New Japan Pro Wrestling, the second largest and one of the fastest growing pro wrestling organizations in the world, will hold its biggest U.S. event ever — G1 special in San Francisco — at the historic Cow Palace on Saturday which will be broadcast nationally live on AXS TV.
NJPW is starting to cover some ground in the United States. It made a rare East Coast stop in Florida on June 29, before traveling cross country for the G1 Special.
In the G1 Special main event on Saturday, Cody Rhodes of the famous Rhodes family challenges IWGP Champ and Street Fighter V Champ Kenny Omega for the IWGP belt. The winner will also be leader of Bullet Club.
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Cody, 32, a WWE and Impact Wrestling alum who also competes for Ring of Honor, recently participated in an AXS TV media conference call to hype the NJPW G1 Special.
"The Cow Palace is in Daly City, California — San Francisco, California — and that area is home to who my dad [American Dream Dusty Rhodes] considered the greatest wrestler of all time, and that was Ray Stevens," Cody said. "If you ask Pat Patterson, if you ask the Nature Boy Ric Flair, I think Triple H will even tell ya that Ray Stevens is just an unsung hero as far as what he was able to do... incredibly ahead of his time.
"You think about all the legends today who just can't stand what my generation does in the ring. Ray Stevens was somebody that I'm sure the legends then couldn't stand, because he was flying all about that ring and jumping off the top rope and bombs away and just a fierce, fierce competitor, especially being a shorter guy.
"So when I think San Francisco, obviously I think Pat Patterson, but I think Ray Stevens, and I think about that era that's just before we started rolling out everything, in terms of film and getting it down... It's in people's memories, and when you hear these stories, it sounds real beautiful."
Do you think New Japan Pro Wrestling can run more shows successfully in the United States, or do you think it's better as an occasional special?
"That's the million-dollar question," Rhodes said. "As far as New Japan is concerned, I have no doubt they can be successful running more shows in America. Look at the roster. You know, I could be a smart-ass and tell you, 'As long as they put me on the show, they'll be OK,' but you don't have to put me on the show. The roster is just flushed, and it has two of the top five wrestlers in the world. That being Okada and Kenny Omega, and then if you include me, that's three. Will Ospreay is there chomping at the bit.
"It's just an outstanding roster, but I think when you look at specials, it might be the model the entire industry is heading toward. I'll give you an example. The NXT TakeOvers are incredibly critically acclaimed. People love them. From what I've seen... I didn't see the most recent one. From what I've seen, they are amazing, and the model they've set in place is these guys aren't out there doing the old school, on the road every night thing, making it up as they go. There's months and months of preparation for your pay-per-view or live special. Whatever it may be, there's months and months of preparation. You've got Shawn Michaels there to help you out. So the concept of the special or the every now and then — the once-in-a-while events — almost can't lose.
"When you have a roster like New Japan Pro Wrestling does, and you do run these specials throughout the United States as part of your expansion, I can guarantee you anybody who tunes into the G1 Special in San Francisco on AXS TV or anyone there watching it live, they're gonna be blown away... So the idea of the every-once-in-a-while special is really appealing for a wrestling fan and a wrestler as well."
Omega, 34, conducted his own AXS TV media conference call a few days later to discuss the G1 Special and reconciling with The Young Bucks to form The Golden Elite.
"We always have Being the Elite meetings," Omega said. "We do it via group messages or group chats or even in a hotel room where we sit around a table and spit ball ideas, and we always make sure — regardless of what programs we're going to be in at our respective promotions — that we can still keep our story lines alive and have them make sense.
"So, even though the Okada-Kenny Part IV match kind of came out of nowhere, we were able to make it work within our story line and were able to toss in little bits and pieces of the already friction between myself and Cody and The Young Bucks and myself and Ibushi."
On June 9 in Osaka, Japan, Omega became the first Canadian to win the IWGP title by beating Okada two falls to one in best-of-3 fall, no time limit main event. Afterward, Omega reconciled his friendship with The Young Bucks, and, in a post-match press conference, formed a new stable with The Young Bucks and Ibushi dubbed The Golden Elite. Omega still claims to be the leader of Bullet Club, which includes Cody. Thus, setting up the title, leadership and bragging rights matchup at the G1 Special in San Francisco.
"I didn't want to overdo it [on June 9], because most of the people were vested in the athletic rivalry that myself and Okada had. So I know most people were expecting someone to turn on someone or most people were expecting perhaps a run-in, and I sort of didn't want to disservice the fans and disrespect that story line.
"I wanted to keep it separate, but at the same time have moments that lent to each other, which is why I went sort of above and beyond to direct and produce that opening scene to kind of show people and remind people that, yes, there has been a lot going on, before this Okada match, and there has been a lot going on in my mind. I also made sure that we kind of mended the wounded relationship between myself and The Bucks, after the match.
"And then to make sure to show that there was a Cody thing, after the match. The next week after, on Being the Elite [on YouTube], to address what were Cody's thoughts during the match, before, after. I feel like we're lucky that we were able to establish the Being the Elite show, because I think it's cool that even though two performers in the ring are able to show, after the fact, the mentality of the other parties involved. So for me it was interesting to see what was Cody thinking. Why didn't he run-in during the match? Why didn't he cost me a fall?
"We carefully think about everything, and even moving forward now, again it's sensitive territory, so we have to make sure, leading up to the Cow Palace that things go how we hope it to go. As best we can [chuckle], we'll have it make sense. So [chuckle] stay tuned."
Television bell time for the G1 Special on AXS TV is at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT.
The star-studded, line-up includes:
IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega vs. Cody
IWGP Tag Team Champions The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) vs. SANADA and EVIL
IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Champion Jay White vs. Juice Robinson
Tag Team Attraction featuring Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay vs. Tetsuya Naito and BUSHI and more.
WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross and former UFC Heavyweight Champion and NJPW veteran Josh Barnett will call the action ringside for AXS TV.
Bullet Club Marathon on AXS TV
NJPW superstars and Bullet Club members The Young Bucks (brothers Matt and Nick Jackson) and Cody are teaming to host an eight-hour marathon celebrating some of Bullet Cub’s greatest matches this year on Saturday at noon.
“The Bullet Club is Fine Marathon” will feature eight of the group’s best matches from this year, leading into AXS TV’s live broadcast of NJPW’s G1 Special in San Francisco at 8 p.m. from the Cow Palace.
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