Beginner’s Luck?: A Performance Timeline of First-Time Participants in the G1 Climax

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Credit: NJPW

Disclaimer: This article looks at the performance timeline of participants making their G1 Climax debuts under the round-robin format. For statistical purposes, the article is only looking at tournaments under the branded, G1 Climax name, which excludes anything prior to 1991. In addition, this article only looks at the performance timeline for those tournaments held in the round-robin format, excluding the single-elimination tournaments in 1992, 1993, 1997 and 1998.

Wrestling’s most prestigious and to many, most anticipated tournament of the year, the G1 Climax, is officially underway. Block A’s opening day of action featured reigning IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada defeating 18-time G1 Climax participant, Hiroshi Tanahashi and KENTA going 1-0 in his G1 Climax career with a win over Kota Ibushi. Lance Archer (over Will Ospreay), Bad Luck Fale (over EVIL) and Sanada (over Zack Sabre Jr.), also picked up victories on U.S. soil. B Block action, which features four of the six first-time G1 participants: Jeff Cobb, Jon MoxleyTaichi and Shingo Takagi, will kick off its action on July 13th.

When it comes to the G1 and its storied history, the presence of six first-timers is tied for the third most of all-time in the round-robin format, bested only by the seven first-timers from the 1994 and 2000 editions of the tournament. The 1991 edition, the first under the re-branded G1 banner, holds the record of eight rookies.

The level of success found by first-timers has varied greatly. Each year tells a different story. From the beginning, there hasn’t been a single edition of the G1 Climax that hasn’t featured at least one wrestler making their debut in the tournament. In all (excluding 1991 and all non-round robin tournaments), 80 wrestlers made their G1 Climax debuts at some point in their careers. Here’s a look back at how they fared that first year.

*1991 – All wrestlers were first-timers. Keiji Mutoh won his block with four points. Masahiro Chono won his block with five points. Chono defeated Mutoh in the final to win his first of a record five G1 Climax tournament crowns.

*1992 – 16-Man single elimination tournament

*1993 – 16-Man single elimination tournament

*1997 – 14-Man single elimination tournament

*1998 – 16-Man single elimination tournament

1994 G1 Climax 4: 7 First-Time Participants
(12 Man Field)

Chono vs Power Warrior 1994 G1 Climax
Credit: NJPW

Highest point total: Masahiro Chono – 8
Average point total of first-timers: 4
Average point total of all wrestlers: 5
Best finish by a rookie: runner-up (won the block with 7 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss.

Power Warrior/Kensuke Sasaki: *Made his G1 debut in 1992.* In 1994, Power Warrior made his round-robin G1 Climax debut, winning his block with seven points. Warrior lost to Chono in the final. He would go on to participate in 10 tournaments winning it all in 1997.

Hiroshi Hase: *Made his G1 debut in 1993.* In his first and only round-robin G1 appearance, Hiroshi Hase finished second in his block with six points.

Shiro Koshinaka: *Made his G1 debut in 1993.* In his round-robin debut, Shiro Koshinaka scored five points. In his 40+ year career, Koshinaka wrestled in nine G1s.

Takayuki Iizuka: *Made his G1 debut in 1993.* Making his round-robin debut in 1994, Takayuki Iizuka wrestled four G1s in his career. Unfortunately, in the first, he made little impression, scoring zero points.

Osamu Kido: *Made his G1 debut in 1993.* Osamu Kido wrestled in the G1 three times in his career, the first round-robin one being 1994. He picked up just two points that year.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara: *Made his G1 debut in 1993.* Yoshiaki Fujiwara made his round-robin debut in 1994, where he finished with four points. It was his only such G1 of his 45+ year career.

Yoshiaki Yatsu: Yoshiaki Yatsu competed in just one G1, picking up four points in 1994.

1995 G1 Climax 5: 2 First-Time Participants
(8 Man Field)

Highest point total: Keiji Mutoh and Shinya Hashimoto – 4
Average point total of first-timers: 2.5
Average point total of all wrestlers: 3
Best finish by a rookie: T-2nd in the block (3 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss. Block winners and runner-ups advanced to a four-man semifinal.

Ric Flair: Making his one and only appearance in the G1 Climax, two-time WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair, styled and profiled his way to three points, just one point shy of eventual Block A and tournament winner, Mutoh.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan: Hiroyoshi Tenzan made his first of a record 21 G1 appearances in 1995, picking up just two points. Though not a memorable debut, Tenzan’s G1 pedigree speaks for itself – he’s won three times (2003, ’04 and ’06).

