We’ve finally made it to the final part of our G1 Climax participant guide! You can find the previous parts here: Block A Part 1 & Part 2, Block B Part 1. So without further ado let’s meet our final five contestants.
Yujiro came to New Japan after a successful amateur wrestling career in University passing the New Japan dojo test in November 2003. He would originally debut under his full name in July 2004 but soon after shortened it to just “Yujiro” . In 2005 in the process of defeating former IWGP Junior champ he suffered a broken jaw from several stiff slaps and kicks that would put him out for the rest of the year. In March of 2007 he became a member of “Samurai Gym” a sort of mini-faction under the tutelage of the veteran El Samurai. Yujiro would receive his first ever title shot in May 2007 in a failed bid at IWGP Junior champ Minoru’s title. 2007 would also mark another first for Yujiro as he finally entered his first Best of the Super Juniors tournament and though he failed to advance he picked up two big wins over Prince Devitt and Milano Collection A.T., who would go on to win the tournament.
In February 2008 El Samurai 2008 El Samurai left the company leaving Yujiro at loose ends. He decided to form the tag team “NO Limit” with another young wrestler (who I profiled in the previous column, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too badly here.) Tetsuya Naito. The duo was given an immediate push by New Japan and in October 2008 they won their first IWGP Junior Tag titles. After losing the belts to the Motor City Machine Guns at the January 2009 Dome show they were sent on a learning excursion to TNA and Mexico. TNA used them about as well as you’d expect which is to say not well at all. However in Mexico for the CMLL promotion they gained valuable experience as part of the anti-Mexican stable “Yellow-Wave” (totally not racist at all!). After having a successful summer including teaming with fellow Japanese wrestler Okumura to win the 2009 Gran Alternativa tournament, Yujiro (and Naito) had his head shaved after losing a Hair Vs Hair match to end his time in CMLL.
NO LIMIT made their return at the 2010 Dome show now officially Heavyweights to take on Team 3D and Bad Intentions (Bernard & Karl Anderson) in a Hardcore 3-Way for the IWGP Tag titles. NO LIMIT won the titles and as a sign of his progress Yujiro returned to using his full name in February. On April 4th NO LIMIT turned heel and joined the CHAOS faction. NO LIMIT would lose the Tag titles in May and in October they would compete in the G1 Tag League but lose in the finals. After NO LIMITS failed to win back the titles in May 2011 Yujiro walked out on Naito in frustration before later in the month viciously attacking Naito completing the split.
Yujiro would initially gain the upper-hand in the feud between former partners, defeating Naito In June and again at the start of the G1 Tournament (Naito would have the last laugh as he would make it to the G1 finals while Yujiro finished second to last in his block) but in September he would lose in their third encounter. He would team with Masato Tanaka to enter the G1 Tag League but despite a promising start they would be eliminated from contention after he was pinned by Naito (who teamed with Tomoaki Honma). In May 2012 Yujiro would go on a second Mexican tour this time for two months and when he returned he would kick his new “Tokyo Pimp” persona into high gear, and playing up his sleaziness (or is it charm?).
In October Yujiro would score a big win over his former partner when he defeated him by referee stoppage in an injury angle to explain Naito leaving for his knee reconstruction surgery. After picking up wins over IWGP champ Tanahashi in multi-man matches Yujiro was given a title match but failed to beat the champ one on one. In June 2013 Yujiro would be defeated by a returning Naito though it’s guaranteed to be far from the last round in their rivalry. Yujiro is not stuck in the midcard right now and I don’t see him breaking out in the G1 this year. His most likely role will be as another spoiler, as he’s shown he has the talent, not to mention the willingness to cheat to take down just about anyone under the right circumstances. I could see him spoiling things for Naito to set off another round between the two.
Minoru Suzuki is one of the founding fathers of Japanese MMA as well as a wrestling superstar. He was marked out for success before he ever entered the pro ranks as he was a National champion in freestyle wrestling and an Olympic alternate for Japan. After leaving the amateur world behind he entered the New Japan dojo and made his pro debut in June 1988. However soon after he left with his mentor, the legendary Yoshiaki Fujiwara to join first the reborn UWF and then Fujiwara’s own Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi. In 1993 Suzuki would leave all of that behind and with Masakatsu Funaki form “Pancrase” one of the very first MMA companies in the world.
