Powell’s NJPW G1 Special live review: Kazuchika Okada vs. Cody for the IWGP Championship, U.S. Championship tournament first-round matches including Kenny Omega vs. Michael Elgin, Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii 

By Jason Powell

New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Special in USA
Long Beach, California at Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center
Aired on AXS TV (Fight Network in Canada)

A brief video that showed Tiger Mask, Tetsua Naito, AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Michael Elgin, Kazuchika Okada, Kenny Omega, and others were shown. Footage aired from a ceremony announcing the debut of the U.S. Championship. The cideo continued with teasers for the various matches…

Jim Ross and Josh Barnett checked in from ringside and discussed the U.S. Championship tournament as the brackets were shown. They noted that the main event is Okada vs. Cody for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. A tale of the tape was shown. Barnett spoke about the jet lag factor and questioned how it would affect Okada…

There were two ring announcers with one speaking in Japanese and the other speaking in English. The broadcast team spoke over them. Ross said the 10-man tag would open the show. He also noted that experts felt Naito and Omega were the tournament favorites. Ross said he feels Juice Robinson is a dark horse. Ross noted that Naito had vowed to toss the U.S. Championship in the Pacific Ocean should he win it…

Powell’s POV: Welcome to the live coverage review. Please note that I will be going lighter on the match descriptions than usual, but we will have the usual amount of commentary. Dot Net staffer Will Pruett is in the building along with our mutual friend Brian Fritz of BetweenTheRopes.com. Will will also be providing updates from the building tomorrow night while I handle the live coverage for the Slammiversary event, so be sure to join us for both. By the way, Dot Net Members will hear my exclusive audio review of the AXS special after the show tonight.

1. Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson, Bad Luck Fale, Marty Scurll, and Yujiro Takahashi vs. Trent Beretta, Jay Briscoe, Mark Briscoe, Rocky Romero, and Will Ospreay in a 10-man tag. Ross said this would be like the NBA All-Star game with all offense and no defense. Late in the match, the Young Bucks set up for a Meltzer Driver on Romero, but Ospreay pulled Nick Jackson down from the apron. Meanwhile, Romero rolled up Matt Jackson for the win…

Trent Beretta, Jay Briscoe, Mark Briscoe, Rocky Romero, and Will Ospreay beat Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson, Bad Luck Fale, Marty Scurll, and Yujiro Takahashi in 9:20.

Ross hyped tag team action for after the commercial break… [C]

Powell’s POV: The fun spot-heavy opener one would expect. Matt was comical in expressing his disappointment over taking the pin, as he told Scurll repeatedly that he can’t lose on TV. As I reported on the @prowrestlingnet page, WWE legend Steve Austin is backstage visiting at this event.

2. Dragon Lee, Jushin Thunder Liger, Titán, and Volador Jr. vs. Bushi, Evil, Hiromu Takahashi, and Sanada. Ross mistakenly called Evil by the name of Bushi during the ring entrances. Barnett corrected him. Ross noted that they were all wearing masks. “How the hell should I know?” Ross cracked. Funny. Late in the match, the ref was held in the corner by Takahashi, allowing Evil to hit a chair that Sanada wrapped around Volador Jr, who then took a Timebomb finisher from Takahashi…

Bushi, Evil, Hiromu Takahashi, and Sanada beat Dragon Lee, Jushin Thunder Liger, Titán, and Volador Jr.

The broadcast team hyped Okada vs. Cody as footage of both men aired. Ross hyped the opening match of the U.S. Championship tournament for after the break…

Powell’s POV: The exchange between Lee and Takahashi was the highlight of the match. The big tag matches are fun and obviously they are trying to fit a lot of talent on the show, but it’s a shame that viewers aren’t getting a chance to see some of the wrestlers from the first two matches in singles or regular tag team matches.

