Abstract

They’ve changed the format of the G1 Climax this year, from the established, sleek 20-man, two-block system to an oddly structured 28-man, four-block system.

That alone would have been fine, but without clarity of scope, without clear delineations between blocks, things might just blend together in some sort of toxic soup. They might have achieved that this year by diffusing the blocks and matches across 18 nights, a prime example of how wrestling thrives on perspicaciously constructed imbalance. Balance in wrestling is corrosive.

Even if a normal year with ten wrestlers per block, there are a finite number of marquee matches. This has been assuaged by the assembling of block schedules. In all-block nights, each of the two blocks has an equal number of the matches, but critically every wrestler has a match (besides the wrestlers on rest days). If there are ten wrestlers per block, then each block has five matches per night.

The single block system merely segregated the blocks, but it did have a profound effect. It extended the duration of the tournament from roughly 10 days to a full month. It also allowed each block to assert its own identity, while still maintaining an equivalent pace.

As we noted in Part I of this preview, this allowed the most desirable matches to be evenly and strategically dispersed. And, if a mediocre night is scheduled, there are two options to counter-balance the ennui: the other block picks up the slack the next night, or that block makes a comeback with a marquee match next time.

Under this new system, things are so scattered, so stretched out, to a molecular level, that it is nearly impossible to decipher any such idiosyncrasies.

And that’s what we see here, the corrosion of G1 Climax distinctiveness. Instead of a G1 Climax with two strong, robust identities (A Block/B Block), the 2022 G1 Climax appears, on paper at least, to be comprised of 28 weak ones, one per wrestler, each one indecipherably connected, floating in some kind of cosmic vacuum.

In this G1 Climax 32 preview, we evaluate the effects, complications, and developments resultant from this switch from a two-block, one match final to a four-block, four-man mini-tournament final. In Part I, we mined the depths of the scheduling, and how the all-block format has been distorted, taking a lot of productive energy with it.

Part II examines how blocks are worse off for having less people; by arranging things the way they did, the nights themselves range from spectacular (the opening and closing nights), to decent (several one-match shows), to ghastly (several shows spread throughout).

Some nights looked absolutely brutal. Is that truly the case? At least, is it egregiously worse than other years?

As we’ll note in part II of this preview, league play is nebulously remembered as time passes; there aren’t many vivid memories of all the subpar and mediocre nights of G1 Climaxes in the past, even from 2021. There’s a reason G1 Fatigue is an accepted thing, and it’s not just the grind; not every night is going to be a barnburner, and the lulls are going to be strategically placed. In the end, its more important that the opening and closing nights are sound. Those are the nights that resonate.

Is G1 Climax 2022 really that much worse than any other year’s low points?

Let’s take a look and see how they spread out these 84 matches.

DISCLAIMER: This is written from the perspective of someone that has watched this company through some very dark, funereal times in the last two years. If any of this seems outlandish, we assure you:

  • The things we say happened did indeed happen
  • The people were say progressed did indeed progress
  • The people we say regressed…
  • Yes, SANADA is good
  • Yes, KENTA is the greatest living person

Night 1: July 16 , Hokkai Kitayell, Sapporo

  • C Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi v. Aaron Henare

  • D Block: Will Ospreay v. El Phantasmo

  • B Block: Jay White v. SANADA

  • A Block: Kazuchika Okada v. Jeff Cobb

The most critical night of the G1 Climax has been the first two nights and the last two nights, at least in the modern post-2010 version, so we’re going to take a little extra space examining this one.

Going by GRAPPL and Cagematch rating numbers as a rough estimate of engagement, Nights 1 and 2 are always the peak, followed by a lower (but relatively consistent) plateau, then a spike for the end.

That’s under the two-block system, though. When the four-block adjustment was announced, it was unclear whether a philosophical shift would occur as well. Instead of the tournament being bookended by two overtly more important nights, would we get four equal important night to bookend the tour? Or, since half the block winners are going to lose in the semi-finals anyway, would the opening and closing nights lose their significance?

Despite stretching things out, Night 1’s lineup makes it clear that opening nights are still premium. This is a strong night, possibly the strongest on the entire tour.

Without question, Will Ospreay v. El Phantasmo is an enticing match-up. It may be the most attractive match-up of the night. But as shown in the Card Placement Average, El Phantasmo is getting the exact same treatment Will and Shingo got three years ago when they made the adjacent realignment to the heavies: modest booking strength and firmly planted into the undercard.

This does highlight the effect all-block nights can have on the perception of booking strength, though. Ospreay and Shingo were both around the middle of 2019’s G1 Climax Card Placement Rankings, at 11th and 13th respectively. Both were placed in two main events.

ELP is 27th out of 28th in G1 Climax 2022, and will not rise above third-from-the-top in this tournament. If the blocks were segregated, or even paired, ELP may or may not be much higher in CP Ranking, but he’d certainly find himself in more semi-main events at least. When only two premium slots are available for four blocks, there are going be casualties. As you can see by the chart above, D Block got murdered. ELP was buried deep.

Regardless, ELP’s scheduling is very telling; a closer look reveals a more favorable perspective on how the crafted his inclusion. As we noted, the opening and closing nights of the G1 Climax are the most important, and the most watched. ELP’s two biggest matches, against Ospreay and Shingo are on… Night 1 and Night 18, respectively. They want the most eyes on this guy, and for good reason.

Night 1 clearly shows the odd shuffling of B and D Block underneath the A and C blocks. Jay White is champion, riding the momentum of several things: a brilliant match with Okada, a prominent performance on Forbidden Door in America, several Dynamite episodes where he walked in and just owned every fucking segment he was in. And yet, he is not headlining the opening night of the G1 Climax a champion. It’s not unprecedent, but it is unusual.

A champion not headlining the opening night, either all-block or single block, has happened three times in the last twelve years:

  • Togi Makabe in 2010, in the semi-main event against a G1 debuting Tetsuya Naito (behind Nagata v. Nakamura)
  • Kazuchika Okada in 2015, in the semi-main event of B Block’s opening night against Michael Elgin (behind Karl Anderson v. Shinuke Nakamura)
  • Kazuchika Okada in 2017, in the semi-main event of B Block’s opening night against Yano (behind Kenny Omega v. Minoru Suzuki).

In all three of those instances, the champion’s match was simply not as sexy as the other ones.. That is the case here as well. Jay White v. SANADA would main event just about any other show, on this tour or any tour. In single block nights, it would assuredly be the main event at some point in the tournament. This is a match-up that has only happened once, never in a G1 Climax, and…

Alright, this is where I once again have to take a step back, pause for effect, take a measured sip from my Pythagorean cup, and try to be as reassuring as possible for those that have abandoned this promotion:

SANADA is good now.

He had an excellent match with Tanahashi earlier in the year, where he won the US Title and seemed poised to finally ascend to a deified status to fit his threateningly good looks. It seemed like everything finally aligned for him. It’s all working at peak conditions.

Then Ospreay demolished his beautiful, immaculate face in the New Japan Cup. I mean, of all fucking people to break their face, it had to be this guy? SANADA had to relinquish the title, but now he’s back. He might have lost all the momentum he had, and they didn’t put the belt immediately back onto him, but he’s back. It was a very SANADA conclusion to his first title reign.

This SANADA, facing red hot champion Jay White, certainly would main event any night.

Just not a night where Kazuchika Okada is facing Jeff Cobb.

The main event of G1 Climax 2021’s Night 18 is the main event of G1 Climax 2022’s Night 1. It’s a cool story, but main eventing over Jay White highlights another facet of the Gedo Puppet Booking regime: the younger main eventers may take the belt, but even after that they still have to fight for the main events.

Okada may have slain Tanahashi, but he had to fight for years to claim the main event slot. And even now, Tanahashi dominates the top of the card. The Ace has five main events to Okada’s two, although Okada ends up with a cleaner slate because, as usual, Okada doesn’t have anything below a semi-main event the entire tour. And so, Jay White took the belt from Okada, and his next step will be to take that top billing.

Okada and Cobb had three spectacular matches last year. Okada is the only person who can challenge Ishii’s status as the greatest modern G1 Climax performer (that hasn’t accused the company of being in bed with the yakuza, or destroying his family, or lying in press conferences, or…).

Jeff Cobb is, quite simply, the perfect G1 Climax performer, a stout power wrestler with the build of a chimney and a deep arsenal of crowd-pleasing moves and sequences. That’s the key: Jeff Cobb’s go-to bits, the ones he does every match, are entertaining and do not lose their luster after being performed multiple times within a condensed timeframe like the G1 Climax. They’re always super fucking impressive. He is super fucking impressive.

We’re not doing any sort of gimmicks here to materialize our feelings about these nights (mainly because we don’t want to keep track of 18 ratings). If we were, though, Night 1 would be a solid A, 4.5 stars, two thumbs up, the square root of 84, whatever.

And that’s without even mentioning the opener. Henare v. Tanahashi: Battle of the Body Shots! Someone exhume and revive Emmanuel Steward, because this is his dream match and he deserves to see it.

Night 2: July 17, Hokkai Kitayell, Sapporo

  • B Block: Tomohiro Ishii v. Taichi

  • A Block: Toru Yano v. JONAH

  • C Block: Zack Sabre Jr. v KENTA

  • D Block: Shingo Takagi v. Juice Robinson

Thankfully, the schedule does indeed honor the old system: nights 1 and 2 are indeed bangers. Sure, with smaller blocks and how they’ve divided the blocks over the 18 nights, the appeal of Nights 1 and 2 probably comes at the expense the rest of the tournament. Certainly, a match-up of the caliber of Ishii v. Taichi could have bolstered any number of the one-match shows that come after.

