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NJPW G1 Climax 25 for Dummies (And A Reference for the Rest of Us)

G1 Climax 25 begins Monday. Get to know its history and the 20 men competing in the world's toughest wrestling tournament.

Full disclosure: I'm not the biggest New Japan nerd. Far from it. I've only gotten to it this year with Wrestle Kingdom 9 (like a lot of you, I imagine) and still only follow it on a casual level. So if I miss anything or if I screw up, feel free to correct me in the comments, okay? Cool.

It's almost that time. Puroresu fans and smarks around the world are gathering around their computers and televisions for what is considered one of the biggest wrestling events of the year: the 25th Grade 1 (referred to from here forward as G1) Climax tournament begins this Monday. The annual tournament determines who will be in the main event of New Japan's annual January 4th event, Wrestle Kingdom. So the G1 Climax would be the Royal Rumble to New Japan's Wrestlemania. But only on the surface. I'll explain more in a minute.

A little history lesson: the G1 Climax wasn't always called the G1 Climax, but as far back as 1974, every summer (save for one—1990), New Japan Pro Wrestling held an annual tournament. It went through a number of different names: the World League, the MSG League (as in Madison Square Garden), the International Wrestling Grand Prix League, and the World Cup Tournament. Many of these tournaments were won by New Japan founder Antonio Inoki, with Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Seiji Sakaguchi, and Riki Choshu each winning at least once.

In 1991, New Japan decided to take their annual tournament in a different direction: showcase the best heavyweights over a one-week span. I know what you're about to ask. The G1 Climax was born.

Eddie Mac, what about their lighter talents? Do they get a sniff? Typically, no, but they do have their own tournament: Best of the Super Juniors, which is held in the spring. Hell, the tag teams have their own tournament too; it's held around Thanksgiving and about a week into December. The G1 Climax is usually a conglomerate of New Japan's top heavyweights, main eventers in the making, and international stars to fill out the field. Pretty much the best of the best of the best. An occasional junior heavyweight slips in, but it's not standard operating procedure, since the 100 kilo and under class have a tournament of their own that's basically uses the same rules.

But why's this tournament so special, Eddie? Is it really THAT hard? And here's what makes this tournament a pain in the ass: in addition to facing the best of the best, one block might have the current IWGP Heavyweight Champion. As if it wasn't murder's rowy enough, they have to fight often every night or every other night with A-list talent. It's like every match they're in could be a main event. And make no mistake about this: this is a BIG DEAL in Japan. They cover this like it's the Premier League in the UK, or the NFL in the States.

But how does it work, Eddie? Finally, we can dive into the meat of the matter. Though some years it was a single elimination tournament, the more common format is the round robin format. A group of wrestlers (this year, it's 20) are divided up into two blocks of equal wrestlers. They call it Block A and Block B, so we'll call it Block A and Block B. Each of the ten wrestlers will fight everyone else in their block exactly once. There are no crossovers, so basically no one in Block A can fight anyone in Block B during the round robin stage or vice versa. It's like the World Cup group stage.

Obviously, the objective is to beat the other guy. Each match is worth two points, with the winner getting the points, and the loser getting nothing. If a match goes the maximum 30 minutes (yes, they are on the clock in these things), they each come away with one point.

Wait, so no extra points for submission or knockout or anything? And no extra penalty for disqualification? Nope. Bound for Glory Series, this is not. All wins count the same. All losses count the same.

That's kinda crazy. Yeah, I know. And if a wrestler is unable to continue in the tournament due to injury, their remaining opponents get points on account of a forfeit.

But why are these points so important, Eddie? Because that's how the final is determined. The highest score in each block face off in a winner-take-all bout. In the event of a tie, head-to-head breaks it, so you don't want a zero against a guy you're tied with. People have lost their spot in the playoff because of that zero against someone they're tied with. It's kinda King of the Ringish. (EDIT: Not a final four, as written earlier. Hasn't been one since 2009. Though a final four would be kinda cool. Admit it.)

