Kota Ibushi and Shingo Takagi finally face off as the G1 headed to Aichi.
Yoshinobu Kanemaru submitted Kosei Fujita in 7:35 (**½)
Toru Yano pinned BUSHI in 7:15 (*¾)
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: KENTA pinned Great-O-Khan in 19:29 (**¾)
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Tanga Loa pinned Yujiro Takahashi in 12:35 (**¾)
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Tomohiro Ishii pinned Zack Sabre Jr. in 18:40 (****)
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Kota Ibushi pinned Shingo Takagi in 23:57 (****)
Kevin Kelly’s flying solo again on English commentary as the G1 rolled into the Dolphin’s Arena in Aichi… with some wacky cut aways to the live crowd for the show-opening “Max the Max” music video.
Kosei Fujita vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru
Fujita took the fight to Kanemaru to start, but was quickly taken outside into the railings as Kanemaru put that particular fire out.
Back inside, a back body drop and a kick keeps Kanemaru ahead, while a camel clutch forces Fujita to back into the ropes for a break. Elbows and stomps keep Kanemaru ahead as Fujita was just absorbing without much response, until he hit a hiptoss and a dropkick in the ropes.
Elbows from Fujita lead to a shoulder tackle for a delayed two-count, before a slam and a Boston crab looked to exhaust Fujita’s arsenal. Of course, Kanemaru gets to the ropes, then returned with some rapid-fire vertical suplexes, as a Boston crab then forces the submission. Decent enough, but with Fujita only seven matches into his career, there was no way he was going to get the traditional flurry of near-falls here. **½
BUSHI vs. Toru Yano
We’ve one prior meeting, in a two-count fall rules match as part of last year’s KOPW title tournament. Of course, Yano won after some one-count near falls…
Yano’s got his drawstring bag with him again as he tries to mask up BUSHI… who instead has brought a Louis Vuitton bag to do the same trick. His is more stylish. Both men blindfold each other as I get flashbacks to Roberts vs. Martel, before the new ref Taito Okabayashi had enough and pulled the makeshift hoods off of them.
Yano removes a turnbuckle pad, then bopped BUSHI on the head before he was taken outside with a dropkick. After spraying Yano with his own sanitising spray, BUSHI choked him with his towel… then tied Yano to the rails with it. Yano narrowly beats the count-out, but we’re back outside as Yano reverses an Irish whip to Bret Hart BUSHI into the rails. From there, Yano ties BUSHI to the rails by the laces of his mask. Luckily, BUSHI was smuggling scissors in his boot, which he used to cut the laces free – rather than rehash Sid and Arn in Blackburn. Making it back to the ring, BUSHI’s thrown into the corner, but recovers with a missile dropkick as we’re back outside yet again, this time for a tope suicida.
BUSHI follows with a neckbreaker back inside, before Yano grabs his drawstring bag… he blinds the ref, as BUSHI had the match won following a low blow and a roll-up. BUSHI removes the hood, but falls to a low blow and a roll-up as Yano squeaks one out. Let us never speak of this again… *¾
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: KENTA vs. Great-O-Khan
Here’s some nightmare fuel…
— グレート-O-カーン (@Great_O_Khan) October 1, 2021
O-Khan pushed KENTA away early on, before the pair locked up into the ropes. KENTA heads outside, but O-Khan chased as we may as well have dubbed in a slow-jam version of Yakety Sax over this. It ends with a staredown on the floor, as KENTA crawled under the ring so he could attack O-Khan from behind.
Back inside, O-Khan tries to double-leg KENTA, pushing away any threat of a triangle armbar as he proceeded to smother and choke him. O-Khan offers his chest up to KENTA, who kicks him before a faked-out chop allowed O-Khan in with a takedown as the struggle for a leglock ended with KENTA sitting down for a two-count. Another leglock ends with KENTA rolling into the ropes for a break, as a neckbreaker saw KENTA finally take some kind of charge in this. O-Khan resists KENTA’s attempt to make him kiss his boot, instead opting to roll him down in a cross armbreaker before the head-and-arm choke saw KENTA try to pull free, using O-Khan’s braid as a sort-of emergency escape.
