New Japan Pro Wrestling
G1 Special in San Francisco
July 7th, 2018
Cow Palace
San Francisco, California

Watch: AXS TV (US Residents), NJPW World (Out of US; for US Residents goes up on Monday)

Meet our previewers:

John Carroll: In an odd twist of fate, John will be in California during this show but in Los Angeles (for Anime Expo!), not San Francisco. If New Japan had booked a big enough main event they probably would have strongly considered taking a flight up the west coast to see this show live, but uh, Kenny-Cody sure ain’t it. Follow them on Twitter @toshanshuinla to keep up with all their weeb adventures at the largest anime convention in the US, and check out the newest Wrestling Omakase where we give out awards halfway through the year!

Case Lowe: (@_InYourCase): Voices of Wrestling’s official young boy. Now a legal adult and soon to be a sophomore in college. Current duties include cooking meals for the other writers, mopping the floor and reviewing Dragon Gate major events and the occasional New Japan or US indie show.

Joel Abraham: Joel (@joeljabraham) is the co-host of the Super J-Cast (@thesuperjcast) and would like to inform you all that it’s coming home.

CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI, SHO, YOH, Rocky Romero & Gedo) vs. BULLET CLUB (King Haku, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens)

John Carroll: This is a nice wacky little opener, a 10-man tag featuring KING HAKU of all people on the BULLET CLUB side. I like it that they book someone weird who doesn’t show up in New Japan much on pretty much all of these shows- last time it was SoCal Uncensored for Long Beach, and before that it was Billy Gunn, though he was in way too prominent of a spot opposite Tanahashi for sure. There’s multiple dudes on both teams more than capable of eating a pin here, but I think it probably makes sense to give the BC a win in the opener given that about 2/3rds of the crowd will be wearing their shirts and all. Prediction: BULLET CLUB

Case Lowe: There is a lot of talent in this match, and then there’s Yujiro. With this being a show in the US, I expect Gedo to eat a pin as the Bullet Club continues their worldwide run of domination. I am so excited that King Haku is back in the fold, and I hope that he and Rocky Romero shoot on each other for the whole match. In fact, I would be much happier if he and Rocky Romero went one-on-one in shoot fight. We don’t have that, however, we have a 10-man tag that should be lots of fun. I’m hoping Chase Owens can shine. Whether he does or not, I expect the Bullet Club to win. Prediction: BULLET CLUB

Joel Abraham: My first time seeing Haku was his surprise entrance in the 2001 Royal Rumble. I was immediately mesmerised by his wonderful fluffy hair and became a big fan, and still am to this day. No doubt they work something fun into this match with him and Gedo or Rocky. I figure this match will be worked towards heating up YOSHI-HASHI and/or Tama Tonga for the G1, so expect one of those guys to pick up the win. My money’s on Tama. Prediction: BULLET CLUB

Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano vs. Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.

John Carroll: Fresh off beating him for the British title in RevPro this past weekend, Suzuki will look to continue his feud with Ishii here. It was a huge weekend for Suzukigun as Suzuki & Sabre also retained their British tag titles and Zack pinned Okada clean in the middle with a school boy in their singles match. Hey, remember when people who had no idea what they were talking about said Zack’s push to the New Japan Cup win meant nothing since he lost to Okada in his title shot and was supposedly “right back where he was”? Good call guys, nailed it as always. Stick to analyzing braindead main roster WWE. Anyway, I see no reason not to continue Suzukigun’s cross-continental momentum with another win here. Prediction: Suzuki & ZSJ

Case Lowe: There are some weird stakes in this undercard and seemingly unassuming tag. Ishii and Yano have teamed a ton this year, and they’ve only lost two matches together – one to Killer Elite Squad in March, and the other last month at Dominion against this very same team. Suzuki & Sabre are currently the Revolution Pro Tag Team Champions, and Suzuki recently dethroned Ishii as RevPro Heavyweight Champion, adding more fuel to their fiery feud. I hope Yano doesn’t drag this down too much, because this undercard tag features three of the best wrestlers on the planet. I hope Ishii can pick up some momentum and pin his new foe, Minoru Suzuki. Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Tano