Ishii v. Taichi as the G1 Climax opener is a bit eye-opening, but it’s merely a hint of what’s to come: opening match depth. While past year’s G1 Climax’s did indeed sprinkle strong opening matches here and there, G1 Climax cards generally tend to escalate. That’s not necessarily an abandoned practice in G1 Climax 2022; most cards follow that pattern, each match more consequential than the previous (although that is definitely relative, consider the murky undercards we are about to wade through). And it doesn’t help that Yujiro does dominate the opening match slate over the 18 nights. That said, they did adjust a bit from the orthodoxy; several nights have strong opening matches.

Ishii and Taichi have great matches together. This will be a great match.

Something else to store away in your mind palace: KENTA v. Zack Sabre, a match with quite a bit of historical context and backstory, giving way to Shingo v. Juice as the main event.

It’s not something to be apoplectic about.

Actually, this reverses a negative progression:

  • In 2019, KENTA v. ZSJ was the 3rd of 5 G1 Climax matches on Night 17 of G1 Climax 2019.
  • In 2020, it was the 2nd of 5 G1 Climax matches on Night 6 of G1 Climax.
  • In 2021, it was the opening G1 Climax match on Night 13 of G1 Climax 2021. Even weirder, it was an A Block match but wasn’t affected by Tetsuya Naito’s injury. Naito was originally scheduled to main event that night with Ishii; ZSJ v. KENTA was always intended to be the opener, which is insane.

So, being the semi-main event is actually quite a turnaround for this now-traditional G1 Climax matchup..

More than anything, we feel that this main event shows the reinvigorated status of Rock Hard Juice Robinson. Rock Hard Juice Robinson worked us all and made us feel sheepish for not only accepting his supposed retirement, but actively desiring it. Now, he’s poised to finally have a substantive G1 Climax.

Just as with ELP, Rock Hard Juice has been provided with some monumental bookends. In fact, it’s the converse of ELP: Rock Hard Juice faces Shingo in his opening match, then Will Ospreay on Night 18. That face off can go two ways:

  • It will either be a match or a 1994 Shawn v. Razor-esque debate on the nature of title belts and the philosophical meaning of tangible v. intangible value in professional wrestling.
  • Rock Hard beats the Commonwealth Kingpin, and Ospreays crew do their little handsign and pile back into their U-haul truck and get the fuck out of the city.

Night 3: July 20, Xebio Arena Sendai

  • D Block: David Finlay v. Yujiro Takahashi

  • B Block: Tama Tonga v Chase Owens

  • A Block: Lance Archer v. Bad Luck Fale

  • C Block: Hirooki Goto v. Tetsuya Naito

We come plummeting from the heavens on Night 3. As someone who has been watching the entire pandemic period, and never gave in to the infinite resignation that clap crowd New Japan instills in sensible people, there’s a lot of dig into here. For everyone else, it only took three nights for this G1 Climax to start looking grim.

Tama Tonga v. Chase Owens is a legitimately appealing match-up between one of the most naturally likeable and ardent babyfaces in the company and one of the most effective support heels in the company. For those unaware, Chase Owens has received the booking blessing, attaining legitimate IWG gold during the pandemic and a lot of equity from his willingness to fill spots others cannot. The Sendai crowd will be fervently passionate about the good guy charisma Tama radiates, with Chase’s fuckface tactics and sagaciously timed offensive bursts acting as a catalyst. The crowd is going to eat this one up beyond anything you.

And they’ll be sure to channel that passion into some of the most vehement clapping you’ve ever heard.

Goto v. Naito goes way back. In an odd way, they define modern New Japan as much as any pairing out there. It’s the sort of situation where Mark Grace has the most hits in the 1990’s (1,754), mainly because his prime aligned in the most specific and delicately calibrated manner with that decade.
He debuted in 2008, was instantly good, and rolled into being a great player as the decade began. He had a decade of great play and then a steep and quick decline once he entered his late-30’s. It’s crazy, he just drops off considerably in 2000, won a World Series in 2001, and then really plummeted for the next two years before retiring.
It’s an arbitrary, meaningless stat, but a cool one and one you wouldn’t expect.In the same way, Naito and Goto both emerged slightly before the New Japan resurrection. Goto returned from excursion to Mexico in August 2007, and Naito returned from his CMLL trip in Dec. 2009. Both saw early success. Goto was a maelstrom, winning the G1 Climax on his first try in 2008, and followed by his first of three New Japan Cup in 2009.Of course, this resulted in three failed attempts at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. After the 2008 G1 Climax, the young upstart faced the human-shaped conglomerate of Future Ace anti-matter, Keiji Mutoh. A Goto win didn’t work for the bald fuckface. Then Goto lost to Tanahashi and Nakamura in successive years after his 2009 and 2010 New Japan Cup wins.
The path was set. His fresh coat of paint was sheepishly joining CHAOS in 2016 after being thoroughly castrated by Okada. To Goto’s credit, all the great things about CHAOS (the sushi pose, the delightfully stupid hammerfist spots) all seem to come from him. He’s also the most adorable father alive. But that’s left him bereft of any relevant singles success.
Naito’s success wasn’t as blistering as Goto’s, but still iridescent. He made the G1 Final in 2011, and then won the whole thing in 2013. That’s where things go sour. His impending Wrestle Kingdom main event title match again Okada was so fundamentally unappealing to the general public that New Japan had to engineer a preposterous fan vote. That allowed them to switch Okada v. Naito to the semi-main event without the terrible, irredeemable bad optics of formally demoting them. Democracy as a spear instead of a shield, why not?
Naito’s fresh coat of paint was a trip to Mexico in mid-2015, where he was apparently tasked with a simply task:
  • Watch La Sombra carefully
  • Come back to Japan and be La Sombra
That’s what he did. He perfected the art of taking a rip-away suit off at glacial speed, brazenly desecrated the White Belt, won the New Japan Cup in 2016, and formed the most popular unit in New Japan, possibly ever. He’s since won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship three times, the Intercontinental championships six times, and has sold enough merch to blanket the globe.These two have met in the ring 225 times. As far as we could tell, Tanahashi exceeds this with 303 encounters, and Okada with 291. Considering how few times Goto and Naito have had programs together, compared to the years-long programs Naito has had with Tanahashi and Okada, this is an astounding number.But that also complicates things. How are they such a relevant rivalry when they’ve barely been actual head-to-head rivals in the past 13 years?
Well, their parallel histories, for sure. It’s an important aspect of modern New Japan. You could say both of them were casualties of Okada’s meteoric rise. Naito recovered and flourished. Goto… he definitely recovered, and there’s something to say for becoming as beloved as he is.
Because the G1 Climax is the sinews that holds together and fortified everything in New Japan, and they’ve face each other in the G1 Climax quite a bit.Okada and Naito have met 13 times in singles competition, only twice in the G1 Climax (2012 and 2014). Okada holds the edge, 7-6. Besides that one time, Naito pretty much wins the secondary matches, and Okada wins the ones that actually mean something.Tanahashi and Naito have had a singles match 16 goddamn times, and I mean goddamn because it seemed like they were never going to escape each other in 2017. They’ve met six times in the G1 Climax (2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017 2020), once in a G1 Final (2013). Naito holds the edge, 8-7-1.Goto and Naito have clashed one-on-one only 9 times. SIX of those ten times have been in the G1 Climax: 2012, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022. Naito holds the edge, 5-4. He also beat Goto in the New Japan Cup 2016 Final, to win his only New Japan Cup. Naito is 4-2 against Goto in the G1 Climax. They’ve only had one G1 Climax match that you could consider consequential: in 2012, Naito could have won B Block if he beat Goto; Goto spoiled his tournament by beating Naito on the final night.
Otherwise, they’ve wrestled each other in the single block era on fairly innocuous nights: Night 11, Night 10, Night 6, Night 6, and now Night 3.Goto’s booking strength in this tournament is mind boggling. Goto’s been almost exclusively tag team wrestling for the last two years. His singles output has been fine, but wildly divergent. Like Tanahashi, his recent G1 Climax yield has been underwhelming outside of a few big matches. Those two can still keep up with a G1 schedule, but not necessarily thrive in it anymore. Goto moves better than Tanahashi, for sure, but he’s had several flat performances in the last two years.Considering Naito’s bill of health, and their anodyne match at G1 Climax 2020, it’s hard to feel bullish or anticipatory about this match. That’s a problem, considering that for most people, this is a one match card, If this one doesn’t deliver, we’ve started to mine the abyss on Night 3.

So, don’t sleep on this main event, but don’t expect the 2009 versions of either of these guys to magically appear. The match will be replete with KENTA stalling and tactics, a few breakneck sequences, and almost certainly a fuck finish. Or, a fuck finish thwarted by Goto. Either way, it will be satisfying.

Night 4: July 23, Ota City Gymnasium, Tokyo

  • C Block: Zack Sabre Jr. v Aaron Henare

  • D Block: YOSHI-HASHI v. Shingo Takagi

  • A Block: Kazuchika Okada v. Toru Yano

  • B Block: Tomohiiro Ishii v. Jay White

Once again, if you’re deeply immersed in 2022 New Japan, there are wrinkles of curiosity woven throughout this card.

If not, you’re probably wondering what the fuck happened to the G1 Climax, even though there’s really nothing especially heinous about this card compared to other also-ran nights of G1 Climaxes in the past. It’s unexceptional in any regard. A commonly adequate G1 Climax card.

Ishii v. White is, of course, one of the most outstanding on-paper match-ups that B Block can offer, and fully deserving of a main event slot. The last time the two faced off the G1 Climax, Ishii spoiled White’s tournament in the block final main event of G1 Climax 2020’s Night 17. It was a shocking moment, the pinnacle of Ishii’s legendary G1 run.

