Over the last week we’ve been collecting stats in hopes of finding some trends that will help us best determine who will be the winner of this year’s G1 Climax. Let’s continue by digging deeper and further back into the history of the tournament. Since Gedo became the lead story writer in 2006, we’ll give him a year of putting his vision together before we begin dissecting his stories.
2007 Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi
In 2007, Hiroshi Tanahashi became the first G1 Climax winner under Gedo’s reign. After finding success by putting the IWGP Heavyweight Championship on Tanahashi in mid-2006, it only made sense to follow up by having him win the tournament. Before 2007, Tanahashi had two reigns with the IWGP U-30 Openweight Championship. This was a belt designated for wrestlers under the age of thirty and once Tanahashi won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, this belt disappeared. He was already seen as the next logical successor before Gedo took over and Gedo smartly decided to ride Tanahashi’s momentum.
2008 Winner: Hirooki Goto
Hirooki Goto had returned from excursion late 2007 as a heavyweight and in only three short months, found his way to an IWGP Heavyweight Championship match against Tanahashi. He lost that match and another shortly after to Togi Makabe. 2008 didn’t start much better as he was defeated by The Great Muta at Wrestle Kingdom and eliminated in the first round of the New Japan Cup by Tanahashi. In short time, Gedo managed to create a great, sympathetic wrestler in Goto. After two losses in the early summer of 2008 to veterans Manabu Nakanishi and Yuji Nagata, Goto pulled himself together and got his revenge on Nagata by knocking him out of the G1 tournament. On the same night, Goto dished out his second helping of revenge by beating Togi Makabe in the finals and winning the G1 Climax. In just over one year’s time, Gedo had created a nice story arc with a fresh, new wrestler.
2009 Winner: Togi Makabe
Togi Makabe was a key player during the early years of Gedo’s reign. In 2006, he joined forces with Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Shiro Koshinaka, Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii to form Great Bash Heel. Together, the group were the top heels in the company and helped Makabe win his G1 block in both 2007 and 2008. After failing to find the success they were looking for, the group kicked Tenzan out in early 2009 and turned on Makabe shortly thereafter. Yano teamed up with Shinsuke Nakamura to form Chaos, a team even more deadly than GBH. Despite being one of the top heels for multiple years, Makabe was the heavy crowd favorite, showing he had a change of heart and got his revenge on Nakamura by beating him in the G1 finals. Gedo was now batting one thousand with three completely different characters.
2010 Winner: Satoshi Kojima
The return of Satoshi Kojima to NJPW showed proof of an upswing in New Japan during this time. After spending his first ten years with the company, Kojima made the jump to All Japan in 2002, where he became a regular for nearly eight years. He made appearances in NJPW here and there, even participating in both the 2006 and 2008 G1 Climaxes, but made his official return in the 2010 tournament. At this point, Tanahashi and Kojima were no strangers to each other. Kojima defeated Tanahashi in the 2006 tournament and the two traded wins the 2008 with Kojima winning in NJPW and Tanahashi in AJPW. Tanahashi dropped a third match to Kojima in the 2010 finals to the approval of the crowd. Although they loved Tanahashi, everyone was happy to have Kojima back. Gedo provided a feel good story of a fan favorite’s return.
2011 Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
After two years as the main heel unit, Chaos found themselves in a transition period. Minoru Suzuki had made his return and formed Suzuki-Gun, becoming the company’s new heels. Nakamura and Suzuki met in the G1 semifinals and this dynamic allowed Nakamura to play to the crowd more. Gedo wanted the crowd to get behind Nakamura so instead of having Nakamura face Tanahashi in the finals, Gedo had Tetsuya Naito win the block by beating Tanahashi with a fluke roll up. This could be seen as smart way to deal with the tweener role that Nakamura was positioned in at the time but it was the first really obvious outcome in Gedo’s G1 finals booking. He didn’t want to do Nakamura versus Tanahashi just yet and instead of focusing only on Nakamura, he threw in Naito and the dynamic didn’t feel quite right. If you look at the blocks, Gedo pinned himself into a corner this year.
