G1 Climax 31 Day 7 Report: Shingo Takagi vs. KENTA, Ibushi vs. Yano
By: Mark Buckeldee
Welcome to this POST Wrestling report for night 7 of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax 31.
These A Block reports are designed to make it as easy as possible for you to cherry-pick the best matches. To do that we have spoiler-free reviews for each match at the start of the report
G1 Climax 31 Night 7 is from Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, the smallest venue on the tour. This is the 53rd New Japan show at Korakuen Hall this year. Last year New Japan used the venue 41 times. Back in 2015 they only used the venue 24 times. The attendance for this show was announced as 689, which is more or less a sell-out with Korakuen Hall’s reduced capacity. It outdrew night 6, although funnily enough, it was 1 lower than the farewell show for Yuya Uemura & Yota Tsuji.
- BUSHI vs Yujiro Takahashi – A decent match, inoffensive but nothing special
- G1 Climax 31 A Block: Tomohiro Ishii vs Tanga Loa – Ishii played into Loa’s strengths. Very good on the Loa scale, sub-par on the Ishii scale.
- G1 Climax 31 A Block: Zack Sabre Jr vs Great O-Khan – My favorite O-Khan match. Great grappling and banter that showed a rarely seen side of O-Khan – RECOMMENDED
- G1 Climax 31 A Block: Kota Ibushi vs Toru Yano – The best Yano match in 2021, quick and fresher than usual thanks to Ibushi.
- G1 Climax 31 A Block: Shingo Takagi vs KENTA – Some early aggression and arm work/selling, let down by the closing stretch and the pacing
BUSHI vs Yujiro Takahashi
BUSHI splashed out on today’s mask, with its flashing eye alternating between red and yellow. It was like an exceptionally useless traffic light. This started with BUSHI jumping Takahashi with a dropkick before choking Takahashi with his T-Shirt. Takahashi had to rely on using Pieter as a human shield to gain control of the match. The Bullet Club member used a mix of brawling and impact moves to control his opponent.
BUSHI fought back with a head scissors and a basement dropkick before hitting a Tope Suicida. This led to a flurry of signature BUSHI offense, but Takahashi used his head (well, his teeth) to regain the momentum. BUSHI mounted a comeback, but the MX was countered when Takahashi swatted BUSHI out of the air with a clothesline. A strike exchange ended with a BUSHI dropkick but Takahashi hit the Olympic Slam. A Pimp Juice DDT was countered into a BUSHI roll-up, but Takahashi escaped and hit the Big Juice DDT to win the match.
Yujiro Takahashi pinned BUSHI via Big Juice (13:01)
This was a decent match. It was nothing special and did not need to go longer than 10 minutes but it was inoffensive. It was basic but nothing stood out as being bad. That said, nothing really stood out at all about this match.
G1 Climax 31 A Block: Tomohiro Ishii vs Tanga Loa
Tanga Loa showed his power by absorbing Tomohiro Ishii’s shoulder tackles at the start of the match. They had a long forearm exchange with Loa getting louder the longer it went on. Loa then attacked Ishii on the outside, ramming him back first into the ring post. He got a 2 count on Ishii with a senton atomico before applying a rough-looking chin lock. More impressive was Loa’s Exploder suplex. Ishii fought off a Loa suplex, countering with one of his own. He then hit a powerslam, but Loa countered a Lariat into a neckbreaker.
Ishii hit a German suplex, but Loa no-sold it and hit the Blue Thunder Bomb before locking in the Crossface. The match was back and forth, with Ishii hitting a 2nd rope superplex. Ishii rocked Loa with a forearm, but Loa hit a vicious short-range dropkick to counter the Sliding D. Loa and Ishii blocked each other’s Lariats before Loa took Ishii out with a Lariat and earned a near fall with a diving headbutt. Ishii fought back with a headbutt, but Loa earned another near fall with a sit-out powerbomb. Loa went for Apeshit but ate an Enziguri and a Lariat. They traded more Lariats before Ishii brought a headbutt to a Lariat fight. Loa hit a Spinebuster, but Ishii was one step ahead and won the match with a Brainbuster.
