Are you ready for your entire summer to be consumed with wrestling? Good! The G1 Climax is barely a week away! Here’s our look at it all…

Starting on Saturday July 6 in Dallas, and ending on Monday August 12 in Tokyo’s Budokan Hall, we’ve got 20 of New Japan’s top heavyweights (including a few with asterisks) on one big ol’ slog to try and book their spot in the main event at one of the WrestleKingdom shows next year.

We’ve got the current IWGP champion… former IWGP champions… Best of the Super Junior winners… dragons… and many more in a stacked field. Let’s take a look at the 20, the matches on tap, and who’s got a good shout of making it through their block and through to a shot at a main event at the Tokyo Dome.

Block A

Kazuchika Okada
Past G1 Record: Won in 2012 & 2014. Last year, finished second in block A with a 6-2-1 record.
Notes: The IWGP Champion hasn’t won the G1 since Keiji Muto and Kensuke Sasaki in the mid 90s… Okada won’t lose too many matches in his block, but his search for a third G1 will continue.

Zack Sabre Jr
Past G1 Record: Finished joint top of block B in 2018 with a 6-3 record.
Notes: Sabre had to defend his spot in the G1 against YOSHI-HASHI, giving everyone a scare. After winning the New Japan Cup in 2018, Sabre’s 2019 has been relatively low-key, which could trick you into thinking he’s got a shot… but I would expect the ceiling to be in the G1 finals, rather than leaving Budokan with the briefcase.

Hiroshi Tanahashi
Past G1 Record: Won last year (2018). Previously won in 2007 & 2014.
Notes: Ordinarily we’d all be expecting Tanahashi to burst into the G1 with something to prove after yet-another-injury. In 2019 though, on the back of a zero-defence title reign and a less-than-stellar return from elbow surgery, and there’s some real question marks over the Ace. Much like Okada, I don’t expect Tanahashi to lose too many, but with him wrestling Ospreay on the final night, that could well be a dead rubber for both by the time we get there.

Kota Ibushi
Past G1 Record: Won block B last year (2018) on tie-breakers with a 6-3 record.
Notes: Thankfully in a different block to Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi’ll be looking to be the first man since Hiroyoshi Tenzan to win the G1 back-to-back if he wants to return to the title picture. In a stacked block, where there’s a lot of people who “aren’t expected to lose many”, I could see the recent punishment that Ibushi’s taken as a millstone around his neck and end up out of the running.

Past G1 Record: Finished joint 4th in block A last year (2018) with a 5-4 record.
Notes: Oh boy. EVIL’s flattered to deceive in prior G1s, and with him not on the same page as the rest of his LIJ stablemates, could this be a year when he breaks free of the pack? I’d be surprised…

Past G1 Record: Finished 6th in block B last year (2018) with a 4-5 record.
Notes: The first match that sticks out here is EVIL vs. SANADA, which’ll take place fairly early in the tour on July 18. Of course, last year SANADA tried to break free from LIJ for the G1, but it didn’t do him any good… in 2019, SANADA’s had a few cracks at Okada’s, coming up short, but I wouldn’t be too shocked if he finally broke that streak during the G1.

Bad Luck Fale
Past G1 Record: Finished joint bottom of block A last year (2018) with a 3-6 record.
Notes: Disqualified a lot last year as the Bullet Club were “reinvented”, I don’t see Fale being too much of a threat in his sixth consecutive G1 outing having not been part of the last few tours in any capacity.

Lance Archer
Past G1 Record: Last involved in the G1 in 2014, when he finished joint bottom of a 12-man block B with a 3-8 record.
Notes: Now back in the singles ranks following Davey Boy Smith Jr’s departure, Archer’s got a new finisher and a new sense of aggression to boot. While I don’t think he’ll be troubling the leader board too much, Archer could be good for quite a few upsets…

Will Ospreay
Past G1 Record: None – this is his G1 debut. Won Best of the Super Juniors in 2016 and 2019.
Notes: One of several folks who declared themselves into the G1, there’ll be a lot of eyes on Ospreay’s performance. It’s been nearly 20 years since junior heavyweights have been part of the tournament, and they haven’t done well at all. Will the junior heavyweight title be a shield for Ospreay, or will this be a trial by fire that’ll dampen Will’s heavyweight ambitions?

Past G1 Record: None – this is his G1 debut.
Notes: Formerly Hideo Itami of WWE, KENTA’ll be making his first appearance since January in this G1. That’ll be quite the leap – going from a loss to Akira Tozawa on 205 Live to facing Kota Ibushi in Dallas. It’ll have been nearly 17 years since KENTA made his singles debut in New Japan (losing to Wataro Inoue), with KENTA having spent the lion’s share of his career in Pro Wrestling NOAH. Make no mistake about it, there’s a huge weight of expectation on KENTA here – will he be the KENTA who tore it up in NOAH, or will we see “Hideo Itami” who lost so much confidence in WWE? Hopefully, the former.

