By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
NJPW “G1 Climax 33 Night Eight”
July 26, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall
Streamed on New Japan World
The tournament is comprised of 32 wrestlers, spread out in four Blocks, each comprised of eight competitors. This is a round-robin tournament, so each competitor has seven tournament matches. New this year, the top TWO finishers in each Block advance to a single-elimination, eight-man tournament. The winner gets a title shot at Wrestle Kingdom on January 4. Time limits are 20 minutes this year, NOT 30 minutes, so we’ll see how that impacts the tournament. Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton provided live commentary. The tournament is spread out over 19 shows in a 29-day span. At the conclusion of this show, every wrestler will have completed four of their seven round-robin matches.
1. EVIL (w/Dick Togo) (6) defeated Henare (2) in a C Block tournament match at 12:36. EVIL came out first by himself. As Henare walked to the ring, Togo attacked him from behind with a chair; I start my stopwatch at first contact. EVIL got a quick nearfall in the ring, but then they brawled into the crowd. Togo choked Henare with his wire at 6:00. They finally got back in the ring, with Henare hitting a slam for a nearfall at 8:30. EVIL nailed Darkness Falls sitout powerbomb for a nearfall at 10:00. Henare blocked Everything is EVIL uranage, and he hit a running penalty kick for a nearfall. EVIL hit a low blow, then Everything is Evil uranage for the cheap pin. Official time is closer to 12:00 even.
2. Alex Coughlin (2) defeated Hirooki Goto (4) in a D Block tournament match at 6:27. Goto’s ribs are heavily taped from injuries earlier in the tournament, and the commentators pointed it out. Coughlin attacked before the bell; they went to the floor and Alex jabbed him in the ribs with a chair. In the ring, Coughlin was in charge. He hit a Jackhammer powerslam for the pin. Short and to the point; Goto really got in almost no offense and clutched at his ribs throughout. “He beat Goto handily,” Charlton observed.
3. Shingo Takagi (4) defeated Mikey Nicholls (2) in a C Block tournament match at 9:13. They immediately traded punches. They brawled to the floor, where Nicholls slammed Shingo onto the ring apron at 2:00. In the ring, Mikey was in charge. Shingo hit a senton. Mikey hit a clothesline into the corner and a top-rope superplex, and they were both down at 7:00. Mikey hit a Death Valley Driver and a basement clothesline for a nearfall. They traded clotheslines with each kicking out at one. They traded headbutts, and they crashed into each other on a shoulder tackle, with Shingo landing on Mikey for the pin! Charlton noted it “wasn’t a pretty finish but no way was Nicholls going down.”
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi (4) defeated Toru Yano (0) in a D Block tournament match at 7:40. You always have to be on ‘upset alert’ when Yano is in the ring. Tanahashi is 15-4-2 all-time, Kelly said. Yano got a schoolboy rollup within seconds, then he begged for forgiveness. Funny. Tanahashi missed his second-rope summersault splash, and they rolled to the floor. Yano whipped Hiroshi into the guardrail at 3:30. Tanahashi teased using the roll of tape, but then he handed it to a kid in the front row. In the ring, Yano hit Hiroshi with the corner pad, then he whipped Tanahashi into the exposed corner. Tanahashi hit a Dragonscrew Legwhip at 6:00. Yano speared Tanahashi, shoving him into the ref, knocking the ref down. Yano swung with a chair but missed. Tanahashi hit the High Fly Flow frogsplash for the pin. Adequate.
5. Tomohiro Ishii (4) defeated Eddie Kingston (4) in a C Block tournament match at 16:14. A knucklelock and test of strength to open. Kingston hit a slam but he clutched at a sore lower back. They started trading LOUD chops, and Charlton said they need a decibel meter to determine how loud those are. Ishii hit a stiff kick to the spine and Kingston struggled to get to his feet; Ishii hit some more playful, taunting kicks. Ishii nailed a Saito Suplex at 5:00. Kingston hit a kneedrop on the back of Ishii’s head but he struggled to get to his feet. Kingston hit the rapid-fire chops in the corner and an Exploder Suplex for a nearfall. They traded hard chops for mmore than a minute, and finally, Ishii went down at 8:30.
Kingston nailed a half-nelson suplex and a sliding forearm for a nearfall. Ishii hit a German Suplex and they were both down. Kelly said this might be the loudest Korakuen Hall has been in a while. Kingston missed an enzuigiri, but he hit a clothesline at 11:30, then a back suplex for a nearfall. Kingston applied a Stretch Plum sleeper on the mat; he let it go and got a nearfall. Ishii fired back with several headbutts for a nearfall at 13:30. Ishii hit an enzuigiri; Kingston hit an enzuigiri; Ishii hit a clothesline but only got a one-count. He hit another clothesline for a nearfall. Kingston nailed a pair of spinning back fists for a blievable nearfall at 15:00. Ishii hit a knee to the face and a basement clothesline for a nearfall. He nailed a brainbuster for the pin. That was tremendous.
6. Shane Haste (w/Kosei Fujita) (4) defeated Tetsuya Naito (4) in a D Block tournament match at 13:47. They did some comedy with them trading hats but Naito rejecting the offer. They brawled on the floor, and Naito hit a Rude Awakening neckbreaker across the guardrail at 3:00. Ouch. Haste got back in the ring before being counted out, but Naito went to work on the neck. He hit a basement dropkick on the back of the neck at 8:00. Naito hit a flipping neckbreaker out of the corner. Haste hit a European Uppercut and a back suplex, and they were both down at 10:00
Naito hit a tornado DDT and Haste. Shena kicked at Naito’s leg and hit a swinging back suplex for a nearfall. Naito set up for Destino but Shane hit a clothesline, and they were both down again at 12:30. Naito nailed the Destino for a believable nearfall; I thought that was it. He went for another Destino, but Shane reversed it and slammed Naito to the mat for the clean pin. That’s a huge upset. “Shane Haste took the win because he was better than Naito tonight,” Kelly exclaimed.
