Last time we covered the first half of this year’s G1 Climax Block A so let’s finish off the block.
Your remaining Block A competitors:
Tomohiro Ishii has been with New Japan since 2004 but this is the first time he’s made it into a G1 tournament. Ishii actually debuted in 1996 for Genichiro Tenryu’s WAR promotion holding several titles before the company closed it’s doors for good in 2000 forcing him to become a freelancer. He’d bounce around working in a number of different companies including Zero-1, Riki Pro, and Toruymon. He would make only occasional appearences for New Japan starting in 2004 before making it his permanent home in 2006 when he formed a tag team with Toru Yano and on October of that year the two joined the heel stable GBH. In the faction he may have been considered one of the lowest-ranked but that didn’t stop Ishii from getting some opportunities such as in 2008 during an inter-promotional feud with Apache Pro where he won that company’s WEW Heavyweight Championship.
Ishii also has the honour of being the 6th generation Black Tiger due to his feud with Tiger Mask IV in 2010/11. After repeatedly attacking and trying to rip off the mask of Tiger Mask they had a Mask vs Hair match which Ishii lost. Deeply ashamed as only a pro wrestler could be Ishii began wearing the mask of Black Tiger. Ishii would once again be defeated by Tiger Mask in a Mask Vs Mask match to end the feud but the distinction of being by far the most obvious Black Tiger (he didn’t even change his name or tights!) means Ishii will never be forgotten in Tiger lore.
In 2012 Ishii had been with the company for eight years and he finally began to get some singles title shots and started to gain more buzz about how to the point he could be fairly said to have a cult following. He recieved his first ever singles opportunity in an unsuccessful attempt at Hirooki Goto’s IWGP Intercontinental Championship and then in November he was part of the tournament to decide the first NEVER Openweight Champion. Ishii would make it to the Semi’s before losing to his CHAOS stablemate Masato Tanaka who would be the eventual winner. After winning a 12 man elimination match during the 3rd annual NJPW/CMLL joint show in 2013 Ishii issued a challenge to Tanaka for the title for May. Even though Ishii lost the match it was such an impressive performance that many of the other wrestlers came out out from the back to watch.
After this career altering match Ishii would pick up his biggest win yet during the NJ Cup when he defeated Satoshi Kojima before being eliminated by Hirooki Goto. Now finally in the G1 for the first time Ishii is one of the big underdogs of the tournament and I don’t see him picking up many points. Just being included in the tournament is a big deal for Ishii and he should probably pick up at least one win which is about what he should do given how loaded his block is.
Lance Archer (real name Lance Hoyt) started out in 2000 and worked the indies of his home state of Texas before being signed by TNA in 2004 where he would team up with Kid Kash as Kash’s bodyguard “Dallas” and win the NWA World Tag Titles (and lose them the very next week before getting them back the week after that because it’s TNA). After the team split in 2005 he split his time between wrestling as a singles competitor and forming a midcard team and then feuding with Matt Bentley. His best remembered (though perhaps not best liked) stint in TNA started in 2007 as a member of the Rock ‘n Rave Infection teaming with Jimmy Rave and managed by Christy Hemme. Taking on a rock band gimmick, they began bringing Guitar Hero controllers out with them with Hemme as their frontwoman. Lance would be released by TNA in February 2009 and after a very brief stint in AJPW he signed with WWE.
Debuting in ECW as the heel Vance Archer he was given a unbeaten (at least unpinned) streak to start off with and after a series of squashes began a feud with Shelton Benjamin where he would suffer his first loss. Archer managed to get in a Wrestlemania (preshow) appearance but with the looming ending of the ECW TV show his time was running out. With ECW gone he was moved over to Smackdown and formed a team with Curt Hawkins called “The Gatecrashers” and announced they had been given a 30 day contract to “make an impact”. Unfortunately this went nowhere and the team ended up splitting and Hoyt was wished his best in his future endeavors in November 2010.
