Welcome to the second half of our two-part preview of New Japan’s 30th annual G1 Climax. In Part 1, we introduced the tournament and talked about NJPW’s year leading up to it, went over the basic rules of the G1 (and some unanswered questions), talked about who was missing from last year and who was replacing them, and finally gave detailed profiles of everyone in the A block. Here in Part 2, we’ll pick up where we left off with similarly detailed profiles of the entire B block. Once we’re done there, we’ll give the full schedule for all of the G1 Climax events.

Before we get into the B block, a few important links once again!

NJPW G1 Climax 30 Preview: Introduction & A Block- https://www.voicesofwrestling.com/2020/09/14/njpw-g1-climax-30-preview-intro-a-block/
Part 1 of this very preview!

G1 Climax 30 Pick ‘Em: https://www.voicesofwrestling.com/2020/09/14/voices-of-wrestlings-g1-climax-30-pickem-is-live/
As always, Voices of Wrestling is running its annual G1 Climax pick ’em contest! Enter now for your chance to win fabulous prizes!

Voices of Wrestling Flagship Patreon: http://patreon.com/voicesofwrestling
Joe Lanza brings his usual excellent daily coverage of the G1 Climax (along with the Champion Carnival and N-1 from AJPW & NOAH) to the Flagship Patreon, and Rich Kraetsch is doing a series spotlighting G1 finals of the past that I’ll be making a guest appearance on as well!

Wrestling Omakase Patreon: http://patreon.com/wrestlingomakase
My own podcast Wrestling Omakase now has its own Patreon too, and like Joe I’ll be doing daily coverage of the G1 Climax (and the Champion Carnival & N-1 too!). Plus we have lots of other great exclusive audio content for you, including a special episode I hosted with VOW statistician Chris Samsa highlighting five awesome G1 Climax matches of the past, a pair of complete series covering every Okada-Tanahashi and Naito-Ishii match in detail (along with exploring the history of all four guys in New Japan), and a whole lot more, for only $5 per month!

So that’s that. Let’s talk about B block! Just like in our A block preview, we’ll include anywhere from 2-4 notable matches for each entrant and rank their chances of winning the tournament by placing them into one of four categories (that I feel kind of speak for themselves): Favorite, Dark Horse, Unlikely, and No Shot.


I have just one thing to say to anyone saying that the B block of this year’s G1 is bad: shut up, you! I get that it may not have as many “guaranteed” 4+ star matches as the more on-paper loaded A block, but this is still a pretty stacked block too! You’ve got a pair of true tippy-top stars including the current double champion, the last double champion, a super popular wrestler in Japan who just won MOTY in Tokyo Sports (no matter what most Western fans seem to think about him), a pair of popular gaijin including one who we haven’t seen in seven months, the breakout heel of the past year, a dependably great veteran who can always get you to rally behind him, a fun comedy guy who gives you something different, and also YOSHI-HASHI. This is a good block! If you want to see what a bad block actually looks like, there’s been plenty of better examples over the years than this (hello, 2018 A block calling, don’t pick up). So with that impassioned defense of the B block out of the way, let’s get into it!

‘King of Darkness’ EVIL

Affiliation: BULLET CLUB
Past G1 Experience: 2016 (4-5), 2017 (6-3), 2018 (5-4), 2019 (4-5)

If you look at EVIL’s history in the G1 Climax it is actually a neat little microcosm of his entire story in New Japan so far: he starts out a little slow going 4-5, has his best year by far in 2017 going 6-3 (including a giant win over the then-unbeatable IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada in that year’s tournament, granting him a title shot a few months later)…..but then starts sliding backward to 5-4 the following year, and finally ends up right back where he started, at 4-5 in 2019. EVIL spent all of last year basically doing nothing- he held the IWGP Tag Team Titles for about a month with SANADA, and that’s really his only accomplishment of note in the entire calendar year of 2019. Meanwhile, he watched said partner SANADA be elevated to the position of Okada’s “rival” (despite never beating him up to that point, which remember EVIL had done already!) and get a series of main events with the top star in the company, including one that won Match of the Year. He watched the LIJ leader Tetsuya Naito win the Intercontinental Title for a third and fourth time (including by beating a wrestler who EVIL himself had tried and failed to beat just two months earlier in Chris Jericho), then go on to make his crazy dream happen at Wrestle Kingdom 14 by becoming the first ever double champion. He even watched Shingo Takagi graduate to heavyweight and quickly win his first singles title, and Hiromu Takahashi return to the company and win back the Junior title almost immediately. And how did EVIL start out his 2020? Well, other than winning the borderline meaningless six-man titles, he lost to Tomohiro Ishii for about the hundreth time. Hurray!

That basically left BUSHI as the only thing keeping EVIL from being the very bottom of Los Ingobernables de Japon. As NJPW awakened from its pandemic slumber, even Naito seemed to call EVIL out, pointing out that he was for sure the bottom heavyweight in LIJ and needed to do something about. EVIL was listening, and quickly began cheating his way through the New Japan Cup field. Unfortunately for SANADA, being his longtime tag team partner and stablemate didn’t spare him from EVIL’s dick kicking rampage, as EVIL took him out with underhanded tactics in the semifinals (to which SANADA said there was no way he could ever forgive him afterward, which turned out to be rather prescient). But even as EVIL won the finals with some unexpected BULLET CLUB help (which could have just been due to the fact that his opponent, Kazuchika Okada, was feuding with them at the time), his first singles tournament win in NJPW, Naito came out with a smile on his face, willing to accept this “Now Even More” EVIL. He said he found the new EVIL interesting and put his fist up to celebrate the first ever LIJ vs. LIJ title match the following night at Dominion. Of course, you probably know what happened next- EVIL put up the Clique sign, famously associated with BC, and then laid him out with his signature STO. The original ‘pareja’ had turned his back on Naito and LIJ, joining up with BULLET CLUB.

