G1 Climax 31 Day 9 Report: Takagi vs. Ibushi, Ishii vs. ZSJ

Mark Buckeldee reviews Sunday's big A Block card featuring Shingo Takagi vs. Kota Ibushi and Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

Photo Courtesy: NJPW

G1 Climax 31 Day 9 Report: Takagi vs. Ibushi, Ishii vs. ZSJ

By: Mark Buckeldee

Welcome to this POST Wrestling report for night 9 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 9 is from Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in Nagoya. The attendance was 2,483, the highest attendance in the tournament so far. This is pretty close to last year’s biggest COVID era attendances in the venue and suggested that the Nagoya fanbase were willing to turn out in numbers for this card. This was the halfway point for the A block. The block is led by the unbeaten Zack Sabre Jr, tied on points with Great O-Khan but ahead due to Sabre Jr’s victory on night 7.

  1. Kosei Fujita vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru – A simple but focused rookie punishment match
  2. BUSHI vs Toru Yano – A basic Yano match, for all that entails
  3. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Great O-Khan vs KENTA –Some good banter but a good 10-minute match stretched out to nearly double that
  4. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Tanga Loa vs Yujiro Takahashi – A decent but often clunky match where they threw bombs at each other
  5. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Tomohiro Ishii vs Zack Sabre Jr – A great clash of power & will against speed & technique. Great chemistry, great selling from Ishii – RECOMMENDED
  6. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Kota Ibushi vs Shingo Takagi – A great story of Takagi trying to avoid Ibushi’s strikes that became a cracking match in the final stretch. Ibushi’s best G1 match this year – RECOMMENDED

Kosei Fujita vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru

Kosei Fujita started aggressively before getting slammed on the outside by Yoshinobu Kanemaru.
A series of aggressive slams set up a camel clutch by Kanemaru, but Fujita reached the ropes. Fujita tried to fight back but Kanemaru cut him off and continued to target the back. Eventually, Fujita hit a hip toss, a dropkick, and a shoulder tackle. A scoop slam set up the Boston Crab for Fujita, but Kanemaru quickly reached the ropes. Kanemaru ended the momentum with a kick to the face and an Enziguri, although Fujita kicked out of a vertical suplex. That was quickly followed by a Boston crab by Kanemaru and Fujita tapped out.

Yoshinobu Kanemaru submitted Kosei Fujita via Boston Crab (7:34) 

This was a simple, basic young lion match. There was some good fire and selling from Fujita, but his execution needed some work. Kanemaru did a good job with a very focused rookie punishment structure. This is exactly what you want from this type of match this early in a Young Lions career, but it’s nothing worth seeking out. 

BUSHI vs Toru Yano

BUSHI didn’t have a flashing eye on his over mask. I assume that he didn’t trust Toru Yano not to steal the more expensive stuff. Yano tried to use the bag trick that he used against Kota Ibushi, but BUSHI had a bag of his own and both wrestlers were blinded until the referee had enough. BUSHI tried to tie Yano to the guardrail with a towel, only for Yano to make it back into the ring.

As revenge Yano tied BUSHI to the guardrail using BUSHI’s mask strings. BUSHI was prepared as he pulled some scissors out of his boot to cut the strings. The masked man nearly won the match with a roll-up, except the referee had a bag on his head. So, Yano hit a low blow and rolled BUSHI up for the win.

Toru Yano pinned BUSHI via low blow (7:14) 

A fairly by the numbers Yano match focused on tying people up and putting bags on people’s heads. This was basic stuff from Yano, it didn’t go too long but it still felt stale and tired. BUSHI fit in well but didn’t bring much to the formula other than a pair of scissors. 

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Great O-Khan vs KENTA

Before the match, KENTA said that he wanted Great O-Khan to kiss his boot after he lost to KENTA. Great O-Khan started by overpowering KENTA on the opening lock-ups, so KENTA decided to play mind games by hiding under the ring and ambushing O-Khan. After some caginess O-Khan decided to channel Antonio Inoki and focused on ankle holds as he targeted KENTA’s left leg. O-Khan and KENTA tried to force each other to lick their boots, with O-Khan using a great counter to avoid licking leather.

KENTA escaped O-Khan’s head and shoulder hold by grabbing O-Khan’s braid and KENTA used a Yoshinari Ogawa-esque chin breaker to gain some space. O-Khan fought back with a Gourd buster and Mongolian chops before sitting on KENTA in the corner and twerking him over. KENTA kicked out of a bizarre pin attempt and escaped the Eliminator, hitting a DDT before punting O-Khan onto the ring apron for the Green Killer DDT.

There was a strike exchange that evolved into them trading big slaps, which was won by KENTA. They won over the fans with that. The Go to Sleep and Eliminator were escaped before the referee got squished. KENTA attacked O-Khan with a chair, put on O-Khan’s hat, and hit a chair-assisted double stomp. KENTA then grabbed a baseball bat, but O-Khan blocked it. The referee saw O-Khan holding the bat and KENTA used the confusion to roll O-Khan up for the win.

