New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Climax 33 Night 15
August 8, 2023
Yokohama Budokan
Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan


We’re halfway through the block finals of the 33rd G1 Climax, and half of the playoff field is already decided. SANADA and Hikuleo are advancing out of the A Block, while (to the surprise of nobody) Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay advanced out of the B Block. Now it’s time to fill out the second half of that eight-person bracket! Up next is the C Block, which has FIVE of the eight wrestlers alive coming into Yokohama. Some of those wrestlers have advancement scenarios that are a little easier compared to others, but who will ultimately claim those two playoff spots? Time to find out!

Before diving into the C Block matches, here are the results from the undercard tags. Of course, there’s really no need to watch these, but if you just want to get a small sample size, I would recommend the opener with the United Empire against Kaito Kiyomiya and Ryohei Oiwa, and TMDK vs. CHAOS and Oskar Leube. The latter notably featured a post-match skirmish between YOH and Kosei Fujita, so I wonder if they will have a singles match at some point before Fujita goes on excursion.

-United Empire (Great O-Khan & Jeff Cobb) def. Kaito Kiyomiya & Ryohei Oiwa
-Bullet Club (Alex Coughlin & Gabe Kidd) def. Toru Yano & Tomoaki Honma
-Strong Style (El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki, & Ren Narita) def. G.O.D. (Hikuleo & Jado) & Shota Umino
-TMDK (Zack Sabre Jr., Shane Haste, Kosei Fujita) def. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & YOH) & Oskar Leube
-LIJ (Tetsuya Naito, Yota Tsuji, & BUSHI) def. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Master Wato, & Togi Makabe

G1 Climax 33 C Block Match
Tomohiro Ishii (4) def. Mikey Nicholls (w/ Kosei Fujita) (4)

This was the only tournament match of the night that meant nothing with regards to the fight for the top two spots. Just two guys looking to end their G1 on a high note. Tomohiro Ishii is always a contender for MVP of the tournament, and while he’ll certainly be in that conversation again this year, his actual win/loss record was very disappointing. He only had one win coming into this match with Mikey Nicholls, but fortunately, he was able finish off the tournament with a win as he put the TMDK member away with the Vertical Drop Brainbuster. This was an entertaining match for the thirteen minutes that it lasted, and featured plenty of hard-hitting action. Ishii delivered, as he always does (I’m sure I sound like a broken record on that front), and Nicholls more than held up his end of things. Mad Mikey was far from the most stellar wrestler in this year’s G1, but he absolutely exceeded expectations, especially when compared to that lackluster singles run he had in 2019 as part of CHAOS. He and his regular tag team partner Shane Haste were very solid in this tournament, and they fill their roles (bottom-of-the-block guys who only score a couple of points and might get the occasional upset) very well. A solid way to kick off the tournament portion of the show. ****

G1 Climax 33 C Block Match
Tama Tonga (9) def. HENARE (4)

Here we have the first match on this card that is going to play a role in deciding who makes it out of the block. The scenario for Tama Tonga was simple. He needed to win this match against HENARE to have any hopes of staying alive for 2nd Place in the block. Tama also needed some help elsewhere (more on that later), but the first step of his quest to get in was winning this match. Well….he managed to do just that as he put away HENARE with the Jay Driller after blocking a headbutt attempt with a Superman Punch. While both guys have had better matches in this tournament, it was still a really good match from start to finish. The closing stretch featured some very solid back-and-forth between the two, with HENARE coming close to winning on a few occasions before Tama put him away. Given what Tama needed to happen to get into the playoffs, I was surprised that he won this match. It felt like the perfect spot for HENARE to spoil him, but that’s not the direction they would decide to go in (the reason for the result of this one would be made more clear a little later). This was an enjoyable match for what it was, but again, far from either man’s best outing in this tournament. ***1/2

G1 Climax 33 C Block Match
David Finlay (w/ Gedo) (10) def. Eddie Kingston (8)

The scenarios for both Eddie Kingston and David Finlay were pretty clear coming into this match. Whoever won would advance to the playoff with a 1st Place finish in the C Block, while the loser would be out of it (there were scenarios where draws come into place, but the cleanest scenario was “win and you’re in”). When the dust settled, it would be Finlay who would emerge victorious after putting Kingston away with Into Oblivion. Even though this was the rest that most people expected, they did a very nice job making you believe at different points that Kingston had a real shot to win this. Finlay would spend a decent chunk of the match working over Kingston’s back. There were one or two other brutal moments for Kingston as well, including getting tossed head-first into the post by Finlay. Despite all of that, Kingston was able to recover and took the fight to Finlay. At one point, Kingston connected with the Northern Lights Bomb, but Finlay was able to get his feet on the ropes. That was the closest that Kingston would come to scoring the win, as Finlay would connect with a series of rolling elbows and a spear before the aforementioned Into Oblivion put him down for the count. This finished off what I thought was a great G1 Climax for Eddie Kingston. He didn’t get out of the block, but he finished with a winning record and had a series of strong matches along the way. Can’t ask for much more than that. As for Finlay, he claimed 1st Place in the C Block with this win, and will move on to face B Block runner-up Will Ospreay in the playoffs. ****

