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NJPW / ROH G1 Supercard preview & predictions: White vs. Okada in the Garden

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Yes indeed, ladies, gentlemen, and assorted nonbinary folks, it’s time for New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor to make their Madison Square Garden debut with G1 Supercard! So I’m here to prime y’all on the show and give you the low down on what’s going down, folks.

And as an added bonus, we’re making predictions! On with the (breakdown of the) show!

“Switchblade” Jay White (c) vs. Kazuchika Okada (IWGP Heavyweight Championship)

Kazuchika Okada is no stranger to failure.

Despite being New Japan Pro Wrestling’s golden boy since returning from excursion in 2012 and winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the first time, he’s had to climb mountain after mountain to really establish himself as the central pillar that bears NJPW’s burden. It seemed, after he finally bested Hiroshi Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 10 and proceeded to beat all comers on his way to the longest reign with that title in history, that he was out of peaks to summit.

The Switchblade didn’t just prove to be one last Everest-ian titan in the distance, he upended Okada’s entire support system, stealing his mentor Gedo away from him and putting a fracture in Chaos that’s seen members drifting away, splintered amongst the undercard tag matches and teaming with the usual unaffiliated New Japan babyface suspects.

And most critically, White has beaten the Rainmaker both times they’ve met, in last year’s G1 Climax and at Wrestle Kingdom 13, the latter victory coming in a mere fourteen minutes. It was a truly shocking defeat on several levels, and in years past, would have been enough to send Okada into the kind of spiral that’d seem him dye his hair red and carry balloons to the ring.

But this is a new Kazuchika for a new era, and his response to this defeat has been to pick himself up, dust himself off, and tear through New Japan Cup on his way to being #1 contender again. Will it pay off? Does Jay White just have his number?

Claire’s prediction: This feels like a real rock and a hard place situation. Do you cut Switchblade’s reign off with zero defenses immediately after a zero defense reign from Tanahashi and risk one of the most prestigious titles in wrestling feeling like a hot potato in order to make some real history in Madison Square Garden with a title change? Or do you keep the title on Jay while he grows into his older brother’s leather jacket and stretch Okada’s redemption arc out at the risk of it feeling like old hat after a while? I think the right choice is for Jay White to retain, defend against a few more of NJ’s leading lights over the course of the year, and lose to a G1 Climax winning Rainmaker at Wrestle Kingdom 14, but this feels really wide open to me right now.

Kyle’s prediction: Full disclosure: Last NJPW show I saw was Wrestle Kingdom. So I’m just going by what I read for the New Japan picks (I watch a bit more ROH.) But I don’t see the Era of Switchblade ending THIS soon. If you’re going to make a new star, you gotta stick with him for more than a couple months, which is why I pick Jay White.

Sean’s prediction: Claire makes a compelling case, but I just can’t see passing up a chance to crown the company’s biggest star in the most iconic building in the market you’re trying to expand into. Give it to Kazuchika Okada now, in case you don’t get a chance to book him in a Heavyweight title fight at the Garden again.

Jay Lethal (c) vs. Marty Scurll vs. Matt Taven (ROH World Championship Ladder Match)

Jay Lethal is the most successful ROH World Champion of all time.

He runs the leaderboard in overall defenses and total number of days as champion between his two reigns, and only Adam Cole can claim to have more reigns.

So when Matt Taven took him to his limit in a 60-minute time limit draw at 17th Anniversary Show, a rematch seemed only fair. Just one problem... shortly before that show, Marty Scurll announced that he was cashing in his Survival of the Fittest title shot at G1 Supercard. And, to punctuate his challenge, the Villain swept in after the bell rang for the draw and took the world title belt with him.

So, with two challengers, Lethal needed a solution, and once Scurll returned his property, Jay pulled a Chasing Amy— why not settle this with a three-way? Initially his challengers demurred, saying they wanted their singles matches, but Lethal had one last card up his sleeve... a ladder match, a quarter century after Madison Square Garden played host to one of the all-time greats, and that was all the sweetening the pot needed to get us here.

Claire’s prediction: I’ll fully admit that I haven’t paid close attention to ROH since Lethal was champion the first time, but it feels like it’s time to put a pin in his time as ROH World Champion now, before his records grow so much that they can’t be topped. And while Taven’s been putting the work in, I can’t help but think it’s do or die time for Marty Scurll, so I’m calling it for the Villain.

