Full card set for Ryogoku Saturday
After a red hot month of action, it’s finally come down to the final weekend, as G1 Climax 33 heads to a conclusion. Saturday August 12, the Final Four will do battle to determine who meets whom in the G1 Climax 33 final August 13.
Main event: G1 Climax 33 semifinal- Tetsuya Naito vs Will Ospreay
Singles record: 2-0 Ospreay
A rematch of last year’s G1 semifinal is the culmination of semifinal night in 2023, Tetsuya Naito facing Will Ospreay. This time last year, it was the first meeting for these two men, a gripping match that ended in an Ospreay victory; three months later and a rematch over the IWGP United States Championship ended in the same result.
A year is a long time in professional wrestling- so what may be different in 2023? Many suspected that Ospreay might slow down after his cathartic if demanding victory over Kenny Omega at Forbidden Door. When that didn’t happen, Ospreay getting back on the horse after a shock defeat to Taichi to start his G1 campaign, many suspected he would slow down after an emotional victory over Kazuchika Okada in the Ota birthplace of NJPW. That didn’t happen either, a blip of a countout loss to Tanga Loa quickly rectified as he made the Elite Eight, and at the expense of David Finlay, the Final Four.
So what hope may Naito have, over his prior outings with Ospreay? Most likely, the crowd. 2022’s two encounters were without the benefit of cheering fans, and there is no doubt that Ryogoku will be Naito country this weekend, as El Ingobernable seeks to reach the top of the summer mountain, perhaps for the last time. Naito would do well to make the most of that support, but Ospreay’s fans, who yelled the house down for the Aerial Assassin opposite Okada in Ota, and Finlay in Funabashi, will be present too, and even in hostile territory as he was in Toronto, Ospreay is equally effective. The statistical analysis then, paints Naito as the underdog with back to the wall. No situation Naito excels at more.
7th Match: G1 Climax 33 semifinal- EVIL vs Kazuchika Okada
Singles record: 6-2 Okada
As much as its been easy, and very enjoyable, to heap dirt on EVIL’s terrible record in recent years, so too is it painful to recognise his efficacy through G1 Climax 33. Clearing the B Block with a whole host of interference, dirty tricks and one last low blow to Shingo Takagi, EVIL advanced to the hurt IWGP World Heavyweight Champion SANADA. His right arm injury notwithstanding, the champion had no excuse for his loss to EVIL and a counter to Deadfall that was the cleanest route to victory for him all tournament, albeit with some despicable work done on the front end by Dick Togo.
His momentum is eerily reminiscent of the streak that brought him the 2020 New Japan Cup and subsequent double IWGP gold, a run with a key moment of EVIL defeating Kazuchika Okada in the NJC final and joining what would become the HOUSE OF TORTURE wing of BULLET CLUB in the aftermath. That was the second and most recent time EVIL was able to defeat the Rainmaker a man who scored his sixth victory over the King of Darkness in the 2021 G1 tournament. That had been a key victory for Okada in securing his third G1 trophy; with a fourth following in 2022, Okada is within two more wins of his third conseuctive and fifth overall trophy, an achievement that would give him a true claim to the label of Mr. G1. Can he take down this EVIL imposter in Ryogoku?
6th Match: Just Five Guys (TAKA Michinoku, DOUKI, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi & SANADA) vs Jado, El Phantasmo, Hikuleo, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa
El Phantasmo has certainly found the temperatures between him and the Guerrillas of Destiny thawing with each passing day since they reached out to the fallen ELP after Osaka on August 6. Whether or not Phantasmo is a fully fledged Guerrilla of Destiny perhaps remains to be seen, but they make an impressive five man squad opposite Just Five Guys. SANADA’s disappointing quarterfinal outing could be hurting the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion meanwhile, and making him a significant target for the Hontai adjacent side.
5th Match: Ryusuke Taguchi, Eddie Kingston, Tomohiro Ishii & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs TMDK (Kosei Fujita, Shane Haste, Mikey Nicholls & Zack Sabre Jr.)
TMDK’s frontman Zack Sabre Jr. is recovering from the crushing disappointment of quarterfinal defeat to Kazuchika Okada Thursday in Funabashi, and a team effort against two thirdds of the NEVER Openweight 6 Man Champions may help in that goal for he and TMDK.
4th Match: Los Ingobernables De Japon (BUSHI, Shingo Takagi & Yota Tsuji) vs United Empire (HENARE, Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb)
The team of HENARE, Great-O-Khan and Jeff Cobb came up short in Funabashi on Thursday. Can they bounce back against tough competition from LIJ tonight? HENARE tangling with Shingo Takagi again after their incredible G1 collision will make for extra intrigue tonight.
3rd Match: YOH, Toru Yano, Togi Makabe, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs BULLET CLUB (David Finlay, Gabe Kidd, Alex Coughlin, Chase Owens & KENTA)
IWGP Tag Team Champions Bishamon and NJPW STRONG Tag Team Champions in BULLET CLUB War Dogs are meeting in the same ring together for the first time since a pair of championship clashes in July. Could there be an indication as to either tag title’s future?
2nd Match: Tomoaki Honma & Shota Umino vs Strong Style (Ren Narita & Minoru Suzuki)
Ren Narita and Shota Umino have been at one another’s throats since the end of their respective G1 campaigns. A tag team match tonight is only going to exacerbate their personal issues, and should lead to some heated moments in Ryogoku.
1st match: Master Wato & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs HAYATA & Kaito Kiyomiya
Starting the night’s main card action, Kaito Kiyomiya is back in action, and alongside the junior heavyweight HAYATA to take on Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Master Wato. GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion HAYATA is opposite Wato after teaming with the BOSJ 30 winner back at All Together in June; tonight he’ll be looking to show Wato the strength and ability of the NOAH’s juniors, but how will Kiyomiya work his own way back to the limelight after a difficult end to is G1?
Kicking off the action for the live crowd at 4:30PM Boltin Oleg is the latest to take on the Young Lion hat trick challenge. Can he come away with 200,000 Yen worth of barbecue, and an NJPW World TV Championship shot? NB: This match will not be broadcast on NJPW World.