G-1 Climax 33 – The road so far…..
By Rick Poehling on 29th July 2023
Carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done….
Several days ago, my sleep schedule underwent a drastic change along with most Puro fans in North America, as we saw the start of the G-1 Climax for 2023!
Now, we sit a bit past the halfway point of the tournament and it feels like a good time to check in over in the Land of the Rising Sun. So as we make the turn, let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?
Alright, Kreskin, in your preview article you tried to pick the entire tournament – how have you done with your predictions so far?
Okay, it’s not THAT bad. But it really ain’t that good. I’m 38-34 after 72 matches, so I’m just barely on the good side of .500. GEDO has defeated me thoroughly this year.
More to the point, I got almost everything wrong storyline wise with A Block so far. B Block has pretty much gone close to expected with one very notable exception. C Block I’m pretty sure I got right. D Block I was half and half.
So with that in mind, what I want to do is kind of look at where we’ve been so far, put out some adjusted predictions, and give match recommendations. We’ll go Block by Block and give some thoughts on each.
5 nights are now complete in both A & B Block:
Current standings as of today:
SANADA (5-0, 10 pts)
Kaito Kiyomiya (2-1-2, 6 pts)
Shota Umino (2-1-2, 6 pts)
Gabe Kidd (2-2-1, 5 pts)
Chase Owens (2-3, 4 pts)
Hikuleo (2-3, 4 pts)
Yota Tsuji (1-3-1, 3 pts)
Ren Narita (0-3-2, 2 pts)
I PICKED TO WIN THE BLOCK: Yota Tsuji, Kaito Kiyomiya
I NOW PICK TO WIN THE BLOCK: SANADA, Katio Kiyomiya
Holy shit did I get this Block wrong. I mean, I was off in space. First thing, I totally overestimated what GEDO wanted to do with the Reiwa 3. They’ve been doing jobs left and right and drawing with each other (combined current record 3-7-5), and for the first time I don’t get what GEDO wants to do. His booking this year has been some of the best of his career, all the way up to Yota Tsuji coming back from excursion and looking like the next big superstar. Yet here, Tsuji is doing jobs for Hikuleo and Narita has yet to win a match, while Shota remains in shouting distance of the lead.
Most of the Block has been putting over SANADA, and I won’t be surprised if he goes 7-0. None of the opponents he has left should even pose a challenge to him; GEDO clearly wanted people to know that none of the young guys can beat his World champ. Kaito, Tsuji, Umino, they’ve all gone down. You certainly can’t say that SANADA hasn’t been protected here. As for who finishes second, I expect Kaito hangs on to get past Umino for the other spot – I really would not understand putting Kaito in this tournament and not getting him to the elimination rounds at a minimum.
BEST MATCHES OF THE BLOCK SO FAR:
Ren Narita/Shota Umino – Night 1 (Our first time limit draw set the stakes for the shorter G-1 matches this year, and the match was really great to boot)
SANADA/Shota Umino – Night 3 (One of Umino’s best performances so far, he’s done a lot to erase the Naito match that soured many on him after his return from excursion)
Kaito Kiyomiya/Shota Umino – Night 5 (The future of two companies collide)
SANADA/Yota Tsuji – Night 5 (Wrong result, but still. A great tilt and Tsuji is going to be something)
Kaito Kiyomiya/Gabriel Kidd – Night 9 (Holy FUCK, what a stiff beating these two laid on each other. Don’t let the match result fool you, this was perfect stuff across the board as by the end, all I wanted was to see the two of them clobber each other again, which is exactly what they wanted)
And when it comes to the best match of the Block so far, I thought it was a runaway choice between the two MVPs of the Block:
SANADA vs Kaito Kiyomiya – G-1 Climax 33, Night 7
I will be upfront about the fact that I’ve never really been a big fan of Kaito from my NOAH viewing, which is somewhat limited; I felt (and still feel to a certain degree) that he’s a distant 4th to the Nakjima/Shiozaki/KENOH grouping, maybe 5th if I’ve just seen a YO-HEY match. But he’s 100% made the most of this G-1, having had the match of the night multiple times and it’s not like he’s being carried by Shota Umino to get there, so good on him.
