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NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING G1 CLIMAX 31 – DAY 5
SEPTEMBER 26, 2021
KOBE, JAPAN AT KOBE HALL
AIRED LIVE ON NJPWWORLD.COM
(1) KOSEI FUJITA vs. MASTER WATO
The show kicked off with Kosei Fujita and Master Wato. Kevin Kelly noted that Master Wato was using this match as a tune up for the Best of Super Juniors tournament, while Fujita was on a quest to prevent another blowout loss ala Fujita’s prior match with Sho.
Wato took advantage of the match, and in a rare show of cockiness took time to pose while locked up in a hold on Fujita. Wato then transitioned to a Boston Crab, which after a short struggle was enough to end the match almost two minutes faster than the Sho loss.
WINNER: Master Wato by submission (Boston Crab) in 6:21 (**)
(Fann’s Analysis: Wato going from a high angle to the old school crab, coupled with his cockiness, seemed to be a little brother matchup between a former young lion and a current young lion. Fujita, while raw, has been really good in the limited offense he gets in. Looking forward to seeing how much growth he shows over the next few months.)
(2) YUJI NAGATA vs. SHINGO TAKAGI – SPECIAL SINGLES MATCH
This is a special match to account for the loss of Tetsuya Naito on the Block A side. Both men started with a series of hold exchanges which elicited a round of applause from the crowd. Takagi attempted another go around, but Nagata instead slapped the IWGP Heavyweight champion.
As the match continued, Nagata focused on the arms of Takagi to remove the lariat from Shingo’s game. Kevin Kelly likened Takagi to a tired pitcher after his last match in the G-1 (the Sabre Jr. win), with ice packs on both arms, which lent credence to the Nagata arm focus. Shingo in turn focused on the legs of Nagata with dragon screw leg whips. Shingo ate a top rope exploder for a really strong near fall, then spiked Nagata with a back suplex to prevent a back drop hold from Blue Justice. Both men then staggered back up and traded forearm shots. Nagata swapped forearms for slaps and an enziguri, but Shingo returned fire with a sliding lariat. After a Pumping Bomber, Nagata fell victim to Last of the Dragon.
WINNER: Shingo Takagi by pinfall (Last of the Dragon) in 16:51 (***3/4)
(Fann’s Analysis: After getting stretched by Sabre Jr., this was both a great recovery matchup, as well as a fantastic match on its own. Nagata might not be G-1 worthy in the eyes of the company anymore, but this was an epically fun matchup that had the crowd locked in. Post match, Shingo said that he’d bring this crowd Naito vs Shingo when they could.)
(3) YUJIRO TAKAHASHI (w/PIETER) vs. GREAT-O-KHAN – Block A Match
Yujiro wanted no part of O-Khan on the mat, so this match turned into a brawl, with the pair’s fight spilling outside. At the 19 count, O-Khan made it back into the ring.
Great-O-Khan may have dealt with back spasms, per Kevin Kelly commentary, which opened the door for Yujiro to get near falls via a bodyslam and a leg drop. O-Khan fought through the back pain to drop Yujiro with a back suplex. The pair got into a chop exchange, with O-Khan snatch of a belly to belly stopping the stand up fight. On the mat, O-Khan transitioned into a head and arm choke, but Yujiro got under the rope to force a break.
Yujiro got Miami Shine, but O-Khan kicked out. O-Khan would counter Yujiro’s new finisher Big Juice and hit his Eliminator for the win.
WINNER: Great-O-Khan by pinfall (Eliminator) in 14:15 (***)
(Fann’s Analysis: A little longer than I thought it would go, but a good match. I love the usage of a new finisher in a G-1 or New Japan Cup to illustrate how serious a wrestler is taking the tournament. Really appreciated how hard Yujiro worked in this match, and O-Khan was a strong foil.)
(4) TORU YANO vs. TANGA LOA (w/JADO) – Block A Match
Trickeration A Block edition.
Both wrestlers went the half and half route – no too cheat-y and not too wrestling focused – and as a result we were treated a meh match. Pre-match, Yano had a bag of tricks, which the referee emptied and was filled with handcuffs and tape. Loa used the hockey fight method of distracting Yano (the old ‘shirt over the head’) and tried to win by count out, but Yano got in before the 20 count.
