Originally published at G1 Climax 31 Day 14 Report: Tanahashi vs. Cobb, EVIL vs. Goto
G1 Climax 31 Day 14 Report: Tanahashi vs. Cobb, EVIL vs. Goto
By: Bruce Lord
POST Wrestling’s written coverage of the G1 rolls on with this report covering the tournament’s fourteenth overall night and the seventh B block card. With what was effectively a one-match card in terms of match quality on their last outing (compared to a much more evenly enjoyable A Block card on Saturday), the B block has its work cut out for it today with only one match which feels as though it has any significant drama, stakes, or chance of being an in-ring classic. Of course, that match is today’s main event between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Jeff Cobb.
That push comes at a cost, though, and with three cards left in the B block, we’re effectively down to only three contenders (while not technically eliminated after his loss to EVIL, Hiroshi Tanahashi would need a truly bizarre set of circumstances including no contests from Cobb and Okada to enter into an unwieldy three-way tie scenario). Apart from our front-runners, EVIL is the only competitor with any chance of taking the block, leaving today’s card with two matches featuring wholly eliminated wrestlers, what would seem like a lay-up for Okada in the form of Chase Owens, and EVIL and Cobb both facing out of the running wrestlers. Let’s see if anything down the card offers some pleasant surprises, or if this is indeed the sort of one-match card that the strong booking of Okada and Cobb sometimes necessitates.
We’re in Sendai, the capital city of the Miyagi prefecture for today’s card as well as tomorrow’s A block show. A much more modern building than many of NJPW’s usual stop-offs, The Xebio Arena Sendai features an arena-spanning LED ribbon and hosted the last two nights of the New Japan Cup in March earlier this year. It’s incredible to think that in the short space of time since then, Cup winner Will Ospreay defeated Kota Ibushi for the seemingly snake-bitten IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, only to vacate it and see the man he beat on the last night of that Cup tournament, Shingo Takagi, win it for himself. Oh, right, and the show the night before was interrupted by an earthquake. Here’s hoping for a slightly less turbulent two days in Sendai this time.
1. Ryohei Oiwa vs Hiromu Takahashi: A fun enough opener pointing towards Hiromu’s appearance in the Super Jrs and giving the Young Lion a bit of shine.
2. G1 Climax B Block: Taichi vs Tama Tonga: Enjoyable enough stuff from two of the block’s overachievers, setting up World Tag League business.
3. G1 Climax B Block: YOSHI-HASHI vs SANADA: Slow to begin with and generally aimless throughout. Definitely skippable.
4. G1 Climax B Block: Kazuchika Okada vs Chase Owens: Some fun finishing sequences after a slow match, with some modifications to Okada’s arsenal.
5. G1 Climax B Block: Hirooki Goto vs EVIL: Marginally better than the usual EVIL slop but still entirely predictable.
6. G1 Climax B Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Jeff Cobb: A great match building upon the stories told in both men’s tournaments, with a very clever and subtle finish. RECOMMENDED
Ryohei Oiwa vs Hiromu Takahashi
Oiwa charges with forearms and shoulder tackles before getting into a war of chops with Hiromu which lasts for quite a while. Both men’s chests light up early and the crowd’s happy to see it. After three minutes Hiromu goes for a series of pins by kneeling on Oiwa’s chest, which is now bright red. Oiwa gets a dropkick, bodyslam, and a gutwrench suplex for two. Hiromu goes back to chopping Oiwa to hell and back before applying a Boston crab for the win.
Hiromu Takahashi defeats Ryohei Oiwa via submission at 7:01
The takeaway: After a couple of losses in the A block Naito replacement slots, this was a fun little warm-up for Hiromu, pointing towards Best Of The Super Jrs, putting a focus on his striking. Oiwa went through the grinder but was allowed to go toe to toe with Hiromu at a couple of points. It’s obviously still incredibly early in Oiwa and fellow Young Lion Kosei Fujita’s careers, but if you’ve been watching how they’ve been handled in their scant matches thus far, some patterns seem to be emerging. Oiwa is being given opportunities for a bit more offense, possibly in keeping with his size, while the slightly smaller Fujita has been focusing almost entirely on selling.
Taichi (4 points) vs Tama Tonga (2 points)
Taichi’s stomach is taped up after his fantastic match with Okada, but some pre-match taunting of Tama with the tag belts indicates that Taichi’s short-term future will remain in the tag division. Tama starts by targeting the injured ribs but Taichi quickly has the grey-area Greco-Roman knuckle lock applied and runs through the cable choke spot outside. There’s more choking inside, but Tama goes back to the chest with a Camel Clutch, slams Taichi’s chest into the guardrails, and locks on a body scissors. Taichi rallies, delivers some kicks to Tama’s chest and rips the pants off. Tama hits a Tongan Twist but comes up empty with the Supreme Flow. Taichi hits a pair of Axe Bombers and Tama fires up, only to be put down with a gamengiri. The rib damage keeps Taichi from executing the Dangerous Backdrop, but after blocking a Gun Stun he’s able to get one-off for two. Tama escapes two Black Mephisto attempts, hits a Death Valley bomb and Supreme Flow for a very close two, and then measures his opponent to execute a Gun Stun for the win.
