If would have told me a year ago that my first live New Japan Pro Wrestling show would be at a fighting game tournament in Daytona Beach, Florida, I would have cackled. Just off the wake of Strong Style Evolved in LA back in March and the madness of WrestleMania week in New Orleans a week later, I thought I was going to have to wait for ages to see another show with New Japan talent, especially since whenever Ring of Honor comes to Florida lately, they are never on the card. However, a week before their next big show in San Francisco, The G1 Special, at the historic Cow Palace, I’m sitting front row with some of my best people living my best life.
Kyle is one of my favorites to go to shows with! Never a dull moment!
When Worlds Collide
My friend, Tarra, took some absolutely stunning photographs during the show, and since she was sat right next to me, I suggest checking out her gallery of photos from the show. I am still getting used to my new phone, and I wasn’t smart enough to make sure that I turned off the Live Photo option. To truly appreciate the art of professional wrestling, you need to see proper photos! There was also a team of eSports photographers at the venue taking great photos, too!
Yes, there is a reason why SHO and YOH of Roppongi 3K are featured. Keep reading.
Dark Match: Nakazawa Open Challege vs. Jebailey the King of eSports
In the week leading up to CEO, event runner Alex Jebailey tore his Achilles tendon while training for this top secret, surprise answer to Michael Nakazawa’s open challenge. Nakazawa doesn’t work for New Japan, but he met Kenny and Kota many years ago in Dramatic Dream Team (DDT) Pro Wrestling in Japan. If there was anyone Kenny Omega could trust his non-wrestler friend with, it’s Nack. They had a brief match, and it helped warm up the crowd for the opening remarks and NJPW card.
Kenny is wearing a Hollywood Jurina shirt for a pop idol who constantly supports NJPW!
Kenny came down to the ring, discussed the collaborative mission between himself and Jebailey. While there were many wrestling fans in the immediate ringside area, there were plenty of tournament attendees and locals who came to the show, too!
First Match: Rocky Romero (Roppongi 3K) vs. Jushin Thunder Liger
I was excited about this match, but I was surprised to see that it was the opening contest of the card! Typically, the first spot on a NJPW card goes to the rookies, known as Young Lions, so I thought this would be where Chase Owens and Jeff Cobb’s match would be. However, from the moment Rocky’s music hit, I knew why they started off with this Legends Only match up. It was the hype spot to get the crowd fired up for the rest of the night.
I love me some Rocky. I love me a Liger.
Second Match: Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Juice Robinson/David Finlay
Before Juice Robinson went to NJPW, I saw him in the Orlando Armory in NXT. While his style didn’t mesh well with the NXT crowd, he’s blown up since joining New Japan! I got to see Tama Tonga perform at MLW last fall, and he’s one of the most charismatic people you will ever meet. The match between G.O.D. and the two members of Taguchi Japan was a slower-paced, but harder-hitting match compared to the opener with Liger/Rocky.
Remember what I said about loving going to shows with my friend, Kyle? Tama blames Kyle’s passion for Taguchi Japan for David Finlay getting pitched over the railing and into our row! He also proceeded to make Kyle’s wife document everything with her camera!
Third Match: Jeff Cobb def. Chase Owens
If you were to ask me who my favorite male independent wrestler was, hands down it would be Jeff Cobb. Without fail, he is consistently one of the most genuine and sincere guys I’ve met going to independent shows the last 18 months. I was thrilled to see him not only featured on this card, but also making a recent return to New Japan after too long of an absense. I hope Taguchi takes him in because after his match against Hirooki Goto for the Never Openweight Championship at the G1 Special in SF, I need him and KUSHIDA to become best buddies.
I got to see more of Chase Owens during the BOSJ tournament because while he isn’t in the weight class, he was one of the only Bullet Club to tag with Taichi Ishimori, the newest addition to BC during this time. The match was enjoyable, with Chase being a comedic heel, but in the end, he took a Tour of the Islands and Jeff secured the win.