The next night at Dominion, EVIL had one more trick up his sleeve- the debut of the ‘Spoiler’ Dick Togo, disguised (rather unconvincingly to be honest) as BUSHI. Togo helped EVIL pull off a stunning upset, as the King of Darkness was suddenly the IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Champion. Many fans didn’t like it and didn’t see EVIL at that level, which is of course exactly what you were supposed to feel- you weren’t supposed to like it, and he wasn’t really at this level, which is the entire point of his character arc for the year. He couldn’t get the job done on his own, he couldn’t hang with the other members of LIJ, and so he resorted to using the Spoiler and the BC to essentially screw his way to the top. But Naito quickly turned this back around on EVIL with a simple question: are you using Dick Togo and BULLET CLUB, or are they using you? He also wondered what would happen to EVIL if he took the titles from him- would EVIL be left to fend for himself, especially when the rest of the BC contingent stuck overseas came back? Would he be able to survive in the famously cutthroat unit? Well, Naito DID take the titles back from EVIL at Jingu, and now a couple more members of BC ARE back in Jay White and KENTA. So does the King of Darkness need to win this year’s G1 Climax just to maintain his position in BULLET CLUB? Is he fated for a leadership struggle with Jay White, or even KENTA? A lot remains to be seen.

Notable Matches: The BULLET CLUB power struggle could really come to a head on October 1st in Niigata, where EVIL will take on KENTA. The two met in last year’s G1 with KENTA winning, although that was before even he had joined BC let alone EVIL so it really feels like it was about a million years ago for both guys. These two are possibly the biggest villains in the entire company at this point, so it will be really interesting to see how they interact. On October 8th in Okayama, EVIL gets his first encounter with the Ace Hiroshi Tanahashi since joining BC. EVIL actually beat Tana in their very first meeting back in the first round of the 2017 New Japan Cup, but has lost three straight to him since (that matches that whole character arc we talked about rather nicely too!), so we’ll see if he can break the slide. October 11th in Nagoya is where EVIL can try to pay Tetsuya Naito back for beating him for the double titles, and it could be a match with big implications for who wins the block as well. Finally, EVIL’s round-robin action wraps up in dramatic fashion on October 17th at Ryogoku, as he’ll finally have to face his ex-tag team partner SANADA after screwing him over pretty blatantly in the semifinals of the New Japan Cup. Will the entire B block end up coming down to these two former partners?

Chance of Winning: Dark Horse
EVIL is really close to being a Favorite for me, but I can’t quite pull the trigger on it. I think he’s got a real shot to win this thing, especially if they want to (finally!) have someone lose the damn briefcase before their title shot at the Tokyo Dome. But on the other hand, nobody’s ever won the New Japan Cup and the G1 Climax in the same year since the NJC was introduced in 2005. Is this finally the year they pop that cherry? I lean no, but it really wouldn’t stun me if it happened. At the very least, EVIL is a great candidate to win the block and lose in the final, especially given two of the most likely winners from the A block: Kazuchika Okada (it would give us a rematch of the NJC final and let Okada get his own revenge over EVIL) and Jay White (maybe it’s too early to do the White-EVIL “who’s the real leader of BC” showdown, but it would sure be an interesting and unique final!).

後藤 洋央紀

NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Champion
Affiliation: CHAOS
Past G1 Experience2008 (4-2, Won Tournament), 2009 (3-3), 2010 (4-3), 2011 (6-3), 2012 (4-4), 2013 (4-5), 2014 (4-6), 2015 (6-3), 2016 (6-3, Lost in Final), 2017 (5-4), 2018 (3-6), 2019 (5-4)

Hirooki Goto’s 2020 started out with a big win, as he defeated KENTA at Wrestle Kingdom 14 to capture the NEVER Openweight Title for a record-tying fifth time (the other person with five title reigns is Tomohiro Ishii). It was a major win for Goto, as he made KENTA pay for betraying and assaulting his longtime friend Katsuyori Shibata after Shibata had brought KENTA into the company. But in typical Goto fashion, the big win was followed up by a big loss, as he quickly dropped the NEVER belt to Shingo Takagi in his very first defense of the reign less than a month later. There hasn’t been a whole lot more to Goto’s year since- he went out in the second round of the New Japan Cup to EVIL, he came together with Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI to win an eight-team tournament for the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Titles, and that’s about it really. Goto has for sure had his share of success in this tournament before, winning it on his very first try way back in 2008 and making an unexpected run to the finals in 2016. But many would argue that his days of being a finalist, let alone winner, are now long behind him. If Goto is gonna live up to that famous uttering of “the G in G-1 stands for Goto!” this year, he’ll have to prove a lot of his doubters wrong and show he has enough left in the tank for one last run.

Notable Matches: Goto has a very long history with the current double champion Tetsuya Naito: Goto won their first four matches in a row from 2011 through January 2016 (including two G1 matches), but then Naito answered back with four straight wins of his own since (including THREE G1 matches!). Someone’s gonna break this epic 4-4 tie, and it could happen on September 29th at Korakuen. On October 8th in Okayama Goto is facing YOSHI-HASHI, and I’m throwing this in here because: 1) It will probably be the only time I can use YOSHI-HASHI for someone else & B) I sincerely think this will be a fun match between two buddies and current six-man champions! They’ve only ever fought each other once, in the 2017 G1, where Goto unsurprisingly got the win. Meanwhile, let’s party like it’s Wrestling Dontaku 2009 on October 11th in Nagoya, as Hirooki Goto faces Hiroshi Tanahashi in what used to be a staple NJPW rivalry. They’ve met 12 times total, 10 if you throw out a couple Young Lion matches, including three IWGP Heavyweight Title matches and three G1 matches, but this is their first meeting in over three years. Tanahashi has a dominant 9-1 record (10-1-1 if you count the YL matches), with Goto’s only win coming in the 2012 New Japan Cup finals. On October 14th in Yokohama, Goto takes on another longtime rival in EVIL, who he’s feuded with on and off since EVIL first came into the company back in 2015. Goto currently holds a 3-2 edge in their series, but EVIL won their last meeting earlier this year in the New Japan Cup (thanks to some underhanded tactics, aka stomping on his penis).

