The G1 Special in San Francisco, New Japan Pro Wrestling’s return to the United States after the huge success of Strong Style Evolved earlier this year emanated live from the historic Cow Palace.
The show opened with a great hype package, really explaining and breaking down all the big championship matches for the night ahead. Beautifully recapping and explaining everything that had lead to the matches for those not caught up or those taking their first delve into New Japan.
The night kicked off with a classic New Japan style 10-Man Tag as Chaos (Rocky Romero, Yoh, Sho, Yoshi-Hashi & Gedo) took on Bullet Club (Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, King Haku, Yujiro Takahashi and Chase Owens). The match was the perfect opener to set the tone for what would be a beautifully paced show overall. Surprisingly, King Haku and Yoshi Hashi kicked things off to a wonderful King Haku chant. As the two opened things the crowd made it abundantly clear they’re Bullet Club loyal, as every move Haku hit was met with cheers while Yoshi’s were met with boo’s. Either that, or the crowd just don’t care for Yoshi (I don’t either guys, it’s okay). Romero and Loa took over and worked a small spot of comedy before The Guerrillas of Destiny took control of the match. The Bullet Club took turns working over Romero before a hot tag to Yoh saw Chaos begin to make a comeback. In the closing moments of the match, things slowly broke down into the common, frantic pace of a New Japan Multiman tag as moves and dives where were happening left, right and centre. Ultimately, it was an impressive and decisive Gun Stun (personally my favourite cutter finisher going today) from Tama Tonga to Gedo that would get Bullet Club the win.
5 out of 10.
Next up, Chaos again in the form of Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano faced Suzki-gun Leader and member Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr, respectively. We got everything we all came to see from this match right out the gate and Ishii and Suzuki just laid into one another while the crowd cheered. In a world full of crazy spots and highlight videos I love that Suzuki has the love from the fans he has, essentially just with a gimmick of hitting people in the face, really, really hard. The match mainly revolved around Ishii and Suzuki working each other before towards the end of the match where Yano and Sabre took to the ring, Yano trying his best to cheat around Sabre’s technical offence. Sabre would block a low blow attempt from Yano but a still clothesline form Ishii took Sabre down, allowing Yano to roll him up and get Chaos their win back. The entertaining match concluded with the usual affair that follows a Suzuki loss; the destruction of a poor Young Lion. As much as I’d love to wrestle for New Japan, the prospect of offering myself up to a Suzuki beating, even just a small one, definitely has me second guessing myself.
6 out of 10.
Before we could kick things into high gear, we had one more Tag Match; Bullet Club (Marty Scurll and Hangman Page) vs. Taguchi Japan (Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kushida).
Now, I love Marty Scurll. I love him so much. From Party Marty, to his year atop of Progress to everything he’s doing now. This new mask though? This new mask is atrocious. Every time I see it I’m reminded of like a bad Power Rangers monster. ANYWAY!
The English commentary, as painful as it was to endure all night, they were putting over Hangman all match and as a massive fan of his, this brought a smile to my face. As Kushida and Scurll kicked things off, the crowd continued their chants of Bullet Club love. The two juniors worked a wonderful little back and forth sequence before the heavyweights were tagged in to do the same. The match was very back and forth from start to finish, never dropping into the expected formula of a tag team match. The match instead felt it slowly continued to elevate and build to it’s climax where Hangman hit Kushida with the Right of Passage to score the victory. This pace worked perfectly as by the time we were ready for our first championship match of the night, the crowd were hot and ready.
6 out of 10.
