It’s the first big stop on the tour, as the New Beginning in Nagoya saw Hiroshi Tanahashi challenge for the NEVER Openweight title.

Quick Results
Toru Yano & Kazuchika Okada pinned Yujiro Takahashi & EVIL in 7:46 (*)
SHO, Master Wato, Tomoaki Honma & Kota Ibushi pinned BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito & SANADA in 11:32 (**½)
Great-O-Khan pinned Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 12:45 (***)
Will Ospreay pinned Satoshi Kojima in 16:57 (****¼)
Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Shingo Takagi in 35:38 to win the NEVER Openweight Championship (*****)

We’re at the Aichi Prefectural Gym – or the Dolphin’s Arena – in Aichi for this, with Kevin Kelly being joined on commentary by El Phantasmo.

Bullet Club (EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano
We’ve a straight-up tag match here as Okada continues towards an as-yet-unannounced match with EVIL…

Okada and EVIL look to start us off, as Dick Togo nipped at Okada from the floor. That distraction’s quickly shrugged off as Okada got rid of Yujiro, DDT’d EVIL, then chased Dick Togo around ringside, cornering him before throwing him inside so he and Yano could club away on him. Elbows from Okada lead to a snapmare on EVIL… who grabs the ref as Togo again trips Okada in the ropes, which led to things spilling outside. Cue guard rails. Cue the removal of a corner pad, too, as the Bullet Club took control. Yujiro tags in and throws Okada into the corner, following up with a low single-leg dropkick for a two-count.

EVIL’s in for my favourite thing – the cheating, chained abdominal stretch! The referee eventually breaks it up, before Okada went back into the corner ahead of a Darkness Falls attempt, which Okada escaped as he dumped EVIL with a big boot. Tags bring in Yano and Yujiro, with the former removing more turnbuckle pads as he tried to get Yujiro in trouble. With three of the pads gone, Yano gets whipped into an exposed corner ahead of a Fisherman buster that gets a near-fall before distractions from EVIL allowed Dick Togo to hang up Yano in the ropes. Yujiro’s pimp cane is next, drilling Yano for a two-count as Okada made the save, catching Yujiro with a dropkick.

Yano’s got the cane, but Dick Togo tries to disarm him… he gets pulled into the ring, and distracts the referee as Yano mule kicks Yujiro, shoves him into Togo, then scored the win with a roll-up. This felt like it was in slow motion, which only exacerbated the fact that this match has been on the entire tour to build to… something in the New Japan Cup, no doubt. *

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) vs. Kota Ibushi, Tomoaki Honma, SHO & Master Wato
A butt-load of build for the Hiroshima shows next month, including one that has a SIX AM START TIME. So yeah, we’ve got three matches on those shows among this match.

Wato wants to start against BUSHI, and gets his wish as the pair tie-up into the ropes, before Wato went for an elbow to the back of the head. One to the gut lands too before BUSHI evaded him, only to get caught with a tiltawhirl backbreaker. Kicks from Wato take BUSHI into the wrong corner, with Honma tagging in to club away on BUSHI’s back. Naito kicks Honma in the back as he went for a Kokeshi, only to come in and get elbowed down as Honma… gets tripped by Hiromu as he went for a Kokeshi. Things spill outside, with SHO getting hurled into the guard rails while BUSHI had Honma in a headlock back inside. Naito returns to throw some right hands to Honma in the corner, before a delayed Combinacion Cabron gave me time to laugh off ELP’s one-liner.

LIJ swarm the ring to stomp away on Honma, but Honma fights free, hitting a Flatliner/DDT combo on SANADA and Naito before making the tag out to Ibushi. A springboard goes over SANADA, as a scoop slam drops SANADA ahead of a moonsault for a two-count. SANADA retaliates with a ‘rana, taking Ibushi outside for a plancha. They return inside as SANADA looked for a Paradise Lock, then a TKO, but Ibushi fought out and hit a ‘rana of his own as tags brought us to SHO and Hiromu. They charge at each other to start, then trade elbows as Hiromu’s beaten into the corner. Hiromu’s taken outside, but he slips back in to block a spear, only to get caught with it at the second attempt, as SHO tried to push on. More elbowed daze Hiromu briefly, but he’s back with a pop-up powerbomb.