Chance of Winning: Unlikely
The G in G-1 has not stood for Goto in quite some time unfortunately. I do think we’re past Goto even being a surprise finalist who puts over the eventual champion at this stage. It’s not like I think Goto winning would tear a hole in the fabric of space and time like it would if a few other folks won, but it’s time to give up the dream. As we talked about on this week’s Omakase, Gedo just doesn’t do the “gold watch” reigns.

棚橋 弘至

Affiliation: Hontai
Past G1 Experience: 2002 (2-3), 2003 (2-3), 2004 (6-1, Lost in Final), 2005 (3-3-1), 2006 (2-2), 2007 (2-1-2, Won Tournament), 2008 (2-4), 2009 (3-2-1), 2010 (4-2-1, Lost in Final), 2011 (6-3), 2012 (5-3), 2013 (5-3-1, Lost in Final), 2014 (7-3), 2015 (7-2, Won Tournament), 2016 (5-3-1), 2017 (6-3), 2018 (7-1-1, Won Tournament), 2019 (4-5)

Hiroshi Tanahashi has had a rough go of it lately. Last year’s G1 saw him put up his first losing record in eleven years, a massive drop from his stunning 2018 victory when he only lost a single match in the entire tournament. Things didn’t get much better for him at Wrestle Kingdom 14, where he lost cleanly to then-AEW World Champion Chris Jericho, thwarting his attempt to “open the forbidden door” and earn a shot at Jericho’s title. Tana’s brief turn to the tag team ranks was met with some success, as he and his new Golden Aces partner Kota Ibushi won the IWGP Tag Team Titles in their very first try, but then they followed that up by losing them in their very first defense as well, to the Dangerous Tekkers team of Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi. Perhaps even worse for Tana, Taichi put him out of the New Japan Cup in the first round for the first time since 2017. That’s a whole lot of bad firsts! And Tanahashi spent the Summer Struggle tour openly questioning how much he himself had left in the tank while Kota Ibushi made a series of more distressed and then disgusted faces. The team patched things up and Tanahashi started looking better, just in time for them to lose their tag title rematch at Jingu (with Tanahashi being the one to take the pin). It just hasn’t been a great 14 months or so for the Ace.

But with all of that said, you count out Hiroshi Tanahashi in a Grade One Climax at your own damn peril. This is a man who has won three G1s and made it to the finals of three more, both of which of course are the most of anyone in this year’s field (Okada and Naito have both won two and Naito has been to three finals, and that’s as close as the rest of them get). Lots of people thought Tanahashi was done in 2018 after he failed to stop Kazuchika Okada from breaking his IWGP Heavyweight Title defense record at Dontaku 2018, too, and all he did was set a new points record en route to his third G1 win. This isn’t someone you can just count out and assume he can’t get the job done anymore. The question isn’t CAN he do it- Tanahashi is the Ace, and the Ace can always still rise to the occasion- the question is, WILL he?

Notable Matches: The biggest match of Tanahashi’s G1 comes right on the B block’s opening night on September 20th in Osaka. Tanahashi and Tetsuya Naito haven’t faced each other since their classic trilogy in 2017, which saw Naito beat Tana to retain the IWGP Intercontinental Title at Wrestle Kingdom 11, Tana pay Naito back at Dominion to win the white belt, and Naito finally cap things off to beat Tanahashi in the G1 Climax with the A block on the line. Overall these two have met 14 times dating all the way back to 2008, with the Ace holding a slim 7-6-1 advantage. It’s a classic rivalry renewed, and it could go a long way toward deciding who wins the B block this year. On September 29th at Korakuen Hall Tanahashi will face his American protege of sorts, Juice Robinson, for only the second time ever (their first meeting came two years ago in the semi final of the New Japan Cup, which Tanahashi won). Meanwhile, someone who Tanahashi clearly wants as a protege is SANADA, who Tana has pointed out more than once doesn’t actually fit in LIJ. The two have met four times in total, twice in 2016 and twice last year, and are split perfectly at 2-2, so someone will likely walk out of Yokohama on October 14th with a lead in their series (and it could go a long way toward deciding the block on the second-to-last night as well). Finally, Tanahashi will face off with an old rival in Zack Sabre Jr. on October 17th at Ryogoku. The two have met in singles matches eight times with a staggering five of them coming last year alone, but this is their first meeting since September of 2019. They’re also tied at a perfect 4-4, and either one of them could still be alive on the final night.

Chance of Winning: Dark Horse
As much as I’m sure this will pain many Tanahashi fans, I just don’t see him as a Favorite this year. Tana and Ibushi both facing Zack and Taichi on their final nights of block play screams “this feud must continue” to me, and that could very well take both teams all the way through the Dome. As out of nowhere as that 2018 G1 win felt, this year would feel even more crazy given all the major losses we outlined and the whole “Tanahashi doesn’t have it anymore” storyline they’ve been running for months now. The payoff for that feels like it’s gonna be Tana and Ibushi standing tall together as a team, not Tanahashi winning another G1 Climax. But you can never rule the Ace out completely, so he’s at least gotta be in Dark Horse territory. I do think his chances of winning the block are stronger than winning the tournament overall; like EVIL, Tana would be a great finalist opponent for both Kazuchika Okada and Jay White, two of the likeliest tournament winners in the other block, as he has a lot of history with both but hasn’t faced either one super recently (opening night of G1 2019 for Okada and June 2019 for White).


