Preview text by Bryan Rose
Tonight’s Ring of Honor/New Japan G1 Supercard event is already set to make history tonight, the first professional wrestling show in Madison Square Garden not promoted by WWE and its predecessors in over a half century.
The 2019 New Japan Cup winner Kazuchika Okada will challenge IWGP Heavyweight champion Jay White in the main event. The two clashed fairly recently at Wrestle Kingdom 14, with White scoring the pin. A triple threat ladder match for the Ring of Honor World title will also take place, as champion Jay Lethal will defend against both Matt Taven and Marty Scurll.
Two champion vs. champion matches will also take place. The current ROH Television champion Jeff Cobb will face NEVER champion Will Ospreay in a match where both championships will be on the line. A fatal four way match for both the IWGP and ROH tag team championship is also set, with IWGP champions Guerillas of Destiny, ROH tag team champions The Briscoes, PCO & Brody King and EVIL & SANADA going at it.
Other huge matches set for tonight include Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. for the British Heavyweight title and Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi for the IWGP Intercontinental title.
Live coverage starts tonight at 6:30 p.m. EST.
It is surreal to see another company set up in Madison Square Garden. The feeling was sportslike and massive.
Kenny King won the Honor Rumble
Kenny King was out first and did the Ray Lewis dance. Minoru Suzuki was next out and the crowd came to their feet. I was watching the U.S. broadcast on NJPW World and they didn’t play “Kaze Ni Nare” during his entrance. Extremely disappointing and weird when you could hear the audience singing the chorus over the piped in music.
Cheeseburger was in next and debuted his short green trunks. King and Suzuki bullied Burger for a bit. Beer City Bruiser was in next, then Sho followed by Shingo Takagi. Sho and Takagi went at it for a while. BUSHI was the next entrant. Not one person has been eliminated yet.
Yoh in. Beer City Bruiser was eliminated as Shaeem Ali came out. He did a big Bossman Slam to show. Rhett Titus came in, posed, then got beat up. LSG, Shaheem Ali’s tag team partner from Coast to Coast, was in next.
Rysuke Taguchi was out next and NJPW altered his music for licensing reasons. This really took away from the “authentic” New Japan feel.
Will Ferrara returned and hit the ring next. Rocky Romero came into the ring and did Forever Clotheslines to everyone inside. Taguchi coached him and then everyone in the match to do clotheslines to BUSHI in the corner, third-base coach style.
Brawler Milonas was out next and eliminated Coast to Coast at the same time. Bad Luck Fale out next and he eliminated Sho and Yoh simultaneously. Fale then threw Cheeseburger out but his faction, Shinobu Shadow Squad, caught him and threw him back into the ring. Jonathan Gresham snuck in during this spot.
Fale and Milonas had a hoss brawl. Titus and Takagi were eliminated a few moments later, separately. Tracy Williams came out and brawled with Suzuki. The camera really focused in on these two chopping the hell of each other.
YOSHI-HASHI got a decent reaction upon entrance. Suzuki eliminated Chase Owens.
They altered Liger’s entrance music and the piped in intro muffled his crowd reaction. He came in and eliminated Brawler Milonas. Not being able to hear the crowd during Liger’s short entrance really altered
The Kingdom, Vinny Marseglia and TK O’Ryan came out separately but in succession, and eliminated a few wrestlers.
Tomohiro Ishii came out to a very loud reaction. Later, Toru Yano came out but ran to the announce table and ordered Colt Cabana, on commentary, to get into the Rumble. They switched spots and then Cabana entered and did a ton of bionic elbows to people. Yano was doing commentary in English and Japanese. More surreality.
King Haku was the next entrant and got a legend’s reaction. He put Cabana in the Tongan Deathgrip and Cabana yelled to Yano for help.
The next entrant was the Great Muta, making his first appearance in Madison Square Garden ever. His music was also dubbed on my stream so it was hard to measure the crowd response but you could clearly see people on their feet chanting “Holy sh*t!” Production took a shot of a fan near the front who looked to be in complete shock that Muta had arrived at MSG.
Once Muta was in there was this mass exodus of wrestlers getting, all of them getting tossed out of the ring and mainly by Muta. Everyone was flying through this at the end.
Suzuki and Ishii had a showdown and exchanged hard strikes, the crowd went nuts. The Kingdom then eliminated a number of wrestlers and it was down to Muta and Liger vs the Kingdom, in theory, though after the chanting died down the Kingdom were eliminated quickly.
