Kazuchika Okada looks to extend his unbeaten run in block B, as he took on SANADA in the latest round of G1 action.

Quick Results
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Chase Owens pinned Hiroshi Tanahashi in 10:58 (***¼)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: EVIL pinned Tama Tonga in 13:47 (***)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Jeff Cobb pinned Taichi in 15:18 (***½)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Hirooki Goto pinned YOSHI-HASHI in 16:57 (***½)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Kazuchika Okada pinned SANADA in 29:15 (****)

We’ve gone back to Korakuen Hall for the final time on this tour – and it means we’ve got Chris Charlton back on commentary with Kevin Kelly for a show that was being given away free on NJPW World…

G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Chase Owens vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
It’s a first-time meeting, unsurprisingly… and a loss for Owens would all but eliminate him (he’d need Okada to lose out from here on in to have any kind of chance.)

Korakuen’s clapping loud for this one, as Owens tried to push out of a side headlock in the early going. Eventually Chase rolls out and dropkicked Tanahashi away, but Tanahashi ends up taking his own crossbody out of the corner as Owens was taking the piss. Of course, Tanahashi wasn’t happy, but he’s spun down with a low dropkick as Owens began to grind his fist into Tanahashi’s knee.

Chase was dominating things as he kept the focus on the knee throughout, leading to a Jewel Heist clothesline for a near-fall as Owens looked to the unlikeliest of wins… before Tanahashi finally caught him with a Dragon screw in the ropes. From there, it’s all Tanahashi as a Slingblade gets a near-fall, before Ace’s High lands.

Owens gets his shins up to block a High Fly Flow as Chase was almost being shut out emphatically. A roll-up out of the corner with some cheating sees Owens get a near-fall, while a backslide added another two-count, before Tanahashi blocked a C-Trigger knee. A slap stops another one, but Chase finally sneaks one through, before a package piledriver dropped Tanahashi… and that’s the win as hell has frozen over. It’ll wind people up, but Chase controlled the pace for most of the contest, and was well deserving of the win… and seemingly a future IWGP US title shot? ***¼

G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Tama Tonga vs. EVIL
Yet another Bullet Club Bonanza, as these two have met twice in the past, with Tama winning both times – including once against a pre-EVIL Takaaki Watanabe.

EVIL tries to cheapshot Tama early on, going for the eyes before Tama busted out a double leapfrog and a shot to the midsection. Dick Togo’s up early to loosen a corner pad, but Tama chases him off before EVIL removed it… right as Tama splashed into the newly-exposed corner.

Tama’s thrown outside, but Jado plays guard dog to ward off Togo. He does the same again as a cheating abdominal stretch from EVIL was thwarted, but EVIL ends up pulling ahead with a suplex, only to charge into that exposed corner as Tama came back with a neckbreaker. I’m not crazy on how Dick Togo’s attempting to interject himself into this more than he usually does, “because Bullet Club Civil War.”

Tama fires back, whipping EVIL back into the corner ahead of a Stinger splash for a near-fall, before EVIL used the ref to his advantage as we had a turnaround. A Tongan Death Grip from Tama has EVIL back on the deck, leading to a Darkness Scorpion on EVIL, who manages to get to the ropes. EVIL grabs the ref as Tama went up top, so we’ve a change of plan as EVIL ends up using the ref for an impromptu Magic Killer.

EVIL tries Darkness Falls, but Tama resists and countered with a Tongan Twist for a near-fall, before a Gun Stun was blocked. EVIL tries to push Tama into the ref, but a follow up low blow is blocked and turned into a spinning death valley bomb, as a big splash off the top almost puts EVIL away.

Again, Tama measures up for a Gun Stun, rallying Korakuen behind him… but then the lights go out. They come back up with Dick Togo choking out Tama, while EVIL and the ref was out… in the ensuing mess, EVIL low blows Tama, then hit Everything is EVIL, before he pulled up the ref to count the pin. This was okay, but the finish didn’t hit for me, as they eventually revealed that SHO was manning the light switch. They probably need to guard that stuff better… ***

G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Jeff Cobb vs. Taichi
It’s the third year in a row these two have met in the G1, splitting a win apiece, as Taichi holds a 2-1 lead in head-to-heads.

