NJPW G1 CLIMAX 33 – NIGHT 5 RESULTS (7/21): Alan4L’s Results & Analysis of Umino vs. Kiyomiya, Okada vs. Taichi, Sanada vs. Tsuji

By Alan4L, PWTorch columnist


JULY 21, 2023

English commentary: Kevin Kelly

(1) YOSHI-HASHI (2) vs. TANGA LOA (w/”Coolie SZ” Jado) (2) – B Block match

We were treated to a very jovial Tanga Loa during the entrances as his beaming smile lit up A-ore Nagaoka just as much as the fan’s phone lights at the end of the show. I guess he was delighted that the hope & prayer holding his knee together was still getting the job done. Yoshi-hashi on the other hand looked to be in his usual state of 50% sternness, 50% just woken up from a nap.

The crowd in Niigata was clearly quite a bit livelier than some of the other stops on the tour and it was clear that both wrestlers were energised by this. They worked hard and showed some fire. While Loa’s knee will be a background plot at minimum in all his matches, it wasn’t a huge focus of this one. He was able to hit some big moves like a stalling jackhammer and a diving headbutt from the top. Yoshi was eager to trade blows with the bigger, harder hitter and they filled a decent amount of their 12 minutes with strike exchanges. He snuck in a Dragon Suplex towards the end also, but it was a big counter when Tanga was in control that got the job done. Yoshi snuck onto the back of the Tongan’s shoulders and hooked in a crucifix bomb (Itadaki Kari as he calls it) to get the win. Hey, it wasn’t exactly Dragon Kid giving the move to Masato Yoshino but it looked good enough and you’ll take what you can get with these two!

WINNER: Yoshi-Hashi (4 pts) at 12:35. (***)

(Alan’s Analysis: This over-delivered for sure. The combo didn’t promise much on paper, but the lively atmosphere and the effort of both wrestlers made it a good start to proceedings).

(2) GABE KIDD (2) vs. REN NARITA (2) – A Block match

This LA Dojo derby clearly had some needle to it right from the off. Kidd tried his sneak attack during the entrance, but thankfully Narita wasn’t made to look like a moron and was expecting it after seeing it happen already in Kidd’s first two matches. Hopefully that will be the end of that gimmick for the rest of the tour. After cutting off Gabe, “The Son Of Strong Style” marched to the ring, grabbed a mic and chastised his former dojo mate, shouting at him to get in the ring. This reminded me of a Nakamura/Shibata G1 interaction in 2004 when they were at a similar stage of their career.

This match was exactly what it should have been in terms of style and was a far better showcase of Kidd’s talent than the rather forced heavy heat walk n’ brawls he’s been doing so far. The kept the intensity high, had lots of fiery exchanges and Gabe’s aggressiveness was match by Narita. That was a positive sign for Ren who has a tendency to be a little too tentative in the ring at times, not befitting of his image/character. Ultimately despite the competitive edge that this match had, the heel did resort to shenanigans with a low blow setting up an awesome looking leg trapped piledriver for the win. After getting the win, Kidd was as lippy as ever and made a point of calling out Katsuyori Shibata – his trainer.

WINNER: Gabe Kidd (4 pts) at 10:05. (***1/4)

(Alan’s Analysis: This was a positive showing for both guys. They’re not there yet as far as being the wrestlers they should/will be but it was a positive step in the right direction, and the crowd responded to their interactions which was important.)

(3) GREAT O-KHAN (0) vs. EL PHANTASMO (0) – B Block match

Two guys desperately in need of some momentum here, both in storyline in terms of the standings and also in reality. O-Khan feels a bit like a lost soul as he’s getting passed by fellow stable members (Henare) and the next crop of youngsters (Reiwa Musketeers). Meanwhile ELP’s babyface turn which seemed like a can’t miss prospect is in danger of collapsing under the weight of some lethargic matches and confusing presentation choices.

