Breaking Down & Predicting The G1 Climax 29
It’s time for one of, if not the biggest singles tournament in the pro wrestling year, the G1 Climax. This year is the 29th edition of the tournament, and it stacked from top to bottom with talent. You have multiple former tournament winners, former IWGP Heavyweight Champions, former finalists, and many things in between. This year's tournament features the return of a former tournament regular in Lance Archer, and a lot of tournament debuts. The likes of Taichi, Jeff Cobb, Will Ospreay, KENTA (fka Hideo Itami), and Jon Moxley (fka Dean Ambrose).
Now with all these additions, there were going to be wrestlers that got left out of the tournament. Michael Elgin, Hangman Page and Kenny Omega were obviously not going to be in the tournament after signing with Impact and All Elite Wrestling respectively. But some tournament regulars were not able to get a spot in this year's tournament. Tama Tonga said on Twitter that he didn’t want to be in the tournament this year, so his absence is the easiest to be explained. Togi Makabe was a bit of a surprise to not be included, considering he is a multi time finalist, a former tournament winner in 2009, and a former IWGP Heavyweight Champion. But Makabe is someone that is known for wanting to give the younger guys a chance, the best example being him teaming with Toa Henare in the past two World Tag Leagues instead of his long time tag partner in Tomoaki Honma as Great Bash Heel. So Makabe’s absence is more understandable. But the two absences that are very surprising are Minoru Suzuki and YOSHI-HASHI. Both have questioned their absence as well. In the past two calendar years, Suzuki has been the Never Openweight Champion and the IWGP Intercontinental Champion. YOSHI-HASHI has not been as fortunate, but since he returned after his injury, he has looked a lot better in the ring. If YOSHI-HASHI is able to take the RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship from Zack Sabre Jr on the Kizuna Road tour, and Suzuki continues to impress on the tour, then both men do have a legitimate claim to be in the tournament.
But enough about the wrestlers left out of the tournament, lets talk about the 20 wrestlers that did in fact make the cut. Just like the Best of the Super Juniors, the 20 participants are divided into two blocks, A Block and B Block, and compete in a round robin tournament. A win gets that wrestler 2 points, if both wrestlers go to a 30 minute time limit draw they both get 1 point, and the losing wrestler gets 0 points. The two highest point getters then meet in the final where the winner gets a guaranteed shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Champion (currently Kazuchika Okada) at Wrestle Kingdom 14. Since it was announced that Wrestle Kingdom 14 was announced that it would be a two day event, it is unclear if that title match will be on the 4th or 5th, but I think it will be the 5th. But there is always a twist on tournaments like these. If you pin a champion in this tournament, then they are in line for a title shot after the tournament. Same goes for if someone pins the eventual tournament winner (i.e.: If say Jay White wins the tournament, but loses his match to Hirooki Goto, then Goto would have the opportunity to challenge White for the contract). On my podcast, the Armchair Armdrager, I will do an extensive breakdown where I look at specific matches during the tournament, so go check that out there. Let’s get onto some breaking down and predicting where wrestlers will finish in this years G1 Climax Tournament!
20) Toru Yano (14th Apperance, Average Points; 7, 0 Final Appearances, 0 Wins)
With how stacked this year’s G1 Tournament is, I really don’t have very high expectations for Toru Yano. Most of the wrestlers in New Japan are very serious wrestlers first and characters second. Yano is someone that can do that, but he is more of a character than a serious wrestler. I think that I am one of the few people that isn’t a big fan of Yano. He is someone that just doesn’t click for me. Last year, there was a big thing where we weren’t gonna get the Sublime Master Thief, but instead a Yano that was an accompllished amature wrester. If that was the theme last year, then what are we gonna get from Yano in this year's tournament? When Yano goes to his wrestling skill, he is able to hang with the best of them, but in a block that includes Tetsuya Naito, Jay White, Tomohiro Ishii and Jon Moxley he has a very uphill battle to finish on the top of the block. You add in Hirooki Goto, Taichi, Shingo Takagi, Jeff Cobb and Juice Robinson who all have something to prove in this year's tournament, then Yano is going to have a challenge to keep up with the rest of the wrestlers in the block.