Tama Tonga defeats Taichi via pinfall at 12:59
The takeaway: After an incredibly hard-fought and serious battle against Okada, Taichi had a bit of his old greasy self back in this match; post-match comments on Saturday presaged this by talking about setting aside the sumo in him. That said, this was a pretty hard-hitting match and Tama continues to keep the heat turned up, with none of his old ‘stalk and talk’ time-killing. Taichi’s damaged ribs gave a match between eliminated wrestlers a simple story, as both men’s focus returns to the tag division.
YOSHI-HASHI (4 points) vs SANADA (4 points)
There are headlocks, cross-overs, and hip tosses to start. YOSHI-HASHI sends SANADA into the guardrails outside but doesn’t press the advantage. After five minutes of not much going on YOSHI-HASHI gets a two count off a draping dropkick. SANADA hits an atomic drop, applies the Paradise Lock, and takes YOSHI-HASHI outside with a rana. YOSHI-HASHI regains the advantage with a plancha and a top-rope blockbuster. He hits a powerbomb for two, but SANADA hits a top-rope dropkick. There are some quick reversals of each man’s submissions and finishers before SANADA hits a TKO. YOSHI-HASHI blocks the moonsault with his knees, and SANADA does the same for YOSHI-HASHI’s swanton bomb. Mid-ring forearms are traded, YOSHI-HASHI hits a dragon suplex, thrust kick, double knees, and Kumagaroshi for two, and tries to set up Karma with a sleeper. SANADA transitions from Skull End into a draping TKO, hits a moonsault to YOSHI-HASHI’s back, and cranks Skull End on for the win.
SANADA defeats YOSHI-HASHI via submission at 17:32
The takeaway: After the relatively fast-moving Taichi/Tama contest this match’s slow opening pace and lack of impetus was a real buzzkill. Kevin Kelly was doing his damnedest to give this match some direction by talking about the existing injuries to YOSHI-HASHI’s shoulder and SANADA’s knee, but neither of those parts were ever targeted. This was a match between two eliminated wrestlers who don’t have much in the way of history or future with one another and weren’t able to decide upon a tone or story for this match. While a couple of the closing reversals were nice there were a number of sloppy ones as well. Some G1 matches just happen only due to block rosters and scheduling. This was one of them.
Kazuchika Okada (12 points) vs Chase Owens (2 points)
Okada’s in smooth and easy control, to begin with, but Owens creates some distance after countering a slingshot senton. Compared to his explosive attack on Goto, Owens is working more methodically, singling out Okada’s back and getting some two counts after a Bobby Eaton-styled neckbreaker. Okada builds steam back with forearms and a DDT. Chase sends Okada outside but Okada’s happy to give him one of his patented G1 DDTs on the floor. Chase quickly breaks out of a Money Clip back inside and delivers a backbreaker. Okada replies with a flapjack, but Owens has Okada set up in the turnbuckle for an avalanche snap mare. Okada uses a neckbreaker to set up the Money Clip, and follows up with a power slam and top rope elbow after Owens makes it to the rope. Owens dodges an elbow in the corner and gets a roll-up with his feet on the corner for two. Owens hits with one C Trigger but a second misses. Okada hits a German and Owens a shining wizard. Okada evades the package piledriver, can’t connect with a Rainmaker, and evades a second piledriver attempt to hit a Tombstone. Owens ducks the Rainmaker again, gets a roll-up for two, but can’t follow through on a third piledriver attempt. There are more quick reversals before Okada delivers a slightly awkward backbreaker, applies the Money Clip, and actually grounds Owens to cinch in the submission hold and the win.
Kazuchika Okada defeats Chase Owens via submission at 15:38
The takeaway: After a pretty slow and uneventful main body of the match, the closing reversals on display here were pretty nifty, and the modification of the Money Clip makes the move feel like a more intense and immediate maneuver rather than a long and grinding hold. This match never really got out of second gear, and while that makes it hard to recommend in and of itself, it makes sense in terms of the longer-term storytelling and rankings: SANADA and Taichi are capable of forcing Okada to give it his all, Owens isn’t.
Hirooki Goto (4 points) vs EVIL (10 points)
A crossbody from Goto sends EVIL to the floor and thankfully Goto is smart enough not to pursue him there. Togo already has the corner pad loosened, Goto crashes into the exposed turnbuckle and is taken outside where we have our timekeeper crash spot ninety seconds in, likely a record. Back inside, EVIL works a half crab, hits a powerslam for two, and grinds his boot into Goto’s neck. Goto fires up with a lariat, leg lariat, and bulldog. EVIL evades the ushigoroshi, and this time Goto’s foolhardy to pursue him outside, with Togo interference swiftly resulting in Goto being driven from the apron of the ring into, say it with me people, the timekeeper’s table. Back inside, Goto delivers the ushigoroshi to earn some recoup time. Goto wins a battle of dueling lariats, but has his eyes clawed, setting up a ref bump and a Togo-assisted Magic Killer for two. Darkness Falls also gets two, but Goto rallies with a lariat and reverse GTR. Goto blocks a low blow and hits a nifty reverse osoto gari for a visual pin while Togo’s distracting the ref. EVIL’s sent crashing into Togo and Goto hits a GTW for two. Goto sets up the GTR with a chest kick but EVIL grabs the ref, and Togo’s in to administer a garotte choke-out, setting up Everything Is Evil.