SANADA being the step-by-step worker that he is, we work off an armbar with reversals for a bit, and Kaito is up to the challenge. One of the interesting things about the time limit this year is that matches are taking less time to get going, at least pacing-wise. Kaito rides him to the mat with a wristlock. And while I normally like Kevin Kelly quite a bit and I’m obviously a total New Japan homer, he’s so far over the top with his cheerleading/NOAH-bashing that I almost want to switch sides because it’s annoying the fuck out of me. SANADA escapes and they trade Shining Wizard attempts into a stalemate.
They trade off the advantage and Kaito gets an armdrag back to the mat. SANADA tries a neato move to escape coming off the turnbuckle, but Kaito calmly rolls through it back to the canvas. Back up and Kaito hits a flying forearm to send SANADA to the floor to think it over. For about 10 seconds. Before firing up with a tope con hilo to flatten SANADA.
SANADA finally gets a bit of offense in with a dropkick to send Kaito to the floor and follow with a plancha. Beatings on the floor translate to SANADA tossing him back in for two. Skull End attempt is countered by Kaito into a double stomp on the knee. As it’s Shark Week, it seems appropriate to say that Kiyomiya smells blood in the water now, mercilessly going after SANADA’s knee. Missile dropkick to the knee, dragon-screw legwhip, now the figure-four. Love that Kiyomiya works the hold, pushing on the knee, falling back to increase the pressure.
15 minute mark is called and SANADA makes a final dive for the ropes, barely making it. Kaito fires forearms, but comes off the ropes and ends up with SANADA hitting a Tiger Driver. SANADA tries a kip up but can barely stand, hopping a bit. He does get a TKO with 3 minutes left, then the Skull End. He goes for the moonsault, but Kaito moves and SANADA lands on the knee, which buckles…..allowing Kaito to hit the Shining Wizard. He can’t cover as the crowd chants for him now.
Both guys up at we’re down to 2 minutes and they try to throw hands, Kaito with a Tiger Suplex! 1, 2, no! Modified Tiger Bomb, 1, 2, no! Kaito tries another Shining Wizard, but SANADA hits a pop-up TKO, can’t cover, hits a Shining Wizard for two, Deadfall is countered into a Kaito rollup for two! More tradeoffs and cradles as the crowd can feel the draw…..but SANADA slips out and hits a Shining Wizard on Kaito! 1, 2, 3! With 2 seconds left! (SANADA over Kaito Kiyomiya, pinfall, 19:58)
THOUGHTS: ****1/4. SANADA gave Kaito a ton here, really making him look like a threat for the upset and then the draw, before hitting Kaito’s finisher to end it. Really strong pacing in the last 5 minutes really carried this thing, along with the story that put NOAH’s guy over strong as possible without winning after NJPW has beaten him like a red-headed stepchild most of the year. You could have done the draw here, frankly, but SANADA is likely going undefeated through Block competition and is only falling somewhere in the playoffs – whoever beats him there is likely getting the shot at King of Pro-Wrestling. Really excellent match here.
Current standings as of today:
Will Ospreay (4-1, 8 pts)
Kazuchika Okada (4-1, 8 pts)
Taichi (3-2, 6 pts)
KENTA (2-3, 4 pts)
YOSHI-HASHI (2-3, 4 pts)
Tanga Loa (2-3, 4 pts)
El Phantasmo (2-3, 4 pts)
Great-O-Khan (1-4, 2 pts)
I PICKED TO WIN THE BLOCK: Will Ospreay, Kazuchika Okada
I NOW PICK TO WIN THE BLOCK: Same guys
I think I pretty much got this right except I expected ELP to be a breakout and pace with Will and Okada before losing on the last night to Ospreay…..but instead ELP is 2-3 and all but dead. That having been said, while there could be some late pressure by Taichi, this Block has been Ospreay and Okada’s to lose from the jump with very little drama because of it.
