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A beginner's guide to the 2017 G1 Climax

With the first G1 Climax 2017 card set to kick off Monday morning, anticipation is mounting for New Japan fans who have seen the previous tournaments that have aired live in recent years.

This article serves as a primer for this year's tournament and will get you ready for what is going on for the next month in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Be sure to check out written reports over the next few weeks for the latest scores, as well as coverage on our various radio programs.

For more pre-G1 coverage, the Big Audio Nightmare and Dr. Keith Presents shows have extensive previews. 

History and how to watch --

What is the G1? What does G1 stand for?

The Grade 1 Climax tournament is held every year with a varying number of wrestlers competing to win it. This year, it's 20 men.

Each wrestler is put in one of two blocks and must wrestle everyone in that block. The two people with the most points in their respective blocks will face off in the finals to determine the winner of the tournament.

When does it start, or end for that matter? Just how many shows are there?

This year’s G1 starts on July 17th at 2:00 a.m. ET and ends on August 13th, also at 2:00 a.m. ET (for other time zones, check this for a time conversion). Altogether, there will be 19 total shows airing throughout July and August.

You can see the full schedule, including times, tournament matches, and non-tournament bouts here.

Will there be English commentary?

Yes. The first four shows held in Korakuen Hall and the last three shows held at Sumo Hall will have English commentary by Kevin Kelly and Don Callis.

Additionally, the big bouts on these shows will likely be covered in the near future on NJPW's AXS TV time slot, with Jim Ross and Josh Barnett on commentary.

What about the other shows?

There are usually three kinds of New Japan World broadcasts. Some have a multi-camera setup with Japanese commentary, and others do not have commentary due to Samurai TV (the cable network that airs a majority of New Japan’s TV shows) having exclusive rights to the commentary.

The third way they present the shows features a simple one-shot fixed camera. You can check NJPW World’s schedule to see which shows have what.

All G1 Climax 2017 events will air live on New Japan World. You can access the live stream roughly 30 minutes before the show starts on the main page, highlighted in a yellow box on top of the page.

I've heard about New Japan World but have no idea how to use it. How do I sign up for it and how do I navigate the site?

Well, first off, going to the site helps wonders!

On the top of the site, you’ll see an option to select a language. Pick English, and the site will be converted to English thanks to the power of Google Translate. Go back to the top and you’ll be able to see a place where you can login and register. Click on that.

From here, it should be relatively straightforward. Fill in the information and your preferred billing method and you should be fine from there. NJPW World accepts most credit cards, as well as PayPal, as payment options.

Once you’ve signed up, you can continue navigating in English with the Google Translate option. Be sure to check the schedule for dates of upcoming shows beyond the G1.

If you’re still having trouble, hit me up on Twitter here and we can try to sort things out.

These shows air live way too early in the morning. How quickly will they be available on demand?

Shortly after the show ends. If not, it will more than likely be posted later that day.

Wait, so people are going to wrestle on all 19 of these shows? Aren’t these matches going to kill them through exertion?

These shows won’t exclusively feature block matches like in some previous years. Each day, there will be five or so matches on a card featuring exclusively A Block matches or B Block matches.

The rest of the card will mostly consist of multi-man tag team matches designed to hype up the next series of tournament bouts.

How are points in this tournament determined?

Whoever wins a match is given two points. If a match ends in a draw, it’s one point each. A loss gets you zero points.

Say that at the end of a tournament, two guys in the same block are tied for the most points. What happens then?

Whoever won the match between the two earlier in the tournament gets the tiebreaker and advances to the finals.

What does the tournament winner get?

An IWGP Heavyweight Championship match at the WrestleKingdom Tokyo Dome show on January 4th.

So if the winner gets an IWGP title shot, why is the IWGP Heavyweight Champion in the tournament?

It’s usually the norm for the champion at the time to compete in the G1. Any losses the champion might receive during the tournament can very well set up future title matches for the rest of the year. But, if they win, it shows how dominant they are as champion.

An IWGP Heavyweight Champion doesn't often win the tournament, but it has happened in the past as Kensuke Sasaki and Keiji Mutoh have both won it while holding the title.

Who has won the most G1 tournaments?

Masahiro Chono, also known as “Mr. August,” has won the tournament on five different occasions since its inception in 1991.

I’ve seen guys like Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito carry a Money in the Bank-esque briefcase. What is that all about?

In recent years, the winner has received a briefcase that they carry for the rest of the year and they usually defend it once or twice in matches leading up to January 4th at the Tokyo Dome show.

To put it bluntly...what makes the G1 so special?

It’s one of the best tournaments you’ll see all year. Everyone has their working boots on and goes to the limit in what they can do. For the younger guys, it’s to prove they can hang with the more established types. The same thing goes for the older generation who don’t get the big title shots anymore but can still prove their worth by competing on a big stage.

