New Japan G1 Climax 26: The story thus far (through the first third of the tourney)

G1 Climax 26 has hit its first benchmark as both blocks have been though the first third of their matches.

There are certainly some surprises among the field (Makabe and Nagata unbeaten, Tanahashi winless) some great stories (Tenzan’s final tour of duty, experience trumping youth) and, well, some less-than notable things (Tama Tonga, even if he did beat Tanahashi, Honma trying to kill shoulders one Pillar Crash at a time).

Since we have a better idea now as to what’s going on, here’s a quick recap of what’s going on for each participant in the G1 (note the symmetry between the blocks in terms of records).

A Block

Togi Makabe (3-0, 6 points)

Getting an opening night win over Tama Tonga was pretty will a gimme but the Unchained Gorilla has notched up wins over Tanahashi and SANDA as well, topping a table with plenty of star power in it.

A bit of a surprise, sure, but Makabe still has plenty of clout among the NJPW faithful so it’s not a total shock.

Makabe hasn’t lit the world on fire in any of his matches but none of the first three opponents are the banger types that Makabe more frequently gets paired off with, so maybe some they’ll get the blood pumping for him.

Next 3: Tenzan, Marufuji, Okada

Hirooki Goto (2-1, 4 Points)

Goto picked up a pair of opening wins over Fale and Ishii before dropping his third match to Okada.

For being in a good position, though, he’s….well, he’s in the tournament and hasn’t really moved the needle for a lot of people yet. There are some great matches in Goto but he’s yet to throw everyone a bone and put in an outstanding performance.

Next 3: SANDA, Tanahashi, Tonga

Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2-1, 4 points)

Tenzan’s 20th and final G1 has been pretty good so far. Wins over Ishii, in a great match to kick off the tournament, and Tonga were tempered slightly by a loss to Marufuji.

The crowd has been in full voice every time he gets going and if he can keep his body going for six more matches, he could have the best resume of matches from the tournament.

Next 3: Makabe, Okada, Fale

Kazuchika Okada (2-1, 4 points)

Okada was taken to school by Marufuji on the opening night but rebounded with a good win over SANADA and a okay win over Goto.

The IWGP champion has not been overwhelming by any stretch and could use a changeup from having the long main-event type matches every time. A couple of sprint matches might get him into a groove and prove his talk about winning the G1 isn’t bluster.

Next 3: Tonga, Tenzan, Makabe

Naomichi Marufuji (2-1, 4 points)

There was quite a bit of chatter (go look, it’s out there) that Marufuji was an okay entrant but that he’d lost a step.

One eviscerating of Okada, along with a hard-fought win over Tenzan sandwiched around a defeat by Fale, and there’s not a lot of that talk going on any more, is there?

Marufuji could make a case for the first third MVP of the G1 and hopefully he not only keeps this going but turns that into a good run in NOAH once the tournament is done.

Next 3: Ishii, Makabe, SANADA

Bad Luck Fale (1-2, 2 points)

Fale has been involved in three well-executed matches in which the big Samoan gets to beat down on opponents (his best match-type) while the opposition has to figure out a plan of attack.

Goto kept banging until he chopped down Fale while Marufuji tried to go at him in his normal style, eating a Grenade and fall for his efforts. Ishii took a shitload of punishment but dealt out enough to hit a brainbuster.

Fale isn’t likely to throw out **** matches but he’s going to pick up a couple of wins that’ll catch people off-guard and as long as the opponents keep playing at new ways to have to face him, Fale serves a valuable purpose in the G1.

Next 3: Tanahashi, SANADA, Tenzan

Tomohiro Ishii (1-2, 2 points)

Ishii is a boss, regardless of the fact he only has one win. Took a loss in a highly emotional match with Tenzan and ate a fall in a banger with Goto, finally picking up a win over Fale by being willing to take a beating to dish out punishment in return.

It would be a shock to see Ishii on the wrong side of .500 so a few wins should be on the horizon and with it some more stellar work in the tournament.

Next 3: Marufuji, Tonga, Tanahashi

SANADA (1-2, 2 points)

Had Marufuji not rocked Okada’s world in the following match, SANADA’s win over Tanahashi on night one would have been the story of the night.

Since then back-to-back losses to Okada and Makabe have reminded everyone that SANADA is still new to the tournament and it’s fair to assess that the opening night might be SANADA’s highlight of the tournament, even if it’s a pretty solid moment.

Next 3: Goto, Fale, Marufuji

Tama Tonga (1-2, 2 points)

Tonga has been a disappointment so far in the G1, losing to Tenzan and Makabe before pulling off maybe the shock result of the tournament with a win over Tanahashi.

A shock because, let’s face it, Tonga has not justified a spot in the G1 yet.

Tonga looks best when he’s moving fast against the bigger wrestlers but he’s only doing that in spurts. For a guys who needed to show his ill-fated IWGP tag run was a blip, this was not the way to get people on his side, which is pretty noticeable any time the crowd has a chance to cheer.

You’ve probably noticed by now, but they don’t say a peep.