BUSHI comes in to stop SHO from tagging out as Naito’s low dropkick leaves SHO down… a back cracker gets BUSHI a two-count, before he looked for a Samoan drop or something or other. Honma breaks it up to start a Parade of Moves, ending with Wato’s revolution kick to BUSHI that left him prone for a Power Breaker that almost ends the match. From there, SHO signals for a Shock Arrow, but it took a while to set up as BUSHI gets spiked for the win. This was largely fine, giving us just enough build for next month’s big outings – but this felt rather muted. Maybe they’re saving the heat for the top three matches? (**½)

Great-O-Khan vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Whoever loses has to stop using the Mongolian chop – that’s the stipulation thrown onto this one…

O-Khan meets Tenzan in the aisle but gets headbutted by Tenzan’s horned mask, so we start with O-Khan getting thrown into the rails, then into the ring. The bell goes, and Tenzan quickly begins to throttle O-Khan on the mat, following in with some Mongolian chops, only for O-Khan to reply with some of his own. Axe chops to the back of Tenzan has him down, with O-Khan busting out a modified head and arm choke… then went to a nerve hold. Very 80s. A figure four headscissors brings us a little more modernity, as Tenzan rolled into the ropes to force a break, only for a neckbreaker to take him down for a two-count.

O-Khan takes Tenzan into the corner for a seat as ELP on commentary noted Tenzan’s nWo past. Eventually Tenzan retaliates with a spinning heel kick, before some Mongolian chops sent O-Khan outside briefly. Kicks keep O-Khan in the corner, where an eye rake followed, before Tenzan almost gave himself a nose bleed, heading up top for a knee-drop facebuster. Tenzan goes back to the corner for a flying Mongolian chop, then called for a brainbuster, dropping O-Khan, who replied with… a Stroke?! Double J always wins. Mongolian chops keep Tenzan in it though, but O-Khan hits some of his own before he got dropped with a lariat.

An elbow drop followed as Tenzan moved in with an Anaconda Vise, following that up with a side slam for a near-fall. O-Khan kicks out as Tenzan then went back up for a moonsault, heading to the top rope… but O-Khan moves away as Tenzan crashed and burned. Chops to the back of the head weaken Tenzan as O-Khan looked to put him away with the TTD… but Tenzan escapes and headbutts him.

Tenzan tries for his own Tenzan Tombstone Driver, but O-Khan rolled away and booted him for a two-count. Mongolian chops have Tenzan down, before he was dropped with a TTD for a near-fall. Tenzan powers up, but runs straight into the Eliminator… and that’s all for Hiroyoshi Tenzan and the Mongolian chops. As a match, this was a fine way to cap off the feud over a move, and I’d guess continue the phasing out of Tenzan in this company? I wonder what they’ll do if Tenzan dares to use the Mongolian chop in future. Instant DQ? I’d love to see them do that for the reaction it’d bring… but for now, O-Khan’s gotten his first historical scalp in the promotion. ***

Tenzan’s demeanour afterwards sure did make it look like a retirement was in the not-too-distant future…

No Disqualification: Will Ospreay vs. Satoshi Kojima
The no-DQ aspect was thrown in here after the string of no-contests at Korakuen Hall last week… Ospreay’s brought a bin out with him, and a guitar. What’s with the Jeff Jarrett stuff today?

Ospreay teased a dive on Kojima at the bell, but instead just stomped on him as he hit the ring, then took it outside as he bounced some plunder off of Kojima’s head. A bin’s placed on the floor but there’s a back body drop from Kojima to Ospreay, before they returned to the ring as Kojima charges down the Rev Pro champion. Kojima whiffs on a plancha as Ospreay went outside, then got met with a flying forearm off the apron as Ospreay then went under the ring for plunder. Ladders? Oh God. Kojima’s drilled in the mouth with one, before Ospreay laid out the ladder as a bridge between the railings and the ring apron… then kicked it into Kojima.

