Uncategorized

G1 Climax 30 Preview: Everything You Need to Know

Professional wrestling’s most prestigious tournament is back. New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s 30th running of the G1 Climax tournament takes place later this week, and the field of competitors in this year’s edition is as stacked as ever.

For any readers who have never experienced the yearly spectacle that is the G1, its a two-block round-robin tournament pitting 20 of the best pro wrestlers on the planet against each other. The prize? The opportunity to face the IWGP Heavyweight Champion in the main event of the NJPW’s biggest show of the year, WrestleKingdom. The list of former winners includes such legends as Antonio Inoki, Keiji Mutoh (AKA The Great Muta), Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura, Kazuchika Okada, and Kenny Omega.

Here’s how it works: The field of 20 will be split into two separate blocks, appropriately labeled either A block or B block. Over the course of the next 30 days each competitor will wrestle 9 matches, one against each member of their respective block. A scoring system is in place for each match. A wrestlers earns two points for each win, whereas the loser receives none for each loss. If a winner isn’t decided within the 30-minute time limit for each match, the two participants will split the points and take home one apiece. The winners of each block will face off in a winner-take-all bout on October 18th in Ryogoku Sumo Hall. Let’s break down the field in each block and go over each competitors chances of making it to the final night. 

A BLOCK:

Kazuchika Okada

Chances of Winning Block: High

This will be Okada’s ninth consecutive G1 appearance, and he comes into this year’s tournament as big of a threat to win as he’s ever been. The rainmaker may be a former two-time winner, but he hasn’t won the event since 2014. Given the fact that Okada sports a 67.5% career win-percentage in the G1, you’d have to think the former five-time IWGP Heavyweight champion has to be due for a finals win, but he’ll have to get through one of the most stacked blocks in tournament history to do it. 

Jay White

Chances of Winning Block: High

Bullet Club’s commander-in-chief just may be the favorite to win the entire tournament. White, who won the B block in last year’s G1, will enter this year’s gauntlet fully rested as this will be his first major event in the land of the rising sun since the beginning of the pandemic. The switchblade is coming off a WrestleKingdom loss to current Heavyweight & Intercontinental champion Tetsuya Naito, and a rematch with the man who kept him from becoming New Japan’s first-ever dual-heavyweight champion may be all the motivation he needs to win his first G1.

Kota Ibushi

Chances of Winning Block: Mid-to-High

The Golden Star is the reigning G1 champion but doesn’t have a heavyweight title reign under his belt to show for it after losing to Kazuchika Okada at WrestgleKingdom this past January. If he wants a chance to rectify that loss, he’ll have to make some history. First, he’d have to become the first man in the modern era to make three consecutive G1 climax finals, and then he’d have to become the first man to win back-to-back G1 Climaxes since Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 2004. Is It likely that Ibushi can pull that off? Probably not, but he is certainly still a major threat to the entire A block. 

Will Ospreay

Chances of Winning Block: Mid-to-High

The (formerly Aerial) Assassin Will Ospreay may be the biggest wildcard in this entire tournament. After his G1 debut last year ended in spectacular fashion, a victory over the arguable G1 G.O.A.T Hiroshi Tanahashi, fans felt like it was only a matter of time before he was a perineal G1 threat. Well now he’s shed his Junior Heavyweight shell and is finally prepared to make his first true run in the tournament as a full time heavyweight. He’s sure to rattle off some huge wins, but his chances of going all the way come down to one question: Can he beat Kazuchika Okada? He’s 0-and-three against the Rainmaker in his New Japan career and, wouldn’t you know it, the two will face off on the final night of A block action. Picking Okada in that match-up would most likely be the best bet, but don’t be surprised if Ospreay pushes him to a time-limit draw at the very least. 

Shingo Takagi

Chances of Winning Block: Low

It doesn’t appear that Shingo Takagi will be making any noise in the tournament as far as his win-loss record will go, but he’ll be in the discussion for work-rate MVP by the time everything is done. Key matches to look out for are his bout against Will Ospreay in night 5 (a rematch of last year’s Best of the Super Jr.’s finals. A match rated five and three-quarter stars by renowned wrestling critic Dave Meltzer) and his meeting with Minoru Suzuki on the last night of A block action. Takagi recently had his NEVER open weight championship ripped away from him at the hands of Suzuki, and the rematch is sure to be one of the best brawls of the entire tournament.

Minoru Suzuki

Chances of Winning Block: Low

Speaking of Suzuki, his chances of making it to the final night probably lie in the same realm as Shingo, but boy is he going to be fun to watch. The current NEVER open weight champion was left out of last year’s G1 in a very controversial decision, but he responded in a very reasonable and level headed manner. By reasonable and level headed I, of course, mean kicking the crap out of everyone who crossed his path. Now he’s back with a vengeance and is a threat to beat anyone on any given night. Suzuki is a serious trap match for all of the top A block contenders. 

Tomohiro Ishii

Chances of Winning Block: Low

While a fan favorite staple every single year, the window for an Ishii G1 win has more than likely passed. The 44-year-old bruiser is entering his eighth consecutive tournament and nowadays is sadly little more than a guy who’s there to have great matches. The Stone Pitbull is no longer a threat to win, but he’s a lock to put on some of the best matches of the tournament.

Taichi

Chances of Winning Block: Low

Taichi is currently in the midst of the hottest streak of his 18-year career. His 2020 has included pinball victories over Kota Ibushi & Hiroshi Tanahashi, and an IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team title win (a belt he currently defends with Suzuki-Gun stablemate Zack Sabre Jr.). I would expect a huge tournament out of Taichi if it weren’t for how stacked the A block towards the top. Still, don’t be surprised to see the black-clad lip-syncer come up with some huge upsets.