NJPW Chairman Naoki Sugabayashi entered the ring and showed off the U.S. Championship title belt that will be awarded to the winner of the tournament. Ross noted that the semifinals and finals of the tournament will take place on night two (Sunday) and that they will begin airing on AXS on Friday…

3. Jay Lethal vs. Hangman Page in a first-round U.S. Championship tournament match. Page made the first entrance. Lethal was out next and was attacked from behind when he played to the crowd. Lethal quickly recovered as the match started. Ross played up the storyline rib injury that Lethal suffered at the ROH Best in the World pay-per-view last weekend. Lethal has his ribs wrapped. Page targeted the ribs throughout the match. Lethal performed an awkward Lethal Injection at one point and sold the ribs. He ended up performing another Lethal Injection and winning clean. The broadcast team played up the rib injury being a factor on night two of the tournament…

Jay Lethal defeated Hangman Page in 8:15 to advance in the U.S. Championship tournament.

Powell’s POV: A forgettable match, yet they clearly established the Lethal injury heading into the next two rounds of the tournament. I love the sports-like commentary that Ross and Barnett deliver. JR’s greatness is well established, but Barnett does a terrific job of calling the action as if it’s a legit sporting event. I enjoy a good heel color commentator as well, but Barnett is terrific for this product. It will be interesting to see who ends up replacing Ross whenever his AXS deal expires now that he’s back with WWE.

4. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Juice Robinson in a first-round U.S. Championship tournament match. Ross said Sabre is considered the favorite in the match, but he continued to view Robinson as a dark horse in the tournament. Ross said Robinson has a strong female following in Japan. Barnett said he wears a lot of rainbow colors and may develop a strong male following. Sabre dominated by targeting the left arm/shoulder of Robinson. Juice fired up and told Sabre to bring on the kicks and slaps he was giving him. Robinson had an offensive flurry, but Sabre caught him in an arm bar. Robinson eventually powered him up and slammed him down. Sabre applied an octopus hold and eventually got the submission win…

Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Juice Robinson in 10:00 to advance in the U.S. Championship tournament.

Powell’s POV: A cool finish with Sabre’s initial hold looking damaging enough, yet whenever Robinson made plays for the ropes with his hands, Sabre grabbed one and tightened up the hold even more until he finally locked his own hands together while stretching Robinson, who then had no escape. This was the most enjoyable match of the night thus far. Per the brackets, Sabre will face the winner of the Tetsya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii winner in the second round, so Lethal will face the winner of the Kenny Omega vs. Michael Elgin match.

After a commercial break, ring entrances for an eight-man tag match took place…

5. Hiroshi Tanahashi, David Finlay, Jay White, and Kushida vs. Billy Gunn, Sho Tanaka, Yohei Komatsu and Yoshitatsu. Ross noted that the match had a 30-minute time limit. The fans chanted Tanahashi’s name prior to the match. They followed up with Kushida chants. Kushida did an early crotch chop at Gunn, who ran in and acted upset by it. Finaly, the son of WWE producer Fit Finlay, threw a nice dropkick early on.

Gunn checked in and was booed. He performed chops in the face of Kushida in the corner to more boos, then had a brief staredown with Tanahashi, who eventually tagged in and worked over Gunn. Tanahashi went for a cross body block off the middle rope. It appeared as though Gunn was supposed to catch him, but he dropped him, leading to more boos. Gunn later performed a nice twisting slam on Kushida as part of a rapid fire spot sequence. Late in the match, White’s teammates dove onto three opponents and then White performed a Flatliner on Yoshitatsu and pinned him…

Hiroshi Tanahashi, David Finlay, Jay White, and Kushida beat Billy Gunn, Sho Tanaka, Yohei Komatsu and Yoshitatsu in 9:40.

A brief show highlight video aired heading into a commercial break…

Powell’s POV: Um, maybe Gunn was intentionally trying to lower expectations for his singles match with Tanahashi on Sunday so that fans will be shocked by its greatness. Sure, that’s it. On the bright side, that’s it for the eight- and ten-man tag matches. The first half of the show has been underwhelming, but the best is yet to come based on the lineup.

