Yamagata’s the host as we get the penultimate round of block B action in the G1, as our hopes of a Cobb/Okada shoot-out had a little EVIL lurking in the background…

Quick Results
BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi submitted Kosei Fujita & Ryohei Oiwa in 7:10 (**¾)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Chase Owens pinned Taichi in 12:06 (***¼)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: SANADA pinned Hirooki Goto in 15:32 (***¼)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned YOSHI-HASHI in 14:13 (***½)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Jeff Cobb pinned EVIL in 16:51 (**¾)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Tama Tonga pinned Kazuchika Okada in 24:45 (***¾)

The G1 rolled into the Yamagata City General Sports Center as we’re into the final few nights of action… Kevin Kelly once more is on hand for English commentary. Whereas block A’s finishing stretch is enough to make you reach for the painkillers, block B is a little more sedate: if Jeff Cobb wins tonight, then regardless of what happens in the Okada/Tama main event, the block comes down to Okada/Cobb next Wednesday in Budokan.

Should EVIL beat Cobb though, then he’d need Tama Tonga to beat Okada and hope for/create shenanigans on Wednesday to make it through.

Ryohei Oiwa & Kosei Fujita vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi)
Both Oiwa and Fujita have been chopped to bits by Hiromu in the last few days… more of the same here?

Oiwa charges at Hiromu to start, looking to give him a taste of his own medicines, before charging BUSHI off the apron as the Young Lions ganged up on Hiromu. Stomps keep Hiromu down, but Hiiromu goes back to what worked before, throwing chops before Oiwa slipped out of a slam… only to run into one in return.

BUSHI tags in for his first go on Oiwa, kicking him in the gut, before chops wore down Oiwa in the ropes. Poor kid. Hiromu tags back in for more of the same, chopping Oiwa down for just a one-count, while BUSHI’s back to keep the one-sided stuff going.

Eventually Oiwa finds a dropkick on BUSHI before tagging out to Fujita, who now had his turn to have his chest turned into minced meat. Slams gave Fujita a way through to a Boston crab, only for Hiromu to come in and chop the hold apart. Fujita tries for a dropkick, but Hiromu was swinging for a chop… the collision knocks him outside as Fujita tried his luck with roll-ups on BUSHI.

Fujita eats a dropkick in the ropes from BUSHI, before he was rolled into a Boston crab for the quick submission. Business as usual as the Young Lions took a hell of a beating. **¾

G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Chase Owens vs. Taichi
We start today’s tournament matches with a first-time match-up.

Owens is sporting gear that’s inspired by Bobby Eaton, and offers Taichi… a sumo match? At least neither of them are wearing the mawashi – I still shudder at the memory of Big Show in one of those sumo thongs. Instead, we head outside as Taichi – taped ribs and all – throttled Owens around ringside, using a cable in the process, before Owens reversed a whip as Taichi got sent into the guard rails.

Knees to the ribs of Taichi exacerbate things, as we head back inside as Chase chokes. Eventually Taichi hit back with a hook kick, then some Kawada-ish kicks before he booted Owens in the back. Chase ducks a buzzsaw kick but couldn’t avoid an Axe bomber, before he ripped off the trousers… only for a backbreaker off the ropes to put things back to square one.

After he pestered Miho Abe for a kiss, Owens turned around into a pissed off Taichi who looked to give him a dead leg, eventually (yes) kicking his leg out of his leg. More kicks lead to a leaping enziguiri, but Taichi couldn’t lift up Chase for the Dangerous backdrop at first, eventually getting it having had to wriggle out of a package piledriver.

Taichi has to fight out of another package piledriver, throwing Owens free with a back body drop, but Chase is back with a couple of C-triggers that sank his opponent. Pulling Taichi out of the corner, Owens heads up top and pulls off the Bobby Eaton Alabama Jam, before the package piledriver got the upset win over Taichi. A decent enough match, as Owens threatens to end his maiden G1 with wins over almost every champion he’s faced… ***¼

G1 Climax 31 – Block B: SANADA vs. Hirooki Goto
Both men have two wins apiece over the other here – with Goto winning this one in last year’s G1.

