In what is now an annual tradition, New Japan will be visiting American soil once again just before the G1 Climax, with a special PPV that airs live on AXS TV and then on-demand on NJPWWorld.com. The company really stacked their championship fields with gaijin to try and capitalize on the western audience, and with this show taking place at the Cow Palace in San Francisco this will be the largest American event in NJPW history. Stagnant ticket sales initially stoked fears that the company had tried to expand too fast, but from what I understand the event is mostly sold out now. Going from a 2300-seat venue last year to a 5000-seater this past March to 10,000 now was certainly ambitious but it looks like they'll be just fine.
Anyway this show is fairly stacked, with five big title matches and some showcase tags. Let's get to it...
10-Man Tag: Yoshi-Hashi/Gedo/Roppongi 3K vs. Chase Owens/King Haku/Yujiro Takahashi/Guerrillas of Destiny
Oh look at this, father and son teaming together. What a strange turn of events. Should be a fun little opening match. I'm not expecting it to go very long but it'll be a showcase for RPG3K (who are still chasing the Jr. Tag belts).
Justin: I have a feeling Haku will be super over, so they may give Bullet Club the win here.
Landon: Do we know if Haku is still the linear WCW Hardcore Champion? If not him, who is? Bullet Club
Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano vs. Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.
It's a rematch from Dominion. This'll be great whenever Ishii is in the ring and silly whenever Yano is. Ishii vs. Suzuki is still being built as a blood feud and I imagine we'll get to see that at either Destruction or King of Pro-Wrestling, or both.
Justin: Suzuki-Gun pins Yano again
Landon: MORE. LANDON WANT MORE ISHII SUZUKI. Yano Pins Sabre
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kushida vs. Hangman Page & Marty Scurll
Shocking to see Tana in such a low undercard spot, but I guess he's got less name recognition than most of the western wrestlers. This should be another fun tag match. Kushida and Scurll will have excellent exchanges I'm sure.
Justin: Tana & Kushida get the win
Landon: Fucking weird, but Team WMB wins here
NEVER Openweight Championship: Hirooki Goto vs. Jeff Cobb
I'm new to the Jeff Cobb thing but I've heard he's awesome. So I'm looking forward to this slugfest. If Cobb has a good showing here I'm sure we'll see more of him in NJPW going forward. This'll just be a brutal fight.
Justin: Goto retains
Landon: Goto Retains
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: The Young Bucks vs. Evil & Sanada
This match at Dominion was awesome but I think the rematch will be even better. The Bucks come into this as huge crossover stars in front of an American audience, so the crowd reaction should be nuclear. It's too soon to take the belts off Matt & Nick, plus Evil and Sanada have the G1 coming up. Plus the US crowd would be PISSED if the Bucks lose.
Justin: Bucks retain
Landon: Young Bucks
Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay vs. Tetsuya Naito & Bushi
Interesting callback to the Okada-Naito feud. This should just be an exhibition for fans not familiar with NJPW's top two native draws. Next year we'll probably see one or both of them in headlining spots.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Hiromu Takahashi vs. Dragon Lee
This may just steal the show. Takahashi is amazing and always has great chemistry with Lee. What else can be said about this? It's gonna be goddamn fantastic.
Justin: Takahashi retains
Landon: Takahashi retains
IWGP US Championship: Jay White vs. Juice Robinson
This one's been building for a while. Juice is surprisingly becoming a star faster than White, and a title change here could shift the dynamic for the G1. White would have more to prove and Juice would have more confidence. Not to mention the SanFran crowd would pop like crazy for Juice, one of the most relatable babyfaces in the company.
Justin: Juice wins the gold
Landon: JUICE JUICE JUICE JUICE
IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega vs. Cody
This is the big rematch from Supercard of Honor, where Cody upset the Bullet Club leader in a 37-minute epic. Now the company's top title is on the line, as well as Bullet Club supremacy. Does the Golden Elite formally split off from BC and become their own thing entirely, or does Kenny put Cody in his place within the Club? It's obviously too soon for another title change, so the suspense here is more about the character interaction and what it means for the stable, rather than the actual championship. Should be an excellent main event though, and probably Cody's best-ever performance.
Justin: Kenny retains
Landon: Kenny Wins
There's the lineup - looks pretty great and will probably be one of the best shows of the year when it's over. New Japan is making excellent headway with its US expansion and I'm loving every minute of it. I've missed seeing two major wrestling companies competing for supremacy. It's great for the business and we all win.
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