Tanahashi was not the pick of many in 2018 when his G1 entry came off the back of a debilitating knee injury but time and again Tanahashi pulls out all of the stops in order to compete at the very top of his game during the G1. In 2020, though, singles success has proven elusive. The year started with a loss to Chris Jericho in the Tokyo Dome, and on NJPW’s return to action for the New Japan Cup, a first round exit to Taichi was the result. In the ensuing IWGP Tag Team Championship feud with Dangerous Tekkers, Tanahashi proved to be the weaker link of the Golden ☆ Ace team before Kota Ibushi elected to break the duo up at least on a temporary basis after Summer Struggle in Jingu; can G1 Climax 30 once again spark a Tanahashi resurgence and prove that the Ace’s time isn’t over yet?
Key match Ryogoku October 17 vs Zack Sabre Jr.
Tanahashi and ZSJ have been all but joined at the hip over the last two years; their tag team wars through the summer of 2020 the continuation of a singles feud that saw five matches in 2019 alone. Now meeting one on one for the ninth time, the win:loss record stands at 4:4. A win over the British submission master would not only put the Ace ahead in their feud, but would also be a key indicator of Tanahashi being back in peak form if he can use victory to book his place in the final.
Yet Goto is always in the mix, and capable of putting together hot streaks that make him a clear and distinct threat. In 2016, he would make the final after Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi wrestled to a draw ahead of him in the block, and in 2019, despite questions over whether he would check out after defeating his rival Switchblade Jay White in his first match, he was present until the bitter end. Overlooking the fierce warrior would be a grave mistake indeed.
Key match Yokohama October 14 vs EVIL
When EVIL first debuted in NJPW as Tetsuya Naito’s pareja in what would become Los Ingobernables De Japon, EVIL was his first singles opponent, in a match that ended in disqualification. Almost five years later and many would argue that a disqualification should have been the result in the quarterfinals of the New Japan Cup, and a vicious assault from the King of Darkness that served as a prelude to EVIL’s betrayal of LIJ to join BULLET CLUB. There’s certainly a lot of history between EVIL and Goto, and all of it dominated by bad blood. Yokohama will see the next chapter.