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New Japan 2015 G1 Climax: History, Schedule, Predictions, Scouting Reports

By Mike Sempervive, WrestlingObserver.com

Hey everybody, with New Japan’s streaming service at NJPWWorld.com carrying the entire G-1 Climax tournament - making it easier (and far less expensive) than ever before for new fans to check out the product - I decided to do a detailed introduction to this year’s tournament. Initially, it was going to be a three-part preview, but I decided to just upload everything at once, for simplicity. It’s rather long, so I would suggest printing it out, or reading it on a larger screen (such as a computer or an iPad), but I feel it’s a pretty interesting look at how we got to 2015’s version, and what the chances of this year’s participants are.

Both myself and my Big Audio Nightmare tag team partner Adam Summers gave our match-by-match predictions in part three, and we’d like to invite you to check out our annual two-hour podcast previewing the tournament, which is available for subscribers in the radio show section.

I hope you enjoy it, and happy viewing!

- Part 1: Information and facts on the G-1 Climax tournament, and its long history
- Part 2: Capsules, scouting reports and odds for each man in the tournament
- Part 3: Day-by-day match listings, along with Adam and Mike’s predictions for each G-1 match, block standings, and tournament final
 

***** PART I: HISTORY AND INFO ON NEW JAPAN’S G-1 CLIMAX TOURNAMENT

What is the G-1 Climax?

Annually, in August, New Japan Pro Wrestling holds one of its major tours of the entire year, which is centered around the G-1 Climax league tournament. This year, the tournament will take place over a record 19 nights, between July 20 and August 16, and take up residence in 15 different buildings all over Japan. The tour will end with the company running three nights (in four days) at Korakuen Hall, which will then be followed by three consecutive nights at Sumo Hall. Twenty men will compete, in two blocks, for the opportunity to try and make it to the finals on August 16.

The title sounds bizarrely sexual.

Oh, stop it. The name actually stands for Grade-One Climax, which was meant to indicate that it consists of the biggest talent around, getting physical with each other, in one-on-one’s that will steadily raise to a crescendo, before popping huge during the finale, and hopefully sending its audience home smiling. And, shouldn’t that be the result of any good toss with sports entertainment?

Anyway, for many fans and pundits, the last two years actually have been somewhat orgasmic, at least as far as their wrestling serotonin goes. The 2013 and 2014 G-1’s have been hailed by some (including the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Dave Meltzer) as being the greatest tournaments in professional wrestling history, and it’s difficult to argue. The events have been chock full of incredible matches, engrossing stories, amazing individual performances, and top-notch booking by its lead foreman Gedo.

All righty then. So how does this all work?

This year, there are 20 wrestlers who will compete, in two blocks of ten men each - creatively titled “Block A” and “Block B”. Each man will wrestle every other man in their respective block, and will attempt to earn individual points by winning their matches (two points), or at least battling to a draw (one point). While not a hard and fast rule, double count-outs and double disqualifications usually end up with neither man gaining a point.

The two wrestlers who finish on top of their respective blocks will then face each other in a one fall contest on the tournament’s final night. In the event of a first place tie in the block stage, the tie-breaker will be the head-to-head result of the two men’s match earlier in the tournament.

If said head-to-head match earlier in the tournament went to some sort of draw, then it’s most likely that the two will wrestle again to determine who will advance. Although, in 2009, when Togi Makabe and Hiroshi Tanahashi finished tied atop of block A - and had wrestled to a thirty minute draw earlier in the tournament - a coin-flip was used to determine who would advance. Makabe won the toss, and went on to win the G-1.

In the event of a block featuring a three-way tie, where all three men have equal records against the other, several booking options could be tried.

What if someone gets injured? How much havoc will that play on things?

Considering that the tournament is booked backwards, and is reliant on everything going according to plan, it could be incredibly nerve-rattling for Gedo and the rest of the New Japan brain-trust. But, the good news is, since it’s a simulation of sport, changes can be made that can cover the loss, and won’t debilitate the entire tournament.

In 1996, Junji Hirata (Super Strong Machine) injured his shoulder, which caused him to forfeit three matches. Kazuo Yamazaki had to miss his final match in 1999. Yoshihiro Takayama missed five bouts in 2004 after a brutal encounter with Kensuke Sakai, which left him with slurring and unbalanced in his post-match interview, and a diagnosed stroke. Togi Makabe missed five bouts in 2005 because of a torn achilles tendon. In 2007, Shinsuke Nakamura could have (and probably would have) won the tournament, but he dislocated his shoulder in the semifinal against Yuji Nagata, which led to Hiroshi Tanahashi ultimately coming out the winner.

The worst year for injuries ended up being 2013, when both Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Hirooki Goto missed their final three matches. Tenzan due to a rib injury, while Goto suffered a broken jaw.

If injuries do happen during the tournament, there is no replacement, and the rest of the field gets an automatic two points for each match they win by default. But, if they are announced before the tournament begins, a substitute will be named. In 2010, Naomichi Marufuji had to pull out due to an arm injury and was replaced by Prince Devitt. Last year, Tomoaki Honma took Kota Ibushi’s place on only three days notice, due to Ibushi’s lingering concussion issues. To show how quickly plans can change, Honma finished without a win - a booking scenario that’s unfathomable to have applied to Ibushi.

At the end of the day, what does the tournament decide?

Most of the time, it serves as a deciding factor in who will receive an IWGP World championship match. In fact, with Kazuchika Okada’s two wins in the last three years, the G-1 finalist has become something of a Money In The Bank contract holder, like in the WWE. In 2012 he won the tournament, and chose to take his title shot later rather than sooner, waiting until  “New Japan’s WrestleMania,” at the Tokyo Dome on January 4. Last year, after he won the event again, there was more WWE-styled booking, as he would put up his “number one contender” contract against both Karl Anderson and Tetsuya Naito, en route to cashing it in on January 4, 2015 against Hiroshi Tanahashi.

There have been two occasions on which the reigning IWGP champion has also won the G-1 - but it hasn’t happened in the recent “revitalized era” of New Japan Pro Wrestling. The only two men to accomplish that feat were Keiji Mutoh in 1995 and Kensuke Sasaki in 2000. In 1992, 2001, 2004 and 2008, the G-1 champion was not entered into the tournament at all.

In theory, the winner of the "briefcase" - and, yes, just like WWE, it's an actual briefcase with a contract in it - could choose any of the championships to go after. But, also like WWE, going after anything but the World title would require great explanation.

So how did this exotic tournament become such a major tradition?

In 1974, New Japan began running an event that was titled the “World League.” The company’s founder, and biggest star, Antonio Inoki modeled the tournament after one he had competed in while breaking in under the legendary Rikidozan in the Japanese Wrestling Association.

Still reeling from World War II, Japan was in need of powerful homemade icons, and sports helped to provide them. Olympic freestyle wrestler Osamu Watanabe and sumo’s Taiho Koki both inspired national pride, but Rikidozan - a former sumo and one of the country’s first TV stars - became the ultimate defender of Japanese honor.