Affiliation: Hontai
Past G1 Experience: 2017 (4-5), 2018 (3-6), 2019 (4-5)

Juice Robinson just hasn’t been seen much at all in 2020. Like most of the foreign contingent, Juice left Japan at the end of February and wasn’t able to come back until this tournament, but unlike a lot of those guys, Juice also never made an appearance on the US-based NJPW STRONG program due to injury. This means Juice’s last match before he enters the ring for the G1 Climax on September 20th was all the way back on February 26th, 2020, when he and Gabriel Kidd lost to Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii in Okinawa. That’s a very long layoff, and boy is the G1 Climax a tough way to try and get your feet under you after seven months. But if Juice is going to put up his first winning record in four tries, he’s gonna have to find a way to shake that ring rust off real quick. It also remains to be seen how the babyface star, famous for his connection with the Japanese fans and how he feeds off their cheers, is able to adjust to the new “clap crowd” era during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Notable Matches: You could say that Juice kind of eases back into things at least a little bit by getting YOSHI-HASHI on the first B block night (and no, we’re not calling that a notable match for him, that’s why his name’s not bolded!), but things sure get tough quick on September 24th in Sapporo. Juice will have to face KENTA for the first time ever, in his second match back after seven months off. Remember, there’s no in between tags this year! We mentioned this right above but Juice gets a second crack at his mentor Hiroshi Tanahashi on September 29th at Korakuen, which I’m sure he’ll be looking forward to. On October 8th in Okayama Juice gets his shot at the double champion Tetsuya Naito, and these two have had some really great matches before. Juice has been unable to beat Naito in three tries, including in the last two years of the G1, but perhaps the fourth time can finally be the charm for him. Finally, Juice’s final night of B block action takes him up against Hirooki Goto on October 17th. Goto won their first two matches, both for the NEVER Openweight Title, before Juice came back and beat him for the last two years straight in the G1. Someone will get to break the 2-2 tie at Ryogoku.

Chance of Winning: Unlikely
If he chose to send Juice Robinson to the Tokyo Dome I wouldn’t try to have Gedo committed or anything, but I’d definitely give him the ‘ol side eye. This one isn’t happening, but I could easily see Juice clawing his way to his first winning record. Five wins doesn’t seem out of reach for him in this block.


IWGP US Heavyweight Title Right to Challenge Holder
Affiliation: BULLET CLUB
Past G1 Experience: 2019 (4-5)

When KENTA entered New Japan Pro Wrestling just before the G1 Climax, many thought it was a marriage doomed to fail. After all, KENTA was just coming off a run in WWE that was nothing short of disastrous, filled with repeated injuries and ending up with him buried on the often-ignored cruiserweight brand (although if anyone had bothered to check they would have noticed that Hideo Itami still managed to come up with the occasional banger on 205 Live). How could he possibly be expected to keep up with the wrestlers in NJPW, or deal with the grind of a G1? It’s true that this wasn’t the same KENTA from 2009, of course. But all he had to do was completely reinvent himself, and it started with one of the greatest turns of this century- if not ever- on his longtime friend Katsuyori Shibata on the final night of the G1. Nobody saw that one coming, as KENTA made it clear he had little use for the likes of Ishii and other NJPW babyfaces and then assaulted Shibata with help from his new BULLET CLUB teammates. Suddenly, KENTA transformed overnight- he tapped into a bad attitude that was always there (he was a heel or at least had strong heelish tendencies throughout his run in NOAH), but also reinvented himself through a series of bizarre interviews where he almost seemed to be speaking directly to the viewer, mimicking the kind of dialogue seen in romantic otome visual novels. He also became well known for his Twitter antics in both English and Japanese. It’s not like he didn’t put on some great matches too- a match with a vengeful Hirooki Goto (of course also a longtime friend of Shibata’s) particularly stood out at Wrestle Kingdom 14. But that was almost beside the point for KENTA. He had become something of an icon to the Japanese fans, by tapping into a heel charisma that was always there.

Things went into overdrive for him at the end of WK14 Night 2, when KENTA made a stunning attack on Tetsuya Naito just moments after Naito had beaten Kazuchika Okada to become the first-ever double IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Champion. Ruining Naito’s Tokyo Dome LIJ roll call that he had worked so hard to finally achieve was just an amazing act of heeldom, and it elevated KENTA even more to the level of top heel. He challenged Naito for both titles in what ended up being the last big NJPW main event before the COVID shutdown, at New Beginning in Osaka in February. Even though he was unsuccessful, their title match and perhaps more importantly the sellout Osaka Jo Hall crowd that came to see it (the first time NJPW had even tried a NB show in the building instead of in the smaller EDION #1) really showed that KENTA was now a top line player. Unfortunately, he was a top line player who found himself stranded in America after the pandemic started, where he still lives with his family (who moved there with him when he signed with WWE). But KENTA amazingly even made the most out of that situation, cheating his way to victory in the first-ever New Japan Cup USA tournament. That victory granted KENTA a bright red briefcase holding a future title shot at Jon Moxley’s IWGP US Heavyweight Title. Can he make it two briefcases by winning the G1 Climax as well?

Notable Matches: KENTA gets a chance to pay back Hirooki Goto for that Wrestle Kingdom 14 defeat right off the bat on September 20th in Osaka, in what’s sure to be a hard-hitting affair. October 1st in Niigata is where we get our all-BULLET CLUB showdown between KENTA and EVIL. Unlike Jay White, KENTA did celebrate EVIL’s double title win on Twitter, but I doubt that means he’ll hold anything back when the two of them meet in the G1 this year. Here’s one I have circled that you might not expect: a meeting with Toru Yano on October 11th in Nagoya. No real reason here, I just think it could be funny. Also it lets me point out that it’s actually NOT a first time ever match, as KENTA successfully defended the GHC Heavyweight Title against Yano in NOAH on June 2nd, 2013. Finally, over seven years later, Yano can get his revenge! I somehow think this one won’t go 24:31 like that one did, though. Finally, KENTA wraps up his B block competition on October 18th at Ryogoku with the double champion himself, Tetsuya Naito. Is this the match that ends up deciding the block? Or is one of these two trying to play spoiler on the other? Even if he’s already eliminated by the final night, you’d have to think Lil’K would love nothing more than to get even with Naito by taking him out of contention.

