We’ve almost Max’d the Max, as we’re into the final round of block A matches – with KENTA and Kota Ibushi seemingly being the key match to determine a finalist today.

Quick Results
Great-O-Khan pinned Satoshi Kojima in 10:26 (***)
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Toru Yano pinned Tomohiro Ishii in 11:10 (***¼)
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Shingo Takagi and Yujiro Takahashi went to a double count-out in 13:35 (***)
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Tanga Loa pinned Zack Sabre Jr. in 17:34 (****)
G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Kota Ibushi pinned KENTA in 26:16 (***½)

We’re at the Yokohama Budokan for the block A finals, with Kevin Kelly joined by Chris Charlton on the English commentary.

Great-O-Khan vs. Satoshi Kojima
We’ve one prior meeting here in singles matches, and my word it’s a throwback… going back to the Lion’s Gate Project shows (remember those?) as Kojima beat the then-Young Lion Tomoyuki Oka in just over seven minutes.

O-Khan jumped Kojima as he came through the ropes, quickly hitting him with Mongolian chops before a trip to the guard rails led to things going back to the ring as a slam drew a two-count. O-Khan gutwrenches Kojima next for another two-count, before Kojima fought back with Machine Gun chops in the corner.

The charge into the corner and a top rope elbow squashes O-Khan next for a two-count, before the pair traded elbow strikes… it leads to Kojima taking a DDT on the edge of the ring as my feed dropped out. When my World feed resumes, Kojima’s catching O-Khan with a Koji Cutter for a near-fall, before a Cozy lariat was countered with a Judo-ish armdrag.

Kojima’s clothesline to the back of the head keeps him in it, but O-Khan’s able to find his way in for an Eliminator. It’s blocked before a throat thrust earned O-Khan a lariat, only for Kojima to get caught in a Sheep Killer that’s turned into the Eliminator for the match-ending three-count. ***

G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Toru Yano vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Their two prior meetings have both come in G1s, with Ishii winning both of them in under ten minutes apiece.

Ishii is relying on a real far-fetched series of events to win the block (we’re talking card-wide food poisoning). He’s jumped as he came through the ropes by Yano, who tries to blindfold him… a towel-assisted roll-up’s good for a two-count, as was one while Ishii was blinded, before we head outside with both men taking the guard rails.

Yano rolls under the ring, but Ishii just rolls into it as Yano got scared under the ring. He eventually emerges, only to get bopped with a thrown corner pad as Ishii nearly wins via count-out. Back in the ring, Ishii keeps Yano under his boot, before a clothesline trapped Yano in the ropes.

Chops follow from Ishii, who then needed the ropes to stay on his feet after a brief flurry of strikes, before he returned with a suplex. Yano pops back to his feet and broke out some wrestling, ending with a rebound belly-to-belly that ragdolled Ishii to the mat, only for Ishii to come back after he’d charged Yano into the exposed corner.

A leg trip nearly gets Yano the win, as he then followed up with an inside cradle, then a slingshot towards the exposed corner. Ishii was too far away to make contact though, but gets thrown into the buckles for a near-fall. The ref gets in the way as Yano tried for a low blow, as Ishii ends up hitting an enziguiri… only to get caught with a crucifix as Yano kept trying to sneak the win.

Ishii’s lariat nearly wins it, but Yano escapes a brainbuster before a mule kick aids a backslide as Yano ends his G1 with a win as any feint hopes of Ishii winning the block get cruelly put out. A little too long, but such is life in this G1. ***¼

G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Yujiro Takahashi vs. Shingo Takagi
This’ll be their third meeting THIS YEAR, but Shingo’s won every meeting thus far. As he should.

We’re three-for-three on jump starts today as Yujiro dove on Shingo before he could even hit the ring. Yujiro is in the mood for a count-out. It doesn’t come, thankfully, as Shingo charges into the ropes and knocked down Yujiro with a shoulder tackle. We’re back outside as Yujiro looked for respite by the guard rails, only to get bounced onto the apron, then the guard rails.

