Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2023/07/14/pollocks-update-big-preview-of-the-g1-climax/
POST IT NOTES
**Rewind-A-SmackDown is live at 10 p.m. ET tonight with Wai Ting and I going over SmackDown from Raleigh and taking calls. We will discuss the G1 Climax with our thoughts on the blocks, and we will discuss all the latest news and notes going into a very busy weekend. POST Wrestling Café members have exclusive access to watch & listen to the show live or on demand. (Link to the show)
**POST Wrestling’s G1 Climax coverage begins on Saturday with Bruce Lord & Karen Peterson reviewing the first night in Hokkaido on the POST Wrestling Café. We will have podcasts covering all the G1 cards through August 15 and your Café access also gives you a chance to listen to all the bonus shows including Rewind-A-SmackDown.
**WH Park will be joined by Mike Spears for a special edition of The Long & Winding Royal Road on Saturday as they discuss the career and legacy of Stan Hansen. This will be released on the main POST Wrestling feed and on the POST YouTube channel at 10 a.m. ET.
**Stephanie Chase was our guest on Pollock & Thurston this week to discuss a recent article on being a woman in the wrestling media. This was a really eye-opening discussion and the article gained a lot of attention due to how it resonated for many. We also spoke about the role of the All Parliamentary Group on Pro Wrestling, WWE teasing WrestleMania in London, the All In show at Wembley Stadium, and Brandon & I spoke about potential changes to AEW pay-per-views.
Tonight: Rewind-A-SmackDown (Patreon)
Saturday: Stan Hansen Retrospective with WH Park & Mike Spears
Saturday: G1 Climax – Day 1 with Karen Peterson & Bruce Lord (Patreon)
Sunday: Collision Course with John Siino & Kate from Montreal (Patreon)
Sunday: G1 Climax – Day 2 with John Pollock & Wai Ting (FREE)
G1 CLIMAX PREVIEW
The 33rd G1 Climax begins this weekend with New Japan Pro Wrestling offering the first two events for free on New Japan World.
NJPW launched the G1 in 1991 and it quickly became the epicenter for some of the best matches on an annual basis, although limited to those seeking out tapes unless they could attend the show until the streaming era began.
While there had been yearly tournaments prior to the G1 under various names, the current incarnation has been a staple of the summer for the promotion for over thirty years.
The star of the early tournaments was Masahiro Chono, who became Mr. August by winning three of the first four G1s with follow-up wins in 2002 and 2005 as the company descended into the darkest period and leaned on the nostalgia factor.
It has been a catalyst for stars to be elevated beginning with the 1991 edition that placed a spotlight on the Three Musketeers of Chono, Keiji Muto, and Shinya Hashimoto. Booker Riki Choshu lost all three of his round-robin matches in the G1 to Chono, Hashimoto, and Bam Bam Bigelow in a star-making exercise.
In 2012, it was the tournament win that helped solidify Kazuchika Okada as the new face of the promotion after his unexpected and brief IWGP title win earlier in the year after returning from an excursion. The following year, the G1 became accessible worldwide through the streaming platform UStream where fans had the chance to pay $150 ($110 for the early bird special) for all the shows that summer and including some of the best wrestling matches of that period and a card in Osaka that to this day, I believe is one of the best shows in history.
In 2015, it migrated to New Japan World, which had launched at the end of 2014 and suddenly, the entire tournament was available for $10. It was during this period that the G1 reached its zenith in terms of match quality, visibility, and an all-star lineup built around Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tomohiro Ishii, Kenny Omega, Tetsuya Naito, AJ Styles, Minoru Suzuki, and a constant raising of the bar to stand out among the best wrestlers in the world.
Like all of New Japan’s business, the pandemic dealt a major blow to its biggest tour of the year with muted versions of the G1 in 2020 (moved to the fall) and 2021. Last year, it regained some of the notoriety and remains a standout on the calendar for wrestling fans but the company is still rebuilding from the pandemic with an aggressive push of many young stars this year, which is the highlight of this year’s G1 and so many fresh faces making their debuts.
The format in 2023 is that the top two point-getters in each block will advance to the quarter-finals. The finals take place on August 15 at Sumo Hall.
Below is a look at the four blocks.
SANADA, Chase Owens, Hikuleo, Ren Narita, Shota Umino, Yota Tsuji, Gabe Kidd, and Kaito Kiyomiya
This might be the most interesting block because you have SANADA as the IWGP Heavyweight Champion that is a vulnerable champion that can lose on any given night and could create career-making moments for several of the debutants. Yota Tsuji had the biggest match of his life against SANADA at Dominion and would be primed to be one of the candidates to beat the champion in the round-robin portion. Shota Umino has been linked with Masahiro Chono, who has taught him the STF and becomes a descendant of the individual most associated with the tournament. Kaito Kiyomiya’s involvement strongly suggests a rematch is coming with Okada, although that’s big enough to save for the Tokyo Dome but it’s curious they are in separate blocks, and seeing them meet in the playoff portion seems a strong possibility. Gabe Kidd had a tremendous promo at the press conference and should also have a strong showing with some key wins even if he doesn’t win the block. There are so many unique matches between the various combinations that I can easily see the A Block standing out as the most exciting one. SANADA, Kiyomoya, and Tsuji would seem like the heaviest favorites.
Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI, Taichi, KENTA, Great O-Khan, Will Ospreay, Tanga Loa, and El Phantasmo
Okada and Ospreay are the clear standouts and would be the favorites to clinch the top two spots and advance. Okada is coming off the submission loss to Bryan Danielson and could signal a slow start for Okada and be primed for an upset, which is common on the first weekend. The two that I see having breakout performances with some big wins along the way are Great O-Khan and El Phantasmo, who may not win the block but each has the potential to play spoilers and pick up wins against the “big two” of Okada and Ospreay. Taichi always has big performances in the G1 and should have a strong number of points. The jury is out regarding KENTA and Tanga Loa and what they bring to the block above and beyond the high quality expected. It isn’t the most inspiring block, but it has the two biggest stars and ensures another Okada vs. Ospreay match, which will be a highlight of the tournament.
David Finlay, EVIL, Tomohiro Ishii, Eddie Kingston, Mikey Nicholls, Aaron Henare, Shingo Takagi, and Tama Tonga
With the rebranding and push, this seems like David Finlay’s block to win. You’re going to get some killer matches between Takagi vs. Ishii, Ishii vs. Kingston, Kingston vs. Takagi, Tonga vs. Finlay, and pretty much all of Takagi’s matches. Ishii is another year older but his recent matches in AEW don’t suggest the slowdown is happening this summer it’s an unreal toll he puts on himself every year and he is the most consistent of any G1 performer ever. I see Kingston being alive until the latter stages and ultimately, falling short of moving onward. Finlay seems like a lock with the second spot up for grabs between Tama Tonga and Shingo Takagi. The booking of this block should give us a sense of where they see Takagi and if he’s going to be utilized as a big player or relied on to get others over and be a .500 participant. It’s a big year for Aaron Henare, who had a nice G1 last year including a win against Hiroshi Tanahashi but not enough to propel him to the next level. A lot of eyes will be on Mikey Nicholls to see what he contributes to the block and EVIL’s matches will probably stand out like a sore thumb as the requisite House of Torture quotient in the tournament.
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Zack Sabre Jr., Tetsuya Naito, Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano, Jeff Cobb, Shane Haste, and Alex Coughlin
As everyone has repeated, it’s going to be a cruel summer for Hiroshi Tanahashi, who has not looked great of late and it’s the first time you’ve felt sad during some of his performances and watching one of the greatest of all-time face mortality. I sense that he will be booked in that vein and be used for losses rather than being a major player in the end. If that is his designated role, there is a part of me that would have rather seen him in the A Block. There is a sympathy factor for Tanahashi that no one else possesses and you could lean on that. This block will recreate big rivalries with Tanahashi vs. Naito and Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. Alex Coughlin is in his first tournament and while I don’t see him winning, he would be a prime candidate to get a big win over Tanahashi and maybe one other big one. Goto is always great in the G1 as the bridesmaid and I have no doubt he’ll have some outstanding performances with Cobb, Naito, and Zack. Yano is the intermission portion of the G1 but not in a bad way but depends on the creativity as opposed to the tropes that are often relied on. I’ll be more than happy to see Tanahashi have an easier night with Yano. It’s a big test for Haste and has such great opponents to pull out the best. My picks are Naito and Zack to advance.
**This is a packed weekend of shows beginning tonight with Friday Night SmackDown, AEW Rampage, a really strong Game Changer Wrestling card at the Melrose Ballroom, and the start of the Scenic City Invitational (which is one of the major Indie tournaments of the year). On Saturday, it is the start of the G1 Climax in Hokkaido, Pro Wrestling NOAH has a huge match between Katsuhiko Nakajima and AJPW’s Kento Miyahara, AAA presents the second stage of TripleMania XXXI with El Hijo del Vikingo vs. Kenny Omega, IMPACT has Slammiversary in Windsor, and there is a three-hour block of AEW Collision and Battle of the Belts VII on TNT along with the UFC Fight Night card at the Apex. The G1 holds its second show in Hokkaido on Sunday.
**Friday Night SmackDown is at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. They have announced Asuka vs. Bianca Belair for the Women’s Championship and Jey Uso will be on the show as the build for SummerSlam continues. Roman Reigns is not advertised for tonight but is listed for next week’s show in Orlando.
