The C in Climax stands for C Block?
As we get set for the start of G1 Climax 32 on July 16, it’s impossible to discount the possibility of our winner coming from C Block this year. With the New Japan Cup winner, former double IWGP Champions and the winningest G1 wrestler of all time in the group, fans definitely need to keep C block circled.
21st entry, 21st consecutive
2007, 2015, 2018 winner. 2004, 2010, 2013 finalist
Career G1 W:L record 91-61-8
An incredible 160 G1 matches, 91 wins, six finals and three trophies across two decades. The winningest wrestler in G1 history, Hiroshi Tanahashi’s resume is never in any doubt. Yet after recent form has seen him to 4-5 records in the last three years, The Ace may also be aware that the time is ticking for him at the very top flight. Winning the IWGP US Championship twice and losing it with no defences, making it to the main event of Forbidden Door but losing the Interim AEW World title to Jon Moxley, it’s been a year of one step forth and one step back in 2022. Can Tanahashi forge the consistency needed to make it through a tough six man block?
KEY MATCH: July 30, Aichi vs Zack Sabre Jr.
Hiroshi Tanahashi and Zack Sabre Jr. have traded wins around the world for five years, and though they haven’t tied up since the autumn of 2020, the Briton has become a key opponent for the Ace, for better and for worse. That last 2020 singles meeting came at the end of a torrid G1 30 campaign for Tanahashi, and represented a key final two points for the Ace to end his campaign on a high.
One year earlier though, a string of battles included what was perhaps a transformative defeat for Tanahashi, when Madison Square Garden saw him verbally submit to Sabre, and put on the injured list immediately afterward. That last defeat came to resemble what Tanahashi admits is the greatest frustration for him in the autumn of his career; failing in his own mind to create a lasting overseas legacy. A fourth trophy, or even a final four appearance, and those hopes will still be alive for Tanahashi; ZSJ is a key piece of that puzzle on July 30.
15th entry, 15th consecutive
2008 winner, 2016 finalist. NEVER Openweight 6 man Tag Team Champion
Career G1 W:L record: 62-58
It’s been 14 years since the G in G1 stood for Goto, and Hirooki Goto was victorious in his debut year, a feat only matched by a precious few. While Goto has never matched the heights of his debut year, he is a looming threat for any other competitor in the block, having gotten the best of everyone at one point or another. Rejuvenated with his NEVER 6 Man Tag Team Championship win in Korakuen Hall right before tournament start, he’ll be a motivated and dangerous force in C Block.
KEY MATCH: August 16, Budokan vs EVIL
Goto’s last campaign match will be against the King of Darkness in Nippon Budokan. CHAOS and HOUSE OF TORTURE’s issues have stretched all the way through 2022, with CHAOS seemingly gaining come closure from EVIL’s crew with a victory to regain the NEVER Openweight 6 Man Tag Championships at the start of July. Yet EVIL is not done yet, and will be thirsting for dark revenge, as well as what could be a critical two points to move him to the final four.
13th entry, 13th consecutive
2013, 2017 winner. 2011 finalist
Career G1 W:L record: 60-47-1
For years now, Tetsuya Naito has been motivated through injury, self doubt and ill fortune with one hope in mind- to give a rousing final role call after a main event in the Tokyo Dome. KENTA’s interference made sure that even in his crowning glory of becoming the first double IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion, that dream was denied him in 2020. In 2021, Kota Ibushi’s January 4 victory made sure it wasn’t in the cards for Naito then, and a knee injury at the hands of Zack Sabre Jr. on night one of G1 Climax 31 denied Naito a 2022 spot. January 4 2023, and Wrestle Kingdom 17 represents all or nothing for Naito, who knows that the mileage on his body means his time in the limelight is limited and fast fading. Unable to wrest gold from Kazuchika Okada earlier in the year, and out to Sabre in the New Japan Cup final, Naito will put it all on the line to come out with his third G1 trophy.
KEY MATCH: August 16, Budokan vs Zack Sabre Jr.
In a six month span, ZSJ denied Naito G1 Climax 31, and the New Japan Cup, both times in Osaka. Back to Tokyo for the last league night then, but any feeling that Naito may have more of an upper hand in the capital, would be mistaken; a victory for ZSJ in final league moments in 2018 in the Budokan putting Naito out of the running that year. Naito needs to defeat a vicious nemesis in Tokyo if he’s to come any closer to his ultimate goal.
