New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 33 Night 10
July 30, 2023
Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium
Nagoya, Aichi, Japan

Watch: NJPW WORLD

So, here we are at Night 10 at the G1 Climax. What can you say? 

No, really, I’m asking. Do you know anything I can say about this show?  

Most G1 nights are at least capped off by some kind of anticipated match. A match with some real story or hype behind it. Sure, Goto vs. Tanahashi is a pairing with tons of history, but it’s been ages since it held any real weight. I’d like it if Chris Samsa could tell me how many apron Dragon Screws Hirooki Goto has taken in his career. I’m setting the over/under at 23,000 and a half. How did Tanahashi end up as the one with bad knees? 

This show brings us to 80 tournament matches. I’m tired, and I’m just watching them on my phone while I walk to the gym. I gotta imagine the wrestlers are even more tired, then. Hell, even Kevin Kelly sounds beat for most of this show’s duration. 

Still, we watch this crazy tournament every summer because we love it. I think, at least. A dull G1 show is still better than most other shows. There was an okay crowd of 3,545 in Dolphin’s Arena for Night 10; let’s take a look at what they got. 

G1 Climax 2023 Block C Match
David Finlay (8) def. HENARE (2)

For me, David Finlay’s performance in this G1 is one of the most interesting little subplots. It’s his G1 debut as a faction leader, as the big boss of the Bullet Club War Dogs. He’s got a new leather wardrobe and a crop of very angry gaijin men under his lead. Does he bring the appropriate aggression and gravitas into his G1 matches? 

Well, the answer is “sometimes, I guess.” He has flashes. His last bout with Tama Tonga is one of my favorite matches of the tournament. I had some hope for him against HENARE, who’s always game to get wild in an inconsequential undercard bout. No such luck, here. Both men are good wrestlers with cool movesets, so it wasn’t a chore to watch, but we got a largely unmemorable and perfunctory professional wrestling match. **¾ 

G1 Climax 2023 Block C Match
Eddie Kingston (6) def. Mikey Nicholls (2) (w/Kosei Fujita)

Mikey Nicholls has been overdelivering like mad (I know) in this tournament, and Eddie Kingston was coming off of a career performance in Night 8 against Ishii. If you found yourself totally overhyping a Mikey Nicholls/Eddie Kingston G1 match in your mind, you have my sympathy. I did it, too. Pro wrestling makes us do crazy things. 

What we got was a fine, easily digestible C-Block-Bashers match that never really got out of second gear in its brief eight minutes. Kingston put Nicholls down with his spinning backfist. **¾ 

G1 Climax 2023 Block D Match
Toru Yano (2) def. Jeff Cobb (8)

I think I’m a pretty good sport about Toru Yano. I get his role in these, it’s a change of pace, I dig it, sure. But it really feels like he’s put in a low effort tournament, and I know how silly that sounds when you’re talking about Toru Yano. 

Cobb came into this match undefeated. You could have done something with the tension of Cobb trying to preserve his record. Yano’s bag of tricks can even have you on the edge of your seat when the result matters. I know Yano CAN be good at that sort of thing; we used to see it all the time! 

Anyway, he sprayed Cobb with something and rolled him up in under two minutes. Where do they come up with this stuff, etc. YANO¼

G1 Climax 2023 Block D Match
Tetsuya Naito (6) def. Alex Coughlin (2)

In the power rankings of War Doggiest War Dogs, Alex Coughlin is a respectable #2. Nobody is War Dogging harder than Gabe Kidd. But Coughlin is still providing plenty of shit talk and roughhousing, which always pairs well with Tetsuya Naito. Scroll up, click my name, and read my other NJPW reviews. Okay, are you back yet? Good. Then you know that I absolutely love it when people talk shit at Tetsuya Naito. Spitting, taunting, it’s all right in Naito’s wheelhouse.