Pancrase was based on the ancient Greek sport Pankration and the idea was wrestling as a shoot. The rules were originally more in line with traditional pro wrestling (no close fist punches to the head, rope breaks, etc) but have since transitioned mostly to modern MMA rules. There have been accusations that the company’s fights are worked but it’s always been denied. Suzuki would become one of the most successful and important Pancrase star in the company’s history. He started his career off by going 7-0 including defeating Pancrase’s top star Ken Shamrock, something he would do twice and is the only man to do in Pancrase history. In 1995 he became the second ever “King of Pancrase” which was the top honour. Suzuki would leave MMA behind in 2003 and his record stands at 30 wins (22 by submission), 20 losses as of December 2012.
In 2003 Suzuki announced he was returning to wrestling to invade other promotions as a freelancer. He returned to New Japan where he aligned himself with Yoshihiro Takayama and in February 2004 they defeated Tenzan and Osamu Nishimura for the IWGP Tag titles. He next invaded Pro Wrestling NOAH in 2005, failing to defeat Kenta Kobashi for the GHC Heavyweight Championship but teaming up with the junior star Naomichi Marufuji to win the GHC Tag titles for 2 Cold Scoprio and Doug Williams in June 2005.
After leaving NOAH he next appeared in AJPW when he made a shocking debut in March 2006 attacking the Triple Crown champion Satoshi Kojima after a title match. Suzuki would take part in the Champion Carnival but was eliminated by Taiyo Kea. On September 3rd 2006 he recieved a shot at the Triple Crown now held by Taiyo Kea and this time managed to beat Kea. Suzuki held onto the Triple Crown until August 2007 defeating the likes of Yuji Nagata, Kojima, and Keiji Mutoh before being defeated by Kensuke Sasaki.He also started the stable “GURENTAI” with NOSAWA, MAZADA, TAKEMURA, and Taiyo Kea (He didn’t go all caps.) and in June 2008 Suzuki and Kea won the All Japan Unified World Tag titles and then he’d also win the All Asia tag titles with NOSAWA In January 2009.Also in 2009 he won the Champion Carnival defeating Kaz Hayashi. Suzuki’s long time rival and co-founder of Pancrase, Masakatsu Funaki would return to wrestling in 2009 and the two men would have a brutal and bloody feud including All Japan’s first ever cage match in March 2010 that Suzuki lost. Only weeks later Suzuki would win the Champion Carnival, repeating from 2009 by defeating Funaki in the finals. Afterwards the two would bury the hatchet and even become partners. Suzuki would receive a Triple Crown shot on May 2 for winning the Carnival and defeated Ryota Hama to win his second title. He lost the belt to Suwama on August 29th 2010. August isn’t a good month for him in All Japan.
In December 2010 Suzuki would return to New Japan attacking his old enemy Yuji Nagata setting up a match for the January Dome show which Minoru Suzuki lost. In May he took over Kojima’s heel stable (now renamed Suzukigun) and put Kojima in his place by defeating him in July. He entered the 2011 G1 losing to Kojima on the opening day before going on a six match winning streak but later losses meant he missed the finals. Suzuki and stablemate Lance Archer would enter and win the 2011 G1 Tag League defeating Bernard and Karl Anderson in the finals but losing the title shot they recieved on November 12th. He would make a strong showing in the 2012 G1 tournament defeating Tanahashi and Naomichi Marufuji but a lose in his last match to Nagata eliminated him from contention. In October he recieved a IWGP title shot against Tanahashi and though he lost the match was a classic receiving crazy amounts of praise (Dave Meltzer compared it to Flair-Steamboat). Since then Suzuki and his stable have been mostly involved in a war with the CHAOS faction. Suzuki would receive another title shot, this time against Kaz Okada in May 2013 but failed again. I expect Minoru Suzuki to have a strong G1 but he’s had a lot of title shots in the last year or two and it’s not a fresh match so hopefully they’ll go in a different direction despite my love of MiSu.
