The New Beginning tour hits Hiroshima, as the IWGP Junior and tag team titles were defended on the first of two shows.
Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru defeated Yuya Uemura, Yota Tsuji & Gabriel Kidd via referee stoppage in 8:02 (***)
BUSHI pinned Master Wato in 11:09 (***¼)
Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & Kazuchika Okada pinned Yujiro Takahashi, Jay White, El Phantasmo, Taiji Ishimori & EVIL in 12:08 (***)
Tetsuya Naito & SANADA pinned Tomoaki Honma & Kota Ibushi in 11:02 (***)
Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa defeated Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr. in 29:08 via disqualification to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships (***¾)
Hiromu Takahashi pinned SHO in 35:38 to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship (****¼)
We’ve got a six-match card here, and we’ve also got Kevin Kelly for one of his final shows (for now).
Yota Tsuji, Yuya Uemura & Gabriel Kidd vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
Like lambs to the slaughter.
Uemura jumps Suzuki as soon as he got through the ropes, taking him outside for some kicks while Tsuji took Kanemaru into the barriers. Suzuki takes them too as Kidd had his eyes raked by Desperado in the ring. Kidd replies with a slam and an elbow drop for just a one-count, with Tsuji coming in to hit a double shoulder tackle.
The Mount Tsuji splash off the ropes gets a two-count, before Tsuji got kicked in the back… then speared by Desperado as Suzuki-gun turned it around. Suzuki absolutely chucks Kidd into the rails before going after Uemura, who gets elbowed while Desperado rakes Tsuji’s eyes across the top rope. Suzuki tags in and proceeded to deck Tsuji with a single elbow. Kanemaru’s next, hitting a dropkick to aid Desperado’s back suplex for a two-count, with Kidd breaking it up… then having his eyes raked again. More eye rakes form Kanemaru drop Tsuji, who then blocks a suplex as he eventually reversed the move.
Another tag brings Suzuki in, but Kidd charges him down as Tsuji was able to tag out to Uemura, who’s all about those elbows. You know how it goes. Elbows barely faze Suzuki, nor do uppercuts, but a dropkick in the corner had an effect, as does a leaping forearm. Uemura tries for a suplex, but Suzuki countered with a front chancery, but went to the Gotch piledriver too soon and got rolled into a Boston crab.
Uemura manages to drag Suzuki away from the ropes, but the rope break’s eventually made as the Young Lions swarm… leading to a Uemura dropkick after some triple-teaming. Kanemaru breaks it up as the Young Lion team worked well… but then Suzuki got a glint in his eye and began to fight back. CLONK.
That elbow took Uemura into the ropes, but he doesn’t go down! He fights back, but a barrage of slaps from Suzuki have Uemura down for a half crab, which leads to the referee stoppage. I absolutely loved the camaraderie from the Young Lions trio here, helping Uemura try and get a win over the targeted Suzuki… but in the end, Suzuki was able to dispatch of Uemura. ***
BUSHI vs. Master Wato
Master Wato being this low down the card for a feature match makes me worry about who’ll be the “next” challenger for the junior heavyweight title…
We’ve a jump start as Wato leaps into BUSHI with a dropkick out of the corner while he was posing, taking the masked one outside for a tornillo before Wato seemed to go after BUSHI’s mask. BUSHI rolls outside, where Wato just rips off BUSHI’s shirt, preventing BUSHI’s likely choking game… but then BUSHI just reverses a whip and slung him into the railings.
Back inside, BUSHI chops Wato into the corner, then dropkicked the knee into the ropes ahead of a knee breaker. BUSHI works over Wato’s knee with the beginnings of a STF, but Wato gets to the rope before replying with a leaping kick. A leaping rear kick from Wato drops BUSHI as Kevin Kelly posits “what if Master Wato never finds the way to the Grand Master?”
A gamengiri on the apron keeps BUSHI rocked ahead of a springboard… but BUSHI evades, only to get caught with a tiltawhirl backbreaker for a two-count. A leaping neckbreaker from Wato gets another two-count, before an enziguiri from BUSHI took Wato back into the ropes. Draping Wato across the ropes looked to set up for a dropkick, but Wato evades and returned with the springboard uppercut, taking BUSHI outside… but a second tornillo is avoided as BUSHI nicks in with a ‘rana.