KENTA manages to get to the ropes to force a break, returning with a Kitchen Sink knee to the gut before a tornado hotshot hung up O-Khan in the ropes. We’ve a flying clothesline after that for a near-fall, while O-Khan returned with a front suplex that bought him time. Mongolian chops follow, as did a seat on KENTA in the corner as O-Khan set up for the baseball slide in the corner. O-Khan gets a two-count from all that, but KENTA cuts him off with a DDT… a Green Killer draping DDT nearly ends it, before KENTA’s stomp off the top rope misses, with O-Khan booting him down instead. The pair trade elbows, then palm strikes, as KENTA looked to pull ahead… sinking O-Khan to the mat with those strikes.
From there, KENTA pulled up O-Khan for a Go 2 Sleep, but O-Khan escapes into a Sheep Killer, before KENTA got free and charged O-Khan into the ref. Heading outside, KENTA gets a chair, which he uses on O-Khan before he placed it on O-Khan as he then went to stomp through it. While wearing O-Khan’s hat. The stomp lands, popping out the seat on the chair, so KENTA goes outside for… a baseball bat? The swing’s blocked, but in the struggle KENTA goes down like he’s been hit… but the referee doesn’t DQ O-Khan, who’s instead rolled up for the pin as I fear this may be the start of the usual G1 slide from grace. A so-so match, with O-Khan looking good with his offence, but at 20-minutes this started to feel long. **¾
Post-match, KENTA grabbed a chair as he wanted O-Khan to bow down to him, but instead O-Khan just dumps him with an Eliminator.
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Yujiro Takahashi vs. Tanga Loa
The hits, they keep on comin’…
Everyone’s on the same page to start this Bullet Club bonanza, but Yujiro keeps wanting a too sweet despite his cheapshots. Tanga Loa’s clothesline and diving boot has him ahead, as he then busted out a standing moonsault for a two-count, before a foray outside ended with a senton atomico back into the ring for a two-count for Tanga. A grounded camel clutch forces Yujiro to crawl into the ropes for a break, before he returned by hotshotting Tanga into the ropes. Yujiro stays ahead with a low dropkick, taking Tanga outside for a tope suicida as Yujiro actually did a dive. Back inside, Tanga escapes a Fisherman buster, landing an enziguiri and a Blue Thunder bomb for a near-fall, before Yujiro bit back.
Tanga tries to return fire with a Samoan drop, but a Fisherman buster lands instead, before Yujiro seemingly dives into his own roll-up. He kicked out of that to hit an Incolle Slam for a near-fall, before Tanga Loa hit a spear, then a sit-out powerbomb for a near-fall. Miami Shine sees Yujiro hit back, before Apeshit got Tanga Loa his first victory of the tournament. This felt a little clunky at times, but at least it was relatively short. **¾
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Let’s go! These two have had a past, with the pair trading the Rev Pro title a few years ago… but Sabre just about edges their five matches in the past by 3-2.
Sabre looks for submissions early, before a Euro clutch almost ended this inside a minute. That’d have served me right for swigging my coffee. Uppercuts looked to knock Ishii away, but Big Tom hits back, taking Sabre into the corner as chops lit him up. Ishii boots Sabre onto the apron, while a suplex back in was blocked as Sabre ties up Ishii with the hanging armbar in the ropes. Returning to the ring, Sabre went after that right arm like a dog with a bone, stomping on the elbow before a trapped-head armbar ended in the ropes. Ishii needs to charge Sabre down off the ropes to buy him some time, but Sabre’s arm work reduced Ishii’s ability to throw as many chops… but those he did crumpled Zack to the mat.
Sabre tries to block a whip into the corner, but his rebound guillotine’s turned into a release Northern Lights suplex… Sabre’s back on the arm, only for it to be broken in the ropes, before Ishii caught a PK and spun Sabre into a German suplex. Ishii tries to follow up, but he has to block an overhead kick to the arm, only for his lariat to be rolled through into a double armbar, but as usual, it’s right by the ropes. Kicks from Sabre work, but Ishii jacks the knee before knocking Zack into the corner as Ishii looked to have found a way in. A swinging DDT from Sabre’s shrugged off as Ishii pounced back, then landed a lariat as Sabre’s attempts to shut the door were proving ineffective. Ishii pushes away a rear naked choke, then lands an enziguiri before a powerbomb drew a near-fall as Ishii looked to be getting closer to victory.
Sabre’s roll-up gets a near-fall, as Ishii somehow manages to kick out of the bridge, before a suplex sees Sabre roll in with another armbar, rolling it into a triangle armbar with some elbows for good measure, but Ishii manages to stomp the hold apart before he landed a headbutt.
