‘Rainmaker return’ sees Okada join Taichi, Cobb, SANADA and EVIL on two points.
Night two of G1 Climax 31 saw B Block take center stage, and as if the participants were doubly motivated by the reports of A Block tearing down the house in EDION Arena Osaka, a string of thrilling tournament matches was capped off with the latest installment of the rivalry to end all rivalries.
Kazuchika Okada headed into his 15th bout with Hiroshi Tanahashi with much to prove; while the Ace was riding a hot hand heading into his record 20th G1 Climax, Okada had been on a downturn, and approaching two years without the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship anywhere near his waist was in danger of the world forgetting the power of the Rainmaker.
Okada was certainly feeling the power of Tanahashi on multiple occasions. The Ace danced with what has been so effective for him over the years, weakening the base of the Rainmaker with Dragon Screws in order to leave him unable to escape from the High Fly Flow. Indeed, Aces went high from the top to the floor on one occasion, but when push came to shove in the late stages, Okada had the will to win enough to sacrifice the hurt joints, burying them into the abdomen of the IWGP US Champion.
When on offense, Okada was not only as smart, precise and punishing with his attacks as ever, but seemed to carry with him the swagger of the Rainmaker that wrestled so many legendary matches with Tanahashi over the years, including in the very same venue of the EDION Arena. The Money Clip was used in an attempt to drive consciousness from the Ace, but when Tanahashi willed himself out, it was the familiar top rope elbow and the iconic Rainmaker pose that had the fans believe Okada could get his first points on the board.
Tanahashi’s Iron Will would not let Okada get that win easily. As time ticked down, Tanahashi became more frantic, a Dragon suplex connecting for two as time began to tick down. Ultimately though, a Landslide style Tombstone was followed by an emphatic Rainmaker, Okada declaring afterward that the ‘Rainmaker has returned’.
The will to win of Taichi and Hirooki Goto was challenged in their semi main event clash. A violent battle, it wasn’t always a clean fight; early both spilled to the floor, and Goto was as willing as Taichi to choke with camera cables and with his bare hands. Ultimately though it was with trademark strikes and powerful offense that would decide the battle.
Goto went deep into his war chest with the Shoten Kai for two, following up on an Ushigoroshi that had Taichi dealing with apparent neck trouble for the majority of the action. Yet Taichi would go to not his past but those of his guiding lights, Nodo Otoshi and Ore ga Taue doing massive damage before Black Mephisto ultimately connected dead center for three.
While cleanly hit finishers dead center sealed the deal for Okada and Taichi, it was a quick flash victory with the O’Connor Roll that got SANADA his first two points against a very game Tama Tonga. Dictating the pace for much of the match, and expertly changing gears to keep SANADA sweating, it was hard to believe that this was only his ninth singles match in the last three years. A devastating new double underhook piledriver being called the Dive Shack Driver almost sealed victory, but as Tonga was intent on trying to end the match with a Gunstun SANADA consistently countered, Cold Skull had the wherewithal to grab the quick pin that mattered.
If Tonga impressed against SANADA, Chase Owens greatly impressed in his first career G1 match, but there was too much Jeff Cobb in the opposite corner. Knowing that any hopes at offense on Cobb would be fleeting, he hit fast and hard against the Imperial Unit, scoring some effective shots, a V-Trigger and a Jewel Heist that had breaths baited among definite highlights. Yet as ever, when Cobb connected, he connected big. A belly to belly on the floor dealt major damage early in the bout, which ended with a Tour of the Islands, eventually paying off on the third time of asking, that got Cobb on the board.
EVIL’s first two points of the tournament were attained in much more underhanded form. The King of Darkness set the pace early, as he drove YOSHI-HASHI into the ringside steel, and made use of Dick Togo’s ‘assistance’ to boot. But the Headhunter responded with trademark heart and drive, and refused to lose easily, landing Kumagoroshi, and doggedly maintaining a Butterfly Lock. Through every time EVIL was in dire straits though, and when he was rolled up into a clear visual six count, Togo was there to ruin YOSHI-HASHI’s night; that night ending with a low blow and EVIL for the victory.