He would do battle, and fend off, foreign aggressors such as America’s Sharpe Brothers, “The Destroyer” Dick Beyer, Danny Plechas, Leo Nomellini, Don Leo Jonathan, Bill Miller, Hungary’s King Kong Czaja, British “Lords” Blears and Lathon, and Mexico’s Jesse “Bull” Ortega, among others. Against Lou Thesz in August 1958, Rikidozan won the NWA International heavyweight title, an award was a title that created by Thesz to  help secure the Japanese superstar even more legitimacy for himself, and his still-burgeoning promotion - which it did.

Held between 1959-72, the original World League (initially known as the “World Big League”) involved a block of Japanese competitors and a block of “gaijin” (foreign) talent, which was invited over and hailed as being amongst the finest in the world. Just like today, the two blocks would do battle with each other, earning points for victories, with the winners of the blocks then facing off against each other.

And, in the end, the winner of the Japanese block would always go on to conquer his invading rival. (Ironically enough, while a hero in Japan, Rikidozan was actually Korean, which is something that was hidden as much as possible due to the strained relations between the two countries. And, in another twist, Taiho - the greatest post-WW2 sumo wrestler - was actually Ukrainian on his father’s side.)

From 1959 to 1963, Rikidozan claimed his own prize. But, in December 1963, after the Godfather of puroresu was murdered, Toyonobori (who was the JWA’s second-biggest star) took over the company - as well as the tradition of winning the World League, which he did in 1964 and 1965. In 1966, former baseball player Shohei “Giant” Baba had come into his own as the most popular star of the promotion, and it was his turn to dominate the annual event. Baba would go on to claim the World League six times, between 1966 and 1972, with the only break occurring when fellow young star Antonio Inoki won the prize in 1969.

When Inoki and Shohei “Giant” Baba exited the JWA, to begin their own promotions, both men took the annual worldwide tournament concept for themselves. Following their departures, and the ripple effect that followed, 1972 was the final year that the JWA would run a World League, as the company would be folded after a show on April 20 1973.

During his time with the JWA, Inoki became the only other man other than Baba to win a World League, when he defeated Chris Markoff in 1969. Tired of playing second banana to Baba, and envisioning a new mentality of pro wrestler as fighter, Inoki attempted a hostile takeover of the JWA in late 1971, which resulted in him being fired.

Now, with even more ammunition to want to succeed, Inoki, Karl Gotch, Toyonobori, Osamu Kido, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Tatsumi Fujinami, Kotetsu Yamamoto, Katsuhisa Shibata, and others, left the JWA behind to form New Japan Pro Wrestling in March of 1972. Their mission was to carry out a new vision of pro wrestler as hybrid fighter, and be looked at as the cream of the martial arts crop.

The group would get started by running its own World League tournament, which would also consist of 16 men, in two blocks, divided between Japan and the rest of the world. Though, in New Japan’s version, the top four men advanced to a semifinal, with the winners advancing into the final.

Run between April 5 and May 8, 1972 the inaugural event featured such names as Seiji Sakaguchi, Masa Saito, the former Yamada Brothers, and a international side that boasted Invader #1 (from Puerto Rico), Khosrow Vaziri (from Iran, more famously known as the Iron Sheik), The Mongols (presumably from Mongolia, but consisting of Newton Tattrie and the future “Masked Superstar” Bill Eadie), former WWWF champion Stan Stasiak, Argentine Zuma (a Argentina Rocca knock-off), former NFL All-Pro defensive tackle Walter Johnson, and “Killer” Karl Krupp - a Dutch-born, Canadian resident, who worked in the States, and portrayed an evil German.

Willing to be different right from the start, after the tournament’s second round, there was a three-way tie for the final two spots. To determine a winner, there was a three-way round robin tournament between the three remaining finalists: Inoki, Sakaguchi, and Krupp, which saw Inoki come out on top.

On the other side of Tokyo, Giant Baba began All Japan Pro Wrestling in October 1972. A six-time JWA World League winner, in March of 1973 Baba would go on to institute the Champion’s Carnival, which was initially a 15-man single-elimination tournament. The inaugural event which also featured legendary names “The Destroyer” Dick Beyer, King Curtis Iaukea, Koji “Thunder” Sugiyama, and Hiro Matsuda, among others, ended with Baba defeating Mark Lewin in a two-out-of-three falls final match.

Since then, despite tweaks to their tournament’s concept, dates run, or - in the case of New Japan - the name, both companies’ annual events remain their biggest touring attention getters. In the case of NJPW, the final night of the G-1 ranks second only to the annual Tokyo Dome event on January 4.

How many times has New Japan’s tournament gone underneath changes?

As mentioned earlier, the G-1 began as the World League in the spring of 1974. It became a single block league in 1975, with the top five points earners moving on to an elimination round. Both years, Antonio Inoki came out on top.

In 1976, the top four finishers moved on. The top points getter received a bye to the finals, while the other three men fought it out in a round-robin tournament to see who he’d face. 1977 saw a smaller block of wrestlers competing, with the top two points getters facing off in a final singles match. Both of those years, future WWF figurehead President Seiji Sakaguchi finished as champion.

In 1978, the tournament’s name was changed to the MSG League, though the single block format which saw the top two scorers facing off against each other in the final did not. From 1978-81 Inoki won every year, until Andre The Giant broke his streak in 1982.

In 1983, once again, the tournament went through another name change, becoming the International Wrestling Grand Prix. The single block format, along with the top two scorers facing off in the finals, continued, with the winner receiving a championship belt. Contrary to what some believe, while the IWGP name was later used for New Japan’s championship belts, there is not direct lineage between the two. In a legendary encounter, Hulk Hogan topped Antonio Inoki by knockout to win the prize - and become the only American to ever win NJPW’s major tournament. 1984 saw the block format, but no final match, as the top points winner (Antonio Inoki) claimed the crown.

1985 saw another departure from the norm, as New Japan turned the tournament into a single-elimination, bracket-styled, encounter. Andre The Giant would win the event, knocking off Tatsumi Fujinami in the finals, and become the last foreign wrestler to claim a tournament finals win. The following year, the two block system and competition for points returned. And so did the reign of Inoki, who won in both 1986 and 1987.

Another change was made in 1988, as only five men competed against each other, in one block, in order to determine who would become the top contender for Tatsumi Fujinami’s IWGP World heavyweight championship. Not surprisingly, Antonio Inoki got the duke. The dates of 1988’s event would also dramatically change for the first time, as well. The tournament was moved outside of the spring months to late July, and become the last year of the “IWGP” tournament name.

In 1989, New Japan began the World Cup in late November-early December. This time, the event featured 20 men competing in four five-man blocks, with the top two men in each block advancing into a single-elimination tournament. Riki Choshu, who had lost the IWGP title to Big Van Vader earlier in the year, knocked off Shinya Hashimoto in the final match. 1990 saw no tournament held, but when it returned in 1991 it had a new name - the G-1 Climax - a new date (in August), and featured a return to the two-block format, which was won by Masahiro Chono.

The 1992 and 1993 G-1 Climax returned to the 16-man single elimination tournament. 1992 also doubled as the tournament to decide the vacant NWA World championship, and was again won by Masahiro Chono. The next year, several non-New Japan wrestlers from Wrestle Association R were invited to compete, but was ultimately claimed by NJPW veteran Tatsumi Fujinami.

1994 to 1996 saw the company temporarily go back to the two-block/points system, and was won by Masahiro Chono, Keiji Mutoh, and Riki Choshu, respectively. 1997 and 1998 went back to a 16-man single elimination/bracket-style, which were claimed by Kensuke Sasaki and Shinya Hashimoto.

