After almost a month of group stage action, G1 Climax 33 reaches the business end tonight, starting with four quarterfinal matchups.
The weeks of stories, matches, upsets, dominance, cheating and shenanigans draws near to a climax, starting tonight. Preceded by four multi man tag matches, the quarterfinals mark the beginning of the end of G1 33. Will Kazuchika Okada be able to overcome Zack Sabre Jr. to keep his hopes of a threepeat alive? Can Sabre’s British counterpart, Will Ospreay be able to outsmart the wily Bullet Club leader, David Finlay? Can the young up and comer, Hikuleo, take down the veteran Tetsuya Naito? How will SANADA continue his year of dominance and overcome the forces of EVIL? These questions and more would be answered tonight in Funabashi, Chiba, Japan.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi, Shingo Takagi & Yota Tsuji) vs. TMDK (Kosei Fujita, Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste)
Kicking off with a great opportunity for TMDK’s Young Lion, Kosei Fujita, as he teams with Mikey Nicholls and Shane Haste against Los Ingobernables de Japon. Since joining the tour, Fujita has demonstrated that he is anything but the “Ichiban Sweet Boy” he had been previously billed as, acting a little salty to competitors, especially NOAH’s Kaito Kiyomiya. Shingo Takagi and Yota Tsuji did a good job of keeping Nicholls and Haste out of the ring so that Fujita would have to live and die on his own developing talent. Hiromu Takahashi picked up the win for LIJ, defeating Kosei Fujita.
Guerrillas Of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa), El Phantasmo & Shota Umino vs. Strong Style (El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki & Ren Narita) & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Some post tournament intrigue in the next match, as pertains to the relationship between El Phantasmo and the Guerrillas of Destiny. After El P’s final block match against Will Ospreay, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa extended a hand to him. Whether he joins the Guerrillas remains to be seen, but having these guys on your side, and maybe even true Hontai Shota Umino at your back, can’t hurt Phantasmo’s image rehabilitation attempts.
During this match, the GoD/El P/Umino side had a lot of fun with El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki, Ren Narita and Hiroyoshi Tenzan but eventually El P got a nice win over Tenzan. After the match Umino and Narita resumed their hostilities from before and during the tournament, needing to be separated by the Young Lions at ringside.
BULLET CLUB (Alex Coughlin, Chase Owens, Gabe Kidd & KENTA) vs. Just 5 Guys (DOUKI, Taichi, TAKA Michinoku & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
Starting with a mock “who’s belt is cooler” competition between Taichi and KENTA, Bullet Club took on Just 5 Guys in the next contest. This match contained just about as much shenanigans as you’d expect with KENTA trying to trick people, Chase Owens trying to spit beer into people’s faces and Kidd and Coughlin wreaking havoc. Once the eccentricities were out of the way, though, Coughlin was able to pick up the win for the Club.
Eddie Kingston, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomohiro Ishii vs. United Empire (Great-O-Khan, HENARE & Jeff Cobb)
In the next match, the team of Eddie Kingston, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tomohiro Ishii took on United Empire’s Great-O-Khan, HENARE and Jeff Cobb. United Empire isolated Tanahashi for a long time but he was eventually saved by his NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship partner, Tomohiro Ishii. It was Eddie Kingston that was able to pick up the win for his team, though, pinning HENARE to take home another New Japan victory.
Tetsuya Naito vs. Hikuleo
The first quarterfinal match saw D block winner, Tatsuya Naito, take on A block runner up, Hikuleo. As the match began, Hikuleo used his height to assert his dominance, forcing Naito into the ropes to show he was in control. Naito used his veteran skills to bring the big man down to the mat, though, and began to wear down the base of the Guerrilla of Destiny with targeted submissions and strikes.
Hikuleo fought on against the Ungovernable One, proving what commentators Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton were saying was true – “Even a one legged Hikuleo is dangerous.” After delivering a Running Powerslam, Hikuleo followed up with a big boot and went for the Powerbomb, but Naito wriggled out of it. The Powerbomb was delivered on the second attempt but this only netted Hikuleo a nearfall.
The Chokeslam attempt was blocked by Naito, who rolled him up for two. Hikuleo persevered, continuing to try and put away Tetsuya Naito but the experienced LIJ member kept countering out of doom. Naito was soon able to deliver Destino and pick up the win to advance to the semi finals.
David Finlay vs. Will Ospreay
Next up, David Finlay brought Bullet Club backup to the ring to face Will Ospreay. Ospreay was met on the ramp by Gabe Kidd and Alex Coughlin, bringing forth his own backup in the form of Great-O-Khan and Jeff Cobb. Ospreay started off the match aggressively, launching Finlay into the turnbuckles. Once Ospreay once sent out of the ring, though, the aggressive side of Finlay came out. He forcibly removed the ring announcer from his table, and brought it around the ring to put Ospreay through, but Jeff Cobb confiscated the table to prevent the United Empire leader from eating wood. David Finlay got into the face of Cobb and Cobb shoved him, leading to his ejection from ringside. Bullet Club used this diversion to lay in some boots on Ospreay before returning him to the ring for Finlay.