So if it's King of the Ringish, the winner gets bragging rights and a nice push, right? Well, yes. And more. Like King of the Ring, the winner gets the bragging rights and a nice push. They also get a whole lotta money (I believe it's 5 million Japanese yen, or just over $40,000 USD), a pretty sweet trophy... oh, and since 2012, a main event spot at Wrestle Kingdom. Got your attention now, don't I? So it's Royal Rumbleish. And it's awesome. But... it's also not guaranteed.

Wait... they fought harder than hell for like two or three weeks and they can have their title shot snatched away from them like that? Well... yeah.  Fine print can be a tricky thing, kids. See, between their G1 Climax win and Wrestle Kingdom, the winner of the tournament must prove their worthiness of the spot by defending said spot in a match at least once; usually it's defended at the awesomely named King of Pro-Wrestling, held every year on Health and Sports Day, which is a national holiday in Japan. So it's a lot more than the Royal Rumble on the surface. The G1 Climax winner is 3 for 3 at King of Pro Wrestling in defending their Wrestle Kingdom title shot, so I wouldn't exactly be holding my breath for the winner's title shot to be ripped from them.

So how long's this thing? It starts this Monday (Japanese time, so really late Sunday night in the States) and will run through August 16. So, damn near a month, you guys. As recently as seven years ago, they ran through this thing in a week. But it's an EVENT. It might as well be New Japan's version of the Olympics.

So...who's in it, Eddie Mac? Glad you asked. Let's meet the players. (All photos via

Block A

AJ Styles. Hey! I know that guy. Chances are, you do too. Once upon a time, the undisputed best wrestler on the planet. Pretty damn well accomplished: 3-time NWA world champion, 4-time NWA tag team champion, twice TNA world champion, twice TNA tag champion, six-time X Division Champion, Legends Champion, Global Champion, Bound for Glory 2013 Series winner, and until about two weeks ago, IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Guy TNA jerked around for years. Guy WWE lowballed to get them in their door. Occasional guest at Ring of Honor events.Bullet Clubber. Still pretty awesome wrestler.

Bad Luck Fale. The "underboss" of the Bullet Club. Basically mean mugs and such. Once played rugby. Also once defeated Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, which may or may not be up there with spitting up on the American flag.

Doc Gallows. The one-time "underboss" of the Straight Edge Society. Once wrestled as Festus. Once known as DOC of the Aces and Eights. Often teams with possible twin Karl Anderson. Anderson. No, wait. Not that Anderson. Bullet Clubber. Married pro wrestler Kimberly Davis (aka Amber O'Neal).

Hiroshi Tanahashi. The John Cena of New Japan. Except he's much, much, much more beloved. And well-rounded. Bascially, where Cena's been for the last six months for so in-ring, except this guy's done it for a decade. Able to get an awesome match out of anyone. ANYONE. Even some guy named Toru Yano was 120% better for being in the same orbit as Tanahashi. So more accurately, he's the Shawn Michaels of New Japan, which kinda makes sense since he says Michaels is his favorite wrestler. Without the scandals that befell him in the 1990s. A record seven-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion and a former G1 Climax winner (2007). Once in a century talent. Ace of the universe. THE UNIVERSE. Really, really awesome.  ACE. OF THE UNIVERSE.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan. Fucking. Legend. Four-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, 11-time IWGP Tag Team Champion, won three G1 Climaxes in four years (2003, 2004, 2006). Current NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Yeah. He's their world champion. Like right now. Has a mullet. A really awesome mullet. In the tournament because it's just gonna be weird if he's not: this is his 19th G1 Climax. His best days are long behind him, so he's probably not gonna win the whole thing. But he's gonna win a match or two he has no business winning. That Anaconda Vice? Tenzan invented that.

Katsuyori Shibata. Does not have time for your shenanigans. Kicker of many kicks. Once ditched New Japan as he was getting a rocket push for MMA. Sucked at MMA. Horribly (he was 4-10). No-nonsense demeanor. Arrives. Penalty kicks. Leaves.

