G1 Climax 31 Day 8 Report: Tanahashi vs. SANADA, Okada vs. Goto

Originally published at G1 Climax 31 Day 8 Report: Tanahashi vs. SANADA, Okada vs. Goto

G1 Climax 31 Day 8 Report: Tanahashi vs. SANADA, Okada vs. Goto

By: Bruce Lord

Welcome to another POST Wrestling report detailing all the action from today’s G1 Climax show, the sixth day of the tournament. Today’s B block card comes two days after a show which felt as though it brought the B block back down to earth. After beginning with a pair of cards that outperformed expectations for the block, Wednesday’s showing felt a bit more in keeping with the level of competition many expected from the A block’s little sibling. But while that card perhaps suffered due to a number of mismatches that didn’t play out well (unlike yesterday’s A block show which saw Tomohiro Ishii and Zack Sabre Jr bringing out the best in Tonga Loa and Great-O-Khan, respectively), today’s card looks to be very clearly divided. The top two matches have the potential to give the tournament some of its best action since its first three main events, and I can’t imagine that anyone had any of the undercard matches circled on their calendar. Did any of today’s contests rise above or fall beneath their station? Read on and find out.

Today’s B block card comes from Hamamatsu Arena, making it the only G1 show to be held in the Shizuoka Prefecture. After a couple of B block cards featuring only G1 matches, we have some Young Lion action today in addition to the standard five matches, with Ryohei Oiwa facing off against Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Thus far I’ve been perfectly happy to have these quick showcases kicking off some of the G1 shows, not to mention the replacement matches which have been subbing in for the injured Tetsuya Naito’s matches on the A block side of things. Additionally, I’ve yet to see any complaints from non-Japanese viewers regarding the scrapping of the traditional multi-man matches which open G1 cards in non-COVID times. I recognize that New Japan is still a company that is almost wholly financially dependent on their live gates, and there’s a desire to make sure fans well outside of the major cities have a chance to see as much of the roster as it possible. That being said, even as a die-hard New Japan viewer (let alone one tasked with reviewing G1 shows) I found that those matches added precious little to the tournament matches for which they served as previews, and am certainly happy to have these slimmed-down G1 cards. Let’s dig into today’s installment!

Spoiler-free Recommendations

1. Ryohei Oiwa vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru – A fun little Young Lion showcase that gave Oiwa a bit more to do than his first G1 appearance.
2. G1 Climax B Block: Jeff Cobb vs Tama Tonga – A straightforward and decent match, with Tama shifting gears to play the sympathetic underdog.
3. G1 Climax B Block: EVIL vs Chase Owens – The expected EVIL garbage. I watched this so that you didn’t have to; don’t let my sacrifice be in vain.
4. G1 Climax B Block: YOSHI-HASHI vs Taichi – A lengthy match without much rhythm or chemistry. YOSHI-HASHI die-hards will likely enjoy this, but it won’t do anything to persuade skeptics.
5. G1 Climax B Block: Kazuchika Okada vs Hirooki Goto – A nice palate cleanser after a ho-hum undercard. Not up to the high potential of these two wrestlers, but enjoyable enough.
6. G1 Climax B Block: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs SANADA – A great main event with an engaging story and plenty of crisp and exciting work from both men. RECOMMENDED

Ryohei Oiwa vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru

Oiwa grabs the bull by the horns with a shoulder tackle and a grounded side headlock which he cranks on with ferocity. A rope break puts Kanemaru in control after a couple of minutes, and he targets Oiwa’s left knee and drives him into the guardrail. Inside, Oiwa tries to fire up with some forearms but Kanemaru keeps torturing the knee. Oiwa eventually gets a dropkick and scoop slam off but can’t apply the Boston crab, and Kanemaru stays on the knee, eventually getting the submission with a figure four.

Yoshinobu Kanemaru defeats Ryohei Oiwa via submission at 7:38

The takeaway: A rare singles match for Kanemaru (just the fourth solo outing for the Heel Master in the past two years) gave Oiwa the opportunity to get in some actual offense, as opposed to his pillorying at the hands of SHO on the first day of the tournament. Oiwa had the requisite fire, but the real purpose of this match was to have him sell the knee throughout, even when he was on the attack, which he did handily.

