G1 Climax 31 Day 3 Report: Shingo Takagi vs. ZSJ, Ibushi vs. Ishii

Originally published at G1 CLIMAX DAY 3 REPORT: Shingo Takagi vs. ZSJ, Ibushi vs. Ishii

By: Mark Buckeldee

Welcome to this POST Wrestling report for night 3 of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax 31. Night 3 hails from Ota City General Gymnasium in Tokyo. This was the first of seven G1 shows in Tokyo, spread out across 3 venues. The main news in the G1 Climax has been Tetsuya Naito pulling out due to a knee injury. All matches involving Naito will be forfeited, with his future opponents all being given 2 points. In order to avoid feeling like they short-changed fans, wrestlers not in the G1 have been drafted in to have matches with Naito’s opponents on these A block shows. The attendance was 1,284. This was lower than the 2021 New Japan Cup final (2,200), Night 2 of the 2021 New Japan Cup (1,410), and even a 2021 New Beginning show headlined by El Phantasmo & Ishimori vs Desperado & Kanemaru (1,325).

  1. Yuji Nagata vs Tanga Loa – A sub-par match that was often clumsy and awkward
  2. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Toru Yano vs Great O-Khan – Dull. O-Khan added nothing, and Yano’s shtick felt tired
  3. G1 Climax 31 A Block: KENTA vs Yujiro Takahashi – A slow and labored match with a much better finish. Okay but not worth your time
  4. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii – Ishii forces Ibushi to bring the aggression in a great strike heavy match, less patterned than usual – RECOMMENDED
  5. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Zack Sabre Jr vs Shingo Takagi – A battle of technique vs power as Sabre Jr tried to whittle away Takagi’s strength in order to survive. Great chemistry, great match – RECOMMENDED

Yuji Nagata vs Tanga Loa

Yugi Nagata was Tetsuya Naito’s replacement in this match due to Naito’s injury. Initially, this was clumsy during the opening grappling. Things were better when Loa stayed on his feet and focused on brawling. Loa slammed Nagata on the floor and got a near fall after a senton atomico. He got another near fall with a Blue Thunder Bomb. Nagata fired back with strikes and a kick to the knee. That was followed by more leg kicks and a dropkick to the knee from Nagata.

Loa blocked an Exploder suplex, but Nagata hit a double arm suplex instead. Nagata followed that up with a heel hold before Loa got a comeback with an (almost) Complete Shot. A crossface by Loa was countered into an Ankle lock, which Nagata transitioned into the Nagata Lock 1. Loa eventually reached the ropes to break the hold. After walking into an Exploder suplex, Loa fought back with a spear and a powerslam. Nagata hit the Dai Nakanishi German suplex and a running kick for a near fall. Loa came back with a Lariat and the Apeshit piledriver to win the match.

Tanga Loa pinned Yuji Nagata via Apeshit (15:35)

I like Yuji Nagata, but this match was not good. It was decent at times, but it often felt clumsy and awkward. There was little chemistry between the two and Loa looked uncomfortable during the grappling. Loa’s selling was good in places, but the execution was often clunky, and this will quickly be forgotten.

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Toru Yano vs Great O-Khan

Great O-Khan attacked Yano before he entered the ring. It honestly felt like O-Khan was doing a Takashi Iizuka impersonation as they brawled on the outside. They continued brawling in the ring, before O-Khan sat on Yano’s neck. O-Khan applied a head & shoulder submission, forcing Yano to reach the ropes. O-Khan tried to make Yano lick his boot, but that didn’t work. They went back to the outside and teased a handcuff spot.

Back in the ring, Yano removed the turnbuckle pad and the referee got hit with it. Yano again went to handcuff O-Khan, but that was stopped with an Iron Claw and Yano was handcuffed to the guard rail. Yano had a key, but O-Khan grabbed it. Yano somehow managed to free himself and won with some roll-ups before falling victim to the Eliminator.

After the match, O-Khan tried to make Yano kiss his boot. Yano avoided it by punching O-Khan in the groin. Because of course Yano had to make up for not hitting a low blow during the match.

Great O-Khan pinned Toru Yano via Eliminator (11:30)

This was a bad match, even by Yano’s standards. I say that as someone who has a higher-than-normal tolerance for Yano in the G1. O-Khan felt cartoonish at times, and the “action”, for want of a better term, often felt slow. You can criticize the lack of originality or the length but ultimately, it was dull. O-Khan did not add anything to the Yano formula and some choices like the ref bump felt completely unnecessary.

G1 Climax 31 A Block: KENTA vs Yujiro Takahashi

This was the first of six Bullet Club vs Bullet Club matches in the G1. It’s also the only one between two Japanese members of the Bullet Club. Both Yujiro Takahashi and Pieter refused to “too sweet” KENTA. Takahashi controlled the early goings, with KENTA not putting up a fight. That continued while Takahashi threw KENTA around at ringside until KENTA hit a DDT on the outside. KENTA took control, mocking Takahashi with some gyrations. Takahashi made a comeback, but KENTA cut him off with another DDT.

