New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 31 Night 7
September 30, 2021
Yujiro Takahashi def. BUSHI
Since this is an A Block show, that means we get a non-tournament bout to fill the void left by the injured Tetsuya Naito. Unfortunately, this stretch of the tour features the least interesting replacement opponent of the bunch in the form of BUSHI. Nothing against BUSHI, of course, but I don’t think anyone would rank him ahead of Yuji Nagata, Hiromu Takahashi, or Satoshi Kojima. BUSHI took on Yujiro Takahashi on this particular night, which does serve a nice little followup from the end of the last tour, with LIJ fighting with the House Of Torture during the Shingo Takagi/EVIL main event. As far as this match goes, it was alright. BUSHI went after Yujiro straight away, and actually had the early edge until Yujiro stopped an attempted dive by using Pieter as a human shield. BUSHI subsequently put on the brakes, and Yujiro soon gained the upper hand. He worked over BUSHI for a bit, until the former IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion (yeah, that feels like an eternity ago) started to fight back, which led to some more back-and-forth between the two down the stretch. Yujiro ultimately won after hitting the Big Juice. Nothing much else to say, really. **3/4
G1 Climax 31 A Block
Tomohiro Ishii (4) def. Tanga Loa (2)
While both of these men came into this bout with two points, neither of them had actually won a match in the tournament yet. Of course, this was due to both men receiving an automatic two points because of Tetsuya Naito pulling out due to his knee injury. I was really intrigued to see how Tanga Loa would do in this spot. It was his first chance to have a standout match (his bouts with Great O-Khan and Toru Yano weren’t exactly stellar), and it was against one of the best wrestlers in the world. When the dust settled, Ishii managed to pick up the two points, but from start to finish, I thought this was a really entertaining match. They went just over sixteen minutes or so, and it felt like there was just constant action throughout. There were a number of fun strike exchanges early (one of which lasted at least a minute), but Tanga Loa gained control early. Once Ishii managed to mount a comeback, it became a more even affair, and we were treated to some strong back-and-forth action down the stretch, with the two trading some big moves. In terms of the finish, I thought it was really cool, as Ishii countered the Ape Shit and went right into a Vertical Drop Brainbuster (dare I saw out of nowhere) for the victory. This didn’t quite reach notebook territory for me, but it was still a very strong bout, and easily one of Tanga Loa’s best singles matches. ***3/4
G1 Climax 31 A Block
Zack Sabre Jr. (8) def. Great O-Khan (8)
Great O-Khan hasn’t exactly had a stellar start to his first G1 Climax, though I would put that more on his opponents. It’s hard to have a great start to your tournament when your first three opponents are Tanga Loa, Toru Yano, and Yujiro Takahashi. Zack Sabre Jr. was O-Khan’s first true test in this tournament, and going in, I really had no idea what to expect. What we got right out of the gate (and for several minutes) were grappling and technical exchanges. Perhaps it’s something that I should’ve seen coming, given O-Khan’s amateur wrestling background. After a few minutes, the back-and-forth on the ground was broken up with some standing exchanges, with Sabre throwing a number of uppercuts before O-Khan leveled Sabre with one Mongolian Chop. The match saw the pace pick up in the second half, as Sabre went for more explosive offense. To his credit, O-Khan took a page out of Sabre’s playbook by busting out some intricate submissions of his own, mainly involving the Iron Claw (though obviously not as graceful as the number of intricate submissions Sabre pulls off).
At one point, O-Khan went for the Eliminator, but Sabre managed to wiggle his way around it, and locked in an armbar for the submission victory. It was very similar to the finish in the Sabre/Shingo match, in that as soon as Sabre got the extension on the armbar, the opponent tapped immediately. While this was certainly a super unique matchup (different from everything else in the tournament thus far), I wasn’t as high on it as some people were. The fact that both guys were undefeated in the tournament coming into this show definitely added to the drama, so I’ll give them that. O-Khan definitely showed that he can still show off his amateur wrestling ability when the situation calls for it, but in the end, Sabre got another submission win to keep this incredible run going. Sabre is going to pick up some losses at some point, but at this stage…..he absolutely has to be a favorite to win the A Block. Now that we’re on the verge of entering the second half of this tournament, it’ll be fascinating to see who can potentially slow Sabre’s momentum. ***3/4
G1 Climax 31 A Block
Kota Ibushi (6) def. Toru Yano (6)
Kota Ibushi came into this match needing a win in the worst way. He dropped two of his first three bouts, and if he were to rack up a third loss, he’d risk falling out of contention (especially with Great O-Khan and Zack Sabre Jr. both on 8 Points already). Unfortunately for Ibushi, he had one of the most dangerous competitors in the entire G1 Climax field as his opponent on this particular night in the form of Toru Yano. Of course, when I describe Toru Yano as dangerous, I’m mainly referring to the fact that, in these types of situations, he’s capable of beating almost everyone.
