By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
NJPW “G1 Climax 33 Night Ten”
July 30, 2023 in Aichi, Japan at Dolphin’s Arena
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 provided solo, live commentary. The tournament is spread out over 19 shows in a 29-day span. At the end of this show, each wrestler will have completed five of their seven round-robin matches.
This is an arena; the lights are low so it’s hard to get a good sense of the size of the crowd but it has to be more than 1,000.
1. David Finlay (w/Gedo) (8) defeated Aaron Henare (2) in a C Block tournament match at 11:54. Henare immediately hit a stiff kick to the back and a senton. They brawled to the floor, with Finlay slamming Henare against the guardrail; in the ring, Finlay got a nearfall at 2:30. He grounded Henare with a rear-naked choke and remained in control of the offense. Henare hit a pop-up Samoan Drop at 5:30 but clutched at a sore right shoulder, then a Blue Thunder Bomb for a nearfall. He nailed a running penalty kick for a nearfall. He went for the Rampage football tackle, but FInlay turned it into a DDT and they were both down at 7:30.
Finlay stood behind Henare and hit some crossface blows, then a clothesline to the back of the head. They went to the floor, where Finlay tossed Henare head-first into the ring post at 9:30. In the ring, Finlay hit his own Blue Thunder Bomb for a nearfall. Henare hit a running knee to the collarbone. Henare nailed a headbutt that dropped Finlay at 11:00, then a kneestrike in the corner and the Rampage. However, Finlay nailed Oblivion/neckbreaker over his knee for the clean pin. Solid opener. Finlay is almost a lock now for one of the C Block playoff spots.
2. Toru Yano (2) defeated Jeff Cobb (8) in a D Block tournament match at 1:49. You always have to be prepared for a Yano upset special; I would have no problem if he finished at 0-7; he clearly has something stuffed in the front of his shirt; Cobb pulled the shirt open and several beer cans fell to the mat. Cobb hit a spin cycle but he grabbed a can of beer and drank from it. He went for a standing moonsault but Yano got his knees up and got a nearfall! Yano hit a low blow and a backslide for another believable nearfall. Yano grabbed a canister and sprayed something in Cobb’s face, got a rollup and the cheap pin! I called it. Cobb’s loss saves several westlers from elimination today.
3. Eddie Kingston (6) defeated Mikey Nichols (2) in a C Block tournament match at 8:33. An intense lockup to start, but Mikey slapped him in the face as they separated. Nicholls hit a back suplex that sent Kingston to the floor, clutching his left shoulder. Nicholls hit a plancha. In the ring, Nicholls tied Kingsto in the ropes and was in charge early on, hitting a vertical suplex for a nearfall at 2:30. Eddie hit a DDT, then the rapid-fire chops in the corner and a running Facewash at 5:00, then a swinging fisherman’s suplex for a nearfall. Nicholls hit a DDT and they were both down. Nicholls hit a spinebuster for a nearfall, then a Death Valley Driver and a sliding forearm for a nearfall at 7:00. Kingston hit a pair of Exploder Suplexes, then a half-nelson suplex and a diving forearm for a nearfall. Nicholls hit an enzuigiri, but Kingston immediately hit a spinning backfist for the pin out of nowhere. Decent match, and Kingston stays in the hunt for a playoff spot.
4. Tetsuya Naito (6) defeated Alex Coughlin (2) in a D Block tournament match at 10:00 even. Naito needs a win here to stay in the running, and he stalled and frustrated the high-energy Coughlin early on. Coughlin hit a fallaway slam. On the floor, Coughlin whipped Naito into the guardrail at 2:00. In the ring, Coughlin hit a suplex and remained in charge. Coughlin hit some chops and he spit in Naito’s face at 5:00, drawing boos. Naito hit a swinging neckbreaker. Coughlin hit a backbreaker over his knee, then a pop-up powerbomb for a nearfall at 8:00. Coughlin hit a Black Hole Slam and a clothesline for a nearfall. Naito hit a Destino for a nearfall, then a second Destino for the pin. This one never reached another gear.
5. EVIL (w/Dick Togo) (8) defeated Tomohiro Ishii (2) in a C Block tournament match at 14:41. EVIL attacked Ishii as he climbed through the ropes and he stomped on Ishii. On the floor, Ishii whipped EVIL repeatedly in the guardrails. EVIL slammed Ishii into the guardrails. EVIL put a chair around Ishii’s neck and slammed him headfirst into the ring post at 3:30. In the ring, EVIL remained in charge. Ishii hit a suplex and they were both down at 6:00. Ishii hit a Saito Suplex. Togo hopped in the ring, shoving Ishii into the ref, and the ref was down. Togo and EVIL beat up on Ishii, and they hit a Magic Killer team slam, with EVIL getting a nearfall at 9:00.
Ishii hit a German Suplex, and they were both down. Ishii hit some chops. Togo hopped on the ring aprong to distract the ref and Ishii. EVIL accidentally hit Togo, and Ishii hit EVIL with a chair that EVIL had brought into the ring. They traded clotheslines. EVIL hit the Darkness Falls sit-out powerbomb for a nearfall at 13:00, but he couldn’t hit Everything is Evil. Ishii hit his own uranage and a sliding clothesline for a nearfall, and he was fired up. EVIL grabbed the ref, allowing Togo to run in and hit a low blow! EVIL immediately hit the Everything is Evil uranage for the cheap pin. Ishii is robbed again, but EVIL remains in the playoff picture.