19) Lance Archer (5th apperance, Average Points; 8, 0 Final Apperances, 0 Wins)
What a difference a change of scenery can do for a wrestler. In WWE, Archer had no direction and the most notable thing he did was be a part of a tag team with Curt Hawkins, and in TNA (now Impact) was in a pretty good team with Jimmy Rave, but in Japan, Archer has found his grove. Archer is a former three time IWGP Tag Team Champion with Davey Boy Smith Jr., won the World Tag League, he is the muscle of the Suzuki-Gun stable, and he is unexplainably good in the G1 Climax. In his past four G1 tournaments, Archer has finished at eight points every time. In the 2012 tournament, he even finished in a tie for second in the block. With Davey Boy departing for pastures new, Archer is in for something different. Whether it’s singles or tag team it remains to be seen, but it will be interesting. In an A Block that is very top heavy, Archer will be struggling to keep up with the big names in New Japan. His style and his height will make him a tough out, but I don’t expect to many points from Archer in this year’s tournament.
18) Taichi (1st Apperance, Average Points; 0, 0 Final Apperances, 0 Wins)
I will say this again later in this article, but the wrestlers ranked 18th to 14th are all very close to each other in these rankings. After last year when Taichi had just made the transition for Junior Heavyweight to Heavyweight, he was upset that he was left out of the G1 Climax. Now that he is a former two time NEVER Openweight Champion, he has earned a spot in the tournament this year. A lot of people don’t like Taichi, and I understand that, but after the second half of 2018 and his first half of 2019 Taichi performed well and earned his spot this year. One of the big things about Taichi is that he is always trying to do things that are shady. He is willing to do anything behind the referee’s back, and it usually involves the mic stand that he comes out with, but there is also the presence of Miho Abe at ringside and possibly DOUKI, but that remains to be seen. That will probably help him score a handful of points, but it won’t happen every single night. I think that in his tournament debut, it might be a bit of a stretch to think that he will have a fantastic tournament, but I think that he will be in for a decent tournament.
17) Jeff Cobb (1st Apperance, Average Points; 0, Final Apperance s, 0 Wins)
Jeff Cobb winning the NEVER Openweight championship at G1 Supercard showed that New Japan was high on him. What has been an interesting development however, is that members of the New Japan roster do not enjoy working with members of the Ring of Honor roster, which Jeff Cobb is a part of. It will be interesting to see just how many points Jeff Cobb will get in this tournament. However, Cobb can hang with everyone in this tournament, so it is honestly very hard to figure out just how well he will do. I think that Cobb having a background in amateur wrestling as well as teaming with Matt Riddle for a handful of years are very helpful for him. He has hung with high flyers like Will Ospreay and Bandido, but also fought bruisers like Keith Lee and Willie Mack. In a tournament like this, I think that Jeff Cobb is someone that can use the tournament to show the whole wrestling world just what he can do. It is a very similar situation for Bandido and Jonathan Gresham had in the Best of the Super Juniors. Cobb could be someone that can play spoiler in the tournament as the days go on, as he has one hell of a gas tank on him. Cobb is really coming into this tournament as the dark horse, as he is someone that many of the wrestlers in his block won’t know that much about. His strength and power in this tournament will be a very hard for anyone to match, so he will be someone to watch in this tournament.
16) Bad Luck Fale (6th Apperance, Average Points; 8.3, 0 Final Apperances, 0 Wins)
In all but one of his G1 Climax appearances, Bad Luck Fale has scored 10 or more points. Last year was the first time he finished below 10, when he and the Guerrillas of Destiny just didn’t care about the tournament and were getting disqualified at every turn. What makes Fale a tough out isn’t just his wrestling ability, as he is one of the best big men in modern pro wrestling history, but his size is what gives wrestlers such a difficult time when facing him. He is the biggest wrestler in this tournament when it comes to weight, so a lot of the power game for most wrestlers in the block outside of EVIL, Archer, and maybe Okada. You look at Fale and it’s a surprise that Fale has only won two titles in his career. I’m very curious which version of Fale we will see in this tournament. Are we going to see the one from last year that had outside interference in almost every single match, or are we going to get the Fale from 2014 to 2017 that was in the running for winning his block. He also seems to be someone that is going through a character change as in the Entry Fighter video, he was called the Rouge General instead of the Under Boss. It will be interesting to see what that means in the ring and if that will help him in the ring.
