If you would like to see the document that lays out the research for this article, and every single final night scenario in he G1 Climax from 2010-2021, click this link.

My new theory is that Bob Ross did not, lamentably, leave us in 1995. He shaved his head, fused several vertebrae, gargled a demonic mixture of rusted shrapnel and hydroiodic acid daily, moved to Tokyo, met Genichiro Tenryu, assumed the identity “Keiji Takayama,” and entered the Super J Cup. Ignore the time inconsistencies; that was all part of the plan.

The reason why: the way Gedo’s booking in the G1 comes together reminds me of that moment in every episode of The Joy of Painting, that one camera cut, where Ross’ swooping, sweeping nebula of alizarin crimsons and phthalo greens and yellow ochres improbably come together. One goes from baffled in a tight shot to mystified in that wide shot.

And fine, this is a very hackneyed way of presenting things, but its sincere. The New Japan booking team, with the bald gravel-voiced Junior, and the pumped up Junior that moves like he’s in his late hundreds, and the bald pumped up Junior that pines for the days he was in America miming penectomy… they know what they’re doing.

I’ve written about this one two three four five times. Two things happen in modern G1 Climax Booking:

  1. The schedules are released prior to Night 1, and you can get a general idea of what the main event will be from this point, before a match even takes place. This, as I’ve written in the first four links above, was intricately and distinctly tied to card placement.

Between 2015 and 2020, it always ended up like this: the person with the most main events in a block faced the person with the most semi-main events. You could guess, but also calculate, the block final.

The bad: it was super predictable. The good: the final meant a lot. And, frankly, they could book around it. For instance, Jay White v. Tetsuya Naito was 100000% going to be the block final in 2019’s B Block, and it was going to be winner-take all. And yet, Jay started 0-3. Moxley started 5-0. They evoked the illusion of unpredictability in the middle portions, because the bookends are all that really matter. Do people like this?

Well, apparently its a 67-33 split against the predictable booking, though I wonder if I had the character space to explain it like I have here if the numbers would be closer:

In 2020 they made the final night match-ups harder to parse. One would have assumed Okada-Ospreay would have headlined A block and Naito-KENTA would have headlined B block. The numbers didn’t match up, as they had the previous five years, but those seemed the most likely. Neither happened.

This year, they corrected course a bit. Each of the block final main events were ones assumed most likely when the cards were announced prior to Night 1. The numbers still don’t add up, as I pointed out in my G1 Climax 31 preview, but these are the match-ups one would have expected to headline these shows.

2. However they get to the final night, the booking on the block final night (single or double block) follows a clear pattern, at least in the G1 as we know it: everything clears out for the main event. Anyone outside the block final match with a chance: you’re going to lose.

We start with 2010 (G1 Climax 20) because that’s the furthest back you can go while maintaining the two-block, one match final armature. Obviously, the switch to single block nights in 2015 had an enormous impact. Final Night data does trend back to 2010, though, and it shows:

    • In 11 years, there are 22 block final matches, and thus 44 block final main eventers.
    • 41 of the 44 block main eventers went into the main event with a chance to win.
    • 19 of those 22 block main events were winner-take-all by the time the match started
    • 26 of 32 wrestlers outside the main event, but still having tiebreakers over a main eventer, lost before the main event and were eliminated

I wrote about this last year. In some cases, I was right: based on historical trends, I was able to confidently predict Okada and Naito both lost. I also, based on historical trends, predicted that Jay White would win his block. I ended up writing a column long apology to Kota Ibushi on that one. To my credit, I did lay out how Jay White had two paths, both based on the way the 2014 G1 Climax played out. He could be Tanahashi, who lost in the main event, losing the 2014 A block in an unprecedented manner. He could have been Okada, who faced the same situation but won, securing the 2014 B block. I chose path B. Tomohiro Ishii took care of that, dumped the ice water on his head, and went straight to the back.

Without hesitation, I look again to the past in order to predict the present. But history is an interpretive social science, so I’ll be logically interpreting the historical trends to align with the context presented in G1 Climax 31.

In simpler terms, I’ll be hedging like crazy.

The G1 Climax 31 Final Night Statistically Likely Scenarios

The Statistically Likely Scenario is the most logically probably confluence of Realistic Outright Win Scenarios in a block, based upon the clear historical trends.

Realistic Outright Win Scenarios are the cleanest, most coherent, least labyrinthine paths wrestlers have to solely win a block. That covers the outright win part. The “realistic” part comes in the fundamental, philosophical abhorrence of the following things, things which should never, ever, ever, ever happen on the final night of a prestigious tournament in a fake sport:

  • Double DQ’s
  • Double Count-outs
  • No Contests
  • Unbreakable ties requiring secondary tiebreakers like “record against next highest-ranked common opponent.” If New Japan ever does his, fuck everything.

