“Someone’s 0 has got-to-go” as either Zack Sabre Jr. or Great-O-Khan will lose their 100% start to the tournament, while KENTA takes on Shingo Takagi in the latest round of G1 action.

Quick Results
Yujiro Takahashi pinned BUSHI in 13:00 (**¾)
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Tomohiro Ishii pinned Tanga Loa in 16:17 (***½)
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Zack Sabre Jr. submitted Great-O-Khan in 15:27 (***¾)
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Kota Ibushi pinned Toru Yano in 4:02 (**)
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Shingo Takagi pinned KENTA in 23:55 (***¾)

We’re back at a sold-out Korakuen Hall – Chris Charlton and Kevin Kelly are there live for English commentary, as we open with the customary non-tournament match for this block as this looks to be the final New Japan show under the current State of Emergency order.

Yujiro Takahashi vs. BUSHI
A first-time meeting, unsurprisingly, although they’ve had plenty of outings in tag matches…

BUSHI jumped Yujiro with a dropkick before the bell, as things spilled outside with Yujiro becoming closely acquainted with the guardrails. Yujiro returns the favours, before he threw some right hands back in the ring. A back suplex keeps Yujiro ahead, as does a grounded chinlock, but BUSHI gets free and lands some headscissors, before a low dropkick also connected.

Yujiro’s thrown unceremoniously to the outside toe a tope suicida, with a neckbreaker following back inside for a two-count. A missile dropkick continues BUSHI’s surge, before BUSHI got bitten… allowing Yujiro to come back in with a reverse DDT. An enziguiri keeps BUSHI in it, as did a back cracker, before the MX was swatted away in mid-air with a clothesline.

BUSHI has another second wind with a dropkick, but another clothesline from Yujiro turned it around, leading to an Incolle Slam… a roll-up from BUSHI nearly ends this unexpectedly, as did a rewind kick, before Yujiro caught BUSHI with the Big Juice implant DDT to get the win. A pretty decent opener, with Yujiro being pushed perhaps way more than he ought to have been given the weight classes. **¾

G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Tanga Loa vs. Tomohiro Ishii
This should be a bit of a proving ground for Tanga Loa, whose underground hype hasn’t yet translated into wins.

We start with shoulder tackles, before Tanga Loa’s bid to take things outside came to nought, with Ishii rolling back in. The pair trade forearms, which wore them both down as Korakuen clapped along… before Tanga Loa pushed forward, taking Ishii outside and through the gate.

Tanga Loa charges Ishii into the ring post, before a senton atomico back into the ring drew a two-count for Tanga. A chinlock keeps Ishii down, before Tanga opted to whip and clothesline Ishii into the corner, which leads to an Exploder suplex. So far, so good from Tanga Loa, who looked to be avoiding the “banana peel” loss his brother suffered the prior night.

Ishii blocks a suplex, then hits one of his own before he took Tanga Loa into the corner for some chops. A powerslam out of the corner’s next for Ishii, then a rebound German suplex… but Tanga Loa pops up and boots Ishii ahead of a Blue Thunder Bomb as the former tag champion was right back in it.

The OJK crossface has Ishii back in trouble, but the ropes save Ishii before a back body drop broke up a Tanga powerbomb effort. Ishii pushes on with a clothesline into the corner, following that up with a superplex too for a near-fall, before a dropkick broke up Ishii’s sliding lariat attempt.

Tanga charges Ishii into the corner, before blocked clotheslines ended with the pair clattering into each other. A lariat from Tanga Loa finally lands, beating Ishii to the punch, before he went up top for a swandive headbutt… which almost led to the upset win for Tanga! A spear’s next from Tanga, who nails a sit-out powerbomb for a near-fall, but Ishii’s right back in again, landing some more clotheslines before cracking Tanga with a headbutt.

