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 14!]
The A Block is tight as ever on night 15 of tournament action. As the B Block finds itself with only three viable winners, six men still vie for tournament A Block glory: Kota Ibushi, Shingo Takagi, Zack Sabre Jr., KENTA, Tomohiro Ishii, and Toru Yano. In the main event, the reigning IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Shingo Takagi faces the G1 Climax newcomer Great-O-Khan (eliminated) in the latter’s final tournament match. Toru Yano will also be looking to stay alive in tournament contention against Zack Sabre Jr, while Sabre also seeks to cement himself in a tied first place on top of the A Block standing. Meanwhile, two of Bullet Club’s members battle as KENTA is the third to seek to tie the top of the table aginst the ultra impressive Tanga Loa (eliminated), and kicking things off for tournament points will be Tomohiro Ishii fighting to keep his tournament alive against Yujiro Takahashi (eliminated). Also on the show, Kota Ibushi will receive no night off, even with Tetsuya Naito’s forfeiture. Current block leader Ibushi will have his replacement match against veteran Satoshi Kojima in what is surpsiginly a first time ever singles meeting between the two. Starting the show will be young lion Kosei Fujita facing Hiromu Takahashi.
Two competitors find themselves fighting to stay alive in the tournament:
- Tomohiro Ishii (8 points) must win to stay alive (though he would be tied at best);
- Toru Yano (8 points) must win to stay alive (though he would be tied at best).
+ Shingo Takagi vs Great-O-Khan (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): this was by no means either guys best match so far in this tournament, but I really liked it nonetheless. This got better the longer it went, and it showed if nothing else that Great-O-Khan has had perhaps the best breakout of any newcomer in NJPW in the past year or so. Shingo is still a beast, and in these main event matches he delivers like so few others can. If there were bonus points for how much better a match got from when it started to how it finished, this would win those and then some
+ Toru Yano vs Zack Sabre Jr. (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): see, THIS is the style of Toru Yano matches I like. It wasn’t too long, nobody looked dumb, and the action was smooth
+ KENTA vs Tanga Loa (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): KENTA is such a gigantic prick that he even makes the other Bullet Club guys look like home town hero babyface legends. Truthfully, I could get behind babyface Tanga Loa. The shenanigans here made sense and improved the match, and the action was solid for what it was. This exceeded my expectations
+ Tomohiro Ishii vs Yujiro Takahashi (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): if there was ever a match that showed just how far improved Yujiro’s tournament has been over previous years, this was it. Yujiro matched Ishii’s intensity move for move, and we all know how much intensity Ishii has. Big Match Yuji is a thing to behold
+ Kota Ibushi vs Satoshi Kojima: I really liked this. It never reached the heights something like Shingo/Nagata did, but there was still very little bad about this match. The simple fact that NJPW has these guys like Kojima and Nagata, and that they can still go at such a (relatively) high level is such a positive to the company
– Kosei Fujita vs Hiromu Takahashi: same old, same old. I don’t really have anything new to say at this point
Should you watch this event: I can fully admit the biases I have of preferring the competitors in the A Block over the B Block, but this was another A Block show with no bad matches. Shingo/O-Khan was a great main event, and if you start after the young lion showcase and fast forward the intermission, you’ll have a very watchable two hours on your hands.