In July 2018, Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling made an absolutely historic announcement. For the first time since 1960 and the first time since the new venue opened in 1968, a pro wrestling company with initials other than WWE, would be running the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
While they didn’t quite move at All In‘s pace, tickets to the G1 Supercard sold out 19 minutes after they were made available to the public. Madison Square Garden seats 18,500 for wrestling and ROH COO Joe Koff noted in the initial announcement of the G1 Supercard, that the venue was being set up to accommodate 15,000 fans, a record-breaking number. Of course, ROH/NJPW aren’t independent companies in the traditional sense of the word, but that said, this show will become the highest attended non-WWE show in at least several decades.
It’s an incredible opportunity and one ROH and NJPW are not taking lightly. From top to bottom, the card is stacked with intriguing and highly anticipated matches.
As a co-branded card, we at Last Word on Pro Wrestling decided to tag team this preview with Dan Niles, our NJPW expert, handling New Japan’s matches and Marilee Gallagher, covering Ring of Honor. Together, they offered up their perspectives on the storylines and characters who will be involved as part of Saturday’s historic card.
Kagetsu, Jenny Rose & Hazuki vs. Hana Kimura, Stella Grey & Sumie Sakai
Oedo Tai’s Kagetsu and Hazuki join forces with Jenny Rose to combat Hana Kimura, Sakai, and Grey. The Oedo Tai duo have an advantage over everyone in the match as they are used to teaming together in Stardom. Not only is there this familiarity but Kagetsu and Hazuki are successful singles competitors in their own right as Kagetsu is the World Of Stardom champion and Hazuki is the High Speed Champion. Hana Kimura is a former member of Oedo Tai, her mother Kyoko was actually the founder, but she turned on the group in October of last year believing they had gone soft under Kagetsu. Ever since then Kimura has led ragtag bunches of teams known as the Multinational Army so she is used to dealing with situations like this where her partners are new to her. The rivalry between Kagetsu and Kimura is renewed here in one of wrestling’s most historic venues as they lead their troops into battle.
Champion vs. Champion: ROH Television Champion Jeff Cobb vs. NEVER Openweight Champion Will Ospreay
Ring of Honor Perspective: In January of this year, Will Ospreay dropped the “Aerial” from his name and simply became the Assassin, winning the IWGP NEVER Openweight Championship and joining the ranks of the heavyweight division. In the ensuing months, Ospreay has faced his challenge, but he hasn’t faced anyone quite like ROH’s Television Champion. Jeff Cobb is undefeated in singles action ever since he joined ROH and won the TV title in his first match with the company. Ospreay and Cobb have never met in singles action in their careers though they have met twice prior in tags, with Ospreay winning both matches. But facing Cobb one-on-one without CHAOS in his corner could certainly make the difference. Cobb is putting an undefeated streak on the line here and while Ospreay has no doubt proven he belongs in the heavyweight division, expect Cobb to knock him down a peg and take him on a nice Tour of the Islands, which I hear are lovely this time of year.
New Japan Pro Wrestling Perspective: Will Ospreay is in the big leagues now. Entering the heavyweight division is one thing but facing Jeff Cobb one-on-one is another. It’s also a way for Ospreay to show that he can and will beat anyone that steps in front of him, no matter the size as Ospreay looks to enter his very first G1 Climax tournament this Summer. This being a champion against champion match makes this even more interesting. Jeff Cobb hasn’t lost a big singles match since winning the ROH TV championship. Ospreay has previously lifted up Cobb for the Stormbreaker before in tag team action and Ospreay is even more aggressive lately than the big Hawaiian from ROH.
Dalton Castle vs. RUSH
ROH Perspective: Following the 17th Anniversary show, Dalton Castle laid out the challenge and RUSH, while dismissive at first, accepted, setting this first-time ever match for the G1 Supercard. Since joining the company in December 2018, the 30-year-old RUSH, who has been lauded as one of Mexico’s best wrestlers, rising to fame in Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre, where he is a five-time champion and one of the founding members of Los Ingobernables, is undefeated in singles action in ROH and he’s trending upward. Meanwhile, the 33-year-old Castle, a former ROH champion, is trending downward. After losing his title rematch, Castle lost another match to Kenny King and another to Ospreay. In fact, Castle is yet to win a singles match in 2019 and his frustration has been visible as a result. A win against the undefeated RUSH would be huge.
Women of Honor World Championship: Mayu Iwatani (c) vs. Kelly Klein
ROH Perspective: When Women of Honor turned to its alliance with World Wonder Ring Stardom, a new champion was crowned 26-year-old standout Mayu Iwatani. As champion, Iwatani has spent the last several months fighting off previous champion, Kelly Klein. The two met in the tournament to crowd the inaugural WOH Champion with Klein emerging victorious. At Bound by Honor, Iwatani got her measure of revenge. With another win at 17th Anniversary, Iwatani and Klein both have identical 2-1 records against the other, with the G1 Supercard set to be the tiebreaker.