G1 Climax 33 C Block Match
EVIL (w/ Dick Togo) (10) def. Shingo Takagi (7)

Before both guys make their respective entrances, the ring announcer makes the crowd aware of the scenarios going into this match. If EVIL wins, he advances to the playoffs at 10 Points. If Shingo Takagi wins, he’ll be sitting in a 2nd Place tie with Tama Tonga at 9 Points. We all knew this was possible, but there were questions surrounding when a potential play-in match between those two would happen (much like when there was speculation about a play-in scenario for the A Block). Well, that was cleared up immediately, as it was announced that the play-in match between Shingo and Tama Tonga would take place right after this main event. Announcing that the potential play-in would be right after this match was a great move, but I’ll get to why a little later.

In terms of the match itself, it went pretty much how you would’ve expected it to go, at least until the final few minutes. EVIL jumped Shingo before the bell, and they would wrestle each other with spurts of Dick Togo involvement here and there. About halfway through the match, the rest of House Of Torture (SHO and Yujiro Takahashi) came down, which added to the tension as Shingo tried to fight them off. After Red Shoes got pulled from the ring following a Last Of The Dragon (this included Dick Togo counting the fall and Yujiro ringing the bell to make Shingo think he’d won), all hell broke loose. The entirety of House Of Torture got in the ring and attacked Shingo. Togo used his garrote wire, but then they were interrupted by Yota Tsuji and BUSHI. That initial backup failed, which allowed SHO to smash a chair over Shingo’s head before hitting Shock Arrow.

EVIL appeared to have the match won here, but Hiromo Takahashi showed up and pulled Red Shoes out of the ring. The rest of LIJ finally seemed to even the odds, with BUSHI misting Yujiro and Tsuji hitting a big moonsault to the floor. It seemed like it’d finally be a fair fight between the two. However, after a brief exchange in the ring (a lot of the actual wrestling between EVIL and Shingo was very good, and proves that they are capable of having a good match with no shenanigans), EVIL shoved Red Shoes out of the way so he could hit a low blow, and followed up with Everything Is EVIL for the win.

With regards to the idea of having a potential play-in match, I thought it was absolutely brilliant in this particular instance. What it did is that it added another level of investment for all of the fans in attendance (and the fans watching at home), while also assuring that the crowd would be firmly behind Shingo and firmly against EVIL. Of course, that would’ve been the case anyway, but by dangling that carrot of a bonus match in front of them, it meant the reactions on both sides would be even stronger. It reminded me of a time that I went to Penn State Men’s Basketball game (while I was a student there), and they had said that if Penn State got to a certain score before the end of the game, then everyone could take their game tickets to one of the local McDonald’s locations and receive free chicken nuggets. On that night, everyone was even more invested in that game than usual because of that possible reward, and that same idea applied to this match with the play-in possibility.

From a booking standpoint, it was a clever move, and it ended up working in a big way, as it came off as one of the most heated EVIL matches in recent memory (at least since crowds were allowed to start cheering and booing again). Even with all of the House Of Torture nonsense, and even with the ultimate result, the bulk of this match worked out pretty well in terms of getting the crowd super invested. However, there was one incredibly important question that I had right as the match ended that (unfortunately) knocked this main event down in a major way.

Where in the world was Tama Tonga?

Allow me to go over the scenarios again, just to be clear. EVIL would’ve advanced with a win (or a draw), while a Shingo Takagi win would’ve put him at a tie for 2nd Place (9 Points apiece) with Tama Tonga, which would’ve then forced a play-in match between Shingo and Tama Tonga to determine who was going to advance out the block. Let me make it clear….going into the main event, the ONLY way that Tama Tonga had any chance of advancing out of the block was via a play-in match with Shingo, which could only happen IF Shingo defeated EVIL.

