New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 31 Night 2
September 19, 2021
Edion Arena Osaka
Watch: NJPW WORLD
Greetings. Autumn is swiftly approaching, my favorite time of the year. Pumpkin Spice everything, Sweater Weather, Apple Picking (Which is fall superior to any and all football watching I’ll have you know! Hard crisp hits? No! Honeycrisp apples? YES!) and for the second year of the row due to circumstances G1 Climax is the reason for this season! Except, there is a lack of spark in the air compared to previous years, and that includes last year. A magical buzz that often surrounds G1 has diminished and more questions have been raised than usual. With some usual players missing, and booking not at its best, many fans have shown a lack of interest, in fact, many seem to be swarming around the G1 Climax expecting it to fail and collapse, and then proceed to pick at its corpse as they loudly caw to anyone who is listening about how NJPW is dead, dead they’ll tell you, DEAD!
Ah, but this is the G1 Climax my friend, and the magical writing girl holds faith. She won’t pretend she hasn’t been lukewarm, hell at times straight-up cold with NJPW this year. I have, but I hold faith in the G1. I hold faith that once more it will not only be a cradle for some of the best matches of the year, but a spotlight in which wrestlers who otherwise are viewed dismissively will step up and showcase that they do indeed belong. For some of them, they absolutely need to. G1 Climax season will hold a special place in my heart, and I open it in, and I hope to be rewarded as a result.
SHO defeated Kosei Fujita
G1 Climax 31 – B Block
Evil (2) def. YOSHI-HASHI (o)
There are select few wrestlers who have worked their ass off and have won over many a fan during the era of COVID. One of those men is YOSHI-HASHI. It is wonderful, I love this man. A laughing stock, a running joke, now a beloved underdog. It’s not even in an ironic sense, many of us love rooting for this man, who is arguably one of the best and consistent champions currently in NJPW (along with Ishii and Goto). I’m going to be sad the day he loses those belts, ’cause I fear that’s the only title he’ll ever get. Then there’s EVIL, whose stock has been hit so hard you’d think it be targeted by Reddit. I still believe EVIL isn’t awful, but he’s stuck in a formula. The formula isn’t always bad in wrestling. Sometimes you use the formula over and over again because it works. With EVIL though, the Dick Togo-ref bump-low blow-shenanigans/bullshit formula can often take genuine good work and toss it all the way. It’s boring, it’s predictable, and when the work is good it diminishes it, and when the work is bad it makes things even worse.
This is what we had here. This was probably one of the better EVIL performances we’ve had in a while, and in the end, much of it was watered down because of the usual closing stretch bullshit. Then you have YOSHI-HASHI giving us a preview of things to come in this G1. YOSHI-HASHI got the absolute best he could out of EVIL and it was a hell of a match, even including all the ending stuff. If we get this YOSHI-HASHI consistently through the tournament, we are in for something truly amazing from him. In fact, I’ll call it now. He’ll either beat Tanahashi or Okada this tournament. You remember I say that, so you can laugh at me later on when neither happens. Do not skip this match to go apple picking, wait until after. ***1/2
G1 Climax 31 – B Block
Jeff Cobb (2) def. Chase Owens (0)
I am very biased with this match, and not in a positive way. I can’t stand Chase Owens. I find him boring, I find him bland, unimpressive. He’s the mash potatoes of pro-wrestling: it’s kind of there and sure you don’t mind it here and there, but really it’s the last thing you’re going to with all the superior options you can select from. I’m not the only one with this mindset. A lot of people along with me rolled their eyes, groaned, and acted in a very dismissive way when Chase Owens was announced for the G1. What we forgot, WHAT WE DIDN’T FACTOR is this is the G1 Climax. The magic may be faded, but the magic is there, and Chase Owens wrestled like a man who knew his involvement was in question, and he was going to give us answers. Those answers: I BELONG!
I don’t know if he’s fully given us this answer yet, but this was a damn good start, and he overdelivered with Jeff Cobb. But that should be no surprise, Jeff Cobb has become one hell of an impressive force in NJPW. Coming off the biggest win of his career against Okada, he’s set to have an amazing G1, and he started that off with a good match here with Chase Owens. Owens fed into Cobb beautifully and Cobb was the impressive figure he needs to be. Chase Owens is unlikable, and I hope he loses every match, but if he can convince me he’s going to win here and there as he did here, I’ll begrudgingly admit he has a chance to make his mark. Be warned though, and beware. The odds of Chase Owens going to a time limit draw in this tournament is very low, very low….. but never zero. ***1/2
G1 Climax 31 – B Block
Sanada (2) def. Tama Tonga (0)
WHERE HAS THIS TAMA TONGA BEEN? This should’ve been a prime “go apple picking instead” match, but instead, Tama Tonga went out there and had the kind of performance in a singles match I didn’t think he could have. Tama Tonga did not come to fool around and coast, he’s come to work, and we’re all going to possibly benefit from it. This was very good. I usually have a hard time getting into SANADA a lot, but he was crisp and entertaining in this match. G1 season! Both men actually gelled really well, and this is a good start for both men in this G1. They are both going to have big matches coming and if Tama Tonga can dig deep and find this within himself against bigger opponents such as Tanahashi and Okada, this could be a big and significant tournament for him, but time will tell.
