Two weekends ago, pro wrestling’s biggest and most critically-acclaimed tournament, the G1 Climax, kicked off. The G1 is New Japan Pro Wrestling’s annual summer tournament that decides who will headline Wrestle Kingdom in January. The pool is comprised of twenty of NJPW’s best which usually leads to the most exciting matches you’ll see all year. You can watch them by signing up over at njpwworld.com. I assure you it’s worth the subscription.
I’ll give you a quick run-down if you are new to the product. Wrestle Kingdom is their biggest show of the year so this is like the Royal Rumble except it lasts a month. The talent pool is divided into two separate blocks of 10 competitors each. It’s a round robin style tournament so each wrestler will have at least 9 matches (one match against every man in their block). A win is 2 points, a loss is 0 points, and each man is awarded 1 point in the event of a 30 minute time-limit draw. The competitor with the most points in the A Block and B Block will face each other on August 12 to determine the winner. If you want the an in-depth analysis of every night of G1 action, check out the articles by The Chairshot’s Andrew Balaz and Mathew Sarpraicone.
I understand that it’s A LOT of wrestling. The most hardcore fans will struggle to find time for even half the matches. The purpose of this guide is to give you the most efficient viewing experience possible. Every week of the tournament I’ll be listing the matches I think every fan would enjoy. I’ve decided to categorize them by Storytelling Matches, Character Matches, and Quality Matches. Storytelling matches are matches that incorporate a current or past angle into a match, Character matches will help you become invested in certain wrestlers, and Quality matches are all of the above. These are essentially the best the product can give you, in my opinion. This first part will cover Night 1 (7/14) through Night 8 (7/26).
- Hangman Page v. Bad Luck Fale (N1, 7/14)
- Jay White v. Kazuchika Okada (N1, 7/14)
- Kazuchika Okada v. Bad Luck Fale (N3, 7/16)
- Jay White v. Hiroshi Tanahashi (N3, 7/16)
- Hirooki Goto v. Kenny Omega (N4, 7/19)
- Hiroshi Tanahashi v. Bad Luck Fale (N5, 7/20)
- Tama Tonga v. Kenny Omega (N6, 7/21)
- Tama Tonga v. Tetsuya Naito (N8, 7/26)
- Juice Robinson v. Kenny Omega (N8, 7/26)
You may notice the frequency of the Bullet Club on this list. If you are unaware, that’s because the BC underwent a transformation in San Francisco when the Tongan sect of the faction turned on the rest of the group, forming The Firing Squad. Since most of the BC was bordering as a babyface faction in recent memory, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, and Bad Luck Fale decided to split and go back to their roots. They’ve essentially hijacked the G1 tournament. They’ll make a statement at all costs, especially against their former Bullet Club stablemates. I honestly got chills when Hangman was walking down the aisle to confront Fale for the first time. Speaking of making a statement, Tama made sure to take a shot at Roman Reigns and their Twitter beef before his match against Naito which was fantastic. Something similar is happening in CHAOS. When Jay White joined as the only heel in the faction back in January, he promised that he would face Okada one day and claim CHAOS as his own. After his quest for dominance, he met Tanahashi in a Wrestle Kingdom rematch. To top it off, we got to see a rematch of the 2016 G1 Finals when Kenny Omega and Hirooki Goto squared off as two different men this time around. Most recently, Kenny and Juice had their rematch of last year’s meeting where Juice shocked the world. This time, both men had lingering injuries to worry about.