I don’t know about everyone else, but if I was in Tama Tonga’s position, and I knew the scenario (which was announced to the entire arena before the main event, so it’s not like nobody knew about it), the SECOND that the entire House Of Torture got involved, I would’ve SPRINTED down to the ring to make sure that EVIL’s goons didn’t interfere. For those last few minutes of the match, in the back of my mind, I figured the match wasn’t ending until Tama Tonga came out, because surely (with his tournament life on the line), he would get involved and at least join the fight against the House Of Torture, with him needing that Shingo win so badly. When EVIL won, and Tama Tonga was nowhere to be seen, I was absolutely mystified. With all of the chaos happening during the match, how (in storyline) could Tama Tonga not at least do everything he could to stop the guys who were trying to steal his only chances of advancing from him?

Not having Tama Tonga involved in this match in any capacity makes him look like (in kayfabe, to be clear) the dumbest babyface in wrestling, and maybe the dumbest person on the entire planet. Everyone knew that House Of Torture were going to pull their usual bullshit, especially with a spot in the final eight on the line for EVIL! Why not take advantage of the craziness to at least help better Shingo’s chances? Tama had AS much on the line as Shingo in this one! Not including Tama at all makes it seem like (again….IN KAYFABE) he doesn’t care about any of this….advancing out of the block, advancing to the G1 Finals, potentially (if he went all the way) earning a World Title shot on the biggest card of the year for New Japan. Tama being absent made it seem like he didn’t care about any of that, which makes the tournament, and New Japan, look bad in the process. I like smart babyfaces in my wrestling (see how Ren Narita and Yota Tsuji handled Gabe Kidd in the A Block), and they made Tama look like the world’s biggest idiot. I’m not a huge Tama Tonga fan or anything, but I just saw this as a major plot hole that was never even addressed in the booking (even Chris Charlton brought up before the match on the English Commentary that Tama should be waiting by the curtain to get involved if House Of Torture do, which makes Tama look even dumber).

I want to make something else clear. I’m not trying to say that Shingo should’ve won here over EVIL. Would I have preferred Shingo winning here? Of course, but with the format of this year’s G1 Climax, you’re getting a quarter of the field advancing into this playoff, so a guy like EVIL was (unfortunately) bound to sneak in there. I highly doubt that EVIL will go very far in the playoff (*knock on wood*), so I just kind of shrug my shoulders at him going over here. If EVIL winning was what they wanted to do, I’m totally fine with that. However, you still could’ve involved Tama Tonga in here so that he didn’t look completely incompetent. You can easily slot him into Hiromu’s spot in this match while sending Hiromu out with the rest of LIJ, or you could’ve sent him out separately. He could’ve helped LIJ chase the rest of House Of Torture to the back, or he could’ve taken the fight to them before eventually falling victim to whatever underhanded tactics they pulled out (maybe EVIL kicks him in the dick and hits Everything Is EVIL or something). Regardless, you could’ve included Tama Tonga in this, and still ended up with the exact same result of EVIL winning. It was an incredibly easy fix that took ten or fifteen seconds of thought and plugged a major plot hole.

In my mind, this was either a complete oversight when laying out this match, or they just didn’t care enough to fill that plot hole. If it was the latter, that’s extremely disappointing. That’s the type of logic gab I would expect out of WWE, and it’s incredibly frustrating. It’s a real shame, because that whole Tama Tonga issue hampered what was easily one of the most heated matches of this EVIL/House Of Torture run. It was still a very good match for what it was, and one of EVIL’s best matches of the tournament without question. However, it made Tama Tonga out to be a complete fool, and I would even go so far as to call it booking malpractice. ***1/2

Final Thoughts

On the whole, this was a very solid night from the C Block, with four matches that all ranged from really good to great. Match Of The Night is a tossup between Mikey Nicholls vs. Tomohiro Ishii and David Finlay vs. Eddie Kingston. HENARE vs. Tama Tonga was a fine midcard bout, while the main event proved to be one of the most heated EVIL matches since fans were allowed to cheer at New Japan shows again. While having EVIL get the win over Shingo wouldn’t have been my choice, I don’t have a ton of issues with the result in the end. However, the glaring issue of Tama Tonga’s absence from that main event definitely takes it down a notch for me, without question.

Final C Block Standings

David Finlay (5-2) – 10 Points – Advances to face Will Ospreay on Night 17
EVIL (5-2) – 10 Points – Advances to face SANADA on Night 17
Tama Tonga (4-2-1) – 9 Points
Eddie Kingston (4-3) – 8 Points
Shingo Takagi (3-3-1) – 7 Points
Tomohiro Ishii (2-5) – 4 Points
HENARE (2-5) – 4 Points
Mikey Nicholls (2-5) – 4 Points