This match wasn’t exactly a turn-around in their fortunes, but it did keep them from sinking further – particularly in the case of O-Khan who showed some good intensity and urgency in the finish stretch. After a Tenzan Tombstone Driver, he put ELP away with the Ozora Subaru Sheep Killer Lun combination (brain claw backbreaker followed by a torturous looking submission). That’s what you want to see from a guy desperately seeking two points to stay alive. ELP’s highlight moment was a huge barricade clearing dive to the floor.

WINNER: Great O-Khan (2 pts) at 12:46. (***)

(Alan’s Analysis: O-Khan’s next bout is with his United Empire leader Will Ospreay at Korakuen. He couldn’t ask for a better set of circumstances than that to build off this performance. ELP unfortunately has to wait until the last night of the block before he has his Ospreay match, and while that is a great chance to finish strong, he also has to get through some rough looking match-ups before then. His turn could be on life support by that point. He needs some magic.)

(4) CHASE OWENS (2) vs. HIKULEO (w/”Masked CTU-J” Jado) (0) – A Block match

Look, options were limited here. The size discrepancy, the limitations of Hikuleo and the lack of star power of Chase meant this didn’t have a particularly high ceiling. Owens, being the veteran, made the call to keep to a very simple formula built around a clever heat spot early in the bout.

After some shenanigans before the bell with Owens trying and failing to get the tall Young Lion Oskar Leube to take his place and make things a little more even in the height department. When that failed, he proceeded to start taking his beating. However he lured the junior member of Guerrillas Of Destiny under the ring when we proceeded to hear a comically loud clanging sound. The implication of course being that Owens had twocked Leo with a large steel object which was revealed to be the tyre iron used to tighten the turnbuckles. Hikuleo proceeded to sell his ribs (not exactly Tommy Rogers out there) as Chase worked him over.

Final stretch saw Hikuleo mount a comeback, the highlight of which was his snap powerslam (using the term highlight loosely here folks), and then we got our second cheating finish in four matches as Owens hit him with his knee brace before hitting the C Trigger for the win.

WINNER: Chase Owens (4 pts) at 11:20. (**1/2)

(Alan’s Analysis: New Japan clearly want Hikuleo to happen, but it’s not going to. He’s just not dynamic in the ring whatsoever, isn’t sympathetic as a babyface, and has no charisma. His poor G1 showing so far isn’t going to help matters.)

(5) WILL OSPREAY (2) vs. KENTA (2) – B Block match

Will Ospreay will get a ton of accolades when 2023 comes to a close. There will be a laundry list of great matches that people point to from his year, whether they be in New Japan, AEW or on indy promotions like Rev Pro. He will surely have at least a half a dozen matches that are under genuine MOTY consideration. I would not expect this match to be amongst that conversation, but when it comes to Ospreay’s best performances and displays of just how good he is at pro wrestling – there might not be a better example.

The last time I wrote a G1 show review was during the last pre-pandemic tournament. 2019, and on the show I reviewed Kenta faced Evil in Korakuen Hall. In that review I talked about how Kenta is not what he once was, and expectations should be adjusted to reflect that. Well in the four years that have followed, the one time best wrestler on earth has deteriorated more and more. I’m sure this is partly physical, but it’s also been abundantly clear that he doesn’t have interest in doing anything exciting or entertaining in any of his matches. His schtick has become played out and seemingly never evolves. Getting something out of this Kenta would be a gigantic feather in the cap of Ospreay.

Now it takes two to tango, and Kenta had to have some level of motivation to make this a great match. Ospreay wasn’t going to be able to do that if Kenta didn’t want to. But right from the start you could see that Will was determined to do everything he could to keep the pressure on Kenta to have that great match. He brought it to him hard and never let up, almost challenging the former Noah star to bring the old Kenta back even in glimpses. That’s exactly what we got for 90% of this match. There was a slap exchange that felt like it came directly from the green mat in 2006. There were fierce kicks throughout. Everything was on point and impactful. Of course, 2023 Kenta loves his idea of “heat” and for once he actually got some with me as interrupting the flow of this great match for a ref bump, singapore cane, low blow, and belt shot sequence made me want to see him get destroyed. Ospreay delivered exactly that as he rallied and prevented our third cheap heel finish of the night by hitting a Stormbreaker for the win.