That ‘rana takes Wato outside as a tope suicida knocked Wato into commentator’s row. They return to the ring as BUSHI continues to work on Wato’s legs, weakening him for a DDT as a lungblower’s then blocked. A low dropkick to the knee followed before Wato rebounded with Recientemente for a near-fall. BUSHI goes back to the knee, but ends up taking another enziguiri before the Tenzan Tombstone Driver left BUSHI laying. Wato heads up for RPP, but BUSHI rolls away… Wato manages to come back with some more kicks, but he’s caught in the ropes for another lungblower as we crossed the ten minute mark, before BUSHI went up for MX… but Wato avoids.
Wato’s tiltawhirl looked to lead to something, but a rewind kick from BUSHI landed… as did the Terrible – the first time we’ve seen that – but the sorta-spin out Samoan drop-but-a-bit-lower gets a near-fall. From there, BUSHI goes up for the MX, and that… is… it! This started off hot and cooled a little, but this was up there with the best Wato’s looked since his re-debut… and I’m now ever so slightly less nervous about Wato as a title challenger by the end of the night. ***¼
Post-match, BUSHI spills ice from an ice bag onto Wato – yet more disrespect.
Bullet Club (EVIL, Jay White, Yujiro Takahashi, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI
We’ve build for tomorrow’s NEVER trios title match, but only Jay White’s in this as the Guerrillas of Destiny have another title to defend later…
We’re 3-for-3 on jump starts as Makoto Abe’s not had to put a shift in yet, with the CHAOS lads jumping their opponents before the bell. Goto, Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI isolate Jay White… who bails as soon as he could, tagging in Taiji Ishimori as Ishii gave chase. Gedo’s dragged in to take a clubbering, as he then accused the CHAOS lads of… yeah, let’s not go there. Let’s just say he accused them of something with Tama Tonga’s rubber chicken.
Things try to settle down as ELP back rakes YOSHI-HASHI off the middle rope, while we hear EVIL killing the time keeper by way of Kazuchika Okada. There’s too much for the camera crews to focus on as they instead… show Ishimori’s leaping back rake to YOSHI-HASHI. Jay White tags in and mocks the CHAOS clubbering to YOSHI-HASHI, then followed it up with a neckbreaker for a two-count.
YOSHI-HASHI tries to fight out of the corner, but he’s trapped under the boot of Yujiro before EVIL came in to help out with a cheating abdominal stretch, with all sorts of leverage being added. I love it. A Bunker Buster from YOSHI-HASHI gets him free, btu he needs ot a little more before tagging out to Okada, who decked EVIL with a back elbow.
Yujiro’s back in to take a flapjack, before EVIL pulled hair and raked the eyes of Okada. Okada gets free, but gets pushed off the top by Dick Togo as a Fisherman buster from EVIL lands for a near-fall. A big boot from Okada stops EVIL in his tracks as tags bring us to White and Ishii, which features a lot of swinging clotheslines that don’t hit, and an uppercut from Whtie that does.
White’s reversed into the corner, where he’s met with an elbow from Ishii and a shoulder tackle… which draws in ELP and Ishimori. Yano and Goto make the save, but get thrown into each other before Goto clotheslines the junior tag champions. White’s back to try for a Blade Buster, but instead he hits a back suplex. Ishii pops right back up, then took a Blade Buster and a DDT.
Yujiro asks to be tagged in, and gets it as he boots away Ishii only to get suplexed. Yano’s in next, and of course, he instantly goes for the turnbuckle pad. Dick Togo distracts as Yano then goes for the other pad as Yujiro stops himself running into the corner. No such luck for Yano, who gets whipped into the corners before Dick Togo again interfered, catching Yano on the apron before a Yujiro clothesline almost got the win.
A Parade of Moves begins with bodies flying all over the place… along with turnbuckle pads, before a low blow and a roll-up got Yano the pin over Yujiro. A perfectly fine undercard tag match that started hot, but petered out away from the Ishii/White stuff. Just enough build for the trios title match tomorrow. ***
Post-match, Kazuchika Okada baited EVIL into the ring… then went after him when EVIL looked to run away.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & Tetsuya Naito) vs. Kota Ibushi & Tomoaki Honma
This one’s all about tomorrow’s double-title match, with SANADA looking to end Kota Ibushi’s reign at the first hurdle.
