By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Special
July 7 in San Francisco, California at the Cow Palace
Broadcast live on AXS (available later on New Japan World)
A shot aired of the historic Cow Palace while the broadcast team of Jim Ross and Josh Barnett checked in briefly… A video package set up the show and noted that five titles would be on the line…
1. Sho, Yoh, Rocky Romero, Gedo, and Yoshi-Hashi vs. Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi, Tanga Loa, Tama Tonga, and King Haku. Ross noted that the match was difficult to officiate and to broadcast because there were so many moving parts. He said they would do their best. Ross spoke about Haku’s history in the venue and tied it into Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Haku started the match for his team and was the most over wrestler going into the match. Later, while the other wrestlers fought at ringside, Haku performed a piledriver on Romero for a two count. Later, Ross put over the intensity of Tonga. At 9:00, Gedo had a pin, but Haku grabbed him with a Tongan Death Grip, then shoved Gedo into Tonga, who performed a cutter and scored the pin… [C]
Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi, Tanga Loa, Tama Tonga, and King Haku defeated Sho, Yoh, Rocky Romero, Gedo, and Yoshi-Hashi in 9:20.
Powell’s POV: Meng was over and it was fun to see him again. Tonga stood out in a good way more than anyone else in the match. The building is well lit and the crowd is mic’d well. AXS even managed to go to the first commercial break after the match, meaning we were deprived of hearing Ross and Barnett grumble while they thought they were off the air this time around. The night is young, folks!
2. Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii. Suzuki and Ishii traded forearm shots to open the match and got a rise out of the crowd. Sabre and Yano checked in. Sabre dominated the comedic Yano while Suzuki and Ishii continued to brawl at ringside. Later, Suzuki and Ishii ended up back in the ring. Ishii mocked Suzuki with light kicks to the head, then slapped him when he stood up. Suzuki fired away with forearms. A short time later, Yano removed the turn buckle pad. Sabre tied him up and then Suzuki hit him with the pad. Ishii and Suzuki fought to ringside.
In the ring, Sabre blocked Yano’s low blow attempt. Yano shoved Suzuki into the exposed turnbuckle. Sabre stopped short when he was shoved toward the ref. Yano went for another low blow, but Sabre blocked it with his legs. Ishii returned to the ring and clotheslined Sabre, who was then pinned by Yano. After the match, Suzuki hit one of the young lions with a chair… [C]
Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii defeated Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr. in 9:45.
Powell’s POV: Yano was the last guy I expected to see win this match for either team. Did they book him to win because he was so over on the last NJPW special in the United States? The finish was odd, but they managed to continue the slug fest brawl between Ishii and Suzuki.
3. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kushida vs. Marty Scurll and Hangman Page. The heels worked over Taguchi for some heat at one point. Late in the match, Page hit his buckshot lariat on Kushida and then tagged into the match. Kushida came back with a nice overhead kick, but Page came right back with the Rite of Passage and scored the clean pin… [C]
Marty Scurll and Hangman Page defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kushida in 9:50.
Powell’s POV: The most entertaining match of the first hour. The outcome was mildly surprising in that I assumed Tanahashi and Kushida would go over, but it’s not a shocker like the previous match. I like that they continue to give Page a lot of wins. He’s come a long way since he was added to Bullet Club.
Footage aired coming out of the break of Jeff Cobb challenging Hirooki Goto to a title match during a past event in Japan…
4. Hirooki Goto vs. Jeff Cobb for the Never Openweight Championship. Cobb had his left shoulder heavily taped. There was a loud “Cobb” chant just after Barnett spoke about his history in the Bay Area. Ross noted the thickness of Cobb’s physique and said it reminded him of Steve “Dr. Death” Williams. Cobb performed a nice suplex for a two count at 7:10. Cobb hoisted Goto on his shoulders and dropped him, then played to the crowd. Cobb went for a standing moonsault only to have Goto move.
Goto came back with a running heel kick and a slam for a two count. Cobb blasted Goto with a forearm and then hoisted him up and performed what Ross called a version of the Oklahoma Stampede for a near fall. Both men stood up and exchanged lariat. They both ran the ropes and went for lariats, with Cobb turning Goto inside out. Cobb hit the standing moonsault for a very good near fall.
