G1 Climax 31 Day 15 Report: Takagi vs. O-Khan, ZSJ vs. Yano

Originally published at G1 Climax 31 Day 15 Report: Takagi vs. O-Khan, ZSJ vs. Yano

G1 Climax 31 Day 15 Report: Takagi vs. O-Khan, ZSJ vs. Yano

By: Mark Buckeldee

Welcome to this POST Wrestling report for night 15 of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax 31. This was the second of two shows at Xebio Arena Sendai in Sendai.

  1. Kosei Fujita vs Hiromu Takahashi – A good young lion match where Hiromu decides to chop Fujita to pieces
  2. Satoshi Kojima vs Kota Ibushi – A good, solid match but nothing special
  3. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Tomohiro Ishii vs Yujiro Takahashi – A good match with a long finishing stretch but nothing must see
  4. G1 Climax 31 A Block: KENTA vs Tanga Loa – Way too long, often dull and plodding
  5. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Toru Yano vs Zack Sabre Jr – Probably this year’s best Yano match. Short and surprisingly fast-paced at times – RECOMMENDED
  6. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Shingo Takagi vs Great O-Khan – O-Khan targets Takagi’s midsection in a long but very good match with another great Takagi performance – RECOMMENDED

Kosei Fujita vs Hiromu Takahashi

Fujita had success early on with headlocks and a shoulder tackle, but Hiromu took control with a headlock of his own before using an early Boston Crab, which forced Fujita to reach the ropes. Takahashi brutalized Fujita with chops, although Fujita fought back with some of his own. Fujita showed good fire, screaming in pain while desperately fighting back before getting cut off with a chop to the throat. Takahashi forced Fujita to repeatedly kick out of covers before going back to using those vicious chops. Fujita kept fighting back, hitting a dropkick at the second time of asking and earning a 2 count with a shoulder tackle. Hiromu fought off a Boston Crab attempt, but Fujita used a surprise small package. Of course, Hiromu kicked out and forced Fujita to tap out with the Boston Crab.

Hiromu Takahashi submitted Kosei Fujita via Boston Crab (7:46)

This was Hiromu forcing Fujita to bring it while chopping Fujita’s chest to pieces. A very different match to El Desperado’s Young Lion matches, Fujita showed some good fire and Hiromu did a good job of forcing his opponent to fight through the pain. A good Young Lion match, but I preferred the El Desperado matches.

Satoshi Kojima vs Kota Ibushi

The match started with them trading holds on the mat before Ibushi controlled Kojima with a headlock. Kojima missed a Plancha to the outside and Ibushi replied with a splash Plancha in the ring for a 2 count. Ibushi used his abs to absorb Kojima’s body shots, and his kicks were stronger than Kojima’s chops. A springboard dropkick by Ibushi hit Kojima but a mistake let Kojima fight back with machine gun chops and a diving elbow drop. Ibushi came back with a standing Moonsault, although a Powerbomb attempt was countered by a Kojima DDT. That was followed by Kojima DDTing Ibushi on the apron.

Ibushi hit a Sit out Last Ride and a Boma Ye, with both earning 2 counts. Kojima crossed his arms to block the Kami-Go-Ye, setting up a Koji Cutter and then hitting a Brainbuster for a near fall. Ibushi blocked one Lariat but got caught with another one, although he managed to kick out. Kojima got caught with an Ibushi Lariat before winning a Lariat exchange. Another Lariat attempt by Kojima was countered with a jumping knee and then Ibushi capitalized, hitting the Kami-Go-Ye to win the match.

Kota Ibushi pinned Satoshi Kojima via Kami-Go-Ye (14:56)

There were shedloads of Lariats in this one. This was a good, compact match but there wasn’t too much to it. The execution was good, the action was good, but it didn’t feel much more than that. It’s funny just how many people are using the crossed arms Kami-Go-Ye counter in the G1 Climax.

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Tomohiro Ishii vs Yujiro Takahashi

Yujiro ambushed Ishii as he entered the ring, throwing Ishii out of the ring and attacking him with his cane. Ishii fought back with chops and a powerslam. Yujiro used a Fisherman’s buster to cut off Ishii’s momentum, but Ishii used his power to stay in the match. A stalling 2nd rope superplex earned Ishii a 2 count, but Ishii was unable to no-sell Yujiro’s teeth. Yujiro used a Lariat before trying to murder Ishii with a clunky turnbuckle powerbomb, getting a 2 count with the Miami Shine. Ishii fought off the Pimp Juice DDT and hit a backdrop suplex.