Block B

Tetsuya Naito
Past G1 Record: Won the G1 in 2013 and 2017. Last year, lost out in a four-way tie-breaker as he topped block B with a 6-3 record.
Notes: Seemingly a perennial favourite for the G1, Naito has made no secret of his wish to become a dual champion – and with the Intercontinental championship back in his clutches, Naito’ll have to win the G1 for a third time to have a shot at regaining the IWGP title.

Tomohiro Ishii
Past G1 Record: Last year, finished 5th in block B with a 5-4 record. Has never scored more than 10 points in the G1.
Notes: Always good for the “MVP” of tournaments, Ishii has always been the bridesmaid but never the G1 bride. I don’t expect either of those to change this year, as he’ll have some NEVER title challengers to set up in the next few weeks.

Juice Robinson
Past G1 Record: Finished joint bottom of block B with a 3-6 record.
Notes: Having just lost the IWGP US title to Jon Moxley, Juice has got a near-instant rematch (albeit, not for the title) on the final night of block B. He’ll have eight matches before that though, but while Juice is going into this without any injuries, I don’t see him breaking too much out of the pack, as that final night could well set the course for his immediate future.

Toru Yano
Past G1 Record: Finished joint bottom of block B with a 3-6 record.
Notes: The “pizza crust” is always good for a palate cleanser in a tour that can be quite tricky to get through, but save for the comedy spots, I’m not expecting Yano to do too much. Almost a shoe-in to finish bottom.

Hirooki Goto
Past G1 Record: Finished joint bottom of block B with a 3-6 record.
Notes: Much like ZSJ in block A, Goto’s 2019 has been horribly underwhelming, to the point where he’s been off of a few tours. Could the G1 be used as a springboard for Goto, or will he be finding that more of the roster’s passing him by? I’m expecting a bit of both, but Goto won’t be troubling the top of the block.

Jay White
Past G1 Record: Finished third in block A with a 6-3 record.
Notes: Since losing the IWGP title in his first defence, New Japan’s original knife pervert has been a little rudderless. Would winning the G1 give him something fresh? Yes. Will it happen? No. I can see White finishing towards the top, but it’ll take something special to be making it to the final proper.

Jeff Cobb
Past G1 Record: None – this is his G1 debut.
Notes: Briefly held the NEVER openweight title, having been the go-between as Will Ospreay dropped the belt at Madison Square Garden earlier this year… but arriving in the G1 as a ROH representative perhaps slots Cobb here. After several tours, Cobb has surprisingly not been able to carve out any real niche for himself apart from the perennially-loved “big lad who throws others around”, but in this current form, I don’t see Cobb much more than being mid-table fodder.

Shingo Takagi
Past G1 Record: None – this is his G1 debut.
Notes: For Ospreay, read Shingo. Although he’s coming into the G1 without the “shield” of a title belt, Shingo has a very recent win over an established heavyweight in Satoshi Kojima. Granted, Takagi found that win heavy going, and it’s hard to see how many heavyweights he’ll be able to blow aside in this group. I don’t expect Takagi to finish bottom, but don’t be too shocked if “mid table” is his ceiling.

Past G1 Record: None – this is his G1 debut.
Notes: Having moved up to heavyweight last year, this is Taichi’s G1 debut. He’s got form in the Best of Super Juniors, having made it out of the blocks in 2013 (when that tournament took the top four and put them into a mini-tournament)… but as a heavyweight, Taichi’s output has been horribly inconsistent. When there’s shenanigans, his stuff is a turn-off, but he’s also capable of some shockingly good matches. I think Taichi will again be irritatingly inconsistent, but is more likely to finish at the bottom end of the block.

Jon Moxley
Past G1 Record: None – this is his G1 debut.
Notes: Being part of block B means Moxley will be skipping the US-portion of the tour… and he will be starting his G1 with a match against the aforementioned Taichi. While others in this field have question marks around things like fitness, Moxley is massively unproven in New Japan. While the motivation is undoubtedly there, there’s the general feeling that Moxley could be just as erratic in the ring as Taichi. Coming in with the fanfare that he has, Moxley isn’t ending with a losing record, but I’d be stunned if he’s making it to the block final.

New Japan have announced which matches are happening where – as ever, they’re alternating blocks, so we start with night one in Dallas being a block A show, before the tour resumes in Tokyo a week later with a block B show. All shows will be live on NJPW World with English and Japanese commentary, but those living in the US won’t be able to stream the Dallas show live – it’ll be airing live on AXS TV instead.

We’re listing UK start times here, since NJPW World has a thing for always listing GMT regardless of whether the UK’s on daylight savings or not… and believe me, some of those weekend starts, you’ll be wanting the extra hour if you’re planning on watching live!