**WWE has live events in Fairfax Virginia on Saturday and Salisbury, Maryland on Sunday with Cody Rhodes advertised for both nights. Raw is at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Monday with over 10,000 tickets out for the show.
**Here are the matches and segments for tonight’s edition of AEW Rampage at 10 p.m. ET on TNT from this past week’s taping in Saskatoon:
*Owen Hart Cup: Athena vs. Willow Nightingale
*Konosuke Takeshita vs. Mentallo
*Lance Archer vs. Trent Beretta
*Taya Valkyrie vs. Izzy McQueen
*Dustin Rhodes & Keith Lee vs. Matt Menard & Angelo Parker
*Toni Storm speaks
*Dark Order speaks
**TSN 2 is carrying tonight’s episode of AEW Rampage at 10 p.m. ET.
**Due to TSN’s coverage of the UFC Fight Night card, AEW Collision is not listed to air until late Saturday night (early Sunday) at 1 a.m. ET with Battle of the Belts set to air at 3 a.m. on TSN 2. The TSN schedule is not listing either Rampage or Collision for next weekend, so it would seem they are only airing the episodes that took place in Canada with Rampage and Collision remaining on the TSN+ streaming service with live airings.
**If there is a sleeper card among the bunch this weekend it’s the GCW Now and Forever show at 8 p.m. ET from the Melrose Ballroom that will stream on FITE+. It is one of the promotion’s most loaded lineups with Blake Christian vs. MAO for the GCW title (DDT’s MAO received great reviews for his match with Bryan Keith last weekend for West Coast Pro), Nick Wayne & Jordan Oliver vs. Amazing Red & Brian XL for the GHC tag titles, George South vs. Mance Warner (a wild match in any year much less 2023), Matt Cardona & Steph De Lander vs. Effy & Allie Katch, Gringo Loco vs. Arez vs. Komander (this should be spectacular), Speedball Mike Bailey vs. Yoshihiko (Bailey vs. the blow-up doll could be the meme of the weekend and elicit all the usual outrage), Utami Hayashishita vs. LuFisto, Billie Starkz vs. Maki Itoh, and a Six-Man with Homicide teaming with Matt Tremont & Grim Reefer against Jimmy Lloyd & Los Macizos.
**The G1 Climax kicks off Saturday morning with a free show on New Japan World streaming at 4 a.m. ET with the following matches from the A & B Block:
BLOCK B: YOSHI-HASHI vs. El Phantasmo
BLOCK A: Chase Owens vs. Gabe Kidd
BLOCK B: Tanga Loa vs. KENTA
BLOCK A: Shota Umino vs. Ren Narita
BLOCK B: Kazuchika Okada vs. Great O-Khan
BLOCK A: Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Yota Tsuji
BLOCK B: Will Ospreay vs. Taichi
BLOCK A: SANADA vs. Hikuleo
The tournament continues late Saturday night (early Sunday) at 1 a.m. ET with a show headlined by Tetsuya Naito vs. Jeff Cobb and other highlights including Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr., Eddie Kingston vs. Shingo Takagi, and David Finlay vs. Tomohiro Ishii. Wai Ting and I will be doing a free show on Sunday covering the second night of the tournament.
**Pro Wrestling NOAH has its One Night Dream card at Korakuen Hall on Saturday morning that streams at 5:30 a.m. ET on Wrestle Universe (with English commentary) and Abema with a singles match between former partners Katsuhiko Nakajima and Kento Miyahara, who have their links going back to Kensuke Sasaki. This could be the match of the weekend and that says a lot when you look at the weekend’s cards. Below is the full lineup:
*Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Kento Miyahara
*HAYATA, Rey Escorpion & Dante Leon vs. Dralistico, Ninja Mack & AMAKUSA
*Jake Lee & Kenoh vs. Go Shiozaki & El Hijo de Dr. Wagner Jr.
*Masa Kitamiya, Yoshiki Inamura, Manabu Soya & Daiki Inaba vs. Jack Morris, Adam Brooks, Lance Anoa’I & Saxon Huxley
*Miyuki Takase & Jazzy Yang (the daughter of Jimmy Yang) vs. Hibiscus Mii & Yuu
*Anthony Greene, YO-HEY & Tadasuke vs. Jimmy Yang, Super Crazy & Stallion Rogers
*Yu Owada vs. Kai Fujimura – the debut of 23-year-old Owada from the NOAH Dojo
**Ehren Schaffter has released a book called Ascending the Queendom covering the many issues that affect females in the professional wrestling industry. The book includes profiles of Madi Wrenkowski, Savannah Stone, Judi Rae, Amy Crimson, Mystii Marks, Rebecca Scott, Mylo, Airica Demia, and Amaris Blair. The book is currently available through Barnes & Noble in hard copy and digital versions.
