The New Beginning wrapped up in Osaka with four title matches – and a contest that had a lot of people waiting with baited breath.
Coming from a packed Osaka-Jo Hall, we’ve English commentary from the usual suspects of Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton and Gino Gambino.
Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Toa Henare & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Manabu Nakanishi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Yuji Nagata
This was Nakanishi’s last match in Osaka, as he retires in two weeks’ time…
Taguchi and Nakanishi start us off, with the latter overpowering Taguchi early on, chopping away hip attacks before tagging in Tenzan. Mongolian chops and shoulder tackles follow, along with a… splash to the arse? Henare tags in along with Nagata, trading elbows and body blows until a shoulder tackle took Nagata off his feet. Henare tries to mock Nakanishi with an Argentine backbreaker, but Nagata slipped out into a crossface that Henare’s team broke up en route to some quadruple-teaming on Nagata. Things eventually pick up when Nagata’s able to dump Makabe with an Exploder, before tags brought in Nakanishi to chop his way ahead again. A clothesline drops Makabe ahead of an Argentine backbreaker, but Taguchi comes in to try and break it up… only to get caught in submissions as Makabe slipped free.
Duelling clotheslines take down Makabe and Nakanishi as tags bring in Kojima and Honma. Machine Gun chops were the order of the day, but Honma’s able to turn it around and land a Kokeshi for barely a one-count. Double sledges from Nakanishi help clear the ring as he heads up top for a flying chop to Honma before a Cozy Lariat gets the win. Decent enough, and it didn’t go too long for issues to develop, but yeah, Nakanishi is beyond shot at this point. **½
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) (c)
Roppongi 3K have only successfully defended these titles once in the four times they’ve held them. That’s… quite the statistic, and one that didn’t look likely to improve after all the knee attacks on the Road to shows this week.
We’ve a jump start here, with the champions heading outside as SHO took Kanemaru into the guard rails, while YOH worked over Desperado in the ring. SHO helps double-team as a dropkick takes Kanemaru outside, as he proceeded to put the boots to Desperado in the ropes. Kanemaru rushes in to dropkick SHO’s knee, and there’s the turnaround for the challengers, as YOH’s taken into the guard rails for a slicing legdrop. Desperado takes a chair to SHO’s knee as the count-out begins, but SHO beats the count-out only for Kanemaru to resume the focus on the knee, stretching the joint before Desperado worked in with a half crab. Eventually SHO gets to the ropes, then freed himself with a back body drop before finally tagging in YOH, who clears house with dropkicks before he peppered Desperado with palm strikes.
A misdirection spear from Desperado cuts it all off though, before a satellite DDT from Kanemaru almost led to the win. Deep Impact looked to be next, but YOH gets away and lands a DDT of his own, before SHO tagged in to his another spear. A trip from Desperado opened things up for a kneebreaker and a dropkick to the knee as a Figure Four from Kanemaru looked to get the submission… only for SHO to eventually make it to the rope. Suzuki-gun keep up with a dropkick-assisted side suplex, before Kanemaru lands Deep Impact… but it’s not enough! A moonsault looked to follow, but SHO rolls away, before all hell broke loose as ring filled and emptied. The champions come back with the double-team Dominator/neckbreaker combo, but Desperado rushes in with a dropkick to save Kanemaru from a 3K… only for the whiskey mist to get blocked as a German suplex waited for him.
SHO tosses YOH outside for a back body drop to Desperado on the floor, before almost-a-Pumping Bomber spun Kanemaru ahead of a Shock Arrow for a near-fall! A spike Shock Arrow followed, and that extra oomph was enough for Roppongi 3K to retain! This started out a little slow, and took a while to get going… but things picked up by the end. Saying that, Desperado and YOH got into it afterwards, so perhaps we aren’t done here? ***½
Post-match, Ryusuke Taguchi comes out to give Rocky Romero a headband… then dropped a suggestion that the “Mega Coaches” of himself and Rocky should challenge for the titles. Taguchi put Chris Charlton out of a translation job here, and it looks like Roppongi 3K are coachless?