Back inside, Ospreay drops a knee on Kojima, then untied a turnbuckle pad so he could throw Kojima into the corner. Ospreay’s got a small cut on his back from earlier, but it’s not causing any issues as he hit a backbreaker for a two-count. Out comes a chair as Ospreay ground Kojima’s head into it before Kojima returned with a HIPTOSS THROUGH THE CHAIR. Eek. Machine Gun chops follow in the corner, before Kojima set up a chair on top of Ospreay… with that top rope elbow hurting both men equally it seemed. A rolling forearm drops Ospreay as Kojima ends up taking a handspring enziguiri, allowing Ospreay time to head outside to set up a table which he tries to suplex Kojima through. It doesn’t come off, so Ospreay hits a springboard forearm back into the ring before heading outside for the guitar.

Kojima ducks a guitar shot, then spikes Ospreay with a DDT before… EL KABONG. That’s got Ospreay dazed, as Kojima grabs another table, propping it up in the corner only to get thrown away with a back body drop. A Koji Cutter has Kojima ahead again, before Ospreay floated around with some headscissors, eventually saving it as he powerbombed Kojima through the wood. An OsCutter’s next for a near-fall, so we get more plunder in the form of chairs from under the ring. Ospreay pops the seat off of one with a shot to Kojima’s back. Four chairs get set up for a makeshift crash pad, but in sitting down Kojima knocked one of the chairs away as Ospreay went up top… but got caught as a right hand from Kojima lariats Ospreay off the top and through the ladder on the floor. CHRIST.

Kojima stops the count so he could throw Ospreay back in, just so he could brainbuster Ospreay onto the chairs for a two-count. Off comes the elbow pad, but Ospreay kicks away a Cozy lariat, only to get caught with it as Kojima swats away another OsCutter. Ospreay ducks a Cozy Lariat and hits a Hidden Blade through a chair… then a second one to the back of the head before a Storm Breaker got the win. This was some fantastic plunder-iffic stuff, with Ospreay putting himself through the wars, taking some insane/stupid bumps along the way. Kojima rolled back the years too, showing that there’s something left in the tank there – perhaps that farewell G1 run he donated to Tenzan so many years ago? Hey, if you do plunder every now and then, and guess what, it’s memorable – and means something too. It probably won’t trouble ballots by the end of the year, but it makes the proverbial notebook. ****¼

NEVER Openweight Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shingo Takagi (c)
Does Tanahashi arrest his slide down the card here, or does Shingo just exacerbate it?

Shingo and Tanahashi keep their distance at the start, before they swing and miss with chops as Tanahashi took him down with an armbar. A wristlock is rolled out of by Shingo, who comes back with a side headlock. Tanahashi gets one of his own, but it comes to nought before he rolled up Shingo for a quick two-count… then went to a headlock takedown that’s escaped as we hit a stare-off.

The pair tie-up and roll back and forth into the corner as Shingo edged ahead with some elbows, before he caught a boot from Tanahashi and clobbered him with a clothesline. Punches and chops from Shingo trap Tanahashi in the corner, but Tanahashi swipes back before a low dropkick caught Shingo coming off the ropes. Tanahashi worked over Shingo’s leg, dropping a knee onto it before a deathlock stretched Shingo’s groin a little as he needed to pull himself towards the ropes for the break. A Dragon screw attempt from Tanahashi is pushed away as Shingo charges him down, then clotheslined him to the floor as the Ace got thrown into the guard rails next.

Shingo pops Tanahashi onto the edge of the ring, then stood him on his head with a DDT. Back inside, a slingshot stomp keeps Tanahashi down, but aggravated Shingo’s knee a little as he returned with a suplex for a two-count. A back elbow off the top keeps Tanahashi down for another two-count, before a noshigami was blocked… so Shingo just chops him, only to get caught as a knee to the gut’s countered with a Dragon screw. Except Shingo held onto the rope, so it neutralises it… but Tanahashi gets it at the second time of asking. Heading up top, Tanahashi nails a flip senton for a near-fall, before Shingo low bridges him onto the apron. Shingo joins him there to look for a death valley driver, but Tanahashi slips out and dropkicks Shingo’s leg to knock him outside again… where Tanahashi looked to follow up with an Ace’s High crossbody to the floor. Remember when that was retired?