I’m loving the undercard so far because everyone is stepping up as if to prove a point. SANADA and Tama Tonga have an excellent closing stretch with counters and moments from both men that you bite into thinking each of them has a chance of winning. It’s as good of a start to this tournament both men could’ve asked for. SANADA uses this match as a reminder he is talented, and he is quite capable of having top-notch quality matches, and Tama Tonga proves that he can step out of the comforts of tag team wrestling and deliver. The question for both men as we go further into this tournament is can they keep it consistent. SANADA, I have all the confidence in the world that the answer is more than likely yes. Tama Tonga, that is going to be more of a challenge. These coming weeks and shows could legit be some of the most important for him, and the rewards he can reap if he can rise up to the task could be very significant. Also um, errr, *blushes* Tama, wrestle without your vest more often please. ***1/2
G1 Climax 31 – B Block
Taichi (2) def. Hirooki Goto (o)
Oh you know shit’s getting real when Miho shows up. *****
This is the semi-main event. The G in G1 always stands for Goto and he always ends up coming up with quality G1 performances that are consistent, entertaining, and in the end some of the best matches of the tournament. The only thing you can ever doubt about Hirooki Goto is him becoming IWGP Heavyweight Champion at any point. Taichi, what a few years it’s been. He’s proven himself over and over again both in tags and singles, and has become one of the highest highlights in NJPW in the Pandemic era, and it’s highly earned and deserved. This was a match I was looking forward to and it mostly delivered. It may not have reached the levels of GREAT I wanted but it did achieve Damn Good, and I can’t complain about that by any stretch of my overactive imagination.
This match is easy to digest, ended when it needed to (90 seconds under 20), and built and built until it gave us a clean, crisp, and satisfying conclusion with Taichi being able to down Goto to start off his tournament proper. Don’t count out Goto though, the man is capable of bouncing back from any circumstance, and I think he’s set up to have one hell of a tournament and potentially do very well. Taichi? I don’t know what his final standing will be, but I am saying let us enjoy the ride. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t get a few major wins under his belt when it’s all over. I’m definitely going to be rooting for him to do so. So far nothing has been skippable of this show, and this match ended up being no different, good stuff from both men who are merely prepping to give us the great stuff late on. ***3/4
G1 Climax 31 – B Block
Kazuchika Okada (2) def. Hiroshi Tanahashi (o)
Whew, what a feud, what a historical, significant, legendary, and important feud these two have. That can’t be disputed right? There is little dispute this is perhaps for a lot of reasons one of the best feuds in pro-wrestling history of all time. So many of us owe our NJPW fandom to this feud, and to these men. There is so much one can dive into, unpack, analyze, and critique whenever they face each other. I always feel a tinge of emotion, the raising of the hairs on my arms, the goosebumps lifting, chills when they face off against each other. Doesn’t matter how many times, if Okada and Tanahashi are sharing a ring against each other, I’m tuned in, locked in, and I feel the sparks of magic right before my eyes. I feel melancholy at the reality I’ll probably never see them face each other live, and the one chance I had I didn’t take. One of the biggest regrets when it comes to pro-wrestling I have.
BUT that sullen reality in place, when the bell rings for this match you could feel it. The aurora, the tension, the excitement, how the crowd is immediately tuned in, watching, studying, fixated. They rise and fall as the match does. Both men at this point can make the smallest thing, the most basic of moments mean something over and over again. They know each other so well, they are so in tuned with each other you begin to wonder if you could remove their sight, place them face to face, and still get a **** or more effort out of them. Okada is one of my favorites of all time, Tanahashi is one of the greatest performers of any generation. They have both put NJPW on their back and have more than shouldered the weight. I regret that there will be a day that these men won’t face off against each other another time.
But we enjoy what we have, and this match is amazing. Maybe not at the level of their absolute best, but still proof that when firing on all cylinders NJPW produces some of, if not the best wrestling in the world. Anyone who thinks the flame of NJPW is extinguished needs to understand as long as these two men have a say, that fire will burn. There’s just been too much work and effort to allow otherwise. The simplest touches, the simplest movements. These men can move at any pace and 30 minutes, or near it, just moves along smoothly and effortlessly. It’s never a chore to watch these men go at any length, it’s always a treasure and a privilege. This is another great match between the two men. Spellbound I was, and when I finally came out of it, I leaned back on my couch and realized I had fallen in love with NJPW all over again. ****3/4
Apple Picking is now officially the second best thing you can do this season. G1 Climax is now firing up and has the possibility to only get better from here. B-Block overdelivered on night 1. It overdelivered hard, and various wrestlers proved they are willing to step up and prove to us they have earned their spots. Other wrestlers proved once more they are still reliable and capable and are going to give us their all. Above it all though was Tanahashi and Okada, who have nothing to prove but still go out there and blow us all away one more time. It’s the G1 Climax everyone, GET INTO IT!
Update: Naito is injured and out of the G1 for the remainder of the tournament!!
……Get into it please???