Tomohiro Ishii gets a G1 main event in Hiroshima, as he takes on Great-O-Khan in block A.
El Desperado submitted Ryohei Oiwa in 6:40 (**¼)
KENTA pinned Hiromu Takahashi in 19:01 (***½)
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Kota Ibushi pinned Tanga Loa in 13:46 (***½)
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Zack Sabre Jr. submitted Yujiro Takahashi in 14:14 (***½)
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Shingo Takagi pinned Toru Yano in 8:17 (***)
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Tomohiro Ishii pinned Great-O-Khan in 26:27 (***¾)
We’re at the Sun Plaza Hall in Hiroshima for this, with Kevin Kelly doing the Lord’s work, flying solo on English commentary…
Ryohei Oiwa vs. El Desperado
The new Young Lions’ trials by fire continue here, but Oiwa started by going after Desperado’s arm, locking in a side headlock on the mat.
Desperado escapes and ties up Oiwa’s legs, before Oiwa got back with some headscissors that Desperado easily pulled out of. Going back to the legs, Desperado worked a toe hold on Oiwa, then splashed the knee for a two-count.
Oiwa manages to stay in it, but his search for a Boston crab was easily blocked as Desperado went in with a Deathlock, forcing Oiwa to back up towards the ropes. Desperado threatens to bridge back, but Oiwa just taps out. **¼
KENTA vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Hiromu’s been drafted in as the “day off” opponent due to Tetsuya Naito’s injury…
Hiromu charges out of the gate with a shotgun dropkick as he looked to surprise KENTA, but a hesitation dropkick into the corner misses as KENTA takes things outside, with Hiromu getting thrown into the railings and ring post. Kicks keep Hiromu in the railings, before KENTA trapped him in some headscissors back in the ring.
Kicks from KENTA keep Hiromu down, before he went over to remove a corner pad. Of course, Hiromu’s thrown into the exposed corner, but that just seemed to fire him up… even if KENTA just dragged him back down to the mat in a side headlock. A Dragon screw from Hiromu offered some hope, but a scoop slam off the ropes from KENTA restored order.
A DDT adds another two-count for KENTA, while a tornado stun gun and a side Russian legsweep threw in another two-count, as KENTA then rolled in for a STF. Getting free, Hiromu charges at KENTA, but gets low bridged ahead of a draping DDT off the apron attempt… but Hiromu instead charged KENTA towards the timekeeper’s table. Just with enough force to break up the hold, and not send the timekeeper arse over elbow…
My feed drops out, recovering with Hiromu making a nasty thud as he was slammed on the floor. Hiromu beats the count, but takes a hesitation dropkick into the corner, but KENTA’s flying clothesline is aborted as he’s instead chucked into the corner pads. Hiromu looks for a Dynamite Plunger, but KENTA slips free and starts throwing strikes, ending with KENTA shoving Hiromu into the referee.
A DDT leaves Hiromu down, and with no law and order around, KENTA rolls outside and grabs a chair from under the ring, but Hiromu gets up and shouts him down. So we’re back to elbows, before Hiromu’s caught with the chair anyway… more chairshots follow to the back, before a Green Killer onto the chair, only for Hiromu to kick out after the referee started the delayed count.
More strikes from KENTA leave Hiromu down ahead of a Busaiku knee attempt, but a clothesline just proved an inconvenient block for KENTA. A second one’s caught, as Hiromu eventually lands the Victory Royal, but he can’t follow up with a pin… and when Hiromu went for Time Bomb 2, KENTA slipped out, only to run into a superkick.
Hiromu tries to push on with another clothesline, dropping KENTA for a near-fall. A death valley driver into the corner follows, but KENTA kicks out and raked the eyes, charging Hiromu into the exposed corner as a roll-up snatches the win. On paper there was always going to be one likely outcome – and while you could wonder “why on earth make this match if Hiromu’s losing,” if the long-term game is for him to move up to the heavyweights, it’s matches like this that always end up showing some kind of incremental gains as part of the bigger picture. ***½
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Tanga Loa vs. Kota Ibushi
Ibushi looks to be picking up steam after a stuttering start – as other results mean that him making a third-straight G1 finals isn’t too far-fetched.
