Like a lot of wrestling fans, I watched more of the G1 Climax this year than any other. It’s not that I haven’t been aware of the G1, but there have been two factors preventing me from seeing more of it in past years. The first is distribution and presentation: NJPW World, their equivalent to the WWE Network, is easier than ever (not to mention a gloriously modern and clean website). On the presentation side, I’ve always had trouble keeping up with shows recorded on a single camera. This year’s Super Juniors lost me a little because most of the events were performed in small rooms with only one camera streaming the event. I know lots of wrestling fans don’t mind this, but I do.
The second thing keeping me from watching more G1 in previous years was the absolute glut of content. Nearly three weeks of daily wrestling is exhausting. I still cherry picked, but this year I’d watch what people recommended hours after it aired instead of weeks. This is absolutely due to Wrestling Twitter being up really early, so my “In Case You Missed it” section was filled with recommendations. All in all I think I watched about 30 of the tournament matches, which was about a third of the tournament proper. I skipped the non-tournament matches entirely, even though I might go back and catch up on the ones people are still talking about (it’s not that many). Anyways, here are a few thoughts from a longtime wrestling fan on the 27th G1 Climax.
Too much good wrestling is a very strange problem
NJPW has a phenomenal roster of great performers, and the G1 feels like showing off. It’s honestly something I’d love every wrestling promotion to do, as it makes for a great primer for what the show entails. WWE doesn’t have anything like this, except for perhaps the Royal Rumble. The G1 reminded me a bit of the Rumble in how it interweaves various stories through a singular event, except everyone fought everyone and it lasted a month.
The NJPW heavyweight style is exhausting at this scale
“Strong style” is captivating and cathartic. It can take it out of you emotionally to watch, and since this is a heavyweight tournament, you end up watching a lot of it. In NJPW, wrestlers tend to hit one another way harder than you’d think fake wrestlers ever would. Near the end, I was sick of seeing lariats. And I love lariats.
I could have used more sports entertainment
I know NJPW works a little differently. The bad guys don’t cheat as much. There aren’t as many “bullshit finishes” or nonsense. But one of the reasons I love pro wrestling is the nonsense. I love creative cheating. I love novel outside interference. I love the drama that unfolds when a well-executed plan goes awry because someone unexpected showed up. The G1 featured very little of this, and I think to its detriment. The main reasons that gimmicks, cheating, and interference exist in wrestling is to break up the monotony. This much wrestling in such a short period of time could use a little bit more “sports entertainment.”
But it’s also funny and sad
Thankfully, some of the C-plots provided breaths of fresh air from all the super serious matches. The subplot involving Takahashi and his therapy cat-doll, Darryl, was handled with impressive subtlety. He wasn’t even in the tournament, but I’m going to remember the Darryl story forever. And I was so glad to have Toru Yano in the tournament, as there at least got to be ten matches involving some fun cheating. Yano also got to go all the way with his bits, as his match with Omega was beautifully bizarre and has to be the comedy match of the year. For more on that, listen to this podcast episode with Chelsea Spollen.
But this is undoubtedly the best wrestling I’ve seen this year
While watching the three finale matches, I thought to myself that it truly isn’t fair how spectacular these wrestling matches are. We don’t deserve wrestling on this level. I’ve often said that the winners and losers of wrestling matches don’t matter if the match itself is incredible, and this equation came very true in the G1. I didn’t actually love the “booking” of this tournament when it came to who won and lost, but it really didn’t matter. The matches themselves were so good, I forgot about about politics, story lines, and the fact that all of this is made up and the points don’t matter. Pro wrestling, by itself, can be wonderful.
One last thing
After the finals, Kenny Omega slumps backstage. He’s held up by his teammates The Young Bucks. In the hallway, Kota Ibushi stands, perhaps waiting for Omega, perhaps not. Maybe it was a coincidence, but there sure are a lot of cameras, and a lot of history. The Young Bucks hold everyone back while Omega approaches Ibushi. Ibushi places his hand on Omega’s heart. Do they say anything to one another? It’s unclear. You can watch it yourself. Omega walks past Ibushi, and drops his towel. The Young Bucks pass Ibushi and continue to help Omega out of the arena. Ibushi continues to watch Omega leave, and picks up the towel. Cameras switch between Omega walking away, and Ibushi watching. It’s a heartwrenching moment, but one that leaves us with lots to talk about.