We are a full third of the way through NJPW’s G1 Climax 26 for our Block A competitors. The building blocks of stories told over the remaining six nights of competitions are starting to form into shape. Here’s a look at how the 26th iteration of wrestling’s best marathon has started out for the ten wrestlers hoping win a really ugly briefcase on August 14:
Togi Makabe (6 points)
So far: Not too many would have picked Makabe to run the table on Tama Tonga, Hiroshi Tanahashi and SANADA, but here we are. Often forgotten in the West for being as big a star as he is in Japan, Makabe might be getting older, but he can still go with the right partner when called upon. So far in this tournament, he’s been answering the call nightly.
Outlook: Makabe is going to continue to put in solid showings, but shouldn’t be expected to be a player in late August. However, don’t be surprised if he pulls of a win over Okada and gets a main event title shot sometime in the fall.
Naomichi Marufuji (4 points)
So far: Suffered a loss to Bad Luck Fale in a very fun match, but that was sandwiched between two great wins – a pinfall over IWGP champion Kazuchika Okada in a Night 1 classic, and the first dent in the Tenzan nostalgia run. He’s reminded a lot of people why he was one of the most well known puro stars in the West a decade ago, and that he’s still pretty damned good today.
Outlook: He’s already got his prize from the G1 – a win over Okada means a title shot in the fall. As such, it’s unlikely that he’ll be contending for the Block on the last night (or at least will be knocked out early that night), but he’s still going to win more than he loses going forward.
Kazuchika Okada (4 points)
So far: The reigning IWGP champ lost in a classic to Marufuji, but has beaten recent title contenders SANADA and Hirooki Goto since, and looked good doing it.
Outlook: The looming rematch with Tanahashi on the last night is likely going to decide the Block winner. If it’s going to be a straight up winner takes the Block match, Okada can’t enter it with more than 12 points, which means he has to take at least one more loss before then. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Tomohiro Ishii and Fale all are contenders to beat him and get a fall title shot, but Makabe is probably the most likely to do so. Still my pick to win the Block.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4 points)
So far: Not even included in the initial line up, Tenzan has been the star of the tournament so far. He’s turned in great performances against Ishii and Marufuji, and looked good in winning over Tonga.
Outlook: It might be too much to ask for 6 more matches of the quality he’s put up so far, but you can be damned sure that Tenzan is going to try. It’s definitely not too much to expect that Tenzan enters the final night of a Block with a legit chance to go to the finals.
Hiroki Goto (4 points)
So far: Inconsistent returns – some think his win over Ishii was a MOTYC, some think his loss to Okada was the biggest disappointment of the tournament so far.
Outlook: Goto’s 2-1, and will likely finish 5-4 or 4-5 for a decent but not outstanding showing.
SANADA (2 points)
So far: Night 1’s big win over Tanahashi was the highlight not only of SANADA’s G1, but of his NJPW run so far. That highlight was followed up by a good match in losing to Okada, then an ok if bland loss to Makabe.
Outlook: The win over Tanahashi looks a bit lessened due to Tana’s subsequent slump. Somebody has to take losses, and it looks like SANADA might take his share and likely end up in the 3-6 range when all is said and done.
Tomohiro Ishii (2 points)
So far: The unsung tournament MVP. Three great and VERY different matches, but only a win over Fale to show for it.
Outlook: Expect Ishii to climb the ranks and finish in the top half of the Block. A match with Okada with a potential title shot if he wins might be the most can hope for though.
Bad Luck Fale (2 points)
So far: Has reminded people that he may not always be great when stuck in opening match tags but will almost always deliver as the monster in the G1. Hasn’t had a bad match yet.
Outlook: A few stinkers almost definitely are looming (looking at you, Makabe and Tonga), but look for Fale to finish 3-6 or 4-5 and spoil a dream or two.
Tama Tonga (2 points)
So far: While showing off an impressive collection of ugly, cheap spats, Tonga has been good, but not good enough to suggest he deserves a bigger spot than he’s been given. Did have the best match and biggest win of his career vs Tanahashi, but how much of that was Tanahashi?
Outlook: Losses. Lots of losses.
Hiroshi Tanahashi (0 points)
So far: Losses. Lots of losses. Tanahashi and his injury induced slump is the most interesting story of the G1 so far. And while it’s a slump in story, his match quality rivals Ishii as all three have been nothing short of great.
Outlook: Wins. Lots of wins. Assuming the match with Okada on the last night is for the Block, Tana almost HAS to go undefeated from this point on. If he loses to anyone though, bank on Tenzan getting the win.