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 15!]
Only three men remain in contention to win the B Block, with two of them holding perfect seven win, zero loss scores. In the main event, Kazuchika Okada looks to continue his unprecedented, undefeated streak against Tama Tonga (eliminated) of the Bullet Club. Okada must be the overwhelming favourite, but to count out Tama Tonga and the Bullet Club stylings could be a disaster for the Rainmaker. In the semi main, a match arguably even more important as EVIL looks to become the first man to defeat Jeff Cobb in this B Block so far. Though the remaining contests feature those already mathematically eliminated, the chance of future championship matches or simply personal glory remain, as Hiroshi Tanahashi (eliminated) battles YOSHI-HASHI (eliminated); Hirooki Goto (eliminated) faces SANADA (eliminated), and; Taichi (eliminated) goes one on one with Chase Owens (eliminated). Kicking off the show, the young liond duo of Kosei Fujita and Ryohei Oiwa contend with the team of BUSHI and Hiromu Takahashi of Los Ingobernables de Japon.
And as always, G1 Climax 31 B Block contention continues or falls away based on certain results. On this day 16, only EVIL has a chance of elimination: EVIL (12 points) must defeat the undefeated Jeff Cobb to remain in contention.
+ Jeff Cobb vs EVIL (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): this was fantastic, and absolutely should have been the main event of the show. Two thicc bois bumping meat is what all pro wrestling should be, and the way these two went at each other was great. Cobb had one fantastic moment on the outside, and for once EVIL’s shenanigans made the match more exciting and not less-so. This is well worth your time
+ Hiroshi Tanahashi vs YOSHI-HASHI (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): this was not a blow away match by any stretch, but frankly I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I still won’t even say it’s a high recommendation, but something about it pleased me
– Kazuchika Okada vs Tama Tonga (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): I cannot fathom the idea of putting this match on last, even with the notion that maybe Tama could have beaten Okada. The ending stretch was a lot of fun, but Okada was working at half speed (if I’m being generous!) and the crowd never once bought Tama Tonga as a chance to win, which meant the match had very little live interest
– Hirooki Goto vs SANADA (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): the crowd was nearly dead silent for this whole match, and that about sums up how I felt, too. There were a few fun reversals from each other’s signature offense, but overall it just felt like a match that needed to happen earlier to have any real significance to it
– Taichi vs Chase Owens (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): Taichi being injured played a part in the story, but I’m not sure if that is the reason why the match looked sloppy, or a by product of the match being sloppy. Truthfully I thought Chase looked a little bit off, especially when compared to his recent good run
– Kosei Fujita & Ryohei Oiwa vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi): Fujita looked really impressive in this match, particularly with a wild pair of dropkicks. I didn’t see much from anyone else that was overly worth noting
Should you watch this event: I disagreed with a few of the winners on this show, and that soured me on the show overall in a big way. It was a bold move to only have three contenders remain on only the second last show, and the lack of consequences in those matches is a big reason as to why even the live crowd didn’t get excited for some of these matches. Still, Cobb/EVIL had a great match and Okada/Tama Tonga in the main event was important only in terms of whoever would win, but you can safely skip the rest of the show.