NJPW G1 Special 2018 Results: Winners, Grades and Reaction
An epic power struggle over control of Bullet Club led to an irreparable schism between Kenny Omega and "The American Nightmare" Cody, and Saturday night in San Francisco's historic Cow Palace at New Japan Pro-Wrestling's G1 Special, they wrote the latest chapter of their story, as The Cleaner defended his newly won IWGP Heavyweight Championship against the second-generation competitor.
The match headlined a live AXS TV event featuring the most renowned talent in NJPW, including "The Rainmaker" Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, IWGP tag team champions The Young Bucks and IWGP junior heavyweight champion Hiromu Takahashi.
Relive the action and excitement from Saturday's show with this recap of all the action.
10-Man Tag Team Match
Chaos and Bullet Club warred in the opening match of Saturday's event as Gedo, Yoshi-Hashi, Roppongi 3K and Rocky Romero battled Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi, Tanga Loa, Tama Tonga and King Haku in a massive 10-Man Tag Team match.
The match marked the first major television appearance for Haku since 2001.
The legendary tough man joined Tonga in dishing out punishment to Yoshi-Hashi early as chants of "King Haku" rained down from the stands.
Romero answered for Chaos, shaking off several failed shoulder tackles and delivering a headscissors takedown to Loa. His momentum was short-lived, courtesy of an onslaught from Loa and Tonga and a nasty looking piledriver from Haku that left him momentarily stunned.
With his partners down at ringside following a brawl with Bullet Club, Romero found himself isolated and on the receiving end of a punishing beatdown.
A hot tag to Yoshi-Hashi led to Chaos' comeback. Yoh and Sho of Roppongi 3K double-teamed Takahashi, but their offense was short-lived. Tonga tagged in and punished them with an intense, rapid-fire attack. A spear from Sho and tag to Gedo again turned the tide in Chaos' favor.
The action broke down as each competitor showcased his abilities, including a suicide dive from Romero. The melee concluded with a Tongan Death Grip from Haku to Gedo and an RKO from Tonga for the win.
Bullet Club defeated Chaos
As far as energetic tag team openers go, this was a fun and fast-paced bout that showcased the talent involved and gave both Haku and Tonga a very cool moment at the end.
It was interesting to see Romero do most of the heavy lifting for the Chaos team given that one would assume management would want Sho and Yoh highlighted. Still, Romero was the glue that held the match together.
Will it have any lasting impact on any ongoing storylines? No, but it was a great way to kick off a show in the United States that will be watched by fans very familiar with the Bullet Club brand.
Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr. and Minoru Suzuki
The ongoing rivalry between Minoru Suzuki and Tomohiro Ishii continued in the second match of the evening, as they were on opposite sides of a tag team battle.
The fierce competitors exchange bone-rattling strikes before Suzuki tagged in partner Zack Sabre Jr., who paired off with the fun-loving Toru Yano.
Sabre trapped Yano in a submission, while Suzuki and Ishii brawled on the arena floor. A tag to Suzuki, who returned to the ring apron, only ensured Yano's agony would continue.
A late tag to Ishii brought the physical battle between him and Suzuki back to the forefront of the match. The sickening blows dealt by the competitors left them stunned, the referee checking on their well-being.
In the end, it was Yano who pinned Sabre to score the win for the team.
Yano and Ishii defeated Suzuki and Sabre
The brutality between Suzuki and Ishii was incredible and, at times, disturbing but was at the center of the bout.
It was interesting to see Sabre eat the pin here given the fact that he won the 2018 New Japan Cup. At the same time, Yano is one of those popular acts who get over anywhere because of their comedic value, so beating Sabre in a meaningless tag team match that no one will remember past Saturday night is essentially harmless.
Kushida and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Marty Scurll and Hangman Page
Legendary commentator Jim Ross put Hangman Page of the Bullet Club over hard as Page and "The Villain" Marty Scurll made their way to the ring for their tag team match with Kushida and the iconic Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Kushida and Scurll set the pace early with some entertaining chain wrestling before Tanahashi and Page entered.
The action, fast and furious throughout the sprint of a tag team match, saw all four stars exchange signature offense.
Ultimately, Page delivered a back piledriver to Kushida to score the win for him and Scurll.
Page and Scurll defeated Tanahashi and Kushida
This was a sprint of a tag team match that not only capitalized on the popularity of Bullet Club in America, it put Page over strong just moments after JR touted his long-term potential.
Tanahashi received the hero's welcome, and rightfully so, but loses nothing by way of this defeat. His legendary status trumps all losses at this point. That he was not pinned and dropped the bout to an over act like Page and Scurll only makes it that much more forgivable.
