As we count down to wrestling’s greatest tournament, our complete guide to the participants
September 19 will see wrestling’s greatest tournament get started in Osaka. 20 of the world’s best heavyweights will do battle in 19 events in the coming month, all heading toward three days in Ryogoku Sumo Hall. We continue our at the names involved.
B Block preview part 2 coming September 17!
2nd entry, 2nd consecutive
Shingo Takagi makes his second entry into the G1 Climax without the NEVER Openweight Championship that he’s worn for the bulk of 2020, but with hype and expectations running high. His 2019 entry was ostensibly as a heavyweight, and his performance through the G1 and campaign closing victory over Hirooki Goto would provide the impetus for him to formally transition to the heavyweight ranks. Since then, he has to be on the shortlist for 2020’s MVP, with a spectacular run with the NEVER title.
That said, his challengers post spring lockdown in SHO and El Desperado were both junior heavyweight competitors, and a very different type of opposition than the Dragon can expect over the coming month in the G1. Can Takagi readjust to put himself in the mix come the final mid-October weekend in Ryogoku?
Key match: Ryogoku, October 16 vs Minoru Suzuki
Shingo’s G1 campaign ends on October 16 against the man who pinned him for the NEVER Openweight Championship in Jingu Stadium on August 29. After an intense and hard hitting battle, Shingo had to admit that he didn’t have what it took to beat The King on the night, but that he had no intentions on leaving matters with Suzuki as they were. In Ryogoku a chance to score potentially block deciding points, and if out of the finals mix, to state a case for a NEVER title rematch.
9th entry, 1st in two years. NEVER Openweight Champion
Snubbed in last year’s lineup, Minoru Suzuki went on a destructive rampage that eventually led him to then IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada in London. On year later The King had his eyes on a different crown, the NEVER Openweight title held by Shingo Takagi, and with a victory in Jingu Stadium not only took the title, but made him an impossible name to ignore when drawing up the G1 list for 2020. Suzuki brings the most career experience of everyone in the field, and even as the oldest competitor, brings superhuman endurance and a supernatural psychosis to G1 rings. Suzuki is a dangerous beat indeed, and not to be counted out in this tournament.
Key match: Takamatsu October 5 vs Kazuchika Okada
Representing the riches and flash that Minoru Suzuki is always hungry for, Kazuchika Okada has been a target for the King for over seven years now, but after one victory for Minoru Suzuki at New Beginning 2013, he hasn’t been able to repeat the feat. Even in his hometown in Yokohama, Suzuki has been frustrated by the ticking of the clock and a time limit draw. takamatsu will see the King and the Rainmaker clash one more time, with a key two points at stake.
2nd entry, 2nd consecutive
Pandemic induced down time or not, the second G1 entry for Taichi comes in the midst of what might be the hottest year of his career to date. With a clear focus and deepened mean streak, Taichi pinned both Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi in the New Japan Cup, before winning the IWGP Tag Team Championshipsin dominant fashion with Zack Sabre Jr. at Dominion, retaining at Summer Struggle and all but single handedly detroying the Golden☆Ace team of Tanahashi and Ibushi in the process. Yes, outside interference may have played a part, but Taichi’s twin victories over two of the hottest singles stars in the last 15 years with four G1 wins between them is a fine indicator that the Holy Emperor has enough to get it done in the ‘every man for himself’ environment of professional wrestling’s greatest tournament.
Key match: Sapporo, September 23 vs Minoru Suzuki
From beating Tetsuya Naito in last year’s G1 Climax, to coming within a hair of defeating even Kazuchika Okada at New Beginning this year, Taichi is arguably at his most dangerous in his home town of Sapporo. This year, he faces the ever dangerous King, and his own boss in Suzuki-Gun, Minoru Suzuki.
The King always relishes the chance to fight his Suzuki-Gun teammates, and there will be no love lost on September 23, but this match is one of the toughest ones to call. If Minoru Suzuki continues to prove the strength of his iron rule in Sapporo, well, that’s one thing. But if Taichi does pull of the victory with a home town advantage, what next for Suzuki-Gun? This match may have after effects that last until well after G1 Climax 30 is done.
3rd entry, 3rd consecutive
2020 has turned out the way we imagined things in January for precious few, if any of us. For Jay White that is certainly the case, but as King Switch makes his return to Japanese action, BULLET CLUB’s track record this year is undeniable, and White’s role both as architect and active participant is equally impossible to ignore. Heading back to action last month on NJPW STRONG, Jay incidentally defeated Flip Gordon and asserted BULLET CLUB dominance on Friday nights. Now in the G1, he looks to get back on course for championship opportunities he feels should have been afforded him after Tokyo Dome victory over Kota Ibushi on January 5.
With Gedo once again by his side, last year’s finalist has to be one of the favourites to scoop the whole tournament in 2020. Yet with EVIL and KENTA looking hard to pass over in B Block, could harmony within BULLET CLUB be disrupted when push comes to shove?
Key Match: Shizuoka, October 13 vs Minoru Suzuki
It’s testament to Jay White’s abilities that although he’s only embarking on his third career G1, he can already claim singles victories against the majority of his opponents in the block. Minoru Suzuki is a striking exception. In Jay’s first G1 in 2018, BULLET CLUB leadership was just a germ of an idea in the then CHAOS member Switchblade’s head when the King taught White just exactly what it means to be an evil mastermind like himself. Two years on, Jay faces Suzuki in his penultimate group contest, one that could make or break his chances of being in the final five days later. Will it be King Switch, or the King of Pro-Wrestling?
7th entry, first in five years
Yujiro Takahashi’s first entry in the G1 Climax since 2015 comes off the back of his summer feud with Kazuchika Okada, one that saw headlines but failed to secure any victories for the Tokyo Pimp. Instead Yujiro, acting on years of jealousy toward the Rainmaker, vowed to ‘bring him down to my level’, something he surely did with outside interference and leather belt attacks. After his most recent defeat during the Summer Struggle tour came ignominiously after a 1 on 3 handicap match against Okada, Yujiro will be once again determined to drag not only the Rainmaker, but the rest of the field down ‘to his level’. Don’t expect Yujiro Takahashi to fight fair in the coming month.
Key match: Sapporo September 23 vs Kazuchika Okada
At Sengoku Lord, Yujiro Takahashi did battle one on one with Kazuchika Okada, and despite the best efforts of Gedo at ringside, lost. During Summer Struggle, the KOPW2020 concept offered the chance of revenge and redemption to Yujiro, who took on Okada in a handicap match and lost. So what will be the gameplan in Sapporo on the 23rd?
The mantra in this one may well be ‘if you can’t beat ’em, break ’em’. In Kobe just four days later, Okada takes on Jay White in a match that could well play a huge part in the final block standings by mid-October. Yujiro would be making a big team play if, in the event he can’t beat Okada, he can at least deal enough damage to make him easy pickings for the Switchblade.