Kota Ibushi. So awesome, one promotion cannot contain him (also signed with Dramatic Dream Team). 3-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Junior tag champion, Best of the Super Juniors winner in 2011, runner-up in 2014. New Japan Cup winner in 2015 (an annual single-elimination tournament held every March. So basically Japan's March Madness tournament). Had like a six-star match with Shinsuke Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom 9. Independent genius. Possessor of the Phoenixplex, which is really weird, but like really, really hurts. Also does a Golden Star Press, which is like 1½ Red Arrows.

Tetsuya Naito. Former IWGP tag team champion, 2013 G1 Climax winner. Does a weird thing with his eyes (he was mocked for his small eyes while on an excursion in Mexico, so Naito opened them wide to mock them back. Surprisingly, no one has responded with the Cena "You Can't See Me" taunt. Seriously, that would be awesome). Much cruiserweight. Once wrestled in TNA. No, seriously. Remember No Limit? He was one half of that team. Stardust Genius.

Togi Makabe. 2-time and current NEVER Openweight Champion (basically a championship for younger wrestlers. At least that was the intention when the belt was created. Instead, just another heavyweight belt). Former IWGP Heavyweight Champion. former IWGP tag champion. 2009 G1 Climax winner. Goes by nicknames King Kong and the Unchained Gorilla. BMF. Influenced by Bruiser Brody, even comes out to a cover of his theme, Immigrant Song. Once had his jaw broken in a G1 Climax match, but finished it anyway. Hoss. Has never knowingly yelled HUSS in conversation.

Toru Yano. Two-time IWGP tag team champion. Kinda looks like PSY (you know, oppah Gangnam Style). Resorts to tomfoolery and hijinks because, well, that's pretty much all he can do. Once beat Hiroshi Tanahashi in like three minutes. Seriously. Will use anything as a weapon and will do anything to win. Also the kind of guy that would run away in a real fight. Has eternal derpface. Seriously, can you take a guy that makes that face seriously? Also has like no chance of winning, but will have a bigger say in who does win than you think.

That's Block A. Now let's meet...

Block B

Hirooki Goto. Current IWGP Intercontinental Champion, IWGP tag champion, 2008 G1 Climax winner, won three New Japan Cups in four years (2009, 2010, 2012). Samurai. Like, he really is a samurai. Does John Cena's finisher, but it ends on the knee and not the mat. So... yeah. Remember Matt Morgan's finisher? The Hellavator? Yeah, that's his move. And it looks way more brutal when he does it.

Karl Anderson. Anderson. Damnit, not that Anderson. Four-time and current IWGP tag team champion with Doc Gallows, playa. Three-time tag league champion (2009, 2012, 2013). Once was a tag champion with a guy formerly known as Prince Albert. The Machine Gun. Might be a twin with Doc Gallows. Leader of the Bullet Club. Is BFFs with Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura, so he pretty much hangs with cool people 24/7. Looks like that guy you can't quite place, but you know for a fact he looks like him.

Kazuchika Okada. The Randy Orton to John Cena's Hiroshi Tanahashi. Three-time and current IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Winner of two of the last three G1 Climax tourmaments (2012, 2014). 2013 New  Japan Cup winner. Rainmaker. Fucking awesome wrestler. Possessor of JAPANESE NO. 1 DROPKICK. Seriously, you have to see the dropkick for yourself. Bob Holly would be jealous of the dropkick.  Has a tombstone piledriver as a SETUP move. Has an almost-certain kill-you-dead Rainmaker Clothesline. Seriously, the number of people that kicked out it can be counted with one hand. Has a way more awesome pose than Randy Orton, legend killer. Has Dolph Ziggler-like selling ability. Once wrestled in TNA. No, seriously. The man right now in Japan. THE. MAN. Not even 30 yet. Oh, cool little nugget I forgot to point out up there in the beginning: should Okada win, he gets to pick his opponent for Wrestle Kingdom know, should he still be champion. I mean, good luck with that. No IWGP Heavyweight Champion has won the G1 Climax since Yuji Nagata in 2007.