1998 ended up being the last time that a single-elimination bracket was used. Since then, despite several changes to how many wrestlers were entered, how many blocks were instituted, or how finalists were decided (including a wild 2004 scenario that saw seven men in a playoff on the final night), the block format combined with earning points has been the lay of the land.

Winners since 1999 include Manabu Nakanishi (1999), Kensuke Sasaki (2000), Yuji Nagata (2001), Masahiro Chono (2002, 2005), Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2003-04, 2006), Hiroshi Tanahashi (2007), Hirooki Goto (2008), Togi Makabe (2009), Satoshi Kojima (2010), Shinsuke Nakamura (2011), Kazuchika Okada (2012, 2014), and Tetsuya Naito (2013).

What are two notable G-1 successes?

- While Shinya Hashimoto was the biggest money draw, and Keiji Mutoh’s Great Muta persona made him the biggest international star, it was the third “Musketeer” of the group -  Masahiro Chono who used the 1991 G-1 to help to cement his legacy. While his stock began to shoot up upon his return to the promotion, in late-1989, Chono’s performance in the first G-1 solidified his superstar status.

- After picking up surprise wins over Katsuyori Shibata and Hiroshi Tanahashi in 2013, it was expected that Tomohiro Ishii would have a better G-1 in 2014. What wasn’t as expected was how amazing his matches and individual performance would be. Ishii had seven of the best matches of the entire tournament, with epic battles against Yuji Nagata, Katsuyori Shibata, Tomoaki Honma, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Hiroshi Tanashashi - all while being severely banged up with a shoulder injury. Incredible matches and incredible fortitude combined with his popularity and charisma secured the veteran Ishii as a legitimate New Japan star.

How about a couple of recent G-1 failures?

- After a long reign in the top mix of the IWGP junior heavyweight title picture, Wataru Inoue vacated the belt in the summer of 2008 so he could try his luck in the heavyweight division. A good athlete, who would have good matches, the jury was very much out on whether or not Inoue would be able to make noise amongst the big boys. His first G-1 ended up underwhelming, as he finished 2-4 at the bottom of his block. Aside from a team with Yuji Nagata, Inoue never got past the point of being a good hand, and five years later he was retired.

- Yujiro Takahashi had a new lease on life in 2014 when he turned on top star Kazuchika Okada, joined the Bullet Club, defeated the popular Tomohiro Ishii for the NEVER title, and became a thorn in the sides of New Japan’s good guys and fanbase with his relentlessly obnoxious pimp character. Unfortunately for Yujiro, as the stock of guys like Ishii and Honma went up during that year’s G-1, his plummeted. Several rough outings, and inability to hang with the promotion’s top guys, have likely placed Yujiro in preliminary purgatory.

I like to bet money on anyone - except the Japanese. What are my odds?

Well, if that’s the case, you may want to stuff those bills back into your pocket. Despite the many huge stars from around the world that have had a turn, a foreign talent has never laid claim to the G-1 Climax tournament. And, it’s been over thirty years since one had claimed the G-1’s forerunner, the International Wrestling Grand Prix tournament.

In 1985, Andre The Giant claimed the prize by defeating Tatsumi Fujinami in the finals. Andre won the tournament twice, in 1982 and 1985, and is joined solely by Hulk Hogan (who famously topped Antonio Inoki in 1984) as the only two “gaijin” to ever claim New Japan’s biggest annual tournament.

Could A.J. Styles snap that streak this year? He very well may, but considering only one foreigner (Karl Anderson) has advanced to a final since 1993, the historical odds are not exactly in his favor.

Why aren’t certain guys in the tournament?

For the most part, every major player involved in New Japan is in. Everyone except for “young boys” (like Cody Hall or David Finlay Junior), junior heavyweights (such as Ryusuke Taguchi and Kenny Omega), past-their-prime players (like Manabu Nakanishi), or not ready for primetime players (such as Tama Tonga), all of whom aren’t usually in the tournament, anyway.

Because everyone possible was pretty much entered this year, it limited spots for outsiders such as familiar touring regulars, who could have entered from the NWA, ROH, CMLL, or even Global Force Wrestling. Only one true outsider, Michael Elgin from Ring of Honor, will compete. Notable Japanese-based names who are not involved this year include Kazushi Sakuraba, and the members of Minoru Suzuki’s Suzuki-gun unit - though all have good reasons not to be.

Sakuraba, whose performances have gotten much better since his initial return to the pro-wres field, in late 2012, would more than likely be exposed badly in a tournament that places so much emphasis on uber-high match quality. Plus, at 46 years old, and in the condition he’s in, the chance of injury goes up exponentially. Why risk it, when he’s better suited for big match one-offs on major shows?

A big disappointment for some fans is the lack of Minoru Suzuki, who spent most of 2014’s G-1 by putting on incredible matches. One of which, against A.J. Styles, that was possibly the match of the year, and arguably the greatest in tournament history. (Although, to be fair, there were about five different matches you could say that about, if not more.)

Obviously his inclusion would make for more fun matches and interesting possibilities, but he’s spent the entire year as full-time invader of Pro Wrestling NOAH (which is being booked by Jado, the brother of New Japan boss Gedo), and all of his heat and focus should remain on the green mat. Suzuki’s ongoing NOAH voyage also nixed the possibilities for his crew to enter. As a result, Davey Boy Smith Junior, Takashi Iizuka, Lance Archer and Shelton Benjamin (all of whom had competed in past G-1’s), along with TAKA Michinoku and Taichi (who had not), are all on the outside looking in.

***** PART II: CAPSULES, SCOUTING REPORT & ODDS ON THE 2015 G-1 FIELD

Here are capsules for each G-1 competitor. The listed consecutive and total numbers of G-1’s for each competitor includes their entrance into this year’s tournament. Matches that ended in a draw, double countout, double disqualification, or no contest, are listed at the end of the competitors’ win-loss record, regardless of whether they earned any points for the match or not.

The total number of wrestled G-1 tournament matches includes win/loss records of the single elimination-style tournaments of 1992, 1993, 1997 and 1998. It also includes “playoff” or bonus matches wrestled in order to determine which competitor could advance further.

The “odds of winning,” listed below, was done purely to compare competitors chances with each other, on a scale of 100. It is absolutely not scientific in any way, nor recommended for any sort of wagering purposes. Although, why an event like this - which actually has layers of unpredictability to it - isn’t on a betting site - yet common WWE pay-per-view are - is rather mad.

BLOCK A:

Togi Makabe

Age: 42

Odds of Winning: 75:1

Number of G-1’s: 12

First G-1: 2004

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 12

Lifetime G-1 Record: 37-43-2 (.463)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 82

Best Finish: 2008 Runner-Up, 2009 Winner.

The Skinny: The only reason Makabe’s odds are 75-1, as opposed to 100-1, is because he holds New Japan’s NEVER championship. Obviously, that’s not much of a reason to expect that he’s going to do well in the tournament. With names like Tanahashi, Styles, Ibushi, Shibata and Naito, ahead of him in the mix, there’s infinitely better odds of Makabe (who turns 43 on September 29) finding the next challenger for his NEVER belt during the G-1 than it is him winning the big trophy.