1996 G1 Climax 6: 3 First-Time Participants
(10 Man Field)

kazuo yamazaki g1 climax
Credit: NJPW

Highest point total: Riki Choshu – 8
Average point total of first-timers: 2
Average point total of all wrestlers: 3.3
Best finish by a rookie: T-2nd in the block (4 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss.

Kazuo Yamazaki: Kazuo Yamazaki made his G1 debut in 1996, picking up four points. His best of four G1 finishes came in 1998 when he was the runner-up in the 16-man single elimination tournament.

Satoshi Kojima: Making his first of 15 G1 appearances, the still active Satoshi Kojima finished with just two points in his debut year. His best finish came 14 years later when he won the tournament in 2010.

Junji Hirata: *Made his G1 debut in 1992*. In his round-robin debut, Junji Hirata matched his win totals from his prior two tournament appearances, though his zero in 1996 likely had to do with the injury he sustained early on, forcing him to forfeit the remainder of his matches.

1999 G1 Climax 9: 3 First-Time Participants
(12 Man Field)

nakanishi vs mutoh
Credit: NJPW

Highest point total: Keiji Mutoh, Yuji Nagata and Manabu Nakanishi – 8
Average point total of first-timers: 5.3
Average point total of all wrestlers: 5
Best finish by a rookie: WINNER (8 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss.

Manabu Nakanishi: *Made his G1 debut in 1997*. Speaking strictly to the round-robin versions of the G1, and excluding the inaugural year, Manabu Nakanishi was the first person to make their debut in the tournament and win it all. In 1999, Nakanishi made his first appearance in the round-robin G1 as its known today. He totaled eight points and defeated Mutoh in the final. Nakanishi has wrestled in 14 G1s in his career.

Yuji Nagata: A longtime G1 participant, Yuji Nagata wrestled well in his first of 19 G1s. Tying Mutoh with eight points atop his block, Nagata lost to the eventual runner-up in a one-off match to decide who would win the block. Two years later, Nagata won the G1 for the first and only time.

Tadao Yasuda: *Made his G1 debut in 1997*. If not for the goose egg that Tadao Yasuda laid in his first round-robin G1, the average point total for the rookies would have been eight, matching the high score. But as such, Yasuda failed to win a single match.

2000 G1 Climax 10: 7 First-Time Participants
(20 Man Field)

liger
Credit: twm.news

Highest point total: Yuji Nagata, Kensuke Sasaki, Manabu Nakanishi, Masahiro Chono – 3
Average point total of first-timers: 1.3
Average point total of all wrestlers: 1.9
Best finish by a rookie: T-2nd in the block (2 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss. There were four blocks with winners of each advancing to a four-man semifinal.

Brian Johnston: Brian Johnston, who made his only G1 appearance in 2000, finished tied for the best of the rookies, scoring two points to tie Satoshi Kojima for second-best in his block.

Osamu Nishimura: *Made his G1 debut in 1998*. Tying Johnston with two points was Osamu Nishimura, who was in his second G1, first under the round-robin format. He wrestled seven G1s overall.

Yutaka Yoshie: Also matching the point totals and block positions of Johnston and Nishimura was Yutaka Yoshie who got two points in his first-ever G1. It was the first of six for Yoshie.

Jyushin Thunder Liger: Jyushin Thunder Liger has had an extraordinary 35-year career which is wrapping up early next year. In 2000, he was one of the first active-junior heavyweights to be invited to the G1, his first of three, where he picked up one point.

Tatsutoshi Goto: *Made his G1 debut in 1998*. Tatsutoshi Goto wrestled his first of three round-robin G1s, picking up one point in 2000.

Tatsuhito Takaiwa: Entering the G1 as the reigning IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Tatsuhito Takaiwa joined Liger as the first two active juniors to take part in the tournament. Takaiwa scored just one point in his first and only G1 appearance.

Kenzo Suzuki: A two-time participant in the G1, Kenzo Suzuki didn’t get his first victory until 2002, as he put up zero points in his inaugural year in the tournament.

2001 G1 Climax 11: 2 First-Time Participants
(12 Man Field)

murakami g1 climax
Credit: Internet Wrestling Database

Highest point total: Keiji Mutoh – 8
Average point total of first-timers: 3.5
Average point total of all wrestlers: 5
Best finish by a rookie: 4th in the block (5 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss. Block winners and runner-ups advanced to a four-man semifinal.

Kazunari Murakami: In his first and only G1, Kazunari Murakami picked up five points.

