SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING G1 CLIMAX 31 – DAY 14
OCTOBER 12, 2021
SENDAI, JAPAN AT XEBIO ARENA SENDAI
AIRED LIVE ON NJPWWORLD.COM
(1) RYOHEI OIWA vs. HIROMU TAKAHASHI
The show kicked off with Hiromu taking Oiwa to school. Most of this match featured Takahashi aggressively slapping and checking Oiwa in the chest, while Kevin Kelly told the story of Hiromu’s time as a young lion, where he hadn’t been as receptive to the teachings of his elders, nor the process until Tetsuya Naito took the Time Bomber under wing. A dropkick from Oiwa was futile as Hiromu simply moved out of the way twice. Hiromu continued the chest slaps, until Oiwa finally hit the desired dropkick and a few forearms as well for good measure. Oiwa, back and chest aching nailed a bodyslam for a two count.
Hiromu returned to the chest chops, then cranked on a Boston Crab for the submission.
WINNER: Hiromu Takahashi by submission (Boston Crab) in 7:16 (**)
(Fann’s Analysis: Kevin Kelly’s usage of Hiromu’s training as the backdrop for why Takahashi was so aggressively vicious with Oiwa was a great coloring of the match. Oiwa looked overmatched from the start, but Takahashi screaming “ganbatte” mid chops served as a reminder the goal was to see Oiwa’s heart, not his ability to win.)
(2) TAMA TONGA (w/JADO) vs. TAICHI (w/Miyo Abe) – Block B Match
Taichi was almost at ‘98 DDP level with the rib tape and the consequential selling, but not as judicious with the tape job, so Tama Tonga’s focus on the ribs was a smart move here. Right off the bat, Taichi took the match outside, and threw Tonga into the guard rail, and choked the Bullet Club member with cable from the announce area. After each move, however, Taichi went back to adjust/sell his ribs.
Tonga then got a few shots to the ribs on Taichi, and Taichi went for a choke, which caused the ref to step in. After an Irish whip, Tama Tonga hit a strike to Taichi’s ribs, then placed Taichi in a recliner. After a rope break, Tonga took Taichi outside and returned the favor – and sent Taichi into the guard rail, which Taichi sold like death.
Back in ring, Tonga took control with a body scissors. Taichi tried to respond with a kick, but his body gave out with the exertion and collapsed to the mat. Taichi missed a frog splash, but then hit an axe bomber. Taichi hit a second, but Tama Tonga hopped up. Taichi stopped a Gun Stun and hit a backdrop suplex, but Tonga ducked a Black Mephisto and countered with a death valley bomb. Tonga then hit a frog splash, then a delightful Gun Stun for the pinfall.
WINNER: Tama Tonga by pinfall (Gun Stun) in 12:58 (***3/4)
(Fann’s Analysis: This was one of my favorite B block matches – not only today, but in the whole G-1. Tama Tonga has had a really strong G-1 and I’ve been reviewing mainly the A block so I haven’t had a chance to extend the praise he richly deserves. Taichi has been good as well, and this match leaned a lot into the tweener state that he and ZSJ have been in the tournament, and overall in New Japan. Even after the match, Taichi was okay with Miho helping him, but when the ref checked on his ribs he shoved the dude almost into the crowd.)
(3) YOSHI-HASHI vs. SANADA – Block B Match
The pair opened with a wrestling sequence to kick the match off. Yoshi-Hashi had the advantage early, then Sanada nailed a dropkick. Yoshi-Hashi maintained in the first five minutes or so the aggressor role, both inside and outside of the ring – which his drop toe hold onto the barricade of Sanada the exclamation point.
Sanada wasn’t going away without a fight however, as he reversed a neckbreaker attempt and hit an atomic drop and his paradise lock. Sanada missed a plancha outside, but Yoshi-Hashi hit a plancha instead. As the match got more intense, both men teased their secondary moves (TKO for Sanada / senton bomb for Yoshi-Hashi) and both continued to counter.
Yoshi-Hashi tried for Kharma, but Sanada countered into a TKO. When Sanada tried to follow with a moonsault press, Yoshi-Hashi got his knees up. As Sanada struggled, Yoshi-Hashi went for another senton bomb, but Sanada in return got his knees up.
The pair began a slugfest mid ring. Yoshi-Hashi went for a dragon suplex, but Sanada flipped through it. The pair traded near falls until Sanada hit another TKO, then his moonsault, and locked in Skull End for the tap out.
WINNER: SANADA by submission (Skull End) in 17:35 (***1/2)
(Fann’s Analysis: This was really fun. Yoshi-Hashi as the aggressor instead of the plucky underdog was good to see, and Sanada post his Okada match has again proven he can bring it in the G-1 when motivated. This was a match I’d looked forward to if only to slander Yoshi-Hashi. I cannot. Dude was good.)
