G1 Climax 31 Day 17 Report: The A Block Final from Yokohama Budokan

Mark Buckeldee's review of Monday's A Block Final of the G1 Climax featuring Kota Ibushi vs. KENTA in the main event.

Photo Courtesy: NJPW

G1 Climax 31 Day 17 Report: The A Block Final from Yokohama Budokan

By: Mark Buckeldee

Welcome to this POST Wrestling report for night 17 of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax 31. This was the last A Block show. It came from Yokohama Budokan in Yokohama, in front of 874 fans. That makes it the fifth show on this G1 tour to have fewer than 900 fans in attendance, and only two of those have the excuse of COVID restrictions.

  1. Satoshi Kojima vs Great O-Khan – A good, compact match with little goofiness from O-Khan. A standard 2020’s Kojima singles match.
  2. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Tomohiro Ishii vs Toru Yano – A good Yano match with clever use of pinning combinations and a better balance of action and goofiness.
  3. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Shingo Takagi vs Yujiro Takahashi – An okay match with a bad finish.
  4. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Zack Sabre Jr vs Tanga Loa – A great match with Loa’s power against Sabre Jr’s speed and technique. Another good showing from Loa – RECOMMENDED
  5. G1 Climax 31 A Block: Kota Ibushi vs KENTA – A good match with some good stuff but inconsistent and excessively used tropes and multiple botches during big spots brought this down for me. 

Satoshi Kojima vs Great O-Khan  

Kojima was jumped by O-Khan as soon as he stepped into the ring, with O-Khan using Mongolian chops before the obligatory “throw your opponent into the guardrails” segment. O-Khan repeatedly slammed Kojima in mocking fashion, trying to show that he was above the veteran. A gut wrench suplex earned a two count for O-Khan. Kojima fought back with machinegun chops and a diving elbow drop. They traded chops and forearms, an exchange that was won by Kojima. That was followed by a DDT on the apron by Kojima.

Kojima tried to hit a Koji Cutter, but Great O-Khan countered with the Stroke. Kojima escaped a German suplex with a Koji Cutter, which saw O-Khan do a ridiculous, almost Rock-esque bump. A Brainbuster earned Kojima a near fall before O-Khan fought back with an Ippon-Zeoi. O-Khan applied the claw to Kojima, only for the veteran to escape and hit a Lariat to the back of O-Khan’s head. Somehow O-Khan hit Kojima with a Lariat of his own. Kojima blocked the Eliminator and won a double Lariat exchange, only for O-Khan to reverse another Lariat into the Eliminator to win the match.

Great O-Khan pinned Satoshi Kojima via Eliminator (10:25) 

This was another good match from Great O-Khan. It was one of those comfortable, compact matches that you always get from Kojima these days. That’s not a criticism, as he always delivers good matches although they can be formulaic. This was O-Khan plugging himself into the Kojima formula, but it worked.  

I appreciated that O-Khan didn’t use his goofier moves and focused more on using slams and power moves. Then again, he channeled most of that goofy energy into his Koji Cutter bump, and I hope that The Stroke is the only Jeff Jarrett-ism that creeps into his work. O-Khan is not the finished article, but he showed a lot of promise and flexibility in the G1. He has a lot of potential. The problem is, we said the same thing about EVIL and SANADA. 

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Tomohiro Ishii vs Toru Yano

Yano repeatedly put things over Ishii’s head at the start of this match. First the blindfold, then a scarf, and finally Ishii’s shirt. They brawled around the outside and Yano fled under the ring. Ishii didn’t fall for it and rolled back into the ring, lobbing a corner pad at Yano when he appeared with handcuffs and tape. The Stone Pitbull dominated Yano, chopping away at his former tag team partner. After Ishii repeatedly yelled at him, Yano brought it with some forearms, and he no-sold a suplex before hitting a pair of throws and a belly-to-belly suplex.

