As the G1 Climax gets underway, NJPW World is your go to venue for all the action live, as well as documentaries, interviews, and thousands of hours of archival content! To help you navigate those archives, we take a look through history every week on njpw1972.com:
June 30 2018: The King in Milton Keynes
We start our weekly look back by visiting the UK, and RevPro’s collaboration with NJPW for the Strong Style Evolved UK tour. In 2018, the United Kingdom belonged to Suzuki-Gun, with Zack Sabre Junior and Minoru Suzuki grabbing British Tag Team gold in January that they would hold for the entire year.
In Milton Keynes they would face CHAOS opposition in Tomohiro Ishii and Kazuchika Okada. There were a lot of ins and outs to this match; in addition to wanting to grab tag team glory, all four men were part of the G1 Climax and wanted to assert themselves before the tournament started. Then there was a Kazuchika Okada who had undergone a dramatic change since losing the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in Osaka Jo hall, and even since wrestling Suzuki in the rain in Yokohama a week earlier. Okada was debuting a new look and a different attitude in this match, surprising the British crowd who were amped up to see four of NJPW’s best tear into one another.
July 1, 2012: The shape of things to come
With Tetsuya Naito having freshly won the IWGP Intercontinental Chamionship, and SANADA having arguably the best year of his career to date, G1 Climax 29 could possibly see an all Los Ingobernables De Japon final in the Budokan. If that were to be the case, it would be the second singles meeting between Naito and SANADA, after they locked up in block action during last year’s tournament. Before that one would have to look back to 2012, well before LIJ, and well before SANADA was a known name to NJPW fans.
July 1 2012 saw Ryogoku Sumo Hall host the ‘We Are Pro Wrestling Love!’ event designed to celebrate 40 years of both New and All Japan Pro Wrestling. Matches where both talent rosters collided saw some interesting teams, and in the sixth match of the evening, All Japan’s Seiya Sanada would team with Joe Doering against Tetsuya Naito and a pre- BULLET CLUB Tama Tonga.
Less than a year after this event, Tonga would transform into the BULLET CLUB soldier we know today, while Naito was a few years away from transforming into El Ingobernable, and from recruiting the future SANADA to his ungovernable cause. This tag match is definitely an interesting look into these men’s pasts.
July 2, 2017: A champion crowned
On July 6 2019, history is made as for the first time ever, the G1 Climax sees matches contested on non-Japanese soil, in the American Airlines Center in Dallas. It’s the high point of an American expansion for NJPW that srated in 2017. For two nights at the start of July, the G1 Special saw NJPW stage its first fully fledged events in the US at the Long Beach Convention Center.
The second night of the double header saw the culmination of a single elimination tournament to crown the inaugural IWGP United States Champion. The finalists, Tomohiro Ishii and Kenny Omega, presented diverse styles that created a thrill to watcgh in ring for the US fans. Omega had gotten past Jay Lethal in the semi-final earlier in the evening to reach this point, while Ishii was able to get the win over a Zack Sabre Junior who had relentlessly stretched the Stone Pitbull. Both men were eager to leave their mark on history, while also leaving significant marks on one another.
July 5 2015: Laughter? Seven
‘I came here to pick a fight’. The line uttered by Katsuyori Shibata when he returned after a near seven year exile to NJPW at the G1 Climax final in 2012 edfinitely stuck in the minds o ffans for years to come. That night, Shibata stood in the ring next to MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba; Sakuraba had gotten his start in pro wrestling rings as part of UWFI, and had wrestled in New Japan before shooting to mixed martial arts prominence in PRIDE FC.
Sakuraba developed a friendship with Shibata when during Shibata’s time away from NJPW. After Shibata left he would pursue other opportunities within both pro wrestling and MMA, and would join Sakuraba’s Laughter7 gym. On Sakuaraba and Shibata’s return to NJPW, the two would tag through the autumn of 2012, but drifted apart and found separate paths, Shibata eventually earning the respect of his main unit peers while Sakuraba would become affiliated with CHAOS.
It seemed inevitable that the two would want to fight in a NJPW ring to find out who the better man was, and that bout went down at 2015’s Dominion event, the first Dominion to be contested in Osaka Jo Hall. Both would tear into one another with furious strikes, and brutal submissions, sometimes only broken by some innovative use of Shibata’s teeth.