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 11!]
It’s been a dirty dozen days, but day 12 means the B Block enters its sixth round of competition. Kazuchika Okada once again takes the main event, as he faces the ever dangerous Taichi, while Hiroshi Tanahashi and EVIL face off in the semi main event, and the still undefeated, Jeff Cobb will have to content with the smooth stylings of SANADA in the middle tournament match. The opening two tournament matches, however, both feature match ups between competitors who are already mathematically eliminated as Hirooki Goto faces Yujiro Takahashi, and YOSHI-HASHI faces Tama Tonga in the opening contest. Kicking off the show, the young lion Kosei Fujita continues his development as he faces El Desperado.
Continuing the theme of the last few nights, some competitors can be mathematically eliminated, depending on certain results (without including multi-way ties or ‘so-and-so can win if every other competitor gets zero points in all of their remaining matches’ situations):
- SANADA (4 points) must defeat Jeff Cobb to stay alive;
- Taichi (4 points) must defeat Kazuchika Okada to stay alive.
+ Kazuchika Okada vs Taichi (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): this was a really, really good match. Taichi has stepped up to an insane degree, not just in his last few matches, but since the pandemic began and he was feature more prominently overall, and it’s been a joy to watch. Okada is as Okada is, and that will basically decide whether you’ll think this match was good or great, but I loved it. The way he hits Rainmakers, that dropkick, and his close kickouts are all the sort of thing I love, and this ended up being the best match on the show
+ Hiroshi Tanahashi vs EVIL (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): the highest praise I can give this match is that it made me an absolute, hundred per cent Tanahashi fan and I was hanging on every moment wanting him to win. This EVIL thing doesn’t make me want to watch to see him lose, it makes me just want to skip his matches, and surely that can’t be the intention. I am listing this as a positive for that reason alone, because it’s been so long since I was hooked by a match like this one
+ Kosei Fujita vs El Desperado: you know the deal by now – except you don’t! Fujita really looked good in this match, including some stiff vertical chops and a great ending sequence. This was good
– SANADA vs Jeff Cobb (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): this was surprising for a lot of reasons, but most of all the finish. I loved the finish, though for the most part only Cobb impressed me at all. This was underwhelming
– Hirooki Goto vs Chase Owens (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): Chase has been impressive, and I still like Goto, but for the most part, I just couldn’t get into this. I really tried, but there was only one or two moves that even actually looked impressive. I was disappointed
– YOSHI-HASHI vs Tama Tonga (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): aside from the fact this was tough to get into because they are eliminated, this just didn’t do it for me. Neither man looked overly impressive, nor did anything to make me remember this match
Should you watch this event: This was a lacklustre show in many ways, mostly because two of the five matches were inconsequential. However, the top matches delivered, and even I have to admit that this final run is going to be very interesting for the B Block.