In May 2011 now Lance Archer he made his debut in NJPW during the company’s first ever US tour attacking Satoshi Kojima and joining Minoru Suzuki’s heel stable Suzukigun. Archer would take part in the 2011 G1, scoring a win over the former IWGP champ Togi Makabe but ended up not advancing out of his block. He would have more luck in the 2011 G1 Tag League teaming up with Minoru Suzuki where the duo would win the finals by defeating the IWGP Tag Champs “Bad Intentions”, the duo of Karl Anderson & Giant Bernard (A-Train/Prince Albert). Archer would once again compete in the 2012 G1 Climax and for the second year he’d beat Togi Makabe and this time he’d end up tied at the top of his block going into the final day but was eliminated.
Archer had made a challenge to TenKoji for their Tag Titles but hadn’t announced who his partner would be however on August 13th his partner was revealed to be the former Harry “D.H.” Smith now renamed Davey Boy Smith Jr and the newest member of Suzukigun. The two men (dubbed K.E.S. for Killer Elite Squad) got their title match on October 8th and were victorious. They then went on to win the 2012 World Tag League (the former G1 Tag League, thankfully renamed to spare us easily confused people) by defeating Togi Makabe and Wataru Inoue.
In April of 2013 K.E.S. would add the NWA World Tag Titles to their resume but would lose the IWGP titles in May. This is his third G1 and his big match in both years previously has been with Makabe who is once again in the same block with him. The most interesting match though is with his partner Davey Boy and how that will go down. Archer has shown a lot since coming to NJPW and they’ve done a good job protecting him as a big man, however I don’t see him doing as well as he did last year. I could see Devitt getting a shock win over Archer very easily especially with all the interference Bullet Club will be running.
Davey Boy Smith Jr.
Smith Jr is of course the son of the legendary “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith and because of this he was introduced to wrestling from a very early age making several appearances as a child before his actual professional debut at only the age of 15 in 2000 becoming a regular for the Stampede Wrestling company. The WWE would offer him a contract in 2004 but he decided to instead continue his indie career while also attending college. It was at this time in January 2005 that he’d have his first tour with New Japan as well as forming a tag team with lifelong friend T.J. Wilson. After gaining some more experience on the independent and international circuit Smith signed a developmental contract with WWE in 2006 after his uncle Bret Hart’s induction into their Hall of Fame.
Smith would train in Ohio Valley, Deep South and FCW and got his first change on the main roster as DH (for David Hart) Smith in 2008 as a singles competitor but was suspended for 30 days due to a Wellness violation almost immediately. When he returned he wrestled mostly on the Heat secondary TV show before asking to be sent back to FCW to gain more experience. He’d make his return for the ECW brand in 2009 as a heel forming The Hart Dynasty with Tyson Kidd (TJ Wilson), and his cousin Nattie Neidhart. In 2010 they would win the Unified World Tag Titles by beating Big Show & Miz. After they eventually lost the titles the team did the inevitable breakup angle and DH was quickly regulated to the B shows and then not being used at all before being released in August 2011.
David would appear in PWG in the US, Ring Ka-King in India, and Inoki Genome Federation in Japan before signing with New Japan in 2012 working as “Davey Boy Smith Jr” and debuting as a member of Suzukigun to be Lance Archer’s tag team partner to challenge for the IWGP tag titles (see Archer’s bio for more on the K.E.S. team). As a singles worker Davey entered the NJ Cup in March and gained his biggest victory in Japan by defeating Shinsuke Nakamura and advancing to the semi-finals before being eliminated. This will be Davey’s first G1 and he’s probably going to be picking up more losses than wins in such a tough block.
