The opening weekend of this year’s G1 Climax gives us a big time main event as block B throws up Okada vs. Tanahashi in the main event.
SHO defeated Kosei Fujita via referee stoppage in 8:09 (**½)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: EVIL pinned YOSHI-HASHI in 17:15 (***)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Jeff Cobb pinned Chase Owens in 12:11 (***½)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: SANADA pinned Tama Tonga in 19:04 (***½)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Taichi pinned Hirooki Goto in 18:30 (***¾)
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Kazuchika Okada pinned Hiroshi Tanahashi in 29:36 (****¼)
We’re back at Osaka’s Edion Arena, with Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton ringside for the call as I’m watching this on a slight delay…
Kosei Fujita vs. SHO
After Ryohei Oiwa fell to SHO last night, we’re expecting a similar result here…
SHO rolls outside at the bell, forcing new referee Yuya Sakamoto (hope I got the spelling right) to back up a frustrated Fujita. A whip takes Fujita to the rails, as SHO then worked his arm over the turnbuckle steels, before the Young Lion was chopped in time to the ref’s count. Back in the ring, SHO works over a chinlock that has Fujita in the ropes, before he edged ahead on strikes, as Fujita eventually hit back with a dropkick, then a slam as we got the customary Young Lion comeback… but on just his fifth match in, Fujita’s obviously going to the Boston crab, and that’s kicked away.
Fujita’s caught with a series of ragdolling German suplexes… before SHO pulled Fujita into the Snake Bite submission for the stoppage. A decent showing, but Fujita was expectedly overclassed here. **½
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: EVIL vs. YOSHI-HASHI
We’ve back-to-back outings from the House of Torture here, with the threat of this being “shenanigans heavy” if you believe everything you read.
They’ve finally given YOSHI-HASHI a new entrance video, one that isn’t chock full of him looking like he really doesn’t want to do this. YOSHI-HASHI starts with a side headlock as he looked to subdue EVIL, before some chops looked to set up for a dropkick in the ropes… but Dick Togo goes to trip YOSHI-HASHI as EVIL rolled away. A quick Benny Hill chase ends with YOSHI-HASHI getting clotheslined by EVIL, as we started to settle into the nü-EVIL template. Off comes the corner pad. Down goes the ring announcer. Back in the ring, EVIL lights up YOSHI-HASHI with chops, before throwing him outside so Dick Togo could launch YOSHI-HASHI into the rails.
EVIL’s Fisherman buster gets a two-count, but YOSHI-HASHI fires back with chops of his own, leading to a neckbreaker for a near-fall. More chops end with EVIL rolling outside, as Dick Togo again gets involved, while the ring announcer’s table was homed in on to keep this all ticking on. A Darkness Scorpion traps YOSHI-HASHI on the outside as EVIL seemed to be going for a count-out, but YOSHI-HASHI rolls in at 19… only to eat Darkness Falls for a near-fall. The exposed corner waits for YOSHI-HASHI, but he rebounds out with a clothesline, before blocking Everything is EVIL as he rolled EVIL into a Butterfly Lock.
YOSHI-HASHI morphs the hold into a sleeperhold, before a back cracker takes us back to the Butterfly Lock, but EVIL grabs the referee to try and mask some interference from Dick Togo. It doesn’t work, as the pair jockey for position, leading to a pumphandle backbreaker from YOSHI-HASHI. Again, EVIL grabs the ref, but YOSHI-HASHI just lands a Dragon suplex and a Western lariat, before a Kumagaroshi ended with a near-fall. EVIL’s back with a lariat, before Everything is EVIL was countered into a roll-up… but Dick Togo distracts as YOSHI-HASHI had the match won. A low blow from EVIL as the ref’s back was turned followed, as Everything is EVIL led to the elementary finish – not too overdone on shenanigans, but it was pretty much what nü-EVIL is going to be in this tournament. ***
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Chase Owens vs. Jeff Cobb
After the KOPW mess two weeks ago, Chase has been threatening to do 30-minute draws. Just for us lucky sods!
Owens looks to wind up Cobb in the early going, eventually catching him unawares with elbows and a cravat before a dropkick took Cobb to the outside. A dropkick through the ropes misses as Cobb chucks Owens with an overhead belly-to-belly on the floor, before Chase gets thrown into the buckles when they made it back in. Knees and uppercuts to the lower back of Owens gets Cobb a couple of two-counts, before Cobb just charged him from corner-to-corner a bunch of times. Owens tries to retaliate with elbows, before an enziguiri sent Cobb back outside for that dropkick-thru-the-ropes. Chase heads up top for a missile dropkick, which had Cobb back down, as did a neckbreaker, before Cobb blocked the package piledriver.