Of course, Ibushi and SANADA start us off, going to the mat as they exchanged holds, leading to a headlock takedown by Ibushi… and headscissor escapes from SANADA before we got the stand-off. A dropkick from Ibushi caught SANADA coming off the ropes, before Honma came in… but he’s tripped in the ropes by Naito as a low dropkick from SANADA found a way.
Naito pulls Honma outside for a trip to the railings, while Ibushi took a Bret Hart bump into the bars too. Back inside, a Naito neckbreaker gets a two-count as my feed dropped out. It recovers with Ibushi tagging in and clearing out SANADA with a plancha, only to get tripped back inside as Ibushi needed to push away from a Paradise Lock.
Ibushi tries to trap SANADA in the same hold, but it came to nought as SANADA just kicks away and tied up Ibushi anyway. The low dropkick breaks them up as my feed goes again. We recover with Naito and Honma tagging in, but Honma’s taken down for a low dropkick before a neckbreaker and a headscissor submission.
Honma gets free, then clotheslines Naito in the corner to avoid Combinacion Cabron, before throwing Naito towards Ibushi for a scoop slam. The pair follow up with a Kokeshi for a two-count, before a headbutt from Honma drew in SANADA to start a brief skirmish. Ibushi’s in, but get slow bridged to the outside, as Honma then eats kicks and a diving forearm from Naito, before a quick Destino got the win. This was fine for what I could see of it – but this didn’t get me any more amped up for that double-title match tomorrow. ***
El Phantasmo came out… of retirement. He’s on commentary for the remainder of the show. Joy!
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr.) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (c)
We’ve a rematch from WrestleKingdom, as Taichi might well be more focused on getting his Iron Fingers back? DOUKI’s at ringside with the challengers so he can neutralise Jado. Tama Tonga’s got a sack full of bags… maybe the Iron Fingers are in there?
Taichi’s thrown the bag, but he doesn’t fall for it at first… then does, as it provided a distraction for the Guerrillas to attack before the bell. Jado and DOUKI have a brief swing at the start, as Taichi then flung Tama into the rails, while ZSJ looked to rip off Tanga Loa’s leg. DOUKI “escorts” Jado to the back as Taichi starts to go through the paper bags…
First: some bread. Where’s Kojima? Second: a boxing glove. Tama cuts off the prop comedy by slamming Taichi, who snapmared and kicked Tama in response. Taichi’s back to the bags, finding more hand puppets and a tab;e tennis bat, before Tama feigned fear at Taichi opening the final bag. Tama knocks the bag into Kanemaru (who was doing commentary), before a double count-out tease almost came to fruition.
Both Tama and Taichi break the count at 19, as Kanemaru then opened up the final bag… to find a big pink bra. Yeah, Taichi snapped and choked away on Tama, before Tanga Loa’s Blue Thunder driver broke it up. Heading outside, Tama throws Taichi into the railings while Tanga stoob on Sabre’s throat. Tama’s back to the bag, throwing some ping pong balls at Taichi on the outside, before both men beat the count once more. A snap suplex gets Tama a two-count, before sentons atomico from the champions led to another two-count. Elbow drops from Tanga Loa keep Taichi down for another two-count, before Zack Sabre Jr. ran in… and got turfed to the outside as the Guerrillas kept control.
Tama tags back in to hit a dropkick that bounced Taichi into the ropes, before some right hands finally fired up Taichi into a comeback, stinging Tama with a series of kicks. An enziguiri stops all that, as we crossed the ten minute mark on this beatdown of Taichi. Finally Taichi lands a back elbow on Tanga Loa, then a boot, before a gamengiri bought Taichi just enough time to make the tag out to ZSJ.
ZSJ clears house, but a series of uppercuts ends with a forearm from Tanga Loa. Sabre responds with an overhead kick to the arm before wrenching Tanga down for a stomp to the left elbow. Tama tries to make a save, but just gets his neck twisted as Sabre went back to Tanga’s arm… but they’re right by the ropes. Not that that saved Tanga from having his elbow stomped on again, mind you.
