NAITOOOOOO~!!!

Who Should Be In G1 Climax Next Year?

The 2017 G1 Climax raised the stakes once more, but how far can they go as their limitations increase? I look at who can be brought in to spice things up going forward.

We’re a couple of days removed from the biggest professional wrestling tournament in the world today. New Japan’s 27th annual G1 Climax is the the part of the summer where wrestling fans clear an entire month and cut most social activities for. In the past 18 shows, New Japan delivered the immense quality with some of the best matches this year and a bunch of incredible performances to boot. EVIL and Juice Robinson shined in the B Block, Yuji Nagata in his final G1 turned the clock back, and Hiroshi Tanahashi is still an ace even through injury. But the main stars throughout were the trio of Kazuchika Okada, Kenny Omega, and Tetsuya Naito delivering epic matches during the the Finals weekend.

Naito and Omega respectively made the Final round winning their matches against Tanahashi and Okada on Friday and Saturday. Both matches were tremendous showcases highlighting the top two New Japan feuds of this year, with each match possibly being the best of the three. At Sumo Hall Sunday night in front of 11,000 fans, Naito and Omega had one of the most brutal matches in G1 history next to Takayama vs. Sasaki. After 35 minutes of intensely emotional action and insane neck drops and face bumps, Tetsuya Naito avenged his 2016 defeat destroying Omega with two vicious Destinos and winning the G1 for a second time.

For the last three years, the wrestling fan in me was wondering how can New Japan top G1 from last year and always Gedo finds a way to do it at the right moments. From the Shibata return to Darryl’s repairment and the backstage confrontation between Kota Ibushi and Kenny Omega, this G1 had the bigger moments that complement the great matches. I still wonder what else can make G1 even more extravagant next year and there’s a few good ideas.

In a 20-man tournament with a number of shows running in a row, it is imperative that breaks come in between and the wrestlers are able to rest their bodies. However the demand for high quality matches set is a standard for New Japan, but so is the growing sense of monotony with the company’s matchups. In the last few years there has been few changes of the lineup, with a majority of participants featured since 2013. It creates for a lot of repeated matchups if not booked properly and fans are already received Okada/Omega for the third time this year in 8 months. It would be beneficial in finding alternative ways of stretching good programs out a little longer.

Also, there are a number of participants that are either too old or just have no business being in this tournament. While Yuji Nagata is on his way out and Satoshi Kojima still competing at a high level, both men are on the wrong side of 40 and can only go for so long as non-factors. YOSHI-HASHI and Toru Yano’s inclusion didn’t help that much either, bringing 5 CHAOS members into the tournament and the former under-performing his expectations. With the amount of talent on the New Japan roster and in all of Japan — not even including their relationships with other promotions — there’s no question that the G1 Climax can really be the biggest tournament in the world.

In my personal opinion, there’s eight names that come to mind that can make G1 the true namesake it can be:

  1. Shuji Ishikawa (DDT)

My first pick is one of the best wrestlers in on the early side of 40. The oldest of the list here, Shuji Ishikawa gained more notoriety a couple of years back in his time working between DDT, Big Japan, and Zero-1 tagging with Kohei Sato as the Twin Towers. For his size and stature in Japan, Ishikawa is one of the taller and larger workers in the business who is lauded for his physical style. As the current Triple Crown Champion in All Japan, Ishikawa is having a MVP caliber year with two MOTYCs against Kento Miyahara and Suwama. His villainous smirk compiled with his hard-hitting knee strikes and Thunder Fire Driver, Ishikawa would be a damn great threat to ruin Okada or Tanahashi and have brutal bouts with Ishii or Goto.

2. Kento Miyahara (AJPW)

The current ace of All Japan Pro Wrestling, 28-year-old Kento Miyahara got his start as a part of Kensuke Sasaki’s now-defunct Diamond Ring. The second most successful pupil of Sasaki next to Katsuhiko Nakajima, Miyahara has grown into the top guy in All Japan at a rapid pace and is only reaching his prime years. With athleticism and fluidity as smooth as Okada, Naito, and Omega, Kento would make an excellent foil for spectacular matches with those three and a gutsy underdog against the likes of Minoru Suzuki and Hiroshi Tanahashi. Just imagine a battle of the V-Triggers between him and Kenny.

