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NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING G1 CLIMAX 31 – DAY 10
OCTOBER 4, 2021
TOKYO, JAPAN AT KORAKUEN HALL
AIRED LIVE ON NJPWWORLD.COM
PROGRAMMING NOTE: This night’s event is free on njpwworld.com, and for those who want a glance in at the tournament as it passes the halfway point, this was a hell of an event to get for free.
(1) HIROSHI TANAHASHI vs. CHASE OWENS
Tentative opening. Owens worked a wristlock and Tana reversed, took Owens down and grounded him with a headlock. Owens pulled the hair to try to break, but Tana held on. Owens attempted a few different tricks to break, including rolling Tanahashi into a cover, but nothing worked. Tanahashi transitioned to a wristlock, and Owens reversed, kipped up and hit a dropkick. Owens pasted Tana with a couple of palm strikes, then whipped him to a corner. Tana hit a back elbow and a cross-body to take Owens down. Owens hit a back elbow and cross-body in the same fashion and mocked Tanahashi’s air guitar taunt. Dropkick to the knee by Owens.
Owens worked the left leg and dropped a knee on it. He trapped the leg and ground his fist into Tana’s knee. He threw some elbows at the knee as well and tried to wrap up Tana’s legs but had to break because Tanahashi’s legs broke the plane of the ropes. Tanahashi exploded out of a corner with an ax-handle to regain control and threw some forearms. Body slam by Tanahashi, who went up and hit a somersault senton from the second buckle for two. Tanahashi charged into a prone Owens, who quickly trapped Tana in an inside cradle for two.
Both guys missed some impact moves, and Owens hit the Jewel Heist for two. Owens tried something from the apron but Tana hit a dragon screw over the second rope, and a sling blade for two. Tanahashi went up and hit Aces High, then went back up for High Fly Flow, but Owens got his knees up. Both guys sold on the mat. Tana charged Owens in a corner but Owens moved, then rolled up Tana and put his legs on the ropes but only got two. Owens caught Tanahashi in a backslide for two at the ten minute mark. Tanahashi hit a wicked palm strike but Owens hit a V-Trigger, then another. Owens caught Tanahashi in the package piledriver(!!!) and got the one, two, three.
WINNER: Chase Owens at 10:58. (***)
(Wells’s Analysis: Owens had no points coming into this and Tanahashi isn’t the guaranteed top guy at the end that he used to be, but this still worked as a big-time shock to open the show. The match was fine enough, though there were some imperfect rollups and spots peppered in.)
(2) TAMA TONGA (w/Jado) vs. EVIL (w/Dick Togo)
The four did a Too Sweet before the match. Evil tried to trap Tonga during a handshake and Tonga took offense. He tried again but Tonga threw hands. Rope run and a chop took down Evil, who bailed. Dick Togo started trying to undo the red corner pad but Tonga spotted him and he backed off. Tonga hit some chops in the corner and set up Evil in the red corner, and he came in flying but Evil left with the pad and Tonga ate the steel corner. Evil dumped Tonga. Jado tried to get Tonga into it and also kept watch for Togo.
Back inside. Evil raked Tonga’s face and worked an abdominal stretch. Togo was going to make the assist but Jado walked him off. Tonga hit a few uppercuts but Evil hit one of his own that laid Tonga out. Evil slammed Tonga and covered for two. Evil raked Tonga’s face again and tried to charge Tonga into the exposed corner again, but Tonga put on the brakes, shoved Evil into it and took Evil down. Tonga hit a few body shots and an uppercut, then a trio of dropkicks. He fired up and the crowd clapped in time for him.
Tonga charged Evil into the exposed corner and hit a huge splash there. Tonga wanted the Tonga Twist but Evil raked his eyes and did the ref spot for a thrustkick that created some separation. Evil went for the Darkness Scorpion, but Tama Tonga reached up and clamped on a nerve hold to gain control, and he put his own scorpion death lock on Evil. Tonga threw some elbows and ran the ropes, but Evil caught Tonga and used the ref for a magic killer. He covered for two. Evil clamped on the Darkness Scorpion and held on until the ref got to four after Tama reached the rope.
