NJPW G1 CLIMAX 33 – NIGHT 12 RESULTS (8/2): Wells’s results & analysis of Takagi vs. Finlay, Naito vs. Sabre, Tama Tonga vs. Kingston, more

by Kelly Wells, PWTorch Contributor


G1 CLIMAX 33: NIGHT 12 (C & D Blocks)
AUGUST 2, 2023


It’s the final night of dual block action, as the next four shows will feature the final four matches in each singular block. Tanahashi is still alive in the tournament after a main event win a few nights ago, while Coughlin is well out of the running.

Coughlin didn’t do the usual War Dogs sneak attack and brawl and waited out Tana’s entrance. Coughlin backed Tana to a rope and went for a cheap shot but Tana ducked. Rope run and Coughlin blocked Tana to the mat and showed off his physique. European uppercut by Coughlin, but Tana busted out of the corner with a dropkick. Tana went at Coughlin’s left leg with kicks and a dropkick in the corner. Tana tripped Coughlin and worked a step-over toehold. Coughlin snapped on a face claw to get Tana to release, and the two hit their feet. Tana threw rights and Coughlin absorbed them, then leveled Tana with a chop. Another chop sent Tanahashi to the floor.

Coughlin followed Tana out and worked him against the apron with a charge and a chop. He tossed Tana to the barricade and leaned on him with a boot on the floor. Coughlin kicked young lion Oskar Leube and slammed him onto Tanahashi. He rolled Tana into the ring and Tana tried a dragon screw through the ropes, but Coughlin threw a right that flattened Tanahashi and he went in. Coughlin threw punches against a rope. Rope run and Tana blocked Coughlin to the mat. Body slam by Tanahasni and he went to the second rope and hit a somersault senton for a two count. Coughlin lifted Tana and spun him before a backbreaker, then dropped him on his back. Tana blocked a kick and hit Twist & Shout. Sling Blade followed. Coughlin yelled out some fighting spirit and Tana hit another Sling Blade for two. Tanahashi went up and hit Aces High, but Coughlin rolled over and covered for a long two. Death Valley Driver by Coughlin got two.

Coughlin clubbed Tana in the back and covered for two. Tana tried an inside cradle but Coughlin lifted Tanahashi into a jackhammer and got the three.

WINNER: Alex Coughlin at 8:48. (***)

(Wells’s Analysis: A strong, relatively brief opener that kept the War Dog in the ring and showcased his impressive strength. Tanahashi isn’t at a stage in his career where he’s likely to advance out of the block anymore, but they keep him strong enough that there’s still something to be gained from beating him)

(2) MIKEY NICHOLLS (w/Kosei Fujita) (2) vs. EVIL (w/Dick Togo) (8) – C Block

We’re on upset watch as this could be a way to keep Evil from running too far ahead, and will allow someone to leapfrog him. Nicholls’ only win is against the beatable Henare, so he could use a signature win to get something out of his tournament appearance.

Togo and Evil jumped Nicholls and Fujita outside to open, but they got to the ring quickly. Evil tried a quick cover on the softened Nicholls for two. Evil threw hands at Nicholls, then used Nicholls’ shirt to choke him until the ref made him break. Nicholls blocked two suplex attempts and hit a very delayed suplex of his own that got a good pop for two. Nicholls threw a couple of chops and put Evil’s head to the corner, then burned his head against the rope. Rope run and Evil got the referee’s attention as Togo tripped Nicholls on the outside. Evil went out and threw Nicholls into the barricade, knocking over the ring announcer, who was sitting at his table right behind. Evil grabbed a mic and told Nicholls to quit, and Nicholls called him a piece of shit.

Evil dragged Nicholls out to the crowd and brawled through the seats. Evil went back to the ring immediately – something of a surprise as there have been so many long brawls in the seats in this tournament – and the ref started counting. The crowd cheered Nicholls on as he melodramatically sold the pain and hit the ring on the count of 18. Evil covered for two, and had another shirt to choke Nicholls. He tossed it at Kosei Fujita to get Fujita to interfere and draw the ref so he and Togo could work an assisted abdominal stretch. Evil charged Nicholls to a corner and then charged into a waiting forearm. Nicholls hit a DDT and both guys sold on the mat.