Minoru Tanaka: In his first and only G1, Minoru Tanaka picked up two points.

2002 G1 Climax 12: 2 First-Time Participants
(12 Man Field)

Highest point total: Yoshihiro Takayama – 8
Average point total of first-timers: 6
Average point total of all wrestlers: 5
Best finish by a rookie: WINNER (8 points)
Point system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss. Block winners and runner-ups advanced to a four-man semifinal.

Yoshihiro Takayama: In 2002, Yoshihiro Takayama became the first man to win the G1 Climax in his true debut since Masahiro Chono did it in the tournament’s inaugural year. That year a rookie was guaranteed to win. Takayama’s first of four G1s was his best, as he picked up eight points, won his semifinal and defeated Chono for the crown.

Hiroshi Tanahashi: NJPW’s active and longtime ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi, made his first of a record 17 consecutive G1 appearances (2019 marks 18 in a row), in 2002, totaling four points. Like a fine wine, however, Tanahashi has gotten better with age as two of his three G1 victories (2007, 2015 and ’18) have come within the last four years.

2003 G1 Climax: 3 First-Time Participants
(12 Man Field)

Highest point total: Yoshihiro Takayama – 8
Average point total of first-timers: 5.3
Average point total of all wrestlers: 5
Best finish by a rookie: runner-up (won his block with 7 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss. Block winners and runner-ups advanced to a four-man semifinal.

Jun Akiyama: Known for his time in All Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling NOAH, Jun Akiyama was invited to take part in the G1 despite not being an NJPW wrestler. In his only G1, Akiyama won his block with seven points and won his semifinal over Yuji Nagata. In the end, he faced and lost to Hiroyoshi Tenzan, who went on to win his first of three G1s.

Katsuyori Shibata: Tying Nagata for second place in his block and just missing out on the semifinals by nature of a block decision, Katsuyori Shibata had a solid showing in his first of six G1 appearances, recording five points.

Shinsuke Nakamura: In his first full year with NJPW, Shinsuke Nakamura took part in the G1, finishing tied for fourth in his block, matching the low point total of the tournament with four. It was Nakamura’s first of 12 appearances, with his best showing coming when he won it all in 2011.

2004 G1 Climax 14: 5 First-Time Participants
(16 Man Field)

minoru suzuki
Credit: NJPW

Highest point total: Hiroshi Tanahashi – 12
Average point total of first-timers: 6
Average point total of all wrestlers: 6.9
Best finish by a rookie: T-1st in the block (reached the semifinals with 8 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss. Block winners received a bye and both the second and third runner-ups of each block advanced to a six-man quarterfinal where the winner went on to face the block winner in the semifinal.

Genichiro Tenryu: *Made his G1 debut in 1998*. In 2004, Genichiro Tenryu wrestled in his first and only round-robin style version of the tournament, totaling eight points, which tied him atop his block with five other competitors. He reached the playoff, winning his quarterfinal match before falling to the eventual winner, Hiroshi Tanahashi, in the semifinals.

Minoru Suzuki: Minoru Suzuki’s G1 debut in 2004 was pretty successful as he tied for the top in his block with eight points. Due to losses against fellow eight-pointers, Shinsuke Nakamura and Masahiro Chono however, Suzuki did not reach the quarterfinals. Suzuki has gone on to participate in an additional seven tournaments.

Koji Kanemoto: With NJPW since 1990, Koji Kanemoto, the former five-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight champ, wrestled in his first of to G1s in 2004, finishing with a respectable six points.

Blue Wolf: In his one and only G1 appearance in 2004, Blue Wolf scored four points.

Togi Makabe: Now a G1 veteran, Togi Makabe made his first of 15 consecutive appearances in the tournament in 2004, totaling four points. Makabe’s best G1 came five years later as he followed up a second place finish in 2008, with his one and only G1 crown in 2009.

2005 G1 Climax 15: 3 First-Time Participants
(16 Man Field)

Highest point total: Kazuyuki Fujita – 14
Average point total of first-timers: 6.3
Average point total of all wrestlers: 7
Best finish by a rookie: T-1st in the block (reached the semifinals with 10 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss. Block winners and runner-ups advanced to a four-man semifinal.

Toshiaki Kawada: Having spent his entire career with AJPW, Toshiaki Kawada was invited to take part in his first of two G1s in 2005. He made a strong debut, totaling 10 points and finished tied for first in his block.

Kendo Kashin: In 2005, Kendo Kashin made his only G1 appearance, totaling five points.

