Before kicking off the G1 Climax Tournament, New Japan Pro Wrestling decided to follow up on their Strong Style Evolved card with a card in California. Looking at the line up, I wasn’t too excited – there was nothing as essential as Strong Style Evolved’s card, the main event of which was one of my matches of the year so far (Golden Lovers vs Young Bucks)

Still, the G1 Special does have some great matches on the card so let’s see how it turns out..

I didn’t really appreciate the Bullet Club (G.O.D, King Haku, Yujiro and Chase Owens) vs Chaos (Roppongi 3K, Rocky Romero, Yoshi-Hashi and Gedo) opener. To be fair, I had a few iPad issues starting the card up, but the weird phantom pin (after King Haku’s ace piledriver) and the brevity of the match didn’t help. I’ll go 2.5/5, it was good to see everyone involved but it was little more than a house show style multi man tag match.

Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano’s win over Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr was a decent match, if a bit of a surprise (3/5). I was surprised that Yano pinned Sabre Jr, but there is a G1 Tournament coming up so there will be a rematch at some point. The match itself was good, however if you’ve seen this combination of wrestlers before, you’ve seen this match before. It’s always fun to watch Suzuki and Ishii go at it though…

Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kusida vs Marty Scurll and Hangman Page was similar to the preceding matches – a decent showcase, but nothing of any substance (3/5). I thought Page was the highlight of the match, displaying his agility and power and I think the G1 Climax will benefit from having the Hangman involved. He’s a fresh face who can wrestle and is part of the Bullet Club/Elite stories, so you know there will be some focus on him.

Hirooki Goto vs Jeff Cobb was OK (3/5) but it’s not really my cup of tea. I’m not a big fan of Goto as mentioned before – he lacks star quality for me and I find myself drifting out of most of his matches, Cobb seemed decent, but he was beaten too easily here to really grab me. This was a good ‘big strong guy brawl’ but I need more personality in my wrestling.

I did enjoy Okada and Will Ospreay vs Naito and Bushi (3/5) but this felt like the kind of match these four can do in their sleep. Ospreay pinned Bushi fairly easily too in a match that promised more. I guess the aim is to rest Naito and Okada while dropping hints for a future feud, but this match was fairly inconsequential. There was nothing wrong with the actual wrestling, but the fact I forgot it during writing this blog post sums it up.

The Young Buck’s title defence against Evil and Sanada (3.5/5) was a good match, albeit a step down from their match at  Dominion. I felt this match was missing the storytelling of the Dominion match and like much of this card, felt short and oddly decisive. Still, the action was great as these are two of the best teams in the world right now. I’m looking forward to seeing Sanada and Evil go solo in the G1 Climax, as they can both have great matches when given the chance.

Hiromu Takahashi vs Dragon Lee for the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title was insane (4/5). This was wrestled at 100 miles per hour, with any thoughts of personal safety thrown out of the window. Takahashi in particular took some bad bumps (a release Dragon Driver!?!) and ended up in hospital after the match. These two are great to watch and it’s always a pleasure to see their feud continue. I’d say this was my match of the night by a whisker.

Switchblade Jay White vs Juice Robinson for the IWGP US Championship was a fantastic brawl (4/5). I liked this match a lot – seeing Juice win was a fine payoff to the months of feuding with White. There was a lot of little touches that made the action even better, such as Juice’s cast from White’s attack being teased through out and an epic nearfall from Juice’s Pulp Friction (Unprettier) finisher. There was some wild brawling around the ring too, with guard rails being sent crashing by flying wrestlers that made this match a nice change of pace from the rest of the card.

Kenny Omega’s first IWGP World title defence against Cody was a very good match, though I did think it began to lag a bit towards the end (4/5). This was a match based around the animosity between the two and I thought the early going really delivered. As the match went on and Omega began to dominate with V-Triggers, I began to lose interest. This card felt like a blow off show, where many feuds were ended in time for the G1 Climax and this match was a bit too predictable with this. I think I wanted a more  back and forth match given how long this feud has been going for. Again, the action was grear and Cody’s sick bump (over the top rope onto a table via an Omega powerbomb) is definitely worth seeing.

The show closing angle was…OK I guess? Not sure I buy the Tongans wiping out all of the Bullet Club/Elite, but it will add some spice to the G1, so I’m up for it. They need more people to make it work though…

Overall, the G1 Special scored 3.33/5.00. That’s pretty good for a show that was ‘kinda there.’ Sure the execution was always good and there was some really good matches here, but I know New Japan can do better. That said, it’s whetted my appetite for the G1 Climax, which begins on Saturday. so I feel like the G1 Special has done it’s job.