If the axiom is that “the G1 Climax tells no lies,” then trust me, Gedo tells you twenty truths every summer: the card positioning of all twenty wrestlers over the course of the entire tournament. He’s telling you where these guys are slotted. It doesn’t matter how beautiful their wrestling is, or how smart you think your analysis is, or what their name is. Gedo is not lying to you. If a wrestler is positioned at a certain level across the G1 Climax, that is where that wrestler lives. It’s all right out there in the open. A wrestler does not come out of the mid-card to win a block, let alone the tournament.
Or, at least, they haven’t.
As stated in Part I, the A-Block and B-Block final nights are an affront to history. What was once a clandestinely predictable tournament is now imbued with haziness. To summarize: in 2015, the G1 Climax became a 19-date tournament, and in those five years:
- The block final main event has always been the same match: the person with the most main events in the block versus the person with the most semi-main events in the block.
- The person with the most semi-main events overall has always won their block.
- Nine out of ten block winners in this period were in the main event of their block’s final night.
Good times. And like so all the other good times, 2020 did not inherit it.
But we’re not bereft just yet. We have a number of delicious conditions that could either uphold history or distort it.
First, because I’m about to dig into some numbers-based data, I must address a few things:
- For Card Placement, the numbers are simple: there are five G1 Climax matches on each G1 Climax card. The opening match is assigned a 1, the main event a 5. For each wrestler, add all of their matches up and take the average. As the block finals haven’t been determined, there are eight matches for this article.
- I take no credit for discovery. All I do is put numbers into a spreadsheet and then look at them. Any species with fingers and a brain could do what I do.
- If you’d like to see the data this is all based upon: https://tinyurl.com/g1-CP-stats. No, seriously, it’s not that time-consuming, for real.
Here’s the card position chart for G1 Climax 30:
The Final Nights
The reason why this G1 Climax is so bewildering this year is the noticeable disconnect between the first sixteen nights and the final two. As noted in Part I, there have been acute patterns to the block final scheduling since 2015 and the overall card positioning of each wrestler has been complementary to the block finals’ scheduling and results. The final night main events are the domain of the tip-top of the NJPW hierarchy, and they are positioned as such.
This year, the main event of the A-Block will probably be Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay, and the main event of the B-Block will probably be Tetsuya Naito vs. KENTA. There are trends that confirm this notion: the champion always main events his block final, and Okada has always main evented his block final… but since 2015 those trends are one and the same (save for 2018).
Ospreay and KENTA will become the lowest positioned wrestlers to main event a block final in the 19-date era. The lowest was previously Omega in 2016, at 3.44, but that number is slightly deceiving. That year, 3.44 was good enough to be ranked 5th. For 2020, Ospreay’s 3.125 is ranked 9th, and Kenta’s 2.875 is ranked 10th! These guys firmly entrenched in the mid-card, right alongside Taichi, Suzuki, and Ishii, a slew of magnificent people you inherently know have absolutely no fucking chance.
And yet, despite being submerged in the undercard morass for 90% of the tournament, Ospreay and KENTA must be in contention to win their blocks going into the final night. New Japan booking generally chooses the predictable but captivating route over the capricious one. Sure, every year there are situations going into the final night where people outside of the main event have a long-shot chance to win the block. But, nine times out of ten, those outlier scenarios dissipated as the night progressed, and the final became winner-take-all.
Hey, remember in 2016 when Omega needed Shibata and Elgin to lose on the final night to win his block? Of course, you don’t because nobody gives a fuck about that. They did lose, and Omega beat Naito in a 5-star masterpiece to actively win the block. For all the red herrings, block final main eventers were the ones that mattered all along, and the ending is definitive.
And that’s why I hope all of this information gives you an appreciation for just how bizarre and wide-open this year is, compared to the previous five. Unless you believe Gedo is using reverse psychology and purposely under-booking these guys to throw us off the scent, it is very likely, based on Ospreay and KENTA’s lower positioning, that someone outside the main event could still be alive when the main events start.
And, thus, here’s What to Look For: if someone… Jay White, EVIL, SANADA, Kobe Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, whomever, still has a chance to win their block when the main event starts, but they are not actually in that main event, get excited. Get really excited. There’s some history to this.