Nicholls hit a corner lariat, and after absorbing a boot to the face, he smiled and hit another. Nicholls tried a DVD and Gedo jumped to the apron. Nicholls ran Evil into Togo, clearing him, and hit the DVD and a diving lariat for two. Nicholls fired up the crowd and tried the Mikey Bomb, but Evil blocked it. The ref got bumped and Togo took out Fujita and the heels double-teamed, with Togo jumping off the second rope with a fist to Mikey’s jewels. The ref was rolled in and Evil covered for two. He covered again for the same result and Togo dragged out the referee. Evil and Togo double-teamed again, putting the boots to Nicholls, and Fujita recovered and broke up a Magic Killer to a huge reaction. Fujita brutalized and eliminated Togo and Evil missed Everything is Evil, allowing Nicholls to roll up Evil with one Zack Sabre Junior’s favorite traps (with the crossed arms) and it was good for the win.

WINNER: Mikey Nicholls at 9:29. (**1/2)

(Wells’s Analysis: Lots of House of Torture nonsense, but nothing too egregious as it wasn’t an overlong match. Nicholls did indeed get a meaningful win to hang his hat on after the tournament, and the top of the block remains congested)

(3) TORU YANO (2) vs. SHANE HASTE (4) – D Block

Yano is out of the running and Haste would need a large amount of luck to get there with a tiebreaker, so it’s tailor-made for Yano to win his kind of nonsensical match. Yano had a bag on his head fashioned to look like a hair wrap for some reason. Kevin Kelly said it was more a durag than a hat. Yano removed it and tried to trade for Haste’s orange top hat as  show of friendship. Haste put on the bag and Yano pulled it down and rolled Haste up for two. Haste removed it and did the same to Yano for two. Yano removed a corner pad and Haste avoided going into it, and Yano charged it. Haste hit a dropkick and Yano bailed. Haste didn’t take the bait as Yano tried to beh him out. The two switched places and Haste yelled at Yano for tossing his hat. Haste went in and Yano exited again. Yano was hiding a spray bottle behind his back. He sprayed it but Haste blocked it. Yano went under the mat and Haste sent Fujita to see what was going on. Haste followed and we could hear grunting and movement. Referee Kenta Sato started counting.

Yano emerged from beneath the ring and entered the ring at about the count of eight. The other two stormed out, Fujita with the bag on his head and Haste with a bucket over his, with the bucket taped on. Haste pretended he couldn’t see and Fujita guided him to the ring. Once there, Haste threw punches at the air and Yano struck him, and Haste struck back. Yano tossed referee Sato at Haste and Haste almost slammed him before realizing who it was. Haste blocked a nut shot and fought through the tape on the bucket and got it off. He held it up triumphantly. Yano hit Haste from the back and Haste did a contrived spot where he dropped the bucket on Sato’s head (after missing once, he had to lamely try again). Yano went low, then rolled up Haste. Sato got the bucket off and counted the three as Yano rolled him up.

WINNER: Toru Yano at 6:09. (*)

(Wells’s Analysis: I have no idea how to grade Yano matches. They’re exactly what they’re supposed to be, but when they go this high concept and rely on spots as contrived as the bucket on Kenta Sato’s head, it’s a lot to ask of fans)

(4) TOMOHIRO ISHII (2) vs. HENARE (2) – C Block

Both are out of the running, but it does promise to be hard-hitting so it makes sense to hold it back for fourth on the card rather than as the C Block opener.

The two went for blocks early, with neither giving an inch. They tried running blocks to the same effect. Both missed some very quick strikes and then reset to cheers. Henare shoved Ishii and threw a series of forearms. Rope run and Henare finally managed a block that put Ishii down. Henare kicked Ishii in the back and Ishii popped up and got i Henare’s face and threw rights. Henare slammed Ishii and hit a senton. Henare set up Ishii for a stiff kick to the chest. Ishii sold the pain and tried some rights, with Henare leaned into to absorb. Henare threw a hard kick that put Ishii down again.

Henare threw another stiff kick to Ishii’s chest as he was on his knees. Ishii focused and absorbed a second, then caught a third, extended Henare’s knee and kicked him to the mat. Ishii charged Henare to the corner for a lariat, then exploded out of another corner for another. Vertical suplex by Ishii got two. Ishii kicked a seated Henare’s back and did headbutts into the kinesio tape on Henare’s back. Henare angry threw the tape (and therefore the target, I suppose) away and connected with a kick. Ishii sold on the mat.