Ross and Barnett stood at ringside and set up a video package on Kazuchika Okada vs. Cody… After a commercial break, they cut to Ross and Barnett momentarily, then went back to airing more commercial breaks… Ross and Barnett hyped the remaining tournament matches while highlights aired of all four men… Another round of commercials aired… Ross noted that they were still in intermission. They recapped the earlier matches…

Powell’s POV: They declared intermission in the building, so they are just filling some time before the second half of the show. I’m never a fan of intermissions during live television broadcasts. I have no doubt that the fans who wanted merch would have found time before or after the show.

6. “Guerrillas of Destiny” Tama Tonga and Tanga Roa vs. “War Machine” Hanson and Raymond Rowe for IWGP Tag Team Championship. Before the match, Rowe took the mic and said they fought with honor last time while GOD brought weapons into their match. He asked the chairman to make it a no disqualification match. Tonga took the mic and slammed it over Rowe’s head to start the match. Hanson went for an early suicide dive and Tonga struck him with a trash can as he dove through the ropes. Later, Hanson performed running clotheslines on his opponents in opposite corners. Ross called him a cardio machine. Rowe took a top rope splash from Roa and a top rope headbutt from Tonga, yet still kicked out. War Machine performed their toss up into a power slam for a two count.

Chase Owens ran out and hit Rowe with a chair. GOD powerbomb onto two chairs that split apart. Owens slid a table inside the ring. War Machine came back and took out Owens. The table was still in the ring. In a comical spot, Roa no-sold a German suplex and then acted as if he was going to do the same for a running knee, but he went wobbly down to his knees. Moments later, War Machine performed their Fallout finisher on Roa while driving him through a table. Rowe covered Roa for the win…

War Machine defeated The Guerrillas of Destiny to win the IWGP Tag Team Championship.

Ross hyped the main event and noted that Naito vs. Ishii was coming up after the break…

Powell’s POV: A good post intermission match in terms of starting off the second half of the show with a crowd pleasing hardcore style match. I’m not sure if the broadcast team knew Chase Owens initially, as it took them a while to mention him by name. In all honestly, I initially thought Owens was Hangman Page when he first came out.

7. Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii in a first-round U.S. Championship tournament match. The broadcast team put over the resilliancy of Ishii before the match. Naito came out wearing a suit and received some crowd chants. Naito took a shot at Ishii and then ran the ropes and laid down in the ring for a pop. Ross said there are no time limits in the tournament matches. Ishii no sold some early chops. Ishii fired back with a chop that dropped Naito. At 6:00, Naito threw a nice missile dropkick. He stood up and had a bloody lip. At 7:45, Naito performed a German suplex into a bridge for a near fall. Naito followed up with a top rope huracanrana for a two count. Naito spat in the face of Ishii, who fired back with a headbutt and then a powerbomb for a two count. Ishii threw a big clothesline for a two count. Naito caught Ishii in a rollup for a nice near fall. Naito performed a tornado DDT. At 14:25, Ishii turned Naito inside out with a clothesline. A short time later, Ishii performed a brainbuster and scored the clean pin…

Tomohiro Ishii defeated Tetsuya Naito in 15:05 to advance in the U.S. Championship tournament.

Ross hyped the Omega vs. Elgin match for after the break…

Powell’s POV: The most entertaining match of the night and the biggest upset of the tournament thus far. Naito was expected by many to win the tournament or at least be a major player coming off his IWGP Intercontinental Championship loss to Tanahashi at the Dominion show. The match also featured Ross hilariously stating that Ishii is like “a goddamn appliance.”

8. Kenny Omega (w/The Young Bucks) vs. Michael Elgin in a first-round U.S. Championship tournament match. Ross noted that some say Omega is the leader of Bullet Club, while others say that’s up for debate. Ross also noted that Elgin is a former baseball player and Omega was a hockey goalie. They did a comedy bit with referee Red Shoes crotch chopping the Bucks. Elgin didn’t sell some early Omega offense and also press slammed him. Omega came back and got the Terminator clap going, but Elgin cut him off with a big boot and then received some big boos. Omega went for a moonsault off the apron, but Elgin caught him on the floor. Back at ringside, Omega slammed Elgin into the apron late in the ref’s 20 count. Omega got back inside the ring. Elgin raced and did the same in a suspenseful moment.