Muta and Liger were teased as the final two and once again everyone was standing up. Muta did his flashing elbow and dragon screw leg whip. Just as things were heating up, Kenny King, who was apparently hiding under the ring for a while, came back inside and eliminated both wrestlers. Waves and waves of boos for this, though Muta and Liger got their comeuppance soon after and attacked King after the match. The crowd chanted “Thank you, Liger” as he went to the back.
This was all-action and lots of fan service spots, but the Great Muta making a surprise appearance will be what everyone talks about.
ROH World TV champion Jeff Cobb defeated IWGP NEVER Openweight champion Will Ospreay
The two shook hands, but Cobb charged at Ospreay with a flying elbow into the corner soon after. Within seconds both were on the floor outside the ring.
Ospreay went for a Space Flying Tiger Drop but Cobb caught him, then Ospreay reversed that into a tornado DDT.
Cobb used a delayed superplex on Ospreay and continued to rag doll Ospreay around the ring. The crowd was split here but there sounded like there was sting contingent of people behind Ospreay.
The story for much of this was power vs. agility, as you’d imagine. Crazy power moves and suplexes from Cobb, springboard forearms and tons of thrust kicks from Ospreay. Cobb got a loud pop for his standing moonsault.
Cobb missed a big splash off the top rope which allowed for Ospreay to hit the Robinson Special on Cobb. Ospreay went for an OsCutter but Cobb reversed it, which Ospreay countered into, finally, an OsCutter for a 2 and 3/4 count. The crowd chanted “That was three!”
Ospreay called for a Stormbreaker and went to land it from the top rope but Cobb, amazingly, reversed it into an avalanche Tour of the Islands, then landed a regular Tour in the middle of the ring for the pin and huge win. Jeff Cobb is now ROH World Television and IWGP NEVER Openweight champion. This was outstanding.
Rush defeated Dalton Castle (w/ the Boys)
Castle came out with the Boys plus about five or six extra Boys for MSG pageantry reasons. Rush’s music was dubbed so it was hard to hear his reaction.
After refusing to shake Castle’s hand before the match, Rush went after Castle immediately after the bell. He beat him into the corner and used two Bull’s Horn basement dropkicks to Castle’s face for the shock win. Castle attacked the two main Boys after the match, giving them gutwrench suplexes.
This was really quick and it did what it was meant to do: Get Rush over strong and change Castle’s creative direction.
WOH World title match: Kelly Klein defeated Mayu Iwatani (c)
Mandy Leon came out for commentary before this match. Klein had pyro during her entrance. Both wrestlers got good reactions before the match but Iwatani’s sounded especially loud.
They were hesitant to shake hands before the match started. Klein sent her entourage to the back beforehand, implying a clean match.
Slower pace to this match at first. Klein mostly dominated and worked over Iwatani’s legs and tossed her around with power moves.
Iwatani was able to knock Klein out of the ring and hit a beautiful plancha to the floor. In the ring, the two exchanged elbows for a bit. Iwatani went for a reverse frankensteiner but Klein landed on her back and it looked sort of botched. He used a low kick to Klein’s face for two after this.
Both then exchanged suplexes. The crowd was heating up for this match until the reverse frankensteiner spot. Klein finished off Iwatani with two K-Power drivers. Decent but unfortunately not much different from their previous matches.
Angelina Love and Velvet Sky came out after the match got into Klein’s face as she posed with the title. Mandy Leon came down as well and attacked Klein. They put an anarchy symbol on Klein’s forehead with lipstick and on the main monitor it showed a logo of their new faction’s logo, called Alürre. This was very sports entertainment-esque and it killed the crowd.
Rapper Mega Ran came out and performed his song “Goin’ to the Garden” next. The people in the front row looked confused. Bully Ray came out and we essentially got a repeat of what we saw at the ROH 17th Anniversary PPV a few weeks ago. Mega Ran got into it with Bully Ray, talked a small amount of trash and then got kicked out of the ring by Ray, who hit Mega Ran with a chain on his way out.
Earlier they showed a vignette earlier of Juice Robinson and he had been attacked, so no Robinson in his scheduled bout with Bully Ray. Flip Gordon came out for the match instead.
