NJPW G1 Climax 33 Previews

The D Block of NJPW’s G1 Climax 33 is pretty close to being an exact reflection of the much-hyped A Block—in a year all about an ongoing changing of the guard in New Japan Pro Wrestling, well, this is basically the guard that’s being changed. Tanahashi! Naito! Goto! Yano! Even guys who you probably don’t think of as being “old” like those four like Zack Sabre Jr. and Jeff Cobb have certainly been with the company for a good little while now. With apologies to the two legitimate G1 newcomers in the block in Shane Haste & Alex Coughlin, it’s easy to see the theme here. Established rivalries and old foes rule the day in the D.

But even though we may have seen many of these matchups before, there’s still plenty of intriguing question marks in this block. People have been predicting a Tetsuya Naito G1 win almost every year since he last pulled it off in 2017 (with the exception of 2020 when he was champion, of course)—given his obvious unfinished business with the current IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, is this finally his year to threepeat? Amidst some recent performances widely received as questionable, does Hiroshi Tanahashi really have enough left in the tank to put up a few more classic Ace G1 performances? Can Zack Sabre Jr. finally advance out of a G1 block for the first time in his New Japan career? Will Jeff Cobb ever dominate the way he did in 2021 again, or will that continue to look like a one-year pandemic fluke? And yes, surrounded by all these NJPW veterans who all have long-running and established programs with each other, how will G1 newcomers Alex Coughlin & Shane Haste fit into the mix?

The old and the new alike will collide in the D Block. It may not have quite the sexiness of the A Block, but you sure won’t see me saying no to another Naito/ZSJ match, among other things!

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 8 matches per night through Night 12, then 4 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 – D Block

  • Hiroshi Tanahashi
  • Toru Yano
  • Hirooki Goto
  • Tetsuya Naito
  • Zack Sabre Jr
  • Jeff Cobb
  • Shane Haste
  • Alex Coughlin

Hiroshi Tanahashi

  • 22nd entry, 22nd consecutive year
  • Wins: 2007, 2015, 2018
  • Finals: 2004, 2010, 2013
  • Semi-Finals: 2009

Current Situation

With each passing year, the mantra of “Go Ace” seems to ring a little more hollow, but it really feels like it’s reached a new level this year. Tanahashi’s 2023 has seen him become an absolute magnet for high-profile jobs: while it started out okay with a six-man tag win at Wrestle Kingdom (albeit one where he didn’t pick up the fall) and a win over KENTA at New Beginning, it’s pretty much been nothing but losses since then. 

He challenged his old rival Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP World Heavyweight Title in the main event of the Battle in the Valley show in San Francisco, only to go down easier against him than he ever has; Okada would then immediately invite him to reform their “dream team,” in what felt like a move done out of pity more than anything else. When they challenged Bishamon for the IWGP Tag Team Titles in the main event of this year’s Anniversary Show, it was Tanahashi who took the losing fall (to YOSHI-HASHI!!!). 

When Tana tried to strike out on his own again in the US Title #1 Contendership tournament, he talked a big game about how Kenny Omega probably wanted him to win more than anyone (so Kenny would have a chance to avenge his loss in the Wrestle Kingdom 13 main event right before he departed the company for AEW), only to immediately lose to Will Ospreay in quite decisive fashion. At the All Together interpromotional show with All Japan & NOAH, Tana was on the losing end of the fall yet again, eating another Rainmaker and getting pinned by his own NEVER 6-man partner Okada in the main event. And, of course, Tanahashi came up short in trying to win the AEW World Title for the second year in a row at Forbidden Door (although, given how much MJF cheated, you could actually argue AEW protected him more in this title match than New Japan has all year…).

True, Tanahashi is 1/3rd of the NEVER 6-Man champions, which is basically the lone success of the year. But even then, it feels like he’s being carried along by Okada and a particularly grumpy Tomohiro Ishii (who didn’t even want to team with Tana in the first place, given their long history as rivals). Add up the fact that more people than ever seem to be questioning how much he really has left in the tank, in-ring wise, and this has to be the lowest the Ace has ever felt heading into a G1 Climax. 

It’s gotten to the point where when SANADA floated the idea that he would like to face Tanahashi in the finals if possible in his pre-G1 interview I almost found myself snorting in a “like that would ever happen” sort of way. But are we all being set up here? Is the Ace primed for a Cinderella story that takes him out of the D block and all the way to the finals? Certainly it would be stunning at this point, but you have to at least acknowledge the possibility. 

Working in his favor perhaps is that he’s in a block with some names he’s both familiar with and had a lot of success against over the years: Hirooki Goto (12-3-1 against all time),  Zack Sabre Jr. (6-4), and Toru Yano (15-4-2). On the other hand, Tetsuya Naito is more of a mixed bag (8-8-1 all time, although Tana did win their last meeting in the previous year’s G1), Jeff Cobb beat Tanahashi in their only previous singles match (in the 2021 G1), and as you’d probably expect Tana has never faced Shane Haste or Alex Coughlin one-on-one. 