6. Zack Sabre Jr. (8) defeated Shane Haste (4) in a D Block tournament match at 13:19. Again, very interesting that NJPW put TMDK faction partners in the same Block, as they usually do a good job of separating stables. Kosei Fujita came to the ring with Haste, but he also walked to the ring with Sabre. (This could be some good comedy if they put Fujita in the middle, forced to help one or the other.) Friendly mat reversals to open. Haste hit a stiff kick at 2:30 and his face showed he instantly regretted it and was apologetic… but then he hit a Mafia Kick! So, Sabre hit his own kick, and they traded European Uppercuts. Haste hit a dropkick, and he took control, twisting Sabre’s arms.
Sabre hit a dropkick, and they were both down at 6:30. Sabre twisted Haste’s head between his legs. Sabre hit a hard slap to the face, and they traded slaps at 9:00. They hit simultaneous Mafia Kicks and both went down. Haste hit an impressive sit-out powerbomb for a nearfall. Sabre applied a modified STF, and he turned it into a Rings of Saturn, but Hasted reached the ropes at 12:00. Sabre hit some running penalty kicks to the chest; Haste hit a clothesline and a back suplex. Sabre applied a Triangle Choke; he flipped Haste over and got the pin. Good match. I do think it would have been funny to have Kosei asked to help one or the other, but this worked really well.
7. Shingo Takagi (5) vs. Tama Tonga (7) ended in a time-limit draw in a C Block tournament match at 20:00. To me, this is a playoff match because I expect the winner will take a playoff spot. (I expect David Finlay to claim the other playoff spot.) An intense exchange early on and this has a big fight feel to it. Shingo clotheslined Tama to the floor at 2:00. He dropped Tama face-first on the ring apron. In the ring, Shingo was in charge, hitting a suplex and a running elbowdrop to the chin. Tama hit a dropkick at 4:00 and they were both down. Tama peeled off his vest and hit a Stinger Splash in the corner. Tama snapped Shingo’s throat across the top rope, with Shingo falling to the floor and selling the injury.
In the ring, Tama hit a Bulldog Powerslam at 6:30 and was in control. He hit a snap suplex for a nearfall. Shingo hit a DDT and they were both down. He hit a senton and was fired up. He hit a top-rope superplex at 10:00 and they were both down. Tama applied a Sharpshooter, but Shingo reached the ropes at 13:30. They got up and traded stiff forearm shots; it must be really hot in this building because the sweat was flying. Tama hit his rolling Death Valley Driver and he nailed the Supreme Flow frogsplash for a nearfall at 15:30, and he set up for the Gun Stun, but Shingo avoided it. Tama avoided the Pumping Bomber clothesline. Shingo nailed a sit-out powerbomb for a believable nearfall.
Shingo hit several Moxley-style elbow strikes to the side of the head as we hear the 17:00 mark (right on with my time.) Tama hit a Tongan Twist faceplant. Tama nailed a jumping DDT for a believable nearfall. Shingo hit a pop-up stunner, then a Pumping Bomber clothesline for a believable nearfall at 18:30. Tama hit a headbutt. Shingo hit a short-arm clothesline then a Death Valley Driver with both men down. Tama went for a jackknife cover as the time expired. I really liked this and it was far better than anything else on this show so far. I also like that we didn’t have a contrived nearfall at the time-limit where one was ‘saved by the bell.’
8. Hiroshi Tanahashi (6) defeated Hirooki Goto (4) in a D Block tournament match at 14:39. As I write this before it begins, this might be the main event matchup of the tournament I’m looking forward to the least… two veterans whose best days are behind them, and Goto’s slow-paced match against Naito earlier in the tournament didn’t do much to convince me this could be better than that one. Goto immediately hit some stiff forearm shots. Goto’s ribs are taped, and Hiroshi hit a punch to the gut and got an inside cradle for a nearfall at 1:00. Tanahashi kicked at Goto’s left leg. Goto hit a clothesline and they were both down at 5:30.
They fought on the ropes in the corner, and Tanahashi hit a Dragonscrew Legwhip at 9:30, then a Sling Blade clothesline and they were both down. Hiroshi hit a German Suplex, but he missed the High Fly Flow frogsplash. Goto hit a neckbreaker over his knee, then a headbutt while holding onto Tanahashi’s wrists. Goto hit a twisting Death Valley Driver for a nearfall at 13:00. Goto picked up Tanahashi but his legs buckled and Tanahashi landed on him. Tanahashi hit a top-rope crossbody block, then he nailed the High Fly Flow frogsplash for the pin. It topped my admittedly low expectations.
* Tanahashi spoke on the mic to close out the show. “Dont ever count Tanahashi out,” Kelly said. Tanahashi played an extended air guitar solo to entertain fans as the show came to a close.
Final Thoughts: Tama Tonga vs. Shingo Takagi was really good. Not great, but really good. They are my two favorite guys in the C Block and I really didn’t want to see either lose, so I’m really okay with the time limit draw. Sabre-Haste was an intriguing battle between stablemates and easily earned a distant second place. But this was an off-night for the undercard; I didn’t describe any of the first five matches as a “good match.” Some were solid, some were lower-than-expected, but none of the first five are worth going out of your way to see. So, I guess I’ll go with Kingston-Nicholls for third best, ahead of the main event.
I do want to give kudos to Kevin Kelly, navigating the show solo. He made the decision to not ask any English-speaking wrestlers join him on commentary after their matches. Sure, it would have been nice to have, say Jeff Cobb, join in the booth for the bulk of the show, but Kelly didn’t want any physically exhausted wrestlers to do double-duty, and be at the booth when maybe they should be in the training room.
To me, a wrestler needs to be at a minimum five points to be in the running for a playoff spot. While some at 2-3 (four points) may not technically be eliminated, I think all eight wrestlers who make the playoffs will finish with nine points or higher. The tournament continues on Tuesday with the A and B blocks in action, while the C and D Blocks are back in action Wednesday. The pace of this year’s tournament is light year’s better than last year’s mess, where uneven number of competitors (7 instead of 8) in each Block meant weirdly timed byes.