For those who don’t know, Iwatani is an eight-year pro known primarily for her time in Stardom, where she is a former 4x Artist of Stardom Champion, 2x Wonder of Stardom Champion, 2x Goddesses of Stardom Champion, 1x High Speed Champion and 1x World of Stardom Champion. She’s the heart and soul of Stardom, the Icon, and she’ll be taking on ROH’s Gatekeeper. While Klein did not take part in the first ever ROH women’s match, she was a regular with the company when it launched the WOH brand in 2015 and has been an integral part in its rise. Win or lose, Klein will continue to play a huge role in where this division ultimately goes.
Bully Ray NYC Street Fight Open Challenge
ROH Perspective: Ever since Bully Ray stopped being Joe Koff‘s enforcer and instead set out to decimate and demoralize, the WWE Hall of Famer has been a scourge on the company. So when Ray issued his challenge, it came as no surprise that he claimed no one in ROH or NJPW was worthy enough to face him at the mecca of MSG. So he issued a real open challenge, to anyone in any company. Or perhaps, anyone not in a company currently, as it was not so subtlety teased that Ray was calling out someone very specific, saying, “You know exactly who I’m talking about. I know you’re watching, and I know that it’s eating you alive that I can get the better of you. I’ll see you in the Garden … punk.”
Now, of course, the allusion to CM Punk aside, this seems like a genuinely open challenge that almost anyone could really answer. The options feel endless and given all of the big name performers already in town for the weekend, Ray could find himself wishing he never laid down the challenge in the first place. Flip Gordon seemed a natural choice but Gordon has re-injured his knee and could be out another four to six months. So at this point, there’s really no clear name that jumps off the page. Austin Aries could be an option as could perhaps Jimmy Jacobs, though fans no doubt would prefer a certain other ex-ROH star…
NJPW Perspective: Minoru Suzuki should be the choice here and the arena will surely go wild just at the first note of Suzuki’s theme song. NJPW has announced that talent for this event but that doesn’t mean a couple surprises can’t be in store and Suzuki throwing down with Bully Ray would be an unforgettable one. Bully Ray may have the chain to protect him but perhaps Suzuki–Gun is also there to assist Suzuki, this could set up an eventual NJPW vs ROH grudge match on US soil.
UPDATE 4/1: At the Road to the G1 Supercard event in Baltimore, IWGP United States Champion Juice Robinson and leader of Lifeblood, accepted Ray’s challenge.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Taiji Ishimori (c) vs. Bandido vs. Dragon Lee
ROH Perspective: If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s to not sleep on the NJPW Junior Division. NJPW’s juniors have stolen the show time and again and that could very well be the case at the G1 Supercard. Taiji Ishimori, the elder statesmen of the group, enters as champion, where he has several successful defenses under his belt. Now, he’ll face a huge threat in not one, but two of wrestling’s hottest young prospects in a pair of 23-year-old wunderkinds. First is Dragon Lee, who represents CMLL,where he is the current World Welterweight Champion. Lee has been working with NJPW since 2016, where he’s received a handful of IWGP Junior title shots, all against Hiromu Takahashi. ROH’s representative is Bandido, who has lost just one match in his ROH career. As a member of Lifeblood, he’s been an exciting addition to the roster, which should come as no surprise given how hot a free agent he was. ROH doesn’t have a junior division so this is Bandido’s first real shot to get gold around his waist with the company.
NJPW Perspective: Taiji Ishimori is set for the biggest test of his reign as the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion with this match and that’s saying a lot considering Ishimori defeated Jushin “Thunder” Liger in a title defense at the NJPW 47th Anniversary. Bandido is surely going to earn a spot in the NJPW Best Of The Super Juniors tournament after this Three-Way. Bandido made his way to America from Mexico and in less than two years Bandido has been signed to ROH. The usual reserved NJPW crowd will be replaced by an extremely rowdy USA crowd for the excitement in this title match. Dragon Lee broke former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Hiromu Takahashi’s, neck last July at the G1 In USA event so perhaps Hiromu Takahashi makes his return and comes out to greet Dragon Lee after his loss to Taiji Ishimori.
Title vs Title: ROH World Tag Team Champions Villain Enterprises (PCO & Brody King) vs. IWGP Tag Team Champions Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) vs. The Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe)
ROH Perspective: Originally slated as a challenge by ROH World Tag Team Champions, the Briscoes, to IWGP Tag Team Champions, Guerrillas of Destiny, this match got flipped on its head when Villain Enterprises defeated the Briscoes to become the new ROH tag champions. That meant they were in the match but given the challenge was originally laid out by the Briscoes, they were still in the match too. Then, because Los Ingobernables were still owed a rematch for the IWGP titles and they chose to take it at the G1 Supercard, they were in the match too. Got all that? So now, this has turned into a four-team four corner survival match with two titles on the line. This match is a bit of a cluster and features four teams who need no introduction so I’ll just leave you with what ROH shared in their preview of the match: “Between them, the four teams have won a combined 19 ROH World and IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles. The Briscoes, who are 10-time ROH World Tag Team Champions and one-time IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, are one of only four teams to have held both titles, but no team has ever held both simultaneously. That will change at G1 Supercard, as history will be made.”
