By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
NJPW “G1 Climax 33 Night 16”
August 9, 2023 in Shizuoka, Japan at Act City Hamamatsu
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, 8-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. The tournament is spread out over 19 shows in a 29-day span. Kevin Kelly provided live commentary. Eddie Kingston joined later in the show.
This is the final night of action for the D Block. Just like the C Block, no one has qualified for the playoffs yet, and we have five competitors still in position for the two playoff spots. I fear that Jeff Cobb, who had started 4-0, will somehow lose and miss the playoffs, allowing Zack Sabre Jr. and Tetsuya Naito to qualify. But I was wrong on Tuesday, assuming that Shingo Takagi would leapfrog EVIL for the last slot.
1. “House of Torture” EVIL and Sho (w/Dick Togo) defeated Eddie Kingston and Yuto Nakashima at 8:35. The HoT attacked before the bell and they all brawled on the floor. In the ring, the Hot worked over Yuto. Kingston made the hot tag at 4:00. The babyfaces beat up Sho in their corner, and Yuto applied a Boston Crab. Sho applied a Triangle Choke on Yuto. Sho hit Yuto in the head with his wrench, and he hit his cross-armed piledriver for the pin. Basic. For Kingston, I wish he had been able to get in the ring with someone new; he already wrestled EVIL in Block action, so it would have been nice for him to face someone from a different block.
2. “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Mikey Nicholls and Kosei Fujita defeated Kaito Kiyomiya and Ryohei Oiwa at 10:04. The Young Lions opened up against each other and immediately traded forearm shots. Nicholls hit a DDT on Kaito and they traded some good offense. Kaito hit a Dragonscrew Legwhip at 7:30. Oiwa hit a gutwrench suplex on Nicholls for a nearfall. NIcholls hit a Death Valley Driver and a diving clothesline to pin Oiwa. Solid.
3. Master Wato, Hikuleo, and Shota Umino defeated “Bullet Club War Dogs” David Finlay, Gabe Kidd, and Gedo at 10:14. Finlay and Umino opened. Kidd entered and brawled to the floor with Shota, and the heels worked over Umino extensively. Hikuleo finally made the hot tag at 6:30 and he hit Mafia Kicks on everyone. Wato entered and hit a springboard diving forearm on Gedo. Wato applied the Vendeval head submission hold, and Wato submitted. Kidd and Finlay ran into the ring, holding chairs, and beat up the babyfaces, with Kidd tossing a chair at Hikuleo’s head; I really hate seeing that. Dangerous and unnecessary.
4. “United Empire” Henare and Great-O-Khan defeated Tomohiro Ishii and Tomoaki Honma at 10:53. Ishii and Henare started and immediately traded stiff forearm shots. The UE worked over Honma, with O-Khan hitting his Mongolian Chops. Honma hit his Kokeshi falling headbutt at 8:00. Henare hit a headbutt to Honma’s chest for a nearfall, then the “Streets of Rage” (Angle Slam) on Honma for the pin. Ok action.
5. “Strong Style” Minoru Suzuki, Ren Narita, and El Desperado defeated “Los Ingobernobles De Japon” Shingo Takagi, Yota Tsuji, and Bushi at 10:20. Yota and Narita started, with Ren hitting a Northern Lights Suplex with a bridge for a nearfall. Minoru entered and beat down on Yota. Bushi and Desperado squared off at 3:30. Tsuji applied a Boston Crab on Desperado, and they traded blows. This is vastly better than the first four matches. Shingo and Suzuki traded stiff forearms and Suzuki hit a Helluva Kick at 7:00. Suzuki went for a Gotch-style piledriver but Shingo escaped.
Narita tagged back in and fought Shingo. Bushi tagged in and hit a missile dropkick on Ren, then he dove through the ropes onto Ren. Ren tried to apply the Cobra Twist, but Shingo ran in and broke it up. Ren hit a Northern Lights Suplex with a bridge on Bushi for a believable nearfall at 10:00, then he applied the Cobra Twist/mid-ring octopus, and Bushi tapped out. Easily the best of the undercard matches.
6. Alex Coughlin (6) defeated Toru Yano (4) in a D Block tournament match at 10:38. Coughlin deserves to win this one. Alex was in the ring first; as Yano walked to the ring, Gabe Kidd attacked from behind and I start my stopwatch. Coughlin ran to the floor and the heels began burying Yano in guardrails and stomped on him. Yano got a chair and beat up both men. They brawled through the crowd, away from ringside, and the match has not officially started. They got in the ring and the ref called for the bell at 5:30 to begin!
Shingo took off his wrist tape and he choked Coughin with it. Coughlin hit some chops. The ref got bumped, and Coughlin stomped on Yano. Kidd ran back to the ring and he helped beat down Yano. Kidd set up a table on the floor. However, Yano slammed Kidd through the table at 9:30. Yano is just more vicious tonight and he got a pair of scissors and he charged at Coughlin, but the referee was able to take them away. Coughlin grabbed a title belt and clocked Yano in the head. Coughlin then hit a Jackhammer for the tainted pin. Again, official time is about 5:00 even.
7. Shane Haste (5) vs. Jeff Cobb (9) went to a double count-out in a D Block tournament match at 10:58. Again, I’d love to see Cobb advance to the playoffs, but with the way the lineup is set up, I think he loses here. An intense lockup to begin. Cobb held Haste upside down, but Haste escaped before being slammed. Cobb hit a dropkick, and they went to the floor and brawled. Haste powerbombed Cobb onto the ring apron at 3:00. Cobb rolled into the ring before being counted out, but Haste immediately began stomping on him and took control of the offense. Cobb hit a series of clotheslines in the corner at 6:00 and a back suplex for a nearfall, then a standing moonsault for a nearfall.