15) Juice Robinson (3rd Apperance, Average Points; 7, 0 Final Apperances, 0 Wins)
It’s tough to classify exactly what type of wrestler Juice Robinson is. He isn’t a pure wrestler, but he has some great moves, like his cannon ball. He isn’t a brawler, but man does he have a great left hand. Juice is just someone that works in the ring and the fans just love him. He is so charismatic and it feels weird to have him this low on the list. Juice is a two time IWGP United States Champion, but has always felt like an afterthought in his own title reigns. He won the championship for the first time from Jay White just before the G1 Climax that year. He then went on to lose his first four matches in the tournament, and six of his matches in the tournament before dropping the championship to Cody. He would get his revenge and win back the title at Wrestle Kingdom 13, but would do nothing thrilling to make himself stand out as champion, as he would drop the championship to Jon Moxley at the Best of the Super Juniors finals. Robinson really needs to do something to help him stand out in this tournament. Yes he is flashy and charismatic, but he needs something else. Being in B Block is a huge advantage for Robinson, as he was able to avoid the big names of Okada, Tanahashi and Ibushi, as well as talents like Sabre Jr., SANADA and EVIL. But Robinson doesn’t have a straight shot to the finals, as he still has to deal with Naito, Ishii and White, as well as the likes of Goto, Takagi and Cobb. It will be an uphill battle for Juice Robinson, but a good showing would be just what the doctor ordered.
14) Hirooki Goto (12th Apperance, Average Points; 8.9, 2 Final Apperances [2008 & 2016], 1 Win )
I feel like it isn’t wrong to say that Hirooki Goto one of the most forgettable winners of the G1 Climax, and I hate that it has become the case as he is very talented in the ring. Goto is one of the guys that just seems to fly under the radar. Since Goto came into the scene, he always seemed to be overshadowed by someone. There was always a Nakamura, or an Okada, or a Tanahashi, or even to an extent, a Shibata standing in the way. I really feel like this is really underselling Goto, so let’s look at some of the positives. Goto is a five time NEVER Openweight Championship, a two time IWGP Intercontinental Champion, and is someone who is capable of putting on a five star match of the year contender like he did last year when he faced Tomohiro Ishii in what many people considered the match of the year. The best way to describe Goto in the ring is a hard hitter who lives by the strong style motto. While the push for Goto has never seemed to reach the level as some of his colleagues, he did get a really good draw for the tournament. There is not a single bad match up for Goto in the block at all, as his style just goes well against everyone. From Jay White to Toru Yano and even Jon Moxley. I think that one match that we all need to keep an eye on is when Hirooki Goto takes on Shingo Takagi on the final night of block action.These two just have the exact same style, and will be a very fun match to close out the blocks.
13) Will Ospreary (1st Apperance, Average Points; 0, 0 Final Apperances, 0 Wins)
I put out a tweet a little while ago that said that there were 10 wrestlers that could win the tournament, but after looking through the field numbers 13 through 1 all have a legit claims that they could win the tournament. Starting off that group is the Aerial Assassin and the winner of the Best of the Super Juniors this year, Will Ospreay. It feels wrong to have Ospreay this low on the list, but I do have a reason for it. Ospreay competed in the New Japan Cup and reached the quarterfinals, he won the Best of the Super Juniors, and now he has the G1 Climax in front of him. Ospreay has to be running on almost empty at this point in the year. He has put on match of the year candidates in almost every match he has had this year. Sure night one and two we’ll see him flying around the ring, but what about after the tournament enters the second half? Ospreay will have to adapt and focus on his striking, which has been a big thing for him in the Junior Heavyweight division, but will it work at the Heavyweight level? That is going to be one of the stories that runs through the tournament. Ospreay does have a rather intriguing draw in this tournament, as he is the most agile and is the quickest wrestler in his block. He has big men to face in Fale and Archer who he does hold victories over, other Junior Heavyweights in Sabre Jr. and KENTA, and big names like Okada, Tanahashi, and that Wrestle Kingdom 13 rematch with Kota Ibushi on Night 5. I really hope that Ospreay has a great tournament, and if he does then the line between Junior Heavyweights and Heavyweights may just get a little more blurred in New Japan.