The tournament also features big matches you won’t see anywhere else in New Japan all year. Stablemates go up against one another, like EVIL vs. SANADA for example. And incredible matches from the past, like Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada, will happen once more in this tournament.

The G1 has continually built up its prestige over the last few years as one of the premier tournaments in the pro wrestling world. That doesn’t automatically mean that this will be a great tournament, but enough goodwill has been established for it to be very promising.

A look at this year’s entrants --

Give me a rundown of this year’s brackets.

Sure!

A Block participants --

  • Tetsuya Naito: The former IWGP Champion and leader of Los Ingobernables de Japon has continually risen in stock over the last couple of years. He’s easily one of the favorites to take it all given his charisma and ability.
  • Bad Luck Fale: The Underboss always does well in NJPW tournaments, scoring up big wins due to his power and size. He’s always a favorite to be in contention.
  • Hirooki Goto: Goto constantly struggles to pull off the big one, coming close in last year’s tournament but losing to Kenny Omega in the finals. Maybe this year he can seal the deal?
  • Kota Ibushi: After being absent for over a year, Kota Ibushi is back in New Japan, at least for this tournament, and looks to prove he’s still one of the best workers on the planet.
  • Togi Makabe: Known as a purveyor of sweets, Makabe is anything but in the ring, and can be just as stiff as some of his other counterparts in this block.
  • Tomohiro Ishii: The Stone Pitbull always puts on a tremendous performance whenever he’s in the ring, and will look to do so again this year as he faces off against a number of high-profile opponents.
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi: The current IWGP Intercontinental Champion, Tanahashi still considers himself the ace of New Japan Pro Wrestling. He is always a surefire bet to do well in a tournament.
  • Yuji Nagata: Mr. Anti-Aging is back for his last G1. Will he be able to keep up with others in his bracket? If previous years gives us the answer, it’s probably a yes.
  • YOSHI-HASHI: A somewhat underrated member of the Chaos stable, YOSHI-HASHI has continually broken out of the pack in recent years, having great matches with the likes of Minoru Suzuki and others. Facing nine other strong challengers, the G1 is usually the best time for guys like YOSHI-HASHI to prove themselves.
  • Zack Sabre Jr.: The latest member of Suzuki-gun, Sabre Jr. is known for being one of the best technical wrestlers on the planet right now. Using a style that is completely different from everyone else, this will be his first opportunity to face many of New Japan’s best in high-profile matches.

B Block participants --

  • Kenny Omega: The leader of the Bullet Club and last year’s winner, Omega looks to do what many winners haven’t been able to do in the past -- win the G1 Climax two years in a row. 
  • Kazuchika Okada: The current IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Okada has cemented himself as the current ace of the promotion who is out to prove that he’s the best in the business.
  • SANADA: This member of Los Ingobernables is best known for two things: a long run in TNA and an incredible mohawk. One of the more underrated guys in the promotion, SANADA continually stands out as someone who might be in main event competition someday.
  • Tama Tonga: While normally competing in New Japan’s heavyweight tag team division with his brother Tanga Loa, Tonga has once again entered this tournament in singles action looking to make an impression.
  • Michael Elgin: Big Mike has used the G1 Climax to prove that he’s one of the best workers in the business, having good matches with virtually everyone in his block when given the opportunity. He hasn’t struck gold with a G1 victory yet, but chances are he’ll leave a hell of an impression in this year’s tournament.
  • EVIL: Another Los Ingobernables member, EVIL has developed a brawler personality that has worked out well for him, especially in the last year. He’ll have plenty of time this year to prove he can make it to the next level.
  • Toru Yano: Always shilling his DVDs, Yano is known for doing whatever it takes to win a match, usually through cheating. His workrate isn’t awesome by any means, but Yano is always fun to watch and is pretty charismatic.
  • Satoshi Kojima: The leader of the online revolution known as the Bread Club, he’s one of the best workers to come from the last generation of New Japan stars. While he usually teams in undercard matches for most of the year, he always does well in big matches when given the opportunity.
  • Juice Robinson: Making his G1 debut, Robinson has made his NXT past a footnote in his career, carving up newfound recognition as one of New Japan’s brightest young stars with a lot to prove. Some of the biggest matches of his career stand before him in the G1.
  • Minoru Suzuki: The leader of Suzuki-gun, Suzuki continually stands out as one of the best New Japan main event performers out there, possessing a style few in the promotion have. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares against new opponents like Elgin and Omega.

Anything else I should know?

I don't think so, but again, hit me up on Twitter and I’ll be happy to answer!

I’ll just reiterate what I said earlier: if you aren’t a fan of the Japanese style of pro wrestling, this is still worth a look because of all the different types of matches you’ll be seeing in the tournament.

It’s also worth eight bucks to at least give the tournament a try. If you’re new to Japanese wrestling, totally give this a shot, especially if you grow bored of what’s going on in the United States. The athleticism and diversity here is second to none, and even if you don’t like everything, there might be something or someone you’ll end up liking in the end.