Tomohiro Ishii pinned Tanga Loa via Brainbuster (16:18)
This was easily one of Loa’s better singles matches. This was a simple Ishii formula match, but it made Loa look tough as he absorbed Ishii’s attacks. When he was on offense Loa lacked energy at times, but his big spots looked good. Ultimately though, this was both an above-average Tanga Loa match and a below-average Tomohiro Ishii match. Good but not much more than that. There have been, and will be more, better matches from Ishii in this G1.
G1 Climax 31 A Block: Zack Sabre Jr vs Great O-Khan
A battle of the unbeaten wrestlers in A Block. This started with Great O-Khan showing off his amateur wrestling background, as he grappled with Zack Sabre Jr. This was a great display of grappling, reminding you that O-Khan has this in his locker. O-Khan’s nose was busted open during this, and Sabre Jr was not afraid to mock O-Khan. That backfired when O-Khan applied an ankle hold, and both wrestlers’ bad tempers started to come into play.
They traded more trash talk, which led to Sabre Jr using his European Uppercuts, but he struggled to do much damage to O-Khan. Sabre Jr tried to show how hard he was, and it ended badly with Sabre Jr hurting his shoulder. So, the Brit tried to change tactics with kicks. When O-Khan seemed to have an answer to that Sabre Jr tried something else. O-Khan looked very sharp here, anticipating Sabre Jr repeatedly and forcing a rope break with an ankle hold. When O-Khan tried for a gut wrench suplex, Sabre Jr reversed it into a Sleeper hold and hit a Penalty Kick. O-Khan showed his toughness by kicking out at 1.
Sabre Jr applied a Guillotine Choke, but O-Khan countered that into an Iron Claw Cobra Twist. That was then transitioned into a series of Iron Claw-based submissions by O-Khan. Sabre Jr countered the Eliminator into a modified Octopus Stretch and managed to completely straighten O-Khan’s arm, forcing him to tap out.
Zack Sabre Jr submitted Great Okhan via How About These Legs? (15:26)
This was probably my favorite Great O-Khan match ever. It was honestly great, and the key was how it played into O-Khan’s strengths: His grappling and his trash talk. I had a suspicion that Sabre Jr was the guy who could get the most out of O-Khan, and it looked like I was correct. Sabre Jr completely complimented O-Khan and gave him the confidence to use hitherto underutilized aspects of his skillset.
This was not just dry grappling, as both wrestler’s cocky personalities did a great job here in keeping you interested. The way that O-Khan used the Iron Claw in the finishing stretch, and how he dropped his ropier-looking spots for this match was refreshing. This match should be a template for what O-Khan should aim for. His character work felt less goofy, and his in-ring work was both much more solid AND it felt different to most of the roster. While he can’t do this match against everyone, I am much more positive about O-Khan after this match than I was coming into it.
As for Sabre Jr, his style does not work for everyone, and I appreciate that. But for me, I think he could be my wrestler of the tournament at the rate he is going. He feels fired up and this feels reminiscent of his New Japan Cup run while being very different in terms of the matches that he is having.
G1 Climax 31 A Block: Kota Ibushi vs Toru Yano
Kota Ibushi had concerns about the contents of Toru Yano’s bag. It turns out that he should have been concerned about the bag itself, as Yano used said bag to repeatedly try to roll up Ibushi. Yano then used the bag to blind and the ring apron skirt to bind, nearly getting a count-out victory over Ibushi. Yano’s exposed turnbuckle was used against him and Ibushi nailed a Plancha. Yano tried to tape Ibushi’s legs together, but Ibushi was too strong. Ibushi anticipated Yano’s usual tricks, so Yano did the unexpected and used a chop block to set up a roll-up. That let Ibushi set up a Kami-Go-Ye to the back of the head. A standard Kami-Go-Ye was countered with a roll-up for a big near fall, but Ibushi was victorious with the Boma Ye and the Kami-Go-Ye. After the match, Ibushi decided to put the bag on Yano’s head, and the blindfolded Yano was helped to the back.
Kota Ibushi pinned Toru Yano via Kami-Go-Ye (4:03)
This was easily the best Yano match this year. The antics felt fresher than they have done since last year and things were kept short. Ibushi’s personality, explosivity, and facial expressions mean that he is probably one of Yano’s best regular opponents. If you wanted to watch a Toru Yano match from 2021, I’d say make it this one. If you don’t enjoy Toru Yano, then this will not change your mind.