Yano withstood an Ishii shoulder tackle but got hit with a German suplex. Yano used some crafty counters to get a pair of near falls with roll-ups. Ishii went headfirst into an exposed turnbuckle, but he kicked out of Yano’s schoolboy. Yano repeatedly tried to use low blows, but Ishii anticipated them. He didn’t anticipate Yano countering a sliding Lariat into a crucifix pin, which earned Yano a near fall. Yano kicked out of a Lariat, escaped a Brainbuster, and won the match with a low blow-assisted backslide.

Toru Yano pinned Tomohiro Ishii via Backslide (11:08)

This was a good mix of Yano’s humor and Ishii’s serious side. Ignoring his sillier side, Yano has a lot of creativity with his pinning combinations, and it was genuinely exciting stuff at times. This was a good match but nothing special or memorable. The problem with Yano is that we’ve seen this so many times over the years. Yano has been in 16 G1 Climaxes, tied with Masahiro Chono. Only Hiroyoshi Tenzan (21), Hiroshi Tanahashi (20), and Yuji Nagata (19) have wrestled in more G1 Climaxes than Yano.

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Shingo Takagi vs Yujiro Takahashi 

The match started with Takahashi hitting Takagi with an unexpected tope. Takagi soon took control. When the match returned to the outside Pieter distracted Takagi and Takahashi attacked Takagi with his stick. Back in the ring, Takahashi was now in control using suplexes and clotheslines. Takagi blocked the Miami Shine and effortlessly regained control.

Takahashi bit Takagi’s hand but Takagi returned the favor and hit the Noshigami. Takahashi used a Hotshot, a big boot, and a scary-looking Olympic slam on Takagi to get momentum back in his favor. The Miami Shine earned Takahashi a two count. Takagi repeatedly avoided the Big Juice DDT and hit a Pumping Bomber. Takahashi got caught with the Made in Japan for a two count. The Last of the Dragon was blocked when Takahashi bit Takagi’s hand and the action spilled to the outside for the third time in the match. That led to a bizarre count-out spot which felt like Takahashi might have been too late trying to drag Takagi out of the ring. Takahashi then hit the Pimp Juice DDT on the floor. Takagi hit the Last of the Dragon on the floor, but Takahashi grabbed Takagi’s leg before he could make the twenty count. The match ended with a double count-out.

Shingo Takagi vs Yujiro Takahashi went to a double count out (13:36)

What was that finish?! I get that they needed to eliminate Takagi and didn’t want him to lose to Takahashi. The match made it clear that Takagi was on another level to Takahashi. So, the finish made sense that way. The execution was just off. The match going to the outside three times felt weird. It would also have been much more effective without the count-out tease immediately before it.

Ignoring the finish, this was Takagi wrestling on autopilot and still looking so much better than Takahashi. It was an okay match with a poor finish. Unless there are more restrictions by the time of the 2022 G1 Climax, this needs to be Takahashi’s last G1 Climax.

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Zack Sabre Jr vs Tanga Loa

Sabre Jr charged Loa when the bell rang, repeatedly hitting Loa with big boots and using a Minoru Suzuki-esque go behind to lock in an Octopus Stretch. That energetic start soon ended when Loa took Sabre Jr down with a shoulder tackle. Loa tried to throw Sabre Jr around on the outside, but Sabre Jr used his submissions before Loa countered a Cobra twist with a hip toss. Sabre Jr was slammed on the floor and suplexed onto the apron. That suplex on the apron broke the referee’s count, which felt completely inconsistent compared to the count-out in the previous match.

Sabre Jr fought back by kicking the knee, but Loa fired back with a dropkick, standing Moonsault, and then a crossface. The Brit seized an opportunity with a sleeper in the ropes before using his speed to use a flying head scissors into a neck snap. Sabre Jr attacked both arms before mockingly kicking Loa, who fired back with a Spinebuster. A running Guillotine choke by Sabre Jr was countered by a T-Bone suplex from Loa, with a top rope splash earning Loa a two count. Sabre Jr hit a German suplex, although Loa absorbed it and hit one of his own. Loa also absorbed a Tornado DDT and took Sabre Jr down with a Lariat.