Tama Tonga hit the Tonga Twist for two. Evil tried to confuse the ref’s attention but Tama hit a death valley bomb. Supreme Flow got two. Tama started to stalk Evil and he got the crowd roaring. The lights went out and when they came up, Dick Togo was choking Tama with his garrote while Evil had the ref bumped. Jado used the kendo stick on Togo to cheers. Evil hit a low blow on Tama and revived referee Kenta Sato for the three. We were shown that it was Sho, another member of Evil and Togo’s “House of Torture” subgroup within Bullet Club, who turned out the lights.
WINNER: Evil at 13:46. (***)
(Wells’s Analysis: Evil’s matches have been formulaic for a while now, but weirdly in this all-Bullet Club affair, it wasn’t quite so ridiculous and there was a good match really starting to get going when the gimmicky finish played out. We aren’t at nWo Wolfpac vs. Black and White yet, but I think it’s a matter of time.)
(3) TAICHI (w/Miho Abe) vs. JEFF COBB
Lots of pec-popping before the bell. Both guys moved in slowly and Cobb easily won a test of strength. He took Taichi to the ropes and made a production of his clean break. It happened a second time and this time Cobb feigned a punch, then went with another clean break. Cobb shoved Taichi to the mat when Taichi tried to back up to the ropes a third time. Taichi threw some kicks to the back of Cobb’s leg, and Cobb bailed. Taichi ran Cobb into a barricade and choked him with some camera cables. Back inside, Taichi choked Cobb in a corner and threw some more kicks to the back of his leg. Cobb came back with a palm strike and a forearm. Cobb caught a charging Taichi in the corner and he tossed him across the ring.
Cobb stomped Taichi and choked him in a corner. Cobb grounded Taichi on his stomach and surfed on his back for a few seconds. Snap mare by Cobb, who stood on Taichi’s chest and grabbed Taichi’s microphone and pretended to sing like Taichi does on his entrance. Cobb begged for a kick, got one, and splashed Taichi in a corner. Cobb rapidly ran Taichi from corner to corner, then dropped him and hit his chop-lariat spot three times. Cobb covered for a one count. Cobb taunted Taichi as he fought to his feet. Taichi tried to kick his way into it but Cobb laid him out. Taichi fought off a charge and hit a hook kick, and the two both sold for a bit.
Taichi recovered first and hit some knees to the head, then sidestepped a corner splash and hit an enzuigiri there. Taichi threw his pants. Cobb fought back and hit a dropkick. Cobb tried to set up Tour of the Islands and Taichi fought that off and hit another kick to the head to get a breather. Taichi threw some stiff kicks to Cobb’s chest and Cobb hit his feet and asked for another to the chest, but Taichi threw a kick to the back of the leg and laid out Cobb again. Taichi ran the ropes for an axe bombers but Cobb hit one instead, then Spin Cycle for two. Cobb attempted Tour of the Islands but Taichi fought him off. Taichi tried a side suplex but couldn’t manage. Cobb tried Tour of the Islands again and Taichi choked him to fight it. Taichi hit a Saito suplex for two and the audience was way into it.
Both guys tried big moves and Taichi trapped Cobb in the Gedo Clutch for two. The two exchanged big shots and Cobb laid out Taichi with a hard right. Cobb tried to set up Tour of the Islands again but Taichi hit the Axe Bomber. Taichi went for his finisher and missed, and Cobb hit a deadlift German and finally managed to hit Tour of the Islands.