So in order to advance to the quarterfinals, you’re probably going to need to see Tana beat some people he’s already beaten many times before, defeat Naito and take the edge in their all time series, beat Jeff Cobb for the first time, and find a way to win at least one of his two first-time-ever matchups. It doesn’t sound impossible, and just given the fact that two people are going to make it out of the block, Tana may very well be one of the two. But whether he can go any further than the quarterfinals in his current state very much remains to be seen.

Past Performance 

  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 –  6 points (3-3), T-3rd in C Block (4-way tie)
    • 2021 – 8 points (4-5), 4th in B Block
    • 2020 – 8 points (4-5), T-6th in B Block (3-way tie)
    • 2019 – 8 points (4-5), T-3rd in A Block (7-way tie)
    • 2018 – 15 points (7-1-1), won A Block and tournament
    • 2017 – 12 points (6-3), 2nd in A Block
    • 2016 – 11 points (5-3-1), T-2nd in A Block
    • 2015 – 14 points (7-2), won A Block and tournament
    • 2014 – 14 points (7-3), 2nd in A Block
    • 2013 – 11 points (5-3-1), won A Block
    • 2012 – 10 points (5-3), 2nd in A Block
    • 2011 – 12 points (6-3), 2nd in A Block
    • 2010 – 9 points (4-2-1), won A Block
    • 2009 – 7 points (3-2-1), 2nd in A Block (by coin toss)
    • 2008 – 4 points (2- 4), 6th in A Block
    • 2007 – 6 points (2-1-2), 2nd in B Block, won tournament
    • 2006 – 4 points (2-2), 3rd in A Block
    • 2005 – 7 points (3-3-1), 4th in B Block
    • 2004 – 12 points (7-1), won B Block
    • 2003 – 4 points (2-3), T-4th in A Block (3-way tie)

Hiroshi Tanahashi has been trending downward in the G1 Climax for years since he hit his high water mark in 2018. His 7-1-1 record and 15 points set a then-record for the most points in a 10-man G1 block (later broken by both Kazuchika Okada & Jeff Cobb in 2021, who both finished 8-1 with 16 points) before he, of course, went on to win the tournament, defeating Kota Ibushi in the finals. But since then, he’s been unable to hit double digits again, putting up identical 4-5 records in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Last year, in the 7-man block tournament, he went 3-3. Before this stretch of four straight years, he had not failed to finish with a record over .500 since he went 2-4 all the way back in 2008. So the question for Tanahashi is, as always, whether or not he can turn back the clock and somehow find his past level.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation 

  • 9th in booking strength
  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 – 1st (28)
    • 2021 – 6th (20)
    • 2020 – T-3rd (20)
    • 2019 – 4th (20)
    • 2018 – 3rd (20)
    • 2017 – T-3rd (20)
    • 2016 – T-1st (20)
    • 2015 – 1st (20)
    • 2014 – 2nd (22)
    • 2013 – 1st (20)
    • 2012 – 1st (18)
    • 2011 – 1st (20)
    • 2010 – 1st (16)
  • Card Placement slate: 6-5-7-4-8-1
  • Final night opponent: Tetsuya Naito

Tanahashi’s 9th place in booking strength actually doesn’t stand out as much in this deep block as you might expect- two wrestlers (Naito, 3rd and Cobb, 7th) actually finish above him, and ZSJ is right behind him in 10th as well. Still, he gets one main event and another semi-main, which is nothing to sneeze at. He has one of the more classic final night matchups in Tetsuya Naito, so expect him to be in the mix to advance if not win the block right until the end.

Chances to advance from block: 25%

Chances to win tournament: 1%

What-to-Look-for Matches

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hirooki Goto: Night #10  (7/30)

Tanahashi’s only scheduled main event of the tour (obviously, it would shock no one if his final night meeting with Naito ends up being both a main event and a match that decides if either is moving on, if not the block entirely) is with one of his oldest rivals. As mentioned earlier, Tana and Goto have met an astounding 16 times in singles matches, with Tana having an overwhelming 12-3-1 advantage. But in recent times it’s been Goto getting the better of him- he won their meeting in the G1 last year, and then he and YOSHI-HASHI defeated Tana & Okada in the Anniversary Show main event this past March. It’s hard to see both Tanahashi and Goto coming out of the block (one of them seems realistic, but two Cinderella/turn back the clock runs to the quarterfinals does not), so this match could very well decide which one of them even has a shot to finish in the top 2.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito: Night #16 (8/9)

Of course, you have to go with this as one of Tanahashi’s highlight matches, as he’ll once again face his eternal rival Tetsuya Naito on the final night of block competition in the G1. Will this decide the block winner? Or will both of them need a win just to move on to the quarterfinals in second place? Anything barring a meaningless match with both men already eliminated seems on the table here. Add their legendary history to the mix, including the fact that this match quite literally breaks the tie for their all-time series (which is again currently at 8-8-1), and you have one of the biggest matches not just of D block but the entire tournament.

