The 2019 NJPW schedule has seen a chance for all to rest up and await the stacked autumn to come this week. For fans subscribing to NJPW World for the G1 Climax, there’s now the chance to take the time and look at the amazing matchups available on the archives, with plenty of action happening this week in history.
August 17, 2008: The G in G1 stands for Goto!
The 2019 G1 Climax saw 19 events over five weeks, but in 2008 the schedule was much more condensed, with seven cards over eight days. The Ryogoku final itself was an intense night, seeing the last group matches and the overall final contested on the same card.
Eventual finalists Hirooki Goto and Togi Makabe were each pulling double duty. Goto was in his first G1 Climax, having returned from Mexican excursion in late 2007, and graduating from junior heavyweight to heavyweight status in the process. He would find like minded up and coming stars in Shinsuke Nakamura’s RISE unit, and shocked many fans by pinning the faction leader and former IWGP Heavyweight Champion during the group matches. With Nakamura defeating Hiroyoshi Tenzan on the final night, and Goto pinning Yuji Nagata, both would be tied on 8 points, with Goto reaching the final on a tie breaker.
While Goto would have just over an hour to recover from a tough battle with Nagata and get ready for the final, Togi Makabe didn’t have that luxury. Wrestling Satoshi Kojima after Goto’s match, he had considerably less time to recover. A handicap? Not necessarily. Makabe did have the luxury of Great Bash Heel in his corner, willing to push Makabe to victory by any means necessary. In Makabe’s bout that meant Tomoaki Honma tripping AJPW representative Satoshi Kojima before what was certain to be a decisive lariat, leading to a Makabe win.
Goto was heading into the lion’s den in the final, as Makabe walked out flanked by GBH members who would play a crucial role. When Makabe played for time on the outside of the ring, Goto made a crucial mistake in pursuing the GBH leader, and would soon fall prey to a vicious chair shot that sliced him open.
Back in ring however, Goto’s indomitable spirit couldn’t be denied, and after a pair of Shoten Kais, he would be victorious in his first G1, and instantly challenged then IWGP Heavyweight Champion Keiji Muto, vowing to carry professional wrestling into a new era.
August 18, 2018: Juice from a Stone
The post G1 Climax season is no time to rest on one’s laurels. This year, after just a few days break, Super J-Cup hits the US west coast this weekend, and then it’s on to London and Royal Quest.
In the wake of G1 Climax 28, many wrestlers had their international calendar full as well, and Tomohiro Ishii and Juice Robinson found themselves sharing the ring at OTT’s Wrestlerama event in Dublin, Ireland. This was just mere days after they met in the G1 itself. At that point, Robinson was still recovering from a broken hand; with a protective cast on the hand, he was prevented from using his signature Left Hand of God punch lest he risk disqualification. While Tomohiro Ishii got the memo, he was perfectly willing to throw it out of the window, and dared Robinson to hit him cast and all.
That’s a fighting spirit that the rabid OTT fans deeply appreciated. Ishii came out on top of their G1 clash, and was heavily supported in this rematch, but Robinson’s guts meant he had a huge Dublin following too.
August 19 1990: Summer Night Fever Dream
In the Nippon Budokan on August 12 2019, Kota Ibushi overcame a loss in the G1 final in the same building, one year removed to get the biggest win of his career. Heading into his final match with Jay White, Ibushi had vowed ‘not to let history repeat’, a vow that Riki Choshu was making to himself in the main event of Summer Night Fever 2 in Ryogoku Sumo Hall.
In the same event in Ryogoku one year earlier, Choshu’s first IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign came crashing to a halt at the hands of Big Van Vader. Vader, with his second reign became the seventh IWGP Heavyweight Champion that night, handily beating a man who had never scored a win over him via pinfall; only countouts and disqualification had seen Choshu’s hand raised against the giant in a two year span.
