NJPW G1 Special in USA Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2017

NJPW G1 Special in USA Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights

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    Poster for the first New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Special in America.
    Poster for the first New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Special in America.Credit: NJPW1972.com

    New Japan Pro Wrestling held its first major show in the United States on Saturday, with a tournament taking place to crown the first-ever NJPW United States champion.

    In addition to the tournament matches, several other high-profile bouts took place, including a huge showdown between Kazuchika Okada and Cody Rhodes for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

    Many pro wrestling purists have considered NJPW to be the best promotion in the world for some time, and it's hard to argue when you look at the number of big stars who have competed for the company over the years.

    The first night of G1 Special featured four quarterfinal matches in the U.S. title tournament, a tag title bout and 26 of New Japan's finest competing across three multi-person tag team matches.

    This may have been the first NJPW show for many Americans, but Jim Ross' commentary will have helped add some familiarity to the event.

    Also helping bridge the gap were Superstars fans in the U.S. are familiar with like Jay Lethal, The Young Bucks, Billy Gunn and Cruiserweight Classic standout Zack Sabre Jr.

    Fans with AXS TV were given the opportunity to catch up with some great recent New Japan shows during a marathon leading up to Saturday's show. 

    Let's take a look at each match from night No. 1 of the New Japan G1 Special from Long Beach, California.

The Bullet Club vs. Chaos

1 of 10

    After the pre-show ceremony, the first match of the night was a 10-man tag bout featuring Marty Skrull, The Young Bucks, Yujiro Takahashi and Bad Luck Fale taking on Will Ospreay, The Briscoes, Rocky Romero and former WWE jobber Beretta.

    The early moments of the contest featured a lot of quick tags, posing and taunting from both teams. It felt like a crowded ring, but this was New Japan's way of giving as many talents screen time as it could.

    There was a lot to like about this match. Everyone was given a chance to shine, but after a few minutes, it became impossible to tell who was legal and who was just coming in to hit their signature moves.

    Fale was a bit out of place with all the high-flying action, but having a powerhouse in the mix helped add more variety to the offense. For a man of his size, he moves surprisingly well.

    The Bullet Club took the loss when Romero was able to roll up one of The Bucks of Youth to score the win for his team. While this might have been too frenetic for some, it helped get the show off to a good start with a lot of exciting action.


    Grade: B


    Notes and Highlights

    • It would have been nice if we could have heard the pre-show ceremony instead of Ross and Josh Barnett.
    • It would be understandable if WWE fans forgot about Beretta after his disappointing run with the company. It's always great to see someone leave WWE and make a name for themselves somewhere else.
    • I hope fans in the front row were warned ahead of time about the possibility of the barricade being knocked down into their laps.
    • There is a lot of debate about The Young Bucks and whether they have devalued the superkick by using it every chance they get. They kept it to a minimum in this match.
    • Matt Jackson's complaints about how he couldn't lose on TV because of a deal he has with Hot Topic was pretty funny.

Los Ingobernables De Japon vs. Jushin Liger, Volador Jr., Dragon Lee and Titan

2 of 10

    NJPW went right from one huge tag bout to another when Los Ingobernables de Japon members Bushi, Evil, Sanada and Hiromu Takahashi battled the team of Jushin Thunder Liger, Titan, Dragon Lee and Volador Jr. 

    Bringing in some CMLL talents was a smart move by New Japan. It helped add an even more international flavor to a show already featuring stars from around the globe.

    This almost felt like a fight between the lucha libre and strong-style forms of wrestling at first, but as time went on, everyone meshed to make this a more well-paced performance than the previous bout.

    After illegally using a pair of chairs behind the ref's back, Takahashi scored the victory over Titan with his trademark Time Bomb finisher.


    Grade: B+


    Notes and Highlights

    • Allowing wrestlers to carry any title they hold from other promotions to the ring helped give U.S. fans an idea of how successful some of these Superstars are. 
    • It's amazing to see Liger still performing at such a high level after all these years. I remember watching him battle Brian Pillman in WCW when I was a kid. 
    • Why wasn't Volador Jr. part of WWE's Cruiserweight Classic? He could have produced some amazing matches.
    • Bushi and Evil would be an amazing addition to the WWE tag team division. They come across as the biggest heels in the world.

Hangman Page vs. Jay Lethal

3 of 10

    The first IWGP United States Championship tournament match of the night saw Hangman Page take on one of the people who made TNA so much fun to watch during the early years, Jay Lethal.

    Page attacked Lethal before the bell to establish his heel personality and show how much he wanted to become the first NJPW U.S. champion.