They met again in Winter 2021, where White was able to extract some kind of revenge. Not exactly full revenge, unless you consider the block final main event of a G1 Climax and the semi-main event of Castle Attack Night 1 to be balanced on scale. Ishii then defeated White for the NEVER Openweight Championship in November 2021.

Considering that Ishii also has a history of giving champion’s quite severe headaches during the G1 Climax (Kenny Omega in 2018 being the most obvious, #4 in the Voices of Wrestling Match of the Year 2018 poll), White’s struggles with Ishii (a 1-3 record overall) portend this to be a fascinating return.

This does highlight one benefit of the smaller blocks: each match is orders of magnitude more important. Whereas twelve points (6-3 record) has been the standard for several years now, the total one must reach to reasonable expect to win a block, now 12 points is the ceiling. You cannot exceed it, and the only way to reach it is to run the table.

And so if Jay White falters once more to Ishii, that drastically cuts into his potential point total. In that scenario, he could only achieve ten points at best. That’s one crucial element which makes the scheduling so frustrating. If they had found a way to maintain momentum through each block, instead of stretching them out to their limits, the weight of each match could carry the rest. But under these conditions, these high stakes encounters are vitiated and diminished.

YOSHI-HASHI v. Shingo will be an emphatic match, while it will be worth inspecting how Zack Sabre Jr could wriggle around Aaron Henare’s punishing strikes. On a completely foregone level, we’re interested in how Sabre locks up Henare’s limbs, since Henare throws just beautiful mid-level strikes, especially punches.

All this is to say: if you haven’t been watching, nothing will convince you that these matches are worth watching.

But, if you approach them from the perspective that you will like them… we’d guess a whole 20-25% of you will enjoy them, another 70-75% of you would enjoy them if they weren’t sullied clap crowd atmosphere, and the other 5% are the wives who shouldn’t have to put up with this moronic hobby.

That’s 2022 New Japan Pro Wrestling. Let’s Get Wild. Big Horn Energy. *Double stacked surfer brah hand sign*

Night 5: July 24, Ota City Gymnasium, Tokyo

  • D Block: El Phantasmo v. Yujiro Takahashi

  • B Block: SANADA v. Taichi

  • A Block: Jeff Cob v. Bad Luck Fale

  • C Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi v. Tetsuya Naito

If you want to know whether someone is a casual New Japan watcher or a dedicated fan, observe what they say about Taichi. If they are confused by Taichi’s success, unimpressed with his numerous homages to sumo, and possibly still hold his 2016 Super J Cup performance against him, then they are definitely not watching as religiously as the decent people infatuated with the Holy Emperor.

Of course, that’s probably a compliment to them and their incisive nature, but still, it’s sacrilege.

“Observe,” by the way, was not an accidental Hulkster-esque pun. We specifically mean Dave Meltzer. Dave Meltzer, to be very clear, has given Taichi both praise on his audio show and in his newsletter. He’s given Taichi matches fairly high ratings, for sure. But Dave doesn’t seem to get Taichi. That just proves that he is a casual fan.

And sure, he thought that Gedo should put the IWGP World Heavyweight Title on Hangman Page, someone not even in the G1 Climax, or booked on any future New Japan shows on either continent. Dave’s logic for this was that he felt they needed to put the belt on someone new.

For sure, if New Japan did put the belt on someone new, and had fresh faces fighting for the title in extraordinary fashion, Dave would probably give it six stars. You know, like he gave Will Ospreay v. Shingo Takagi six stars for their match at Dominion one year ago.

Even so, a lack of deference and veneration for Taichi, that’s the tell. That’s the unforgivable part.

He might represent a larger group, though. Consider someone who saw the clap crowd environment and instantly disengaged from the product for the last two years. Sure, they’d probably like an explanation for why a hirsute Tomoyuki Oka is writhing and hopping on his way to the ring, wearing an ornate hat and robe and all that, but they’d definitely be confused by the reverence hardcore New Japan fans have for Taichi.

Now try convincing them that a match between Taichi and SANADA is a match that intent followers will actively and gleefully anticipate.  Autonomously. Without being paid. Without a red dot lazer dancing around their brain stem from an undetectable location and/or angle.

It wouldn’t matter anyway because even if you consider SANADA v. Taichi to be a desirable match, and you live in a state where you feel comfortable enough to declare that publicly, this is still a one match show.

Naito v. Tanahashi shines so brightly, beyond all other matches combined here, that it’s more akin to the Sun accounting for something like 99.8% of the mass of our solar system. Sure, the Earth is/was, an august, pulchritudinous, magnificent place. It’s also a miniscule speck. SANADA v. Taichi is the world, abounding with all things good and decent, imbued with vitality, powering the fundamental systems of life through relentless pec flexing.

It is insignificant compared to the solar-level match-up of Naito v. Tanahashi, which will outshine it and swallow it whole.

Naito v. Tanahashi was the main event on Night 2 of G1 Climax 2020. The main event of Night 1 was Ibushi v. Okada. If you recall, that match was purposely underwhelming, the first salvo of Okada’s thoroughly satisfying and logically consistent “Money Clip Saga.”

Against that, Naito v. Tanahashi would have looked superlative, but it was an incredible match on its own. For some, it was the match of G1 Climax 2020 from pillar to post.

Though Tanahashi and Naito faced each other in the New Japan Cup earlier this year and the match was uninspiring. Even so, with the way things are arranged this year there are select few matches in this tournament worth actively seeking out. This is one of those matches.

It doesn’t make the night itself worthwhile, or even average. But it is a generational match, and we don’t know how many more times we are going to see these guys against each other. Especially in the G1 Climax, at a point in the tournament where Tanahashi can still move athletically.

Night 6: July 26, Korakuen Hall, Tokyo

  • B Block: Great-O-Khan v. Chase Owens

  • C Block: KENTA v. EVIL

  • A Block: Tom Lawlor v. Lance Archer

  • D Block: David Finlay v. Juice Robinson

As noted before, this is the first glimpse in the tournament of Great-O-Khan, EVIL, and Tom Lawlor. They all have opponents that are propitious to their strengths and styles, but it’s pretty clear that only one of these match-ups will foment any sort of wide-scope interest.

It’s a shame, because this really is a solid night. GOK’s one major flaw is that his matches tend to lack dynamics. There’s a bit of a toneless uniformity at times, depending on his opponent. Owens is tremendous at injecting a match with both sudden, impulsive intensity and at tangibly elevating a match when it reaches its crescendo sequences. Hopefully the complement works. Even so, any Christmas-and-Easter-only New Japan Catholics, that shuffle in for Wrestle Kingdom and the G1 Climax, are going to be hard-pressed to give any fucks on that one.

Lawlor v. Archer really stands out. It’s an inventive decision to place it in the semi-main event, considering it’s a match between a guy who has been away from Japan for three years against a guy who will walk into the New Japan ring for the first time in Japan.

At first glance, we presumed that Finlay v. Rock Hard Juice would be the main event, but KENTA v. EVIL looked too enticing to commit to that prediction. Also unlikely to fully commit to something? KENTA and EVIL, committing to having a professional wrestling exhibition. Last year, KENTA’s Bullet Club intra-faction match-ups were conspicuously sporting, with demonstrative displays of respect and decency (save for the end, when KENTA cheated to win). Of course, KENTA did not face EVIL last year.

And while KENTA-EVIL is the biggest match on paper, at least by card placement and overall booking hierarchy, Finlay v. Rock Hard Juice Robinson fits New Japan’s booking philosophy even more closely. They may not take the actual Tag Team Championship seriously, or the tag team division as a whole, but they do care about the champions themselves.

This booking team has shown themselves to be gleeful about antediluvian booking tactics. They love getting the heat. They high five about it in the back and were probably catatonic with delight when House of Tortue were collectively stuffed into a giant dog crate on 5 July in the CHAOS v. House of Tortue NEVER Openweight Six-Man Championship match at Korakuen Hall.

And so, this one is a confluence of everything that the Bald Junior Tag Team Specialist Booking Coterie adore:

  • Former tag teams that were disrespectfully severed
  • Former tag team champions that were disrespectfully severed
  • Former super babyface champions in contention

One can imagine this one to adhere to the traditional cadences of this kind of rivalry. The amiably charmless babyface against his former friend and partner, the one whose charisma easily accounted for both men. It will be a match propelled by sentiments. Will their sentiments math the audience, especially the ones outside Japan?

To put it another way:

As recent champions, a match between the two would be considered significant by the company. Add to that: this is technically a match between two Young Lions, ones that went from champions together to enemies on opposite side. As we have seen with SHO v. YOH, they love this type of match.

Sounds fun. Not sure what the audience will be. For the disaffected fans in the English speaking world, this doesn’t jump out as a match to galvanize interest. Neither one of these guys were attaining rousing receptions in the States during their most recent runs together.

The allure might be to see just how invested the Japanese domestic crowd were into this team, especially after such a long hiatus. The last time Japan has seen either of these motherfuckers was back on March 21, 2021.

Also consider that these guys haven’t truly broken up yet. There was no angle to cleave FinJuice. In fact, they haven’t even shared a ring since Windy City Riot in April. They’ve barely shared a ring with anyone in 2022. David Finlay has eleven matches on the books for 2021. Rock Hard Juice Robinson has ten.

That can go two ways. Either this match has no juice, Rock Hard or metaphorical, because of this acute lack of equity and investment. They just simply haven’t built anything into the match beyond abstract notions of “former friends” or “former teammates” or “some of the worst gear in recent memory (and Finlay, who had finally grown into a really good look, forced to go along with it).”

