New Japan’s staying in Tokyo as Kazuchika Okada and EVIL offer up a main event in the fourth night of the G1.
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Hirooki Goto in 14:10 (***¼)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Tama Tonga pinned Chase Owens in 12:59 (***¼)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Jeff Cobb pinned YOSHI-HASHI in 13:21 (***½)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Taichi pinned SANADA in 25:14 (***½)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Kazuchika Okada pinned EVIL in 21:46 (****)
We’re back at the Ota City General Gymnasium for the second round of block B action… apparently I horrifically under-rated yesterday’s main event. Maybe I’ll go back over the weekend to rewatch it with the added benefit of not running on four hours’ sleep after AEW… Or maybe not, I mean the whole point of ratings is how you feel in the moment, right?
Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton are running on commentary again as NJPW World made today’s show for free. Don’t GIF this!
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Hirooki Goto vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
A curious choice of opener, you’d think… Goto’s only beaten Tanahashi twice, including in last year’s G1, as we’ve a battle of title holders to kick the show off.
The early feeling out stage sees Tanahashi trip Goto to the mat, before they fought over a side headlock, as we’re then back to the mat with Tanahashi tying up the legs. A rope break gets Goto free, but Tanahashi stays on top of him… until a discus lariat landed for the NEVER trios champion. Goto pulls ahead with a spinning heel kick into the corner, then a bulldog out of it, but Tanahashi’s quickly back in with a back senton, before a slam and a flip senton out of the corner splatted Goto for a two-count. Recovering, Tanahashi ducks a clothesline to the back of the head, but couldn’t avoid a spinning ushigoroshi… but landing on the bad knee that Tanahashi had been targeting throughout.
Tanahashi’s lifted to the top rope as Goto brings him down with a hanging neckbreaker, before they went back up top, with Goto teasing an avalanche ushigoroshi… but Tanahashi countered out as he looked for a sunset bomb, only to hit a Twist and Shout as Goto teased a Shoutenkai amid a sea of counters. A Slingblade follows from Tanahashi for a near-fall, before a High Fly Flow misses as Goto rolled away. Goto follows up with a headbutt, then a reverse GTR that nearly gets the win… but a regular GTR’s escaped as Goto ends up falling to an inside cradle… and there’s your flash win! Goto thought he’d kicked out and instantly went to cover Tanahashi, but it’s too late as that inside cradle surprises us all. A very different kind of match to what we’re used to, but a Tanahashi/Goto match that doesn’t go past the 20m mark is always welcome. ***¼
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Chase Owens vs. Tama Tonga
Must. Not. Have. Prejudice. For. Bullet. Club. Bonanza.
We open with a tie-up into the ropes, then a battle over a wristlock as the pair switch around holds. An armdrag has Owens on the deck, before he gets up and took down Tama with a shoulder tackle… they tease their finishers, but to no avail as Tama Tonga came back, beating Owens into the corner with forearms. A scoop slam off the ropes keeps Tama ahead, as did a leaping elbow drop, before an overhead wristlock stretches Chase out. Owens gets free and comes back with some forearms before an enziguiri took Tama into the corner… following up with a nice hiptoss into a neckbreaker.
Owens followed that up with a regular neckbreaker for a two-count, before a series of strikes sunk Tama to his knees. A rolling death valley driver from Tama stops that momentum though, only for a Tiger Driver and a STF to put Chase right back on top. Tama’s able to drag himself to the ropes for the break, before a Gun Stun’s blocked… Tama keeps going for it, but runs into a leaping knee, as a Jewel Heist then spun Tama to the mat. Tama kicks out at two from that, but eats another knee strike as Chase then went for the package piledriver… but Tama neatly flips out into a Gun Stun, and that’s the win. This wasn’t in the same stratosphere as I was fearing, with the pair throwing all shenanigans out of the window and putting on a pretty good showing. Lesson here? Leave your mind open. ***¼
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Jeff Cobb vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Cobb won his opening day match – while YOSHI-HASHI is the last of the zero-pointers to wrestle today…
Cobb tries to dominate early on, shoving YOSHI-HASHI away, only for YOSHI-HASHI to return with some forearms in the ropes. An attempted Irish whip is easily blocked though, before the pair ended outside, with Cobb being shoved into the guard rails. Back inside, chops and elbows have Cobb in the corner, but he just charges out of it with a shoulder block to knock YOSHI-HASHI down. YOSHI-HASHI gets knocked down with an elbow as Cobb just walks over him, regaining the upper hand as YOSHI-HASHI was clutching his left shoulder a little, having taken a bad landing on that earlier charge down. A headbutt has YOSHI-HASHI down again, but he’s able to catch Cobb with a Dragon screw, before clotheslines and chops led to a neckbreaker for a near-fall.
