If you would like to gander at the document from which this article is based, and which yearly stretches the author to a molecular level of sanity, please follow this link.

For the first time, it’s the Best of the Super Juniors setting the template for the G1 Climax to follow:

  • An eclectic set of wrestlers from multiple promotions and generations
  • Shorter, tighter match times
  • Matches with clear, forthright concepts
  • An endearing comradery on display

The Super Juniors have increasingly grown into a G1 Climax like affair in the structuring, not coincidentally aligning with the shift towards the Best of the Super Juniors towards a G1-like two-block/one-match final format in 2015 (and main eventing their own shows, and not shamefully being stuffed underneath a totally irrelevant multi-man heavyweight tag man event). But this year, they got the jump on the G1 Climax right at the point where things appear to be nudging away from the castastrophe’s of the last two years.

If anything, it’s the wrestlers having fun in the ring and sharing the fun with us, acknowledging the alacrity. Take, for instance, ELP’s reaction to his and DOUKI’s recreation of the famous Sasuke-Liger spot, like a less embarrassing version of Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, or like a version of the Beauty and the Beast remake with an on-key “Belle.”

We can’t really adequately capture how ELP expressed this. It was a combination of bemused and blithe, as ELP progresses a remarkably patient, nuanced face turn. It highlights how powerful it is for a wrestler or commentator to simply be honest about what happened in the ring, to engage with us as participants.

This has been a delightful, effervescent, galvanizing Best of the Super Juniors. Now that we’ve reached the final night, we can examine the historical trends and data to analyze the progression of the tournament and weight the chances of the wrestlers still alive on Night 12.

Still a Junior G1, But Not Entirely

Looking at the final night of Best of the Super Juniors 29, the notion that the Best of the Super Juniors is a truly G1-esque junior tournament is both reinforced and amended. It maintains the overall, tournament-wide booking patterns that have been in place since the G1 Climax moved to the double-block/one-match final format. But it also shows a clear distinction from G1 Climax trends in how the final night is constructed and executed. Basically:

  1. Like the G1 Climax, Best of the Super Juniors booking has a clear pattern: placing the strongest booked wrestlers in the block final. That is, there are increasingly less unpredictability in the long-term booking, and less unorthodox choices for a block final match.
    1. For instance, this year, the block final participants are Taiji Ishimori (4th in card placement average), Hiromu Takahashi (2nd), El Phantasmo (5th), and El Desperado (1st)
    2. Compare that to Best of the Super Juniors 23 (2016), which saw KUSHIDA (1st), BUSHI (7th), Volador, Jr (9th), and Will Ospreay (4th)
  2. Like the G1 Climax, the winner of the block almost always is the winner of the block final match.
  3. Unlike the G1 Climax, the Best of the Super Juniors places those block final match wrestlers in different scenario contexts.
    1. For instance, in the Best of the Super Juniors the block final is not always a winner-take-all. This almost always happens in the G1 Climax.
    2. In the Best of the Super Juniors we rarely see a wrestler win a block when trailing going into the final night. On the other hand, the fucking love that story in the G1 Climax.
    3. In the Best of the Super Juniors, a wrestler with an outright lead on the block has a significantly better chance of winning the block than in the G1 Climax. In the G1 Climax, the outright leader heading into the final night has a better chance of losing than winning. As in, they lose 94% of the time.

The Best of the Super Juniors has a history of bizarre, convoluted final night scenarios. Since the format switch in 2015, many blocks have seen labyrinthine complications, taken to the extreme in 2017’s B Block when literally every single wrestler in the block was tied, each one of the eight having a path to victory when the night began. It’s pretty clear the Best of the Super Juniors is, at times, a New Japan booking experiment.

Thankfully, this year there is no aberrantly eccentric scenario nonsense. It’s one of the most straightforward ones we’ve seen in years. Let’s look at those scenarios through our Realistic Outright Win Scenario concept.

The Realistic Outright Win Scenario

The Realistic Outright Win Scenarios (ROWS) is the sequence of events that must happen for a wrestler to be the sole winner of a block.

“Realistic,” in this case, means that we only acknowledge events that are likely to happen. “Unrealistic” events are those that would confuse or antagonize the fans, and thus would be illogical to book.

ROWS follows these two basic concepts:

  • Unbreakable ties are unrealistic; one winner will emerge as the victor of a block
  • Each match on the final night will result in positive points of some kind; Outright Win Scenarios that require zero-point contests are therefore considered unrealistic.
    • Double-countouts were previously viewed as unrealistic, thought to be a zero-point “no-contest” type finish. Shingo Takagi v. Yujiro Takahashi proved this incorrect in 2021. DCO’s are worth one point.
    • It is uncertain whether double-disqualifications would be treated the same.