Ishii sizes up Tanga Loa for another clothesline, but it’s countered into a spinebuster, before Ishii escaped Apeshit, countering into the sheer drop brainbuster for the win. This was a good little scrap with Tanga binning off the usual taunts as he looked to get a win and avoid a Tama-esque slip-up, only to be outclassed by Ishii in the final moments. ***½

G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Great-O-Khan vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Both men have a 100% record – but with the Naito withdrawal, Sabre’s “a match behind” everyone else who’s had points awarded, hence O-Khan coming into this alone at the top of the block.

We start with the pair scrambling for a takedown attempt, but as soon as they go down they’re back to their feet as neither Sabre nor O-Khan could find an advantage. Some bodyscissors from O-Khan end in the ropes, but they stay on the mat, with Sabre tying up O-Khan in an overhead wristlock, using a handful of O-Khan’s braided hair for extra leverage… but again, to no avail.

A bloodied O-Khan tries to return the favour, but Sabre makes it to the ropes. We’re back down on the mat, but it’s O-Khan in an armbar that’s turned into a Key lock… but again, they’re by the ropes as O-Khan slides under them to force the break. O-Khan’s leglock similarly ends quickly in the ropes, but Sabre stays down as O-Khan prodded him with his boot.

O-Khan offers himself up for uppercuts, which Sabre gave… then asked for some in return… only to get dropped with a Mongolian chop to the neck. More of those follow, but Sabre’s unable to respond with uppercuts, so instead opted to kick at the legs ahead of a Cobra Twist attempt. That’s escaped quickly as O-Khan transitioned into an ankle lock, which Sabre somehow countered into a cross armbar as the pair went back-and-forth with submission attempts on the mat.

Sabre manages to find a way in with a rear naked choke, which led to a neat transition into a crucifix pin for a two-count… then a PK for another one-count as Sabre finally looked to be building some sustained offence. An overhead kick breaks up a face claw attempt, before a swinging DDT was turned into a guillotine by Sabre… who ended up in another face claw, with O-Khan turning it into a claw-assisted Cobra Twist.

O-Khan turns the hold into the Sheep Killer stretch, throwing in some knees to the back before he flipped Sabre over his back, keeping the claw on. Sabre’s dropped to the mat as O-Khan pondered his next step, before an Eliminator was countered into a triangle armbar… with Sabre them climbing up into a mounted armbar that forced a near-instant tap. This’ll be a bit of a Marmite match, I feel, but if you’re into the ground-based stuff, you’ll be lapping this one up as the proverbial game of human chess was played out… with Sabre in that “almost unstoppable” spot that usually leads to the big slide. ***¾

G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Toru Yano vs. Kota Ibushi
Something tells me this may not be an epic – and with these two surprisingly tied in prior meetings (two wins apiece), Ibushi may be looking to set a record straight.

Yano tries to get an early win by unsighting Ibushi with his bag, tying it around his head before getting some roll-ups… that doesn’t work, so Yano rolled Ibushi around the ring apron on the floor, leaving him a human burrito… but Yano rolls in too early as Ibushi’s got plenty of time to free himself.

Back in the ring, Yano removes a corner pad, but runs into the exposed corner as he’s then dropkicked to the outside. A plancha sees Ibushi sail into Yano, but Yano gets back to his feet and tries to tape Ibushi’s feet together… which almost got Yano counted out as he was doing it from the floor. That play needs more work.

Ibushi runs into a Manhattan drop before Yano chopped out the knee as he nearly snatched a win via roll-up… but Ibushi grabs the arms and hits a Kamigoye to the back of Yano, before Yano rolled up Ibushi again. A Bomaye knee and a Kamigoye quickly followed, as Ibushi avoids the scare and dispatches of Yano in short order. Good. Next! **

G1 Climax 31 – Block A: KENTA vs. Shingo Takagi
Shingo’s got the win in their only prior meeting, in this year’s New Japan Cup…

We open with an exchange of forearms before a slam and a back senton from Shingo left KENTA laying. KENTA trips Shingo into the Game Over submission, but that ends in the ropes as the pair head outside to trade chops and kicks.