Toru Yano

Age: 37

Odds of Winning: 100:1

Number of G-1’s: 10

First G-1: 2005

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 10 (missed 2006)

Lifetime G-1 Record: 28-37-2 (.433)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 67

Best Finish: 6th in 2011 block A, with 10 points.

The Skinny: Love him or hate him, Yano is mostly an “unofficial-official night off” for his opposition. He’s got a comedic gimmick that works for him, and usually provides his opponent a bunch of plunder and chicanery to work with, as opposed to body-crunching physicality. He’ll very likely pull off an upset - possibly against one of his block’s “big four” of Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Katsuyori Shibata and A.J. Styles - but that will be the extent of his G-1 shine.

Bad Luck Fale

Age: 33

Odds of Winning: 100:1

Number of G-1’s: 2

First G-1: 2014

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 2

Lifetime G-1 Record: 6-4 (.600)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 10

Best Finish: 3rd in 2014 block A, with 12 points.

The Skinny: Last year, Bad Luck Fale was in the midst of a 92 day IWGP Intercontinental reign when he debuted in his first G-1, and came up one loss against Shinsuke Nakamura away from making the finals in block A. This year, while he’s still presence that’s being felt as a heavy for the Bullet Club, he’s certainly not been one of the big cogs of the company, and his odds of winning this year seem slim - to more likely none.

Katsuyori Shibata

Age: 35

Odds of Winning: 8:1

Number of G-1’s: 5

First G-1: 2003

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 3 (missed 2005-12)

Lifetime G-1 Record: 17-15-1 (.561)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 33

Best Finish: 2004 Semifinalist.

The Skinny: Because he’s Shibata, he’s got a better percentage chance than most that he could end up making a Cinderella run, but his competition is not only stiff in his block - but also stifled by the names who he’s have to face in the finals. It’s very much within the realm of possibility that Shibata could be the one who advances to the finals out of block A, but he’d likely be an underdog against Kazuchika Okada or Shinsuke Nakamura - as it seems those two are currently the favorites to main event the Tokyo Dome on January 4. But, if Shibata did go through and pull off the upset, one would figure New Japan would have him keep his title shot in the cut until January 4, as building up Shibata-Okada for a title match in October - while doable - would likely feel like it came with not enough build, considering what Shibata (who turns 36 in November) brings to the table as a challenger who waited a long time for a turn.

Hiroshi Tanahashi

Age: 38

Odds of Winning: 3:1

Number of G-1’s: 14

First G-1: 2002

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 14

Lifetime G-1 Record: 55-37-3 (.595)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 95

Best Finish: 2004 Runner-Up, 2007 Winner, 2010 Runner-Up, 2013 Runner-Up.

The Skinny: Tanahashi, who turns 39 in November, doesn’t have to win the G-1. But, since he’s Tanahashi, he’s got a chance of winning. And why he’s more of a 3:1 than a 5:1 is because, if he were to go on and win the tournament, he’d likely be facing off against Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP title. If New Japan wanted it to be, that’s a big Tokyo Dome main event - especially considering Okada is looking for January 4 redemption due to Tanahashi defeating him in 2013 and 2015. As well as being half the reason (along with Shinsuke Nakamura) that Okada’s IWGP title defense in 2014 against Tetsuya Naito was regulated to the semi-main event. So, there is a good storyline possibility for a scenario such as that to go down, despite the competition he’ll face - most likely from A.J. Styles and Kota Ibushi.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan

Age: 44

Odds of Winning: 50:1

Number of G-1’s: 20

First G-1: 1995

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 5 (missed 2010)

Lifetime G-1 Record: 61-54 (.530)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 115

Best Finish: 1997 Runner-Up, 2003 Winner, 2004 Winner, 2006 Winner.

The Skinny: The odds for Hiroyoshi Tenzan to win the G-1 are purely charitable due to him doing battle in his 20th G-1 tournament, which is a record. But, while it’s technically possible that he could, I’m not sure that a nostalgic miracle run - even by the current holder of the NWA World championship - holds much interest in Gedo’s eyes. Time will tell, but odds are that the 44-year old is there to probably finish with a midland record.... Tenzan will also add to his total of matches wrestled which, entering the tournament, currently stands at a record-setting 115 matches... He’s won the second most G-1 championships in history with 3 (Masahiro Chono won 5 between 1991-2005), and became only the second man (besides Chono in 1991-92) to win two consecutive G-1 finales, in 2003-04.

Doc Gallows

Age: 31

Odds of Winning: 100:1

Number of G-1’s: 2

First G-1: 2014

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 2

Lifetime G-1 Record: 4-6 (.400)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 10

Best Finish: 9th in 2014 block A, with 8 points.

The Skinny: The Bullet Club heavy, and half-the-world tag team champions alongside Karl Anderson, is probably not going to fare too well in the loaded up block. If there was an actual sportsbook in Las Vegas that covered New Japan, Gallows odds of winning the tournament would be far more miniscule than the 100-1 maximum I’ve handicapped for him.

“Stardust Genius” Tetsuya Naito

Age: 33

Odds of Winning: 25:1

Number of G-1’s: 6

First G-1: 2010

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 6

Lifetime G-1 Record: 24-20-1 (.567)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 45

Best Finish: 2011 Runner-Up, 2013 Winner.

The Skinny: A good choice if you’re looking for a true dark horse to gamble on. Personally, I’m expecting to see Naito smugly, and heelishly, walk out of several matches against big names in block A, which would play into his character’s change of heart and new, disinterested, attitude. But, if you feel that Naito should have a great run, you could argue that being pushed strongly at the G-1 would be the best possible place to help establish his new persona and rudo group, giving them both instant credibility. Because of that, Naito is more of a threat than some of the obvious long shots in the block, but it’s still hard to see him winning over some of the other marquee names.

“Golden Star” Kota Ibushi

Age: 33

Odds of Winning: 5:1

Number of G-1’s: 2

First G-1: 2013

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 1 (missed 2014)

Lifetime G-1 Record: 4-5 (.444)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 9

Best Finish: 7th in 2013 block B with 8 points.

The Skinny: Pulled right before the beginning of last year’s tournament, due to a lingering concussion issue, Kota Ibushi is a legitimate threat to reach the finals of the G-1, and possibly win it. A massive fan favorite, an Ibushi G-1 final against Nakamura, Okada, or Ibushi would be replays of classic bouts, and a big match with Goto would be something brand new. And, win or lose, it would very likely make New Japan’s very pro-Ibushi fanbase ecstatic. In addition, because of his popularity and style, someone like Ibushi winning would also make sense if you wanted the G-1 winner to cash in his opportunity in a non-traditional way (like challenging Hirooki Goto for the I-C championship) or wanting to book an IWGP World title match prior to the Tokyo Dome. On the flip side, Ibushi could also be destined for a feud with Kenny Omega, amongst other possibilities, and there is stiff competition in his block from Tanahashi, Styles and Shibata, so his winning is far from a lock.

“The Phenomenal One” A.J. Styles

Age: 38

Odds of Winning: 2:1

Number of G-1’s: 2

First G-1: 2014

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 2

Lifetime G-1 Record: 8-2 (.800)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 10

Best Finish: Tied for 1st in 2014 block B, with 16 points, but didn’t advance to the finals due to losing to Kazuchika Okada head-to-head.

