The Essential G1 Climax 30 Preview

♬It’s the most wonderful time of the year
There’ll be much lariating
Fighting spirit will be glowing
When the final draws near
It’s time for multiple matches of the year♬

It’s Christmas time! Wait, no it isn’t… It’s better than that… it’s the G1 Climax!!! The best pro wrestling tournament on the planet is back! The behemoth that is G1 Climax 30 will reign supreme for a solid month, starting on September 19th in Osaka and culminating in Tokyo’s Ryogoku Sumo Hall on October 16th, 17th and 18th. A total of 19 shows will be held across 30 days as twenty men compete in the most grueling and prestigious tournament in all of wrestling.

Stars such as Jay White who had been unable to travel to Japan due to the worldwide pandemic will be making their long awaited returns. Stories will have their first chapters written, old rivalries will be reignited, brains will be busted and it will be raining 5 stars from Dave Meltzer all month long!

This preview will be your companion for the entire tournament. I want this to be your only stop for any G1 information you might need, from an overview of the entrants to what matches are must see and the entire schedule (including different time-zones!). Let this be your guide through the next hectic month of intense action!

Coinciding with the G1 Climax is the first ever JOY1 Climax! At WrestleJoy will be running our very own pick ’ems competition where you can win prizes based on your G1 predictions! For all the information you need, please click here and be sure to join in the fun!

The Tournament

There are twenty participants split into two equal blocks, A Block and B Block. Each entrant will wrestle everyone else in their block to score points:
Winning a match scores 2 points.
A time-limit draw scores 1 point.
Losing a match, double count-out or double DQ scores 0 points.

All matches (excluding the final) have a 30 minute time-limit, making draws plausible.

The wrestler with the most points at the end of the final nights of block action will win their block and move to the final, which will see the winner of A Block face the winner of B Block.

If the blocks are finalised and there is a tie on points, then the winner is decided via head-to-head tiebreaker. This means that if (for example) Okada and Ibushi finished with equal points but Okada defeated Ibushi in the block match, then Okada will progress to the final.

Whoever wins the final will officially be the winner of G1 Climax 30. Their reward is a contract guaranteeing them the right to challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 15 and a place among the all time greats in the wrestling history record books.

This year the G1 Climax will be more robust than ever. The usual schedule would see one Block compete in tag matches in the first half of the show and the other Block compete in G1 matches in the second half of the show. To combat the ongoing pandemic, this will not be the case this year. Each event will see a total of six matches, the opening match being a singles match between two Young Lions and the remaining five being G1 matches for one of the two blocks. One night will be all A Block, the next night all B Block and so on. Other than the finals, the two blocks will not compete on the same show. The compact match cards will mean shorter shows and more time for the G1 matches themselves!

The Entrants
Of the 20 men that entered the tournament in 2019 there are only three changes this year – Lance Archer, Bad Luck Fale and Jon Moxley have been replaced with Minoru Suzuki, YOSHI-HASHI and Yujiro Takahashi. Archer and Moxley are of course with AEW, although as the IWGP US Heavyweight Champion, Moxley’s absence is notable but expected.

For the first time in G1 Climax history, there are no fresh faces entering the field, a tribute to the stacked roster New Japan currently has. There are 4 competitors who made their debuts last year entering the battlefield again, giving them less of an experience edge than others. In contrast, Tanahashi is the veteran as this year sees him make his 19th consecutive entry!

As is always the case in New Japan, picking up a victory over a champion puts you in line to challenge for that champion’s title. Current champions Tetsuya Naito (IWGP Heavyweight & IWGP Intercontinental), Minoru Suzuki (NEVER Openweight), Will Ospreay (British Heavyweight), Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr. (IWGP Tag Team) will be acutely aware that any losses suffered in the tournament will likely lead to future title defences, given all their matches an extra helping of importance.

The two finalists from the 2019 G1, Jay White and Kota Ibushi, find themselves in the same block this year, assuring us that the 2020 final will not be a repeat. This is easily the more stacked of the two blocks with a wealth of first time matchups. Jay and Okada enter as the only two men to have held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the A Block and along with Ibushi the only three to have made the final in the past.

At just 24, Okada became the youngest G1 Climax winner in history in 2012. That same victory also put him in rarefied company as only a handful of men have ever won the tournament on their first attempt. In 2014 he won the G1 Climax for a second time but he has not made the finals since. At Wrestle Kingdom 14 he lost the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and he has not gotten close to challenging for the gold in the 9 months that have passed, losing in the finals of the New Japan Cup to EVIL was the closest he came. He’s had his fun fooling around in multi-man tag matches and clapping along to SHO’s awesome music, now it’s time for the longest reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion in history to get serious. The rain has only been drizzling for Okada thus far in 2020, but the G1 is when The Rainmaker can bring the downpour. 

