By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
NJPW “G1 Climax 33 Night Nine”
July 27, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan at Ota City General Gymnasium
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.
This is an arena; the lights are low but this is clearly a bigger crowd than at Korakuen Hall.
1. Shota Umino (6) defeated Chase Owens (4) in an A Block tournament match at 10:14. Chase attacked on the floor before Shota got in the ring. They brawled in the ring so the match could officially begin, but they went back to the floor, where Chase hit a Death Valley Driver at 2:00, and Shota barely got back into the ring at the 19-count. Chase stayed in control of the action, and he barked at the ref. Shota hit a diving European Uppercut at 5:30. Chase hit a running knee to the collarbone for a nearfall. Shota hit a dropkick and a sideslam for a nearfall. Chase hit a German Suplex, and they were both down at 8:00.
They got up and traded forearm shots. Chase nailed the Jewel Heist short-arm clothesline for a nearfall and the C-Trigger kneestrike, but he couldn’t hit the package piledriver. They traded rollups. Chase again couldn’t hit the package piledriver, as Shota escaped, and Umino immediately hit the Death Rider double-arm DDT for the clean pin. Good match. As Shota sat up, he had a bloody nose. At 3-2 (6 points), Shota remains in the running for one of the playoff spots. Official time is closer to 9:35 from when the match started.
2. Taichi (6) defeated Yoshi-Hashi (4) in a B Block tournament match at 13:12. The loser is essentially eliminated. They traded Mafia Kicks at the bell, then hard chops. Taichi hit a Helluva Kick at 2:30, then a roundhouse kick that dropped Yoshi-Hashi. Y-H hit his Headhunter overhead faceplant, then a Rude Awakening standing neckbreaker for a nearfall at 6:30. Y-H hit a Dragon Suplex and a hard clothesline; Taichi hit his own clothesline. Taichi nailed a Saito Suplex and they were both down at 9:00.
Yoshi-Hashi hit a Canadian Destroyer and a clothesline for a believable nearfall, then a brainbuster for another believable nearfall at 10:30. Taichi got a Gedo Clutch rollup for a believable nearfall, then an enzuigiri to the ear; Kelly said it was a similar kick that upset Ospreay’s equilibrium in the first night of the tournament. Y-H nailed a Lungblower at 12:00. Taich nailed a superkick then the Black Mephisto (Air Raid Crash) for the clean pin. Solid match. Taichi remains in the running for a playoff spot, especially with that tiebreaker he has over Ospreay.
3. Kaito Kiyomiya (6) vs. Gabe Kidd (5) ended in a double count-out in an A Block tournament match at 14:56. Kidd attacked Kaito as Kiyomiya walked out of the back, and I immediately start my stopwatch. Kaito whipped Kidd into a row of empty seats, and Kelly confirmed that the match has not officially started yet. Kidd hit Kaito with a chair, and he tossed Kaito into the ring, to officially start the match at 3:00. Kaito got up and hit some blows to the chest, but Kidd bit Kaito’s forehead, drawing boos. “Hey Shibata, come get your boy,” Kelly said. Kidd dumped Kaito over the top rope to the floor at 7:00, and Kaito barely got back in before being counted out.
Kaito hit a clothesline, and they were both down. Kaito hit a top-rope missile dropkick at 9:00 and some European Uppercuts and a jumping knee to the chest, then a German Suplex with a bridge for a nearfall. Kidd grabbed the ref and hit a low blow mule kick on Kaito. Kidd hit a series of open-hand slaps to the face. Kaito climbed on Kidd, hit a series of punches, and spit on him. They brawled back to the floor at 12:00, and Kaito whipped Kidd into the guardrail. They went back into the crowd and fought by empty rows of chairs. The ref finally gave up, went back in the ring, and started counting. They traded hard forearm shots right up until the bell sounded, and had quite a wild brawl afterwards, too. Again, official time is about 11:45. As a result, each man earns one point.
4. Tanga Loa (w/Jado) (4) defeated Great-O-Khan (2) in a B Block tournament match at 12:41. Both men are 1-3 and are essentially eliminated. An intense lockup to open. O-Khan applied an anklelock on the mat at 3:00. They brawled to the floor, where GOK shoved a chair leg into Loa’s previously-injured knee. Back in the ring, O-Khan immediately targeted the left leg and he tied Loa up on the mat. Kelly talked about Loa’s year-long recovery from knee surgery. O-Khan hit some Mongolian Chops at 9:00; Loa fired up so O-Khan immediately kicked at the knee again. Loa hit a German Suplex. GOK hit a belly-to-belly suplex. Loa hit an Exploder Suplex at 10:30, then a spear for a one-count. O-Khan hit a kneedrop on the back of the knee and they were both down. Loa hit an enzuigiri, then a sit-out piledriver out of nowhere for the pin. Solid match.