This is the ROWS Scenario sequence for Best of the Super Juniors 29:

Best of the Super Juniors 29 (2022)

  • A Block
    • In Block Final Match: Taiji Ishimori (C) at 12 points
      • Realistic Outright Win Scenario: Taiji Ishimori needed to defeat or draw Hiromu Takahashi.
    • In Main Event: Hiromu Takahashi at 10 points
      • Realistic Outright Win Scenario: Hiromu Takahashi needed to defeat Taiji Ishimori.
  • B Block
    • In Main Event: El Phantasmo at 12 points.
      • Realistic Outright Win Scenario: El Phantasmo needed to defeat or draw El Desperado.
        • El Phantasmo had already lost to Robbie Eagles
    • In Main Event: El Desperado at 10 points.
      • Realistic Outright Win Scenario: El Desperado needed to defeat El Phantasmo and have Robbie Eagles defeat or draw Titan.
        • El Desperado had already lost to Robbie Eagles
    • Outside Main Event: Robbie Eagles at 10 points.
      • Realistic Outright Win Scenario: Robbie Eagles needed to defeat Titan and have El Desperado defeat El Phantasmo.
        • Robbie Eagles held the tiebreaker over El Phantasmo and El Desperado.

Sensible Booking… At This Time, At Least

In most years, even in the G1 Climax, there are at least the potential for unbreakable ties. As noted above, we don’t recognize such things. Even so, they usually exist, if you’re looking for a bit of meaninglessly abstract fun. We just don’t believe in acknowledging something that will never happen.

If such a thing ever did occur, someone should probably check Mr.  Official’s bank statements and burner phones. Some nefarious entity would surely have to be behind such insanity. Surely, they need something to do without trick-or-treating. No sensible booker would have their trademark tournament come down to fourth-level tiebreakers.

But in Best of the Super Juniors 29, there isn’t even the possibility of unbreakable ties, even with the potential for draws. Someone is going to win outright, and it will be determined solely on wins and losses.

This represents the trend of the Best of the Super Juniors to be decidedly more G1 Climax-esque in scheduling these situations: significantly less fuckery.

This is a far cry from Best of the Super Juniors 22 (2015), when the block final match of A Block had one wrestler mathematically eliminated going into the final night (Chase Owens), and a B Block final match where both wrestlers were mathematically eliminated (Bobby Fish and Nick Jackson).

Consider that when you see images like this from the Ota Ward show on Night 11, where Robbie Eagles headlined the show with El Desperado. Look at the amount of merchandise you see for Despy in the crowd, and ponder how a mere seven-year ago that this thing was disrespected enough to have totally pointless block final matches:

That said, the B Block final match in 2015 is understandable; the block final match was supposed to be KUSHIDA v. Alex Shelley, but this was the Best of the Super Juniors in which Shelly was injured on Night 1 and forfeited the rest of the tournament. That is to say, KUSHIDA stands as the only person in the modern G1 Climax or Best of the Super Juniors to win a block by forfeit.

In 2016, KUSHIDA was once again engulfed in balderdash beyond his control. That year, he was in the A Block final match against BUSHI. Now, being in a high-level match against BUSHI is already an ignominious shame, but it was even worse in this case because BUSHI was, as usual, mathematically eliminated going into the final night.

KUSHIDA only had to win the match against the loathsome lucha hipster to win the block; he lost, and vile grundle smear Ryusuke Taguchi won the block from the undercard.

From there, things stabilize significantly. That said, it’s not entirely a junior G1 Climax in how they set these things up. Let’s look at how the historical data portends for our final night contenders.

Historical Chances: Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo

Obviously, the biggest issue for Ishimori is that the champion has never won Best of the Super Juniors since the 2015 switch to two-block/one-match final format. And quite frankly, it would be completely fucking stupid if a champion ever did. Unless they change the “winner is the immediate number one contender” aspect, the champion is going to lose.

What works in his favor, and Phantasmo’s, is that they are leading their blocks outright. This is a good position to be in if you are in the Best of the Super Juniors.

Since 2015, there have been 12 Best of the Super Juniors blocks

In seven out of these twelve blocks, the block final match contained the wrestler with the outright block lead. In four of these seven-block final matches, the leader won.

