It’s down to two men in block B: Kazuchika Okada and Jeff Cobb is our main event in a winner-takes-all clash.
Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI submitted Ryohei Oiwa & Kosei Fujita in 8:06 (**¾)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: YOSHI-HASHI pinned Chase Owens in 8:27 (***)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Hirooki Goto pinned Tama Tonga in 15:20 (***¼)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Taichi pinned Hiroshi Tanahashi in 14:58 (***½)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: EVIL pinned SANADA in 17:47 (**½)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Kazuchika Okada pinned Jeff Cobb in 23:35 (****¼)
After Monday’s possibly convoluted finale, we’re at Budokan Hall in Tokyo for the final go around with the winner of Jeff Cobb and Kazuchika Okada in the main event winning the block. Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton are on hand for English commentary as we’ve a stack of dead rubbers to get through on a slight delay…
Ryohei Oiwa & Kosei Fujita vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI)
We’ve got a “pre-show” match here as the show opened in front of a scarily-sparse Budokan Hall… could third time be the charm for the Young Lions here? Probably not…
BUSHI has the upper hand early on as he traded forearms with Fujita, who landed a dropkick to give him an advantage, until Fujita ran into a back body drop. Oiwa’s knocked off the apron as Hiromu took him into the railings for some chops, before Hiromu tagged in and blistered Fujita with some more.
There’s a slap from Hiromu to Oiwa on the apron as he proceeded to tire out Fujita with pinning attempts. BUSHI’s back to chop through Fujita some more, ahead of a half crab that ended in the ropes. A dropkick from Fujita misses, but he finally lands it at the second attempt as he tagged out after being in there for almost six minutes.
Oiwa DUMPS BUSHI off the apron with a dropkick as he proceeded to charge through Hiromu. Another dropkick has Hiromu down, as did a gutwrench suplex, before BUSHI tried to kick apart a Boston crab. Fujita returns to help charge BUSHI out of the ring, before double dropkicks ditch Hiromu, as the Boston crab’s reapplied… this time ending in the ropes.
More chops from Hiromu lead to a Boston crab on Oiwa, whose attempt to make it to the ropes was quickly stopped as Hiromu pulled back some more for the submission. Oiwa and Fujita did better than before, actually working well together, but the experience edge was just too much for them to overcome. **¾
The main show opens with a live performance from JAM Project as they do the tournament theme song “Max the Max”. I’m guessing scheduling meant they couldn’t do this on the finals themselves?
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Chase Owens vs. YOSHI-HASHI
We’ve one prior meeting here, with YOSHI-HASHI beating Chase in the second round of 2019’s New Japan Cup…
Someone’s leaving with more than four points here, as Owens looks to hope that his new, Cheap Trick-inspired gear does the, ahem, trick. YOSHI-HASHI scored proverbial first blood with a shoulder tackle, but Owens went for the shoulder of YOSHI-HASHI, taking him outside and into the rails.
Back inside, a double sledge drops YOSHI-HASHI, who blocked a second one with a kick to the gut, before another thrust kick blocked Owens’ slingshot spear. There’s a dropkick to the back, but Chase returns with a neckbreaker and a clothesline for a two-count, before a package piledriver was wriggled out of.
YOSHI-HASHI’s back body drop frees him, as he then blocked as C-Trigger and hauled up Chase into a pumphandle’d spin-out over-the-knee neckbreaker that may not have gone as planned. Karma’s countered into a roll-up for a two-count, with Chase throwing another C-Trigger afterwards, only for YOSHI-HASHI to counter his package piledriver again. A Western lariat downs Owens, who then ate Karma… and that’s your lot! Surprisingly short, but it didn’t need to be much more than this. ***
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Tama Tonga vs. Hirooki Goto
Tama’s never beaten Hirooki Goto in their six prior singles matches – going as far back as September 2011. Something tells me that may snap today…
The early going’s pretty even as Tama Tonga was hiptossed and charged down. A glancing elbow from Goto lands for a one-count, before Tama fought back to land a series of elbow drops for a two-count. Tama stays on Goto with a chinlock, dragging him down to the mat in a scissored sleeperhold, only for Goto to get free.
A spinning heel kick into the corner, then a bulldog out of it’s good for a near-fall for Goto, who then mounted a series of kicks to Tama… then bulled him down with a shoulder tackle. Tama pulls Goto to the outside to prevent a plancha, but couldn’t avoid getting thrown into the rails, nor the ring post, before he got shoved down off the top rope as Goto blocked a superplex. A gamengiri keeps Goto on top, as Tama manages to land a Tongan Twist instead, before a Complete Shot and a SRC leads to the Supreme Flow splash.