Joel Abraham: An interesting caveat here is that Yano and Ishii will be facing each other for their first G1 match on July 15th. Will this play into the result here, with the team possibly breaking down? Probably not, but it would be cool if it did. I like both these guys individually but there is a complete absence of tag-team chemistry – no special tag moves, no funny bits with them playing off each other. I’m really sick of seeing it. No doubt the crowd will eat up all of Yano schtick at any rate. Suzukigun are on an absolute tear and should really win this. Prediction: Suzuki & ZSJ

Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA vs. Hangman Page & Marty Scurll

John Carroll: Tanahashi & KUSHIDA are both downcycling here from their normal far more prominent spots, though in Tana’s case it’s very temporary as he’ll be a major focus of the G1 tournament, culminating in main eventing the Nippon Budokan with eternal rival Okada. This is I guess a blow off of the little mini-feud Tana and Scurll have been having, as Scurll attacked him prior to Dominion to set up that six-man tag that the BULLET CLUB won. While it’s possible Page pins KUSHIDA to give him some momentum heading into his own first ever G1 Climax, I think Tanahashi pinning Scurll is probably the safer bet. Prediction: Tanahashi & KUSHIDA

Case Lowe: This is the only match on the show that I’m not super into. Scurll doesn’t do it for me when he’s not wrestling Will Ospreay, and Tanahashi doesn’t have a track record for giving it all he’s got (or anywhere close to that) on these US shows. With the G1 coming up, I hope they let KUSHIDA and Scurll have the spotlight. Perhaps Hangman will step up to the plate and use this match as a primer for what he can bring to the G1. This looks like it will be the weakest match on the show, and the result really does not matter. Tanahashi and KUSHIDA are so much higher on the pecking order that I do expect them to get the win. Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA

Joel Abraham: As mentioned earlier, I think the focus will be on the G1 boys. As John and Case have prognosticated, what better way to establish Page as a threat in his debut G1 than a big win here? There’s also a case to be made for Tanahashi building up his own G1 momentum, as my prediction is he wins A Block, so I simply cannot decide. I say Page needs it more, particularly coming off the back of a defeat to Punishment Martinez, so he pins KUSHIDA to continue a glorious night for Bullet Club. Prediction: Page & Scurll

NEVER Openweight Championship
Hirooki Goto © vs. Jeff Cobb

John Carroll: Thank god Hirooki Goto won back the NEVER title so quick, albeit in an incredibly awful 30+ minute slog of a match. The one good thing to come out of Goto vs. Garbage was the post-match challenge of Jeff Cobb, setting up a first time ever singles match that I’m pretty pumped for. Cobb’s straight-ahead style should mesh well with Goto’s, and the fact that they’ll probably only go in the 15-minute range (maybe 20 at the absolute maximum) will likely help their cause here as well. I don’t see any way that Cobb comes out with the win here, but hey, stranger things have happened I guess. Prediction: Hirooki Goto

Case Lowe: For years I heard about how Jeff Cobb was tearing up the West Coast indies. He then showed up in Lucha Underground and I waited for him to be great. He was ushered into EVOLVE and I waited for him to dominate the FloSlam era. He’s been in AAW and PWG and Revolution Pro and he’s always been fine, but he’s never the Jeff Cobb that I am expecting or that I have heard so much about. A singles match for the NEVER Openweight Championship on a New Japan show with a decent amount of build is the prime opportunity for Jeff Cobb to deliver a truly great match. There’s no chance of him winning, but there is a chance of him winning me over. Prediction: Hirooki Goto

Joel Abraham: This will be a fascinating clash of styles, with Goto’s hard-hitting strong style against Cobb’s power wrestling. I expect to see Goto be taken to an #actuallygood Suplex City before rallying back to get the win. Cobb obviously isn’t winning as he isn’t a full-time NJPW guy… YET. He seems keen to get his foot in the door with NJPW, so this is his big chance to make an impression and I’m certain he’ll deliver. Goto does have a habit of shitting the bed from time to time, if his opponent can’t be bothered (Suzuki feud of 2017) or if the match is laid out badly (vs. EVIL at New Beginning) but against a motivated Jeff Cobb, my money says they knock it out of the park. Prediction: Hirooki Goto

