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 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 17!]
A far cry from the chaos of the A Block Final, just one match will determine the winner of the B Block: Kazuchika Okada versus Jeff Cobb. Cobb has run undefeated through the block, holding a perfect 8-0 record against three scoundrels of the Bullet Club, two-thirds of the reigning NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions, the stoic Cold Skull of Los Ingobernables de Japon, the Black Emperor of Suzuki-gun, and the One in a Million Ace of New Japan; Okada, meanwhile, ran through the same opponents until Tama Tonga called upon the leaders of Bullet Club past to help him score the upset win of the tournament, leaving Okada at the imperfect 7-1 record. The outcome wil be simple: whoever wins the match will go onto the final against the A Block winner with a Wrestle Kingdom championship match on the line. Also on the show, though all are eliminated, numerous G1 matches will take place with professional pride, point totals and personal grudges on the line: long time rivals EVIL and SANADA will face off, Hiroshi Tanahashi will battle Taichi, Hirooki Goto and Tama Tonga look to salvage their tournaments, while Chase Owens and YOSHI-HASHI fight in the opening contest.
+ Kazuchika Okada vs Jeff Cobb (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): good lord almighty this was amazing, and I am not going to pretend it wasn’t at least 90% because of Jeff Cobb. Cobb’s G1 has been something special, both in story and in reality, and this was perhaps the perfect culmination of what Cobb has accomplished. As I seem to always say, though, Okada is Okada and he is the only Okada there is, and that is because he is (or can be, when he wants to be) one fo the top wrestlers in the world
+ SANADA vs EVIL (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): truth be told, there was a lot about this match I did enjoy, but I just cannot believe that it wasn’t still a contention match for EVIL. There is history between these two, and as a self-fulfilling prophecy, that means their matches are usually pretty good. I was disappointed leading up to this, and it exceeded my expectations
+ Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Taichi (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): it sure was something to see Tanahashi playing the bad guy against the injured, underdog hero to this crowd, Taichi. Both guys were playing against type, and it made for a really fun match to watch, and more importantly listen to because of how the crowd reacted. Taichi has come a long way since he was ‘that other dude in Suzuki-gun’, and this was almost the culmination of that – at least until his IWGP World Heavyweight Championship win. A fish can dream…
+ Hirooki Goto vs Tama Tonga (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): this was a surprisingly good match. Both guys looked crisp, hit some good moves and slick counters, and the constant redirections from both men when running the ropes was really exciting
– YOSHI-HASHI vs Chase Owens (G1 Climax 31 B Block Match): I don’t even know what to say about this; I don’t think it even went ten minutes and nothing at all happened in that time
> I missed the opening young lions versus Hiromu Takahashi/BUSHI tag team match, but frankly I can’t imagine it was any different then the rest of the matches
> the more astute of you may realise I had to change the opening spiel at the top of these reviews, to say that double countouts in fact earn 1 points each. That is because it finally happened on the previous show. I always thought a time limit draw was 1 point each, but a double countout/double DQ was 0 points each
Should you watch this event: Leaving aside that awkward opening Chase/YOSHI-HASHI match, this was a good show. Even with all but one of the remaining matches being essentially irrelevant, this was a show full of good wrestling matches, and that is what I am here for.