  • Best of the Super Juniors 22 (2015) A Block – Ryusuke Taguchi lost
  • Best of the Super Juniors 23 (2016) B Block – KUSHIDA lost
  • Best of the Super Juniors 23 (2016) B Block – Volador, Jr. lost
  • Best of the Super Juniors 25 (2018) A Block – Taiji Ishimori won
  • Best of the Super Juniors 26 (2019) A Block – Shingo Takagi won
  • Best of the Super Juniors 27 (2020) – El Desperado won
  • Best of the Super Juniors 28 (2021) – Hiromu Takahashi won

Now, 57% might not seem like an impressive number. It’s barely above a coin flip. 57% isn’t even enough of a majority to pass meaningful legislation in a civilized country. And so, the odds are in the favor or Ishimori and Phantasmo, but is it worth mentioning when the margin is that slim?

Yes, yes it is, when you compare it to the G1 Climax.

New Japan’s Allergy to Leaders Closing Out Their Block… Except for Best of the Super Juniors

Since 2010, double the data timeframe, the G1 Climax has seen 24 blocks over this 12-year span. In 24 of those blocks, there has been an outright block leader in the final block match 16 times. That leader has won exactly… once. A 6% win percentage. A 57% win percentage looks pretty goddamn delectable in comparison.

Also, take note that the four victories have been the last four chances. There’s a bit of a streak going for wrestlers in a block final match with the outright lead.

What goes against Ishimori and Phantasmo? Well, the contexts.

In two of those four wins by an outright leader in Best of the Super Juniors, the leader was facing an eliminated opponent. Of course, that doesn’t make any fucking sense, considering that, as WWE helpfully pointed out recently, this is all scripted live television. And yet, for some reason, in the following scenarios there was an eliminated wrestler in the block final match:

  • In Best of the Super Juniors 28 (2018), block leader Taiji Ishimori faced the eliminated YOH
    • To note, this was years before YOH came to the ring wearing quilted overalls and whose gimmick is “catatonic facial expression guy”
  • In Best of the Super Juniors 27 (2020), block leader El Desperado faced the eliminated BUSHI.
    • While placing BUSHI in a match of such consequence is usually ground for phoning Den Haag, in this case it didn’t matter because this was a single-bock pandemic year; the block final match had less importance because two wrestlers would advance from the block.

On that note, another one of the wins was in Best of the Super Juniors 28 (2021), when Hiromu Takahashi defeated Robbie Eagles. Again, this was single-block pandemic bollocks. If Eagles won the match, he would have moved on to the final, but everything is thrown asunder by the “two wrestlers from one block” advance format. Either way, Hiromu could have been knocked out with a loss, but he won.

The one solid outright leader victory was in Best of the Super Juniors 26 (2019), when Shingo Takagi ran the table and defeated Taiji Ishimori. That is the example Ishimori, and his tag team partner, hope to follow. A simple victory where the leader goes into the block final match and wins to move on.

It’s technically only happened once out of twelve times, but the success rate is 100%!

Historical Chances: Hiromu Takahashi and El Desperado

On the flip end of this are the leviathans of the junior division, former dojo mates El Desperado and Hiromu Takahashi.

As noted above, it’s not exactly good to be facing the block leaders in a block final match of Best of the Super Juniors. That said, it’s not all bad.

Since 2015, there have been three blocks out of twelve where a wrestler went into the block final match trailing the leader, facing the leader, and with a chance for winning the block:

  • Best of the Super Juniors 23 (2016) B Block – Will Ospreay won
  • Best of the Super Juniors 26 (2019) A Block – Taiji Ishimori lost
  • Best of the Super Juniors 28 (2021) – Robbie Eagles lost

That is, once out of three times the trailing wrestler lost against the leader in the block final match. 33% seems like pretty bad chances, but when you look a little closer and compare things to the G1 Climax… actually, it looks exponentially worse.

New Japan’s Love Affair with the Comeback Story… Except in Best of the Super Juniors

In the G1 Climax, since 2010, there have been 24 blocks. In twelve of those blocks, a wrestler has gone into the block final match trailing the leader, but facing the leader and having the chance to win the block. So already, we’re looking at 50% of the time this scenario happens in the G1 Climax versus 25% of the time in Best of the Super Juniors.

The number of times that wrestler beat the leader in the block final to claim the block?

Twelve times. All fucking twelve times. A 100% win percentage. They love that story.

So not only is the Super Juniors unique in that the booking doesn’t usually go for these come-from-behind stories, Super Juniors is singular in having the come-from-behind story fucking fail. This is truly the anti-Disney of this reality.