Our first of five championship matches, Jeff Cobb challenging Hirooki Goto for the NEVER Openweight Championship. I know not everyone shares the sentiment but I’ve always had a thing for Goto, everything about him I dig and he’s always been one of my favourites since I began watching New Japan (plus that entrance theme? C’mon man, how can that not make you hyped?). I’m not super familiar with Cobb but from what I’ve seen I enjoy his work. I see people give him the label of being the ‘better Mike Elgin’ and I feel this match delivered what New Japan where looking for in the Elgin vs. Goto feud. The beginning was slow and worked to really show the power of the two men. Cobb took control early with a show of his ever impressive strength, just throwing around Goto like he normally throws around the Juniors. It created an interesting dynamic for the match as it saw Goto busting out some different offence, even an outside dive at one point to combat Cobb. On the topic of bringing out some highflying offence, the fact Cobb can just effortlessly execute not one but two standing moonsaults is crazy to me. The two men would trade some huge moves before Goto was able to score two consecutive GTR’s to pick up the win and retain the title. The match was fine but lacked anything special. It kinda felt like just as they were beginning to build a foundation for the match, someone hit skip and we were at the finish. They seem to have good chemistry, I hope they get to do more moving forward.
6 out of 10.
IWGP Tag Team Championships on the line now, The Young Bucks defending their Championships against the very team they won them from; Los Ingobernables de Japon, Evil and Sanada. My biggest issue with The Young Bucks has always been that when they aren’t really into what they’re doing, their in ring work reflects that. However, ever since the match against The Golden Lovers and moving up from the Junior Heavyweight Division, these boys have been on fire. These teams had a great match at Dominion last month and this was no different, from the opening bell these four were off and putting together an array of impressive and athletic spots, The Bucks smashing out their usual ‘Best of..’ Collection of Double Teams before LIJ were able to get the upper hand and take over. The challengers would keep control over Matt Jackson before the hot tag to Nick brought the Champions right back into the contest. The four would build to a crazy fluid sequences of moves ending in the crowd chanting ‘this is awesome’. Seriously, this section of the match was just impressive, at one point Sanada countered Matt’s dive into a moonsault from the apron that transitioned into a Skull End before Nick would dropkick Sanada through the ropes (Am I alone in just continually being impressed with how crazy agile Sanada is for a dude that size?). The match would not slow down, building as the dives got higher, the moves gots bigger and the bumps got harder. The Bucks would attempt a double Super Kick on Evil where he ducked and the referee was taken out. Evil took this opportunity to bring a steel chair into the match, a steel chair that would ultimately be super kicked into his face. The Bucks would set up an IndieTaker but Sanada would take out Matt allowing Evil to counter and the challengers to his Nick with a Meltzer Driver of their own onto the steel chair. As the referee counted the fall, I was certain this was it until Matt swooped in for the save. As the crowd once again chanted ‘this is awesome’ the challengers would attempt to put away the champions but it would be The Bucks successfully executing the Meltzer Driver to retain their championships. If it’s not easy to tell, this was easily the match of the night in my opinion and I’m very okay with there two teams meeting again, many times.
8 out of 10.
It may only be 15 minutes but my god, every time intermission comes around its just the perfect little break I need.
We kick off the second half of our show big with Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito and Bushi) vs. Chaos (Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay).
Stop. Everything. Okada. Has. New. Music.
I both love it and hate it. It’s awesome but the original song was just so great? I will survive and adapt. Some people seem to be viewing it as a negative, but Okada seemed so relaxed and just enjoying himself throughout this match. People seem to think he was lazy but personally to me it looks like a guy for the first in in YEARS isn’t carrying this company on his shoulder and is able to just take a step back and enjoy doing what he loves and that warms my heart. We started with Naito and Okada facing off, both executing signature moments that are a centrepiece of their move sets to get the crowd right back into the action after intermission and it worked perfectly. This guys in reality executed a clean break and teased a dive but with the nuances if character they bring with them had fans jumping out of their seats. Seriously, it’s crazy how over these two are. As Bushi and Ospreay came in the match began to take shape as LIJ cut off the smaller Ospreay and begin to slowly work him down. With a flurry of his signature offence you thought only possible in action movies, Ospreay was able to make the tag to Okada, unleashing the longest reigning Champion in New Japan history onto their opponents. Naito and Okada would work a sequence of moves together, trading one another counter after counter before Okada was able to take Naito down. As the match came to a close, the juniors would come back in and after The Storm Breaker, possibly my favourite move in Pro Wrestling right now, Chaos would score the victory and Ospreays crazy catchy theme song would boom. It’s awesome fight me.