Toru Yano

  • 18th entry, 17th consecutive year

Current Situation

Toru Yano’s 2023 has been extremely uneventful. While he’s still wrestling approximately the same number of matches as always (he’s had 53 matches so far in 2023, and he usually ends with around 100-120 in any normal year), he hasn’t done much else besides wrestle in tags all year. In fact, he has two singles matches for the whole year so far: a win over Young Lion Oskar Leube on an untelevised Road to the New Beginning show in February, and a loss to Mark Davis in the first round of the New Japan Cup in March (continuing a streak of three straight years where Yano failed to get out of the NJC first round, after he had made it to at least the second round every year since 2014). 

So far the sole highlight of his year has been making the final four in the KOPW 2023 rumble (and then eating the pin in the four-way match the following night at New Year Dash!), and when your sole highlight of the year happened in the Wrestle Kingdom pre-show, you’re probably having a pretty uneventful year. Yano is Yano- he will probably roll at least one person up in this G1 that you don’t expect. But given his lack of results so far in 2023, he seems to be far from a priority in the current New Japan, and it’s thus difficult to expect much out of him other than hopefully a chuckle or two.

Past Performance

  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 – 2 points (1-5), 7th in A Block
    • 2021 – 10 points (5-4), 5th in A Block
    • 2020 – 6 points (3-6), 9th in B Block
    • 2019 – 8 points (4-5), T-5th in B Block (6-way tie)
    • 2018 – 6 points (3-6), T-7th in B Block (4-way tie)
    • 2017 – 8 points (4-5), T-5th in B Block (5-way tie)
    • 2016 – 10 points (5-4), T-3rd in B Block (4-way tie)
    • 2015 – 8 points (4-5), T-5th in A Block (4-way tie)
    • 2014 – 8 points (4-6), T-6th in B Block (6-way tie)
    • 2013 – 8 points (4-5), T7th in B Block
    • 2012 – 6 points (3-5), 8th in A Block
    • 2011 – 10 points (5-4), T-3rd in A Block (5-way tie)
    • 2010 – 8 points (4-3), T-2nd in A Block (4-way tie)
    • 2009 – 6 points (3-3), 4th in A Block
    • 2008 – 4 points (2-4), 6th in B Block
    • 2007 – 5 points (2-2-1), 3rd in B Block
    • 2005 –  4 points (1-4-2), 7th in B Block

Yano’s overall G1 records are nothing to write home about really—since 2010 he’s only been over .500 four times, and never by more than a single win. Last year was his low water mark by far though, as he finished with just one win (he had never finished with less than two wins before that, albeit usually in 10-man blocks instead of a 6-man one). Is that a sign of where Yano stands now, or can he get back to his 2021 form that saw him finish 5-4?

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation

  • T-27th in booking strength
  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 – T-18th (28)
    • 2021 – 11th (20)
    • 2020 – 17th (20)
    • 2019 – 19th (20)
    • 2018 – 20th (20)
    • 2017 – T-15th (20)
    • 2016 – 19th (20)
    • 2015 – 15th (20)
    • 2014 – 13th (22)
    • 2013 – T-16th (20)
    • 2012 – 11th (18)
    • 2011 – T-12th (20)
    • 2010 – T-10th (16)
  • Card Placement slate: 2-1-5-4-2-3
  • Final night opponent: Alex Coughlin

Yano has the second-weakest booking strength in the block, ahead of only newcomer Alex Coughlin….who just so happens to be his final night opponent. I’d be very surprised if either Yano or Coughlin are still in the mix by the final night. 

Chances to advance from block: 0%

Chances to win tournament: 0%

What-to-Look-for Matches

Toru Yano vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: Night #4  (7/19)

This is the one and only time Toru Yano will work an opening night match (though he does work the “D block opener” two more times, they’re both the second match on the card), and he’ll be up against someone he knows quite well. Yano and Zack have had a very amusing rivalry that’s mostly taken place over the G1- they met for the first time in 2018, with two more meetings in 2020 & 2021 (the 2020 one was a particular highlight, as Yano was doing a “I want to be a serious wrestler” and leaning on his amateur credentials gimmick and I thought they had an honest to god **** match), all won by Zack. Yano’s lone win came in 2020 as well, but it was in a KOPW No Turnbuckle Pads match and also came by count out. Can Yano finally defeat his British rival in a G1 Climax, or will Zack scream and yell his way to a fourth G1 victory over him? 