In an evenly matched closing stretch, Ishii ran Yujiro over with a Lariat, but Yujiro countered the Brainbuster into one of his own. That was quickly followed with the Pimp Juice DDT which Ishii kicked out of. Ishii avoided the Big Juice DDT, but Yujiro again avoided the Brainbuster. Yujiro’s Big Juice DDT was also countered, as Ishii ran into him head-first. Yujiro absorbed a German suplex, only just kicking out when Ishii flattened him with a Lariat. Ishii quickly followed that up with a match-winning Brainbuster.

Tomohiro Ishii pinned Yujiro Takahashi via Brainbuster (17:00)

This was a good Yujiro match but a sub-par Ishii match. A good match, where the action in the second half was good but the counter and big move teases meant that the finishing stretch felt a little excessive without being that exciting. It wasn’t bad and the hand biting was a great spot but ultimately this was not worth watching unless you’re an Ishii or G1 completionist.

G1 Climax 31 A Block: KENTA vs Tanga Loa

Before the match, KENTA and Loa exchanged too sweets. The start was quite cagey, with KENTA trying to use leg kicks to offset Loa’s power advantage. When that didn’t work KENTA resorted to escaping to the outside. At least, he did until Jado stopped him from rolling out of the ring. After Loa attacked KENTA the GOD member was in control, getting a 2 count with a standing Moonsault before applying a crossface. KENTA fought back with a diving clothesline and a powerslam. KENTA used a flurry of kicks, but Loa took him out with an Enziguri and followed up with the Blue Thunder Driver. KENTA slipped out of the Apeshit and left the ring.

When Loa tried to re-enter the ring, he was ambushed by KENTA, who hit the Green killer DDT after some opportunistic kicks. Loa had enough in him to avoid the Hesitation once, but KENTA still managed to hit it. A top rope double stomp earned KENTA a 2 count. They engaged in a forearm exchange where Loa absorbed KENTAs spinning chops and hit a T-Bone suplex. KENTA dodged a spear, but Loa put on the brakes, so KENTA pushed Loa into the referee. KENTA suckered Loa in, hitting low blows to Loa and Jado before making it look like Jado hit him. Loa hit a low blow of his own. Just when it looked like Loa was going to win KENTA stole the win with a schoolboy and his feet on the ropes.

KENTA pinned Tanga Loa via schoolboy (22:12)

This was another Bullet Club vs Bullet Club match. I appreciated the start with Jado preventing KENTA from running away from KENTA. There was some good execution, but this just didn’t get going for me and it went way too long. It felt like yet another slow and dull KENTA match with too much shtick like it never got out of second gear. I wouldn’t mind modern KENTA if his matches were half as long as they are. I get that KENTA plays into the character stuff, but if you want to see Japanese wrestlers doing Eddie Guerrero spots then I recommend watching some Florida Brothers matches instead.

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Toru Yano vs Zack Sabre Jr

Sabre Jr had enough of Yano using his entrance to embrace Capitalism, applying a sleeper to Yano mid-shill. This led to a flurry of roll-up attempts from both wrestlers before Yano fled the ring to take his jacket off. Yano challenged Sabre Jr to a wrestling match, and they briefly traded amateur grappling before Yano hit a belly-to-belly suplex. Sabre Jr was grabbed and carried backstage by Yano, with Sabre Jr emerging from behind the curtain with a bag on his head. When Sabre Jr entered the ring before getting counted out, Yano applied a Jujigatame but that was quickly countered by Sabre Jr.

Sabre Jr then used the guardrail to attack Yano’s arm, and Yano crawled under the ring, getting dragged out by Sabre Jr using an Ankle hold. Yano then tried to handcuff Sabre Jr to the guard rail, only for Sabre Jr to handcuff himself to Yano. They avoided a count-out and then traded more pinning combinations before Sabre Jr applied a Triangle choke. Yano tried to unlock the handcuffs, but Sabre Jr locked in a Jujigatame, forcing Yano to tap.

Zack Sabre Jr submitted Toru Yano via Jujigatame (6:42)

Zack Sabre Jr has been arguably the star of the G1, and here he had Yano’s best match in this G1. The quick-paced roll-ups helped offset the slower comedy. The amateur wrestling sequence was fun and the way that the handcuffs were used felt quite fresh. This won’t change people’s minds on Yano, but it was a fun match and probably the best choice if you wanted to watch a Yano match.

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Shingo Takagi vs Great O-Khan

The opening lock up ended with O-Khan applying a headlock to Takagi, who quickly escaped and applied one of his own. Takagi had the clear experience edge, but O-Khan did surprisingly well against Takagi’s power. O-Khan had to use unexpected angles on a shoulder tackle to gain some breathing space before throwing the Champion around on the outside.