Then again, maybe everything gets channeled into this match. Bullet Club certainly seem to be a dominant force in this G1, placed evenly into every block and every night, like some kind of fuckface dark matter holding everything together but also pushing things away (like fans). Certainly there is an antipathy towards the group’s tactics that will cause many to cringe at several of these night line-ups. With only four matches, Bullet Club fuckery can sully a higher percentage of a G1 Climax night in the first half of this tournament.

But, if any match justifies some fuckery, it’s this one. FinJuice, who won World Tag League, who won the tag championships (even if the reign was roughly a month), who were a tag team for five years, straight from the dojo all the way to the top of the division… they’ve only broken up in theory. All the narrative action has to take shape in this match.

There’s no question Rock Hard can carry his end as the dickhole heel. Some might be skeptical of Finlay carrying his end as the endearing babyface. To those, we suggest you refresh yourself on the last time Finlay was in Japan. It was New Japan Cup 2021, when he made an improbable run to the semi-finals, having tremendous matches against Jay White and Will Ospreay in the process. Finlay’s ready. Don’t forget, the guy’s only 29!

That’s worth a mid-tournament G1 Climax Korakuen main event. It’s like the platonic form of a G1 Climax Korakuen main. With a sturdy undercard, Night 6 is a commendable night.

Night 7: July 27, Korakuen Hall, Tokyo

  • D Block: Will Ospreay v. Yujiro Takahashi

  • A Block: Toru Yano v. Bad Luck Fale

  • C Block: Hirooki Goto v. Aaron Henare

  • B Block: Tomohiro Ishii v. Tama Tonga

Alright, this is where things get dire. Again, our mileage will vary because we’ve been watching this company the whole way through. We wrote over 100,000 words about this company in New Japan’s dreaded, vile, corrosive, cursed year of 2021.

The problem here is that we could cite at least a few B Block Nights from G1 Climax 2021 as evidence that this year’s slight, paper thin dispersion. We enjoyed most of the cards, but on paper they looked bleak. For instance:

G1 Climax 2021 Night 6

    • EVIL v. Taichi

    • SANADA v. Owens

    • Jeff Cobb v. Hirooki Goto

    • Tama Tonga v. Hiroshi Tanahashi

    • Kazuchika Okada v. YOSHI-HASHI

Does anyone remember this card? We don’t even remember most of it. It was a fun show to watch, but it’s a tough sell on paper. Are any of these Nights excessively worse?

It doesn’t matter if they are or aren’t. It’s cursed to begin with, and no night really stands a chance. Last year, any average-to-mediocre B Block night was balanced out by the preposterously stacked A Block. Even with Naito’s injury, that Block still had: Shingo, Ibushi, Ishii, Sabre, KENTA, etc. A Block more than cancelled out any deficiencies people found in B Block, which itself still had a few high-quality nights

That’s not scheduled into this year’s G1 Climax. There’s things they could have done to replicate that balancing effect, but instead they spread the dearth, until the scarcity of match-ups was self-evident. There’s no balancing out nights like this one.

It’s one of several nights in G1 Climax 2022 where a top guy and a midcarder, or even prelim guy, are matched up. And that disparity of matchup represents most of the night. Not that the lower slotted guys are worthless. On the contrary:

  • We saw Yujiro put together a staunchly competent and increasingly satisfying G1 Climax 2020. He then participated in G1 Climax 2021, appearing in all nine of his matches, without fail. Absolutely ran the table on answering the opening bell. Every time. At least one member of No Limit did.
  • We’ve also seen Aaron Henare transform himself from a thick New Zealander with a stern expression that ate pinfalls in matches for Hontai, to a thick New Zealander with a stern expression that eats the pinfalls for The United Empire… and has a moustache… and  throws bodyshots.
  • Sadly, we saw Toru Yano and Bad Luck Fale give a totally deserved send-off to the wretched year of 2020 by having a KOPW match on December 21 of that year. It was a Bodyslam or Last Cornerpad match, that old staple. Fale should have won, but his bodyslam was missed by the referee, the repugnant Marty Asami. Why? Because Asami was writhing on the ground in feeble agony because Yano tossed a 20 pound bag of sand at him. He toppled backwards and looked like the worlds dumbest turtle thwarted by a leaf on its plastron.

Any G1 Climax match with Tomohiro Ishii in it is appointment viewing. It’s almost a guarantee that at some point in this match, Tama Tonga will work the crowd into a frenzy, of clapping, and that Ishii will no-sell whatever move Tama hits on him afterwards. It will rule. Just about everything in this match will rule. The crowd reactions to this match will shock anyone that hasn’t watched in a while, or hasn’t seen the transcendent Tama Tonga babyface act.

This Night is still a fetid compost heap.

Night 8: July 30, Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium

  • D Block; David Finlay v. Shingo Takagi

  • A Block: Tom Lawlor v. JONAH

  • B Block: SANADA v. Great-O-Khan

  • C Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi v. Zack Sabre Jr

The final four-match Night of this run ends on an… adequate note? All the matches

Tanahashi v. Sabre should be excellent. It is a bitter rivalry between a proud, narcissistic boomer and a sour record store clerk very willing to tell you about the friends he has at Warp, or how he texts A-Trak once or twice a year. At one point, this match was ubuquitous. During a six month stretch of 2019, they wrestled five times.

The flagship podcast of this very website is divided on the chemistry of the two wrestlers themselves, and that is representative of the contributors to the site. Our stance: it fucking rocks every time. The polarity of their characterization, the size difference, the style incongruity… all of it works, masterfully. Some matches were merely good, but some were mangnificent. We expect the same here, early enough in the G1 Climax so that Tanahashi is not completely eroded.

Or, Sabre puts another legend on the shelf and fucks everything up again.

SANADA v. Great-O-Khan is actually a rematch from Wrestle Kingdom Night 2 in a SPECIAL SINGLES MATCH. Does anyone possibly remember that? The match has a 6.21 rating on Cagematch, a rating on GRAPPL, and was awarded 3.25 stars by Meltzer.

Those are accurate ratings. In a normal G1 Climax year, one could expect the built-in stakes-producing mechanics of the tournament to provide this match with the boost it needs to feel more resonant. Those mechanics have been scheduled out of this year’s G1 Climax.

Tom Lawlor v. JONAH, a first-time match-up, is an interesting one because the booking strength suggests that this one will actually be consequential in the block. Lawlor might be down around 18th, but so is Lance Archer (19th) and Archer is facing Okada on the final night. JONAH is fucking sixth in not only his first G1 Climax but the first time he’s ever wrestling for New Japan on Japanese soil. Someone clearly admires this man.

Finlay v. Shingo is a clever match to place as the first G1 Climax show. It will be more ambitious than you’d think. We’ve seen this before. Ones that stand to mind are YOSHI-HASHI matches, actually. Matches that might not be in a premium spot on the card, but they do have the armature of one.

Instead of pusillanimously conceding to higher placed matches and going home after 9-10 minutes, those matches (and we’re specifically thinking of YOSHI-HASHI v. Nagata from G1 Climax 2017) go one or two acts longer. They go that extra false finish. They hit that extra forearm sequence. They exceed their circumstances, as TS Eliot would say, but in a good way. This match feels like that kind of match.

All told, this is a sneakily impressive night.

YOSHI-HASHI has received the sacre blessing and has been anointed the King of Korakuen during the pandemic. This match doesn’t take place in Korakuen, but we are absolutely confident that the Aichi crowd will be fervently passionate about the good guy charisma this guy radiates, against his aloof fuckface faction leader.

Night 9: July 31, Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium

  • A Block: Jeff Cobb v. Lance Archer

  • D Block: YOSHI-HASHI v. Juice Robinson

  • B Block: Jay White v. Chase Owens

  • A Block; Kazuchika Okada v. Bad Luck Fale

  • C Block: Tetsuya Naito v. EVIL

This night is a bookshelf with priceless, museum-quality bookend pieces. In between them are a slew of self-help books, ecchi manga, Joyce Carol Oates novels, and CEO autobiographies. The kinds of books you’d see laid out on the bed of a life coach, shard on social media as “THE TWENTY FIVE BOOKS YOU HAVE TO READ TO ACTUALIZE YOUR INNER POENTIAL SITUATION!”

The middle portion of Night 9 might actually kill you.

And this is from the perspective of someone who is looking forward to seeing Naito v. EVIL. This is the ultimate sign of New Japan mental deterioration. It’s the sort of thing that might get you put in a home. Luckily, being the type of person that looks forward to Naito v. EVIL on Night 9 of the G1 Climax 2022 guarantees that you have no one in your life that cares enough about you to help you seek help. It’s a nice circle that cleanly eats itself.

Believe it or not, and we barely believe it, this is the last result for Tetsuya Naito v. EVIL in a singles match:

07.11.2020        

New Japan Pro Wrestling           

IWGP Heavyweight Title / IWGP Intercontinental Title: Tetsuya Naito (c) defeats EVIL (33:08)

NJPW Power Struggle 2020 – TV-Show @ EDION Arena Osaka in Osaka, Japan

That’s right. By the time this Night 9 main event takes place, SIX HUNDRED AND TWENTY-EIGHT days will have elapsed since their last single match. And yet you still see complaints and querulous fear about this match ever taking place again. Or even potentially taking place again.

That’s just how deeply abhorrent people found their Summer 2020 run, and how intensely nauseating people find House of Torture, even if they have proven to be entirely impotent as a faction and largely exist to be vanquished in rather short order.

It’s exponentially worse for people that watch casually, at least from what we’ve seen anecdotally. For those that have not had this drivel permeated into their being, those that have not internalized this fulsomeness, tuning into a big New Japan show and experiencing this anachronistic nonsense is, to say the least, brackish.

