Preview: NJPW G1 Climax 27

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Photo: NJPW

The brackets have been revealed for the 2017 NJPW G1 Climax 27 tournament and we not only have some massive pairings in the schedule but the major reveal that Kota Ibushi will be returning to the tournament and Zack Sabre Jr will be making his debut. The best matches of the year come from G1 Climax and the fact that Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega are in the same Block after their wars will make this all the more interesting. There are previous winners involved and major dark horses like SANADA – you just never know who could be the big scoreboard leader. There are three champions in the tournament but the winner of the Round-Robin tournament gets an IWGP Heavyweight title shot at Wrestle Kingdom on January 4. The 18 days of action will show just who is New Japan Pro Wrestling’s best – could Kenny Omega repeat last year’s victory? This year’s G1 Climax begins on July 17th and runs to August 13. This weekend will see the first US G1 Climax event, with the G1 US Special to crown the inaugural NJPW US Heavweight Champion.

G1 Climax 27: The Brackets

G1 Climax 27

The A-Block

Bad Luck Fale
“The Underboss” of The Bullet Club always has a strong showing in G1 and has his best matches against a variety of opponents. This year Fale made it to the Finals of the New Japan Cup tournament in April but could he do the same against tough opponents like Tomohiro Ishii and Hirooki Goto is the question. All it could take is a Grenade or a Bad Luck Fall for the big man to get points throughout. Bad Luck Fale vs Hiroshi Tanahashi is always a classic match and that could be Fale’s G1 highlight.

Togi Makabe
The veteran of New Japan has been at the top before but he may be in his final years of the prestigious tournament. The master of the King Kong Kneedrop has been an important factor in New Japan’s history, he will no doubt have a strong showing. A match with Kota Ibushi on July 26th will be match of the past vs the future. One of the most hard-hitting will go down, but with a fight.

Yuji Nagata
A third-generation legend that will be appearing on his final G1 Climax, his 16th. “Blue Justice” may have gotten older and is not as crisp but he is still one of the best and will have some terrific matches. The way Nagata paces a match is perfect for G1 Climax but it will be a rocky road, Nagata is taking on men half his age. When it is all said and done, there will be a proud Nagata but a blue T-shirt left in the ring.

Zack Sabre Jr
The young UK phenomenon deserves to be in G1 despite his small stature, Sabre can take down and outwrestle anybody in the world. The submission style will have to blend with strong style to defeat the tough competition in his Block. Sabre takes on Kota Ibushi in a match that we never got to see last summer in WWE’s Cruiserweight Classic tournament finals. Sabre has a toolset that includes the possibly retired Katsuyori Shibata’s Penalty Kick that could get some big wins.

Tetsuya Naito
The leader of the Los Ingobernables De Japon faction has an edge having faced most of his opponents and is could be going all the way to the Finals. Naito’s recent IWGP Intercontinental title loss to Hiroshi Tanahashi suggests he is on to bigger things, Naito defeated Kazuchika Okada to become IWGP heavyweight champion last year. In this environment it is pure wrestling skill that gets you respect and the victories, Naito does not care about that but he does need to win.

Hirooki Goto
Goto made it to Finals last year but lost to Kenny Omega in a thrilling 35 Minute encounter. There is something about Goto, he never seems to have the momentum he needs. Goto could use some big wins to up his stock and having a couple classic matches like last year would not hurt. Always the underdog, Goto is a very stiff wrestler for being a babyface and he should be a man people are talking about come August.

Yoshi-Hashi
The Chaos member has recently been embroiled in a feud with NEVER Openweight champion Minoru Suzuki, even though they don’t meet in this tournament, wins would get the fans behind Yoshi-Hashi. The career of Yoshi-Hashi has been a natural one of progression and even though it’s not likely he goes far, expect some great showings with competitors like Tetsuya Naito, whom he never got to challenge for the IWGP Intercontinental title.

Tomohiro Ishii
“The Stone Pitbull” is one of New Japan’s absolute best, there is little doubt he goes all the way the finish line or close to it. Ishii puts in his best effort in long struggles and this is the tournament that features many of those matches. It will be a grueling tournament for Ishii, the size and age difference of all of his opponents is vast to say the least. The Brainbuster could beat anybody and Ishii is hard to pin, that is why he is an easy favorite.

Kota Ibushi
The return of Ibushi will be an epic one after a quick stay in WWE and appearances in DDT in Japan. Kota Ibushi has had fantastic matches with men in this Bracket like Tomohiro Ishii just a couple years ago. The high-flying style (Ibushi used to be in the NJPW Juniors division) could be what pushed Ibushi far and that varying of offense is unpredictable just like Ibushi’s chances of winning it all this year. The days of Tiger Mask W are over, it’s time to let “The Golden Star” shine.

