The day has finally arrived! New Japan Pro Wrestling kicked off the G1 Climax tournament with eight matches across blocks A and B, free to watch on NJPW World.
Keep your King of the Ring, you can keep your Owen Hart Cup, New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax is the biggest tournament in all of professional wrestling and it all kicks off today with eight matches from blocks A and B.
Bullet Club Implode, Young Stars Impress on Day 1
G1 Climax 2023 Block B Match – El Phantasmo vs. YOSHI-HASHI
The tournament kicked off with redeemed former Bullet Club member, El Phantasmo, taking on one half of the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, YOSHI-HASHI. After a reluctant handshake between the two men, the match began with some mat wrestling until YOSHI-HASHI was able to shock El P with a Headhunter. After a brief reprieve outside the ring, though, Phantasmo was able to return to the ring and take control. El P began to target the hands of YOSHI-HASHI, seemingly in an attempt to lessen the effects of his chops and hard hitting strikes.
In retaliation to El Phantasmo’s attempts to both weaken him and engage the crowd in his favour, YOSHI-HASHI took the match to the outside for a moment and punctuated it with a Tope Con Hilo. Despite losing momentum once again, YOSHI-HASHI’s efforts were validated when Phantasmo found it difficult to deliver the U.F.O. to the Japanese wrestler. YOSHI-HASHI managed to stay in the match throughout several back and forth nearfalls and delivered a Crucifix Bomb to defeat El Phantasmo for the second year in a row in this tournament.
G1 Climax 2023 Block A Match – Chase Owens vs. Gabe Kidd
As Chase Owens made his entrance, Gabe Kidd attacked his stablemate on the ramp with a steel chair pointed to the back of the head. The pair fought on the stage before Kidd dragged Owens down the ramp and into the crowd, where he used a fan’s umbrella to choke Chase Owens before taking out the Young Lions separating him from the audience. Gabe Kidd punctuated his ringside assault with an impressive dive from the ramp into the crowd, Chase Owens and the Young Lions.
As the match finally got into the ring and the bell rang, Kidd declared to Owens that this was the new Bullet Club but the youngster’s overconfidence allowed Owens to finally get some offense in and secured a couple of nearfalls on Kidd. Gabe turned on the aggression once again and tried to bite Owens as he was cornered against the turnbuckle. This gave Chase Owens the impetus to mount a comeback, though, and after hitting the C-Trigger, he followed up with the Package Powerbomb to pick up a hard earned two points over his younger Bullet Club stablemate.
G1 Climax 2023 Block B Match – KENTA vs. Tanga Loa
Bullet Club fingerprints were all over the next match, as well, as current member KENTA took on former member, Tanga Loa. With Loa returning to the ring from injury, KENTA looked to exploit his knee with targeted kicks and strikes, both in and out of the ring. With the pain evident on the face of Tanga Loa, KENTA refused to relent and continued his assault on the knee. Despite this, Loa was able to fight back into the match and achieved a close nearfall after a Blue Thunder bomb. As Tango Loa hoisted KENTA up for another killshot, the referee was knocked down which allowed KENTA to collect a chair from under the ring and open up on the knee of Loa, once again.
When the referee revived, KENTA got a nearfall but the official stopped the count after catching KENTA’s feet on the ropes. KENTA complained about this injustice and was able to distract the official enough to hit a sneaky low blow on Tanga Loa. As KENTA lifted Loa up for Go 2 Sleep, Tanga Loa escaped the manoeuvre and was able to hit the Reverse Piledriver to pick up the win.
G1 Climax 2023 Block A Match – Shota Umino vs. Ren Narita
In a match that could have been billed as the main event, owing to the established rivalry that these two brought into this match, Shota Umino finally went one on one, once again, with Ren Narita. As the match began, the pair picked up where they’d left off at various events around the country in recent months, squaring up and laying in hard fists and elbow strikes on each other.
As the match progressed, Ren Narita grounded Shota Umino, trapping him in the corner with all of his body weight and following up with a series of submissions targeting the lower extremities of the Roughneck. Not to be outdone by one of the men also dubbed a ‘New Three Musketeer of New Japan,’ Umino fought out of the ground manoeuvre and locked in a deep S.T.F. of his own. From here, the match rose from the mat. Shota Umino delivered two Rolling Cutters and a Reverse DDT before going for the end but Narita avoided doom and went back on his own offensive. After delivering a beautiful Fisherman Suplex, Narita returned to the submission game and locked in a Boston Crab. Umino, however, crawled to the ropes to escape.
As time dwindled on the match, neither man was able to gain overall momentum and the pair exchanged a series of Suplexes, back and forth. With a tie seemingly inevitable, Narita and Umino went back to how they began the contest, squaring up and hitting each other with everything they had. Shota Umino managed to hit Ignition, on his second attempt, but he only achieved a two count; he followed up with a DDT but again could only get a nearfall. Umino went for it all and set up for the Death Rider but Narita reversed the move into an Abdominal Stretch. The pair desperately exchanged moves as the clock struck ten seconds but to no avail and the match ended in a draw.