In the post match, they teased wanting another one on one match. Will even mouthed something about doing it in Noah. It seemed like it was on the fly stuff.

WINNER: Will Ospreay (4 pts) at 14:02. (****)

(Alan’s Analysis: It’s hard to imagine that Kenta’s tour didn’t peak here in Niigata. If he has another match this good, I’ll be shocked. I think he’ll be more than happy to go back to wrestling like a slug under water after putting forth the effort he did here. Meanwhile, Ospreay is three for three with great performances. He’s going to have some classics on some of the bigger shows.)

(6) SHOTA UMINO (1) vs. KAITO KIYOMIYA (4) – A Block match

Before I get into the match, have to mention the incredibly salty (and hilarious) commentary from Kevin Kelly about “brother brother” hangers on that have been meddling in Kiyomiya’s career. Heavy shots fired at a certain bald goateed man.

This match was exactly what I was hoping to see from some of these A Block young guy bouts. It felt like a big deal, but more importantly it felt like a big deal to them. The Umino/Narita match on Night 1 was along the lines of hitting these notes, but it was achieved fully here. Umino wrestled with a fiery intensity from the opening moments and Kiyomiya matched him in the intensity department just with a different flavour of it. He was more calm and composed, befitting his significant advantage in terms of big match experience that he has over Umino (despite their similar age). But this was a serious wrestling match, moves felt like they mattered, strategy felt like it was being deployed, the wrestlers reacted to what was happening, the flow of the match and the energy provided by the crowd.

It all came down to an incredible closing sequence at around the 16 minute mark. Kiyomiya had worked over Shota’s leg with dragon screws, and a great looking top rope dropkick to the knee. When he locked in the Figure 4 Leglock, there still seemed to be plenty of time on the clock. They worked it brilliantly, both with Umino’s progressive selling of the pain, and Kiyomiya repositioning and tightening the hold at exactly the right moments. Umino would not give up and before long, the time limit was looking like it might become an issue. Kaito had a choice to make. Keep the hold on and hope his valiant adversary would be forced to surrender, or let it go and try to get the win through different means while there was still time to go in another direction.

The Noah star chose the latter. However it nearly backfired. After getting nearfalls from a series of moves including his lovely bridging Tiger Suplex, he left himself exposed and Umino snuck in with some big-time last gasp offense of his own in the final 30 seconds. As time ran out, it was Kiyomiya on the verge of losing after having things well in hand minutes earlier.

DRAW: Shota Umino (2 pts) and Kaito Kiyomiya (5 pts) at 20:00. (****1/4)

(Alan’s Analysis: This was tremendous pro wrestling. Easily the best, and most mature performance of Shota Umino’s career. Kiyomiya once again proved that he’s world class and that Noah have dropped the ball with him something fierce. More matches like this one in this tournament and a lot of the damage that’s been done to his career will be reversed.)

(7) KAZUCHIKA OKADA (4) vs. TAICHI (4) – B Block match

Coming off the dramatic close to the last match, the crowd which had been good all night were even more energised going into this one. Both Okada and Taichi were given huge reactions and treated like stars. It’s amazing to see the level Taichi has reached in terms of credibility and it feels like in 2023 that’s gone to new heights. This was a guy who was viewed as a total joke before he got to NJPW. He was basically Toshiaki Kawada’s failson, an embarrassment as the one protégé of the All Japan legend. He spent his first few years in New Japan as one of the lowest guys on the roster, peaking as the lesser half of the Unione tag team with the great Milano Collection A.T. You would never have guessed that he would be a heavyweight with the credibility he has now, and more shockingly, the fan support he has now.