Of course, the big underlying deal with the War Dogs is they don’t yet have the experience to back up their attitudes. As such, Naito played the matador to Coughlin’s dumb, angry bull. It was a tidy 10 minutes, but still charmingly Wardoggian. ***

G1 Climax 2023 Block C Match
EVIL (8) (w/Dick Togo) def. Tomohiro Ishii (2)

At this point, whether or not I’m going to enjoy an EVIL match hinges on how the inevitable Dick Togo segment plays out. Sometimes, they’re fun and suspenseful (vs. Eddie, Night 4), but other times they leave me begging my computer monitor for mercy (vs. Tama, Night 2). For me, this one veered closer to the latter.

Ishii and EVIL have always had chemistry, and Ishii trying to push EVIL back into NEVER-esque deep water is fun to watch. But the Togo antics ground his one to a painful halt, and EVIL’s open abuse of the referee asked a little too much of me. I gotta tell you though, the finish? Where EVIL just snagged Asami by the collar so Togo could run in and punt Ishii in the nuts? Had me howling. Maybe my favorite EVIL/Togo spot to date. ***

G1 Climax 2023 Block D Match
Zack Sabre Jr. (8) (w/Kosei Fujita) def. Shane Haste (4) (w/Kosei Fujita)

It doesn’t say much, but this might have been my favorite match of the night. ZSJ and Haste are funny dudes, and Haste is coming to life in the back nine of the tournament. 

Both members of TMDK, the two played up the same-team angle well. Kosei Fujita accompanied both men to the ring (he ran back to the top of the ramp before ZSJ’s entrance), then was asked to choose which member he liked better, like a puppy. During the match, both were initially hesitant and apologetic as the violence leveled up. Haste was good, countering ZSJ’s grappling with hard strikes and slams. 

ZSJ won without TOO much stress, outmaneuvering Haste for the pin, much the way a main event talent does when he wrestles a midcard tag guy.

Joe Lanza’s been calling TMDK frat guys in their late 30’s. I appreciate that; I felt like I was watching Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn go at it. Extra quarter star. ***¼ 

G1 Climax 2023 Block C Match
Shingo Takagi (5) vs. Tama Tonga (7) – Time Limit Draw (20:00)

Tama Tonga is interesting in just how not interesting he is. Since getting the boot from Bullet Club, Tama Tonga has gone full-blown ordinary babyface. He’s an “I’ll try my best” guy. You don’t really see that these days, where wrestlers have things like “motivations” or “human qualities.” 

Sometimes, in concert with his history in the company, it pays off. For instance, good guy Tama’s clash with the dastardly David Finlay was one of my favorite matches of the tourney. So much so, that I found two opportunities to bring it up. Other times, though, he’s just kind of there. 

This was one of those times. For the first fifteen minutes or so, Shingo did Shingo stuff, and Tama was a willing participant. The pace made more sense as the two began to tease the draw. The closing stretch was a doozy, and it brought the crowd – and Kevin Kelly – to life for the first time all night. But context matters. This is the G1 Climax. Throw a rock and you’ll probably hit a hot closing stretch. *** 

G1 Climax 2023 Block D Match
Hiroshi Tanahashi (6) def. Hirooki Goto (4)

I think your opinion of this match might depend on what you were looking for out of it. If you were looking for two vets to turn back the clock? Well, you’re out of luck. The years have finally caught up to the Ace, and Goto seems hampered by an injury he suffered on Night 6 against Haste. Even Kevin Kelly seemed to be warning viewers to temper their expectations. 

But it’s hard not to feel like you’re in good hands watching Hiroshi Tanahashi wrestle Hirooki Goto. Sure, you might wince when they try to run the ropes, but there’s still some magic dust between them. Both drew from their classic playbooks — Tanahashi delivered Dragon Screws from every angle and, to his credit, Goto pulled out his signature “Receives Dragon Screw From Hiroshi Tanahashi.” 

In all honesty, even the most fervent of nose-upturned haters had to be warming up to this match when the two started trading their big bombs down the stretch. Unfortunately, a late botch would stifle the momentum they built. Goto hoisted Tanahashi up for a Shouten-Kai, and something fell apart in Tanahashi’s attempt to reverse it. It stung more when you realized it was meant to lead into the finish of the match. 

It wasn’t all pretty, and it certainly didn’t look like a match between these two from 2011, but hey — it’s 14 minutes of Hiroshi Tanahashi and Hirooki Goto in a G1 main event. It’s comfort food. ***¼

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