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Pantoja’s NJPW G1 Climax 31 Night 13 Review

October 9, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
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Pantoja’s NJPW G1 Climax 31 Night 13 Review  

NJPW G1 Climax 31 Night 13
October 9th, 2021 | Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium in Osaka, Japan

I haven’t been high on this tournament but Osaka is typically a place where these guys go hard.

Hiromu Takahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii
I’m a simple man. I see a Hiromu or Ishii match and I watch. Their New Japan Cup match last year ruled (****½) and Hiromu actually won it. Though outmatched from a size standpoint, Hiromu showed no fear as always. He went right after Ishii as if he had a death wish and hit him with everything he had. There were points where Ishii leveled him or just ran him over but Hiromu would find a way to combat it and get right back on. Ishii blocked a sunset flip off the apron which was huge since he actually has a shot at the finals and getting injured ahead of it would suck. Hiromu continued to fight like a heavyweight inside, lifting Ishii for offense, hanging tough with strikes, and popping up from big offense. Hiromu came close several times, including with Time Bomb and on an inside cradle but Ishii beat him with the Vertical Drop Brainbuster in 18:13. Man, I wish more of this G1 was like that. Two of the best in the world putting on a great bout. [****]

A Block: KENTA [8] vs. Zack Sabre Jr. [10]
Certainly the match I’m most pumped for. They’ve split their matches in each of the last two G1 Climaxes, with Sabre Jr. winning in 2019 (****) and KENTA taking 2020 (****). KENTA won the only other match in NOAH in 2011. In a lot of ways, this is an ideal matchup. ZSJ has been at his best against guys who hit hard like Ishii and Ibushi, which is where KENTA shines. They came right at each other with strikes and Sabre Jr. looked to show that he could hang in that department, as always. KENTA being the jerk that Ishii or Ibushi isn’t, was more than happy to slap him down and taunt or talk trash about it. Sabre Jr. could respond with the simplest of moves that he’d turn into a submission or something like that. One great example was how he slipped down to the mat, tripped KENTA up and then did a neck crank. It was seamless. KENTA would go for a cocky one foot pin and Sabre Jr. would do his own. I also appreciated KENTA going for submissions too given that he has won a lot with Game Over. Sabre Jr. trapped KENTA down the stretch but he managed to get out and they continued past the 20 minute mark. ZSJ caught the Busaiku Knee and rolled through into a sick knee bar in one of my favorite spots. Near the end both men went to get up and ZSJ literally just kicked at KENTA in annoying fashion, which was great character work. KENTA countered an ankle lock by sending Sabre Jr. into the exposed buckle and then hit the GTS to win in 22:24. That was fantastic. Hard hitting, good submission work, and great character stuff sprinkled in. This is what I wanted from the G1. [****½]

A Block: Toru Yano [6] vs. Yujiro Takahashi [4]
They’ve met six times and I’ve seen three of them. Yano won in the G1 23 (**) and 2016 New Japan Cup (¾*), while Yujiro won in the G1 24 (*). Yano holds a 5-1 all-time record over Yujiro. Yano got jumped during his entrance and that gave Yujiro the early upper hand. He used some of Yano’s typical tricks for a bit before Yano rallied with some of his own. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before and it dragged a bit given this runtime. The ending was pretty creative though as Yano went under the ring. Yujiro, instead of taking a countout win, followed and they were gone for a few seconds. Yano emerged and got in the ring as Yujiro rolled out with his hands tied, getting counted out after 10:23. It was fine enough. [**]

A Block: Shingo Takagi [8] vs. Tanga Loa [4]
First time meeting here. Is this the company’s best singles wrestler against the worst? It’s possible. As has mostly been the case of the tournament so far, Tanga Loa actually did alright here. He’s still not someone I want to see but he’s doing far better than his brother did in prior G1s. He fired off elbows to start, setting the tone for this being a case where he brought the fight to the champion. It makes sense given that he has nothing to lose. Shingo actually seemed taken aback by this approach and it caused him to struggle more you might expect. On paper, he should run through Tanga Loa but this took him a whopping 19:08. Tanga busted out stuff I never expected like a Blue Thunder Bomb but then Shingo did weird stuff like countering a powerbomb with a rana. WHAT IS THIS MATCH? Pumping Bomber nearly ended it but Shingo couldn’t cover in time, so he won the next exchange and the match with Last of the Dragon. That was the best I’ve ever seen from Tanga Loa. [***¼]

A Block: The Great-O-Khan [8] vs. Kota Ibushi [10]
As is mostly the case, it’s a first time match for O-Khan. If the big man loses, he’s eliminated, which is par for the course for a lot of dudes who start 4-0. Surprisingly, O-Khan looked to ground Ibushi almost immediately. Even with his size, O-Khan can’t match Ibushi in strikes but I didn’t think he’d want to go to the mat. It was really interesting to see them trade submissions like a Figure Four and a Calf Slicer. That’s not what I expected from these two but it mostly worked. When they went into strikes later, Ibushi prevailed and got two on the Boma Ye. He found a way to escape an ankle lock and then O-Khan ran into a knee. Ibushi survived a countered Kamigoye and nailed one to win in 20:22. Another good match but not a great one. [***¼]

Kota Ibushi 12 (6-2) Kazuchika Okada 12 (6-0)
KENTA 10 (5-2) Jeff Cobb 12 (6-0)
Zack Sabre Jr. 10 (5-2) EVIL 10 (5-1)
Shingo Takagi 10 (5-2) Hiroshi Tanahashi 6 (3-3)
Tomohiro Ishii 8 (4-3) SANADA 4 (2-4)
Toru Yano 8 (4-3) Taichi 4 (2-4)
The Great-O-Khan 8 (4-4) Hirooki Goto 4 (2-4)
Tanga Loa 4 (2-5) YOSHI-HASHI 4 (2-4)
Yujiro Takahashi 4 (2-5) Chase Owens 2 (1-5)
Tetsuya Naito 0 (0-9) Tama Tonga 2 (1-5)
The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Yes! That’s what I wanted from the G1. You get the match of the tournament in ZSJ/KENTA and a tremendous non-tourney match between Hiromu and Ishii. The other three matches were all at least moderately enjoyable too.

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G1 Climax 31, Kevin Pantoja