Juice Robinson, David Finlay, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi vs. Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa), Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens)
A week ago in the States, FinJuice lost the IWGP tag titles… so we’re back to square one?
Tanahashi and Tama start us off, starting with a lock-up into the ropes… but the cheap shot comes when Tanga Loa pulls Tanahashi’s hair. Finlay comes in after a scuffle, speeding off the ropes for a European uppercut to Tama, before he got stopped with a big boot from Chase Owens as Finlay ended up taking a slingshot elbow drop as the Bullet Club slowed the pace. Yujiro’s in next to land a legdrop for a two-count, while Chase completed the set… only to get taken down with an uppercut off the middle rope. Tama Tonga rushes in to try and clear the opposing apron, but it’s only so successful as Ibushi’s able to come in and hit some Pele kicks before he cut through Chase.
Owens called Ibushi’s bluff on an armdrag and watched him faceplant as we went back to strikes, following up with a clothesline off the ropes. Tags bring us to Tanga and Juice, with the latter hitting a full nelson slam ahead of a thunderous cannonball before Pulp Friction’s stopped by Tama. things looked to go a little out of sync between the current and former champs as clotheslines left all four men down, before Tanahashi tagged in… and was quickly overwhelmed. A Kendo stick shot from Jado stops Ibushi as Tanahashi had to fight back on his own, eventually landing a Slingblade before another Kendo stick shot stops Tanahashi… but he’s able to get free and surprise Tanga Loa with a roll-up for the win. I guess we’re getting Tanahashi & Ibushi for the tag titles after all… just not against FinJuice, as the Bullet Club continue to attack Tanahashi after the bell. This was okay, but I’d hoped we were past the GOD with the straps for a while… ***
New Japan announced a return to Madison Square Garden on August 22 for a show called Wrestle Dynasty. Surely that should have been in Texas? The start of the G1 will be on September 19 and 20 in the Edion Arena in Osaka. There’s also the announcement that New Japan had gotten a plum TV timeslot from April, going on BS Asahi with World Pro Wrestling Returns at 8pm on Friday nights.
Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr.) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay
You know what they’re building to. Five days until York Hall…
Okada and Taichi start us off, going outside as Taichi hurled Okada into the railings before using the camera cable to choke him with. In the ring, Sabre chokes Okada with his boot, before a neck crank from Taichi wore down Okada ahead of some kicks. Okada gets free though and tagged in Ospreay, who launches into Sabre with a springboard forearm… then with a handspring enziguiri before Sabre began to bully him with kicks. Ospreay fires up, but got caught with a guillotine and a Pele kick to the arm before a leap from Sabre almost got turned into a Storm Breaker. Wash, rinse, repeat, as Zack rolls into a Euro clutch that’s countered into see-saw pins. An armbar’s countered with a powerbomb from Ospreay, as tags bring us back to Taichi and Okada, with the latter charging in with a back elbow.
Taichi teases a buzzsaw kick, but instead ate an Okada dropkick, then a tombstone before Sabre’s uppercut blocked a Rainmaker. He tries to PK Ospreay, but that too is caught as Sabre’s met with a Cheeky Nandos, only for Taichi to respond with an Axe Bomber to Okara. Off come the trousers, as a backdrop driver almost gets Taichi the huge upset… but Ospreay’s in to drop Taichi with an Oscutter, then take out Sabre with a Sasuke special before a Rainmaker left Taichi down for the count. Eh, this was a match of two halves – the Sabre/Ospreay stuff was golden, but the Taichi/Okada stuff had me cold. Any elevation (hah) Taichi had from hanging with Okada for half an hour’s all but been wiped out by his loss here, you’d think. ***½
Jay White vs. SANADA
Here comes the divisive match!
