Taichi looks to upset Kazuchika Okada as block B of the G1 rolled into Kochi…

Quick Results
El Desperado submitted Kosei Fujita in 8:27 (***)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: YOSHI-HASHI pinned Tama Tonga in 13:15 (***)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Hirooki Goto pinned Chase Owens in 12:44 (**¾)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Jeff Cobb pinned SANADA in 14:17 (***½)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: EVIL pinned Hiroshi Tanahashi in 17:22 (***)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Kazuchika Okada pinned Taichi in 23:10 (***¾)

Kevin Kelly’s flying solo in the Kochi Prefectural Gymnasium as we’re halfway through a run of three consecutive nights of G1 action…

Kosei Fujita vs. El Desperado
After winning with an Indian deathlock yesterday, Despy will be looking to claim another Young Lion’s scalp…

Kevin Kelly’s busy plotting EVIL’s path to winning the block as Fujita was going for a cross armbar on Desperado, but Despy escapes and takes the guard, throwing some strikes before Fujita spun free and went back to the cross armbar.

After taking some, Desperado takes Fujita into the ropes for some chops, before he began to work over Fujita’s leg with a knee drop onto it. Fujita’s making damn sure he’s kicking out of a series of pin attempts, before a slam dropped the Young Lion with some authority. Going back to the left leg, Desperado grabbed a toe hold, forcing Fujita to crawl to the ropes, before Fujita looked to make a fightback.

A takedown sees Fujita snatch a two-count from the junior tag champion, then we get a nice back body drop from him as Fujita looked to be unable to follow up by way of that earlier leg work. Still, Fujita’s able to roll Desperado for a Boston crab, but they’re in the ropes before they can get going, and Desperado returns with an Indian deathlock, looking to claim two Young Lion wins with the hold.

Fujita’s able to hold on more than Oiwa could yesterday, but as soon as Desperado stood up to add pressure, Fujita also tapped out as Desperado picked up another nonchalant win. Fujita seemed to offer more of a fight here, as the new Young Lions look to find their places. ***

G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Tama Tonga vs. YOSHI-HASHI
A first-time singles meeting… and Tama Tonga needs a win here to keep whatever faint hopes he has of winning the block alive.

Having a taped-up left arm meant that YOSHI-HASHI had an obvious bullseye on him, which Tama Tonga focused on to start with. He’s able to pull ahead, hanging Tama in the ropes for a dropkick to the back, but Tama’s up at two and returned to knock YOSHI-HASHI down, absorbing some chops before he ripped off his vest.

Elbows from Tama Tonga keep YOSHI-HASHI down, as did a rear naked choke… but YOSHI-HASHI throws his way free and came back with a low dropkick to Tama’s knee. Some headscissors and a neckbreaker get YOSHI-HASHI a two-count, before Tama Tonga looked to come back with a Tongan Twist, only to run into a chop as a Bunker Bunter’s turned into the Tongan Twist for a near-fall.

Tama heads up top and hits the Supreme Flow splash for a near-fall, before YOSHI-HASHI countered a Gun Stun into a back cracker. Ow. A Kumagoroshi followed, but Tama barely kicks out in time, before a sleeperhold turned into Karma… but Tama floats out and tried to hit a Gun Stun, before he ate a Dragon suplex instead.

YOSHI-HASHI looks to put him away with a Western lariat, but it’s ducked as an enziguiri from Tama earned him a superkick from YOSHI-HASHI, before Karma got the win. That’s Tama out of the G1 as block B begins to thin down. ***

G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Chase Owens vs. Hirooki Goto
It’s another first-time meeting, with Chase Owens looking to build on his shock win over Hiroshi Tanahashi earlier in the week… but he’s also on the bubble…

Owens caught Goto with a shotgun dropkick at the bell, then took him outside for a dropkick as Chase wanted to end this in a hurry. A missile dropkick nearly shuts us out in under thirty seconds, but Goto keeps kicking out and knocked Owens to the outside.

Goto gives chase to, erm, Chase, but gets caught with a superkick before reversing a whip into the rails. Owens’ arm gets wrapped around the rails, before Goto wrapped up Owens in the ring for a couple of pin attempts. Chase returns with a Texas Twister submission, with his version of a STF leading to the exchange of strikes.

Owens’ lariat’s good for a near-fall, before Goto pulled him down for a belly-to-belly as a follow-up cross armbar also ended in the ropes. Chase rolls Goto to his feet ahead of an over-the-knee brainbuster for a near-fall, and my feed gives out. We’re back as Chase rolled Goto onto the apron, looking for a package piledriver, but a back body drop took Chase down.