After the match, O-Khan teases kissing KENTA’s boots before hitting KENTA with the Eliminator.

KENTA pinned Great O-Khan via schoolboy (19:39) 

There were some good elements here. O-Khan’s submission work is some of his best stuff. The slap exchange was great, and the banter really added something. The character interactions between these 2 were probably the highlight of the match. Then again, this was dragged down by the slow pace, excessive length, O-Khan’s frankly unimpressive contrived spots and the closing stretch interference. I know it’s harsh, but it felt like KENTA was channeling the mind of Eddie Guerrero with the athleticism of Chavo Guerrero Jr. This was a good match, but modern KENTA just does not instill me with enthusiasm in a match this long and this was another example of O-Khan holding himself back with his bizarre move set. Like most KENTA matches in the G1, this would have been much better if they kept things down to 10 minutes. 

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Tanga Loa vs Yujiro Takahashi 

Tanga Loa had the power advantage as we got more Bullet Club vs Bullet Club too sweet shenanigans. Loa was in control, even busting out a standing Moonsault. After working over Yujiro Takahashi’s back, Loa hit the senton Atomico for a near fall. Loa dominated Takahashi until Takahashi hit the stun gun (not the gun stun) and a boot to the face. The fight back continued with a Tope Suicida, but Loa escaped a Fisherman’s Buster and hit the Blue Thunder Driver.

A reversal sequence ended with Takahashi hitting the Fisherman’s Buster. There was another slightly clunky counter sequence, ending with an Olympic Slam. Loa got a near fall with a sit-out Powerbomb as they tried to throw bombs at each other. Takahashi earned a near fall with the Miami Shine, but Loa countered the Big Juice with Apeshit to win the match. They hugged after the match. 

Tanga Loa pinned Yujiro Takahashi via Apeshit (12:36) 

This was an okay match, as two wrestlers with decent (at best) execution put on a counter heavy match full of bombs in the closing stretch. There was a lot of clunkiness in the closing stretch, but it was almost endearing at points. Both wrestlers do their best work with better opponents, so you knew this had a ceiling and it wasn’t far of hitting that ceiling. This was what you would expect from these two, except for the Loa Moonsault. That was very unexpected.

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Tomohiro Ishii vs Zack Sabre Jr

This started with a quick-paced series of counters and a very close European clutch from Zack Sabre Jr.  That led to lots of spikiness and striking as tempers were already high. Sabre Jr caught Ishii with a submission in the ropes and he took things from there, focusing on the right arm. Ishii tried to fight back with strikes, but Sabre Jr often had an answer. Sabre Jr also had plenty of quips, calling Ishii “sausage hands” at one point.  I loved the simplicity of Sabre Jr sitting on Ishii’s chest and just grinding his feet into the arm. Ishii eventually turned the tide with a big shoulder tackle. A running Guillotine choke by Sabre Jr was quickly countered into a belly-to-belly suplex.

Sabre Jr stopped the momentum with a sunset flip powerbomb and a Jujigatame and the crowd was very into this match. Ishii caught a Penalty kick and hit a big release German suplex. They exchanged quick counters, but the execution was so good that it didn’t look silly. Ishii and Sabre Jr continued to show their familiarity with each other, ending with Sabre Jr countering the Sliding D into a double armbar that forced Ishii to reach the ropes.

Ishii’s fingers were shaking as Sabre Jr and Ishii both mockingly kicked away at each other on the mat. That escalated into some vicious kicks from Sabre Jr, so Ishii attacked the leg and floored Sabre Jr with a massive forearm. They traded huge running strikes, with both men being down after an Ishii Lariat. Ishii countered a kick with a Lariat, stunning Sabre Jr for long enough to hit an Enziguri. That was followed by an Ishii Powerbomb for a 2 count. Another Sliding D attempt was countered by a crucifix pin for a Sabre Jr 2 count.

The Japanese leg roll clutch earned Sabre Jr a near fall and he followed that with a Brainbuster into a double wristlock. Sabre Jr kept ahold of the arm, transitioning into different submissions. When it looked like Ishii was going for a powerbomb, Sabre Jr tripped the ankle to keep Ishii grounded. Ishii’s response was to change position and stomp Sabre Jr in the face. Another flurry ended with an Ishii Lariat, and he tore off his shoulder support before hitting a Lariat and a Brainbuster for the surprise win. Ishii ended Sabre Jr’s winning streak by fighting through the pain.

