There are many different viewpoints coming out of the G1 Special in San Francisco but what can’t be said is that it was forgettable. New Japan closed out their biggest U.S. show to date with a bang that is sure to be heard around the wrestling world. I was among the 6,333 in attendance at the Cow Palace and didn’t take notes so this will all be off the top of my heads. Let’s get started!
Tama, Tanga, Haku, Yujiro & Owens def. Y-H, SHO, YOH, Romero & Gedo @ 9:20 via Tama Gun Stun on Gedo – **1/4
This was a fun opener and that’s what it set out to be. Like I had hoped, Haku locked in the Tongan Death Grip on Gedo and Tama came flying out of nowhere to hit a Gun Stun for the win. This wasn’t, nor did it feel like, the last we saw of the Tongan tribe tonight.
Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano def. Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr. @ 9:42 via Yano Schoolboy on Sabre – **1/2
How do you not absolutely loathe Toru Yano if you’re in Suzuki-Gun? This man gets one over on them more often than not and it’s always entertaining. Sabre thought he has Yano all figured out but forgot about Ishii, who leveled Sabre with a lariat and Yano scored the roll up win. Hearing the shots between Suzuki and Ishii live was a bucket list item I’m now able to cross off. Suzuki-Gun tore into the young lions as they made their way to the back.
Hangman Page & Marty Scurll def. Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA @ 10:00 via Page Rite of Passage on KUSHIDA – **1/2
Tanahashi’s energy is so electric you can feel why he’s had the successful career he’s had. KUSHIDA looked fantastic and, as always, showcased great chemistry with Scurll. Page’s Rite of Passage looked vicious as he dropped KUSHIDA right on top of his head. Bullet Club was looking strong right off the bat which makes all the sense in the world.
NEVER Openweight Championship
Hirooki Goto (c) def. Jeff Cobb @ 12:10 via GTR – ***
The match I had circled as my most anticipated on the show ended up being somewhat of a disappointment. Coming off an incredible match against Elgin, Goto looked to be on autopilot. Cobb, on the other hand, had full crowd support from the jump and they stayed behind him the entire way. The crowd busted out an “APW” chant, which is a local promotion where Cobb is the champion. Maybe higher on the card and more time would have helped this one because it didn’t feel it got quite enough time and ended out of nowhere. Anyone with at least one eye can see the talent of Jeff Cobb so hopefully he can secure more dates with New Japan in the near future.
IWGP Tag Team Championship
The Young Bucks (c) def. EVIL & SANADA @ 16:05 via Meltzer Driver on EVIL – ***3/4
Like Tanahashi, you can feel the energy when The Young Bucks come out from behind the curtain. They started off extremely goofy with a Sharpshooter train but they settled in quickly thereafter. This was really great tag team wrestling, on par with their first match. It’s impossible for the Bucks to have a bad match with anyone but that’ not to discredit EVIL and SANADA. It was great seeing both teams getting snarky with each other and hitting one another with the other’s finisher, including EVIL and SANADA with the Indytaker on the chair. Matt got EVIL with EVIL and set him up for the Meltzer Driver to retain the titles. Again, the Bucks are incapable of bad matches but EVIL and SANADA are just as fun.
Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay def. Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI @ 11:58 via Ospreay Storm Breaker on BUSHI – **1/4
Naito milked the anticipation on his entrance as long as humanly possible, teases not starting the match and then tags out before he does anything. All this abuse and the crowd wouldn’t want it any other way. Standard match you’d see on a house show, everyone was taking it easy. The important note are Okada’s new pants and remix on his theme. Things seem to be changing all at once in New Japan as everything feels off-kilter.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Hiromu Takahashi (c) def. Dragon Lee @ 16:18 via Time Bomb – ****
What can be said about the rivalry between Hiromu and Lee that hasn’t be said before? These two always seem to set out to steal the show and they arguably accomplished that goal. The risks they take can only be matched but never surpassed by any other pairing in wrestling. They started off with Lee hitting a Hurricanrana over the top rope to the floor. Before the bell rang, these two already had the most insane moment of the night. Their insanity was on full display with at least ten consecutive German suplexes back and forth. Hiromu took a nasty fall on what I believe was a Descandora but got back up, transitioned another into a Destroyer and finished Lee with Time Bomb. Another incredible match in their series.
IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
Juice Robinson def. Jay White (c) @ 23:22 via Schoolboy – ****1/2
San Francisco made Juice Robinson feel like a star. There wasn’t a single person in the building that wasn’t behind Juice all the way. Before the bell, it was announced Juice would be disqualified if he used his cast as a weapon Not only was his hand a target, now he was unable to use his left hand at all. Jay White was absolutely vicious from the jump and revealed in the crowd’s distaste for him. He viciously through Juice into the guardrails repeatedly, even knocking over good ‘ol J.R. from his commentary position, outraging his college, Josh Barnett. This had all the heat you could ask for and them some with 100% crowd support behind Juice. When White kicked out of Pulp Friction there was a collective gasp from the crowdm everyone believing that was his last shot but Juice refused to say quit. After finding his way out of multiple Blade Runner attempts, Juice in a last ditch effort, rolled up White and took the win. The reaction of everyone in the arena made this match feel like a big deal and as such, created an atmosphere which allowed the match to thrive. Definitely bound to be one of my favorites of the year.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kenny Omega (c) def. Cody @ 34:14 via One-Winged Angel – ***3/4
After an exhaustingly great match and being three and a half hours into the show, everyone’s energy level were beginning to bottom out. Omega and Cody gave us the first ten minutes of their match to settling back in before delivering some absolute insanity of their own. These two went all out, leaving nothing on the table. There was zero inference, this was for all the marbles. Multiple table spots, a suplex off the top of a ladder and V-Triggers nearing the double digits, you couldn’t have asked for more. The exhaustion way high but they went crazy enough to bring everyone back to life and managed to make Cody somewhat sympathetic near the end. He had his cowardly moments of using his wife to gain the advantage but in the end he took the defeat humbly which served to everyone’s benefit at night’s end. Omega logged his first defense and during his post-match celebration, thanked everyone before saying that we all deserve second chances, even Cody.
The Elite make their way up the ramp and are greeted by Tama, Tanga & Haku. The six all Too Sweet and celebrate until out of nowhere, Tama strikes. He hits Omega from behind and drags him back to the ring. One by one, members of Bullet Club attempt to make the save but the Tongans group up to take out each of them, even honorary Tongan, Chase Owens. Cody runs out and is at first conflicted but decides to attacks the Tongans but is quickly taken out as well. The group then unveil a new shirt titled ‘Firing Squad” as they make their way to the back, leaving the rest of Bullet Club laying in the ring.
The was a strong show with an impactful ending that’ll leave everyone glued to the screen for the G1 Climax. Where Tama Tonga goes from here will be very interesting moving forward. He and Omega are in the same block so the two are bound to have a match. Bullet Club certainly is not fine and lines have clearly been drawn.
Juice vs White
Hiromu vs Lee
Bucks vs LIJ
Omega vs Cody