In the simplest terms, Gedo’s fucking with it. 

Not all of it, but a lot of it. 

The established booking norms, expectations, and patterns that NJPW booker Gedo fomented and developed over five the last years, and I’m talking literally doing the exact same thing for five years, have been cast aside. The entire lifespan of the current G1Climax system: detonated. It might be his most audacious booking decision of 2020. 

This is part one of a two-part analysis of G1 Climax booking trends. Originally, it was going to be a guide to help everyone in the G1 Climax pick’ems, a Cheap Seats-eque “What To Look For” compendium of the trends I have noticed, connecting card placement/positioning and the results in the past five G1 Climax tournaments, starting with 2015 and the shift to a 19-date schedule. 

The conceit was based on something I mentioned in the senselessly long and, I presume, silently reviled G1 Climax stats article I wrote for the 2019 Year in Review eBook. Pushing deadline, I observed that since the G1 Climax has shifted to the 19-date schedule, the wrestler with the most semi-main events has always made the G1 Climax final. All 5 years. When I looked a bit deeper, the results were remarkably consistent.

The gist is this: 

  1. The person with the most semi-main events overall has always won their block. Five out of five times.
  2. In all five years, the block finals’ main event has been between the person with the most main events in the block versus the person with the most semi-main events in the block. Ten out of ten opportunities.
  3. Nine out of ten finalists in this period were in the main event of their block’s final night.

Five straight years of the exact same booking.  Surely, this article would confidently exploit this inescapable pattern to incisively dismantle the secrets of G1 Climax 30.

Then the schedule came out, and Gedo tossed five years of rock-solid consistency into the dustbin of history. 

As the last 3-4 months have shown, this is a man moving on from a lot of things, possibly himself. Over the next two parts, and intemperate amount of words, I hope you’ll find some insight into how the G1 Climax has developed over the last five years, an appreciation for how this year is inscrutably different, whether these represent significant or cursory changes, and why card position matters. Or, at least, it did, godammit. All of my predictions are going to end up being well-educated BUNKUM. Enjoy.

Before we survey the form-breaking schedule, let’s take a look at how 2015-2019 played out. It would probably be more propitious for everyone if I just abandon prose right now and bullet point this nonsense.

In 2015:

AJ Styles, A-Block, tied for #1 with 4 semi-mains

  • He was in the main event on the final night of his block
  • He lost to Tanahashi, who had the most mains in the tournament (7).

Shinsuke Nakamura, B-Block, tied for #1 with 4 semi-mains

  • He was in the main event on the final night of his block
  • He defeated Okada, who had the most mains in the block and 2nd most in the tournament (5).

Nakamura, #1 in semi-mains, lost in the tournament final to Tanahashi, #1 in mains.

In 2016:

Kazuchika Okada, A-Block, tied for #1 with 5 semi-mains

  • He was in the main event on the final night of his block
  • He drew with Tanahashi, who had the most mains in the block and 2nd most in the tournament (5). He did not advance.

KennyOmega, B-Block, tied for #1 with 5 Semi-mains

  • He was in the main event on the final night of his block
  • He defeated Naito, who had the most mains in the block and tournament (6).

Omega, #1 in semi-mains, defeated Goto to win the tournament. Goto had nothing noteworthy regarding his card placement (0-3-2-1-3)

In 2017:

Omega, B-Block, #1 with 5 semi-mains

  • He was in the main event on the final night of his block
  • He defeated Okada, who had the most mains in the block and tournament (6).

Tetsuya Naito, A-Block, #2 with 4 semi-mains. 

  • He was in the main event on the final night of his block
  • He defeated Tanahashi, who had the most mains in the block and 2nd most in the tournament (5).

Naito, #2 in semi-mains, defeated Omega, #1 in semi-mains.

In 2018:

Hiroshi Tanahashi, A-Block, was the clear #1 in semi-mains with 7, the most of anyone in the 5 years of data

  • He was in the main event on the final night of his block
  • He drew with Okada, who had the most mains in the block and entire tournament (8!).

Omega, B-Block, #2 with 5 semi-mains.

  • He was in the main event on the final night of his block
  • He lost to Ibushi, who was tied in block for most mains in the block (with Omega, 4). He did not advance

Tanahashi, #1 in semi-mains defeated Ibushi, to win the tournament. Ibushi was tied for #2 in mains, and the most in his block.

In 2019:

Jay White, B-Block, #1 with 6 semi-mains.

  • He was in the main event on the final night of his block
  • He defeated Naito, who had the most mains in the block and 2nd most in the tournament (5).

Kota Ibushi, A-Block, #2 with 5 semi-mains

  • He was in the main event on the final night of his block
  • He defeated Okada, who had the most mains in the block and tournament (6).

Ibushi, #2 in semi-mains, defeats White, #1 in semi-mains. 