G1 Climax 2023 Block B Match – Kazuchika Okada vs. Great-O-Khan
It was time for the two time defending champion of the G1 Climax to have his first match of this year’s tournament, next, as Kazuchika Okada took on Great-O-Khan. Khan struck early with a series of deep submissions, seemingly looking to replicate Bryan Danielson’s strategy at Forbidden Door and trap Okada in a submission, away from the ropes. Okada absorbed the offense of Khan, though, and remained calm, waiting for his opportunity to strike and get himself back into the match.
The Rainmaker locked in the Money Clip on Great-O-Khan before sending him crashing out of the ring. Okada dragged Khan around like a man walking a dog, using Khan’s long ponytail like a lead, before delivering a Randy Orton style Draping DDT from the ring barricade and getting his opponent back into the ring. Khan resisted the Tombstone Piledriver and returned to the submission based offense and locked in a Headlock that would transition into The Claw and a Half Nelson Suplex type move. Khan got a very close nearfall and went for The Claw again but Okada escaped and was eventually able to deliver The Rainmaker to pick up the win.
G1 Climax 2023 Block A Match – Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Yota Tsuji
Next up, the young prodigies of two companies went one on one as NOAH standout, Kaito Kiyomiya, took on NJPW’s rising star, Yota Tsuji. Tsuji struck fast, diving through the ropes and taking down Kiyomiya as he made his entrance and continued to wear down his opponent after the bell was rung. With deep pink welts already forming on the chest and neck of Kiyomiya, the young star was able to rally back and gained a measure of revenge on Tsuji by slamming him knee into the ring post from outside the ring.
Momentum shifted back and forth for the majority of the contest with both men putting their best foot forward to kick of their respective first G1 tournaments. As the two brawled in the middle of the ring, Tsuji got the better of the exchange with a vicious headbutt to take down his opponent. He followed this up with a big knee but was only able to get a two count. Kiyomiya delivered a Jumping Knee of his own and set up the Tiger Suplex but he, too, only got a nearfall. Kiyomiya persevered though and was able to overcome his New Japan counterpart to pick up the win.
G1 Climax 2023 Block B Match – Taichi vs. Will Ospreay
Last year’s runner up, Will Ospreay, kicked off his 2023 G1 Climax against hometown hero, Taichi, in our next contest. The pair exchanged strikes back and forth to begin the contest, culminating in Ospreay being sent out of the ring with a pair of big boots. This resulted in the pair fighting away from the ring and through the crowd, when Taichi found himself DDT’d on the ground by Ospreay. The IWGP U.S. Champion followed this up by delivering a Draping Cutter from the ring apron and coolly waiting for the countout, but Taichi returned to the ring at 18.
Ospreay checked the match time at ringside and vowed to make Taichi suffer in the remaining 14 minutes of the match. Despite this claim, Ospreay went for several covers, nonchalant as they were, but Taichi fought out and the match continued. Ospreay delivered a Screwdriver for another nearfall and went for the Stormbreaker. Taichi, however, fought out of it and kicked Ospreay in the side of the head, wreaking chaos with the equilibrium of the Brit.
Will Ospreay gingerly climbed the ropes but couldn’t complete a top rope manoeuvre, instead falling back down to the ring. Ospreay tried to embarrass Taichi further with kicks to the head but the Just Five Guys member rallied, tore off his cutaway trousers and continued the match. The U.S. Champ struggled to hit the Oscutter, but did, and soon followed up with Hidden Blade. Only a two count came from this move as Taichi reached the ropes.
Will Ospreay prepared for a Super Oscutter but Taichi struck and delivered a series of chops to the back of Ospreay’s head. He then delivered a Super Back Suplex from the ropes and followed it up in the middle of the ring with a German Suplex for a two count. Taichi went for Black Mephisto and hit it on second attempt to pick up the upset win over the self proclaimed best wrestler in the world.
G1 Climax 2023 Block A Match – SANADA vs. Hikuleo
In Day 1’s main event, IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, SANADA, took on Hikuleo. The match quickly spilled to the outside as some members of the audience called for the pair to fight through the crowd. They almost got their wish when Hikuleo threw SANADA over the first set of ring barricades but the match then returned to the ring to avoid a double countout.
With the two men already hurting from their brawl at ringside, Hikuleo delivered a massive Brainbuster to SANADA, but the champion retaliated with a big Suplex of his own. Hikuleo went for the Chokeslam but SANADA escaped and delivered a Shining Wizard to his larger opponent. Despite falling victum to a huge Powerbomb from Hikuleo, SANADA was able to persevere and deliver Dead Fall to pick up the win and bring Day 1 of G1 Climax to a close.
The G1 Climax tournament continues tomorrow at 6am BST / 1am ET and, like today, will be presented for free on NJPWWorld.com. Day 2 will feature Bullet Club leader, David Finlay, take on Tomohiro Ishii, new NJPW Strong Openweight Champion, Eddie Kingston, face Shingo Takagi, and Hiroshi Tanahashi fight Zack Sabre Jr.
What a great kick off to the G1 Climax tournament! What were your highlights from Day 1? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!