Preview: NJPW G1 Climax 29 Field Primer

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Hitting the Marks
Photo: NJPW

It’s time for the most grueling tournament in pro wrestling, G1 Climax 29 from New Japan Pro Wrestling brackets have revealed some big names that have never debuted in the field of twenty competitors before. The IWGP Junior heavyweight champion, Will Ospreay, Shingo Takagi, Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley all staked their claim to be entered into the month-long endurance test at NJPW Dominion and Chris Jericho is the only competitor that won’t be making his G1 Climax debut this year. That makes this the freshest field of competitors in the history of the G1 Climax, with potential for a first-time winner and unexpected outcomes. The opening night will take place on July 6 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. NJPW has never before presented a night of the G1 Climax in America until now, this could mean big things for international stars on the NJPW roster like Jeff Cobb. Some of the greatest matches arguably of the 2000’s have taken place during this summer spectacular like Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shinsuke Nakamura and Kenny Omega vs Tetsuya Naito, what matches and wrestlers will have the world talking during the 29th annual tournament? Only one winner can take home the massive trophy after going through his block and winning the Finals against the winner of the opposing block. Satoshi Kojima, Togi Makabe, Tama Tonga, YOSHIHASHI and Minoru Suzuki have been taken out of this year’s tournament. The winner receives two points per match, a draw scores one point and a loss results in no points awarded. Let’s see who has the best chance of making it to Wrestle Kingdom 14 with an IWGP heavyweight championship title shot shall we? There are nineteen nights for the G1 Climax scheduled plus the Final.

The A Block

Lance Archer

Age: 42
G1 Climax experience: 5th year

Lance Archer has not appeared in the tournament since 2014 but “The American Psycho” always earned an impressive eight points against top level competition. Davey Boy Smith Jr is no longer with Archer in Killer Elite Squad or SuzukiGun so it’s up to Archer to show what he can do against the main players. Archer is a rare athlete that can perform a Chokeslam just as easily as a Moonsault, a rematch with Will Ospreay from the New Japan Cup will be one not to miss. Perhaps the best is yet to come from Archer despite his age and a single’s push could be the result of his efforts.

EVIL

Age: 32
G1 Climax experience: 4th year.

EVIL received one of the biggest reactions in G1 Climax history in 2017 when Okada went undefeated in the Summer event only to be pinned by EVIL when Okada was the IWGP heavyweight champion. The momentum could never stay with EVIL of course but he has been the NEVER Openweight champion and IWGP tag team champion since then with SANADA. This year EVIL will be wrestling SANADA one-on-one and we shall see if dirty tricks will be necessary or if the Los Ingobernobles De Japon members truly want to see who is the best. EVIL will also get a chance to get revenge on rival, Zack Sabre Jr.

Bad Luck Fale

Age: 37
G1 Climax experience: 6th year. 

Every tournament needs a big man and Fale has plenty of history with both Okada and Tanahashi in main events. Only this year Fale has a mixed bag to contend with from the submission master of Zack Sabre Jr to the lethal strikes of KENTA. Fale may have the weight advantage but Fale isn’t the same man he was when he was the IWGP Intercontinental champion a few years ago. One can’t underestimate the previous strengths of Fale in this tournament though.

Will Ospreay

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion

Age: 26
G1 Climax experience: Debut

There has never been a British winner of the G1 Climax nor has the IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion ever entered. Ospreay just began lifting weights under one year ago and now he has the raw power to utilize the Stormbreaker against much larger opponents. It’s going to be a showcase for “The Aerial Assassin” this year because Ospreay can have a great match with anyone of any size. Ospreay will be wrestling KENTA and Hiroshi Tanahashi for the first time.

SANADA

Age: 31
G1 Climax experience: 4th year.

The finalist of this years New Japan Cup tournament with Kazuchika Okada has to be looking to make his mark in main events instead of tag team matches. The time is now for “Cold Skull” to secure his spot among the top crop in NJPW, a clean Moonsault victory over men like Okada and Ibushi would go a far way to proving that. SANADA always has his best matches against “The Ace” so Hiroshi Tanahashi better be ready for the Skull End.