The Skinny: Possibly the best bet to win block A, and maybe the entire tournament, A.J. Styles winning the G-1 and once again challenging Kazuchika Okada could very well be in the cards. It’s hard to believe how incredibly Styles has gotten over as a heel with the New Japan fan base from the time he debuted in April of 2014, and his winning the G-1 could lead to a multitude of booking options, both short and long term. Styles facing off with almost anyone in the finals would make sense, and - because of his match quality and standing amongst fans - as would whatever plans they’d have for him once the tournament concludes…. Styles recorded 8 wins in last year’s 2014 G-1, earning 16 points, which were the most ever for a debuting wrestler.

BLOCK B:

Hirooki Goto

Age: 36

Odds of Winning: 25:1

Number of G-1’s: 8

First G-1:

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 8

Lifetime G-1 Record: 30-26 (.536)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 56

Best Finish: 2008 Winner.

The Skinny: At 36 years old, now seems like the perfect time for it to be determined what Hirooki Goto’s position is with New Japan. His victory over Shinsuke Nakamura on July 5 to retain the IWGP Intercontinental championship may be an indicator that they have a long term title reign for Goto planned. If that’s the case, Goto winning the G-1 wouldn’t be a prime idea, as he’s already 0-5 in IWGP title matches since 2008, and losing another within five months wouldn’t be beneficial for he, or the I-C title. One could argue that maybe a victory in the G-1 could lead to a big unification match with Goto and Okada, down the line, but Okada’s already beaten him twice in the last three years (most recently in February of 2014). A scenario like that should probably plotted for carefully, and over a much larger stretch of time, as January 4 of 2016 seems way too soon. Now, if Goto (and whoever the IWGP champion is) remains protected, and is in this position next year, we may be able to foresee a possible 2017 Dome main event. But, for 2015, a more likely scenario for Goto is that he scores big wins over some “generational rivals,” (such as Okada, Nakamura, and/or Ishii), but comes up short in overall points, and ends up with his next I-C challenger (possibly Ishii) instead… In 2008, Goto became the first wrestler to enter and win the G-1 in his first attempt, a feat matched by Kazuchika Okada in 2012.

Satoshi Kojima

Age: 44

Odds of Winning: 100:1

Number of G-1’s: 14

First G-1: 1996

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 6 (missed 2002-05, 2007, 2009)

Lifetime G-1 Record: 39-37-2 (.513)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 78

Best Finish: 2006 Runner-Up, 2010 Winner.

The Skinny: “Strong Arm” Kojima, who turns 45 in September, is one of the (very) well-seasoned veterans who once again make up the G-1 tournament. He, Tenzan, Nagata, and Makabe make up the “Over The Hill Gang” of 40+ year olds. Kojima is also one of nine men who are 37, or older, and one of 13 that are at least 35. With that bit of gerontology out of the way, Kojima will have nine matches. Most, if not all, of them will include his patented “Ikuzo Bakayaro” elbow, his machine-gun fire chops to the chest in the corner, and big lariats. But, unfortunately for the man in orange, they will also likely result in an almost equal number of losses as wins… Kojima is only one of three men, along with Yuji Nagata and Keiji Mutoh, to win both the G-1 Climax and All Japan’s Champions Carnival.

“Anti-Aging Hero” Yuji Nagata

Age: 47

Odds of Winning: 100:1

Number of G-1’s: 17

First G-1: 1999

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 17

Lifetime G-1 Record: 58-48-5 (.545)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 111

Best Finish: 2001 Winner, 2007 Runner-Up.

The Skinny: The oldest competitor in the tournament continues to churn on, and put together good-to-great matches whenever he’s given the opportunity to. Bouts against Ishii, Nakamura, Goto, Honma and Okada may all be possible show-stealers in block B. But, unfortunately for fans of “Blue Justice,” a realistic result of this year’s G-1 will likely be Nagata spending most of his time putting over others. Despite often finishing with double digit points, or closer to the top of his league block, Nagata hasn’t been a threat since 2007, when he advanced to the finals against Hiroshi Tanahashi after Shinsuke Nakamura dislocated his shoulder… Nagata, along with Satoshi Kojima and Keiji Mutoh, is one of three men to win both the G-1 and the Champions Carnival… The current leader in consecutive G-1 appearances, with 17 straight.

“Vampire Chicken” Tomoaki Honma

Age: 38

Odds of Winning: 100:1

Number of G-1’s: 2

First G-1: 2014

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 2

Lifetime G-1 Record: 0-10 (.000)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 10

Best Finish: 11th in 2014 block A, with 0 points.

The Skinny: Tomoaki Honma lost every single match last year in his debut G-1, and, by the time he was done, he was more over with the crowd than when he started. Turning 39 in November, Honma’s purpose in this year’s G-1 is likely a lot like last year’s: make the fans go crazy by losing. A far more relevant question than Honma’s chances to win the entire tournament, is if and when he gets his first victory - and whom it will be against.

“Unbreakable” Michael Elgin

Age: 28

Odds of Winning: 75:1

Number of G-1’s: 1

First G-1: 2015

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 1

Lifetime G-1 Record: 0-0 (.000)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 0

Best Finish: Debut.

The Skinny: At the age of 28, Elgin is the second youngest wrestler in the tournament (next to Kazuchika Okada), and his inclusion may end up being a make-or-break moment in his Japanese career. If he can keep up with the pace, and adapt night-after-night, he may very well punch his card in New Japan for quite some time to come. If he doesn’t, his door on possibly touring with the company may begin to close. Either way, a foreigner making a monster run during this year’s G-1 would seem to be a position reserved solely for A.J. Styles. While nothing is impossible, look for “Unbreakable” to have his fair share of solid wins, but an almost equal number of losses… Had a 76 day reign as Ring of Honor World Champion, during the summer of 2014, making seven defenses.

“Machine Gun” Karl Anderson

Age: 35

Odds of Winning: 75:1

Number of G-1’s: 6

First G-1: 2010

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 6

Lifetime G-1 Record: 21-23 (.477)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 44

Best Finish: 2012 Runner-Up.

The Skinny: Arguably one of the most underrated overall workers in the world, Karl Anderson’s chances of winning the tournament are slim. Currently half of the IWGP World tag team champions, alongside Doc Gallows, the Bullet Club veteran will likely have a good run of entertaining matches, but it’s also likely that his overall record will fall somewhere around the .500 mark… Anderson’s run to the finals in 2012 marked the first time a foreigner had gone that far since Rick Rude faced Masahiro Chono in the finals of the 1993 tournament, which also decided the vacated NWA World championship.

Yujiro Takahashi

Age: 34

Odds of Winning: 100:1

Number of G-1’s: 6

First G-1: 2010

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 6

Lifetime G-1 Record: 16-27 (.372)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 43

Best Finish: 7th in 2014 block B, with 8 points.

The Skinny: After turning on his CHAOS teammates in the spring of 2014, and winning the NEVER title from Tomohiro Ishii, that year’s G-1 Climax seemed to be an unofficial test of where you could go with the newly-minted slimy heel pimp character Yujiro Takashashi was portraying. After a very shaky go of it, the answer turned out to be the lower midcard. Outside of some comic relief, and dastardly heel tactics, there’s really nothing to see here.

