More G1 than G1

We’ve written for years now about the fervent transformation of the Best of the Super Juniors, nominally the Junior divisions G1 Climax, into a proper junior facsimile of the heavyweight tournament.

The effects of this year’s changes are, of course, interpretive. We personally loved the old G1 Climax vibe of seven double-block nights in eight days. Others were enervated and overwhelmed.  Likewise, we are not enamored with the Wild Card format where two wrestlers advance per block. We feel that it undermines the distinction of winning a block and vitiates the importance of the block final main event. Others are smitten with the peculiarity and capriciousness resulting from so many different scenarios.

The G1 Climax completely fucked over everything good and decent with their switch in 2022 to a format of four blocks, exacerbated by their helplessly detached, glacial, momentum-less scheduling. Maybe tossing a certain irascible dickhead into the basement wasn’t the best idea, if the result was mixed block nights with one match per block, per night. It was dreadful.

Best of the Super Juniors might have recaptured something of their own tradition with the four-man mini-tournament final format, but they also revitalized the G1 Climax tradition as well. Double block nights, and the crucial consequence of them:  equal pacing. Let alone the average match time of 9:44. When was the last time the G1 Climax had a match average that low?

Who knows (we actually do know)? My data only goes back to 2010. And going back to 2010, the shortest G1 Climax average match length was 10:22 in 2011.

Making Sense of Best of the Super Juniors 30’s Final Nights

For the projected volatility of the Wild Card system, it actually ends up being fairly easy deciphering the critical match-ups and potential avenues of each block. It really comes down to two things: Lio Rush and Mike Bailey in the A Block, and YOH and Master Wato in the B Block.

A Block
Lio Rush and Mike Bailey

Imagine if Lio found a home in Japan, any home, New Japan, All Japan, DDT, Dragongate, fucking anywhere but the Stamford Anti Water-weight Home for the Living Mummified in 2017. Look at his total control over the audience there, the innate connection he cultivates with every word. This guy was made for this system.

This one is, thankfully, simple. The winner of this match will advance, guaranteed. That seems intuitive, the sort of thing you’d strive for at least once a year in these round-robin tournaments… but in the Best of the Super Juniors, it is actually quite rare. Also rare? Just how fucking mind-melding it is, a flagrant detachment from common sense, that this match is the semi-main event and not the main event of the A Block final night.

Yes, obviously it makes sense to main event with your biggest star. We’re not sure what New Japan knows that informs them that Hiromu Takahashi vs. Titan has a larger business impact by being in the main event rather than the semi-main event. What we do know: it’s significantly worse from a round-robin narrative sense. Hiromu vs. Titan does not have considerable effect on Mike Bailey vs. Lio Rush. Whether Hiromu wins or Titan wins, Bailey vs. Rush will be for a playoff spot. If Hiromu vs. Titan is in the semi-main event slot, both wrestlers in the main event would remain alive, no matter what happens in the semi-main.

Not so with the way they’ve booked it. Poor Titan is in jeopardy. And by extension, so is Lio Rush.

If Mike Bailey Wins

  • Bailey wins the block with 14 points
  • Lio Rush is eliminated at 12 points, because any result in Hiromu vs. Titan is detrimental to him.
  • Hiromu Takahashi retains his chances of advancing at 13 (draw) or 14 points (win), but he can no longer win the block. Mike Bailey has the tiebreaker.
  • Titan retains his chances to advance with 12 points (win). He would hold the tiebreaker over both Hiromu and Rush in that scenario.

If Lio Rush Wins

  • Rush wins the block with 14 points
  • Mike Bailey retains his chances to advance at 12 points because he has the tiebreaker on both Hiromu and Titan, which means…
  • Titan is eliminated. His best result would be 12 points, tied with Mike Bailey who holds the tiebreaker.

So the question is, would they eliminate someone from the main event before the main event starts? Recent history emphatically says no.

