By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
NJPW “G1 Climax 33 Night 17”
August 10, 2023 in Chiba, Japan at Funabashi Arena
Streamed on New Japan World
This is a 32-man tournament. We are down to the playoffs, with the top two finishers in each of four separate Blocks qualifying. This show features the four quarterfinal matches. The undercard is a mystery; if they announced a lineup, it was shortly before the show as it wasn’t posted Wednesday night. Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton provided live commentary.
1. “Los Ingobernobles De Japon” Yota Tsuji, Hiromu Takahashi, and Shingo Takagi defeated “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Shane Haste, Kosei Fujita, and Mikey Nicholls at 7:58. Kosei attacked Shingo before the bell, which seems like a bad idea to me. Yota entered and beat up Tsuji. Haste made the hot tag at 3:30 and hit a back suplex on Shingo. Hiromu entered and beat up on Fujita, hitting a Death Valley Driver into the corner, then the Time Bomb spinning slam for the pin. Good opener.
2. Shota Umino, El Phantasmo, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa defeated Hiroyoshi Tenzan and “Strong Style” Ren Narita, El Desperado, and Minoru Suzuki at 9:12. Narita and Umino opened. Desperado and Tama Tonga squared off at 1:00. We had some comedy with a multi-person nipple-twisting spot, and Tama’s team took turns working over Desperado. Suzuki made the hot tag to a huge pop at 4:30 and he hit a Mafia Kick on Loa. Tenzan tagged in for the first time at 7:00 and battled Phantasmo. Tenzan applied a Koji Clutch on the mat on ELP, but Shota made the save. Shota and Ren re-entered and traded slaps to the face. ELP and Tenzan (still the legal men) traded Mongolian Chops. Phantasmo caught him with a superkick out of nowhere for the pin. Adequate.
3. “Bullet Cub” Chase Owens, Kenta, Alex Coughlin, and Gabe Kidd defeated “Just 5 Guys” Taichi, Taka Michinoku, Douki, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru at 9:05. The Bullet Club attacked before the bell. They took turns working over Kanemaru. Douki got in and hit a dive through the ropes. However, Owens hit a Death Valley Driver on Douki and the BC were right back in control. Taka entered at 8:00 and he tied up Kidd on the mat and cranked on his head. However, Kidd hit a hard punch to Taka’s jaw and scored the pin.
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tomohiro Ishii, and Eddie Kingston defeated “United Empire” Jeff Cobb, Great-O-Khan, and Henare at 9:42. O-Khan and Tanahashi started, and the UE took turns working over Tanahashi. Ishii finally tagged in at 6:00 and traded offense with Cobb, with Cobb hitting a nice dropkick. Ishii hit a delayed vertical suplex and they were both down. Kingston got in for the first time at 7:30 and he hit his rapid-fire chops in the corner on Henare. Cobb hit the Spin Cycle on Kingston. Ishii and Kingston hit stereo enzuigiris. Kingston hit an Exploder Suplex on Henare. Henare hit some stiff punches to Eddie’s gut. Eddie nailed the spinning back fist out of nowhere and pinned Henare. The last couple of minutes was really good.
5. Tetsuya Naito defeated Hikuleo (w/Jado) in a G1 Climax 33 quarterfinal match at 13:09. Hikuleo is the only playoff participant who finished 4-3, as everyone else was 5-2 or better. Naito immediately kicked at Hikuleo’s knee, and he went to work twisting it on the mat. Hikuleo choked Naito in the ropes and this is at methodical pace early on. Hikuleo dropped Naito ‘snake eyes’ on the top turnbuckle at 7:30 and he hit a clothesline and a Stinger Splash. Naito hit a dropkick on the knee to regain control. Hikuleo hit a Bulldog Powerslam at 10:00.
HIkuleo hit a Mafia Kick and a standing powerbomb for a nearfall. Naito hit an enzuigiri. Hikuleo caught him with a hard powerslam that woke up the crowd. Hikuleo set up for a chokeslam, but Naito turned it into a DDT, and they were both down at 12:00. Hikuleo bodyslammed Naito, and he again went for a chokeslam, but Naito slipped free and hit a Destino. He nailed a second Destino for good measure to score the pin. The crowd woke up late for Hikuleo’s big spots, but I never once considered the possibility he was winning here.