So, to reiterate: since the G1 Climax adopted the current 19-day schedule in 2015:

    • The #1 and #2 in semi-mains have come from different blocks, and not tied with anyone
    • The #1 and #2 in mains have always come from different blocks. The #1 has always been clear, with ties for #2 within the same block.
    • The #1 and #2 in semi-mains have always been in the main event of their block’s final night.
    • Every single block final main event, 10 out of 10, has been the #1 in main events for the block versus the #1 for semi-main events.
    • Nine out of 10 G1 Climax Finalists had been in the main event of the final night of their block.

It would be great to use this knowledge to truly forecast the 2020 G1 Climax, and yet… the schedule leaves this carefully constructed system in a bit of disarray, and certainly more difficult to estimate. That said, portions of this pattern have remained intact, enough to make some predictions for the month ahead.

Based on the schedule right now, with Night 17 or Night 18’s cards unrevealed, here’s how things stand:

  • The most main events in A-Block: Kazuchika Okada and Kota Ibushi (tied w/ 4)
  • The most semi-main events in A-Block: Jay White (4)
  • The most main events in the B-Block (and overall): Tetsuya Naito (5)
  • The most semi-main events in the B-Block (and overall): EVIL (5)

By tradition, then, the main event of the A-Block’s final night should be White vs. either Okada or Ibushi. But we’re getting those matches on Night 3 and Night 5. The last match of the B-Block should clearly be yet another Naito vs. EVIL encounter. They face each other on Night 14. Night 14! Which seems unusual; it’s not even the penultimate night of the block. Night 14 skirmishes past include the EVIL-Okada match people liked, Naito-Shingo from last year, Ibushi-Naito in 2018, and… Naito-EVIL from 2016. One pattern Gedo absolutely could not dismantle was having one of these two bastards on Night 14, preferably both.



Regardless, the block final tradition is over.

Neither block final in 2020 will feature a clash between main event king and semi-main king. No matter what happens on the final nights of each block, the path taken by the G1 Climax finalists are going to be entirely different than any other under the current format. There is a sense that anything could happen on the final nights.

Looking at the five most prominent competitors:

EVIL, B-Block, #1 with five semi-mains

  • Faces Naito, #1 in mains for block and tournament, on night 14 of the tournament (night 7 of the block).
  • Faces SANADA on the final night of block. SANADA has no noteworthy card placement (2-2-2-0-2)

Jay White, A-Block, #2 with four semi-mains

  • Faces Okada, tied for most mains in block and 2nd most in the tournament, in the main event of night 5 of the tournament (night 3 of the block).
  • Faces Ibushi, tied for most mains in block and 2nd most in the tournament, on night 3 of the tournament (night 2 of the block).
  • Faces Ishii on the final night of block. Ishii has no noteworthy card placement (2-0-2-2-2)

Naito, A-Block, # 1 in mains for his block and tournament, faces KENTA on the last night of block.

  • KENTA has no noteworthy card placement (1-2-3-1-1)

Okada, tied for #2 in mains in the tournament and #1 for mains in the block, faces Ospreay on the last night of block.

  • Ospreay has no noteworthy card placement (2-0-2-3-1)
  • Ospreay could tie for most semi-mains on the last night of block if that match with Okada is a semi-main.

Ibushi, tied for #2 in mains in the tournament and #1 for mains in the block, faces Taichi on the last night of block.

  • Taichi, sadly, has no noteworthy card placement (1-1-4-2-0)

Those final two nights really obfuscate things.

For one, they separated Okada, Ibushi, and White. As the favorites to win A-block, and as three of the top four stars of the company, that leaves us with three viable main events on the same night. That also means that one of these men will have their final night match in the 3rd position; it’s a confounding situation. As shown earlier, pretty much every G1 Climax finalist came from their block’s final main event, except for Nobunaga no Chef cosplayer Hirooki Goto. The choice of the main event should indicate the block winner. 

To offer some advice, and remember, this article is about giving prediction advice, consider this: the match you think will be in the main event of the block final should contain the person you believe will win the block. This may seem like common sense, but we’ve all talked ourselves into some labyrinthine balderdash because it happened in 2016, which represents 10% of the outcomes under the current system. That would suggest that the least convoluted answer is Okada. That’s your best answer, and if it’s wrong then I’m doing a full cop-out and saying I just presented the best answer based on historical data. Because it’s very tempting to consider Jay White, #1 in semi-main events for the block, making it through on an Ospreay spoil.

B-Block is simpler: Naito, being champion, almost assuredly main events versus KENTA. That leaves EVIL vs. SANADA, the one time in life you will ever look forward to an all-caps battle, in the semi-main. While B-Block’s scenario was easier to delineate, it actually disturbs things even more. The simplest advice: EVIL. No question. Most semi-mains = G1 Cimax Finalist. Simple. Especially in the champion’s block. And yet, there’s still such an exhaustive amount of pause that permeates this year’s scheduling and booking.

And so, as Gedo intends, the booking fibers of New Japan at the moment are saturated with EVIL.

In Part II, we’ll look at specific wrestler’s card positioning, from 2020 to 2015 and back again, and what it might reveal.