NJPW G1 Climax 33 Previews

NJPW’s G1 Climax 33 A Block is, in many ways, the most fascinating block of this year’s G1 Climax.

With the exception of SANADA and Chase Owens, everyone is making their G1 debut this year. The most notable debuts are the freshly crowned Reiwa Three Musketeers of Yota Tsuji, Ren Narita, Shota Umino, and NOAH’s own Kaito Kiyomiya. It is the block of the Young and the Hungry, making it the most unpredictable in terms of booking and match quality.

Many participants are still unproven quantities when it comes to big-time singles matches and here we will get glimpses of what New Japan main events will look like over the next decade and more.

G1 Climax 32 Participants Not Returning

  • Lance Archer
  • Bad Luck Fale
  • Tom Lawlor
  • Jay White
  • Juice Robinson
  • Yujiro Takahashi

Debuting or Returning Participants Absent from G1 Climax 32

  • Hikuleo (debuting)
  • Ren Narita (debuting)
  • Shota Umino (debuting)
  • Yota Tsuji (debuting)
  • Gabe Kidd (debuting)
  • Kaito Kiyomiya (NOAH representative, debuting)
  • Eddie Kingston (AEW representative, debuting)
  • Mikey Nicholls (debuting)
  • Shane Haste (debuting)
  • Alex Coughlin (debuting)
  • Tanga Loa (returning, missed G1 Climax 32)

Preview Format

There are five elements to each participant’s preview this year:

  • Current Situation
  • Past Performance (unless debuting)
  • Booking Strength and Final Match Situation
  • Chances of Winning
  • What-to-Look-For Matches

An Explanation of Booking Strength

Every night in the G1 Climax has a set number of matches. This year’s G1 Climax has eight matches per night through Night 12, then four matches for each single-block final night. If you take the match number for each participant and average them, it gives you their Average Card Placement. This is a good indicator of where that wrestler stands in the division hierarchy. The higher their CP average, the stronger their booking strength.

Booking strength usually correlates to tournament success. By looking at this number and a wrestler’s match-up on the final block night, one gets a richer idea of a wrestler’s chances in the tournament. 

G1 Climax 33 A Block

  • Chase Owens
  • Hikuleo
  • Ren Narita
  • Shota Umino
  • Yota Tsuji
  • Gabe Kidd
  • Kaito Kiyomiya


  • 8th entry, 8th straight year
  • Finals: 2020

Current Situation

SANADA’s career is peaking right now. After languishing in the mid-card for years as LIJ’s fifth most important member, he has completely reinvented himself and has ascended to the top of New Japan as the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion.

With that said though this will be the highest highs that SANADA will reach. His title reign does not feel like something designed to make the next big guy. Rather it is a place-holder title reign while New Japan puts all of the pieces in place.

Past Performance

  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 – 6 points (3-3), 3rd in B Block
    • 2021 – 8 points (4-5), 5th in B Block
    • 2020 – 12 points (6-3), won B Block
    • 2019 – 8 points (4-5), T-3 in A Block
    • 2018 – 8 points (4-5), 6th in B Block
    • 2017 – 8 points (4-5), T-5th in B Block
    • 2016 – 8 points (4-5), 5th in B Block

SANDA has been incredibly consistent in terms of his G1 output. He got to 8 points in nearly all of his G1 appearances so far, with the only exceptions being 2020 and 2022. In terms of match quality, he has been somewhat up and down. He will generally have at least one great match in every tournament but also has a tendency to just disappear.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation

  • T-1 in booking strength
  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 – 15th (28)
    • 2021 – 8th (20)
    • 2020 – T-10th (20)
    • 2019 – T-11th (20)
    • 2018 – 9th (20)
    • 2017 – T-11th (20)
    • 2016 – 15th (20)
  • Card Placement slate: 8-7-8-8-7-5
  • Final night opponent: Chase Owens

As champion he’s obviously getting a lot of shine in terms of book positions but notably, he does not have a competitive opponent on the final night in Chase Owens. It also happens to be his lowest positioning on the card in the entire tournament. Not normally where New Japan puts people that advance on the final block night. This would indicate that he is either already eliminated from contention by then or will get eliminated in a shocking upset by losing to Owens.

