NJPW G1 Climax 2024 Preview: Who Is In It?

NJPW G1 Climax 2024 Preview: Who Is In It? [Busaikuknee777, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons]

As the summer heat intensifies, so does the excitement in the world of professional wrestling with the return of New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s (NJPW) G1 Climax tournament. The G1 Climax 2024 is set to be the standout event of the year in Japan, bringing together the best wrestlers from around the globe once again.

The G1 is NJPW’s premier annual tournament, renowned for its high-octane action and the creation of new stars. Spanning several weeks, the tournament features a round-robin format.

20 wrestlers with wrestlers divided into just 2 blocks this year. Each block has 10 wrestlers and they will all face each other to get the most points.

2 points for a win, 1 point for a draw. The winners of each block then clash in the ultimate showdown to determine the G1 Climax winner and earn a title match for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship in the main event of their biggest show of the year, Wrestle Kingdom.

Over the years, the G1 has crowned some of the biggest names in professional wrestling. Icons of the industry like Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, and Kenny Omega have all triumphed in this prestigious tournament and gone on to become stars and of course, World champions.

Last year’s winner, Tetsuya Naito, delivered an unforgettable performance against SANADA back in January. He won the World Title in front of over 27,000 people inside the iconic Tokyo Dome, and this year’s winner will hope to follow in the same footsteps.

However, NJPW has faced struggles in recent years with maintaining star power in Japan, especially with the growth of AEW. The G1 Climax now marks a pivotal moment as the company introduces a new generation of stars.

As established legends and rising talents collide, the tournament promises fresh rivalries and stars created. So who’s actually in it and who is most likely to emerge victorious this year and earn the coveted title shot at Wrestle Kingdom?

This Year’s Lineup

The tournament consists of two separate blocks as mentioned, A Block and B Block with both sides star-studded this year. A Block is particularly competitive however with the most recent winner, Tetsuya Naito, who is the current World Champion entering after winning back the title from Jon Moxley at Forbidden Door this past Sunday.

He’ll be looking to become a three-time winner of the tournament and get the opportunity to pick his opponent but he faces stiff competition and perhaps younger competition than previous years. He’s joined by one of the most recent challengers to the top belt and former protege of Moxley, Shota Umino.

Fairly young at 27 years old and touted as NJPW’s next big thing, Umino will be looking to make a statement and could pick up some defining wins against some of the biggest stars who also inhabit this block. That includes Shingo Takagi and SANADA, two former world champions in their own right and two who present a strong case to reach the mountaintop once again.

Both, however, fall into the slightly older category and we have seen both inhabit the main event scene for enough time to want to see something new. That freshness could come through the newer to Japan side of the block in Zack Sabre Jr. and Gabe Kidd.

Both are coming off hot runs, ZSJ has been tearing it up across the globe with marquee matches against Bryan Danielson, Hechicero, Orange Cassidy, and more in the past few months while Kidd became the Strong Openweight Champion with highly acclaimed matches against the likes of Eddie Kingston and Takagi just this year.

They seem top contenders with the rest of the block filled out by longshots like Great O-Khan, who has only wrestled 2 singles matches this year. Or EVIL who, despite being Moxley’s most recent challenger, looks like an outsider to win this tournament when considering the star power around him.

The wildcard choice for this block however could be NOAH star, Jake Lee who only debuted for NJPW back in April. After great matches with Kaito Kiyomiya and Naito this year, winning the block here could be the big step up he needs.

It is worth noting that there is still one more spot yet to be filled in both blocks where qualifiers are currently taking place, for the A Block spot the qualifier has come to down to a final between Yoshi-Hashi and Callum Newman, set to be decided tomorrow.

B Block presents a just as interesting picture with an intriguing combination of talent set to compete for the top spot. The biggest announcement is undoubtedly the first-time participation of AEW and DTT star, Konosuke Takeshita who has been killing it this year with a MOTY contender with Will Ospreay back in March and other big clashes representing the Don Callis Family.

Another big name in this block is Jeff Cobb, who has also made AEW appearances this year. He is the current NJPW World Television Champion and many predict he could receive a push in the tournament.

Ren Narita is also likely to be in contention with a big push for him, since joining the House of Torture at the end of last year. He went on to pick up huge wins against the likes of Sabre Jr. and Minoru Suzuki and will be a big player.

Joining them is a star finally heading up the ranks after nearly a decade in the company, David Finlay. However, the current Bullet Club leader and IWGP Global Heavyweight Champion remains more of an outsider with the Global championship being a major belt and his focus likely to lie there primarily.

Adding to the list of champions within the block, Henare, the current NEVER Openweight Champion, will be looking to reestablish himself after a disappointing G1 last year finishing with just 4 points and missing out on the semi-finals.

Yuya Uemura and Yota Tsuji will meet again in the block and perhaps will reignite old tensions in the tournament with both looking to establish themselves higher up the card. They competed against each other back at Wrestle Kingdom in January and again in a Hair vs Hair match in February, they could end up back in each other’s way here.

Tsuji will want to get back into contention after losing to Naito following his New Japan Cup win earlier this year too. Another man in this block that links into these two is Hirooki Goto who Tsuji beat in the finals to win the New Japan Cup back in March.

Goto is one of the oldest entrants at 44 years old but age provides him plenty of experience, despite never being a World champion. He is a 2-time IWGP Intercontinental Champion, 5-time NEVER Openweight Champion, and 3-time New Japan Cup winner hoping to do one more and win the G1 to give him the chance to claim the World Title that has evaded him on Japan’s biggest stage.

El Phantasmo is also part of the older contingent in the tournament at 37 and is hoping to put a run together after failing to progress in last year’s G1, becoming a predominantly tag team wrestler since. There is also one open slot in this group with qualifiers currently ongoing, the last competitor is set to be either TAICHI or Boltin Oleg, following his upset victory over Hiroshi Tanahashi this week. 

Our Verdict:

Overall, It is clear we are set for another outstanding G1. Whether you watch New Japan year-round or just tune in occasionally, the G1 is a must-watch for anyone interested in great professional wrestling.

The in-ring matches are almost always top notch and the storytelling, even in the less major matches, will be intriguing this time round, especially with so much fresh talent. Outside the obvious big matchups and rematches like Shingo vs Kidd or Sabre Jr. vs Umino, I definitely recommend keeping an eye on the ones less talked about like Tsuji vs Goto and Tsuji vs Uemura, or Takeshita vs Narita or Herare.

There is so much potential for fantastic matches. However, when thinking about an overall winner, it is hard to nail it down but the strongest case is for a landmark passing of the torch moment to be created for the main event of Wrestle Kingdom and that should be to either Yota Tsuji or Shota Umino.

After standout performances this year from both and commitment to remaining in Japan, there is no better time to crown a new star. Shota has proved his worth time and time again with a fantastic match with Moxley already this year, this tournament could rejuvenate his character and elevate him to a full main event player.

For Tsuji, this would be a huge step up but one I have no doubt he can reach and his work already this year has proved he can capture fans’ attention. There is a case for almost everyone on the lineup this year but personally, it would be tough to look past one of the two fastest-rising stars in NJPW, Tsuji or Shota.

More From LWOS Pro Wrestling

Header photo – NJPW. Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.  You can rewatch all 2021 NJPW events and plenty more tremendous wrestling content from New Japan Pro-Wrestling on NJPWWorld.com; The King of Sports Streaming.


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