    They slowed things down in the middle portion, which made this feel more like a traditional New Japan match than the first two bouts.

    They could have benefitted from five more minutes, but as a whole, this was a solid performance for both men. Lethal was able to get the win to move on in the tournament.


    Grade: C+


    Notes and Highlights

    • With the exception of the WWE Intercontinental Championship, every title in New Japan looks better all of WWE's belts.
    • This was the first time the crowd was quiet during any part of a match, but it had nothing to do with boredom or lack of entertainment in the ring. Everyone was appreciating the action, much like the fans in Japan do during every show.
    • Page might have the best abdominal stretch in the business. The way he transitioned from Lethal's left side to his right was beautiful. 
    • Am I the only one who misses Lethal's impersonations of Randy Savage? They were always hilarious, but they never limited him to being just a comedy character.

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Juice Robinson

4 of 10

    The second match of the U.S. title tournament took things in a different direction thanks to the technical ability of Sabre and Juice Robinson, whom many will remember as CJ Parker in NXT.

    Unlike his matches during the CWC, Sabre showed a lot of heel characteristics in this bout. He skirted the rules, taunted the ref and incited boos from the crowd.

    The only thing keeping him from getting as much heat as he wanted was the crowd's appreciation for his ability to apply a submission from any position.

    After a fun and competitive back-and-forth match, Sabre picked up the win with what can only be described as a combination of a few different holds at the same time.


    Grade: B+


    Notes and Highlights

    • Seeing Robinson's performance in this match makes you realize how poorly WWE used him during his run in NXT.
    • Considering how much momentum the cruiserweight division lost after the CWC, it was probably smart for Sabre to continue working elsewhere.

Gunn, Yoshitatsu and the Tempura Boyz vs. White, Finlay, Kushida and Tanahashi

5 of 10

    After two singles matches, New Japan put on another big tag match, with Billy Gunn, Yoshitatsu and The Tempura Boyz going up against Jay White, David Finlay, Kushida and Hiroshi Tanahashi.

    This bout had a slightly slower pace than the other multi-man tag matches from earlier in the night, but it was no less exciting. In fact, it had the most natural pace out of the three.

    Once again, everyone had time to show off their skills. Unfortunately, this meant nobody stood out above the rest. People will talk about Gunn on social media, but that will be more for his taunts than his wrestling. 

    Once everyone had a chance to get in the ring, White pinned Yoshitatsu after a Flatliner to secure the win for his team.


    Grade: C+


    Notes and Highlights

    • I always knew Yoshitatsu was wasted in WWE during his run. It wouldn't be surprising to see him pop up in NXT or on 205 Live after making a name for himself.
    • Gunn's size made him look like a giant compared to everyone else in this match. 
    • This show was labeled as TV-14 in the listings. Apparently, nobody told Gunn because he gave his opponents a couple of vulgar taunts.
    • This felt the most like a WWE match out of anything we had seen up to this point in the show. That's not a good or bad thing—just an observation.
    • The Tempura Boyz has to be one of the strangest names for a tag team. 

Guerrillas of Destiny vs. War Machine (IWGP Tag Team Championships)

6 of 10

    The first of the two title matches on the card saw Tama Tonga and Tanga Roa defend the IWGP Tag Team Championships against Hanson and Raymond Rowe. 

    Rowe suggested adding the no-disqualification stipulation to the bout after Tonga and Roa used weapons in their most recent encounter.

    Within the first minute, this became the most intense matchup of the night up to this point in the show. Both teams were looking to make names for themselves on a global stage, and having the only hardcore contest of the night helped them do just that.

    The use of weapons added to the match, but the wrestlers didn't have to rely on them to get the crowd to react. It was a great example of less is more.

    After a flying leg drop through a table, War Machine became the new tag team champions.


    Grade: B+


    Notes and Highlights

    • There was an intermission before this match. Some fans watching at home may not appreciate this, but it's something WWE should do during its longer shows. It gives everyone time to stretch, get a drink and use the bathroom.
    • War Machine would have fit right in with WWE's tag teams of the '80s and '90s. They borrow a lot from teams like Demolition and The Road Warriors without feeling like they are ripping them off.
    • It would have been cool to see Haku at ringside or in the stands watching his sons.
    • Surprisingly, Chase Owens' attempt to help his fellow Bullet Club members was the first instance of the stable using its numbers to get an advantage.

Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii

7 of 10

    The third U.S. Championship tournament match featured former NJPW IC champion Tetsuya Naito taking on Tomohiro Ishii.