Goto came back with a sleeper. Cobb backed him into the corner and flipped him off his back to break the hold. Goto connected with a lariat, but Cobb no-sold it. Goto headbutted him and then performed a neckbreaker on his knee for another two count. Goto hit the GTR moments later and scored the pin…
Hirooki Goto defeated Jeff Cobb in 12:20 to retain the Never Openweight Championship.
Ross hyped the tag title match as coming up after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A strong, suspenseful match. The Never Openweight Title matches tend to be slug-fests and they stand out in a good way from the rest of the card. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Cobb in NJPW.
5. “The Young Bucks” Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson vs. Evil and Sanada for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles. Barnett noted that this was a rematch and that the Bucks beat Evil and Sanada to win the tag titles. Ross mentioned Pat Patterson and Ray Stevens as being arguably the greatest tag team in history due to their history in the building. Sanada started the match by knocking Matt off the apron. Nick returned the favor by knocking Evil off the apron.
Later, Sanada caught Nick in Skull End on the floor. Matt broke it up. The Bucks hit a double superkick on Evil, then Sanada hit them both with a springboard missile dropkick. At 8:50, Nick hit a 450 splash on Sanada for a two count. Matt, who was selling his back again, applied a Sharpshooter on Sanada while Nick took out Evil on the floor. Sanada teased tapping before reaching the ropes to break the hold.
At 11:00, the Bucks went for More Bang For Your Buck on Sanada, who put his knees up for one part and avoided the second part. At 12:30, Evil and Sanada hit a double team move on Nick and had the pin, but Matt returned to break it up. The Bucks went for a double superkick on Evil, who avoided it, causing the referee to take the kick. With the ref down, the Bucks ended up kicking a chair into the face of Evil.
The Bucks set up for the Meltzer Driver, but Sanada stopped Nick from the floor. Evil reversed Matt and then Sanada leapt off the top for a spike piledriver. They had the pin, but Nick broke it up. They picked up another good near fall moments later. The Bucks broke out a superkick party on both opponents, then followed up with the Meltzer Driver on Evil. Matt pinned Evil to win the match…
The Young Bucks defeated Evil and Sanada in 16:10 to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles.
Powell’s POV: A terrific match with very good near falls. The match had plenty of big moves and spots, but one of the things I enjoyed the most was the way Sanada sold the Sharpshooter. He had great facial expressions and some of the fans seemed to believe there was actually a chance he would tap out due to how strong his selling was. They closed out the first half of the show with the best match of the night so far.
The ring announcer hyped the NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed event for September 30 in Long Beach, California at Walter Pyramid, and the Lion’s Break Project 1 shows for November 10-11 in Anaheim, California at the Anaheim Convention Center. He then announced there would be a 15-minute intermission… [C]
Powell’s POV: While we’re in intermission, check out Will Pruett’s Youtube page for post match press conference videos filmed after some of the matches on this show. Will also has some great footage from the press conferences that he and John Moore attended on Friday. Find them all at Will’s Youtube Page.
Ross and Barnett previewed the remainder of the show. They also aired video packages on the Kenny Omega vs. Cody main event… [C] Ross and Barnett spoke about the G1 tournament starting days from now and Ross questioned how these matches will play into the tournament…
6. Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay vs. Tetsuya Naito and Bushi. Okada brought balloons out with him. One of the balloons had something drawn on it. He threw the balloons to the crowd before heading to the ring. Ospreay dazzled with his acrobatic spots. Okada tagged back in and went on an offensive flurry and kipped up at one point. “I tried that this morning and damn near killed myself,” Ross said. Okada performed a cross body block off the top rope onto Naito for a two count around 7:45. Naito avoided a couple of Tombstone piledriver attempts by Okada, who ended up hitting a neckbreaker over his knee at 9:25.
Ospreay and Bushi checked back into the match. Ospreay threw a kick that caused the live crowd to gasp. Naito ran in at one point. Okada followed and performed his great dropkick before they both went back to ringside. Ospreay hit a Stormbreaker on Bushi and pinned him… [C]
Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay defeated Tetsuya Naito and Bushi in 12:30.
