Kazuchika Okada – A Block – 9/10
New Japan Pro Wrestling has seen a lot of Kazuchika Okada on top the last few years. Of the last 1548 days, Okada has been IWGP Heavyweight Champion for 994 of them. Some have started to grow fatigued with Okada on top but you would be a fool to bet against him.
Okada highlights a star-studded A Block and should be considered a favourite to make his way to the final. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Tetsuya Naito took three tries to wrest the title away from Okada in the Tokyo Dome but maybe this is the year that Okada walks into the venue as the challenger.
Hirooki Goto – B Block – 6/10
Hirooki Goto has been one of the most consistent workers in New Japan Pro Wrestling in recent years. Part of that consistency has been Goto maintaining his position atop the company’s midcard. Always reliable for a quality match and able to step into the main event scene if need be, Goto’s odds should be considered middle at best.
Since winning the tournament in 2008, the closest Goto has come to repeating that success has been a finals appearance in 2016 where he lost to Kenny Omega. Goto could be a dark horse with a history with Naito but I wouldn’t put money on it.
Tomohiro Ishii – A Block – 6/10
Tomohiro Ishii is in a similar position as Hirooki Goto. The two of them are often considered the gate-keepers of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship scene as they are two of the best wrestlers in the world yet still unable to capture the gold. Ishii does have the advantage of popularity behind him as one of the best underdog performers in the world.
If Ishii is going to win this tournament, he will have to knock off some of the toughest competitors in the company. That is not to say he can’t do it but it won’t be easy. Fans everywhere would love to see Ishii pull off the biggest win of his career but will he be able to have that sustained success necessary to win the G1 Climax?
Toru Yano – B Block – 2/10
This is an easy one. Toru Yano is a comedy character and certainly plays that role well. That being said, Yano is not going to win the G1 Climax. He may pull off a shocking upset here or there, but he is likely never going to be a serious main event player.
Yano has often played the role of spoiler in the G1 Climax, often pulling out wins to keep opponents from reaching the finals. That is what you should be keeping your eye on when watching Yano this year, rather than expecting him to win it all.