NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING G1 CLIMAX 31 – DAY 3
SEPTEMBER 23, 2021
TOKYO, JAPAN AT OTA WARD GYMNASIUM
AIRED LIVE ON NJPWWORLD.COM
(1) YUJI NAGATA vs. TANGA LOA
Nagata is the fill-in after Tetsuya Naito was removed from the tournament due to injury. All competitors in the block were given two points for the Naito forfeit, but still will be slated to compete in the full number of tournament matches with Nagata as the opponent. Back and forth action in this one with Tanga Loa getting the victory after a reverse piledriver for the 1,2,3.
WINNER: Tanga Loa via pinfall
(Heydorn’s Analysis: Pretty much your standard Nagata match. The action was crisp and at times stiff, but a slower paced bout overall.)
(2) GREAT-O-KHAN vs. TORU YANO
Khan attacks Yano mid-entrance to get the action started and controls much of the early part of the match because of it. Khan has the momentum firmly in hand tries to make Yano kiss his boots in the ring. After, Yano things happen and he leaves the ring causing Khan to become frustrated. Khan chases Yano out of the ring and gets clocked with a clothesline. Yano’s momentum is short-lived as Khan throws him into the blue ring barrier. Khan tries to handcuff Yano to the barrier, but Yano counters it and moves the battle back inside the ring. Khan connects with a series of Mongolian Chops. Eventually, Yano gets distance from his opponent and pulls the ring pad off of the corner post. Yano swings it, accidentally hits the referee, but hits Khan too. Yano then tries to use the cuffs on Khan, but Khan blocks it with an eye rake. Khan then finally locks Yano to the barrier and the referee starts his count. At 19, Yano breaks the barrier apart and dives into the ring. He gets a short flurry of momentum after doing so, but Khan halts it and connects with the Eliminator for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Great-O-Khan via pinfall
(Heydorn’s Analysis: It’s well documented that I’m not a fan of Yano matches — especially in the G1. I can admit that his style does diversify the cards in terms of style and that factored in nicely here. The cuff callback to early Khan vs. Yano matches was a nice touch as well. Khan continues his roll and at this point, one as to think he’s a player for the block, though most likely not the winner.)
(3) KENTA vs. YUJIRO TAKAHASHI
A clash of Bullet Club stablemates. Kenta goes for the “two sweet” right after the bell, but Takahashi refuses him. Kenta takes control of the match early and the battle rages to the outside of the ring. Kenta has the chance to leave Takahashi on the outside and jump back in before the count to get a count out finish, but he doesn’t take it and rolls Takahashi back into the ring. There, Takahashi builds momentum with strikes and eventually into a fisherman buster. The control swings back and forth between both competitors as the middle of the match carried on. Eventually, both stagger in the ring after connecting with punches and strikes. Takahashi connects with Miami Shine and makes a cover, but only gets a two count. Takahashi gets rolled up a few times for pins, but kicks out. He then goes for a low blow, but Kenta blocks it. Kenta then locks in the crossface submission for the win.
WINNER: Kenta via submission
-After the match, Kenta and Takahashi complete the Bullet Club “two sweet.”
(Heydorn’s Analysis: A fine match and better than I expected it would be. Kenta winning is the right call for the tournament, but with Takahashi beating Ibushi on night one, this did enough to suspend disbelief and think he may win another when logic tells you he probably wouldn’t.)
(4) KOTA IBUSHI vs. ISHII
The story throughout the match was heavy striking. Out of the gate, Ishii connected with a blistering number of chops that grounded Ibushi into the mat. Soon after, both men engage in a slap fest that ended with Ibushi getting the upper hand after a devastating kick to Ishii’s chest. The pace continues quickly from there with Ibushi connecting with a snap hurricanrana and following with a slingshot over the top rope. Ishii eventually gets momentum back and hits Ibushi with a delayed superplex off the top rope. Ibushi tries to battle back with a kick and counter exchange. He drops Ishii with a stiff kick to the head and both men lay on the mat exhausted. While on the mat, Ishii kicks Ibushi in the head from the laying position. Ibushi does the same thing and adds slaps to Ishii’s head for good measure. This leads to both men striking to their feet and laying in hard shots on one another once they do. In the end, Ibushi connects with the Kamigoye for the 1, 2, 3 win.
WINNER: Ibushi via pinfall
(Heydorn’s Analysis: If you like matches with stiff striking in them, this is a match you must see. If you like UFC fights, you’ll enjoy this one too. Ibushi and Ishii are nuts. This was incredibly hard hitting, with a quick pace layered on top. This had a fight feel to it and delivered to that end.)
(5) SHINGO TAKAGI vs. ZACK SABRE JR.
Smooth action throughout. ZSJ set the tone early with his mat style controlling the early part of the match. Takagi eventually takes over and grabs some momentum, but ZSJ shuts it down with his monotonous, but effective work. This is a common theme throughout the match as Takagi almost snags full momentum multiple times, but doesn’t due to ZSJ’s unique and tiring offense. In the end, ZSJ locks in a standing armbar submission on the arm he worked over throughout the match, causing Takagi to tap out because of the pain.
WINNER: Zack Sabre Jr. via submission
(Heydorn’s Analysis: This was a really good. A clash of styles is a big part of the G1 allure and this match is a perfect example. The match was paced smart and featured sound psychology, built on ZSJ’s control and therefore Takagi’s inability to gain an upper hand. Why not run with ZSJ here? Leaning into his dominance after he took Naito out is smart. Adding the IWGP Heavyweight Championship to his resume of victories helps the narrative that he’s a dangerous force in the tournament.)