Never Openweight Championship Match: Hirooki Goto vs. Jeff Cobb
After regaining the NEVER Openweight Championship from Michael Elgin, Hirooki Goto found himself challenged by Jeff Cobb, who sought his first singles championship in New Japan Pro-Wrestling Saturday night in San Francisco.
Cobb controlled the majority of the match, his strength and athleticism his greatest attributes against the veteran Goto.
Commentator Ross questioned whether Cobb had thrown his A-game at Goto, a great question as frustration built in the young star.
Eventually, experience and toughness proved the champion's greatest attribute, as Goto withstood his opponent's onslaught and delivered the GTR to secure the successful title defense.
Goto defeated Cobb
Goto gave a ton to Cobb here, whom Ross repeatedly put over as reminiscent of the late "Dr. Death" Steve Williams. He made Cobb look like a star just moments away from taking his title before ultimately beating him to retain.
The only complaint from this championship clash was the disappointing finish.
Yes, Goto hit his finisher, but it was almost anticlimactic. It lacked drama, something that probably would have helped Cobb even more.
IWGP Tag Team Championship Match: The Young Bucks vs. Evil and Sanada
In a rematch from Wrestle Kingdom, IWGP heavyweight tag team champions The Young Bucks defended against Los Ingobernables' Evil and Sanada. With both Matt and Nick Jackson nursing injuries coming out of that match, it was interesting to see just how the champions performed against their focused and vengeance-seeking opponents.
The former champions isolated Nick, working him over and keeping his brother from tagging in. When Matt finally did, he exploded into the match, taking the fight to the opposition. A cutter to Sanada on the floor aggravated his previously injured back, though, and a brief moment of holding it during a Sharpshooter brought it to the attention of the commentary team.
Matt shook it off and joined Nick for a double superkick that left Evil flat on his back.
Sanada grounded Matt and tried for a moonsault, but Jackson rolled out of the way. A 450 splash by Matt only netted a two-count, much to his dismay. An extended sharpshooter not only damaged Sanada's knee but also left Matt nursing his back.
More Bang For Your Buck missed, allowing Sanada to tag Evil back into the match.
A series of German suplexes dropped the Young Bucks on their heads, and a sit-out spinebuster scored the challengers a two-count.
Late in the match, the Bucks tried for a double superkick to Evil that struck the referee and left the match primed to descend into chaos. Evil grabbed a steel chair and teased using it, but after a brief duel, the double superkick sent the chair into his face.
A strong near-fall saw the challengers drive Matt into the chair, only for Nick to break up the pin at the last second. The champions recovered, though, and delivered the Meltzer Driver to successfully retain their titles.
The Young Bucks defeated Evil and Sanada
This was a phenomenal wrestling match that continued the story of The Young Bucks fighting through injury to secure the win. The toughness they have demonstrated this year, overcoming obstacles placed before them by injuries suffered in matches against Roppongi 3K, The Golden Lovers and their opponents Saturday night, has helped changed preconceived notions about the team.
So has their selling, which has been light-years beyond what anyone expected out of the duo after years of "spot monkey" labels.
Sanada and Evil have excellent chemistry with the Bucks, as displayed with this, their second superb bout since Dominion.
Will Ospreay and Kazuchika Okada vs. Bushi and Tetsuya Naito
Kazuchika Okada returned to the United States without the IWGP Heavyweight Championship he carried for 720 days, but he was not the only member of Saturday's tag team battle lacking the titles they entered Dominion with on June 9.
Partner and fellow member of Chaos Will Ospreay dropped the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, while opponent Tetsuya Naito lost the IWGP Intercontinental Championship to Chris Jericho. Naito would team with Bushi in an attempt to reverse his fortunes and earn Los Ingobernables de Japon a big victory.
Okada and Naito, opponents in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 12, started the match.
Naito popped the crowd, teasing a dive onto Okada before rolling through and posing in the center of the ring. The popular tandem of Naito and Bushi continued building momentum, frustrating Okada and Ospreay early, much to the delight of the fans in San Francisco.
Los Ingobernables de Japon isolated Ospreay, beating him down and adding insult to injury in the process. A big step-up enzuigiri allowed the former junior heavyweight champion to create separation and make the tag to Okada.
The Rainmaker exploded into the match, taking the fight to Naito and Bushi. He attempted the tombstone piledriver, but the former intercontinental champion escaped and delivered a low dropkick to the back of the head. An enzuigiri of his own followed.
Naito teased Destino, but Okada countered, setting up a tombstone. Naito escaped and tried for a tornado DDT. Okada countered and delivered a neckbreaker variation.
Okada blasted Naito with a dropkick as Ospreay paired off with Bushi. The Brit took Bushi up in a double underhook and brought him down with a twisting neckbreaker for the win.
Okada and Ospreay defeated Naito and Bushi
The action between Okada and Naito was phenomenal, but one would expect as much from those two given their history and in-ring chemistry. Even going at half of what they normally would, they brought a quality to this match that elevated it beyond the average grade dealt to other bouts on the card.