Fortunately for Ibushi, he was able to escape this encounter with Yano with a victory after hitting him with a Bomaye, followed by the Kamigoye. This was easily the best match that Yano’s had in this entire tournament (though that’s not a high bar). What made it such an enjoyable bout, at least for me, was the pace. This didn’t even reach the five minute mark, and they were moving at lightning speed (by the standards of a Yano match) straight from the opening bell. Right out of the gate, Yano attempted quick rollups with Ibushi’s head covered in a hood, followed by a countout tease where Yano wrapped Ibushi up in the ring skirt. The two had a quick exchange before Ibushi managed to nail Yano with a Kamigoye to the back of the head. He then tried it the traditional way, but Yano countered into pin for a GREAT nearfull. That reversal only delayed the inevitable though, as Ibushi then hit the Bomaye that set up the finish. These are the best kinds of Toru Yano G1 matches. They’re wrestled at a quick pace, and you’re in and out pretty quickly. For what this was, I really enjoyed it. ***
G1 Climax 31 A Block
Shingo Takagi (6) def. KENTA (6)
Much like Kota Ibushi in the match prior, Shingo Takagi came into Night 7 really needing a win in order to keep up with block leaders Zack Sabre Jr. and Great O-Khan (particularly when it comes to Sabre, as he holds a tie-breaker over Shing AND Ibushi). Meanwhile, KENTA had the chance to join Sabre and O-Khan at the top of the A Block if he won. This was an important bout for both guys, in terms of the standings, and ultimately, I thought that the match itself delivered in a big way.. It was easily the best match on the entire card, and featured some great action right out of the gate.
KENTA had an intense staredown with Shingo before the match began, and charged right at him as soon as the bell rang. You could tell immediately that KENTA was taking this bout with the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion seriously. The initial exchanges seemed even, but KENTA soon gained the upper hand with the LeBell Lock, as well as some attacks on the floor that saw KENTA ram Shingo’s right arm into the ring post and into the barricade. From that point on, the focus would be on Shingo’s right arm, though KENTA would continue to damage to Shingo more generally, with DDTs, as well as his usual array of offense. Shingo refused to quit, however, and seemed to get himself fully back in the fight after connecting with a Death Valley Driver. We saw another major strike exchange, which led right into the closing stretch, as the two continued to go back-and-forth. It was around this portion of the match that we unfortunately got a referee bump, as Red Shoes was knocked down. This did give KENTA the opening to attack Shingo’s injured arm with a chair a number of times, though it still wasn’t enough to put Shingo down for good. After sending KENTA into an exposed turnbuckle (which KENTA had exposed earlier in the bout), Shingo connected with Last Of The Dragon to secure the win. Aside from the referee bump towards the end, this was a very good main event that featured strong action from start to finish. Shingo looked great as always, while KENTA definitely brought his A game for this one. ****
This was the second straight Korakuen Hall event on this G1 Climax tour, and I think it’s fair to say that the A Block definitely put on the better of the two shows. Shingo Takagi vs. KENTA was an excellent choice for the main event spot (and it delivered), while the rest of the G1 bouts on this event were very good (to varying degrees). O-Khan vs. Sabre and Ishii vs. Tanga Loa were both really strong undercard bouts, while Toru Yano had easily his best match of the tournament against Kota Ibushi.
Here are the standings for the A Block, as of Night 7:
Zack Sabre Jr. – 8 Points
Great O-Khan – 8 Points
Shingo Takagi – 6 Points
Kota Ibushi – 6 Points
Toru Yano – 6 Points
KENTA – 6 Points
Yujiro Takahashi – 4 Points
Tomohiro Ishii – 4 Points
Tanga Loa – 2 Points
Tetsuya Naito – 0 Points – Eliminated (Injury)