Chances to advance from block: 10%

As I mentioned above, SANDA feels like a transitional champion and has a tendency to fade into the background during G1. I expect both of those things to be reflected here as well. He is the champion, but he feels like the fifth most important guy in this block at best, behind the Reiwa Musketeers and Kaito and slightly ahead of Gabe Kidd. However, since he is the champion he can’t be ruled out as advancing out the block but he also shouldn’t be seen as a favorite to do so.

Chances to win G1 Climax 33: 0%

The champion winning G1 is something New Japan does very rarely and SANDA definitely won’t be joining that elusive club.

What-to-Look-for Matches

SANADA vs. Yota Tsuji – Night 5  (July 21, 2023)

The rematch from Dominion. Either outcome is interesting as Yota beating the champ is a big show of faith in him and SANADA winning establishes him as an obstacle for Yota to overcome

SANADA vs. Kaito Kiyomiya – Night 7 (July 25, 2023)

Keiji Muto for better or worse has had a significant influence on both men’s careers and that alone makes this match interesting.

Chase Owens

  • 3rd entry, 3rd straight year

Current Situation

He’s still getting booked by New Japan.

Past Performance

  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 – 4 points (2-4), T-4th in B Block
    • 2021 – 4 points (2-7), 10th in B Block

Not good.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation

  • T-30th in booking strength
  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 – 18th (28)
    • 2021 – 19th (20)
  • Card Placement slate: 2-1-4-4-1-3
  • Final night opponent: SANADA

He’s a jobber, and that’s how he’s booked here.

Chances to advance from block: 0%

Chances to win G1 Climax 33: Less than 0%.

As in if Chase Owens wins the 2023 G1 a singularity will open up and swallow all of existence.

What-to-Look-for Matches

Chase Owens vs. Hikuleo – Night 5  (July 21, 2023)

Has the potential to be the worst match in the tournament 


  • Debut entry

Current Situation

Hikuleo has had a weird year so far. After losing his NEVER title match challenge against Bright Lights Machinegunka late last year, he finally won a singles title beating KENTA for the Strong Openweight Title at Wrestling Dontaku. He then proceeded to lose the title back to KENTA in his very next match at Resurgence and hasn’t wrestled since then. At this point Hikuleo likely is who he is and what he is is a somewhat mediocre big-man wrestler. He gets a chance here to prove everyone wrong though. Time will tell if he can.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation

  • T-12 in booking strength
  • Card Placement slate: 8-3-4-6-5-1
  • Final night opponent: Shota Umino

Interestingly his card placement is equal to Umino and Narita. He might play spoiler at the end by eliminating Umino. This would put him in a similar role to guys like Bad Luck Fale and Luke Gallows, which is an apt comparison.

Chances to advance from block: 1%

He basically will only advance if loads of people get injured.

Chances to win G1 Climax 33: 0%

What-to-Look-for Matches

Hikuleo vs. Kaito Kiyomiya – Night 11  (August 1, 2023)

Kaito is great at working from underneath, if anyone can carry Hikuleo to a great match it’s him.

Ren Narita

  • Debut entry

Current Situation

Ren has been somewhat lost in the shuffle so far this year. He started the year off by losing to ZSJ in the TV title tournament final but then went on to form Strong Style with Despy and Suzuki. They won the Six Man Tag Titles from House of Torture. Then he lost to EVIL in the first round of the New Japan Cup and lost the Six Man tag titles to CHAOS. Since then he has done a whole lot of nothing and his stable mates taking more outside bookings hasn’t helped him either. He was declared one of the Reiwa Three Musketeers with Shota and Yota though, so at least it looks like the company still has plans for him going forward. 

This tournament is Ren’s chance to turn his year around and gain some momentum. He is in the perfect block for that since A Block is the Young and Hungry Block and that is exactly what Ren needs to be. New Japan has clearly positioned Narita as the Katsuyori Shibata’s heir, and those are some big shoes to fill since Shibata is one of the best workers in G1 history. His match with Ishii in the G1 ten years ago is still widely seen as the best match in tournament history. Will Ren be able to match that level of work? Hard to say with a block of so many unknown quantities in terms of big singles match experience.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation

  • T-12 in booking strength
  • Card Placement slate: 4-5-2-6-7-3
  • Final night opponent: Kaito Kiyomiya

His card placement is pretty middling, but he likely has the most intriguing match-up on the final night out of everyone in the block. Him vs Kaito should be an excellent match, and I could see it being decisive for who will finish second in the block.