Hiroshi Tanahashi

Age: 42
G1 Climax experience: 18th year. Winner in 2007 and 2015.

Last year, in Tanahashi’s seventeenth G1 Climax, it would have seen unlikely that “The Ace” would win it all but not only did he do that but he also became the first man to trade the G1 briefcase in for the IWGP heavyweight championship at Wrestle Kingdom. Every time it seems Tanahashi may be slowing down, he still has matches that among the best on the card. A match with KENTA will be nothing short of jaw-dropping and it will go a long way to showing just how much Tanahashi still wants the spotlight. The fans may have Tanahashi’s back but recent promos have told us that the fans may not always be in his corner as the years wind down.

Zack Sabre Jr

Age: 31
G1 Climax experience: 3rd year.

“The Technical Wizard” has all of the tools to make it to the Finals but it may not be the right time for Sabre. The influx of new talent will keep Sabre on his toes and the match with fellow UK import, Will Ospreay, may be one of the best of the tournament. Sabre has a tied record against “The Rainmaker” after evening the odds in Rev Pro. Sabre had possibly the best match in his NJPW career against Kota Ibushi in this tournament’s past, a rematch will tear the house down.

Kota Ibushi 

Age: 37
G1 Climax experience: 5th year. 

The potential is there for “The Golden Star” to take his first ever victory lap in the G1 Climax after signing an exclusive contract with NJPW this year. It was a short IWGP heavyweight championship reign for Kota Ibushi after trading the title with Tetsuya Naito and getting head-butted in the eye in the process. That is going to be the ultimate motivator for Ibushi because Naito is not in his block this year and Ibushi finally gets his hands on Kazuchika Okada and KENTA. With Ibushi not holding that title any more, he can set his eyes on the ultimate prize in NJPW and his very first Wrestle Kingdom main event.

KENTA

Age: 38
G1 Climax experience: Debut

The former Hideo Itami claims that he wants to go back to being the way he was before going to America, not being able to be the ass-kicker he could be in WWE. This is a dream for fans of smash-mouth wrestling, KENTA is just like Naomichi Marufuji as a former Pro Wrestling NOAH competitor plying his trade in NJPW. The GTS will not be banned and the only thing hindering KENTA will be the thirty-minute time-limit. KENTA is the pick of the G1 Climax 29 tournament, a win over Okada may already earn KENTA a shot at the IWGP heavyweight championship before January 4.

Kazuchika Okada

IWGP Heavyweight Champion

Age: 31
G1 Climax experience: 8th year. Winner in debut year in 2012 and 2014.

There aren’t many big matches where “The Rainmaker” ends up in the loss column and that’s mostly due to the fact that Okada usually goes into the G1 Climax as the IWGP heavyweight champion. Past macthes with Togi Makabe and YOSHI-HASHI have not truly tested Okada the way fans would like in the Summer but this year it’s a whole other story. Okada has never lost to CHAOS stablemate Will Ospreay but this may be time that IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion pins the IWGP heavyweight champion, a landmark event that has never happened before. Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi is once again the match to watch, it may not even be an argument that that is the best rivalry of the past twenty years with the way both have grown as a result of the battles over the decade.

The B Block

Tetsuya Naito 

Age: 36
G1 Climax experience: 10th year. Winner in 2013 and 2017.

Could it be a swerve that Tetsuya Naito won back the IWGP Intercontinental championship just to challenge Okada at the biggest show of the year in 2020, title vs title? It may very well be because Naito must be sick of being number two when he could be number one. There is a certain distain Naito has in foreigners so don’t expect Naito to take it easy on Jeff Cobb, Jon Moxley or Juice Robinson. The win-loss record of Naito every Summer is exceptional, Naito is so well-rounded that he nearly makes it to the Finals every year. The style of Naito will go from brawling with Moxley and Ishii to facing fellow top heel Jay White for the first time and that’s going to make Naito perhaps the MVP.

Juice Robinson

Age: 30
G1 Climax experience: 3rd year.

Juice Robinson lost the IWGP United States title to Jon Moxley at the Best Of The Super Juniors Finals and that put Juice into full-gear. Promos don’t get more heartfelt than the promo Robinson cut after that loss, CJ Parker is dead and the only letters that matter to him are IWGP. “The Flamboyant One” never makes it very far but maybe this year is different. Goto has brought the absolute best from Juice in the past with the NEVER Openweight title on the line, Juice has some serious fights headed his way this year.