12) KENTA (1st Apperance, Average Points; 0, 0 Final Apperances, 0 Wins)
I honestly don’t think any of us saw this coming. When Hideo Itami left WWE, it was a foregone conclusion that he would be returning to his native Japan. Many, myself included, thought that he would return to his old home of Pro Wrestling NOAH. Then the shock heard around the wrestling world happened on June 9th occurred when Katsuyori Shibata appeared at Dominion and out came KENTA, and he announced his intention to be in the G1 Climax. Finding the right place to rank KENTA was very difficult. He is one of the best wrestlers in modern Japanese wrestling history, but he hasn’t actually had a match since January 29th so will there be any ring rust to speak of? Will his new character click right away with the fans? The biggest reason that I felt like this spot was perfect for KENTA is his style in the ring. He is going to be a hard hitting bruiser, which is why he came out with Shibata on his first night. He is ni the opposite block from Ishii, Goto, Takagi and Cobb who are also very brutal hitters like him. The only person in his block that is even similar to that style in the ring is Kazuchika Okada. KENTA’s future in New Japan is going to be on the line in this tournament, not in the sense of his contract, but the future of what we should expect to see from him in New Japan for years to come. It is no secret that KENTA is one of the most talented wrestlers in the world, but so often that talent falls to the wayside. Will he raise to the heights of Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi that we all know he can reach or does he fall to the backburner like Hirooki Goto and Yujiro Takahashi. The unknown of the direction of KENTA’s future and character is why I went with what I feel like is a safe spot for him. Also, since he is the newest signee, and I still am someone that thinks that the newest signee isn’t going to win a tournament in their tournament debut. Although Shingo Takagi almost made me look like a fool in the Best of the Super Juniors.
11) Shingo Takagi (1st Apperance, Average Points 0, 0 Final Apperances, 0 Wins)
Speak of the devil, or in this case the Dragon. Shingo Takagi almost made me my whole ‘new signee isn’t going to win the tournament’ spiel look really dumb. Thank you for the win Will Ospreay. But when I saw that Shingo Takagi was in this tournament, and the block that he was in, I knew that we are going to be in for a treat. Putting him in the same block as Ishii, Goto, White, Naito, and Cobb is just going to put out multiple match of the year candidates. Takagi is already on the borderline of being in the heavyweight ranks already, as that was a story all throughout the Best of the Super Juniors. I think Takagi is going to have a good tournament, but will be just behind the bigger, and already established names in the heavyweight ranks of the wrestlers in the B Block. Takagi was the big signing last year, and has looked dominant since, as he has only lost once since joining New Japan, which was the Best of the Super Juniors finals. Takagi’s style is very similar to Ishii and Goto, in that he is a hard hitting bruiser, but he is also someone that has a very wide moveset and everything looks very crisp. When it was revealed that Takagi was going to be competing in the Junior Heavyweight ranks, I was a bit surprised. Him being a four time Open the Dragon Gate champion so why would he compete in the Junior Heavyweight division when he is an established wrestler who has beaten Heavyweights before. Zack Sabre Jr. doesn’t compete in the Junior Heavyweight ranks, so why should Shingo Takagi? With Takagi making the field for this years G1, it feels like its only a matter of time before we see Takagi move to the ranks of heavyweight, and ever since he joined Los Ingobernables de Japon it has felt inevitable that he would be replacing someone in the heavyweight ranks of the stable. But just who would that be?
10) EVIL (4th Apperance, Average Points; 10, 0 Final Apperances, 0 Wins)
I don’t think that Takagi is going to replace EVIL in the ranks in LIJ, so that leaves one more person but more on that later. At the Kizuna Road show where they announced the blocks of the G1, EVIL left the ring before joining his LIJ brothers for their fist bump. Some saw this as tension in the ranks of the group, but I see it as EVIL flipping a switch. EVIL has always been someone that has been close to the top of his block. He pulled one of the biggest wins of his career when he beat the IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada in the 2017 block action. EVIL isn’t someone who is going to be putting on a technical masterpiece, but he can have some nice technical moments. EVIL is a bruiser and heavy hitter of LIJ, and that is just what he needs to be. He has a great lariat and is very physical in the ring. EVIL has a rather weird draw for this tournament which is why I have him right in the middle of the road of these rankings. EVIL did benefit from being in the A Block of this tournament. He does have to try and find a way to beat the bigger Fale and Archer, but with his talent and skill set, I think that he will be fine. There is always someone who is capable of pulling the upsets in this tournament, and that could easily be EVIL in this tournament. Outside of the big three in the A Block, Okada, Ibushi and Tanahashi, EVIL is someone who has a shot to win all the other matches in his block. I doubt that he does that, but he is someone that is going to be able to make a run in this tournament and be a threat to everyone that he has to go against. Don’t be surprised if we go into the final night and there is a scenario in place for EVIL to be able to win the block.