Those two losses are different, though. In Best of the Super Juniors 26 (2019), Taiji Ishimori faced a Shingo Takagi that ran the goddamn table and achieve a perfect 9-0 Super Juniors run. That said, consider what all of this means:

  • Shingo Takagi ran the table with a perfect record in 2019
  • Taiji Ishimori faced him on the final night with a chance to win the block
  • That means that Taiji Ishimori was 7-1 when that match began

That said, he faced the leader down by two points and lost. A historic win for Takagi, for sure, and precedent that the come-from-behind victory is meaningless to the Super Juniors. Especially compared to the G1 Climax.

Consider the block final between Jeff Cobb and Kazuchika Okada in G1 Climax 31 (2021). Instead of doing the sensible thing and having both wrestlers go into the block final 8-0, they had Okada lose to Tama Tonga. They are that committed to the come-from-behind plot device that they spoiled the chance for a perfect record, whereas the Super Juniors sacrificed a come-from-behind story to solidify a perfect record.

In Best of the Super Juniors 28 (2021), Robbie Eagles lost to block leader Hiromu Takahashi. Again, this is a strange one because it was a single-block format. If Eagles won, he would have been guaranteed a spot in the final, but also would have instigated an unbreakable tie between Hiromu Takahashi and El Desperado, who were tied for the lead.

The bright spot for Desperomu is Will Ospreay’s campaign in Best of the Super Juniors 23 (2016). Going into the final night, Ospreay trailed block leader Volador Jr. by two points, 8 points to 6. Ospreay defeated Volador to win the block. That is what Desperado and Hiromu are hoping for this year.

Historical Chances: Robbie Eagles

Things look good for Robbie Eagles, on paper at least. He is trailing El Phantasmo, and he’s outside the block final match, but he holds the tiebreaker over both men. Yes, he needs El Phantasmo to specifically lose, so he doesn’t control his destiny fully, but it’s a favorable path to victory.

Yet, a closer look to history shows that the trends do not favor him. In fact, if he wins the block in this manner, he’d be the first wrestler to ever accomplish it under these conditions.

First, the bad news for Robbie Eagles: the Best of the Super Juniors increasingly follows the G1 Climax trend of having winner-take-all final block matches.

Winner-Take-All Block Final Match Regularity in Best of the Super Juniors vs. G1 Climax

Picking up from the Best of the Super Juniors 23 (2016) block final match, there are ten blocks:

  • Two each in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019
  • One block in both 2020 and 2021 due to the world’s infected cataclysm

In nine of those ten blocks, the winner of the block has come from the block final match. In six of those ten blocks, the match was winner-take-all when the match began. That is, either no one else beside the block final match participants had a chance to win the block, or anyone with a tiebreak.

Now, 60% of block final matches being winner take all looks baleful for Eagles, but this is where we have to compare Best of the Super Juniors historical data to G1 Climax historical data.

Over the same period, we see 12 blocks in the G1 Climax, two per year over seven years. Of those twelve blocks, eleven were winner-take-all when the match began. Only once did someone outside the main event have a chance when the block final match began.

That’s 8%. 92% of the time in the current G1 Climax set-up, the block final has been winner-take-all when the match began. Compared to the 60% of the Super Juniors blocks during that time, that seems quite propitious for the Sniper of the Skies.

And, of course, that one outlier, the one person outside a block final who had a chance to win their block when the block final started: Kota Ibushi in G1 Climax 30 (2020). Jay White was facing the mathematically eliminated Tomohiro Ishii, White lost, and Ibushi cashed his ticket to Wrestle Kingdom 15. Ibushi would win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at that event, setting off one of the most depressing and demoralizing 18-months we’ve seen in a wrestler’s career.

In the Super Juniors, though, things look less auspicious for Eagles when you examine exactly how these scenarios play out. For one, even though the block final match is not a winner-take-all as often in Super Juniors, that doesn’t mean that the people outside the block final match have a better chance of winning the block.

Chances of Those Outside the Block Final Match in Best of the Super Juniors

As noted, since 2016, nine out of ten winners come from the block final match. 90%. That is what Eagles is fighting against. And not only that, the one person to win the block when outside the final match was Ryusuke Taguchi. That modern tragedy is described above.

If we do stretch back fully to 2015, that adds two more outside-the-block-final block winners. It still does not match Eagles Best of the Super Juniors 29 scenario.

In the 2015 A Block, Ryusuke Taguchi went into the final match with the outright lead in his block. He was tied with Kyle O’Reilly at ten points, but held the head-to-head tiebreaker. Taguchi lost in the block final match to Chase Owens, which gave Kyle O’Reilly the dark horse block victory.