Prince Devitt, who also has gone by his birth name Fergal Devitt is an Irish born (if you couldn’t tell by the name “Fergal”) wrestler who made his pro wrestling debut in 2000 when he was only 18 years old. Devitt was trained by the NWA UK Hammerlock promotion and started out with them and his career took of quickly as he began touring the UK, US and the European continent. After several years and holding titles in the UK Devitt would sign with New Japan in April 2006 and be brought in as Prince Devitt (he has said in interviews no one could say his real name in Japan so they changed it). He also had a brief run as Pegasus Kid II (the original was Chris Benoit) for New Japan’s brand extension WRESTLE LAND but by the time he came back in August he was permanently recognized as the Irish superstar Prince Devitt.
Devitt was turned heel and in the late summer/early fall of 2006 became a member of Jushin Liger’s heel lightweight stable CTU as apprentice or probationary member. After a bad losing streak Devitt was given one final opportunity to prove he had what it took to be a member of CTU and he did it when he got the pinfall in his biggest win yet a tag match with Liger against Wataru Inoue & Ryusuke Taguchi, after which Devitt was made a full member of CTU. A serious knee injury would keep Devitt out of action until May 2007 when he made his return in time for his first Best of the Super Juniors tournament in which he failed to gain any wins. He’d do better in January 2008 though when he picked up his first major title by winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles with fellow CTU member Minoru. They would hold the belts twice in 2008 before losing them for the last time to Team No Limits (Naito & Yujiro).
After the end of CTU and his partnership with Minoru, Devitt would form the tag team “Apollo 55” with Ryusuke Taguchi in order to challenge Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley for the IWGP Junior Tag Titles which they would eventually win on July 5th 2009. Devitt would also enter the BOSJ in 2009 (he had been forced to withdraw from 2008 due to injury) and made it to the finals before being defeated by Koji Kanemoto. That wasn’t it for Devitt when it came to tournaments in 2008 as he entered the Super J Tournament in December. The Super J Cup being for the best Juniors from all of Japan and the world (at least theoretically) as opposed to just NJPW and some outsiders with the BOSJ. Devitt would advance to the finals of the Super J before being defeated by Pro Wrestling’s Naomichi Marufuji.
Devitt would have a breakout year in 2010 when he finally win his first BOSJ by taking out DDT’s Kota Ibushi in the finals on June 13th. By doing so he earned a shot at the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title which was held by the invading Marufuji. He would defeat the outsider on June 19th gaining his first singles title in New Japan. He’d keep his momentum going by teaming with Taguchi and Hirooki Goto to win a 6 Man Tag tournament that July and then a week after that Apollo 55 won the tag titles for the second time. He gained one of the biggest opportunities of his career that August when he was given the injured Marufuji’s slot in the G1 Climax and Devitt didn’t didn’t fail to impress as he won four out of seven matches including a shocking upset over Hiroshi Tanahashi. Despite this it wasn’t enough to advance to the semi-finals and he was eliminated. After having lost the tag titles to Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi in October, Apollo 55 won back the belts in January 2011 for the third time and with his two reigns with Minoru meant that Devitt had tied the record for most IWGP Jr Heavyweight title reigns.
In the 2011 BOSJ Devitt would go on a seven match winning streak but would be eliminated in the semi finals by his Apollo 55 teammate Taguchi, who went on to lose in the finals to Ibushi setting up Ibushi’s challenge to Devitt’s Junior title in June where Devitt lost ending his reign one day short of a year. Devitt would fail in his rematch but after Ibushi went down with a injury in September he would take part in a match with KUSHIDA to determine a new champion in which Devitt captured the title for the second time. To balance out that win though Apollo 55 lost their tag titles to Davey Richards & Rocky Romero. However they would regain the titles at the Dome show in January 2012 which would make Devitt a 6 time Jr. Tag champ, a new record.
