G1 Climax 31 Day 11 Report: Ishii vs. O-Khan, Takagi vs. Yano

Originally published at G1 Climax 31 Day 11 Report: Ishii vs. O-Khan, Takagi vs. Yano

Welcome to this POST Wrestling report for night 11 of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax 31. This show was from Hiroshima Sun Plaza Hall in Hiroshima.

  1. Ryohei Oiwa vs El Desperado – A good, grappling-focused Young Lion match. My favorite Young Lion match in the tournament so far.
  2. KENTA vs Hiromu Takahashi – Some good character work but more of the same from KENTA. Often dull and underwhelming.
  3. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Kota Ibushi vs Tanga Loa – An impressive performance by Loa and one of the poorest that I have seen from Ibushi for a while.
  4. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Zack Sabre Jr vs Yujiro Takahashi – A good match with some quick counters but on the lower end of Sabre Jr’s G1 matches.
  5. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Shingo Takagi vs Toru Yano – A good Yano match with a more even balance of action and antics.
  6. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Tomohiro Ishii vs Great O-Khan – An exceedingly long but surprisingly good match as O-Khan brought it in a big, bomb-laden battle – RECOMMENDED

Ryohei Oiwa vs El Desperado

El Desperado gained control of the opening grappling until Ryohei Oiwa reversed a surfboard, although Desperado soon regained control by fish hooking Oiwa’s mouth. When Oiwa tried to fire up with strikes Desperado cut him off with a leg breaker. Desperado worked over the leg, using it to stop Oiwa from fighting back with forearms. There was a great fight over dueling waist locks, ending with Oiwa hitting a gut wrench suplex and a dropkick. Desperado countered a Boston Crab attempt by tripping the ankles and applying an Indian Deathlock. Oiwa tried to fight his way out, but he was forced to tap.

El Desperado submitted Ryohei Oiwa via Indian Deathlock (6:38)

A very different Young Lion match to their other G1 matches so far. Desperado kept this one grounded, focusing more on grappling. I really appreciated how he let Oiwa do most of the striking. This was a highly effective rookie match, and the best one of these from the G1 so far. The use of the Indian Deathlock instead of the Boston Crab also kept things fresh and Desperado showed his experience and skill here.

KENTA vs Hiromu Takahashi

When the bell rang Hiromu Takahashi surprised KENTA with a running dropkick, but KENTA dodged a Hesitation dropkick. KENTA threw Hiromu around the outside and delivered some stiff kicks. In the ring, KENTA grounded Hiromu on the mat, occasionally deciding to kick Hiromu in the spine or chest instead. KENTA mocked Naito and maintained control, cutting off a comeback attempt from Hiromu. Eventually, Hiromu gained momentum with a flying headscissors.

Hiromu got a two-count with a Falcon Arrow. KENTA raked the eyes to escape a Time Bomb, hitting a powerslam and a DDT. Hiromu avoided a green killer DDT on the apron by ramming KENTA into the guardrail. He did not avoid a powerslam on the floor. KENTA used a hesitation dropkick, but Hiromu threw KENTA into the turnbuckles with a belly-to-belly suplex.

KENTA and Hiromu traded elbows before KENTA threw Hiromu into the referee. That let KENTA grab a chair, but he abandoned it when Hiromu yelled at him. Hiromu absorbed a flurry of forearms but did not expect KENTA to lob a chair at him. KENTA used a pair of chair shots to the back and the Green killer DDT onto the chair. Hiromu only just kicked out thanks to a groggy referee. He also escaped KENTA’s Go to Sleep attempt, which earned him a slapping from KENTA. Hiromu tried to counter a running knee with a Lariat, but he didn’t have enough power to take KENTA down. Instead Hiromu hit the Victory Royal. KENTA escaped the Time Bomb 2 but ran into two superkicks. Hiromu used the DVD into the turnbuckle but KENTA rammed Hiromu face first into an exposed turnbuckle and rolled him up for a three count.

KENTA pinned Hiromu Takahashi via Schoolboy (19:01)

There were some good moments here. Hiromu showed some nice fire and some of KENTA’s cockiness was great. That said, I found this dull like most of KENTA’s G1 matches this year. It was too long, as was the ref bump sequence. I like Hiromu but I have struggled to find myself invested in him since his return from injury. That is a matter of personal preference. While it was nice to see Hiromu in this match, it did nothing to elevate KENTA or Hiromu above their current level. The finish played off KENTA’s match with Ishii, and while I like the idea and it set up a rematch it still felt lackluster.