“Stone Pitbull” Tomohiro Ishii

Age: 39

Odds of Winning: 2:1

Number of G-1’s: 3

First G-1: 2013

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 3

Lifetime G-1 Record: 8-11 (.421)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 19

Best Finish: 6th in 2014 block A, with 10 points.

The Skinny: Turning 40 this coming December, the generous odds for Ishii are because his winning would be a tremendous story to tell, and one which New Japan fans would get behind with enthusiasm. Plus, if Gedo is planning on using the G-1 to jump-start a shorter-term angle - such as Kazuchika Okada’s first title defense (which could take place in October, during the company’s annual King of Pro Wrestling pay-per-view) - then Ishii winning, and challenging, would make complete sense. Conversely - and much easier - Ishii simply beats Okada on August 7, and no other excuse is really necessary to put on an Okada-Ishii title match. That direction would then leave one of the other many options involved in this block to go on and claim the throne. But, coming on the heels of last year’s incredible showing, no matter what happens, Ishii’s every match will be met with great enthusiasm by viewers.

“King Of Strong Style” Shinsuke Nakamura

Age: 35

Odds of Winning: 1:2

Number of G-1’s: 12

First G-1: 2003

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 9 (missed 2006)

Lifetime G-1 Record: 56-29-2 (.655)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 87

Best Finish: 2009 Runner-Up, 2011 Winner, 2014 Runner-Up.

The Skinny: The odds-on favorite to win the tournament - especially if you believe that a long build-up to face off against fellow CHAOS stablemate Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP title on January 4 is in the cards. Even if you believe the company will go in a different direction, Nakamura’s chances of winning are still excellent, as he’s arguably the best (and most charismatic) wrestler on the planet, and - despite his standing - hasn’t won a G-1 in three years. It should be noted, there is a bright, fresh, dream matchup floating out there as well: Nakamura against A.J. Styles, which would make complete sense as a final.

“The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada

Age: 27

Odds of Winning: 3:1

Number of G-1’s: 4

First G-1: 2012

Consecutive G-1 Appearances: 4

Lifetime G-1 Record: 19-9-1 (.672)

Total Number of G-1 Matches: 29

Best Finish: 2012 Winner, 2014 Winner.

The Skinny: Okada, who turns 28 in November, holds the highest winning percentage of anyone in the tournament, and with good reason. Ever since his re-debut in New Japan, at the January 4, 2012 Tokyo Dome show, Okada has been the recipient of a monster push as the next generation star of the company. He’s more than lived up to his end of the deal, becoming a legitimate top five wrestler anywhere in the world, holding the IWGP title, and engaging in emotional feuds with Hiroshi Tanahashi and A.J. Styles. Smart money has Okada still being IWGP champion when January 4 rolls around, with him attempting another coming out party in the main event. So, its very possible (maybe even probable) that the G-1 is being set-up to offer him a challenge for his title. Because of that, despite being a threat to win anything, at any time Okada only has as much of a chance, or less, than his main rivals (Nakamura, Goto, Ishii) to even get out of his block alive, let alone winning the final…  At 24 years old, Okada became the youngest ever G-1 winner in 2012 supplanting Masahiro Chono (who was 27 when he won his first tournament in 1991)... “The Rainmaker” also joined Hirooki Goto as only the second man to win the G-1 in their first attempt... In 2014, at 26, Okada became the youngest ever to claim two G-1 championships.

***** PART III: G-1 CLIMAX DAY-BY-DAY MATCH LISTINGS & PREDICTIONS FOR EACH MATCH, AS WELL AS THE OVERALL TOURNAMENT

The tournament runs from Monday, July 20, 2015 to Sunday, August 16, 2015. The building being run is listed, followed by its physical location in parenthesis. My predictions, along with Adam Summers, are listed after each day’s block stage.

Monday, July 20: Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center: BLOCK A matches: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Doc Gallows, Togi Makabe vs. Toru Yano, Tetsuya Naito vs. Bad Luck Fale, Katsuyori Shibata vs. A.J. Styles, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi.

Mike’s picks: Tenzan, Makabe, Naito, Styles, Ibushi.

Adam’s picks: Gallows, Yano, Naito, Styles, Ibushi.

Other matches: Yuji Nagata, Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask & Yohei Komatsu vs. Tomoaki Honma, Máscara Dorada, Jay White & David Finlay... Hirooki Goto & Captain New Japan vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Cody Hall... Shinsuke Nakamura & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Karl Anderson & Tama Tonga... Satoshi Kojima, Michael Elgin & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & Gedo.

Thursday, July 23: Twin Messe Shizuoka: BLOCK B matches: Satoshi Kojima vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto vs. Yujiro Takahashi, Yuji Nagata vs. Tomoaki Honma, Kazuchika Okada vs. Michael Elgin, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Karl Anderson.

Mike’s picks: Ishii, Goto, Nagata, Okada, Nakamura.

Adam’s picks:  Ishii, Goto, Nagata, Okada, Nakamura.

Other matches: Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Yohei Komatsu & Jay White… Togi Makabe, Kota Ibushi & Captain New Japan vs. Doc Gallows, Bad Luck Fale & Cody Hall… Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI vs. A.J. Styles & Tama Tonga… Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito & Máscara Dorada vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Katsuyori Shibata & Ryusuke Taguchi.

Friday, July 24: Kyoto City Budokan Center: BLOCK A matches: Kota Ibushi vs. Doc Gallows, Togi Makabe vs. Bad Luck Fale, Toru Yano vs. A.J. Styles, Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tetsuya Naito, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan.

Mike’s picks: Ibushi, Fale, Styles, Shibata, Tenzan.

Adam’s picks: Ibushi, Fale, Styles, Naito, Tanahashi.

Other matches: Satoshi Kojima, Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask & Yohei Komatsu vs. Michael Elgin, Máscara Dorada, Jay White & David Finlay… Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Cody Hall… Hirooki Goto & Captain New Japan vs. Karl Anderson & Tama Tonga… Yuji Nagata, Tomoaki Honma & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura & Gedo.

Saturday, July 25: Takamatsu City Gymnasium: BLOCK B matches: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Yujiro Takahashi, Satoshi Kojima vs. Michael Elgin, Hirooki Goto vs. Karl Anderson, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Yuji Nagata, Kazuchika Okada vs. Tomoaki Honma.

Mike’s picks: Ishii, Elgin, Goto, Nakamura, Okada.

Adam’s picks: Ishii, Kojima, Anderson, Nakamura, Okada.

Other matches: Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask & Captain New Japan vs. Doc Gallows, Tama Tonga & Cody Hall… Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Máscara Dorada & David Finlay vs. Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI & Gedo… Kota Ibushi & Jay White vs. A.J. Styles & Bad Luck Fale… Hiroshi Tanahashi, Katsuyori Shibata & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Togi Makabe, Tetsuya Naito & Yohei Komatsu.

Sunday, July 26: Hiroshima Green Arena: BLOCK A matches: Doc Gallows vs. Bad Luck Fale, Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Toru Yano, Togi Makabe vs. Katsuyori Shibata, Kota Ibushi vs. A.J. Styles, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito.

Mike’s picks: Fale, Tenzan, Shibata, Ibushi, Tanahashi (by countout).

Adam’s picks: Gallows, Tenzan, Makabe, Ibushi, Naito.