Toru Yano: NJPW’s resident goofball, Toru Yano has been a staple of the G1 (he’s made 13 appearances) ever since he made his debut in 2005. Yano had just four points but for the comedic wrestler, his G1s are never about his record. It’s about the way he inevitably plays spoiler to someone else every single year.

2006 G1 Climax 16: 2 First-Time Participants
(10 Man Field)

giant bernard g1 climax
Credit: NJPW

Highest point total: Hiroyoshi Tenzan – 8
Average point total of first-timers: 2.5
Average point total of all wrestlers: 4
Best finish by a rookie: 2nd in the block (5 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss. Block winners and runner-ups advanced to a four-man semifinal.

Giant Bernard: In 2006, after leaving WWE, Giant Bernard made his NJPW debut as well as his G1 debut. It was a solid first showing as Bernard totaled five points and reached the semifinals. In all, Bernard wrestled in six G1s.

Naofumi Yamamoto: In his first and only G1, Naofumi Yamamoto, more commonly known as Yoshi-Tatsu, recorded zero points.

2007 G1 Climax 17: 2 First-Time Participants
(12 Man Field)

Akebono G1 climax
Credit: Puroresu System

Highest point total: Shinsuke Nakamura – 7
Average point total of first-timers: 4.5
Average point total of all wrestlers: 5
Best finish by a rookie: 3rd in the block (5 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss. Block winners and runner-ups advanced to a four-man semifinal.

Akebono: A former Sumo wrestler out of Hawaii, Akebono wrestled in his first and only G1 in 2007, totaling five points.

Milano Collection AT: Milano Collection AT wrestled in his first and only G1 in 2007, finishing with four points.

2008 G1 Climax 18: 3 First-Time Participants
(14 Man Field)

hirooki goto g1 climax
Credit: NJPW

Highest point total: Togi Makabe, Hirooki Goto and Shinsuke Nakamura – 8
Average point total of first-timers: 6.3
Average point total of all wrestlers: 6
Best finish by a rookie: WINNER (won his block with 8 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss.

Hirooki Goto: They say you only have one chance to make a first impression and in 2008, former junior heavyweight Hirooki Goto made his count. Goto tied Nakamura for first in his block with eight points and in the final, defeated Makabe to pick up his first and only G1 crown (11 appearances).

Shinjiro Otani: Shinjiro Otani performed well in his only G1 appearance, picking up seven points which was tied for second in his block.

Wataru Inoue: Wataru Inoue made his first of three G1 appearances in 2008, totaling four points.

2009 G1 Climax 19: 4 First-Time Participants
(14 Man Field)

Highest point total: Shinsuke Nakamura – 12
Average point total of first-timers: 6
Average point total of all wrestlers:
Best finish by a rookie: T-1st in the block (7 points; lost by head-to-head record)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss. Block winners and runner-ups advanced to a four-man semifinal.

Masato Tanaka: In his first and only G1, Masato Tanaka totaled seven points which tied him with Togi Makabe and Hiroshi Tanahashi in his block.  Due to losses against both, however, Tanaka finished just outside of the semifinals.

Takashi Sugiura: Representing Pro Wrestling NOAH, Takashi Sugiura picked up seven points in his first and only G1 appearance.

Takao Omori: In his only G1, Takao Omori picked up six points.

Tajiri: Wrestling just a handful of matches with NJPW in his career, Tajiri finished last in his first and only G1, picking up four points.

2010 G1 Climax 20: 6 First-Time Participants
(16 Man Field)

Highest point total: Satoshi Kojima – 10
Average point total of first-timers: 6
Average point total of all wrestlers: 7
Best finish by a rookie: T-2nd in the block (9 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss.

Go Shiozaki: A member of the Pro Wrestling NOAH roster, Go Shiozaki was invited to take part in the G1 in 2010, where he finished tied for 2nd in his block with nine points.

Prince Devitt: A late scratch to Naomichi Marufuji opened the door for Prince Devitt to make his G1 Climax debut. Devitt, who currently holds the WWE Intercontinental Championship as Finn Balor, scored eight points in his first of two G1 tournaments.

Tetsuya Naito: Tetsuya Naito made his first of nine consecutive G1 appearances in 2010, picking up seven points. Naito has since won the G1 twice (2013 and ’17) as well as reached the final in 2011.

Strong Man: Strong Man picked up four points in his first of (double check) G1 appearances.

Karl Anderson: Karl Anderson made his G1 debut in 2010, scoring four points. Anderson wrestled in six G1s in his career, his best finish coming as the runner-up in 2012.