That looks good for Eagles, except that Taguchi was facing a mathematically eliminated opponent in Chase Owens. El Phantasmo is not facing a mathematically eliminated opponent; El Desperado, at ten points, has a logically hopeful chance of winning the block if he defeats ELP. We have never seen a scenario play out, in Best of the Super Juniors or G1 Climax, where a wrestler outside the block final match wins the block under this set of conditions:

  • A wrestler in the block final match is leading the block
  • The other wrestler in the block final match, while trailing the leader, can still win the block
  • The person outside the block final match is trailing as well

If Eagles pulls this off, coming from behind while outside the block final match, it would be unprecedented.

One last historical tidbit that does work in Eagles’ favor: that incredulously elaborate Best of the Super Juniors 24 (2017) B Block.

Block Final Match Participants Being Eliminated Before the Block Final Match in Best of the Super Juniors

As noted, every one of the eight competitors went into the final night tied, and each one had a path to victory. Incredibly, each matchup saw wrestlers with exactly converse win-loss records. That is:

  • Obviously, everyone facing off on the final night of a round robin tournament has faced the exact same slate of wrestlers
  • In this case, their win-loss records mirrored each other:
    • Let’s say on that night Wrestler A faced Wrestler B
    • If Wrestler A lost to wrestler’s C, D, and E, Wrestler B would have beaten them, and vice-versa.

Because of that set-up, it was impossible for both wrestlers in the block final match (KUSHIDA and Volador Jr.) to be in contention when the match started Someone in the block final match, that had a chance to win the block when the night began, was going to be eliminated by the time their block final match began.

This has never happened before, nor since, in the Best of the Super Juniors under the current format. It has never happened in the G1 Climax (since 2010, at least). Obviously, good booking sometimes means accepting the formulaic and rote. Yes, it may seem boring that these block final matches end up being winner-take-all; that is the price to pay for having block final matches of consequence. Which sentiment do you remember from the G1 Climax 26 (2016) B Block:

  • Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito had one of the greatest matches of all time in the B Block final match
  • Katsuyori Shibata lost in the undercard, a safe and predictable booking choice as his win would have eliminated Kenny Omega before the block final began

But, the unlikeliness and unrealistic nature of something is nullified if it happened just once. To Robbie Eagles credit, we at least have one instance of a block final match participant, who has a chance to win the block, being eliminated before the block final match begins. The percentages are small:

  • 8% of blocks since 2015 have seen this happen
  • 14% of wrestlers in a block final match since 2015 that had a chance to win the block were eliminated before the match began (one out of seven)

Final Thoughts

The fact that in seven years, we have only seen three potential come-from-behind victories, and now we are presented with come-from-behind victories, seems ominous for Desperado and Hiromu. It seems most likely that one of them will succeed, and one of them join the uniquely Super Juniors ranks of failed Cinderellas.

For the A Block, this is simple: Based on the historical data Hiromu Takahashi will most likely come-from behind and defeat Taiji Ishimori to win the block.

B Block is trickier.

To reiterate, if Eagles pulls this off, it would be unprecedented. It would also be oddly traditional compared to the outlandish nonsense above. Eagles would simply win his match and have the leader lose.

But once again, we can’t ignore the fact that this wouldn’t be a case of a block leader being upended up a mathematically irrelevant wrestler. Prelim ones, at that. This would require a loss by El Desperado in the block final. Desperado has carried this division and this Best of the Super Juniors:

  • Main eventing six out of nine possible nights
  • The clear #1 in ring time (currently at 2:09:13 total ring time. Eagles is second with 1:52:43)
  • The clear #1 in GRAPPL rating average (3.74 per match at time of this writing. Eagles again is second, at 3.64 per match)

It seems weird that the block final match would see the star of the division win the match, but not win the block. Since that’s the only path for Eagles to win, we can logically eliminate Eagles.

That said, a come-from-behind story is not only rare in the Super Juniors, we barely ever even see the conditions for it to occur. This year, we see those conditions in both blocks after a dearth the previous seven years. While this may hint at an unprecedented denouement, we we tend to side with the more supported historical trend:

Based on the Historical data, El Phantasmo will most likely defeat El Desperado. Robbie Eagles will most likely be defeated by Titan. El Phantasmo wins the block outright.

But then again, it’s Best of the Super Juniors. We look forward to being wrong, and historical trends being distorted.

As one of the participants, a personified rhinoceros with a Steve Irwin infatuation would say, let’s get fucking wild.

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