WINNER: Jeff Cobb at 15:15. (****)
(Wells’s Analysis: An extremely well-told story with Taichi being the latest guy to try his hand at fighting off Tour of the Islands for as long as he can, but Cobb has too many ways to hit it. Cobb has rattled off five in a row but still has Evil, Sanada, Tanahashi and Okada to face down the stretch, so we’re ripe for things to tighten up soon. Taichi, for his part, continues to age like a fine wine)
(4) HIROOKI GOTO vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Goto, incredibly, is the first guy in the block to be out of the running to win. The two collided right at the bell and got going quickly. Hashi took Goto to a corner for a bevy of forearms, and Goto reversed and did the same. The two reversed this spot a few more times and each threw a palm strike. Hashi’s had more sizzle on it, and he leaned on Goto in a corner. Hashi whipped Goto, who exploded out of the corner with a block. Hashi went sprawling to the outside, and Goto followed and whipped him into a barricade, then charged but Hashi sidestepped it. Hashi put Goto into a barricade again and hit a neckbreaker on the outside with the ref getting deep into his count. Hashi got in at 16 and Goto reached the ring at 19.
Hashi threw some elbows on Goto’s back, then hit a snap mare and trapped him in a chinlock. Goto reached a rope to break. Goto hit his feet and tried to get something going, but Hashi hit a neckbreaker for two. Hashi draped Goto over the top rope and dropkicked him, then covered for two. Hashi hit a chop but Goto leveled him with a lariat and both guys sold on the mat. Goto hit a corner lariat and a backdrop. Spinning heel kick in the corner by Goto, and he hit a bulldog for two. The two guys collided for a couple of synchronized lariat attempts. Belly-to-belly suplex by Goto got two. Ushigoroshi by Goto. Reverse GTR got two for Goto. Hashi fought off GTR and hit his own big spot and both guys sold on the mat afterward.
The two got to their knees and threw some forearms. They got to their feet and continued the exchange. The pace ramped up and the two worked in some chops as well. Palm strikes were next and Goto hit the big one and Hashi staggered. Hashi caught a kick attempt and hit a headbutt. The two collapsed in pain again. Hashi hit double knees and rolled up Goto for two. Hashi tried to set up Kumagoroshi but Goto fought it off for a moment, but after a superkick, Hashi hit it for two. Hashi snapped on a sleeper and tried to transition to Karma, but Goto blocked and hit a headbutt. One more time the two fell to the mat.
Goto went for a kick and Hashi blocked, but Goto caught him in GTW for a long two. Yoshi-Hashi briefly evaded GTR, but Goto rattled off another slam and hit GTR to finally get on the board, one match too late for it to matter.
WINNER: Hirooki Goto at 17:58. (***3/4)
(Wells’s Analysis: Another inter-faction match is fought like a blood feud, and I’m all for it. Goto’s likely to end with just four or six points now, so I’m hoping he isn’t in his final G1 since his run of winning three in four years wasn’t really all that long ago, but this company isn’t hurting for talent. Yoshi-Hashi is in yet another banger of a match, and though I keep seeing people framing it as a partial carry job by the other guy, at some point – as vacant as he seems to be – it’s time to give him credit for his part in these matches)
(5) KAZUCHIKA OKADA vs. SANADA
I should probably just pre-type 29+ for the match length here, but I’ll refrain. Sanada has a huge hill to climb if he doesn’t beat Okada here, particularly with Cobb still unbeaten, but he wouldn’t be out.
Referee Red Shoes Unno played along with the crowd clapping, trying to figure out if the rhythm meant “Okada” or “Sanada.” The two got going slowly, as usual. Mat reversals followed by a wristlock by Sanada. Kevin Kelly pointed out that Okada has won 17 matches in a row at Korakuen Hall. More quick reversals and Okada grounded Sanada and trapped him in a brief leg submission spot, then transitioned to a headlock. Sanada powered out and the two reset again.
The two wrestled to the mat and Okada made a clean break, with his feigned palm strike taunt. The two ran the ropes and corners for position and Sanada hit a dropkick. Sanada nearly caught Okada in a Paradise Lock but Okada fought it off. After a missed Frankensteiner attempt by Okada, Sanada put him in the Paradise Lock and hit the dropkick and covered for two. Sanada worked a brief chinlock and Okada reached the rope to break. Sanada put a couple elbows to Okada’s back and hit a snap suplex. Back elbow by Sanada, who missed a standing moonsault to give Okada a brief opening. Rope run and Okada hit a back elbow.