Jeff Cobb

Chances of Winning Block: Low

The former Olympian has a rather disappointing G1 debut last year, finishing with a mediocre 4-5 record. He’ll have an uphill battle to improve upon that, given how talented the block is this year, but Cobb is one of the most talented guys in the entire tournament. Definitely not a guy anyone in the field can afford to sleep on.

Yujiro Takahashi

Chances of Winning Block: Non-Existent

There’s no sugar-coating this: Yujiro Takahashi is in the G1 Climax to fill a spot and get other guys wins. At most he’ll win a match, and lord help whoever “Huge Yuj” gets that victory over if it comes to pass.

B BLOCK:

Tetsuya Naito

Chances of Winning Block: High

The defending IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Champion is entering the tournament with a chance to tie Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Hiroshi Tanahashi with three G1 Climax victories. If the IWGP champ were to win the tournament (and successfully defend the WresleKingdom contract through the rest of the year) he would have the right to choose his opponent for the WK main event. He’ll have some very familiar opponents to get through if he wants to make it to the final night in Ryogoku. Current LIJ stable-mate Sanada & former stablemate-turned-bitter rival Evil both loom large on the champ’s upcoming schedule.

EVIL

Chances of Winning Block: High

The king of darkness has had a breakout 2020. In the last four months alone he’s defeated Kazuchika Okada to win the New Japan Cup, turned on his longtime leader Tetsuya Naito (joining Bullet Club in the process), and became the second-ever dual IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Champion. He’s currently strapless after losing the titles back to Naito last month, but he has a chance to rectify both the loss and the lack of titles with a win in the G1. The final night of B block action sticks out, as he’ll have to battle his former tag team partner Sanada for the first time since his defection from LIJ. This may be his fifth consecutive G1 appearance, but EVIL is a major player in the fall tournament for the first time in his career.

SANADA

Chances of Winning Block: High

Sanada has a history of great success in the New Japan Cup, but that hasn’t translated too well in the G1. This time feels different though, as the master of the Skull-End seems to be on a collision course with the man he’s won the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles with on two separate occasions, EVIL. The two are slated to face-off on the final night of B block competition, so it’s easy to assume Sanada is in for a huge tournament. Expect the cold skull to rack up wins left and right. 

KENTA

Chances of Winning Block: Mid-To-High

Since debuting in New Japan in last year’s G1, Kenta has shaken New Japan Pro-Wrestling to its core. Joining Bullet Club and the ruining Tetsuya Naito’s title celebration at WrestleKingdom back in January are some of the biggest moments in NJPW’s modern era. He’s coming into this year’s tournament red hot, with a victory in the U.S New Japan cup this past month. He may not walk away with the trophy come October 18th, but he’ll no doubt be kicking and kneeing (and occasionally cheating) his way to some major victories.

Hiroshi Tanahashi

Chances of Winning Block: Low-to-Mid

The Ace of the universe is undoubtedly in the final stages of his career as a non-legacy attraction, so the chances of him walking away from the tournament this year with a record fourth G1 victory are slim to none. Still, It’s Hiroshi Tanahashi. The man is one of the greatest stars in the history of professional wrestling. Even in his advanced age, he stands as a quality check for the rest of the block. If anyone wants to walk away with that WrestleKingdom Main Event contract, they’ll have to get through the Ace first. 

Zack Sabre Jr.

Chances of Winning Block: Low

ZSJ doesn’t have a real chance to win the tournament this year but he’s a real threat to everyone he gets in the ring with, including the Heavyweight champion. They don’t call him a “tournament wrestler” for nothing. His methodical, wear-you-down style is tailor-made for a grueling tournament such as the G1 Climax. The submission master is sure to take some wins (and maybe even some limbs) with him when all is said and done.

Hirooki Goto

Chances of Winning Block: Low

Many forget that Goto is one of five former G1 Climax winners in this year’s field. That being said, that win was over a decade ago and it’s hard to remember when the five-time NEVER champion was looked at as a major player in the tournament. Still, Goto is no slouch in these events and will have to be taken seriously by everyone he steps in the ring with. 

Toru Yano

Chances of Winning: Tour Yano

Matches against Toru Yano are where G1 dreams go to die. Come hell or high water he will get at least one win over a top contender every single year. It’s a matter of when, not if. In the past few years Yano has pulled off victories over the likes of Minoru Suzuki, Jon Moxley, and even then-IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega. Toru Yano is the chaotic neutral of the G1. He is not your friend. He is not your enemy. 

Juice Robinson

Chances of Winning Block: Low

The former IWGP U.S Champion is a fan favorite amongst the New Japan audience, but he has yet to establish himself as a legitimate main event contender. It’s easy to see that potential just flowing from him every time he steps through that curtain. You can almost feel that one day, Robinson will be challenging for that G1 trophy on the final night, but it’s hard to see that happening this year.

Yoshi-Hashi

Chances of Winning Block: Non-Existent

Much like Yujiro Takahashi in the A block, Yoshi-Hashi very much feels like a placeholder in this year’s tournament. To give him his due, he definitely holds a higher status than Bullet Club’s resident pimp. Yoshi-Hashi will most likely nab himself a few points, but anything more than that would come as a major upset. 

The 30th running of the G1 Climax kicks off tomorrow morning for fans here in the west at 4 AM Eastern time (1 AM Pacific) with the first night of A Block action, main-evented by the WrestleKingdom rematch of Kazuchika Okada taking on Kota Ibushi. 

Follow Me on Twitter: @TrentOsborneFS

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: