New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual round robin tournament is into the second half, 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 10!]
It is day 11, and that means it’s the sixth night of action for the A Block. In the main event, the surprise breakout contender of the A Block, Great-O-Khan, will face arguably his toughest challenge yet in Tomohiro Ishii in a first time singles match. Ishii is fresh of a huge victory over Zack Sabre Jr. and will be certain to not let O-Khan make more of a name for himself at Ishii’s expense. In the semi main event, the reigning IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, Shingo Tagaki, will face the always dangerous — but not always physically dangerous — Toru Yano. Yano has a knack for spoiling tournaments and eking out surprise wins, especially when a champion is involved. The aforementioned Zack Sabre Jr. will also be in tournament action as he faces the fast-starting but plateaued Yujiro Takahashi, and Yujiro’s Bullet Club stablemate, Tanga Loa, will face Kota Ibushi in his own tournament match. Regarding the non-G1 matches on the show, as the replacement match for KENTA, due to Tetsuya Naito’s injury, KENTA will face Hiromu Takahashi in what is certain to be a phenomenal meeting. Starting off the show, however, will be the young lion Ryohei Oiwa testing himself against El Desperado.
As the A Block continues its second half, much like the recent B Block show there is potential for competitors to be eliminated based on certain outcomes:
- Tanga Loa (4 points) must win AND both Zack Sabre Jr. and Great-O-Khan must lose for Tanga Loa to stay alive;
- Yujiro Takahashi (4 points) must defeat Zack Sabre Jr., AND Great-O-Khan must lose for Yujiro to stay alive.
+ Tomohiro Ishii vs Great-O-Khan (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): hot damn, I had a good feeling about this one and I wasn’t disappointed. O-Khan versus KENTA was a bit of a let down for me, but I think Ishii could probably carry me to a good match, so with someone who already has the skills of O-Khan you can only guess how much better it was than that. O-Khan has all the potential to be an Ishii-esque brawler, but he also has that technical base to fall back on when he can’t outpower Ishii, but The Stone Pitbull is just a different kind of beast. These two have great chemistry, and I look forward to any and all future matches against each other
+ Kota Ibushi vs Tanga Loa (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): this was very easily Tanga Loa’s best tournament match (yes, even better than the war with Ishii). There was one funky looking botch, but the two salvaged it well enough so as not to ruin the preceding clean match. Tanga Loa might be coming into his own as a bonafide NJPW hoss, but that might just be because first Ishii and now Ibushi are so damn good they elevate him to their level. This was a lot of fun
+ Hiromu Takahashi vs KENTA: hot damn this was great. No matter whether you consider this a heavyweight versus junior match, or Hiromu’s heavyweight tryout, this was fantastic. Hiromu’s chest chops might be the only thing that matches KENTA’s kicks, and the in-built NOAH-tinged rivalry between the two was just a beautiful thing to behold
+ Ryohei Oiwa vs El Desperado: this was actually pretty good. I don’t know the match time, but it felt short, and Oiwa looked good. I also quite liked the ending, compared to some of the other young lions matches
– Toru Yano vs Shingo Takagi (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): it’s tough to imagine me not liking a Shingo match, but when Yano is involved anything is possible
– Zack Sabre Jr. vs Yujiro Takahashi (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): there were parts to this that I really enjoyed, but overall it was just too hard for me to believe that Yujiro is a threat to Sabre. Even with Yujiro’s upset over Ibushi, Sabre has been on such a run that I never truly believed Yujiro stood a chance, and that took me out of the match. Even if that ended up being incorrect, the match leading to the ending was just not enough to get me invested
> Toru Yano is the big deal break for me lately; against someone like Hiromu Takahashi or Jon Moxley, who have the physical comedy chops to match Yano, the “matches” are very enjoyable if not technical masterpieces. Against guys I prefer to see just beating the crap out of each other (Shingo, Ibushi, Ishii etc.) they just fall flat
Should you watch this event: Leaving aside Yano/Shingo, this was a good show. Even if Yujiro/Sabre didn’t quite do it for me other may like it more, but KENTA/Hiromu, Ibushi/Tanga Loa and especially Ishii/Great-O-Khan are all well worth your time.