Thursday, July 6, 2023

NJPW G1 Climax 33 Preview & Predictions

It's that time of year again, where a whole buncha badass dudes fight each other over a four-week period to earn a shot at the IWGP Championship at the biggest NJPW show of the year.

Well the company decided on the four-block format again this year, but unlike the 2022 edition this one has a much more exciting field with a great mix of established stars and compelling young guys looking to make their mark on this business.  For the first time in several years we have a handful of potential winners, plus a lot of names that could be made with a strong performance.  Opening things up even further is the fact that there will be a quarterfinal round, with the top two guys in each block moving on.  So eight guys will have a chance to get to the semis.  While I'm still not crazy about having four blocks, it does make for a lighter schedule for everyone and each night of the G1 gets to be all tournament matches instead of half throwaways.  The hard part for me is going to be keeping up with it all, although I think the block matches will have a 20-minute time limit this year.  

Let's look at the blocks below:

Block A: Sanada, Chase Owens, Hikuleo, Ren Narita, Shota Umino, Yota Tsuji, Gabriel Kidd, Kaito Kiyomiya

This block is almost all G1 first-timers and a few of them actually have a shot at winning this, as the company is clearly focused on making the next generation of headliners.  Lotta great youth vs. youth matchups in this one.

Block B: Kazuchika Okada, Yoshi-Hashi, Taichi, Kenta, Great O-Khan, Will Ospreay, Tanga Loa, El Phantasmo

Mostly G1 veterans in this block and it will almost certainly come down to two names, but we could see a spoiler make it to the semis.

Block C: David Finlay, Tomohiro Ishii, Evil, Tama Tonga, Shingo Takagi, Aaron Henare, Eddie Kingston, Mikey Nichols

This could be the block to watch as far as great, hard-hitting matchups.  Ishii, Shingo and Eddie in the same block = fireworks.

Block D: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito, Hirooki Goto, Zack Sabre Jr., Toru Yano, Jeff Cobb, Shane Haste, Alex Coughlin

Lots of G1 experience in this block, with Tana, Naito, Goto and Yano leading the charge in that department.  


Alright, as I did last year, instead of reviewing all 32 participants by name, let's take a look at the plausible list of winners/runners-up in each block and see where we stand.

Block A: In this block you have IWGP Champ Sanada, Shota Umino, Ren Narita as a longshot, and my personal pick Yota Tsuji, who impressed the shit out of me at this year's Dominion.  This kid has IT and should have a rocket strapped to his back.  I could see Tsuji winning this entire tournament.

Block B: Okada is always a favorite, and Will Ospreay is the second-favorite.  It'll be one of those two, with ELP as the longshot.

Block C: This one also has two pack leaders, former champ Shingo Takagi and new top heel gaijin David Finlay.  I think it's David's time to stamp his name on this tourney with a block win (and maybe more).

Block D: Weirdly I don't see either Tanahashi or Naito, two surefire bets, winning this block due to their nagging injuries.  Both of them have kinda moved on to the Nagata/Tenzan/Kojima role in this tournament, though either of them could make the quarterfinals at least.  Ultimately I think D Block goes to either Zack Sabre, with either Naito or Cobb as the runner-up.


The current IWGP Champ has been a bit underwhelming in that role and I'm not sure the reigning champion has ever won this tournament, has he?  Sanada is in here to set up a future challenger or two I reckon, and there are some good ones to be set up.  He'll likely make the quarterfinal round.

Shota Umino

This kid is so close to being one of the new Top 4 guys, he's just missing a little something extra.  But he'll get there and could do so by winning this block or better.

Ren Narita

I feel like Ren has been on everyone's tongue as a next-gen star for a long time.  He's definitely got a ton of potential but less so than Umino or Tsuji.

Yota Tsuji

As I said, I think Yota is NJPW's next big star and the company should put everything they have behind him.  In one match at Dominion he had almost the entire crowd frothing at the mouth to see him become champion.  What he lacks in experience he more than makes up for with physical presence and natural charisma.  The experience will come soon enough.  This guy should win the whole thing.