I count ten such scenarios since 2015 where someone went into the final night having a chance to win the block, but was not in the main event. Nine times out of those ten, they lost and were eliminated before the main event started. But not Hirooki Goto in 2016. He won his match, which makes him the only person in the last five years to even be alive going into the block final main event without actually being in the main event. The only one. And, by a Tanahashi-Okada draw, he became the only wrestler to go to the G1 final without being in a block final main event. The success rate is 100%, and it is Hirooki motherfucking G1-to.
So, historically, yes, it is likely that all the wrestlers with a longshot to win going into the final night will lose on that final night. But if they win… brace yourself for a wild rest of the night because the dominos are probably going to fall.
And now, we better talk about EVIL, the Tsar of Summer 2020 wrestling discourse, while there’s still a few days left in this godawful season.
To those that gritted their teeth through the summer… you might have to wait for your utilitarian dystopia to emerge; EVIL should be the overall favorite to win his block. The tradition of the semi-main event king advancing is very possible and has no obstructions… except for that final card! It fucks everything up!
On Night 18, EVIL will face SANADA in what will probably be the semi-main event, behind Naito-KENTA. And, for storyline reasons, SANADA has to be considered the favorite in the match. So does EVIL advance? Well, besides the traditions listed above, look at the card placement difference between EVIL and SANADA: 4.125 to 2.75. SANADA’s card position is barely ahead of Juice. It’d be a hell of a spoil.
The numbers are heavily in EVIL’s favor. In fact, they are practically a manifestation of the idea that EVIL’s come out of seemingly nowhere to the top of New Japan.
Do not avert your eyes. EVIL is now positioned a full match higher than last year, with five semi-main events this year alone (and possibly six). And, I stress yet again, semi-main events have proven to be the direct indicator of a G1 Climax finalist. Furthermore, he’s the second-highest positioned wrestler overall. That puts his name historically alongside Okada, Naito, Tanahashi, and Omega. Going to a G1 Final would solidify that status.
Of course, he has to get through his erstwhile stablemate on the final night. And that is trouble for EVIL’s chances, because SANADA will probably have nothing to lose.
SANADA rules, and he is the blank canvas upon which wrestling fandom projects its principles, creeds, virtues, and deep, deep enmities. While some people have completely disregarded any chance he has of winning, there is a significant amount of people confident that SANADA is a legitimate favorite to win his block. The Super J Cast tweeted out the Unibet odds, and SANADA has the best odds in the entire field: 2/1! Many are picking him, convinced that this is SANADA’s year.
Someone probably should have clued Gedo into that.
Look at this rubbish. If SANADA won he would be, by far, the lowest positioned wrestler to ever win anything in this era of the G1 Climax. The lowest ranking finalist was Kota Ibushi last year, ranked 6th. SANADA, as shown above, has an average of 2.75 and is ranked 13th. Fucking 13th. He’s actually positioned lower than he was last year. His line is squeamish: 2-2-2-0-2. I know SANADA is a trendy pick, and everyone has convinced themselves through storyline logics that he is a rock-solid pick, but based on 5 years of trends, he is not a lock at all.
It returns us to the Kenny Omega example. Sure, the dominos that had to fall for Omega to pass through have been overlooked, because Omega won the block final to advance, an emphatically active triumph. We do remember Goto’s passive win, because we remember the final, the final he did not participate in, and because LOL GOTO. He won but he didn’t actually win. SANADA would have to follow a similar path. This is not how Gedo has booked; the block finalists have come in strong 90% of the time. It does SANADA no favors to back in and lose the final. And that’s overlooking the equally plausible but somehow secondary aspect to all of this: the Bullet Club stuff is just as prominent. It’s even more likely that the block final main event between Naito and KENTA is loaded with balderdash, presumably to put heat on EVIL going into the final (not that it will do EVIL much to also back in and lose, but at least he has a title under his belt now).
But here’s What To Look For: SANADA will peak at the right times. He will main event Night 16, the penultimate night of B-Block, and semi-main night 18.. So while he is positioned absurdly low for someone of his stature, he is slotted very high for the last two nights. He could certainly be somewhere in the mix near the end, due to those card positions at the end, but it seems like his role this year is to be a potential spoiler to EVIL, as KENTA is to Naito. B-Block comes down to LIJ vs. Bullet Club. But that’s where this year is so awesome: he’s there to beat EVIL, but if he beats EVIL, he’ll probably win the block! Bloody hell.
