– For wrestlers and serious fans Japan is considered the apex of the sport.
– New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) is the hottest promotion in pro wrestling worldwide.
This show is part of NJPW’s continuing effort to gain more visibility in the US market
New Japan Pro Wrestling once again brings the best in ring product on the planet to the United States this weekend for ‘G1 Special in San Francisco’ at the venerable Cow Palace. This is the biggest venue NJPW has run in the United States and while the Cow Palace ain’t exactly the T-Mobile Arena it’s got plenty of significance in the pantheon of pro wrestling arenas. It opened in 1941 as the “California State Livestock Pavilion” and hoped to give an economic boost to the region. During the first half of the 20th Century, livestock pavilions did big business at major fairs and similar events. Many local residents didn’t see the wisdom of investing in such a facility when it was originally proposed during the Great Depression and a local journalist quipped that it was ‘immoral to let people starve while taxes paid for a “palace for cows.” According to legend, this was the genesis for the building’s unusual name.
It’s name notwithstanding, the Cow Palace has played host to a diverse array of events. At various points during the 60s and early 70s it served as the home court for the San Francisco Warriors (now the Golden State Warriors). The Warriors actually played their home games in the finals at the Cow Palace during their first NBA Championship run in 1975. The Cow Palace hosted the Republican National Convention in 1956 and 1964 and was the ‘home rink’ for the Bay Bombers Roller Derby Team. The NHL San Jose Sharks played at the Cow Palace for two seaons until their primary venue was finished. It’s hosted plenty of boxing events including appearances by legends such as Sugar Ray Robinson and Alexis Arguello.
The Cow Palace has also been a top concert venue in the area with a veritable ‘who’s who’ of American popular music appearing on its stage. Frank Sinatra played the Cow Palace in 1957 to rave reviews. Sinatra aficionados consider his live performances during this span to be some of his best and the widely circulated ‘Seattle 1957’ bootleg was recorded on the same tour as his San Francisco appearance. In the years that followed the legendary concerts continued–some of the acts that have played the Cow Palace: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, Elvis, The Supremes, The Allman Brothers, Ozzy Osbourne on his ‘Diary of a Madman’ tour, Van Halen (three nights during their last tour with David Lee Roth), Prince (six sold out shows on the ‘Purple Rain’ tour) and too many others to mention.
THE HOUSE THAT RAY STEVENS BUILT
Well, he may not have built it but no one sold out the building more than Ray ‘The Crippler’ Stevens. With the caveat that all pro wrestling attendance figures are subject to being ‘worked’ Stevens’ run as the top draw for promoter Roy Shire is mind boggling. Stevens drew crowds of 15,000+ to the Cow Palace 10 times and by the end of his run in the early 1970’s had headlined cards that drew more than 10,000 fans over 50 times. The apex of Stevens’ NorCal run was likely his 1963 trilogy against Pepper Gomez that drew 50,000+ fans.
Roddy Piper first started to find ‘his voice’ during his early career run in San Francisco and would go on to become one of the best promo guys in pro wrestling history. Longtime Portland mainstay ‘Playboy’ Buddy Rose appeared frequently in San Francisco along with others including Pat Patterson, Rocky Johnson, Peter Maivia, Don Muraco, Kevin Sullivan, ‘Moondog’ Mayne and Dick Murdoch. Unfortunately, most of the video from this era has been lost to the ages though you can find bits and pieces on YouTube and similar sites.
BEST BOUT MACHINE KENNY OMEGA
This will be Kenny Omega’s first defense of the IWGP Championship and with all due respect to Cody Rhodes it’s going to be tough for this match to come close to his title win over Kazuchika Okada. In fact, it’s going to be damn near impossible. Omega won the title from Okada in the main event of the June 9 ‘Dominion’ event in Osaka with the 2 of 3 falls, no time limit match receiving an unprecedented 7 stars on a 1-5 star scale from Dave Meltzer who said in The Wrestling Observer Newsletter the next week:
When it had ended, my thought was that this was the greatest match I’ve ever seen. Not arguably, and not by a little big either. It was at a level far beyond when it came to emotion, storytelling, and attention to detail. It was almost astonishing watching it.
Hard to see Omega losing his first title defense after beating Okada to end his all time record IWGP title reign (720 days). NJPW wanted to book Okada’s reign as ‘legendary’ (and it definitely was not only in terms of length but by the metric of ‘in ring performance as well) and a quick loss by Omega would only denigrate all of that hard work. Meanwhile, the booking of Cody Rhodes’ recent matches also suggests an Omega win. Rhodes got a pinfall win over Omega’s ‘Golden Lovers’ tag team partner Kota Ibushi at Wrestling Donataku 2018 in May. There’s also an indication that Ring of Honor didn’t put the title on him at the June 29 ‘Best in the World’ PPV to avoid having their champion turn right around and ‘do the job’ for IWGP champ Omega. ROH was anxious to get the belt off of a banged up Dalton Castle but he got the win over Cody and ‘The Villian’ Mary Scurll only to lose the title to Jay Lethal at the next TV taping. There’s a storyline for the ‘All In’ event that Cody will get a match against current NWA champion Nick Aldis only if he’s ROH champion and it’s a title v. title match.
Here are the odds for NJPW Pro Wrestling G1 Special in San Francisco:
NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING G1 SPECIAL IN SAN FRANCISCO BETTING ODDS
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Kenny Omega: -750
Cody Rhodes: +600
IWGP UNITED STATES HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Jay White: -210
Juice Robinson: +180
IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Hiromu Takahashi: -350
Dragon Lee: +300
IWGP TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
The Young Bucks: -210
EVIL & SANADA: +180
NEVER OPENWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Hirooki Goto: -550
Jeff Cobb: +400
TAG TEAM MATCH
Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay: -350
Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI: +300
TAG TEAM MATCH
Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA: -150
Hangman Page & Marty Scurll: +130
TAG TEAM MATCH
Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano: +300
Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.: -350
TAG TEAM MATCH
YOSHI-HASHI, Gedo, Rocky Romero, SHO & YOH: +300
Haku (Meng), Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens: -350