New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual round robin tournament is into the home stretch, 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; a time limit draw will grant both competitors 1 point; and, 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 12!]
It’s lucky number (day) 13 for the A Block, as Kota Ibushi and Great-O-Khan battle in the main event in a first time ever meeting. In the semi main event, Tanga Loa (eliminated) faces the toughest challenge of his career as he goes one-on-one with the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, Shingo Takagi. Tanga Loa cannot win the G1 Climax 31 A Block, but a win over the reigning champ would be huge. Also in tournament action, Toru Yano will be in action against Yujiro Takahashi (eliminated), while Zack Sabre Jr. and KENTA renew a longtime rivalry of their own. Due to Tetsuya Naito’s forfeiture, Tomohiro Ishii will instead face Naito’s Los Ingobernables de Japon stablemate, the junior heavyweight Hiromu Takahashi in a rematch from their fantastic New Japan Cup contest. Starting the show, the young lion duo of Kosei Fujita and Ryohei Oiwa will team up to face the former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru of Suzuki-gun.
And of course, the potential eliminations get very interesting once again at this late stage of the Block. Alongside Tanga Loa and Yujiro Takahashi who have each already been eliminated:
- Toru Yano (6 points) must win AND both Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr. must lose for Yano to stay alive;
- KENTA (8 points) must win to stay alive;
- Shingo Takagi (8 points) must win to stay alive;
- Great-O-Khan (8 points) must defeat Kota Ibushi, AND Zack Sabre Jr. must lose for O-Khan to stay alive;
- Tomohiro Ishii (8 points) will get 2 points for his scheduled match against Tetsuya Naito, but Ibushi must lose for Ishii to stay alive.
+ Kota Ibushi vs Great-O-Khan (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): Great-O-Khan is a future main event star and I don’t care what anyone says. I do hope he’s okay, though, because Murder-Mode Ibushi splattered O-Khan’s nose across his face at one point. O-Khan can throw strikes that just sound so incredible it was hard to imagine he wasn’t really beating the piss out of Ibushi, and Ibushi’s kicks and palm strikes in particular are just brutal, and I love it. I actually forgot to write anything down as this was happening just because I was so invested, but I still remember those strikes
+ Shingo Takagi vs Tanga Loa (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): say it with me now; big meaty men slapping meat. Tanga Loa is probably the breakout start of this tournament, even though he can’t win the block. Shingo is just the best, and this sort of match will make both of them stars, especially once the crowd can gasp and scream – not that they didn’t do both of those things a few times anyway. This was fantastic
+ Toru Yano vs Yujiro Takahashi (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): this was the weakest match on the show, but it was still a lot of fun. I mentioned recently that Yano works best against those who can match him for physical comedy, and don’t usually hit like a truck (with KENTA the exception to the rule) and Yujiro fits that bill perfectly. I could take or leave the bulk of the match as a whole, but I loved the ending
+ Zack Sabre Jr. vs KENTA (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): god almighty, this was a stiff striking match for KENTA, and a submission masterclass from Sabre. The slaps KENTA put onto Sabre’s chin must have left fingerprint marks, and god damn I loved it. There isn’t a huge amount to say about each guy in particular, just that they are both damn good, the match was damn good, and the ramifications of either man winning are huge for the A Block as a whole
+ Tomohiro Ishii vs Hiromu Takahashi: this was an absolute banger, as we all knew it would be. Following on from their fantastic New Japan Cup match from earlier this year, this was more of that hard hitting, surprisingly fast paced offensive style. Ishii moves so quickly, and Hiromu hits so hard that both guys were almost working more like the other than themselves, and it’s exactly what I like to see in my wrestling
+ Kosei Fujita & Ryohei Oiwa vs Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru): it as good to finally see the young lions in the match at the same time (but not as opponents) so I could compare them better, and I think I may have been a bit hasty in saying Oiwa > Fujita. Despy is my boy, and both he and Kanemaru have such hefty experience that I can’t really think of anyone better to be in a match like this. I enjoyed this
Should you watch this event: That’s right, there were no bad matches on this show. This was so much better than last night, to the point I’m struggling to say which match was even the best of the show. Even with the heavy comedy styles of Yano/Yujiro, this was a fantastic night of action with some very interesting results.