(4) KAZUCHIKA OKADA vs. CHASE OWENS – Block B Match
This match was a case of Okada taking an opponent a bit too lightly, and had to add a gear to get the win.
After a lockup, Okada and Owens exchanged some off the rope shoulders. Okada then went into his mid-match elbow and neckbreaker, but after the neckbreaker Owens got his knees up for the elbow. Owens then tried to fight back, and really, despite the crowd (and viewers) being sold on Okada’s dominance, got several believable near falls.
Owens got out of a Rainmaker with several v-triggers, then tried a final v-trigger which Okada reversed into German suplex with the wrist control. The subsequent Rainmaker was blocked, as was an Okada dropkick. Owens went for a package piledriver, but Okada backdropped his way out.
Okada then moved into his shiftier methods of hitting his first Rainmaker – this time via a backslide, but Owens ducked again, kicked Okada and then hit another v-trigger. Okada again fought out of a package piledriver, and used his Money Clip to drain Owens enough to hit a tombstone piledriver.
Again Owens went for the piledriver, but Okada instead hit a backbreaker and then the Money Clip for the quick submission.
WINNER: Kazuchika Okada by submission (Ape Sh*t) in 15:37 (***1/2)
(Fann’s Analysis: Owens’ victory over Tanahashi, and the looming mathematics of what a late loss would do to an upcoming matchup with Jeff Cobb was great suspense. Okada had the air of a man that was in the zone, but almost had a “trap match” with the Bullet Club member. The way with which he dispatched Owens with the Money Clip was a solid finishing sequence. Definitely one of the better Chase Owens singles matches in the man’s career.)
(5) EVIL (w/DICK TOGO) vs. HIROOKI GOTO – Block B Match
This was an Evil highlights matchup. Kevin Kelly’s disgust as the nature of the cheating by Evil, coupled with no one somehow catching him was both hilarious and on point.
Evil had not only a timekeeper bump, but several ref bumps, interference by Dick Togo via outside, and Togo’s garrote on Goto. And if that wasn’t enough, Evil then grabbed the unconscious Goto and slammed him with Everything is Evil for the win, despite the referee being yanked out prior to the assault by Togo. Absolutely madness.
WINNER: Evil by pinfall (Everything is Evil) in 14:16 (***)
(Fann’s Analysis: Evil prior to this Bullet Club run had been one of my favorite wrestlers in New Japan. Now, the House of Torture is a torture to watch. The over the top interference, the disrespect for the referee and all forms of logic, and the wanton usage of just crap booking has not helped him. The only solace I had was the timekeeper being the realest dude, holding the stopwatch AND the United States title as he careened to the floor. Dedication like that needs to be highlighted.)
(6) JEFF COBB vs. HIROSHI TANAHASHI – Block B Match
Main event time.
Cobb and Tanahashi’s story was that of a power guy who had a way out of Tanahashi’s moves – and Tanahashi as the wily vet that had counters for the counters. Really strong match.
After their initial lockup, Tanahashi realized that despite his flowing abs, the power Cobb brought to the table. After getting Tana on the ground however, Cobb nailed a standing moonsault, as if to show Tanahashi that there was more to the game of the big man than just that power.
Cobb got too big for his britches however when he tried for a deadlift suplex from the ring to the outside, but Tanahashi pulled away and hit a dragon screw leg whip, which caused Cobb to tumble outside. Cobb staggered around as Tanahashi hit a stupendous High Fly Flow to the outside, going chest to chest mid air with the big man. Cobb barely beat the count, then came into the match and ate a sling blade. Cobb raised his knees to counter a High Fly Flow, which left both men screaming in pain.
Tana and Cobb were both annoyed the other person was still breathing, and threw some amazing shots as they got to their feet. Tana went for another standing High Fly Flow but Cobb caught him and nailed an F5. Cobb went for a Tour of the Islands, but Tanahashi snatched a cradle for a 2.8 count. Cobb hit Croyt’s Wrath and then a Tour of the Islands for the win.
WINNER: Jeff Cobb by pinfall (Tour of the Islands) in 23:57 (****1/2)
(Fann’s Analysis: Undefeated Cobb vs. Undefeated Okada is still an option. Both Tanahashi and Cobb had a banger here – the screams of Cobb and Tanahashi after Cobb’s knees were up for a High Fly Flow were visceral. Both men had a goal of making this a memorable main event in their first meeting and they delivered.)
Overall thoughts (8.5): This was a great show. I had issues with the Evil – Goto match, but everything else was top notch. The main event was comparable to any prior G-1 banger main event, even with just applause from the crowd. Owens – Okada was good, and of course check out my sneaky favorite Taichi – Tonga.
Contact Rich at PWTDive@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/rich_fann.