EVIL defeats Hirooki Goto via pinfall at 14:16
The takeaway: After Okada’s win the outcome of this match (and the main event) seemed a given. Goto was charismatic and intense, playing the never-say-die but ultimately doomed fighter, and actually probably carried EVIL to his second least-terrible showing of the tournament after the Tonga match. Still, there’s a reason why you could audibly hear the crowd stop caring about this the second the garotte came out. I won’t rehash my rant from the last B block show, but suffice it to say everyone in the crowd knew what was happening and treated it with the embarrassed and irritated silence it deserves.
Hiroshi Tanahashi (6 points) vs Jeff Cobb (12 points)
Cobb shoves Tanahashi after the Ace gives him a clean break, possibly for the benefit of the two people in the crowd unaware of who the babyface is. Tana tries to bait the big man outside, as it’s apparent that the veteran’s too smart to try to best Cobb’s pure power. Cobb fights out of a full nelson, and meets Tana’s stick-and-move rope-running with a dropkick. Cobb begins grinding away at Tana’s midsection, keeping things slow, punctuating body blows and knees with a standing moonsault. After mocking Tana’s own body shots, Cobb delivers his now-expected turnbuckle carry spots, but gives Tana an opening after lampooning Tana further and missing a somersault senton. Tana hits the move himself. A Sling Blade fake out yields a dropkick to the knee follows it up with a Dragon Screw, and the exploitation of Cobb’s wounded knee is on. Tana gets the cloverleaf applied, and while Cobb makes it to the rope he’s clearly wounded. Cobb goes for a second-rope deadlift superplex to the outside (!), but this of course sets up another Dragon Screw in the ropes. Tana hits Aces high to a standing Cobb on the outside, and the big man hobbles back inside at a count of eighteen. Cobb gets a chance to catch his breath after leveling Tana with a lariat while standing on one leg, but Tana’s back on him with a Twist and Shout and Sling Blade. A High-Fly Flow attempt is blocked by Cobb’s knees, and the latter is nearly weeping at the pain in his left knee.
There’s a forearm exchange in the middle of the ring, with Cobb hopping on one foot, the proverbial one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Cobb tries a Spin Cycle, but can’t torque on his knee, and Tana handily reverses a second attempt into a Sling Blade for two. Cobb grabs Tana out of the air on an Aces High attempt and sends him flying with an F5 for two. Tana rolls through on a Tour Of The Islands attempt for two, hoping to outwit Cobb like he did Tama Tonga. Tana grabs Cobb’s leg after the big man goes for a thrust kick, but rather than pressing the advantage and going for another Dragon Screw, gives up the leg for a cocky slap in the face. Cobb immediately capitalizes, snapping Tanahashi in half with a German, and sends the Ace on a guided Tour Of The Islands.
The takeaway: After Cobb’s last tournament match against SANADA, it seemed obvious that Tanahashi would exploit the vulnerable knee Cobb was favoring, and after some opening sparring allowing Cobb to get his cocky character work in, that was the story of this match. In contrast to the EVIL/Goto match, this was an object lesson in how a match with both a predictable winner and a predictable story can still be entertaining, and can even make a virtue of that predictability. There were plenty of callbacks to both men’s tournament matches thus far, and I loved that the finish of this match came in the split second when Tanahashi over-confidently shifted his focus from Cobb’s knee, closing the Ace’s brief window of opportunity.Current G1 B Block Standings
Kazuchika Okada: 14 points
Jeff Cobb: 14 points
EVIL: 12 points
SANADA: 6 points (E)
Hiroshi Tanahashi: 6 points (E)
Hirooki Goto: 4 points (E)
YOSHI-HASHI: 4 points (E)
Tama Tonga: 4 points (E)
Taichi: 4 points (E)
Chase Owens: 2 points (E)
While the Tonga/Taichi and Okada/Owens matches had some moments, this was, as expected, a one-match card. That match did what it needed to do, though, and it sends Cobb into Thursday’s match with EVIL with a clear target painted on his knee. EVIL beating Cobb does make a certain amount of sense given his run thus far and sets SANADA up to spoil his former partner’s hopes on the last night of the block. That would mean that Cobb would go into the last night two points behind Okada, which feels a bit off given the block’s overarching story of the resurgent Rainmaker needing to conquer an unstoppable monster…unless Tama Tonga pulls off a massive upset and hands Okada his first loss, sending all three competitors into the last night with twelve points. Everything hinges on those top two matches on Thursday, and I’ll be back then with a full report.