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 13!]
And then there were four. As competitors in the B Block face their seventh round of competition, only four competitors — Kazuchika Okada, Jeff Cobb, EVIL, and Hiroshi Tanahashi — still have a chance to win. Two of those men will do battle for tournament points when Hiroshi Tanahashi and Jeff Cobb meet in the main event in their first ever singles meeting. The undefeated Cobb has been on the run of his life, so it is do or die for The Ace of the Universe. In the semi main, the former G1 winner Hirooko Goto (eliminated) will look to play spoiler against EVIL, and Kazuchika Okada will look to match his personal point best against Chase Owens (eliminated). Also on the card, YOSHI-HASHI (eliminated) and SANADA (eliminated) will face each other in a battle of the all-caps names, and in the opening tournament contest, Taichi (eliminated) battles Tama Tonga (eliminated) of the Bullet Club. In the first match of the show, young lion Ryohei Oiwa faces Hiromu Takahashi.
As always, competitors can be eliminated based on the outcomes of some matches:
- Hiroshi Tanahashi (6 points) must defeat Jeff Cobb, AND Kazuchika Okada must lose for Tanahashi to stay alive;
- if EVIL (10 points) loses AND Kazuchika Okada wins, EVIL will be eliminated.
+ Tama Tonga vs Taichi (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): I liked this. It was mostly to build up future tag team matches between GoD and Dangerous Tekkers, since both men are already eliminated, but there was still some smooth stuff here. It was not a match of the year or anything close, but it was still fun between two who have had good matches in this tournament so far
– Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Jeff Cobb (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): there were a few exciting bits here, but overall it just felt very by the numbers. Cobb is strong, Tana is resourceful, Cobb has freakish athleticism, Tana is beloved by the fans; you’ve heard this all before because you’ve seen this all before
– Hirooki Goto vs EVIL (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): I really wanted to like this, but there was just so much of the same sort of Bullet Club garbage. It’s strange to think that Goto’s best match was against YOSHI-HASHI, but here we are
– Chase Owens vs Kazuchika Okada (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): there was a lot of good in this match, but it was just so inconsequential. Chase beat Tanahashi, which was huge, but the tournament record for Okada right now meant Chase had literally zero chance. As always, maybe that was a trick and he did in fact win, but I never once believed that throughout the match and that does not make for good viewing
– SANADA vs YOSHI-HASHI (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): god damn, this was so boring. There was nothing exciting in this match, YOSHI-HASHI looked absolutely exhausted by the end, and SANADA had a few really sloppy moves
– Ryohei Oiwa vs Hiromu Takahashi: Hiromu is great, but his style is not great against the young lions. Kanemaru, Desperado and the like have had the better matches, but this was perfectly fine for a short match. Nothing special and no reason to recommend it
> The crowd was very quiet all night (in terms fo clapping/stomping, I mean, obviously) and it made for a depressing sort of atmosphere.
Should you watch this event: I mean no disrespect when I say that it comes as a shock to me that, on a show involving Tanahashi, Okada, Cobb, Goto and this new version of YOSHI-HASHI, that Taichi/Tama Tonga was the best match on the show. Only having four viable contenders ruined a lot of this, and the uninterested crowd certainly did not help.