Okada whipped Sanada to a corner, hit a back elbow and spiked him with a DDT for two. Okada worked a cravat into a neckbreaker and covered for two again. Okada trapped Sanada’s arms across his chest and Sanada stomped his way to the bottom rope to break. Okada ran the ropes for a basement dropkick that dumped Sanada to the floor. Sanada took a moment and crawled back in at 13 with Okada just waiting it out. Okada threw a couple of elbows and slapped the sides of Sanada’s head to try to wake him up. Okada went for a senton and Sanada slipped out of the way.
Sanada hit a dropkick after a rope run. He kipped up to cheers and leveled Okada with a forearm smash, an armdrag and a backbreaker. Okada bailed to the outside. Sanada floored him with a plancha. Sanada played to the crowd, then rolled Okada back inside and covered for two. Okada tried a couple of forearms to the back to get into it again, but Sanada dropkicked him. Sanada went up the corner but Okada popped up and dropkicked him to the floor. This time Okada followed him out and he hit a spike DDT on the floor as the match reached 15 minutes. The count got to 18 as Sanada got back into the ring.
Okada tried the Money Clip but Sanada fought him off. Sanada landed badly and the ref checked on him, kayfabe, and Okada shoved the ref out of the way and spiked Sanada’s knee to the mat twice. Okada worked into the Money Clip again and when Sanada got close to the ropes, Okada whipped him further to the center of the ring and reapplied. Sanada reached a rope, and Okada hit an elbow drop and did his Rainmaker pose. Sanada tried Skull End out of relative nowhere, and when Okada slipped out of it, Sanada hit a TKO for two. The match reached 20 minutes.
Sanada snapped on Skull End and added the legs. Sanada went up for a moonsault, and Okada started to move so Sanada landed on his feet, but he sold the bad left leg again. Okada tried a slam but Sanada kind of turned a Destino into Skull End. Okada fought his head free, but Sanada trapped him again. Okada tried to get to his feet and Sanada trapped him again. Okada started shaking his arm around and some people in the crowd gasped, thinking Okada was tapping.
Both guys went for impact spots and Okada hit a dropkick, then attempted a Rainmaker but Sanada hit a TKO again. Sanada went up and hit his moonsault, but sold the pain in his knee on the landing just long enough that he got a long two instead of three. The clock reached 25 minutes. Okada hit a backdrop and trapped Sanada for two. The two exchanged some impact attempts and Okada hit a dropkick but couldn’t follow up.
Both hit their knees and threw forearms. They got to their feet and exchanged forearms. Sanada hit a massive European uppercut. Shotgun dropkick and a German suplex by Okada. Rainmaker, reversed into an O’Connor Roll by Sanada for a very long two. Sanada fought out of a slam into another Skull End. More reversals. Another failed Rainmaker. Sanada tried Destino but Okada reversed into a slam, then hit the Rainmaker to finish.
WINNER: Kazuchika Okada at 29:15. (****)
(Wells’s Analysis: Again these two go nearly Broadway, as expected. Kevin Kelly asked if it was the best match of the tournament. It wasn’t, but it was a very good match with an incredible final couple of minutes. Sanada isn’t out of it, but it would take a run of wildly unlikely finishes for him to reach the finals again this year. I figured Cobb to possibly win out in the block with only Okada matching him, and nothing tonight made me believe otherwise.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: This block continues to bring it on all fronts, particularly with the Bullet Club antics being kept to a minimum and only used for effect, which makes those moments more meaningful. Guys are starting to fall out of the running, but we’re getting to the stretch run where upsets are common to the point of being expected, so there’s plenty of wrestling to go. I have one more recap for the final B Block show, and Zack Heydorn will hit you with the next show on the 7th. Cheers.