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.
It’s Time For WWE To Reunite The Wyatt Family
Given all of their strife over the past year, Carol thinks it’s time for WWE to bring a family back together–The Wyatt Family!
Out of all the wrestling stables in recent years, The Wyatt Family stands out as one of the most intriguing groups. The trio consisting of Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, and Erick Rowan made their main roster debut in the summer of 2013.
From the moment they stepped into the ring, the stable piqued the interest of the WWE Universe. Bray Wyatt was perfect as the menacing cult leader, who preached about saving the world from darkness. Harper and Rowan excelled in their roles as Bray’s followers, doing whatever their leader commanded.
The group grew bigger when Braun Strowman joined the stable, making them a force to be reckoned with.
Yet, like many wrestling stables, The Wyatt Family soon disbanded. After their split, the four men have gone on to have decent singles careers with some ups and downs along the way.
Braun Strowman has been the member to have the best career.He’s gone on to become one of WWE’s top guys and has competed in numerous matches for the Universal Championship. While he hasn’t won the coveted title yet, Strowman has won over fans, who are strong supporters of The Monster Among Men.
Bray Wyatt also achieved a great amount of success by becoming WWE champion along with two-time tag team champion. As for Harper and Rowan, they’re run as singles competitors was a little rocky. But the two men would team up as The Bludgeon Brothers and became one of Smackdown’s top tag teams.
Currently, all four men are out of action. Strowman, Harper, and Rowan are dealing with injuries. As for Bray, he hasn’t been seen since July when he and Matt Hardy lost the RAW tag titles. But in recent days, he’s been hinting at a return, promising a something different.
While Bray hasn’t been on television in months, he did make an appearance during the Starrcade house show a few weeks ago, when he wrestled Baron Corbin. Bray’s involvement at Starrcade has led to speculation that he’ll be making his return at the upcoming TLC PPV during Braun and Corbin’s match.
If Bray does return to help Braun, does that mean that a Wyatt Family reunion is in the works?
It seems possible and to be honest this could be the best thing to happen to the group.
As I stated earlier, the men have had ups and downs in their singles careers. Braun’s momentum has faltered since losing his Universal Championship match against Brock Lesnar. Bray has been just one of the many wrestlers who’ve suffered at the hands of WWE creative team.
From a storyline point, you could have Bray come back to help Braun resurrect the monster that Strowman is. With Bray’s guidance, Braun could gain back some of the momentum he’s lost and become a dominant force among the roster.
As for Harper and Rowan, they too could benefit from a Wyatt Family reunion. The two have struggled following the disbanding of the group.Yet, with them part of the stable again, they’ll be back in the spotlight as they take on their roles as Bray’s enforcers.
There’s no telling what WWE has planned for Bray, but with Wyatt’s recent tweets and TLC coming up, it’s going to be interesting to see if The Eater of Worlds makes an appearance and sets up a Wyatt Family reunion.
Are We Really Even Fans Anymore?
Rey Ca$h looks to speak some truth into your life about your hatred of WWE Raw!
On April 3rd, 2016, The Walking Dead went from the biggest show on television to one riddled with controversy. This particular episode is the infamous one where Negan, the biggest of all the big bads, makes his debut and kills an unknown member of Rick’s crew with Lucille, his barbed wire bat. We don’t see who it is and we are forced to wait 6 months to find out who died and what all happened.
Why am I talking about The Walking Dead on a wrestling website? I bring up this show, and in particular this episode, for one major reason. The fan reaction to it was vitriolic. Some fans hated it. Some loved it. Everybody had an opinion. But for a large number of fans, that was where the show crossed the line. Funny thing is, if you read the comics that the show is largely pulled from, this was a paramount storyline that was always going to have to happen on the show. So essentially, fans were told EXACTLY what was going to happen, even down to the smallest details, and they revolted.
You Hate Raw.
The vitriol spewed at the WWE currently, particularly Monday Night Raw, is stronger than ever. The thing is, however, WWE has never lied about what type of show Raw is. It’s a variety entertainment hour featuring wrestling. And yes, ratings are down, but they’re consistently one of the top 5 shows watched every night on cable. So, do the ratings really matter when nobody’s watching anything else either?
I understand that we as fans have an intrinsic right to feel how we are led to about the product we are given. For many, Raw is sub-par to terrible. I get that and respect that. I even echo that to a small extent. But I’ve started to wonder one major question as of late – are we really even fans anymore?
I hate to go all literal on you guys, but Merriam-Webster defines fan in this particular respect as “an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator; an ardent admirer or enthusiast (as of a celebrity or a pursuit).” We all know that the word fan is derived from the word fanatic, as these definitions allude to. Have we thought, however, about how that really affects us? Do we think about what type of fan we are? How our fandom affects that which we are said fans of???
