Preview: NJPW G1 Special In San Francisco ( 7/7/18)

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Photo: NJPW

New Japan Pro Wrestling continues the expansion towards North America with the second G1 Special In USA, this time emanating from San Francisco at the legendary Cow Palace. The G1 Climax tournament is set to get under way this Summer in NJPW with twenty of the companies top stars but first this blockbuster event will feature NJPW stars as well as talent from America, Mexico and the United Kingdom, culminating with the IWGP heavyweight Championship on the line in the main event. Jeff Cobb receives a championship match without being under contract (but he has to be heavily in talks for NJPW full-time) following such gaijin athletes from around the globe such as Zack Sabre Jr, Juice Robinson and Trent?. There will be nine matches in total on July 7 with five Championships on the line. NJPW’s popularity is expanding to a worldwide audience for fans of hard-hitting action with more story told in the ring instead of on the microphone. The Cow Palace is a great way to expand, NJPW has to be happy for the support and the audience in turn gets a stacked event with all of the veterans from Minoru Suzuki to new success stories like “Switchblade’ Jay White. Although NJPW has not yet fully sold out The Cow Palace, last year’s G1 In USA Special had an attendance of 2,370 so NJPW is going to see a rise in attendance this year.

Bullet Club (Haku, Tama Tonga, Tanga Roa, Yujiro Takahashi and Chase Owens vs. CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI, Gedo, Rocky Romero, Sho and Yoh

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Bullet Club opened the show last year with a multi-man tag team match and the same is likely here only Tama Tonga’s father Haku joins the team instead of Bad Luck Fale for a five on five tag team match. Haku may be fifty-nine years old but he is still one of the most intimidating men in the building with a legendary career behind him to teach The Guerilla’s Of Destiny. Chase Owens has been putting in great efforts in recent months, Chase will have no problem matching the speedy offense of Roppongi 3K. Rocky Romero gets to join in on the fun this time but sometimes he has a little too much fun in the ring and that will cost him against his heavy opponents. The five man team that consists of CHAOS have a lot of chemistry together with Sho and Yoh fulfilling the Junior heavyweight roles better than anyone could have expected. Bullet Club may get the victory with Haku helping to take out the interference while Guerilla Warfare signals for the bell.

Prediction: Bullet Club wins.

NEVER Openweight cChampionship: Hirooki Goto (c) vs Jeff Cobb

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Hawaiian Jeff Cobb is a former Olympian that throws around opponents with superhuman strength like children so it only makes sense that “Mr Athletic” challenges for the smash-mouth Championship in NJPW after a couple tours and impressing in the World Tag League tournament last year. The NEVER Openweight Championship has a history of showcasing the most brutal matches like Tomohiro Ishii vs Katsuyori Shibata and this will be another hotly contested match that should get Jeff Cobb more regular NJPW bookings. Cobb could have easily been chosen to compete in this year’s G1 Climax tournament but there are already eight Gaijin competitors in this year’s annual tournament and Cobb will earn his spot with the heavyweights on the roster. As long as Goto has a counter for Cobb’s many different suplexes and use his stamina to endure the punishment like Goto has in the past against the biggest in the company. It will be experience against strength, Hirooki Goto just traded the NEVER Openweight championship with Michael Elgin so it won’t be in the cards for Goto to lose the title so soon but Cobb will have his day in the spotlight in NJPW soon.

Prediction: Hirooki Goto retains the NEVER Openweight Championship.

Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA vs Bullet Club (“Hangman” Adam Page and “The Villain” Marty Scurll)

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“The Ace” of the Heavyweight division and the ace of the Junior division team up to try to one-up the Ring Of Honor Wrestling stars of Bullet Club in a big opportunity for Adam Page and Marty Scurll to defeat a legend an established former multi-time champion. “The Villain” knows how to bend the rules to his favor, with “Hangman” Page by his side, this will be more than bird wing flapping theatrics. Page is becoming a serious threat in the singles division as he enters his first ever G1 Climax tournament this Summer. KUSHIDA is always a very popular technician and he needs a boost to his career after losing the IWGP Junior heavyweight Championship to Will Ospreay so he could enter a rivalry with either Bullet Club members. Hiroshi Tanahashi is the favorite in this match and the air guitar will bring him to a High Fly Flow, Tanahashi’s career isn’t slowing down despite being the top act in NJPW for over ten years.

Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi and KUSHIDA win.

CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) vs Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr)

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“The Stone Pitbull” is on a big collision course with Minoru Suzuki, whom he only faced off a couple times in NJPW history, and CHAOS and Suzuki-Gun get caught in the mix. The power struggle at the top has a fine line because anybody can win at any time with the high level of competition, Zack Sabre Jr himself won the New Japan Cup this year so he could have an exceptional G1 Climax tournament this year as well. Tomohiro Ishii will have to wait for his Brainbuster finale to Minoru Suzuki because the team of Suzuki and Sabre have become a well-oiled machine as the Rev Pro tag team champions in the United Kingdom. Suzuki and Save have the ability to manipulate the referee to apply double-submissions on opponents so expect Toru Yano to be trapped into pretzels. Ishii and Suzuki are the main event veterans in NJPW, as Suzuki captured Tomohiro Ishii’s Rev Pro British Heavyweight championship at fifty years of age at Rev Pro Strong Style Evolved UK on July 1 in Greater Manchester. That’s got to put salt in Ishii’s wounds by being the shortest reigning Rev Pro British Heavyweight Champion in history at 86 days, “The Stone Pitbull” will be even more motivated to take Ishii’s head off and the man Ishii previously beat for the Rev Pro British Heavyweight title, Zack Sabre Jr.

Prediction: Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr win.

IWGP United States Championship: “Switchblade” Jay White (c) vs Juice Robinson

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Juice Robinson receives the biggest match of his year career to date for the now year-old IWGP United States Championship held by New Zealand’s dark and always improving Jay White. Robinson has earned a Championship match, Robinson lost to Hirooki Goto in a challenge for the NEVER Openweight championship in a very intense match at Wrestling Dontaku in April. The rise of Juice Robinson in Japan has been so fun to watch because he gives everyone a great match and goes out of his way to entertain with his flamboyant persona. The finishing stretch of this match is guaranteed to be a thriller with reversal after reversal, Juice has a match ender with Pulp Friction but White knows how to transition to from any angle. “Switchblade” Jay White has proven to be a hot commodity as IWGP United States Champion with memorable title defenses against David Finlay and “Hangman” Adam Page even if Juice deserves the celebration from all of his hard work. White will be booked strongly in this year’s G1 Climax tournament and in this match if NJPW has faith in the future with Juice Robinson as the prospect to watch in the years to come.

Prediction: “Switchblade” Jay White retains the IWGP United States Championship.

IWGP Tag Team Championships: The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) (c) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA)

Photo: NJPW

The Young Bucks just won their first set of IWGP tag team championships at Dominion in June after leaving the Junior division as seven-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team champions. This rematch comes to San Francisco and The Young Bucks will have the fans on their side along with the experience in title matches against opponents of any size. EVIL and SANADA captured the IWGP tag team championships from Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr and Lance Archer) at Wrestle Kingdom 12 in January but EVIL suffered a broken orbital bone, putting a roadblock into Los Ingobernobles De Japon’s plans in 2018. Every member of that faction has won gold this year with the exception of BUSHI, it wouldn’t be shocking if EVIL and SANADA regained the titles heading into this year’s World Tag League in December. The Young Bucks will be all over the ring to use flurries of offense to stop the hardcore offense of EVIL and the Skull End from SANADA. EVIL and SANADA may go their separate ways but they make for a unique mix of styles as a tag team and help to beef up the tag team roster in NJPW, this would be a big win for SANADA going into his match with Los Ingobernobles De Japon leader Tetsuya Naito in the G1 Climax tournament.

Prediction: The Young Bucks retain the IWGP tag team championships.

CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI)

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The question going into this match and the G1 Climax tournament in general is Kazuchika Okada lost some of his shine and confidence since losing the IWGP heavyweight champion after being the longest reigning champion in NJPW history. Okada has put on some of the best main events from any wrestling company for years now and he isn’t showing any signs of wear and tear. Okada will meet Kenny Omega again in the future but his sights are set on Tetsuya Naito again but this time in The Cow Palace. Okada and Naito have history battling for the top spot and now is the time for Naito to step ahead of that contest and a win here would show people Wrestle Kingdom 12 was just a distant memory to Naito. Naito can change what happened when he failed to win beat Okada for the IWGP heavyweight Championship after winning the G1 Climax last year with another strong performance against Okada and in this year’s G1 Climax tournament. Will Ospreay was on the roll of his career this year as IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion before Hiromu Takahashi slammed the brakes on that at Dominon so he will want to show up BUSHI. Ospreay always has BUSHI’s number and Okada always has Naito scouted but Los Ingobernobles De Japon gets the edge over CHAOS for the next long while if Naito hopes to rebound from his IWGP Intercontinental Championship loss to Chris Jericho at Dominon.

Prediction: Tetsuya Naito and BUSHI win.

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

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Dragon Lee and Hiromu Takahashi have a thrilling rivalry dating back to 2014 in CMLL when Hiomu Takahashi was on excursion to Mexico but both have traded wins since, “The Ticking Time Bomb” retained the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship last year at New Beginning In Sapporo and Dragon Lee earned this rematch at Best Of The Super Juniors 2018. What makes this feud so exciting is Dragon Lee and Takahashi’s speed, every time they face off it’s one-hundred miles an hour and then some, both know the counters and when to hit big moves at the right times. Dragon Lee defeats the current IWGP Junior heavyweight champion with the Dragon-Plex every time, it’s up to Takahashi to find a way out and hit his signature moves like the Death Valley Driver into the corner turnbuckle. This is a big match for The Cow Palace and Dragon Lee has certainly earned this title shot even if Takahashi is set for a long Championship reign. This is going to be the showstealer and a possible match of the year contender just like their previous encounters. Takahashi needs to use his extremely dangerous offense to retain against a rival that will do almost anything to take the championship from him. The best is yet to come from Hiromu Takahashi so he really needs to assert dominance without the beloved Daryl by his side.

Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi retains the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega (C) vs Cody Rhodes

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The Bullet Club/ Golden Elite story will get even more heated in this main event that has the top prize in all of NJPW on the line, Kenny Omega achieved his life-long goal of becoming the IWGP heavyweight champion against Kazuchika Okada but when he went backstage Cody refused to congratulate him even though Cody is a fellow Bullet Club member and Being The Elite cast member on YouTube. Omega went to ROH for a match with Cody at ROH Supercard Of Honor in New Orleans in April but Cody came out on top when Omega was accidentally Superkicked by The Young Bucks. It was a thirty minute contest that featured Cody’s wife Brandi being sent through a table and Omega kicking out of Cross Rhodes only to suffer a second one for the final pinfall. Omega has since reconciled with The Young Bucks and formed The Golden Elite with Kota Ibushi but Cody and Bullet Club originals Tama Tonga, Yujiro Takahashi, Bad Luck Fale and Tanga Roa are having no part of it. Tama Tonga has hinted that he will break through in this year’s G1 Climax tournament so The Bullet Club is either entering a new regime altogether or coming to an end after over five years. Cody is a consistent performer and knows how to talk the fans into the building as the old adage says judging by the success of the All In event put together by Cody and The Young Bucks. Cody also took on Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship last year at the first G1 Special In USA in a losing effort. Kenny Omega is at his peak as an in-ring performer with aerial abilities just as smooth as his strikes and Snap Dragon Suplexes. Cody is going to be in for a long night if he hopes to match Omega in a stand-up brawl and he could rely on help from Brandi Rhodes unless the same thing happens at ROH Supercard Of Honor. Kazuchika Okada couldn’t kick out of the One Winged Angel and no wrestler other than Omega’s Golden Lovers tag team partner Kota Ibushi have to date yet, Cody will go down to the three-count as well.

Prediction: Kenny Omega retains the IWGP heavyweight Championship.

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