Haste hit a kneestrike to the jaw and a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall at 7:30. They traded forearm shots. They went to the floor and brawled up the aisle; if Cobb is counted out, he would miss the playoffs! Cobb hit a backbody drop on the entrance ramp right at the 10:00 mark announcement (right-on with my clock.) Cobb headed back toward the ring but Haste tried to block him; he’s clearly trying to cause the double-countout! Cobb tried to get back into the ring at the 14-count, but Haste clutched at his ankle and held on, until the ref counted both out. This is really a win for Haste’s teammate Zack Sabre Jr., who lost to Cobb earlier in the tournament. So, each man gets one point. Kingston said it was Haste’s plan “the whole time.”
* Cobb destroyed the ringside area in frustration. To make the playoffs, Cobb needs either Naito or Sabre to lose, or Sabre to also score just one point.
8. Zack Sabre Jr. (10) defeated Hirooki Goto (6) in a D Block tournament match at 14:28. Goto is the “walking wounded,” Kelly said. Goto hit a spinning kick in the corner at 1:30. Sabre hit a backbreaker over his knee, and Goto immediatelly rolled to the floor in pain. Sabre hit some European Uppercuts to the small of the back as they fought on the floor. In the ring, Sabre hit a stiff kick to the spine and he peppered Goto with playful kicks, and he applied a double-armbar on the mat, but Goto reached the ropes at 4:30. Goto hit a back suplex for a nearfall. Goto applied a headscissorslock in the ropes (think Tajiri’s Tarantula), and the ref forced him to let it go.
Goto went for a top-rope elbowdrop, but Sabre caught him and applied another armbar, with Goto again reaching the ropes at 8:00. They hit double clotheslines, and Goto dropped Sabre with a clothesline, then Goto hit a neckbreaker over his knee. Sabre hit a back suplex; Goto popped up and hit a back suplex; Sabre popped up and hit a backbreaker over his knee, and they were both down at 9:30. Sabre hit a Michinoku Driver but was too exhausted to make a cover. They traded forearm shots. Goto hit a stiff spin kick to the chest that dropped Sabre at 12:00. Goto hit a Death Valley Driver for a nearfall.
Sabre got a rollup for a believable nearfall. Goto hit a headbutt that dropped Sabre. Sabre applied a mid-ring Octopus and he fell backward to the mat. Sabre tied up the arms and legs, and Goto verbally submitted. That was really good and easily Goto’s best match of the tournament, after some sluggish outings against Naito and Tanahashi. With the win, Sabre advances to the playoffs. If Naito loses, Cobb will join Sabre in the playoffs, with Sabre being the No. 1 seed. A Naito win means Naito is the top seed and Sabre is the No. 2 seed.
9. Tetsuya Naito (10) defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi (6) in a D Block tournament match at 17:53. Again, Tanahashi is eliminated because Cobb picked up a point earlier, so even a win doesn’t get Hiroshi in. Standing switches to open and this has the ‘big-time match’ feel to it. Tanahashi hit a second-rope twisting crossbody block at 3:30. Naito hit a baseball slide dropkick to the floor on Tanahashi and he did the ‘Tranquilo pose’ at 5:30. They traded forearm shots in the ring. Tanahashi hit the second-rope summersault senton for a nearfall at 8:30. Naito hit a hard dropkick to Tanahashi’s back, and they were both down at 10:00. (The clock is right on here; it was really off at the 5-minute call.)
Tanahashi hit a Dragonscrew Legwhip as Naito was in the ropes, and that popped the crowd. Hiroshi hit a top-rope crossbody block to the floor on Naito at 11:30 that POPPED the crowd, and they were both down on the floor. Tanahashi rolled both himself and Naito into the ring; Kelly and Kingston agreed he wants to win clean and not by countout. Tanahashi hit a top-rope crossbody block; he went for the High Fly Flow frogsplash, but Naito got his knees up to block it. They traded forearm shots while on their knees; they stood up and traded more blows as we heard the 15:00 call, again right on with my stopwatch.
Naito hit a flipping neckbreaker out of the corner. Naito hit an enzuigiri. Tanahashi got an inside cradle for a believable nearfall, then two Twist-and-Shout swinging neckbreakers, then another inside cradle for a believable nearfall. Hiroshi hit a German Suplex for a believable nearfall at 17:00 and this crowd is really hot with the three-minute warning. Naito spit at Hiroshi! Naito hit a tornado DDT that absolutely PLANTED Tanahashi for the pin. Just a sickening sound on the landing. So, Naito is the No. 1 seed, Sabre is the No. 2 seed, and Cobb finishes one point out of the playoffs.
* Naito spoke on the mic to close out the show, but without Chris Charlton in the booth tonight, I have no translation. “Where is Chris when you need him?” Kingston added, right as I finished the prior sentence.
Final Thoughts: Okay, I never once thought that Naito or Sabre were losing. Entering the day, I fully believed both would finish 5-2, which they did. I liked the creative way for Cobb to be eliminated, as he wasn’t pinned in the double-countout, but it happened at the hands of Sabre’s teammate, Haste. So, it was a very good way to close out the final night of round-robin play.
This was a particularly uninteresting night of undercard matches. Unlike the last three shows, we really didn’t have any matches that served as previews, and outside of LIJ-Strong Style, the matches just felt like unnecessary. It cements my belief that this year’s main format of 32 men, four blocks, with 8 tournament matches on every show and no filler undercard matches, is the right formula moving forward.
The playoffs begin on Thursday! The eight competitors who reached the playoffs will square off in four quarterfinal matches, with Sanada vs. EVIL, Kazuchika Okada vs. Zack Sabre Jr., Will Ospreay vs. David Finlay, and Hikuleo vs. Tetsuya Naito.