6. Will Ospreay (w/Jeff Cobb & Henare) defeated David Finlay (w/the Bullet Club) in a G1 Climax 33 quarterfinal match at 17:19. This crowd was hot before they locked up. Finlay slapped him in the face. Ospreay hit a Mafia Kick. They rolled to the floor, where Finlay shoved Ospreay’s back into the guardrail at 2:30. Finlay tried to set up a table on the floor, but Cobb confiscated it and he shoved Finlay to the ground; the ref had to get between them, and the referee kicked Cobb and Henare out! However, Kidd and Coughlin were putting the boots to Ospreay! Back in the ring, Finlay hit some hard punches to the gut and was in charge. Finlay applied a mid-ring Octopus, stretching Ospreay, at 6:00.
Ospreay fired back with a hard clothesline. He hit his handspring-back-spin kick, then his springboard flying forearm for a nearfall at 7:30. Ospreay climbed the ropes, but Finlay yanked his feet, and Ospreay crashed face-first on the top turnbuckle. Ospreay hit a German Suplex; he set up for an OsCutter but Finlay turned it into a Russian Legsweep. Nice. Ospreay hit a mid-ring Spanish Fly. He set up for a Hidden Blade but Finlay hit a spear, then a Dominator swinging faceplant for a believable nearfall at 10:00. They fought on the ring apron, where Ospreay hit his heel hook kick to the jaw, then the OsCutter, with them both crashing to the floor. Ospreay set up to hit a splash on Finlay on a table on the floor, but Kidd moved Finlay! However, Ospreay hit a standing powerbomb on Finlay through the table on the floor at 12:30.
In the ring, Ospreay hit a basement dropkick for a nearfall; he set up for the OsCutter but Finlay blocked it. Seconds later, Ospreay nailed the OsCutter for a nearfall at 14:00. The ref got bumped. Gedo handed Finlay the shillelagh, and Finlay hit Ospreay across the head with it for a believable nearfall! Ospreay hit a Stundog Millionaire stunner. Ospreay hit a Hidden Blade, then the Stormbreaker for the pin! A very good match, and I fully thought Finlay was winning after that blow with the shillelagh. Kelly lauded the 32-man format because it gave us a great match like this in the quarterfinals.
7. EVIL (w/Dick Togo) defeated Sanada in a G1 Climax 33 quarterfinal match at 16:17. Sanada is undefeated, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he lost here, as it just makes no sense for him to win the tournament when the tournament winner gets a title shot at Sanada’s belt. Kelly ran through a list of NJPW wrestlers who had previously won World Tag League, and later faced each other in a G1 playoff. Togo headed to the back, which Kelly and Charlton were dubious of this move. Sanada has his left arm wrapped from wrist to halfway up his bicep. Sanada immediately hit a pair of dropkicks then a plancha to the floor at 1:00. In the ring, Sanada set up for the Paradise Lock, but Togo returned to ringside and distracted Sanada. This allowed EVIL to take control of the offense, and they brawled to the floor and into the rows of chairs, far from ringside.
EVIL slammed Sanada’s lower back into the guardrail; Sanada got back into the ring at 5:30 before being counted out. EVIL worked the lower back, but Sanada hit a dropkick. Gedo hopped in the ring, so Sanada tied him in the Paradise Lock, then he hit a back suplex on EVIL for a nearfall at 7:30. Sanada hit a TKO stunner, but he missed a top-rope moonsault and landed on his feet. They again went to the floor, where EVIL again whipped Sanada into the guardrail. In the ring, EVIL set up for a Sharpshooter, but Sanada fought free. Sanada was pushed to the floor, where Gedo slammed him into the guardrail, then Gedo shoved him back into the ring, where EVIL immediately llocked in the Sharpshooter at 10:30, but Sanada reached the ropes.