6 out of 10.
The Junior Heavyweight Championship was on the line next; Dragon Lee challenging Hirumo Takahashi, who came to the ring with championship around his waist, Best of the Super Juniors Trophy in one hand and Daryl Junior in the other (For those unaware, this is the son of the original cat plushie, Daryl and his now wife Caryl. He’s on excursion at the moment, hence the mask).
These guys just go from 0 to 100 every time and this match was no different. Like 5 minutes in and Lee was delivering a double stomp from to top rope to Hirumo who was hanging in a tree of woe to the outside. These guys were out to steal the show, there was no doubt about it. The first half of the match was just these two trading absolutely crazy spots some people wouldn’t dare try once, let alone in sequence. It took a slight dive for me personally around 10 minutes in when the two just traded German suplexes for like a solid 2 minutes. The crowd in attendance erupted for it, so maybe I’m alone here but I personally felt the harsh repetition of the same move hurt the match. All that being said, the two wasted no time in ramping the pace right back up and getting right back to just throwing everything at one another, including a beautiful standing Spanish Fly. At about 15 minutes into the match, Dragon Lee countered Hirumo’s arm triangle with his signature Dragon Driver. For those unfamiliar the move is initiated by getting the opponent up for a power bomb before grabbing hold of the head and falling backward, driving the opponent face first into the mat. It was painfully clear, the landing was not a good one as Hirumo seemed to just meet the mat with the top of his head, sending his body freakishly jerking forward. The match went on a couple more minutes before Hirumo hit a Canadian destoryer, followed by a dynamite plunger for the win. Hirumo seemed visibly groggy and glassy eyed after the Driver, to what I assumed may have been a concussion. Since the event, reports have been coming out saying that he was rushed to hospital immediately and may have suffered a broken neck. At the time of writing this none of this has been confirmed or denied and is still up in the air. Hirumo did finish the match and made his exit all on his feet and by himself. That may mean nothing but hopefully it’s a sign things aren’t too serious and Hirumo is okay.
8 out of 10.
The show rolled on with the Semi-Main Event, Jay White facing Juice Robinson with White’s IWGP United States Championship on the line. The match was preceded with a great hype package, really driving home the sadistic nature of White’s character and the underdog, never say die attitude of Robinson’s. In the package Robinson claimed he’d be the first American to win the United States Title and followed up his claim flamboyantly marching to the ring adorned in red, white and blue gear (and a pirate hat, it was great). The crowd began to let out their boo’s for Switchblade, Jay White before his music even hit, cementing the tone the crowd would take for the entirety of this match. We started with the announcement that Juices hand, covered in a cast after it was broken by White in the lead up to the match, being used would result in a disqualification. The match started off just how a match built this way should, with a fight. No wrestling, no lock ups, just beating on each other and throwing one another into guard rails. Amongst the brawl the two perfectly highlighted the referee warning Juice not to use his casted hand, bringing it’s presence well into the audiences minds. The Champion would gain control and begin manipulating the broken hand to punish Juice as the crowd showered him in a ‘fuck you, Switchblade’ chant. The match tumbled to the outside where Jay would deliver a suplex to Juice, sending him into the guard rail in front of the commentary table. The guard rail would collide into the table and knock Good Ol’ JR out of his chair and to the ground. Josh Barnett then rose to his feet, stepping out to ring side and then into the ring as Jay moved to stay away from him. Barnett returned to the commentary table remarking “See that motherfucker run?”