In 2018, Okada’s card placement average was 4.89. That is, eight main events and one semi-main. His five-year average coming into 2020 was 4.56, his lowest being 4.33.
Here’s the stunning positioning for Okada this year: 3.75. Still 5th overall, so this isn’t as drastic a drop as it seems, but it definitely is eye-opening. It is a stacked block, but Kazuchika Okada falling below four is outrageous.
Here’s What to Look For: since the G1 Climax moved to a 19-date schedule in 2015, Okada has never wrestled in the first two matches. That would be 0 for 45. This year he wrestles in the 2nd match twice. If he loses one of those matches then we know that this G1 Climax is a renovation. Ultimately, Okada’s card placement is still in the range of those that have made the final in years past. And he’ll be in the block final main event… he will control his destiny, and that usually portends well.
And then, the big question: Okada is washed up? Will we look back on this Okada, the angling obsessive draped in perplexing glowy fabric robes, with such dismay? Having delivered a 5-star paragon at the Dome a mere nine months ago? As well as the Naito match the next night?
Here’s What to Keep in Mind: Okada’s entire main event career has had one through-line: doing the things Tanahashi has already done, and surpassing them. And what is Tanahashi’s most effective move? Coasting through the Spring, making us wonder if he’s going to wheelchair out on Night 1 and retire in the ring, and then running off 12-14 points every goddamn year. Okada might be inheriting this tradition. The path has always been set for him. He just has to go a little bit further.
Ibushi’s schedule makes it very tempting to consider him a heavy favorite to make history. Last year, he became the lowest positioned wrestler to win a block and the G1, being 6th.. But his line was so weird: 2-0-0-5-2. Adjust for those opening matches and he’s up there with Okada. This year, in an even more competitive block, he is averaging 3.88. Ibushi is actually positioned the highest in his block, for the first time.
But Ibushi has a big problem: that goddamn final night. Remember, since 2015 only one out of ten has gone to the final without being in the block final main event, and it’s very possible that Ibushi’s match could be the third of the night, behind White and Okada’s matches. If that’s the case, he would certainly necessitate a Goto-esque situation to advance.
But here we find a bit of a paradox: this entire year has seen Ibushi treated as an inviolable savant, the new wrestling deity ascendant (and trust me, it’s hard not to picture Ibushi as Griffith)… this is not someone who would win a G1 block because of someone else’s result. Furthermore, the match he has on the final night, against Taichi, appears to be part of a wider, symmetrical story of Dangerous Tekkers v. Golden Ace.
Tanahashi once again comes into the G1 explicitly filled to the brim with self-doubt, pensively leaning face-first on the grody Korakuen backstage reflection wall and impotently vowing to correct course in the G1 Climax once more. He’s done this several years in a row, and the numbers are self-evident: his point totals since 2015 are 14, 11, 12, 15, and… 8. Indeed, last year was the first one where Tanahashi was indeed telling the truth.
As seen in the chart below, Tanahashi’s card placement average has been in steady decline but his rankings have remained elite. This year Tanahashi finds himself in four main events, 2nd most in the champion’s block and tied for second-most overall. So many main events and still hidden behind Naito and EVIL… this certainly could be an artful way to get Tanahashi into the G1 Final without anyone noticing.
But Tanahashi has the same dilemma as Ibushi. His match on the final night will be 3rd on the card.. The question: is Tanahashi now at the Goto level, where he succeeds based on a sequence of events beyond his control? In the glorious resurrection of 2018, he had fifteen fucking points. This year his revival will need a lot of help. Most damning is that the final two matches appear to be more centered on LIJ v. Bullet Club. Tana goes into the category of wrestlers with high card placement that didn’t fit any of that year’s narratives.
Hopefully, after two parts and an excessive number of words, I’ve imparted a sense of eagerness and perspective to this year’s G1. Recognizing patterns should not imprison you within them. It is pretty cool that Gedo was able to establish such a reliable booking pattern, and now that we know that pattern is going to be broken, at least in part, there’s an injection of dramatic irony to the proceedings. We know something new is going to happen, and we get to see it play out over a month. Nights 17 and 18 are going to provide us with something novel. It’s guaranteed, no lie.