Six-man NYC Streetfight: Flip Gordon, Juice Robinson & Mark Haskins defeated Bully Ray, Shane Taylor & Silas Young
Lots of madness in and outside the ring until the heels started hitting Godon with kendo sticks. They really went nuts with the kendo sticks here and this eventually turned into a six way kendo fight. You could see the lacerations on Gordon’s back. Robinson looked to have gotten popped in the left eye.
This turned into a pure ECW match with bodies everywhere and an endless supply of foreign objects to use. Towards the end, Ray did a super power bomb through a table to Gordon. Young did an Anarchist Suplex to Haskins onto a chair. Taylor did an insane pop-up Michinoku Driver #2 to Haskins.
Taylor brought a wooden pallet into the corner of the ring but Robinson was able to counter his offense and hit a cannonball into the pallet, which Juice seemed to catch the brunt of on the spot.
LifeBlood and Gordon then set Ray up for the “Whazzaap??” diving headbutt to the groin that the Dudleys used to do, and moments later Gordon hit a 450 onto Ray for the win.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight title match: Dragon Lee defeated Bandido and Taiji Ishimori (c)
Outstanding, and possibly even better than you’d think, if you can even believe that. Fast and furious as you could imagine. Each of them were doing their signature dives from the get-go, it was all a tornado. Dragon Lee did the Bull’s Horn and Naito’s Combnacion Cabron. The crowd chanted for Bandido. You forget because of how great of flyers these three are, they all excel at pulling off these innovative power moves.
Ishimori used a super hurrcanrana on Lee as Lee stood was about to do a double stomp to Bandido who was hanging in a Tree of Woe. Wow.
In what was absolutely the move of the night so far, Bandido did a double fall away moonsault slam to both Ishimori and Lee. It was unreal. But only moments later, Lee used a suplex into a Liger bomb on Bandido, notably, for the victory. Dragon Lee is your new IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion.
Terrific stuff but it ended somewhat out of nowhere. It doesn’t take much away from what these three did, though, and it was amazing.
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team title match: IWGP Tag Team champions Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tonga Loa) defeated ROH World Tag Team champions Villain Enterprises (PCO & Brody King) EVIL & SANADA vs The Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe)
PCO had an unbelievable entrance with strobe lights and an electric chair. Destro came out as PCO was chained to the chair and used jumper cables to bring PCO back to life, so to speak. It was all very cool and production-wise well done, campy but truly aesthetically pleasing and novel. This is the first time I’ve seen Destro, PCO’s “trainer,” at a show alongside him.
The bell rang and it immediately turned into a brawl and spilled to the floor. PCO did a tope con giro through the ropes to the floor.
Inside the ring and later on, SANADA put Loa into the Paradise Lock and then dropkicked him. The crowd really enjoyed this.
EVIL later decked Tama Tonga with a chair and then he and SANADA went for the Magic Killer, but Villain Enterprises broke things up. PCO finally, finally, hit the somersault senton onto the apron onto Mark Briscoe. King hit the Gonozo Bomb and PCO moonsault inside the ring for a two count; GOD broke the tag up.
In what might be the next and even crazier high spot of the night, Tonga power bombed PCO from the ring to the floor, and not through a table. He then sat up and pretty much no sold it.
Guerillas of Destiny then super power bombed Brody King into the center of the mat to win this wild match.
It’s difficult to report exactly what happened after the match, but it appears as though Enzo Amore tried to do his schtick in near the front row. Bully Ray came out and there was a scuffle around the ring. The announce team danced around what was happening and didn’t address things, though you could clearly hear the crowd chanting “F*ck you, Enzo!” Please check the front page for more updates on what happened here.
British Heavyweight Title match Zack Sabre Jr. (c) defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi
This was very good but not much unlike their previous matches. Tanahashi got a huge reaction despite the whatever was happening between the match. Taka Michinoku came out and did the Zack Sabre Time gimmick in English. Sabre always looks to be snickering at him during this.
Methodical pace in this one, lots of joint manipulation and targeted limb-working. There was a really hot sequence toward the end of this with tons of reversals and counter-reversals until Tanahashi used few Twist-and-shout neckbreakers and a sling blade on Sabre. Sabre muscled his way back into an octopus hold which he then transitioned into one of his distinct armbar variations. He got Tanahashi to tap in around 15 minutes. Solid cool down match that still had drama.