3. Daisuke Sekimoto (Big Japan Pro)

This. Man. Is. Long. Overdue. A. New. Japan. Run. Daisuke Sekimoto has seen New Japan action 10 years prior and he was already very good then. Now he’s arguably the best non-New Japan worker who has won every belt in every Japanese promotion imaginable. A former Champion’s Carnival, Fire Festival, and World Triangle League winner, it is unfathomable how Sekimoto has never had a G1 participation let alone a NEVER Openweight title shot. His series of matches with Tomohiro Ishii a decade ago are still beloved by hardcores and a match between them now would be stuff of legend. His 5’9’, 260 pound frame armed with his explosiveness makes him a pack of dynamite ready to blow through his G1 block into a Final. Damn it make it happen, Gedo.

4. Rush (CMLL)

The last time a CMLL representative took part in G1 Climax was Rush five years ago in a solid outing. 2012 Rush is a far cry to the Rush we’re presented with now as he’s 100% Los Ingobernables. A co-founder of the wildly popular stable in Mexico, Naito created an offshoot in Japan that’s 10x more popular than its predecessor but no fault to Rush. A second-in-command whenever he’s in Japan, Rush’s charisma would add a lot to the dynamic of G1. While the stable already have EVIL succeeding in his role SANADA finding his groove, the inclusion of Rush would be a refreshing change of pace and a whole new style of Lucha that he can show and prove with.

5. KUSHIDA

The sole main roster name on this list is the best choice possible as KUSHIDA is the top dog of the Junior Division. An on-again, off-again tag partner of Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA has expressed a desire to work with Tanahashi, Okada, and Naito in a recent interview with Bryan Alvarez. What better way for him to meet those goals by being a G1 participant. As the IWGP Jr. Champion, it should be beneficial for him to represent the entire division on the biggest tournament stage around and test his skill against the best heavyweights available. Considering that Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre, Jr. have had great success transitioning into Heavyweights, KUSHIDA’s similar style of striking and submission-based would mesh well with his equally athletic counterparts. Jushin Liger has tried his hand in G1 three times in his career, so it’s only right KUSHIDA gets that opportunity to show why he’s one of the best in the world today.

6. Shingo Takagi (Dragon Gate)

Since the promotion exploded into the atmosphere of American fans in 2006, Dragon Gate has mainly served as a Lucha-hybrid centering around lightweight workers. That is not to say that they don’t have their fair share of heavyweights, but the current crop are either aging out (Don Fujii), too green (Big R Shizumu, Ben K), or just not good (Takashi Yoshida). There leaves the best one of the bunch and criminally underrated Shingo Takagi to represent the cult favorite promotion. With a height build similar to Daisuke Sekimoto but much smaller, he’s no stranger to working with similar strong style hitters like Ishii, Makabe, and Hirooki Goto. Plus as the leader of the VerSerK heel stable in Dragon Gate, he could come as a new contender to run roughshod in New Japan for a brief moment.

7. Zeus (AJPW)

One of the picks that’s more of a guilty pleasure more than anything, Zeus (no relation to Tiny Lister) is a big muscled-up superstar with a Greek God physique. Making home in All Japan a few years back, he along with his tag partner The Bodyguard has dominated as The Big Guns, winning the multiple tag titles and having singles success on his own. A former Champion’s Carnival finalist, Zeus never achieved major success at the very top but as a perennial contender and simply enjoyable to watch he could come in as a slot guy that wins a few matches and lose the rest.

8. Shigehiro Irie (DDT)

When it comes to underdogs in the G1 Climax, Juice Robinson and Tomoaki Honma were both excellent in their roles. A relative newcomer into the main event picture and DDT favorite Shigehiro Irie could easily fill that role as a guy that can have incredible performances only to come up short. If it was possible for New Japan to bring in a number of outsiders, it would be okay for a couple of them to take a lot of falls and Irie fits that category. He’s still young enough to grow into a major player in DDT down the line and having a strong showing at G1 would only raise his stock higher.

The next G1 Climax is only a year away and a lot can change within that time, but in order to push the envelope further New Japan should open their doors to new opportunities.

EDIT: Alternates I would like to include would consist of HARASHIMA, Suwuma, Go Shiozaki, Naomichi Marufuji, and Katsuhiko Nakajima.