Powell’s POV: A good match with the crowd being hot for anything Okada and Naito did even though this was a light night for those two. Ospreay shined even though this wasn’t one of his balls to the wall style matches either. Bushi taking the pin in this match was the most predictable moment of the night. The next match for the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Title should be a gem.
7. Hiromu Takahashi vs. Dragon Lee for the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Championship. Lee had his right hip taped. Ross said the champion requested the match. Takahashi brought his Best of the Super Juniors trophy and his stuffed animal cat Daryl Jr. Takahashi placed both items with Ross and Barnett and then climbed onto the apron. Lee immediately performed a huracanrana that took Takahashi to the floor. Lee followed up with a suicide dive. Back in the ring, Lee mocked LIJ by striking Naito’s pose, which drew some boos.
Takahashi came back and hit a running dropkick off the apron. He went up top and performed a crazy leap onto Lee on the floor. At 5:00, Lee and Takahashi fought for position on the top rope. Lee headbutted Takahashi, who got his legs caught up in the ropes. Lee followed up with a double stomp and both men tumbled to the floor. Lee got up first and slowly made it to the apron. Takahashi reached up and powerbombed him to the floor at 6:30. Both wrestlers raced back to the ring to beat the 20-count.
Back in the ring, both men traded several wicked suplexes. They hit crowd pleasing rapid fire moves until they were both down at 9:00. The fans applauded loudly. Lee quieted the crowd and then they exchanged several hard chops to the chest. At 12:05, Lee caught Takahashi with a knee to the head. Lee charged at Takahashi, who suplexed him into the corner. Takahashi performed a Spanish Fly for a two count. Takahashi took a ridiculous bump on top of his head from a release dragon driver. Takahashi came back with a Canadian Destroyer for a two count. He followed up with the Time Bomb for the win… [C]
Hiromu Takahashi defeated Dragon Lee in 15:30 to retain the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Championship.
Powell’s POV: It was an incredible match and the best of the night, but Takahashi is lucky he walked away given the way his head hit the mat on that release dragon driver. That was ridiculous. As much as I enjoy the athleticism, I really hope the company will put an end to their talent taking reckless bumps like that one before someone is badly injured on their watch.
A video package set up the IWGP U.S. Championship match…
8. Jay White vs. Juice Robinson for the IWGP U.S. Championship. Ross noted that White and Robinson were roommates when they both came to Japan. The ring announcer said that the special stipulation was that if Robinson used his cast (on his left hand) as a weapon then he could be disqualified. The fans were behind Robinson early on.
Robinson ran White into the barricade at ringside. That piece of the barricade separated and White tumbled next to the table where the title belt sat. White returned the favor a short time later by whipping Robinson into a barricade. A second piece of the barricade tipped upward. White ended up throwing Robinson through the piece of the guardrail by the table again.
White stood on the broken hand of Robinson and then stomped it. White put Robinson’s bad hand behind his back and bodyslammed him onto it. The fans chanted, “F— you, Switchblade.” Robinson battled back, but White went back to targeting the injured hand.
At ringside, White suplexed Robinson into the guardrail in front of the broadcast team and Ross tumbled to the floor. “Wow, you done f—ed up now,” Barnett said to White uncensored and through the headsets. Barnett got up and followed White into the ring. White fled. Ross asked about his cowboy hat and said he’s fine. Barnett returned to the broadcast table. Ross said he was not okay and the officials need to get their shit together.
White grabbed the bad hand of Robinson and pulled him into the post. Ross said he was a little disheveled. Heh said they try to tell people common sense about wrestling, but nobody wants to listen. Ross said he was fine and they were at ringside and there’s no place he’d rather be. He said he was cheering for Robinson more than ever. Robinson performed a Russian leg sweep off the apron.
Both men returned to the ring. Robinson performed a superplex for a near fall. A short time later, White threw repeated elbows to the head of Robinson, who reached the ropes with his foot. Robinson wound up for a punch. The referee stopped him from using his cast as a weapon. Robinson performed a backslide for a two count. With the ref spun in the corner, White performed a low blow. With the referee still down, Robinsons hit White with his cast and then followed up with his Pulp Friction finisher for a great near fall.