YOSHI-HASHI stays in it with a rear spin kick before a powerbomb was easily countered with a back body drop. Chop/clothesline combos trap YOSHI-HASHI in the corner, before the Spin Cycle dumps YOSHI-HASHI for a near-fall, with a standing moonsault getting him a little closer. Out of nowhere, a Dragon suplex from YOSHI-HASHI gives him an opening, with a Western Lariat keeping Cobb down, before YOSHI-HASHI went back to the powerbomb… and again loses it. He quickly recovers with a thrust kick before… DESTROYER?! It nearly puts Cobb away too, before Cobb hauled YOSHI-HASHI into a German suplex to buy some time.
From there, Cobb takes YOSHI-HASHI into the ropes for a Tour of the Islands, only for YOSHI-HASHI to counter with an inside cradle for a near-fall. A spear-like tackle has YOSHI-HASHI down, before Cobb pulled him into a Tour of the Islands for the win. A good match for what it was, with Cobb blitzing through YOSHI-HASHI, who had a few moments of hope… but in the end it’s been a bad night for the NEVER trios champions so far. ***½
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: SANADA vs. Taichi
We’ve only had two prior meetings between these two in New Japan – both in the last sixteen months, with SANADA coming out on top both times.
Taichi wilts into the ropes from the opening tie-up, before a side headlock saw Taichi reaching in vain for the ropes. We stop for a bit as both lads flex their pecs in time to the clap crowd, before a standing surfboard stretch from Taichi ended with SANADA just marching into the ropes after his attempts to get free came up short. A Kitchen sink knee spins SANADA down, before a modified abdominal stretch also ended with SANADA hauling his way to the rope. Taichi goes for the throat, but gets caught with a low dropkick before a plancha on the outside gets SANADA a two-count. Taichi escapes a Paradise lock and downs SANADA with a hook kick, before corner clotheslines and Kawada kicks looked to have SANADA rocked.
SANADA quickly replies with a low dropkick to the knee, but misses a charge in the corner as Taichi’s jumping high kick led to him getting caught with a Magic Screw as SANADA pulled back. The Holy Emperor Cross Mausoleum had SANADA in trouble, as did the jumping high kick, but Taichi’s seemingly having trouble moving… although there was no issues as the pair exchanged a flurry of holds before they both spilled out of the ring. Both men recover and get back into the ring, where they trade shots, leading to a rolling elbow from Taichi that again left both men down. Taichi’s back up to hit the Axe Bomber, but SANADA’s right back in search of a Skull End, but the pair trade clutches in search for a pin, leading to Taichi nearly snatching a pin with the Gedo Clutch. From there, SANADA bounces Taichi from a TKO for a near-fall, before going up top for the moonsault… but Taichi lifts the knees up to block.
Going up top again, SANADA’s caught by Taichi in search of an avalanche Dangerous backdrop driver, but SANADA fought free, then backflipped into a Skull End, only for Taichi to counter out in search of Black Mephisto. The jumping high kick’s blocked, unlike a knee strike as Taichi finally lands the enziguiri, before a bridging Dangerous backdrop suplex nearly got the win as we crept towards the 25 minute mark. From there, Taichi measures up for a kick, but SANADA strikes first, then nearly nicks a win with an O’Connor roll. The follow-up moonsault misses, unlike Taichi’s palm strike, before the 25 minute call looked to be the cue for Black Mephisto to win the match. Perhaps a little longer than you’d like, but you know the MO these days – they kept it remarkably even, and despite Taichi’s apparent back injury (called by Kevin Kelly), he was able to gut through and get another two points. ***½
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: EVIL vs. Kazuchika Okada
…and here’s the match I was fearing. At least we’ve only got Dick Togo out to run interference. They’ve met seven times previously in one-on-one matches, with EVIL winning twice – including in last year’s New Japan Cup final.