Goto starts with a side headlock and a shoulder tackle on SANADA, following with a hiptoss and a clothesline to take SANADA to the outside, A couple of two-counts followed after SANADA was rolled back in, before Goto took things into the corners. SANADA reverses an Irish whip, then pulled Goto off the middle rope… only for things to turn around on the outside as SANADA dropped Goto on the railings.

Back inside, SANADA ties up Goto in a Paradise Lock, before the follow-up low dropkick kept SANADA ahead. A chinlock ends in the ropes from SANADA, but Goto’s quickly back with a discus lariat, before a spinning heel kick into the corner and a bulldog out of it led to a two-count on SANADA.

Goto keeps pushing, landing a clothesline off the ropes, but SANADA’s double leapfrog and dropkick takes things outside ahead of a plancha. Returning to the ring, Goto finds a way back in with an ushigoroshi, before the pair traded strikes as they fought from their knees. Elbows from Goto have him ahead, but out of nowhere SANADA spins into a Skull End, before he caught Goto with an ushigoroshi of his own.

In response, Goto does a Skull End, but SANADA countered with a Tower of London instead, getting a near-fall before going up top… and missing with a moonsault. Both men pull themselves up, but it’s SANADA who backflips into Goto for a Skull End, only for it to be reversed as Goto took SANADA up for for a draping neckbreaker off the top rope as their desire to one-up each other led to things looking… not quite as polished as their usual stuff.

SANADA catches a kick from Goto, before rolling his way free of a GTR attempt… then countered a clothesline with an O’Connor roll for a near-fall. Goto’s back for an ushigoroshi as he countered his counter into a roll-up as they’re still trying to top this, but it’s a Japanese clutch from SANADA that got the win in a fairly entertaining, if not fairly meaningless, outing. ***¼

G1 Climax 31 – Block B: YOSHI-HASHI vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Unsurprisingly, Tanahashi is 4-0 over YOSHI-HASHI, including wins in the 2017, 2018 and 2020 G1s.

YOSHI-HASHI tries to control the pace early with a side headlock, before chops and forearms took Tanahashi into the corner. Tanahashi elbows free and hit a crossbody out of the corner in response, before a dropkick to YOSHI-HASHI’s knee created an opening and a focal point for the US champion.

Tanahashi ties up the legs and caught YOSHI-HASHI in an Indian deathlock – the kind that’ll make a Young Lion quit – but YOSHI-HASHI drags his way to the ropes to force a break. A Head Hunter from YOSHI-HASHI gives him an opening, as he proceeded to take Tanahashi into the corners for chops and a neckbreaker, which earned YOSHI-HASHI a two-count.

A struggle over a suplex ends with YOSHI-HASHI landing his, before Tanahashi hit right back with a Twist and Shout as the pair clung onto each other. Another YOSHI-HASHI suplex lands, but Tanahashi returns with another Twist and Shout as the series ultimately ended with a third Twist and Shout.

Tanahashi gets back to his feet and traded elbows, before YOSHI-HASHI slapped his way free… taking Tanahashi into the ropes. They tease Dragon suplexes, but it’s YOSHI-HASHI who lands his, with a lariat almost getting the win seconds later. An inside cradle from Tanahashi leads to him getting lariat’d by YOSHI-HASHI, who then tries Karma… but instead spun Tanahashi from the pumphandle into a backbreaker.

