New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 33 Night 6
July 23, 2023
Nagano Big Hat
Nagano, Japan

Watch: NJPWWorld

The 33rd edition of the G1 Climax rolls on as the tour came to Nagano for Night 6, which was the third night for the C and D Blocks. While Jeff Cobb and Zack Sabre Jr. are battling for the lead in the D Block, the C Block is in the main event, as fellow Bullet Club members David Finaly and EVIL battle for sole possession of 1st Place. Meanwhile, a number of wrestlers (including Alex Coughlin, Shingo Takagi, Tomohiro Ishii, and Toru Yano) look to stave off an 0-3 start. Who will score their first points of the tournament to keep their hopes alive, and who will improve their chances of winning the block?

G1 Climax 33 – D Block
Zack Sabre Jr. (6) def. Alex Coughlin (0)

Alex Coughlin came into this match looking for his first win of the tournament, while Zack Sabre Jr. was looking to become the first wrestler in the D Block to move to 3-0. When the dust settled, Sabre would pick up the win after forcing Sabre to submit to an armbar. This was a pretty solid match to kick off the show. In particular, I enjoyed the story they told here with Coughlin clearly having the power advantage. Sabre appeared to be outmatched at points but, as always, he used his crafitness to find a way to win. The finish with the aforementioned armbar was very cool as well, as it was one of those quick tapouts. As soon as Sabre extended the arm for the armbar, Coughlin tapped furiously. Always like to see those quick tapouts. Another positive to this one was that Coughlin (like the match with Jeff Cobb) kept the shenanigans to a minimum. There was a spot early on the floor where Coughlin attempted to use his half of that STRONG Openweight Tag Team Titles as a weapon, but that was really it (Kosei Fujita stopped him, which allowed Sabre to gain control). A fine way to kick off the show. ***1/4

G1 Climax 33 – C Block
Tama Tonga (4) def. Mikey Nicholls (2)

The winner of this bout would move to four points with a 2-1 record. In just over nine minutes, Tama Tonga was able to put Mikey Nicholls away after two straight Gun Stuns (the first of which occurred as a counter to a moonsault attempt from Nicholls). This was a decent bout, but also very forgettable. The only other notable element from the match that sticks out was early on when they spilled out to the floor and brawled around Kevin Kelly’s commentary table. Again, there really wasn’t anything wrong with the actual wrestling in the ring….it just didn’t leave that much of an impression. It was the type of match you’d forget about almost immediately after it happened. **3/4

G1 Climax 33 – D Block
Hirooki Goto (4) def. Shane Haste (2)

One aspect of the G1 that’s fun is that we’ll occasionally get a match that is super short (typically well under five minutes). We usually see that when guys like Toru Yano or Zack Sabre Jr. are involved, but in this particular instance….it was Hirooki Goto and Shane Haste. As soon as the bell rang, Haste went right after Goto. Despite starting on the defensive, Goto was able to make a brief comeback before trapping Haste in a rolling cradle of some kind to score the pin. Kevin Kelly did mention on commentary that Goto might be dealing with a rib injury, so perhaps that’s why this was kept so short. Either way, I do enjoy that we get these short G1 matches every so often just to keep you on your toes with the possibility that these block matches can end at any time. These types of bouts are hard to rate from a star ratings standpoint, but for what it was, I had no real issues with it. **1/2

G1 Climax 33 – C Block
Eddie Kingston (4) def. HENARE (2)

HENARE was coming off a huge win over Shingo on Night 4 in one of the best matches of the tournament to date, while Eddie Kingston is looking to bounce back after a loss to EVIL. This was easily the best bout on the entire card up to this point (though that isn’t exactly clearing a high bar). While this was by no means a super outstanding match, it featured some very solid action for the ten minutes or so that it lasted. It started off with HENARE nailing Kingston with a big kick before the bell (which reminded me a lot of when Kingston dropped CM Punk with a backfist before the start of their match at AEW Full Gear 2021). Once the match officially got started, HENARE remained in control for most of it, with Kingston getting spurts of offense here and there. Kingston did a really nice job of selling his right arm after HENARE had gone after it, to the point that (a little later in the bout), Kingston actually switched to his left arm when delivering a series of strikes. The finish came after a back-and-forth striking exchange between the two, which ended with both men collapsing. However, HENARE was the one who hit the ground first, which meant that Kingston fell on top of him, and that was the pin. Again, this certainly didn’t light the world on fire, but if you’re looking for bright spots on this show, I would say this was one of them. Good work from both guys. ***1/2