Chances to advance from block: 15%

It’s very hard to nail down Ren’s chances of making it out of the block. He definitely has a shot of advancing, but it also feels this is not his year. I think ultimately he will be booked decently but lose a decision match with Kaito on the final night. Even more important than making it out of the block for him though is establishing a rapport with Yota Tsuji and Shot Umino since he will be heavily involved with them for the rest of his career.

Chances to win G1 Climax 33: 1%

As I’ve said, this just doesn’t feel like his year.

What-to-Look-for Matches

Ren Narita vs. Shota Umino – Night 1  (July 15, 2023)

Ren Narita vs. Yota Tsuji – Night 3 (July 18, 2023)

Both of these matches will be very important for the future of New Japan, and we will get callbacks to things established here for the next decade.

Shota Umino

  • Debut entry

Current Situation 

New Japan clearly sees big things in Umino, but the reception to his current persona has been somewhat mixed. He is clearly trying to emulate Hiroshi Tanahashi with his gear and mannerisms while at the same time still emphasizing his connection with Jon Moxley. Those two things have not melded well so far, which is not very surprising given how vastly different Tanahashi and Moxley’s vibes are. Umino is coming across as somewhat of a geek and definitely hasn’t helped him either. 

He needs to pick a lane and stick with it. Either he becomes the next Tanahashi-style heart throb, or he becomes a vicious ass-kicker like Moxley. To me personally the latter would be much more interesting. But he hasn’t shown any aptitude for something like that yet, and he is lacking the charisma of a Tanahashi to pull off the former. But he wouldn’t be the first New Japan prospect that was lacking a bit in the charisma department until he found a gimmick that works. So it is definitely too early to give up on him, but his performance in this tournament will go a long way to show if New Japan’s trust in him is warranted or not.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation

  • T-12 in booking strength
  • Card Placement slate: 4-7-6-2-1-7
  • Final night opponent: Hikuleo

His booking situation is exactly the same as Narita and Hikuleo, which is an interesting nugget. However, his final opponent is Hikuleo, which sets Umino up for an elimination by a giant that is no longer in contention. A tried and true G1 booking staple.

Chances to advance from block: 30%

As I’ve mentioned, New Japan clearly sees big things in this man, and he has been given quite a bit of shine by New Japan this year. He has a better chance of getting out of the block than the majority of the participants, and he is the third most likely one to make it out after my two favorites.

Chances to win G1 Climax 33: 10%

If he makes it out of the block he actually has a fairly decent chance of winning. New Japan is clearly entering a new era and what better way to make that clear by having one of your young stars win the biggest tournament of the year? But there is actually someone else that is more likely to achieve just that. But we will get to him next.

What-to-Look-for Matches

Shota Umino vs. Ren Narita – Night  1  (July 15, 2023)

Shota Umino vs. Yota Tsuji – Night  11 (August 1, 2023)

See Ren Narita section. The same things are applicable here.

Yota Tsuji

  • Debut entry

Current Situation 

Yota Tsuji recently returned from his long excursion to Europe & Mexico, and he immediately made a massive impact. He was given the main event slot against SANDA at New Japan’s second-biggest show of the year, and he delivered on top of that. His star charisma is immediately apparent, and he has somewhat outshone his Reiwa Musketeer peers. While he delivered in his match with SANADA, there were also some rough spots. While he doesn’t have the same pressure to deliver in the ring here as Shota and Ren, this is a big opportunity for him to show that the Dominion match wasn’t a fluke and that he can be counted on to deliver consistently. 

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation

  • T-5 in booking strength
  • Card Placement slate: 6-5-8-4-5-7
  • Final night opponent: Gabe Kidd

For a debut entry, his booking is incredibly strong, as there are only a few wrestlers in the tournament that have consistently better card placement than him. He also has been positioned as the main event on the final night, where he faces Gabriel Kidd. Kidd. That match has a ton of intrigue with it, but there is actually a chance Yota Tsuji has already won the block by the time they get to his match.