- Minoru Suzuki v. Hiroshi Tanahashi (N1, 7/14)
- Toru Yano v. Tomohiro Ishii (N2, 7/15)
- Minoru Suzuki v. YOSHI-HASHI (N5, 7/20)
- Toru Yano v. Kota Ibushi (N6, 7/21)
- Juice Robinson v. Tetsuya Naito (N6, 7/21)
- YOSHI-HASHI v. Michael Elgin (N7, 7/22)
- Bad Luck Fale v. EVIL (N7, 7/22)
Toru Yano is going to be plastered all over my watch guides. Few leave me more entertained when he steps between the ropes. He’s the type of comedic relief perfect for these long tournaments when every match needs a change of pace. Many of you know Suzuki is the ultimate sadist so his matches against fan favorite Tanahashi, and ultimate underdog, Yoshi-Hashi were the perfect complements to his style. Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero were really emphasizing Yoshi-Hashi’s lack of success in his bout with Elgin so it was really easy to get invested and root for him in that one. Juice and Naito were originally going to be on my list of quality matches but the heel work and fighting spirit displayed in the match was too good to overlook. EVIL brought Bad Luck Fale and the rest of the Bullet Club over to this part of the watch list because he was doing a really good job at handling the numbers disadvantage. LIJ are technically supposed to be heels most of the time but it was refreshing to see EVIL work as the clear babyface in his matchup against Fale.
- Zack Sabre Jr. v. Kota Ibushi (N2, 7/15)
- Tetsuta Naito v. Kenny Omega (N2, 7/15)
- Zack Sabre Jr. v. Toru Yano (N4, 7/19)
- Kota Ibushi v. Juice Robinson (N4, 7/19)
- Zack Sabre Jr. v. SANADA (N6, 7/21)
- Hirooki Goto v. Tomohiro Ishii (N6, 7/21)
- SANADA v. Kota Ibushi (N8, 7/26)
Zack Sabre Jr. keeps coming up for a reason. ZSJ is truly at the top of his game. He has a very distinct in-ring style yet makes it new and interesting with every one of his opponents. He would have been a sneaky favorite of mine to make a run if he didn’t win the NJ Cup earlier this year. Kota and Juice also continue to stand out in each of their matches just as I expected. We were treated to the rematch of last year’s finals early as Kenny and Naito put together a hot one. Both guys are accustomed to lengthy main event style matches but the 30 minute limit forced them to go all-out from the get-go. Goto vs. Ishii and Sanada vs. Kota Ibushi were probably my two favorite matches of the tournament so far. Those are just four guys that are masters in the art of wrestling and always know how to create a main-event level match.
Standings As of 7/26
- Jay White (6 points)
- Hiroshi Tanahashi (6 points)
- EVIL (6 points)
- Kazuchika Okada (4 points)
- Togi Makabe (4 points)
- Michael Elgin (4 points)
- Minoru Suzuki (4 points)
- Hangman Page (2 points)
- Bad Luck Fale (2 points)
- YOSHI-HASHI (2 points)
- Kenny Omega (8 points)
- Tetsuya Naito (6 points)
- SANADA (6 points)
- Kota Ibushi (4 points)
- Zack Sabre Jr. (4 points)
- Tomohiro Ishii (4 points)
- Hirooki Goto (4 points)
- Tama Tonga (2 points)
- Toru Yano (2 points)
- Juice Robinson (0 points)
What’s great about the G1 is that even the guys staring down 2 points or less have still put together great matches. A lot of them have a decent shot to get on a roll too. For example, I didn’t expect Okada, Suzuki, Fale, and Tama to be stuck at 2 points after three matches. I also don’t think many expected Jay White to get off to a 3-0 start. Juice Robinson is the US Heavyweight Champion and has started 0-4 so it looks like they’re going to continue the rhetoric that he’s a “streaky” fighter. Tama and Fale have taken multiple DQ losses which are rare so I see them shaking things up and coming back strong, especially since they’re at the center of the freshest storyline. I understand that their main objective is to make a statement but I think the best way to do that is to win against the best competition. It’s working for Jay White so far. Okada is poised to go on a furious tear. He’s the clear favorite in his block and already got some of his toughest tasks out of the way.
It was announced this week that Kenny Omega has been wrestling with a fractured heel. He confirmed it in this week’s episode of Being the Elite and said he plans to finish the tournament regardless. I watched his match against Juice Robinson with this in mind and it was incredible how much pressure he continued to put on it. Omega said it hurts to walk but I never would have guessed by watching that match. If the pain becomes unbearable, it’ll be interesting to see what NJPW decides to do moving forward. Pulling him from the tournament or compensating by building a story around the injury are the first things that come to mind. Removing him from the tournament while he’s still undefeated would protect him in more ways than one.