5. Hikuleo (w/Jado) (4) defeated Yota Tsuji (3) in an A Block tournament match at 12:11. The crowd was hot and split as they played to the audience before locking up. Hikuleo hit a hard back elbow at 2:00. Yota hit a clothesline that sent Hikuleo over the top rope and to the floor. Yota went for a dive to the floor but Hikuleo caught him. However, Yota shoved Hikuleo head-first into the ring post. Yota hit a huracanrana on the floor, sending Hikuleo head-first against the guardrail at 4:30, and Hikuleo clutched at his neck. The ref tried to back up Tsuji, but he hit some stomps and targeted at Hikuelo’s neck.
They got back in the ring with Yota in charge. Yota hit some Stomp-like kicks on the back of Hikuleo’s head. Hikuleo fired up and hit a series of hard chops at 7:30, then he hit the snake-eyes in the corner and a clothesline. Tsuji hit a suplex that popped the crowd, then a Stinger Splash. Hikuleo hit a Bulldog Powerslam. Tsuji blocked a chokeslam and got a rollup for a nearfall, then a hard headbutt. Tsuji hit a Falcon Arrow for a believable nearfall at 11:00. This crowd is hot.
Tsuji hit a Rollins-style Stomp and he was fired up. Yota set up for a spear, but Hikuleo caught him with a kick as he charged. Hikuleo couldn’t hit the chokeslam, but he nailed a swinging powerslam. Hikuleo immediately nailed the chokeslam for the pin. “Can we give both guys points? It was too damn good,” Kelly said. Kelly and Charlton agreed this matchup will occur frequently.
6. El Phantasmo (4) defeated Kenta (4) in a B Block tournament match at 11:42. Kenta stalled on the floor and refused to begin the match, to the point ELP started a “Kenta!” chant with the fans to encourage him to enter the ring. ELP finally leapt off the top rope onto Kenta and I start my stopwatch at first contact, as Phantasmo stomped on Kenta on the floor. ELP climbed onto a thin barricade and hit a moonsault press onto Kenta, and they were both down on the floor. They went into the bleachers, where Kenta hit a backbody drop at 3:00. They continued to brawl on the floor, and Kenta hit a DDT onto the thin mat at 5:30; the bell still has not officially sounded to start the match. Kenta vanished through the curtain; he returned with a kendo stick and struck ELP repeatedly with it on the back and stomach.
El Phantasmo got the kendo stick and used it over Kenta’s head; ELP has a blood trickle on his forehead. They traded slaps; again, they have not both been in the ring. Phantasmo hit a superkick. They fought on a table, where Kenta hit a low blow uppercut, then a DDT at 11:00, and in true NJPW fashion, they rolled to the floor as the table didn’t break. Kenta rolled Phantasmo in the ring as I have 11:22. Kenta hit a dropkick into the corner. Kenta put ELP on his shoulders and set up for a Go To Sleep, but Phantasmo escaped, got a rollup, and the pin. So, the official time of the match is 20 seconds!
7. Sanada (10) defeated Ren Narita (2) in an A Block tournament match at 16:25. Standing switches and mat reversals; this whole show has been brawling out of the ring so this feels refreshingly different. As soon as I write that, they brawled to the floor, and Sanada whipped Narita into the guardrail, but Ren hit a running boot to the face at 2:30. Back in the ring, Narita hit a snap suplex for a nearfall, and he worked over Sanada’s legs on the mat. Sanada hit a high back suplex at 5:30 and both men were down. Sanada hit a plancha to the floor. In the ring, Narita hit a leg lariat, then a Northern Lights Suplex for a nearfall at 8:00.
Narita went back to work on the left leg, keeping Sanada grounded. Sanada placed Ren’s feet on the top rope and hit a twisting neckbreaker at 9:30. Sanada hit a springboard dropkick and a TKO stunner for a nearfall. Narita applied a Sharpshooter at 11:00. They traded forearm shots, and Sanada hit a Shining Wizard; he set up for Deadfall (Jay White’s Blade Runner), but Narita escaped and turned it into a mid-ring Octopus at 13:00. Narita hit a German Suplex with a high bridge for a believable nearfall and he was fired up.
