G1 set to begin July 16
The tournament of tournaments is almost upon us, as the biggest field in history of 28 stars get ready to participate in G1 CLimax 32. From the first night on July 16 in Sapporo all the way to the August 16-18 final triple header, every block is in action every night, and that means big hitting matches- none bigger than the big boy A Block. Let’s look at the entrants.
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11th entry, 11th consecutive. 2012, 2014, 2021 Winner.
Career G1 W:L record: 65-24-4
Kazuchika Okada heads into his 12th G1 looking for his fourth overall victory. While the Rainmaker has to be heading into A Block as the favourite, the demanding nature of the biggest, heaviest and most powerful of all four groups presents an intimidating challenge. After starting NJPW’s 50th Anniversary year by winning the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, Okada had promised to go through the year as the standard bearer of NJPW, and to win the New Japan Cup and G1 in the process as champion. Those plans have been disrupted, by Tetsuya Naito in the cup, and by Jay White in IWGP competition. Will the Rainmaker get back on track on the road to next year’s Wrestle Kingdom by winning G1 Climax 32?
KEY MATCH: August 10, Hiroshima vs Tom Lawlor
Much like Okada, Tom Lawlor heads into the G1 as a recently deposed, dominant champion with a significant point to prove. Okada would be remiss to look past the debuting Lawlor, who could give the 2021 G1 winner all he can say grace over in Hiroshima, and though the Filthy one is as accomplished as any of the tournament debutants, the scene could be set for a significant upset on August 10.
He may not be carrying the STRONG Openweight Championship into the G1, but Tom Lawlor heads into his debut tournament with his reputation decidedly established over on STRONG, and with the pressure that comes from representing both a brand and his faction in Team Filthy. The former UFC fighter will have to lean on every bit of his submission and striking expertise in order to get past some huge opposition, but Lawlor is unlikely to be intimidated.
KEY MATCH: July 30, Aichi vs JONAH
The closest we will come to a STRONG derby during the G1, Lawlor and JONAH will represent the high standard of competition on Saturday nights, and present an interesting stylistic clash in its own right. How Lawlor will tackle the giant JONAH is intriguing indeed, and the subtext of a struggle for power between two perceived faction leaders in Team Filthy and TMDK make this one not to be missed.
G1 Climax 32 will see JONAH head to Japan for the first time since 2015, and for the first time with NJPW. After his first appearance in an NJPW ring back at Battle in the Valley last November, the Top Dog has been living up to that name on NJPW STRONG, but now has stiff competition in the big boy block of G1 competition. An irresistible force, JONAH nonetheless finds himself up against more than a few immoveable objects; how will he fare?
KEY MATCH: August 5, Matsuyama vs Jeff Cobb
JONAH prides himself at being the model of athletic big men in modern pro-wrestling, but he will have his work cut out for him in proving that point against Jeff Cobb. A hoss fight that has wowed crowds in each of their three singles meetings on the US independents, this first meeting in Japan, and on its biggest stage to date, will be unmissable.
17th entry, 16th consecutive
Career G1 W:L record: 55-72-1
Toru Yano enters somewhat of a block of death in this year’s G1, with tough and sizable competition that is more than capable of putting the hurting on the master producer. Yet history has proven that Yano is more than capable of polishing off bigger men, and in short order during the G1 Climax. We are sure to see the Yano magic being successful at least once during the series; the question is how many times, and will it be the undoing of a key figure down the road?
KEY MATCH: July 27, Korakuen vs Bad Luck Fale
Yano has been a consistent source of humiliation and anger from Bad Luck Fale through the years, only a second round New Japan Cup victory in 2017 giving Fale the 1 in a 5-1 singles record to Yano. With their most recent singles bout securing Yano’s KOPW 2020 champion status due to some decidedly sneaky tactics in their bodyslam or last corner pad match, Yano will be highly confident in his ability to embarrass the Rogue General once again, and doing so will set him in good stead for the second half of his campaign.
4th entry, 4th consecutive
Career G1 W:L record: 16-11
Jeff Cobb heads into his fourth G1 having scored 16 career wins from his prior three entries. An admirable total indeed, but one can not overlook the point that half of those wins came in last year’s tournament alone. Cobb was the first man ever to go 8-0 in the league portion of the G1, and should he repeat the same feat in 2022, he’ll run away with the G1 trophy. A tall task? For most, but perhaps not for the Imperial Unit.
KEY MATCH: July 16, Sapporo vs Kazuchika Okada
A critical final league match against kazuchika Okada in 2021 saw Jeff Cobb forced out of the running at the final hurdle. On July 16, he will seek revenge in his first match of the campaign. First bout or not, this will be no less critical to either man’s chances of making the finals, and with some all important revenge as well as two points at stake, Cobb will be bringing everything he has to the table in Sapporo.
Bad Luck Fale
7th entry, first in three years
Career G1 W:L record: 29-26
Bad Luck Fale makes his first G1 appearance since 2019. Carrying a positive all time win:loss record, the Rogue General may be a dark horse for semifinal contention, but can easily be the better of anybody in his block on any given night. Can he surprise the A Block and make it to the final four?
KEY MATCH: July 20, Sendai vs Lance Archer
The epitome of the big boy block is the big boy clash in Sendai with Fale taking on Lance Archer. With meetings in the New Japan Cup in 2018 and the G1 in 2019, Fale and Archer are 1-1, and with their meeting early on in the campaign, this de facto rubber match could well set the pace for both men through the rest of the campaign.
Sixth entry, first in 3 years
Career G1 W:L record: 19-26
Lance Archer’s 2019 G1 entry was a revelation for the Murderhawk Monster, one that set him on the path to his first IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship reign, and eventually to All Elite Wrestling, whom he represents along with Suzuki-Gun in this year’s tournament. His 19-26 record belies his incredible in ring ability, and he remains a force to be reckoned with as he enters his sixth tournament.
KEY MATCH: August 16, Budokan vs Kazuchika Okada
Lance Archer’s last league match sees him take on Kazuchika Okada in the Budokan. The Murderhawk Monster is 0-5 against the Rainmaker, but the significance of the stage, and of the timing will not be lost on the big man. An upset could see Archer through and Okada out, and Archer will stop at nothing to make that happen.