I also wanted to mention how much I’ve loved the commentary team of Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero. You can tell they have paragraphs of notes for each match. They’ve kept a tab of the total match time for each competitor so they can reference their long-term durability for the rest of the G1. They also like to detail all the significant past meetings of the men in each match, especially if they were G1 matches. During Hiroshi Tanahashi’s match against Hangman Page, they explained that Tana has a poor record against first-time G1 opponents. Way back on Night 1 Kevin Kelly made a comment about how the ring sounded different after a slam so a board might have gotten knocked loose from a suplex earlier in the match. He elaborated that this was significant because it could make any future contact with the mat potentially more dangerous. These are things I never would have thought about. It’s amazing what a little more insight can do to elevate the prestige of the tournament as a whole.
Chris King: One More Spear and Jackhammer for Goldberg?
After his WWE Super ShowDown with The Undertaker wasn’t well received, is there room for Goldberg to have more “proper sendoff” to end his career?
By now you’ve heard the troubling news that during Goldberg and The Undertaker’s first-ever-match something went terribly awry; Goldberg smashed his head square into the ring-post, instantly he began bleeding profusely and was knocked out. What followed was extremely hard to watch; several signature maneuvers were horribly botched, and I was 100% concerned for both superstars’s health and well-being. This is not what we hoped would occur, and this should not be the last image of Goldberg that we witness in WWE.
There was speculation that Undertaker was furious at Goldberg for his performance that appeared absurd to me; how could Undertaker a locker room leader held in such high respect get into a screaming match backstage? On top of that there was also rumblings about Vince McMahon the CEO of WWE, was fuming, and had to break things up between the legends. He apparently told both superstars they were finished wrestling careers were over.
Thankfully the rumors were quickly refuted by not only WWE officials who were in Saudi Arabia, and TalkSport’s Alex McCarthy, and Mike Johnson on PWINSIDER.
Goldberg has admitted he was knocked out during his match with Undertaker at #WWESSD and that is why the final minutes were what they were.
Undertaker was angry with how the match went, but reports suggesting things got heated backstage with Goldberg aren't true, I'm told.
— Alex McCarthy (@AlexM_talkSPORT) June 8, 2019
Mike Johnson confirmed that after chatting with WWE officials he can confirm that after the bout Goldberg was too weak to muster up the energy to engage in a heated altercation.
Johnson said: “I have not heard one person with any legitimacy claim this as being true. In fact, when I asked about that rumor, it was quickly shot down by those who were actually in Saudi Arabia, so I tend to think that story is 100% fiction.”
Goldberg the WCW veteran was last seen in the squared circle on the Post-Mania-Raw, twenty-four hours after dropping the Universal championship to Brock Lesnar. The WWE Universe gave him a standing ovation for his love for the business throughout his illustrious twenty-year pro wrestling career.
Goldberg has battled some of the biggest wrestlers in WWE; The Rock was his first feud after his arrival in 2003 at the Backlash pay per view, followed by his almost year-long rivalry with HHH and “Evolution” where he won the World Heavyweight championship. He finished his initial run in the company in 2004 in a “Battle of Behemoths” with Lesnar. In 2019, there are many new powerhouses since he left the company in 2004. Below I will be listing the 5 Potential Opponents for his final match in WWE.
5 Best-Suited Opponents For The Final Goldberg Match
5. Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar toppled Goldberg for-the-first-time in his WWE career at WrestleMania 33; after a humiliating loss at 2016 Survivor Series, in a “Shocking” one minute and twenty-seven seconds. This was Goldberg’s first official match in WWE in twelve years; the two powerhouses have had a total of three encounters, they have manifested a buzz that surpassed all the other matches on the pay per view card. Despite the fact that Goldberg and Lesnar faced in each other only two years ago, it doesn’t rule out the possibility that Goldberg won’t come back for retribution. While this contest in the past has not been well-received by the WWE Universe, there’s still a sliver of a chance these Titans’ will go to war one final time.
