Between NXT TakeOver: New York and WrestleMania 35, Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling are bringing their top stars to Madison Square Garden for the first time. The ROH/NJPW branded G1 Supercard event also includes representation of the other key members of this international, inter-promotional alliance with wrestlers featured from CMLL, Stardom, and RevPro.
There have been significant talent turnover, especially for ROH, and dramatic kayfabe developments since this show was first announced in July 2018 and sold out a month later. Most of the matches ended up being set up during the past month’s events surrounding both companies’ Anniversary Shows and the New Japan Cup, and several could have major consequences for ROH and/or NJPW’s futures. Most importantly, there’s the potential for some memorable in-ring action. In this article, we’ll break down the who, the what, and the why of the G1 Supercard.
But First, How Can I Watch The G1 Supercard?
There are a variety of options for watching this show! If you already have ROH’s streaming service, the $9.99 per month Honor Club, or New Japan’s streaming service NJPW World (about $9.00 per month), you can just open up one of those when the pre-show starts at 6:30 PM Eastern on Saturday, April 6, or the main card begins at 7:30. You can also buy the show as a PPV on Fite TV for $39.99, where the pre-show can also be watched for free. Additionally, AXS TV will broadcast the G1 Supercard as a two-part special on Friday, April 12 and Friday, April 19 at 8 PM Eastern.
The Honor Rumble
The one match we know for sure will be on the pre-show is the Honor Rumble, a Royal Rumble-style battle royal. The first person confirmed for the match was Jushin Thunder Liger and ROH later announced Kenny King, PJ Black, the Bouncers (Beer City Bruiser and Brian Milonas), and Cheeseburger. NJPW guys who haven’t been announced but seem like likely entrants because they’re booked on WrestleMania weekend shows but not the G1 Supercard include Rocky Romero, Tomohiro Ishii, Roppongi 3K (Sho and Yoh), Minoru Suzuki, Taka Michinoku, and the LA Dojo Young Lions.
Sumie Sakai, Hana Kimura, and Stella Grey vs. Kagetsu, Hazuki, and Jenny Rose
This six-woman tag featuring wrestlers from Stardom and WOH was initially teased on March 22 with the video above and officially announced with a tweet from referee Todd Sinclair on March 31. If you don’t have some form of love for Kimura, Kagetsu, and/or Hazuki, or just don’t know who these people are, their work is worth seeking out! The latter two’s Oedo Tai faction is one of the most fun in wrestling right now and it’s great to see them get a spot on such a high-profile platform.
NEVER Openweight and ROH World TV Championship Match: Will Ospreay (c) vs. Jeff Cobb (c)
Ospreay vs. Cobb, winner take all, is the first match on the card that raises the question of where the aftermath will take place. Will the winner of both titles spend time in both ROH and NJPW or will one company just lose a championship for a while?
Your guess of the answer to that question may determine who you want to win this match, but it’s hard to guess who will walk away with all the gold. Ospreay’s been on a “heavyweight killer” trajectory since shortly before Wrestle Kingdom 13, winning the NEVER Openweight Championship from Kota Ibushi, retaining against Dalton Castle, and defeating big men Bad Luck Fale and Lance Archer in the New Japan cup before falling to Kazuchika Okada. Cobb has looked similarly strong since he arrived in ROH in September 2018, with the only L on his record coming at the hands of Ospreay, who pinned him to win a tag team match on the NJPW/ROH Honor Rising tour.
Cobb challenged Ospreay remotely backstage after he retained his TV Championship at ROH’s 17th Anniversary Show, Ospreay responded after he was eliminated from the New Japan Cup, and the rest will go down on Saturday. The main thing that tilts the match in Ospreay’s favor is that he already has his next feud lined up with Taichi for New Japan’s next tour while Cobb’s future is up in the air.
Dalton Castle vs. Rush
While the men in the previous match have similar career momentum, that of Castle and recent ROH-signee/CMLL star Rush couldn’t be more different. Rush has been undefeated since he signed with the company in January 2019. Castle has been in a funk since his underwhelming ROH World Championship reign that was plagued by injuries.
When Castle watched Rush maintain his streak against the then-also-undefeated newcomer Bandido, he liked what he saw and was inspired to make a challenge that began with, “Just look at you! You’re like a mountain of meat!” He proposed a fight at Madison Square Garden and Rush accepted. The charisma in the ring is going to be off the charts during this match and it should be a lot of fun.