IWGP Intercontinental Title match: Kota Ibushi defeated Tetsuya Naito
The crowd chanted “holy sh*t” before they’d even touched. This was arguably the first authentic NJPW match and it’s in Madison Square Garden.
They exchanged a lot of moves and ran the ropes quickly at the start. Outside the ring he whipped Ibushi into the guardrail and inadvertently hit a staff member and sort of got into it with him.
Back in the ring, Naito toyed with Ibushi, bullied him with paintbrush slapped him and did the Combinacíon Cabron. The crowd was really split between both wrestlers throughout this.
Naito teased doing the tombstone onto the apron, the same one he did to Ibushi in their NJ Cup match a few weeks ago, but Ibushi reversed things and did a standing frankensteiner to Naito off the apron to the floor. The crowd was left chanting “Mama mia!” afterwards; shout out to Mauro Ranallo from the other side of the bridge.
After Naito hit a tornado dot reversal on Ibushi, the “This is awesome” chants started up. Top rope rana from Naito to Ibushi came next, but a few moments later Ibushi turned Naito inside-out with a huge lariat that put both men down.
Somehow, Naito kicked out of an Ibushi deadlift German suplex off the middle rope. Naito landed right on his neck you could hear the gasps after he took the move.
Ibushi teased doing a modified cradle tombstone piledriver but Naito countered and then lightly botched his own piledriver, which looked more like a failed roll up. The moments after felt like a slight pause in the match.
The two exchanged elbows on their feet until Naito spit in Ibushi’s face. Ibushi chopped Naito hard. Naito used a perfect Destino for a close two. The crowd, who has been lively all night, was out of their minds after this.
Ibushi reversed Naito’s second Destino attempt and hit a few BomaYe knees for close two counts. The crowd energy through the television screen was palpable, for sure.
After a close call after using a Golden Star stout power bomb on Naito, Ibushi seamlessly transitioned from the pin combo to the kamagoye to win the IWGP Intercontinental Championship in just over 20 minutes.
What a match. Their March 10 New Japan Cup match was technically better, this was special and the in-house crowd loved it.
ROH World Heavyweight title Ladder Match: Matt Taven defeated Jay Lethal (c) Marty Scurll
Nick Aldis was on commentary for this and was really good through the entire match. Kamille stood behind him as he did the broadcast and she held his NWA World Heavyweight title. He talked up his relationship with Scurll, them both behind from England, and built their upcoming NWA match.
Scurll was very over as well, but as expected. Matt Taven got good heel heat. They did the intros as they’d do on a regular ROH show, with Bobby Cruise introducing everyone in the ring right before the bell.
Jay Lethal got a great hometown babyface reaction. It must be special, it happening so close to his home town and all.
Hot action that spilled to the outside from the bell. Taven did a huge plancha to the floor while the two others were holding a ladder. There were tons of smart and creative ladder spots throughout a lot of this and especially between Scurll and Lethal. Scurll hung Lethal in a Tree of Woe and put his head through two of the rungs and started hit the ladder with a chair. Taven hit a superkick onto Scurll that looked to have wicked kickback; Scurll’s head snapped and bounced off the mat.
Outside the ring, Taven power bombed Lethal onto a ladder. Huge, brutal spot. Lethal was out for a while. In the ring, Scurll almost locked a chicken wing onto Taven. Scurll did his bit and got the crowd all juiced up but Taven countered and kicked him. Red hot heat for that move. The crowd endlessly chanted “F*ck you, Taven!” and he ate this up. Great stuff.
Scurll expertly superplexed Taven off the top of the ladder into the ring. Jay Lethal got back into the mix and attempted a Lethal Injection but was caught in the chicken wing, which didn’t last for long. Lethal busted out and he and Taven fought on the top of the ladder until Lethal knocked him off. As Lethal went to grab the belts, he got caught in a chicken wing on top of the ladder, Scurll on the other side. Lethal broke out of the submission again and fell down the ladder. Taven climbed it and got his fingers snapped atop the ladder by Scurll. Taven tried grabbing the title but his fingers were too mangled to grab anything in the moment.
At one point they locked two short ladders together and Scurll gourdbuster’d Taven rib-first onto to big X-structure. At around this time a ladder somehow got knocked over and hit a fan in the first row. Seems like the person was all right.
Taven speared Scurll off the apron and through a table outside the ring. After this, Lethal set Taven up on a table then climbed up an extra tall ladder on the floor, pointed to fingers to the sky, and ode to “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and landed a beautiful elbow drop through a table. It’s the type of clip you want on the intro of your television show.