Ibushi has found himself on an upward trend in the G1 the last few years. In 2018 he lost in the final to Tanahashi but in 2019 he won the whole tournament by defeating Jay White. Now, he is primed to win the tournament in two consecutive years, a feat only two men have ever accomplished. Ibushi has been wrapped up in the tag division alongside Tanahashi, winning the IWGP Tag Team Championships but losing them to Dangerous Tekkers in their first defence. The Golden☆Ace team has since agreed to take a hiatus and refocus on their singles ambitions, with the Golden Star looking to shine brightly on his own platform again. This beloved and eccentric specimen is destined to hold the IWGP Heavyweight Championship one day and this may be his much needed second chance.

A stern favourite to win the G1 this year. The only way up for Switchblade is to win the entire tournament, having lost in the finals last year to Ibushi. For all his faults, he has a prophetic ability to tell his own future and seldom comes up short on his promises. In less than two years the Bullet Club leader has been both IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Champion, cementing himself as a top contender in NJPW. His in-ring intelligence is wise beyond his years, refusing to play by the rules we are accustomed to seeing wrestlers abide by, often slumping to the floor to avoid what could be a deadly move. Slick, smooth and sinister, King Switch is coming for the G1 crown.

Shingo made his G1 Climax debut last year having made the jump from junior heavyweight to full-fledged heavyweight. He lost his NEVER Openweight gold in a war with Minoru Suzuki, leaving The Dragon fired up to get a title back around his waist. Being the lone Los Ingobernables de Japon representative in his block will afford him the luxury of no hesitation, not needed to concern himself with combating his stablemates. Shingo is a frightening beast, the thunderous speed of a junior combined with the power of the hardest hitting heavyweights, making him one of the most well-rounded competitors in the tournament.

Mr G1 Climax himself may not find much success in the tournament but it’s always his time to reassert himself as one of the best wrestlers in the world, the MVP of many G1s in years past. He consistently delivers, seldom has a bad match and his might is otherworldly. Many believe Ishii should be a top champion within NJPW. Despite his incredible in-ring ability he has had surprisingly few opportunities at any titles above the NEVER Openweight Championship. Although unlikely to win the tournament, he will win the love of the fans as he does every year. You know the joke “is your refrigerator running?”, well Ishii is a running, hard-hitting, smash-mouth fridge with legs.

The current NEVER Openweight Champion makes his G1 Climax return after being snubbed in 2019. Like most years, 2020 has seen Suzuki on a warpath, starting the year with fights against Jon Moxley before executing Yuji Nagata and most recently winning the NEVER title for a second time. At 52 he is the oldest entrant in the tournament but you’d be unwise to inform Suzuki that, “don’t include me in your notions of age.” Winning the G1 and the main event of Wrestle Kingdom would put Suzuki among the elite of the elite. He is an IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign away from perhaps the most incredible achievement in all of pro wrestling, An achievement that only two men in history have attained, winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship (NJPW), GHC Championship (NOAH) and Triple Crown Championship (AJPW). All hail the king.

The current British Heavyweight Champion has been MIA due to Covid-19 but has been making the most of the spare time, putting on heaps of mass to help him better contend against the heavyweights. Although only recently a heavyweight, Ospreay has much experience with the heftier weight class having competed in the New Japan Cup and G1 Climax last year, a rare feat for any junior. Those with a keen eye will notice that the aerial in The Aerial Assassin is no more, Ospreay now bluntly becoming The Assassin. The flying ability will certainly still be there but we may see a more straight forward Ospreay enter the ring, more able to match blows with the big boys but look to his speed to give him the advantage that other heavyweights may lack.

The Suzuki-Gun man has found great success with Zack Sabre Jr. in the tag team division and surprised many by making it to the quarter-finals of this year’s New Japan Cup by defeating Tanahashi and Ibushi in the first two rounds. He is still as sneaky as ever but has proven himself as a ring general over the past year, most notably in an emphatic match with Okada at the New Beginning in February. However Taichi has no interest in the G1 this year, saying he is devoting his time to the tag team division and that NJPW should just put him and Zack in the “D Block.” But let’s not pretend that he isn’t capable of picking up a few big wins if he has a change of heart. The rest of the block would be remiss to overlook Taichi this year.