BEST MATCHES OF THE BLOCK SO FAR:
KENTA/Will Ospreay – Night 5 (KENTA’s inexcusably lazy performance in the G-1 this year was lifted for one night as he looked like the KENTA of old for fourteen minutes and two seconds, working his ass off with Will)
Kazuchika Okada/YOSHI-HASHI – Night 7 (YOSHI has been rock solid in the G-1 and he took it to another level with Okada here, giving us YOSHI’s best match of the tournament and a damned good one for Okada)
Kazuchika Okada/Will Ospreay – Night 9 (Kind of has to be on here as Will finally gets his clean win over Okada, but you’re kidding yourself if you think this was on the level of their WK clash or most of their other matches. As it is, it was very good, but that’s about it)
B Block does have my pick for the best match of the tournament so far, one that I never would have picked to hold that honorific when I looked at the lineup:
Kazuchika Okada vs Taichi – G-1 Climax 33, Night 5
I mean it, I didn’t see this one coming. They’ve wrestled before, sure, but it was never much more than ‘good’, frankly. A big part of this one is that Taichi has never beaten Okada 1v1, but also that Okada’s new personality of ‘I’m pissed the fuck off all the time’ has been vastly entertaining as he continually disrespects everyone he’s in there with.
Okada hits a spinning Tombstone and Rainmaker 30 seconds in and it looks like we’re in for a quick one, but Taichi ducks a second Rainmaker and hits a jumping kick to put both guys to the floor. Taichi looks to pursue there, but gets kicked and DDT’d on the floor as a result. Okada rolls in and is willing to take the countout win if he gets it, because has ZERO SHITS TO GIVE ANYMORE, but Taichi gets back in. So Okada puts him in the Money Clip.
Taichi makes the ropes and tries to fight back, but Okada just keeps coming like the Terminator until he misses a charge in the corner and Taichi kicks him in the face. Taichi’s facials in this match are absolutely tremendous. You can see him thinking, getting angry, getting emotional – it really carries the match much more than the moves do. He works himself up and hits the hook kick, and now the pants come off!
Kawada kick right to Okada’s FUCKING FACE and Taichi is in control now. For about 10 seconds, until Okada counters a charge into a neckbreaker and both guys are down. Okada puts him on the top buckle and dropkicks him to the floor now, and bring on the dickhead that is the 2023 Rainmaker. He goes out to Taichi and looks to throw him back into the ring…..but decides to DDT him on the ramp instead. And slam his head into the ramp. Twice.
Now we head back in, back to the Money Clip again, yelling at Taichi as he won’t bother to use the Rainmaker to beat him, just the sleeper. Taichi escapes, so Okada just belts him in the face and slams him. Okada goes up, but Taichi cuts him off and hits a kick to the head on the top, Saito suplex attempt by Taichi is countered, Okada goes for the missile dropkick, Taichi turns it into a powerbomb!
Taichi with the Buzzsaw Kick! Another one, Okada counters into a dropkick! Rainmaker time, Taichi counters into the suplex! Taichi can feel it! The crowd is chanting his name! Another Saito suplex! 3rd is attempted, Okada counters to a clothesline! Taichi stands up to it! Okada tries a ripcord, Taichi counters into a lariat! Suplex with a bridge by Taichi! 1, 2, NO! 15 minutes gone!