Henare threw body shots until he took Ishii to a corner. He threw him against the ropes and hit a berserker bomb for two. Henare threw another kick to Ishii’s chest, but Ishii absorbed it, got up and absorbed some rights, and threw a right that leveled Henare. Ishii threw a series of stiff elbows to Henare’s head and Henare responded with a big shot of his own. Ishii fought off Ultima and pushed Henare to a corner, where Henare hopped up and threw a kick from the second buckle. Henare absorbed a running strike and put Ishii down with a block. Ishii responded with a lariat for two. The crowd was really getting into it as both guys sold.

Ishii missed a sliding lariat but hit Henare hit a Samoan drop. Henare tried Rampage, which Ishii blocked. Ishii blocked a couple more shots and hit an enzuigiri and started to fire up. He slapped at his face to wake himself up and turned Henare inside out with a lariat that got a long two. Both guys hit their feet and matched strikes. Henare missed a beautiful black mass kick and then hit a knee lift. The ring announcer made the ten minute call and Kevin Kelly (and I) remarked at how that’s all that’s gone by with so much action. Henare hit Rampage for a long two.

Henare fought his way into his Ultima full nelson and Ishii faded. Ishii showed signs of life so Henare released and hit a uranage for two. The crowd chanted and it seemed they were split pretty evenly as both are strongly respected as underdogs. Henare hit a knee and a PK, but Ishii fought off a finisher and hit a headbutt that gave both another moment to sell. Ishii hit a sliding lariat and covered for two. Ishii fired up again and tried the vertical drop brainbuster. Henare fought it off, then did so again. Henare hit a series of kicks and fired up. Streets of Rage finished for Henare. Kelly pointed out it’s Henare’s first singles defeat of Ishii.

WINNER: Henare at 14:21. (****)

(Wells’s Analysis: Ishii is an incredibly valuable cog in New Japan’s wheel, as he nearly always has a losing record in the G1 and still maintains a huge fanbase that believes he can win every match. Henare seems destined for the same position, as he clearly looks to be inspired by Ishii’s style but has taken so many losses in a low-level position for the past five-plus years that it’s tough to move him up the card. A very good strong style match that stands as one of Henare’s best matches ever)

(5) HIROOKI GOTO (4) vs. JEFF COBB (8) – D Block

Without looking into the tiebreakers, it’s pretty bleak for Goto, and he’s definitely out if he loses here. Cobb once again is dominating in his block. He’s never actually advanced from his block, however.

As Kevin Kelly put over Goto’s rib injury to help tell the story of the coming match, Cobb mockingly looked at Goto across the ring and moved his hand around his own ribs. Goto put on a headlock early and blocked Cobb to no effect. Another had the same result. On a third, he tried a hip toss, then charged and Cobb blocked him to the mat. Cobb put Goto in a corner and tried an Irish whip, that Goto reversed. Goto gave a stiff kick to the underside of Cobb’s knee and upper leg; Cobb bailed and sold the pain. It went back inside quickly and Goto worked Cobb in the corner with kicks until referee Marty Asami broke it up. Goto wrenched Cobb’s leg over a rope until that was broken too. Cobb reversed and hit a flying back elbow in the corner, then hit another flying shot. Goto bailed.

Cobb followed Goto out and charged him to a barricade. Asami exited the ring to check on Goto and Cobb walked away to take the camera’s focus for a moment; Goto is working through some significant injuries so spots like this are inevitable. Cobb rolled Goto in and covered for two, then threw some shots and covered for another two. Goto fired up and threw some palm strikes, largely no-sold, and then tried and spinning heel kick in a corner. Cobb caught and slammed Goto for two. Cobb went for a standing moonsault and Goto moved and got a breather.

They got to their feet. Goto hit a lariat that took down Cobb and he continued to sell the pain. He threw a few rights and hit a spinning heel kick and a back suplex for two. Goto couldn’t lift Cobb, who hit him with a few back elbows. They got to a vertical base and exchanged rights for a good while. Goto got the better of the exchange eventually and tried a bulldog. Cobb tried to reverse to Spin Cycle, but Goto landed on his feet and snapped on a rear naked choke. Cobb caught a Goto PK and hit a standing dropkick. The height he gets never fails to amaze.