Jeff Cobb (6 points) vs Tama Tonga (2 points)

Tama tries to stick and move by deking around Cobb and peppering him with body shots, but a splash into the corner is countered by Cobb into a big release German. Cobb sets Tama up for a delayed vertical suplex, but simply tosses him forward from the hold, as he did with YOSHI-HASHI in his last match. Cobb works the back, which has been established as the key to his bigger power moves. Cobb uses the same corner-to-corner carried slams into the turnbuckle he’s deployed against his other two opponents (we need a name for this, preferably something catchier than a ‘Forever Modified Oklahoma Stampede’). Tama escapes from a second attempt of the sequence, and goes back to a quick striking sequence, and pulls off a Death Valley Driver against the big man for a two count. Cobb’s quickly back in control, though, and after a standing moonsault Cobb dismissively slaps and trash-talks Tama (“Your podcast ain’t shit! Your family ain’t shit”). That fires up Tama, who delivers a Tongan Twist and a top rope splash for two. Cobb blocks a Gun Stun and turns a second attempt into a German, which sets up a Tour of the Islands.

Jeff Cobb defeats Tama Tonga via pinfall at 12:48

The takeaway: The slower and more measured style Tama typically employs (and which we just saw him use against Tanahashi) would have been a weird fit here, and Tama gamely changed things up, fighting from beneath with underdog spunk and speed. There was also a nice amount of logical progression within one single match here, as both men were able to counter moves their opponents had successfully delivered earlier in the match. The crowd got behind Tama as the underdog, perhaps building on sympathy from his split-second loss to Tana, and Cobb continued to look like an unstoppable beast, heading towards what will likely be a decisive B block finale with Kazuchika Okada.

EVIL (4 points) vs Chase Owens (0 points)

The too-sweets were delivered by both competitors and Dick Togo before the bell, but EVIL asks Owens to lay down for an easy two points. Owens slaps EVIL, though, and we’re off. Chase is initially in control with some fast striking, but a Togo leg grab gives EVIL to start playing the hits, with the requisite crash into the timekeeper’s table. “This is every EVIL match,” Kevin Kelly observes, and to continue the sense of deja vu Owens is sent into an exposed turnbuckle, with Togo having removed the padding off-camera, exactly as he did in EVIL’s previous match. Hell, it’s not even EVIL’s work that’s being carbon copied, it’s the camera direction as well. Chase tries to build some steam with a springboard elbow, but we’re quickly back to the floor for the usual Togo and guardrail BS. After EVIL applies the Darkness Scorpion on the outside and heads back into the ring, Togo pulls Owens back to the floor, nearly resulting in a count-out. EVIL hits Darkness Falls but Owens blocks Everything Is Evil, goes on offense, and gets a Jewel Heist. EVIL grabs Owens’ Texas Heavyweight Championship, distracting the ref for a Togo distraction spot, but Owens evades it and dispatches of Togo. Owens hits a spear and running knee (apparently now called a “C Trigger”), but Togo’s back for ANOTHER distraction, and EVIL hits a low blow and Everything Is Evil.

EVIL defeats Chase Owens via pinfall at 12:38

The takeaway: The first match EVIL has had against a fellow Bullet Club member since forming the House of Torture sub-faction suggests that we’re not in for any variation in the tired EVIL playbook even in these matches. Thus far in the tournament Owens has done a good job of bumping like mad for his opponents and delivering enough solid offense to justify his presence in the G1 even when his defeat is assured. There was very little of that here, with the usual EVIL match pace preventing any real run of work for Owens. I’m a bit of a G1 completist, having watched and rated every single tournament match since 2015, but were I not writing this card up I’d have been hard-pressed to focus on this for more than ten seconds at a time.