O-Khan controlled Takagi with submission holds targeting the neck. He even sat on Takagi in the corner and twerked over the Champion’s neck. They traded chops, with O-Khan getting the better of the exchange. Takagi countered O-Khan’s chops with some of his own and he was a joy to watch in this sequence with his facial expressions. Takagi had regained control, getting the crowd invested like a true Champion.

O-Khan countered a Sliding D and hit the big Ippon-zeoi, which I am a huge fan of. That was followed by O-Khan’s corner dropkick, which I am not a huge fan of. O-Khan rubbed Takagi’s face into his boot, mocking the Champion. Takagi snapped and unleashed a flurry of punches, chops, and hammer blows. Takagi was winning a forearm exchange, so O-Khan hit a throat thrust and a big punch to down Takagi. O-Khan and Takagi then had a chaotic suplex filled no sell sequence, ending with Takagi hitting a Sliding Lariat.

The Made in Japan and Noshigami were avoided by O-Khan, who then attacked Takagi’s torso. That including suplexing Takagi gut first onto the top rope. O-Khan locked in his Sheep Killer submission before hitting a backbreaker and a falling powerslam for a 2 count. Takagi tried to chop his way out of an Iron Claw, but he didn’t have enough power, so he had to use a Jujigatame instead to escape the move. O-Khan’s claw arm was viciously snapped back, and Takagi went to work on the limb. Takagi hit a modified Made in Japan for a near fall, but O-Khan fought back with a Gourd buster that dropped Takagi onto his damaged midsection. O-Khan and Takagi traded forearms on their knees before O-Khan headbutted the midsection, even the Takagi fought back and managed to down O-Khan by using a big elbow when O-Khan tried for a single leg takedown.

O-Khan avoided a Pumping Bomb and took down Takagi with an Axe Bomber. O-Khan went for the Eliminator, but Takagi escaped and hit a Dragon Suplex. A Takagi pumping Bomber earned Takagi a nearfall before he hit the Last of the Dragon to win the match.

Shingo Takagi pinned Great O-Khan via Last of the Dragon (25:50)

This was a very good, almost great match. In many ways, this felt more like a standard O-Khan match than his matches against Ishii, Sabre Jr & Ibushi. I like how O-Khan has slowly implemented elements like the Ippon-Zeoi and the big straight punch. He feels like he’s getting closer to what I would like him to be as a wrestler, although I wouldn’t call him a great wrestler just yet. Then again, some of his regular spots were poor here. Takagi has been the wrestler who has gained the most from 2021 in New Japan. He feels like a star, he has the crowd in the palm of his hand, and he is a great all-around wrestler to boot. This was not Takagi’s best match, but he was such an eye-catching performer and such an exciting main eventer. The only worry is that the blame for low attendance might be placed on him.

A Block standings

Kota Ibushi – 12pts

Shingo Takagi – 12pts

Zack Sabre Jr – 12 pts

KENTA – 12pts

Tomohiro Ishii – 10 pts

Toru Yano – 8pts

Great O-Khan – 8pts

Tanga Loa – 4pts

Yujiro Takahashi – 4pts

Tetsuya Naito – 0pts

Based on the standings, it feels like it comes down to Sabre Jr, KENTA, and Ibushi as the potential finalists, as I cannot see Takagi making the final. The last IWGP Heavyweight Champion to make the final was Yuji Nagata in 2007. My preference would be Sabre Jr since Ibushi has been in the final for the last 3 years and I really do not want another KENTA singles match. Then again, it feels like Ibushi is the safest bet, although this has been maybe his weakest G1 Climax.

Show Summary

Like so much of this G1 A Block, this was the Zack and Shingo show. Sabre Jr pulled out the best Yano performance in the G1 Climax and is within striking distance of making the final. Takagi put on another great main event. Then again, both Takagi and O-Khan have had better matches in this year’s tournament. This year’s G1 has definitely been below recent standards and will be seen by many as the worst G1 since the 2000s. The problem with this year’s G1 has been the tournament structure.

A radical decision like reducing the number of shows and the size of the blocks would have made a difference in terms of quality, but the combination of financial risks and being seen as retreating meant that this was never going to happen. With foreign talent restrictions, bringing in freelancers or even a couple of Junior Heavyweights would have made a difference in terms of variety. That was never going to happen either. This is the G1 Climax that we got. The G1 has been a crucial distraction for New Japan in recent years, a way of hiding some of the problems and weaknesses. This year it was not able to do that, which is why New Japan feels at its lowest ebb in over a decade.