Arm wringers from Sabre stop Tanga from making a tag out, but Tanga breaks free anyway and eventually spears Sabre. Tama tags back in and lands a leaping neckbreaker to both Sabre and Taichi, before a Magic Killer was countered out of. Still, the Guerrillas stay on top before an attempted back body drop into a powerbomb was countered as Sabre and Taichi tabbed a pair of submissions.
Sabre’s guillotine ends in the ropes as Taichi had Tama Tonga in a Stretch Plum. A PK from Sabre follows after some aid from Taichi, but it’s not enough. Tanga Loa countered out of another guillotine attempt with a Jackhammer, but he can’t get the cover as tags bring us back to Tama and Taichi. Chokes from Taichi take Tama into the corner ahead of an Axe bomber.
Kawada-style kicks from Taichi keep Tama down, but a Tongan Twist out of nowhere takes us to the 20-minute mark. Tama slithers into the corner as he set up for a Gun Stun, but Taichi avoids it… then blocks a second one, countering into a backdrop driver. Taichi only gets a two-count from there, as Sabre tries to come in and help out… but his attempt to take Tanga Loa’s back is countered into Guerrilla Warfare.
Tama and Taichi are still the legal men though, but a back suplex/neckbreaker with Tanga Loa’s help gets a near-fall, before the Guerrillas looked to finish Taichi with a wedgie. And a Super Powerbomb. Except Taichi counters the suplex set-up, before Sabre saved Taichi from Apeshit… kicks drop Tanga Loa. From there, they batter Tama Tonga ahead of Zach Mephisto, but Tanga Loa pulls out the referee to stop the count. Tanga pulls Sabre to the outside, then came in to trade clotheslines with Taichi… Tanga stands tall before Kevin Kelly somehow mistook Jado for Takashi Iizuka. I mean, the bald head and the Iron Fingers… an easy assumption to make. Tama gets the Iron Fingers, but DOUKI’s in to make the save… only to get jabbed to death by the glove.
The ref’s still down as Tama measured up Taichi, but he kicks the glove away and rescues it! Except Tanga Loa knocks the glove away again as Tama regains possession… but Sabre makes the latest save as Taichi regains the Iron Fingers… just in time for the referee to return to the ring. Taichi shoves him aside, then decked Tanga Loa with the Iron Fingers. Jado breaks his Kendo stick, but takes the Iron Fingers too, before Tama Tonga begged for mercy.
Taichi shows none and jabs Tama Tonga… and there’s the DQ. Almost half an hour for THAT?! I get the story they were going for, but some will find plenty to be upset at here – both in how long things went before the DQ finish, and the prop comedy throughout. I have no issue with the props since it fit with the whole story of Tama and Taichi, but like everything, it has to be in moderation. As for the match, this was enjoyable, but I can’t help but be a little soured by how long we went for that finish. They got me, and will likely do so again and again… ***¾
Taichi went wild afterwards until Yoshinobu Kanemaru disarmed him of the Iron Fingers to calm him down.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: SHO vs. Hiromu Takahashi (c)
You know we’re not in Tokyo as we’re going beyond 8pm local time!
The pair charged at each other at the bell, laying in with back-and-forth elbows like they were starting a Korakuen undercard tag. The Hiroshima crowd clap along with these as the pace sped up, then fell… then raised again as the pair went into the corners, battering each other as they went.
They keep going with the elbows, leaving SHO in the ropes briefly before he was tossed outside. Taking turns, they fling each other into the rails by the English commentary table, before they stopped throwing elbows for long enough to dive back in at the count of 19. Hiromu quickly pulls SHO out and threw him into the rails once more, before rolling SHO back inside. Elbows from above keep SHO grounded, but he tries to fight back out of the corner as Hiromu ends up taking him across the ring… before a spear attempt was caught. Hiromu tries for a Falcon arrow, but SHO slips out and nails a spear at the second attempt. SHO builds up with a series of kicks that lead to a two-count, before a deadlift German suplex was blocked.
At the second attempt, Hiromu countered with a wheelbarrow Flatliner, before he took SHO back to the corner for a clothesline. SHO tries to charge back, but he’s caught with an overhead belly-to-belly, before a set-up for a sunset bomb was blocked, with SHO instead looking to suplex Hiromu from the ring to the floor. Hiromu shuffles onto the apron as the suplex struggle continued, leading to Hiromu slipping out as he looked for a powerbomb… only for SHO to counter… which Hiromu finally countered back into a powerbomb from the apron to the floor.