Toru Yano vs. Tetsuya Naito: Night #6 (7/23)

Yano’s highest card placement of the entire tour at, uh, fifth (look, like we said earlier it’s been a rough year for him) sees him up against an even more longtime rival in Tetsuya Naito. Yano & Naito have met in ten singles matches total, with nine of the ten coming in G1s (their only non-G1 meeting was in the semifinals of the 2016 New Japan Cup, which was of course won by Naito on his road to his first IWGP Heavyweight Title). As you would probably expect, the all-time record does tilt toward Naito, but Yano has at least managed to win 3 of the 10 matches. It’s been three years since their last meeting in 2020 (which, let’s face it, feels like it was about 30 years ago instead of 3), which is the longest gap for these two smirking rivals ever- they had never failed to meet in a G1 for more than two years since their first meeting back in 2010. Now that they’re finally going to face off once again, who will quite literally get the last laugh this time?

Hirooki Goto

  • 16th entry, 16th consecutive year
  • Wins: 2008
  • Finals: 2016

Current Situation

Once known as the forever bridesmaid of his generation, Hirooki Goto has instead reinvented himself as New Japan Pro Wrestling’s premier tag wrestler alongside YOSHI-HASHI. First Goto, YH, and Tomohiro Ishii absolutely destroyed the record for longest NEVER 6-man reign at 454 days (second place is only at 340), with a staggering nine defenses (again, way ahead of second place with 4) in 2020-21. But that was just the warm-up act for Bishamon’s dominance in the traditional tag team division, as they won back-to-back World Tag Leagues in 2021 & 2022, won the IWGP Tag Team Titles three times between January 2022 and today, and added a reign as STRONG Openweight Tag Team champions for good measure. He & YH of course dropped the STRONG titles to the new BULLET CLUB War Dogs back on July 4th at Korakuen Hall, but they remain IWGP Tag Team Champions heading into the tournament.

Is Goto going to be looked at as a favorite to win the G1 going in? Of course not. But as a guy who’s won the tournament before and been to another final, who’s having a career resurgence in the tag division, he can certainly be looked at as a dark horse to finish in the top 2 and move on to the quarterfinals. Like almost everyone else in this block, he’ll have to get through some guys he has a ton of history with to do it- in addition to obvious names Tanahashi (3-12-1 against all time) and Naito (5-5), he’ll be facing Jeff Cobb in a singles match for the first time since the 2021 G1 (after their mini-feud in 2018-19). Both men are 2-2 against each other, so we’ll see who breaks that tie.

Past Performance 

  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 – 6 points (3-3), T-3rd in C Block (4-way tie)
    • 2021 – 6 points (3-6), T-6th in B Block (4-way tie)
    • 2020 – 8 points (4-5), T-6th in B Block
    • 2019 – 10 points (5-4), 2nd in B Block
    • 2018 – 6 points (3-6), T-7th in B Block (4-way tie)
    • 2017 – 10 points (5-4), 4th in A Block
    • 2016 – 12 points (6-3), won A Block
    • 2015 – 12 points (6-3), 4th in B Block
    • 2014 – 8 points (4-6), T-6th in B Block (6-way tie)
    • 2013 – 8 points (4-5), 7th in A Block
    • 2012 – 8 points (4-4), T-2nd in B Block (7-way tie)
    • 2011 – 12 points (6-3), T-2nd in B Block (4-way tie)
    • 2010 – 8 points (4-3), 4th in B Block
    • 2009 – 6 points (3-3), 3rd in B Block
    • 2008 – 8 points (4-2), won B Block and tournament

Hirooki Goto has not finished with a record above .500 since 2019, after a streak where he had done so in 4 out of 5 years from 2015 through 2019. Of course, his high watermarks remain his very first G1, which he won in 2008, and his runner-up performance in 2016 (where ironically, he lost to one of the only other wrestlers to win his first G1, Kenny Omega).

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation

  • T-12th in booking strength
  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 – T-7th (28)
    • 2021 – 13th (20)
    • 2020 – T-14th (20)
    • 2019 – T-8th (20)
    • 2018 – T-6th (20)
    • 2017 – 5th (20)
    • 2016 – T-5th (20)
    • 2015 – 6th (20)
    • 2014 – T-8th (22)
    • 2013 – 3rd (20)
    • 2012 – T-7th (18)
    • 2011 – 7th (20)
    • 2010 – 7th (16)
  • Card Placement slate: 2-7-3-2-8-5
  • Final night opponent: Zack Sabre Jr.