Cobb had a rather forgetful debut in the G1 last year. He finished mid table with the majority of his block but did pick up big wins against Juice Robinson and Shingo Takagi. The former NEVER Openweight Champion is seemingly looking for that one great match that cements his place among the roster. Cobb is a unique beast in that he has the hoss power to rival the likes of Ishii but can combine that with athletic agility that should be impossible for somebody of his size and stature.

The last time Yujiro competed in the G1 the field also included fellow Bullet Club members AJ Styles, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows. 2020 has seen him spend the majority of the time in a dull feud with Okada, afflicting us with multiple tag matches that saw Yujiro teaming up with fellow speedster Jado. Yujiro is a name that nobody wanted to see in the G1, but given this is his return to the tournament after being left out for five years, we can hope that he’ll be wrestling with a chip on his shoulder to prove that he is worthy of being in the tournament. Don’t expect Yujiro to be a contender to win his block but don’t be surprised when he plays spoiler. He’s surely going to get a victory at some point (right?).

Those lucky enough to be put in the same block as Naito will be gunning for him, hoping to find some solace that if they can’t win the entire tournament they can at least pick up a win over the double champion. The faction warfare is key to B Block – KENTA will be confronted with Bullet Club’s newest member EVIL and Naito will face his LIJ brother SANADA.

For the last few years Tanahashi has been proving that he is not close to hanging up his boots. In 2018 when fans and critics argued that Tanahashi was too beat up to compete at the top level anymore, he shut everybody down by winning the G1 for a third time, a triumph that only two other men have accomplished. He is the only man to ever win the G1 Climax and successfully use his guaranteed contract (an inception added in 2012) to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, by defeating Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 13 in 2019. 2020 has been unkind to the Ace, he was knocked out in the first round of the New Japan Cup and although he was briefly IWGP Tag Team Champion with Ibushi, he was consistently losing for the two of them, inviting doubts from the fans, Ibushi and even himself as to whether he is still a deity. But this is Tanahashi dammit! He’s the Ace and he has every chance of winning the G1 Climax again! Go Ace!

Naito has a peculiar relationship with the G1. Having won the tournament in 2013 and cementing himself as the challenger for Okada’s IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom, a fan vote was held and their match was voted to not headline Wrestle Kingdom. A dagger to the heart of Naito but one that would eventually lead to the formation of Los Ingobernables de Japon, the Naito we know today and a second G1 win in 2017. Now he enters as the two time double IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Champion, at the peak of his career but the odds not in his favour. 20 years ago was the one and only time the the current IWGP Heavyweight Champion has only won the G1 Climax. If Naito wants to win, he’ll need to prove himself more powerful than history, but proving everybody wrong has been the trademark of his entire career.

Twelve long years ago, the G in G1 Climax really did stand for Goto. He won the tournament in 2008 but his biggest success since then was making the 2016 final, a match he lost to Kenny Omega. Goto has a very undesirable piece of trivia attached to him, being the only person in New Japan history to ever win the G1 and not, at some point in his career, become IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Poor Goto! He started the year as NEVER Openweight Champion but has otherwise been on the outskirts of New Japan, not making much of an impact with the exception of winning the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championships, alongside fellow B Block entrant YOSHI-HASHI.

In the 2018 G1 ZSJ finish joint first in his block but he did not make the final due to losses in head-to-head matches with those who finished on the same points. Zack’s multi-facted wrestling style makes him the best tournament wrestler on the entire roster and gives him an edge in every match-up, regardless who his opponent might be. A series of convoluted pinning combinations, dismantling submissions moves and his power finisher the Zack Driver make him a universal threat. He comes into the tournament as IWGP Tag Team Champion and much like his partner Taichi, is more focused on tag competition than singles. That’s not to say the smart Brit won’t take the opportunities presented to him. As the New Japan Cup 2018 winner, ZSJ has the experience and knowledge to win tournaments in NJPW.

This will be SANADA’s fifth consecutive G1 but he has yet to make a mark. 2019 saw him pick up a win over then IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada with mere seconds left on the clock, a match of the year contender and his biggest G1 success to date. However he has never been in contention to win the tournament. Many believed this year’s New Japan Cup was SANADA’s to be won, but betrayal from his LIJ comrade EVIL emphatically shut the door on those ambitions. When he wants to be, SANADA is one of the best in the world but his coolness can often make him seem distant, making fans question where his interests truly lie. A motivated SANADA is nothing to scoff at, and with revenge on the schedule when he faces EVIL it should give SANADA that extra boost to make this a special G1 for himself.