G1 Climax 33 – D Block
Tetsuya Naito (4) def. Toru Yano (0)

This was a case where the pre-match shenanigans might’ve been just as long….if not a little bit longer….than the match itself. Toru Yano wanted to get this match started right away, which (of course) contrasts with the attitude of one Tetsuya Naito. So what does Naito do after his typical long entrance? He runs to the back, has them play his music from the beginning, and does his whole entrance again. I thought that was funny. As for the match itself, it was perfectly fine for the time that it got (though it could’ve been a minute or so shorter). Naito and Yano have had better G1 matches together, but what they did here worked well enough. Naito nearly won the bout early on with a series of quick pin attempts. Yano would respond a few moments later by sending Naito into the barricade a couple of times (Naito always makes those barricade bumps look absolutely brutal). Eventually, Naito goes back to the quick pin attempts and manages to get the win. He then followed up by tossing Yano into the exposed turnbuckle a couple of times after the bell. After dropping his first match to Jeff Cobb, Naito has now scored two wins in a row, while Yano is now 0-3. Any of the wrestlers who have matches with Yano in the latter stages of this G1 better watch out, because he’s bound to score some wins now. ***

G1 Climax 33 – C Block
Shingo Takagi (2) def. Tomohiro Ishii (0)

While this card hadn’t featured anything that I would call bad up to this point, nothing had jumped out yet as being great or must-watch. This is the G1 Climax after all….we expect to see greatness, and on this show, we haven’t gotten anything close to great. Well, we finally got something on this show to get truly excited about as Shingo Takagi went to war with Tomohiro Ishii once again (this is at least the third or fourth time these two have met in a G1). In just over eighteen minutes, these two guys beat the crap out of each other in what was easily the best match of the night. There was a ton of hard-hitting hitting action in this one from start to finish, with both ten trading big move after big move. Eventually, after being too exhausted to go for the cover after hitting Last Of The Dragon, Shingo was able to put Ishii away with the Pumping Bomber to score the victory, earning his first two points of the tournament in the process. For Ishii, this loss drops him to 0-3, effectively putting his chances of advancing out of the block at next to zero (though I don’t think many figured he was advancing anyway). What’s crazy about this match is that, despite it being a pretty awesome encounter, it was probably the weakest Ishii vs. Shingo bout we’ve seen to date. That just speaks to how incredible their previous matches were. This show was in dire need of a great match, and fortunately, these two gave it to us. You can almost always count on them to deliver. ****1/4

G1 Climax 33 – D Block
Jeff Cobb (6) def. Hiroshi Tanahashi (2)

Unfortunately, the previous bout between Ishii and Shingo was the high point of this show. The semi-main event saw Jeff Cobb continue his strong start by moving to 6 Points and a 3-0 record after defeating Hiroshi Tanahashi with the Tour Of The Islands in just over ten minutes. The match itself was solid, but not much more than that. We got some comedy early on as Cobb mocked Tanahashi’s air guitar, before busting out his own air ukulele. Tanahashi did manage to fight back, and we did get some fine back-and-forth between the two in the closing stretch. If this was a few years ago, these two would’ve had a great match (in fact, they did have a pretty strong bout in the G1 two years ago), but with this being the year where Tanahashi appears to finally be slowing down in a major way, there was a ceiling on how good this could be. The fact that Cobb hit Tanahashi with his own Sling Blade right before hitting Tour Of The Islands felt like a clear message that Cobb is firmly above a guy like Tanahashi at this stage. ***

G1 Climax 33 – C Block
David Finlay (6) def. EVIL (4)

There was a lot of curiosity about this match going into it. Not only was it a battle for 1st Place in the D Block, but it was the first real encounter between the Bullet Club War Dogs and the House Of Torture. These two subgroups within Bullet Club had pretty much steered clear of each other up to this point. Would this play out in a way that was interesting, or in a way that would add intrigue to the overall Bullet Club story?