Next 3: Okada, Ishii, Goto

Hiroshi Tanahashi (0-3, 0 points)

Well, isn’t this an interesting predicament.

The Ace of the Universe (possibly under argument from someone, somewhere who has no brain because he’s never held the Universal Title), coming in off a shoulder injury, has been ‘dragged down’ by the injury to the point he lost to SANADA (understandable), Makabe (understandable) and Tonga (only in a story does that make sense).

It’s expected that this is the point where Tanahashi begins the miracle comeback run to make his last match with Okada for the block win but I think that might be someone else’s baby this time….

Next 3: Fale, Goto, Ishii

B Block

Yuji Nagata (3-0, 6 points)

Old people rule at the start of G1.

Makabe, Tenzan and Nagata are among the revered vets in the tournament and are having a fun time putting young punks in their place.

Nagata’s wins over Naito, EVIL and Y-H shows veteran nous is getting the job done. It’s that whole staying in one piece part that’s an issue as shown by the end of the G1 that’s going to eventually come up, seeing as younger and fitter men are already showing plenty of wear and tear.

Next 3: Nakajima, Elgin, Yano

Tomoaki Honma (2-1, 4 points)

Honma is supposed to be the lovable loser, so winning two straight out of the box over Shibata and Y-H put him in a position that he, nor the crowd, was used to being in.

It was noticeable in the loss to Omega what that has done for Honma, which is to say probably worked against him. The crowd wants to root for underdog Honma, not winning Honma, so unless he goes for broke, finishes near the top of the table and wins plenty of matches going forward, the G1 might actually be a bit of a hindrance for him.

Next 3: Yano, Naito, EVIL

Tetsuya Naito (2-1, 4 points)

After being a hair too carefree against Nagata, Naito and Elgin put on the match of the tournament to date and followed that up by out-dicking around Yano.

Naito was always going to be a favorite in this tournament but goes into the big bangers stretch of his tournament. Two wins out of three should be the minimum, not that Naito cares, though.

Next 3: Shibata, Honma, Nakajima

Katsuhiko Nakajima (2-1, 4 points)

While Marufuji had plenty of fanfare coming into the G1, Nakajima had a bit of intrigue surrounding him as he wasn’t anywhere near as well-known as his fellow NOAH interloper.

Wins over Yano and Evil were sandwiched by a hard-hitting loss to Shibata. Nakajima still looks a ponderous at times but has settled in nicely in the tournament.

Next 3: Nagata, YOSHI-HASHI, Naito

Kenny Omega (2-1, 4 points)

No one in the group is as quite as night-and-day as Omega is from the undercard to the G1 matches.

Omega looked fine in a loss to Y-H, managed to out-dick Yano and had a solid, if not great, match with Honma for his second win of the tournament. So long as serious Omega shows up and not DDT Omega, he should be one of the more solid competitors in the field.

Next 3: Elgin, Nagata, YOSHI-HASHI

EVIL (1-2, 2 points)

The LIdJ bruiser has had a solid start to life in the G1, pinning Elgin in his opener before becoming another scalp at the Grumpy Old Men Lodge and getting dropped by Nakajima.

His keynote win over Elgin gives him a potential title feud down the line but EVIL is still a newcomer to the tournament and of the six first-time entrants, only two are above .500 right now, a trend likely to continue.

Next 3: YOSHI-HASHI, Omega, Honma

YOSHI-HASHI (1-2, 2 points)

Like EVIL, Y-H got a marquee win over Omega to start the G1 before dropping rounds to Honma (not to mention a shoulder) and Nagata to come back down to earth a little bit.

Y-H is certainly more than holding his own in the tournament so far and has some high-profile matches on the horizon to see if he can keep showing that he’s ready for a bigger responsibility in NJPW.

Next 3: EVIL, Omega, Elgin

Katsuyori Shibata (1-2, 2 points)

Shibata’s tournament got off to a rocky start after a Pillar Crash from Honma helped send him to an early loss (and repeated trips to the physio).

The NEVER champion bounced back by clubbing up start Nakajima before being bested by Elgin. Given his shoulder (and possibly a knee being dinged), much of Shibata’s next six matches will simply being staying in one piece until the end with a style that will do his body zero favors.

Next 3: Naito, Yano, Omega

Michael Elgin (1-2, 2 points)

The Intercontinental Champion (which is actually a big deal in Japan as opposed to what the Miz just got treated as) was in a big spot of bother after dropping his two opening matches to the LIdJ boys in EVIL and Naito.

In a clash of champions, Elgin bested a wounded Shibata to finally get his G1 account up and running and given the position he’s in, probably is the signal for a big run of wins to come.

Next 3: Omega, Nagata, YOSHI-HASHI

Toru Yano (0-3, 0 points)

If you’ve ever seen a Yano match, you’ve got the general gist of about every Yano match, which means you either loath him or think he’s one of the best things going on planet earth.

That said, the Mast Thief has been punked three times to open up the G1, getting blasted by Nakajima before losing ball-buster battles against Omega and Naito. He’ll get a win or two at some point because that’s what he’s there for but several prime targets have already passed him by.

Next 3: Honma, Shibata, Nagata

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