Without question this has been the most successful year of EVIL’s career. His betrayal of LIJ and allegiance to Bullet Club saw him win the New Japan Cup and become double IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Champion. A shocking and short lived reign with one successful defense, but a reign that cements EVIL among NJPW’s broad history. Paramount to his success has been Dick Togo, who could be a crucial factor in all of EVIL’s matches. EVIL has a lot of personal history pulsing through the B Block, making some of his matches the most fascinating in the tournament. Not only will he be confronted by friends turned enemies in SANADA and Naito but also an intriguing match with KENTA, who should be an enemy turned friend but that remains to be seen. How will those Bullet Club members who have yet to see EVIL since he joined the faction react to their newest member?

The Norse Gods had Loki and New Japan has Yano. The ace of mischief himself and the current KOPW2020 trophy holder, Yano is one of the delights of the G1. This will mark Yano’s 15th time entering the tournament, second to only Tanahashi’s 19. The joy of Yano for fans but the fear from his opponents is that he can truly and believable beat anybody on the roster. In last year’s G1 Yano became the first person to defeat Jon Moxley since his WWE departure, a defeat that caused Moxley’s unbeaten wheels to fly off and cause him to miss out on the finals. Yano’s matches are fun and enjoyable to watch and a refreshing break from the battles other wrestlers will be thrust into.

Everything’s coming up YOSHI-HASHI! Having competed in 2016, 2017 and 2018, YH’s absence in 2019 was notable. His efforts in previous years didn’t warrant him having a place within the stacked entrants in 2019 and he was pushed to the side. However everything has been improving for New Japan’s perennial loser as this year saw him win his first ever championship! The human meme still has his critics but his improvement is undeniable. Fans are behind YOSHI-HASHI more than ever and this can be his opportunity to prove the naysayers wrong and show why he is deserving of being in New Japan, being a champion and being in the G1.

The 2019 G1 Climax marked the debut of KENTA for NJPW. In his first two matches he defeated Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi, the momentum pushing him on to a further two wins and a firm likelihood that he would win the tournament, until he was drowned out by The Rainmaker and didn’t pick up another victory. Having just won the New Japan Cup USA, KENTA is guaranteed a match with Jon Moxley for the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship. Winning the G1 and going on to beat Moxley could put KENTA in position to be one of the most decorated champions in New Japan today.

A year that started with winning the tag team titles at Wrestle Kingdom 14 quickly turned sour for Juice. Less than a month later he lost the titles, Covid-19 started running wild and he hasn’t made an appearance since. Don’t feel too sad for him though, he’s been keeping himself busy by “hanging with the people I love, eating cheeseburgers and drinking IPAs with my sweet babe.” 2019 was a landmark year for Juice, he had a trio of memorable matches with Jon Moxley and became the first two time IWGP US Heavyweight Champion. Like all those who have been unable to wrestle in Japan the last few months, there will be a question of ring fitness and ring rust that Juice will have to overcome. With little time left in 2020, now is the time for Juice to mark his mark.

How To Watch, Schedule and Match Cards
All events will be streamed live on NJPW World. A monthly subscription is 999¥ (roughly £7.50/$9.30). But don’t fret if you’re in America and don’t want to watch live at 3am (I’ll be watching over breakfast from London!), all events are instantly available on demand so you can watch the shows at your own leisure.

Below you will find the entire schedule. The matches highlighted with a helpful asterisk * are matches you absolutely cannot miss!

19th September @ 5pm JST (9am BST, 4am EST, 1am PDT):
Kazuchika Okada vs Kota Ibushi*
Shingo Takagi vs Jay White*
Tomohiro Ishii vs Minoru Suzuki*
Jeff Cobb vs Taichi
Will Ospreay vs Yujiro Takahashi

20th September @ 2pm JST (6am BST, 1am EST, 19th September 10pm PDT):
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Tetsuya Naito*
Zack Sabre Jr. vs EVIL
Hirooki Goto vs KENTA*
Toru Yano vs SANADA
Juice Robinson vs YOSHI-HASHI

23rd September @ 6.30pm JST (10.30am BST, 5.30am EST, 2.30am PDT):
Kota Ibushi vs Jay White*
Tomohiro Ishii vs Will Ospreay*
Minoru Suzuki vs Taichi*
Kazuchika Okada vs Yujiro Takahashi
Jeff Cobb vs Shingo Takagi

24th September @ 6.30pm JST (10.30am BST, 5.30am EST, 2.30am PDT):
Tetsuya Naito vs Zack Sabre Jr.*
Juice Robinson vs KENTA
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Toru Yano*
Hirooki Goto vs SANADA

