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    Wednesday, August 16, 2017

    The Smark Henry G1 2017 Roundup: The Finals, and Looking Forward

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    What a month that was, right wrestling fans?

    It's sad but true: the 27th G1 Climax Tournament has finally come to an end. And coming off an intense—albeit predictable—final week, fans bore witness to the end of one of the greatest G1s ever put together by New Japan Pro Wrestling. With so much to talk about following the conclusion of the event, it's time to look back at the weekend that was, as well as how this affects the rest of 2017 and going into the biggest show of their year, Wrestle Kingdom 12.

    But first, let's look at the final standings of this year's tournament:


    Final Standings

    Tetsuya Naito —14 points (A Block and G1 Climax Winner)

    Hiroshi Tanahashi, Bad Luck Fale—12
    Hirooki Goto, Zack Sabre, Jr., and Kota Ibushi—10
    Togi Makabe, Tomohiro Ishii—8
    Yuji Nagata—2


    Final Standings

    Kenny Omega—14 points (B Block Winner)

    Kazuchika Okada—13
    Minoru Suzuki—9
    SANADA, Toru Yano, Michael Elgin, Juice Robinson, Tama Tonga—8
    Satoshi Kojima—2

    Talking Points


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    It was easy for any fan to assume that Kenny Omega was getting his second straight G1 win, expecting a rematch of the fabled six-star match against Okada from last year's Wrestle Kingdom. But while that may be the easy guess for newer fans of the product, everyone can agree that if anyone deserved to win the Finals this year, it's El Ingobernable himself.

    Tetsuya Naito not only managed to beat Tanahashi in their rubber match in the A Block finals, but he also managed to get some revenge from his loss against Omega a year ago, beating both the IWGP Intercontinental and United States Champions in the span of a weekend. And in one fell swoop, this sets up one hell of a redemption arc for Naito, whose first G1 win was marred by a loss of momentum following a knee injury, lack of support from the fans, and the focus on Okada in his early Rainmaker days. This led to his title match with Okada being relegated into the semi-final via a fan vote, one of the triggers that led to Naito's eventual transformation from wasted potential to main event player.

    He now has the chance to do the one thing no one has done in history: win the heavyweight championship following a G1 win at Wrestle Kingdom and end the long-standing G1 curse at their biggest show. With so much momentum and (finally) a rabid fanbase on his side, he may very well be able to end what is possibly the greatest IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign ever. That is, unless certain things happen along the way...

    Surprises for Heavies

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    Looking at the final score of all competitors, the biggest surprises of the tournament come from guys we did not even expect to reach that high a score. Bad Luck Fale tied with Tanahashi at 12 points for A Block, both securing second place. Admittedly, this really says a lot about how the company sees the BC gaijin monster in the hierarchy of things. But I don't think anyone expected EVIL to make it this far up the rankings in B Block at third place overall. That's not even mentioning the fact that he gave Okada his first loss in the tournament. For the muscle of LIJ to make it big in his 2nd only G1, that is nothing short of impressive.

    Not bad for faction muscles this year, for sure.

    The Biggest Losing Winner

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    No matter what the record says, Juice Robinson left this year's tournament as its the biggest winner, pulling off convincing performances every block night he was on and winning new fans in the process. It's only a matter of time before he wins a singles championship in the future and effectively becomes one of the new prime faces of the company as the new generation on-fire babyface. In fact, you may very well call him this generation's Prince Devitt, a gaijin so beloved and adored by the Japanese faithful.

    Please don't go back to WWE.


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    Highlights and Looking Forward

    Championship Bouts Galore

    As usual, the G1 Climax Tournament is a good way to predict the championship rivalries that would shape the rest of 2017.

    Not only did EVIL win against Okada at the G1, he also decimated the Rainmaker at Finals night with a well-placed Darkness Falls powerbomb onto a stack of chairs. With Okada's neck slowly becoming his Achilles' Heel, his championship reign is in danger. Expect EVIL vs. Okada to take place for the heavyweight title on the line. With how red hot EVIL has been, expect the rematch to be just as hot as their G1 encounter, if not even better.

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    Zacky Three Belts made Hiroshi Tanahashi submit in two separate nights, an unprecedented scenario for the Once in a Century Talent, not known for submission losses. This will inevitably set up ZSJ vs. Tanahashi for the IC title in a future show, further proving why the British Master deserves to be a focus and a threat in the heavyweight division.

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    Michael Elgin defeated Minoru Suzuki during the tournament, a fact that latter did not forget as he caused a riot on Elgin during Finals night. With this much animosity between the two brawlers, a NEVER Openweight Championship match is inevitable.

    Omega may not have won the G1, but he is still the inaugural IWGP US Heavyweight Champion. And as such, Omega is entrusted to make the championship prestigious in the same way Shinsuke Nakamura did for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. His first challenger should be coming soon, and if anyone deserves a crack at the belt, it should be the man who pinned him during the G1, Juice Robinson.

    And let's not forget, Naito may have won the G1, but he still has to defend his right to compete at the Tokyo Dome as per tradition since 2012. And looking at how things went, Bad Luck Fale may possibly get a crack at the challenger since he did get a victory over the eventual G1 winner.

    "I'm Alive. That's All!"

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    We love you, Shibata. Please, never do legit headbutts ever again.

    Being said, what the future holds for the Wrestler is still unknown, although based from what we saw, it seems that the worst is over as far as his health concerns go.

    Impending Debut or Return?

    A year ago, a mysterious Time Bomb video was played during the G1 Finals show. This eventually led fans to the return of Hiromu Takahashi to New Japan Pro Wrestling from his long international excursion. To say that he (and the adorable Daryl Takahashi) changed the junior heavyweight scene is an understatement.

    Another mysterious video was shown during this year's Finals show, which you can see above and judge for yourself. Will this be the returning Jay White coming back from an excursion with Ring of Honor, or another debuting star entirely? Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

    Matches To Watch

    On the last week of the tournament, only three big matches matter by the end of the day. What else, right?

    1. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito (A Block Finals)

    2. Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada III (B Block Finals)

    3. Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega (G1 Climax 27 Finals)

    What are your thoughts on this year's G1 overall? Did it live up to your expectations? Sound off in the comments!

    Images courtesy of NJPW
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry G1 2017 Roundup: The Finals, and Looking Forward Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lance Tan Ong
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