So, while we may find it intriguing to see where things stand, and how things mechanically relate when these two square off for the first time in two years, on paper this main event might be the most repellent of all eight-teen nights. People might skip this night wholesale, more than any other night, possibly by a large margin, because of what they see at the top of this card.

Which is unfortunate, because the opening G1 Climax match is going to be fucking gear. Of all the G1 Climax openers on this tour, this is the most perplexing. The only logical explanation is what we noted before: they tend to toss in some worthwhile matches in the opener, for the sake of keeping the opening match fresh. This is the exemplar of that strategy, whether it exists or not.

Jeff Cobb and Lance Archer are made for each other. They’ve met exactly one time, on the cursed New Beginning in America tour back in February 2020. They are both big, agile, and beef-strong. Everything they do will look more admirable against each other. All their posturing will producing more affectious results, since any showboating will yield significant and immediate consequences.

That match is going to rule.

For what it’s worth, seeing heel Rock Hard face YOSHI-HASHI, after so many tag matches against each other as babyfaces, is intriguing on paper. It’s placement leads one to believe that the match itself will probably be a bit rote, or anodyne. That itself might be a blessing because Rock Hard Juice Robinson appears to be a less subtle version of The Flamboyant Juice Robinson. Imagine the body language, and verbal language, that Flamboyant Juice Robinson would force to compensate for the humble placement and time allotted to this match. Now imagine how Rock Hard Juice Robinson would escalate that persona.

You might not want to miss that one, actually.

Chase Owens v. Jay White has some level of fascination to see Bullet Club hierarchy at play. Almost certainly, you’d expect them to pretend to be deferent to each other, perhaps with a tenuous sporting handshake to start things off, and then both of them spend the match attempting to fuck each other over. That might sound a bit jejune to some. But then, some are tired of life and all that it can afford. We asked you to consider Rock Hard Juice Robinson’s character work, now imagine Jay White’s in this one against Owens.

Actually, you might want to skip this one. Jay might end up making this a monologue match. And we don’t mean a match where he does Roman-esque dialoguing during the match. This one might literally be a Jay White monologue. And not fun monologues, like Waiting for Godot or Julius Caesar. This might be more like The Tempest or something.

Night 10: August 2, Hamamatsu Arena

  • B Block; Tomohiro Ishii v. Great-O-Khan

  • A Block: Toru Yano v. Tom Lawlor

  • B Block: Tama Tonga v. SANADA

  • C Block: Hirooki Goto v. KENTA

  • D Block: David Finlay v. Will Ospreay

There are more divisive nights than this one, and that might its biggest detriment. It’s not even worth the effort of contention. It’s a moderately curious night. It doesn’t have a slam dunk G1 Climax powerhouse match-up, but it does have one of the few Will Ospreay main events, and one against an opponent that we know he can have a great match against.

If you only watch David Finlay matches, this might be the last match in wrestling that you’ve seen; that hypothetical person would remember their New Japan Cup 2021 semi-final match to be a wonderful example of the peaks that Finlay can reach when up against a heel of Ospreay’s in-ring caliber. Of course, they might be the only people to remember that match, but it was good!

Adorable Waterfall Samurai Bushido Cosplay Disappointment Hirooki Goto and KENTA have history going back to KENTA’s very first post-G1 Climax work. After KENTA turned on Shibata, he needed someone to act as a placeholder, one that didn’t intentionally self-lobotomize themselves. That fell upon two wonderfully earnest, sober wrestlers against which KENTA could project his jocular new persona: Tomohiro Ishii and Hirooki Goto. KENTA’s rivalry with the former seamlessly transitioned to a rivalry with the latter.

Goto was one of the original victims to be tormented by Bullet Club KENTA’s fuckface insouciance. KENTA completely ate the poor old Miroku from Inuyasha Move Spammer up in backstage comments. Goto’s bushido sincerity was a pitiful match-up against KENTA’s emphatically capricious backstage monologues. Though, in a way, it made Goto more endearing.

Goto and KENTA work well together, though Goto’s celerity doesn’t mesh as well as one would think with KENTA’s purposely insufferable deliberateness. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. Even so, on paper any rational human being should see those two names and be somewhat interested in the match.

So, don’t sleep on this semi- main event, but don’t expect the 2009 versions of either of these guys to magically appear. The match will be replete with KENTA stalling and tactics, a few breakneck sequences, and almost certainly a fuck finish. Or, a fuck finish thwarted by Goto. Either way, it will be satisfying.

We know Tom Lawlor is probably spasmodic in excited anticipation of the Yano match. One could reasonable skip just about every Yano match this year; his influence is greatly reduced by the isolated scheduling, while the smaller number of opponents also means that he has fewer people to alleviate. You’ve seen him interact with everyone in this block but Lawlor and JONAH.

That might be enough novelty to give that match a chance. It’s definitely not enough novelty to raise the notoriety of this card.

One thing to note: yet again, the opening match is the most appealing. Great-O-Khan and Tomohiro Ishii have had one singles match, and it main evented Night 11 of last year’s G1 Climax. Cagematch rated it a 4.04, GRAPPL users collectively have given it a 3.87, and casual New Japan watcher Dave Meltzer rated it a 3.25. It was one of Ishii’s lesser outputs, and a large part of the concern in this match is examining how far Great-O-Khan has progressed in a year.

Considering how low they’ve booked him in comparison to everyone else, that’s pretty much all we have to concern ourselves with Great-O-Khan: how can he represent the growth he’s experienced since the prior G1 Climax. If he can’t express that clearly, there’s a good chance he’ll find himself in the same hierarchical position come G1 Climax 33.

And, as noted, most of these shifts in unit ranking and overall slotting happen between the G1 Climaxes. The G1 merely serves to corroborate the previous year’s shifting and adjustments and such. Great-O-Khan could finally get a big push in 2023. It doesn’t matter when it comes, though. Eventually, a wrestler needs to confirm their spot in a G1 Climax.

That doesn’t equate to resounding success or perpetual elevation. SANADA has consistently proven himself in G1 Climax main events for years and they are just never going to budge with that sexy, vapid, inscrutable son of a bitch. At the moment, though, Great-O-Khan has neither status not G1 Climax authentication. He needs one.

To be clear: Great-O-Khan has status in real life, as proven by that certificate he carries around, and all the actual athletic accolades he earned (and cryptical alludes to in backstage promos). When we say “status,” we mean the fake status of the fake sport of professional wrestling. He needs that.

Night 11: August 5, Item Ehime

  • D Block: Juice Robinson v. Yujiro Takahashi

  • B Block: Taichi v. Chase Owens

  • C Block: Tetsuya Naito v. Aaron Henare

  • A Block: JONAH v. Jeff Cobb

  • C Block; Hiroshi Tanahashi v. EVIL

Oh boy.

Ok, for this night, let’s choose a hackneyed gimmick and define a word for everybody:

Cimmerian

Noun

: very dark and gloomy

: any of a mythical people described by Homer as dwelling in a remote realm of mist and gloom

This is a brutal one. Not irredeemable, still brutal.

Our one hope for this night is Tanahashi,. Hopefully, despite the increased amount of travel, because most of the guys on the tour have six matches and ELEVEN undercard tag matches, Tanahashi will be bolstered by the decrease in singles matches and somehow manages to stay fresh by Night 11. Because that was not the case last year, when these two met on Night 12 of G1 Climax 2021.

Cagematch gave it 4.79 out of ten. GRAPPL gave it 2.53. We gave it 2.75. Dave Meltzer gave it 3.5. It was bad. Egregiously bad. A sign that Tanahashi might be fracturing, and he sort of limped through the rest of the tournament before having  barnburner when it counted most, as he always does: a tremendous match with Taichi on Night 18.

Tanahashi v. EVIL was not the main event of Night 12 last year, but it was the semi-main event. Also on the show: a respectable YOSHI-HASHI v. Tama Tonga match, a very good SANADA v. Jeff Cobb match, and a brilliant Okada v. Taichi match, a match which made our top ten of 2021.

JONAH v. Jeff Cobb could be as good as Cobb v. SANADA was last year, unless their similarities nullify the charming aspects of each wrestler. That’s certainly conceivable. JONAH is a less refined version of Jeff Cobb, but he has different tricks up his sleeve to compensate. The problem there is that, being less refined, JONAH sometimes tries thing that are way too ambitious. The ambition level makes them worth trying, but sometimes they come across gauche and stilted. But sometimes they come off majestically. If Cobb can carry through the execution, this match will be a worthy semi-main. That seems like a favorable bet.

If you find gleeful pleasure in Naito just absolutely fucking with someone, just brutally and relentlessly mocking a serious undercard wrestler, then you may have your match of the tournament on this night when he squares off with Henare.

The best part of Naito is that he does give back; at a certain point, Henare is going to absolutely level him. Naito will sell it like death. We hope it is a body shot. Maybe we are some kind of Emmanuel Steward reincarnation, even if, when we were born, Steward was still very much alive, guiding Thomas Hearns on the path to being the greatest not-Hagler fighter of his generation.

The other matches: the work will be assiduous and replete with ideas. There’s no shortage of hard work nor ideas. These will not be regimented, monochromatic matches. Taichi, Chase Owens, Rock Hard, Yujiro… these are veterans who know how to illuminate a match. If they only have 8-10 minutes, and enough time for one cycle and sequence and whatever, they are going to construct the match so that the peak is stirring and conspicuous.

Whether or not you care, that battle might already have been lost.

And, whether it’s fair or not, on G1 Climax shows the tenor of the night is set by the anticipation of the main event. On a night like the one coming up, when you have a main event the caliber of Shingo v. Ospreay V, everything is elevated by such transcendence.