Beating the count, Owens resumes the exchange of elbows, pulling ahead with a back elbow before the pair continued to trade strikes. A short German suplex has Goto down, as did an enziguiri, before the Jewel Heist clothesline nearly put Goto away. Goto blocks the C-Trigger and countered with a reverse GTR as he pulled ahead, only for Owens to hit that C-Trigger after all. From there, Owens pulls up Goto for a package piledriver, but it’s countered into a GTR, and that’s enough for the win. This was a match that was technically fine, but I just couldn’t get into this at all – unfortunately, that’s the risk of these dead-rubbers… **¾

G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Jeff Cobb vs. SANADA
Bloody hell, we’re 3-for-3 on first-time matches in the G1 today… and a loss for SANADA here would end his tournament.

The early feeling-out process sees Cobb charge down SANADA, before SANADA took him outside… following up with a cannonball off the apron. Back inside, elbows from SANADA led to nought as Cobb just took him down before he just stood on SANADA’s back. SANADA’s charged into the corners by Cobb, before backbreakers led to a two-count.

SANADA tried to fight back, catching Cobb with a dropkick after a pair of leapfrogs, before a Paradise lock ended with Cobb pushing free. A ‘rana from SANADA takes Cobb outside, but the follow up plancha is caught as SANADA’s charged into the ring post. Back inside, a running back suplex from Cobb lands for a near-fall, before SANADA countered a whip into the corner by launching with a missile dropkick into Cobb.

A standing moonsault’s good for a two-count as SANADA pulled ahead, dumping Cobb hard with a Magic Screw as Cobb needed to grab the rope to stay alive. SANADA teases a reverse rana, but instead Cobb just ragdolls him into a wheelbarrow German suplex. Before a Tour of the Islands was countered into a Skull End.

Cobb rolls free to break the hold, but an Oklahoma Stampede’s turned back into a Skull End, before SANADA slipped on an O’Connor roll, yet still got a two-count. Missing a moonsault sees SANADA come up shot, as Cobb was really having issues with his leg… but he’s able to catch a SANADA moonsault and turn it into a Tour of the Islands as even with a bum knee, Jeff Cobb is freakishly strong and manages to make it 6-0. SANADA had the right idea, but this isn’t to be his year. ***½

G1 Climax 31 – Block B: EVIL vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Finally, a G1 match with some history – we’ve had five prior meetings between these two, with EVIL winning the first and last of them, including a carbon copy last year (in block B, on night 12 of the G1, on this very day fact…)

At the top of the show, Kevin Kelly had ominously suggested that a win for EVIL here could fast-track him to winning the block with shenanigans, with his final three being against Goto, Cobb and SANADA.

Things start innocently enough with EVIL taking Tanahashi into the ropes as a switcheroo led to a clean break. Tanahashi grabs a side headlock on EVIL, as we start our sample of shenanigans with EVIL kicking the ropes into Tanahashi’s aces. The guard rails wait for Tanahashi, as EVIL then went looking for chairs, pushing one into Tanahashi’s knee as the referee managed to disarm EVIL.

Tanahashi hobbles back to the ring, but EVIL stays on Tanahashi’s oft-injured wheel, cutting off Tanahashi’s attempt to fight back with a handful of hair as the pair broke in the corner. A forearm has EVIL down, with a flip senton out of the corner following for a near-fall as Tanahashi’s knee was clearly causing some discomfort.

EVIL blocks a Slingblade, throwing Tanahashi to the outside – where Dick Togo was waiting with a gut punch as the ref was distracted. Cue more trips to the guard rails, including one that wiped out the ring announcer for good measure. Still on the outside a Darkness Scorpion looked to wear out Tanahashi some more, as EVIL wanted to get the count-out.

Of course, EVIL let go too early, and while Dick Togo pulled Tanahashi out and into the timekeeper’s table again, Tanahashi’s still able to break the 20-count. EVIL stays ahead with a Fisherman buster for a two-count, before a Tanahashi dropkick levelled things up. Problem was, a corner pad had been removed, and Tanahashi’s sent into the exposed corner as EVIL again found a shortcut.

Tanahashi manages to hit a Twist and Shout though, before a sliding dropkick to Togo allowed Tanahashi to hit that Slingblade for a near-fall. EVIL grabs the referee’s foot to look for a distraction, but Red Shoes Unno pulls away as Tanahashi’s High Fly Flow to the back leads to a Cloverleaf… but Togo pulls out the ref as EVIL tapped.