IWGP Tag Team Championship
The Young Bucks © vs. EVIL & SANADA

John Carroll: This is obviously a rematch from Dominion, where the Bucks won their first ever IWGP heavyweight tag titles from EVIL & SANADA. The LIJ duo deserve a ton of credit for turning around a tag team division that was maybe the worst in all of wrestling over the past few years, but now it kind of feels like it’s the Bucks’ time to get a run in with these belts. Now that I said that, watch them lose the belts right back to them here. Either way, there’s really no reason why this match can’t be just as good as the Dominion one, unless of course the Bucks being on US soil means they decide to act more like Silly ROH Bucks than Serious NJPW Bucks. Let’s hope not. Prediction: Young Bucks

Case Lowe: The Young Bucks are having their best year yet, and that is truly incredible considering the string of matches they’ve had since 2012. Every year, they somehow get better and better, and now they have the added wrinkle of moving up to the heavyweight division. Their advance in weight classes was drastically underplayed. They dominated the junior division for four years, and they picked up right where they left off in June by defeating EVIL & SANADA for the big boy tag titles. There are so many great matches on this show, but this might be the match I’m most looking forward to. An outstanding performance here, and realistically, I think you at least have to think about putting both Matt & Nick Jackson in the conversation for Most Outstanding Wrestler(s). Prediction: Young Bucks

Joel Abraham: I totally agree with Case – The Bucks are having an outstanding 2018 and I expect them to add to it here. They’re coming off the back of a defeat in an excellent match against The Briscoes in ROH, so I expect them to bounce back and pick up a victory here to cement their big win at Dominion. 50/50 booking doesn’t help anybody, and neither EVIL nor SANADA need to be carrying around a superfluous tag belt throughout the G1. The Bucks win big here, building on the great work of the LIJ duo to elevate these once-ailing titles to new heights. Prediction: Young Bucks

Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay vs. Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI

John Carroll: Okada is in full post-breakup mode with the IWGP Heavyweight Title, as this past weekend in the UK he debuted new red pants that removed any traces of gold (it reminds him too much of his ex!) and maybe even a new theme song?! There’s conflicting reports on that from Twitter, with some people saying it was just the Wrestle Kingdom long intro version of his normal theme, but I guess we’ll find out either way at this G1 Special show. This is kind of a weird match here, as Okada and Naito haven’t really had much interaction since the Tokyo Dome and won’t have much interaction after this either, as they’ll be in separate blocks for the G1 yet again (they haven’t been in the same block since 2014, which saw Naito defeat him by the way). So it’s kind of just a quick little pitstop on their way to their big G1 matches, and both of them have one to look forward to on their respective first nights (Okada with stablemate Jay White, and Naito with the IWGP Champion Kenny Omega in a match that’s been built up far better than this show’s main event, but we’ll get to that). BUSHI screams “pin me” here, although given Okada’s recent slide (as mentioned earlier, he followed up his IWGP title loss to Omega by getting pinned clean by ZSJ in the UK!) I think it’s more likely that Ospreay is the one to do it. Prediction: Okada & Ospreay

Case Lowe: How cool would a short Okada & Ospreay tag team championship run be? That’s what I want. Okada can get fully back in the swing of things after teaming with his protegee. I know we aren’t getting that, but it is fun to dream. What we are getting is a tag match that could deliver in a big way if we’re lucky. Okada has been changing right before our eyes, as he enters the next stage in an already HOF-level career. He is without gold around his waist for the first time in two years, and because of that, he has stripped himself of all gold. He wears red now, and he sees red. He’s out for blood, whether it be Tetsuya Naito, Kenny Omega, or anyone else that wants to step in his way on his quest to reclaiming the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Very excited for this, even if BUSHI taking the fall is a near guarantee. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay

Joel Abraham: Okada pinning BUSHI to bounce back from his defeat to ZSJ seems like the obvious choice, but to me, the more compelling storyline is Okada’s post-championship depression. It would certainly raise a few eyebrows if he were to eat a Destino here and lose to his old rival Naito, with the story of his previous title challengers lining up to exact their revenge and leapfrog him in the pecking order, culminating in a defeat to Tanahashi, the man he thought he’d left firmly in the rear-view mirror. Naito would look like a serious threat heading into his big opening G1 match against Kenny Omega. Prediction: Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
Hiromu Takahashi © vs. Dragon Lee