Pieter distracts Shingo, allowing Yujiro to lay him out from behind with the pimp cane, but an attempt to get Shingo counted out doesn’t quite work as commentary surmised that Yujiro was looking to help KENTA get through to the finals. A clothesline gets Yujiro a two-count, as did a release Fisherman suplex, but Shingo’s able to fight back… only to get bitten by Yujiro.

Shingo returns the favour, before landing a noshigami and a wheelbarrow German suplex… that leads to a sliding lariat for a near-fall, before a hot shot into the ropes leads to an Incolle slam as Yujiro properly hauled up Shingo… my feed drops out, and returns with Shingo landing Made in Japan for a near-fall. Yujiro bites his way out of a Last of the Dragon, but gets punched in the face for it, before he took things outside as he looked to snatch a count-out. It doesn’t work, as Shingo reverses a whip to take Yujiro into the guard rails, but Yujiro prevents the count-out as he then went back to plan A… which ended up working as Yujiro sacrificed himself to take a double count-out… which eliminates Shingo as he only gets a point here. Cue more headaches, as Shingo now needs the second half to be all no-conests to make it through. I don’t think it’ll happen… ***

G1 Climax 31 – Block A: Tanga Loa vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
We’ve one prior meeting here, going back to May this year when Sabre beat Tanga Loa amid the Suzuki-gun/Guerrillas of Destiny tag title feud.

Finally, we have no jump start, but it’s ZSJ who charges out at the gate, booting Tanga Loa away as he looked to end this quickly with an Octopus stretch. Tanga Loa backs into the ropes, but Sabre kicks away the arm, only to get charged down by Tanga Loa, as things head outside with both men trading shots.

Sabre regains the initiative on the outside as he trapped Tanga Loa in a Cobra Twist, only to get hiptossed away as the ref hadn’t started counting. A slam leaves Sabre down, as did a backdrop onto the apron as Sabre crashed to the floor. The ref stops his count to admonish Tanga Loa as we’re being very liberal with the count-outs…

Back inside, Tanga Loa’s dropkick has Sabre down, as did a standing moonsault, before the OJK crossface ended in the ropes. Sabre snaps back as he twisted Tanga’s neck between his legs, then the same with the arm in a hammerlock as Sabre looked to weaken Tanga’s arms.

A spinebuster from Tanga Loa bought him time, as the pair trade German suplexes… keeping Tanga ahead, until a tornado DDT out of the corner bounced Tanga Loa down. Tanga’s right back up though, as he clotheslines Sabre down for a two-count, before Sabre’s attempt at headscissors got him in for a guillotine. Tanga Loa muscles free, but Apeshit’s again countered into a crucifix pin for a near-fall, keeping hold after the kickout as Sabre transitioned into an Octopus hold.

Again, the ropes save Tanga Loa, who caught Sabre with a clothesline as he tries to charge back in, A powerbomb lands for a near-fall for Tanga Loa, before Sabre busted out a Code Red for a near-fall on his end. Tanga Loa edges ahead in another battle of strikes, before Sabre looked to snatch a win with a Euro Clutch… only for Tanga Loa to kick-out and roll-up Sabre for the upset! A very spirited battle as Tanga Loa makes it a straight shoot-out in the main event – unless we get a no-contest. “As a fan,” I’m sad that Sabre fell at the last hurdle, but given WrestleKingdom’s three days next year, this means little for the main event pictures there. ****

G1 Climax 31 – Block A: KENTA vs. Kota Ibushi
These two have met twice before, back in 2019 as KENTA beat Ibushi in the G1, before losing a briefcase challenge match later in the year. A draw would put KENTA through, and a no-contest would give it to Shingo, but otherwise it’s winner-take-all…

KENTA rolls outside at the bell as he looked to stop Ibushi from making a flying start. When we do get going, Ibushi and KENTA trade kicks before the pair headed into the ropes… with a hair pull from KENTA leading to a headlock takedown. After getting free, a running kick from Ibushi takes KENTA outside… but KENTA dragged Ibushi outside and into the ring post.