9) Jon Moxley (1st Apperance, Average Points; 0, 0 Final Apperances, 0 Wins)
Of all the wrestlers in this tournament, finding where to rank Jon Moxley was the most difficult. He is the current IWGP United States Champion, so he should be rather high up. But the fact that he is under contract with AEW and not New Japan, plus the fact that I blame him for Minoru Suzuki not being in the tournament, he couldn’t be too high, so he is right in the middle. Moxley being in the G1 is such a huge thing. He just left one of the biggest wrestling promotions, signed with another big promotion and is competing in a huge tournament for yet another big wrestling promotion. Moxley’s style is a little different from the usual New Japan style, but it seems to work. He had a good match with Juice Robinson at the Best of the Super Juniors final, but there is also just one thing that doesn’t click with me and the character. It could be just because I still have the image of Dean Ambrose in WWE rather than Jon Moxley from the independent scene. I think this tournament is going to give a lot of fans a look into what exactly the Moxley character is going to be. Him being in the B Block is very helpful as he has some interesting match ups. Seeing Moxley matching up with Naito, White and Ishii are going to be interesting to watch as all three offer a different challenge for Mox. Seeing how he adapts and how well he does overall will be interesting to watch through the tournament. I also am curious how he does in the tournament and just what his results will be. Also, who does he lose his first match to? Moxley is such a big talent, so his first loss has to come to someone big (or maybe a dirty heel like Taichi).
8) Tomohiro Ishii (7th Apperance, Average Points; 8.6, 0 Final Apperances, 0 Wins)
If this was any other company, I think that Tomohiro Ishii would be the top star in that company. The man’s style in the ring just works and people love it. Ishii is one of the veterans of New Japan as he has been with the company since 2004, and has won the NEVER Openweight Championship five different times, and is the current champion going into the tournament. Ishii has always done well in the G1, but has never been one of the top dogs in his block, but that could change this year. Outside of Jay White and Tetsuya Naito, there is going to be someone else who is fighting for the block win, the best candidate is Ishii. His brawler skill set and his crisp moveset will be very beneficial for him in this tournament, but the schedule did him no favors. His first four matches are Jeff Cobb, Jay White, Jon Moxley and Tetsuya Naito followed by Hirooki Goto and Shingo Takagi in the back half of the tournament. We know that Ishii has the gas tank to keep up with this challenge, but will the bombs he is throwing on night two with Jeff Cobb be the same as the bombs he is throwing with Taichi on night 18. This could be the year that we see Ishii break through to the next level, and become the main event level player that we all know that he can reach. If there is a dark horse to win the entire tournament, Tomohiro Ishii might just be the man for you.
7) SANADA (4th Apperance, Average Points; 8, 0 Final Apperances, 0 Wins)
This man is the most talented wrestler on the New Japan roster in my opinion. He is also the most underutilized wrestler on the New Japan roster. I have said it a lot, but I do fear that SANADA could leave New Japan if he is underutilized any more. SANADA can do it all, and it all works. He has a fantastic Asai Moonsault, his Cold Skull submission looks brutal, and everything else just works. SANADA has all the tools to be a star and just needs the opportunity to show what he can do. This tournament might be the best opportunity for SANADA stand out. His skill set allows for him to work well regardless of the person who is across from him in the ring. It’s very intriguing to see that they put SANADA in the talent loaded A Block. I think that they see something in SANADA and have faith in him in the ring to put on nine quality matches in the tournament. He has a rather interesting schedule as well. He has a match against his tag team partner EVIL on night five, and then has Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, KENTA, and Kazuchika Okada four straight days in a row. While the schedule is brutal, his future is also a bit in question in LIJ, at least to me. I think that if Takagi does move up to Heavyweight, then I think SANADA is the odd man out of the stable. It’s a weird future to imagine SANADA out of Los Ingobernables de Japon but that is a scenario that could play out after the tournament. I’m very curious as to what the future holds for SANADA, and what he does. He only has two champions in his block, but he could get a title shot after the tournament. But, one thing that people forget is what SANADA weighs. SANADA weighs 220 pounds, which just so happens to be the cutoff weight for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship held by Will Ospreay, who also happens to be in the A Block with SANADA. If SANADA beats Ospreay on night three, we may see SANADA challenge for the Junior Heavyweight Championship.
