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NJPW G1 Special in San Francisco
July 7, 2018
-From the Cow Palace in Daly City, er "San Francisco", California. Our hosts on the English broadcast are Jim Ross and Josh Barnett. Fan attendance seems to have filled the floor area and parts of the lower bowl, not sure if this is considered a success or not.
CHAOS (Rocky Romero, Sho, Yoh, YOSHI-HASHI, and Gedo) vs. Bullet Club (King Haku, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Yujiro Takahashi, and Chase Owens)
Haku still looks like he could murder you just by looking at you. Haku is too tough for Sho to handle. Romero tags and is not intimidated by Loa's size advantage or smack talk, and delivers a hurricanrana. Owens drives Romero into the turnbuckles for a vicious Stinger Splash by Tonga! Romero kicks out of Haku's piledriver, but gets stuck in the Bullet Club corner. Romero saves himself with a double head scissors counter and YOSHI-HASHI gets a hot tag to clean house. Tonga cuts off the comeback, but Gedo gets him with jabs and chinbreaker. The match breaks down and it's "let the bodies hit the floor" time. Haku pops the crowd by grabbing Gedo in the Tongan death grip and serving him up for Tonga's stun gun for the win at 9:20. The Tongan family reunion elevated this above being an average filler opener, **½.
Winners: Bullet Club
Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano
Ishii and Yano are quite the odd couple team, as Yano is all smiles and shamelessly pimping merchandise, and Ishii is a Taz-like killing machine. Suzuki and Ishii waste no time stiffing the loving hell out of each other. Ishiii wins a clubbing forearm contest, and drives Suzuki into the ring post for good measure. Tags are made and ZSJ reverses a handshake into a wristlock. Yano wants another handshake and rakes the eyes. Meanwhile, Suzuki kicks Ishii off the apron. ZSJ applies an Indian death lock until Yano gets the ropes. Suzuki and ZSJ apply combination submissions while the referee is busy checking on Ishii. Yano counters with an atomic drop and Ishii tags in to continue slugging it out with Suzuki. Ishi spits in the face, prompting Suzuki to go for a sleeper, which Ishii counters with a snapmare and then a backdrop driver! Yano returns and removes the turnbuckle pad to take a swing at ZSJ, but gets caught in an abdominal stretch. Suzuki hits Yano with the padding and resumes fighting with Ishii outside the ring. ZSJ blocks a low blow and traps the arm, but Ishii sneaks in for the lariat and win at 9:50! This was lots of fun, with Suzuki and Ishii's hatred driving the story, ***.
Winners: Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano
-Suzuki looks for some revenge with a padded chair, but officials cut him off. Sabre Jr. is also a poor sport and beats up a trainee on his way out.
Bullet Club (Marty Scurll and Hangman Page) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi and KUSHIDA (with Taguchi)
Barnett thinks Tanahashi's music reminds him of Dead Kennedys, which shockingly, Jim Ross can't relate to. Ross gushes over Page the same way he did over a young Randy Orton in 2002. Scurll and KUSHIDA have an inspired feeling out process. The crowd pops huge as Tanahashi enters the match. Page works a headlock and pulls the hair, but Tanahashi returns the favor, and connects with a springboard crossbody. Bullet Club rebounds, with Scurll kicking KUSHIDA into position for Page's Shooting Star Press off the ring apron! They beat up Taguchi just because they can. Bullet Club try to work over KUSHIDA, who saves himself with a springboard back elbow, and Tanahashi gets a hot tag. Somersault back senton by Tanahashi gets a good near fall on Scurll. Scurll can't quite apply a crossface chicken wing, and Tanahashi slaps him off his feet. The match breaks down. Tanahashi misses on a dive, leaving KUSHIDA alone. KUSHIDA is scrappy but gets caught by Page's Rite of Passage piledriver and pinned at 9:54. The hot crowd helped elevate this match quite a bit. Great showing for the young guys, as this is the most I've ever enjoyed Page, ***.
Winners: Hangman Page and Marty Scurll
NEVER Openweight Championship:
Hirooki Goto © vs. Jeff Cobb
Jim Ross puts over the good character of both men, helping to set the stage for a tentative, sportsmanlike start. Goto changes the tune by kicking the gut after a break, and Cobb surprises him with a flurry of offense, including a bear hug suplex! Goto lures Cobb into position for a flying crossbody to the floor. There's an audible ping as Cobb's skull gets bounced off the ring post. Goto becomes the de-facto heel as he works over Cobb to crowd boos. Cobb comes back with a sick standing drop-kick. Running forearm by Cobb sets up a spinning back suplex for a 2 count. The crowd comes alive for Cobb, but he misses a standing moonsault. Running spin kick by Goto sets up a backdrop suplex for a 2 count. Cobb answers with the running powerslam. Decapitation lariat by Cobb and the standing moonsault connects for an excellent near fall. Goto nails a fireman's carry neckbreaker, and remains in control long enough to hit the GTR for the win at 12:05. There was a lot to like here as Cobb made for a credible threat but Goto eventually was able to show enough dominance to put himself over as a champion, ***¼.