White’s in with a headlock early, but quickly has to grapple as he sees SANADA float out of a snapmare before getting sent to the outside. SANADA fakes out a dive, but White charges before Gedo tripped SANADA in the ropes, which was followed up when White tossed SANADA to the outside. Gedo uses a towel to choke out SANADA, but the count-out tease doesn’t last as SANADA returned… and got caught in a half crab, quickly breaking it in the ropes. My PC entirely locks up for a good minute or two, and returned as SANADA got spiked on a DDT, before a death valley driver earned White a near-fall. SANADA sidesteps a charge in the corner, but again has to deal with Gedo as SANADA springboards in and ended up booting White in the corner.
Finally SANADA’s able to tie-up White in a Paradise Lock, after having issues for the entire tour, then took his time on a low dropkick to free the Kiwi. A double-leapfrog dropkick finds its mark, taking White outside ahead of a pescado, following up with the springboard missile dropkick for a near-fall back inside. From there, SANADA looks for a TKO, but White rakes the eyes and took SANADA down to the mat with some uppercuts. A deadlift German suplex from White keeps SANADA down, but a Kiwi Krusher’s escaped… so White comes back in with a Blade Buster instead, rolling that through into a Kiwi Krusher for a near-fall. SANADA’s back with a rope-assisted Magic Killer, then with a backdrop suplex that gets him a near-fall, before Gedo again distracted SANADA from the floor.
It works too as White nearly snatches the win with a roll-up. SANADA tries to go for a moonsault, but Gedo again distracts as Jay White held down the ref. It backfires as Gedo’s put across the top rope which is then kicked into him, before a moonsault took SANADA into a Skull End, dragging White to the mat as we almost had a stoppage… but then SANADA lets go so he could go for a moonsault, and of course he misses. That’s gonna be the new Kokeshi.
SANADA and White go for it again, switching between Skull Ends and Blade Runners until a Euro clutch nearly stole the win for SANADA. A Shiranui out of the corner looked to spike SANADA on his own head, not helped when he took a sleeper suplex minutes later. White followed that up with a Regal Plex for a near-fall, before a Blade Runner finally got the win. This would have been a marmite match for a lot of people, and it won’t have been helped by Gedo’s constant interference… but this wasn’t too bad, as commentary played up SANADA’s singles losing streak. ***½
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Ryu Lee vs. Hiromu Takahashi (c)
This story doesn’t need to be retold – a feud that had bubbled across Mexico and Japan until their match in 2018 led to Hiromu breaking his neck. It’s their first singles meeting since that fateful night in San Francisco…
They shoot out of the gates with a German suplex before Hiromu blocked some knees… ate a German, then came back with a clothesline. That didn’t take long! Lee holds back to give Hiromu a free shot as they trade chops with some degree of viciousness behind them, and they’re showing zero signs of letting up. Ow. When they do stop, Hiromu – marked chest and all – just restarts as the cricket chops continued unabated, before Hiromu took Lee into the corner for a clothesline, only to get met with another retaliatory chop. Hiromu seems to like those chops, as we crossed the five minute mark with almost nothing but chops. We want blood.
Finally, Ryu Lee fells Takahashi with a chop, taking him into the corner for a Shibata-ish dropkick, following up with a backbreaker and a low dropkick as the match spilled outside. Ryu keeps it there with a flying ‘rana from the ring to the floor, taking Hiromu off the apron, before placing Hiromu on the guard rails before a tope sucida folded Hiromu in half off the English commentary table before he landed on the floor. They’re both insane. They make it back to the ring, but not for long as Hiromu caught Lee with a sunset bomb to the floor. Inside again, a Dynamite Plunger gets Hiromu a near-fall, before a Time Bomb’s countered out as Lee teases a Phoenixplex, which drew a heck of a response before Hiromu countered into the D.
Lee gets to the ropes and worked his way into a stomp, but Hiromu leans back to avoid it before the pair scrapped on the top rope, trading forearms until Ryu hit a Del Rio stomp from the turnbuckles to the floor. If you thought Hiromu was sane, well, you’ve not followed him, because he came back with a back senton off the top to Lee on the floor, which almost led to the count-out. Back inside, they trade German suplexes for fun, before Ryu found himself ‘rana’d as he went for Desnucadora… before buckle bombing his way out of the D. Hiromu’s quickly back with an overhead suplex to take Lee into the buckles, before tombstone reversals led us into a package tombstone on Hiromu for a near-fall. Draping Hiromu across the top rope led to another flying stomp, which was followed by a running knee.