Togo tries for a belt shot, but Tanahashi ducks and puts him in a Cloverleaf, which EVIL broke up. They try for a Magic Killer on Tanahashi, but it’s blocked as Tanahashi dumps Togo with Everything is EVIL… a low blow from Tanahashi rocks EVIL too, before another ref bump allowed EVIL to his Darkness Falls. Belt shot. Everything is EVIL… and a hesitant three-count ends it. This was fine until they laid in the shenanigans, but we know to expect that… still doesn’t mean we ought to like it! ***

G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Taichi vs. Kazuchika Okada
We’ve three prior meetings in these two guys’ history. Taichi was Okada’s opponent for his “official New Japan debut” back in 2008 – where Okada lost in nine minutes – and until last year, they’d never met since. Two meetings in 2020 saw Okada get a pair of wins though, including in last year’s G1.

The first minute passes without contact, so you know we’re teasing that 30-minute limit. Will it be Okada-by-Numbers though? We’re outside with Taichi getting thrown into the guard rails ahead of a DDT, but Taichi returns the favour… having pulled up the padding as Okada’s head met the floor, before he rolled Okada in to claim a two-count. Okada tries to fight back, but Taichi throws Okada down by the throat as some choking wore down the former champion.

Kawada-ish kicks from Taichi seemed to wake up Okada, who fought back with a flapjack out of the corner, only for a hook kick to send Okada back down. More kicks from Taichi take Okada into the corner for a gamengiri, before a head kick led to the removal of Taichi’s trousers. Okada sidesteps a superkick, but gets taken down with a nodo otoshi chokeslam for a near-fall.

A Money Clip from Okada’s next, but Taichi escapes… only to get dropkicked and put back in the hold. We’ve more Money Clip as Okada seemed to be hell-bent on winning with that, but Taichi manages to get to the ropes to force the break. Changing tactic, Okada slams Taichi before going up for an elbow drop, with the Rainmaker zoom out following…

Taichi ducks a Rainmaker, then wrecks Okada with a thrust kick for a near-fall as Okada barely peeled his shoulder off the mat in time. Looking to fight back, Okada tries for a tombstone, but Taichi elbows out, before an exchange of strikes saw Okada get levelled with a forearm.

Okada backdrops and sits on Taichi to counter Black Mephisto, but Taichi’s up at two before a dropkick took Okada down as the pace intensified, right on cue at the 20-minute mark. Okada blocks a Dangerous backdrop driver, but ate a gamengiri ahead of the Dangerous backdrop driver for a near-fall, before going back to the Black Mephisto…

…but Okada slips out and hits a discus clothesline, taking Taichi into the ropes, before an Axe Bomber countered a spinning Rainmaker. Okada’s back with a dropkick and a spinning tombstone, before a Rainmaker’s ducked and countered with a Gedo clutch for a near-fall as Okada eyeballed the ref. From there, Taichi fired up but ran into a landslide tombstone, with a Rainmaker closing the door as Taichi’s G1 ended right there. This wasn’t as “paint by numbers” as that SANADA match was earlier in the week, but Okada manages to keep pace with Jeff Cobb at the top of the block. ***¾

Your latest standings: remember, block A dished out points up front after Naito’s withdrawal… and we’re realistically down to just three in block B.

Block A
Zack Sabre Jr (5-1 / 10pts)
Kota Ibushi (5-2 / 10pts)
KENTA, Shingo Takagi (4-2 / 8pts)
Tomohiro Ishii, Great-O-Khan (4-3 / 8pts)
Tanga Loa, Yujiro Takahashi, Toru Yano (2-4 / 4pts)
Tetsuya Naito (withdrew) (0-9 / 0pts)

Block B
Jeff Cobb, Kazuchika Okada (6-0 / 12pts)
EVIL (5-1 / 10pts)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (eliminated) (3-3 / 6pts)
Hirooki Goto (eliminated), SANADA (eliminated), Taichi (eliminated), YOSHI-HASHI (eliminated) (2-4 / 4pts)
Chase Owens (eliminated), Tama Tonga (eliminated) (1-5 / 2pts)

The G1 returns on Saturday for the final weekend stop of the tour, as the Edion Arena hosts a block A card featuring a Young Lion sacrificial tag match, and Kota Ibushi vs. Great-O-Khan in the main event.

We’re really starting to see the runners and the riders fall at this stage of the G1, as we continue to hurtle towards the blindingly-obvious Cobb/Okada finale… although the presence of EVIL as a spoiler is making my blood run cold.