There Is a Light, and It Never Should Go Out Before the Main Event Begins

We’ll delve into that topic a bit more in B Block, looking at winner-take-all finishes, but the underlying precept is that as the Best of the Super Juniors has become more G1 Climax-esque, and block final main events have been the clearest indicator.

And this goes beyond single and double block nights. The Best of the Super Juniors actually retained double blocks nights as a tour culmination in 2016 and 2018, well after they had switched to single block nights for the meat of the tour. In 2015, both block final matches contained wrestlers mathematically eliminated before the night even began, which was baffling even at the time. In 2016, the A Block also contained a mathematically eliminated wrestler, but the B Block was winner take all.

Since then, the booking has been overwhelmingly in favor of main events with still-alive competitors. Since 2015, 8 out of 14 final block matches have been that way, but the number really swings starting in 2018, If we take the last eight proper Best of the Super Juniors finals (including the pandemic 2020-2021), 6 out of 8 block final matches were between wrestlers that at least had a chance to win and/or advance. The outliers are 2018A, where YOH was in the bock final but mathematically eliminated, and 2020, where BUSHI was also eliminated before the final night.

The pandemic years give up instances where wrestlers clinched a finals appearance from underneath. But even then, it had no effect on the main event. In 2020, Hiromu clinched a spot in the single match final with a win over Wato on the undercard. El Desperado and BUSHI were the block final match; Desperado was unaffected by any outcome underneath, and, again, BUSHI was mathematically eliminated before the night even began. In 2021, YOH’s undercard win eliminated Robbie Eagles from winning the block, but Eagles still could have advanced if he beat Hiromu (Hiromu won the match to win the block).

To Rush’s advantage, the concept of a wrestler even being in position to eliminate someone is almost totally absent from the modern record. As far as we can decipher, it’s only even been possible twice since 2015:

  • 2017 B Block, where it was successfully done three times, because everyone in the block was tied going into the final night. Volador Jr was fuuucked.
  • 2021, where both Taiji Ishimori and El Desperado could have eliminated Robbie Eagles entirely, and both lost.

Of course, that was with a single match final. What did it look like in the preceding five years, from 2010-2014, which was a four-man mini-tournament final?

That’s the Difference Between First and Last Place

It looked like a fucking mess, that’s what it looked like. Adding the wild card element made things exponentially more labyrinthine. Block final matches were a mixed bag indeed. Here’s an example of what they looked like. See if you can spot a historical comparison to Rush vs. Bailey:

2010 A Block

  • Both wrestlers tied.
  • Kota Ibushi at 10 points and Davey Richards at 10 points.
  • Winner would win the block, the loser would be eliminated
  • Ibushi defeats Richards to win block

Alright, there we go, a historical comparison that fits nicely from the jump. Except, of course, the fact that Bailey vs. Rush is not the main event or the block final match. To find a historical comparison that fits this situation, we must keep going.

And here comes some fuckery, in the very next block:

2010 B Block

  • Both wrestlers tied.
  • Ryusuke Taguchi at 8 points and Koji Kanemoto at 8 points.
  • A prior result eliminated both from winning the block. The winner would advance in second place.
  • Taguchi defeats Kanemoto to advance

This is the most common theme that emerges from this early Gedo era Best of the Super Juniors booking. I could go through the next eight blocks from 2011-2014, but trust me, it’s a real soul-shattering experience. Of the twenty wrestlers that participated in the ten block final matches between 2010-2014, 16 had no chance of winning their block when the block final match began. 10 were eliminated from winning the block due to a match result earlier on the card, and six came into the final night already incapable of winning the block. Again, that doesn’t mean they were totally eliminated, just that they were playing for second place.

The outliers? There are four:

  • Kota Ibushi won the block final match to win his block outright in 2010A
  • Kota Ibushi repeated the feat again the next year in 2011B (Omega lost in the 2011A block final match, blowing a Golden Lovers final).
  • Davey Richards, as noted above, lost the winner-take-all final to Ibushi in the 2010A block final match.
  • And in the 2014A block final match, all BUSHI had to do was win the match and he would win the block. Of course, BUSHI fucking sucks and BUSHI fucking lost to Ricochet
    • Ricochet could not win the block due to KUSHIDA winning earlier in the night. For the record, Ricochet earned second place and advanced. BUSHI sulked back to his walk-in nail polish chamber.