Goto’s booking strength is probably a little stronger than you might expect, but in this very uneven block his 12th overall is still behind four other wrestlers. His main event with Tanahashi is in a large building in Nagoya, and he’s got a semi-main event with Naito as well. His final night opponent is Zack Sabre Jr. and I would be pretty stunned if that was a meaningless match, given both their status as title holders. It would not shock me at all if both men were alive and needing a win to move on as part of the top two, although one would think Zack would be a favorite in that situation.

Chances to advance from block: 10%

Chances to win tournament: 0%

What-to-Look-for Matches

Hirooki Goto vs. Alex Coughlin: Night #8  (7/26)

This will be the first singles meeting of Goto and Coughlin, continuing the current feud between Bishamon and the War Dogs team after they split their two title matches on the Strong Korakuen shows. One would expect another violent brawl just like we saw in their tag matches.

Hirooki Goto vs. Jeff Cobb: Night #12 (8/2)

As mentioned earlier, this will be the first meeting in two years between Goto and Cobb, who had an underrated rivalry dating back to the days when each man was a singles champion (Cobb the ROH TV Champion & Goto the NEVER). It’ll be fun watching these two powerful warriors go at it once again.

Tetsuya Naito

  • 14th entry, 14th consecutive year
  • Wins: 2013, 2017
  • Finals: 2011
  • Semi-Finals: 2022

Current Situation

2023’s big story is obviously the rise of a new generation in New Japan, but Tetsuya Naito somehow still sort of feels like the promotion’s main character. The early part of his year was all about his role opposite Keiji Mutoh in the legend’s retirement match at the Tokyo Dome, with Naito opposite Mutoh first at Wrestle Kingdom in a six-man tag before ultimately closing the curtain on his career about a month-and-a-half later. 

At the same time, Naito also dealt with being the target of young Shota Umino in his ongoing quest for a “paradigm shift,” but ultimately put Umino down without much trouble at New Beginning in Sapporo (in a match that perhaps showed that Umino had a long way to go to earn the adulation of the crowd the way Naito has; despite Naito playing heel in the match and really throughout the feud, the crowd still remained solidly behind him). 

But Naito’s year took a very different turn in the New Japan Cup. He advanced to the quarterfinals for the second straight year, where he was faced with his LIJ stablemate SANADA. Not only did SANADA defeat him, but in the immediate aftermath he became just the second wrestler ever to leave the unit, joining up with JUST FOUR GUYS (and rechristening them with their new, burger chain-like name in the process). SANADA, of course, would go on to win the New Japan Cup and then the IWGP World Heavyweight Title, both for the first time in his career. He would defeat a pair of LIJ members in longtime junior Hiromu Takahashi and new member Yota Tsuji in his first two title defenses, making one wonder if he’s ultimately going to go through all of the LIJ members (well, maybe not Titan or BUSHI…). 

Naito, meanwhile, didn’t do much else in 2023 after the SANADA loss- he defeated SANADA’s stablemate DOUKI during the Wrestling Dontaku tour and then seemed to occupy his time with various appearances in other promotions, first showing up with BUSHI in All Japan to defeat Kento Miyahara & super rookie Yuma Anzai, then showing up to face his old rival Chris Jericho in AEW during Forbidden Door season, and finally appearing as the headliner in CMLL’s first ever Fantastica Mania in Mexico tour. It sort of feels like he went on the backburner a little and perhaps got time to rest up his body ahead of a G1 Climax where, perhaps, he may be going deep. 

He went to the semifinals last year only to lose to Will Ospreay in a first-time-ever match (and then subsequently lost a US Title challenge to him in November as well)- could a rematch between the two be on the docket for one of the elimination rounds? Will Naito get a chance for revenge against SANADA, or an epic rematch against Kazuchika Okada for the first time since 1/5/20? The possibilities seem almost endless if he can get through his block….which is no guarantee, as his block is stacked with wrestlers who have beaten him before (and one, Zack Sabre Jr, who ended his tournament on the very first night two years ago). 

With all of this laid out before him- matches against old rivals like Tanahashi, Goto and ZSJ, first-time-ever meetings with the likes of Alex Coughlin & Shane Haste, and even a usually funny comedy match waiting in Toru Yano, before we even get into all those elimination round possibilities- what would Tetsuya Naito himself say about all this? I think you already know, of course. Tranquilo.