A lariat sinks Sabre, but Ishii’s arm is in a real state. So off comes the elbow support as he hits the rope for another lariat, but Zack’s up at two… only to eat the sheer drop brainbuster as ZSJ’s 100% run gets shattered. Maybe the first half of the show softened me, but that was an absolutely fantastic match done at pace – Ishii powering through the knackered elbow (on top of all of Sabre’s nastiness) was a sight to behold, as how the question remains: does Sabre get back on the saddle quickly afterwards? ****
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Kota Ibushi vs. Shingo Takagi
We’ve only one prior meeting, with Shingo beating Ibushi as part of last year’s G1 as we finally get the match we were meant to have had at the Tokyo Dome during the summer.
The tentative early going sees Ibushi try to edge ahead, but elbow drops from Shingo looked to aggravate things before Shingo came back with a dropkick. A short elbow in the ropes from Shingo looked to stun Ibushi, who returned with a whip into the corner, then a springboard missile dropkick before Shingo rebounded with a Pumping Bomber to the back. Shingo clotheslines Ibushi to the outside, then dropped him onto the edge of the ring as a slingshot kneedrop back inside looked to keep Kota winded. A suplex drops Ibushi for a two-count, with Shingo morphing quickly into a side headlock before a cravat took Ibushi into the ropes.
Ibushi finds his feet with a series of slaps, before a mid kick took Shingo down. A ‘rana takes Shingo to the outside, where a springboard moonsault into the aisle keeps the IWGP champion down. Back inside, a springboard dropkick lands as Ibushi looked to summon the strength to keep on top, and does so with a scoop slam and another moonsault that landed for a near-fall. Shingo retaliates with a pop-up death valley driver, then a twisting neckbreaker that nearly ended things, before Ibushi slipped out of Made in Japan… only to get thrown aside. A Saito suplex folds Ibushi in half, but he’s right back to bounce Shingo with a half-and-half suplex, as we go back to kicks and chops. Those are stopped in a hurry via a Dragon screw from Shingo, but Ibushi responds quickly as the pair trade clothesline and suplexes, before a sliding elbow to the back of the neck left Ibushi in a heap.
A superplex from Shingo looked to lead to the win, but Ibushi’s up at two, only to get met with a discus lariat as Ibushi thought he’d blocked a Pumping Bomber. Made in Japan plants Ibushi as he’d initially gone for a Dragon suplex, but he’s still able to kick out, before Ibushi escaped Last of the Dragon, clocking Shingo with a knee strike as he went for the knees himself. Ibushi’s Bomaye knee is cut off, but he’s able to hit an enziguiri as Ibushi then teed up for that Bomaye… catching Shingo ahead of a sit-out powerbomb for a near-fall. Kamigoye looks to follow, but Shingo keeps hold of the wrists and hits a vicious knee strike of his own before a Pumping Bomber almost ended things. Last of the Dragon looked to follow again, but Ibushi slips out as he gets worn out with more elbows.
A head kick stops an on-rushing Shingo, before Ibushi’s flash Kamigoye nearly got the win… down comes the knee pads as Ibushi tries for a more measured knee strike, but Shingo blocked the Kamigoye, only to be met with a reverse ‘rana. Another knee strike from Ibushi followed as a Kamigoye to the back of the head dropped the champion, as a Kamigoye finally led to the win as Shingo took his second loss of the tournament. A keenly-fought main event, but one that I felt left a little in the tank for a possible rematch – which we’re almost sure to get given that Ibushi beat the champion here. ****
Your latest standings: remember, block A dished out points up front after Naito’s withdrawal.
Zack Sabre Jr (4-1 / 8pts)
Great-O-Khan, Kota Ibushi, KENTA (4-2 / 8pts)
Shingo Takagi (3-2; 6pts)
Tomohiro Ishii (3-3 / 6pts)
Tanga Loa, Yujiro Takahashi, Toru Yano (2-3 / 4pts)
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 (4-0 / 8pts)
EVIL, Hiroshi Tanahashi (3-1 / 6pts)
SANADA, Taichi (2-2 / 4pts)
Tama Tonga, YOSHI-HASHI (1-3 / 2pts)
Hirooki Goto, Chase Owens (0-4 / 0pts)
The tour returns to Korakuen Hall tomorrow for a block B card, with Kazuchika Okada and SANADA heading the bill on a show that’ll be airing for free on NJPW World. They’re literally giving the B block away…
This was another night for cherry picking, as the bulk of this show was an utter slog to get through. The naysayers are starting to be proven right, I’m afraid. If you’re watching on-demand, jump to the top two matches as we inch closer to the point where names start to fall from contention.