Narita hit a Northern Lights Suplex. Sanada hit a pop-up European Uppecut (the move didn’t look quite right.) Sanada hit another TKO Stunner; he went for the top-rope moonsault, but Narita got his knees up. Narita got a rollup for a nearfall, and he applied a rear-naked choke. Sanada again set up for Deadfall but Narita escaped again. Narita hit a hard chop, but Sanada grabbed him, nailed the Deadfall swinging faceplant, and scored the pin. Really good acton, although I never thought Narita was winning here. At 5-0 (10 points), Sanada has clinched a playoff spot.
8. Will Ospreay (8) defeated Kazuchika Okada (8) in a B Block tournament match at 17:20. I am predicting a time-limit draw as Charlton ran through the previous match times between these two. Charlton said we are “blessed to be in this timeline” as wrestling fans to see these two square off. Mat reversals to open. Ospreay sped it up with a Mafia Kick and a plancha to the floor at 2:00. In the ring, Okada hit a flapjack faceplant. They went to the floor, where Okada hit a DDT directly onto the gym floor! They went back to ringside where Okada hit a second DDT, this one onto the thin mat. In the ring, Okada hit a third DDT, getting a nearfall at 4:30.
Ospreay fired up and they traded forearm shots. Ospreay hit his handspring-back-spin kick. Ospreay hit a Helluva Kick into the corner at 6:00 then a top-rope flying forearm for a nearfall. Ospreay hit a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall, then some Kawada Kicks and a deafening chop that popped the crowd. Okada nailed the neckbreaker over his knee, and they were both down at 8:00. They got up and traded more forearms. Okada hit a German Suplex but Ospreay rotated and landed on his feet, and Ospreay hit his hook kick to the jaw. “The pressure of the clock is affecting them both,” Kelly said. Ospreay went for a Lionsault press, but Okada caught him with a kick. Ospreay hit a pop-up powerbomb and they were both down at 10:00; the official clock is right on with my time.
They fought on the top rope in the corner. Ospreay hit a Tower of London stunner onto the ring apron, and they both rolled to the floor at 11:30; Okada rolled in at the 19-count, but Ospreay hit a springboard dropkick onto Okada’s head as he crawled back in the ring. Ospreay nailed the Oscutter for a believable nearfall at 13:00, but he missed the Leap of Faith (Phoenix Splash). Okada immediately locked on the Money Clip sleeperhold. Okada hit a neckbreaker across his back (Randy Orton always did this), and kept the Money Clip locked on. Okada hit a short-arm clothesline at 15:00 and immediately re-applied the Money Clip, but Ospreay powered out.
Ospreay sat on the top turnbuckle, and Okada hit a dropkick that sent him to the floor. In the ring, Ospreay hit a mid-ring Spanish Fly for a nearfall. Ospreay hit a Hidden Blade to the back of the neck, but he couldn’t get Stormbreaker, and Okada got a rollup for a believable nearfall. Okada hit the Landslide (Michinoku Driver), but he couldn’t hit the Rainmaker clothesline. Ospreay hit his own Rainmaker, then the Stormbreaker, swinging faceplant off his shoulders for the clean pin. That was tremendous. I have no problem with being wrong about them going to a draw. Charlton said after eight years, Ospreay finally pinned Okada.
* Ospreay got on the mic and made a polite comment toward Okada, then he thanked the crowd for being there for him. “I love G1 season,” he said. “G1 means the best of the best and we are in a new era of New Japan Pro Wrestling. And everyone is relying on the new Three Musketeers, and they don’t want it, when it should be an honor. And I know why they don’t want it. Because they can’t live up to Shibata, they can’t live up to Nakamura, to Naito. You don’t need three musketeers, you need one assassin. This tournament is for the best of the best. I will win the G1 Climax because I am Will Ospreay and I’m on another level.”
Ospreay walked over to Kevin Kelly, who pointed out that he beat both Kenny Omega and Kazuchika within a month. “The billy goat is taking the G1,” Ospreay replied.
Final Thoughts: Ospreay vs. Okada easily earns best match. Not only was the match great, but both Okada and Ospreay are likely to advance to the playoffs, and could easily have a rematch before the tournament is over. Despite not ever thinking Narita was winning here, the matchup with Sanada still earns second-best of the night. I’ll go with Kaito-Kidd for third place, as that brawl got heated, particularly in the final minute and post-match.
The tournament actually takes two days off. The C and D blocks will be back in action on Sunday, featuring Tama Tonga vs. Shingo Takagi, and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hirooki Goto as the headline matches.