Lethal and Scurll fought on the regular-sized ladder for a bit. Taven pulled out this massive purple ladder in the middle of the ring and the ropes. The wrestlers set the extra ladders across the purple ladder’s rungs and built a somewhat stable construction for them to fight on. Scurll was knocked out of the picture and it left Lethal and Taven atop the purple ladder. Taven was then able to knock Lethal from the top down through the ladder lying across the purple ladder and the middle rope. The drop was so far that you could only hear Lethal crash through it. Taven then grabbed the ROH World Heavyweight title and is now the new champion.
Killer match with creative ladder spots and a hot crowd.
IWGP World Heavyweight Title match: Kazuchika Okada defeated Jay White (c) (w/ Gedo)
The company did the standard NJPW-style heavyweight introductions inside the ring. Constant calls and chants for Okada before the match. Jay White got tons of heat for pretty much anything he did.
This had a slow and steady heavyweight championship pace from the beginning of the match. White rolled under the bottom rope to the floor a few times. More chants for Okada. Some of the pulled-back shots of the Garden at the beginning of this match looked fantastic, kind of like a big boxing event.
They did some brawling on the outside. Gedo taunted Okada and teased getting involved. It was difficult for Okada to not get distracted by all the foolishness and ended up getting suplexed into the barrier by White.
White worked over Okada for a long while with submissions. Okada fired up later on, nipped up and got himself back into the fight. He dropkicked White off the apron, knocking him to the floor. Gedo tried getting involved again, but Okada took both he and White out with a running cross body block over the barricade and into the crowd. Okada high-fived nearby fans after sticking the move.
Back in the ring, White was able to counter Okada’s offense with a backdrop driver. They traded bigger moves back and forth. Huge shotgun dropkick from Okada that sent White flying into the corner. Okada did the Rainmaker pose and the crowd loved doing it along with him. One of the more interesting looking Rainmaker zoom-outs I’ve ever seen, mostly because of the high hard cam angle and it being in the Garden. White then blocked Okada’s Rainmaker by dropping his weight to the ground, hips-first. He laid more of a beating on Okada, suplexing him into the corner, tossing him over the top rope and using the Kiwi Crusher on Okada for just a two-count.
Okada did the Rainmaker pose and the crowd loved doing it along with him. One of the more interesting looking Rainmaker zoom-outs I’ve ever seen, mostly because of the high hard cam angle and it being in the Garden. White then blocked Okada’s Rainmaker by dropping his weight to the ground, hips-first. He laid more of a beating on Okada, suplexing him into the corner, tossing him over the top rope and using the Kiwi Crusher on Okada for just a two-count.
The match heated back up when Okada landed a tombstone piledriver. Moments later they exchanged elbows and uppercuts. White chopped Okada’s chest so much that it turned red and bloody. He fought back, though, landing two dropkicks on White and also knocking Gedo off the apron as he once again tried to interfere on White’s behalf. White countered out of the sequence with a brutal sleeper suplex.
White couldn’t hold on for too long and was then hit with a spinning Rainmaker followed by a Rainmaker for a shocking two-count. People were on their feet in complete awe. More chants for Okada broke out. White used a Bladerunner on Okada but both men laid in the middle of the mat for about thirty seconds here. The front rows smashed the barricades with their hands.
The thirty-minute call was announced and at around this time Gedo tried interfering again. While he argued with Red Shoes, the referee, White gave Okada a low blow. Red Shoes then ejected Gedo from ringside. The crowd chanted “F*ck you, Gedo!”
The two had an unreal exchange of moves,, counters, pins and otherwise, until Okada used one last huge dropkick on Okada, followed by another Rainmaker. White had an answer for all of Okada’s signature moves, and at the end of this there was another wild sequence of counters and reversals until Okada, finally, hit another tombstone and two more Rainmakers for pin and win. Kazuchika Okada is your new IWGP World Heavyweight Champion.
What a show. It will take a day or two to really process all of what just happened. There is a lot to pick apart, but in general this was a fantastic show, a legendary one in many ways, and it had the feel of one all throughout the broadcast. The good really outweighed any real bad on this show. Every wrestler on the card wrestled like it was the biggest match of their career, and it was obvious on the screen that the crowd felt that, and loved that.