2016 NJPW G-1 Climax Tournament – Week 1 Recap (Nights #1-5)

The first week of the nearly month-long G-1 Climax tournament from New Japan Pro Wrestling has reached its end, and there’s quite a bit to think about as compared to previous tournaments. For many fans, this is the highlight of the summer, as well as of wrestling fandom. We get nearly a solid month of the best wrestlers in the world doing their best collective thing and setting the general direction of feuds and title chases for the next five months, as well as for the January 4th Wrestle Kingdom show. What’s not to love???

The 2014 G-1 was widely hailed as one of the greatest wrestling events of all time, while the 2015 version drew some criticism for stagnation and repetition, despite having some fantastic matches. The 2016 G-1 offered the perfect opportunity to rectify those concerns, as NJPW lost five of its top players to the WWE after contracts expired at the end of January. Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles were obvious major overall losses, but Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, and Kota Ibushi had all played significant roles in past G-1 tournaments, and their absences were definitely going to be felt. That’s twenty-five percent of the total participation roster for G-1. NJPW seemed to embrace the WWE’s “anything can happen” motto with considerably more gusto than the company itself has, and the theme of the first week has been “surprises and upsets.”

Day #1 (7/18/16 – Block A):

Jushin Liger, Katsuyori Shibata, Manabu Nakanishi, & Tiger Mask defeated Captain New Japan, KUSHIDA, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Tomoaki Honma

If you aren’t familiar with Captain New Japan, he’s a loser of unparalleled magnitude. He exists to eat the pin in tag matches. This time, though, everyone is acknowledging this. The running joke for the entire match was the other members of his team trying their best NOT to tag him in, no matter what was happening. Really fun stuff here, and much more interesting to watch than the usual mass tag matches that open the shows.

Katsuhiko Nakajima & Toru Yano defeated Juice Robinson & Satoshi Kojima

Juice Robinson was CJ Parker in NXT. He chose to leave and actually learn how to work in NJPW, and the fact that he even got in proves that there’s more to him than what we saw on The Network. Nakajima is a crowd favorite from Pro Wrestling NOAH, one of two NOAH guys brought in for G-1. Know two things about Nakajima. Thing One, he’s been a pro wrestler since the age of fourteen. Thing Two, he is known as “the Genius of the Kick,” obviously a nod to his striking ability. He has a tournament match against Toru Yano, and this match was not very impressive. Granted, impressive isn’t required in order to beat Yano, but still.

The Bullet Club (Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi) defeated CHAOS (Gedo & YOSHI-HASHI)

One of three big redemption stories in the 2016 G-1 is that of YOSHI-HASHI, the perennial cabin boy / comedy sidekick of the CHAOS faction. In the past, YOSHI was the guy to keep the higher-ranking members of CHAOS from taking the pin. He passionately hates the Bullet Club, and especially Los Ingobernables de Japon, and the little spiky-haired Frodo Baggins has set out to destroy that villainy. While this match did not see him succeed, he fights with more aggression and purpose than before, and definitely comes across as a different guy.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, & Tetsuya Naito) defeated David Finlay, Michael Elgin, & Yuji Nagata

Tetsuya Naito’s Los Ingobernables de Japon stable is the greatest thing in wrestling right now. Sorry, New Day. Whether or not they win, they’re always extremely entertaining, despite being horrible people. You need them in your life.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan defeated Tomohiro Ishii

The second redemption story of the 2016 G-1 centers around Hiroyoshi Tenzan. He’s won three G-1 Climax tournaments, and has participated in a record nineteen of them. He wasn’t on the list to participate in this year’s G-1, but his longtime tag team partner, Satoshi Kojima, was. Kojima gave Tenzan his spot, on the condition that he wins it. The 45-year-old veteran legend, whose spirit is willing, though his body crumbles around him, seeks one last shot at glory. This is an even bigger deal when Tenzan’s popularity is considered. It doesn’t matter who he fights, the audience goes berserk chanting for him. He’s known as the legendary champion who saw NJPW through very dark times, and the people love him for it. Beating Ishii, the Stone Pitbull, is no small task, and even if Tenzan’s Mongolian Chops can get annoying, you kind of have to pull for the guy.

Togi Makabe defeated Tama Tonga

This match happened. Neither guy is all that, and they don’t exactly bring out the best in each other.

Hirooki Goto defeated Bad Luck Fale

Goto is, fairly or not, known as a big match choker. He usually does well in tournaments, but can’t seem to win the big matches that follow. Now that he’s officially part of CHAOS, perhaps Goto is also undergoing a transformation. He took out the Bullet Club’s big bad monster, which is always a good start.

SANADA defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi

WOW!!! Not only is SANADA actually really good, but he gets a clean win over the Once in a Hundred Years Ace of the company in his very first tournament match. This definitely counts as both upset and surprise. SANADA just showed up in NJPW on June 19, as part of Naito’s Los Ingobernables de Japon stable, so clearly someone has a rocket strapped to those leather pants. Very curious to see where this leads.

Naomichi Marufuji defeated Kazuchika Okada

WOW AGAIN!!! Marufuji brought it, and shushed all of the nay-sayers who didn’t think that the NOAH champ could hang with the big dogs of NJPW. A guy from another company, champion or not, beating your current heavyweight champion on the first night of a major tournament is not something that most promotions would do. A shocker, yes, but the match was very good, and completely believable that it could have happened. Okada’s great, but he really looked almost second-rate here. If that’s deliberate, because his arrogance let him look past Marufuji, then this wake-up call should result in a sharper Okada in the next round.

Cheers,

Drowgoddess

Night 1
Night 2
Night 3
Night 4
Night 5
The Big Picture of Week #1

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