Kyle’s prediction: They’ve been building to Taven as champ forever now. Sometimes I find him boring. Sometimes I wonder if that’s by design and it’s good heel work. Sometimes I think he’s alright. (He caps at ‘alright’ for me.) But Matt Taven is probably the way they go here. I have to imagine Scurll jumps to AEW as soon as his contract his done (which I THINK was sometime in 2019?). And Jay Lethal champion has totally run it’s course.

Sean’s prediction: They actually managed to get the crowd hot for Taven at 17th Anniversary, so his time is coming. But while I can’t rule out hot shotting the belt to Marty for a headline, pretty sure they’ll stay the course with their guy Jay Lethal for a while longer.

Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito (c) (IWGP Intercontinental Championship)

In a business full of odd ducks, Kota Ibushi is one of the oddest.

The immediate justification for this match is that Ibushi beat Naito in New Japan Cup, but I think the truth runs a little deeper than that. Kota’s determination to freelance is legendary, from his attempt to juggle being full-time for both DDT and NJPW, to his refusing a WWE contract, and yet... he accepted a full-time exclusive New Japan deal this year.

And why? At a time when his partner Kenny Omega is leading the charge to establish All Elite Wrestling as a viable major pro wrestling promotion, why would Ibushi consent to being locked down?

I believe the answer is gold, folks. Aside from three reigns with DDT’s KO-D Openweight Championship, Ibushi has never once won a major, established, heavyweight championship. New Japan offers him one of the cleanest, best paths to that goal— in WWE he’d likely be pigeon-holed as a flippy cruiserweight, in AEW he’d be fighting for titles with no history, anywhere else he’d be coming in as an outsider, but here, in New Japan, where he’s been an established player for years?

Well he gunned his way right to an Intercontinental Championship match without even really trying, didn’t he?

Claire’s prediction: It’s kind of a shame, because I feel like the idea of Naito protecting and elevating a title that he didn’t want anything to do with in previous reigns has legs, but without the possibility of being double champion on the horizon, I don’t think this reign has much time left. Kota Ibushi wins a wild, excellent match that stands a better than even chance of being match of the night.

Kyle’s prediction: This match is going to be baller. And they’re probably going to reward Kota Ibushi for not going to AEW and sticking with them during the turnover. And if Okada doesn’t succeed, I’d have to think Naito is the next big challenger for the top prize.

Sean’s prediction: The free agent’s made a nest, and I expect Gedo’s looking forward to booking him like a regular roster member instead of a special attraction. Thank goodness his opponent can keep it tranquilo, because Kota Ibushi is gonna be the IC champ after tonight.

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (c) (RPW British Heavyweight Championship)

Is Hiroshi Tanahashi really as good as he’s ever been?

That’s the question the Once in a Century Ace has had to come to terms with over the last few months. It seemed to be answered in the affirmative when he defeated Kenny Omega for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 13, but when that title reign ended at New Beginning at the hands of the Switchblade, maybe it wasn’t so cut and dry.

He tore through New Japan Cup and made it to the semifinals before falling to SANADA, which is an impressive achievement no matter what, but Tanahashi did it with a quirk that shows he’s determined to prove he can still hang with the current generation. He set aside his usual match narrative, the escalating leg work that sets up the High Fly Flow, and beat each of his opponents— Shota Umino, Ryusuke Taguchi, and Sabre himself— with the finishers of New Japan legends of the past.

That victory over ZSJ is why he’s here fighting for the RevPro title in Madison Square Garden and, if he carries the day over the Technical Wizard, the Ace’s dedication to showing off his versatility is going to be what gets him the win.

Claire’s prediction: I’m torn— Sabre just won the title from Tomohiro Ishii back at Wrestle Kingdom 13, and based on RevPro’s own storylines it seems to me (as an outsider who generally just binges their shows once a year) like maybe the endgame for this title reign is losing to PAC. But you can’t ever count Tanahashi out, and it feels like the RevPro title would be an appropriate level for him to settle on coming out of this storyline. In the end, I think Zack Sabre, Jr. takes it and the Ace continues his inexorable slide to being one of the Dads, however.

Kyle’s prediction: Now I’m going to make a prediction about something I know even less about. Going with Zack Sabre Jr. because he’s awesome.

Sean’s prediction: All involved will want NEWZ coming out of Saturday night’s show, and Hiroshi Tanahashi winning a belt he’s never held before will grab a headline.

Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (IWGP) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) vs. Villain Enterprises (Brody King & Pierre Carl Ouellet) (ROH) (IWGP Tag Team Championship / ROH World Tag Team Championship)

Spinning out of a loss in an eight-man during this year’s edition of Honor Rising, initially this match was to be a straight title-for-title tag between the Briscoes and GoD, but then Villain Enterprises went and won the ROH title and eventually the decision was made to make this a four-way by including both sets of previous champions.

The result isn’t the most compelling story build to a match you’ll see this weekend, but the match itself should be an entertaining car wreck of a four-way tag. Expect PCO especially to do at least four things that make you go “WHAT?!”, folks, because WrestleMania weekend is his natural environment.

Claire’s prediction: Per New Japan’s website, this match is winner takes all, which makes it interesting because I feel like none of these teams are really likely to have a long run in the promotion that isn’t already their home. But hell, they might not like me very much for a variety of reasons, but I can’t help but love Dem Boys, so put all the gold on the Briscoes.

Kyle’s prediction: Tough call predicting who’s going to win the other promotions titles. I’m going to go with the Briscoes here because they have held the NJPW tag titles so New Japan trusts them. Plus they are the most established team here.

Sean’s prediction: Still trying to figure out how we got to a 4Way (and don’t blame Claire... I checked ROH’s website and that has me just as confused). But no matter, I believe NJPW wants this to be a big weekend for nu-Bullet Club, and they’re an act ROH won’t mind booking to split these belts back up again down the line, so I’m putting my faith in GoD.

Bandido vs. Dragon Lee vs. Taiji Ishimori (c) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship)

After beating Jushin Liger at NJPW’s 47th Anniversary Show last month, Ishimori issued a challenge for talent from outside New Japan to come challenge him for his IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, seeing no viable contenders bearing the Lion Mark with Liger beaten and on his way to retirement, KUSHIDA gone, Will Ospreay promoted to heavyweight, the LIJ juniors hurt and tied up in the tag scene, and Marty Scurll his stablemate.

CMLL’s Dragon Lee answered the call then and there, and we were all like “whoa, well, this’ll be good!”, but shortly thereafter, it came down that Bandido would also be in the match and hey, I ain’t complaining.

Claire’s prediction: The timing of this, a mere month before Best of the Super Jr. starts, is what has me thinking that Taiji Ishimori will retain and be the final boss hanging over the annual junior heavyweight round robin. (Which, incidentally, feels likes like it should be really fresh this year with a lot of new options both in New Japan and to bring in as tournament guests. C’mon, “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams!)

Kyle’s prediction: I think Bandido has huge things ahead of him and if this was for an ROH title, I’d pick him no doubt. The fact he’s not a New Japan guy gives me pause. I could still see it happening, but I am going to join my fellow predictors in going with Taiji Ishimori.

Sean’s prediction: Fun! Oh, a winner? ROH has been treating Bandido like Mustafa Ali in the booking department, and Dragon Lee’s great, but his home promotion’s name isn’t even on the billboard outside MSG. So I don’t see any reason to pick against the champ Taiji Ishimori here.

Bully Ray vs. ??? (New York City Street Fight Open Challenge)

Are we sure Bully isn’t retired? No? Okay then, on with the preview!

Juice Robinson has pre-emptively accepted this challenge, but since New Japan’s website still lists it as an open challenge and Minoru Suzuki is out here telling Bully not to play him for a fool, I’m treating it like it’s still up in the air.

Anyway, Ray issued the challenge back at Ring of Honor’s 17th Anniversary Show and it seemed for all the world to be a vehicle to get to another Flip Gordon match until he hurt his knee in Ireland, and now it’s wide open again.

Claire’s prediction: I feel like this ends up being a three-way featuring both Robinson and Suzuki, just an all-out brawl all over MSG. And, when the dust settles, I think Minoru Suzuki will have won on his way to challenge Juice for his IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship at Wrestling Dontaku or another upcoming NJPW show.

Kyle’s prediction: There’s no reason Bully should win this. So the question is who’s he facing. Sounds like it’s going to be Juice Robinson. The leader of Lifeblood could use a win over the type of guy he’s railing again.

Sean’s prediction: I thought it was gonna be CM Punk? Curse you and your carny ways, Bully! Anyway, yeah, can we please give Juice Robinson and that poor prop he carries some shine here? Lifeblood 4... life, I guess? Is that redundant?

