New Japan Pro Wrestling are bringing the G1 Climax back this year, as one of the most prestigious tournaments in wrestling returns again.
The G1 Climax is an annual tournament, held by NJPW in the summertime. It featured wrestlers in multiple blocks (usually two to four), who face each of the wrestlers in their blocks in a round-robin tournament.
One win earns a wrestler two points, while a draw earns them one point. The wrestler with the most points moves on to face the winner of the other blocks, in a straight knockout format.
The last wrestlers standing wins – its that simple.
While the rules do differ slightly to each other (such as 2023 having four blocks, with eight wrestlers progressing), the tournament remains one of the most prestigious in wrestling.
The winner of the G1 Climax earn themselves a title shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
Like the WWE’s Royal Rumble, the winner faces the champion in the main event of the biggest show of the year – in New Japan’s case, this is Wrestle Kingdom.
The IWGP World Heavyweight Champion also usually enters the tournament. Obviously, they cannot face themselves at Wrestle Kingdom, so if they win they can choose who their opponent is.
This article will detail every IWGP Heavyweight Champion to win the G1 Climax while holding NJPW’s top championship.
IWGP Heavyweight Champions Who Won The G1 Climax
Only two wrestlers have ever won the G1 Climax tournament while holding the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
However, these came before the introduction of the “G1 Climax Winner Briefcase”. This is awarded for winning the G1 Climax, and acts as a physical representation of their Wrestle Kingdom title shot.
However, Ibushi still went on to defeat White in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 15.
The first IWGP Heavyweight Champion to win the G1 Climax was Keijo Muto in 1995.
He won the tournament in an eight-man, two-block G1 Climax setting. Mutoh held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at the time, and was the companies biggest star.
He defeated some huge main event talents in that year’s tournaments. He beat Ric Flair, Masahiro Chono and Scott Norton en route to the final, where he pinned Shinya Hashimoto to win his first G1 Climax in his career.
The second IWGP Heavyweight Champion to win the G1 Climax was Kensuke Sasaki in 2000.
He won a star-studded twenty-man tournament to join Mutoh as the holder of one incredibly prestigious record.
Sasaki remained undefeated throughout the tournament, only drawing one match in the opening rounds (against Hiro Saito).
He beat Manabu Nakanishi in the final, winning the G1 Climax for the second time (the first in 1997).
However, both of these wrestler won the G1 Climax before the advent of the briefcase, and before the Wrestle Kingdom title shot was guaranteed for the winner.
Antonio Inoki did win the G1 Climax in the early days of the tournament, when the victor won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
However, he vacated the belt before competing in the next year’s event, so he was technically not champion by the time he won the G1 Climax.