Cobb came into this as one of two men who still had a 100% record, following Zack Sabre Jr.’s loss yesterday, and it’s Cobb who pushed on early, tying up as Taichi wilted into the ropes, with some clean breaks on the other side. Taichi comes in with kicks to take Cobb to the outside, giving him a dead leg before introducing Cobb to the guard rails, as we then move into some choking, as Taichi made use of some camera cables.

Back inside, Cobb’s able to push Taichi into the corner, before he caught an enziguiri and turned it into a fallaway slam. Cobb stands on Taichi’s back, then commandeered Taichi’s mic so he could indulge in a spot of karaoke, following up with a clothesline in the corner then some charging as Taichi just couldn’t get into first gear, let alone out of it.

Taichi finally looked to get in it as he targeted Cobb’s knee with kicks, but Cobb just charges him down with a sumo-style charge. Pass the salt…

Finally getting into the game, Taichi caught Cobb with some Kawada-style kicks, then a gamengiri in the corner, but a Cobb dropkick beat Taichi at his own game. Cobb puts a few yen in the swear jar, before he beat Taichi to an Axe Bomber, before a Spin Cycle dumped Taichi in the middle of the ring. A standing moonsault keeps Cobb ahead, but Taichi escapes a Tour of the Islands, only to get clubbed in the back again.

A choke breaks up a second try at the Tour of the Islands, before he bounced Cobb on his head with a Dangerous backdrop… but it’s not enough! Taichi tries for a thrust kick, but Cobb hits first, before a jumping high kick and a Gedo clutch nearly put Cobb away. All Taichi had left was Black Mephisto, but Cobb struck back before an Axe Bomber countered away a Tour of the Islands.

In the end though, Cobb’s able to hit a German suplex, then finally board Taichi for his Tour of the Islands, and that’s enough to keep the 100% run alive… and incidentally eliminate Hirooki Goto by way of his losses to Cobb and Okada. This was a good little match as Taichi’s back issues continue to hamper his tournament. ***½

G1 Climax 31 – Block B: YOSHI-HASHI vs. Hirooki Goto
A battle of tag partners, and Goto’s 2-0 in their past meetings, both of them coming in the G1, but this is already a bit of a dead rubber after Goto’s elimination (and YOSHI-HASHI is probably hot on his heels).

YOSHI-HASHI charges out of the gate, as both men swing at each other in the opening seconds, leading to a big shoulder block from YOSHI-HASHI. They keep it going in the corner, battering each other with elbows, before Goto finally charged down YOSHI-HASHI.

On the outside, YOSHI-HASHI gets reversed into the rails, but Goto misses a charge as he also tasted the barriers, then the ring post. YOSHI-HASHI rolls inside at 16, but Goto also beats the count, only to get caught with a chinlock as he needed the ropes to get free. A neckbreaker gets YOSHI-HASHI some two-counts, before he hung Goto up in the ropes for a dropkick to the back.

Eventually Goto struck back with a discus clothesline, before a spinning heel kick and a bulldog took YOSHI-HASHI down for a two-count. The pair get back up to trade clotheslines, but it’s Goto who gets ahead with an ushigoroshi, before YOSHI-HASHI returned fire with a kumagoroshi as the pair were left flat on the mat.

Eventually both YOSHI-HASHI and Goto start to pick themselves up, resuming with the back-and-forth strikes as YOSHI-HASHI again looked to pull ahead, only for a palm strike from Goto to take him down. A rising headbutt from YOSHI-HASHI dropped Goto again, while some double knees almost condemned Goto to another loss.

A superkick from YOSHI-HASHI keeps Goto down, as a second Kumagoroshi landed, but Goto kicks out just in time. YOSHI-HASHI traps Goto in a sleeperhold, setting up for Karma, but Goto fought free and hits a GTW… but it doesn’t get him his first two points of the tournament.