Kelly Klein vs. Mayu Iwatani (c) (ROH Women of Honor Championship)

This is the third straight match between these women for the Women of Honor Championship in ROH. Iwatani’s gotten defenses in while wrestling for Stardom, beating Konami and Natsuko Tora, but in ROH, it’s been all-Klein, all the time for Mayu since Bound By Honor at the beginning of February, and she’s gone up 2-0 on the Gatekeeper, winning the title and then successfully defending it.

But this isn’t quite the one-sided feud that suggests, as Kelly has beaten Iwatani twice before that, and once in the tournament that crowned the first WOH Champion, so this is the 2-2 rubber match and has some real intrigue as a result.

Claire’s prediction: Gatekeepers are meant to be beaten, and while I can’t see the Stardom, er... star... sticking around ROH forever, I think Mayu Iwatani beats Klein this time and gets to wrestle somebody else at least once before losing the title.

Kyle’s prediction: I have no idea the rhyme or reason of ROH’s booking of their women. So I’m just going to guess Mayu Iwatani.

Sean’s prediction: Bless her heart, but building your division around Kelly Klein is a weird call. Still, it’s what ROH is doing.

Dalton Castle vs. Rush

Rush has been feuding with Lifeblood of late with victories over Bandido, Mark Haskins, and “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams on his way to MSG, so this match being against Dalton Castle, who is not part of that stable is... interesting! There’s not much to this story, just some homoerotic tension and a challenge from Castle plus a bit of intrigue due to Rush being undefeated and the Party Peacock not being able to buy a win with a half-off coupon lately, but Dalton’s a former ROH World Champion and a damn good competitor whose flamboyant style provides an interesting contrast to the last remaining original member of Los Ingobernables so sure, why not?

Claire’s prediction: ROH have been bringing a lot of new talent in and Rush is arguably the crown jewel of the bunch, so... sorry, Dalton.

Kyle’s prediction: I’ll go with the former champ in Dalton Castle because again, this feels random.

Sean’s prediction: The Peacock will strut again, and there shouldn’t be any shame in losing to a former World champ. But this whole thing will likely be forgotten soon after everybody leaves New York, so I don’t see the sense in beating El Toro Blanco this early in his ROH career. Gimme Rush.

Jeff Cobb (ROH) vs. Will Ospreay (NEVER) (NEVER Openweight Championship / ROH World Television Championship)

Challenge made, challenge accepted, ‘nuff said. There’s a bit of a theme to some of these undercard matches! But this one should be really good, given how young Will excels at fighting from underneath and how great Jeff is at putting guys in a position to do that. Ospreay’ll bump like a pinball, Cobb’ll toss him around wonderfully, it’ll be a good time.

Claire’s prediction: Well, I’ve got the Briscoes taking both tag titles home and Mr. Athletic’s reign with the TV title has run a solid length and gotten a few defenses whereas the Aerial Assassin’s just started with the NEVER, so let’s give Will Ospreay both of these, shall we?

Kyle’s prediction: Jeff Cobb is the guy in ROH and I don’t see him losing until he’s ready for that world title picture. This should be a fantastic match and Ospreay is incredible, but I see Jeff Cobb taking home the golds here.

Sean’s prediction: The Aerial Assassin picked up wins over some heavyweights in the New Japan Cup, and has a feud with Taichi just sitting there waiting for him. Who’s Cobb gonna feud with? Kenny King? I can’t see Gedo signing off on that, so gotta go with Will Ospreay.

Honor Rumble

We missed out on the New Japan Rumble at Wrestle Kingdom this year, but we’re getting a staggered-entry battle royal on ONE big NJPW show this year, by god! And what’s more, Jushin “Thunder” Liger is one of the thirty men in it, hoping for a big win as he finishes up his last year as an active wrestler!

Claire’s prediction: Like, obviously a Rumble like this is anyone’s game, but c’mon. Liger, in MSG, in the last year of his career? Anything else would be a mistake, so let’s get ready to hear “ikari no Jushin Liger!” one more time!

Kyle’s prediction: Yeah, Liger is definitely winning this as they celebrate his final year in the biz in MSG.

Sean’s prediction: As Hela once foolishly said on the Bifrost, “What were you the god of again?” Time to bring the thunder at the Garden, Jushin Liger.

There you have it, folks

Drop your own predictions below if you’d like, head on over to NJPW World or HonorClub to subscribe or FITE to buy the iPPV, and then be sure to come right back here to Cageside Seats tomorrow to enjoy the show with us!

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