Spin Cycle hit and Cobb covered for two. Standing moonsault connected for a longer two. Goto hung onto a rope to avoid Tour of the Islands. Cobb blocked an ushigoroshi and hit a boot. Goto caught a charging Cobb and hit the ushigoroshi as the ten minute call went out. Cobb fought off a second rear naked choke and got halfway through Tour of the Islands and Goto escaped and hit a Code Red for two. Goto hit GTR to get the rather surprising win.

WINNER: Hirooki Goto at 11:33. (***1/2)

(Wells’s Analysis: The two meshed well and had counters into their own moves that kept the match seamless throughout. Goto isn’t at normal speed and there are a lot of opportunities for him to rest during the bout, but he’s still giving today’s top guys some strong matches. I don’t know if I thought I’d see Goto get even within one win of going .500 in a G1 again, but he’s 3-3 now so he hasn’t done the full backslide yet)

(6) TAMA TONGA (7) vs. EDDIE KINGSTON (6) – C Block

Both are well set up to surpass the block leaders on the final day next week, and at least one (I’d say Tama Tonga is much more likely) will. This is an interesting mix of styles that could bring out some of the “Good Bad Guy” Tama Tonga that existed before his turn.

Both were tentative to open. Kingston shot in and Tama backed off. Tama took Kingston to a corner and Asami got between them to ensure a clean break. Very slow start, so this could easily go Broadway. Kingston put on a headlock and Tama tried to run it off, but Kingston put on the brakes. Kingston wrenched Tama’s head repeatedly, then released and hit a loud chop to a big “oooohhh.” Tama removed his vest and begged for more. He absorbed some shots and put Kingston on the mat. He clubbed a seated Kingston, then rained down rights and kicks and Kingston tried to get to his feet. Rope run and a knee and a double-underhook suplex by Kingston. Snap mare and a double stomp by Kingston, who covered for one. Waistlock by Kingston on the mat. Tama got to his feet and finally elbowed his way free, then hit a body slam on a charging Kingston.

Tama hit an elbow to the midsection in the corner and kept it up with a couple more. Irish whip, reversed, and Tama came out of the corner with a lariat. Corner splash by Tama. Tama threw some rights and brutalized Kingston in a corner. Irish whip and he charged but missed. Kingston did some machine gun chops in the corner and hit a flying tackle. Kingston chopped Tama, who threw some elbows and booted a charging Kingston in the corner. Tama hit a neckbreaker and an SRC, then went up and missed Supreme Flow. Sliding elbow by Kingston got a long two.

The two got to their knees and Tama crumbled after a Kingston forearm. Kingston threw some more and the two started exchanging headbutts nd forearms. They got to their feet and exchanged chops. Kingston threw several as Tama tried to absorb them. Tama caught Kingston with an exploder and Kingston hit a suplex right after. Saito suplex by Kingston. Tama blocked a backfist and hit a Tongan Twist for two. Half-and-half suplex by Kingston and a backfist got a long two. The two blocked the finisher of the other and Kingston hit a Northern Lights Bomb on a second effort to finish after a surprisingly short runtime given the placement on the card.

WINNER: Eddie Kingston at 11:37. (***1/2)

(Wells’s Analysis: I thought they were about to hit another gear when it ended. It works for Kingston, though, who’s set up as being able to hit his impact finisher at just about any time and finish. I still think Tama is a good candidate to sneak into the round of eight somehow, but they’re keeping the C Block as muddy as any so it feels wide open)

(7) TETSUYA NAITO (6) vs. ZACK SABRE JR. (8) – D Block

ZSJ is another who often looks to have the inside track to come out of the block, but never actually has. Naito’s getting older and his matches are becoming a lot more formulaic and predictable; he maintains a huge fanbase but he probably doesn’t have a lot of chances ahead of him to win the tournament. If he’s winning this year’s tournament – and I’d say it’s possible – here’s hoping he really turns it on starting tonight with an opponent with whom he always produces some of his best work.