Tanahashi v. EVIL is not transcendence. It is firmly in the worldly strata, and it’s what those of us that live here deserve.

Night 12: August 6, Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium

  • D Block: YOSHI-HASHI v. El Phantasmo

  • A Block: Toru Yano v. Lance Archer

  • C Block: Hirooki Goto v. Zack Sabre Jr.

  • B Block: Great-O-Khan v. Jay White

  • D Block: Shingo Takagi v. Will Ospreay

If a thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters could eventually produce the works of Shakespeare, which admittedly wouldn’t be that hard since that fuckface stole all of his ideas from someone else, we’d estimate that it take maybe 2-3 monkeys with a box of crayons roughly 2-3 weeks to plot out the Yano-Archer match.

To be fair, we’re talking about the good crayons. The Faber-Castell stuff. If we gave them wall space, the monkeys would probably hang up their work and get the fuck out of there. Likewise, you can get the fuck out of this whole thing by just closing your eyes and remembering any interaction these two have had in the past. They’ve shared a ring 48 times. They’ve had four singles matches against each other, although half of those matches were in NOAH and the last one was in 2016.

It will be harmless, innocuous fun. And, considering the strength up top, this is the most erudite usage of Yano in the entire tournament. Yano works to provide variety on the undercard, and that only works when the business end of the card is exceptional. In this case, it is certainly exceptional. Yano frustrating a giant is, in this case, a benign way to spend roughly 5-6 minutes and stave off the agitation one would feel when a Shingo-Ospreay match is within grasp.

We reviewed Shingo v. Ospreay IV, and it was easily the most difficult review we’ve ever written, the most work we’ve ever put into a review (or, at least, one without El Desperado, Kota Ibushi, Yuya Uemura, or other people with whom we are infatuated). The accolades were steep although tempered. We are still in the period where Jacksonville is going to dominate all awards from English-speaking outlets, and as we navigate through these comfortless waters, a match like Shingo v. Ospreay from Wrestling Dontaku ended up #4 in the Voices of Wrestling Match of the Year 2021 poll.

That is a remarkable result for a match that took place in a clap crowd environment. Dave, as noted above, gave it six stars. Cagematch has it at 9.32 out of 10. GRAPPL has it at 4.78.

Their four matches have averaged, averaged, 32:39. If you take out the G1 Climax 2020 match, that average jumps to 36:12. Much like questions surrounding the Omega v. Okada G1 Climax 2017 match, the notion of how these two will fit their rivalry into a 30 minute time limit is an enticing one.

The rest of the card is appealing, worthy support for such a substantive main event. Great-O-Khan v. Jay White is a tricky one to parse, at least in-ring. Both wrestlers have detractors of their in-ring style. Jay White seems to have quelled that captiousness, though it took him time to find the balance that worked for him in there. For a long time, he was defined by closing stretches of impossible complexity performed at reckless speeds. He still does that stuff, it’s just now he’s refined everything else so exquisitely.

Great-O-Khan, as noted earlier, is still searching for that balance. His matches are good, often very good, but struggle to breach greatness. Much like his character, which fermented over a relatively long period, with publicly awkward growth, Khan’s in-ring is defined by self-conflict.

His amateur-based moves are spectacular, but very subtle. Those moves alone rarely stir an audience. His chops are cool and idiosyncratic…. Or, they would be if he had actually inherited them from Tenzan, instead of that stipulation, where he very fairly won them from Tenzan in a match, was almost instantly reneged. Whatever the actual plan was for that, having Tenzan instantly use the chops again did actual damage to Khan.

On the other hand, his character work is top notch. The toppest of top notches. Jay White, of course, is preternatural in his persona. No one, besides KENTA of course, can touch him. He walked back into New Japan and owned the place with his promo after beating Okada for the belt. He walked into Dynamite and just his walk, his walk, put him above everyone else around him. He was magnetic and irresistable.

The juxtaposition of these two characters alone could have carried this night, even without the legitimately top-tier main event in place.

If Goto is still ambulatory and pliable by Night 12, his match with Zack Sabre Jr. could be one of the strongest matches of its card placement in the whole tournament. The both are exemplars of conservation and strategically frenetic movement. Everything with them is seemingly capricious, but it’s actually perceptive. When they move, they explode. When they explode, its with purpose.

They make it count: Goto with his endless supply of moves (to the point where he might be the only man in New Japan history whose entrance video is just… a string of his moves), Sabre with his infinite submissions. Moves v. submissions, get into it.

Night 13: August 7, Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium

  • C Block: Aaron Henare v. EVIL

  • A Block: Tom Lawlor v. Bad Luck Fale

  • D Block: Juice Robinson v. El Phantasmo

  • B Block: Tomohiro Ishii v. Chase Owens

  • A Block: Kazuchika Okada v. JONAH

GRAPPL numbers go back to 2016 for the G1 Climax. By compiling, averaging, and ranking these numbers, one can determine the public favorite date of the G1 Climax. That “one” is us. We compiled, averaged, and ranked them. We know which night people like the best.

Not surprisingly, the first and last night as well ahead of the other nights. The first two block nights are usually loaded with delectable match-ups, whether it be generation match-ups like Kenny Omega v. Tetsuya Naito on Night 2 of G1 Climax 2018, or an exotically captivating gem like Kazuchika Okada v. Naomichi Marufuji on Night 1 of G1 Climax 2016.

The last two nights, of course, are block finals. The Block Final Match alone lifts nights 17 and 18 above others.

But not all the nights.

While Night 17 is #1 in GRAPPL ratings, and Night 1 is #2, Night 2 is #4 and Night 18 is #5. There’s an outlier that breaks the pattern at #3: Night 13. For some reason, Night 13 not only the only night outside the opening and closing nights in the top 5, it actually is ahead of two of them.

There are some pretty great matches that contribute to this:

We, uh, don’t think this one is going to live up to that. Juice v. ELP should be a barnburner, and the main event should be added to the list above if it lives up to the expectations we have for it. That’s not in question. But goddamn, those are some dog days of G1 matches surrounding them. Once again, everyone is going to work hard to make these matches base-line competent and decent.

But if you aren’t watching this company, and especially if you’ve lost your fucking marbles and given up over clap crowds, House of Torture, the new title lineage, and so on, then we probably can’t get you excited over Tomohiro Ishii no-selling a C-Trigger. You’re probably wondering what the fuck a C-Trigger is.

It’s exactly what you think it is, and named exactly for the reasons you think it is as well.

The noteworthy aspect of this night is the main event. It is JONAH’s only main event, and it is against Kazuchika Okada. This will reveal whether JONAH’s ridiculously high card placement average (6th!!!) was just happenstance, the byproduct of the herculean task of arranging 28 different schedules to align, or whether they feel that strongly about this guy.

Likewise, JONAH could have five absolute duds, but if the match with Okada is G1 Climax caliber, no one will possibly give a fuck about the other five. It all rides on this match. This is the second night of their two night stand in Osaka. We all know how Osaka crowds can get; they can make or break a wrestler’s status. If JONAH pulls this off, he’ll be the success story of the tournament.

Night 14: August 9, Hiroshima Sun Plaza

  • D Block: YOSHI-HASHI v. Yujiro Takahashi

  • B Block: SANADA v. Chase Owens

  • B Block: Tama Tonga v. Taichi

  • A Block: JONAH v. Lance Archer

  • C Block: Tetsuya Naito v. KENTA

The year is 2020. The month is February. On the precipice of worldwide cataclysm, Tetsuya Naito and KENTA sold out Osaka-jo Hall. For New Beginning! 11,411. For the lame duck, peripheral, perfunctory post Wrestle Kingdom event.

It was built off of one of the most audacious angles New Japan has done, where KENTA spoiled the goddamn Wrestle Kingdom post-match crowd address, after the most popular wrestler in the company finally took the title off the top guy at the biggest event, the culmination of a four year story. Then KENTA absolutely ate Naito up in the backstage comments for weeks, the confirmation that KENTA is unknockoutable in those things (until Shingo kinda did in last year’s G1 Climax. RESPECT ME, indeed).

They were the semi-main event on Night 18 of G1 Climax 2020, where KENTA spoiled Naito’s attempt to secure the block.

Quite simply, this match is equal to Tanahashi v. KENTA, with all the accolades and laudations we poured upon that rivalry. But also, it probably exceeds it. While it’s hilarious to see KENTA’s dismissive, rancorous, yet facetious persona clash with Tanahashi’s self-centered superhero rigidity, Naito might be an even better juxtaposition. Tanahashi vanquishes KENTA, almost like a triumph between conflicting philosophies. Naito isn’t much different than KENTA; Naito triumphs over KENTA not by contrasting him, but exceeding him.

It will be pleasure to watch this match. Night 14 is successfully booked simply by having it.

Another match that stands out here is Taichi v. Tama Tonga. Funnily enough, they faced each other on Night 14 of G1 Climax 2021 as well. Though you might not remember that 3.5 star match as much as their other singles match from 2021, an Iron Finger from Hell Ladder Match at Wrestling Dontaku.

At the time, Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr and Taichi) were embroiled in a long, long feud with Guerillas of Destiny. And we, the audience, were embroiled in it as well, because it was fucking exhausting. And exhaustive.

Between April 4, 2021 and May 4, 2021, those teams (with DOUKI backing ZSG and Jado backing up GOD) faced each other seventeen times. That’s in addition to their Wrestle Kingdom match, four matches in February, and then another title match in June. God fucking Lord.

The ladder match was a 27:11 odyssey, redeemable in part due to how blatantly obvious it was that both wrestlers were completely fucking sick of the Iron Fingers nonsense. The story there was that the Iron Finger, which Taichi inherited from Takashi Iizuka, had some sort of demented possessive power over Tama Tonga, who felt compelled to steal then and then act like the Mad Hatter for 5 months. The Iron Finger have not returned since.

