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

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Now that the G1 has moved into its final third before the finals, the tale of both blocks has changed as several wrestlers have found themselves on the outside looking in at the finals.

(For a look back at where things stood after the first third, click here)

Night 11 served as a stark reminder to how quickly things could change as with one win, Kazuchika Okada rendered the tournament life of SANADA, Tama Tonga and Hiroyoshi Tenzan moot in the A Block other than for pride while Tomohiro Ishii is effectively on life support.

The B Block is still a log jam, even with two of the favorites having finally gotten a little distance on the rest of the block, which sees six different wrestlers stuck at parody (3-3).

Here’s a look at what remains for G1 Climax 26:

A Block

Kazuchika Okada (5-1, 10 points)

Okada is still floating in the ether a little too much for the IWGP Heavyweight Champion but aside from his Night 1 mauling at the hands of Marufuji, has been relatively content to keep knocking back challengers left and right in the forms of Tonga, Tenzan and Makabe.

Two wins would ensure Okada wins the block no matter who they are, but if there’s going to be any drama heading into the final night, it’s highly likely he’s going to have to lose a match in the next two A Block nights, limiting the options down to Ishii and Fale.

Last 3: Ishii, Fale, Tanahashi

Naomichi Marufuji (4-2, 8 points)

The opening night win over Okada now looms a little larger now that Marufuji has added the scalp of Makabe, effectively vaulting the NOAH mainstay into second place in the A Block.

Marufuji has been killing it in this tournament and I’m not only referring to opponents’ chests, playing off his new competitors very well each night the block has been in action.

In theory, Marufuji should be able to challenge for the top spot on the final night, but there’s a mitigating freight train still coming up the tracks.

Final 3: Tanahashi, Tonga, Goto

Togi Makabe (4-2, 8 points)

Makabe’s only faltering so far in the G1 Climax has been to the two men ahead of him in his last two matches, having put the first bullet in the Tenzan run, so really this has been a pretty good tournament for the GBH leader.

Makabe will also (in theory) be in his element in the last two matches of the block, so it might help make his run in the A Block memorable, though whether or not he powers through to be a factor on the final night remains to be seen.

If nothing else, his final night match could be a real leathernecker of a contest.

Final 3: Fale, Goto, Ishii

Hiroshi Tanahashi (3-3, 6 points)

Three matches ago, Tanahashi was 0-3 and letting out cries of frustration.

Fast forward three matches, all three wins over Fale, Goto and a firefight over Ishii, and the Tana-train is barreling down the tracks. Not that there was too much doubt that with Okada on the final night, the Ace of the Universe had to start getting back on track.

Two of the final three night of the A Block see Tanahashi in high-stakes battles (should be three, but reasons) as a final night showdown looks to be for more than just two points.

Last 3: Marufuji, Tenzan, Okada

Hirooki Goto (3-3, 6 points)

Like Okada, still floating in the ether a little too much for someone who has a history of very good, if not great, matches.

Goto lurched through the middle three bouts, getting stepped over by SANADA and Tanahashi before righting the ship against Tonga and looked distinctly average at every turn.

It might appear that Goto has no real path to the final but it’s likely his final A Block match is to help the CHAOS leader reach the highest of heights.

Final 3: Tenzan, Makabe, Marufuji

Bad Luck Fale (3-3, 6 points)

Fale has been about as steady a hand as there has been in the G1, with only his Night 11 win over Tenzan being anything rough of note, mainly because Tenzan is looking pretty weary at this point.

The Underboss was unable to match earlier G1 success over Tanahashi before finally (after about 100 teases) dropping someone with the Bad Luck Fall to finish off SANADA.

Fale, given his final matches, could in fact be a factor on the final night of the A Block due to having two of the top three in the block over the final three nights. It’s likely Fale picks another big scalp near the top of the table before the tournament finishes.

Final 3: Makabe, Okada, Tonga

Tomohiro Ishii (2-4, 4 points (LIFE SUPPORT))

Ishii went toe-to-toe with Marufuji’s withering chops and came out ahead, only to see two more losses come down the pike to Tonga (after an admittedly cool Gun Stun counter to the Brainbuster) and Tanahashi (in a fantastic match).

At this point, Ishii needs to win out to get over .500 but doing so would require the CHAOS lieutenant to usurp the leader of the group.

In theory, Ishii could still reach the final but would need a crazy set of results to happen. Needless to say, his odds are pretty dang low.

Final 3: Okada, SANADA, Makabe

Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2-4, 4 points (ELIMINATED)

The miracle Tenzan run basically got shot right through after Night 5 was in the books as the aging veteran, who admittedly is starting to look in pretty rough shape, has dropped four-straight matches.

Tenzan has missed his moonsault in all four losses, with Makabe, Okada and Fale all taking advantage of the crash landing the old bull is taking.

As his farewell to the G1 approaches, a couple of wins at the backend would surely be a reward, if nothing else, to the crowd that had backed the Grumpy Old Men representative to the hilt every time he’s stepped into the ring.

Final 3: Goto, Tanahashi, SANADA

Tama Tonga (2-4, 4 points (ELIMINATED))

Tonga has gotten incrementally better since the start of the tournament (fashion aside) as he seems to be more comfortable with what he’s doing.

That’s not to say he’s be knocking any doors over in either loss to Okada or Goto while his love of counters and Ishii’s ability to make a broomstick look like a million bucks was at least a solid outing.

What might be fun is, depending on how the final three nights shake out, is whether or not he might be spoiling someone’s party on the final night.

Final 3: SANADA, Marufuji, Fale

SANADA (2-4, 4 points (ELIMINATED))

SANADA has been in good matches for the most part but has been the victim of being a young man in the G1 Climax.