Tomohiro Ishii pinned Zack Sabre Jr via Brainbuster (18:40) 

This was a great match. You can easily pick holes in it, with questions about Sabre Jr’s leg selling or the fact that it felt like they had better matches. The thing is, this show needed a good match at this point and these guys just delivered. They have great chemistry and here we got all of it. We got the aggression, the cockiness from Sabre Jr, Ishii’s toughness, and determination as well as his intelligence. There were some fantastic little touches from Sabre Jr, such as the way that he subverted the Triangle choke powerbomb counter by grabbing Ishii’s ankle. The thing that stuck out for me was the speed and the pace when they weren’t grappling. Both Sabre Jr and Ishii moved at a rapid pace at times, really keeping you on your toes. Their counterwork was slick but the right side of slick and ultimately this was another great showing for both Sabre Jr and Ishii. 

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Kota Ibushi vs Shingo Takagi

Shingo Takagi was very wary of Ibushi’s strikes at the start. He tried to gain control with his power, but Ibushi shut that down and relied on those strikes. A springboard dropkick only ended up giving Takagi enough momentum to hit a Pumping Bomber before Takagi clotheslined Ibushi to the outside. Takagi gained control by throwing Ibushi around on the outside. A big suplex took down Ibushi but Takagi followed it with a chin lock instead of a cover. Ibushi again used his strikes to fight back, although that was cut off with a backdrop suplex.

Takagi was clearly in control, using the Bryan Danielson elbows and a knee drop before mockingly rubbing his boot in Ibushi’s face. That woke up Ibushi, who absorbed Takagi’s punches and fired back with a fast-paced flurry of slaps and a hard middle kick. Takagi saw the danger and immediately used a front chancery to try and stop the momentum. Ibushi flipped out of a back suplex and used a Frankensteiner to set up a top rope springboard Moonsault to the outside. Takagi tried to cut off Ibushi but still fell victim to the powerslam-Moonsault combo. Ibushi evaded one Takagi staple, only to fall victim to another by getting caught with the DVD.

They traded suplexes before a heavy strike exchange full of thudding kicks and chops. Takagi ended that by using a Dragon Screw, but Ibushi kicked his way out of a Figure Four. This led to a flurry of big attacks, with a great visual as a smiling Ibushi thought he had downed Takagi only to get clattered in the back of the head.

Both wrestlers fought for control on the top rope, with Takagi winning that with a Superplex. Takagi called for the fans, with Ibushi blocking the Pumping Bomber but not the Yukon Lariat. There was a fantastic Made in Japan near fall, one of the best that Takagi has hit this year. Ibushi used desperate knees to block the Last of the Dragon and speed to dodge a Sliding Lariat.

An Ibushi Boma Ye connected, followed by a sit-out Last Ride for a big near fall. Takagi crossed his arms to stop the Kami-Go-Ye, hitting a Kami-Go-Ye style headbutt and a big knee strike to down Ibushi. A Pumping Bomber turned Ibushi inside out, but Ibushi still kicked out. A standing Lariat and repeated forearms rocked Ibushi, but he fought back with a huge slap and a big high kick. That was followed by a Kami-Go-Ye for a near fall and an audible roar from the crowd. Takagi blocked the Kami-Go-Ye, but the Last of the Dragon was countered with a reverse Rana. Ibushi then hit the reverse Kami-Go-Ye and then the regular Kami-Go-Ye to win a cracking match.

Kota Ibushi pinned Shingo Takagi via Kami-Go-Ye (23:57)

This was a great match and a great main event. This honestly felt like Ibushi back on top form. I loved the story of Takagi being concerned about Ibushi’s striking, and that proving to be the difference-maker. It was a slow but engaging build, which sounds weird considering that we had a springboard dropkick in the first 5 minutes. By the time that we reached the finishing stretch, the crowd was molten and the action was red hot. Takagi did a great job of being both the dominant champion, the cagey veteran and the fiery fan favorite. Ibushi had his best showing of the G1, with great athleticism, facial expressions, and his usual selling. The finishing stretch felt familiar but also very fresh within places. This just got me pumped up and will be up there as one of the best matches in this year’s G1 for a lot of people. 

Show Summary 

Low blow count – 1/5 matches

Ref bump count- 2/5 matches

People getting hit with sticks count – 0/5 matches 

As with most A Block shows, this was a poor undercard that was elevated by the last 2 matches. Both of those matches were great and well worth taking the time to watch. Each pairing had great chemistry with each other. The Sabre Jr vs Ishii match felt fresher than I expected due to the sheer pace they were going in some places, with some really great little touches and Ishii’s incredible aura and toughness making you root for him. The main event was full of great, hard-hitting action but it also had a clear story of Takagi being concerned about Ibushi’s striking. It had maybe the hottest finishing stretch of this year’s G1, in front of the largest and hottest crowd of the tournament so far.

Ultimately this is well worth it for the last 2 matches but that should not be a surprise when those matches contained the 4 best wrestlers in the block.

About Mark Buckeldee 60 Articles
Hailing from Oxfordshire in the UK, Mark Buckeldee writes show reports for POST Wrestling.