Winner and still NEVER Openweight Champion: Hirooki Goto
IWGP Tag Team Championship:
The Young Bucks © (Nick and Matt Jackson) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japan (EVIL and SANADA)
I saw these four guys tear the house down in Lowell, Massachusetts in May, so I have high hopes for this bout. The match breaks down after about a minute with the Young Bucks using a Scorpion deathlock variation in an insane four way submission spot. The Bucks keep a lively, overwhelming pace until Matt gets isolated. SANADA ties Matt into a pretzel for a running drop-kick right into the butt. Jim Ross thinks that hold was popularized at Alcatraz (really, Jim, a prison rape joke?). Matt escapes EVIL's surfboard stretch but SANADA pulls Nick off the apron to prevent the hot tag. Matt gets the tag but remains to clean house himself (Nick hurt himself diving onto SANADA). The ring empties and the Bucks catch EVIL with SUPERKICKS, but SANADA gets both Jacksons with a missile drop-kick. Match restarts with SANADA and Matt trading shots and counters until Matt hits a leaping DDT onto the ring frame. A 450 splash only gets a 2 count. Matt applies a Scorpion Deathlock while Nick dives onto EVIL at ringside. SANADA rolls out of More Bang for Your Buck and a relatively fresh EVIL unleashes a series of German suplexes. EVIL hits Darkness Falls for a good nearfall, and Matt saves Nick from the Magic Killer. The referee takes a bump from an errant Jackson superkick, giving EVIL the opportunity to grab a chair. The Bucks counter with superkicks into the chair. EVIL counters with a piledriver onto the chair for an EXCELLENT nearfall that is broken up. Matt survives the Magic Killer, and the Bucks start another superkick party. The Meltzer Driver finishes EVIL at 16:03! Just tremendous athleticism and creativity on display throughout, the Young Bucks can do no wrong at this point, ****¼.
Winners and still IWGP Tag Team Champions: The Young Bucks
-Intermission! They replay footage from a press conference featuring Kenny Omega and Cody Rhodes talking some awesome smack against one another.
Los Ingobernables de Japan (Tetsuya Naito and BUSHI) vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay)
The crowd is jazzed to see Okada start the match against Naito. Okada pats the chest on a clean break, prompting Naito to dump him and fake him out on a dive, but poses in a resting position for a big pop (which Jim Ross compares favorably to the Peoples' Elbow). The crowd is audibly disappointed when BUSHI and Ospreay make tags, but pop for Ospreay's theatrics. Naito runs in to repeatedly drop-kick Ospreay in the face. LIJ work Ospreay over for a good while. Okada gets the hot tag and flapjacks BUSHI onto Naito. High crossbody by Okada gets a polite nearfall. Naito comes back with a string of attacks to the back, avoids a Tombstone Piledriver, but ends up eating a neckbreaker. Tags are made and BUSHI knocks Ospreay over with a missile drop-kick. Fisherman's Neckbreaker by BUSHI but the cover is broken. The crowd isn't buying BUSHI's nearfalls. The match breaks down and Ospreay hits a double underhook spinning neckbreaker on BUSHI for the win at 11:49! This didn't aim to be anything more than a post-intermission house show style match, but Naito and Okada appearing in the ring together felt like a happening, and the young guys tried hard, **½.
Winners: Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship:
Hiromu Takahashi © vs. Dragon Lee
Takahashi is sporting a trophy and a masked stuffed cat, which is the sort of off-beat nonsense I enjoy. Takahashi puts his accessories on the announce table and walks right into a hurricanrana to the floor. Dragon Lee nails a fantastic suicide dive into the guard rail! Lee absolutely dominates the early going and looks like a man who wants to win a championship. Takahashi rebounds and delivers a nasty running drop-kick off the ring apron! Top rope senton by Takahashi sends Lee into the guard rail! A top rope battle leaves Takahashi hanging in a tree of woe on the outside for a double stomp! Both men are slow to get up, but Takahashi powerbombs Lee off the apron! Lee recovers a bit too quickly and soon he's dishing out snap suplexes in the ring. Takahashi answers with a stiff uppercut and they both go down for the obligatory fan ovation. They trade open hand slaps as they get back up and it continues almost to the point of absurdity. Lee runs into a sick back drop counter into the turnbuckles. Lee recovers and counters with a standing Spanish fly trap for a good nearfall. Takahashi counters into a triangle choke, which Lee counters with a dead lift slam. Takahashi holds on, so Lee packages him up into a disgusting suplex onto his head! That was more dangerous than entertaining. Of course, Takahashi kicks out, and counters with a destroyer for a nearfall. Takahashi is surely concussed as he clumsily hits the Time Bomb for the win at 16:35! Absolutely tremendous match if you can look past some of the psychology/selling hiccups and that dangerous head bump Takahashi took, ****¼.