As far as I’ve seen, it’s not clear whether or not this was a work. The swearing and ranting done by the English commentary team following the spot has me believing, at very least, it didn’t go completely to plan. Regardless, this had the crowd well and truly hating Jay and firmly behind Juice for the home stretch of the match. The closing moments of the match saw the pay off to the angle as Juice would almost collide with Red Shoes, causing the official to turn his back to the action and allowing Jay to hit Juice with a low blow. As Jay would try and capitalise Juice would move, this time sending Jay toward Red Shoes. Karma would strikers with referees back still turned, Juice would land a strong strike with his casted hand to a huge pop before hitting Pulp Friction for a near fall that had everyone watching convinced it was over. Just as Juice looked to have it won, Jay would again go back to hand but before he could capitalise, attempting the Blade Runner Juice would counter with a roll up to pin Switchblade and win his first Singles Championship in New Japan and become the first American, United States Champion.
7 out of 10.
The history of the IWPG Heavyweight Championship would play as it was now time for the main event. The Champion, Kenny Omega in his first Championship defence against Cody. Despite what a lot of people say about Cody, I love his work and think that both in and out of the ring he is very good. There’s nothing I could say about Omega that hasn’t been said already, though like The Bucks I feel that when Kenny isn’t into what he’s doing he really phones it. Hopefully, like the Bucks move to heavyweight, Kenny’s position as Champion will change that. Praise for the two men aside, I had my worries for this match as I felt very underwhelmed by their match in Ring of Honor earlier in the year. This match from the get go felt bigger, it was the main event, it was for the IWPG Heavyweight Championship, it was Kenny’s first defence and it was to settle the argument once and for all on who was the true leader of Bullet Club. The match would begin to kick into the next gear when Kenny would attempt his signature Terminator Dive but stopped himself as Cody pulled Brandi between them. This allowing Cody to get on top, bringing the match to the outside. Cody would beat on Omega with his weight belt before Omega delivered a double stomp from the guard rail to Cody, through a ring side table. Omega would set up a second table by ring side before Cody was able to gain control of the match and begin beating down on the champion. With a head scissors and a successful attempt at the Terminator Dive, Kenny was able to turn the tables and now taking his turn at inflicting pain on Cody. The match would move further into the old ‘well, the referee is being lenient because its for the title territory as Cody would introduce a chair to the match while Omega brought out a ladder. This would lead to both men standing atop the ladder trading strikes before Cody would deliver a HUGE Superplex from the top of the ladder to the ring below for a near fall. The two would slowly build back up, trading counters before Cody would hit Omega with the Crossroads for a long two count, though the crowd didn’t seem to buy into the fact Cody was actually going to get the win here or at any point. In hindsight, this element of the match was probably its biggest problem as it never truly felt we were going to see Omega lose his first defence. Cody would attempt a Vertibreaker but Omega would escape and land a strong V-Trigger that would be the first of the many that follow. Omega would attempt the One Winged Angel but Cody would not say die, spinning himself around in a counter attempt but Omega would throw Cody over the top rope, power bombing from the ring to the table waiting on the outside (a table which, despite that, didn’t want to break and just rebounded Cody off of it). Omega rolled a lifeless Cody back into the ring and waiting as he lined up another set of V-Triggers but Brandi would crawl in the ring to protect her broken Husband before he could. Red Shoes would soon just talked her out of the ring, kinda hurting the gravity of the spot, and Kenny would be right back on the attack (again hurting the spot by having the baby face just kinda ready to keep killing the man?) but Cody burst to his feet meeting the Champion with a clothesline, bringing them back to square one as the traded strikes again. Eventually, Omega would pull out a few more V-Triggers before landing the One Winged Angel for the decisive but anti climatic victory.
7 out of 10.
Post match Kenny would give his victory speech and he and The Bucks would make their exit before The Guerrillas of Destiny would shockingly attack them. They would reveal themselves to be wearing shirts displaying a logo and a name; The Firing Squad. Other members of Bullet Club would race to the ring in an attempt to aid The Elite to no avail. Tama would motion for someone to come to the ring and Cody would emerge. Tama would hand Cody a chair to have his way with Omega but Cody would began swinging at The Firing Squad attempting to fight them off. Quickly, he was taken down too and.The Firing Squad left the arena as Bullet Club laid broken around them. The show would go off the air with Bullet Club helping one another to their feet, seemingly was again united together.