Shelton Benjamin is best known for his time in WWE first as a member of “The World’s Greatest Tag Team” with Charlie Haas and then as a singles competitor. Before all of that though he was a two-time All-American amateur heavyweight wrestler and earned a number of other accolades in his amateur career. Instead of attempting to make the Olympic team he decided to switch his focus to pro wrestling. Shelton and his former amateur teammate Brock Lesnar joined WWE together and formed a tag team in the developmental system but they were never called up to the main roster as a unit. When he did make his debut it was with Charlie Haas as his partner and former Olympian Kurt Angle as his mentor in Team Angle. Benjamin & Haas would win the WWE Tag Team titles only a month after they debuted in February 2003. The team was split in March 2004 when Shelton was drafted to Monday Night Raw.
With his transfer to Raw Shelton quickly became a face and was given a big push by beating Triple H three times, once even by pinfall! In October 2004 Shelton won his first singles title by defeating Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental title which he would hold for 354 days the longest run in a decade. After that things got bad for Shelton as he went on a losing streak that led to the introduction of his “Momma” a load, obnoxious, domineering mother stereotype that yelled at and bullied Shelton every time he lost. Eventually she started interfering in his matches helping him regain the IC title in February 2006 (thanks mom!) from Ric Flair but in order to do so Momma faked a heart attack.
In November 2007 Shelton became a member of the ECW brand and debuted a new look with his hair dyed golden and calling himself “The Gold Standard”. He started to once again receive a renewed push including appearing in his second Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania XXIV, a match that he made a habit of impressing people in. In July 2008 he was drafted to Smackdown and at the Great American Bash he defeated Matt Hardy to win the United States title which he held on to for most of a year before losing to MVP on March 20th 2009. After another Money in the Bank ladder match Shelton was sent back to ECW. On April 22 2010 he was released from his WWE contract.
Shelton would reunite with his former partner Charlie Haas in Ring of Honor starting in September 2010 with a match against Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli. In April 2011 they won the ROH Tag titles by beating Hero and Claudio. After losing the belts they would win them one more time by beating the Briscoe Brothers. In March 2013 ROH announced that Shelton had requested and recieved his release from the company and though he and Haas had shot a breakup angle previously when Haas and ROH had a falling they never finished the angle.
Shelton made his debut for New Japan at the January 2012 Dome show where he teamed with a fellow former WWE vet MVP to face Masato Tanaka and Yujiro Takahashi in a winning effort. He competed in that year’s G1 tournament winning four of his eight matches but this wasn’t enough to advance to the finals. He’d have a similar split record when he returned for the 2012 World Tag League to team with MVP winning three matches and losing three failing to advance from their block. On April 20th 2013 Shelton returned now a member of the heel stable Suzukigun. Shelton has recieved title shots for the NEVER Openweight Championship and the IWGP Intercontinental Championship but so far hasn’t managed to win gold. Shelton’s not going to win the G1 but he should pick up enough wins to be in the hunt until the final day just by the nature of the booking.
Karl Anderson is currently the top heavyweight non-Japanese worker in New Japan and quite likely the entire country. While this doesn’t mean as much as it did in past decades before the death (for all intents and purposes) of the NWA and the territory system it is still an impressive achievement especially as he worked his way up the ranks of New Japan through the years rather than coming in with a reputation already established. Anderson is as close to a home grown product as a foreign-born worker gets.
Anderson began training under his real name, Chad Allegra in 2000 first with Les Thatcher’s school but after suffering a concussion that sidelined him for a year switching to the BoneKrushers training camp at the Northern Wrestling Federation which was run by Roger Ruffen. Anderson debuted under his real name in May 2002. In October 2005 while at the NWA convention he came to the attention of New Japan USA’s Dave Marquez and was invited to train at New Japan’s Los Angeles dojo. After relocating to the west coast he took on the persona and name “Machine Gun” Karl Anderson, one of the endless list of Anderson family members (I think they might be able to compete with the wrestling Samoan family tree). In 2007 he began wrestling for well-known independent company Pro Wrestling Guerilla raising his profile substantially.