Cobb’s dropkick turned things around, as did a belly-to-belly suplex before the Oklahoma Stampede nearly put Owens away. A standing moonsault keeps up the onslaught, as a series of elbows left Chase down again… but Chase is able to hit back with a V-Trigger and a Jewel Heist clothesline as they teased another upset. From there, Cobb blocks another knee strike, pulling Chase into a German suplex, before the Tour of the Islands was blocked. An enziguiri lands instead from Owens, who’s just caught in return with a superkick as Cobb picked him up on the rebound with a Tour of the Islands for the win. Hey, what do you know? When they’re not padding for time, Chase can go – but he was always going to be outclassed by Cobb on this night. ***½
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Tama Tonga vs. SANADA
Back after break, and we’ve got Tama Tonga’s G1 return, while SANADA busted out some new, extra-shiny gear. It’d be a nightmare for photographers, but at least it’s not the evil bellhop gear he used to have…
We start with side headlocks and armdrags, with Tama being sent outside as SANADA’s teased dive drew interference from Jado… who ate a baseball slide from Tama. We’re back to armdrags and dropkicks, before Tama Tonga ripped off his shirt and offered another handshake to SANADA. That gives way to Tama playing to the crowd, then asking SANADA to do the same… but it’s a set-up for a roll-up out of the corner as Tama proceeded to take him outside with a clothesline. Tama joins him on the outside to charge him into the rails, before a suplex on the floor looked to lead to the count-out tease. Of course, SANADA beats it, but Tama stays on top of him, boxing SANADA into the corner before we heard a dropkick to the knee.
SANADA fires back with a backbreaker, taking Tama outside for a plancha… and there’s one for Jado too. Back inside, a Paradise Lock traps Tama, with the eventual low dropkick freeing him for a near-fall, before Tama struck back with a Tongan Twist. A powerslam gets Tama a little closer, before Tama tried to counter a TKO into another Tongan Twist. SANADA backflips out of the corner into a Dragon sleeper, maintaining it as Tama tries to escape, eventually doing so as a Tongan Twist looked to land. SANADA’s back on his feet to hit a Magic Screw, before uppercuts wore down Tama ahead of a TKO. An inside cradle nearly nicks it for Tama, who followed with a Jay Driller as he came ever closer.
Winding up the crowd, Tama tees up for a Gun Stun… but SANADA counters it in mid air into a Skull End. Of course, Tama slips out, so SANADA reapplies the hold, which almost leads to the stoppage… but SANADA lets go so he could hit a moonsault… and Tama gets the knees up! An inside cradle almost gets the win right there, before Tama’s search for a Gun Stun led to him getting caught in an O’Connor roll, with SANADA taking the win. This got pretty good in the closing stretch, with Tama’s search for the Gun Stun eventually backfiring – ensuring his first G1 match back ended in a loss. ***½
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Hirooki Goto vs. Taichi
These two met as part of that three-way tag match… and Taichi tries to rub it in Goto’s face before the bell. Goto seemed to be thinking of using that belt, but Goto throws it aside as we get going.
We head outside as Goto’s posted, but he’s right back as he tried to play Taichi at his own game, choking him with some camera cables. A reversed whip sends Goto into the rails, before Taichi uses the cable to choke and drag Goto with. Back inside, we’ve boot chokes from Taichi, then regular chokes as Taichi looked to whittle away Goto’s spirit. Goto comes back with a choke of his own as the pair throttled each other like Bart and Homer, before a bulldog out of the corner gives Goto a two-count. A hook kick from Taichi stops Goto in his tracks, leading to the Holy Emperor Cross Mausoleum attempt from Taichi. Goto slips out to hit a discus clothesline, before he shrugged off a high kick to drop Taichi with an ushigoroshi.
The pair trade strikes, then clotheslines, but it’s Goto who pulls ahead, only to run into a choke from Taichi, who lands the Nodo Otoshi chokeslam for a near-fall. Off come the trousers, but Taichi’s struggle leads him into taking a Shouten Kai. A Dangerous backdrop driver has Goto rocked though, while a leaping high kick and a buzzsaw kick looked to put Taichi through… but Goto escapes a Black Mephisto and returned with a headbutt. Taichi goes back to the choke as Goto looked for a finish, dropping Goto for a near-fall, before a running elbow and the Black Mephisto led to the victory. Gone are the days where Taichi was just an annoyance in the G1 – he and Goto brought it today, and while the choking stuff sometimes wears thin, against the right opponent it seems to click beautifully. ***¾
G1 Climax 31 – Block B: Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
It’s been over two years since they last met – also in the G1 – as this is the fifteenth time we get to see Okada vs. Tanahashi in a singles outing. Okada’s got a slight edge with six wins in the prior 14 matches (compared to Tanahashi’s five, and three draws)… all of those draws, by the way, came in the G1.