Past Performance

  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 – 8 points (4-2), won C Block
    • 2021 – 0 points (0-1), withdrew after first match
    • 2020 – 12 points (6-3), 3rd in B Block
    • 2019 – 10 points (5-4), T-2nd in B Block
    • 2018 – 12 points (6-3), 4th in B Block
    • 2017 – 14 points (7-2), won A Block and tournament
    • 2016 – 12 points (6-3), 2nd in B Block
    • 2015 – 10 points (5-4), 3rd in A Block
    • 2014 – 10 points (5-5), 5th in B Block
    • 2013 – 10 points (5-4), won B Block and tournament
    • 2012 – 8 points (4-4), T-2nd in B Block (7-way tie)
    • 2011 – 12 points (6-3), won A Block
    • 2010 – 7 points (3-3-1), 6th in A Block

Other than the fluke of 2021, where Naito suffered a legitimate injury in his opening match against Zack Sabre Jr. and was forced to forfeit the rest of the tournament, Naito has literally never finished with a record below .500 in a G1 Climax. From his very first year in 2010, he finished with a .500 record three times and with a record over .500 nine times, including last year when he went 4-2 to win the C block. He’s won this tournament twice, in 2013 & 2017, plus lost in the finals in 2011 and the semis last year.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation

  • T-3rd in booking strength
  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 – T-3rd (28)
    • 2021 – Withdrew
    • 2020 – 1st (20)
    • 2019 – T-2nd (20)
    • 2018 – 4th (20)
    • 2017 – T-3rd (20)
    • 2016 – T-1st (20)
    • 2015 – 5th (20)
    • 2014 – T-8th (22)
    • 2013 – T-7th (20)
    • 2012 – T-9th (18)
    • 2011 – 11th (20)
    • 2010 – T-10th (16)
  • Card Placement slate: 8-7-5-6-4-7
  • Final night opponent: Hiroshi Tanahashi

Unsurprisingly Naito has one of the strongest booking positions in the entire tournament, tied for third overall and easily tops in the D block. He’ll wrestle in only one main event but has two more semi-mains (essentially “D block main events” on those nights of course), and the lowest he ever appears on a card is fourth. Combined with a real traditional G1 final night opponent in Hiroshi Tanahashi, a match that would surprise no one if it decided the entire block, and it’s easy to see that Naito has a very high chance of advancing.

Chances to advance from block: 95%

Chances to win tournament: 25%

What-to-Look-for Matches

Tetsuya Naito vs. Jeff Cobb: Night #2  (7/16)

Tetsuya Naito’s lone main event of the tournament is on the very first D block night, as he’ll face a man he’s never lost against. Naito is, perhaps surprisingly, a perfect 3-0 against Jeff Cobb, with wins over him in the 2019 G1, at Wrestle Kingdom 16 in 2022, and in the quarterfinals of the 2022 New Japan Cup. Will Naito stay perfect against Cobb and start off his G1 with a win, or will Cobb finally beat Naito and put him behind the eight-ball?

Tetsuya Naito vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: Night #12 (8/2)

As mentioned, the lone blemish on Naito’s otherwise sparkling G1 record came thanks to this man, as ZSJ put Naito out of action in his very first G1 match two years ago. But even beyond that, these two men have just an incredible rivalry over the years- their matches are almost always fantastic. Naito currently holds a 6-4 record against ZSJ all time in singles matches, and has won their last two meetings since the aforementioned G1 2021 match.

Zack Sabre Jr.

  • 7th entry, 7th consecutive year

Current Situation

Zack Sabre Jr’s 2023 has been all about two things: TMDK and the NJPW WORLD TV Title. With the dissolution of Suzukigun at the end of 2022, Zack was recruited at Wrestle Kingdom by TMDK’s Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls to replace the departed JONAH as the leader of the unit. He accepted, which kicked off what’s been a great year for him. He defeated Ren Narita on the same show in the finals of a tournament to crown the first-ever NJPW WORLD TV champion, and went on to defend that belt all over the world. 

Zack has racked up an amazing ten title defenses already, defeating the likes of Tomohiro Ishii, Clark Connors, Shota Umino, Tom Lawlor, and Jeff Cobb in NJPW (after first drawing with Cobb before beating him in a rematch), but also heading to the US and beating Blake Christian, AR Fox, Rocky Romero, and Action Andretti on ROH & AEW television. He’s taken on all comers and firmly established the funky-looking (I happen to like the way it looks, but I get why others don’t, I guess!) WORLD TV belt as a new top title in New Japan.

He thus enters the G1 Climax with a ton of momentum behind him, and also happens to be the only singles champion in the D block (Coughlin, Goto and Tanahashi are all tag champions). As mentioned throughout these profiles, he knows many of his D block compatriots well, with tons of past meetings with the likes of Naito, Tanahashi and Yano, a just wrapped-up feud over the TV belt with Cobb, and even a lot of meetings with Hirooki Goto that date back to Zack’s Dangerous Tekkers tag days. Zack has to be considered one of the favorites to advance out of D block, if not to win it outright. Tekkers, indeed.

