Inside G128 is an in-depth look at the 20 participants of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s 2018 version of the G1 Climax tournament. The G1 is considered to be the most prestigious tournament in wrestling. Every individual in the field has their own unique story, as they prepare to make their claim as the best endurance wrestler in the world.
Last year the leader of Los Ingobernables de Japon (LIJ) captured his second G1 Climax trophy (first in 2013) after defeating 2016 winner Kenny Omega and current IWGP Heavyweight champions in the finals. Tetsuya Naito entered his first G1 in 2010, reaching his first finals a year later where he was defeated by Shinsuke Nakamura. Over the past several years, Naito has turned into the biggest merchandise seller in NJPW, along with being one of the biggest domestic and international draws in the company.
Naito was unable to defeat Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom in January of this year, despite many feeling he was a lock to come out of the event as champion. However, he was able to defeat Minoru Suzuki for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship in April at Wrestling Hinokuni.
Naito ignored the physical championship, often critiquing the existence of the title whenever he would speak to the media. Yet, his loss of the title in June at Dominion to Chris Jericho leaves him without momentum heading into this years’ G1 tournament.
In order for Naito to become the third back to back G1 winner (Masahiro Chono 1991-1992 & Hiroyoshi Tenzan 2003-2004), he will have to go through a stacked ‘B Block’ including his LIJ stablemate — Sanada. He will begin the tournament against Omega on July 15th, who he is 1-1 against in the G1.
In 2016, Naito lost to Omega on the final day of block action in the G1 [28:12], leading to Omega advancing to the finals where he would defeat Hirooki Goto [26:49]. While early in the G1, the result could go on to dictate who eventually wins the B Block.
Below is a list of Naito’s G1 opponents, the date he wrestles them, and his G1 record against them:
Kenny Omega, July 15th, 1-1
Tomohiro Ishii, July 19th, 0-1
Juice Robinson, July 21st, 0-0
Tama Tonga, July 26th, 0-0
Hirooki Goto, July 28th, 1-2
Toru Yano, August 1st, 4-2
Kota Ibushi, August 4th, 2-1
Sanada, August 8th, 0-0
Zack Sabre, Jr., August 11th, 1-0
The August 11th match against Zack Sabre, Jr (ZSJ) is extremely interesting, as ZSJ was able to defeat Naito in the opening round of the single elimination New Japan Cup in March of this year.
Throughout his G1 career, Naito has been extremely successful compiling the following record:
43 Total Wins (41 Block Wins)
28 Total Losses (27 Total Block Losses)
1 Draw (2010 against Hiroshi Tanahashi)
2-1 in G1 Finals
59.7 winning percentage
Despite his recent loss to Jericho, Naito has to be considered one of the favorites to win the 2018 G1 Climax. Fans should circle his matches against Omega, Kota Ibushi, ZSJ, and Sanada as each has the opportunity to stand out for the quality of performance.
Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Juice Robinson, and Tama Tonga could capture a ‘surprise’ victory over Naito, making his path to ‘B Block’ victory that much more difficult. It also shouldn’t surprise anyone when Toru Yano captures a quick pinfall over a headline name in the block, he’s beaten Naito in the past and could again this year.
Will the G1 Climax 28 be tranquilo for Naito, or will his journey to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship hit another roadblock? We’ll all find out in just under a month.