7. Tama Tonga (6) defeated David Finlay (w/Gedo) (6) in a C Block tournament match at 14:31. In their last meeting, Finlay utterly dominated and beat Tama decisively to win the NEVER Openweight title, so hopefully Tama gets some revenge here. Tama attacked Finlay as David came out of the corner and they immediately brawled. (In NJPW’s bizarre rulings, the ref called for the bell to start the match, but they brawled to the top of the risers. There is no consistency here; most of the time, the bell isn’t called for until both are in the ring. Kelly tried to explain that it gives the referee some ability to control the brawling.) Finay shoved Tama off a short balcony to the floor at 2:30, and Tama clutched at his leg upon landing. Finlay immediately hit the leg with a chair. They finally got in the ring, but Finlay stayed focused on the damaged left knee.
Tama hit a dropkick at 5:30 but he clutched at his sore leg. He hit a series of forearms in the corner and a clothesline; he was fired up and ripped off his vest, then he hit a Stinger Splash and a Bulldog Powerslam for a nearfall at 7:30. Finlay hit a backbreaker over his knee for a nearfall. Tama hit his rolling Death Valley Driver; he went for the Supreme Flow frogrsplash, but Finlay got his knees up to block it at 9:30, and they were both down. Finlay applied a Sharpshooter, but Tama reached the ropes. Tama did a backbody drop, launching Finlay over the top rope and to the floor at 11:30. Tama hit a plancha to the floor on Finlay.
In the ring, Tama nailed the Supreme Flow frogsplash for a nearfall. Finlay blocked the Jay Driller, and he hit a Blue Thunder Bomb for a nearfall, then the Dominator faceplant for a believable nearfall. They traded more forearm shots. Finlay nailed a spear; he went for a powerbomb but Tama reversed it and rolled him up for the pin! That was really, really good. Finlay immediately attacked him after the bell and powerbombed him. Gedo held Tama’s arms, and Finlay nailed him over the head with the shillelagh. Kelly said Finlay was trying to take Tama out of the rest of the tournament.
8. Jeff Cobb (8) defeated Zack Sabre Jr. (w/Kosei Fujita) (6) in a D Block tournament match at 16:15. Both men are undefeated, so the winner will be in the pole position for the rest of the tournament. These two also have feuded over Sabre’s TV title this year, but Zach is 3-0-1 against Cobb. Sabre grounded Cobb early on and worked the left arm, and they had a standoff at 2:30. Sabre went for a shoulder tackle but he injured himself upon hitting that brick wall, as Cobb no-sold the blows. Cobb did a leapfrog that popped the crowd and he hit a shoulder tackle that dropped Sabre at 4:00. They rolled to the floor, where Cobb hit a headbutt, and Sabre hit some European Uppercuts, and they fought around ringside. Cobb whipped Sabre into the guardrails.
Cobb hit a suplex onto the thin mat on the floor. In the ring, Cobb hit an Irish Whip at 7:00, with Sabre selling the pain in his lower back, and Cobb in full control. Sabre hit a tornado DDT out of the corner, and they were both down. Sabre hit a series of European Uppercuts and a dropkick. Sabre did the neck crank with his legs at 10:00. Cobb went for Tour of the Islands, but Sabre first applied a sleeper, then a cross-armbreaker on the mat, and Cobb reached the ropes to break it. They traded chops. Sabre applied a Triangle Choke but Cobb powered out and slammed Sabre, and they were both down at 11:30. They hit simultaneous clotheslines. Sabre hit his Pele Kick to the arm; Cobb hit a dropkick.
Cobb hit the Spin Cycle back suplex; he went for Tour of the Islands, but Sabre got a Crucifix Takedown for a believable nearfall (nice callback to a prior matchup). Sabre applied a bow-and-arrow, but Cobb reached the ropes. Cobb set up for the Tour of the Islands again but Sabre ht a dropkick. Cobb missed a standing moonsault. Sabre got an O’Connor Roll for a believable nearfall at 15:00. Charlton noted that would be a time-limit draw if this had been a TV title match. Sabre nailed a roundhouse kick to the head and a German Suplex; Cobb hit a German Suplex. Sabre nailed a running Penalty Kick tot he chest. Cobb hit an F5 slam on the stomach, then a Tour of the Islands swinging powerslam for the clean pin. That was epic and iincredibly good.
* Cobb got on the mic and spoke in Japanese and thanked them. Backstage, Cobb said “I’m on a redemption story.”
Final Thoughts: This show had four top-notch matches; this might be the best night of the tournament so far. I do slightly give the edge to the main event because of the callbacks to prior matches and because Cobb hadn’t beaten Sabre before. But I wouldn’t argue with anyone who liked the hard-hitting Kingston-Ishii chopfest more. Finlay-Tama was incredibly good and earned third. As good as Haste’s upset of Naito was, that is only good enough for honorable mention.
Just a really good show. I know it’s fun to bash EVIL, but his match with Henare topped all expectations and is about as good as EVIL is going to look, and I expected Henare to win that one. Shingo-Nicholls also was quite hard-hitting. Goto/Coughlin didn’t click, and Yano matches are all comedy, but the good far outweighed the bad here.
The tournament continues Thursday in a different venue in Tokyo, before a day off on Friday.