John Carroll: To be quite honest with you this is the only match on the entire card that really makes me regret that I won’t be in the building. When they met in the BOSJ this year in Osaka I really felt that they were holding back a little bit compared to some of their previous matches, and now it kind of becomes more obvious why: they were keeping something in the holster for a quick turnaround into a title rematch. I fully expect these two to completely tear it down and have an outstanding match. Given the roll that Hiromu has been on this year and the chemistry these two have, the floor here feels like ****½, and the ceiling is, like, Match of the Year. If anything hurts it maybe it’s that a Dragon Lee win feels very unlikely, but that’s quibbling. Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi

Case Lowe: As John said, the floor on this match feels like ****½. How is that possible? This will be their fifth match in New Japan, but their first New Japan match to take place stateside (second overall, as they wrestled in ROH in 2016). I thought their BOSJ match ruled, much like all of their prior matches. There are a few uncertainties on this card, but I have no doubt that this will deliver. This could be a thumbs in the middle show, but this match is nearly guaranteed to be two thumbs up. This match should kick off Hiromu’s junior reign with a bang. Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi

Joel Abraham: All I can do is echo the sentiments of John and Case – this match will rule, and Hiromu’s winning. An interesting factor is the spectre of El Desperado in this little love triangle, who challenged Dragon Lee to a mask v mask match. He’s not going to play into this match, but it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward, with me holding out hope for the return of Kyosuke Mikami to challenge Hiromu somewhere down the line. So, Hiromu beats Dragon Lee here, Dragon Lee beats El Desperado and unmasks him, then Mikami beats Hiromu for the title. Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi

IWGP US Heavyweight Championship
Jay White © vs. Juice Robinson

John Carroll: I feel for these two guys having to follow what’s almost certain to be an amazing junior title match, but at least we already know Jay White can win a quiet American crowd over. Having been in the building for Strong Style Evolved, I can tell you firsthand that the fans treated White-Page like the intermission they didn’t have (this is why I’m always a fan of intermissions, by the way, because if you don’t have one the fans will just use one of your matches for it anyway). But the two of them managed to win the crowd over after they had mostly finished their bathroom expeditions, and by the end of it had them going crazy. Even following Hiromu-Lee, I don’t think they’ll have quite as much difficulty winning the fans over here, just because unlike last time White-Robinson has gotten a lot of build on proper New Japan shows. Juice has been cutting some pretty awesome promos and the whole Jay White hand-breaking angle has really helped flesh out his heel character, so this has already been an awesome feud for both guys. Now they just need to cap it off with a great match, and I think they’re both more than capable. As far as who’s winning, I think most people will probably pick Juice here and I totally get that, but let me tell you why I’m picking Jay: 1) I think it helps his storyline in CHAOS immensely if he still has a title, especially going into White-Okada to open the G1 & 2) While I get that people might say Juice is due after so many missed title opportunities, this is not a promotion that is afraid to tell very long term stories. Juice’s “always the bridesmaid” story is compelling, and I see no reason why it has to end here. Look at it this way: Juice is going to have what at the end of the day is “just” a midcard title win, but the pop could be enormous because of this whole storyline. Maybe Juice’s win will be later this year against Jay for this very belt at a rumored next US show at the end of September, who knows? No reason why you can’t go back to this later. Prediction: Jay White

Case Lowe: I really want to be excited about this match. I was all in on Jay White when he came back from excursion and I was excited at the idea of Jay White being the shit-stirrer in CHAOS, but Jay White’s reign as IWGP Heavyweight United States Champion has been a bore. I’m not into the reign, as I almost feel like his character doesn’t need a title, but I also don’t know if Juice Robinson is ready for this title. I wish they had done this match in April at Korakuen Hall and built to Finlay vs. White at this show. Hopefully Juice can get the crowd behind him and the crowd can lift this match up a notch, but I have a bad feeling that this will fall on its face, similar to what White and Hangman did at Strong Style Evolved in March. I’m hoping for a good match, and I’m certain that White will retain. Prediction: Jay White

Joel Abraham: I think this will be great. The character work and promos from both guys on the Kizuna Road tour has been excellent, with an initially-bullish Juice losing himself to doubt and despair due to Switchblade’s mind games. Juice’s chase for a NJPW title has been built up superbly, with each near-loss making me more desperate to see him finally win some gold. It seems like a good time for it to happen, but there are good arguments for either outcome. I’ll look at it from a fresh perspective: what future title defences could be set up? The trend seems to be for foreign wrestlers to fight over the US title, with the sole exception of one anemic YOSHI-HASHI challenge last year. So, Jay White could lose in the G1 to set up future challenges from Elgin and/or Fale, and Juice could lose to and be challenged by Tama and/or ZSJ. I still have no idea. I’ll say Jay White, because him still holding NJPW gold makes his CHAOS leadership story more compelling. Prediction: Jay White

IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kenny Omega © vs. Cody

John Carroll: I’m going to be frank with you here folks: this is the least I’ve been looking forward to an IWGP Heavyweight Title match in quite a long time. Without getting back into stuff that’s been endlessly debated on Twitter for weeks now, the most charitable thing you can say about the start of Kenny’s reign is that it’s been filled with controversy. This title match against Cody feels lost in the shuffle of a million different things going on right now, including of course the war of words between Kenny and his G1 opening match opponent Tetsuya Naito. Though the booking of this match is logical enough, given that Cody holds a singles victory over Omega from the ROH Mania weekend show earlier this year, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel like a foregone conclusion that Kenny is winning here. The fact that Kenny himself has spent far more time talking about Naito and the Japanese locker room in general than he has spent talking about Cody certainly did not help the general feeling of “well, here’s a little pitstop we have to get through before we get to the stuff that’s actually interesting” that clings to this match. It’s not a good feeling for your main event to have on a show that still needs to sell tickets, quite frankly. So I guess the only remaining question here is: can they have a better match than the ROH match, which to me at least felt like a long and boring storyline-filled slog? I think so, yeah, if only because they’ll likely have much more of a straight up wrestling match here, especially for the IWGP Heavyweight title. But I have to be quite honest with you, after I was super invested in this BULLET CLUB split storyline at the start of the year, it really does feel like it’s wheezing to an anti-climax (no pun intended). The rest of the group has already long since decided to put their problems behind them, which kind of makes what’s left here—a personal issue between Kenny and Cody—just look like something that will probably end here and leave us right back at the same status quo as always, except now the ELITE shirts are gold and Ibushi has one too. Whoopie. But I guess you can’t kill that golden BC goose, I get it. It’s just massively boring, and it leaves me right back with the same feeling I had toward the BC at the start of the year, and the same feeling I have about this match too for that matter: meh. Prediction: Kenny Omega

Case Lowe: I’m not feeling this one, but I’ll be fair and give it a shot. Last summer, I was dreading Cody vs. Kazuchika Okada, and while I was probably lower than most on that match, I recognize that it was great and clearly Cody’s best performance prior to his Wrestle Kingdom match vs. Ibushi earlier this year. There is no chance that Cody wins here, which is going to really hurt the match. Last year, rumors of Cody dethroning Okada kept getting louder and louder, to a point that I was buying every near fall in the match. I can’t say that I will be doing the same for this bout. As dumb as this sounds, I just hope they uphold the honor of IWGP Heavyweight Championship matches with this match. I know you can smell an aura of Doritos and the stench of my mother’s basement after reading a sentence like that, but I don’t want a Crockett main event with run-ins and hooplah. I pray Cody has his working boots on, because I want him to be able to keep up with Omega before eating an inevitable One Winged Angel. Prediction: Kenny Omega

Joel Abraham: Cody is an incredibly useful person for Gedo to have at his disposal, because he’s a big enough name and competent enough worker to use as a title challenger for the US shows without blowing a big match that would move tickets in Japan. But this match interests me none. From recent interviews, it appears that Gedo pulled the plug on the Golden Lovers storyline early due to him wanting to sell out Dominion, which makes me think that the Bullet Club civil war storyline was also affected. It started off very hot, but has completely run out of steam and will hopefully end with this blow-off match. I don’t think doing the traditional 30+ minute traditional NJPW-style main event really does Cody any favours. His blueprint for success should be the Ibushi contest at Wrestle Kingdom, a great 15-minute match that had a good balance of in-ring action and Cody’s character work. Unfortunately, I smell an overwrought, mawkish, dog’s dinner here. Cody simply cannot keep up with a guy like Kenny Omega for that long, so this will probably be like their ROH match, filled with big spots and heavy-handed callbacks and STORIEZ and all the other stuff that made the Gargano v Ciampa matches so interminable. Prediction: Kenny Omega