6) Hiroshi Tanahashi (18th Apperance, Average Points; 9.2, 6 Final Apperances [2004,2007,2010,2013,2015,2018], 3 Wins [2007,2015,2018])
I don’t know what the Ace of the Universe has left to prove in the ring. He has won this tournament three times and is an eight time IWGP Heavyweight Champion. He has done it all and is going to go down as one of the best wrestlers in history. My only concern is that being in this tournament with his history of injuries, Tanahashi has to easy of a target for his opponents. He has two bad arms and a bad leg, so he is going to have an uphill battle through the tournament. Tanahashi is someone that has just clicked with the fans through the years and that has built a legacy that will last the test of time. He was the one that New Japan turned to in their time of need, and he pulled them out of it and to a new era. It’s really tough to describe the style of Tanahashi as he doesn’t excel at one thing, but multiple things. At 42 years old, Tanahashi is still someone that has that crispness with their moves and has a really good submission game highlighted by his Texas Cloverleaf. Tanahashi’s two biggest challenges are going to be how he is going to beat the bigger men in his block like Fale and Archer, and how he will keep up with the likes of Ospreay and SANADA. It will be interesting to see just how well Tanahashi’s body is able to hold up through the tournament.
5) Kazuchika Okada (8th Apperance, Average Points; 12.3, 2 Final Apperances [2012,2014], 2 Wins [2012, 2014])
It is always tough to figure out where to rank a champion in this tournament, especially when the champion is Kazuchika Okada. Okada is someone that has always had fantastic tournaments, even scoring 16 points in 2014. The issue with ranking Okada is that if the champion wins the tournament, then that kind of takes the fun out of it. Okada has been such a dominant champion, and has won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship five times, and literally nothing else. Stop hogging the spotlight Okada and win some other championships! Whats wrong with the Intercontinental title, or the United States title! In all seriousness, Okada is the face of the company and has been thriving since he first won the title back in 2012. Okada has become one of the best wrestlers in the world, and he has embraced that. Okada is someone that is able to make almost anyone look good. I think that if you look at any Okada matches from the past few years and try to find a bad match, it is nearly impossible. Okada’s style is such a fantastic blend of every other style and has been able to adapt to any other wrestler. I think that the draw for Okada is an interesting one. He is starting his tournament off against his old rival in Hiroshi Tanahashi, and ending with Kota Ibushi on the final night. Add in matches with SANADA, KENTA and Will Ospreay and Okada could be in for a long tournament. All five of those matches will go longer than 20 minutes or more, and that is almost two hours of wrestling and Okada would still have four matches to go. I think that Okada needs to be able to keep a good pace, in order to go through the whole tournament and not drop to many matches. I think the only real thing that is preventing me from ranking Okada higher is the fact that he is the current champion and him winning the tournament is just not as fun as someone else winning the title opportunity.
4) Zack Sabre Jr. (3rd Apperance, Average Points; 11, 0 Final Apperances, 0 Wins)
It is crazy how much Zack Sabre Jr.’s style can help him in this tournament. He is a submission based wrestler and he is the only one in this tournament. His style allows for him to be well rested and ready for every day in the tournament. I think that New Japan has been high on ZSJ for a long time. I think that it was first obvious when he just out classed Tomohiro Ishii at Wrestle Kingdom 13 for the RevPro British Heavyweight Championship. Sabre is a star in the making and after tying for first place in the B Block last year, it kinda feels like it’s time for Sabre to jump to the top or near the top of the roster. He offers something different and New Japan has focused on making new stars and different styles of wrestlers. Sabre might be the best submission wrestler on the planet, and has also become quite a good striker as well. One of the reasons that I have Sabre ranked so high is not only his style but also the hot streak that he has been on since the start of the year. Aside from a loss to Tanahashi in the New Japan Cup and Ibushi after beating him in the New Japan Cup, Sabre has won matches against Ishii, EVIL, Tanahashi and SANADA. All of those men are in the same block as him, so he does have the one up on them. He still has the likes of Okada, KENTA and Ospreay to deal with. I expect a huge tournament from Sabre Jr., and I think that this is gonna be Sabre taking the next step up the ladder in the New Japan ranks. I think that we may see an Intercontinental Championship reign in Sabre’s new future. Sabre also probably has a very big personal goal for the G1 every year he is in it. The G1 has seen winners from Japan, France, the USA, and Canada, but they have seen no winners from England. This year Sabre and Ospreay have a chance to change that. Only one can be the first, and Sabre is going to do everything that he can to make sure that person is him.