Basically, ROWS states that on a block final night, every match will result in points of some kind, and one wrestler will have prevailed by the end of the night. Thus, wrestlers two points behind a main eventer that they have already lost to: eliminated. If that person is down a point? They’d need to win and have the main event end in a draw. Stuff like that.

And, because ROWS only acknowledges outright wins, situations like we see in this year’s A Block completely ignore draws. Draws in this context would only result in unbreakable ties. Draws go right in the fucking bin, and if New Japan does them then the company (Gedo, Sugabayashi, Kevin Kelly for promulgating this Sad Lie, etc.)… all in the bin.

The G1 Climax 31 Realistic Outright Win Scenario RunDown

    • A-Block
      • In Main Event: Kota Ibushi at 12
        • To win, Kota Ibushi needs to defeat KENTA and have Zack Sabre Jr. lose.
        • Kota Ibushi held the tiebreaker over Shingo Takagi. He had lost to Zack Sabre Jr.
      • In Main Event: KENTA at 12
        • To win, KENTA needs to defeat Kota Ibushi and have Shingo Takagi lose.
        • Kota Ibushi held the tiebreaker over Zack Sabre Jr.. He had lost to Shingo Takagi
      • Outside Main Event: Shingo Takagi at 12
        • To win, Shingo Takagi needs to defeat Yujiro Takahashi, have KENTA defeat or draw Kota Ibushi, and have Zack Sabre Jr lose. 
        • Shingo Takagi held the tiebreaker over KENTA. He had lost to Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr.
      • Outside Main Event: Zack Sabre Jr at 12
          • To win, Zack Sabre Jr. needs to defeat Tanga Loa and have KENTA defeat Kota Ibushi.
          • Zack Sabre Jr held the tiebreaker over both Kota Ibushi and Shingo Takagi. He had lost to KENTA.
      • Outside Main Event: Tomohiro Ishii at 10.
        • Tomohiro Ishii had lost to both Kota Ibushi and KENTA, who each held a two-point advantage over him.  Therefore, any result in the final would have eliminated him. He could not have realistically won outright
    • B-Block
      • In Main Event: Jeff Cobb at 16
        • To win, Jeff Cobb needs to defeat or draw Kazuchika Okada
      • In Main Event: Kazuchika Okada at 14
        • To win, Kazuchika Okada needs to defeat Jeff Cobb

The Statistically Likely Scenario for A-Block:

  • Zack Sabre Jr loses, making way for the Ibushi-KENTA final to be winner-take-all.
  • Shingo Takagi loses as well, for the same reason and also because champions almost never win on the block final night.
  • Kota Ibushi defeats KENTA, being the stronger booked of the two.
  • Kota Ibushi wins the block with 14 points.

The Logic-Adjusted Statistically Likely Scenario for A Block:

  • Zack Sabre Jr loses, making way for the Ibushi-KENTA final to be winner-take-all.
  • Shingo Takagi defeats Yujiro Takahashi. While champions usually lose on the final night (10 out of 11 times since 2010), and this result would eliminate KENTA before the main event (which, I stress, has never happened before in this situation), there are a few factors that mitigate these overwhelming trends in Shingo’s favor:
    • 1: The one champion’s victory came outside the main event, by AJ Styles in 2014. Shingo’s situation mimics this.
    • 2: How in the fucking world is Shingo Takagi losing to Yujiro fucking Takashi with any kind of stakes on the line?
  • Kota Ibushi defeats KENTA, being the stronger booked of the two.
    • Also, the high likelihood of Shingo Takagi defeating Yujiro Takahashi puts Shingo at 14 points. At that point, a KENTA victory over Ibushi gives Shingo the block, with KENTA and Shingo tied at 14 and Shingo holding the tiebreaker.
    • The question: are they honestly going to book a champion to win their G1 Climax block… passively? He’s the fucking champion! And champions are eternal, like the dude from the future with the Tron glasses and light beam wristband, or the dude with the lion face, or the wizard dude, or the hot chick that’s clearly ripping off Sonya Blade, or the detective guy, or the sea creature bro, or why in the hell did I spend such a noticeable chunk of my early life trying to figure out the exact spots to trigger the stage-specific fatalities?
  • Kota Ibushi wins the block with 14 points.