Vader’s championship reign was no cakewalk. During his run, he would defend his title against fellow leviathans in Crusher Bam Bam Bigelow, Shinya Hashimoto and, most famously, Stan Hansen, against whom he had two wild brawls that saw blood spilled and even retinas detached. It was Vader’s right eye that Choshu would rightly target in this match in a bid to get any upper hand he could.
Vader was one of the most feared men on the planet in the summer of 1990, but Choshu was determined to prove that he too had gotten immeasurably tougher since their last encounter, and would put everything on the line in Sumo Hall.
August 20 1987: NOW Leader, New Partner
The summer of 1987 saw great change in the NJPW landscape. That year’s IWGP league (the precursor to the current G1 Climax) would see its winner take on a new responsibility; rather than the IWGP Champion defending their title annually against the league winner as had been the case in the past, they would defend their title belt regularly, as the IWGP Heavyweight Championship as we know it now was formally established.
It was a watershed moment in the eyes of many, and a chance for a new era to truly take hold in NJPW. After 15 years, the trail that Antonio Inoki had blazed at the top seemed to be coming to an end, as those who had forged new paths beneath, stars like Tatsumi Fujinami and Riki Choshu, had arrived at their primes.
Yet on June 12 1987, Antonio Inoki was victorious once more, defeating Masa Saito to become the first recognised IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Despite missing out on the finals of the tournament himself, Choshu was angered at the elder statesmen of Inoki and Saito remaining in the NJPW top spots, and saw himself unable to break through a glass ceiling into true top flight status.
Circumstances created strange and uneasy bedfellows, as he called upon bitter rival Tatsumi Fujinami to ‘fight for the generation we’ve created’. Young firebrand Akira Maeda would join their cause even despite his UWF loyalties, and generational battle lines were drawn, as the ‘NEW Leaders’ went up against the established ‘NOW Leaders’ of Inoki, Seiji Sakaguchi and Yoshiaki Fujiwara.
Eventually, two teams of five would battle it out in elimination matches that September, but tensions would be high through the summer. On August 20, Choshu and Fujinami were set to represent the NEW Leaders against Inoki and a partner of his choosing; Inoki would head to the Ryogoku ring alone before calling out a surprising recruit to the NOW group in Keiji Muto.
Muto had seen a sharp rise to main cards in NJPW even as a Young Lion thanks in large part to the absences of Maeda and Choshu at the time. Inoki respected the abilities of a man who seemed a sure fire top star in the making, and Muto was thrust into the biggest match of his young career.
August 21, 2016: KUSHIDA Takes the J-Cup
Super J-Cup 2019 kicks off on August 22 in Tacoma, almost three years to the day when the last version of the tournament ended. The 2016 version of the Super J-Cup saw its resurrection after a seven year absence, with representatives from CMLL, ROH, NOAH, and Okinawa’s Ryukyu Dragon Pro Wrestling among a diverse field of 16 that started their tournament in Korakuen Hall, before the quarter, semi and final matches came from Ariake Colosseum.
The traditional big match stomping ground for Pro Wrestling NOAH saw a representative from the green brand in the finals, but perhaps not one that NOAH loyalists were eager to cheer on. GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion Yoshinobu Kanemaru had recently defected to a Suzuki-Gun in the midst of a conquest of NOAH, and certainly didn’t gain any friends in the Tokyo crowd when he eliminated Will Ospreay in the semi-finals.
That prevented a rematch of June’s Dominion, which had seen Best of the Super Juniors winner Ospreay fall to IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion KUSHIDA. As Kanemaru had beaten a pair of New Japan wrestlers on the Ariake night in the form of BUSHI and Ospreay, KUSHIDA had bested a pair of then NOAH representatives, Taiji Ishimori and Kenoh.
It all led to a battle of promotional superiority in the final. Kanemaru had long been a standard bearer for NOAH’s junior heavyweight ranks but one who had no interest in the fans. KUSHIDA, in the midst of his third IWGP reign, was being talked about as the junior heavyweight ace of NJPW; a gold J-Cup victors’ jacket seemed more than adequate certification.