As Naito was on his knees stretching, Zack stood above him with his arms up as the two always try to out-taunt each other in the best ways. Naito slowly started to take off his shirt and Zack told him to take his time. Naito started moving in slow motion and then scratched his face instead of taking off the shirt. Referee Red Shoes Unno was visibly cracking up. After a little more stalling, the bell sounded.

Naito was the overwhelming crowd favorite in Hiroshima. The two locked up and ZSJ took Naito to the rope and broke clean, then smacked Naito’s face. Naito ran the ropes and Zack slipped out and tripped him, then yanked him out. Zack rolled in and did Naito’s lay-down taunt, instead giving the English FU gesture. They reset and Naito tried to lock hands. Zack tld him to aim higher, then kicked him in the midsection. It sped up and both hit quick shots. Headscissor takedown by Naito sent Zack to the outside, and Naito dd his taunt on the mat. Zack said “You still got it man, you still got it.”

Zack reentered slowly and Naito rolled out, so he charged out after him. Naito intercepted him and charged him to a barricade, then hit a neckbreaker into the barricade with Zack outside it. Naito entered the ring and waited, but then broke the count himself to go out after Sabre and hit a neckbreaker on the floor. Naito headed inside again and Zack sold outside. Unno counted quickly and Zack rolled in at 14. Naito worked a cravat and Zack got his foot to a rope. Naito hesitated before he broke. Naito tried a trap and Zack kicked his arm, then snapped on an armbar. Naito reached a rope quickly but he held on until Red Shoes counted him down. Zack took Naito outside, put his arm through the barricade, and stomped it. Zack rolled Naito back inside and followed.

Zack stomped Naito’s left arm and Naito sold it while writhing on the mat. Zack put Naito’s bad arm in a hammerlock and twisted his legs, and Naito again sold the agony. Zack kept working the arm until Naito managed some rights and an inverted atomic drop and finally a neckbreaker. Zack fed Naito, who hit some back elbows. Naito set up Combinacion Cabron and Zack blocked his face, so Naito spit on him to get him to open up and he hit a dropkick. Naito trapped Zack’s arms and Zack reached the rope. Naito pretended he wasn’t able to break the hold to put on more pressure until Red Shoes started the count.

Naito hit a couple of back elbows in the corner, then set up Zack on the top. Zack surprised him with an arm wrench once he got there, and then wrenched the worked arm over the top rope until Red Shoes counted. Zack used the arm to wrench Naito face-first to the mat. Zack kicked dismissively at Naito, who got to his feet and threw some rights. The two started a forearm exchange until Zack kicked the bad arm a couple of times. Naito hit a pop-up spinebuster, then some back elbows and Destino for two.

Zack blocked Esparanza out of the corner and snapped on an arm submission on the mat. Zack transferred to a couple of different submissions when a few seconds in each didn’t finish the job, and Naito reached the ropes as the match was the first of the night to reach fifteen minutes. Naito blocked a full nelson and took down Zack. They rolled each other up for a series of two counts, with the final rollup by Zack getting a very near fall. Zack hit a running PK and a Zack Driver was countered into something like a Destino. Naito tried Destino but it was reversed to the Zack Driver. Zack, however, couldn’t cover and the two sold as the audience clapped for the match. The match reached three minutes remaining and a loud Naito chant rang out. Kevin Kelly mentioned only three of their ten matches have ended in under 20 minutes.

DDT by Zack. Naito reversed and hit a Zack Driver. Two minutes remained. Zack reversed Destino into a pinning combination for a near-fall. Wuick reversals and shots. Naito kicked off the rope and hit an inside cradle that was good to finish.

WINNER: Tetsuya Naito at 18:29. (****1/2)

(Wells’s Analysis: As always, these two are gold together. Zack is a guaranteed very good match and Naito is still more than capable of them, and the two of them both do tremendous character work and raise their game when they’re facing one another. At a glance I think Zack is the odd man out as he, Naito and Cobb are all at eight points and none face the other in their final, but after tonight’s effort I’m thrilled that the final D Block show is mine to recap also)

(8) SHINGO TAKAGI (5) vs. DAVID FINLAY (w/Gedo) (8) – C Block

Takagi would need to defeat Finlay and Evil – and have a lot of help – to enter the knockout phase. Finlay, with a win here, could become the third man after Sanada and Kazuchika Okada to get there.