What insight does this give us into the 2023 Best of the Super Juniors, which resurrected this format?

As noted, the most common occurrence was a block final match in which each participant either:

  • Began the match unable to win their block due to a prior result
  • Began the night unable to win their block

The former situation applies to both block’s main event denouements. In the A Block, Titan is particularly vulnerable, as shown above. In the B Block, there is a slight chance that Robbie Eagles could be eliminated from winning the block, and possibly eliminated altogether, if both YOH and Master Wato win their matches.

And so, it is indeed possible that Lio Rush could win and the intrigue of Hiromu vs. Titan is whether or not Hiromu can advance. But it seems unlikely. Whatever they did back in 2014, they don’t do now

That Was Yesterday… TODAY Is Here

But that’s not going to happen, because there’s one critical difference between the Wild Card format of 2010-2014 and 2023: single block nights. As noted above, Best of the Super Juniors blocks were segregated into single block nights starting in 2016. And thus, Block Final Matches became Block Final Main Events.

That’s a huge difference. This is where we start to see more winner-take-all finals, possible the G1 Climax booking staple. As we’ll explore in the B Block preview, the prevalence of winner take all finals went from 10% between 2010-2014 and 50% from 2015-2022. If we’re counting the last two traditional Best of the Super Juniors, 2019 and 2022, they did it four out of four times. This year, it could be 50%, 100%, or 0%. Hiromu and Titan will battle for A Block, and at best a spot in the semi-finals could be on the line for both (if you consider that a winner-take-all scenario, which gets dicey in these wild card formats). In the B Block, Desperado and Eagles might be for the outright block win if certain conditions occur (see below).

The stakes are elevated when the blocks have to stand on their own, and so the traditional block final night narrative so firmly entrenched in the G1 Climax diffused into the Best of the Super Juniors. It may seem formulaic, but alternative is to be enigmatic for the sake of being enigmatic. Best to deliver a hot match that absorbs all the equity and credibility stored up in a block throughout the entire tournament.

Any number of situations could unfold, but any that completely eliminate a block final main eventer before that match is probably not happening. It’s an interesting thought to hold: is there a playoff wild card format playbook, one that treats all matches equally, with block final match main eventers bereft of the booking shield they’ve donned for years? And will New Japan revert to it above their recent booking trends? Obviously we’ve never seen this situation before: the two-man-advance format in a proper single block night armature.

We’ll explore the data on this a bit more in the B Block preview, but the answer is pretty clear: the recent historic trend should hold. They are not going to have a main event, let alone an all-LIJ main event that includes the IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion, with diluted stakes.

A Block
Hiromu Takahashi and Titan

This is a fun intra-faction match, though it is almost unfathomable that Titan wins.

There is not a goddamn chance they are running the semi-finals in Yoyogi with Hiromu Takahashi in one of the matches. In fact, there’s a good chance they will main event with Hiromu vs. El Desperado. And if that seems like a waste, consider that they ran Tetsuya Naito vs. Will Ospreay, one of the most protected matches in recent history, where these two barely shared a ring for years, where we once wrote a review and literally counted the number of times they engaged in a tag match (FIVE times in a 21:52 match!)…in a semi-final. It was an underwhelming travesty, but that’s (business, sports, fake) entertainment.

The obvious answer to the Hiromu vs. Titan question would have been very different several weeks ago, before the schedule was announced. In short, champions do not win. Not in the Best of the Super Juniors, not in the G1 Climax, not in any of these tournaments (in New Japan and elsewhere). Since the switch to a single match final in 2015, the champion has never won a block.