Taichi goes for Black Mephisto, Okada counters to a rollup for two. Landslide attempt by Okada, Taichi counters into the GEDO clutch! 1, 2, NO! Kick by Taichi! Crowd is going insane! Kick by Taichi drops Okada! He goes to finish….and Okada backdrops him and sits on him for the pin out of nowhere! (Kazuchika Okada over Taichi, pinfall, 16:21)
THOUGHTS: ****1/2. At least 1/4 of a star goes to Taichi for his insane facial expressions AFTER the match, as he looks absolutely destroyed, knowing how close he got. This story in this match was everything, with Taichi withstanding a beating and a half and making the comeback of his life against the best in the world, yet falling short. Okada played the big jock bully to perfection to give Taichi the hero narrative in the match, and what we got was easily the best story in the tournament so far. An absolutely fabulous match, one that I honestly didn’t know that Taichi had in him, regardless of his matches with Shingo that showed how good a worker he actually was.
And with 4 nights completed, we’ve got C & D Block:
Current standings as of today:
David Finlay (3-1, 6 pts)
EVIL (3-1, 6 pts)
Tama Tonga (3-1, 6 pts)
Shingo Takagi (2-2, 4 pts)
Eddie Kingston (2-2, 4 pts)
Mikey Nicholls (1-3, 2 pts)
HENARE (1-3, 2 pts)
Tomohiro Ishii (1-3, 2 pts)
I PICKED TO WIN THE BLOCK: Shingo Takagi, David Finlay
I NOW PICK TO WIN THE BLOCK: Same guys.
There’s no reason to back off now, except that I had Shingo winning a head-to-head with Finlay to win the Block. I don’t see it with Tama, although they could go that route if they wanted to, while Henare, who I kind of thought might be dark horse, is all but done. Really, I expect that Shingo charges back to the top and that Finlay holds on to make it to the round of 8.
BEST MATCHES OF THE BLOCK SO FAR:
David Finlay/Tomohiro Ishii – Night 2 (Ishii carries Finlay to the best match he’s ever had)
Eddie Kingston/Shingo Takagi – Night 2 (Thought this would be Eddie’s best tournament match, but he still had Ishii to go. Expect a rematch on AEW PPV of this one, as Kingston challenged Shingo to go again at either All In or All Out)
Shingo Takagi/Tomohiro Ishii – Night 6 (The least of their matches together, but come on. You knew this was gonna be good.)
Ishii’s reputation precedes as he once again as he has had a fantastic G-1 so far, with 3 excellent matches. Let’s take a look at his best one, which also happens to be the best match of the Block so far:
Tomohiro Ishii vs Eddie Kingston – G-1 Climax 33, Night 8
There was a picture on Twitter of Eddie with Kawada and him with his Ribera jacket, and it just reinforces that he must be having the absolute time of his life right now. And I would suspect that wrestling Tomohiro Ishii in the G-1 Climax in Korakuen Hall is a hell of a bucketlister, even for a King’s Road guy.
They trade a bit to start and Kingston hits the first move of consequence with a front suplex, and now it’s time for the CHOPS~! They fire rifle shots at each other and Kingston seemingly wins the battle, but comes off the ropes and Ishii drops him with a shoulder. More tough guy shit as Ishii just sadistically kicks him in the spine while Eddie writhes in pain.
Back up and Ishii chops away as Kingston staggers back, total punch-drunk selling that works in context of the match very well. Eddie finally gets some offense back with a kneedrop off the middle rope to the back of Ishii’s head. Exploder suplex for two from Kingston. And we’re back to chops as this just gets more awesome. Straps come down for Eddie and we’re back at it. This is ALL selling, facial expressions, and timing. It’s working. There’s no movez, nothing – they’re working their asses off and the crowd is with them 100% and it’s just perfection.
Ishii finally goes down and Eddie celebrates by grimacing in pain against the ropes. Half-Nelson suplex and a sliding elbow get two for Kingston. Spinning backfist is countered into a suplex by Ishii, Eddie pops up! Again and Eddie pops up again…..and promptly falls on his face. They trade moves and Ishii goes for a sliding lariat, misses, Eddie drops him with a clothesline!