Yujiro Takahashi: In his first of six G1s, Yujiro Takahashi totaled four points.

2011 G1 Climax 21: 4 First-Time Participants
(20 Man Field)

la sombra g1
Credit: Mediotiempo

Highest point total: Shinsuke Nakamura – 14
Average point total of first-timers: 6.5
Average point total of all wrestlers: 9
Best finish by a rookie: T-2nd in the block (8 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss.

MVP: In his first year with NJPW, MVP made his G1 debut and had a strong showing. MVP finished in a four-way tie for second place in his block with 12 points.

Lance Archer: Lance Archer picked up eight points in his first of now five G1 appearances.

La Sombra: WWE’s Andrade was just 21 when he received an invitation, through NJPW’s Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre partnership, to participate in his first and only G1, scoring four points.

Hideo Saito: Also known as the original Bone Soldier and Captain New Japan, Hideo Saito scored two points in his only G1 tournament.

2012 G1 Climax 22: 4 First-Time Participants
(18 Man Field)

Highest point total: Karl Anderson, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada – 10
Average point total of first-timers: 8
Average point total of all wrestlers: 8
Best finish by a rookie: WINNER (won his block with 10 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss.

Kazuchika Okada: In 2012, the Era of the Rainmaker began as the 24-year-old Kazuchika Okada became the first rookie to win the G1 since Hirooki Goto did it in 2008, as well as becoming the youngest ever to win. Okada led his block with 10 points and defeated Karl Anderson in the final. Currently the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, Okada has wrestled in every G1 since, winning the tournament in 2014 as well.

Shelton Benjamin: Having wrestled for both Ring of Honor and NJPW in 2012, Shelton Benjamin was invited to take part in his first of three G1s, totaling eight points in his debut.

Naomichi Marufuji: Missing out on the G1 a few years prior due to injury, the longtime Pro Wrestling NOAH star, Naomichi Marufuji, represented his promotion in the 2012 edition of the tournament. He tied for third in his block with eight points in his first of two G1 appearances.

Rush: Following his Los Ingobernable stablemate La Sombra, Rush made his one and only appearance in the G1 in 2012, finishing with six points.

2013 G1 Climax 23: 3 First-Time Participants
(20 Man Field)

Highest point total: Hiroshi Tanahashi – 11
Average point total of first-timers: 7.3
Average point total of all wrestlers: 9
Best finish by a rookie: T-2nd in the block (10 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss.

Davey Boy Smith Jr.: Leading all rookies with 10 points in his block, Davey Boy Smith Jr. had a strong showing in his first of two G1 appearances.

Kota Ibushi: Considered one of the favorites to win the tournament this year after finishing as the runner-up in 2018, Kota Ibushi made his G1 debut in 2013, totaling a respectable eight points.

Tomohiro Ishii: Making his first of what is now seven consecutive G1 appearances, Tomohiro Ishii scored six points in 2013.

2014 G1 Climax 24: 4 First-Time Participants
(22 Man Field)

Highest point total: Shinsuke Nakamura, Kazuchika Okada and AJ Styles – 16
Average point total of first-timers: 9.5
Average point total of all wrestlers: 10
Best finish by a rookie: T-1st in the block (16 points; lost by head-to-head record)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss.

AJ Styles: AJ Styles wrestled just 32 matches in his debut year in NJPW, including defeating Kazuchika Okada in his first match with the company to win the IWGP title. He also assumed leadership of Bullet Club the same night. In line for a mega push, Styles’ G1 debut (first of two appearances) saw him tie Okada and Nakamura with 16 points, setting a new G1 point record. But a loss to Okada during the round-robin stage left Styles on the outside looking in on the final, which Okada won over Nakamura.

Bad Luck Fale: Another Bullet clubber making his debut, Bad Luck Fale totaled 12 points in his first of six consecutive G1 appearances.

Doc Gallows: In his first of two G1 appearances, Doc Gallows scored eight points.

Tomoaki Honma: Replacing Kota Ibushi, who was a late scratch due to injury, Tomoaki Honma’s debut G1 was a dud. In his first of three G1s, Honma lost all his matches, finishing with zero points.

2015 G1 Climax 25: 1 First-Time Participant
(20 Man Field)

Highest point total: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura and Kazuchika Okada – 14
Average point total of first-timers: 8
Average point total of all wrestlers: 9
Best finish by a rookie: 5th in the block (8 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss.