Well, for the most part, no. Every member of House Of Torture came to the ring with EVIL, while Gedo and Gabe Kidd (no Alex Coughlin, who was on this card in the opening bout) came out with Finlay. After both sides were sent to the floor by various referees, EVIL and Finlay started to have their match, with EVIL gaining control early on. Eventually, Red Shoes and the other referees got taken out. There had been a couple of standoffs between the two sides at this point, and when they finally started fighting each other….the crowd went mild! Barely any reaction for these two Bullet Club subgroups going at it. As the brawl moved to the back, EVIL and Finlay and another in-ring exchange before a fourth referee got pulled out, and Togo began choking Finlay with his garrote wire. After EVIL and Togo double-teamed Finlay, Gedo got involved, and the crowd just did not give a single shit (the biggest pops were for the referee bumps earlier on). EVIL went to use Finlay’s shillelagh, but Finlay used his NEVER Openweight Title to block it, before using the shillelagh himself. He followed up with Into Oblivion, and secured the win to move to 3-0 with 6 Points.

Not only was this by far the worst match of the G1 up to this point, but it was a failure in any sense of the word. They were trying to build up to the eventual clash between Bullet Club War Dogs and House Of Torture as this big epic thing, but nobody reacted during their initial standoff, or during the other standoffs, or during the big brawl itself. NOBODY in that building cared about any of this. I suppose, of the two, EVIL was the bigger heel, but I didn’t get any sense that the crowd felt any sympathy towards, or felt the need to get behind, David Finlay in any way. It was an angle that people didn’t care about, and it was an angle that pretty much went nowhere. In his post-match promo, Finlay just sort of brushed off EVIL and moved on like he was someone who wasn’t in the same faction as him. No signs of solidarity or teases of further dissension (not to say that were guaranteed a big angle here). Another thing that makes this even worse was the fact that it main evented this show. If this was in the middle of the card, it would still come off incredibly flat, but you can handwave it by virtue of it being where it was on the card. It being in the main event just put a larger spotlight on how bad it was. Aside from being a match in the G1 Climax, this really served almost no purpose. Whatever they were going for here just didn’t work. It was simply an abject failure. *

Final Thoughts

Night 6 was easily the worst G1 Climax show up to this point. What was weird about it is that it wasn’t like there were a ton of bad matches. The main event was pretty awful, yes, but as for the rest of the card, none of the other bouts were bad. The big issue was that a lot of the matches ranged from ok/solid to good….somewhere between **1/2 and ***1/4 if we’re talking about star ratings. If you remove Shingo Takagi vs. Tomohiro Ishii (the lone great match on the show), this is a total nothing card. That’s what makes it a bad show. If you’re pressed for time, and have fallen behind on the G1 Climax, just watch that Shingo/Ishii match. If you’re someone who’s a big fan of Eddie Kingston and want to follow his journey through the G1 Climax, I would recommend watching that match, as it was pretty good, though not great. Other than those two matches, everything else is skippable.

Here are the block standings for the C Block and D Block as of Night 6:

C Block

  • David Finlay (3-0) – 6 Points
  • EVIL (2-1) – 4 Points
  • Eddie Kingston (2-1) – 4 Points
  • Tama Tonga (2-1) – 4 Points
  • Mikey Nicholls (1-2) – 2 Points
  • HENARE (1-2) – 2 Points
  • Shingo Takagi (1-2) – 2 Points
  • Tomohiro Ishii (0-3) – 0 Points

D Block

  • Jeff Cobb (3-0) – 6 Points
  • Zack Sabre Jr. (3-0) – 6 Points
  • Tetsuya Naito (2-1) – 4 Points
  • Hirooki Goto (2-1) – 4 Points
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi (1-2) – 2 Points
  • Shane Haste (1-2) – 2 Points
  • Alex Coughlin (0-3) – 0 Points
  • Toru Yano (0-3) – 0 Points

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