Backdrop Driver by Eddie! 1, 2, NO! Stretch Plum time and Kingston has it in. Ishii starts to fade and Kingston tries for a pin, getting two. Ishii counters a spinning backfist and hits a diving headbutt, 1, 2, no! Back up and Eddie keep throwing chops, but Ishii fires an enzuigiri, comes off the ropes, Kingston hits one! Ishii with a lariat! Kingston kicks out at one! Ishii with another one! 1, 2, 2.9999999!!!! Spinning backfist by Kingston hits! Another one! Kingston with the cover! 1, 2, NOOOOOO!!!! 15 minute call with both guys down!
Ishii with a one-legged Codebreaker, then a sliding lariat! That gets two! Eddie has nothing left, though, and Ishii puts him away for good with the vertical drop brainbuster. (Tomohiro Ishii over Eddie Kingston, pinfall, 16:12)
THOUGHTS: ****1/2. That was a goddamned tough as rawhide professional fucking wrestling match. The thing is, you watch that match, and there was nothing that stood out as a MOVE. It was all chops, lariats, forearms, suplexes. No dives, nothing off the ropes, just two guys having a match. Selling it with their bodies and their faces, putting the emotion out there as they fought each other until one of them couldn’t stand. Ishii is just the greatest professional wrestler – he reminds me of Shawn in a very specific fashion, in that he has the innate ring sense to know exactly how and when to make his comebacks in a match, when to sell for either a babyface or a heel, and how to structure a match to do basically nothing that other guys do to get over and yet make it incredible. His instincts are a wonder, and putting him in there with Kingston, who can sell a beating for the most sympathy possible, it’s just magic. I really, really loved this match so much.
Current standings as of today:
Jeff Cobb (4-0, 8 pts)
Zack Sabre Jr. (3-1, 6 pts)
Hirooki Goto (2-2, 4 pts)
Tetsuya Naito (2-2, 4 pts)
Shane Haste (2-2, 4 pts)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (2-2, 4 pts)
Alex Coughlin (1-3, 2 pts)
Toru Yano (0-4, 0 pts)
I PICKED TO WIN THE BLOCK: ZSJ & Naito
I NOW PICK TO WIN THE BLOCK: Cobb & Naito
Cobb beating ZSJ at the last show has flipped my predictions. I did have Cobb on 8 points…..at the end of the tournament. Not after 4 matches with a perfect record, even though I was hoping that this tournament would rehab him to a certain extent, which it certainly has done already. Can Cobb not make it at this point? The answer is obviously yes, he could. He’s got Yano, Goto, and Haste left. Anyone can lose to Yano. Goto could still be in contention and pull off a win. And if that ends up happening and you get to the last night and Shane Haste needs to win to help get his TMDK stablemate ZSJ into the round of 8, well, who knows? But that’s the only way I see him not getting to one of the top 2 spots. Naito and ZSJ still have to wrestle, and I expect Naito is winning that one. If he does, it puts Naito and ZSJ both on two losses – if that happens and they win out, they get to 10 points each. As Cobb has beaten both, he holds the head-to-head on both, so even one more win by Cobb basically puts him in. Since I still have Naito winning the Block, here’s how Rick would book it:
Have Cobb lose to both Yano and to Goto. Have ZSJ lose to Naito. On the last night, you end up in a scenario where you have ZSJ, Cobb, Naito, and Goto all on 8 points. ZSJ beats Goto to go to 10. Naito beats Tanahashi to go to 10. So now, you have a main event of Cobb/Haste and you can go either way – if Haste wins, ZSJ is in with Naito. If Cobb wins, Cobb is in with Naito (in that scenario, both Cobb and Naito will have beaten ZSJ, therefore vacating the need for a playoff match).
BEST MATCHES OF THE BLOCK SO FAR:
Jeff Cobb/Alex Coughlin – Night 4 (A silent crowd did not deserve this match, where Cobb was tossed around by the super-strong Coughlin in a super-enjoyable big strong guy tilt.)