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Kota Ibushi vs Tanga Loa

Tanga Loa showed off his power, athleticism, and even some grappling early on before Ibushi hit a dropkick and a Plancha. Loa hit Ibushi with a spear on the outside, a senton atomico, and a standing Moonsault for a two count. He had the better of Ibushi for the first half, earning a near fall with an Exploder suplex. Ibushi tried to fight his way out with brute force, although it took a running leg lariat to down Loa.

Ibushi used his powerslam-Moonsault combo for a near fall. Loa fought back with a strike combination and the Blue Thunder Bomb for a near fall. Ibushi hit a sit out Powerbomb for a nearfall. Loa reverse the grip on the Kami-Go-Ye and powered out of a reverse Kami-Go-Ye before he hit one of his own. A sit-out powerbomb earned Loa another near fall. Ibushi woke up after a German suplex, and both wrestlers traded German suplexes and reverse ranas. Ibushi’s reverse rana was the worst looking spot that I can remember seeing from Ibushi. The former IWGP World Champion tried to hit the Kami-Go-Ye but ate a spear. Loa nearly hit the Apeshit, but Ibushi reversed it into a Tombstone and a Kami-Go-Ye to win the match.

Kota Ibushi pinned Tanga Loa via Kami-Go-Ye (13:46)

This started with a lot of promise. Tanga Loa looked good, he got given a lot and his execution was consistently great. I’d say it was the best individual performance that I have seen from Loa in the G1. My problem with this match was Ibushi.

It became clear within about 5 minutes that Ibushi was not on his usual form. There were little things that where he felt off his game. This became much more apparent with the reverse rana sequence. Ibushi’ moving into position was the clunkiest thing that I can remember him doing for years and the execution of the reverse rana was just bad. I had concerns about Ibushi coming into the G1, and he has been much better than I feared. This performance from Ibushi was what I feared. Everyone is entitled to an off night, so let’s just give him the benefit of the doubt and say that this didn’t live up to Ibushi’s usual lofty standards.

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Zack Sabre Jr vs Yujiro Takahashi

Zack Sabre Jr got the better of Yujiro with amateur wrestling, so the Bullet Club member repeatedly tried for an early low blow only to be caught by Sabre Jr. Every time Yujiro tried to be clever, Sabre Jr had a counter. So, Yujiro gained control by doing something dumb: biting Sabre Jr’s toes.

There was a count-out tease when Yujiro hit Sabre Jr with his stick. Yujiro was firmly in control, using a series of strikes on a downed Sabre Jr. The Brit was woken up by a Yujiro slap and he countered the Fisherman Buster with a divorce court. It was clear that Sabre Jr now had a target, relentlessly attacking Yujiro’s left arm. After a series of counters, Yujiro came back with a reverse DDT.

Yujiro got a near fall by reversing a Guillotine choke into a Fisherman’s buster, and he also won a series of reversals with an Olympic Slam. Sabre Jr came back with kicks to the arm, but Yujiro won the ensuing strike exchange, following up with the Miami Shine for a near fall. Yujiro hit the Pimp Juice DDT, only for Sabre Jr to kick out. Sabre Jr then countered the Big Juice into a Fujiwara armbar, transitioning into a modified double wristlock to force Yujiro to tap out.

Zack Sabre Jr submitted Yujiro Takahashi via Tesco Meal Deal (14:15)

In many ways, this was one of Sabre Jr’s weaker matches in this G1. Then again, I think that Sabre Jr has been one of the three best performers in this year’s G1. It was very much in the Yujiro formula, but with more slick counters. I really liked the initial story with Sabre Jr having an answer to Yujiro’s tricks, only for Sabre Jr to be undone by having his toes bitten. There were good moments, and this was a good match. Then again, we’ve had a lot of matches at this level and like most of them, this will soon fade in your memory.

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Shingo Takagi vs Toru Yano

After 5 consecutive main events, Shingo Takagi moved slightly lower down the card to face Toru Yano. The match started with Yano trying to persuade Takagi to have a blindfold match, and the proud Takagi nearly fell for Yano’s tricks. Takagi was hooded and thrown under the ring but avoided a count-out.

The IWGP World Heavyweight Champion won a turnbuckle pad duel and controlled Yano, who tried to fight back with forearms. Yano managed to hit a belly-to-belly suplex to regain some momentum. Takagi was rammed into an exposed turnbuckle for a two-count and a Yano mule kick led to a huge near fall that left the fans audibly gasping. Takagi played to Yano’s rules, using the referee to hit a Pumping Bomber, and then using Yano’s T-shirt to blind his opponent and hit the Last of the Dragon to win the match.