Like his other LIdJ running mate EVIL, the pair are new to the event and floundering in the bottom rungs of the blocks as SANADA got one over Goto before taking the Bad Luck Fall and eating a Shiranui for his troubles.

For SANADA, there’s little more than pride and tranquillo to fight for at this point.

Final 3: Tonga, Ishii, Tenzan

B Block

Tetsuya Naito (4-2, 8 points)

Naito finally put someone away with his short-let scissor knee bar. Sadly, it was Juice Robinson.

The most unruly of the LIdJ boys got choked out quite badly by Shibata before besting Honma in a match that showed that Naito is not a submission expert and putting away Nakajima in a very fun match to close out Night 12.

Now comes two highly-interesting matches as Naito must square off with one of his unruly brethren before matching wits and brawn with the leader of the Bullet Club.

Final 3: EVIL, YOSHI-HASHI, Omega

Michael Elgin (4-2, 8 points)

#BIGMIKE got his groove back on Night 6 after back-to-back losses to the LIdJ boys in EVIL and Naito and hadn’t looked back, having a hell of a good time with Omega before outmuscling Nagata and going all #BIGMIKSMASH against Y-H in the final 30 seconds of their match.

Elgin now enters a dangerous, if slightly all over the place, section of the G1 with three very different opponents on his plate and a need to avoid an untimely upset to hang with block leader Naito due to the Night 4 loss.

Final 3: Yano, Honma, Nakajima

YOSHI-HASHI (3-3, 6 points)

At this point, you need a PhD in statistics to separate the muddied middle of the B Block.

After dropping two matches on the spin, Y-H found respite by condemning EVIL to the bottom of the table and pulling the string on Nakajima before succumbing to Elgin.

Y-H has had a very consistent tournament and has possibly been one of the best additions to the G1 for 2016.

Being on the right side of .500 might be a tall order, however, at the end with three men upcoming who will all likely be throwing shade at Y-H in their own special ways.

Final 3: Naito, Shibata, Yano

Yuji Nagata (3-3, 6 points)

Old people once ruled the G1 this year. They don’t anymore.

Nagata’s 3-0 start is well in the rear-view mirror after getting punked by Nakajima, outmuscled by Elgin and becoming the latest victim of the Yano Special (and the first person counted out of a G1 match this year).

While faring better than his fellow Grumpy Old Man Tenzan at this point, there are some heavy hitters left before Nagata reaches the finish line, including an old friend he’s met in the recent past.

Final 3: Omega, Shibata, Honma

Katsuhiko Nakajima (3-3, 6 points)

Finally finding his feet in the middle section of the G1, Nakajima has shown plenty of spunk in the middle of the B Block, even if results haven’t always born out that well.

Stuffing Nagata was a good start by dropping the ball against Y-H and seeing his brainbuster instead dropped into Destino by Naito.

Nakajima still has three very tasty matchups to go and might be having to put his genius to use in order to deny someone a spot at the final table on the final night.

Final 3: Honma, Omega, Elgin

Kenny Omega (3-3, 6 points)

When Omega gets to shake free the stink that is Yujiro Takahashi, he’s such a fine guy to watch.

A loss to Elgin in a fire encounter was followed by a W over EVIL but a loss to Shibata to follow in another very good match sees him drop into the big glob of six-pointers in the B Block.

With a fated showdown with the ungovernable one on the final night looming, a spot in the G1 Final is within reach if he can close out on a hot streak.

Final 3: Nagata, Nakajima, Naito

Katsuyori Shibata (3-3, 6 points)

Shibata’s body is showing the wear and tear of being a guy who hits hard, gets hit hard and keeps plugging away anyway.

A choke-out win over Naito raised some eyebrows before Yano did Yano things. In danger against Omega, a counter-triangle from the One-Winged Angel position helped Shibata survive long enough for a PK to get back to parody.

A quick run of results would see him in strong position to challenge for the top of the block but that requires being the block upstart, his favorite old guy and the gatekeeper to the LIdJ kingpin.

Final 3: YOSHI-HASHI, Nagata, EVIL

Toru Yano (3-3, 6 points)

You didn’t think the Sublime Master Thief would take being 0-3 lying down, did you?

Yano finally got his bollocks-busting ways going by helping derail the Honma train before sparing Shibata a night’s work with a quick win and forcing the first count-out of the G1 by taping Nagata’s legs together down the entrance ramp.

Yano’s final major opponent is his next one before continuing his shilling, ref-holding, testicle-smiting ways against two of the tournaments younger pups.

Final 3: Elgin, EVIL, YOSHI-HASHI

EVIL (2-4, 4 points)

EVIL had floundered for much of the tournament up to Night 12 as his opening night win over Elgin seems far in the distance after dropping four-straight matches, including loses to Y-H and Omega in this section of the G1.

A win over fellow bottom-dweller Honma finally has gotten the big man off the slide, just in time to meet his running buddy, an even shadier character and a final night showdown to possibly have to prove his worth in the LIdJ stable.

Final 3: Naito, Yano, Shibata

Tomoaki Honma (2-4, 4 points)

Ne’re has two wins meant so much to one man in all the wrong ways.

Honma’s two opening wins have caused an inverse reaction in that the fans aren’t rooting for their loveable underdog anymore. In fact, they’re not really sure what they want from him.

Dropping four-straight, including rounds to Yano, Naito and EVIL will put him back on the right road but it make take some rehab work (i.e. a lot of losses) before the fans jump back on the Honmamania train, as weird as that actually sounds.

Final 3: Nakajima, Elgin, Nagata

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