Ospreay was rather subdued, not really taking to the air, perhaps out of precaution for bumps and bruises he may or may not be working through. Beating Bushi allows him to build some momentum for himself after losing to Hiromu Takahashi at Dominion.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match: Hiromu Takahashi vs. Dragon Lee
A rivalry dating back to Mexico unfolded up next as Dragon Lee challenged longtime foe Hiromu Takahashi for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. Would Lee be able to score the upset, or would 2018 Best of the Super Juniors winner, accompanied by the beloved Daryl Jr., be able to continue building momentum for himself?
Before Takahashi could even enter the ring, Dragon Lee soared over the top rope and wiped out the champion on the floor. A suicide dive continued his assault, kicking off the match aggressively. Stiff forearms in the corner, followed by a dropkick that obliterated Takahashi, earned the challenger a two-count.
Dragon Lee outclassed the champion early, but Hiromu fought back with a running dropkick off the ring apron to seize control of the match. A seated senton variation left the challenger reeling on the floor. A death-defying double stomp from the top rope to the arena floor by Dragon Lee led to a dramatic count-out tease.
Back in the ring, champion and challenger traded German suplexes, exhausting themselves in search of a victory.
The action broke down. The wrestlers were suplex drunk. Takahashi rebounded from a reverse hurricanrana and delivered a lariat clothesline that left the competitors on their backs. They recovered and delivered an exchange of chops that left each other's chests red and swollen and their bodies breathless.
Late, Dragon Lee tried for a powerbomb, but Takahashi countered into a triangle choke. Lee lifted his opponent off the mat and slammed him down, but the champion refused to release the hold. Lee lifted him again and delivered a release Dragon Driver that drove the champion's head into the mat in a sickening spot.
Hiromu recovered and delivered the Time Bomb to score the hard-fought victory.
Takahashi defeated Lee
There were a handful of spots in this match that looked like potential career-enders for Takahashi. Yes, those spots have become staples of his performances, but they will also limit the length of his career if he is not careful. The Dragon Driver, in particular, was terrifying.
The match itself showed the appropriate aggression and intensity from two guys whose history was documented by Jim Ross prior to the match. They were familiar with each other, have wrestled before and have bad blood.
That much was conveyed to the audience through the intensity of the action, particularly the exchange of chops.
Takahashi is a star, a competitor who will be key to New Japan Pro-Wrestling's attempt to go global. Him retaining here was the right call, and Lee was the perfect opponent for him to work with and showcase his abilities against.
Great stuff from two incredibly talented workers.
IWGP United States Championship Match: Juice Robinson vs. Jay White
Juice Robinson's journey to championship glory led him to San Francisco Saturday night and a date with "Switchblade" Jay White, the reigning and defending IWGP United States champion. To win the gold that had eluded him for so long, Robinson would have to overcome a broken hand.
Luckily for him, a fighter's spirit and a raucous crowd fueled him.
Robinson destroyed White early, taking the fight to the New Zealand-born competitor and throwing him through the security railing at ringside. White returned the favor and seized control of the match before mocking his opponent.
White controlled the bout, working the back and left hand of Robinson while continuing to mock and embarrass his challenger. He even went as far as to mimic the jab combination that is a trademark of Robinson's arsenal.
Trapping the challenger on the mat and manipulating his fingers, torturing his opponent's already broken hand, White meticulously attempted to force a submission from Robinson.
The champion sent Robinson into the guardrail, knocking announcer Jim Ross over and drawing the ire of color commentator Josh Barnett. After Barnett entered the ring and attempted to confront White, the champion continued to target the broken hand of his opponent.
A big side Russian leg sweep from Robinson left both men incapacitated, their championship aspirations in question. Struggling to their feet, they made it back into the ring, breaking the referee's count.
White tried for his Blade Runner finisher, but Robinson countered and attempted a shot to the face with his injured left hand. The referee held him up, not allowing Robinson to use the makeshift cast. That is, until the referee was down and Robinson blasted him with it.
Pulp Friction followed and Robinson appeared to have the win in hand. A last-second kick-out created tremendous heat. Robinson tried for another Pulp Friction, but White countered and struck his hand. A half-nelson suplex followed.
White tried for Blade Runner, but Robinson countered into a roll-up to win the match and the title.
Robinson defeated White
They did everything they possibly could to get White heat here, and it worked brilliantly. From knocking Ross over and pissing off Barnett to mocking Juice and flipping off fans, White was a heat magnet, making his defeat that much more enjoyable.
Robinson is one of the great stories in wrestling.
The former CJ Parker was once tapped for big things as part of NXT. He was a hippie and then an environmentalist. He won some and lost many. His frustration was apparent, and his departure from WWE was a surprise to no one.