G1 Climax 31 A Block: Shingo Takagi vs KENTA
Shingo Takagi and KENTA stared each other down before the match began. Unlike his other matches in the G1, KENTA did not immediately leave the ring. He had something to prove, and he brought it to Takagi as soon as the bell rang. They exchanged aggressive forearms and KENTA was quickly back to his feet after a shoulder tackle. KENTA used his kicks, and when Takagi seemed to gain some control KENTA locked in the GAME OVER on Takagi’s taped-up arm as a counter to the Sliding D.
KENTA focused his kicks on the bad arm, while also relying on his surroundings to do damage to the limited limb. KENTA was mercilessly attacking the arm, showing a lot of aggression and cunning as he repeatedly baited Takagi into position to better work over the arm. KENTA then mocked the fans by messing around with clap rhythms while still attacking the arm.
Takagi tried to fight back with his injured arm, but he only gained the advantage with a sneaky left arm DDT. He still tried to use his usual gameplan, but the arm clearly bothered him with every attack and every bump. The crowd was firmly behind Takagi but the Tornado neck snap, diving clothesline combination let KENTA get regain control. Takagi tried to hip toss KENTA to the outside, but KENTA again used his surroundings and dropped Takagi’s arm onto the steel turnbuckle.
KENTA used an apron-assisted Green Killer on the floor. Inside the ring, he earned a near fall with a Double Stomp. Takagi caught KENTA’s knee during a Go to Sleep and hit a nasty-looking DVD to turn the tide in his favor. KENTA got angry during a forearm exchange, so he hit a Lariat followed by a series of vicious palm strikes. Takagi got a near fall with a modified Made in Japan before faking KENTA out with a mocking slap. KENTA rescued himself by throwing referee Red Shoes Unno into Takagi’s path and then hitting a low blow after the ref bump. He then grabbed some chairs and hit the 1-man Conchairto onto Takagi’s injured arm. KENTA then locked in the GAME OVER right in front of Unno. Takagi managed to grab the ropes and then cut off a Busaiku Knee with the Pumping Bomber. The Go to Sleep was countered by a Dragon Suplex and Takagi tore the tape off his arm. H nailed a vicious Lariat that sounded like a gunshot and screamed in pain as he clutched his arm. Takagi then countered KENTA’s attempt to throw him into an exposed turnbuckle, the tactic that KENTA beat Tomohiro Ishii with, and pinned KENTA with the Last of the Dragon.
Shingo Takagi pinned KENTA via Last of the Dragon (23:56)
I loved the way that KENTA was focused on the start of the match. I really enjoyed KENTA’s arm work, and Takagi’s limb selling was great. Ultimately this was limited because it was 2021 KENTA, so the match had 2021 KENTA things. KENTA is a great douchebag heel, but he needs to have shorter matches. Instead, this felt meandering in the middle third and the finishing stretch with its ref bump, low blow, and exposed turnbuckles felt like trying to use the same old cheap tricks to hide KENTA’s limitations. You can have great cheating heavy heel matches in Japan. KENTA was actually in one of the best examples; his matches vs SUWA on 9/18/2005 is honestly a hidden gem from 2000’s NOAH. This was not that match. It was another example of a wrestler having limitations and New Japan relying on tired tropes to make the wrestler fit the match length, instead of the match length fitting the wrestler.
Low blow count – 1/5 matches
Ref bump count- 1/5 matches
People getting hit with sticks count – 0/5 matches
While there were some good matches, ultimately this felt like a 1 match card unless you want to see a good Toru Yano match. This show was a good lesson about playing to wrestlers’ strengths.
Kota Ibushi and the match length played to Yano’s strengths, and it was good.
Tomohiro Ishii worked to Tanga Loa’s strengths, and it was one of Loa’s singles better matches.
Zack Sabre Jr gave Great O-Khan someone who could let O-Khan showcase his grappling and it led to O-Khan’s best match and me having much higher hopes for the guy.
While it initially played to KENTA’s strengths, the match length ultimately dragged things down and hurt the match. To repeat myself, they made the wrestler fit the match length, instead of making the match length fitting the wrestler.
My feelings about this show all come down to O-Khan vs Sabre Jr, and time will tell if this was the beginning of O-Khan finding himself or a brief glimmer of hope that would be ultimately lead to nothing.