The year 2020 has been a lot of choice words. Most of us have been affected in one form or another, and very few of us can claim to have been going through this pandemic easily. Through it all, through scrutiny, criticism, and discussion pro-wrestling survives and trudges on in various forms.
New Japan Pro Wrestling is no different.
Yes, they have even been able to bring back crowds but it is definitely different. Some wrestlers have not been able to complete, one third audience capacity, fans aren’t allowed to cheer or chant, and at times with one third the crowd, right or wrong, it feels the wrestlers give one third the effort. With exceptions, NJPW in the COVID era has been flat, middling, dare I say disappointing. There have been highlights (Shingo Takagi) but several performers in the COVID era who I normally rate highly have fallen wayside and not produce the quality performances they are known for.
NJPW in the COVID era while not a bomb is definitely not firing on all cylinders right now, and while I understand the circumstances it’s still problematic to me as someone who has held NJPW as one of their favorite promotion over the past several years.
Enter the annual G1 Climax, rising over the horizon shining that beacon of hope that is desperately needed for NJPW and many wrestling fans.
If you read Voices of Wrestling, you know the G1 Climax. Its reputation over the past years has grown and expectations keep reaching ridiculous heights that somehow are either met or exceeded. The G1 Climax is where some of the best matches of the year are not only produced but produced at such a rate it can be blinding, dizzying, overwhelming. I’m a sucker for pro-wrestling tournaments so on a pro-wrestling note the G1 is one of the major highlights of my wrestling calendar.
NJPW’s G1 Climax is where major performers who you’ve come to expect high-level matchups from produce on a highly consistent level. The G1 Climax is where wrestlers who have fallen to the wayside can step up and force the spotlight back on them. First-timers can make a lasting impression, and old-timers can find that burst of energy once more to leave their mark as well.
It’s not just the G1 Climax winner that intrigues you, it’s matchups you normally don’t get to see, it’s guessing who’ll step up and who’ll let down. There’s a lot of intrigue and fun that goes into the G1 Climax that adds to the quality and impact of the matches and while it can get overwhelming very few will argue it’s definitely not worth it.
With NJPW not performing at it’s absolute best, with COVID still running with no predicted end in sight, NJPW needs more than ever for the G1 Climax to meet those expectations that are always thrown on it and exceed them.
NJPW as well as their fans need this tournament to not just hit home runs, but hit them consistently and out of the park. Wrestlers who haven’t been putting their best foot forward lately need to step up their game and not only return to the level we expect but a few steps above that. Wrestlers who haven’t been able to shine much during the COVID era need this tournament to remind us WHO they are and WHAT they are capable of. Then there are wrestlers who may enter due to having to fill in the shoes of those who are unable to compete. While it may be an unfair burden they must rise to the occasion and not only put on top-level performances, but put them on at such a caliber we don’t regret or miss not having those other competitors in action. While we’ll only have a fraction of the crowd, the time of some wrestlers only given a fraction of their effort needs to end when this tournament begins.
This is the moment where NJPW should take the opportunity to remind us who they are and what they are capable of doing better than most if not all.
I won’t hyperbole and say this is the most important G1 Climax of all time, but it’ll definitely be significant and unique. Fewer crowds, less noise, different time slots than we have grown accustomed, and always the possibility a pandemic can throw another wrench in all plans. The odds are stacked against it and I recognize this, but it doesn’t change the fact the G1 Climax needs to shoulder that burden and carry it over the month the tournament plays out. As of the writing of this article, I don’t know the participants, I don’t know if certain people will be able to compete. It is possible the odds will get stacked even heavier. This has not been an easy year for anyone, and every wrestling company has been affected to various degrees in some form or another.
The G1 Climax has a consistent track record of succeeding, now more than ever it needs that track record to continue. NJPW needs this, maybe I’m being overdramatic but I feel some of us as wrestling fans need this.
The G1 Climax needs to be that treasured highlight of the year it has earned the rightful reputation of being. In the dimmed lights and uncertain pathways of pro-wrestling this year it needs to prove to be old reliable, that even in the worse of times we can depend on it being what we have learned to know it as, the best damn tournament in professional wrestling.
In a year of uncertainty and doubt, I hope that’s something we can still count on.