Originally published at G1 Climax 31 Day 6 Report: Okada vs. YOSHI-HASHI, Tanahashi vs Tama
G1 Climax 31 Day 6 Report: Okada vs. YOSHI-HASHI, Tanahashi vs. Tonga
By: Bruce Lord
Welcome to POST Wrestling’s run-down of the third B block card of the 31st G1 Climax tournament, and the G1’s sixth card overall. Obviously, we’re only a third of the way into the marathon which is the G1, but already some narratives are emerging which seem to distinguish its two halves.
The A block has been characterized by many as a ‘feast or famine’ block (an opinion which matches my own) in which the majority of matches between high-profile wrestlers are living up to their potential, while the matches featuring lower card talent have failed to get off the ground. In contrast, the B block is earning a reputation as a ‘goldilocks zone’ in which nothing falls below the level of ‘acceptable’ yet neither does it reach the peaks of the A block. I have to take a slight amount of umbrage with this, as the Hiroshi Tanahashi/Kazuchika Okada B block match is still in a dead heat with the A block’s Shingo Takagi/Tomohiro Ishii contest for my favorite match of the tournament. However, empirically this narrative holds up, with all of the A block matches falling within the widespread of 1.68 to 4.60 stars on Grappl and 3.53 to 9.30 points on Cagematch, while the B block’s range heading into today’s card is notably tighter at 3.14 to 4.45 stars and 6.21 and 8.94 points (if JP Houlihan, Benno, or anyone else wants to collaborate on a sabermetrically-styled handicap to account for Yano matches, get at me).
On a less pedantic note, it’s a story that might only be apparent to those dutifully attending to the tournament’s backstage comment videos, but the good fortunes of at least two tag teams and/or stablemates have been a minor thread throughout the first days of the G1. Both members of Dangerous Tekkers were undefeated heading into today’s show, giving some extra credibility to the IWGP Tag Team Champions not commonly afforded to the likes of Guerillas of Destiny or Sanada and EVIL as those staples of the tag division worked their way through G1 in year’s past. In a similar vein, Jeff Cobb has been reminding everyone who tunes into the aforementioned post-match clips that the tournament’s two representatives from The United Empire are also undefeated. While no one seriously expects Cobb’s (kayfabe) predictions of a G1 final between himself and Great-O-Kahn to come to fruition, that initial run does a bit of work in terms of keeping the stable in audiences’ minds, at least until new additions like Aussie Open and TJP are able to make their presences more strongly felt.
After a one-night, A block stand in Hyogo’s Kobe World Hall, today’s B block matches were held in Tokyo’s venerable Korakuen Hall, the first of three tournament cards in that venue this year. For those who tuned out from NJPW during a run of seemingly endless Summer Struggle shows, the company staged no less than ten cards at Korakuen in the month of August alone. Attendance dipped to a low of 277 at one point during that residence. While as of this writing no official attendance for today’s card has been announced, the venue looked to be at about 70% capacity. As with the previous B block card, we have no prelim matches with which to dispense, so let’s get into some discussion of each of today’s five G1 matches!
1. G1 Climax B Block: Taichi vs EVIL – Skippable for exactly the reasons one might expect.
2. G1 Climax B Block: Sanada vs Chase Owens – A fun and well-paced sprint with solid work from Owens, exceeding expectations. – RECOMMENDED
3. G1 Climax B Block: Hirooki Goto vs Jeff Cobb – A solid enough match. While still not up to the high ceiling this pairing theoretically has, this featured some fun displays of brute power. – RECOMMENDED
4. G1 Climax B Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Tama Tonga – Some interesting exchanges towards the end, but stayed in neutral for most of the match.
5. G1 Climax B Block: Kazuchika Okada vs Yoshi Hashi – Overlong and doesn’t rise above the lopsided contest it appeared to be on paper
Taichi (4 points) vs EVIL (2 points)
A quick Dick Togo distraction gives EVIL the advantage outside, leading to (say it with me, people) a timekeeper’s table spot. Back inside, Taichi’s tossed into an exposed turnbuckle. Throughout these shenanigans, Taichi’s trying to regain control with hard-hitting kicks. EVIL’s drop-kicked from the apron, crashing into the timekeeper’s table AGAIN. A grudge match with poor Makoto Abe is the only program EVIL’s G1 seems to be leading to, though hey: at least that one was Taichi’s fault. EVIL counters an Axe Bomber attempt with Darkness Falls but is backed into the exposed corner himself, giving Taichi the time to hit that Axe Bomber and rip off the pants. A ref bump lets EVIL try a low blow but Taichi catches one of his own and gets a long visual pinfall with the Gedo Clutch while Togo’s running interference. After a quick series of finishing attempts from both men, Taichi hits the Dangerous Backdrop and has the crowd behind him, but Togo grabs Miho Abe by the hair (!) letting EVIL hit the low blow and Everything Is Evil. Rather than pinning Taichi, though, he applies the Darkness Scorpion (a Sharpshooter/Scorpion Deathlock which he hasn’t busted out in quite a while) on an unconscious Taichi.