At 13:30, the fans finally got their Terminator clap into a big flip dive by Omega onto Elgin on the floor. The Bucks chopped over Elgin. Ross brought back a classic line when he said the Bucks are like boils on the asses of life. Elgin blew off some chops and fired back with a forearm, then ate a great high knee. Omega followed up with a neckbreaker over his leg. Omega ran the ropes and was turned inside out by a great clothesline. At 17:35, Elgin performed a wicked belly to back suplex on the apron. Ross said the only place worse to take that move would be on the concrete. Elgin positioned Omega on the ropes and performed a crucifix into a powerbomb from the middle rope for a fantastic near fall with Omega kicking out at the last possible moment.

Elgin performed a Buckle Bomb. Elgin set up for another move, but Omega caught him with an inside cradle for two. Elgin performed a big clothesline and counted his pin, but Omega kicked out again. Elgin went for a running clohtesline and ate a high knee. Elgin powered up, but Omega followed him into the ropes and performed another high knee. They ran the ropes and ducked moves and Omega connected with another high knee. Omega performed a reverse huracanrana for another great near fall. At 22:00, Omega performed what appeared to be a modified Styles Clash for two. Omega performed another high knee and followed up with the One Winged Angel for the win…

Kenny Omega defeated Michael Elgin in 22:30 to advance in the U.S. Championship tournament.

Ross hyped the main event heading into a break…

Powell’s POV: And to think I actually was wondering to myself early in the match whether they should have put this match on prior to Naito vs. Ishii. Wow, that was terrific. Omega was the heavy favorite, but some of those near falls for Elgin were so convincing. I don’t know if the main event will be able to top this. Either way, the second half of the show has been terrific thus far.

A video package set up the main event with footage of Cody challenging Okada on the post match interview set…

9. Kazuchika Okada (w/Gedo) vs. Cody for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Cody walked onto the stage with men dressed in suits and in various U.S. President masks. Cody had a cigar in his mouth. His wife Brandi walked out and lit the cigar. The presidents headed backstage. Brandi followed Cody to the ring. Barnett played up the 11-hour flight that Okada had to take and the fact that the match was on Cody’s home turf. Both men met in the middle of the ring. Okada raised the IWGP Heavyweight Championship belt, and Cody raised the ROH Title belt. Both men received in-ring introductions. Brandi was seated at in the front row. Cody had black tape over his right shoulder. Ross said he needs to see more steak and less sizzle from Cody, who left the ring and kissed his wife. Cody returned to the ring and the ref called for the bell to start the match. Barnett noted that Okada had some glitter on his chest. He said some of his friends call it “divorce dust.” Funny.

Cody continued to stall and the live crowd was all over him. Cody performed a kick to the gut, then laid down and threw an uppercut. Ross noted that it was a Goldust spot. Cody sold shoulder pain even after performing offensive moves. There were dueling chants for the wrestlers around 7:00 despite the crowd being anti Cody early on. At 9:00, Cody performed a springboard dropkick for a two count. Cody barked at the ref and then looked to the booing crowd and flipped off a fan. At 12:00, Okada knocked Cody off the top rope with his great dropkick. At 14:30, Cody pulled Okada off the top rope with an arm drag. Barnett said it was reminiscent of Cody’s amateur days. Huh? Cody followed up with a Beautiful Disaster for a two count.

At 16:30, Okada signaled for the Rainmaker clothesline, but Cody tripped him up and applied his leg lock, which Barnett called a modified calf slicer. Okada teased tapping out and there were some gasps. Okada reached the ropes to break the hold. Cody stood up and slapped the head of Okada, who got up. Cody slapped him across the face. Okada fired back with forearm shots and then kicked Cody repeatedly in the corner. Okada threw a dropkick to the back of Cody’s head. Okada performed a tombstone piledriver and called for the Rainmaker again. Okada set up for the move, but Cody spat in his face. Okada hesitated and then clotheslined Cody. Okada picked up Cody and clotheslined him again.

