NJPW’s G1 Climax 26 rolls on this weekend with shows on both Saturday (Night 3) and Sunday (Night 4). Hereâ€™s a look at whatâ€™s in store for the weekend. Weâ€™ll highlight each match taking place this weekend and also take at predictions for each match using data from our G1 Climax 26 Pickâ€™Em contest.
MACHIDA MUNICIPAL GYMNASIUM TOKYO
5:30 AM EST / 9:30 AM GMT
The A Block returns following their stellar performance in Night 1.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2) vs. Tama Tonga (0)
Arguably the biggest story of this yearâ€™s G1 Climax will be the potential miracle run of NJPW legend Hiroyoshi Tenzan. Fresh off a stunning and emotional defeat of Tomohiro Ishii. Tenzan comes in as a heavy favorite per our G1 Climax 26 Pickâ€™Em Participants as 80.6% of them chose Tenzan over Tonga. One person thought this one may end in a Draw.
Naomichi Marufuji (2) vs. Bad Luck Fale (0)
Marufuji silenced even his harshest critics on Night 1 with a poignant victory of IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada in what may have been the match of the night. Now he faces a tough task in getting greatness from Bad Luck Fale. Thatâ€™s not to say Marufuji canâ€™t, Fale is renowned for his ability to put together fantastic matches when in the ring with the right opponent. Could Marufuji be that perfect dance partner? The NOAH import Marufuji comes in as a favorite but not as overwhelming a favorite as youâ€™d expect. Fale is a rare G1 participant that despite his lower status in the overall card, is absolutely capable of beating anyone on a given night.
Tomohiro Ishii (0) vs. Hirooki Goto (2)
Donâ€™t let Gotoâ€™s lackluster performance with Fale on Night 1 scare you away. Fale and Goto were oil and water, failing to generate any sort of rhythm or flow to their match. Goto is going to have great matches this G1, in fact, he may start right here against the perennially underrated Tomohiro Ishii. The Stone Pitbull will be looking to avenge a loss to Tenzan on Night 1. Ishii comes in as the favorite but by very slim margins. Goto is someone who could very well win the entire Block â€” I wouldnâ€™t be surprised if he pulls out the upset.
Kazuchika Okada (0) vs. SANADA (2)
Could Okada lose twice in a row during the G1 Climax? Probably not. But, hey, SANADA pulled a huge upset on Tanahashi during Night 1, anything is possible! It would seem unlikely though that Okada starts with a 0-2 hole or that SANADA pins Tanahashi and Okada on consecutive Block Nights. Our Pickâ€™Em participants seem to agree as 71.1% have Okada defeating Cold Skull.
Hiroshi Tanahashi (0) vs. Togi Makabe (2)
These two went on very different paths during Night 1. Tanahashi lost in stunning fashion to SANADA after a hard-fought battle and Makabe, well, Makabe was one half of what might be the worst G1 match all year versus Tama Tonga. This one is likely to fall somewhere between the two menâ€™s output on Night 1â€”it wonâ€™t be better than Tanahashi vs. SANADA but likely worlds better than Makabe vs. Tonga. The result? Thereâ€™s almost no question, Tanahashi has to win this one to get back to his winning ways. Itâ€™s a great story to have Tanahashi lose his first match back from injury but having him go on a losing streak to start the G1 Climax? Highly unlikely.
KORAKUEN HALL TOKYO
5:30 AM EST / 9:30 AM GMT
Though Night 2 struggled to live up to the lofty expectations of Night 1, the show was highlighted by a number of huge upsets setting the stage for what could be a wide-open Block.
Toru Yano (0) vs. Kenny Omega (0)
Omega was shocked on Night 2 by YOSHI-HASHI while Yano got summarily dismantled by NOAH import Katsuhiko Nakajima. Logic would dictate Omega winning easily here but, there may be more to Omegaâ€™s first round loss to YOSHI-HASHI. Could Omegaâ€™s booking during this G1 mirror his old tag partner Kota Ibushiâ€™s? Does Omega have one foot out of the New Japan door? Of course, itâ€™s far too early to tell but the first-round upset does start to make me wonder. If he drops a fall to Yano on this show, my interest will really be piqued.
Michael Elgin (0) vs. Tetsuya Naito (0)
Hard to believe both of these men are coming in without a win but Night 2 was a wild time, you guys. This one is really hard to call as each men have legitimate chances at winning or contending until the last day in their Block. Naito is a heavy favorite and will need to start collecting wins soon.
Yuji Nagata (2) vs. EVIL (2)
The inverse of Elgin vs. Naito, these two are shockingly coming into this show with one win apiece. Could one of these men be in store for a shockingly competitive G1? If so, which would it be? I look at Los Ingobernables muscle EVIL. While heâ€™s received a push of sorts since his return from excursion, thereâ€™s been hesitation to go the next level with him. Frankly, there hasnâ€™t been the space to do it. Could the G1 Climax be a good place to launch him to the next level? A decisive victory over a legend like Nagata could go a long way in establishing EVIL moving forward.
Tomoaki Honma (2) vs. YOSHI-HASHI (2)
Be honest, you didnâ€™t pick either of these men to win their first round matches? Itâ€™s okay, you arenâ€™t alone. Only 10 of our nearly 400 Pickâ€™Em participants picked YOSHI-HASHI over Kenny Omega (and Iâ€™ll assume most were mistakes). While not on the same level, Honma only had 100 people picking him to beat Katsuyori Shibata. Picking both of them to win at this point wouldâ€™ve been pure lunacy, yet, here we are. Now the big question, who moves to 2-0? It seems unfathomable to have either YOSHI-HASHI (whoâ€™s last NJPW non-young lion victory came in October of 2012 over Captain New Japan) or Tomoaki Honma (perennial loser before this year) at 4 points after two nights, but itâ€™s going to happen.
Katsuyori Shibata (0) vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima (2)
An easy contender for Match of the Night, Shibata and Nakajima will be a hard-hitting affair between two men who HAVE faced one another in a singles capacity. Sure, it took place in 2006 when Nakajima was only 18-year-old, but the great blend of these two menâ€™s styles was even on display even then. In the 10 years since they squared off both have improved tremendously with Shibata carrying far more confidence and skill while Nakajima has simply gotten better through tireless effort and longevity. Both bona fide veterans in 2016, this should be nothing short of a classic.