Ibushi reverses an Irish whip as KENTA hits the rails, but he recovers to put a beating to Ibushi as KENTA looked to snatch a double count-out… only for both men to beat the 20-count. Back inside, KENTA removes a turnbuckle pad, then threw Ibushi into the exposed corner for a two-count, as some Figure Four headscissors then forced Ibushi to roll towards the ropes for a break.

A STF followed as KENTA kept working over Ibushi’s neck, following in with shoulder charges in the corner, before Ibushi leapt over and hit a ‘rana to take KENTA outside. Ibushi sprints outside for a Golden Triangle moonsault, but KENTA chop blocks the knees as Ibushi ends up crashing and burning from the buckles to the floor. Staying outside, Ibushi takes the guard rails chest-first as he’s sent into the aisle.

They fight towards an entrance way, with ibushi being thrown into a wall, then backstage as KENTA then sprinted back to the ring, looking for a count-out… but Ibushi’s able to make the most of a LONG 19 count to roll back in. Kicks keep Ibushi down, as a neckbreaker followed… only for Ibushi to hit a dropkick to give him some space. A powerslam and a springboard moonsault out of the corner follows for Ibushi for a near-fall.

KENTA’s tornado hot shot and a flying clothesline turns it around, before Ibushi Matrix’s past a clothesline and returned with an overhead kick. An attempt to charge Ibushi into the referee eventually worked, despite Ibushi making a save, as KENTA charged him into the exposed corner instead… then hit a DDT as it was time for shenanigans. Out comes a chair, which KENTA used… Ibushi shrugged it off, then grabbed the chair from KENTA, who then begged off.

Of course, Ibushi threw it aside as he opted to kick KENTA in the head, before going outside and under the ring for a table. Oh boy. Ibushi sets up the table at ringside, then teased an avalanche German suplex through it, only for KENTA to break free and tease a piledriver off the apron… only to get thrown onto the edge of the ring with a back body drop. The ref’s back on his feet as Ibushi placed KENTA on the table, which gives way as Ibushi looked for a moonsault through it… but Ibushi carries on regardless with a splash onto the makeshift ramp.

Another stupidly-long 19-count followed as both men make it back inside, but KENTA’s hesitation dropkick leaves Ibushi in a heap in the corner ahead of a flying double stomp. KENTA unloads again, but gets sunk with a head kick, then a Kamigoye for a near-fall… before KENTA tried to throw Ibushi into the exposed corner to break a second Kamigoye attempt. A hiptoss has Ibushi down for a two-count, as KENTA then maneuvers into Game Over, but the ropes again save Ibushi as we hit the final five minutes of the time limit.

Another Kamigoye is side-stepped as Ibushi hits the exposed corner, but KENTA still can’t get the win with a roll-up. A Busaiku knee followed for a near-fall for KENTA, only for a Go 2 Sleep to get countered with a knee strike, as a reverse Kamigoye, then a regular Kamigoye got the animalistic Ibushi the win as he made it to his fourth G1 finals in a row. A decent finale, but the overuse of the count-out teases really took me out of the match here – particularly those with the absurdly-long 19-counts, but as I said after the ZSJ match, three nights of WrestleKingdom really have dampened the prestige of winning the G1. ***½

Final 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
Jeff Cobb (8-0 / 16pts)
Kazuchika Okada (7-1 / 14pts)
EVIL (eliminated) (6-2 / 12pts)
SANADA (eliminated, Hiroshi Tanahashi (eliminated) (4-4 / 8pts)
Tama Tonga (eliminated) (3-5 / 6pts)
Hirooki Goto (eliminated), Chase Owens (eliminated), Taichi (eliminated), YOSHI-HASHI (eliminated) (2-6 / 2pts)

We take a day off as the G1 heads to Budokan Hall on Wednesday for the block B finals, with Kazuchika Okada vs. Jeff Cobb being a winner-take-all affair for the right to face Kota Ibushi on Thursday.

A pulsating, yet odd final night in the block, especially if you love count-out teases, as the runners and the riders fell throughout the night, ultimately leaving us with a more convoluted way to the main-event shoot-out. Not much in the ways of notebook-filling matches, granted, but we’re at the part of the tournament where the drama just about makes up for that. Perhaps a night that served as a big ol’ microcosm for New Japan’s year?