Sanada applied a Dragon Sleeper, and he swung EVIL by his neck. Sanada set up for Deadfall, but EVIL blocked it. EVIL hit a low blow and got a nearfall, so Sanada hit a low blow for a nearfall; Gedo pulled the ref from the ring before the three-count, and Gedo choked Sanada with his wire at 13:30. Charlton wondered why Sanada told Just 5 Guys to stay in the back for this match because these type of shenanigans were expected. Sanada hit a Shining Wizard on EVIL. Sanada nailed the top-rope moonsault for a nearfall. Sanada again set up for Deadfall, but EVIL clawed at Sanada’s eyes to escape as we hear the 15:00 time call (right on with my stopwatch), but Kelly reminds us there is no time limit and those are just markers. EVIL hit a clothesline for a nearfall, and he set up for Everything is Evil but Sanada escaped. Sanada tried to hit Deadfall but EVIL blocked it again, and EVIL hit Everything is EVIL (Rock Bottom) out of nowhere for the clean pin! “EVIL just beat the world champion on his own, with Dick Togo flat on his back on the floor,” Kelly exclaimed. Kelly wondered what are the extent of Sanada’s injuries.
8. Kazuchika Okada defeated Zack Sabre Jr. in a G1 Climax 33 quarterfinal match at 21:46. Kelly said Sabre has never beaten Okada in Japan; Charlton said Sabre won once in the UK in 2018. An intense lockup to open. Sabre peppered him with a kick to the spine and more to the chest. Okada got angry and they brawled to the floor, with Okada whipping Sabre into the guardrails. Sabre applied an Octopus as Okada was tied in the guardrail at 3:00! However, Okada hit a DDT onto the thin mat; Sanada rolled back into the ring at 4:30 before being counted out. Okada stayed in control of the offense. Sabre hit a European Uppercut; Okada worked over Sabre’s shoulder. Sabre did the neck crank/twist with his legs, then hit a basement dropkick to the back of the head at 7:30.
Sabre hit a second-rope flying European Uppercut. He began twisting Okada’s wrist and he tied Okada up in a knot on the mat. Okada set up for an Air Raid Crash, but somehow Sabre turned it into an Octopus, but Okada still turned it into a neckbreaker over his knee at 11:00. Sabre went for a move off the ropes but Okada caught him with a perfectly-timed dropkick. Sabre hit a German Suplex for a nearfall. Okada hit his own German Suplex; he went for the Rainmaker, but Sabre ducked it, so Okada instead hit a dropkick. Okada applied the mid-ring Octopus, and Kelly reminded us that Bryan Danielson got Okada to submit in Toronto. Sabre switched to a cross-armbreaker, but Okada reached the ropes at 15:00 (clock is right-on again.)
Sabre hit a LOUD European Uppecut. Okada returned some weak forearms showing he’s exhausted. Sabre hit a European Uppercut that dropped Okada. Okada fired back with another dropkick, then the landslide slam. Zack hit a Michinoku Driver and they were both down at 17:30. They traded forearm shots while on their knees. They got to their feet, where Sabre hit more European Uppercuts, and they traded blows. Sabre hit a short-arm clothesline at 19:30. They traded rollups. Okada hit a shotgun dropkick; Sabre hit a penalty kick; Okada hit a dropkick. They began trading open-hand slaps to the face. Sabre ducked a Rainmaker and again applied a mid-ring Octopus. Okada hit a swinging sideslam, then the Rainmaker clothesline for the clean pin. That was fantastic.
* Okada got on the mic and noted that if this had been a Block match, it would have been a time-limit draw. He said there is something special about the G1 tournament, but he vowed to win his next two matches to win the tournament.
Final Thoughts: A very good night of action, and there certainly were moments where I thought Sabre was about to beat Okada. Likewise, Finlay had a few moments there where I thought he might pull it out. As I noted, it made sense for Sanada to lose, and I’m not surprised EVIL beat him, but it’s intriguing that the finish of the match had EVIl going over clean. Obviously, there was cheating during the match, but EVIL out-maneuvered Sanada at the end and got a clean win.
EVIL will now face Okada, with Ospreay facing Naito. After a day off, the semi-finals will be Saturday, and the finals on Sunday.