New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) annual round robin tournament has reached it’s final stage, 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 or double countout will grant each man 1 point; and, a no contest of any kind will see both competitors earn 0 points. 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 16!]
For the A Block, it all comes down to this. Four men compete across three matches on the final night of block action where a winner will be determined, and one of Shingo Takagi, Zack Sabre Jr., Kota Ibushi or KENTA will advance to the overall G1 Climax 31 Final. The scenarios for each man to win are as follows (excluding possibilities where matches end in a no contest, which is 0 points each):
- Shingo Takagi will win if: he wins, Zack Sabre Jr loses, and KENTA wins the main event;
- Zack Sabre Jr. will win if: he wins, and Kota Ibushi wins the main event;
- Kota Ibushi will win if: Zack Sabre Jr. loses, and Ibushi then wins the main event;
- KENTA will win if: Shingo Takagi loses, and KENTA then wins the main event.
En route to these scenarios, it will be Kota Ibushi and KENTA battling in the main event, Zack Sabre Jr. facing the ultra impressive Tanga Loa (eliminated) in the semi main, and Shingo Takagi battling “the Tokyo Pimp” Yujiro Takahashi (eliminated) in the third match down. Also on the show, though it is officially a tournament match, neither Tomohiro Ishii (eliminated) nor Toru Yano (eliminated) can claim the A Block, but both will still fight for pride and personal high scores; Ishii is surely not in a great mood after being excluded from the contender’s circle, but will Yano’ the Great-O-Khan will also receive his make-up match due to Tetsuya Naito’s forfeiture, as O-Khan faces Satoshi Kojima.
+ Zack Sabre Jr. vs Tanga Loa (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): this was an absolute banger, and the best match of the show. Sabre always works best against guys he can slink around, and Tanga Loa’s G1 as a heavyweight stud has been something to behold. The must-win nature of the fight for Zack added yet another level of intrigue, and it made for an ultra compelling fight between Sabre, who has recently been on the cusp of NJPW greatness, and Tanga Loa, who I think has surprised everybody
+ Shingo Takagi vs Yujiro Takahashi (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): gosh this was such an interesting match going in, and SUCH an interesting match coming out. Shingo has had a pretty good G1, and it was a bold choice to finish it against Yujiro; conversely, while Yujiro has also had a good G1, it was a big spot for him to finish against something like Shingo (remember, Yujiro upsetting Ibushi in the first round was decided before anyone knew Naito was injured). It’s hard to consider Yujiro a powerhouse when he is in there with someone like Shingo, but hot damn at one point I was genuinely impressed at his pimp strength
+ Great-O-Khan vs Satoshi Kojima: this was perfectly cromulent, though I can’t help but think that O-Khan got the shortest end of the stick. The final night match against Naito would have been great for O-Khan to either defeat Naito and ruin his finals hopes, or for Naito to get the NJC loss back over O-Khan. Still, Kojima is in that same place that Nagata is in that you know his match will be good, and I got the feeling O-Khan really enjoyed being in the match here
– Kota Ibushi vs KENTA (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): when these two were kicking the piss out of each other, this was great. Unfortunately, there was a lot of garbage between those moments and in the end I was left with a horrible taste in my mouth. It’s not good when the match is over, and I can’t help but think that one person was royally screwed for non-storyline reasons
– Tomohiro Ishii vs Toru Yano (G1 Climax 31 A Block Match): I did like this, but I can’t realistically call it a positive. Ishii is not at all at his best when he’s playing around with Yano, and Yano is not at his best against someone like Ishii when he is not back to this MVP roots
> I’ll be completely blunt; the commentary/rules of the tournament came across a bit haphazard and sloppy for one match in particular. The confusion didn’t help make things exciting, it just made it confusing
Should you watch this event: I’ll try not to be dramatic, but I absolutely hated that KENTA/Kota Ibushi main event so much. The A Block has been the standout side of the G1 Climax this year, and that did mostly continue to be true on this final night of block action; seek out Sabre/Tanga Loa and even Shingo/Yujiro, but maybe don’t bother with the rest.