A Wrestlecrap Guide to G-1 Climax Shirts
by Paul Sebert
Welcome to part two of Wrestlecrap’s look at New Japan’s G1 Shirts. Yes the annual tournament isn’t just a grueling competition, it’s also a cash cow in which the company churns out a mountain of merch. It’s a magical time when even the lowliest underdog can get his own gear. Remember if you see anything you like you can visit New Japan’s shop on Pro Wrestling Tees or NJPW’s official shop.
A side note for western readers: if you ever import a T-Shirt from Japan remember that Japanese sizes tend to run a little smaller so you’ll probably want to go up a size.
Love Bullet Club AND 80s Arcade Games? Who Doesn’t?
Well do you? Because you can choose between Pac-Man running through a maze…or a tiny Bullet Club logo running around a maze that is about to be devoured by a Giant Pac-Man.
Kenny Omega is fairly famous for being a gamer having challenged Xavier Woods at the E3 convention, and he also booked a show at this year’s CEO Gaming convention…but this shirt is kinda puzzling. We love the yellow guy and all, but the most recent Pac-Man game Pac-Man Championship Edition came out three years ago. So it’s not exactly top of the mind. Personally, we’d have preferred a Tekken tie in – after all, the newest Tekken game gave you the option of dressing up your fighter in a Bullet Club shirt!
The Japanese John Cena
Hiroshi Tanahashi is for all intents and purposes Japan’s answer to John Cena and the fact the two will in all likelihood never have a match makes me immensely sad. Like Cena, Tanahashi became the face the company mid-decade following a sharp downturn in business in the early 2000s. Both Cena and Tanahashi have consistently great main events despite having a vocal backlash from fans who resent them for being a clean-cut babyface that almost never loses. Tanahashi is even dabbling into movies now with a family comedy called “My Dad Is A Heel Wrestler” coming out in September. If that doesn’t sound like some horrible z-budget flick coming out of WWE Studios, I don’t know what does.
Anyway Tanahashi’s new shirt is features the opening cords of his current entrance theme “Love & Energy” along with the “Go Ace!” chant at the beginning of it. However a lot of fans prefer his classic theme song “High Energy” and consider the change a couple of years ago to be a mistake.
I agree and I also consider “The Time Is Now” to be inferior to “Basic Thuganomics.” Not that it matters, I suppose, as no Cena shirt has ever featured sheet music.
The Firing Squad is an Exercise In Excess
The Firing Squad AKA The Tongans AKA The Bullet Club-OG are a heel spin-off of the Bullet Club nominally heel stable. You see, before the Bullet Club were anti-heroes or even cool heels they basically existed as a way of getting heat on Prince Devitt (Finn Baylor) by interfering in all his matches as evil Westerners. It was a meta-storyline about WWE style Sports Entertainment Bullshit invading the more traditional New Japan. Over time the dynamic changed as the company became more entertainment based and other heel factions started to pop up. Today the club’s leader Kenny Omega is the IWGP Champion, The Young Bucks are Tag Team Champions and together they are the popular face of the company’s western expansion. In the end, you could argue The Bullet Club won.
But The Guerrillas of Destiny AKA Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa (the sons of King Haku AKA THE MONSTER MENG) and Bad Luck Fale appear to miss being unrepentant vulgar dirty heels. Therefore, they’ve split off into their own completely vicious evil version of the Bullet Club. Sound good? It would be, were it not for the fact that if you’ve seen one Tama Tonga singles match, you’ve seen them all. It doesn’t help that you can set your watch by the timing of the run-ins.
As for the shirt well… eh. I like the idea it answers the age old question “how do we make an evil version of the Bullet Club Skull?” with “More bullets! Make the skull scowl! Oh and put a hat on it!”
Naito is maybe a little too Tranquilo?
Four years ago, Tetsuya Naito was a fairly bland babyface character that was booked to fight for the IWGP Heavyweight title at WrestleKingdom. Fans were so apathetic to Naito that the main event for the company’s biggest show of the year and for the first time ever an Intercontinental Title match closed out the show. Naito was promptly sent off on an extended tour of Mexico and brought back with new gear, new music, and a new smart-ass bitter heel persona. That was a very good thing.
He was also given a new heel stable a spin-off of CMLL’s popular Los Ingobernables. Over time, Naito would become one of the company’s top stars and Los Ingobernables De Japon became such merchandise movers that they’re now defacto babyfaces.
As for the shirt…it’s pretty good I guess. Naito pointing to his “Tranquilo” catch-phrase in a signature pose. Maybe a little too relaxed, like he’s about to take a nap or something. I’d suggest ordering this one two sizes too big so you could wear it as a nightshirt.