With the residual animus long since dissipated, it’ll be interesting to see how this match unfolds.

And to clarify, we’re not talking about the animus between the wrestlers. We’re talking about the animus between the fans and the wrestlers for the length, content, and execution of the angle. It will be interesting to see how people react to seeing babyface Tama face Youtuber Taichi.

That said, if you’re looking for a healthy margin of things to infuriate people anathema to fun in wrestle, the battle of Paradise Locks between Chase Owens and SANADA is worth a view. The most pressing question is whether or not SANADA can once again assassinate Chase Owens in the backstage comments, like he did after the G1 Climax clash last year.

It’s also Chase Owens final match of the tournament. If anyone had any sense over there, they’d rent one of those little carts like look like little rings. You know, the ones the rode to the ring for Wrestlemania III. After the match, SANADA would drag Owens to one of those little carts, put him in the Paradise Lock upon it, then send the cart towards and through the curtain. Then we wouldn’t see Chase Owens again for months.

Or, you know, the next night, seeing how nobody has a night off in this tournament.

Night 15: August 10, Hiroshima Sun Plaza

  • D Block: David Finlay v. El Phantasmo

  • B Block: Tama Tonga v. Great-O-Khan

  • C Block: Zack Sabre Jr. v. EVIL

  • A Block: Kazuchika Okada v. Tom Lawlor

  • C Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi v. Hirooki Goto

For those still sour that Hirooki Goto did not defeat Hiroshi Tanahashi at Dominion, move on to face Jon Moxley at Forbidden Door, win the Interim AEW World Championship, then poor an ice cold Sapporo over Tony Khan’s head in the press conference… well, you’ve only extracted a meager portion of your potential sadness: Tanahashi will probably beat Goto here.

Or he won’t. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter. Once again, Tanahashi finds himself in a main event, in a match-up that didn’t even headline a single-night block a year ago (the opening G1 Climax match of Night 4), and, quite frankly, a match that hasn’t been that great since they resumed the match-up in 2020.

Prior to G1 Climax 2020, the last time they faced each other was G1 Climax 2017. That match was also underwhelming. Upon resumption, they’ve had a very good match at G1 Climax 2020, a merely adequate one at G1 Climax 2021, and a bizarrely mechanical match with a shockingly short match length at Dominion 2022. We can toss the last one out; that match was seemingly stitched together on short notice to satisfy AEW booking. In a running them of Forbidden Door, New Japan sublimated everything.

Consider the physical states of these men, amplified by the fact that Goto has essentially been a tag team wrestler since the pandemic hit, multiplied by the fact that this is Night 15. These are not propitious conditions for a classic match between these two.

Of course, if we’re talking sublimation, being in the main event does seem to galvanize both of these guys. If it’s somehow possible, perhaps the status of this match position acts as a panacea that allows these two to recapture the spirit of their feud… from 2009. Hell, we’ll take 2016 at this point.

Tom Lawlor is given his shot at Okada, much like JONAH on a previous night. This isn’t the main event, which is a real shame because this is, in essence, a battle between the guys that held down both sides of New Japan in the last 12-15 months. Most of Lawlor’s tour comes down to this match; unlike JONAH, Lawlor’s post-Okada match-up is significant. He faces Cobb on Night 17, which is another big semi-main event spot for him.

But that night he is up against KENTA v. Tanahashi. He has a much better chance to stealing the show against Goto v. Tanahashi, even if it is a less desirable night. Lawlor v. Okada should be a peculiar battle of styles. We know Okada never changes his, so seeing how Lawlor adjusts his, and how he orients it to the magnitude of the event and building (Hiroshima Sun Plaza) will be the intrigue there.

The rest of the card are matches that are more character clashes than guaranteed G1 Climax in-ring spectacles. That said, Finlay v. ELP should be an excellent opening G1 Climax match. The rest is hard to estimate. Whenever EVIL is involved you have to presume the match will underwhelm; EVIL didn’t impress in G1 Climaxes before he turned on LIJ, so expecting a great from one him, House of Torture EVIL, is fundamentally delusional.

Great-O-Khan v. Tama Tonga seems like the kind of match that needs cheering. Tama does legitimately great great responses from clap crowds, but this match is probably going to be subdued enough to require the vocalization between big sequences. This one seems very likely to be one of those matches that comes across deflating to television audiences, because the crowd will probably quietly watch the match for long periods. Not that they are not engaged, by clap crowds tend to just… watch, at times. A Great-O-Khan control period seems tailor-made to foment that situation.

Night 16: August 13, Machida Municipal Gymnasium

  • C Block: Aaron Henare v. KENTA

  • A Block: Toru Yano v. Jeff Cobb

  • D Block: Shingo Takagi v. Yujiro Takahashi

  • D Block: YOSHI-HASHI v. Will Ospreay

  • B Block: Taichi v. Jay White

Here’s an honest-to-God conversation between us and an anonymous VOW person:

VOW Person

 9:42 AM

I think there’s a Night 16 KENTA vs. Aaron Henare match that I spotted as just the absolute “what am I doing, why am I watching this shit anymore” moment.

J Michael

9:43 AM

I eventually had to go back and note at the front: I am writing from the perspective of someone that stuck with this. I am being way more open-minded than I think most would be

9:43

I’m excited about Aaron Henare because he makes a big deal over throwing body shots, ahaha

VOW Person

 9:44 AM

yeah, he’s good, KENTA is too

9:44

it’s just “Man Night 16! and I’m watching THIS”

9:44

I’m going to be super liberal about what I watch this year. I’m sure it’ll be fine, but I just have 0 excitement

J Michael

9:48 AM

BTW, the article is currently at about 13000 words

VOW Person

 1:25 PM

You’re banned from the slack and the site. Turn in your entrance badge to Jeremy at front desk and never, and I mean never, contact me again and never….

And so on and so on. Lots of yucks followed that I had to edit for space.

The point here: I didn’t even mention Night 16 to them. I was pointing out some of the weaker nights, and they brought this night up, unsolicited. We’re obviously not as stridently negative about this show, but this night does kinda blow. It’s another bookend night.

Taichi v Jay White is a gem. They met during the 2020 G1 Climax and that match was an absolute pleasure. They are both acerbic as fuck, so the clash between the two is delightfully sour, and yet also sweet. They played that match off like two cretins with a mutual respect for how jaundiced the other one treats the outside world around them. A mutual hostility brotherhood.

Now that Jay White is a Sunshine State Farmer and Taichi is a Youtuber, the character dynamics are even more appealing.

Shingo v. Yujiro is a rematch from the final night of A Block last year. Shingo had an outside chance to win the block, but he had to beat Yujiro. The match ended in an exceptionally rare G1 Climax double count-out, which somehow resulted in a point being awarded to each man.

Even a year later, we are apoplectic about this. How in the fuck does a double count-out equate to a time limit draw? It’s clearly a no-contest. We suspect they just changed this so that Shingo could have sole possession of second place in the block, since coming in third in a block would be uncouth for a champion. That’s total BALLS, and unfortunately now a precedent has been re-established.

We haven’t spoken much of YOSHI-HASHI, but this is his highest position in the tournament: a semi-main event with Will Ospreay. Every single one of YOSHI-HASHI’s matches will be worth watching. They will be condensed-time matches absolutely stuffed with ideas and sequences.

Unfortunately, its hard not to feel like YOSHI-HASHI peaked too soon in the pandemic. His run with the NEVER Openweight Six-man Titles might have been the highlight of 2021, main eventing multiple Korakuen Hall shows, and improbably making those dumb, useless titles actually mean something. Since losing them, he clearly feels like the title run elevated him above his previous position, but he feels a bit aimless.

He was probably a late consideration for this tournament. The last time he was on the cusp was 2018. His G1 Climax 2018 would not have convinced anyone that he should be considered for 2019, or possibly ever again. The company’s hand was forced due to the pandemic, and YOSHI-HASHI in response has assembled two decent G1 Climax runs. Not exceptional, but also above the blandly adequate work of, say, Yujiro. Hopefully the structure of the G1 Climax and inherent stakes underlying every match give YSH a little boost.

Night 17: August 14, White Ring, Nagano

  • YOSHI-HASHI v. David Finlay

  • B Block: Taichi v. Great-O-Khan

  • A Block: Tom Lawlor v. Jeff Cobb

  • C Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi v. KENTA

For these eight men, their tournaments conclude on the penultimate Night. Logically, this should eliminate them from contention. Cynically, you can pretty much disqualify them from any serious discussion of potential block winners because of this, before the tournament even begins.

For five of these men, you could probably do that anyway, even if they weren’t done with one night to go:

  • YOSHI-HASHI: fat fucking chance.
  • David Finlay: disappearing for a year, probably not a prime way to ingratiate yourself even if there were probably sound reasons to disappear
  • Taichi: Taichi’s point totals in his three G1 Climaxes – 8, 8, 6. At best, Taichi’s best record in the G1 Climax is 4-5. Now, with only six matches, the margin for error has shrunk considerably. Even though he is out Holy Emperor, and we love him, and you should love him, and his matches are going to be so much better than he gets credit for, and his Hakusho Elbow is the best finisher in wrestling… it’s crystal clear that they don’t take him seriously. At 42, his chances are not going to ameliorate.
  • Great-O-Khan: This motherfucker is literally a real-life superhero, almost certainly a sex addict, living a moe otaku dream scenario, and this company has him in two semi-mains. That’s the pinnacle of his tournament. And perhaps we are expecting too much because our brains have been irrevocably warped by the pandemic, and time’s relativity has consumed us. Great-O-Khan, incredibly, has only been back from excursion for a little over a year and a half. That much is true. Also true: He’s 31 years old, goddammit! Stop fucking around with this guy. He’s 22nd in Card Placement avg. 22nd! What in the world is wrong here? Anyway, he has no chance. He’s slotted behind Ospreay and Cobb, and won’t finish ahead of them.
  • Tom Lawlor: This G1 Climax should be more than just a reward for holding down New Japan Strong so compellingly. He’s fairly low in booking strength, but that might not matter as much this year. Against another opponent, we might believe in the idea that Tom Lawlor could be the red herring of A Block leading into Night 18. But he’s not going to. Look at who he’s up against.