NJPW Perspective: Besides the Ladder War on this card, this is going to be the most outrageous and wild match at the event and that has a lot to do with the talent involved not just the Four-Way element. PCO endures some of the most excruciating punishment of almost any performer today and he’s 50 years old. Expect to see a Jay Driller on the apron or Guerrilla Warfare through a table with all of the brawling going on, with SANADA being the one man out of place. The New Japan Cup tournament almost had another first-time winner but it would be Kazuchika Okada‘s tournament to win. SANADA has to be feeling bitter about not being in the singles ranks for this event after that performance. NJPW may have the edge in the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match but this one appears to side with the new ROH tag team champions, Brody King and PCO.
RevPro British Heavyweight Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
NJPW Perspective: Zack Sabre Jr came so close to winning his second New Japan Cup tournament in a row but that was stopped by “The Ace” in the Semi-Finals. Hiroshi Tanahashi won that match with a bridging victory roll, using Sabre’s own offense against him. The pendulum has shifted completely between these two competitors, Sabre was the one that entered NJPW just a couple short years ago and submitted Tanahashi in the middle of the ring. Tanahashi has adopted a much bigger ground game in his older years and The High Fly Flow seems to be a thing of the past. If that is the final blow Tanahashi has in mind for a surprise, it may not be the best choice of action considering Sabre could catch that in mid-air for a grueling submission victory.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Kota Ibushi
NJPW Perspective: Finally “The Golden Star” and “The Ungovernable” meet at a major event with a championship on the line. These NJPW crowd favorites have previously stolen the show at the G1 Climax tournament and the New Japan Cup, and they have a storied history since they battled for the NEVER Openweight Championship many years ago. The dangerous offense is always shocking to watch like the Piledriver sequences in the past, it’s hard to say who can take more damage and come back for more. Tetsuya Naito hasn’t done very much with the IWGP Intercontinental Championship since winning it from Chris Jericho at Wrestle Kingdom 13, it’s not so much to do with complacency as it is wanting something more. Kota Ibushi will strike harder and become the new IWGP Intercontinental Champion after signing a contract with NJPW.
ROH World Championship: Jay Lethal (c) vs. “The Villain” Marty Scurll vs. Matt Taven
ROH Perspective: The biggest ROH match on the card is one that’s been building for almost an entire year as it all goes back to June 2018 when Jay Lethal defeated Cody, Dalton Castle and Matt Taven to win the ROH World Championship. In the ensuing 10 months, Lethal has been the standard bearer, continuing to make his mark as one of the company’s greatest ever performers. Earlier this year, Lethal passed Samoa Joe for most combined days as champion, though his reign hasn’t been without controversy, well at least that’s how Taven sees it. Ever since believing himself to have been cheated out of winning the world title, Taven has claimed himself as the real champion and even carried around a belt to support his claim. That is until Lethal took a hammer to it prior to Taven getting a world title shot at 17th Anniversary that ended in a 60 minute time limit draw. With both men exhausted, enter Marty Scurll, who has been a huge beneficiary ever since the Elite departed from ROH. Now the head of his own stable, Scurll declared his intent to cash in his Survival of the Fittest opportunity to make Taven and Lethal’s rematch a triple threat. But Lethal upped the ante and channeled the famous Shawn Michaels/Razor Ramon ladder match from MSG at WrestleMania X to suggest hanging the title above the ring. It’s hard to say who a ladder match favors given none of the three competitors have ever been in one in an ROH ring. Their first “ladder war” will be one for the ages.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship: “Switchblade” Jay White (c) vs. Kazuchika Okada
NJPW Perspective: This is where Jay White either shuts up his critics or succumbs to the pressure. it’s very fitting that “The Rainmaker” won the New Japan Cup because Kazuchika Okada being in this main event truly makes this a money match more than another winner would have been. The former CHAOS members have met twice previously with White winning both of those matches, at the G1 Climax 28 tournament and Wrestle Kingdom 13 in a shocking fourteen minutes. “Switchblade” has a lot to prove as the champion here, if White were to retain it would leave both the live USA audience and the home Japanese fans stunned. The Blade Runner is a move that has been highly protected and that’s no coincidence as White is replacing Kenny Omega as the top Gaijin star who used the One Winged Angel to win every big main event without fail. Okada is not going to steam roll White but we will have a new IWGP Heavyweight Champion after this weekend. White has a huge future in NJPW and a short title reign will only make him hungrier for more as we head towards the Summer G1 Climax 29 tournament. It’s too much, too early for White and thus the champion will get too cocky and suffer The Rainmaker.
Honor Rumble Confirmed Participants
- Brian Milonas
- Beer City Bruiser
- Kenny King
- PJ Black
- Jushin Thunder Liger