The NWA and New Japan having previously agreed to a talent exchange Anderson was given his big break in March 2008 when he was called on to replace the injured Yuji Nagata in that year’s New Japan Cup tournament. Although he lost he stayed in the company joining the heel stable GBH and working the midcards. GBH would become CHAOS after ousting leader Hiroyoshi Tenzan in favour of Shinsuke Nakamura and after this upheaval Anderson began teaming with Giant Bernard (Albert/Tensai) as the tag team “Bad Intentions”. The duo entered the 2009 G1 Tag League and defeated Apollo 55 to earn a IWGP Tag team title shot. The match was held on November 8th but went to a double count out. Bernard & Anderson were kicked out of CHAOS in favor of Yujiro & Naito in April 2010 but on June 19 2010 they would defeat them and Nagata & Wataru Inoue in a 3-way elimination match to win the IWGP Tag Team Championship.
Bad Intentions IWGP Tag title run would end up being history making as they would break the record set by Masahiro Chono and Hiroyoshi Tenzan for most successful title defenses (seven) when they defeated Takumo Sano and Yoshihiro Takayama winning Pro Wrestling NOAH’s GHC Tag titles in the process! On September 9th 2010 they would set another record as they became the longest reigning champs, which had previously been 446 held once again by Chono and Tenzan. It would take one of the greatest teams in Japanese history, Ten-Koji to end their amazing run at the January 2012 Dome show. Bad Intentions ended their reign with 10 successful title defenses and 564 days with the belts. In March 2012 the team was disbanded when Bernard left to rejoin WWE in a move that worked out really well for one member of the team at least.
Anderson started his New Japan singles career just as he first entered the company, by entering the 2012 New Japan Cup and this time he had a career making performance first defeating Hiroyoshi Tenzan and then in his his biggest one on one win yet defeating Shinsuke Nakamura to advance to the semi-finals where he lost to Tanahashi. In August he entered the 2012 G1 tournament where he scored another huge win, this time over Tanahashi. By beating Tanahashi he won his block and advanced to the finals against Kaz Okada but was defeated in a match that was held right after he had beaten Tanahashi. In November he would once again go to the finals of a tournament this time to determine the first NEVER Openweight Champion by lost to Masato Tanaka. He managed to finish the year by winning a tournament by teaming up with Hirooki Goto, calling themselves “Sword & Guns” for the 2012 World Tag League beating the reigning champs Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. in the finals to win. At the January 2013 dome show Sword & Guns would fail to win the titles.
On Februrary 10 2013 as a result of having beaten Tanahashi during the G1 Anderson recieved his first ever IWGP Heavyweight title shot but was defeated. After returning to the company in May following his Ring Of Honor debut he was given another match against Tanahashi (who was no longer champion). After once again losing he made a shocking heel turn joining forces with Prince Devitt, Bad Luck Fale and Tama Tonga to form “Bullet Club” with Devitt as the leader. Anderson should do well in the tournament but I don’t expect him to win especially because the focus of his stable right now is on Devitt.
Ibushi is the only competitor this year who owes his primary affiliation to another Japanese company, DDT Pro Wrestling ( stands for Dramatic Dream Team). Ibushi made his pro debut in July 2004 working for several different companies including Wrestling Marvelous Future, Big Japan, and a few early appearances for New Japan. However Ibushi’s first big opportunity to impress came in 2005 when he was chosen to team with KUDO as DDT’s representatives for the Differ Cup Junior Tag Team Tournament. Although they lost in the first round to the eventual winners KENTA and Marufuji, Ibushi had an impressive performance showing off his athleticism and high flying.