Not that champions are useless on the final block night. In fact, the are 3-4 since 2015. Compare that to the G1 Climax, where they are 0-6-2. A slight difference: in the G1 Climax, the champion was in the block final match four out of eight times; in the G1 Climax the champion was in the block final match six out of eight times. The Best of the Super Juniors has tended to remove the champion from consideration. In 2019, Dragon Lee was actually eliminated before the block final night (as Shingo ran the table).

They gave themselves an out with this wild card balderdash. Previously, the only time a champion won a block, or even made it through a block, was pre-2015. Not even in the single block pandemic years of 2020-2021 did the champion make the final. In our 2010-2014 data set, we have three examples, and there are a couple of doozies:

  • 2011: Prince Devitt sneaks his way into the playoff by winning outside the block final match. he wins the block with 12 points but loses to teammate Ryusuke Taguchi in the semi-finals.
  • 2012: Low Ki runs the table and wins all eight of his league matches, but loses to Ryusuke Taguchi in the finals.
  • 2013: Prince Devitt has the greatest kayfabe Super Juniors ever, winning all eight of his matches and beating Alex Shelley in the final.

By the way, the champion did not participate in the BOSJ in 2020 or 2014. Thus, in our five year set (2010-2014), the champion advanced 100% of the time, and two out of those three times they won their semi-final match and advanced to the final. We bring these up because Hiromu appears to be on the path to being as dominant a champion as these. He hasn’t put up as dominant a Super Juniors, but he is  the dominant force in the division. The title defense record palaver might be a red herring, but Hiromu is so monolithic at this point that it actually seems reasonable.

Final Predictions

As we noted, history can only take us so far in this case. Past trends provide some intellectual support, but with a new format—and one so far removed from the last time it was used—we’re not sure how much it helps us. What will they retain from the past booking methods, if anything? Those questions will only be answered with the triumph or vanquishment of the four wrestlers analyzed above.

Like any historical thesis, any rubric, or any attempt to STEM the liberal arts, all you’re really doing in the end is finding a fancy, technical excuse for your own capriciousness. It still comes down to educated conjecture. Historical methods and criticism favors the bold, and that is why Simon Schaama is better than any literary writer that has ever lived.

Here are our predictions:

A Block:

A Block Winner: Mike Bailey

  • We really hope we are wrong about this. While Bailey deserves to be rewarded for an incredible tour, Lio Rush is the company guy, and the most compelling junior heavyweight in the company. His closing night addresses, as shown above, have been mesmerizing. He projects a volatile authenticity, a sincerity that is infectious.
  • That said, we have written several thousand words at this point, with 13 years of historical context. None of that historical data supports a Rush win. If Lio Rush wins and eliminates Titan, it would be stunning in the historical continuum.

A Block Wild Card: Hiromu Takahashi

  • Although it would be sensational to have Titan in such a big spot, they are not running a semi-final in a well-sized Tokyo venue without their ace.

Addendum: The Realistic Outright Win (and Advance) Scenario

If you’re interested, here is the unfortunately exhaustive 2023 ROWS and ROAS for the 2023 Best of the Super Juniors:

The Realistic Outright Win Scenario

The Realistic Outright Win Scenario (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.

The Realistic Outright Advance Scenario

The Realistic Advance Scenario (ROAS) is the sequence of events that must happen for a wrestler to advance out of a block without winning the block, when two or more wrestlers can advance from a block.

It follows the same precepts as ROWS: each match results in points (ie, no contests are not acknowledged), and unbreakable ties are an unrealistic outcome. Three ROAS scenarios are provided: Advance-with-Loss, Advance-with-Draw, and Advance-with-Win.