Michael Elgin: The lone rookie in the 2015 G1, ROH/NJPW wrestler Michael Elgin scored eight points in his first of four G1 appearances.

2016 G1 Climax 26: 6 First-Time Participants
(20 Man Field)

Highest point total: Hirooki Goto, Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito – 12
Average point total of first-timers: 8.7
Average point total of all wrestlers: 9
Best finish by a rookie: WINNER (won his block with 12 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss.

Kenny Omega: Joining Masahiro Chono (1991), Yoshihiro Takayama (2002), Hirooki Goto (2008) and Kazuchika Okada (2012), Kenny Omega etched himself into the history books by winning the G1 in his debut year. Omega, who totaled 12 points to lead his block and defeated Goto in the final, also made history as the first non-Japanese man to win the G1. Omega wrestled in just three G1s, making the finals twice.

Katsuhiko Nakajima: Representing Pro Wrestling NOAH, Katsuhiko Nakajima’s first and only G1 appearance was a good one as he finished with 10 points.

Tama Tonga: In his first of three G1 appearances, Tama Tonga scored eight points.

EVIL: In his first of three G1 appearances, EVIL scored eight points.

Sanada: In his first of three G1 appearances, Sanada scored eight points.

Yoshi-Hashi: In his first of three G1 appearances, Yoshi-Hashi scored six points.

2017 G1 Climax 27: 2 First-Time Participants
(20 Man Field)

Highest point total: Tetsuya Naito and Kenny Omega – 14
Average point total of first-timers: 9
Average point total of all wrestlers: 9
Best finish by a rookie: T-4th in the block (10 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss.

Zack Sabre Jr.: Zack Sabre Jr. made his first of three consecutive G1 appearances in 2017, totaling 10 points.

Juice Robinson: In 2017, Juice Robinson wrestled his first of now three G1s, scoring eight points in his debut.

2018 G1 Climax 28: 2 First-Time Participants
(20 Man Field)

Highest point total: Hiroshi Tanahashi – 15
Average point total of first-timers: 9
Average point total of all wrestlers: 8.3
Best finish by a rookie: 3rd in the block (12 points)
Scoring system: Two points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss.

Jay White: Returning from an excursion in the U.S., Jay White began the most successful run in his career in 2018. He won his first ever title and made his G1 debut that year, finishing with 12 points.

Hangman Page: In his first and only G1 appearance, Hangman Page finished with six points.

Breaking Down the Numbers – What Do They Mean for 2019’s Rookies?

will ospreay g1 climax
Credit: NJPW

Excluding the inaugural G1 Climax in 1991 and the four non-round-robin years, 80 wrestlers have enjoyed G1 debuts. Their results represent a mixed bag. Of those 80, just six have won in their G1 rookie years. Two others reached the final. That means the likelihood of reaching the final in one’s debut year is just 10 percent. Overall, there have been 28 G1s, 24 of which have been contested under round-robin rules. Of those 24, seven (including Masahiro Chono winning the inaugural tournament in 1991), have been won by first-timers. That’s a bit of a nicer percentage as that means just under 30 percent of the round-robin G1s have been won by wrestlers making their tournament debut.

So what might that mean for our six G1 rookies in 2019? Ultimately, winning the G1 has as much to do with one’s storyline as it does with wrestling good matches. Overall, many G1 participants, especially those not with NJPW, have received strong showings in their first years, but they haven’t won. That’s because there’s no reason to waste what is seen as one of the biggest victories an NJPW wrestler can achieve, on someone who won’t be around to get the full extent out of it. With the recent G1 winners going on to cash in their briefcases at the Tokyo Dome at Wrestle Kingdom, it makes it even more imperative that the winner will be around in six months time to receive that title match.

Tetsuya Naito and Kota Ibushi are the overall favorites but of this year’s rookie class, perhaps the most likely to win the G1 Climax would be Will Ospreay. The current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Ospreay would make all kinds of history. He’d be the first British winner in the tournament’s history and he’d also be the first active junior champion to win as well. Ospreay’s role in the junior division is still critical but the Aerial Assasin has proven he can put on exceptional matches with anyone on the NJPW roster. He’s poised to be 2019’s breakout star, even if he doesn’t win or finish as the runner-up in the G1. Among the rookies, the story is there as well as an all-CHAOS Ospreay vs Kazuchika Okada main event is more than worthy of the Tokyo Dome. Okada is 3-0 against Ospreay, but if ever there were a moment to launch the British standout fully into the top of the NJPW picture, it would be against the company’s ace.

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