Kenny Omega headed to ringside with a white towel, just as Cody did during the Okada vs. Omega match on the Dominion event. Brandi pleaded with Omega not to throw in the towel. Omega said he was dying in there. The Bucks came out and said not to do it. Omega gave Brandi the towel and said it was up to her. In the ring, Okada and Cody jockeyed for position, then Okada connected with another dropkick. Cody avoided the Rainmaker and then connected with a big clothesline of his own for a suspenseful near fall. Cody took the white towel from his wife, wiped his ass with it, and threw it at Omega, who ended up smiling. Okada caught Rhodes with a CrossRhodes and covered him, but Cody kicked out after taking his own finisher.

Both men got up while staring at one another and traded shots. Okada connected with an uppercut. A second uppercut knocked Cody down. Ross questioned whether the rest of Bullet Club would be happy if someone other than Omega won the IWGP Championship. Barnett said there seemed to be a division. At 26:15, Cody picked up Okada in the electric chair position and set up for the One Winged Angel, but Okada slipped out and performed a suplex. Cody ducked the Rainmaker. Okada stumbled while going for a move after pushing himself out of the corner, then performed a Tombstone and a Rainmaker for the win…

Kazuchika Okada pinned Cody in 27:10 to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

After the match, Kenny Omega entered the ring and addressed Okada. Omega said they have a rematch in the G1 tournament, but this was Okada’s night and he wasn’t going to take that from him. Omega left the ring. The fans chanted for Okada. Gedo took the mic and hyped up Okada, who took the mic and hyped up NJPW. The fans chanted New Japan. Okada thanked Long Beach and spoke about making it rain all over the world. The fans applauded Okada, who then posed in the corners while the broadcast team spoke about how some say he’s the best in thew world. Ross noted that Okada is not even 30 years old and fans have not even seen the best he has to offer yet.

Ross noted that their cameras were heading backstage and they didn’t really know what they were going to see. They went backstage where Okada was answering questions at a press conference while Gedo stood next to him.. It was hard to make out. Ross said he was told that Okada was highly complimentary of Cody. Ross and Barnett spoke over the press conference, which was wise considering that Okada was speaking in Japanese and it didn’t make for great television in North America. Ross and Barnett praised AXS TV for their role in NJPW expanding into the U.S. Ross noted that none of the matches were interrupted by commercials and said it was MMA-like. Ross also noted that they would have the finals of the U.S. Title tournament on Friday’s AXS show, and Barnett noted that they would have two additional title matches the same night. They cut to the broadcast team and Ross spoke about how proud he was to be a part of it. Barnett agreed. The broadcast team recapped the top matches and closed the show…

Powell’s POV: A good main event. I enjoyed the previous match more, but it would have been really tough to top Omega vs. Elgin. Even so, Okada and Cody closed the night well and I enjoyed the followup to the Dominion match with Omega coming to the ring with the white towel. The side story with Cody and Omega was interesting and it will be fun to see where that leads. Is anyone truly surprised that ROH officials allowed the new ROH Champion to be pinned? It’s the ultimate sign of subservience. Even so, I don’t believe it really hurts ROH in any way. It will be interesting to see if ROH gets something in return. Could Lethal’s rib injury be a Cinderella story setup rather than an excuse for him losing?

Overall, the first half of the show was mostly forgettable, but the second half of the night was excellent. I’m happy Ross put over the fact that there were no commercial breaks during the matches. It was a great touch and I wish other companies would work harder to avoid interrupting their own television matches. Looking ahead, the second night will be broadcast in a four-hour special on AXS on Friday, so they are not spreading it out. That said, it will also be available via New Japan World’s streaming service tomorrow night, and we’ll have live updates from the building. Thanks for watching along with me.

Check back on Sunday for Will Pruett’s live updates from the building on the NJPW G1 Special night two, and my live coverage of Slammiversary. Dot Net Members will hear my audio review of NJPW’s G1 Special night one later tonight. Have a great holiday weekend.


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