Double knees from YOSHI-HASHI, then a Kumagoroshi land as he finally gets a cover in… but Tanahashi kicks out just in time. Another Twist and Shout drops YOSHI-HASHI, before a Slingblade had Tanahashi ahead… YOSHI-HASHI pops up and tries to lariat Tanahashi, but had more luck with a thrust kick, only for another Slingblade to put him down. From there, Tanahashi heads up and lands an Ace’s High crossbody, before a High Fly Flow splats YOSHI-HASHI for the win. A good effort from YOSHI-HASHI, who looked close to win, but yet again in this G1, against a top level opponent, he’s still a little short. ***½

G1 Climax 31 – Block B: EVIL vs. Jeff Cobb
EVIL needs to win to stay alive, and we’ve got some history here, with Cobb having beaten EVIL on a ROH/New Japan Global Wars show in Buffalo in November 2018, while EVIL put Cobb out of the New Japan Cup earlier this year.

We’ve distractions to start as EVIL rolled outside, while Dick Togo popped up on the apron. Cobb took his eye off of EVIL and paid for it at first, before he eventually caught EVIL with a dropkick off the ropes. Standing on EVIL’s chest by the ropes made a statement, as the former double-champion tries to fight back… but got dropped with a headbutt.

Togo distracts again as EVIL hit back with a thrust kick, before things spilled outside with Cobb getting sent into the rails, before he’s jabbed with chairs. The home run chair shot followed, while one of the corner pads got removed. EVIL stays in top of Cobb with chops, before he went to the eyes… it of course leads to things going back outside as Cobb’s charged through the timekeeper’s table, before a cheating abdominal stretch gets broken up with a hiptoss.

Following up, Cobb throws EVIL onto the timekeeper’s table, forcing him to take a seat as EVIL was made to sit like a timekeeper… and get charged off the table as a small measure of revenge as Cobb seemingly is a fan of stopwatch-havers… Eventually we’re back inside, with Cobb looking for a Tour of the Islands, only to have his eyes raked as EVIL backed him up into the exposed corner.

A lariat from EVIL gets him a two-count, before Cobb escaped Everything is EVIL and charged him between the corner pads. An attempt to use EVIL to charge Togo off the apron leads to a ref bump, which allowed Togo to come in with a chairshot as we get an absurdly long spell of double-teaming.

Togo helps with a Magic Killer as he proceeded to roll the ref back into the ring, before EVIL had to block his own finish and throw Cobb into the exposed corner. Cobb rebounds with a lariat, before Togo grabbed EVIL to prevent a Tour of the Islands… before a drop toe hold took Cobb into the ropes. There’s a cheapshot, but it doesn’t stop Cobb from hitting a Spin Cycle… with EVIL grabbing the ref on the way down as we continue the bullshit. A garotte choke has Cobb out, but he pushes out of Everything is EVIL before he did the EVIL misdirection/thrust kick to Goto.

A low blow finally has Cobb down, as EVIL then grabbed another chair. He swings and misses as Cobb sent it into EVIL’s face, with a German suplex and a Tour of the Islands following as… my God, they didn’t follow through on the threat! Jeff Cobb wins! Cobb’s the first man in G1 history to clock up 16 points, and it’s now down to an Okada/Cobb shoot-out on Wednesday, regardless of what happens in the main event. This got dragged down badly by the interference – which we all expected – but take that out and you had a pretty solid match. Shame about the MO. **¾

G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Tama Tonga vs. Kazuchika Okada
Okada comes into this with a 4-0 record over Tama Tonga, but with no prior singles meetings since 2017’s G1. Their longest match to date hasn’t cracked the 12-minute mark either… Regardless of the result here, Okada needs to beat Jeff Cobb to win the block next Wednesday, but it’d be nice for Okada to win here and potentially win the block with a 100% record.

After the usual clap-happy intro, Tama Tonga took down Okada in a hammerlock to start, but Okada grabs a toe hold to force Tama into the ropes. Okada ties up the legs, as Tama makes it to the ropes once more, before he spun back in with a front facelock. Okada gets free and took things to the rope, but Tama cheapshots him and came back with a back-handed chop after he’d shot Okada into the ropes.