The WWE needs no sympathy. They’re a billion-dollar company, thriving in a business sense that was never before thought possible. But these criticisms…if we think deeply into them, is it really because the show is that bad, or is it because we’re not fans of what the product is anymore? Let me give you an example.
Gregg Popovich, super successful and championship winning coach of the San Antonio Spurs, was in the news recently because he mentioned that he thinks the current NBA is not beautiful anymore. The game, which has progressed from slower, more stylistic and cerebral play to quicker, more skill laden play, isn’t what he’s used to anymore. Add to that the empowerment of the player in this generation and the rise of super-teams, and many fans tend to agree with Coach Pop. The NBA has jumped the shark for many. For others, however, it’s the best it’s ever been. It’s massively entertaining, it’s breeding more stars than ever, and the skill is at an all-time high.
This reminds me of wrestling, WWE in particular. This generation of fans seems to be primarily interested in in ring prowess and “workrate”, choosing to focus on sequences of moves and characters that only resonate with them. Older generations, however, were largely intrigued by the characters and the stories told, with promo ability being lauded even more than in ring ability. A great match was only great because the story allowed it to be. Neither side is wrong, but much like if you watch CZW, you can expect hardcore style wrestling, if you watch Monday Night Raw, you can expect story driven television.
But What Is Raw?
Let’s take a look at the show from an analytical perspective. We have to acknowledge, from the beginning, that 5 of the top 8 male stars on the brand are out for significant periods of time. Roman Reigns is facing the fight of his life with leukemia, Braun has had his second surgery in years on his elbow, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn will be out possibly past WrestleMania season because of major surgeries, and the Universal Champion Brock Lesnar is somewhere on his farm. All criticisms must acknowledge this.
So, the major stories for the guys on the show revolve around Baron Corbin as General Manager Elect, and Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose’s blood feud revisited. For the women, Ronda Rousey is locked in a heated feud with Nia Jax and her cousin Tamina, and Natalya is out for personal revenge against the dastardly Ruby Riott and her Riott Squad. I ask you to think seriously about this question I’m about to ask you guys. What do all four of those feuds have in common?
They’re all story driven.
Corbin is drunk with power, abusing it to his whim. As such, he’s gained allies who want to be at the top, and are using Corbin’s power to hold their enemies down. Rollins and Ambrose have a near biblical feud, revolving around a very real and personal issue of betrayal. Ronda Rousey faced her toughest challenge recently against Becky Lynch and Charlotte, and Nia, who broke Becky’s face, wants to get back the title that she lost due to a cash in and beat the “Baddest Woman On The Planet” to prove her dominance. Ruby Riott broke Natalya’s late father, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart’s sunglasses, destroying a personal heirloom of Nattie’s. Natalya wants to get personal revenge for that and the multiple attacks that the Riott Squad have given her.
All four of those are Raw style stories. They are largely told through promos and backstage vignettes, they are riddled with drama, and they are building to a crescendo. The stories can always be told better, but are you sure you’re not against the stories before they’re even told to you because of your expectations?
Look at Dean Ambrose for example. We’ve long salivated at the thought of a truly unhinged, heel Ambrose. Instead, we get a germophobic, cerebral, emotional Dean. In a sense, the emotionless lunatic has turned into the over emotional thinker. And many fans are down on it. Why??? The promos have been fantastic. The cat and mouse game he’s played with “The Architect” have been wonderful.
But, it’s not what we expected. And to add to that fact, it’s not what we wanted.
That take is not only unfair, but it’s a hindrance to everybody involved in telling that story. The people with that take have essentially said that they refuse to let WWE tell them a story because it’s not what they want. That is MASSIVELY different than being told a story in full and not enjoying it.
I legitimately ask you all, which side are you on? Not liking things because it’s not what you wanted or expected, or reacting to what you’re being given. I’d bet good money it’s the former.
My goal in this column is not to tell any of you that you’re wrong in your opinions. I’m not even trying to advocate for Raw – if you listen to Chairshot Radio or The Outsider’s Edge, you’ll see that I criticize the show just as much as you guys. My point in this is simply to push you to step back and look at the big picture. Re-evaluate what you think you want. Ask yourself are you giving the show a legitimate chance, or are you already against the show before they get a chance to entertain you. Then, maybe you’ll realize that Raw doesn’t need to change when they’re being who they’ve always been. Maybe them not changing isn’t the problem. Maybe you’re the one who needs to change. Maybe we all are.