By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
NJPW “G1 Climax 33 Night 12”
August 2, 2023 in Hiroshima, Japan at Hiroshima Sun Plaza 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 provided live, solo commentary. The tournament is spread out over 19 shows in a 29-day span. We are already in the stretch run of the tournament, as this is the sixth tournament match for the C and D Blocks.
Once again, this is an arena, and the lights are low so it’s hard to gauge the crowd size, but this isn’t a small gym with a few hundred people, either.
1. Alex Coughlin (4) defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi (6) in a D Block tournament match at 8:48. An intense lockup to open. They brawled to the floor, where Coughlin rammed Hiroshi backfirst into the ring at 3:00. Coughlin picked up a Young Lion and bodyslammed him onto Tanahashi. In the ring, Tanahashi hit a sling blade and got a nearfall. Tanahashi went for a top-rope crossbody block, but Coughlin caught him and hit a suplex for a nearfall at 7:30. Coughlin hit a rolling Death Valley Driver for another believable nearfall. Coughlin then nailed a Jackhammer powerslam for the clean pin. That’s a huge victory for the recent Young Lion.
2. Mikey Nicholls (w/Kosei Fujita) (6) defeated EVIL (w/ Dick Togo) (8) in a C Block tournament match at 10:01. EVIL attacked as Nicholls walked to the ring. Once the match officially started in the ring, Nicholls hit an impressive delayed vertical suplex for a nearfall, holding EVIL upside down for several seconds. They brawled back to the floor, where EVIL slammed Nicholls into the guardrail. Nicholls barely made it back into the ring at 5:00 before being counted out. (Keep in mind, Nicholls’ TMDK teammate Will Ospreay lost via count-out a day ago, so it can happen.) EVIL remained in charge in the ring.
Nicholls hit a rolling Death Valley Driver and a basement clothesline for a nearfall. EVIL went for a low blow at 8:00, but Nicholls blocked it. The ref got bumped. Togo immediately hopped in the ring and helped beat up Nicholls, and they set up for the Magic Killer team slam. However, Fujita got in the ring and fought Togo, and they left the ring. Meanwhile, Nicholls got a Sabre-style O’Connor Roll with a high bridge to pin EVIL! Kelly cheered for the result.
3. Toru Yano (4) defeated Shane Haste (w/Kosei Fujita) (4) in a D Block tournament match at 6:07. Yano scored his big upset in his last match, using a spraycan to get a rollup on Jeff Cobb. Yano put a hood over Haste and got a rollup for a nearfall in the first minute. Haste hit a dropkick. Yano rolled to the floor, and he grabbed the spray cannister, but Haste took it away. Yano hid under the ring, so Haste ordered Fujita to go under the ring and get him. Haste followed too at 3:30. This is all comedy; the ref started counting. Yano re-emerged and got into the ring. Haste came out from under the rin, but he had a bucket tapped to his head, and he nearly got counted out.
In the ring, Yano patted on the bucket, still taped on Haste’s head. Haste swung wildly, and he picked up the ref and nearly bodyslammed him. Yano went for a low blow but Haste blocked it; Kelly wondered how he knew to block it. Haste finally got the bucket off his head, but Yano hit a low blow uppercut, a spear to the back, and got a rollup for yet another cheap pin. Blah. Haste deserves so much better than this, and now he’s guaranteed of a losing G1 record.
4. Henare (4) defeated Tomohiro Ishii (2) in a C Block tournament match at 14:20. Just shocking each man is entering this match at 1-4. They charged at each other at the bell, traded some quick moves and had a standoff. Henare hit a senton at 1:30, and he hit some stiff kicks that dropped Ishii. Henare hit some Yes Kicks to the chest. Ishii hit a dropkick on Henare’s knee, then a vertical suplex for a nearfall at 4:00. Henare hit some punches to the gut then a Blue Thunder Bomb for a nearfall at 5:30. Ishii hit a forearm shot that dropped Henare. Henare went for a Full Nelson, but Ishii blocked it. Henare hit a spin kick off the ropes. Ishii hit a German Suplex but Henare popped to his feet; Ishii immediately hit a clothesline for a nearfall at 7:30, and they were both down.