A boot from Okada, then a low dropkick has Tama down, as did a neckbreaker, but it’s only good for a one-count. Okada’s senton atomico keeps Tama down, before he joined Tama on the outside… only to get hung across the railings. Which led to our first count-out tease as Okada makes it back in in time.

Tama’s floatover suplex gets him a two-count, before Tama sat in with a sleeperhold on Okada, switching it into a chinlock that Okada eventually fought free of. A whip into the corner leads to Tama getting caught with a flapjack, with Okada following up with the sliding back elbow off the ropes as we passed the marker for their longest match to date.

Okada pushes on with a DDT for a two-count, before Tama missed a charge into the corner, then got lifted up top and dropkicked to the floor. Following outside, Tama’s whipped into the rails, then booted over it, before Okada blocked a Gun Stun onto the rails, instead dragging Tama back in for a draping Green Killer DDT off the rails.

Returning to the ring, Tama blocks a Money Clip, only to run into another Okada dropkick as that Money Clip loomed on. Getting free, Tama’s taken down as Okada sets up for the Rainmaker elbow drop and zoom-out, before Tama hit back with the Veleno leaping DDT. A spinning Rainmaker attempt gets caught and turned into a Complete Shot by Tama, who followed with a Tongan Twist for a near-fall, before a Gun Stun’s countered with a spinning Rainmaker.

We cross the 20-minute mark with Okada teeing up for a tombstone, but he’s caught with an overhead enziguiri from Tama. A shotgun dropkick from Okada misses, as Tama headed up to land the Supreme Flow splash for a near-fall. Okada’s back with another dropkick, but he’s got to block a litany of Gun Stuns before he missed a dropkick. Tama seems to have wisened up here, eventually nailing Okada with a Bloody Sunday DDT after getting fed up with having his Gun Stuns stopped.

Tama tries one more time, but Okada again puts the brakes on… but an attempt to counter into a tombstone ended with Tama somehow coming out ahead. A Jay Drilla’s next… and holy hell, Tama Tonga’s scored the upset! If someone’s going 100% this year, it’ll not be Okada – and this wasn’t a “banana peel” win either as Tama more than brought it here… and avoided the YOSHI-HASHI-isms by busting out something else when his usual finish didn’t do the trick. ***¾

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

Block A
Kota Ibushi, KENTA, Zack Sabre Jr., Shingo Takagi (6-2 / 12pts)
Tomohiro Ishii (5-3 / 10pts)
Toru Yano (eliminated) (4-4 / 8pts)
Great-O-Khan (eliminated) (4-5 / 8pts)
Tanga Loa, Yujiro Takahashi (eliminated) (2-6 / 4pts)
Tetsuya Naito (withdrew) (0-9 / 0pts)

Monday’s final block A matches (from the top down): KENTA/Ibushi, Sabre/Tanga, Shingo/Yujiro, Ishii/Yano. KENTA’s got tie-breaker wins over Sabre and Ishii; Shingo’s got tie-breakers over KENTA and Ishii; Sabre’s got tie-breakers over Shingo and Ibushi; Ishii’s got a tie-breaker win over Sabre. It’s a headache to think about, so we’ll wing it on Monday!

Block B
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)

Wednesday’s final block B matches (card TBC) are Cobb/Okada, SANADA/EVIL, Tanahashi/Taichi, Goto/Tama and Owens/YOSHI-HASHI.

We’re into the home stretch! Monday at Yokohama Budokan is where block A has their final matches – with the running order TBC. Wednesday sees block B have their day at Budokan Hall in Tokyo, while the final takes place there next Thursday.

A gushing sigh of relief that we don’t have to worry about EVIL making the finals comes with today’s results… as sometimes the obvious story is the one you should tell. There’s one round of matches left, and with block A clearly being the more involved “final night” it’ll be interesting to see where the chips fall – especially in terms of how guys are perceived and slotted at this stage of the game.