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    Monday, July 18, 2016

    The Smark Henry Guide to the 26th G1 Climax Tournanent: B Block

    Last week was all about the A Block, so why not complete our introduction to this year's G1 Climax Tournament by looking at B Block, which is looking to be the mostly hard-hitting side of the tournament this time around? So, without any further delay!

    Accomplishments: Current NEVER Openweight Champion

    Talk about a man who is finally reaping the benefits of his hard work after four years of trying to prove his worth as the prodigal son of New Japan.

    After winning the NEVER Openweight Championship from Tomohiro Ishii at Wrestle Kingdom 10, he ended his decade-plus run as a professional freelancer by signing with New Japan as a full time competitor, with the company seemingly looking past his previous transgressions as far as his MMA career is concerned. After his encounters with New Japan's third generation competitors, ending with a definitive win over Yuji Nagata at Dominion, he will be coming into the tournament with both the NEVER title and a wave of momentum as a favorite to win the entire thing.

    What better way for The Wrestler to come full circle than with a huge tournament win and an IWGP Heavyweight Title victory at Wrestle Kingdom 11? It would be a sweet ending to a journey that saw its unexpected twists and turns, and a great way to represent the new wave of Strong Style in the wake of Shinsuke Nakamura leaving the company for WWE.

    Accomplishments: Current IWGP Intercontinental Champion, Current Lucha Libre Elite World Championship (promoted by CMLL), Ring of Honor World Championship, NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship

    A year ago, Michael Elgin became a made man. After being seen as an afterthought for so long, he fulfilled his dream of going to Japan and compete in last year's G1. He may mot have won the tournament, but many eyes were opened and fans saw him in a new light. NJPW began to book him in shows, and even gave him a spot at Wrestle Kingdom 10 months ago. Today, he is officially signed with New Japan as the currently-reigning IWGP Intercontinental Champion, becoming a big-time player the same way gaijins like AJ Styles and Kenny Omega did.

    It would be interesting to see how Elgin will perform in this year's instalment, given his one year of experience in Japan. But one thing is expected: if you think last year's performances were already awesome, wait until you see Big Mike work this year.

    Accomplishments: IWGP Intercontinental Championship, NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Champion, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, KO-D Openweight Champion, KO-D Tag Team Champion, DDT Extreme Champion, AJPW World Jr. Heavyweight Champion, Battle of Los Angeles Winner, PWG World Champion

    Kenny Omega's pro wrestling journey is one of the most unique that fans will see. From WWE's previous developmental promotion to the wackiness of DDT Pro Wrestling to working with AJPW and NJPW, up to becoming the big boss of the Bullet Club, he has always been seen as a premier star with justified championship credentials. And many promotions seem to agree, noting the many achievements and championships garnered over time. And now, he has become one of the biggest stars in today's New Japan, previously beating Hiroshi Tanahashi for the then-vacant IWGP Intercontinental Championship.

    Graduating to the heavyweight division, he will officially make his G1 Climax debut, bringing in a healthy mix of high flying, power, and strikes. While some Bullet Club shenanigans—particularly his Elite friends The Young Bucks—may be expected, when you give Omega a chance to shine, he will definitely impress, the same way he has impressed fans around the world over the years.

    Accomplishments: IWGP Heavyweight Champion, NEVER Openweight Champion, IWGP Tag Team Champion, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, G1 Climax Winner, founder of Los Ingobernables de Japon

    What a difference a year makes.

    A year ago, he was reeling from years of mediocrity stemming from well-documented circumstances, including his injury and subsequent fan vitriol. Then he returned from his visit to CMLL and began to show an apathetic transformation picked up from his Los Ingobernables parejas in Mexico. Since then, he not only won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship from Kazuchika Okada, but absolutely turned the company upside-down, becoming the most compelling and charismatic figure in the company, a stark contrast from years past. He also formed his own version of the Mexican faction, Los Ingobernables de Japon (LIJ), and has taken some new members under his wing. And imagine, all of this began in last year's G1 Climax.

    In the same way as Shibata, he is also a heavy favorite winning the entire tournament this year, continuing the rivalry between CHAOS and LIJ. The difference, however, is that this time, if he will indeed win the whole thing, fans will undoubtedly accept him as the main event player he deserves to be. Expect another impressive showing this year by El Ingobernable, and don't be surprised he manages to steal the show once again.

    Accomplishments: IWGP Heavyweight Champion, oldest NEVER Openweight Champion in history, G1 Climax Winner, IWGP Tag Team Champion

    Yuji Nagata has been known lately as Mr. Anti-Aging, and for good reason.

    Even at the age of 48, an age most wrestlers don't get to see themselves wrestling full-time in an active capacity, the man known as "Blue Justice" is still able to deliver top-notch matches against all kind of opponents, even against those significantly younger than him. And he managed to proved that even at an age approaching a half-century, he can hang against the likes of Katsuyori Shibata and make a legitimate claim to still crafting legitimate match of the year candidates. And even at that age, he can still make history and win championships the way only he can. That is why he still deserves to be in the G1 and create compelling matches against any competitors in the tournament. No surprise from a former history-making IWGP Heavyweight Champion.

    Whatever fountain of youth that he drinks on an everyday basis, we really would like a taste of that too.

    Accomplishments: IWGP Tag Team Champion, NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Champion

    Toru Yano is a comedy heel wrestler through and through, but a comedy wrestler who can be compelling when given the chance to be.