Chance of Winning: Dark Horse
KENTA is another strong entry in the “I don’t think he’s winning the entire tournament, but I could easily see him losing in the final” category (I only have one Favorite in the entire B block, and you’ll probably be a little surprised when you see who it is). The B block could easily come down to his match with Naito on the last night, and in that case I think KENTA would be considered the favorite to win and head to the finals. But I don’t see them doing Naito-KENTA again at the Tokyo Dome, so KENTA is also in the EVIL category where the only way he wins this thing is if they’re finally doing a briefcase change this year. That puts him squarely in the Dark Horse category; I won’t be completely stunned if it happens, but I’ll sure be wondering who’s getting that briefcase shot at Power Struggle.


Affiliation: Los Ingobernables de Japon
Past G1 Experience: 2016 (4-5), 2017 (4-5), 2018 (4-5), 2019 (4-5)

Few wrestlers are as misunderstood or misrepresented among hardcore Western fans as SANADA. Let me just lay this on you immediately: whatever you personally, Joe E Wrestling Fan, thinks of SANADA, this man is extremely popular in Japan with the fans who actually attend the shows (and frankly, he seemed pretty popular to me at actual shows in the US too, back when we had those). He consistently finishes at least Top 10, often even Top 5, in wrestler popularity polls, his merchandise sells well, he’s in the most popular unit by far, his feud with Kazuchika Okada last year drew well at the gate, and oh yeah, that last Okada-SANADA match at King of Pro Wrestling 2019 won the freaking Tokyo Sports Match of the Year. Just because you don’t like SANADA doesn’t make him some midcarder, or not a top guy in New Japan. He got elevated big time last year from Okada naming him as his “rival”, and if nothing else, he is a damn beautiful man. And whatever you think of his workrate or whatever, being a damn beautiful man means a hell of a lot in this company. Look around at who NJPW pushes! They like SANADA!

Okay, so, with that rant out of the way. SANADA definitely had a little bit of a rough start to 2020. He lost his challenge against Zack Sabre Jr. for the British Heavyweight Title at Wrestle Kingdom 14 and then lost to Jay White in a match at New Beginning in Osaka right before the shutdown. He recovered with a run all the way to the semifinals of the 2020 New Japan Cup (which remember is now a 32-man tournament, so he had to win three matches to get there), but was prevented by his longtime tag team partner EVIL and his dastardly kicks to the junk from reaching the finals for the second straight year. SANADA then entered the KOPW2020 tournament where he was successful in a submission match against SHO (after hilariously missing the entire point of the tournament by just agreeing with SHO’s stipulation request instead of nominating his own), but failed to become the provisional champion in the four-way final. Now SANADA enters the G1 Climax looking to not only put up his first winning record ever, but perhaps take an even bigger step forward: make his first final, and maybe even win.

Notable Matches: SANADA’s tournament starts out with Toru Yano on September 20th in Osaka, and these two always manage to have some really funny matches together. SANADA is a perfect 3-0 in their series so far, but they haven’t met since the 2018 G1. October 1st will see SANADA get serious though as he takes on Tetsuya Naito, in his hometown of Niigata no less. Naito is a perfect 3-0 in LIJ vs. LIJ matches while SANADA is 1-2 (including a loss to Naito in the 2018 G1, their only career meeting), so he’ll have to reverse recent history if he wants to prevail. October 6th in Hiroshima is SANADA’s chance for revenge against Zack Sabre Jr. for his loss at Wrestle Kingdom in what should again be a strong technical bout. ZSJ has a slight 3-2 edge in their career series dating back to 2018, but here’s SANADA’s chance to tie. Finally, SANADA’s last night of B block action puts him head to head again with ex-tag team partner and LIJ traitor EVIL on October 17th in Ryogoku. Is this the match that decides B block? Is only one of them alive and the other one looking to play spoiler? Either way, it’s SANADA’s big chance to pay EVIL back for that dick-kicking loss in the New Japan Cup. SANADA did win their first meeting in the 2017 G1, but EVIL has won the last two, so that’s a streak he’ll likely have to break if he wants any shot at winning the block.

Chance of Winning: Favorite
Yes, this might stun you, but SANADA is a Favorite to win the 2020 G1 Climax. You can rank my three favorites (Okada & White in the A block are the other two) any way you want, but I think these are easily the three most likely wrestlers to win this tournament. I’ll give you a very simple explanation for my case when it comes to SANADA- first of all, the entire year of 2020 has been built around LIJ, starting with Naito winning the double titles, EVIL winning the New Japan Cup and then turning on Naito and the rest of the unit, the EVIL-Hiromu match calling back to their history as Young Lions, and finally Naito and EVIL headlining Jingu and Naito winning his belt back. If that theme is going to continue, SANADA winning this tournament after beating Naito earlier in the G1, setting up a rematch for the titles at the Tokyo Dome, just makes a lot of sense. Of course, he could always win the tournament (which again continues the LIJ theme of the year- Naito wins at the Dome, EVIL wins the NJC, SANADA wins the G1) and then drop the briefcase to someone else at Power Struggle as well. But I think SANADA as G1 Champion is something you may just have to come to grips with as a possibility if you don’t like him. I’m not saying it will definitely happen, but I do think there’s a strong likelihood. And even if he’s not winning the entire tournament, he could easily win the B block (by getting his revenge on EVIL on the last day) and then lose a final to either Okada (in the same building they had the 2019 Tokyo Sports MOTY in, almost exactly one year later!) or White (who he has recent history with as well).