Tanga Loa took Ibushi into the ropes early on, before a leapfrog and a dropkick put Tanga ahead, as did a side headlock takedown. A dropkick from Ibushi took Tanga outside for a plancha, before a spear from Tanga Loa stopped Ibushi in his tracks. Taking his time on the outside, Tanga Loa almost got himself counted out, but returned to the ring to hit a standing moonsault for some two-counts, before it’s back to the side headlock that ends in the ropes.
Irish whips into the corner had Ibushi stuttering, as an Exploder suplex from Tanga Loa saw him almost have fun with Ibushi en route to a near-fall. Ibushi’s leaping mid kick manages to buy him some time, as he then scored with a scoop slam and a springboard moonsault for a near-fall.
Escaping a Dragon suplex attempt, Tanga Loa nails an enziguiri and a Blue Thunder Bomb for a near-fall, before an Ibushi powerbomb led to a near-fall. Kamigoye looks to follow, but Tanga Loa blocks its path… only for Ibushi to reposition as he looked to hit one to the back. Tanga blocks that too, and hits one of his own to the back of Ibushi’s head, leaving both men in a heap.
A release German suplex just seems to fire up Ibushi, who hits one of his own… before a running knee was caught. The hell? Reverse ‘rana from Tanga Loa? Ibushi has one of his own though, before a Bomaye knee left Tanga Loa down for the Kamigoye… but a spear counters THAT as Tanga Loa then looked for Apeshit.
Ibushi escapes and scooped up Tanga Loa into a tombstone instead, before the Kamigoye finally got the win. This felt a little unpolished in parts, as I suspect Ibushi’s still not quite 100% yet, but Tanga Loa impressed me in defeat. ***½
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Yujiro Takahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Calling this one “winnable” for ZSJ is an understatement… especially as commentary called out Yujiro’s record of losing to submissions.
We go to ground early on, before Yujiro tried a low blow… Sabre caught it and turned it into an ankle lock as Yujiro scrambled to the outside. Sabre catches Yujiro in the ropes, but of course he’s got to let go of the hold, as Yujiro again fell to the outside.
Sabre starts to focus on Yujiro’s arm with stomps, but Yujiro bites the feet to stop Sabre, coming back with a taste of leather and a low dropkick. On the outside, Sabre’s thrown into the rails, before Yujiro drove the pimp cane into him, before he kept the pressure up in the ring with a low dropkick for a one-count.
A running boot traps Sabre in the corner as Yujiro followed up with a back suplex, looking to keep pushing for that upset. The pair trade strikes, but Sabre snapped Yujiro’s arm between his legs… then escaped a Fisherman buster as that earlier focus managed to give Sabre a way back into things.
Sabre’s attempt at a DDT’s countered into a reverse DDT by Yujiro, before a Miami Shine’s countered into a guillotine. Yujiro suplexes his way free for a near-fall, before Sabre crucifix’d his way out of an Incolle Slam, then avoided a low dropkick before he ended up taking that Incolle Slam.
The pair return to exchanging strikes, with Sabre coming off on the back foot as a Miami Shine almost gave Sabre his second loss. Eventually, Sabre fights back, only to run into a clothesline as Pimp Juice gets blocked… then eventually lands for a near-fall. They nearly did two big upsets in as many shows… Big Juice followed, but Sabre pulls Yujiro down into an armbar, before a headscissor’d armbar (called the Tesco Meal Deal, as I think someone needs to have a word with Zack about these names…) orced the stoppage. A better showing than I expected out of Yujiro, as he’s been doing his damndest to shed that reputation, but there’s not quite as much juice in a singles run with him as opposed to Tanga Loa… ***½
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Toru Yano vs. Shingo Takagi
Just the one prior singles meeting, with Shingo winning in 2019’s G1…
Yano’s got his bag of tricks again, this time with another bag of tricks inside as he tried to get Shingo to give up his non-existant contraband. Instead, Yano wants to make this an impromptu blindfold match, and Shingo falls for it, almost losing via roll-up. He puts the hood back on Yano and charges him to the outside, before an Irish whip was reversed, breaking open the gate in the process.
Yano disinfects Shingo’s face and hood, then threw the masked Shingo under the ring… Shingo gets back up, and nearly climbs into the crowd before he figured out to remove the hood and return to the ring. Cue more Yano shtick with the corner pads, before some jousting with those pads ended poorly for Yano.
Knees in the ropes from Shingo trap Yano, as the pair then tee off on each other with elbows, which led to a rebound belly-to-belly from Yano. Elbows and punches from Shingo lead to both men grabbing some hair, but Yano doesn’t let go as Shingo seemed to be falling for every trick in the book.