The Phoenixplex is teased again, but Hiromu counters with a Destroyer for a near-fall as he again escaped doom. A death valley driver into the corner keeps the champion ahead, but Ryu hits a sunset flip to get out of a Time Bomb, before a bicycle knee strike KO’d Hiromu and almost led to the title change! Another Destroyer from Hiromu gets him back in it, as he adds in a Time Bomb… but still can’t get the win! A simple right hand knocks down Ryu as another Time Bomb proved to be enough for the W. They teased, but didn’t deliver the Phoenixplex – and to be fair, this perhaps wasn’t the time for it, other than to “get over the fear”. I have a feeling we’re not done with this – perhaps it comes out of the Best of the Super Juniors in a few months time? Still, if you had any doubts over the post-injury Hiromu, they’re all but allayed as he delivered another cracker against Ryu Lee. ****½
Naito vs. Hiromu at the anniversary show next month, you say? My veins are asking to be hooked up to a lot of wrestling these days…
IWGP United States Championship: Minoru Suzuki vs. Jon Moxley (c)
This is going to be an absolute war.
Moxley enters through the crowd, then went up onto the stage. Suzuki heads up there with two chairs, throwing one in the direction of the US champion as we start with a chair duel on the ramp. Suzuki loses his grip as Moxley brought it back towards the ring, with Moxley throwing barriers on Suzuki, only to get taken into the crowd. They head towards the timekeeper’s table, where Suzuki teases a Gotch piledriver, but Moxley wriggles free before they returned to the ring to break up the count. Not like they eased up back in the ring though, as the pair traded elbows and fists, before Moxley began to gnaw at Suzuki in the corner.
They’re back in the crowd as the English commentary crew scarpered… before the pair trade submission holds in the aisle. Referee Red Shoes Unno looks like he’s beyond fed up, as he tried to coerce them back into the ring, They continue as Suzuki grabs a table while making Gino Gambino crap himself as Suzuki went to grab some chairs to Con-Chair-To the arm. A hanging armbar on the apron’s broken when Moxley just powerbombs Suzuki through the table, but they’re eventually back in the ring, trading shots while Moxley filled up the New Japan swear jar.
More elbows follow as you damn well expected from these two, before Suzuki misdirected into a rear naked choke, rolling Moxley to the mat so he could squeeze some more before a PK almost put Moxley away. More swearing precedes a dropkick from Suzuki, but Moxley’s right back in with a Death Rider for a near-fall. A peck on the head seems to signal Moxley is looking to finish this, as he goes out for two more chairs… finishing how they started. After shoving away the ref, Moxley pops the seat out of the chair on Suzuki’s head… but Suzuki shrugs it off before taking a snap Death Rider onto the chair. Again, Suzuki laughs it off before he’s taken down with a pair of clotheslines, as another Death Rider secured the win. This was as violent as you’d expect, although Moxley retaining surprised me given, you know, he’s not working for New Japan in the US, but this was a good win to cement him as champion. ****½
After the match, Zack Sabre Jr. of all people ran out and laid out Moxley with the US title belt. A rear naked choke strangles out Moxley, and I’m guessing that’s our next match. Will Sabre be holding the UK and US belts at the same time?
IWGP Intercontinental X IWGP Heavyweight Championship: KENTA vs. Tetsuya Naito (c)
KENTA didn’t come alone, as he had the rest of the Bullet Club out with him, which guaranteed that he’d be showered in boos. Naito, in stark contrast, only had the two IWGP title belts with him for company.