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内藤 哲也

IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Double Champion
Affiliation: Los Ingobernables de Japon
Past G1 Experience: 2010 (3-3-1), 2011 (6-3, Lost in Final), 2012 (4-4), 2013 (5-4, Won Tournament), 2014 (5-5), 2015 (5-4), 2016 (6-3), 2017 (7-2, Won Tournament), 2018 (6-3), 2019 (5-4)

When Tetsuya Naito first started talking about becoming the first man to hold the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Titles at the same time way back in January 2019, no one really knew what to make of it. It seemed like quite the lofty goal for someone who had only managed to hold the Heavyweight strap for a grand total of 70 days way back in 2016 (and even then needed help from a debuting SANADA to win the title in the first place). There was a definite feel of “uh, okay, where did that come from?” among a lot of the fanbase. But to Naito it was a goal that made perfect sense. Ever since he had first won the infamous “white belt” back in September 2016 (AFTER his brief reign with the big belt) he had said repeatedly that he didn’t think this title should be an obstacle to him winning back the Heavyweight. He complained far and wide when he was held out of the New Japan Cup in 2017 due to being Intercontinental Champion, and his rage was taken out directly on the title on many occasions. But after winning the belt back from Chris Jericho at Wrestle Kingdom 13 and finally symbolically accepting the title in the process- when he used it to plaster Jericho in the face- Naito had undergone a shift. He no longer hated the title that had once headlined a Wrestle Kingdom over his own Heavyweight title challenge. Now, he wanted to use it to make history. He overcame protests from Kota Ibushi, later copycat attempts by both Ibushi and Jay White, and finally the even more stringent protests from Kazuchika Okada (who found himself basically swapping places with Naito; now HE was the one who hated the company’s decision, in this case to do a double title mini-tournament at the Tokyo Dome), and finally achieve his goal. Tetsuya Naito was the first ever double IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Champion. No matter what happened next, he had a permanent place in New Japan’s record books.

What happened next though was a lot- Naito got attacked by KENTA moments after finally winning his first Tokyo Dome main event, rendering him unable to do his signature LIJ roll call. He beat KENTA at New Beginning in Osaka to get some measure of revenge, and then New Japan (along with the rest of the world) shut down for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When NJPW resumed, Naito found himself waiting for the winner of a rescheduled New Japan Cup to determine his second challenger. That challenger turned out to be his very first “pareja”, EVIL, but rather than a celebration of LIJ history between two friends, instead EVIL betrayed the unit and joined up with BULLET CLUB. With the help of his new ‘Spoiler’ Dick Togo, EVIL won the double titles from Naito. Once again, for the second straight reign, Naito’s time with the IWGP Heavyweight Title ended after just one successful defense. But Naito was no stranger to getting back up and dusting himself off after a setback, and he quickly challenged his former friend to a rematch at Jingu Stadium. This was NJPW’s first outdoor show in 21 years, and the last event just so happened to be a show that Naito was watching from the crowd. With some help from two of his remaining parejas BUSHI and SANADA, Naito was able to overcome EVIL and his BC antics to once again regain both titles (his third Heavyweight reign and his record-breaking sixth Intercontinental). It gave us a wonderful moment during a year that’s been very much lacking in them, as Naito posed with his two titles while fireworks lit up the sky behind him. Naito has never been one to make things easy on himself (or his fans!), but at the end of the day he leaves you feeling happy, and boy could we all use more of that right now.

But that leaves us now with a pretty simple question: what’s next for Naito now that he’s once again the double champion? Naito is second only to Tanahashi in G1 wins (two) and finals appearances (three), but this will be his first G1 Climax ever as the reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion (and only his second as IC Champion, amazingly). The last time the champion won this tournament was way back in 2000 when Kensuke Sasaki pulled it off; the champion hasn’t even advanced to the final since Yuji Nagata did it in 2007, and that was a year when NJPW was doing the “top two from each block move on to a four-man playoff” format, an advantage Naito won’t have (Nagata finished second in his block). Naito would be making yet more history if he made an unlikely run to the final, but let’s say for now he doesn’t pull it off. Who ultimately wins the G1 and goes on to challenge him? Who defeats Naito during this tournament and earns a challenge that way? And will Naito ever get to defend these titles separately, as he’s been asking to do since first winning them way back on January 5th?

Notable Matches: Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi have met in five G1s, with Naito holding a 3-1-1 record against him in the tournament. They’re used to having big G1 matches against each other like their 2013 final and their last match in 2017 which ended up deciding the A block, but this will be the first year they’ve ever faced off in their very first match of the tournament. It will happen September 20th in Osaka. October 1st in Niigata sees Naito take on his LIJ stablemate SANADA, who he defeated in their only previous meeting in the 2018 G1. Naito said himself that SANADA was “looking good” entering the tournament, picking up a lot of falls with the Skull End in tags, and seems excited to face him. October 11th in Nagoya sees Naito come face-to-face with EVIL for the third time this year, and they’re of course 1-1 after Dominion and Jingu. It will be the home stretch of the tournament as well and one expects that both men will still be very much alive to win the block, so that could go a long way to deciding it. Finally, Naito’s tournament wraps up on October 17th at Ryogoku when he once again faces the man who ruined his big moment at the Tokyo Dome, KENTA.

Chance of Winning: Dark Horse
I almost put Naito in Unlikely honestly, but I’ll give him the tiniest bit of respect here and say he deserves to be in the Dark Horse category, but it’s close. Look, I’m among the biggest Tetsuya Naito fans in the known universe, and even I have to admit that giving the guy the first double title win in the main event of the Tokyo Dome, another big win to close out Jingu with fireworks exploding in the background, AND then also the G1 Climax as well all in less than a year’s time would be kind of overkill. Would I complain if it happens? Hell no. Can anything happen in this wacky year? Sure. But I just don’t see them pulling the trigger on “the champ wins the G1” after 20 years right now. I’m not even sure who Naito would name as his Tokyo Dome challenger if he won. Obviously people immediately think of Hiromu Takahashi and as much as I’d love to see that, they’re clearly setting Hiromu up with some big rematches in the junior division right now, so that’s clearly not happening just yet.