Robinson went for his finisher again, but White avoided it. White suplexed Robinson and then performed a half-nelson suplex. White set up for his Bladerunner finisher, but Robinson rolled him up and pinned him. After the match, Barnett said, “Don’t worry, Jay White, I’ll see you later”…
Juice Robinson defeated Jay White in 23:20 to win the IWGP U.S. Championship.
Ross hyped the main event as coming up after a break… [C]
Powell’s POV: What a difference a few months and a new opponent makes. The live crowd in Long Beach sat on their hands for most of the White vs. Adam Page match earlier this year, but they were solidly behind Robinson and anti-White from bell to bell this time around. It was a strong match with great support from the crowd. The drama with the broadcast team was something else. But the focus should be on Robinson. It’s a great story of a guy who opted to leave NXT and climbed the ranks in NJPW to get to this point. It’s a real feel good story.
A video package set up the main event… Ring entrances took place. Brandi Rhodes and Burnard the Business Bear came out first. Cody came out wearing a blue shirt with gold shoulder armor. He sat on a chair and was carried to the ring by four men dressed in suits. Barnett said Cody might be a sociopath. He said he doesn’t want the limelight, he wants everything. Cody kissed his wife and dismissed Burnard. Omega made his entrance along with the Young Bucks. There was an intense staredown between Omega and Cody before the bell…
9. Kenny Omega (w/Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson) vs. Cody (w/Brandi Rhodes) for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Ref Shoes was the referee. Cody acted bothered by the Bucks being at ringside early on. They fought to ringside around 4:30 where a fan yelled “f— you” at Cody a few times. Back in the ring, Cody performed a quick powerslam for a two count. Omega came right back. Cody rolled to ringside. Omega struck a pose and the fans did the Terminator clap. Omega ran the ropes for a dive, but Cody pulled Brandi in front of him.
Cody avoided an Omega dive, then returned to the ring and ran up the ropes before diving onto Omega on the floor. Cody removed his weight belt and tossed it to Matt before running Omega into the guardrail. Cody ran into a boot from Omega, who then threw him over the guardrail and onto a table. Omega performed a springboard stomp off the guardrail to drive Cody through the table at 8:35.
Omega set up Cody on a table at ringside and stopped short of going for a springboard move when Cody moved. Omega went to the floor where Cody shoved the table at him at 10:00. Cody caught Omega returning to the ring and got a couple of two counts. At 12:50, Omega performed a nice head-scissors takedown. Cody rolled to the floor and knocked the table over. Omega did a big flip dive onto Cody.
AT 13:55, Omega performed a missile dropkick. Omega picked up Cody and performed a neckbreaker onto his knee. Omega connected with a knee a short time later and then performed a dragon suplex at 15:00. Cody came right back with a dragon suplex of his own. Cody applied his Death Lock. Omega rolled it over and Cody reached the ropes to break it.
Omega pulled a ladder out from underneath the ring. The Bucks tried to talk him down, but he moved Matt aside and put the ladder in the ring. Meanwhile, Cody brought a chair inside the ring. The ref took the chair, but that allowed Cody to kick Omega’s knee and then slam him onto the ladder. With the ladder hanging out of the ring, Cody reversed a suplex attempt and ended up dropping Omega onto the ladder at 19:50.
Cody whipped Omega into the guardrail. The guardrail fell onto what appeared to be a Japanese man’s knee. The fans groaned for the guy. Ross said whoever was supposed to put the guardrails together should be fired. Cody set up a ladder in the ring with a table on the floor. Both men ended up fighting at the top of the ladder. The fans chanted “Please don’t die.” Cody won the battle and performed a superplex off the high ladder and into the ring. “This is how you kill a man,” Barnett said.
At 24:20, Cody limped over and picked up the IWGP Heavyweight Championship belt. Cody brought it into the ring with him. The referee took the belt and then Omega hit a reverse Frankensteiner. Cody threw Omega toward the referee. Omega stopped short, then shoved the referee to the ground. Cody caught Omega with a disaster kick. Cody picked up the title belt and teased hitting Omega with it. Cody dropped the title belt and went for his finisher instead. Omega avoided it at first, but Cody hit the move for a near fall at 26:30.
Omega connected with a V-Trigger at 27:30. Omega ran the ropes and performed the move again. Omega picked up Cody. They jockeyed for position. Omega caught Cody with a kick to the back of the head. Omega delivered another V-Trigger in the corner and then followed up with a powerbomb for a two count. Omega threw another V-Trigger. And another. Cody blocked a third,, but Omega hit it on a second attempt. Omega connected with a fourth V-Trigger for a two count at 29:25.
At 30:20, Omega picked up Cody in the electric chair, twisted him into powerbomb position, and then threw him over the top rope and at the table. Cody’s back hit the table, but he slid a bit before landing on the floor while the table remained in one piece. The Bucks and Brandi both checked on Cody. Omega shooed them away and rolled Cody back inside the ring. Omega pointed at Cody. Brandi entered the ring and crawled in front of her husband. Cody shooed her away and said, “Come on,” to Omega.
Omega ran the ropes for a V-Trigger, but Cody shot up and turned him inside out with a clothesline at 32:40. Both men got to their feet and exchanged chops and forearms. Omega caught Cody with a knee. Omega performed a double underhook piledriver for a two count. Omega performed a V-Trigger. The cameraman got a great shot of the move and Brandi wincing and turning away. Omega performed the One Winged Angel and scored the pin…
Kenny Omega beat Cody in 34:15 to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
After the match, Brandi entered the ring and held Cody’s hand. The Young Bucks also entered the ring. Omega took Cody’s other hand and helped him to his feet. Cody turned and shared a look with Omega before dropping to his knees and rolling out of the ring. Omega and the Bucks remained in the ring for the post match celebration.
Omega spoke about defending the title for the first time and being proud to do it in the legendary Cow Palace and in front of the fans. He said we’re all human and we all deserve a second chance. “Even Cody, he deserves a second chance,” Omega said. “And his effort was nothing short of valiant.” Omega said we all need to stand behind good people and give the very best human life possible, just as he will give the fans the very best professional wrestling matches from everyone on the roster. Omega said there was speculation that the show wouldn’t go well, but he said he saw pretty much a full house and everyone was lively as heck. He thanked the fans and left the ring. The other Bullet Club members and Haku came out and posed and did the too sweet.
Suddenly, Tama Tonga attacked Omega. Tonga and Loa brought Omega into the ring. Haku watched as they powerbombed him. The Young Bucks and Adam Page tried and failed to make the save. Marty Scurll ran out and took a quick cutter. “You did this,” Tonga barked at Omega while punching him. Yujiro Takahashi and Chase Owens ran out and were allowed to check on Omega, but they were also destroyed. Haku delivered some chops to the throat of multiple wrestlers. The fans booed as the Tongans stood over the fall Bullet Club members.
Cody walked to the ring as the Tongans motioned for him. Cody entered the ring as Tonga smiled and handed him a chair. Cody teased hitting Omega, but turned on Tonga and Loa, but Haku cut him off and then he took a cutter. Omega was piledriven onto a chair. The Tongans left the ring. Loa looked into the camera and said remember that, this is the foundation of Bullet Club. Loa said there is no leader and they are all equals.
In the ring, Cody offered Kenny his hand and helped him to his feet. Omega and Cody hugged to cheers. The Young Bucks joined in, as did the other Bullet Club members eventually. Ross noted that it seemed like the cards had been reshuffled…
Powell’s POV: A strong main event. They did a good job of making it feel like a violent war between two men who despised one another and yet it didn’t feel out of place when Omega showed Cody respect afterward. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were setting the table for Cody to stab him in the back again at a later date, but it looks like that won’t be the case since Cody tried to help Omega afterward. The big beatdown at the end was unexpected and intriguing, though I’m not really sure what it sets up. I really like Tama Tonga and I assume this is mostly about elevating him despite the no leader talk. I’m not as sold on Loa’s personality, but let’s see what he does with the spotlight. Overall, this was a terrific show. All of the title matches delivered in a big way, and the post match angle really did shake things up. Be sure to check Will’s Youtube Page for the post match interviews for this show.