Both men then had a bit of a brawl, with Yano going for a turnbuckle to expose. Yano tried to slingshot Loa into the buckle, and the referee stopped the master thief from hitting a low blow. While this happened Jado got into the ring with a kendo stick. Yano got the stick, and used the chaos of the referee’s clearance of the ring to low blow Loa and win via the schoolboy.
WINNER: Toru Yano by pinfall (Schoolboy) in 10:06 (**)
(Fann’s Analysis: This wasn’t as bad as I thought it could be with cheating and shenanigans, but definitely not on the “must watch” list. Tanga Loa looked fired up in a singles match, so I’m hoping as the G-1 continues less Yano and more Loa is the play in terms of quality cheating in the tournament.)
(5) TOMOHIRO ISHII vs. KENTA – Block A Match
Kenta tried to get a rise out of Ishii, but when that didn’t work, bailed to the outside. Kenta returned to the ring and feigned leaving again, but Ishii grabbed him by the hair back into the ring for a shoulder block. Both men then exited the ring, where they brawled and threw each other into the barricades.
Kenta spent the rest of the match focused on Ishii’s arm, and as the match progressed Game Over seemed to be the focus for Kenta’s assault. Kenta also removed the turnbuckle padding to the consternation of the referee. Finally, Kenta was able to lock Game Over in on Ishii, who screamed his way to the ropes to break the submission. Kenta hit a knee, then tried for GTS, but Ishii escaped. Ishii hit a german suplex to counter yet a PK attempt. Kenta snuck out of a sheer drop brainbuster, and threw Ishii into the exposed buckle. Kenta then got the victory with a trunks-filled pinfall.
WINNER: Kenta by pinfall (Schoolboy) in 21:08 (***3/4)
(Fann’s Analysis: Really good match. Kenta and Ishii was going to be a solid match, sure, but this was something a bit more. I loved the sequence and focus of going for Game Over to break Ishii, but the Pitbull wasn’t having it. Ishii’s loss, while surprising, also opens the door for a comeback late in the G-1.)
(6) ZACK SABRE JR. vs. KOTA IBUSHI – Block A Match
Main event time.
After the opening bell, Sabre escaped the first few exchanges cleanly. When Ibushi tried to do the same, Sabre mushed him in the face. In response, Ibushi went for a high kick, but Sabre bailed to the outside.
Back in the ring, the pair spent the next few minutes going after body parts – Sabre focused on Ibushi’s arm, and Ibushi on Sabre’s leg. The action went outside again for a little while, where Sabre stomped on the arm of Ibushi.
Back in the ring Sabre continued the assault on Ibushi’s arm. Sabre kicked Ibushi several times in the arm, and then locked the arm in until Ibushi got to the ropes. Ibushi fought through and hit a German suplex and a slam. An attempt at a moonsault to follow up post-slam, but ZSJ kicked Ibushi in the legs, which dropped Ibushi like a rock. Sabre then hit a PK and a jackknife for a 2.7 count. Sabre then slipped an ankle lock on to break Ibushi down, but Ibushi got a break with palm strikes to the chest.
After Ibushi’s attempt at a Kamigoye was blocked, and Sabre locked in Clarky Cat for the win.
WINNER: ZSJ by submission (Clarky Cat (Bad Balloon Remix) ) in 19:55 (****1/2)
(Fann’s Analysis: Like his New Japan Cup from a few years ago, this G-1 is the ZSJ vs the world special. Ibushi is still working back from his illnesses, and the old Ibushi came out to play with the “bendy man”. As the tournament continues, Sabre will be in a predicament – is this a true welcome to the top stretch or will ZSJ’s hubris bring him low late? Can I dream of a Dangerous Tekkers G-1 final? Too soon to say.)
Overall thoughts (8.0): Solid A block card. The replacement G-1 special between Shingo and Nagata was pretty solid, and overall the evening was a strong one for quality matchups late. You can avoid the Yano-Loa match.
Contact Rich at PWTDive@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/rich_fann.