With Lesnar as “The Beast in the Bank” his adversary could once again cost him the Universal or WWE Championship cash-in; reminiscent to 2004 No Way Out pay per view where Eddie Guerrero was challenging Lesnar for his WWE championship, and Goldberg (who had been given a front row ticket by Raw commissioner Stone Cold Steve Austin). He would then deliver a “Devastating” spear to cost Lesnar his championship, which led to their first clash at WrestleMania XX. Goldberg could cost Lesnar his opportunity and the two competitors could then revisit this hard-hitting personal rivalry.
4. Bobby Lashley
It’s still surreal to me that these two powerhouses have never crossed paths in both of their WWE tenures. Bobby Lashley returned to WWE after making an “Impact” (Pun intended) on the Raw after Mania 34. Despite being the fan-favorite to dethrone Lesnar at 2018 SummerSlam, Lashley was upset by Roman Reigns who eventually captured the Universal Championship. Goldberg vs. Lashley will still be a “Big Money” match that will put butts in seats and sell out arenas. This the kind of “once in a lifetime” physical confrontation contrary to Rock/Cena at WrestleMania 28 that people from all over the world would tune in to watch. The WWE Network could see a “massive” increase in subscriptions, and the weeks leading up to their collision we would most certainly be a pull-apart brawl and someone could likely to be taken to jail.
3. Goldberg vs. Lars Sullivan
“The Freak” Lars Sullivan has been leaving a pile of bodies on his path of destruction since his arrival on Monday nights. Currently, he’s annihilating the Lucha House Party, but after he’s finished bullying smaller wrestlers “,” Sullivan is going to be hungry for “Real” competition. Enter Goldberg. This wouldn’t do much for the WCW titan but it sure would be a “Huge” rub for the recent draftee. Sullivan was penciled into battle John Cena at WrestleMania 35 “,” but due to health reasons, it never happened. This victory over a legend of this caliber could catapult “The Freak” to the top of the food-chain in WWE.
2. Braun Strowman
To say “The Monster Among Men” has been mistreated would only be the tip of the iceberg. Strowman was the “Hottest” wrestler in 2017 with his horror-themed assaults on Roman Reigns. Unfortunately for Strowman, his name wasn’t “Roman Reigns” and despite his best efforts he never captured the Universal Championship.
Strowman was on a path of destruction until he went toe-to-toe with Universal champion Lesnar at 2017 No Mercy; in what should have been his coronation as the next champion, Strowman was crushed within a matter of minutes. Last year at WWE Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia he was heavily-favored to walk out with the vacated Universal championship; and instead WWE thought it was wise to start a lengthy program with Baron Corbin (who clocked Strowman in the back of the head with the title), and Lesnar dropped “The Monster Among Men” with 5 F5’s to start a second title-reign with the Universal championship. To say Strowman deserves a “Monumental” win would be a HUGE UNDERSTATEMENT!
1. Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns
The announcement of this match is enough buzz to sell-out WrestleMania 36. “The Big Dog” Roman Reigns has done it all in his short eight-year career, some accomplishments other wrestlers only dream to achieve. He defeated the seemingly-unbeatable Undertaker in his second loss in decades. Reigns is a Grand-slam champion, a three-time WWE Champion and former Universal Champion. Ever since the two crossed paths on the road to WrestleMania 33; and delivered a double-spear to Strowman on January 12, 2017, I believe this dream match has been quietly penciled in. Now that there may be “One More Match” for Goldberg before he calls it quits, this is the only true contest!
Rob: Let’s Talk About Shane McMahon
He’s the Best In The World!
Shane McMahon is a hot topic among WWE fans, and Rob is here to chime in on the rumors that Shane could become WWE Champion in 2019.
Yeah, it’s time to talk about the Best in the World Shane McMahon. Shane has become a real thorn in the side of many on wrestling twitter and not in the way that Vince intended. A lot of you guys don’t like the amount of TV time he gets (even I’ll admit that this week was a bit much), don’t like that he got a win over Roman Reigns at Super Showdown (I don’t either but so long as things play out the right way in the end I’m willing to see it as a needed piece of a bigger story), and really got nuts when the NEWZ sites starting ‘reporting’ rumors that he may become WWE World Champion down the line. Some of you guys are even threatening that you’re done if it happens, and I believe you this time. And this all makes me wonder if certain aspects of wrestling storytelling are just not viable in 2019 anymore. Because this is the kind of thing that would have been a layup for mega heat back in the day but now seems to only result in scorn towards the bookers, or in this case Vince, from a lot of you guys for even considering it.