Past Performance 

  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 – 8 points (4-2), 2nd in C Block
    • 2021 – 12 points (6-3), 4th in A Block
    • 2020 – 10 points (5-4), 5th in B Block
    • 2019 – 8 points (4-5), T-3rd in A Block (7-way tie)
    • 2018 – 12 points (6-3), 3rd in B Block
    • 2017 – 10 points (5-4), 6th in A Block

Zack has only had a losing record one time in his six previous G1s, when he went 4-5 back in 2019. Otherwise he has finished above .500 in every other G1, including last year when he went 4-2 and only lost out on winning his block to Naito due to the direct loss tiebreaker. But despite all the success he’s had, ZSJ has never advanced out of the group stage in a G1. With the combination of the added quarterfinal round and his own natural momentum, one would think that streak may very well end this year.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation 

  • T-10th in booking strength
  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 – T-15th (28)
    • 2021 – 4th (20)
    • 2020 – T-14th (20)
    • 2019 – T-13th (20)
    • 2018 – T-11th (20)
    • 2017 – 13th (20)
  • Card Placement slate: 6-1-1-8-6-7
  • Final night opponent: Hirooki Goto

Zack’s a real mixed bag in booking strength- he has a main event, two semi-mains, and a sixth match, but also two openers. His final night opponent of Hirooki Goto however screams to me that he’ll still be alive, and will likely be in a great position to be one of the two wrestlers who moves on to the quarterfinals.

Chances to advance from block: 50%

Chances to win tournament: 5%

What-to-Look-for Matches

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Alex Coughlin: Night #6  (7/23)

This is a true first-time-ever matchup, as not only have they never met in a singles match before but they’ve straight up never been in the same ring together. Prior to his reinvention in BC, Coughlin was a guy who was more than capable of holding his own on the mat- will we see him reach back into that against the mat wizard ZSJ, or will this turn into a true clash of styles, Zack’s technical prowess vs. the new brawling style we’ve seen from Coughlin since joining the BC? Should be a really intriguing match either way. 

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Shane Haste: Night #10 (7/30)

Haste not only recruited Zack into TMDK at the start of the year, he also does a damn fine Zack Sabre Jr. impression. While this isn’t a first-time-ever matchup like Zack vs. Coughlin, for their last singles meetings you have to go all the way back to Pro Wrestling NOAH in 2012, where they met twice in a one-month span (both won by Haste). Stablemate battles are one of the things that make the G1 Climax interesting every year, and this one should be no different.

Jeff Cobb

  • 5th entry, 5th consecutive year

Current Situation

Jeff Cobb has had a kind of quiet first half of 2023, with his biggest moments all being losses. He went down early in the New Japan Cup to EVIL in the second round, failed in his challenge of Kenny Omega for the IWGP US Heavyweight Title in AEW a few weeks later, and couldn’t find a way to take the NJPW WORLD TV Title from ZSJ in two challenges at Wrestling Dontaku & Dominion. Will the G1 Climax be more of the same in 2023 for this powerhouse, or are we about to witness a major comeback story that takes Cobb at least to the quarterfinals?

Past Performance

  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 – 6 points (3-3), T-3rd in A Block
    • 2021 – 16 points (8-1), 2nd in B Block
    • 2020 – 8 points (4-5), T-5th in A Block (4-way tie)
    • 2019 – 8 points (4-5), T-5th in B Block (6-way tie)

Cobb’s four previous G1s are quite the contrast: in his first two years he finished with identical losing 4-5 records. After joining the UNITED EMPIRE at the end of 2020, he suddenly became a much more dominant wrestler, and nearly went undefeated in the 2021 G1 at 8-1 (unfortunately for him, his one loss to Kazuchika Okada cost him the block on a tiebreaker). Last year though it was back to a more middling performance, as he went 3-3. Was 2021 a fluke that Cobb will never reach again, or will Cobb be able to rediscover his previous dominance this year in the D block?

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation 

  • T-7th in booking strength
  • Prior Years: 
    • 2022 – T-7th(28)
    • 2021 – 1st (20)
    • 2020 – 10th (20)
    • 2019 – 19th (20)
  • Card Placement slate: 8-3-7-8-2-5
  • Final night opponent: Shane Haste

It’s mixed messages here: Cobb’s booking strength is quite high, as his 7th overall mark is the second best in the entire D block thanks to two main events and another semi-main. On the other hand, his final night opponent of Shane Haste doesn’t exactly imply a match that will decide the fate of a block. Average it out, and you probably end up in a situation where Cobb may need to beat Haste AND get help to win the block or advance. Perhaps he’ll have a tiebreaker against only one of Naito or Tanahashi, or the same for Zack Sabre Jr. and Hirooki Goto, and need one of them to win.