Elbows from Shingo get caught as KENTA turns it into a quick armbar, before he booted Shingo’s arm into the railings. Back inside, KENTA stays on the arm, pulling Shingo into a Fujiwara armbar, with the ropes again saving the day for the champion. KENTA removes a corner pad, before he got caught with Shingo’s bad elbow… which prevented the champion from following up, such was the damage to it early on.

Instead, KENTA whips Shingo into the exposed corner, before he pulled the arm over his shoulder as he looked to neutralise any threat of a Pumping Bomber. Shingo looks for a rear naked choke to break free, but he’s backed into the corner before he finally hit a Shingo Combination, ending with a DDT… because the arm.

Shingo mounted some offence with a suplex, then a sliding lariat, but he couldn’t avoid using the arm that KENTA had been working on throughout. A tornado hot shot from KENTA turns it around, as did a clothesline off the top, then a DDT as we went past the ten minute mark with KENTA decidedly in the driver’s seat.

Dropping Shingo’s arm over the turnbuckle irons keeps KENTA ahead, only for Shingo to charge him into the apron. A second go around ends with KENTA finally hitting the Green Killer DDT, this time off the apron, before the hesitation dropkick crashes into Shingo in the corner. KENTA keeps going with a double stomp, aiming for the arm as a Go 2 Sleep looked to follow… but instead KENTA opted to kick the arm some more.

Shingo countered a Go 2 Sleep into a death valley driver, before an exchange of strikes just had KENTA edging ahead. A headbutt stopped KENTA briefly, but a backfist took Shingo down with him, but a Made in Japan sees Shingo almost snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Shingo pushes on as he faked out a charge… and slapped KENTA, before going up top for a superplex. We get a ref bump as KENTA pulled Red Shoes into the path of a charging Shingo, before a low blow and Divorce Court again targeted the bad arm. From there, KENTA goes under the ring and Pillman-izes the arm of Shingo with some chairs, taking us past the 20-minute mark, before KENTA went out to grab the ref.

Rolling Red Shoes back in, KENTA nonchalantly applies the Game Over back onto Shingo, only for Shingo to hold firm and slide his way back into the ropes for a break. KENTA stays on him with a knee to the back in the ropes, but a swivelling clothesline puts Shingo back in it, following in with a Dragon suplex and a sliding elbow to the side of KENTA’s head.

From there, Shingo hits the ropes for a Pumping Bomber, which almost gets the win, before Last of the Dragon… was slipped out of. KENTA tries to capitalise, but he’s thrown into the exposed corner, before Shingo finally hit Last of the Dragon for the win. Like a lot of main events, this was starting to feel long when they started to go home – but this was more a story of Shingo holding on despite the beating… but given how everyone’s targeted the arm, you’ve got to think he’s a long shot for the block, right? ***¾

Your latest standings: remember, block A dished out points up front after Naito’s withdrawal.

Block A
Zack Sabre Jr (4-0 / 8pts)
Great-O-Khan (4-1 / 8pts)
Shingo Takagi (3-1 / 6pts)
Kota Ibushi, KENTA (3-2 / 6pts)
Yujiro Takahashi (2-2 / 4pts)
Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano (2-3 / 4pts)
Tanga Loa (1-3 / 2pts)
Tetsuya Naito (0-9 / 0pts) * Naito withdrew after one match due to injury; all opponents were awarded a win via forfeit

Block B
Jeff Cobb, Kazuchika Okada (3-0 / 6pts)
EVIL, SANADA, Taichi, Hiroshi Tanahashi (2-1 / 4pts)
Tama Tonga (1-2 / 2pts)
Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, Chase Owens (0-3 / 0pts)

We’re back tomorrow in Shizuoka for some block B action, with Hiroshi Tanahashi and SANADA in the main event… The G1 continues to hold steady with some good, but-not-great matches as block A sees Zack Sabre Jr. continue his 100% run… and with O-Khan having lost the tie-breaker to ZSJ, you’d perhaps suggest that Kota Ibushi and Shingo Takagi are about the only viable challengers at this point after Naito’s withdrawal?