  • A Block

    • In Block Final Match: Lio Rush at 12 points
      • Realistic Outright Win Scenario: To win the block, Lio Rush needs to defeat Mike Bailey.
        •  Lio Rush holds the tiebreakers over Hiromu Takahashi and Taiji Ishimori.
        • Lio Rush has already lost to Titan but holds a two-point advantage over him.
      •  Realistic Outright Advance-with-Win Scenario: If Lio Rush wins, he wins the block outright.
      • Realistic Outright Advance-with-Loss Scenario: Lio Rush could not advance with a loss. If Lio Rush lost, he would be stuck at 12 points. The Hiromu Takahashi-Titan match would result in either Hiromu surpassing Rush with 13 or 14 points, or Titan tying Rush with 12 points and holding the tiebreaker.
      • Realistic Outright Advance-with-Draw Scenario: Robbie Eagles could not advance with a draw. If Lio Rush drew and the Hiromu Takahashi-Titan match ended in a draw, Rush would advance.
    • In Block Final Match: Mike Bailey at 12 points
      • Realistic Outright Win Scenario: To win the block, Mike Bailey needs to defeat Lio Rush
        • Mike Bailey holds the tiebreakers over Hiromu Takahashi and Titan.
        • Mike Bailey has already lost to Taiji Ishimori, but holds a two-point advantage over him.
      • Realistic Outright Advance-with-Win Scenario: If Mike Bailey wins, he wins the block outright.
      • Realistic Outright Advance-with-Loss Scenario: Mike Bailey could not advance with a loss. If Mike Bailey lost and Titan defeated Hiromu Takahashi, Bailey would advance.
      • Realistic Outright Advance-with-Draw Scenario: Mike Bailey could not advance with a draw. If Mike Bailey drew and Hiromu Takahashi either lost or drew, Mike Bailey would advance
    • In Block Final Match: Hiromu Takahashi at 12 points
      • Realistic Outright Win Scenario: To win the block, Hiromu Takahashi needed to defeat Titan and have the Mike Bailey-Lio Rush match end in a draw.
        • Hiromu Takahashi holds the tiebreakers over Taiji Ishimori.
        •  Hiromu Takahashi had already lost to Lio Rush and Mike Bailey
      • Realistic Outright Advance-with-Win Scenario: If Hiromu Takahashi wins and there is a clear winner in the Mike Bailey-Lio Rush match, Hiromu Takahashi advances
      • Realistic Outright Advance-with-Loss Scenario: Robbie Eagles could not advance with a loss. If Hiromu Takahashi loses, he would be stuck at 12 points, losing the tiebreaker to Titan. Because the Mike Bailey-Lio Rush match guarantees points for one of them, Hiromu would be eliminated.
      • Realistic Outright Advance-with-Draw Scenario: Hiromu Takahashi could advance with a draw. If Hiromu Takahashi drew and there was a clear winner in the Mike Bailey-Lio Rush match, Hiromu Takahashi would advance.
    • In Block Final Match: Titan at 10 points
      • Realistic Outright Win Scenario: Titan trailed both Mike Bailey and Lio Rush. Because Bailey and Rush face each other, at least one of them is guaranteed points, and Titan could not catch them.
        • Titan could not realistically win the block..
      • Realistic Outright Advance-with-Win Scenario: If Titan wins, Taiji Ishimori loses or draws (remaining below 12 points), and Lio Rush loses (remaining at 12 points), Titan would advance.
        • Titan holds the tiebreaker over Taiji Ishimori and Lio Rush
        •  Titan has already lost to Mike Bailey
      • Realistic Outright Advance-with-Loss Scenario: Titan could not advance with a loss. If he lost, he would be stuck at 12 points, while Takahashi move to 14 points and he would be surpassed by any outcome in the Mike Bailey-Lio Rush match
      • Realistic Outright Advance-with-Draw Scenario: Robbie Eagles could not advance with a draw. If Titan drew, he would remain behind Hiromu Takahashi, Mike Bailey, and Lio Rush
    • In Block Final Match: Taiji Ishimori at 10 points
      • Realistic Outright Win Scenario: Taiji Ishimori trails Mike Bailey, Lio Rush and Hiromu Takahashi. Because both Takahashi and Rush hold tiebreakers over him, he is unable to surpass them
        • Taiji Ishimori could not realistically win the block, nor advance

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