EVIL slides outside at the bell – so we’re probably going to flirt with the time limit again – but right here it’s to allow Okada to complain towards Dick Togo. That distraction gives EVIL an opening, but he’s quickly slammed and met with a senton atomico, before elbows had EVIL down to a knee. Okada stops himself from running into a trip from Dick Togo, but EVIL just throws him to the outside as the guard rails came into play. The ring announcer doesn’t learn, and gets wiped out. Sometimes, keeping a table intact just isn’t worth it.
Back inside, EVIL charges down Okada for a two-count, then lands a bodyslam for a couple more, before he threw Okada into the exposed corner. A half crab ends in the ropes, before EVIL misses a charge, hitting the same exposed corner before a neckbreaker from Okada left both men laying. Okada hits the ropes and lands a back elbow, before a DDT out of the corner dropped EVIL for a near-fall. EVIL rolls outside, but Okada followed as they again wipe out the timekeeper’s table, while Chris Charlton visibly tries to snitch on EVIL, who grabbed a chair and jabbed Okada with it. A follow-up sees Okada hit a drop toe hold into the chair, before he faked out charging EVIL into the timekeeper’s table… opting instead to roll EVIL back into the ring.
A tombstone looks to follow, but EVIL rakes the eye, before he was met with a dropkick as Okada tied him up with a Money Clip. EVIL scoots into the rope for the break, before my feed dropped out. We’re back with the remnants of a Rainmaker zoom out, before EVIL grabbed the hair to stop a tombstone. Togo’s back to crack Okada in the ropes with a chair en route to a two-count, as my feed stutters all over the place. EVIL’s on top, but Okada nearly nicks the win after sitting down on a backdrop… before a backslide led to a ripcord clothesline. Okada keeps hold of the wrist, then came back with a dropkick before he finally hit the spinny tombstone. A Rainmaker’s next, but EVIL slips free and throws the ref into Okada, before landing a low blow as we all fall down. Recovering, Okada counters Everything is EVIL with a Money Clip, before EVIL pulled the ref down to the mat… that’s the cue for Dick Togo to attack as we’re saying the quiet part loud.
Okada wipes out Togo with a shotgun dropkick though, then counters a bunch of Everything is EVILs, only to take Darkness Falls for a near-fall. An elbow sinks Okada to his knees from there, but instead Okada surprises us with his flavour of Everything is EVIL… before a landslide Tombstone and a Rainmaker gets the win. Yeah, we had the Dick Togo stuff, but nothing exceptionally egregious – and maybe I’m a little surprised at that, as this was perhaps one of the more watchable EVIL main events. ****
Your latest standings: remember, block A dished out points up front after Naito’s withdrawal.
Great-O-Khan (3-0 / 6pts)
Zack Sabre Jr (2-0 / 4pts)
Kota Ibushi, KENTA, Shingo Takagi, Yujiro Takahashi, Toru Yano (2-1 / 4pts)
Tanga Loa (1-1 / 2pts)
Tomohiro Ishii (1-2 / 2pts)
Tetsuya Naito (0-9 / 0pts) * Naito withdrew after one match due to injury; all opponents were awarded a win via forfeit
Jeff Cobb, Kazuchika Okada, Taichi (2-0 / 4pts)
EVIL, SANADA, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tama Tonga (1-1 / 2pts)
Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, Chase Owens (0-2 / 0pts)
The G1 takes Saturday off, and returns in Kobe on Sunday for a block A show headlined with Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kota Ibushi as ZSJ looks to continue his 100% start to the tournament.
A consistent night of action, even if it was missing anything that’s really dive into your notebooks – but the lack of anything to seriously drag it down perhaps adds to block B’s surprising early status as being the “better block”.