Yano’s sent to the exposed corner, then tripped Shingo into the buckles for a near-fall. We’ve another too-close-for-comfort two-count from a low blow and a roll-up, before Shingo hit a Pumping Bomber. Shingo pulls up Yano’s shirt to unsight him for a sliding lariat, before a blinded Last of the Dragon finally put Yano away. Considering their places on the roster, Yano got too much in on Shingo – particularly in terms of the cheap tricks – but for all the scares, Shingo escaped with the W. ***
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Great-O-Khan vs. Tomohiro Ishii
A first-time singles match – since we never had Ishii as an opponent when O-Khan was a Young Lion…
Ishii looked to dominate early with a side headlock, but O-Khan’s able to respond with a shoulder block as he tried to rile up Ishii. We get dualling elbows, as the pair looked to wear down the other. Chops did the trick, as O-Khan’s sent into the ropes, only for O-Khan to return by grabbing Ishii’s ears as the pair headed to the outside.
Back in the ring, O-Khan chokes away on Ishii, before they headed into the corner where O-Khan went to take a seat… but Ishii slips out, only to get met with a flying Mongolian chop for a two-count. O-Khan looks to work the arm, but Ishii’s able to break free and charge O-Khan down, taking him into the corner for a parade of chops and forearms as the Dominator was, ahem, being dominated.
A second charge from Ishii sees him run into a Judo-style throw, before Mongolian chops took Ishii into the Tree of Woe for the baseball slide kick. O-Khan finally gets his seat in the corner, but that just pisses off Ishii, who replied to that with a chop to the throat. They trade high chops as the crowd clapped along, but the Mongolian chops again wear down Ishii, who replied by hanging O-Khan into the ropes.
O-Khan absorbs a series of forearms as Ishii ends up getting knocked into the corner in return, before the search for a superplex ended with a sunset bomb from Ishii. It nearly gets the win too, but O-Khan’s right back in with a grounded head-and-arm choke, before Ishii snuck out to hit a Divorce Court to free himself.
Ishii stays on the arm with a Kimura, before a cross armbar ended in the ropes. The pair trade headbutts, but it’s Ishii’s blasting one that had O-Khan in a heap on the mat, before a sliding lariat almost got the win as O-Khan looked dazed. A sheer drop brainbuster’s escaped by O-Khan, who came back with a Gourdbuster instead, before a stalling back suplex led to another near-fall.
From there, O-Khan picks up Ishii, only to get met with elbows… he charges Ishii down, but to no avail as a clothesline dropped O-Khan once more. He’s right back up to tie up Ishii in a Sheep Killer, following up with a Tenzan Tombstone Driver for a near-fall. An Eliminator’s blocked by Ishii, whose German suplex was quickly shrugged off as O-Khan remained ahead.
A sudden lariat from Ishii gets us just a one-count as we crept closer to the 25:00 mark in the match. O-Khan hits a lariat of his own though, but couldn’t follow with an Eliminator, not could Ishii with a brainbuster. What does land though, was an enziguiri from Ishii, then a lariat, which almost got the win, before the sheer-drop brainbuster finally put O-Khan away. A hard fought match which looks to pull the door closed a little more on O-Khan’s G1 hopes this year – while also cruelly teasing us of an Ishii comeback that’ll undoubtedly fall short. ***¾
Your latest standings: remember, block A dished out points up front after Naito’s withdrawal.
Zack Sabre Jr (5-1 / 10pts)
Kota Ibushi (5-2 / 10pts)
KENTA, Shingo Takagi (4-2 / 8pts)
Tomohiro Ishii, Great-O-Khan (4-3 / 8pts)
Tanga Loa, Yujiro Takahashi, Toru Yano (2-4 / 4pts)
Tetsuya Naito (withdrew) (0-9 / 0pts)
Jeff Cobb, Kazuchika Okada (5-0 / 10pts)
EVIL, Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-1 / 8pts)
SANADA, Taichi (2-3 / 4pts)
Hirooki Goto (eliminated), Chase Owens, Tama Tonga, YOSHI-HASHI (eliminated) (1-4 / 2pts)
We’re back tomorrow in Kochi, as Taichi and Kazuchika Okada headline in block B.
A quietly solid-to-good night in the G1 here, with pretty much every match delivering what you’d expect.