He went to Japan, reinvented himself as Juice Robinson and showed a knack for real, charismatic promos that helped him garner the attention of fans both in that country and in North America. He busted his ass, earned the opportunities he received and always performed up to the moment.
His win here was the culmination of years of developing himself into the performer he is today, and this was the perfect way to pay off his story.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: Kenny Omega vs. Cody
Kenny Omega was once the unquestioned leader of Bullet Club. Cody arrived on the scene, in-fighting ensued and the second-generation star turned the faction against The Cleaner. Omega's victory over Kazuchika Okada at Dominion for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship may have been the greatest moment in the career of the Winnipeg native, but he admitted the loss to Cody in their first match haunted him.
Saturday, he had the opportunity to exorcize that demon and retain his title as he defended against The American Nightmare in a high-profile, star-studded main event.
Brandi Rhodes accompanied her husband to the ring, but it was only a matter of time before chants of "Kenny" rained from the stands and the IWGP heavyweight champion made his way to the ring. An intense staredown between the friends-turned-bitter enemies preceded the match, the tension in the air so thick you could cut it with a knife.
Omega and Cody traded chops early before a snap powerslam from the challenger earned him a two-count. Rhodes seized control of the match until a dive over the top rope by the champion left him lying on the floor. Back inside the squared circle, Omega delivered a V-Trigger and dragon suplex, but Cody answered with one of his own.
The figure-four leglock by Cody punished the knee and quadriceps of Omega, but the champion reversed the hold and had his opponent screaming in pain. Outside the ring, Cody grabbed a chair while Omega retrieved a ladder. The challenger earned the upper hand and delivered a slam onto the ladder that sent pain shooting through the spine of the champion.
An inverted suplex sent Omega sternum- and chest-first into the ladder.
The Best Bout Machine was in danger, his championship reign in dire straits, as Cody rolled. At ringside, Matt Jackson tried to reason with The American Nightmare, to no avail. With Omega sprawled out on a table, Cody shoved The Young Bucks to the ground and climbed the ladder. Omega joined him up there and a fight broke out.
From the top of the ladder, Cody blocked a superplex attempt through the aforementioned table and, instead, brought Omega crashing to the mat below.
Cody attempted to use the IWGP Heavyweight Championship as a weapon, but the official pulled it away from him. Omega capitalized on a momentary distraction, using a reverse 'rana to stun his opponent. Recovered, Cody teased using the championship but resisted, instead delivering Cross Rhodes for a quality near-fall.
Omega fought back, unloaded a few V-Triggers and a powerbomb. Cody blocked it but ate another V-Trigger. Omega lifted Cody into a powerbomb position and sent him over the top rope and onto the aforementioned table. The table did not break, though, and the challenger landed with a thud on the floor.
Brandi Rhodes attempted to intervene on behalf of her husband, to no avail. Another V-Trigger by Omega was met with a lariat clothesline from Cody as exhaustion set in. A double underhook piledriver from Omega earned him a two-count. The One-Winged Angel finished Cody and earned Omega the victory.
After the customary post-match promo from Omega, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa and King Haku greeted The Elite at the top of the ramp. After a brief show of unity, the trio attacked The Elite and every other member of Bullet Club that attempted to make the save.
Sporting T-shirts that read "Firing Squad," Tonga, Loa and Haku left everyone lying.
Omega defeated Cody
More than a 2018 New Japan Pro-Wrestling match, this felt like a WWE main event from 10 years ago. The storytelling was there, but it did not always click. The heat was not really what it should have been for two wrestlers immensely popular in the states. Perhaps that can be attributed to the foregone-conclusion nature of the outcome.
Maybe it can be blamed on the heat for the Robinson-White match that preceded it.
Whatever the case may be, the crowd was not nearly as loud and enthusiastic as you would expect given the participants.
The effort was certainly there, and despite a few choppy spots or moments when it was clear the stars were going through their next spots, it was still a damn fine match. Rhodes lost, as expected, and Omega successfully retained his title in his first defense.
The heated rivalry, which began with friendship, ended in respect in what was a fantastic bit of storytelling. Cody coming to the aid of Omega and his fallen Bullet Club comrades did as much to tell his story as anything else.
The post-match beatdown created a faction war between Bullet Club and the newly minted Firing Squad. Tonga, Loa and Haku looked like an unstoppable force, which was necessary early in their existence as their own unit.
The question now is whether Bullet Club will emerge from the latest chapter in its tumultuous history stronger than it was before as it sets its sights on the renegade portion of the group or if the beatdown it suffered will create questions at the top and further bickering over who really is the leader of the group.
Considering NJPW is attempting to appeal to a broader audience of American fans, this was a fantastic way to end the show and leave the audience wanting more.