Jeff Cobb

Age: 36
G1 Climax experience: Debut

This Ring Of Honor Wrestling (ROH) star makes his debut in the tournament after holding the NEVER Openweight title and the ROH TV title simultaneously earlier this year. The future couldn’t be any more bright for the Hawaiian, it’s power combined with agility against all-comers. Cobb will have his hands full with Ishii, now that’s a match where any man could win.

Hirooki Goto

Age: 39
G1 Climax experience: 12th year.

Hirooki Goto has won this tournament before but the past few years have settled Goto into the mid-card position. Goto constantly reinvents his offense, adding the GTR, so he should receive more credit and big matches than he gets. Goto has taken some big losses in 2019 to TAICHI and Jay White, Goto doesn’t want to lose too many matches this year in fear of being pushed down the pecking order. Some of the greatest matches will come from Goto and a rematch from last year’s tournament with CHAOS member Tomohiro Ishii should add serious heat to these events.

TAICHI

Age: 39
G1 Climax experience: Debut.

It’s another debut, TAICHI has earned his spot after becoming the NEVER Openweight champion twice this year. With Miho Abe by his side and plenty of charisma, it’s sure to throw off the hard-hitters. Ishii had TAICHI’s number when the title was on the line but a rematch may have plenty of brutal kicks from TAICHI. It shouldn’t be a high number of wins for this Suzuki-Gun member.

Shingo Takagi 

Age: 36
G1 Climax experience: Debut.

“The Dragon” has had a great career until this point but it really seems this is where Shingo should have been all along, against men like Tomohiro Ishii. The Juniors division was an interesting route for Takagi, he dominated the division by becoming the IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion and by making it to the Finals of the Best Of The Super Juniors tournament but now it’s time for the Heavyweight division wars. Satoshi Kojima went down to Shingo at NJPW Dominion, so who’s next to take The Last Of The Dragon?

Toru Yano

Age: 41
G1 Climax experience: 14th year.

It’s quite amazing how many G1 Climax tournaments Toru Yano has competed in but he’s just the mix that the tournament needs to change up all of the devastating action. Kota Ibushi has previously had a roll of wrist tape tied around his ankles and been forced to compete for the rest of the match like that against Yano. Nobody knows what to expect because Yano may just pin a top-level competitor with goofy trickery and a rollup.

Tomohiro Ishii

NEVER Openweight Champion

Age: 43
G1 Climax experience: 7th year.

The Brainbuster has been the end of so many at the hands of “The Stone Pitbull” and now Ishii is even more dangerous as the five-time NEVER Openweight champion. It’s going to be a long night for Jay White and Jon Moxley because wrestlers like that think they have the confidence to stop Ishii in his tracks but it’s not that easy. Ishii has never made it to the Finals of the G1 Climax, with this year being the most stacked G1 Climax in history maybe Ishii will never get his rightful main event.

Jay White

Age: 26
G1 Climax experience: 3rd year.

The Kiwi Bullet Club leader is already a former IWGP Heavyweight champion after leaving from his excursion just four years ago to the UK and ROH. White has proved he can handle himself in a lengthy main event and a big run making it to the Finals isn’t out of the question. It wouldn’t be a bad thing if Goto, Ishii, and Naito cooled White’s momentum but there’s something about “Switchblade” and the way that he improves with every match. If it has to come down to a steel chair or a low blow to get past his block, he has no problem doing so.

Jon Moxley 

IWGP United States Champion

Age: 33
G1 Climax experience: Debut.

All of the fire that Jon Moxley lost in his career has been refueled and a big match with tables and blood involved against Juice Robinson made Moxley the new sensation to put eyes on. A new Impaler version of Dirty Deeds is now employed by Moxley along with an even more dangerous edge than ever before. If the wins keep coming to Jon Moxley than it’s clear that NJPW has a top Gaijin wild man champion with serious drawing potential at the top that they have faith in for the future.

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.  Make sure to watch all the action from G1 Climax 29 on NJPW World

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