A diving clothesline earned KENTA a near fall, and he followed that with an STF. The Green Killer DDT earned KENTA a near fall. After a hesitation dropkick by KENTA, Takahashi managed to evade a top rope double stomp. KENTA hit the move about 30 seconds later but a Go to Sleep was nicely countered into a DDT by Takahashi. An Olympic Slam earned Takahashi a near fall and then Takahashi won a forearm exchange. KENTA kicked out of the Miami Shine and countered the Pimp Juice DDT into a cradle for a near fall. Takahashi countered a DDT and tried to hit a low blow, but KENTA caught the arm and turned it into the GAME OVER, which forced Takahashi to tap out.

After the match, there was a show of respect as Takahashi and KENTA “two sweeted” each other.

KENTA submitted Yujiro Takahashi via GAME OVER (15:48)

Sometimes you get Bullet Club vs Bullet Club matches that are genuinely funny or entertaining. This was not one of those. It’s well known that KENTA is not the wrestler that he used to be, due to injuries. The combination of him and Takahashi felt slow and labored, especially in the first two-thirds. At times it was like they were wrestling in treacle. KENTA did his best to inject some flashes of energy and the finishing stretch was decent. Ultimately, this was an okay match but not worth your time.

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Kota Ibushi vs Tomohiro Ishii

This was the only match on this show that took place during last year’s G1 Climax. The match started with a lock up and Ishii slapping Ibushi as it was broken up. Ishii dominated for much of the match, constantly getting the better of Ibushi with chops and forearms while Ibushi tried to fight back. Early on he absorbed most of Ibushi’s strikes. At one point Ishii trapped Ibushi by standing near the corner and forcing Ibushi to fight back. This led to a fiery slap exchange that Ibushi won, although the effort saw him also fall to the mat.

Ibushi caught Ishii with a Frankensteiner, following that with a Plancha. Back in the ring Ibushi hit a Powerslam-Moonsault combo for a 2 count. Ishii and Ibushi tried to outmaneuver each other before Ishii hit a scary-looking backdrop suplex. Ibushi hit a dropkick, but Ishii absorbed it and nailed a big shoulder tackle that sent Ibushi flying. Ishii hit a stalling 2nd rope superplex, crashing to the mat after holding Ibushi aloft for 10 seconds! Ibushi avoided a powerbomb and a flurry of dodges ended with Ibushi hitting an unexpected kick to the face.

While both wrestlers were prone on the mat Ishii just lazily kicked Ibushi in the face out of sheer pettiness. Ibushi paid him pack, just casually kicking and slapping Ishii’s face until they started exchanging hard strikes. Ishii got caught with a German suplex by Ibushi. They went back to the strikes, with some gnarly slap fighting that ended with an Ibushi Lariat. A sit-down powerbomb earned Ibushi a near fall. Ibushi landed a big head kick to Ishii, but the Stone Pitbull fired back with a torpedo-like headbutt to the jaw.

Ishii demolished Ibushi with a pair of Lariats but he still kicked out. Ibushi escaped a Brainbuster and landed a High Kick to the head. The Kami-Go-Ye attempt was countered by Ishii with a desperate Lariat. A running Lariat from Ishii was countered by a Kesagiri chop and Ishii tried to counter another Kami-Go-Ye attempt with a headbutt to the gut. That nearly let Ishii hit the Brainbuster, but Ibushi hit a standing Kami-Go-Ye and the regular Kami-Go-YE to win the match.

After the match, Ibushi looked spent as he was helped to the back. I hope that’s not a sign of something serious.

Kota Ibushi pinned Tomohiro Ishii via Kami-Go-Ye (17:42)

I did not expect Ibushi to have this match in this G1 Climax. On one hand, his cardio and pace were noticeably below his usual standards. On the other hand, this was great. The story was Ishii not respecting Ibushi and forcing him to bring the aggression. Ishii constantly made Ibushi raise his game. In many ways, this match lacked many of the patterns that we usually get from Ibushi. This was Ishii working to bring the best out of Ibushi.

The striking and the pettiness in this match was great. There were a lot of familiarities here but the way it was done felt less forced than it sometimes does, possibly because it was a little less polished and a bit rawer. The storytelling was subtle, and this felt fresher than I expected. That said, I’m sure that I have seen better matches between these two.

My main concern after this match is if Ibushi can hold up for the whole G1. He looked so tired and fatigued after this match. If this is just selling, then I am happy to be fooled.

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Zack Sabre Jr vs Shingo Takagi

Surprisingly, this was not a first-time match-up. They fought each other at wXw’s 16 Carat Gold Tournament back in 2009. That tournament also featured Bryan Danielson, Drake Younger, Seth Rollins, Chris Sabin, Sami Callihan, Malakai Black, Daisuke Sekimoto & WALTER.

