During the interval of this past Monday’s house show, New Japan unveiled the twenty participants for this year’s G1 Climax – and raised several eyebrows in the process.

Originally, G1 veteran Hiroyoshi Tenzan wasn’t named as part of either of the two blocks, but New Japan did find room for outsiders Naomichi Marufuji and Katsuhiko Nakajima alongside a mixture of New Japan’s leading lights and, erm, lesser-lights. Whilst having the likes of Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito was a no-brainer, Toru Yano and Bullet Club bottom feeders Tama Tonga and Bad Luck Fale was definitely a head-scratcher.

In case you missed it in our run-down of Monday’s New Japan show, here’s who’s in the two blocks:

Block A: Togi Makabe, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, SANADA, Naomichi Marufuji, Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan*

From that block alone, any mixture of Okada/SANADA/Ishii/Goto/Tanahashi will be good times – and yes, the additions of Tama Tonga and Bad Luck Fale will give one match we’ll all be fast-forwarding through.

* Satoshi Kojima “gave” his place in the tournament to Hiroyoshi Tenzan on the July 3 New Japan show.

Block B: Katsuyori Shibata, Yuji Nagata, Tomoaki Honma, Michael Elgin, Toru Yano, Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, Kenny Omega, Katsuhiko Nakajima, YOSHI-HASHI

The show-stealers will almost certainly come from this block – Yuji Nagata and Katsuyori Shibata will have to renew their rivalries, whilst the Naito/Nagata match should be full of that antagonistic goodness. From there, Shibata, Elgin, Naito, Omega and Nagata will be the five who will be looked on to provide the good-to-great action, with the obvious EVIL/Naito match expected to be like block A’s Battle of the Bullet Club. But actually good.

With shows running in July and August, round-robin portion of the G1 Climax will take place over eighteen shows, creating a litany of intriguing matches. The following were advertised by New Japan as headline matches for the following dates:

July 18 (Hokkaido): SANADA vs. Tanahashi, Okada vs. Shibata
July 22 (Tokyo): Naito vs. Nagata, Shibata vs. Honma
July 23 (Tokyo): Tanahashi vs. Makabe, Okada vs. SANADA
July 24 (Tokyo): Shibata vs. Nakajima, Honma vs. YOSHI-HASHI
July 25 (Fukushima): Makabe vs. SANADA, Okada vs. Goto
July 27 (Nagano): Yano vs. Naito, Shibata vs. Elgin
July 28 (Saitama): Ishii vs. Marufuji, Goto vs. SANADA
July 30 (Aichi): Elgin vs. Omega, Shibata vs. Naito
July 31 (Gifu): Makabe vs. Marufuji, Tanahashi vs Goto
August 1 (Kagawa): YOSHI-HASHI vs. Nakajima, Honma vs. Naito
August 3 (Kagoshima): Ishii vs. Tanahashi, Makabe vs. Okada
August 4 (Fukuoka): Nakajima vs. Naito, Shibata vs. Omega
August 6 (Osaka): Tanahashi vs. Marufuji, Okada vs. Ishii
August 7 (Hamamatsu): Nagata vs. Omega, EVIL vs. Naito
August 8 (Yokohama): SANADA vs. Ishii, Tanahashi vs. Kojima*
August 10 (Yamagata): Honma vs. Elgin, Shibata vs. Nagata
August 12 (Tokyo): Goto vs. Marufuji, Tanahashi vs. Okada
August 13 (Tokyo): Shibata vs. EVIL, Naito vs. Omega
August 14 (Tokyo): G1 Finals

* no word on if Tenzan will slot straight in here, or whether the August 8 main events will change.

In addition, all nineteen dates of the G1 Climax will be streamed live on New Japan World. If your subscription period renews badly, at most, this will cost you just under 2000 Yen ($20/$15 at current exchange rates), this is a hell of a bargain, especially considering that streaming the G1 tournament a few years ago cost over five times that amount prior to the inception of New Japan World.

Historically, the G1 Climax has always taken it out of the participants – with such a number of shows in a short period of time, with the expectation that those matches all have to deliver, how could it not? As such, injuries, forfeits and withdrawals play a part, which can make picking winners a bit of a crapshoot.

That being said, Hiroshi Tanahashi dropped out of his Dominion match with Kenny Omega in order to rehab a shoulder injury. Tanahashi has been battling shoulder problems all year, and there’s a part of me that thinks that he won’t last the entire tournament without having to forfeit matches, or even drop out.

As such, I’m having a hard time picking Tanahashi as the winner of block A, and since I’d imagine that New Japan don’t want to spam Okada vs. Naito, I’m going to pick a surprise winner from the block, in Naomichi Marufuji. Well, nobody predicted Ryusuke Taguchi as a block winner from the Best of Super Juniors, so why not?

Block B seems more obvious – although the likes of Katsuyori Shibata, Kenny Omega and Michael Elgin will be up there in the final standings, this block has Tetsuya Naito’s name written all over it, running up to what looks set to be a rematch with Kazuchika Okada.

Nineteen shows. Ninety-one matches. If there was ever a tournament designed to help you overdose on wrestling, this year’s G1 Climax is it. I. Can’t.Wait…