Hiroshi Tanahashi
The former “Ace” of New Japan handed that mantle over to Kazuchika Okada but Tanahashi’s time at the top is not over, Tanahashi is going into G1 as the new IWGP Intercontinental champion. The match possibilities are great in this Block, Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jr has never happened before. Tanahashi last won this tournament 3 years ago against WWE’s Shinsuke Nakamura. Lots of points will go to Tanahashi but he will probably go down sooner than people think.

Photo: NJPW

The B Block

Satoshi Kojima
The master of the Lariat last won G1 Climax in 2010. A lot has changed since then, but Kojima’s fighting spirit seems to have only grown stronger. The matches lined up for Kojima is a true test, it looks like a mixed bag of wins and losses in his future. Ever since Kojima left NOAH for NJPW, Kojima has been driven for more and this is a chance to prove he can still go with the best of them.

Michael Elgin
Big Mike has had some amazing matches in his short career in G1 Climax matches, look for some more here. Elgin takes on IWGP heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada in a dream match and other massive collisions with EVIL and Minoru Suzuki. The Canadian heavyweight has adapted to the snug New Japan style as good as any foreign wrestler, it is only a matter of time before Elgin wins it all even if it is not this year.

Tama Tonga
One-half of the IWGP tag team champions in The Guerrillas Of Destiny with his brother, this is Tama’s 2nd G1 appearance. While Tama’s matches can be hit-and-miss, Tama is a brawler that really could beat anybody. Tonga will collide with his Bullet Club brethren Kenny Omega, which should be a must-see match. The elusive style of Tonga is incredible for his size, this tag team competitor could open even more eyes to his singles credentials.

EVIL
The dark member of Los Ingobernables De Japon has been rising up the ranks in the last year, getting big wins over such major players like Hiroshi Tanahashi. There may be dirty tactics involved but make no mistake, EVIL’s STO could put anybody down for a 3-count. This could be a surprisingly great year for EVIL and this tournament could have people talking about “The King Of Darkness.”

Minoru Suzuki
The NEVER Openweight champion recently pinned Hirooki Goto in a rematch for his title, there is no reason Suzuki is not the ultimate winner this year. There are many reasons why Suzuki could go to the Finals: he is a veteran that has earned his spot and chances are he does not lose to much younger athletes like Juice Robinson. Suzuki is too smart and experienced to lose when it counts, he will do whatever it takes to win his First G1 Climax.

Toru Yano
The resident spoiler of the tournament every year, Yano does not have long matches but he does get shocking wins over wrestlers you would think would pounce on him. Yano defeated Shibata last year in a wild upset, Yano takes on such main eventers as Omega and Okada this year. There is always something up the sleeve of Yano, it up to the competitor to combat that.

SANADA
There is a bright future for SANADA since leaving Impact Wrestling and joining Los Ingobernables De Japon. There has already been some great matches in SANADA’s career against Okada and he gets to have a rematch in this tournament. Last year SANADA had excellent bouts like against Ishii, the Moonsault or The Skull-End is something to look out for. Time will tell if it is SANADA’s time to move up to the big leagues and beat the top dogs of New Japan.

Juice Robinson
Juice may only be a couple years into New Japan but he makes his G1 Climax debut with great fanfare, he gets more popular every match. The offense is at a fast pace in a Juice Robinson match, there are going to be some exciting bouts with Elgin and Omega. Juice takes on Okada on July 30th in the biggest match of his career, win or lose this is a big deal for Juice.

Kenny Omega
The Canadian Bullet Club member became the first foreign G1 Climax winner in history last year. Omega excels when he can perform in a big match and these are all huge matches for Omega. Many may think all it takes is a One Winged Angel to his opponents and Omega coasts to the Finals again but Omega takes on competitors like the leader of Suzuki-Gun, Minoru Suzuki. If Omega wins that it shows how much Omega means to the future of NJPW. Omega vs Okada part 3 happens on August 12th before the Finals on August 13th. Omega will need to be the best he has ever been in his career.

Kazuchika Okada
“The Rainmaker” has a chance to win his 3rd G1 Climax tournament and choose his challenger at Wrestle Kingdom in January. Chances are unlikely that happens and a new star wins instead but this is going to be an endurance test for Okada and he may add to his resume. Okada has had some of the best matches all year, almost one spectacular match a month. The Rainmaker lariat puts down many, but it may not put them all away. Okada has to have rematches with Omega and Suzuki to win it all.

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