This thing started fast and never relented. In a rarity for New Japan, both guys hit big signature closing stretch offense in the opening moments including a spinning tombstone and a Rainmaker from Okada. By the time they got to the 10 minute mark, the crowd was hot for the Taichi upset. They were so eager for that to occur and were biting on every nearfall off great spots like a powerbomb counter to the missile dropkick, a beautifully timed gamengiri and a heart-stopping Gedo Clutch. The Rainmaker was on the ropes and Niigata wanted to see the legend dropped. Kelly made the great comparison to fans rooting against a Tiger Woods or Tom Brady, or the excitement of a Mike Tyson fight being the slim hope that maybe someone will have his number. Well the crowd thought Taichi had Okada’s number, but in actuality it was the other way around as things ended in a flash with Okada snatching the moment away from his challenger, sitting down into a clutch (1992 Wembley Stadium style) and getting the three in a spot they had teased minutes earlier.

WINNER: Kazuchika Okada (6 pts) at 16:20. (****1/4)

(Alan’s Analysis: Incredible work from two genius wrestlers here. One of the best bouts of the G1 so far. The 20 minute time limit is a great new wrinkle on Okada’s matches and this was his best use of it yet, absolutely nailing the pacing. Taichi has been a standout and it’s a shame that he most likely won’t qualify from the group with Ospreay and Okada both strong favourites for the later rounds.)

(8) SANADA (4) vs. YOTA TSUJI (1) – A Block match

Three killer matches in a row had this show well positioned heading into the main event. If IWGP heavyweight champ Sanada and the immensely popular Yota Tsuji could replicate what they did in June at Dominion, well then we’d be talking about this being a truly great G1 show.

They didn’t replicate Dominion as they wrestled a very different match, but it may have been a better match in a lot of ways and it certainly was good enough to cap off this show in a hugely positive fashion. In Osaka, Tsuji was a whirlwind from the jump, hitting Sanada with all kinds of crazy offense that neither the champ nor the crowd expected. He took full advantage of the unknown. The story here was smart. Tsuji started slower and kept things more measured. For one, he knew that Sanada would be better prepared this time around. But also it allowed him to avoid burning himself out which may have been what cost him the title match in storyline.

But Tsuji did have a wildcard up his sleeve nonetheless and he broke it out at an opportune moment. With Sanada attempting an O’Connor roll late in the bout, Tsuji countered into the champion’s own signature Skull End. He followed that up immediately with a moonsault also direct from the champ’s playbook. Instead of surprising Sanada with new offense, Tsuji surprised him by using his own offense against him.

But just like in June, it was a nice try but ultimately Sanada had the answers and got one step ahead of the young star in the closing moments of the match, hitting Deadfall for the win to maintain his perfect record.

WINNER: Sanada (6 pts) at 18:36. (****)

(Alan’s Analysis: These two have quickly developed some magical chemistry and in less than two months have laid the seeds for what could be a very important rivalry to both their careers. We don’t need to see these guys wrestle again for a while, but when they do I think there will be a lot of excitement for it.)

Sanada closed the show out with his Just 5 Guys buddies (Douki and Yoshinobu Kanemaru were doing commentary) and did his usual lights out, phones on closing speech with the Niigata fans.

Overall thoughts: (8.0) – The best show of the tour so far for my money. The first half was mostly fine but the back half was sensational producing four must-see matches in a row. Lots of guys come out of this show with huge momentum and with Korakuen Hall on Tuesday as their next stop, that should continue.

Contact Alan at prowresparadise@gmail.com. Check out the ProWres Paradise podcast with a Torch VIP membership! Twitter: @Alan4L

CATCH UP…NJPW G1 CLIMAX 33 – NIGHT 4 RESULTS (7/19): Radican’s Results & Analysis of Cobb vs. Coughlin, Tanahashi vs. Haste, Goto vs. Naito

OR CHECK OUT PROWRESTLING.NET.S REPORT FOR ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE: NJPW “G1 Climax 33 Night Five” results (7/21): Vetter’s review of Sanada vs. Yota Tsuji, Kazuchika Okada vs. Taichi, Shota Umino vs. Kaito Kiyomiya, Will Ospreay vs. Kenta, Hikuleo vs. Chase Owens

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