7th entry, 7th consecutive
Career G1 W:L Record: 32-22
Since joining BULLET CLUB in 2020, the King of Darkness has had reason to forget the last two G1 Climax tournaments. A reign of terror in 2020 had him within a foreboding grasp of making the finals before being denied by SANADA on the last block match of the tournament, while 2021 saw his momentum similarly crash to a halt at the mighty hands of Jeff Cobb. In 2022, he and the ever present Dick Togo will be looking to ensure the third time is darkly charmed. With cheering set to return to Korakuen Hall at the start of September, how vociferously would EVIL be booed if he walked into the Hall as G1 winner?
KEY MATCH: July 31, Aichi vs Tetsuya Naito
After four singles matches between EVIL and Naito in 2020, the two former LIJ pareja meet for the first time one on one in 18 months in Aichi. EVIL’s rise, defection, reign as double champion and subsequent fall are all connected to the man who brought him into Los Ingobernables De Japon in 2015. Now in 2022, there is a chance for EVIL to once again climb to the top of the mountain by pulling at the heels of El Ingobernable.
4th entry, 4th consecutive
Career G1 W:L record: 16-11
With four victories in his debut year, through five in 2020 to a finals threatening six in 2021, KENTA has been made steady improvements to the point where he is, mathematically at least, capable of going perfect in the block this year. Coming back from severe injuries that took half of the year away from him, KENTA is hungry for his spot, and some two and a half years since he ruined Tetsuya Naito’s Tokyo Dome moment in 2020, he may dedicate himself to preventing El Ingobernable another.
KEY MATCH: August 14, Nagano vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
KENTA and Tanahashi have been at one another’s throats since the BULLET CLUB member’s first G1, and their issues escalated over first the number one contendership to the IWGP US Championship in 2020, and then the belt itself in 2021. That rivalry would come to a head on January 5, where they escalated into a brutal no holds barred streetfight. As he shoved KENTA off a huge ladder in the Tokyo Dome and followed with the Highest Fly Flow of all time, Tanahashi emerged victorious, but it was a pyrrhic victory for the Ace. Hating the lengths he had to go to to defeat KENTA before, Tanahashi wants to beat his foe his own classical way, and KENTA will be working to ensure that does not happen.
Aaron Henare completes a long drive to be included in the G1 Climax, but the work starts here for the Ultimate Weapon. When Henare once joked about being a part of ‘C Block’, outside of consideration for the core twenty of the tournament of tournaments, now he is in C Block as an official entrant, and with a mighty chip on his shoulder. For the United Empire representative, this is a block of death chock full of difficult matches, but that also means it’s chock full of opportunity for Henare.
KEY MATCH: July 16, Sapporo vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
The key match for Henare personally is his first as he faces a former partner in Hiroshi Tanahashi. Since joining the United Empire from Hontai, Henare has talked about banging his head against a glass ceiling within the core establishement of NJPW, and that Tanahashi was the one responsible for installing and maintaining the glass. Breaking through the Ace would be a clear sign of Henare’s career breaking through to the next level, and this match could well be called among, if not the biggest of his career. Can the Ultimate Weapon live up to the task?
Zack Sabre Jr.
6th entry 6th consecutive 2022 New Japan Cup winner
Career G1 W:L record: 26-19
Completing C Block is this year’s New Japan Cup winner Zack Sabre Jr. While ZSJ’s hopes of a technical wrestling classic with Bryan Danielson at Forbidden Door were denied him, Sabre will now set his sights on earning his position as the most revered technical wrestler on the planet during the G1. We so often see the best from ZSJ at this time of year, but it hasn’t been quite enough to propel him to the finals conversation just yet; although with Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi and Kota Ibushi on his submission list early in 2021, he came as close as ever during his career to date.
KEY MATCH: July 17, Sapporo vs KENTA
Whether two blocks or four, ZSJ always seems to share a drawing with KENTA in the G1, and it always turns out to be one of, if not the best bouts of the tournament. All eyes will be on Sapporo in night two to see how the latest chapter in this mini rivalry continues, with KENTA enjoying a 3-1 advantage over the Briton and a perpetual, near condescending senpai air that comes from him being instrumental in Sabre being introduced to the Japanese landscape in the first place over a decade ago.