For a change, Tanahashi isn’t coming into the G1 with an injury – feel free to add your own air quotes there – as we look to get as close to “old” New Japan as we can in the current situation with this match. Commentary lays out for the early stages as Tanahashi and Okada looked for a hold, with Tanahashi eventually tripping Okada to the mat for a side headlock. Okada gets up to charge through Tanahashi, before a Rainmaker tease led to armdrags, headscissors and a stand-off. Tanahashi grabs a side headlock as those first five minutes blew by, but Okada eventually escaped and lands a headlock takedown of his own before a chinlock gave Tanahashi something to fight out of.
Doing so, Tanahashi’s rolled down for a low dropkick as Okada tried to take a rather arrogant pin – putting his foot on Tanahashi’s chest. It’s back to the chinlock, but Tanahashi elbows free before catching an Okada boot to turn it into a Dragon screw. That leads to a flip senton off the middle rope as Tanahashi began to build up steam, faking out for a low dropkick before turning Okada with another Dragon screw. A Cloverleaf ends early in the ropes, with Okada rolling to the outside as he baited Tanahashi in with a DDT to the floor. Back inside, Okada lands a flapjack, then a neckbreaker slam as we hit the second half of the time limit, before Tanahashi was lifted up top and dropkick’d to the floor.
Okada followed him outside again, sending Tanahashi into the rails before he took a Dragon Screw. Tanahashi’s attempt at a High Fly Flow to the floor’s blocked, as Okada instead teases a tombstone off the apron to the floor, but instead he’s met with another Dragon screw through the ropes ahead of the Ace’s High frogsplash crossbody to the floor. Rolling back in, Tanahashi looked to take a count-out, but Okada rolls back in at 18, and ran into some Twist and Shout neckbreakers. After the hattrick, Tanahashi gets a Slingblade for a near-fall, before an Ace’s High was rolled through with Okada catching a Money Clip instead. Tanahashi looked to escape, but he’s pulled back into the hold, with Tanahashi eventually wriggling his way to the rope to break the hold.
Okada goes for a tombstone, but Tanahashi has the same idea as the pair jockey… with Okada hitting the move first. Okada sits down on a sunset flip for a near-fall, as we hit the final five minutes with Okada going back to his old tricks. A slam and a top rope elbow drop gives us the old school Rainmaker zoom out, but the Rainmaker attempts end up getting countered with a Slingblade. Another one followed from Tanahashi, but a High Fly Flow crashes and burns as Okada gets the knees up to block. Okada grabs the wrist and pulls Tanahashi into a clothesline… and again… before a Rainmaker’s countered with a cradle for a near-fall. Tanahashi’s German suplex takes us into the final two minutes, while a Dragon suplex barely gets a two-count… they trade elbows, leaving both men rocked, but it’s Okada who pulled free in the final sixty seconds, landing a dropkick, then almost a Michinoku driver, before a Rainmaker put Tanahashi away in the nick of time. Those final five minutes were a delight, with the crowd coming as unglued as they can in the current era – although that is also a sign of what the max is in terms of crowd reactions for the time being. An instant classic for its time, as they teased a fourth G1 draw only for Okada to sneak out the win with seconds remaining. ****¼
With everyone having had one match, here’s your standings:
Great-O-Khan, Zack Sabre Jr., Shingo Takagi, Yujiro Takahashi, Toru Yano (1-0 / 2pts)
Kota Ibushi, Tomohiro Ishii, KENTA, Tanga Loa, Tetsuya Naito (0-1 / 0pts)
Jeff Cobb, EVIL, Kazuchika Okada, SANADA, Taichi (1-0 / 2pts)
Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, Chase Owens, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tama Tonga (0-1 / 0pts)
We’ve a few days off with the tour moving to the Ota City General Gymnasium for the next round in block A and block B – those’ll be on Thursday and Friday. Block A’s show will be headlined by Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Shingo Takagi, while the block B event has Okada vs. EVIL on top. Yeah, it’s only night two, but those who wrote off block B on sight might want to re-evaluate things a little. With the block matches being a step ahead of the opening night, I kinda preferred night two to night one from the Osaka openers. Both blocks are going to have their moments, and sure, tonight’s matches ran a little longer – but that’s now part of the territory.