  • Saturday July 6 – American Airlines Center, Dallas (11pm BST) – Ospreay vs. Archer, EVIL vs. Fale, SANADA vs. Sabre, Ibushi vs. KENTA, Okada vs. Tanahashi,
  • Saturday July 13 – Ota City General Gymnasium, Tokyo (10.30am BST) – Juice vs. Shingo, Taichi vs. Moxley, Yano vs. Naito, Ishii vs. Cobb, Goto vs. White
  • Sunday July 14 – Ota City General Gymnasium, Tokyo (7am BST) – Fale vs. Archer, Ospreay vs. SANADA, Okada vs. ZSJ, Ibushi vs. EVIL, Tanahashi vs. KENTA
  • Monday July 15 – Hokkai Kitayell, Hokkaido (10am BST) – Yano vs. Shingo, Juice vs. Goto, Moxley vs. Cobb, Ishii vs. White, Naito vs. Taichi
  • Thursday July 18 – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo (10.30am BST) – KENTA vs. Archer, EVIL vs. SANADA, Okada vs. Fale, Tanahashi vs. ZSJ, Ibushi vs. Ospreay
  • Friday July 19 – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo (10.30am BST) – Shingo vs. Taichi, Juice vs. Cobb, Yano vs. White, Goto vs. Naito, Ishii vs. Moxley
  • Saturday July 20 – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo (10.30am BST) – Fale vs. ZSJ, Archer vs. Tanahashi, EVIL vs. KENTA, SANADA vs. Ibushi, Okada vs. Ospreay
  • Wednesday July 24 – Sun Plaza Hall, Hiroshima (10.30am BST) – Juice vs. Yano, Goto vs. Taichi, Moxley vs. Shingo, Cobb vs. White, Naito vs. Ishii
  • Saturday July 27 – Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, Aichi (10am BST) – Ibushi vs. Archer, Ospreay vs. Fale, EVIL vs. ZSJ, SANADA vs. Tanahashi, Okada vs. KENTA
  • Sunday July 28 – Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, Aichi (8am BST) – Goto vs. Yano, Juice vs. Ishii, Cobb vs. Taichi, Shingo vs. White, Naito vs. Moxley
  • Tuesday July 30 – Takamatsu City General Gymnasium #1, Kagawa (11am BST) – Ibushi vs. Fale, ZSJ vs. Ospreay, Okada vs. Archer, KENTA vs. SANADA, Tanahashi vs. EVIL
  • Thursday August 1 – Fukuoka Citizen Gymnasium, Fukuoka (10.30am BST) – Cobb vs. Shingo, Yano vs. Moxley, Juice vs. Naito, Taichi vs. White, Goto vs. Ishii
  • Saturday August 3 – Edion Arena, Osaka (9am BST) – KENTA vs. Fale, ZSJ vs. Archer, Ospreay vs. EVIL, Tanahashi vs. Ibushi, SANADA vs. Okada
  • Sunday August 4 – Edion Arena, Osaka (7am BST) – Yano vs. Ishii, Juice vs. Taichi, Goto vs. Cobb, Moxley vs. White, Shingo vs. Naito
  • Wednesday August 7 – Hamamatsu Arena, Shizuoka (10.30am BST) – SANADA vs. Archer, Tanahashi vs. Fale, Ospreay vs. KENTA, ZSJ vs. Ibushi, EVIL vs. OKADA
  • Thursday August 8 – Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium, Kanagawa (10.30am BST) – Yano vs. Taichi, Cobb vs. Naito, Goto vs. Moxley, Juice vs. White, Ishii vs. Shingo
  • Saturday August 10 – Budokan Hall, Tokyo (10am BST) – KENTA vs. ZSJ, EVIL vs. Archer, SANADA vs. Fale, Ospreay vs. Tanahashi, Okada vs. Ibushi (match order undecided)
  • Sunday August 11 – Budokan Hall, Tokyo (10am BST) – Ishii vs. Taichi, Shingo vs. Goto, Yano vs. Cobb, Moxley vs. Juice, Naito vs. White (match order undecided)
  • Monday August 12 – Budokan Hall, Tokyo (7am BST) – G1 Finals in Budokan

The match order for each block’s final night won’t be decided until nearer the time – because of course, they always build up to a crescendo with each main event typically being the decider. As I write this in late June, it sure looks like Okada vs. Ibushi is the stand-out for that block, while I’d not be surprised if ZSJ/KENTA wasn’t too far behind. Block B’s sticking out like a sore thumb with that Naito/White match on the final night too, with Juice/Moxley perhaps being a match that could get Juice a US title rematch if things go his way.

Sign up at now for ¥999 a month (around £7.30/$9.30/€8.20), and yes, you can use PayPal. NJPW World bills you on the first of the month (Japanese time), so wait until we’re firmly in July, otherwise you’ll be billed for the remaining days of June.

We’ll have reports from every night of the G1, undercards and all. It’s going to be a wild ride…