Red Shoes Unno tried to throw out the Bullet Club hangers on, but got shoved down by Tama. The ref threatens to throw out the match, which makes them leave as we finally get underway. Of course, KENTA rolls outside to stall for time, which winds the crowd up some more before we finally got going… as a tie-up took KENTA into the ropes. He rolls outside, then got jumped as he tried to make it back inside… before a role reversal saw Naito roll outside as we passed five minutes with nary a hold being used. Naito rolled into the ring and got stomped on as we got going with a KENTA eye rake, before Naito replied with a ‘rana. He followed him out as an Irish whip took the challenger repeatedly into the guard rails, before a camel clutch-like choke in the ropes was quickly broken. KENTA charges into the corner to break a cravat, then tossed Naito between the ropes ahead of a knee drop to the back of the head.
Going outside, Naito’s thrown chest-first into the barriers, almost breaking them in the process before KENTA squished a Naito teddy. Naito rolls back in, but gets thrown back outside instantly as it’s back to the guard rails for the double champion. While Naito recovers, KENTA removed a turnbuckle pad, and of course threw Naito into the exposed corner before he took Naito to ground with a chinlock. A knee to the midsection lands for a near-fall, before some mocking kicks gained traction as Naito tried to fight back to his feet. Eventually Naito hit a single-leg dropkick. Combinacion Cabron is next as Naito builds momentum, following in with a neckbreaker for a near-fall, then with a neckbreaker and a modified headscissors on the mat. KENTA gets himself free, only for Naito to land a neckbreaker on the apron, before a draping DDT off the guard rails planted Naito on the floor.
Naito beats the count, but got caught with a hesitation dropkick, but KENTA misses a stomp and got taken down with a spinebuster instead. Elbows follow, but KENTA’s back with the Game Over, rolling through as Naito tried to push free, before taking Naito into the ropes for another knee. A Busaiku knee followed off the ropes for a near-fall, before a Go 2 Sleep’s countered with a Koppo kick, then a swinging DDT as Naito forced his way in. The tempo raises briefly as Naito hits a neckbreaker, then a top rope ‘rana before dropping KENTA high on his neck with Gloria. A ref bump follows as Naito was charged into Red Shoes… then tossed into him… and there’s the cue. Out comes Jay White to hit a sleeper suplex on Naito, before BUSHI came out to try and mist White. It misses, so BUSHI’s given the Blade Runner, so out comes Hiromu, who hits a superkick before he threw White out.
With the ring empty, Naito goes for Destino, but he’s met with a swivelling lariat for a near-fall by KENTA, before a Go 2 Sleep’s countered with the reverse DDT part of Destino. KENTA’s back, throwing Naito into the exposed buckle, rolling him up for a near-fall as Naito came up red. And I mean RED. KENTA keeps up with a Busaiku knee for a near-fall, before a Go 2 Sleep was teased… but it’s countered into a bloody reverse ‘rana! Valencia – Al Snow’s old Snow Plow – follows for a near-fall, before Destino put KENTA away. Whenever Kevin Kelly elongates the O, you know we’re done! Naito’s your winner, but left in a bloody heap after a match that started irritatingly slow (by design), but picked up and went through a lull before the run-in shenanigans at the end got everyone going again. ****
After the match, Naito called out Hiromu Takahashi – the next “big” show for New Japan is their Anniversary show on March 3rd, and the tradition has always been the heavyweight vs. junior champions in the main event there. Hiromu accepts, so that’s your top match for the 48th anniversary show in a little over three weeks’ time. Hiromu made a point of picking up the heavyweight title, which is a nice seed for a ways down the line… but first, a mini “road” tour, which will mark the retirements of Tiger Hattori and Manabu Nakanishi, as New Japan close out February with a four-way run at Korakuen Hall.
The New Beginning in Osaka was an excellent show, which delivered on pretty much every front. While we had the usual undercard padding, nothing on this line-up felt like a waste of space or egregiously bad – and did the usual thing of building up to future encounters. Teachers versus students for the IWGP junior tag titles, along with ZSJ vs. Moxley are matches that’ll have just about anyone salivating, albeit to different levels… and when you’ve drawn over 11,000 for this show, you can’t call this anything but a success.