Other matches: Hirooki Goto, Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask & Yohei Komatsu vs. Tomoaki Honma, Máscara Dorada, Jay White & David Finlay… Yuji Nagata & Captain New Japan vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Cody Hall… Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Karl Anderson & Tama Tonga… Satoshi Kojima, Michael Elgin & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura & Gedo.

Tuesday, July 28: Beppu B-Con Plaza: BLOCK B matches: Yuji Nagata vs. Yujiro Takahashi, Hirooki Goto vs. Tomoaki Honma, Tomohiro Ishii vs. Karl Anderson, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Michael Elgin, Kazuchika Okada vs. Satoshi Kojima.

Mike’s picks: Yujiro, Goto, Ishii, Nakamura, Okada.

Adam’s picks: Nagata, Goto, Ishii, Nakamura, Okada.

Other matches: Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Ryusuke Taguchi & David Finlay, Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Doc Gallows & Cody Hall, Togi Makabe, Kota Ibushi & Máscara Dorada vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Katsuyori Shibata & Yohei Komatsu, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito & Captain New Japan vs. A.J. Styles, Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga.

Wednesday, July 29: Fukuoka International Center: BLOCK A matches: Toru Yano vs. Doc Gallows, Togi Makabe vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Katsuyori Shibata vs. Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Bad Luck Fale, Tetsuya Naito vs. A.J. Styles.

Mike’s picks: Gallows, Makabe, Shibata, Tanahashi, Styles (by countout).

Adam’s picks: Yano, Makabe, Shibata, Tanahashi, Styles.

Other matches: Tiger Mask & Máscara Dorada vs. Jay White & David Finlay… Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima, Ryusuke Taguchi & Yohei Komatsu vs. Karl Anderson, Yujiro Takahashi, Tama Tonga & Cody Hall… Michael Elgin, Tomoaki Honma & Captain New Japan vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI… Hirooki Goto & Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Kazuchika Okada & Gedo.

Saturday, August 1: Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium: BLOCK B matches: Satoshi Kojima vs. Yujiro Takahashi, Yuji Nagata vs. Karl Anderson, Tomoaki Honma vs. Michael Elgin, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Kazuchika Okada vs. Hirooki Goto.

Mike’s picks: Kojima, Anderson, Elgin, Nakamura, Goto.

Adam’s picks: Yujiro, Anderson, Elgin, Nakamura, DRAW.

Other matches: Doc Gallows & Cody Hall vs. Jay White & David Finlay… Togi Makabe, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Yohei Komatsu vs. Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi & Máscara Dorada… Katsuyori Shibata, Tiger Mask & Captain New Japan vs. A.J. Styles, Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga… Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI & Gedo

Sunday, August 2: Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium: BLOCK A matches: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Kota Ibushi, Katsuyori Shibata vs. Bad Luck Fale, A.J. Styles vs. Doc Gallows, Togi Makabe vs. Tetsuya Naito, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Toru Yano.

Mike’s picks: Ibushi, Shibata, Styles, Makabe (by disqualification), Tanahashi.

Adam’s picks: Ibushi, Shibata, Styles, Makabe, Tanahashi.

Other matches: Satoshi Kojima, KUSHIDA, Ryusuke Taguchi & Yohei Komatsu vs. Tomoaki Honma, Tiger Mask, Máscara Dorada & David Finlay… Michael Elgin & Jay White vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Cody Hall… Hirooki Goto, Yuji Nagata & Captain New Japan vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI… Kazuchika Okada & Gedo vs. Karl Anderson & Tama Tonga.

Tuesday, August 4: Sendai Sun Plaza Hall: BLOCK B matches: Michael Elgin vs. Yujiro Takahashi, Satoshi Kojima vs. Tomoaki Honma, Yuji Nagata vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Kazuchika Okada vs. Karl Anderson, Hirooki Goto vs. Shinsuke Nakamura.

Mike’s picks: Elgin, Kojima, Ishii, Okada, Goto.

Adam’s picks: Yujiro, Kojima, Nagata, Okada, Goto.

Other matches: Tiger Mask & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Jay White & David Finlay… Katsuyori Shibata & Yohei Komatsu vs. Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI… Tetsuya Naito & KUSHIDA vs. Kota Ibushi & Máscara Dorada… Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Captain New Japan vs. A.J. Styles, Doc Gallows, Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga.

Wednesday, August 5: Iwate Industrial Bunka Center Apio: BLOCK A matches: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Bad Luck Fale, Katsuyori Shibata vs. Toru Yano, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Doc Gallows, Togi Makabe vs. A.J. Styles, Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi.

Mike’s picks: Fale, Shibata, Tanahashi, Styles, Naito.

Adam’s picks: Fale, Shibata, Makabe, Styles, Ibushi.

Other matches: Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima, Tiger Mask & Yohei Komatsu vs. Hirooki Goto, Michael Elgin, Máscara Dorada & David Finlay… Tomoaki Honma & Jay White vs. Karl Anderson & Cody Hall… Shinsuke Nakamura & Tomohiro Ishii vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Tama Tonga… KUSHIDA, Ryusuke Taguchi & Captain New Japan vs. Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI & Gedo.

Friday, August 7: Act City Hamamatsu: BLOCK B matches: Yuji Nagata vs. Michael Elgin, Tomoaki Honma vs. Karl Anderson, Satoshi Kojima vs. Hirooki Goto, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Yujiro Takahashi, Kazuchika Okada vs. Tomohiro Ishii.

Mike’s picks: Elgin, Anderson, Goto, Nakamura, Ishii.

Adam’s picks: Nagata, Anderson, Goto, Nakamura, Ishii

Other matches: Yohei Komatsu vs. Jay White... Tetsuya Naito & David Finlay vs. Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI… Togi Makabe, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Kota Ibushi & Captain New Japan vs. A.J. Styles, Doc Gallows, Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga… Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA & Máscara Dorada vs. Katsuyori Shibata, Tiger Mask & Ryusuke Taguchi.

Saturday, August 8: Yokohama Bunka Gymnasium: BLOCK A matches: Kota Ibushi vs. Bad Luck Fale, Tetsuya Naito vs. Toru Yano, Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. A.J. Styles, Togi Makabe vs. Doc Gallows, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Katsuyori Shibata.

Mike’s picks: Ibushi, Naito, Tenzan, Makabe, Tanahashi.

Adam’s picks: Ibushi, Naito, Styles, Gallows, Tanahashi.

Other matches: Satoshi Kojima, Tiger Mask, Ryusuke Taguchi & Yohei Komatsu vs. Yuji Nagata, KUSHIDA, Máscara Dorada & David Finlay… Michael Elgin & Jay White vs. Karl Anderson & Cody Hall… Hirooki Goto, Tomoaki Honma & Captain New Japan vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI… Kazuchika Okada & Gedo vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Tama Tonga.

Sunday, August 9: Tokyo Korakuen Hall: BLOCK B matches: Karl Anderson vs. Michael Elgin, Satoshi Kojima vs. Yuji Nagata, Kazuchika Okada vs. Yujiro Takahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Tomoaki Honma, Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii.

Mike’s picks: Anderson, Kojima, Okada, Nakamura, Ishii.

Adam’s picks: Anderson, Kojima, Okada, Nakamura, Ishii.