Tanahashi beats the count, and waited for Shingo, bringing him back inside with a Dragon screw, before he blocked a Shingo combination, only to fall to his own Twist and Shout neckbreaker. A second one followed, then a sliding lariat as he then toyed with Tanahashi, booting him in the head… only for Tanahashi to pop up and hit a low dropkick to the knee. More kicks from Tanahashi led to Shingo coming back with a chop block to the permanently-bad knee of Tanahashi, before a knee drop on it exacerbated things. Finally Shingo looks to be getting back into things, tying up Tanahashi in the corner for another Dragon screw, before a short clothesline and a powerbomb drew a two-count. From the kick-out, Shingo rolls into a half crab, which he then dropped and turned into almost a calf crusher at the 20-minute mark, before Tanahashi swivelled and got his way into the ropes.

Feeling it, Shingo gees up the crowd as he looked for Made in Japan, but Tanahashi blocks it and took down Shingo for more Dragon screws on the mat. A Cloverleaf looks to follow, but Shingo got to the ropes double-quick, so Tanahashi just stomps on the knee some more before he pulled Shingo off the middle rope with another Dragon screw. Yikes. The Cloverleaf followed, with Tanahashi wearing down Shingo enough for him to be confident enough to go up top for a High Fly Flow to the back. A second one followed… but Shingo rolled away as Tanahashi took to the air! Shingo swings, but Tanahashi ducked… only to get caught in a Dragon suplex. A clothesline’s next as Shingo then teed up for a Pumping Bomber, but he’s hobbling as Tanahashi tried to come in with a Slingblade, only to get dumped on his head with a Made in Japan! Tanahashi kicks out at two as Shingo looks for Last of the Dragon, but Tanahashi’s out for a Twist and Shout… then another… and another… before a search for another Slingblade took him in for a strait-jacket German suplex that almost put away Shingo.

Tanahashi nails another Slingblade, but whiffs on an Ace’s High as Shingo caught him and powered into a death valley driver… but his knee’s given out, so he can’t make the cover. Shingo hobbles in with a clothesline to Tanahashi in the corner as we approached the half-hour mark, then kicked out the knee as he pulled Tanahashi into a Dragon sleeper. Tanahashi gets his legs to the ropes, so Shingo hits a draping version of Hirooki Goto’s GTR, before he hit the ropes for a MONSTER Pumping Bomber, leading to a near-fall. Tanahashi blocks a Last of the Dragon, only to get swatted with a clothesline. Shingo tees off with a barrage of elbows as things descended into strikes, but a headbutt from Tanahashi stops him, before a second Dragon suplex and a Slingblade has Shingo… down for a one-count?! A lariat gets Shingo a similar one-count as they’re more about showing defiance at this stage.

They both run into each other with clotheslines, with Shingo’s swivelling lariat taking down his challenger. Last of the Dragon looked to follow, but Tanahashi counters out with a Slingblade, then rolled onto the apron so he could hit the ropes again. Going up for an Ace’s High, Tanahashi crashes into Shingo before a bridging Dragon suplex almost led to a new champion being crowned. Staying on form, Tanahashi heads up for a High Fly Flow… landing flush as he finally gets the win. The Ace has hardware again, and leaves Nagoya following an excellent war-of-attrition between these two. Shingo had trouble finding a consistent foothold in the match, yet never really felt on the verge of defeat until Tanahashi’s game plan was finally executed. *****

We’re not done yet! Tanahashi air-guitars for too long as Great-O-Khan runs out to attack him from behind. Cue Kevin Kelly cursing as an Eliminator dropped the Ace… and of course, O-Khan wants another crack at him, with the gold on the line.  WELL THEN!

The Road to the New Beginning resumes on Monday, with the first of three shows at Korakuen Hall – a compact, four-match card, featuring an Elimination match in the main event.

The thing with these condensed cards is that while they are very easy to cherry pick from, if you have (say) one or two bad matches on them, the whole thing’s dragged down. If you take out the bottom two matches, this was a very good show, but that undercard – and especially the opener – really soured things. Come for the spotlight matches and ESPECIALLY that main event.