    Naito pounced on Ishii when he was entering the ring, but it barely gave him an advantage. Ishii no-sold much of his early offense to show how tough he is.

    Eventually, Naito was able to even the playing field to make this a more competitive contest. With their emphasis on strikes, this felt like the first Japanese-style match of the night.

    Both men pulled out all the stops to make this one of the best contests on the card, and the crowd showed its appreciation for their efforts from start to finish.

    It felt like either man could win at any time given the number of near-falls we witnessed, but when the dust settled, Ishii hit a brainbuster to get the pin and advance to the next round of the tourney. 


    Grade: A-


    Notes and Highlights

    • Naito's refusal to enter the ring unless someone held the ropes open for him was a great heel move. However, the crowd loved his antics, so he didn't come off like the heel he is supposed to be.
    • Ross sounded like he was enjoying this match a lot while calling it. An invested commentator can make a big difference when it comes to presenting a match on television.
    • The perception was supposed to be that Ishii was the larger competitor, but Naito has about five pounds on him.
    • Some fans will likely catch up on YouTube. This is one match everyone should take the time to watch.

Michael Elgin vs. Kenny Omega

8 of 10

    Kenny Omega has built quite the reputation for himself over the past few years, especially among the Internet Wrestling Community.

    While notoriety is always good in the entertainment business, it also puts pressure on him to perform at the same high level every time he steps into the ring.

    Fortunately for him, Michael Elgin is one of those big men who can move like someone half his size. The powerhouse controlled the pace early on, but Omega never stayed on the defensive for long.

    We saw several unique counters utilized by both competitors, and it helped this bout outshine everything else we had seen up to this point in the show.

    After several running knee strikes to the head, Omega put Elgin away with his trademark One-Winged Angel to advance to the next round. 


    Grade: A


    Notes and Highlights

    • Omega might be the only person pulling off a mullet in the 21st century.
    • This was a night when nobody was viewed as a full heel. The crowd was just too happy to have the chance to see everyone perform to boo anyone.
    • The ref's refusal to do the Too Sweet hand gesture with Omega and The Young Bucks was a funny moment.
    • Elgin has a lot in common with Scott Dawson, both in appearance and wrestling style. It would be fun to see them in the ring together down the line.
    • How has Omega not suffered a serious neck injury? He always takes dangerous bumps on the back of his head.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Cody (IWGP Heavyweight Championship)

9 of 10

    Cody received the first genuine heel reaction of the night when he came out for the main event again IWGP heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada, and it gave the match more of a big-fight feel than anything else on the card.

    They started off slow to size each other up, and Cody took a few opportunities to leave the ring in order to kiss his wife, Brandi, and gain a little more heat.

    Because of their similar size and proficient technical ability, neither Superstar had a clear advantage, but the commentators talked about Okada like he was the heavy favorite.

    Omega came out with a white towel, just like Cody did during his match against Okada. Both Brandi and The Young Bucks pleaded with him not to throw it in the ring until Cody grabbed the towel and threw it in his face.

    This dynamic developing between The Bullet Club's two biggest stars was an interesting addition to what was already becoming a classic encounter between Cody and Okada.

    Cody put up a great fight, but Okada managed to pull off the win thanks to a jumping Tombstone Piledriver and his patented Rainmaker clothesline.

    Omega showed Okada a small measure of respect at the end of the match, but he also made it clear he wasn't done pursuing the IWGP title.


    Grade: A


    Notes and Highlights

    • It's so dumb for WWE to prevent Cody from using the Rhodes name in other promotions. At least Ross made a joke about it.
    • Barnett had the joke of the night when he referred to body glitter as "divorce dust."
    • If Cody had gotten this kind of heat when he was in WWE, management might have given him something better to do than portraying Stardust. Spitting at the ref was an especially villainous move.

Final Thoughts

10 of 10

    New Japan Pro Wrestling held this show as a way of breaking into the U.S., and judging from the reception each match received, the company accomplished its goal.

    While some matches outshone others, there were no weak points. All the wrestlers gave it everything to make this an entertaining show from beginning to end.

    You are going to read a lot of comparisons on social media between this show and WWE pay-per-views, but that is not how people should be looking at this.

    It's like trying to compare apple pie to chocolate cake. Both are delicious desserts, but the similarities end there. NJPW isn't trying to replace WWE like WCW did. It's trying to forge its own path.

    WWE is sports entertainment while New Japan is pro wrestling. This is why you didn't see any major backstage segments or interviews until the show was over.

    This event likely made fans out of the several thousand people in the crowd and those watching at home across the United States. Hopefully that will lead to more NJPW shows taking place on American soil.


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