Sabre Jr snuck out of the Apeshit and both wrestlers fought for control until Sabre Jr got a one count with a Crucifix pin. Loa rolled to his feet with Sabre Jr on his shoulders, but Sabre Jr turned that into a modified Octopus stretch. Loa eventually grabbed the ropes. Sabre Jr kicked the arm but ran into another Lariat before he was flattened by a sit-out powerbomb for a near fall. There was a near fall for Sabre Jr when he turned an Octopus Stretch into a Code Red. Sabre Jr hit a penalty kick only for Loa to kick out at 1. That was followed by a flurry of Sabre Jr strikes where Loa had the power advantage. A missed Enziguri by Loa let Sabre Jr apply the Japanese Leg roll clutch, but Loa kicked out and applied one of his own to get a shock three count.

Tanga Loa pinned Zack Sabre Jr via Japanese leg roll clutch (17:31)

This was my favorite Tanga Loa match in the G1. He looked tough and powerful with Sabre Jr bumping like crazy for him. Loa got multiple opportunities to power through or no sell big moves from Sabre Jr. In return, Loa was a great base for Sabre Jr. The sequences where Sabre Jr clambered all over him were great. Loa’s selling was good without being great, but he looked good here. I came to the realization that Loa works best against smaller, quicker guys and would honestly thrive in promotions and scenes where there are more Openweight matches.

This was a great match, with Sabre Jr relying more on his speed and agility than I expected. I liked the unexpected start and finish, and there were some great sequences in between. It wasn’t perfect and I felt that the count out on the outside looked bad and inconsistent considering the previous match. Other than that, this was my favorite match on the show and an example of Tanga Loa’s G1, which I found to be much better than I expected once he got going.

G1 Climax 31 A Block: Kota Ibushi vs KENTA 

Ibushi and KENTA built up this match with a rambling back and forth on Twitter, where KENTA was telling Ibushi to go to sleep because he was tweeting at 4 am. It says something that this may have been my favorite thing that KENTA has done during this G1 Climax tour.

The match started slowly with KENTA rolling to the outside before they traded kicks and blocks. An Ibushi Plancha was blocked when KENTA pulled Ibushi out of the ring. They rammed each other into the guardrail and apron before they just made it back into the ring before the twenty count. KENTA removed a turnbuckle pad and whipped Ibushi into the exposed turnbuckle. A Russian leg sweep earned KENTA a two-count. Ibushi tried to fight back with palm strikes but KENTA cut him off with a kick. KENTA had Ibushi right where he wanted him, making Ibushi throw a kick that was easily countered into the STF.

Ibushi used a Frankensteiner, but KENTA attacked Ibushi when he went for the Golden Triangle Moonsault. KENTA threw Ibushi so hard into the guardrail that Ibushi went over it and they brawled towards the entrance. Ibushi was rammed headfirst into the back wall and sent through the curtain as the referee finally started the count. Both wrestlers ran back into the ring at 19, the second count out tease in this match.

Ibushi was again whipped into the exposed turnbuckle, with KENTA following it up with vicious kicks to the spine and a camel clutch. KENTA kept on top of the neck with neck breakers and chin locks. Ibushi fought back with a dropkick before getting a two-count with the powerslam-Moonsault combination. KENTA used the Tornado neck snap and the diving clothesline for a two count before again mockingly kicking Ibushi. This fired up Ibushi, but KENTA cut him off before Ibushi could do anything. Ibushi turned the tide by using a well-timed kip-up to hit a half nelson suplex.

KENTA avoided a Boma Ye and caused a ref bump before DDT’ing Ibushi. Taking advantage of the injured referee, KENTA grabbed a chair, but Ibushi absorbed a chair shot and threatened to hit a chair shot of his own. Instead, Ibushi kicked KENTA in the head and set up a table on the outside. Ibushi teased a swan dive German suplex to the outside through the table. Common sense prevailed and they ended up on the apron, where KENTA was back body dropped onto the apron. Ibushi put KENTA on the table and when KENTA tried to grab Ibushi, KENTA got kicked in the head. Except that caused the table legs to collapse. I legit guffawed at that. Ibushi still decided to hit a top rope splash onto KENTA, who was on the collapsed table. This led to the match’s 3rd Double count-out tease that ended at 19.

