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The beginner's guide to the NJPW G1 Climax & what to know about 2016

With the first G1 Climax 26 card set to kick off Monday morning, anticipation is mounting for New Japan fans who have seen the previous tournaments that have aired live over the Internet.

For those who have seen previous G1s, it's one of the biggest tournaments of the year. For those that haven't, they have no earthly idea what the fuss is about. If you fall in the latter category, and want a better idea of what the tournament is about and how you can order it, this article is for you.

This is also a primer for this year's tournament that will get you ready for what is going on for the next month in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Be sure to check out the Big Audio Nightmare for an audio preview/predicition show for the tourney as well.

HISTORY & HOW TO WATCH --

NJPW G1

What is the G1 tournament? What does G1 stand for?

The G1 (or Grade 1) Climax tournament is held every year with a varying number of wrestlers competing to become champion. This year, it's 20 men.

Each wrestler is put in a block and must wrestle everyone in that block. The two people with the most points in their respective blocks will face off in the finals to determine the winner of the tournament.

When does it start? When does it end? Just how many shows are there?

That’s a lot of questions at once, but here goes:

This year’s G1 starts on July 18th at 10 PM PST, ending on August 14th at 1:30 AM PST. (For other time zones, check here for a time conversion.) Altogether, there will be 19 total shows airing throughout July and August.

Will there be English commentary?

Yes, for the last three shows. They will be held at Sumo Hall, and will have English commentary by Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino of Ring of Honor.

What about the other shows?

There are usually three kinds of New Japan World broadcast shows. Some have a multi-camera setup with Japanese commentary, and others that do not have commentary due to Samurai TV (the cable network that airs a majority of New Japan’s TV shows) getting exclusive rights to the commentary. A third way to present the shows feature a simple one-shot fixed camera since most of these will be non-televised events.

You can check NJPW World’s schedule to see which shows have what. All G1 Climax 26 shows will be live on New Japan World. You can access the livestream roughly 30 minutes before the show starts on the main page, highlighted in a yellow box on top of the page. Speaking of...

I've heard about NJPW World, but have no idea how to use it. How do I sign up for it and how do I navigate the site?

Well, first off, going to the site helps wonders!

On the top of the site, you’ll see an option to select a language. Pick English, and the site will be converted to English thanks to the power of Google Translate. Go back to the top and you’ll be able to see a place where you can login and register. Click on that.

On the login page, there will be another option for you to translate into English, click on that again. From there, you’ll be able to register in English. For payment, most American credit cards should be able to do the trick. For this year's tournament, the option to purchase the service via PayPal has also been added.

Once you’ve signed up, you can continue navigating in English with the Google Translate option. Be sure to check the schedule for dates of upcoming shows.

If you’re still having trouble, hit me up on Twitter and we can try to sort things out.

These shows air live way too early in the morning. How quickly will they be available on demand?

Shortly after the show ends. If not, it will more than likely be posted later that day.

Wait, so people are going to wrestle on all 19 of these shows? Aren’t these type of matches going to kill them through exertion?

These shows won’t exclusively feature block matches like some previous years. Each day, there will be five or so matches on a card featuring exclusively A block matches or B block matches.

The rest of the card will mostly consist of tag team matches. Since most multi-man matches in New Japan are super formulaic, this kind of schedule is pretty much designed to give competitors a few days off to rest and prepare for the next big match. You can see the full cards for these shows here.

How are points in this tournament determined?

It’s relatively simple. Whoever wins a match is given two points. If a match ends in a draw, it’s one point each. A loss gets you zero points.

Say that at the end of a tournament, two guys in the same block are tied for the most points. What happens then?

Whoever won the match between the two gets the tiebreaker and advances to the finals.

Okada

What does the tournament winner get?

An IWGP title match, usually at the Wrestle Kingdom Tokyo Dome show on January 4th.

So, why is the IWGP heavyweight champion in the tournament?

It’s the norm for the heavyweight champion at the time to compete in the tournament. Any losses the champion might receive during the tournament can very well set up future title matches down the line. But, if they win, it shows how dominant they are as champion. An IWGP champion doesn't often win the tournament, but It has happened as Kensuke Sasaki and Keiji Muto have both won it while holding the belt.

Who has won the most G1 tournaments?

Masahiro Chono, also known as “Mr. August”, has won the tournament on five different occasions since its inception in 1991.

I’ve seen guys like Okada and Naito carry a Money In The Bank-esque briefcase. Does the winner get an automatic shot at the title?

The winner gets a briefcase they carry and usually defends it once or twice in matches leading up to January 4th at the Wrestle Kingdom Tokyo Dome show.

What makes the G1 so special?

Thanks to internet PPV, we’ve now been able to see the G1 Climax tournament in full for the last few years. And from what I have seen personally, it’s some of the best wrestling you’ll see all year.

If you look at last year’s Wrestling Observer awards, many matches and cards from the G1 received tons of votes as some of the best of the year. Everyone usually works as hard as they can which often results in some great matches. If you’ve never been a fan of the Japanese style of wrestling, this tournament may not be your cup of tea, but it's still worth investing in because of the diversity of styles.

Shibata’s offense is stiff kicks. You’re in for a brawl whenever Ishii is in a match. Tanahashi and Okada provide traditional back and forth wrestling matches. Yano has a bunch of tricks up his sleeve and usually has a fun match at the very least.

Every match is different than the one before it. But if you’re looking for something new, for roughly eight to nine dollars on New Japan’s streaming service New Japan World, this is well worth the price for anyone who is a fan, as well as someone new who wants to have a look at something they’ve never seen before. It’s totally worth the investment, at least in my opinion.

A LOOK AT 2016 --

Give me a rundown of this year’s brackets.

Sure!

Block A
Shoutout to Puroresu Spirit for the image 

A Block participants:

  • Bad Luck Fale: Not a great technician, but doesn’t need to be as the physically imposing Fale usually scores a few wins by sheer strength alone.
     
  • Hirooki Goto: A great worker but constantly in a state of flux, joining the Chaos stable will hopefully give Goto a push somewhere in the right direction.
     
  • Tomohiro Ishii: The Stone Pitbull is a stout, stiff warrior that puts it all in his matches and consistently will give you a match of the night.
     
  • Togi Makabe: Known as a purveyor of sweets, Makabe is anything but in the ring, and can be just as stiff as some of his other counterparts in this block.
     
  • Naomichi Marufuji: Representing Pro Wrestling NOAH, Marufuji has been someone who is known to be kind of inconsistent. Perhaps with more eyeballs on a tournament such as this, Marufuji will deliver when the time is right.
     
  • Kazuchika Okada: The current IWGP champion, Okada is the future ace of the promotion who is out to prove that he’s the best in the business.
     
  • Sanada: Best known for his TNA run, Sanada has completely changed his look and his future by joining Los Ingobernables. Showing a ton of potential in his short run here, Sanada might be one of the key talents in this tournament.
     
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi: The ace of New Japan Pro Wrestling, Tanahashi is always a surefire bet to do well in a tournament. A recent shoulder injury, however, currently puts him in a questionable state. It’s not known just how serious it is and how it will affect his in-ring work.
     
  • Hiroyoshi Tenzan: Taking Satoshi Kojima’s spot, the veteran Tenzan claims that this is his last shot in the G1 tournament. His story will be interesting to witness as he might just make this last tournament his best.
     
  • Tama Tonga: Usually sorted out in tags, Tama Tonga is now branching out, and this being his first G1 tournament, the Bullet Club member is looking to make a big impression.

NJPW Block B

Shoutout to Puroresu Spirit for the image 

B Block participants:

  • Tetsuya Naito: The former IWGP champion and leader of Los Ingobernables looks to regain momentum after losing the title to Kazuchika Okada last month.
     
  • Michael Elgin: Making his New Japan debut last year, Elgin has transformed his career for the better. This being his second year, he’s setting out to not only have the best matches, but to advance towards victory.
     
  • EVIL: Formerly Takaaki Watanabe, the Los Ingobernables member is finding his niche in the brawler category and has taken some serious strides as of late. It will be interesting to see what happens when he has to tangle with his fellow stable member Naito.
     
  • Yuji Nagata: Mr. Anti-Aging is back in the tournament. Will he be able to keep up with others in his bracket? If previous years gives us the answer, it’s probably a yes.
     
  • Katsuhiko Nakajima: The other representative of Pro Wrestling NOAH, Nakajima is also known for his stiff style. While he has wrestled previously in New Japan, Nakajima looks to make a name for himself by advancing far in this tournament.
     
  • Kenny Omega: The Cleaner, now a heavyweight, looks to make his mark in the division by winning the G1. Omega seems capable, but will be able to best others in his block to advance?
     
  • Katsuyori Shibata: The current NEVER champion, Shibata is known for his stiff, unrelenting style that’s always painful to watch. With the departures of the likes of AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, he seems primed to make a big impression in this year’s tournament.
     
  • Tomoaki Honma: He won’t win a ton of matches, but Honma is someone who gives his all in every match. Even though he’s always an underdog, people are always interested in his stiff brawls.
     
  • Toru Yano: Always shilling his DVDs, Yano is known for doing whatever it takes to win a match, usually through cheating. His workrate isn’t awesome by any means, but Yano is always fun to watch and is pretty charismatic.
     
  • Yoshi-Hashi: Another person breaking out as a singles, Yoshi-Hashi has gotten the attention of fans through his great near falls. He’s an underdog like Honma, and thus doesn’t have the greatest chances of winning, but people are behind him enough that his matches can get pretty fun.

Anything else I should know?

I don't think so again, but hit me up on Twitter and I’ll be happy to answer!

I’ll just reiterate what I said earlier: if you aren’t a fan of the Japanese style of pro wrestling, this is worth a look regardless because of all the different types of matches you’ll be seeing in the tournament.

It’s worth eight bucks to at least give the tournament a try. If you’re new to Japanese wrestling, totally give this a shot, especially if you grow bored of what’s going on in the United States. The athleticism and diversity here is second to none, and even if you don’t like everything, there might be something or someone you’ll like.

To sum it up, when it comes to the G1, everyone should give it a shot.