Day 6 of NJPW’s G1 Climax 26 is in the books, meaning we are now 1/3 of the way through the entire tournament. You can check out my thoughts on how Block A has gone so so far in Tuesday’s article. Today, it’s time we look at what was generally considered the weaker of the two blocks when they were first announced: Block B. Has it lived up—or down—to expectations?
Yuji Nagata: (6 points)
So far: Nagata pinned Tetsuya Naito. Not many called that one, and even less had Nagata off to a 3-0 start with a win over the other Ingobernable in the Block – EVIL – and G1 virgin Yoshi Hashi. Nagata has continued the momentum from his NEVER title win and feud with Katsuya Shibata and keeps putting on performances not many his age can pull off.
Outlook: A rematch with Shibata, IC champ Michael Elgin and NJPW fresh face Katsuhiko Nakajima all loom as potential sleeper match ups over the next two weeks. It’s unlikely that Nagata stays atop the Block for much longer, but he’s likely to be in contention until the end.
Tomoaki Honma: (4 points)
So far: He’s already doubled his win total from last year, so there’s that. The win over Shibata sets him up for a NEVER title rematch, but the loss to Omega on Night 6 may have stalled his momentum. Match quality wise, Honma is Honma. His move from perennial loser trying to break through to lower midcard guy who wins sometimes has taken some of the bloom off his rose, but he’s still putting everything into every match.
Outlook: The Shibata win is likely to be his G1 highlight this year. Honma is the odd wrestler who loses nothing in losing matches, yet actually seems to lose something in winning. He’s looking at plenty of loses coming up most likely.
Tetsuya Naito: 4
So far: Had a great match with Elgin, lost in a good match to Nagata, and won but lost his tranquillo to the frustration that is Yano. Naito’s character often masks the quality of his work in a way, but he’s one of the best in NJPW and he’s showing it in this G1.
Outlook: I still feel that it’s not if Naito wins the Block, but how he’s going to do it. Still the hottest act in the company, his build to a showdown with Okada and the start of his second and first substantial reign with the IWGP title seems inevitable.
Kenny Omega: 4
So far: Wins over Yano in a comedy match and Honma in a hard hitting if slightly overlong contest haven’t completely washed away the surprise of Omega losing to Yoshi Hashi in his opening match of the tournament. Omega’s ring style may be less divisive than his character, but it’s been an up and down tournament so far.
Outlook: The hardest competitor to predict. Is he being demphasized? If so, losses to anyone left on his dance card aren’t out of the question. However, he’s got Naito on the final night, which would suggest he’s going to be in the running to win the block. In that case, he’s going to be taking the lead on upcoming dance partners.
Katsuhiko Nakajima: 4
So far: Lost in his showdown against Shibata, but that may have been one of my favourite matches so far in the tournament. Looked as good as one can with Yano, and added in a fun win over EVIL. Definitely making an impression on NJPW fans not previously familiar with the Genius of Kick.
Outlook: It seems clear that the native NOAH reps – Nakajima and Naomichi Marufuji – are not getting buried in this tournament. Nakajima is going to end up winning more than he loses, and it will be interesting to see if he sticks with CHAOS full time after August.
YOSHI-HASHI: (2 points)
So far: Tacos is showing he belongs with the big boys in the G1, but he’s yet to have the transcendent performance that many hope he does. Had a big win over Omega to open the tournament, but has gone winless since. A loss to Nagata didn’t hurt him at all, but getting pinned by Honma has left some confusion as to where the promotion sees him being slotted.
Outlook: YOSHI-HASHI is undoubtedly on the bottom rung of the Block, or at best just above Yano. But this tournament isn’t about wins for him, it’s about showing he deserves to be in the singles mix going forward. He’s definitely showing he can put on good matches, but as I said above, everyone is waiting to see if he can have a great match on the big stage.
Michael Elgin: (2 points)
So far: Might be just 1-2 and mired at the back of the field early, but might also be the Block MVP so far. If last year’s G1 was about Elgin surprising everyone by showing he belonged, this G1 is about Elgin staking a claim to being one of the best in the promotion. Had fantastic matches in losing to both Ingobernables in the Block, then had a fantastic match with Shibata to get into the win column.
Outlook: Who cares about wins? I don’t, as long as he keeps having matches this good. That being said, as the IC champ, he’s already lost twice (and is Naito going to get a shot?) and it’s unlikely that very many more are coming. Likely a loss to former champ Omega to set up a title rematch looms, but other than that Big Mike is going to finish near the top of the Block.
EVIL: (2 points)
So far: Scored a big win over IC champ Elgin, then dropped falls to Nagata and Nakajima. His Ishii-esque style is custom built to look good in shorter G1 matches, and he’s looked good so far.
Outlook: He’s getting so good that I sometimes forget he’s less than a year into his run. However, this is NJPW, and EVIL is 3rd banana in a group, and that means he’s going to finish low in the Block and take some losses. He’ll still likely be an IC challenger in the fall though.
Katsuyori Shibata: (2 points)
So far: Both secondary champs have had a rough go to start, as Shibata has a win over Nakajima to go with losses to Honma and Elgin. However, like Elgin, the outcome matters less than how good the matches have been.
Outlook: He’s not going to win the Block, and a ton of people are going to rant about how he’s being buried, can’t get through the glass ceiling, being punished for leaving a decade ago, etc., etc….. The truth is he’s on a long slow build to contending for the IWGP title, and should be considered an early contender to win the 27th G1. As for this year, he’s got a number of enticing matches left, and it is hard to pick where his losses will come from. Likely to be in the running the last night, and come up short through no fault of his own.
Toru Yano: (0 points)
So far: Yano is Yano. He’s not there to have the best match of the night; instead he’s there to have a fun match that is surprisingly physical at points. An 0-3 start shouldn’t surprise anyone, and the comedy heavy matches shouldn’t either.
Outlook: Losses. Change of pace matches which are inoffensive to spend 7 or so minutes on. And a shock roll up victory over some mix of EVIL, Honma or Yoshi Hashi.