Ibushi was selling the damage to his midsection, and he got caught with the Green killer DDT. KENTA followed that with the hesitation dropkick and a top rope double stomp for a near fall. Ibushi was hit with a flurry of vicious slaps but fought back with a high kick and a kami-Go-Ye. KENTA kicked out of the Kami-Go-Ye and countered a second one in sloppy fashion by trying to ram Ibushi’s head into the exposed turnbuckle, before locking in the GAME OVER. Ibushi made it to the ropes to break the hold and fired back with another high kick. Another Kami-Go-Ye attempt was escaped and Ibushi was thrown into the exposed turnbuckle, with KENTA using a schoolboy for a big near fall. This honestly felt like a re-do of the previous Kami-Go-Ye escape. KENTA hit a Busaiku knee to a downed Ibushi for another near fall, but Ibushi blocked the Go to Sleep before hitting the reverse Kami-Go-Ye and the regular Kami-Go-Ye to win the match.

With this win, Ibushi won A block and was in the G1 Climax final for the fourth year in a row and looking to win the tournament for the third time in a row.

Kota Ibushi pinned KENTA via Kami-Go-Ye (26:16)

This was good but it wasn’t great. Honestly, there were lots of bits that I disliked or looked bad. The multiple nineteen counts were designed to play off the Takagi vs Takahashi match but felt forced, artificial, and even inconsistent. The table spot looked comical when the table legs gave out and Ibushi did the splash anyway. The ugly Kami-Go-Ye attempt into the corner looked like a botch where they repeated the spot. There were a lot of spots or sequences that they did twice in this match. This was not at the level that this match should have been.

There was some very good stuff here. At times KENTA looked the best that I have seen from him in this year’s G1. He looked vicious and calculating. The high kicks and some of the striking sequences were great. It just felt like most of the memorable spots went wrong and the match was stretched out to get to the required length. Honestly, it was good, but I can’t honestly recommend it. 

A Block final standings

  1. Kota Ibushi – 14pts
  2. Shingo Takagi – 13pts
  3. KENTA – 12pts
  4. Zack Sabre Jr – 12pts
  5. Toru Yano – 10pts
  6. Tomohiro Ishii – 10pts
  7. Great O-Khan – 8pts
  8. Tanga Loa – 6pts
  9. Yujiro Takahashi – 5pts
  10. Tetsuya Naito – 0pts

So Ibushi made the G1 Climax final for the fourth year in a row. Takagi only lost 2 matches and Sabre Jr tied with his previous highest points total in the G1. Great O-Khan had a good first G1 and Tanga Loa did well, mostly due to his win over Sabre Jr.

Show Summary

This was a mess of a show. The count-out between Takahashi and Takagi made sense but the execution was shoddy. The other matches then felt obliged to be even more heavy-handed by teasing double count outs, and it made the refereeing feel incredibly inconsistent. Ibushi vs KENTA was not great, and it felt like a combination of bad luck and too much time. On the other hand, Sabre Jr vs Tanga Loa was a legitimately good match and a nice surprise. It was easily the main highlight on this show and the only thing worth going out of your way to watch.

State of the A Block

Honestly, the injury to Tetsuya Naito did derail things. The likes of Great O-Khan and Tanga Loa did step up, especially towards the end, but generally, this felt like a poor year. Very few of the big matches came anywhere near close to being the best version of that match. The main things that stand out were matches where wrestlers tried new things, like O-Khan’s matches against Sabre Jr, Ishii, and Ibushi. The best match in the A block by far to me was Sabre Jr vs Takagi.

Based on this year, I think that 2022 is a good time to drop Yujiro Takahashi and Toru Yano from the G1 Climax. Tanga Loa did enough where I wouldn’t mind him coming back to make up the numbers. Great O-Khan will get plenty more chances. I would love to see KENTA get dropped next year but I don’t see it happening.

About Mark Buckeldee 61 Articles
Hailing from Oxfordshire in the UK, Mark Buckeldee writes show reports for POST Wrestling.