Henare hit a Samoan Drop. Ishii hit an enzuigiri and another hard clothesline for a nearfall at 9:30. They traded open-hand slaps to the face. Ishii hit a headbutt; Henare hit a kneestrike to the head, and they were both down again. Henare nailed the Rampage football tackle for a nearfall, and he applied the Full Nelson at 11:30. Henare let go of the hold and hit a uranage for a nearfall. He hit a kneestrike in the corner. Ishii fired back with a headbutt with a sickening ‘thud’ sound, and they were both down again. Ishii hit a sliding clothesline for a believable nearfall. Henare hit a spin kick to the head, then a headbutt, then a fisherman’s suplex for the clean pin. Kelly said it was the first time Henare has pinned Ishii in a singles match. That was really good.
5. Hirooki Goto (6) defeated Jeff Cobb (8) in a D Block tournament match at 11:34. I would argue that Goto has had the worst tournament of the field, as far as match quality goes. (Yano is in a different category altogether.) Goto has his ribs taped, as he’s sold this injury throughout the tournament. Cobb hit a shoulder tackle that dropped Goto early on. Goto went to work on the right leg and twisted it in the ropes. They brawled to the floor, with Cobb whipping Goto into the guardrail. In the ring, Cobb made a lazy cover and got a nearfall at 4:30. Goto went for a spin kick in the corner, but Cobb caught him and slammed him to the mat for a nearfall, and Cobb remained in charge, but he missed a standing moonsault.
Goto hit a back suplex for a nearfall. They traded forearm shots. Goto applied a sleeper. Cobb escaped and hit a dropkick at 8:30. Cobb hit the Spin Cycle swinging back suplex, then the standing moonsault for a nearfall. Goto set up for his neckbreaker over his knee, but Cobb escaped. However, seconds later Goto hit the neckbreaker over his knee. Cobb went for Tour of the Islands but Goto blocked it. Goto hit a Code Red for a nearfall at 11:00 and he was fired up! He hit an inverted DDT over his knee for the clean pin. Good match, and easily Goto’s best showing of the tournament. After starting 4-0, Cobb has dropped two straight and is suddenly on the precipice of losing his playoff spot.
6. Eddie Kinston (8) defeated Tama Tonga (7) in a C Block tournament match at 11:37. An intense lockup and a feeling-out process. Tama stood behind Kingston and hit some elbow strikes to the top of the head. Kingston hit a doublestomp on the gut for a nearfall at 4:00. Kingston hit his rapid-fire chops in the corner, then a second rope shoulder tackle at 6:30. Tama hit a second-rope neckbreaker, then his rolling Death Valley Driver, but he missed a top-rope frogsplash. They traded forearm shots, headbutts and chops while on their knees, then while standing. Tama hit an Exploder Suplex at 9:30, but Kingston popped up and hit his own Exploder Suplex and a back suplex. He went for a spinning back fist, but Tama blocked it, and Tama hit a Scorpion Deathdrop inverted DDT for a nearfall, and he was fired up.
Kinston nailed a half-nelson suplex and the spinning back fist for a believable nearfall at 11:00. Eddie hit an enzuigiri, and he blocked the Gun Stun. Eddie hit another spinning back fist and a brainbuster for the clean pin. Kingston remains in position to win a playoff spot, while Tama will need some luck to make the playoffs for a second straight year.
7. Tetsuya Naito (8) defeated Zack Sabre Jr. (w/Kosei Fujita) (8) in a D Block tournament match at 18:29. I recall a couple years ago, Naito scored a pin on Sabre in about four minutes, but that was a fluke. (I do predict a Naito win here to keep him alive in the tournament.) Naito, as always, took his time removing his shirt, and it really irritated Sabre. Sabre playfully pushed on Naito’s chest; Naito spit at Sabre. Sabre set up for a dive to the floor, but then he sat down in the ring to mock Naito. In the ring, Naito hit a huracanrana and he did the ‘tranquilo pose.’ They brawled on the floor. Naito hit a Rude Awakening neckbreaker onto the thin mat at ringside, and he rolled into the ring at 5:00. In the ring, Naito applied a cravat and was in charge.