    Let us not forget that he managed to be in main events against the likes of Hiroshi Tanahashi, and can pull off even major surprise wins over many opponents. Heck, let us not forget that he is one-half of the GHC Tag Team Champions alongside Naomichi Marufuji, dethroning the Killer Elite Squad in the process. And then you have the fact that he is undeniably one of the most charismatic stars in all of New Japan. By these virtues, one would understand why he is in a tournament filled with a talented bunch. When he gets the chance, he can be a very compelling character that fans can sympathize with.

    Accomplishments: None

    EVIL may not be as accomplished as a lot of the competitors in the tournament, but he certainly has one thing that can give him much mileage: promise.

    After having spent his time as a young lion, he ended up in Ring of Honor as part of his international excursion. And in late 2015, he made his re-debut as Tetsuya Naito's pareja, rechristened as the "King of Darkness," EVIL. He has taken on such big names as Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii, and his style is as violent as it is high-impact. For a man who is just starting to establish himself in the pecking order, New Japan has enough confidence to put EVIL in his first G1 at such an early phase of his career. To give you an idea, not many wrestlers get this opportunity. Heck, not even YOSHI-HASHI got a chance like this at a similar stage of his career.

    Expect EVIL to make every moment in the G1 count, and don't be surprised if he becomes the sleeper workhorse star of the tournament when it all ends in a month to make a huge first impression. It would be interesting to see him face off against fellow LIJ member, Naito, however.

    Accomplishments: IWGP Tag Team Champion

    Tomoaki Honma has always been a credible underdog that can raise the roof of any building he's performing in. Lest we forget, a year ago, the Kokeshi of the People pulled off one of the most amazing performances last year, defeating Tomohiro Ishii for his only win in the G1 block matches last year. While his record isn't worth bragging about (with only one win in his G1 career), he is still one of the most beloved and supported stars in the promotion.

    That was more than enough momentum for Honma to pull off his first title win in his career at Wrestle Kingdom 10, beating the now-gone Luke Gallows and "Machine Gun" Karl Anderson for the IWGP Tag Team Titles alongside Togi Makabe. Hopefully, this will be more than enough reason to finally give Honma some much needed wins in this year's tournament because simply enough, he's earned it.

    Accomplishments: None

    After years of living in Kazuchika Okada's shadow, YOSHI-HASHI is finally getting his much-needed opportunity at this year's G1 Climax, which will mark his debut.

    Ever since returning from an excursion in 2012, he has always been dwarfed in popularity by Okada, who also returned at the same time he did. Playing support has always been his role in CHAOS for four years, but that was until 2016 when he finally showed some much renewed fire during the war with the LIJ. That led to fans getting behind Tacos and getting the biggest win in his career thus far at Dominion, making SANADA tap out in a tag match with the Butterfly Lock.

    Now, he is looking to impress fans even more and raise his own stock at this year's G1, where he will try to pull off a few more upsets in the process. Like Tama Tonga in A Block, we shall see a new side of HASHI, and while a win is unlikely, his career may go the way of Ishii and finally skyrocket for years to come.

    Accomplishments: AJPW World Jr. Heavyweight Champion, GHC Jr. Heavyweight Champion, All Asia Tag Team Champion

    While Naomichi Marufuji is representing NOAH in A Block, B Block's NOAH representative will feature one of the most dangerous strikers in the world today: "The Aggression" Katsuhiko Nakajima, finally making his debut in this year's G1 Climax.

    At the age of 28, you would be forgiven for thinking he only started his career as a young boy. But in reality, he's already a 14-year veteran of the sport, having competed for many years across different promotions under the Kensuke Office banner handled by the legendary Kensuke Sasaki. He's gone through NJPW, AJPW, NOAH, ZERO-1, Dragon Gate, and Michinoku Pro, among others, facing legends like Kenta Kobashi and Jushin "Thunder" Liger. As a matter of fact, Nakajima is the youngest man to ever compete in the Tokyo Dome at 16 years of age against Liger. Tell me, what were you doing at 16 years old?

    Since then, he made NOAH his primary promotion, having faced guys like Go Shiozaki, Naomichi Marufuji, and even exchanged kicks with KENTA (now Hideo Itami in NXT). In 2015, during the Suzuki-gun invasion, he finally ended his freelancer status by officially signing with NOAH as an exclusive wrestler in the promotion, even defeating Minoru Suzuki himself in singles action.

    It was really a no-brainer that he ended up in B Block. He will be facing the likes of Shibata and Elgin in some physical wars, and worldwide fans will now finally see why Nakajima is one of the most dangerous men in the world today.


    So while A Block mostly covers the western style of pro wrestling, B Block will highlight a more physical style of pro wrestling, encouraging aggression over technical expertise. With some guys making their G1 debut this year, the block will host some fresh match-ups we would normally never see. For example, imagine this: Shibata vs. Omega.

    So there you have it, just in time for the G1 Climax kick-off happening today! So who you got this year? Sound off in the comments!


    Lance Tan Ong has been a banking guy for the past few years but a wrestling guy for most of his life. And after checking out matches of Mitsuharu Misawa and Shinya Hashimoto at an early age, he's also pretty much a puro guy as well. Currently checking out WWE (mostly NXT), NJPW, DDT, and other promotions that catch and demand attention. He currently handles NJPW news and coverage for Smark Henry.

    All images are taken from NJPW.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Guide to the 26th G1 Climax Tournanent: B Block Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lance Tan Ong
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