Semi-Main Event: Roppongi 3K vs. Taguchi Japan
I credit the Best of the Super Juniors 25 tournament for my deep adoration of Roppongi 3K, my new admiration of Ryusuke Taguchi and Dragon Lee. Their performances in the 16-man tournament gave each and every one of them the opportunity to shine solo. This match had possibly the fastest pace, but the smaller ring and congested ringside area prevented them from doing many of their out of the ring dives. It was such a good match, even as I sat and watched my boys lose right in front of me.
During the match, you’ll notice that SHO (in gold) and YOH (in silver) are joined by their manager, Rocky. He tried helping to secure the win to no avail! After the match, Rocky was consoling SHO & YOH like any heel manager would, by questioning the referee and calling B.S on the pinfall decision! It led up to a memorable, off-camera moment for me.
Main Event: Los Ingobernables de Japon vs. The Golden Lovers
By the time the main event rolled around, the crowd was buzzing! You could feel the electricity as soon as “Stardust Genius” (Naito’s Theme) started playing. Hiromu strolled out followed by Naito, and I was thrilled! Even though I’ve seen their entrance dozens of times, there is something special about seeing it live for the first time. Not that Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi as old hat, but I saw them not once, but twice during Mania week in New Orleans. It was exciting to see Kenny with his brand new championship, and to see Kota again because he never EVER disappoints!
I always love matches between these four, and with the G1 Climax Tournament starting mid-month, the interactions between Kenny, Naito, AND Kota are a mere sampler of what could be potential matches of the year candidates. Their styles are all similar, but when it comes to pacing, they constantly ratchet up each other until someone gives up. I cannot wait to see how it impacts their groups respectively as fellow LIJ member, SANADA is in the same B-Block with these three. Having won BOSJ, I wonder of Hiromu and the other junior heavyweights will get some time off, or if they’ll be running tag matches like some of the heavies did during BOSJ.
Outfit of the Evening: Roppongi 3K
With the influx of NJPW t-shirts in Hot Topic stores across the country, in addition to their working partnership with Ring of Honor, both Bullet Club and Los Ingobernables de Japon have a rapidly growing fanbase. Even if I was the one fan in the entire room supporting Roppongi 3K, I wanted them to know it!
I specifically planned an outfit change for this show because I knew I would be at ringside, and likely close to the path that the talent would take to the ring. I was lucky enough to catch both Rocky and YOH, as they both intentionally slowed down when they saw the hat and shirt. I was also lucky enough to catch a 3K (like a high five, but using the gesture below) from both YOH & Rocky.
Proof I went to the beach, well the open air food court by the bandshell by the beach…
- Top: Roppongi 3K t-shirt (also available at PWT minus the sleeve and back details)
- Bottom: white distressed Levi’s jeans (Target)
- Shoes: gold knit Converse lows, yellow Rilakkuma socks
- Accessories: Roppongi 3K snapback cap
I have my friend, Ben, to thank for schlepping a Roppongi 3K hat back from Tokyo for me! He was on vacation in Tokyo on the first night of the Best of the Super Juniors tournament, and when he posted a photo at the venue, I began desperately trying to get in contact with him! I was able to send him money, and get a pretty rad hat that got mileage all weekend long. Typically, I prefer a curved bill ballcap so I can pull my hair through it, but lately it’s been ‘long hair, don’t care,’ wear it backward!
Trying to be cool enough to join Chaos. Maybe I can put the K in RPG3K?
Normally, I don’t post screenshots of likes or retweets, but I was completely flattered to see the arena photo reposted on SHO’s Instagram, with likes from Rocky, YOH, and SHO on all related content from the event. Yes, I know it’s a little vain, but as a fan, even the smallest kindness can make such an impact. When I post content related to Japanese talent, I often try to make it bilingual, which can be so nerve-wracking because I feel like my proficiency has tanked since I’ve moved back to Florida and more importantly, stopped working in environments which require regular use of it.
Seeing their engagement with my photos and tweets is a small, but simple happiness and I am very grateful for it. Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to say thank you in person.
I never thought I would get to see the IWGP Heavyweight Championship belt up close, but there is was with one exhausted Kenny! I thought this would be the only chance I would have to snag a photo with The Best Bout Machine himself, but less than 24-hours later, our paths would cross again!
He may cut a savage promo, but Kenny Omega is one of the best guys out there!
- Note to self: Treat yourself to a nice metallic manicure next time. My hands look so bare!