Minoru Suzuki’s Anniversary Shirt is Prematurely Dated
Minoru Suzuki is a grizzled old martial artist who is like the real life modern day version of a villain in a Shaw Brothers Kung-Fu movie. He has a faction called Suzuki-Gun (translation Suzuki’s Army) that used to belong to Satoshi Kojima until Suzuki was like “Nice army…I’ll take it.” Whenever Suzuki loses a match he takes out his frustrations by beating up innocent bystanders, such as wrestlers in training or the geeks on the ring crew. When this happens, bystanders celebrate.
In case something is lost in translation, let me simplify things by saying Minoru Suzuki is pretty freaking awesome!
Suzuki has his own clothing company called Piledriver and occasionally produces his own indy shows including one called “The Great Pirate Festival” which commemorates the 30th Anniversary of Suzuki’s career. The commemorative shirt has a pirate flag with Suzuki’s signature top-knot haircut, a haircut Suzuki actually hasn’t had since January of this year when Suzuki lost a hair match. It’s sort of like when Ring of Honor used to sell a “Fear the Mullet” Michael Elgin shirt after Elgin had his head shaved. Whoops!
Yano Is The Hero We All Need
Tor Yano is a rather divisive figure among NJPW fandom as fans tend to love him or hate him. The fact you’re visiting WrestleCrap.com is probably a sign you’re going to love him. You see, when Yano has a match New Japan, suddenly stops becoming a technical showpiece wrestling show and turns into a Three Stooges comedy. Yano’s a borderline pathological cheater who frequently employs clever and frankly ridiculous underhanded methods. One time he tied Juice Robinson’s dreadlocks to a guard rail – another time, he attempted to mummify Minoru Suzuki with athletic tape.
One of Yano’s nicknames is “The Genius Producer” because hosts and shamelessly promotes a series of comedy DVDs. Because of this, Yano’s merch usually depicts him as some manner of genius. Such is the case here, as we get an amalgamation of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man with Rob Van Dam.
That is genius. And probably the greatest sentence I will ever write in my life.
Hiroki Goto, Never As Awesome As You Want To Be
Remember back in the mid 1990s when every WWF wrestler had a part time job like The Repo Man, Duke “The Dumpster” Drose, or Dean Douglas? Hirooki Goto is like that but his job is a samurai. That may sound awesome, but while Goto is certainly a talented wrestler, he’s never quite as exciting as you want a modern samurai to be. This despite the fact he’s essentially a real-life SNK fighting game character walking around. I realize a lot the depictions of Japanese wrestlers in American history are regrettable, but this guy would totally benefit from having Gary Hart in his corner talking about the “deadly secrets of the East”.
As for the shirt… it’s certainly a cool idea. You have a nice minimalist design of Goto’s hands in a Misogi (waterfall meditation) pose and a list of his moves on the back. It just seems perhaps a little too minimalist?
Much like Goto himself something just seems to be missing.
Man I miss Gary Hart.
Tomohiro Ishii Rocks…But His T-Shirt Doesn’t
Tomohiro Ishii freakin’ rocks! He’s an angry barrel of meat with sledgehammers for fists!
And just like that, the greatest line I’d ever write is replaced.
Ishii is rarely at the top of the card, but pretty much anyone in title contention has to go through the “The Stone Pitbull.” Imagine 2000’s era Smackdown GM Teddy Long in a New Japan ring blurting out “Tonight you’re facing Ishii player!” and there would be real suspense over whether Randy Orton could actually beat Ishii in order to get a championship opportunity.
Sadly, his new shirt is disappointing as it obstructs the view of Ishii’s rad dog logo with text and a chain length pattern, suggesting that Ishii’s going to…I dunno…have a cage match? If you want an Ishii shirt check out this one instead… I mean look at this glorious thing.
Just What Is Switchblade’s Deal?
Last year for several weeks NJPW fans were treated to weeks of hype videos for “Switchblade”, a creepy serial killer like character. Fans speculated several different candidates, with many thinking it would be Sami Callihan who was booked for his debut at the World Tag League. Instead Switchblade was revealed to be Jay White, a skinny young wrestler from New Zealand who appears to be barely old enough to shave and talks like a theater geek. He’s overtly a heel, yet inexplicably a member of the babyface Chaos faction. His catchphrase is “Breathe With The Switchblade”…maybe I’m just not cool enough to get that, but it seems to make zero sense. How on earth does one breathe with a switchblade? Do you cut a hole in your neck to get air flowing closer to your lungs?
Despite being booked with Kenny Omega, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Kazuchika Okada the best match White has had all year is with former NXT castoff Juice Robinson. So perhaps he’s the rare person that would be better off in NXT than in New Japan.
Thanks for joining me on this year’s G1 Special in WrestleCrap. I hope you enjoyed this two part series. I will be back with more WrestleCrap from the Orient (as Howard Finkel used to say) in the future, including some special inductions featuring the very worst of Japanese wrestling!