An ushigoroshi turns it around for Goto, who followed with a draping neckbreaker out of the corner, then a clothesline off the ropes, before Tama flopped to the mat to avoid some more mid-kicks. It looked to be a fake-out as tama charged back for a Gun Stun, but it sparks a load of counters that ended with a Bloody Sunday DDT for a near-fall. Seconds later, Goto blocks a Gun Stun, then rolled up Tama for the win as Tama’s win over Okada was quickly put in the rear view mirror. An enjoyable match for a dead-rubber, but it’s up to Tama to make sure that the Okada win isn’t a one-off… ***¼
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Taichi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Surprisingly, these two have split the wins in their prior match-ups, with Taichi winning in last year’s New Japan Cup, while Tanahashi took the win in 2018’s tournament.
Taichi looked to put Tanahashi away from the off, landing a Dangerous backdrop for a near-fall, but a buzzsaw kick came to nought when Taichi’s back gave out in Black Mephisto. He manages to hit an Axe Bomber, then went back to Black Mephisto, but Tanahashi blocks it again before he hit a gut punch.
Tanahashi stands on Taichi’s ribs in the ropes, then locked in a toe hold on the mat, as a prelude to a Muta lock. Staying on the legs of Taichi keeps the tag champion in trouble, forcing Taichi to crawl towards the ropes before he managed to catch Tanahashi with a hook kick.
A snapmare and a kick to the back keeps Tanahashi down, but Tanahashi goes right back to the ribs with a right hand, before he hung up Taichi in a Tree of Woe, following up with a dropkick to the exposed ribs. Tanahashi’s being a lot more of a bully than usual here, but Taichi’s able to fight back from below with an enziguiri, only to get taken down in a Dragon screw as a Cloverleaf put Taichi back to square one.
The doctor comes out to check on Taichi, who manages to find enough in him to finally land that Dangerous backdrop driver… a thrust kick followed, but he can’t make a cover quickly. By the time Taichi rolled over, Tanahashi’s able to kick out at two, only to get decked with a forearm as the pair stood back up.
Taichi finally manages to muscle up Tanahashi for Black Mephisto, but it gets countered into a Twist and Shout as Tanahashi pushed on again with a Slingblade. The Ace’s High froggy crossbody lands, but a High Fly Flow misses as Taichi rolled away… then returned with a Gedo clutch to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat! It was supremely odd seeing heel Tanahashi and an underdog babyface Taichi here, but both played the roles supremely well – although this perhaps would have worked better had Tanahashi had something to fight for in this final night. ***½
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: EVIL vs. SANADA
Of course, these two have a long history as tag partners, but in singles meetings SANADA edges things 3-2 – including with a pair of wins since EVIL joined the Bullet Club last summer.
As usual, EVIL rolls to the outside as he grabbed the mic and and tried to forfeit the match. I spied the ring announcer quaking behind him… SANADA refuses to accept the forfeiture, and we get going with dropkicks as EVIL again powders. It masks Dick Togo removing a corner pad, but SANADA turns around just in time, only for the corner pad to go just as SANADA was headed into that corner.
We’re back on the outside as SANADA’s met with chairs, which led to our first count-out tease, with SANADA rolling in at 17… then being forced to kick out at two from several pinning attempts. A suplex from SANADA buys him time, as he then proceeded to build up to an atomic drop and a Paradise lock. Dick Togo pops up to protest, but he’s slung into the ring and met with a Paradise lock, before both men got kicked in the arse to force their freedom.
EVIL elbows SANADA to avoid a TKO, before SANADA’s misdirection led to EVIL taking a dropkick. Things spill outside again as the ring announcer’s bowled over thanks to EVIL, who eventually followed up with a Darkness Scorpion for our second count-out tease of the night. In a match with zero stakes. Yes. Dick Togo pulls SANADA out at 18 as the referee was unsighted, but SANADA makes it back in, only to eat Darkness Falls for a near-fall.
EVIL calls for the finish, but SANADA avoids a whip into the exposed corner as a back suplex took EVIL down. A TKO looked to follow, but EVIL wriggles out, only for SANADA to go skyward with a missile dropkick. That TKO’s next, before SANADA went up top and was thrown a chair by Dick Togo. SANADA takes an age to drop the chair as he then dropkicked Togo off the apron, before a Skull End dragged EVIL to the mat.
SANADA being SANADA, he lets go so he could go up for a moonsault… but EVIL gets his knees up. Right on cue. He never learns. SANADA struggled back to his feet, but manages to follow in with uppercuts, only for EVIL to go to the eyes as we begin shenanigans. A Magic Killer using the ref’s blocked but SANADA accidentally wipes out the ref before Dick Togo came in to inadvertently provide help on that Magic Killer.
It’s good for a near-fall, before SANADA pushed EVIL towards the ref. A low blow and an O’Connor roll ends with Togo pulling out the ref, as it’s now time for the garrot wire. SANADA grabs it to block, before we play pass the parcel with a chair. SANADA dropkicks it into Togo’s face, before EVIL chucked one off of SANADA’s head as the ref wasn’t looking, following with Everything is EVIL for the win. At least it didn’t break 20 minutes, and it was nice of them to wait until it didn’t matter for them to cram in all their shenanigans, but this was… exactly what you expected, in a bad way. **½
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Jeff Cobb vs. Kazuchika Okada
Cobb’s already got the record for most points scored in the G1 – and a win here will see him stretch that… but his win at the MetLife Dome last month was only his first over Okada, who has two prior wins to his name.