Chances to advance from block: 15%

Chances to win tournament: 0%

What-to-Look-for Matches

Jeff Cobb vs. Tetsuya Naito: Night #2  (7/16)

Cobb comes out of the gate swinging with a main event on the very first D block night. As mentioned in Naito’s profile, Cobb has never beaten him in a singles match (0-3 lifetime), so he’ll have to find a way to finally put the LIJ leader down if he wants to start his G1 with a win. 

Jeff Cobb vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi: Night #6 (7/23)

Believe it or not these two men have only met in a singles match once before, two years ago in the G1. Since that was Cobb’s big 8-1 year, you can probably guess that he got the W. This will be another major spot for Cobb in the semi-main of the night, and he’ll have a chance to remain one of the only people in New Japan Pro Wrestling who can say he’s never lost to Tanahashi if he can win.

Shane Haste

  • Debut entry

Current Situation

One of two first-time entrants in a D block otherwise loaded with NJPW veteran stars, ‘Hysterical’ Shane Haste certainly has an opportunity to make a name for himself here. One of the more underrated wrestlers in the entire G1 Climax, in my opinion, Haste can go out there knowing that no one is looking to him as a favorite in this tournament (just given that he’s a tag wrestler if nothing else) and have a good time without much pressure on him to perform. He could have a sneaky good tournament if everything aligns for him, even if he likely won’t win very many of his matches. The Mighty Don’t Kneel, so expect him to go down swinging, if nothing else.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation 

  • T-12th in booking strength
  • Card Placement slate: 4-5-3-6-6-3
  • Final night opponent: Jeff Cobb

Haste’s booking strength is probably a little better than you’d might expect, thanks to never appearing lower than 3rd on a card and appearing 6th twice. His final night opponent of Jeff Cobb should see at least one of them still alive to move on, with Haste perhaps looking to play spoiler on Cobb.

Chances to advance from block: 5%

Chances to win tournament: 0%

What-to-Look-for Matches

Shane Haste vs. Alex Coughlin: Night #2  (7/16)

Shane’s tournament starts out with a battle of the only two G1 newcomers in the D block. Besides the fact that this is (like almost all of Haste’s matchups, save the one with ZSJ and weirdly enough Tour Yano- Yano beat him in under five minutes in NOAH in 2013!) a first time ever singles match, it’s also a chance for Haste to earn a future shot at the NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Champions with a win.

Shane Haste vs. Tetsuya Naito: Night #8 (7/26)

Again, you could highlight almost any match here as a first time ever singles meeting, but anytime you’re getting to face possibly the biggest star in the entire company for the first time in your career, it’s a pretty big deal. As a bonus for Haste this match will take place at Korakuen Hall, and the super-hardcore Korakuen crowd is notorious for getting behind underdogs like Haste will be here. So you could picture it easily: a hot Korakuen crowd cheering Haste on as he tries to pull off the mega-upset against Naito. Sounds like a fun time!

Alex Coughlin

  • Debut entry

Current Situation

What finally made Alex Coughlin, previously known as a good-natured cyborg, snap and join BULLET CLUB? Was it losing to his mentor Katsuyori Shibata in the biggest match of his career, when he challenged him for the ROH Pure Title on May 24th in Las Vegas? Considering he and Gabe Kidd made their big incursion at Dominion just a few weeks later, that very well may have been it. Whatever the case, the new Alex Coughlin isn’t here to have fun or wow you with his unique mix of power and technique- he’s just here to straight up kick your ass, as he and Gabe did to Bishamon for a solid month. It all culminated with their NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Title win at Korakuen Hall, and even though they failed to win the IWGP Tag Team Titles as well the next night, the Dead-Eyed Dreadnought is likely just getting started. Middle fingers up, and as Coughlin himself would say, fuuuuuck youuuuu.

Booking Strength and Final Match Situation

  • T-30th in booking strength
  • Card Placement slate: 4-3-1-2-4-1
  • Final night opponent: Toru Yano

Unfortunately for Coughlin he has easily the lowest booking strength of anyone in D block, as he never appears above fourth on the card. Combine that with his last night opponent of Toru Yano and it’s hard to see how he makes it out of the group stage. Please don’t yell at me for pointing this out Alex, I’m very sensitive.

Chances to advance from block: 0%

Chances to win tournament: 0%

What-to-Look-for Matches

Alex Coughlin vs. Jeff Cobb: Night #4  (7/19)

An intriguing power vs. power matchup here sees Coughlin looking to avenge a sub-six-minute loss from an episode of STRONG back in 2021, though he’s grown a ton since then. Can he actually manage to deadlift his huge opponent?

Alex Coughlin vs. Hirooki Goto: Night #8 (7/26)

After Coughlin pretty much beat Hirooki Goto’s ass all over Korakuen Hall in two straight tag matches, well, he’ll get the chance to beat his ass all over Korakuen Hall once again in a singles contest. Who comes out on top in this battle of tag team champions?

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