WOH World Championship match: Mayu Iwatani (c) vs. Kelly Klein
There’s a very clear heel vs. face dynamic in this fifth match between Klein and Iwatani, the rubber match for their feud. Klein is the closest thing ROH’s women’s division has to a dominant villain and was the second person to hold the WOH title after it was established about a year ago. Iwatani, who mainly works with Stardom and recently retained this championship there against Natsuko Tora, is lovable and talented. She’s also one of two Japanese wrestlers, along with Hiroshi Tanahashi, who has teased using a Dragon Suplex at MSG, the venue where Tatsumi Fujinami invented it.
NYC Street Fight: Bully Ray vs. Juice Robinson
What a winding road it has been to this match! Bully Ray’s thing in ROH right now is that he’s mean and old and hates smart marks and is extremely proud of his WWE accomplishments. At the Anniversary Show, he interrupted a performance by nerdcore rapper and writer of this PPV’s theme song MegaRan, decried rap music, and made an open challenge for anyone in the wrestling world to face him in a New York Street Fight. Based on how open challenges usually work, I expected this section of this article to be labeled “NYC Street Fight Open Challenge: Bully Ray vs. ???”
However, the heroic Juice Robinson (not defending the IWGP U.S. Championship on this show) responded to this challenge on
March 31, so it seems to be no longer open! There was also a report by The Steel Cage that MegaRan would be involved, but the rapper later revealed that was an April Fools’ Day joke.
The final, possibly weirdest element of the build to this match started with the decision by Bully Ray to acknowledge the facts that ROH’s tweets about the open challenge have been inundated with replies featuring gifs of Minoru Suzuki by tweeting that “Suzuki obviously doesn’t have the balls to accept my challenge” after Robinson committed to the match. This led Suzuki to first directly respond, then aggressively subtweet Ray about this whole thing the next day. Maybe this is another layer of the build! Maybe these two have real beef now! Wrestling is wild in 2019. Expect Ray vs. Robinson to brawl it out at MSG.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match: Taiji Ishimori (c) vs. Dragon Lee vs. Bandido
After Ishimori retained his title against Liger at NJPW’s Anniversary Show, he laid out a challenge for someone from ROH to step up and face him at the G1 Supercard. No one from ROH was physically present to immediately respond, but CMLL’s Dragon Lee. who has memorably battled his arch-rival Hiromu Takahashi for the Junior Heavyweight Championship before, was! Lee vs. Ishimori seemed to be set, but ROH newcomer Bandido decided to get in on the action and made the match a triple threat via remote promo. The high-flying and athleticism on display here should be insane.
IWGP Heavyweight Tag and ROH World Tag Team Championship Match: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) (c) vs. Villain Enterprises (Brody King and PCO) (c) vs. Evil and Sanada vs. The Briscoe Brothers (Mark and Jay Briscoe)
It’s been another winding road to get all four of these teams competing for both these titles in this match. A feud between G.o.D. and then-ROH tag champs the Briscoes emerged during the Honor Rising tour. After the Guerrillas defeated Evil and Sanada to become champions again, the Ring of Honor mainstays challenged them to a winner take all tag title match.
This made it seem like the result of the No Disqualification Street Fight between the Briscoes and Villain Enterprises at the ROH Anniversary Show was a given, but King and PCO ended up surprisingly becoming title-holders. (If you haven’t seen this new ROH duo in action, Brody King is a huge man who does lucha libre moves it doesn’t seem like he should be able to and PCO is formerly half of The Quebecers who is now no longer human and wrestles like it.)
I have to use quotes from ROH’s news article about this match in order to try and make sense of how it became a four-way because none of the subsequent booking took place onscreen or even social media. According to ROH, though Villain Enterprises were definitively the new tag team champions, “since it was the Briscoes who initiated the challenge with G.O.D, officials from ROH and NJPW agreed that the Briscoes should be included in the match between PCO and King and G.O.D.”
ROH also says Evil and Sanada are here, added the night after the end of the New Japan Cup, because they “declared that they want their rematch with G.O.D. to take place at G1 Supercard.” But New Japan doesn’t have an automatic rematch clause, so what is the kayfabe truth?
All this aside, the one thing we can be sure to expect from this match given the teams involved is chaos.