Hiromu returns to the ring to beat the count, but an attempt at a back senton off the top is blocked as SHO popped onto the apron and powerbombed Hiromu onto the edge of the ring. Beating the count, Hiromu makes it back inside but can’t avoid some German suplexes before rolling to the ropes to break a cross armbar. SHO tries for more German suplexes, eventually ragdolling Hiromu across the ring, before Hiromu replied with a rebound German suplex after sidestepping his challenger.
Clotheslines come next, with Hiromu getting trapped in the ropes before catching SHO with some hanging headscissors. SHO frees himself and tried to deadlift Hiromu back inside, eventually planting him with a powerbomb back inside. We resume with an exchange of elbows, taking us past the 20 minute mark, before SHO got taken back into the corner. They go back-and-forth with more elbows, but Hiromu takes SHO down for a one-count, before the favour was returned. We’ve more elbow knockdowns for one-counts, before SHO KO’d Hiromu… only to fall down himself as he was unable to make the cover.
Getting back to their feet, Hiromu ducks a clothesline then took SHO into the D, but SHO tries to powerbomb his way free… only for Hiromu to cling on. Eventually SHO gets free and locks in a Kimura on Hiromu, reapplying it after a tiltawhirl headscissors as Hiromu was forced to inch his way towards the ropes. SHO rolls him back into the middle of the ring, keeping the hold on as they teased a tap-out, but Hiromu eventually scoots his way to the bottom rope to force the break.
A Power Breaker draws groans of disgust as Hiromu bent unnaturally on SHO’s knees, but still somehow kicked out at two, before he floated out and headbutted free of a Shock Arrow. Hiromu gets back up and looks for a Dynamite Plunger, but SHO slips out and goes for a clothesline… only to run into a superkick. SHO is quickly back with a leaping knee, before another crack at Shock Arrow led to SHO switching things up for a back cracker.
We’re back to the clotheslines, but Hiromu doesn’t budge, regardless of which side he was clotheslined on. SHO eventually folds Hiromu in half for a near-fall as we pass the half hour mark, before a cross-armed piledriver spiked Hiromu for a near-fall. Shock Arrow looks to follow, but Hiromu slips free and countered back with a Victory Royal instead. An elevated DDT followed for a near-fall as Hiromu keeps on SHO’s head, landing a series of superkicks – but none of them leading to anything like a sudden death. HMM. SHO stays on jelly legs, going down to a knee, before SHO hit back with a triangle-ish armbar. Hiromu manages to pull his way free and charge SHO into the corner with a death valley driver, before a Time Bomb landed for a near-fall.
They sail past 35 minutes, making it the longest junior heavyweight title match – if we get a finish – and that finish comes pretty soon after there, with SHO eating a clothesline, then Time Bomb 2 as Hiromu sealed the win. SHO threw everything he had at Hiromu, but to me, never really felt like he was within touching distance of the win – while Hiromu’s big moves managed to be the difference. A heck of a match, but I’m not at all on board with this recent trend of singles titles breaking records for longest matches… ****¼
On English commentary, El Phantasmo teases leaving the booth to shoot his shot… and quickly does it as he retired from commentary for a second time. Shoot names from Kevin Kelly ensue as BUSHI stops Hiromu from taking Sudden Death, but Taiji Ishimori is out to restrain BUSHI as Hiromu ends up ducking the superkick, before sending the Bullet Club packing.
Post-match, ELP tells us he’s not leaving Japan until he wins the junior heavyweight title… Hiromu’s up for a title defence, but first he wants ELP to defend the junior tag titles. We’ve got Castle Attack in a little over two weeks, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we get that in Osaka at the end of the month…
We’re back here tomorrow for a VERY early start – 6am UK time, 1am Eastern – for the second night of the New Beginning in Hiroshima, featuring the double-title match and the NEVER trios title match as well. The first half of this show felt positively sprightly, with the opening three matches done in 50-or-so minutes. Wato vs. BUSHI wasn’t anywhere near the disaster some feared it could have been, while that tag title defence I expect will be VERY divisive. That main event though – a hell of an outing for SHO, who did everything but win in a match that deserved its spot at the top.