The Statistically Likely Scenario for B-Block:

  • Kazuchika Okada defeats Jeff Cobb, being not only the stronger booked wrestler in this G1 Climax but also the trailing wrestler in a winner-take-all block final. Since 2010:
    • 19 out of 22 block final main events (or final block matches in double-block nights) were winner-take-all by the time the match began. That would be 86% of all G1 block final matches over an 11-year period.
    • 12 of those 19 matches involved one wrestler trailing the other, 63% of winner-take-all main events.
    • Those trailing have an 11-0-1 record, a 95.83% winning percentage. The one draw was Tanahashi-Okada in 2018
  • Kazuchika Okada wins the block with 16 points.

The Logic-Adjusted Statistically Likely Scenario for B-Block:

  • Exactly the same as above. As cool as it would be to see Cobb run the table, and as much as one would like to dismiss the pertinence of Okada getting the nod here (considering how bloated Wrestle Kingdom has become), it seems almost certain that Okada continues the statistical trend of trailing wrestlers prevailing in the winner-takes-all.
  • Kazuchika Okada wins the block with 16 points

Some thoughts:

Shingo
The Champions Advantage, Until It Isn’t

Something unusual is going to happen on the A Block final night. The question is: what will it be, or will it be… all of it?

For Shingo, being the champion is a blessing on Nights 1-16. Champions rarely lose. In particular, since 2015 champions (or, essentially: Okada) in the G1 Climax average 12.67 points. That’s a 6-3 record at minimum. Shingo has pretty much reached that already, having gone 8 and 8 the previous two years.

Champions don’t lose unless it has a purpose. In the G1 Climax as we know it (post-2010), the champion was in the main event 8 out of 11 times. The three times outside the main event were 2013A (Okada – lost to Kojima), 2014B (Styles – beat Makabe), and 2020B (Naito – lost to KENTA). This isn’t something they normally do. And when they do, the champion still loses 67% of the time. So how can we be so sure Shingo wins?

Because it’s Yujiro fucking Takahashi on the other side.

Who do champions lose to on block final nights? In order: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito, Karl Anderson… Ok, fine. So maybe Yujiro has a chance. The rest of the list is Satoshi Kojima, Styles beat Makabe, Shinsuke Nakamura, Okada drew with Tanahashi, Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, Kota Ibushi, and KENTA.

The Anderson thing… that was a block final main event, so it’s not exactly the same circumstances. Anderson also, eventually, got a title shot at Tanahashi. It’s simply unfathomable that Yujiro Takahashi defeats IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Shingo Takagi. I just don’t foresee how that could happen. I mean, what could possibly happen that would give Yujiro such a tragic victory. Imagine Yujiro pulling this off.

Why, it would be torture.

KENTA
When a Wrestler Invites Infamy, and It Finally Accepts

So let’s assume Shingo wins. That puts him at 14, and eliminates KENTA. That might not seem like a big deal, except…

That sort of thing has never happened before.

In this 2010-2020 data set, if a main eventer started the night with a chance to win, they always started the match with a chance to win. That would be: 41 out of 44 main events. The other three were mathematically eliminated before the night began (2014A, 2014B, 2020A). Why?

Because those that start a block final night with a chance to win the block (that is, people with tiebreakers over the main eventers) do not have a good track record:

  • This situation has occurred 32 times since 2010. 32 wrestlers in that timeframe have gone into the block final night, either single or double block nights, with a chance to win the block but finding themselves outside the main event,
  • Their record: 4-26-2. A 15.63 winning percentage.

The draw was between, incredibly, the Mutoh-allergic Go Shiozaki and sports entertainer/Champion of the Continents/Guitar wank sideman Shinsuke Nakamura. This happened in 2010, and actually put both of those men in the lead before the main event (at 9 points), which saw Satoshi Kojima defeat Hirooki Goto to win the block (at 10 points).  The victories were Shinsuke Nakamura in 2014A, Hirooki Goto in 2016A, and Kota Ibushi last year in 2020A.

It’s still mind-boggling that Hirooki Goto somehow came out on top of something.

But, to be clear, those four victories and one draw did not eliminate anyone in the main events. Each of the four victories put the winner two points ahead of the main event leader. The draw put Shiozaki and Nakamura one point ahead of Kojima.

If Shingo defeats Yujiro, he will eliminate KENTA. KENTA would only be able to tie Shingo at 14 points, and he already lost to Shingo. KENTA would be out, despite being in the main event later that night. This has never happened. History would be made by KENTA in that sense. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that history was made by Shingo.

Who, by the way, got one over on KENTA, who is the best promo in wrestling:

Cobb and Okada
When Two Men Clear the Field (Which Isn’t Uncommon!)

