The beginning of the end is upon us.
The final leg of the 26th G1 Climax tournament began this week as the competitors in the A Block took to the ring and had likely the best show of the tour so far. On Sunday morning here in the West, the B Block began their final third of the tournament heading into next weekend’s G1 Final.
Between time zone issues and the sheer abundance of wrestling the G1 creates over its month long existence each year, it can be near impossible to keep up. But fear not, if you have not been keeping close tabs so far this year – or have and just want to get a few things straightened out – here is how the B Block looks heading into the final week:
Tetsuya Naito (5-2, 10 points)
So Far: Semi-surprising losses to Yuji Nagata and Katsyori Shibata have been set aside as Naito has taken the Block lead with five wins, including back to back wins in good to great matches with Tomoaki Honma and Katsuhiko Nakajima. He also holds a win over fellow points leader Michael Elgin, giving him that all important tie breaker.
Remaining Opponents: YOSHI-HASHI, Kenny Omega
Outlook: I still fully expect Naito to be wrestling in the finals a week from tomorrow. With the way the Block has shaped up so far with eight of the ten competitors within two points of each other and no one eliminated yet, how Naito gets there is a crap shoot. That being said, he is lined up for three potentially outstanding matches to close out the tournament. A matchup with Omega in the main event of the last night of the Block could be a highlight.
Michael Elgin (4-3, 8 points)
So Far: Save for an upset loss to Toru Yano, the reigning IWGP Intercontinental champion is undefeated against everyone not in Los Ingobernables de Japon. Two of those wins came in great matches against Omega and YOSHI-HASHI. Elgin has taken the reigns of his career over the past year and steered himself to this point – on the verge of becoming a legit main eventer in New Japan.
Remaining Opponents: Honma, Nakajima
Outlook: If he was in the A Block, I would have Elgin as a dark horse to make it to the finals. However, this G1 is likely Naito’s to win, so Elgin is not getting out of the Block. Both Honma and Nakajima should match up well with Elgin, but the wins and losses are likely tied to how Naito does. With Naito holding the tiebreaker over Elgin, a scenario where Naito has to beat Omega in the main event of the final night seems possible, which means they could both win out or, if Naito loses to either EVIL or YOSHI-HASHI, Elgin will have to drop one of three as well.
Katsuyori Shibata (4-3, 8 points)
So Far: The NEVER openweight champion has had some mixed results so far, with big wins over Naito and Omega in his last three outings, but a big upset loss to Yano mixed in there as well. Still mathematically alive, particularly with the tie breaker in his pocket over Naito. Has been having his typically good hard hitting, wicked kicking match against everyone (save Yano).
Remaining Opponents: Nagata, EVIL
Outlook: Shibata is going to kick people and have good matches. And he is not going to win the G1 this year, and people will complain that he is being punished. Which is silly as Shibata is clearly being groomed for a slow rise up the card, which may well lead to him winning the 27th G1. In the meantime, he will continue to have good hard hitting matches. The final night showdown with EVIL should be particularly good.
Katsuhiko Nakajima (4-3, 8 points)
So Far: If you are a New Japan fan rather than an all encompassing puro fan, Nakajima must be quite the surprise. The Genius of the Kick has looked good in wins over EVIL and Nagata, and has not been outclassed by anyone. Had a really good match with Naito in the latest B Block show.
Remaining Opponents: Omega, Elgin
Outlook: He’s not winning the Block, so he’s likely to take a loss or two, but with that line up of remaining matches Nakajima may leave as good an impression with the crowd as he will a bad impression on his opponents with his kicks. Look for him and Elgin to try and steal the show on the last night. After that, hopefully he will stick around as a full time CHAOS member.
Toru Yano (4-3, 8 points)
So Far: Enraging some fans, boring others, Yano has been Yano in the G1 so far. Short matches based around low blows and roll ups, but it has been successful enough to get him to .500 so far. Not much to say about the quality of his matches; Yano just is not about that.
Remaining Opponents: EVIL, YOSHI-HASHI
Outlook: More of the same.
Kenny Omega (4-3, 8 points)
So Far: As the tournament goes along, Omega’s matches have been getting better and better. The opening loss to YOSHI-HASHI was followed by a comedy based match with Yano and a good showing against Honma. While he lost to the two secondary title holders, he had great matches against both Shibata and – particularly – Elgin. Add in a win over EVIL in another good match, and Omega is lined up to finish near the top of the Block.
Remaining Opponents: Nakajima, Naito
Outlook: Unlikely to win, undoubtedly will have some sort of shot going into the last day. Might be relegated to the spoiler roll by the time he gets in the ring against Naito. Now if he would just leave that damned broom wherever he left the Young Bucks…..
YOSHI- HASHI (3-4, 6 points)
So far: He may not ever be one of the elite in New Japan, but YOSHI-HASHI has shown in this tournament that, if nothing else, he can be counted on to have a solid singles match with almost anyone. And if you put him in with a banger like EVIL or Elgin, those matches can get really good.
Remaining Opponents: Naito, Yano
Outlook: Well, his G1 won’t end on a high night going up against Yano, but “Tacos” has already achieved his real goal: finally establish himself as a solid part of the roster. A showdown with Naito has the potential to be YOSHI-HASHI’s best outings so far.
Yuji Nagata (3-4, 6 points)
So Far: Nagata carried the momentum from his NEVER run with Shibata into the G1 and has looked great, save for getting literally tied up against Yano. Wins over EVIL, Naito and and YOSHI-HASHI have been counterbalanced by losses to Elgin, Yano and Nakajima. Interesting that his best matches have been the non-Yano losses.
Remaining Opponents: Shibata, Honma
Outlook: Nagata might still be a player on the last day, but there is also a good chance he loses to Shibata and is out of contention. However, if the trend of having good matches in defeat holds true, both those matches could be sleepers. If he is out on the last day, it is a crapshoot as to who wins out of he and Honma.
EVIL (2-5, 4 points)
So Far: In his first G1, EVIL has been doing what G1 rookies do – losing a lot, but putting in good matches that show they belong. Got his big win over IC champ Elgin on the opening night, and has gone 1-4 since. Has been a steady, solid performer on undercards and has not had a match less than good yet.
Remaining Opponents: Yano, Shibata
Outlook: EVIL has a functional night off against Yano before facing Shibata to close out the tournament. I suspect he and Shibata both go out with a bang, and the possibility exists EVIL plays spoiler and leaves the G1 with wins over both the IC and NEVER champions.
Tomoaki Honma (2-5, 4 points)
So Far: Well, he has doubled last year’s win total already, though his lone win last year was a highlight of the tournament while this year they have certainly not been. His big prize was getting a win back from Shibata to set up another NEVER title shot. That being said, Honma is never less than good in the ring, though without the ultimate underdog deal he had going, some of the drama is gone.
Remaining Opponents: Elgin, Nagata
Outlook: More of the same – solid matches, and more losses than wins. Elgin is custom built to put a power beating on someone like Honma, so that has good potential too. Then cap it all off with a nothing to win/nothing to lose match up with Nagata.