NJPW G1 SPECIAL SAN FRANCISCO [Live Review]: Death Sentence.

“Monsignor” Travis Omega

Bullet Club v CHAOS – A pretty fun, somewhat mindless opener that set the stage for what was to come…in more ways than you imagined. – 2.75/5

Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano v Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr. – There’s a big difference between this match in Japan and here in the U.S.: Toru Yano is a special attraction. Much like Taguchi last night at King of Indies, everytime Yano did.. anything it got a great pop. Even then, Suzuki and Ishii continued their amazing rivalry in-ring to much delight. ZSJ, who’s had a great year, felt wasted here. – 3.25/5

Hangman Page & Marty Scurll v Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA – Despite Bullet Club shirts on 90% of the audience (hell, it seems that way).. Tana & Kushida got the good babyface cheer here. Scurll was still way over and Hangman was loved. I didn’t feel like any of the 4 guys had enough time to get all their shit in, but this was really enjoyable nonetheless. – 3.5/5

– IWGP NEVER Openweight Title: Hirooki Goto v Jeff Cobb – This match was a better version of Cobb/Fatu or even Brody/Thatcher from last night–just 2 strong guys going at each other hard, but having Cobb pinned in front of his home crowd was disappointing and sorta felt flat. – 3.5/5

– IWGP Tag Team Title: The Young Bucks v EVIL & SANADA – As far as a full match goes this was better than last night’s APW tag title match, although that one had the amazing memorable finish. I just kinda wish the Bucks could have gotten the title win here on U.S. soil to add some more stakes with the booking. That said, this still had tremendous action and was easily the best thing in the first half– and I even liked this better than their match from Dominion (but maybe because I’m seeing it live.) – 4.25/5

Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay v Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI – Three guys get short-changed performing in front of an American audience by all being in this tag match. BUSHI and Naito, having performed several tag matches together, had better chemistry and seamless double team spots. The only issue is BUSHI — who actually looked real good — was never taken seriously and fans all knew the finish the day this card was announced. While this was fun, I just feel like Gedo doesn’t want to give too much of anything outside of Japan. We couldn’t get Naito v Ospreay, or Okada in something else? – 3.25/5

– IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title: Hiromu Takahashi v Dragon Lee – What a HELL of a weekend for Dragon Lee! While changing the strap would’ve been a great cherry on top, I’ll admit it’s way too early to take the belt off of Hiromu, who’s arguably the hottest new talent in pro wrestling. These guys lived up to the hype and destroyed each other for nearly 17-minutes. This was definitely the most energetic, crowd-pleasing match of the night as far as pacing and dangerous spots. (Speaking of which, Hiromu is said to have a broken neck as a result of being dropped on his head via Release Phoenix Plex. Damn…) – 4.25/5

– IWGP US Title: Juice Robinson v Jay White – While Jay White has his pundits, there’s no having this amazing match done without Jay’s great heel heat and his leading the hot babyface *hand* of Juice throughout the way. This match was put in the “dead zone” ala White/Page from the Long Beach Strong Style event (which ranks #93 in my Top 100, by the way), and still had crazy heat! Juice was a mega star and White was a mega heel. The title change finish was also spectacular and nailbiting. Tough call, but this might’ve been match of the weekend. (Side note: I heard the commentary was brutal during this match and having Barnett charge towards White in the ring was unneeded, unless it’s going to amount to something, which it might. But I get it. I get that they overbooked in fear of this match not having any zing, following Lee/Takahashi before Omega/Cody. They were wrong.) – 4.25/5

– IWGP Heavyweight Title: Kenny Omega v Cody – Hey, it never wound up the ***** or even ****1/2 classic we all initially expected, but Kenny/Cody II was a match worthy of the main event, better than the disappointment from Supercard of Honor. Both Kenny and Cody had better chemistry; things went much smoother; and a better in-ring story was told. This match wasn’t without some killer spots and throwback WWE shenanigans too (which many modern indie-loving marks will hate, no doubt). Speaking of which, somehow Cody and Kenny have the AJ Styles/Nakamura effect thing where both guys have such huge expectations together that neither can have a match worthy of our wildest dreams. That said, they got the job done and the rest is history.. or should I say.. Destiny… – 4/5

Overall = 3.75/5 Bibles

Really, this was a Mysterio v Liger or Ishimoro match away from being one of my favorite New Japan events of the year. Watching NJPW live from the Cow Palace was a once in a lifetime experience, a historic venue that was very retro cool with a super hot audience. While this G1 Special was without any particular MOTY candidate (Omega/Ishii from LB 2017, Golden Lovers/Bucks from LB earlier this year), it was easily the most consistent good night in the USA yet. Lots to love here. For being pretty iffy on the initial card, Gedo did a great job rounding out the line-up. Of course, as fans who only maybe get to cherish seeing greats like Tanahashi and Okada once (or twice)  year, we want our big WK/G1/Dominion type contests, but it’s understandably hard to fly out a majority of the roster to a foreign land and have five or six 30-40 minute matches. They definitely did their best on the night’s second half swing. Also, let’s hope Hiromu is OK! Pretty sure Daryl will let us know very soon either way– if the Firing Squad doesn’t already get to him first…

-Travis Moody

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