Chances to advance from block: 60%

He is the odds-on favorite to make it out of this block. New Japan is in a new era, and Yota Tsuji will be one of if not the largest players in it. A lot of the hype in this block has been built around Yota, with him showing up on a NOAH Korakuen show and calling out Shota and Ren in the press. At least one of the Reiwa Musketeers will make it out of this block, and he has been the one with the biggest push so far. I expect that push to continue and its not out of the question that he ends up running the table in this block, which would be a massive statement.

Chances to win G1 Climax 33: 30%

As I mentioned in the Shota section, the biggest possible statement New Japan could make to show everyone that this is a new era is by having one of the young guys win the tournament. Out of all of them, Yota Tsuji is the one with the clearest shot at accomplishing that. His winning G1 and main eventing Dominion and Wrestle Kingdom all immediately after returning from excursion is a level of push we haven’t seen since Okada. But if New Japan thinks that Yota Tsuji is on that same level then they should go for it.

What-to-Look-for Matches

Yota Tsuji vs. Ren Narita – Night 3  (July 18, 2023)

Yota Tsuji vs. Shota Umino – Night 11 (August 1, 2023)

See Ren Narita’s section again.

Gabriel Kidd

  • Debut entry

Current Situation

Gabriel Kidd’s situation had been a bit touch and go as he battled some inner demons. But he seems to have found some stability in his life now, which is obviously great for him first and foremost but also great for us as fans since he has a ton of talent. His team with Alex Coughlin has been a delight so far, and they’ve made BULLET CLUB the most interesting it has been in many years. This tournament is obviously a massive opportunity for Gabe, especially since he’s in a block with so many future stars of the promotion. If he can establish good chemistry with them in the ring that will likely increase his chances for the future. He also seems well aware of this chance and is highly motivated to deliver. He is definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation

  • T-27 in booking strength
  • Card Placement slate: 2-3-2-2-3-5
  • Final night opponent: Yota Tsuji

While he is a champion in New Japan as one-half of the STRONG Openweight Tag Team champions, his booking position is the second weakest in the block. His highest position on the card comes on the final night when he faces Yota Tsuji in a match that may or may not matter based on how they book Yota. Gabe will likely already be eliminated by that point unfortunately

Chances to advance from block: 2%

I can only see Gabe Kidd getting out of this block if New Japan wants to preserve some matchups. But even then, I think it’s unlikely he advances.

Chances to win G1 Climax 33: 0%

Even if he makes it out of the block somehow, his path would end in the Quarterfinals.

What-to-Look-for Matches

Gabe Kidd vs. Ren Narita – Night 5  (July 21, 2023)

Call it a hunch, but I feel like these two could have good chemistry

Gabe Kidd vs. Yota Tsuji – Night 13 (August 5, 2023)

These two have had a ton of matches together while Gabe Kidd was stuck in Japan in 2020. Therefore, seeing these two face off now that they are no longer Young Lions will be interesting.

Kaito Kiyomiya

  • Debut entry

Current Situation

Kaito, Kaito, Kaito ok, where to even start with this one? Kaito is the main reason I signed up to do this preview because I have been following his career very closely. (Listen to the Emerald FlowShow!)

He is one of the most naturally gifted in-ring performers I have ever seen, and NOAH had him pegged as a future star from Day 1. If you purely look at his kayfabe achievements, he is obviously one of the biggest successes in Pro-Wrestling NOAH history. At age 26, he is a two-time GHC champion with a total of 559 days as champion, which puts him 7th all-time, right between Naomichi Marufuji and Jun Akiyama. On top of that, he has won the Global League/N1 twice and, aside from his appearance as a Young Boy has won his block every single time. The only comparable NOAH dojo product is Go Shiozaki, who didn’t win his first GHC championship until age 27.

The only person Kaito can be compared to in recent wrestling history is the man he faced earlier this year at Keiji Muto’s retirement show. A man that is not in his block and that he mathematically can’t face until the Semi-Finals: Kazuchika Okada. So really, Kaito’s story in this tournament is all about Okada, and that also brings us to the other side of Kaito Kiyomiya.

For all of his accomplishments, it still doesn’t feel like Kaito is a made man yet. That is not a statement I should make about an all-time top 10 champion in NOAH history, and yet here we are. NOAH’s booking has been notoriously myopic, and nowhere is this more apparent than Kaito Kiyomiya. 

