It’s been a while but Daizou Nonaka is here with you again!
The biggest G1 Climax of all time is in the books. It was a long, hard and hot road, with all the wrestlers having to do battle in temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius for a whole month. But what a month it was! As the final bell sounded, as I’m sure all wrestling fans did with the G1 back in the summer, I really felt that now we’re all embarking into autumn.
So I wanted to write a little bit about the G1 this year. It was a great tournament for sure, but in the end I saw something of the future, and the surrounding landscape, that reminded me of the gaming scene.
28 wrestlers in four blocks meant only six league matches per wrestler. It definitely made things more tense with every match, and every match was vitally important. There were also fewer early eliminations, and a lot more guys still in with a chance to win by the end. I think JONAH, Finlay, Henare and Tama all really stepped up in their campaigns and became new stars for the future. But through it all, the one face that really stood out was Kazuchika Okada.
He was surrounded by monsters in the A Block, but carried himself to victory, and went into the elimination phase with the aura of a sumo yokozuna. In his last stretch of three matches against Lance Archer, Tama Tonga and then Will Ospreay, it really did seem as if he could lose at any second. His opponents wrestled perfect matches, but he was able to control the bout in the end and come through with the victory. It was Okada in his greatest, most polished form in this tournament.
What I think is also significant is that seven of Okada’s eight matches in the tournament were against international competition. As NJPW continues to push globally, Okada is still the centerpiece. From JONAH to Lawlor, he showed his worth and presence against worldwide competition every night.
After winning the G1, Okada wasn’t satisfied with just being labelled the challenger for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. He stated three key goals:
-To elevate the status of the G1 Climax
-To main event in the Tokyo Dome on January 4
-To sell out the Tokyo Dome
Effectively he wants to represent the genre and the entire platform that pro-wrestling represents. Effectively, Okada seeks to be pro-wrestling’s ‘killer app’.
There are a lot of ‘killer apps’ in the gaming world. Games that aren’t just well put together and fun to play, but that get people to buy a platform, or even get people into gaming period. Games that have an easily understood and intense appeal.
When you work in games, the first thought is to appeal to gamers. This is a business after all, and the first thought is to appeal to your audience, those who play games and expect big things from them, but just having that mindset isn’t the way to create new customers. It’s important to give those gamers the depth they want and expect while at the same time make something that newcomers can immediately hop in on the ground floor and fall in love with, to create an entirely new market.
Being the killer app of professional wrestling. I think that’s a heck of a cool label to have, and certainly indicates how important you are. But it isn’t an easy title to bear. Representing an entire platform or genre to people brings with it an immense responsibility. In the gaming world, they are perhaps becoming harder to find. All sorts of development studios have sprung up, most of them trying to cater toward current users. The truth is you can’t make a game that core gamers aren’t interested in, and expect it to sell. With a safe mindset of making new games in established franchises, developers and publishers are fulfilling the goals laid out in front of them, but are losing sight of the bigger picture, and of the industry’s future.
Pro-wrestling is arguably the same. It’s a constant fight for survival in the business, and for most wrestlers, the next goal is what’s constantly in mind. Beating the next opponent, putting out matches that have the fans’ focus and attention and having them leave the arenas happy. That’s the role of a wrestler, and the competitive drive and the excitement that creates is certainly the appeal of wrestling. Yet when you’re in the number one position, at the very top of the mountain, you have to look out across the whole active landscape and fight to maintain and develop it.
When Hiroshi Tanahashi was at his career peak with the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, he wasn’t just wrestling great main events every night, but making sure that he did every appearance, every media call and every interview to ensure that NJPW made its recovery in the marketplace. Okada saw that with his own eyes, and knows the importance of the job he has now as the focal point of NJPW in Japan.
For Okada to win the G1 and have selling out the Tokyo Dome first on his agenda for what’s next shows the resolve he has, and the worldview he possesses as a top star; a worldview that he can use to carry the pro-wrestling scene in this country on his back. I think that when he won the G1, Okada didn’t just win a mere trophy, but the right to represent professional wrestling to the entire world. With Okada as its killer app, things are looking strong for NJPW, and professional wrestling at large.
Let’s finish off with Daizou Nonaka’s G1 awards!
MVP: Kazuchika Okada
Best match: August 17, Budokan, Will Ospreay vs Tetsuya Naito
Impact award: JONAH
Biggest break: David Finlay
Technician award: Tom Lawlor
Daizou Nonaka is a 38 year veteran of both the video game industry and pro-wrestling fandom.
You can follow him on Twitter @daizonnonaka