Cobb tries to surprise Okada at the bell, going for an early Tour of the Islands before Okada came back with a neckbreaker slam out of the corner. The pace is kept slow, which perhaps tips off how we’re going to go long… but Okada needs to win to win the block – any other result puts Cobb through.
A snapmare and a low dropkick has Cobb down, but Cobb pushes out at one as he looked to have been jarred by that neckbreaker. Clinging onto the rope sees Cobb delay an Irish whip, before he took down Okada with an Okada-ish sliding back elbow as things spill outside, with Cobb whacking Okada in the lower back with forearms. Okada’s used as a makeshift surfboard before a series of deadlift belly-to-belly back inside drew a two-count.
Cobb charges Okada from corner to corner, before a standing moonsault led to Cobb being flapjacked as Okada closed things down. A DDT from Okada’s good for a two-count, before Cobb broke free of a Money Clip, only to get lifted up top and dropkicked to the floor. Cobb recovers with an overhead belly-to-belly on the floor, having caught Okada off the apron.
Returning to the ring, a dropkick dumps Okada again, but a shotgun dropkick takes Cobb off the apron ahead of a tope con giro into the aisle as Okada made a rare trip to the skies. A missile dropkick followed back inside ahead of a top rope elbow, with the Rainmaker zoom-out leading to a Rainmaker getting countered into a Spin Cycle. Cobb picks up with an Oklahoma Stampede to Okada for a near-fall, then a standing moonsault for another two-count. Okada’s attempt at a Rainmaker’s countered with a German suplex, but a Tour of the Islands is cut short as the pair then battle over a tombstone, with Cobb planting Okada… only to pull him up for a spinning tombstone afterwards.
Cobb gets a gasp from the crowd as he called for a Rainmaker, but it’s Okada who lands a spinny one, before a dropkick set-up Cobb for the Money Clip. Cobb manages to flip out of it, but a series of backslides leads to a headbutt from Cobb, then a Tour if the Islands… which Okada countered as we get the sit-down on a backdrip for another near-fall for Okada.
Lifting Okada up top, Cobb hits a leaping dropkick, hanging Okada in a Tree of Woe onto the apron. Okada manages to free himself, but Cobb loomed large as he deadlifts him up for a superplex… stopping to launch himself up for a headbutt to Okada as what looked like an avalanche Tour of the Islands was countered into a DDT.
More Rainmaker attempts are ducked as Okada again gets scooped up… with Cobb going for another Tour of the Islands, only for Okada to escape with a dropkick. Cobb’s back up, but runs into a landslide tombstone, before a Rainmaker ends Cobb’s perfect G1 – and booked Okada’s last-gasp spot in the finals. A match of two-halves, with Cobb dominating the first half only for an Okada comeback to undo an entire tournament’s work (as far as end results go). A shining G1 from Cobb, you’d have to say. This was not quite the “Okada by Numbers” I’ve criticised, but for some this will feel like a spurned chance to go outside the box with the G1 final. ****¼
Your final G1 Climax block standings then…
Block A Standings
Kota Ibushi (7-2 / 14pts)
Shingo Takagi (6-1-2 / 13pts)
KENTA, Zack Sabre Jr. (6-3 / 12pts)
Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano (5-4 / 10pts)
Great-O-Khan (4-5 / 8pts)
Tanga Loa (3-6 / 6pts)
Yujiro Takahashi (2-1-6 / 5pts)
Tetsuya Naito (withdrew) (0-9 / 0pts)
Block B Standings
Kazuchika Okada, Jeff Cobb (8-1 / 16pts) – Okada wins via tie-breaker
EVIL (7 – 2 / 14pts)
SANADA, Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-5 / 8pts)
Hirooki Goto, Taichi, Tama Tonga, YOSHI-HASHI (3-6 / 6pts)
Chase Owens (2-7 / 4pts)
The G1 Climax finals are tomorrow – again from Budokan Hall – with a full card to be announced on show day… but Okada vs. Ibushi will be their first main event since last year’s WrestleKingdom, and a chance for Okada to finally get a G1 win over Ibushi, while breaking Kota’s wish to three-peat.
The knock coming out of Monday’s block A finals was that the show “didn’t feel like a finals night,” and unfortunately until the main event, the same could be said here. Through a lot of factors they can’t control (and some they absolutely can), New Japan feels cold and inconsequential. A lot of people checked out of this tournament – at least, compared to the levels of years gone by – and while the main event lived up to the hype, the G1 final we’re getting – while almost certainly will be “a very good match,” absolutely doesn’t address any of the staleness that’s permeating New Japan in 2021.