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G1 Climax 33 opens with a big upset and a draw

The 33rd edition of New Japan’s legendary G1 Climax tournament kicked off today (July 15) in Hokkaido. As they did last year, the company’s making the first two nights of action available free on their NJPWWorld streaming service. You can watch the English language commentary version of today’s show here.

For those new to NJPW and the G1, the month-long tournament is contested in a round robin format. Participants are assigned to “Blocks” (this year there are four — assignments can be found here), and will wrestle everyone within their Block once. Winners receive two points, losers none, and in the event of a draw both wrestlers get one point. Whoever has the most points when all Block matches are completed advances to the semi-finals. In the event two wrestlers finish with the same point total, the outcome of their head-to-head matches will be used as a tiebreaker.

The winner of the finals will receive a briefcase which is good for an IWGP World Heavyweight title shot at Wrestle Kingdom, New Japan’s biggest show of the year, held each January 4 in the Tokyo Dome. The briefcase is typically defended at least once between the end of the G1 and Wrestle Kingdom. If the reigning champ wins the G1, he can pick his own opponent for the Tokyo Dome.

So how did this year’s G1 start off?

With at least one upset. Taichi’s no slouch, with an impressive resume (including being the current holder of the provisional King of Pro Wrestling trophy) from his two decades in the business. But I don’t think too many people expected him to beat Will Ospreay coming off the Brit’s much buzzed about IWGP United States title victory over Kenny Omega at Forbidden Door.

Probably not quite as good as their match at The New Beginning earlier this year, but a genuine G1 thriller nonetheless.

Not sure I’d call it an upset, but Pro Wrestling NOAH’s young star Kaito Kiyomiya beating Yota Tsuji as Tsuji is in the midst of a returning-from-excursion push was a bit surprising.

Meanwhile, Ren Narita & Shota Umino — two other young wrestlers NJPW’s been positioning as future stars, and in their case as potentially legendary rivals — fought to a 20 minute time limit draw.

That math will probably factor into the story of A Block as this G1 unfolds.

Those were the three standout bouts from a super-sized night one card. Here are the full results from Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center.

A Block

• Chase Owens def. Gabe Kidd
• Ren Narita vs. Shota Umino ended in a time limit draw
• Kaito Kiyomiya def. Yota Tsuji
• SANADA def. Hikuleo

B Block

• YOSHI-HASHI def. El Phantasmo
• Tanga Loa def. KENTA
• Kazuchika Okada def. Great O-Khan
• Taichi def. Will Ospreay

Which gives us the following way too early look at the standings:

A Block

Chase Owens (1-0-0): 2
SANADA (1-0-0): 2
Kaito Kiyomiya (1-0-0): 2
Ren Narita (0-0-1): 1
Shota Umino (0-0-1): 1
Gabe Kidd (0-0-0): 0
Hikuleo (0-0-0): 0
Yota Tsuji (0-0-0): 0

B Block

Kazuchika Okada (1-0-0): 2
Taichi (1-0-0): 2
Tama Loa (1-0-0): 2
YOSHI-HASHI (1-0-0): 2
El Phantasmo (0-1-0): 0
Great-O-Khan (0-1-0): 0
KENTA (0-1-0): 0
Will Ospreay (0-1-0): 0

C Block

David Finlay (0-0-0): 0
Tomohiro Ishii (0-0-0): 0
EVIL (0-0-0): 0
Tama Tonga (0-0-0): 0
Shingo Takagi (0-0-0): 0
Aaron Henare (0-0-0): 0
Eddie Kingston (0-0-0): 0
Mikey Nicholls (0-0-0): 0

D Block

Hiroshi Tanahashi (0-0-0): 0
Tetsuya Naito (0-0-0): 0
Hirooki Goto (0-0-0): 0
Zack Sabre Jr. (0-0-0): 0
Toru Yano (0-0-0): 0
Jeff Cobb (0-0-0): 0
Shane Haste (0-0-0): 0
Alex Coughlin (0-0-0): 0

C and D Blocks take the stage on Sunday (July 16) with four matches each — including Eddie Kingston’s G1 debut against former IWGP World Heavyweight champion Shingo Takagi! You can find those and the full G1 match schedule here. Tomorrow’s show starts at 1am ET, and will stream free on NJPWWorld.

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