Goto keeps going with a Shoutenkai, before a GTR bent YOSHI-HASHI like Homer on a fire hydrant… and that’s the win for Goto, even if it’s too little, too late for his G1 chances. A keenly-fought outing, but it was just for pride – as Goto finally loses the goose egg, and sealed YOSHI-HASHI’s exit from contention too. ***½

G1 Climax 31 – Block B: SANADA vs. Kazuchika Okada
In their eight prior meetings, Okada’s beaten SANADA seven times, with SANADA’s lone win coming in 2019’s G1 where he took the record for the longest match time with a finish in block matches. 29:47. I have a feeling they may try and push that again today…

We open with a lock-up, then standing switches, as Okada trips SANADA to the mat. Yeah, with the pace in the first two minutes, this is going to push the time limit. Okada’s wristlock ends up in the ropes with a clean break, before shoulder tackles had SANADA down as we reset…

SANADA caught a boot from Okada, but a Paradise Lock attempt is pushed away… so SANADA tries his luck with a ‘rana, rolling through before he tied up Okada. Freeing Okada, SANADA keeps going with a chinlock, then an elbow to the back of the head as a snap suplex drew a two-count.

Hitting the ropes, Okada’s able to catch SANADA with a back elbow, following up with another in the corner, then a DDT for a two-count as we were very much in paint-by-numbers Okada stuff here. Neckbreaker. Two-count. Okada fakes out a Money Clip to tie up SANADA in a strait-jacket, before a dropkick took SANADA to the outside… but just waited for SANADA to roll back in.

Okada’s slaps looked to fire up SANADA, but Okada got too lackadaisical as his back senton misses. SANADA dropkicks the knee again, then hit a backbreaker that took Okada to the outside, with the plancha following. They head back inside as SANADA picks up a nonchalant two-count, before Okada fought back as he lifted SANADA up top and dropkicked him to the floor.

My feed drops out here, and returned with SANADA rolling back in… instantly being forced to elbow out of a Money Clip before a moonsault out of the corner misses. SANADA jarred his knee on the landing… so of course, Okada homes in on the knee, drilling it into the mat. A Money Clip followed, but that ends in the ropes before a top rope elbow keeps SANDA down ahead of the Rainmaker zoom-out.

Out of nowhere, SANADA hit back with a TKO as we head into the final ten minutes, following up with a Skull End. SANADA eventually relinquishes, but his search for a moonsault comes up short, with SANADA again jarring his knee on the landing… but he shrugs it off and goes right back to a Skull End. They tease Okada tapping, but instead he gets to the ropes before countering out of a Magic Screw, eventually hitting a dropkick.

SANADA countered a Rainmaker into a TKO, as he finally hits the moonsault… but he lands awkwardly afterwards, and the time it took to compose himself was enough for Okada to kick out. We’re into the final five minutes as Okada teases a win with the sit-out on a backdrop, before a spinning tombstone left both men laying. They get back up and trade elbows, before a shotgun dropkick from Okada, then a German suplex chained into what could have been a Rainmaker… but an O’Connor roll nearly nicks it!

Okada teases a landslide tombstone, but SANADA slips back into Skull End, but again Okada escapes. He misses a dropkick, but a Destino attempt from SANADA’s countered into the landslide tombstone, before the Rainmaker – and a reposition after the landing – booked Okada the win with under a minute to go.

This was technically solid, but this being in the main event, in addition to that opening spell, really telegraphed they were going to go long. In spite of the hot crowd (for the era) I couldn’t sink my teeth into this until the finishing stretches, as the first half of this felt like two consummate pros going through the motions at times. Tropes gonna trope. ****

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

Block A
Zack Sabre Jr (4-1 / 8pts)
Kota Ibushi, KENTA, Great-O-Khan (4-2 / 8pts)
Shingo Takagi (3-2; 6pts)
Tomohiro Ishii (3-3 / 6pts)
Tanga Loa, Yujiro Takahashi, Toru Yano (2-3 / 4pts)
Tetsuya Naito (withdrew) (0-9 / 0pts)

Block B
Jeff Cobb, Kazuchika Okada (5-0 / 10pts)
EVIL, Hiroshi Tanahashi (4-1 / 8pts)
SANADA, Taichi (2-3 / 4pts)
Hirooki Goto (eliminated), Chase Owens, Tama Tonga, YOSHI-HASHI (eliminated) (1-4 / 2pts)

We’ve a couple of days off as the G1 returns on Thursday in Hiroshima, with block A on the hook as Great-O-Khan takes on Tomohiro Ishii in the main event.

Some of the results will undoubtedly grind your gears (one in particular), but this was a holding-steady night of a G1 that, by now, most people have kinda slotted in their minds. Still, it was nice to hear Korakuen being somewhat heated, as local signs seem to point towards a recovery from this pandemic…