Here are the words of a coward:
“So, once again, Jay White. Controls his own destiny. Faced with a mathematically eliminated opponent, who stands a full six points lower than him. This certainly puts White more into the Tanahashi category than the Okada category. But the Tanahashi category is, at the moment, a Tanahashi’s only club. 5% of the historical record. But it’s not 0%. But White could also join the Okada category; that category resides in the 95% success rate mentioned above.”
We wrote those words and they were published a mere day ago, October 15, 2020. Why are they cowardly?
Because the last line wasn’t in the original. We added it at the very end. Maybe we were spooked by the 95% to 5% numbers based on the historical research. Perhaps we simply had to play the historiography game and avoid committing to one side completely. We definitely didn’t want to make the J1 Climax supporters cry before the final.
Turns out those tears were predestined.
In our historical preview of the G1 Climax 30 final nights, we compared the Realistic Outright Win Scenarios of the last ten years to the ones of this year’s competitors. A lot of the article focused on Jay White, because his ROWS were the most interesting. The staggering result is even more interesting.
Jay White, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and a Strata of Blowing It Few Can Comprehend
In summary: Jay White would have won the 2020 A Block by simply defeating Tomohiro Ishii, an entrant that was not only mathematically eliminated, but a full six points behind White. White went into tied with Kota Ibushi and Kazuchika Okada at 12 and held the tiebreakers over both.
This aligned directly with both block leaders from 2014. In the B Block, Kazuchika Okada defeated Minoru Suzuki in a win-and-you’re-in scenario; even though AJ Styles, tied with Okada, won on the undercard, Okada held the tiebreaker. The Rainmaker closed the deal. He’s the only person to win a block final in a win-and-you’re-in scenario (not facing someone in the same fate-controlling situation), and the only one to win a block final by beating a lower-pointed wrestler. That category belongs to Okada… at least until we see what EVIL does tomorrow.
Jay White, from the outset, resembled the 2014 A Block much more closely, though.
Jay White Fits Into History, and Small Numbers Go Up While Big Numbers Go Down
In the A Block, Hiroshi Tanahashi was tied with Shinsuke Nakamura at 14 points. He held the tiebreaker over Nakamura and was, oddly, facing Davey Boy Smith Jr. in the final. Smith trailed Tanahashi by 6 points. Smith sent Tanahashi packing in a shocking upset. Nakamura, who had defeated Bad Luck Fale earlier in the night, won the block. It was the only time since 2010 that a wrestler had gone into the block final match needing only to win to move on to the G1 Climax, and not only lost the match but lost the block as a result.
Unfortunately for Jay White, the Tanahashi’s Only club now must welcome a new member. In a G1 Climax where Gedo messed around with his general booking patterns quite a bit, the A Block denouement was taken wholesale from the past.
In 18 out of the 20 block finals held between 2010 and 2019, someone simply won the match to win the block. 95% success rate. Make that 18 out of 21 now. About 86%. During that same period, 29 entrants have been in the undercard with a Realistic Outright Win Scenario. Only two had won their match and won the block when a loss of draw in the main event put them through. About 7%. That now becomes 3 out of 31.
This is a story about a big loss, and a big win. But we have to address the loss, because when it comes to New Japan, a loss means a lot.
When the Point Is to Lose
Imagine Brad Lidge, as Albert Pujols famously sent a godawful doomed four-seam fastball into orbit (around which planet and/or stellar object, we’re still not sure), just threw a goddamn tantrum on the mound in response. Instead, we saw Lidge’s soul leave his body, the confirmation of souls being overlooked because goddamn, what a dinger, holy fucking Moses. That was 15 years ago, almost to the day, and people still remember it vividly.
Due to its fakery, wrestling can dismantle the limitations of real-life that make everything paltry and lame. For one thing, Jay White did throw a tantrum backstage. It was great. But, more importantly, if this were real life, Jay White’s loss would be catastrophic… and this loss is as far from catastrophic.
As our common sense fluctuated as the A Block formation became more perceptible, we knew damn well that they were telling a story with Jay White. Something to do with face turns, faction abandonment, sexy luxurious EVIL, tools of literal assassination in a staged sport, and so on. We’re probably still in that story; what we just witnessed is an unforeseen step in the Freytag pyramid.