2012 Winner: Kazuchika Okada
Gedo followed up his least effective G1 with another head scratcher in 2012. This was a year where in order to combat the obvious trajectory of Okada, he made sure everyone stayed within reaching distance to each other until the final day. Okada beat every foreigner and long-time veteran but suffered losses to Goto, Naito and Nakamura on his way to the finals where he met Karl Anderson. Like the previous year, Gedo didn’t want Tanahashi to be defeated in the finals so instead, Anderson beat Tanahashi in relatively short, but more decisive fashion, than Naito the year before. No disrespect to Anderson but this was completely out of nowhere. This was only his third G1 and in his first two he had a combined record of 6-10. Another questionable call by Gedo here. Okada came out of his first G1 the tournament winner but looked short of convincing.
2013 Winner: Tetsuya Naito
The biggest documented misstep in Gedo’s era is Naito’s 2013 win over Tanahashi. The two had a time limit draw in 2010, Naito scored a fluke semifinal win in 2011 and defeated Tanahashi decisively in 2013. At this point in time, the fans were coming for Tanahashi and having a babyface beat him in the finals wasn’t the wisest of decisions. It’s my belief that Gedo let off the gas on Tanahashi too early. The Naito win didn’t work, as proof of Tanahashi’s IWGP Intercontinental Championship match main eventing the next Wrestle Kingdom. The stubbornness to push Naito to the top was rejected big time and was easily Gedo’s biggest misstep to date.
2014 Winner: Kazuchika Okada
After what could be considered somewhat of a fluky win in 2012, Okada cemented himself in 2014. Coming off what was nearly a 400 day reign as IWGP Heavyweight Champion earlier in the year, Okada ran through practically everyone in the 2014 G1 Climax, ending with an impressive 8-2 record. He met his Chaos stablemate, Nakamura, in the finals and that’s where the torch was ceremonially passed. This win meant that Okada now had full reign over Chaos. The G1 Climax found itself back on the right track after a few shaky years.
2015 Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi
A casual reshuffling of the deck from the previous year. After a semifinal win over Tanahashi, Nakamura fell to Okada in the 2014 finals. In 2015, we saw Nakamura beat Okada in the semifinals but lost again in the finals, this time to Tanahashi. Even though Okada was unable to use his 2014 win to defeat Tanahashi, he found his way back to the title by way of victory over AJ Styles. The tables had turned as now it was Tanahashi who was chasing Okada. Coming off the last tournament which cemented Okada as the next guy, this G1 was used as a way to prove Okada was at peak form by finally defeating Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom.
2016 Winner: Kenny Omega
Gedo spent 2014 and 2015 hitting the reset button after the failure of 2013. When Nakamura and Styles left for WWE in early 2016, Gedo took the opportunity to shake things up. I promise you that nobody expected the finals to be Omega versus Goto. Omega had only been a heavyweight for eight months so despite already having been the IWGP Intercontinental Champion, everyone looked past him as a potential winner. Gedo swung outside of his comfort zone, taking a huge risk and thanks to that risk, the G1 Climax, and New Japan as a whole, is the biggest it’s ever been globally. I cannot stress enough how massive of a decision it was to have Omega win. Gedo could have played it safe with Naito or Shibata, which would have been huge domestically, but he believed Omega would bring them to the next level out west. Seems obvious now but in 2016 it wasn’t so obvious.
2017 Winner: Tetsuya Naito
With the 2016 tournament being a complete shock, Gedo settled back down in 2017. Everyone thought that 2016 was Naito’s year and despite some being disappointed he didn’t win, his support only continued to grow. Having Naito win in 2013 was a misstep but having him lose in 2017 would have been an even bigger misstep. Luckily, Gedo saw the error of his ways and instead of shocking everyone a second year in a row, he went with the obvious choice. It’s okay if the winner is obvious as long as everyone likes the decision. Naito spent two full years rebranding himself and as a result has been steadily trending upwards since 2015. This G1 win was a great way for him to gain his redemption.
What will Gedo do in 2018? Time will tell but one thing is for certain, you can never be sure what Gedo is going to do next. Sometimes it’s the super obvious; sometimes he goes against the grain. He took chances by having Goto, Okada and Omega each win on their first appearance and has given Okada, Naito and Tanahashi the distinct honor of multiple tournament wins. Will one of them win again this year or will it be somebody new?