History was made as former IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Kota Ibushi to win the 2018 G1 Climax Tournament. The win over the Golden Star earned Tanahashi a “Tokyo Dome IWGP Heavyweight Championship Challenge Rights Certificate.”
In addition to earning a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight title in the main event of January’s Wrestle Kingdom 13 event, Tanahashi became the third man in history to three G1 tournaments – former world champions Masahiro Chono and Hiroyoshi Tenzan have also accomplished this feat.
The finals between Tanahashi and Ibushi capped off what was an exciting tournament. Their match had drama, action and tension that left fans on the edge of their seats. One of the biggest heart-racing moments prior to the match had to have been the appearance of Katsuyori Shibata cornering Tanahashi while Omega was in Ibushi’s corner. This was a year after the 2017 G1 finals where Shibata, who had been injured months prior announced to the crowd that he “was alive.”
With another G1 tournament victory under his belt, Tanahashi is set to compete in his 10th Jan. 4 Tokyo Dome show.
While some fans might have prefered Omega defend the IWGP Heavyweight title against Ibushi at WK, it would sense for The Best Bout Machine to face the Ace of New Japan at the company’s biggest show of the year.
One reason comes down to Tanahashi’s status as an established superstar for New Japan. Ibushi is on the verge of becoming a superstar in NJPW, but Tanahashi is on another level in terms of popularity and credibility with the fans, and has been for years. Ibushi has been a heavyweight for a few years, and he’s had some great moments like challenging Shinsuke Nakamura for the Intercontinental title at Wrestle Kingdom 10 and winning the 2015 New Japan Cup. When he turned to NJPW under his real name, he has not done a lot on his own – most of his success in the last year has been tied to Omega, including the reunion of the Golden Lovers and their five-star match with the Young Bucks. His Wrestle Kingdom 12 win over Cody could be seen as just a catalyst to launch the American Nightmare’s feud with Omega.
That’s not to say Ibushi won’t ever taste the IWGP Heavyweight title, his time will come. Next year could be an amazing one for Ibushi, and losing to Tanahashi also gives him motivation going forward.
While Ibushi has spent a few years as a heavyweight, NJPW’s Heavyweight division has been Tanahashi’s stomping ground for over 10 years. He is an established veteran the company can rely on to deliver a big performance at the Tokyo Dome.
Tanahashi has been in almost every Jan. 4 Tokyo Dome Show, with the exception of the 2003 event. Japanese fans will come to see him compete and possibly win his eighth IWGP Heavyweight title. While fans from other countries flock to Japan for the Wrestle Kingdom event, it’s primarily the Japanese fanbase who are going to buy the tickets and fill the seats at the Dome.
Tanahashi challenging for the IWGP Heavyweight title on Jan. 4 also works from a booking standpoint for Omega. If NJPW wants to build him as a long-term champion, it would make sense to have him defeat established stars like Tanahashi. Omega has only had one title defense since he defeated Kazuchika Okada to win the title in June, and that was against Cody at the G1 Special in San Francisco. If NJPW sticks to the same format as last year’s post-G1 events, Omega will defend the title against Tomohiro Ishii and/or Toru Yano, but those will be successful defenses.
If history repeats itself at the Tokyo Dome, it’s likely Omega will retain the title against Tanahashi.
In 2012, NJPW began the situation of the G1 Tournament winner receiving an IWGP Heavyweight title shot. Since NJPW made the rule, not one of the tournament winners have successfully captured the IWGP Heavyweight title. Omega has won the certificate once while Okada, Tanahashi and Tetsuya Naito have two each, but all of them failed to capture the IWGP Heavyweight title on Jan. 4. The last time the IWGP Heavyweight title changed hands at a Jan. 4 Tokyo Dome show was at Wrestle Kingdom V when Tanahashi defeated Satoshi Kojima to win the belt.
On one hand, history may be on Tanahashi’s side, yet he is also one of the company’s most decorated stars. NJPW could very well have Tanahashi brake the streak and take home his eighth IWGP Heavyweight title.
— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) August 12, 2018
There were other developments from the G1 Finals such as the Guerillas of Destiny and recent Bullet Club member Taiji Ishimori defeating the Young Bucks and Marty Scurll for the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team titles. The Tonga Brothers and Ishimori comprise the stable’s OG or Bullet Club Elite subfaction.
In other Bullet Club news, Cody challenged Juice Robinson for the IWGP United States title.
NJPW’s Harold Meij Comments on Departing Talent
With the departures of Cody Rhodes, the Young Bucks, Chris Jericho, and the likely forthcoming departure of Kenny Omega, New Japan Pro Wrestling has been reeling.
New Japan Pro Wrestling president Harold Meij commented on the departures of the The Elite members, and other talent, most of whom are moving to either WWE or AEW.
Meij: ‘Talent will come & go. That’s life. Half of Japanese people have had more than one occupation. More overseas. There are different life stages, priorities change. What counts is that while here, ppl shine as bright as possible & produce the best product possible for us’— chris charlton (@reasonjp) January 9, 2019
Chase Owens Re-Signs With NJPW
NJPW is expected to lose Kenny Omega at the end of the month, who announced he would be leaving when his contract expires at the end of the month, but they will not be losing Chase Owens.
“The Crown Jewel” Chase Owens has also officially re-signed with NJPW, making the official announcement on Twitter.
Chris Jericho Vows to End Tetsuya Naito’s Career
IWGP Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho is gearing up for his title defense against Naito at Wrestle Kingdom 13 on January 4th, and he is vowing to end Naito’s career when the two finally meet in the ring.
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