A collar and elbow reversed a few times and reached the ropes, were Finlay missed a cheap shot. Takagi wagged a finger after the escape. Finlay went for the eyes and then ran the ropes, his block not able to take Takagi down. The two tried to make the other run the ropes. Finlay won the argument and grabbed Takagi’s hair, but Takagi shoved Finlay in another direction and blocked him to the mat. Takagi hit some knees and Finlay oversold the move to boos as Gedo distracted Red Shoes. As Takagi approached Gedo, Finlay chop-blocked Takagi to the mat.

Action pilled outside and Finlay drove Takagi to the barricade. Finlay set up a table and Takagi blocked a suplex into it by grabbing the barricade, then tried to reverse, but Finlay hit a suplex in the other direction. Finlay put Takagi’s head into the apron and rolled him inside. Finlay bit Takagi’s hand until the count started. Finlay threw an uppercut and some headbutts in the corner, then leaned on Takagi with a knee in the corner. He postured to boos. Finlay hit a snap suplex and covered for two. Finlay snapped on a headlock as the five minute call went out. Finlay threw Takagi to the mat by his hair, then kicked at him to egg him on. Takagi threw some rights and Finlay grabbed his hair again, so Takagi backed him to a corner and did some combo strikes to put Finlay on the mat.

Takagi battered Finlay in the corner with rights and headbutts. Finlay went for his hair again so Takagi did the same and tossed Finlay by the hair. Vertical suplex by Takagi got two. Takagi hit a back elbow and a DDT, and then a sliding lariat before playng to the crowd. Action went to the apron where Finlay tried to charge Takagi to the table, but Takagi caught him. They both fell to the floor, and Finlay reversed a backdrop into a powerbomb through the table to boos. Red Shoes went to check on Takagi and Finlay flipped off the crowd to boos. Another relatively fast count started and Takagi milked it and got in at 18.

Finlay hit a Blue Thunder Bomb on a charging Takagi and got two. He laid out Takagi for another two as the ten minute count went out. Takagi blocked a suplex and hit Twist & Shout. Both guys sold. They got to their feet and Finlay hit some European uppercuts. Takagi responded with Noshigami, which Kevin Kelly mentioned – I think for the first time – means “wrapping paper.” Takagi put Finlay up in the corner and they ended up on the mat soon after. Finlay hit a suplex from the corner, then set up Takagi in the corner to hit a Dominator for a long two. Finlay hit a running lariat and flipped off the fans again. Takagi rolled through Oblivion and slammed Finlay for two. Irish Curse backbreaker got two for Finlay. The fifteen minute call went out.

The two jockeyed for position. Takagi partially absorbed a lariat, ten completely absorbed a second. Hard right and a headbutt by Takagi. More jockeying ended up with Takagi hitting Made in Japan for two. The two exchanged headbutts from their knees and then got to their feet and threw rights and palm strikes. Takagi hit rapid rights and lefts and Finlay came back with a flurry of rights. Takagi missed a lariat and Finlay hit a spear and a powerbomb as the three minute call sounded. Finlay hit another powerbomb. Takagi again blocked Oblivion and hit a lariat off the ropes. Two minutes remained.

The two collided with lariats and a second by Takagi turned Finlay inside out. Takagi hit Last of the Dragons to finish.

WINNER: Shingo Takagi at 18:44. (****1/4)

(Wells’s Analysis: That runtime really clipped by as the two created movement constantly. The D Block is every bit as muddy as the C Block with nobody better than 4-2. Takagi, though significantly deemphasized after his COVID run with the championship, is still having great matches with nearly every opponent given the proper time.)

Overall Thoughts: (8.5) – The C/D Block tour has had some rougher nights (by G1 standards) but this card on paper looked like it had a ton of potential, and the workers came through. Takagi-Finlay and Sabre-Naito were predictable must-see matches, and Henare-Ishii was a mean, hard match that will satisfy fans of a stiffer strong style. Nothing was a must-skip, though this is largely because Yano-Haste is almost worth recommending just because you have to see the idiocy to believe they actually put it out there.

With four nights of single-block action to come, just Sanada and Okada have punched their tickets to the final eight. Two off days follow today, after which the final four shows will happen over the course of five nights.

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