Sabre applied a cross-armbreaker, but Naito reached the ropes. They went back to the floor, where Sabre tied the left arm in the guardrail and kicked it. Back in the ring, Sabre was now in charge and he stomped on Naito’s damaged arm. Naito hit a basement dropkick to the back at 9:30, and he applied a leglock around the neck and shoulders. Sabre applied a cross-armbreaker in the ropes at 11:30, and the ref ordered him to release the hold. Sabre hit the Pele Kick to the arm. Naito countered with a spinebuster, then a Destino for a nearfall at 13:30, and they were both down. Sabre appied a modified Rings of Saturn double armbar.
Sabre switched to a headscissorslock, then back to a double armbar, but Naito reached the ropes. They traded rollups and Sabre got a believable nearfall at 16::00, then a running penalty kick. However, Naito hit another Destino out of nowhere. Sabre nailed a Michinoku Driver, and they were both down. This crowd is really hot now, aware we are closing in on the time limit. (The three-minute warning is right on.) Sabre hit a tornado DDT out of the corner, but Naito immediately hit a suplex and they were both down. Sabre got a rollup for a nearfall. Sabre went for a tornado DDT off the ropes, but Naito blocked it, got a rollup, and the clean pin! I was once again fooled into believing we were headed to a time-limit draw just seconds earlier.
8. Shingo Takagi (7) defeated David Finlay (w/Gedo) (8) in a C Block tournament match at 18:43. An intense lockup at the bell; I wrote that Shingo could run the table after starting 0-2, and he hasn’t lost since then. (He did go to a time-limit draw.) Shingo hit a shoulder tackle that dropped Finlay at 1:30. Gedo hopped on the ring apron for a distraction, allowing Finlay to hit a chop block to the back of the knee. They brawled to the floor, where Finlay set up one of those super-strong unbreakable NJPW tables. Finlay hit a snap suplex onto the thin mat at 3:30, and they got back in the ring. (The table wasn’t used … for now!) Finlay was in charge of the offense. Shingo fired up and hit some forearm shots and a left-armed clothesline at 6:00.
Shingo hit a suplex for a nearfall and he got the crowd fired up. He hit a DDT and a sliding clothesline. They fought on the ring apron, near the table on the floor! They brawled to the floor, where Finlay powerbombed Shingo through the table at 8:30! Hey, the tables can break! Shingo barely got back into the ring before being counted out. Finlay immediately hit a Blue Thunder Bomb for a nearfall, then a diving clothesline to the back of the neck for a nearfall. Shingo nailed a Gory Bomb, then a top-rope superplex, and they were both down at 12:00. Finlay dropped Shingo stomach-first on the top rope, and he nailed a Dominator swinging faceplant for a nearfall at 13:30, then a hard clothesline.
Finlay nailed a pair of backbreakers over his knee for a nearfall. He hit a clothesline but Shingo didn’t go down. Shingo nailed the Made In Japan pumphandle powerbomb for a believable nearfall, and they were both down at 16:00. They tradedd slaps to the face, and Shingo unloaded a series of forearm shots. Finlay nailed a spear, then a standing powerbomb. The crowd came alive for the three-minute warning, and Finlay hit a second standing powerbomb, and Kelly called it a “symphony of violence.” Shingo hit a diving clothesline and they were both down at 18:00. Shingo nailed the Last of the Dragon pumphandle powerbomb for the clean pin! A really good match.
* Shingo spoke on the mic to close out the show.
Final Thoughts: A really good second half of the show. The main event earns best match. While I never doubted Shingo was winning here, it was really entertaining. Sabre-Naito was a close second place, with Kingston-Tama for third. To no surprise in NJPW’s parity, all the playoff spots in the C and D Blocks will be determined on their respective final days of action. Even with Tama’s clean loss here, I could see him leapfrog Kingston and take the final playoff spot. I still presume Finlay is in. I fear that Cobb will lose (or draw!), allowing Sabre and Naito to reach the playoffs as well.
After days off on Thursday and Friday, the final four A Block matches will be on Saturday. The rest of Saturday’s lineup will be announced later, presumably a mix of the B, C and D Blocks and a few others not in the tournament. (The roster lineup lists Yoh, Yujiro Takahashi, Togi Makabe, Bushi, and others.)