Losses mean a lot to Gedo and New Japan booking. Kazuchika Okada’s big title reign, essentially three years with a Naito sized blip near the beginning, would not have the resonance, nor have felt as warranted, if Okada didn’t fall so spectacularly at Wrestle Kingdom 9. The bastard was blubbering down the aisle, being taunted by horny commercial actor Hiroshi Tanahashi the whole trek back. It was the necessary step to put Okada into the sphere of not just the greats… all-time greats.
Okada returned the favor at Wrestle Kingdom 12, Rainmaker-ing the fuck out of Naito when Naito got a little too flashy for his own good. Leave your residual animus at the door; it was a great moment that benefitted literally everyone involved. Naito’s loss was the final piece to his ultimate ascendency.
There are certainly more examples than this, but the point is that if Jay White followed historical precedents by losing to Ishii, it’s a good bet he’ll follow these historical precedents and prove that this wasn’t merely an unexpected loss, it was a crucial loss.
Naito and Okada were both very successful before those big losses; the losses merely sent them to a level few ever reach in pro wrestling. It is time for Jay White to join that club.
And there’s one more person he can look to when it comes to beneficial losses. And that would be the man that benefited most from White’s big loss: Kota Ibushi.
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10 months and innumerable lifetimes ago, the double gold dash ended with Kota Ibushi in 4th place, Jay White having defeated him to take 3rd. It seemed that New Japan sacrificed Kota Ibushi’s credibility for the sake of a two-night draw. He came into the G1 with his eminence at its nadir.
And now, the G1 Climax 30’s A Block is over. Jay White is once again in 3rd place. But Kota Ibushi is now in 1st.
In the preview article mentioned above, most of the A Block material was written from the perspective of Jay White. Now the Golden Star deserves some attention.
What if… I mean, what if… the story all along was that Ibushi was going to come back to the Dome, where he lost that meaningless, extraneous, malignant, detrimental match to White, and finally get his big win? The guy would have earned it. Just watch him.
Kota Ibushi is the platonic form of a pro wrestler. Actually, let’s go even further than that, in the same work: he literally is Plato’s vision of the philosopher-king. He looks like a goddamn Greek sculpture if a Greek sculptor time slipped into an EXO concert and back. He is nimble, powerful, relentless, and magnetic. And let’s not cast aside the philosopher portion. Yes, he may forget how to get back to his hotel, but he also dismantled the notion of a 24-hour day and unlocked the secrets to living into your 200’s.
A more floridly poetic writer will eventually arise to describe Kota Ibushi’s G1 Climax 30, so that Ibushi can take his rightful place amongst the heroes and legends of Homeric epics and sacred texts. He is Arunja. He is Diomedes. He is David. He is favored by the gods, and provides us with the celestial performances in consequence. The sheer scope of match types Kota Ibushi gifted to us in the 2020 G1 is staggering. Suzuki-gun tried to main this man; if Dave Meltzer’s comparison of the Minoru Suzuki match to an MMA fight sustains, then surely Ibushi’s hellacious battle with Taichi today stands as pro wrestling’s Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic, an astonishing torrent of strikes, but enhanced by the severe brazenness of these particular pro wrestlers. He taught Will Ospreay a hearty lesson about the difference between putting on weight and being a true heavyweight. He played along with Okada’s tortured narrative. He brawled with savage intransigence against Shingo Takagi and Tomohiro Ishii. He did everything, because he can do everything.
A 5% chance is more than enough for Kota Ibushi. What were we thinking?!
Ibushi’s 2020 G1 Climax result has one historical precedent, and it is the person to whom he gained some of his most significant losses: Shinsuke Nakamura.
As noted above, 2014 Shinsuke Nakamura went into the final A Block night tied with Hiroshi Tanahashi at 14 points. Nakamura, though, would be in the undercard that night; the final block match was Tanahashi vs. Smith. To this point, no one in the Gedo Era had ever had a Realistic Outright Win Scenario and won on the undercard. Nakamura did. Tanahashi lost. Nakamura frantically waved his wrists on the path to the G1 Final.
Nakamura lost, though. Okada stamped his ticket to that monumental Wrestle Kingdom 9 defeat by vanquishing his CHAOS leader in the G1 Final. Kota Ibushi now awaits his opponent in the G1 Final on October 18. Ibushi in many ways established himself as a heavyweight and bona fide elite level top promotion superstar pro wrestler in multiple defeats to Shinsuke Nakamura. Unfortunately, Nakamura retired in early 2016, before Ibushi could get the big win that everything was building towards. Now he has matched a feat that only his god achieved. It is hard not to envision him going one step further.
To become God, you must transcend the gods before you.