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NJPW ‘G1 Special in San Francisco’ Preview & Predictions

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For the second time this year and the third time in just a few days over a year, NJPW is returning to California! In what’s rumored to have been caused by either oversaturation or a weak card, or both, the tickets for this event haven’t sold well at all. Despite that, there is still a lot to be excited about on this show. With five titles are on the line and many of my favorites being featured, I glady bought a ticket and am looking forward to being there live. Here’s what I see taking place at the G1 Special in San Francisco.

Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, King Haku, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens vs YOSHI-HASHI, Rocky Romero, SHO, YOH & Gedo
Kicking off their largest show outside of Japan to date with the Bullet Club seems like the logical decision. Unfortunately, these aren’t high enough ranking Bullet Club members to reasonably excite anyone. Enter King Haku. This will be a fun opener thanks to the addition of the legend previously known as Meng. Him teaming up with his sons, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa, will provide a nice feel good moment and give the Bullet Club a win to open up the show. I personally hope that Gedo finds himself in the Tongan Death Grip.
Prediction: Bullet Club

Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr. vs Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano
Suzuki-Gun put on a clinic against Chaos both nights of Strong Style Evolved UK last weekend, especially Suzuki and Sabre. The two of them defended their RevPro tag titles against Okada and Ishii night one and proceeded to defeat them both in singles matches on the second night. Both Suzuki and Sabre left the UK carrying a lot of momentum that I don’t see anyone stopping any time soon. With that said, you never know with Yano. He has a tendency to squeak his way past Suzuki in unforeseen manors but after this weekend a loss to Yano would be even more ridiculous than usual.
Prediction: Suzuki & Sabre

Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA vs Hangman Page & Marty Scurll
What a weird first half of the year for both Tanahashi and KUSHIDA. They have somewhat faded into the background, still making appearances but neither finding much notable success. Hangman Page, on the other hand, has been trending upwards all year, culminating in what will be his first appearance in the G1 Climax. Since they’re in the U.S. it feels safe to pick another Bullet Club win here but it doesn’t feel right to go against Tanahashi and KUSHIDA even though I see no benefit in them winning. I’ll go with Bullet Club again but it feels weird.
Prediction: Page & Scurll

NEVER Openweight Championship
Hirooki Goto (c) vs Jeff Cobb

This is the match that made me buy a ticket to the show. I like watching big boys beat each other up and there are few big boys better than Jeff Cobb. Goto’s performance against Elgin last month is my favorite Goto performance since his match against Shibata at Wrestle Kingdom 11. Call me a sucker, but I’m slowly falling for this Goto redemption run he’s claiming to be on right now. I think these two could easily have the best match of the night and that’s not to discredit the others that have a fair shot as well. Since Cobb isn’t a full-time member I’m not believing that he’ll pull off the win here but I thought the same about Chris Jericho and look how wrong I was that time. I’ll believe in Goto until he drops the ball and even though I know that I shouldn’t believe in him, here I stand.
Prediction: Hirooki Goto

IWGP Tag Team Championship
The Young Bucks (c) vs EVIL & SANADA

The best part about EVIL and SANADA’s reign as tag champions was people suddenly caring about the title again. The second best part was the length of the reign. Although 156 days as champions isn’t a long time, for these titles it was the longest in two and a half years. I hope that this care for the titles becomes a more consistent focus in NJPW moving forward. If the Bucks retain, I hope they receive a similar length run. Even if EVIL and SANADA win them back, these titles deserve more care than they’ve been given. Thanks to the recent hot potato status of these belts, I can see this going either way but again since it’s in the U.S., I’ll go with Bullet Club.
Prediction: The Young Bucks

Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI vs Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay
The fall of The Rainmaker meets the constant one step forward, two steps back of Tetsuya Naito. Just a month ago, three of these four competitors held championships but they will all meet in this match without a title. Everyone is struggling to climb back up the ladder and no one is feeling secure. Since losing his title, Okada hasn’t won a match. He’s been on a winning team but he himself as not scored the win. In singles matches since his loss he’s gone to a thirty minute draw with Suzuki and has been defeated by Sabre. Similarly, Ospreay lost to Hiromu Takahashi and now has to find his way back. His way of doing so may be by pinning BUSHI or maybe this is BUSHI’s time to strike. I’ll go on the side of Chaos continuing to struggle.
Prediction: Naito & BUSHI

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs Dragon Lee

The rivalry continues! The eighth title match and eighteenth singles match between these two finds its way to California in what has to be the most exciting development on this card. History favors Dragon Lee, whose overall record over Hiromu is 12-5, but Hiromu is 1-0 against Lee in matches for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. Hiromu fought really hard to win the Best of the Super Juniors tournament on his way to dethroning Ospreay so a loss here would set Hiromu back to where he started. I see Hiromu defending the title against Lee for a second time and inching closer to closing the gap between the two.
Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
Jay White (c) vs Juice Robinson

For the first time, can we see the U.S. title go to a U.S. born wrestler? This would be a great feel-good moment for Juice Robinson who currently sits at 0-4 in title challenges but Jay White is looking to distance himself from his young lion class by dismantling each and every one of them. I so desperately want Juice to pull this one off because it’d be a great moment for both him and the crowd but White has been absolutely vicious over the last several months. If White were to lose, that’d leave the G1 Climax A Block without any champions and the G1 is built on champions taking falls in order to create title matches for the rest of the year. If Juice were to win, that’d put three titles in the B Block which would seem to overload the block. I’m not going to let that line of thinking cloud my judgement though because this too good of an opportunity to waste by having Juice lose another title match.
Prediction: Juice Robinson

IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kenny Omega (c) vs Cody

The Bullet Club infighting continues into NJPW’s biggest U.S. show to date. Bullet Club wants everyone to think that things are fine but this isn’t what an imagine of fine looks like and no one is buying what they’re selling. Except everyone is buying what Bullet Club is selling. They remain the top-selling faction in the wrestling world for the fourth straight year despite their chaotic nature. Will this match have any impact on their popularity? Most definitely not because no matter what, Bullet Club always finds a way to keep themselves fresh and exciting. Kenny Omega just capped off what was an eighteen month chase for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. A loss on his first defense would be an embarrassment to both himself and his fans. Cody holds the upper hand in singles matches between them but the G1 Climax without the IWGP Heavyweight Championship? Omega would be letting down more than himself and his fans, he’d also be letting down New Japan Pro-Wrestling. This cannot happen but would definitely send shockwaves through the wrestling world.
Prediction: Kenny Omega

Overall I think that this is a strong card helped by an even stronger focus on stories. Rather than the previous U.S. shows, dedicated fans are getting more to sink their teeth into on this show and I’m excited to be a part of the event.

Robert McCauley hasn't missed an NJPW show since the launch of NJPW World. Always be on the look out for his reviews where he shares results and gives his honest opinions on the goings-on of New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

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