RPW British Heavyweight Championship Match: Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Hiroshi Tanahashi was the unexpected, at least to Zack Sabre Jr., block in Zack Sabre Jr.’s desired path to New Japan Cup win for the second year in a year. Though Tanahashi was eliminated from the tournament in the next round and therefore missed out on the MSG IWGP title shot, by pinning Sabre he did have a match coming for RevPro’s British Heavyweight Championship. Sabre reminded him of this by brutally targeting him in a tag team match, then challenging the Ace to challenge him.
Based on their last match together, Tanahashi vs. Sabre has the potential to steal the show. Their last preliminary tag match beforehand, when Tanahashi and Ospreay take on Sabre and Suzuki, looks like a potential standout of RevPro’s Live in NYC as well. Also, expect the Ace to at least try for one of those Fujinami-tribute Dragon Suplexes.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship match: Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Kota Ibushi
Kota Ibushi defeated Tetsuya Naito in one of the highlights, if not the highlight, of the first round of the 2019 New Japan Cup and earned himself a shot at the Intercontinental Championship. Naito hassled Ibushi about accepting it for a while, but it was his mistreatment of the white belt, for which Ibushi has memorably battled his personal heroes Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura in the past but has never won, that led to the Golden Star picking up the match after he was eliminated from the tournament.
Naito and Ibushi are two of the best and most popular wrestlers in NJPW and have a great rivalry that stems from their next-level chemistry with each other, sharply contrasting characters, and similar willingness to do crazy things to their bodies in wrestling matches. Their IC title match could easily steal the show at MSG.
ROH World Championship Three-Way Ladder match: Jay Lethal (c) vs. Matt Taven vs. Marty Scurll
Lethal vs. Taven vs. Scurll for the ROH World Championship brings multiple long-running Ring of Honor storylines together and adds a ladder to the mix. “The Franchise” Jay Lethal has now held this title for more combined days than any other wrestler, but Matt Taven, with his Kingdom flunkies by his side, has undermined this reign by declaring himself “the real world champion” and carrying around a fake belt. Additionally, Marty Scurll, who has competed for this championship multiple times before, really stepped up his quest to be recognized as “Mr. ROH” since the Elite ditched him. He started his own faction, Villain Enterprises, and later challenged the winner of Taven vs. Lethal at the Anniversary Show for a title match at MSG.
However, Taven vs. Lethal went down in a very unexpected way. When Taven didn’t like how he was presented in a video package for another match, he entered the venue to make a speech about how he’s the real champ. Lethal entered ready to fight and their title match took place in the middle of the PPV rather than the previously scheduled main event slot.
But this wasn’t the end of their feud because Lethal and Taven ended up battling to a sixty-minute time-limit draw. Afterward, Scurll entered the ring and took the World Championship. Later it was announced that the outcome of this match would result in a triple threat for the title at G1 Supercard. The ladder was added in reference to the WrestleMania X ladder match for the WWF Undisputed Intercontinental Championship that took place at Madison Square Garden twenty-five years ago.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship match: Jay White (c) vs. Kazuchika Okada
Since Jay White and Kazuchika Okada’s rivalry first began with tension of the surface of Chaos in early 2018, their standings in New Japan have been reversed. White has defeated the once-unstoppable Rainmaker twice in singles matches. When he won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship from Tanahashi, it was widely compared to the “Rainmaker Shock” of Okada winning the title from the Ace (though that was even earlier in Okada’s post-excursion career.)
However, Okada’s been on a singles match winning streak this year that has now carried him to a fairly predictable win of the New Japan Cup and back to the title picture in the main event at MSG. For Okada, this is not only a chance for him to fully regain his former glory and cut the Cutthroat Era short, but also an important opportunity to represent NJPW and Japan abroad. In his words:
“[NJPW] has been to America before, but those events have often had foreign wrestlers facing each other at the top of the card… being at Madison Square Garden isn’t just a big deal for New Japan, this is a huge deal for Japan, period. To have a Japanese wrestler, standing as the face of professional wrestling, there’s only one person for that spot, and it’s me.”
With high stakes, a personal rivalry, and strong feelings held by many fans about both of these wrestlers, it’s safe to expect not only a dramatic main event, but also dramatic crowd reactions to close the G1 Supercard, no matter who wins.