YOSHI-HASHI (0 points) vs Taichi (4 points)

Taichi decks YOSHI-HASHI before the bell after rubbing his tag title in the winless CHAOS member’s face. Guardrail spots, choking his opponent with cable, and a shove of the ref: it’s clear that Taichi’s recent spate of All Japan-influenced honor is having to take a backseat to the perpetual underdog saga of YOSHI-HASHI. Y-H gets angry and pays back the guardrail attacks in kind. After four minutes of on-the-floor action, Marty Asami actually begins a 20-count, and so back inside we go where Taichi re-establishes firm heel control, applying a Cobra Twist. A rana and neckbreaker gives YOSHI-HASHI some breathing room, but he’s unable to build up a sustained offensive sequence. A forearms and kicks exchange is nominally won by Taichi, and the pants come off. YOSHI-HASHI is worn down with a neck and arm submission targeting his injured shoulder. After a dueling lariat sequence Taichi powers through a dragon suplex, but YOSHI-HASHI follows it up with a Kumagaroshi, and applies the butterfly lock, which Taichi eventually counters into a Dangerous Suplex. The two exchange thrust kicks and YOSHI-HASHI counters a Black Mephisto with the same destroyer we saw him deploy against Cobb. A lariat sets Taichi up for Karma, and nets YOSHI-HASHI his first win of the tournament.

YOSHI-HASHI defeats Tachi via pinfall at 22:26

The takeaway: Like Tama Tonga, Taichi’s playing something of a switch-hitter in this tournament, and going back to his usual brand of Suzuki-Gun sadism was easy enough for him. That said, the rhythm of this match felt stilted and awkward throughout much of its duration. YOSHI-HASHI believers will likely enjoy the follow-up to his divisive spot in Wednesday’s main event, but in my opinion, he’s just not able to sustain the fluid, impressive, and hard-hitting offensive sequences G1 matches require (again, a failing that’s been masked in the fast-moving six-man tags he was occupied with before the tournament). Fifty minutes of YOSHI-HASHI singles action is a lot to get through in a three-day period. A win against Taichi likely signals another crack for YOSHI-HASHI and Hirooki Goto at Dangerous Tekkers’ tag team belts once the G1 is concluded.

Kazuchika Okada (6 points) vs Hirooki Goto (0 points)

The match starts with the usual Okada exchange of tie-ups, wrist locks, and rope breaks (Okada’s clean, Goto’s with a chop). A Goto shoulder block, hip toss, and lariat allow him to start working Okada’s neck, but a flapjack lets Okada take the match outside, drive Goto into the guardrail, and even wrench his neck against it. Like his CHAOS stablemate YOSHI-HASHI, Goto eats an Okada DDT to the floor for good measure. Back in the ring, Goto hits lariats and forearms, and a classic spinning heel kick/bulldog combo. Goto presses the advantage outside, before hitting a top rope elbow drop back in the ring, Okada replies with a neckbreaker and a dropkick and briefly tosses on the Money Clip before a quick rope break. Goto evades Okada’s elbow drop and hits his own draping neckbreaker and follows up with a big lariat and Ushigoroshi for two. Okada turns a GTR attempt into a short-arm clothesline, with both men looking pretty winded just after the fifteen-minute mark. Okada tries to finish things off with a jumping Tombstone but can’t follow through with the Rainmaker, and Goto handily moves from a side-Russian leg sweep into a nifty roll-up for a near fall. He hits a reverse GTR but Okada evades the traditional iteration thereof, fakes a kick, flips Goto over his head, and swiftly sits down, grabbing the legs for a roll-up win.

Kazuchika Okada defeats Hirooki Goto via pinfall at 17:57

The takeaway: This felt like the first two-thirds of a textbook high-profile Okada match, and while it never truly kicked into high gear was welcome enough after an undercard that failed to surprise. While Goto’s slide down the card has been a relatively steady one in recent years, I’m not sure that I’d have guessed he’d be going into his fourth match with no points at all, let alone a match where he was the clear underdog, and which he ultimately lost. Hell, Kevin Kelly even had a Freudian slip and called him YOSHI-HASHI after his defeat, but at least the latter has some points on the board. Ouch.

Hiroshi Tanahashi (4 points) vs SANADA (4 points)

Some simple trading of leg and neck holds initially finds neither man getting the better of the other, and at the five-minute mark, one gets the feeling this is either going Broadway or at least a shade away from it. Things open up with Tanahashi hitting some blows, a springing crossbody, and following it up with some air guitar. SANADA fights out of Tanahashi’s attempt at the Paradise Lock, applies one of his own, and even mocks Tana’s fretwork while he’s immobile, before grinding at Tana’s neck with a head scissors. Forearms and uppercuts are traded, with Tana selling the damage to the neck. Tana briefly gains the advantage, but a dropkick to the knees prompts SANADA to return one in kind to the Ace’s infamously damaged joints. Both men trade Dragon Screws as the mirroring of offense continues. After a second Dragon Screw, SANADA presses the advantage with a smooth arm drag, backbreaker, and plancha to the outside.