Now I can’t tell you guys what to like or not like, but there are a lot of times when I see the takes being thrown around on Twitter and wonder if I’m watching the same TV show that you guys are. I also wonder, often out loud and in this space, just what it is some of you guys want. Because I see people complain about emotional investment but from my earliest days as a fan one of the quickest ways to get emotional investment was to do something that would make people angry. But it seems like in 2019 way too many people on Wrestling Twitter don’t ever want to get angry, and take that as a crime committed by Vince McMahon and not a storytelling piece. And I don’t know how you rectify that.
Who knew this would lead us to “The Best In The World,” Shane McMahon???
By my estimation, someone like Shane McMahon getting the title is perfect for the ‘You Deserve It’ era, because he obviously doesn’t deserve it. And to win it dirty off of someone like Kofi Kingston who toiled for 11 years to just get a chance to win it should be a heat magnet. But instead all I see is that it’s bad booking, that it’s a sign that Vince hates the fans and needs to go, etc. So again I have to ask just what is it that some of you guys are looking for? Heels are part of wrestling, and heels have to prevail sometimes. A lot of you guys won’t boo Kevin Owens no matter low he stoops in turning on or assaulting people. And one of the few guys who gets booed from the crowd because the people there don’t like him, Baron Corbin, gets ripped every day by ‘smart’ fans for being a bad choice to even put on television.
Maybe I’m out of date here but for me part of having heels is that at least every now and then something has to happen that you don’t want. The people you root for have to lose, the people who should be champion have to be denied, somebody has to do something that you find to be beyond the pale, etc. And it can’t just happen when you expect it or are ready for it, it has to happen at a time when you aren’t ready for it to get the maximum effect so that you’ll get angry enough at the perpetrators to want to see them get their comeuppance. But it seems that getting mad at the characters is a bridge too far on Wrestling Twitter, that the point of a heel is to get shout outs on Twitter for ‘good heel work’, and that anything or anyone that you find truly loathsome is now grounds to change the channel. Thus the constant ‘Corbin has go away heat’ takes on Twitter. Where I’m from Go Away Heat meant ‘can somebody please come out and get this guy outta here? and not ‘why is he on my TV, what else is on?’
I mentioned before that we’re in the ‘You Deserve It’ era, and what I mean by that is that a lot of ‘smart’ fans are judging what they watch based who’s in it and whether or not they ‘deserve’ to be there. And deserving it is almost entirely based on their personal career journey or perceived skill level. Workrate guys and gals deserve it, as do those who went down some long, grueling road to get there. Even if they’re playing a heel some of us cheer them based on how good they are in the ring or what they had to go through to get there, while on the flip side anyone who doesn’t meet our technical standards or didn’t suffer enough should be relegated to supporting roles or just removed from our television altogether. The fastest way to get someone booed now it seems is for ‘smart’ fans to find out that they didn’t have to struggle hard enough (by their measures) to get a big spot. Hell, we just had a WrestleMania main event where the winner’s whole elevation came despite acting like a heel because the personal career story of the woman behind the character was deemed more important than the actions of her character on screen.
So now back to Shane. If you can’t get some people to boo heels over sneak attacks, cheating to win (don’t get me started on the whole ‘heels are fine but they shouldn’t cheat too much’ takes I’ve seen…..smh), etc. and the thing some fans get most consistently upset about is whether or not the ‘most deserving’ people are in the right places, then putting someone in the highest position who absolutely does not deserve it seems like an inevitable choice. I’m not telling you that you’re not a real fan if you don’t like it, but I am telling you that there is some very sound logic behind it if they go that route. And all the arguments against it – that Shane is not a full time wrestler, that he’s the boss’s son, etc – seem to me like just more reason to go ahead and do it.
Anyhow……until next week, everyone.