EVIL defeats Taichi via referee’s stoppage at 9:31.
Togo even goes so far as to put his boot on a prone Abe’s chest in the aftermath, and a still-woozy Taichi tries to pursue EVIL down the heel corridor but is led away.
The takeaway: The reverse in both men’s styles (Taichi moving from cheating to a more direct and hard-hitting style and EVIL taking the opposite path) was commented on by Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton at the match’s opening. While there were a couple of brief runs of impressive Taichi offense, the story here was that he wasn’t willing to stoop to the same low levels of chicanery as EVIL, and lost as a result. This wasn’t notably better or worse than the boilerplate EVIL match we’re all expecting at this point, though the physicality with Miho Abe seemed especially distasteful and out of step with New Japan’s style (which, again, doesn’t seem to be giving EVIL any real heel heat, but might lead to a post-G1 feud with Taichi). At least it was short.
Sanada (2 points) vs Chase Owens (0 points)
Owens applies the Paradise Lock after some quick grappling, but incorrectly, of course, allowing Sanada to quickly escape and take things outside. Owens is in control again quickly, though, and back inside begins to work Sanada’s neck and back with chokes, strikes, a bow & arrow, and neckbreaker. Sanada rallies with forearms and an atomic drop, properly applies the Paradise Lock, and rana’s Owens to the outside, where Chase quickly regains control. Inside, a vertical suplex into a neckbreaker gets Owens a two count. Sanada’s back in charge with a top-rope dropkick and TKO. Owens evades a moonsault and then quickly escapes Skull End and hits an avalanche snapmare and shining wizard. Owens grabs the ref while Sanada’s executing an O’Connor Roll and earning a visual pinfall. Spin kicks and rising knees are exchanged, Sanada evades the package piledriver, and after Owens attempts an O’Connor Roll of his own Sanada applies the Skull End. A moonsault seals Owens’ fate.
Sanada defeats Chase Owens via pinfall at 11:58.
The takeaway: The Paradise Lock often feels out of place in Sanada’s more significant matches, but the question of its proper application made for a fun enough story here, as did Owen’s conniving nature always giving him the advantage when the match went to the floor. Some exciting and fluid sequences in the closing stretch (especially from Owens, who continues to make the most of his role in his first G1) turned this into an entertaining little match.
Hirooki Goto (0 points) vs Jeff Cobb (4 points)
After Cobb wins a couple of quick power exchanges, Goto begins targeting Cobb’s arm, including torquing it around the guardrail. Cobb reverses a corner splash into a sort of carried uranage and takes Goto down again with a big shoulder tackle. Cobb’s tossing Goto about with ease, including delivering the carried turnbuckle tackle sequence he’s used earlier in the tournament. Goto rolls away from the standing moonsault, and Goto begins to build a bit of momentum with a bulldog, but Cobb counters with a dropkick, backdrop, and successful moonsault. A mid-ring sequence of forearms lets Goto hit the ushigoroshi, and a belly-to-belly styled takeover prompts him to go back to the arm with an armbar. Cobb replies with an Oklahoma Stampede, Spin Cycle, and deadlift German. Goto barely evades a Tour of the Islands and hits a reverse GTR and lariat for two. Cobb fights out of a standard GTR attempt, and an exchange of headbutt weakens Goto enough to allow Cobb to take him on a proper tour.
Jeff Cobb defeats Hirooki Goto via pinfall at 15:09.
The takeaway: A pairing that looks incredible in theory but has never truly delivered on its promise in any of the three previous matches Goto and Cobb have had in NJPW and ROH, this was one of the B block’s deep cuts I was most looking forward to. While it still wasn’t the total barnburner it could be, I enjoyed this more than their earlier contests. The story of Goto only being able to press Cobb while craftily working the arm, but inevitably being prompted by pride to test his own pure power against Cobb’s and coming up short fits with the cursed nobility of Goto’s character, and Cobb continues to work his way up a ladder of increasingly credible opponents.
Hiroshi Tanahashi (2 points) vs Tama Tonga (2 points)
Things start slowly with some lock-ups, wrist locks, and rope breaks. The match begins to open up at four minutes after Tama tries to double back on a clean break, with Tanahashi hitting a springboard crossbody. A pair of Gun Stun attempts are countered, but Tama soon establishes control, characteristically slowly circling Tana, pausing to deliver punches and elbow drops. Tana fights out of a sleeper, and Tama switches over to dad’s Tongan Death Grip before Tana hits a Dragon Screw and follows up with a somersault senton. Tama fights out of the cloverleaf by blatantly choking Tana, and Marty Asami’s multiple five counts yield neither a DQ nor the release of the choke. ‘Twas ever thus with G1 reffing, I suppose. A Tongan Twist earns Tama a two count, and he draws the ire of the crowd by hitting a Sling Blade and High Fly Flow of his own. Tama replies with Twist and Shout, a patented Sling Blade, and Aces High, setting up an HFF attempt which Tama evades. He quickly hits a Gun Stun but Tana’s previous sequence prevents him from getting a timely pinfall, and Tanahashi’s able to quickly reverse the lateral press into a roll-up pinfall of his own.