Shingo Takagi pinned Toru Yano via Last of the Dragon (8:17)

This was one of the better Yano matches this year. Takagi worked well in this match, lending some gravitas to the proceedings. The balance of antics to action was good and the Yano near fall was the loudest audible crowd reaction in this year’s G1. I would call this a good match, on the higher end of the Yano scale for those who dislike Yano’s shtick.

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Tomohiro Ishii vs Great O-Khan

The match started with a long lock-up and a mocking slap to Ishii’s head. O-Khan kept absorbing Ishii’s shoulder tackles and took him down with one of his own. They traded elbows with Ishii winning the war of attrition. Ishii’s right shoulder was giving him trouble, although his elbows were still effective. O-Khan grabbed an opportunity and turned things in his favor. When I say “grabbed an opportunity,” I mean that he just grabbed Ishii’s ears.

O-Khan tried to rub it in by sitting on Ishii, but the Stone Pitbull escaped so O-Khan hit a second rope Mongolian chop instead. He grabbed Ishii’s right arm, forcing Ishii to reach the ropes. Ishii finally managed to knock O-Khan off his feet, to the fans’ approval. He followed that by chopping down O-Khan in the corner and hitting a vertical suplex. O-Khan countered a Lariat with a big Ippon-zeoi. Sadly, that was followed by O-Khan’s goofy-looking tree of woes dropkick.

They traded chops and O-Khan tried to win using his Mongolian chops, only to fall victim to a backdrop suplex. Ishii told O-Khan to bring it, and O-Khan showed his toughness by absorbing Ishii’s forearms with his arms behind his back. I was impressed by O-Khan’s delayed stagger sell after that sequence. Ishii hit a sunset flip powerbomb for a two count. The sliding D was countered by O-Khan using his head and arm hold, and Ishii was soon grounded. Ishii managed to escape and applied a double wristlock and a Jujigatame of his own. Yes, it’s the “Tomohiro Ishii does unexpected things” portion of the G1.

Ishii blocked O-Khans Iron claw, and they traded hands-free headbutts before Ishii knocked O-Khan down. Ishii hit a Lariat, but it was followed by O-Khan hitting a gourd buster. O-Khan hit a great-looking neckbreaker drop and a stalling backdrop suplex for a two-count. An Ishii comeback was countered by an O-Khan shoulder tackle. O-Khan hit the TTD, a throwback to his feud with Hiroyoshi Tenzan, for a near fall and applied the Iron Claw to Ishii. While Ishii escaped the Eliminator, he fell victim to a throat thrust and a pump kick. Somehow O-Khan kicked out of an Ishii Lariat at one. O-Khan fired back with a Lariat of his own before a great little counter sequence. Ishii won a Lariat fight and the crowd gasped as O-Khan kicked out. O-Khan did not kick out of Ishii’s Brainbuster.

Tomohiro Ishii pinned Great O-Khan via Brainbuster (26:26)

In the last report, I praised O-Khan for upping his game and showing a new side of himself against Zack Sabre Jr. Here I’m going to do the same thing as he had a completely different type of match with Ishii and more than held up his end of the bargain. This match had its flaws. It’s still too early for O-Khan to have a completely compelling 25-minute match, and some of O-Khan’s striking felt like it needed work.

Despite that, I was impressed with O-Khan. He tried to work an Ishii-style match and he did a good job. The grappling served its purpose, and I liked that O-Khan debuted a lot of new power moves. The neckbreaker drop might seem old-fashioned but it looked great here. This was a good to great match, the kind where you can see people arguing over whether it was four stars. It would have been better with at least 5 minutes shaved off, but that is the unofficial tag line for this year’s G1 Climax.

I see this match as being less about how good it was, and more about how good O-Khan would be. For the second report in a row, my expectations for him have grown.

Show Summary

Low blow count – 1/5 matches

Ref bump count- 3/5 matches

People getting hit with sticks count – 1/5 matches

In terms of the best matches, this was probably the weakest A block so far. That said, I came out of this pretty happy as there were some positives. Tanga Loa looked good. The young Lion match was exactly what I wanted it to be. Most of the matches went what felt like the right length. Ultimately this is a 1 match card. While that 1 match does not reach the highs of most of the other main events, it’s well worth watching to see the progression of Great O-Khan.