New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual round robin tournament continues, as twenty competitors contend to win 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 time limit draw will grant both competitors 1 point (both men being counted out will result in 0 points given to anyone). Once everyone has faced each other once, the two overall winners meet with a Wrestle Kingdom main event up for grabs.
[Please note: there may be spoilers for all previous days of the tournament so far. Please click here for my thoughts on Day 6!]
The A Block once again enters tournament action, when the reigning IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Shingo Takagi battles the dangerous veteran, KENTA. Kota Ibushi looks to follow up from his surprise defeat when he matches wits with Toru Yano, and the man who beat Ibushi, Zack Sabre Jr. faces the up and coming Great-O-Khan in a battle between two undefeated contenders. Tomohiro Ishii and Tanga Loa will also each look to earn their first tournament wins when they go one on one, and start the show will be an exhibition match between Yujiro Takahashi, and BUSHI, the latter of which is providing competition in place of his injured Los Ingobernables de Japon stablemate, Tetsuya Naito.
+ Shingo Takagi vs KENTA (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): first off, I admit, I was expecting a bit more. KENTA was being a giant dickhead at the beginning and it made the inevitable mid-match comeback so much more satisfying. Shingo can uncork that Pumping Bomber so quickly and it hits like a god damn truck every time, and I’d almost accept it as his finisher over the Last of the Dragon, simply because the slam doesn’t always look so impactful. No matter the finisher of either man, this was a hard hitting match that I was hoping would be even harder hitting
+ Zack Sabre Jr. vs Great-O-Khan (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): this was my most anticipated match for a few reasons, but how O-Khan might handle Sabre’s style was the most intriguing aspect. I mentioned that I want O-Khan to be a technical version of Ishii and if this match was any indication, then he’s well on his way. Sabre is the man to beat right now and the smoothness of his transitions is unparalleled, but I just can’t get over how invested I am in Great-O-Khan’s rise
+ Tomohiro Ishii vs Tanga Loa (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): oh hot damn, this was a slug fest. I might need to ad Tanga Loa tot he list of guys I can always get behind in a hoss fight (please note: Ishii is tiny but he’s still a hoss). Tanga Loa looked like a beast, and Ishii is as Ishii does, so there is not much to complain about. I really enjoyed this
+ BUSHI vs Yujiro Takahashi: hot damn BUSHI’s mask was on point, but I’ll admit I may have been looking at Pieter for the most part… Yujiro has been on a new level in this tournament, and I was glad to see he wasn’t simply phoning it in in his non-tournament bout. This was good, and it’s always good to see my main man BUSHI in action
– Kota Ibushi vs Toru Yano (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): yeah no, this wasn’t good. Not funny, not interesting, not exciting
Should you watch this event: From top to bottom, this really did feel like one of the best nights of the G1 so far this year. Though it is my personal preference of Yano/Ibushi not being very good, even that can be overlooked just because of how the rest of the card was. You can’t go wrong watching this show.