Hiroshi Tanahashi defeats Tama Tonga via pinfall at 14:17
The takeaway: They say styles make fights, but this is a match which more suggested oil and water failing to mix heading into this card. This match hinged on Tama’s slow control spots giving the crowd the impetus to help Tana fire up, but it wasn’t until the last few minutes that there was much interest. Tanahashi once again using his veteran wiles to steal a roll-up win as he did with Goto on Day 4 gives us something to watch for in his upcoming matches. The brewing rivalry between Tama Tonga and Jay White also added some minor background texture to this match, given White’s longstanding feud with Tanahashi – we’ll have to keep an eye on New Japan STRONG to see if White tries to make hay of Tama’s inability to seal the deal against the Ace.
Kazuchika Okada (4 points) vs Yoshi-Hashi (0 points)
The intra-CHAOS match starts with some simple enough trading of headlocks, but after a few minutes, Yoshi-Hashi interrupts Okada’s traditional clean rope break, indicating that the former’s not interested in a friendly fraternal affair. Yoshi-Hashi takes Okada down with some shoulder blocks but said shoulder is still feeling the effects of Jeff Cobb’s attack. Things spill outside, where after sending Okada into the guardrails Yoshi-Hashi’s treated to a pair of DDTs. Back inside, Okada works Yoshi-Hashi over in the corner and serves up a third DDT around the ten-minute mark. Okada taunts Yoshi-Hashi into a forearm and chop exchange, and Yoshi-Hashi hits a frankly very sloppy Headhunter, which he follows up with a plancha to the floor and a top-rope blockbuster back in the ring. Okada fights out of a llave-styled submission and tosses on the Money Clip. After Yoshi-Hashi makes it to the rope there’s a top rope elbow drop and Rainmaker pose, but the crowd is still clearly hoping for a rally from Yoshi-Hashi.
Yoshi-Hashi ducks the Rainmaker but is swiftly hit by two short-arm clotheslines. Yoshi-Hashi once again avoids the Rainmaker proper, this time with a lariat of his own as the crowd begins to rally behind the underdog. A dragon suplex and running double knees gets Yoshi-Hashi a two count, and he powers through two big boots from Okada for another lariat, Kamigoroshi, and butterfly lock, punctuated with a lungblower before it’s reapplied. The second he tries to transition from the submission to Karma, though, Okada pulls off a Tombstone, and both men recover on the floor as the match reaches twenty-five minutes. Yoshi-Hashi turns back the clock but misses with an attempted Loose Explosion (and really, when was the last time we were all able to have a sophomoric chuckle over that name?). Two dropkicks set up a Rainmaker attempt which Yoshi-Hashi counters into a roll-up for two, but Okada hits the landslide Tombstone for the inevitable Rainmaker and victory.
Kazuchika Okada defeats Yosh-Hashi via pinfall at 26:54
The takeaway: As with every meeting between the highest and lowest-ranked members of CHAOS, the ghost of their Wrestle Kingdom VI match, which permanently distinguished the two members of the same Young Lion cohort from one another, hung over this match like an oppressive raincloud. The result was never in doubt, and so the only issue at hand was how much of the moderate in-ring improvement Yoshi-Hashi has demonstrated during his NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship run would be on display. While he had a couple of impressive enough rallies, asking Yoshi-Hashi to go nearly thirty minutes in a singles main event can’t help but expose his deficiencies, no matter the quality of his opponent. Despite indicating that he was angered by Okada’s patronizing big brother persona at the beginning of the match, that animosity had been lost by the point of the lengthy submission spots, which never felt credibly dangerous. For Okada’s part, upcoming matches with the likes of Goto, Sanada, an impressive Taichi, and of course Cobb should yield better results.
Current G1 B Block Standings
Kazuchika Okada: 6 points
Jeff Cobb: 6 points
Hiroshi Tanahashi: 4 points
Sanada: 4 points
EVIL: 4 points
Taichi: 4 points
Tama Tonga: 2 points
Chase Owens: 0 points
Hirooki Goto: 0 points
Yoshi-Hashi: 0 points
For the first time in this tournament, none of the matches on this card felt like must-see events when the tournament schedule was announced, and in all honesty, none of them did a huge amount to change that perception, though Cobb and Goto’s pitting of raw power against each other and Owens’ offensive flurries were thoroughly enjoyable. That said, until the main event, no match overstayed its welcome, making for an easy enough watch. Friday’s B block card, headlined by Okada versus Goto and Tanahashi versus Sanada, looks to have a much higher ceiling, and I’ll be back then with another full report.