Sabre Jr initially tried to avoid giving Takagi chances to rely on his power. Initial grappling and feeling out quickly turned into a counter exchange, which naturally flowed into an opportunity for Takagi to hit a shoulder tackle. Sabre Jr left the ring and Takagi used the Naito fist pose as a tribute to his injured stablemate.

Sabre Jr’s anger let Takagi quickly gain control, with Takagi dominating with headlocks and elbow drops. The Champion got overconfident, and Sabre Jr turned the tide by anticipating a senton. Sabre Jr applied a cravate and would not release the hold until Takagi rammed him into the corner. Takagi’s power constantly let him escape holds effortlessly, and he got back on top with a series of chops. Sabre Jr tried to use a guillotine choke, but it was easily countered with a suplex.

Takagi mocked Sabre Jr, asking him to bring it before flooring him with one punch. The Champion constantly blocked Sabre Jr’s submissions with his power, so Sabre Jr used an Octopus hold in the ropes. Sabre Jr focused on the right arm of Takagi, briefly paying for some mocking kicks when Takagi used a Dragon Screw. Takagi tried to fight back left-handed, as his right arm lacked power. The Champion managed to hit a scrappy-looking Noshigami, following that with a great-looking rope-assisted sliding D to the knee. Sabre Jr countered with a float over Jujigatame into a Triangle choke, but Takagi’s power let him hit a Powerbomb, turning that over into an STF.

Sabre Jr went for a ride with a Wheelbarrow German and Takagi called for the crowd to get behind him. A Made in Japan was countered with a Half Nelson suplex by Sabre Jr, but Takagi had a reply with a suplex of his own. Takagi attacked with Lariats but now both arms were hurting. Sabre Jr used a beautiful single-leg trip to get a near fall with the Japanese Leg rolling clutch. A Penalty Kick from Sabre Jr was followed by a Lariat from Takagi and both men were down.

A superplex attempt by Takagi was countered into an armbar and a flying Tornado DDT, before Sabre Jr used a La Mistica style double armbar. It looked close but Takagi rolled to the ropes. Sabre Jr used a series of arm breakers and then countered a pop-up DVD into an armbar, but Takagi managed to escape and hit a Sliding D. A Zack Driver earned Sabre Jr a big near fall. He followed this with Bryan Danielson esque elbows, but Takagi powered out and hit a DVD to gain some breathing space.

Takagi unleashed a flurry of forearms and a Lariat, but his arms clearly hurt. Takagi caught Sabre Jr’s leg, only to get repeatedly slapped in the face. The response from Takagi was an awesome-looking modified Made in Japan. A Pumping Bomber turned Sabre Jr inside out but the pain in Takagi’s arm meant that he couldn’t capitalize on it. Sabre Jr was now the one finding counters for Takagi’s moves, applying a modified Octopus stretch. He kept scrabbling around, looking for a suitable submission. When Takagi tried to lift his way out of a Triangle choke, Sabre Jr shifted into a fully extended Jujigatame, and Takagi immediately tapped out.

Zack Sabre Jr submitted Shingo Takagi via Jujigatame (27:17)

This was probably my favorite match of the G1 Climax so far. Despite only having had 1 singles match before, they had incredible chemistry together and so much of this match felt fresh. The counters and transitions often felt surprising, and the novelty often added to my enjoyment. The story was Takagi’s power being the difference early on and Sabre Jr trying to wear Takagi down before the Champion could put him away. I love how Takagi found things harder and harder, his selling of the arms was excellent. I think that some of Takagi’s best stuff is when he has a clear weakness and must fight through it, as his selling is so engaging.

For his part, Sabre Jr made Takagi look like a monster without looking impotent. I loved the cockiness, anger, and desperation shown by both wrestlers in this match. This was a great mix of these two wrestlers’ strengths. I just wish that this match could have taken place in front of a “normal” crowd. I appreciate that people’s mileage will vary on this one, but this was two of my favorite wrestlers showing great chemistry in a match that felt fresh. So, I appreciate that I might be overhyping this a little.

Show summary

Low blow count – 0/5 matches* (a failed low blow and a post-match low blow don’t count)

Ref bump count- 1/5 matches

People getting hit with sticks count – 0/5 matches

This was clearly a show of two halves. The first half was pretty subpar, with nothing better than decent. Honestly, I would say skip the first half and use the time to watch Bryan Danielson vs Kenny Omega from this week’s AEW Dynamite. Yes, even if you have already seen it.

The second half was much better. Ishii vs Ibushi was very good to great, and it might be the ceiling for Kota Ibushi in this year’s G1. I loved the way that Ishii constantly forced Ibushi to bring it, although I still have worries about Ibushi. The main event may be a little polarising, but I thought it was fantastic, a great clash of styles between two wrestlers with great chemistry. The story with the arm work and Takagi finding it harder and harder to overpower Sabre Jr was great. I really look forward to what feels like an inevitable rematch.

Again, this show had some very good matches but the fact that this venue held more fans for an IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Title match in January makes me worry about New Japan’s future in terms of how they appear to have burned some of their strongest markets.