矢野 通

Provisional KOPW2020
Affiliation: CHAOS
Past G1 Experience: 2005 (1-4-2), 2007 (2-2-1), 2008 (2-4), 2009 (3-3), 2010 (4-3), 2011 (5-4), 2012 (3-5), 2013 (4-5), 2014 (4-6), 2015 (4-5), 2016 (5-4), 2017 (4-5), 2018 (3-6), 2019 (4-5)

Toru Yano has only posted a winning record in 3 out of his 14 G1s (or about 21% of the time), but for someone who doesn’t win a whole heck of a lot he still always seems to find ways to make his mark. Last year he gave Jon Moxley his first defeat not just in the G1 (where Mox had been 5-0 up to that point), but also since leaving WWE in general. Two years ago he beat then-IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega. And so on. The bottom line is that Yano can beat just about anyone in this tournament with his antics, and he makes filling out a G1 pick’em a special kind of hell. This year Yano has the added twist of being the PROVISIONAL KOPW2020~!!!, so one wonders if anyone who beats him will try to lay down a challenge for his strangely tiny trophy. Here’s a little fun fact for you: if you even count that thing as a singles title (I guess it counts even though it doesn’t have a physical belt, right?) this is the first time Yano has been a singles champion since…..2007, when he briefly held the obscure WEW Heavyweight Title, won at a NJPW sub-brand LOCK UP event. In fact, this is just the second singles title Yano has held in his entire career. He has 10 tag & trios title reigns to his credit, but no other singles titles. So needless to say, Yano entering a G1 Climax as a singles champion is quite the rarity. Enjoy it, I guess!

Notable Matches: Yano always seems to have a strange amount of chemistry with SANADA (maybe because he’s the ultimate straight man to Yano’s lovable clown), and they’ll face each other right off the hop on September 20th in Osaka. On September 24th in Sapporo Yano comes face-to-face with an old rival in Hiroshi Tanahashi. Yano and Tanahashi have faced each other an amazing 20 times (!), which might just be the most number of meetings of any pairing in this entire tournament. The record stands at 3-15-2 for Yano, but hey, he’s won three! And one of those wins happened in the G1 in 2011, so who knows what could happen here. Despite the fact that they’ve met so many times, this will be the first Yano-Tanahashi match since the 2015 G1.

Chance of Winning: No Shot
I haven’t put very many people in the No Shot category (only Yujiro up to this point, although there’s one more to come….) but no, Toru Yano is not headed to the main event of the Tokyo Dome. Sorry folks.


NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Champion
Affiliation: CHAOS
Past G1 Experience: 2016 (3-6), 2017 (2-7), 2018 (3-6)

Saying that YOSHI-HASHI doesn’t have a great history with the G1 Climax is a little like saying that the year 2020 has gone a bit rough. He was never able to enter the tournament until 2016 despite the fact that he returned as a heavyweight in 2012, so it took him four full years (and a lot of people leaving!) before he was finally able to even compete at all. His first year saw him put up a poor 3-6 record, but he did score a huge win over eventual winner Kenny Omega that earned him a briefcase shot after the tournament. That would turn out to be the highlight of his G1 career by about a million miles. In 2017 his record was even worse, and his only two wins came against Bad Luck Fale (who to be fair did put up a good 6-3 record that year, but isn’t exactly a top star) and Yuji Nagata (who was competing in his final G1 and went 1-8). In 2018 YOSHI got back to three wins, but again failed to make much of an impact (he did beat Fale again, for some reason!). Then of course came the coup de grace- YOSHI was left out of the 2019 G1 entirely, passed over for a spot. He tried to challenge Zack Sabre Jr. to put his own spot in the G1 on the line, convinced him to do it, and then of course lost that match, which may have been worse than never challenging him at all.

But now here we are in 2020 and YOSHI-HASHI has a second chance. He’s back in the G1 Climax and he’s even a champion for the first time in his career, after he, Goto and Ishii won an eight-team tournament to claim the vacant NEVER Openweight Six-Man Titles. There are a lot of people who probably groaned when YOSHI-HASHI’s name was announced for this spot. He probably won’t put up many wins at all (honestly, just going 4-5 for the first time in his career would be a major accomplishment for him, and one I don’t expect him to reach), but if he can at least put together some fiery performances, perhaps he can prove some of his many critics wrong. I’ll be rooting for you buddy.

Notable Matches: It seems like ancient history now but YOSHI-HASHI once had a rivalry with SANADA, basically over the fact that he had gotten into the New Japan Dojo while the Cold Skull had failed. He beat him in a few tag matches but was unable to do the same in singles, with SANADA holding a 2-0 record, but they haven’t met since the March 2018 Anniversary Show. YOSHI will get his shot at revenge on September 29th at Korakuen. His very next match is against Hiroshi Tanahashi on October 1st in Niigata. The Ace once claimed that he wanted to take YOSHI away from CHAOS and under his wing, but nothing ever came of it. Pulling off a huge upset win would go a long way toward proving he was right to stay with CHAOS. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Tana has a 3-0 record, but again they haven’t met since 2018. YOSHI then gets his shot to upset the double champion Tetsuya Naito on October 6th in Hiroshima, yet another wrestler who YOSHI hasn’t faced in a singles match since 2018. Naito holds a perfect 6-0 record against him, including two G1 meetings.

Chance of Winning: No Shot
Our G1 Climax Pick’em should feature an automated system that replies to any picks for YOSHI-HASHI to even win his block or finish as a runner-up with a directory of local drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinics in the user’s area.


IWGP Tag Team Champion
Affiliation: Suzukigun
Past G1 Experience: 2017 (5-4), 2018 (6-3), 2019 (4-5)

Zack Sabre Jr. seemed to be well on his way toward G1 greatness in his early New Japan career. He started out with a solid 5-4 record in 2017 and improved upon it even greater with a 6-3 mark in 2018, including a massive win over Tetsuya Naito that eliminated him from contention on the very last night (and tied him for first in the block with Naito, Omega and Ibushi, but Kota had beaten all three of them and thus won the block on the tiebreaker). But last year Zack took a massive step back, famously starting out the tournament with three straight losses and never really recovering. He blamed his woes on Boris Johnson’s unlikely rise to Prime Minister in his native UK, which happened at roughly the same time, but won’t have any such scapegoat this time around. On the other hand, Zack is entering the G1 as one-half of the IWGP Tag Team Champions (alongside Taichi, who’s in the other block), and has beaten the likes of Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi twice in recent months. That should inspire some level of confidence in Zack, although most of the time that Tekkers-Aces feud seemed more focused on Taichi than it did on him. Put simply, Zack just seems like a bit of a blank slate entering this year’s tournament. But that could just end up making him more dangerous than ever. With his wide arsenal of not only submission holds but also flash pins as well, he has to be considered someone who could beat anyone in the block on any given night.