Kazuchika Okada

Still the company's top dog until someone says otherwise, and always a top pick in the G1.  But if he does win the B Block I think he'll fall in the semis or finals and put over one of the younger guys.

Will Ospreay

The 2x US Champion and former IWGP Champion who was never defeated has as good a chance as anyone of making the finals and I'd say is a mortal lock to at least make the quarterfinal round.

David Finlay

The current NEVER Openweight Champion is poised to take over this company, with his newly reformed Bullet Club team of War Dogs.  He'll get to the quarterfinals at least, likely the semis and take over the spot Jay White used to occupy.

Shingo Takagi

Always a welcome addition to the G1, I think he'll be in the final eight and beyond.  Shingo has yet to win the G1 and while I don't think that changes this year I wouldn't be sad if it did.

Zack Sabre Jr.

The NJPW TV Champ is in maybe the best position he's ever been to take down this whole tournament.  I think that's a bit of a longshot but he'll go very far and further establish himself as one of the company's top three gaijins.

Jeff Cobb

Cobb is one of those stellar talents that never seems to get past a certain level.  I don't see him getting past the semifinals certainly but I'd love to see him make the final eight.  Dude has all the tools to be a second-tier main eventer in NJPW.

Tetsuya Naito

As I said, I don't see Naito or Tanahashi winning D Block but I could see Naito finishing second and then putting someone over in the quarterfinal round (or maybe even making the semis).  Tana is so banged up at this point it will be a struggle for him just to get through the seven bouts he has lined up.  But Naito could make the Elite 8.

Top 3 Matches - Block A

Yota Tsuji vs. Shota Umino - The company's two best young prospects head-to-head in a potential preview of a future WrestleKingdom main event.  Sign me up.

Yota Tsuji vs. Sanada - A rematch from Dominion with almost certainly a different result.

Shota Umino vs. Kaito Kiyomiya - One guy I haven't talked about yet is the former GHC Champion from Pro Wrestling NOAH.  He should be a fun one to watch as he'll be out to steal the show from the NJPW crew.  Not sure how far he'll go in terms of points but his matches should all be pretty great.

Top 3 Matches - Block B

Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay - Last year's final pairing was one of the best matches of 2022, as is the case anytime these two meet.  I expect this to be a tournament highlight once again.

Kazuchika Okada vs. El Phantasmo - ELP is in there with the heavyweights now, and he'll be out to steal the show as often as possible.  I expect him to do that against the all-timer Okada.

Will Ospreay vs. El Phantasmo - Ditto against Ospreay.

Top 3 Matches - Block C

Shingo Takagi vs. Tomohiro Ishii - Anytime these two burly bastards wanna pummel the crap out of each other I'm all in.

Eddie Kingston vs. Tomohiro Ishii - Kingston's slate of matches will be something to watch as he gets into a war of attrition night after night.  This is gonna be great.

Shingo Takagi vs. Eddie Kingston - So will this.

Top 3 Matches - Block D

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Jeff Cobb - Cerebral technique vs. freakish strength.  I see this being the best D Block match.

Jeff Cobb vs. Tetsuya Naito - These two always deliver together and hopefully Cobb will get that elusive win over Naito.

Jeff Cobb vs. Hirooki Goto - Another battle of bulls, this should be hard-hitting and delightful.

Finals Prediction

The advent of a quarterfinal round makes a finals prediction that much tougher.  I think the final eight will probably be Sanada, Yota, Okada, Ospreay, Shingo, Finlay, ZSJ and Naito, and the final four will be Yota, Okada, Finlay and Shingo.  I guess Yota Tsuji vs. Shingo as the final?  As I said, I think Tsuji wins the whole thing but I'd save Tsuji vs. Okada for the Tokyo Dome, which means Okada would have to win back the title from Sanada before then.

This year's G1 is pretty exciting due in large part to the huge number of newcomers to the tournament and the company's focus on building for the future.  There's a swath of very promising young talent waiting to take their shot, and centering the G1 around that theme should make for a fun four weeks.

Thanks for reading - subscribe to our mailing list, and follow us on TwitterMeWeFacebook and YouTube!

No comments:

Post a Comment