Michael Elgin. Former ROH world champion. 2011 Survival of the Fittest winner. Once considered giving up wrestling for baseball. Has as many five-star matches as John Cena (one, against Davey Richards in 2012). Possibly the third Johnson (those what watched old school TNA will understand this reference).

Satoshi Kojima. No relation to the guy that created the Metal Gear series. Two-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, six-time tag champion, former NWA world champion, 2010 G1 Climax winner. Coming for all the bastards up in here. Super stiff. Wears tape over his nose, so he could be related to Booker T. Sucka. Has seriously orange hair. Knows about 350 ways to do a lariat.

Shinsuke Nakamura. Your favorite wrestler, even if it's not Shinsuke Nakamura. Probably your favorite wrestler's favorite wrestler. King of Strong Style. Three-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, four-time IWGP Intercontinental Champion, IWGP tag champion, 2011 G1 Climax winner, 2014 New Japan Cup winner. Dances to the beat of his own drum. Has a half-shaven head. Dresses like Michael Jackson. Has a KILLER knee strike that he can hit from anywhere in the building. Can also go from shining wizard to triangle choke. No, seriously. One of the "Three Musketeers" of the 21st century (Tanahashi and Shibata were the others). Fucking awesome wrestler. In fact, fucking awesome human being. Has more swagger than you.

Tomoaki Honma. The man of a thousand headbutts, will miss at least 997 of them. It's Japan's version of the Flair top rope move. Has never won a major championship in Japan, but somehow once wrestled a five star match (this past Valentine's Day against Tomohiro Ishii). Also has like no chance of winning, but he's gonna try, bless his heart.

Tomohiro Ishii. 3-time NEVER Openweight Champion. Stone Pitbull. Also ran an indy promotion in Japan once. Kinda looks like that dude from Austin Powersthough I probably wouldn't want to brag about that. Pretty sure he doesn't brag about that. Also looks like a guy you do not want to meet in a dark alley. Or any alley for that matter.

Yuji Nagata. Four-time world champion. Has the fourth longest IWGP title reign ever (392 days) and the second most successful IWGP heavyweight title defenses ever (10).  2001 G1 Climax winner, All Japan Champion Carnival winner (2011), Pro Wrestling NOAH Global League Tournament winner (2013), making him the only man to win all three of Japan's big league tournaments. Awesomely nicknamed Blue Justice. Ageless. A latter-day Shawn Michaels. Inventor of that thing you call the Crippler Crossface. Once lost to Fedor Emelianenko and Mirko Cro Cop.

Yujiro Takahashi. IWGP Junior Heavyweight and Heavyweight Tag Team Champion. NEVER Openweight Champion. The Marty Jannetty of No Limit. Self-proclaimed ladies' man. Bullet Clubber. Wears sunglasses indoors. Seriously, who does that?


Quite the field. So about that final four, Eddie Mac. No. No final four. Just final two. One guy from Block A, one guy from Block B get to main event the Final. And that's it. That's it. That is it.

So it's kind of a big deal, right? Indeed. The G1 Climax Final is one of the biggest days of the year in New Japan. It's arguably the second most important day on their calendar, and that card often sets up what goes down at Wrestle Kingdom four and a half months later.

Sounds interesting. So how do I watch this thing? Good question. While watching it in recent years has been tricky, this year, it's easier than ever; it's available on New Japan Pro Wrestling's streaming site, New Japan World.

Wait... New Japan's got a streaming service? Sign me up! Well, I can't sign you up, but you can sign you up for 999 yen, or about $8.50 American (give or take a few cents). That's a buck fiddy less than WWE Network's monthly price. Just make sure to hit Translate on the bottom of the page before you go signing up if you don't understand Japanese.

Um... schedule? Right here. Even has a printable scoresheet if you're into that sorta thing.

So, I'll see ya Monday? Maybe. Likely. Pretty sure Cageside Seats has you covered for G1, if not for the whole thing, definitely for the final. Someone does. I hope.

So...are you ready for G1 Climax 25?

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