Winner and still IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion: Hiromu Takahashi
IWGP United States Championship:
Jay White © vs. Juice Robinson
You might remember Juice Robinson as CJ Parker in NXT
. He has completely reinvented himself and is a legit part of the NJPW roster. The former hippie comes to the ring dressed as a pirate and is sporting a cast. The announcer reminds us that if Robinson uses the cast as a weapon, he'll be disqualified. White mocks Juice's injury and gets tackled off his feet. Juice hits a somersault senton off the apron. Juice sends White crashing through a steel rail and poses with the belt. Juice delivers a series of jabs and has to stop himself from using his cast. White suplexes him over the ropes and properly sends him through a rail. White targets the injured hand during a beatdown. Juice survives and counters with a spinebuster. White answers with a German suplex for a 2 count and hyperextends fingers on the injured hand. White nails a suplex into the announce table, causing Jim Ross to fall out of his chair. Josh Barnett storms the ring, and White backs off. White is getting some of the best heel heat I've seen in ages as he wraps Robinson's arm in a chair, but hurts himself on a missed chair shot. White recovers with a back suplex on the floor. Juice blocks another suplex and spinebusters White onto the ring frame! White answers with a DDT variation on the frame and attempts a dangerous suplex, but Juice counters with a side Russian leg sweep to the floor! They're nearly counted out, Juice delivers a cannonball in the ring, and hits a superplex for a good nearfall. White counters a crucifix and elbows the chest. Juice counters the sling blade, but White hits a blind low blow, but Juice answers with a blind shot with his cast! The modified Unprettier gets a tremendous nearfall! White answers with a chicken wing suplex, but Juice defiantly absorbs it. Juice survives another suplex, blocks the sling blade again, and rolls up White for the title at 23:30! The crowd pops big for that title change! This was an eye-opening performance by both men here, as Jay White put on a great heel performance and Juice Robinson shined as the resilient babyface, ****¼.
Winner and new IWGP United States Champion: Juice Robinson
-Juice is so overjoyed in his celebration that he hugs the referee. This is truly a feel-good story, as Juice voluntarily left WWE because he felt like the international and indy stars they were bringing in to NXT were just leaps and bounds above where he was as a performer. He left to go travel and improve, and it has paid off tremendously, to the point where you can easily imagine WWE bringing him back into the fold at some point.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship:
Kenny Omega © (with the Young Bucks) vs. "The American Nightmare" Cody (with Brandi Rhodes and Business Bear)
They let the moment breathe before locking up and trading wrist locks. Cody rakes the eyes on the rope break. Cody begins to build some momentum, hitting a patented uppercut and taking control of the action. Omega nails a drop-kick to the shins and follows with a modified bulldog. Cody uses Brandi as a shield to prevent a suicide dive. Omega improvises but misses a flying crossbody, allowing Cody to hit a flying shoulder tackle. Omega tosses Cody onto a table and nails a double stomp off the rail! The Young Bucks seem to sympathize with Cody as Omega sets him up on another table, but is too slow to capitalize. Cody retakes control with clubbing offense. Omega comes back with a hurricanrana and follows with a dive to the floor. Missile drop-kick by Omega and cross-legged neckbreaker. Cody is reeling but manages a desperate Dragon suplex. A slugfest results in Cody applying a Figure Four until it's reversed. Omega fetches a ladder while Cody grabs a chair. The ref removes the chair while stupidly missing Cody slamming Omega on the ladder. Cody reverses a suplex onto the ladder. Cody positions Omega on a ringside table and sets up a ladder, to which the Young Bucks object. Omega meets Cody at the top of the ladder, but Cody reverses a superplex into the ring! Cody brings the title to the ring and Omega surprises with a reverse Frankensteiner. Omega gets tied up with the referee and eats Cody's springboard kick. Cody answers with Cross Rhodes for a good nearfall. The Bucks remove the ladder while Omega knees the head. Powerbomb by Omega gets 2, followed by more vicious knee strikes. Omega powerbombs Cody over the ropes into the table, but it doesn't break! That's gotta be a concussion. Brandi shields her husband to help him recover long enough to hit a hard clothesline. Omega quickly recovers and finishes with a patented piledriver at 34:17! This match went long for the sake of going long, and it did overstay it's welcome by a few minutes. However, it offered something different than the rest of the show with the stunt bumps, and told a good story of friends becoming rivals, ****.
Winner and still IWGP Heavyweight Champion: Kenny Omega
-Omega helps Cody to his feet, with Cody begrudgingly accepting. Brandi gets an ice pack and escorts Cody from the arena. Omega lingers behind to cut a promo putting over the show and the fans for attending. The Tongan faction of Bullet Club meets him on the stage, but Tama Tonga goes into business for himself with an ambush! Haku and Loa help lay a beatdown on Omega. Hangman Page attempts a rescue but falls to the numbers game. Marty Scurll runs in with a cane but suffers a similar fate. The Tongans leave and Cody stumbles back to help Omega up. It appears the Bullet Club is back in business with a new common enemy.
Final Thoughts: This was leaps and bounds better than the NJPW shows I reviewed a few years ago. For a four hour show, this breezed by, and there was no eye-rolling filler or fake MMA like on the other shows I covered. This event is available via VOD on New Japan World, I recommend checking this show out, Thumbs Up.
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