Here we go! After being delayed due to a little thing called the Olympics, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) one again hosts the annual round robin tournament, the G1 Climax 31. Two blocks of ten competitors face each other once, and for each match up, the rules are simple: a win will earn the winner 2 points while the loser earns nothing, and a draw of any kind will grant both competitors 1 point. Once everyone has faced each other once, the two overall winners meet with a Wrestle Kingdom main event up for grabs.
[Please click here for my thoughts on Day 1, featuring the first set of matches from the A Block!]
This second night of action is the first round of the tournament for the B Block, and will see the renewal of one of NJPW’s greatest rivalries in the main event, as Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada face off once more. In the second to last match, former winner Hirooki Goto and half of the current IWGP Tag Team Champions, Taichi, will do battle, and two other tag team specialists, SANADA and Tama Tonga, will also face off. Also, Chase Owens of the Bullet club will have to contend with the monstrous pre-tournament favourite, Jeff Cobb, and in the first tournament match for the night, The Head of the Bullet Club’s House of Torture, EVIL, will face the rejuvenated YOSHI-HASHI. Finally, kicking off the show is the debut of a new young lion, Kosei Fujita, who will face his toughest ever challenge against the Murder Machine of the House of Torture, the newest member of the Bullet Club, SHO.
+ Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): if Shingo/Ishii last night was one that I knew I would love literally no matter what, this would have to be on that same level, albeit for different reasons. This was not so much about stiff shots like last night’s main event, but instead such a long and storied rivalry wherein each man knows just when to counter the other, or hit a big move of their own. The crowd was nuts for this one, and absolutely rightfully so
+ Hirooki Goto vs Taichi (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): I know I shouldn’t let myself get all excited for Hirooki Goto, but dammit I just love all of his big match moves. I get all giddy whenever he hits that Shouten Kai and every now and then he’ll do a kick that sounds like a gunshot. But Taichi is the king of kicks, and he has so very much come into his own since becoming a heavyweight however many years ago that I’m all aboard his hype train. I liked this
+ SANADA vs Tama Tonga (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): thank gosh Tama has grown that goatee back. I enjoyed this far more than I thought I would, especially considering that SANADA has not been high on my list of must watch wrestlers, nor has Tama been in many singles matches at all. Still, their not-quite-mirror-image wrestling styles actually made for a very compelling match
– Chase Owens vs Jeff Cobb (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): this was pretty good, albeit hardly anything ground breaking. I see-saw so much on my opinion on Chase, because he’ll put on an unexpected banger, and then go into something like that horror with Toru Yano for the KOPW trophy. Cobb, meanwhile, has such incredible power that it’s always a spectacle watching him throw someone around, but I might suggest he needs someone better than Owens to help with the music between the notes, so to speak
– YOSHI-HASHI vs EVIL (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): there was a really good stretch near the end of this match, and I continue to be impressed with not only YOSHI-HASHI’s improvement, but especially how much the crowd gets behind him. EVIL, however, is consistently dragging down my enjoyment of every match, story and situation he is involved in, which is such a shame considering how great he was as the powerhouse/heavy of LIJ
– Kosei Fujita vs SHO: this was pretty much the same as the first night, as I don’t think there was any doubt in which way this match was going to go. Insofar as a showcase of Fujita, I’d say it was slightly less good than Oiwa last night. SHO is still great, though
> I’m torn: I love these six match, “in-and-out in time for dinner” style shows, but I also really liked the tag matches being able to build up the matches for the following show. Without those tag matches, all of the tournament matches seemingly have to go that extra five minutes or so than they should, and sometimes it really dampens and otherwise good fight
Should you watch this event: As you might have expected, seek out Tanahashi/Okada, and maybe evne Goto/Taichi if you like those guys. My standards always seem to get obscenely high when the G1 starts, so I won’t be suggesting anything less than great.