SANADA does his usual entreaty of the crowd for applause around the halfway mark, and actually seems a bit more enthusiastic while doing so, but after rolling Tana back into the ring, he’s swiftly hit with a pair of Dragon Screws by a rallying Ace. Tana goes for the cloverleaf but settles for another Dragon Screw, and counters a rana attempt by SANADA by grabbing his opponent from the air and finally getting the cloverleaf in a very cool spot. SANADA’s able to make it outside but Tanahashi pursues him with a plancha of his own. SANADA tries to hit a Neck Screw as both men return to the ring, but Tana’s able to hit two Twist and Shouts before SANADA’s able to successfully rewind the maneuver. Tana rolls out of a Skull End attempt, but SANADA swiftly hits a springboard dropkick and TKO. Tana evades the moonsault, but SANADA sets up the Skull End again – the transition into this was a bit awkward, but both men’s knees buckling worked given how much damage both had endured. Tana hits another Twist and Shout, then a Sling Blade for two before hitting Aces High. SANADA blocks the High-Fly Flow by getting the knees up, but again, the story is just how thrashed both men’s knees are. SANADA goes for the moonsault, and if you’ve been following along it’ll come as no surprise that Tanahashi blocks it with his own damaged knees.

Having exhausted their usual finishing sequences, both men resort to a standing strike sequence. After Tana hits the ropes, likely aiming for another Sling Blade, SANADA hits an O’Connor Roll for a close two, and Tana gets the same near pinfall via a bridging Dragon Suplex. Tanahashi climbs the ropes as a prone SANADA is unable to muster any strength in his legs, and the Ace delivers the High-Fly Flow for the pin.

Hiroshi Tanahashi defeats SANADA via pinfall at 25:36

The takeaway: SANADA’s had an impressive G1 showing thus far, and generally works well with Tanahashi, and my expectations for this were especially high after what had been a middling card up until this point. After a comparatively short semi-final, a main event time limit seemed a likely possibility here given that there hadn’t been much on the undercard to crow about. When you know a match is going long it can be easy to tune out from its opening portions, but the consistent mirroring of moves and targeting of knees kept me riveted to this match. After two roll-up wins (another of which was teased here), it was great to see Tanahashi gutting his way to a hard-fought High-Fly Flow victory, and SANADA kept up with the speed and execution of some pretty ambitious sequences. Fantastic stuff from both men in a worthy main event match.

Current G1 B Block Standings

Kazuchika Okada: 8 points
Jeff Cobb: 8 points
Hiroshi Tanahashi: 6 points
EVIL: 6 points
SANADA: 4 points
Taichi: 4 points
YOSHI-HASHI: 2 points
Tama Tonga: 2 points
Chase Owens: 0 points
Hirooki Goto: 0 points

Final Thoughts

As expected, the undercard of this show didn’t move the needle, and while Okada and Goto’s match was enjoyable, there wasn’t anything fresh or especially substantial about it. This really ended up being a one-match show, but that one match did me a world of good and has me feeling recharged about the tournament as it nears the midway point. If the Takagi vs Ishii and Tanahashi vs Okada main events from the first two nights of the tournament is still the G1’s consensus best matches thus far for precisely delivering on expectations, then I’d like to nominate the Sabre Jr. versus Shingo match and today’s main events as worthy runners-up for offering unique, out of the box stories.

As far as the overall B block is concerned, Cobb versus Okada for all of the marbles, without any last-day tie-breaker complications, is seeming more and more like a possibility. Of course, that wouldn’t at all jibe with traditional G1 booking, and it still seems likely that both men will suffer at least one defeat before then. But given how unstoppable both have seemed, the particulars of those losses should be interesting. Will either one come on Monday, as Cobb faces Taichi and Okada squares off against SANADA? I’ll be back then to let you know.

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