That leads us to Jeff Cobb. Cobb, as noted before, is the perfect G1 Climax wrestler. His opponent is irrelevant. He is going to toss them around, impress people with his strength, and, increasingly, project absolute star power. The guy is fucking money. Apparently smells exquisite, to boot.

Cobb was a block finalist last year. Recent history shows that those on the losing end of a block final match have generally strong results the next year, but do not make the next step and win a block.

In fact, most aren’t even in a block final match the next year, and these are some big names we’re talking about here:

  • EVIL: block finalist in 2020, 3rd in B Block in 2021 (Not in block final match)
  • Jay White: block finalist in 2020, did not participate in 2021
  • Kazuchika Okada: block finalist in 2019, 3rd in B Block 2020 (Not in block final match. Also, incited some of the worst discourse in modern wrestling with his Money Clip nonsense)
  • Tetsuya Naito: block finalist in 2019, 3rd in B Block in 2020 (Not in block final match)
  • Kenny Omega: block finalist in 2018, crossed Koning Harold Meij and was never heard from again in 2019
  • Kazuchika Okada: block finalist in 2018, 2nd in A Block in 2019 (In block final match, lost to Ibushi. Got gruesome revenge two years later)
  • Kazuchika Okada: block finalist in 2017, 2nd place in 2018 (In block final match, had yet another draw with Tanahashi)
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi: block finalist in 2017, won A Block in 2018 (In block final match, nearly ran the table and won block with 15 points)

We’re guessing Jeff Cobb causes some kind of disruption to Night 18, putting the pressure on Okada. Or, maybe Lawlor gets a big win to spoil Cobb and these two feud. Believe it or not, these guys have had six singles matches, from GCW to Voices of Wrestling’s close friends AIW, but nothing in a New Japan ring. Their only contact was an eight-man tag match on Strong in November 2020, before Cobb joined the United Empire.

Speaking of block final match participants from 2021, the other wrestler to come up short was KENTA, the greatest and most captivating wrestling alive. Possibly ever. It’s been quite a year for KENTA since: he’s feuded with Tanahashi over the US Title, resulting in a match that left him with a pretty gross incision on the right side of his back from a ludicrous table spot.

Then he feuded with Tanahashi again over the United States title. That one resulted in the infamous Wrestle Kingdom match, where one of the most ludicrous table spots in the history of mainstream wrestling resulted in a really cross incision on the left side of KENTA’s back. Oh, and he also ended up with a dislocated hip, apparently.

KENTA returned for the early July Korakuen run. Against? Hiroshi Tanahashi. KENTA did not win a match, but he did manage to pummel Tanahashi into the backstage comment area, literally demanding an apology for the scars on his back and castigating Tanahashi parents for raising a son that doesn’t apologize for things.

By the way, KENTA’s feud preceding G1 Climax 2021? Tanahashi.

In three years, Tanahashi and KENTA have had six singles matches. They stand at 3-3, although KENTA is unbeaten in the backstage comments. His backstage comment after his victory over the Ace in November 2020 is, quite simply, one of the greatest wrestling promos ever produced.

This match-up will never lose its sharp patina. It will always deliver. It is worth a G1 Climax just to see these two legends square off.

Sure, Tanahashi’s last two G1 Climaxes have been fairly uncomfortable to watch, as he gradually disintegrated from night to night. We don’t expect that to change, even with the lighter schedule. Mainly because: it’s not lighter! He has two less singles matches and eleven more tag matches than last year. That right, like most of the participants on this tour, Hiroshi Tanahashi is on every single show.

While some missed the undercard tags the last two years, we did not. We liked the absence of wrestlers every other night. And consider that: last year, even with a halved schedule, and thus half as much travel, Tanahashi still looked brutally stiff his last 3-4 matches. What is he going to look like traveling to all 18 shows.

This isn’t meant to tarnish Tanahashi, although some people out there really need to come to grips with what Tanahashi is capable of on thee extended tours. What its meant to highlight is that Tanahashi is something to be cherished. For this G1 Climax, he is closer to 50 than he is to 40. It’s not like they are cycling him down; out of his six matches, five are main events.

That’s turning the clock back to 2012, when he main evented 7 out of 8 nights. Not potential nights. No, this was an all-block year. There were only eight G1 Climax nights that year, and he main evented seven of them. Holy fucking Moses, that’s insane. What would be even more insane was if he turned his body back to 2012. That’s not happening.

KENTA, of course, has been so decimated by injuries that he’s had to rely on his sagacity and cleverness to get by. How far can sagacity and intelligence take you. In KENTA case, to the main event level of New Japan Pro Wrestling. KENTA is a marvel.

And, unlike Tanahashi, he can string together matches over a grueling G1 Climax month. As we noted earlier, he had a hell of a G1 Climax last year. He didn’t get any credit for it, because half his matches ended with him cheating to win, but those were indeed great matches. And even better backstage comments!

We’ve been working on an article about KENTA’s 2021 for 9 months now. Why is it taking so long to write? Because KENTA fucking rules. His 2021 ruled. He had good to great matches throughout the entirety of the year, and possibly the greatest collection of backstage comments ever assembled.

And so, even though we have derided the scheduling for most of this preview, we have to give them the ultimate credit: they may not have had to sacrifice most of the G1 Climax for the sake of the opening and closing night, but goddamn they made sure the sacrifice mattered.

This is a masterful choice for main event of the penultimate night. We’ll dismantle what the ramifications for the match might be for Night 18 in Part III of the preview, where we look at those kinds of booking consequences and scenarios.

It’s more complicated than you might think. If one of these men take the lead over either Tetsuya Naito or Zack Sabre Jr., they effectively eliminate a block final match participant before the block final match. That’s actually never happened once in the last twelve years.

But, if the result of this match does not result in either Tanahashi or KENTA taking the lead going into Night 18, what’s the point of the match?

Here’s the point: two of the greatest of all time, wrestling in a high profile match, in the best of all wrestling circumstances: a concluding night to G1 Climax.

Night 18: August 16, Nippon Budokan, Tokyo

  • A Block: Kazuchika Okada v. Lance Archer

  • A Block: JONAH v. Bad Luck Fale

  • B Block: Tomohiro Ishii v. SANADA

  • B Block: Jay White v. Tama Tonga

  • C Block: Hirooki Goto v. EVIL

  • C Block: Tetsuya Naito v. Zack Sabre Jr.

  • D Block: Shingo Takagi v. El Phantasmo

  • D Block: Will Ospreay v. Juice Robinson

We’ll cover this one in more depth in Part III, where we examine booking patterns and historical trends. That’s most pertinent to Night 18, which serves as some kind of amalgamation of the traditional Nights 17 and 18, the high stakes denouement to every year’s tournament.

The G1’s strength is the booker’s ability to set a clear identity to the final nights of the tournament and then backwards design from there. Whatever they’ve set for the final night confrontations needs to be fully established and imbued with vigorous credibility over the course of the previous nights.

That could be achieved in two ways:

  • Ambitiously set a match for the final night that wouldn’t appear to be a marquee, consequential match, and then adroitly authenticate that match through the booking of the other nights leading up to it. If the wrestlers hold up their end, it’s a bit of alchemy: what seemed base when the tournament began is now perceived as gilded.
  • Set an already marquee match for the final night, and simply let the value of the match accrue as time and circumstances amplify the investment people have in the match.

Night 18 could satisfy both options depending on which matches conclude their block. Since 2010, block final matches have almost always been winner-take-all. It’s up to the bookers and the wrestlers to make the block final match appear worthy of such grandiose implications. Considering the names on the table for Night 18, one can be assured each block’s final match will redeem these expectations.

Night 18 is saturated with worthwhile match-ups. It is easily the most enticing and extraordinary night of G1 Climax 2022.

That may have come at the expense of roughly 60-70% of the other nights. The end result matters most, for sure, although this tournament has been built on the endurance and stamina needed to complete the journey. The destination needs to be worth the trip, but why neglect the path?

The G1 Climax is a physics equation; the value is always something multiplied by time. Considering the 15 Nights between Nights 2 and 18, one has to wonder whether that result of that equation will be as Brobdingnagian in scale as in year’s past. Time remains constant, but what people invest into that time might drastically abate without traditional hooks to allure them:

  • Potent blocks with definable identities
  • Immediately tangible consequences of results (points, standings, etc.)
  • Consistently seductive match line-ups
  • Spectacular ringwork

The ringwork is already at a deficit because of the clap crowds. The other three have been largely nullified by the scheduling, at least on paper. Perhaps it ends up working in practice. We’re pretty sure that, while most individual nights will be satisfying in real time, the disconnect between nights, between blocks, and between wrestlers will be a persistent poison to this year’s G1 Climax.

Matches can be microcosms of the business itself, and in this case, we expect one axiom to hold true: finish strong and almost everything preceding the ending can be forgiven.

And Night 18 is a very strong finish.

In Part III, we take a much closer dive into the match-ups of Night 18, and how Night 18 appears to perpetuate historical trends and booking patterns, with the potential for upending them by the time all’s told.

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