Tomoaki Honma vs. Tetsuya Naito
B Block: Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. YOSHI-HASHI

Oh, this one is gonna be good. Honma and Naito will be tremendous and Nakajima and YOSHI-HASHI doesn’t jump off the page but could be one of the sleeper matches of the entire tournament.

August 3, 2016
Kagoshima Arena

A Block: Togi Makabe vs. Kazuchika Okada
A Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii

A stacked night already, Makabe and Okada made magic some years back during Okada’s initial runs with the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. While Makabe has lost a step, he should be giving it his all this tournament. Tanahashi and Ishii, what needs to be said. It’s Tanahashi and Ishii, it’ll be great.

August 4, 2016
Fukuoka Citizen Gymnasium

B Block: Katsuyori Shibata vs. Kenny Omega
B Block: Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Tetsuya Naito

An interesting night with two first-timers already and two “established” guys who are still putting together their NJPW resumes. Shibata and Omega should be hard-hitting and fun while Nakajima and Naito has the chance to really shine. Look for this to be a potential Show of the Year candidate should the remaining matches stack up.

August 6, 2016
EDION Arena Osaka

A Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Naomichi Marufuji
A Block: Kazuchika Okada vs. Tomohiro Ishii

Perhaps the best show, so far, from the A Block Tanahashi and Marufuji could be great should both be giving it their all and Okada vs. Ishii has almost no chance of being bad.

August 7, 2016
Shizuoka Act City Hamamatsu

Los Ingoberables explodes! We saw some fun variation of stablemate vs. stablemate in prior years with Bullet Club and this should be equally fun. Will EVIL lay down for his stable’s leader or want to prove his worth to the world? Also you have Omega’s shenanigans vs. Nagata’s straight-laced Strong Style focus.

B Block: Yuji Nagata vs. Kenny Omega
B Block: Tetsuya Naito vs. EVIL

August 8, 2016
Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium in Kanagawa

A Block: Togi Makabe vs. Hirooki Goto
A Block: Tomohiro Ishii vs. SANADA

Ishii and SANADA will be a great continuation of the Ingobernables vs. CHAOS feud and Makabe vs. Goto, well, it could be REAL bad… or maybe it’ll be really good. I tend to think it’ll be really bad, but hey, let’s wait and see, right!

August 10, 2016
Yamagata City General Sports Center

B Block: Katsuyori Shibata vs. Yuji Nagata
B Block: Tomoaki Honma vs. Michael Elgin

Honma vs. Elgin will be a ton of fun, particularly if you like headbutts and grunting and Shibata vs. Nagata was my Match of the Night at this month’s Dominion. Now that the two have respect for one another will we see the same tenacity and fire? Let’s hope so!

August 12, 2016
Ryogoku Kokugikan (Sumo Hall) – Tokyo

A Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada
A Block: Hirooki Goto vs. Naomichi Marufuji

The first Sumo Hall show kicks off with a bang: Tanahashi vs. Okada. What more needs to be said? One of the great feuds/match-ups of our modern times in Sumo Hall. No matter how worn out you are from the tournament at this point this is a must-watch.

August 13, 2016
Ryogoku Kokugikan (Sumo Hall) – Tokyo

B Block: Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega
B Block: Katsuyori Shibata vs. EVIL

Lacking in initial star power, it’ll be interested to see how New Japan books the remainder of this card. For what it’s worth, Naito and Omega are both proven draws in Japan so there could be some intrigue there. Shibata vs. EVIL could be really good but is certainly not drawing a ton of numbers to Sumo Hall. Keep an eye on this show.

August 14, 2016
Ryogoku Kokugikan (Sumo Hall) – Tokyo

You made it! This is it. The G1 Climax Finals have been spectacular in year’s past and this show should be no exception. Do whatever you can to watch this show live, you won’t be disappointed. As far as favorites for the tournament, there’s obvious contenders like Tetsuya Naito, Hiroshi Tanahashi, potential darkhorse Katsuyori Shibata and maybe even current IWGP Championship Kazuchika Okada. Either way, the tournament is a roller coaster ride and it all culminates in this huge, must-see show.

G1  Climax 26 Final Match: A BLOCK #1 vs. B BLOCK #2