Despite the attacks, Ospreay rallied back and grounded Finlay with his spinning kick and a Phenomenal Forearm. He set up for Hidden Blade but Finlay countered with a Spear and followed up with a Dominator. This only got him a two count and so he went back to the table. As Finlay sought to Powerbomb Ospreay through it, Ospreay escaped and drove Finlay into the ring apron with a brutal Oscutter. Finlay was set up on the table but Gabe Kidd removed him before Ospreay could strike. After taking out Kidd with a Superkick, Ospreay was the one able to Powerbomb Finlay through the table.
Narrowly escaping the countout, Finlay returned to the ring to be Oscuttered. He went for the Twisting Moonsault but David Finlay pulled the official under the move, taking him out. This prompted Kidd, Coughlin and Gedo to strike. Great-O-Khan tried to make the save but he was gravely outnumbered. Khan covered up Ospreay to protect him from the War Dogs and Cobb sprinted back to the ring to, once again, help his teammates. Back in the ring, Ospreay hit Hidden Blade but, with still no referee to keep things honest, Finlay hit Ospreay with Shillelagh but, in the time it took a new official to reach the ring, Ospreay was able to kick out at the last moment. Will Ospreay countered Finlay’s next offense into Slumdog Millionaire. As Ospreay then looked for Hidden Blade, Finlay countered it at first, but then took a second Blade to the back of the head. It was elementary for Ospreay from this point, delivering Stormbreaker for the win.
After the match, David Finlay was livid but, nonetheless, he is out and Will Ospreay is through to the semi finals.
SANADA vs. EVIL
In the next contest, IWGP World Heavyweight Champion SANADA looked to continue his quest for G1 victory with a win over EVIL. Before the bell, EVIL sent Dick Togo away, claiming that this would be a one on one match. The match quickly spilled to ringside but, rather than capitalise using the furniture, SANADA elected instead to incite the crowd onto his side.
Mere minutes after EVIL’s declaration, Togo made his way back to ringside, allowing EVIL to get SANADA out of the ring and thrust him into the ring announcer’s table, as is tradition. EVIL brought SANADA into the crowd, hoping for a count out, but SANADA came back to the ring in time. Content to continue his underhanded tactics, EVIL launched SANADA from the ring apron, back into the barricade and ring announcers table to take the poor man down for a second time in the match.
With SANADA fully back in the ring, this time, Dick Togo tried to get involved and so SANADA dragged him into the ring to take care of him, using EVIL’s running momentum to take him out. The champ looked to put things away with a TKO but EVIL kicked out at two before leaving the ring for a breather. This was a ploy and EVIL instead proceeded to bounce SANADA around the barricades, thrice.
Back in the ring, EVIL went for Darkness Falls but SANADA reversed the move into Skull End. SANADA looked for Dead Fall but EVIL escaped and was able to low blow the champion behind Red Shoes Unno’s back. Red Shoes kept his back turned, though, and so SANADA returned the favour with a crotch shot of his own. SANADA went for the pin the the Okada Roll but Dick Togo pulled the referee out of the ring, preventing the pinfall.
SANADA survived the double team long enough to revive Red Shoes but EVIL still had the momentum of the match. Even as SANADA rallied and looked for Dead Fall, EVIL was able to deliver Everything is Evil and pick up a shocking victory over the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion.
Evil always wins.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
To the main event! The final quarterfinal! Kazuchika Okada vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
The match began with a traditional back and forth in the ring before Okada became angered by the kicks from Sabre. Okada took Sabre to ringside and bounced him around the barricades. Once back in the ring, Kazuchika Okada began a systematic breakdown of his opponent, leaning into the more ruthless, underhanded side we’ve seen since losing the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.
Zack Sabre survived this assault and began to attempt some damage to Okada, locking him in complicated, painful submissions to wear down his more experienced opponent. The pair went back and forth, exhausting each other with moves and counter moves.
As the match progressed, Sabre shocked Okada with the Zack Driver but the NJPW World Television Champion couldn’t follow it up with the pin. On their knees, the pair exchanged deep elbow strikes under the chin before reaching their feet and transitioning into European Uppercuts, back and forth. Sabre got the better of the exchange but, aside from keeping hold of the wrist of Okada, still could not capitalise. In another tit-for-tat, the two went back and forth with rollups for close nearfalls. Okada looked for The Rainmaker but Sabre ducked out and locked in a submission. Okada, however, slid out of the move and was able to deliver The Rainmaker on his next attempt and book his place in the semifinals, where his hopes to defend the crown he has won for the last two years continues.
What Shocks Are Still To Come?
After the shocking elimination of SANADA tonight, what other surprises does the G1 tournament have in store for us? With only two nights to go, we’ll be back on Saturday for the semifinals Kazuchika Okada vs. EVIL, and Will Ospreay vs. Tetsuya Naito.
Still plenty of action to come to close out the tournament. Who will take the crown on Sunday? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!