Same Old Same Old: Did NJPW Miss An Opportunity With The G1 Tournament?

Let’s start with this; this year’s G1 Climax Tournament has been amazing, as expected. Almost every night had at least one match, if not more, that made the event must-see. and as a whole, the tournament is already considered a success. However, in any tournament, the majority of the focus goes towards the end (rightfully so), and when we analyze where we’ve gotten to, I can’t help but feel like New Japan might have taken the safe route rather than attempt something original.

At this point, we’ve confirmed the final four of the G1 Climax; Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega will decide the A Block, and Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi will battle to top the B Block. In a bubble, neither of these matchups can be considered a disappointment, and nobody is arguing that these matches will deliver as we head towards the finals. However, if we take a bit of a high-view look at what these results actually mean, we notice a pattern with NJPW’s recent booking.

Wrestle Kingdom 11:

Main Event: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega
Co-Main Event: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito

Dominion 6.11

Main Event: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega
Co-Main Event: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito

Now, we will also see yet another major NJPW show end with these two matches, this time to decide the final of the G1. Now, I’m not going to argue against Omega/Okada, as I believe we’d all agree that these two have unfinished business, and the fact that they’ve positioned this matchup where Omega needs to win to advance, while a draw would allow Okada to be victorious, is a very nice twist which I’m anxious to see resolve itself. However, as talented as both men are, were we all clamoring for Tanahashi/Naito one more time, and therefore, does it really need to be the deciding match of the block?

This is where I believe New Japan missed an opportunity. Is Hiroshi Tanahashi the “Ace” of New Japan Pro Wrestling? He certainly was for a very long time, and many would say he still is, but the fact of the matter is that NJPW has done a masterful job of telling the story of Tanahashi’s injured bicep throughout the tournament, and I feel that was the perfect opportunity to allow for a fresh face to narrowly edge Tanahashi into the final four, protecting Tanahashi due to the injury, but also giving the fans a new matchup to get excited over. There’s no reason Tanahashi couldn’t have still been featured in a marquee position on the show as well, but he simply didn’t need to be in the match against Naito. Looking at the B Block, while it may have been unrealistic to expect Kota Ibushi to walk into a final four spot, I’d argue that Naito/Ibushi should have held this final day spot, with the Block on the line.

Ultimately, am I surprised we’ve ended in a place where these two huge matches are on the final night and will decide the final? Not at all. But I do feel that there should at least be another possibility heading into the final night, rather than painting such a clear picture to the audience that the main event tier of New Japan is so definitively defined.

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