Notable Matches: We already mentioned that Zack once eliminated Tetsuya Naito from this very tournament, and in fact the two of them are tied at 2-2 overall. They haven’t faced each other in nearly two years, since Naito got his win back at Power Struggle 2018, but it will happen early in the tournament this year, on September 24th in Sapporo. A match that others may not have circled but that I’m personally excited for is a rematch from last year’s G1 with Zack and KENTA on September 29th at Korakuen. Both spent extensive time in Pro Wrestling NOAH, which was brought up by Zack last year, and they showed some pretty great chemistry together. Zack and SANADA had a memorable little feud earlier this year that culminated in a British Heavyweight Title match at Wrestle Kingdom 14, won by Zack. They’ll trade some more holds and such on October 6th in Hiroshima. Finally, Zack’s tournament wraps up against the Ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi, on October 17th in Ryogoku. We already went over their long history together back in Tanahashi’s entry (the short version is they’re tied at 4-4), but could this end up being a match that decides the block? It wouldn’t shock me at all if either or both guys were still alive on the final night.

Chance of Winning: Unlikely
I don’t even see Zack as a Dark Horse in this year’s tournament honestly. Like Taichi, he’s tied up with being IWGP Tag Team Champion, and that’s the role he’ll return to after the G1 is over. He’ll put up a strong record though, and may even be alive entering his final match with Tanahashi (it wouldn’t shock me at all if it’s TANAHASHI that’s eliminated and playing spoiler on ZACK by beating him, paying him back for the tag title losses). But I don’t see him as a strong contender to win his block, let alone the entire tournament.

So that’s it, every single entrant covered! If you missed it, don’t forget to check Part 1 for the A block. Hope you’ve enjoyed all of these profiles! We’ll wrap things up with a quick listing of all the tournament matches!


We’ll list these with the main event up top down to the opener on the bottom. Please note that for the last two block nights at Ryogoku they don’t give us the card order yet (since that would kind of spoil who will still be alive and who’s eliminated), so the list there is just the random order on the NJPW website. We’re also including the tournament matches only (although as we talked about in Part 1, the opposite block aren’t wrestling tag matches this year, so there’s only 1 non-tournament match per show, a Young Lion battle on every night). All shows can be viewed live on New Japan World.


Kazuchika Okada vs. Kota Ibushi
Shingo Takagi vs. Jay White
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Minoru Suzuki
Jeff Cobb vs. Taichi
Will Ospreay vs. Yujiro Takahashi


Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. EVIL
Hirooki Goto vs. KENTA
Toru Yano vs. SANADA
Juice Robinson vs. YOSHI-HASHI


Kota Ibushi vs. Jay White
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Will Ospreay
Minoru Suzuki vs. Taichi
Kazuchika Okada vs. Yujiro Takahashi
Jeff Cobb vs. Shingo Takagi


Tetsuya Naito vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Juice Robinson vs. KENTA
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Toru Yano
Hirooki Goto vs. SANADA


Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White
Will Ospreay vs. Shingo Takagi
Kota Ibushi vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Jeff Cobb vs. Minoru Suzuki
Taichi vs. Yujiro Takahashi


Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito
Toru Yano vs. EVIL
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Juice Robinson
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. KENTA


Tomohiro Ishii vs. Shingo Takagi
Will Ospreay vs. Jay White
Kazuchika Okada vs. Taichi
Kota Ibushi vs. Jeff Cobb
Minoru Suzuki vs. Yujiro Takahashi


Tetsuya Naito vs. SANADA
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Hirooki Goto vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Juice Robinson vs. Toru Yano


Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Taichi
Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki
Jeff Cobb vs. Jay White
Shingo Takagi vs. Yujiro Takahashi


Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. KENTA
YOSHI-HASHI vs. Tetsuya Naito
Juice Robinson vs. EVIL
SANADA vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Hirooki Goto vs. Toru Yano


Kota Ibushi vs. Shingo Takagi
Taichi vs. Jay White
Will Ospreay vs. Minoru Suzuki
Kazuchika Okada vs. Jeff Cobb
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Yujiro Takahashi


Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. EVIL
Juice Robinson vs. Tetsuya Naito
Toru Yano vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Hirooki Goto vs. YOSHI-HASHI


Kazuchika Okada vs. Shingo Takagi
Kota Ibushi vs. Minoru Suzuki
Will Ospreay vs. Taichi
Jay White vs. Yujiro Takahashi
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Jeff Cobb


Tetsuya Naito vs. EVIL
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hirooki Goto
Juice Robinson vs. SANADA
Toru Yano vs. KENTA
YOSHI-HASHI vs. Zack Sabre Jr.


Kazuchika Okada vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Minoru Suzuki vs. Jay White
Shingo Takagi vs. Taichi
Kota Ibushi vs. Yujiro Takahashi
Will Ospreay vs. Jeff Cobb


Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. SANADA
Hirooki Goto vs. EVIL
Toru Yano vs. Tetsuya Naito
Juice Robinson vs. Zack Sabre Jr.


*Final match order TBA before the show
Shingo Takagi vs. Minoru Suzuki
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Jay White
Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay
Jeff Cobb vs. Yujiro Takahashi
Kota Ibushi vs. Taichi


*Final match order TBA before the show
Tetsuya Naito vs. KENTA
Toru Yano vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Juice Robinson vs. Hirooki Goto
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

And that’s it folks, we’re finally done! If you made it to the very end of this very long two-part preview, thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the G1 Climax. Don’t forget to check out my Patreon for awesome G1 coverage throughout the tournament (plus Champion Carnival & N-1 coverage too!). See ya!