Toru Yano/Tetsuya Naito – Night 6 (Yeah, it’s total comedy, but it cracked my shit up, so I’m putting it on here – it’s not a great wrestling match at all, but it’s super fun)
Shane Haste/Tetsuya Naito – Night 8 (Without a doubt the biggest upset in the entire tournament thus far, and a hell of a fun match to boot.)
Jeff Cobb/ZSJ – Night 8 (Cobb finally gets revenge against ZSJ after losing or drawing every match during their TV title feud.)
So far, though, the best match of this Block happened on Night 2 in my eyes:
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jr – G-1 Climax 33, Night 2
I don’t know if you heard, but Tanahashi is done. Finished. His knees are so shot, he’ll never wrestle a good match ever again at all. Ever. It’s over. We’ll have to just get through this.
Lockup to start and they trade some forearms to get us going. Zack loses that fight, as he normally does, so he tries a backslide and they trade off that for a bit. Tana with an armdrag and a cross-armbreaker attempt, but Zack hooks the arm to block and they work the mat for a bit. ZSJ makes the ropes and Tana goes to snap the arm on the top rope, so Zack grabs a sleeper to block, then hits a dragon-screw on Tana as he tries to get back in through the middle rope.
ZSJ targets the knee now, and tries to grab a kneebar before Tanahashi makes the ropes. No matter, as Zack continues to rightfully claim Tana’s knee as his own. ZSJ with kicks now, but Tana fires up until Zack kicks him in the knee again. Tana won’t let this stand and decides that Zack’s arm will be his prize, using a hammerlock to wrestle Zack down and following that with the senton.
Slingblade is countered to an abdominal stretch, Tana reverses, ZSJ reverses back. So Tana hiptosses out of it as we hit the ten minute mark. It’s barely felt like 5. ZSJ with a dragonscrew in the corner and now it’s ZSJ with the Texas Cloverleaf attempt, and Tana reverses that to a Triangle! ZSJ escapes that and slams the knee again.
ZSJ with a heel hook as he’s had enough of this shit, having to carry this crippled loser who will never be anything good again, but Tana makes the ropes while screaming in agony. Kneebreaker attempt is countered by Tana with a Twist and Shout and Tana goes back to the arm, snapping it against the mat one, two, three times. They exchange dropkicks, Zack to Tana’s knee and Tana to ZSJ’s arm, and Tana hits Slingblade for two.
Tana decides to go to the top, Aces High! ZSJ rolls through, PK! 1, 2, no! ZSJ ends up getting caught and Tana hooks in the cross-armbreaker, but ZSJ rolls through that and holds him down long enough to get the 3 count! (Zack Sabre Jr over Hiroshi Tanahashi, pinfall, 16:09)
THOUGHTS: ****. Yeah, Tana has lost a step when it comes to certain aspects of his game that naturally happen when one gets older. The solution? Have him work slightly differently and you get this match, a lovely little technical piece of work where he came up a bit short against a technical master. He can still wrestle, for fuck’s sake; it’s not like he forgot just because his knees mean that he can’t fly all over the place. Instead, ZSJ sort of plugged him into Zack’s match, and gave him a bunch to make him look good and only won off a rollup instead of a finisher to give him better mat cred as a result. This was really excellent, if not great, and a match well worth watching.
Overall, that gives us 18 matches out of 72 across 4 Blocks that I would consider good to great, which at 25% is more than acceptable.
We’ve got 10 shows to go with 9 down, so I hope that more of you all join us as we head down the stretch!
Alright, one last thing…..are you STILL picking Naito to win this thing, idiot?
…..Yes. Load up the fucking football, Lucy. Naito all the way.
As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
@MrSoze on Twitter
[email protected] for email
Wondering if he should do this for the 5Star GP to get Stardom a boost?