New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) kicked off the 49th edition of their G1 Climax tournament on July 15, 2023. The tournament has gone by different names in the past, but this is the 33rd edition titled, “G1 Climax.” This is the biggest and most popular of all the tournaments NJPW puts on throughout the year. 32 wrestlers from around the world will be broken up into four “blocks” each with eight wrestlers. Each night of the tournament will see two blocks compete. On the final three nights of the tournament, the top two scoring wrestlers from each block will enter an eight-man playoff bracket to see who will be crowned the victor of the G1 Climax.
The winner receives a shot at the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom, NJPW’s version of WWE’s Wrestlemania. This year’s tournament will be the debut for 12 of the 32 participants. Night 1 featured blocks A and B while Night 2 featured blocks C and D. 19 matches will take place over 29 days to crown a champion. Two points are awarded for a win and one point for a draw. The block is completed after each wrestler has faced all seven other block-mates.
G1 Climax Night 1 (Blocks A and B)
Our first night of Block A action, July 15, 2023, saw four matchups take place encompassing all eight members of the block. Full of youth, this is the second-youngest block in G1 history. The results are as follows:
Chase Owens defeats Gabe Kidd by pinfall (2:55)
Shota Umino and Ren Narita ends in time-limit draw (20:00)
Kaito Kiyomiya defeats Yota Tsuji by pinfall (14:48)
Sanada defeats Hikuleo by pinfall (10:16)
IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, Sanada entered the tournament and scored a pinfall in the main event of Night 1’s show. It has been 23 years since the champion has won the title and G1 in the same calendar year. Sanada faced a tough test in the form of former Strong Openweight champion, Hikuleo. All credit to Hikuleo, who really brought the fight to Sanada early on. Both fighters made this a brutal contest starting out, using the ringside railings to inflict their version of pain. There was no doubt the monster Hikuleo held the size advantage over the champion. A huge powerbomb by Hikuleo after reversing a Sanada hurricanrana nearly ended the bout. Shortly thereafter, Sanada was able to sneak in the Dead Fall, earning the 1-2-3.
Our first night of Block B action, July 15, 2023, saw four matchups take place encompassing all eight members of the block. The results are as follows:
Yoshi-Hashi defeats El Phantasmo by pinfall (10:56)
Tanga Loa defeats Kenta by pinfall (12:46)
Kazuchika Okada defeats Great-O-Khan by pinfall (15:23)
Taichi defeats Will Ospreay by pinfall (17:43)
The main event of Block B saw IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion Will Ospreay face off with Taichi, a three-time IWGP Tag Team Champion with Ospreay. After keeping the contest close to the ring, Ospreay sent Taichi about as far as he could into rows of seats. At the far end of the walkway, Ospreay delivered a big DDT to Taichi in efforts to slow down is former tag team champion partner. The early half of the contest definitely belonged to Ospreay. The screwdriver looked to be the end for Taichi, but he was able to kick out just before the three. Out of nowhere, Taichi was able to hit is Black Mephisto (an over the shoulder back-to-belly piledriver) for the win as the time limit was approaching.
G1 Climax Night 2 (Blocks C And D)
Our second night saw Block C action on July 16, 2023, which had four matchups involving all eight of the block’s wrestlers. The results are as follows:
David Finlay defeats Tomohiro Ishii via pinfall (15:55)
Mikey Nicholls defeats Henare via pinfall (12:21)
Eddie Kingston defeats Shingo Takagi via pinfall (12:50)
Evil defeats Tama Tonga via pinfall (17:34)
Of all the blocks this year, Block C is chalk-full of the tough guys. They don’t come much tougher than the Strong Openweight Champion, Eddie Kingston, and former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, Shingo Takagi. As expected, but wanted to assert their dominance of the stronger, more dangerous man. What better way to do that than a chopping contest. Takagi eventually took Kingston off his feet with a double-handed chop. The winning moment would come down to Kingston hitting his finishing move, Northern Lights Bomb, for the finish.
Our second night saw Block D action on July 16, 2023, which had four matchups involving all eight of the block’s wrestlers. The results are as follows:
Hirooki defeats Toru Yano via pinfall (6:44)
Shane Haste defeats Alex Coughlin via pinfall (10:55)
Zack Sabre Jr defeats Hiroshi Tanahashi via pinfall (16:09)
Jeff Cobb defeats Tetsuya Naito via pinfall (14:20)
A true wrestling fan’s dream, Zack Sabre Jr met Hiroshi Tanahashi. One of the world’s best technical wrestlers against one of the most charismatic personalities in wrestling history. Both wrestlers started out wanting to prove to the other that they are the better grappler. Sabre spent the good majority of the first half of the bout trying to take out the left knee of Tanahashi. The arm would serve as Tanahashi’s weakness in this one. After an attempted armbar, Sabre was able to roll up Tanahashi to get the one in this dominant performance by the NJPW World Television Champion.
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