Other matches: Jay White & David Finlay vs. Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga… Kota Ibushi & Máscara Dorada vs. Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI… Tetsuya Naito, Ryusuke Taguchi & Captain New Japan vs. A.J. Styles, Doc Gallows & Cody Hall… Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & KUSHIDA vs. Togi Makabe, Katsuyori Shibata & Tiger Mask.

Tuesday, August 11: Tokyo Korakuen Hall: BLOCK A matches: Tetsuya Naito vs. Doc Gallows, Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Katsuyori Shibata, Kota Ibushi vs. Toru Yano, A.J. Styles vs. Bad Luck Fale, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Togi Makabe.

Mike’s picks: Naito, Shibata, Ibushi, Styles, Makabe.

Adam’s picks: Gallows, Shibata, Ibushi, Styles, Tanahashi.

Other matches: Máscara Dorada & Jay White vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Cody Hall… KUSHIDA & Captain New Japan vs. Karl Anderson & Tama Tonga… Hirooki Goto & Yohei Komatsu vs. Michael Elgin & David Finlay… Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima, Tomoaki Honma & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI.

Wednesday, August 12: Tokyo Korakuen Hall: BLOCK B matches: Karl Anderson vs. Yujiro Takahashi, Hirooki Goto vs. Michael Elgin, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Satoshi Kojima, Kazuchika Okada vs. Yuji Nagata, Tomoaki Honma vs. Tomohiro Ishii.

Mike’s picks: Anderson, Elgin, Nakamura, Okada, Honma.

Adam’s picks: Anderson, Goto, Nakamura, Okada, Honma.

Other matches: Tiger Mask, Jay White & David Finlay vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, Yohei Komatsu & Sho Tanaka… Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga… Togi Makabe, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & KUSHIDA vs. Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi & Máscara Dorada… Hiroshi Tanahashi, Katsuyori Shibata & Captain New Japan vs. A.J. Styles, Doc Gallows & Cody Hall.

Friday, August 14: Tokyo Ryogoku Kokugikan: BLOCK A matches: Toru Yano vs. Bad Luck Fale, Katsuyori Shibata vs. Doc Gallows, Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Tetsuya Naito, Togi Makabe vs. Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. A.J. Styles.

Mike’s picks: Yano, Shibata, Naito, Makabe, Styles.

Adam’s picks: Yano, Shibata, Naito, Makabe, Styles.

Other matches: Satoshi Kojima, Tomoaki Honma & Máscara Dorada vs. Karl Anderson, Yujiro Takahashi & Tama Tonga… Michael Elgin, Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish vs. Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson & Cody Hall… Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Hirooki Goto & Captain New Japan… Shinsuke Nakamura, Kazushi Sakuraba, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Kazuchika Okada, Michael Bennett, Matt Taven & Gedo.

Saturday, August 15: Tokyo Ryogoku Kokugikan: BLOCK B matches: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Michael Elgin, Tomoaki Honma vs. Yujiro Takahashi, Hirooki Goto vs. Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima vs. Karl Anderson, Kazuchika Okada vs. Shinsuke Nakamura.

Mike’s picks: Ishii, Yujiro, Goto, Anderson, Nakamura.

Adam’s picks: Ishii, Honma, Goto, Anderson, Okada.

Mike’s Note: In the current way I have the show booked, despite Ishii and Goto with 14 points, the main event will determine who goes on to the final. Nakamura topping Okada would give him 16 points, while drawing with him would give him 15. Either way, Ishii, Goto, and Okada would be on the outside looking in due to head-to-head results.

Adam’s Note: The way I have the show booked, the main event of the last night will come down to Nakamura vs. Okada in a decision match to advance to the finals, with Okada winning.

Other matches: Yohei Komatsu & Sho Tanaka vs. Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish… Jay White & David Finlay vs. Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson… Kazushi Sakuraba, Toru Yano, Michael Bennett, Matt Taven & YOSHI-HASHI vs. A.J. Styles, Doc Gallows, Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Cody Hall… Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, Katsuyori Shibata & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Tetsuya Naito, Manabu Nakanishi, Kota Ibushi & Captain New Japan.

Mike’s prediction for the scoring of Block A:

1. Styles - 14 - Finishes higher than Shibata due to his H2H win over him on opening night.

2. Shibata - 14 - Wins early on block A’s last day of 8/15 over Gallows to stay in the race, but gets eliminated when Styles beats Tanahashi in the main event.

3. Makabe - 12 - Finishes higher with H2H win over Ibushi; finishes respectable as NEVER champion.

4. Ibushi - 12 - Loss to Makabe on final night regulates him to 4th.

5. Tanahashi - 10 - Finishes higher with H2H win over Naito.

6. Naito - 10

7. Tenzan - 8

8. Fale - 6

9. Gallows - 2 - Finishes higher with H2H win over Yano

10. Yano - 2

Adam’s predictions for the scoring of block A:

1. Ibushi - 14 - Win or lose, Ibushi comes into the night with a guaranteed spot in the final.

2. Styles - 14 - Win on the last night over Tanahashi ties him with Ibushi, but loss H2H earlier in the tournament causes him to finish second.

3. Tanahashi - 12

4. Shibata - 10

5. Naito - 10

6. Makabe - 10

7. Gallows - 8

8. Yano - 6

9. Fale - 4

10. Tenzan - 2

Mike’s prediction for the scoring of Block B:

1. Nakamura - 16 - Defeats Okada on block B’s final night on 8/15 to win the bracket.

2. Ishii - 14 - Finishes higher than Goto due to a H2H win over him on 8/9.

3. Goto - 14 - I have him defeating Okada and Nakamura, creating match opportunities for later down the road - as well as losing to Ishii, which could make a really explosive IWGP Intercontinental title defense sooner rather than later.

4. Okada - 12 - All or nothing match vs. Nakamura on final night sees him eliminated from contention. I have him losing to Nakamura, Ishii and Goto, during the tournament.

5. Anderson - 10

6. Elgin - 8

7. Kojima - 6

8. Yujiro - 4

9. Nagata - 2

10. Honma - 2

Adam’s prediction for the scoring of Block B:

1.  Okada - 15 - Win over Nakamura on the final night clinches the block.

2. Nakamura - 14 - Loss to Okada on the final night causes him to finish second.

3. Goto - 13

4. Ishii - 12

5. Anderson - 12

6. Nagata - 8

7. Kojima - 6

8. Honma - 4

9. Yujiro - 4

10. Elgin - 2

Sunday, August 16: Tokyo Ryogoku Kokugikan: 2015 G-1 Climax Final: Block A winner vs. Block B winner.

Mike’s G-1 Climax Final prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura defeats A.J. Styles; goes on to challenge Okada for the IWGP World title on January 4. And, here’s the kicker to this one, the only time that Styles and Nakamura have ever tangled was way back during 2008’s G-1, in a tag match that saw Nakamura and Kurt Angle knock off Styles and Hiroshi Tanahashi, when Nakamura delivered a head kick to Tanahashi and Angle used the Olympic slam for the pin.

Adam’s G-1 Climax Final prediction: Kota Ibushi defeats Kazuchika Okada; goes on to challenge Okada for the IWGP World title on January 4.

Other matches: IWGP World junior heavyweight tag team championship: The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) defend the titles against ReDragon (Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish).