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New Japan 2015 G1 Climax 25: A First-Timer's Guide

Be sure to also check out Mike Sempervive's G1 guide posted earlier this week.

With the first G1 Climax 25 tournament set to air early Monday morning, anticipation is mounting for New Japan fans who have seen the previous tournaments that have aired live over the internet - for them, it’s one of the biggest tournaments of the year. For others, 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 designed especially for you! If you are new to New Japan and the G1 and want a primer, look no further than here as I’ll try and keep you informed of what will be going on for the next few weeks in New Japan.

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

Good question to start out with! The G1 (or Grade 1) Climax Tournament is a tournament held every year, with a varying number of wrestlers (this year it’s 20) competing to become champion. Each wrestler is put in a block; they must wrestle all of the people in that block, and the person with the most points in each block will face off in the finals to determine the winner of the tournament.

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

This year’s G1 starts on 7/20 at 11:00 PST. It will end on 8/16. Not sure on the time for the latter as the August schedule for New Japan World hasn’t been put up. Refer to here for the schedule for the rest of July, and check here for a time conversion. All together, there will be 19 shows airing throughout July and August.

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 previous years - each day there will be 5 matches on a card featuring exclusively A block matches for B block matches. The rest will be mostly tag team matches. Since most multi man matches in New Japan are super formulaic, it pretty much gives them 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 determined?

Whoever wins a match is given two points. If a match ends in a draw, it’s one point each. A loss gets 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. And if you ask what happens if they drew...well..it hasn’t happened, at least not to my knowledge, so who knows!

What happens to the two runner ups? Last year a match between AJ Styles and Hiroshi Tanahashi determined third place. Is that usually the case?

Nope. It happened last year, but it doesn’t seem that they’re doing it this year. They could announce it for the finals, but nothing has been confirmed right now. 

Well...so who are the participants? Give me a basic summary of everyone involved.

A Block

AJ Styles: Former TNA world heavyweight champion. Joined New Japan in 2014 and has quickly risen to the top, already a two time IWGP Heavyweight champion, the top belt in New Japan. Leader of one of the top stables in New Japan, the Bullet Club.

Bad Luck Fale: The heavy of the Bullet Club. At 6’4 and 320 pounds, he easily towers those. Very few people have kicked out of the Bad Luck Fall. Also a former Intercontinental champion.

Doc Gallows: Formerly Luke Gallows/Festus in WWE. Often teams with Karl Anderson, and in fact they are the current IWGP tag team champions. Also of the Bullet Club

Hiroshi Tanahashi: Longtime ace of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Won the G1 Climax tournament in 2007. He’s held the IWGP Heavyweight championships the most times at 7 reigns. He’s been embroiled in a feud with Toru Yano for most of the year, but a decisive win at Dominion means he’s focusing solely on the G1.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan: Currently, often teams with Satoshi Kojima, and together they are known as Tencozy. Also holds the NWA World Heavyweight championship. He’s no stranger to the G1 as he’s won it in 2003, 2004, and 2006. Although most of the year his collection of injuries have crept up on his work, some of his best matches in the year happen in the G1.

Katsuyori Shibata: Known as “The Wrestler”, Shibata broke into NJPW in 1999, but left in 2004 to freelance and work in MMA. He returned in 2012 and has been well known for his extreme stiffness, pelting his opponents with kicks and strikes that would make anyone cringe. 

Kota Ibushi: The “Golden Star” of NJPW was originally scheduled to compete in the G1 last year, but a concussion kept him out of action. Known for his high flying offense as well as his ability to absorb extreme punishment, Ibushi has really broken out since advancing to the heavyweight division, and this just might be the year that he breaks out and wins the tournament.

Tetsuya Naito: The 2013 G1 Climax winner has undergone a dramatic change in appearance in recent weeks, as his colorful red and white garb has been replaced with a black t-shirt and cap. Now part of the CMLL stable Los Ingobernables, Naito looks to secure another tournament win, complete with scruffy beard and heelish tendencies.

Togi Makabe: known as a lover of sweets, Mabake is also known for being another brawler in New Japan, as well as a former IWGP World Heavyweight champion and the winner of the 2009 G1 Climax tournament. His recent battles (more akin to wars) with Tomohiro Ishii over the NEVER Openweight championship have kept him busy for the last few months, so one has to question if those battles have had an affect on him.

Toru Yano: Yano is most famous for using every trick in the book not related to pro wrestling in order to secure a quick, cheap win. Whether  it be undoing the turnbuckle pad, using the ref for a distraction or introducing a chair into the match, Yano’s main goal isn’t to have a great match, but rather do anything on Earth to get the win. 

Block B

Hirooki Goto: Current IWGP Intercontinental champion and winner of the 2008 G1 Climax tournament. Goto can best be described as always a bridesmaid but never a bride. While he’s gotten many shots at the IWGP championship, he’s never been able to pull it off and get the big win. The thing he has going for him at the moment is that he’s on a roll, beating Shinsuke Nakamura twice, first winning the Intercontinental championship then successfully defending it against him as well. Perhaps if he pulls it off here he can challenge for the big one at WrestleKingdom.

Karl Anderson: A key member of the Bullet Club and a constant fixture in the tag team divison of New Japan, Anderson looks to try his luck again at the G1. He’s gotten close, losing in the finals of the 2012 G1 tournament, but has never won the tournament outright. Having just won the IWGP tag team championships at New Japan’s last big event, Dominion, momentum is on his side.

Kazuchika Okada: The current IWGP Heavyweight champion. Since his return from his excursion to the United States in 2012, Okada has went from being a Green Hornet rip-off to one of the best workers in the world, having top quality matches with a variety of opponents. He’s also been ultra successful, already winning the IWGP Heavyweight championship 3 times as well as winning the G1 Climax tournament in 2012 and 2014. At 27 years old, he’s far from finishes winning high profile titles. It’s rare for a champion to win the G1, but it’s entirely possible.

Michael Elgin: Representing Ring of Honor, Elgin has been looking to make his mark in Japan for quite some time, and now he’s finally receiving the opportunity by competing in this year’s tournament. Elgin’s style does seem to fit in Japan, but as of right now he’s considered an unknown commodity in this tournament; given the high expectations through recent G1 tournaments we’ll see if Elgin is able to compete with the top athletes in New Japan.

Satoshi Kojima: Kojima is one of the more decorated veterans in the tournament; not only did he win the G1 Climax tournament in 2010, he’s also one of the few who have held both the IWGP Heavyweight championship as well as the AJPW Triple Crown championship. During the rest of the year, he mostly teams with Hiroyoshi Tenzan as Tencozy. But as a singles, Kojima is able to hold his own with the brightest prospects in New Japan.

Shinsuke Nakamura: The Wrestling Observer 2014 Wrestler of the Year has held many titles, including the IWGP Heavyweight championship on 3 occasions as well as winning the G1 tournament in 2011. But in recent years, he’s been the Intercontinental champion, and has established that title as one of the top titles in NJPW, even rivaling the prestige of the IWGP Heavyweight title. Known for his brash attitude and oozing charisma, he is always a favorite in the tournament, and even made it to the finals last year. Perhaps he’ll pull it off again this year.

Tomoaki Honma: Honmamania has reached to new levels in recent years as Honma has gained massive amounts of popularity with the New Japan audience. Known for giving it his all in every match, his win-loss record in the company is quite lopsided, and not for the best. He lost every match in last year’s G1 tournament, but despite this he looks to re-enter the tournament this year and give it his all again. 

Tomohiro Ishii: Also another wrestler who has gained popularity in recent years, Ishii has known to be someone who will destroy not only his opponent, but his own body as well. He’s had incredible wars with the likes of Katsuyori Shibata, Hirooki Goto and most recently Togi Makabe. His brash style has meant that he’s accumulated many injuries over the last couple of years, but considering he’s spent most of 2014 in bandages, that won’t deter him from destroying himself or his opponent in this year’s tournament as well.

Yuji Nagata: Known as “Mr. Anti-Aging”, at 47 Yuji Nagata is still considered one of the best wrestlers in New Japan, and has been able to hold up his own against younger opponents. Winner of the 2001 G1 Climax and a former IWGP Heavyweight champion, Nagata looks to do it once again. Set to face many top contenders in his block, Nagata looks to, at the very least, retain his title of Mr. Anti-Aging with more spectacular performances.

Yujiro Takahashi: Since breaking out from former No Limit tag team partner Tetsuya Naito, Yujiro isn’t known for his great wrestling skills, but rather for how little his lady friends who accompany him to the ring wear. Joining the Bullet Club last year has gained him some notoriety, winning the NEVER championship, but Yujiro still hasn’t found his niche in New Japan yet. The G1, however, might be a great place to find it.

If the goal is for the winner to get a title match, then why is the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada, 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, and if they win, it shows how dominant they are as champion. It doesn’t happen often, but it has happened as Kensuke Sasaki and Keiji Muto have both won it while champion.

Who has won the most G1 tournaments?

Masahiro Chono, also known as “Mr. August”, was won the tournament on 5 different occasions since it’s inception in 1991.

I’ve seen guys like Okada and Naito carry a briefcase, a la the Money in the Bank briefcase. Does the winner get an automatic shot at the title any time they please?

Kinda. I don’t believe it’s official, but the new trend in the last few years is for the winner of the G1 to challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at WrestleKingdom.

All of this is all well and good, but why is everyone so excited for the tournament? What makes the G1 so special?

Thanks to internet PPV, for the first time we’ve been able to see the G1 Climax tournament in full. 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 (well, except maybe Yano) works the best match they can, and it often shows in their match.

If you’ve never been a fan of the Japanese style of wrestling, this tournament may not be your cup of tea, but still worth investing in because of the diversity of styles. Shibata’s offense is stiff kicks, whenever Ishii is in a match you’re in for a brawl. Tanahashi and Okada provide traditional back and forth wrestling matches. Yano has a bunch of tricks up his sleeve. Every match is different than the one before it. But if you’re looking for something new, for roughly eight 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.

Ok, so I’ve heard of New Japan 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! At the bottom of the site, you’ll see an option to select a language. Pick English, and the site will be converted to English. 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.

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. All G1 Climax 25 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.

Also, be sure to check out Alan4L's guide too.

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

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

Anything else I should know?

If I forget anything, you can always contact me on Twitter and I’ll be happy to answer. Otherwise, nope! 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.