**The WWE stock closed at $108.03 on Friday.
**MMA Fighting has confirmed that the Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou boxing fight in Saudi Arabia will be a professional bout, but will not go on either man’s record. Fury’s WBC Championship will not be at stake during the fight, which is going to take some of the urgency away from the fight. It has not been disclosed how many rounds the fight will be contested at nor the purse amounts for either fighter, which should be gigantic given that it’s happening in Saudi Arabia. The fight has been met with mixed opinions with a lot of boxing fans upset that Fury is not defending his title against a top-ranked opponent such as Oleksandr Usyk and instead, is fighting an 0-0 fighter from MMA. For the MMA side, Ngannou represents one of the few fighters to evade the UFC and the control of its fighters to leave his contract as champion and score a massive payday outside of the promotion with the opportunity for life-altering money. It remains to be seen how large this fight will be and what it means to the average consumer of both sports and non-fans, which they are relying on for mainstream interest.
**The UFC has a very weak follow-up to last weekend’s incredible UFC 290 card. This week, they are back at the UFC Apex, which is so lifeless compared to a big arena feel and it’s exacerbated when coming off a big event. Everyone knows the score and the financial saving of running the Apex but it’s a growing criticism of the product coupled with a significant downturn in these free shows, which are getting thinner and thinner at the Apex. The show features Holly Holm taking on Mayra Bueno Silva in a bantamweight fight. The division is without a champion, so at least with a win, Holm would remain in the picture. It is remarkable as Holm is turning 42 this year and remains a contender in the division and it’s been more than seven years since she lost the title. Holm has won three of her last four fights and is coming off a decision victory against Yana Santos in March. Silva entered the UFC in 2018 and has won her last three fights and is coming off a pair of submission wins against Stephanie Egger and Lina Lansberg with Holm representing the biggest opponent she’s faced.
All the fighters made weight for Saturday’s card:
MAIN CARD (10 p.m. ET on ESPN & ESPN+)
*Holly Holm (15-6) vs. Mayra Bueno Silva (10-2-1)
*Jack Della Maddalena (14-2) vs. Bassil Hafez (6-3-1) – Maddalena is a huge prospect and is 4-0 since entering the UFC and undefeated since 2016. He lost his opponent last weekend at UFC 290 but stuck around in town and got a last-minute fight on this show.
*Ottman Azaitar (13-1) vs. Francisco Prado (11-1)
*Junyong Park (16-5) vs. Albert Duraev (16-4)
*Norma Dumont (9-2) vs. Chelsea Chandler (5-1) – one of the few featherweight fights on the books with no update regarding the status of this division since the retirement of Amanda Nunes and very few fighters populating this weight class
*Terrance McKinney (13-5) vs. Nazim Sadykhov (5-1) – McKinney is a finishing machine with all but one of his wins coming in the first round and has never gone to a decision in his career. He is 3-2 in the UFC and coming off a flying knee knockout loss to Ismael Bonfim in January.
PRELIMINARY CARD (7 p.m. on ESPN & ESPN+)
*Tucker Lutz (12-3) vs. Melsik Baghdasaryan (7-2)
*Viktoriia Dudakova (6-0) vs. Istela Nunes (7-4)
*Melquizael Costa (19-6) vs. Austin Lingo (9-2)
*Genaro Valdez (10-1) vs. Evan Elder (4-2)
*Azat Maksum (13-0) vs. Tyson Nam (21-13-1) – Nam is 39 years old and has been competing since 2006
*Carl Deaton (15-6) vs. Alexander Munoz (6-2)
*Ailin Perez (7-2) vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith (6-5)
MCU L8R: Secret Invasion Ep. 4
This week, Rich Fann and WH Park are joined by Karen Peterson to chat Secret Invasion Episode 4, “Beloved”.
POLLOCK & THURSTON: Stephanie Chase
John Pollock and Brandon Thurston are joined by Stephanie Chase of Digital Spy to speak about her recent article on women in wrestling media.
DOUBLE SHOT: The Tragic Fall of Adrian Adonis
On this week’s Double Shot, John Pollock and Wai Ting continue their weekly look at Dark Side of the Ring with a review of Season 4 Episode 6, “The Tragic Fall of Adrian Adonis”.
John Pollock & Wai Ting review AEW Dynamite with the Blood & Guts members revealed, Chris Jericho vs. Komander, and the debut of Nick Wayne in Saskatoon.
Braden Herrington and Davie Portman review WWE NXT from July 11th, 2023 featuring Trick Williams & Carmelo Hayes vs Judgment Day.
POLLOCK & TING: TALK Vol 9
John Pollock & Wai Ting talk about Threads, keeping up with wrestling, Forbidden Pour, Barbie, and their families in the latest installment of Pollock & Ting: TALK.
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