27th September @ 4pm JST (8am BST, 3am EST, midnight PDT):
Kazuchika Okada vs Jay White*
Will Ospreay vs Shingo Takagi*
Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii*
Jeff Cobb vs Minoru Suzuki
Taichi vs Yujiro Takahashi

29th September @ 6.30pm JST (10.30am BST, 5.30am EST, 2.30am PDT):
Hirooki Goto vs Tetsuya Naito*
Toru Yano vs EVIL
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Juice Robinson
Zack Sabre Jr. vs KENTA*

30th September @ 6.30pm JST (10.30am BST, 5.30am EST, 2.30am PDT):
Tomohiro Ishii vs Shingo Takagi*
Will Ospreay vs Jay White*
Kazuchika Okada vs Taichi*
Kota Ibushi vs Jeff Cobb
Minoru Suzuki vs Yujiro Takahashi

1st October @ 6.30pm JST (10.30am BST, 5.30am EST, 2.30am PDT):
Tetsuya Naito vs SANADA*
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs YOSHI-HASHI
Hirooki Goto vs Zack Sabre Jr.
Juice Robinson vs Toru Yano

5th October @ 7pm JST (11am BST, 6am EST, 3am PDT):
Kota Ibushi vs Will Ospreay*
Tomohiro Ishii vs Taichi
Kazuchika Okada vs Minoru Suzuki*
Jeff Cobb vs Jay White
Shingo Takagi vs Yujiro Takahashi

6th October @ 6.30pm JST (10.30am BST, 5.30am EST, 2.30am PDT):
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs KENTA*
YOSHI-HASHI vs Tetsuya Naito*
Juice Robinson vs EVIL
SANADA vs Zack Sabre Jr.*
Hirooki Goto vs Toru Yano

7th October @ 6.30pm JST (10.30am BST, 5.30am EST, 2.30am PDT):
Kota Ibushi vs Shingo Takagi*
Taichi vs Jay White
Will Ospreay vs Minoru Suzuki
Kazuchika Okada vs Jeff Cobb
Tomohiro Ishii vs Yujiro Takahashi

8th October @ 6pm JDT (10am BST, 5am EST, 2am PDT):
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs EVIL
Juice Robinson vs Tetsuya Naito*
Toru Yano vs Zack Sabre Jr.*
Hirooki Goto vs YOSHI-HASHI

10th October @ 5pm JDT (9am BST, 4am EST, 1am PDT):
Kazuchika Okada vs Shingo Takagi*
Kota Ibushi vs Minoru Suzuki*
Will Ospreay vs Taichi
Jay White vs Yujiro Takahashi
Tomohiro Ishii vs Jeff Cobb

11th October @ 6pm JDT (10am BST, 5am EST, 2am PDT):
Tetsuya Naito vs EVIL*
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Hirooki Goto
Juice Robinson vs SANADA*
Toru Yano vs KENTA
YOSHI-HASHI vs Zack Sabre Jr.*

13th October @ 6.30pm JST (10.30am BST, 5.30am EST, 2.30am PDT):
Kazuchika Okada vs Tomohiro Ishii*
Minoru Suzuki vs Jay White*
Shingo Takagi vs Taichi
Kota Ibushi vs Yujiro Takahashi
Will Ospreay vs Jeff Cobb

14th October @ 6pm JDT (10am BST, 5am EST, 2am PDT):
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs SANADA*
Hirooki Goto vs EVIL
Toru Yano vs Tetsuya Naito*
Juice Robinson vs Zack Sabre Jr.

16th October @ 6.30pm JST (10.30am BST, 5.30am EST, 2.30am PDT):
Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay*
Tomohiro Ishii vs Jay White*
Shingo Takagi vs Minoru Suzuki*
Jeff Cobb vs Yujiro Takahashi
Kota Ibushi vs Taichi*

17th October @ 5pm JDT (9am BST, 4am EST, 1am PDT):
Tetsuya Naito vs KENTA*
Toru Yano vs YOSHI-HASHI
Juice Robinson vs Hirooki Goto
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jr.*

18th October @ 3pm JST (7am BST, 2am EST, 17th October @ 11pm PDT):
G1 Climax 30 Final
A Block Winner vs B Block Winner
Full card to be confirmed

Phew! If you’re still with me, then congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of the essential G1 Climax 30 preview. Now you’re readily prepared for the upcoming month. Are you ready for the best pro wrestling on the planet?! Who will be the one to win G1 Climax 30?!