3) Kota Ibushi (5th Apperance, Average Points; 9.5, 1 Final Apperances , 0 Wins)
It’s been a rather interesting year for Kota Ibushi. He lost the NEVER Openweight Championship to Ospreay at Wrestle Kingdom 13, and saw his best friend leave the company that they worked for. He then announced that he had signed a lifetime contract with New Japan and won the Intercontinental Championship from Tetsuya Naito only to lose the title back to him a few months later. Ibushi has always been someone that has been on the doorstep of greatness and becoming the champion that we all know that he can be. It’s always been surprising to me that he has yet to get to that level in New Japan. He was so close to winning the G1 last year, but he ran into the Ace in Hiroshi Tanahashi and came up just short. I think that we do see him back in the finals this year as he is my A Block winner. But he has a lot of challenges in his way to that final. He has to get through Okada, Tanahashi, Ospreay, SANADA, EVIL, KENTA, and Sabre Jr. just to get to that point. Ibushi’s style is a weird blend of high flying and technical wrestling with a good bit of striking mixed in. Ibushi is a favorite in this tournament not just because of his skill set, but because of the love that the fans have for him. He is one of the most over wrestlers in the company and it will be interesting to see if he does win the block for the second year in a row.
2) Jay White (2nd Apperance, Average Points; 12, 0 Final Apperances, 0 Wins)
It was very tempting to put Jay White as my winner of the tournament, but there was one thing that was bugging me with that. That is the fact that if White were the one to win the tournament, then we would be at Okada vs White 4 within a two year period. I don’t think that New Japan wants to have that be the case, as they like to spread out their feuds. I think that White is an uber talented wrestler, and has come a long way in the year and a half since his debut in New Japan. His match against Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 12 and his match against Kenny Omega for the IWGP United States Championship felt like he was being pushed a little to soon. But after his match with Hangman Page, it just seemed to click for Jay. He was able to beat Okada and Tanahashi in last years G1 and now he is going into this year's tournament as the leader of the biggest pro wrestling stable since the nWo, Bullet Club. You look at the history of the stable, and a wrestler like Jay White fits right in to the group. I think that being in the B Block helps his chances to get to the finals immensely. Jay’s style is kinda hard to describe. He isn’t someone that if a brawler or a technician, he is more of a big move guy. He has his Siedo Suplex, the Kiwi Krusher and his Blade Runner. He is one of the biggest names in New Japan right now, and is looking to get back to the top of the mountain and win the IWGP Championship yet again. But there is one one person that I think has a better chance to win the G1 Climax.
1) Tetsuya Naito (10th Apperance, Average Points; 12.3, 3 Final Apperances [2011,2013,2017], 2 Wins [2013,2017])
One of the stories I’ve been following since getting back into pro wrestling is the re rise of Tetsuya Naito. Naito first won this tournament back in 2013 and seemed to have everything going for him. Then the fans turned on him and didn’t want him in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom and actually voted him out of the main event. He then went to Mexico and join Los Ingobernables. He then came back to New Japan and with his new attitude, the fans just loved him and have been behind him since. Naito’s big thing is being tranquilo in the ring and that style is just what he needs in a tournament like this. He is going to be fresh and ready for all of his matches and have a gameplan for them. I think the best thing to happen to Naito this year was losing the Intercontinental Championship to Ibushi, because that lit a fire under him and he has been firing on all cylinders since then. If that Naito can show up in this tournament then the rest of the field really needs to look out. This is a determined Naito, and if the determined Naito shows up for the tournament than the rest of the field needs to watch out. He is one of the most talented wrestlers in the world and this is the time to pull the trigger on him having a long run as heavyweight champion. I think what separates Naito from the rest of the pack is not just his connection with the fans and his journey to get to this point in his career, but also just how smooth he is in the ring. All his moves just seem to flow together so well. Naito wants to be the first person to ever hold the Intercontinental and Heavyweight Championship. While I don’t think he is going to make that happen, I do think that Naito is not only going to win the B Block but he is also my pick to win the G1.