They did a good job with him in the lead-up to his first title win, and his reign was good, even if it felt like he was overwhelmed with the pressure that was put on him and he worked from underneath too much. But after he lost the belt to Go at the start of 2020, his booking became much more of a mixed bag. While he made it to the finals of the N1 that year, he also came up short in all of his title challenges. But most notoriously, he lost to Keiji Muto, a man with no knees, at NOAH’s 20th anniversary. The next year was more of the same, including multiple losses to Muto this time and one draw. He then changed his look to emulate Muto basically and started using his moveset. This didn’t help his perception with fans of being portrayed as inferior to Muto.

Things started to look up in 2022 as he finally overcame Muto, even if there are some caveats with that, but this is already long enough, won the N1 and regained the GHC title. But he also took a complete backseat to the Muto retirement roadshow and still didn’t feel like the ace of the promotion he was technically portrayed as. Then came the Muto retirement show in the Tokyo Dome, where he faced off with the aforementioned Kazuchika Okada, and he got embarrassed. Not only did he lose at one of NOAH’s biggest events ever, while champion, but he was also finished off in a decisive fashion. Okada hit him with a rainmaker and then pulled him up before three count, gave him a spinning Emerald Flowsion, a move made famous by NOAH’s founder and Kaito’s hero Mitsuharu Misawa and then finished him off with another Rainmaker. He then lost the GHC title to Jake Lee of a people in a very mediocre match. Quick aside: Me mentioning Jake in this preview is the closest he’ll ever get to the G1.

After these two losses, Kaito has largely just been floating around on the NOAH roster with nothing of consequence to do until he was announced for the G1. 

Now to address the elephant in the room. A lot has been made about this being a soft jump of Kaito to New Japan. I personally do not think he is jumping. While his booking in NOAH has been incredibly flawed over the years. They still see him as a critical part of their future. It’s also not like the NOAH dojo has been churning out young talent at the same rate as the New Japan dojo has. So NOAH really can’t afford to lose Kaito, and with Abema backing them up can go toe to toe with New Japan in a potential bidding war. New Japan could also promise him more consistent booking, though. But he would likely always take a backseat to the guys trained in the dojo like Yota Tsuji. So at best, jumping to New Japan would be a sideways move for Kaito aside from the prestige of working for the largest company in Japan. But so far, Kaito has been loyal and deferential to NOAH almost to a fault where some of his booking woes are due to him not pushing back enough against some of the wrong ideas. He just doesn’t seem like a guy that would engineer a jump through the backdoor like this.

Past Performance (N1 & Global League)

  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 – 8 points (4-2), 1st in B Block and Overall Winner
    • 2021 – 5 points (2-0-1), 1st  in A Block. Lost semi-final to Kenoh
    • 2020 – 7 points (3-1-1), 1st in A Block. Lost final to Katsuhiko Nakajima
    • 2018 – 8 points (4-3), 1st in B Block and Overall Winner
    • 2016 – 0 points (0 – 6), Last in B Block

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation

  • 23rd in booking strength
  • Card Placement slate: 6-1-6-8-3-1
  • Final night opponent: Ren Narita

His booking positioning is surprisingly weak, given where I ultimately think his run is going. This did give me some pause but I decided to push on with my scenario anyway since hope dies last. Or maybe cope dies last, whichever you prefer.

Chances to advance from block: 55%

Kaito is in a weird spot in this tournament. Really nothing he does in this block matters if he doesn’t make it out of the block. If he has a valiant performance and gets eliminated on the final night by Ren Narita or is already out by then, it was a waste for him to be in this tournament. With that said I do not think he is winning this block either. He is still an outsider, and New Japan likely wants to reserve this spot for one of their own guys.

Chances to win G1 Climax 33: 0% or 100%

Kaito’s tournament is all about getting to that semi-final with Okada and getting his win back. Nothing else matters. He can lose to whoever he faces in the final no problem. He is also an outsider, and outsiders do not win the G1 ever. So if he wins this, he is 100% jumping to New Japan and this is the first gift for him to sweeten the deal.

What-to-Look-for Matches

Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Yota Tsuji – Night 1  (July 15, 2023)

Yota recently popped up at a NOAH Korakuen show to build some hype for this Night 1 match up. The match has chances to be pretty good as they should have very complementary styles and don’t be surprised if Kaito eats a loss here.

Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Kazuchika Okada: Night 18 (August 12, 2023)

The most important match of the entire tournament. I’m manifesting it!

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