Devitt would travel to CMLL in March 2012 where he won the NWA World Historic Middleweight Championship. After returning to New Japan he entered the BOSJ but was eliminated in the semi finals by Low-Ki, who had also defeated him for his IWGP Junior title several weeks before. Devitt would spend most of 2012 pursuing the title and in the tag division but in November he would regain the title and at the January 2013 Dome show in one of the extremely rare New Japan triple threat matches he would successfully defend it against Low-Ki & Ibushi. After pinning IWGP Heavyweight champ Tanahashi in February (something that juniors almost never do to heavy’s much less the champ) Devitt was given the huge honour of main eventing the NJPW 41st Anniversary show in March against Tanahashi in a singles match which he lost. After this Devitt started to show a cockier side to his personality, treating everyone with disrespect aside from Taguchi, whom he still tried to get along with.
Unfortunately this tolerance couldn’t last and in February after Apollo 55 failed to defeat Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA (aka “The Time Splitters”) for the IWGP Junior titles Devitt finally turned on Taguchi and debuted the former King Fale now as Bad Luck Fale as his bouncer and proclaiming himself the “Real Rock ‘n Rolla”. At the next New Japan PPV in May Deviit and Fale would attack Hiroshi Tanahashi after his match with Karl Anderson. Anderson and ally Tama Tonga joined in the beatdown and the 4 men announced the formation of the new all-gaijin stable “Bullet Club” with Devitt as the unit leader. At the end of May Devitt entered the BOSJ and thanks to the interference of Bullet Club he would win every single match on his way to winning the tournament for the second time. After this Devitt announced his new goal was to hold both his Junior title and the Heavyweight title at the same time and in order to earn a shot at Okada’s title he challenged Tanahashi on June 22 and defeated him. Afterwards Okada agreed to face Devitt on the condition he could beat Okada’s manager & stablemate Gedo, which he did on July 7th. On July 20th Devitt failed in his title shot against Okada. Devitt announced he would be taking part in the G1 and become the first Junior Heavyweight to win the tournament. Devitt is another dark horse for the tournament but they have gotten behind him in a huge way and I could see him possibly making the finals but after that the odds would be deeply stacked against him.
Shibata debuted in late 1999 as a Junior Heavyweight but graduated to the Heavyweight class in 2003 when he competed in his first G1 tournament but finished third in his block. He’d finally receive his first IWGP Heavyweight title shot but lose to the champ Kaz Fujita. He’d follow this up with his second G1 tournament and a much more impressive performance than his debut, defeating former IWGP champions Nakamura, Chono, and Genichiro Tenryu before losing in the semi finals to Tenzan. Shibata left New Japan at the start of 2005 to become a freelance worker.
After leaving New Japan Shibata would work with several companies most notable Pro Wrestling NOAH and Big Mouth LOUD, which was a short lived company based on the New Japan style (aka “Strong Style”) but not part of the NJPW family. During his freelance sting he would have the chance to take on some of the big names in the business including, Kojima, Kensuke Sasaki, and Jun Akiyama. He also formed a short lived but popular tag team with KENTA called “Takeover” which gave him the opportunity to face off with the legendary Mitsuhara Misawa (and Go Shiozaki but he’s still working on the legend part). Shibata would return to New Japan in January 2006 and defeat Tanahashi but soon after decided to stop wrestling to focus on his MMA career.
Shibata started his MMA career in 2004 since then he’s had 15 fights and has 4 wins, 11 losses and 1 draw record which is a very disappointing record that has lead many people to speculate over the years that Shibata would return to pro wrestling something that finally came true on August 12 2012 when Shibata returned to New Japan alongside the legendary MMA and wrestling star Kazushi Sakuraba as “Laughter 7”. Since returning Shibata has been involved in numerous heated contests as he’s viewed as an outsider by the other New Japan wrestlers and they really don’t like him to say the least. Sakuraba would go down with an injury and since then Shibata has gotten into a singles feud with former High School classmate Hirooki Goto. This will be Shibata’s third G1 and I think he’s one of the favorites to win this block and the entire tournament. He’s had a lot of hot matches and is a fresh opponent for Okada and the crowd has been into the entire Laughter 7 angle.
This Saturday we’ll start on Block B! Everyone from multiple time IWGP champs to one of the most exciting Junior Heavyweights in the world. See you then!