In June 2006 Ibushi would win his first tournament, the Dragon Mixture Tournament at the Último Dragón Fiesta, teaming with Fuka to defeat Shinjitsu Nohashi and Yoshitsune in the one day event. He would also challenge Danshoku Dino for Dino’s GAY World Anal Championship (Dino plays a aggressively exaggerated homosexual character) in DDT but failed to win. In 2007 he traveled to Dragon Gate where on April 18th he defeated BxB Hulk. His successful 2007 would continue as in August he would win the vacant Independent Jr Heavyweight Championship in DDT by beating Madoka. Ibushi would hold the title for a few days short of a year before losing it to Madoka at a Kaientai Dojo show. In February 2008 he would win the Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship, the prestigious DDT title that has been held by such luminaries as a ladder, an invisible wrestler, and a stuffed Hello Kitty doll. Ibushi would win a tournament to determine the next challenger for DDT’s top title, the KO-D Openweight Championship but lost the title match to champ Dick Togo.
Ibushi would travel to the USA in 2008 making several appearances in ROH that impressed the fans. He also wrestled for Chikara, winning the 2009 Rey de Voladores tournament. Ibushi formed a important partnership when he began the “Golden Lovers” team with Canadian wrestler Kenny Omega and the two won the KO-D Tag Team titles on January 24th 2009 beating HARASHIMA and Toru Owashi, holding them until May before losing them to Dick Togo & TAKA Michinoku. In the summer he won the KO-D 2009 tournament and then defeated HARASHIMA to win the KO-D Championship. In May Ibushi was invited to participate in New Japan’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament and made it to the semi-finals before losing to Prince Devitt. He also entered Pro Wrestling NOAH’s NTV CUP teaming with Atsushi Aoki to make it to the finals before being eliminated.
Ibushi would be invited back for the 2010 BOSJ and this time he made it to the finals but was once again stopped cold by Prince Devitt. However on October 11th the Golden Lovers defeated Devitt & Taguchi (Apollo 55) to win the IWGP Jr Tag Titles. Ibushi was given a shot at Devitt’s IWGP Jr title at the January 2011 Dome show but once again failed to solve the puzzle of Devitt in a one on one match. Ibushi would prove that the third time was indeed the charm as in the 2011 BOSJ he defeated Ryusuke Taguchi in the finals to win the tournament and earn another shot at Devitt. On June 18th he finally defeated Devitt and won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. He held the title until September until he was stripped of it due to a dislocated shoulder forcing him out of action.
Back in DDT he defeated Yuji Hino to win the KO-D Openweight title a second time in June 2012. On August 18th he defeated his partner Kenny Omega at DDT’s 15th Anniversary in what was considered a great match (or an attempt to murder themselves/each other). Ibushi lost his title to El Generico and failed in his attempts to regain it. Ibushi made his return to New Japan in June 2012 and immediately issued a challenge to the current IWGP Jr Heavyweight champ Low-Ki. On July 29th Ibushi defeated Low-Ki and held the title until October before losing the belt back to Low-Ki.
Ibushi was announced as a surprise entrant to the G1 this year which was certainly a popular choice as he has a big fan following, especially among women for some reason… Unfortunately for Ibushi he has two huge factors going against him. 1. His primary affiliation is to another company, and no wrestler has ever won a G1 under those circumstances. They haven’t even had a non-Japanese worker who works primarily for them win the tournament. 2. Ibushi is a Junior Heavyweight even he has put on a few pounds just for the G1. No junior heavyweight has ever won the G1 and very few have even been invited to even participate. In Japan a good big man really does beat a good little man like the old cliche says. With all of that to overcome Ibushi has the longest odds to win the G1 so it’s just not going to happen. That said I expect him to get at least a a couple of wins and to try and steal the show. DDT benefits no matter what, especially since Okada will be facing Ibushi at he DDT event on August 18th.
Well that’s it, we’ve finally reached the end of this guide and I want to thank everyone for reading it!
If you want to watch the NJPW G1 you can! Or any other New Japan events. Check out their Ustream: www.ustream.tv/njpw the prices are reasonable and the quality of matches top to bottom are generally well above what you see anywhere else so you’ll get you moneys worth.