The only sane interpretation of B Block is that Jeff Cobb and Kazuchika Okada should have both gone 8-0 and went into the B Block Final night tied at 16 points. Firstly, that’s an unprecedented situation that may, possibly, conceivably, theoretically, act as a catalyst for some kind of paroxysm of inspiration. I have a sneaking suspicion that more people are following this G1 than the opprobrious nadir of public silence would suggest, but a clash of undefeateds would certainly spark more public response than the month-long flaccid stillness.

On a more poetic note, the block finalists carry the collective willpower, adamantine passions, and substantive credibility of the people that they have beaten along the way. The G1 Climax 31 B Block might be the best possible block to carry through in that regard. 9 out of the ten competitors in B Block are going to surpass  2:00:00 mark in total ringtime, the most ever from one block. If Chase Owens vs. YOSHI-HASHI hit the 19-minute mark, all ten will have surpassed that once mythical threshold.

This block has been defined by a recalcitrant, pertinacious zeal to prove that motherfuckers like me are clueless simpletons for doubting their prowess (which I haven’t actually done… the opposite in almost all cases, but I am indeed very similar to motherfuckers like me, so I’m a good stand-in). YOSHI-HASHI, our Holy Emperor Yokozuna Taichi, Tama Tonga (who just shocked the whole goddamn world and ruined everything, or else this section wouldn’t even exist), and Chase Owens. Even SANADA, EVIL for the middle 75% of his matches, Tanahashi to some degree… this is a yeoman’s block, beyond even the spectacular ones we’ve witnessed in recent years.

Imagine both Okada and Cobb carrying the weight, the substantial avoirdupois of that earnest sincerity and ardently incandescent passion? That would be one hell of a block final, at a time when New Japan desperately needs that sort of gimmickry to drum up more vociferous coverage. As far as pandemic-induced gimmickry goes, I’ll take it a thousand times over moreso than, I dunno, just a random thought here, something insane like a guy using the point of a staircase to maim another person’s eyeball. Just spitballing here, maybe that victim had just recovered from being tossed unceremoniously off the headquarters of a publicly traded billion-dollar company mere months prior. In comparison, two strongly booked wrestlers facing each other in a high-stakes tournament final main event seems very inviting.

So, why have we been deprived of this scenario? Why is Okada sitting at 14 points, chasing Cobb’s 16 points, instead of both wrestlers tied at 16, both chasing perfect runs?

Because that’s how New Japan likes it. It’s really that simple.

As shown above, New Japan runs a winner-take-all block final where one wrestler trails the other around 55% of the time since 2010. The trailing wrestler has a 95.83% winning percentage, and has never lost in that scenario.

And so, Okada is trailing because the New Japan house style is to have a block winner come from behind to win the block. This is a prime example of a situation where they should toss that house style in store and just go for the gusto, especially considering that it doesn’t fucking matter, everyone else but them is already eliminated.

But how often does that happen? Sometimes I hear it said that New Japan doesn’t clear out a block before the final night. It’s true that they usually don’t… but they do more often than you remember.

Since 2010:

  • No block was cleared out before the final night in the 2010-2014 period
  • Since 2015, they’ve produced 6 examples of block final nights where only the main eventers were alive: 2015A, 2015B, 2017A, 2017B, 2019A, and now 2021B.
  • In the previous 5 examples:
    • 3 times one wrestler trailed another
      • 2015B: Okada at 14, Nakamura at 12 (Nakamura victory)
      • 2017B: Okada at 13, Omega at 12 (Omega victory)
      • 2019A: Okada at 14, Ibushi at 12 (Ibushi victory)
    • 2 times the wrestlers were tied
      • 2015A: Tanahashi and Styles both at 12 (Tanahashi victory)
      • 2017A: Tanahashi and Naito both at 12 (Naito victory)

With Cobb at 16 and Okada at 14, the historical trends do not favor Cobb.

Imagine how awesome it would be, how made Jeff Cobb would be, if he beats Kazuchika Okada, again, in a G1 Block Final, to run the table in a G1 Climax block. 9-0. Then he avenges his loss to Ibushi in the G1 Climax Final, and coasts through the short turn-around towards Wrestle Kingdom, vowing to avenge his loss to Shingo Takagi at Wrestle Kingdom 15. For the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. Holy Fuck.

That’s my way of hedging, if they have the guts to do this. But, as shown, history is not on Jeff Cobb’s side.

That’s one thing you learn about history, after suffering through a degree or two in it: history doesn’t repeat, because history never stopped. It just keeps going, and everything that happens is just part of that ceaseless perpetual motion.

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