New Japan’s New Beginning kicked off with the first of two flagship shows in Sapporo, headlining with Minoru Suzuki’s challenge for the IWGP Intercontinental championship. Boy, it was a good one!
A late-ish change to the show came during the week after Satoshi Kojima was confirmed to have ruptured his ACL during his match with Rush on Monday… that’ll put him out for several months. For these two shows at least, Manabu Nakanishi was added in as a replacement for the undercard tag matches.
Katsuya Kitamura vs. Michael Elgin
The next round of the Kitamura trials series sees him take on a former Intercontinental champion.
Kitamura starts off being wise to Elgin’s chopping game, but the sam was true for the veteran as we quickly moved to the back-and-forth, Newton’s cradle-like shoulder tackles. A side headlock’s turned into a back suplex from Kitamura, as the Young Lion almost took home the win with a simple slam.
Elgin returns with a bridging German for a two-count, but we’re back to the strikes, with a single forearm decking Kitamura for another near-fall. They go back-and-forth with suplex attempts, but it’s Kitamura who lands his as he followed up with chops then a Mark Henry-esque slam. Gutwrenches follow, but Elgin’s quickly back with a Falcon arrow as the veteran looked to assert his experience.
Kitamura rebounds with a spear though, before absorbing some lariats from Elgin, with one finally knocking him off his feet. A buckle bomb and an Elgin bomb follows, and in spite of his efforts, that’s another loss for Kitamura. Decent enough, but these are more about showing progression than getting wins as we’re a long way off *that* first win for the big guy. ***
Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Manabu Nakanishi, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask & KUSHIDA
A good troll job here, as Taichi’s music cut to Iizuka’s theme just as he was about to sing.
Of course there’s the jump start as Suzuki-gun take everyone outside and into the guard railings, while Desperado just choked on Liger in the corner. The good guys are quickly back, but we’re just as quickly into the Suzuki-gun shenanigans as Taichi whacks Liger with the bell hammer, while Iizuka uses chairs on the outside. It’s Suzuki-gun chaos, but fortunately it doesn’t stay on this track for too long.
Iizuka nibbles away on Liger’s toe, but that gets him a Shotei in response as Tenzan gets the tag in. Taichi stops things as he mocks the Mongolian chops… which are reversed as Tenzan takes over in Iizuka… at least until there’s biting. The referee can’t keep control, but the Mountain bomb from Tenzan’s able to get him free for a tag to KUSHIDA, who went straight for TAKA.
The ring fills again with Suzuki-gun targeting KUSHIDA five-on-one, before Nakanishi came in to help clear it. TAKA’s eye poke just fires up KUSHIDA into a hiptoss/dropkick combo, followed by a handspring elbow as the chaos returns… starting with a youthful cannonball off the apron from Liger, and ending when Kanemaru misses a whiskey spray, taking out TAKA in the process. From there, it’s the matter of a spiking DDT from KUSHIDA to TAKA, before the Hoverboard lock forces a submission. Enjoyable enough, but typical patterned Suzuki-gun fare really. **¾
Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano
This one started with Yujiro taking the fight to Ishii, but the choice to pepper the Stone Pitbull with boots to the face was quickly shown as a poor one, as Ishii hit back… prompting a tag out to Owens.
Except Chase wanted Yano. Smart guy. We get the Yano shtick, which Owens mocks as the Bullet Club pair edged ahead thanks to some sneaky cheating from Takahashi onto Yano. The pace slows down a little as Yujiro stomps on Yano for a bit, then bites him as Yano eventually broke free with a little hair-pulling.
Tags get us back to Ishii and Owens, with the latter getting pounded with a shoulder block before Yujiro’s attempt to return just sees him dismissed with a slam. An eye rake helps get Owens back in it, as a captured clothesline knocked down Ishii, before a back suplex/neckbreaker combo nearly put Ishii away.
Owens gets a slightly tarnished Wizard for a near-fall, as he then looks for a package piledriver… instead Yano comes in and massively telegraphs a low blow to Owens… whose superkick accidentally lays out Yujiro as Ishii put the finishing touches with a brainbuster to Chase for the win. By the numbers stuff, but enjoyable enough for where it was on the card, acting as a placeholder until someone here gets plans. ***
NEVER Six-Man Championships: Taguchi Japan (Ryusuke Taguchi, Togi Makabe & Toa Henare) vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (c)
Henare got a new first name, as the gear he debuted during the New Japan Rumble looks to have stuck… as to whether he’s no longer a Young Lion, we’ll wait and see. If you’re curious, Fale didn’t go after the ring announcer here, as the announcements were done from the floor.
There’s heat early on when Tanga Loa snapped Taguchi’s sunglasses, and that fired up Taguchi… into getting a pounding early on. The hip attack to Tanga Loa had no effect, but a low dropkick sure changed things as Taguchi was able to score with a hattrick of the hips in the ropes. Tags bring in Henare and Tonga, but a huge dropkick wiped out Toa as the relative veteran just wore down the Kiwi with legdrops. Meanwhile, Togi Makabe’s taken deep into the crowd by Fale, who uses a camera cable to choke him with, as Tanga Loa keeps up on Henare with some Three Amigos suplexes, finishing off with a Jackhammer for a two-count.
Fale’s in next to cut through Henare with chops, as a splash in the corner from Tama almost ended things. It’s been a remarkably easy defence thus far for the six-man tag champions, but Makabe finally gets the tag in as he tried to make a dent on proceedings, going straight for Fale with the mounted punches in the corner.
Except the follow-up Northern Lights was a bad idea, with Fale escaping, only to run into a hip attack as Makabe almost gets the win from a lariat. A Samoan drop from Fale puts Makabe down, but there’s no pinning attempt as Togi tagged to Toa, as he renewed acquaintances with Tama, and I get to alliterate my Ts once again!
A flying shoulder block off the top from Henare almost led to a win, as Tama’s triple-teamed, leading to a Henare spear for a near-fall as Fale just about broke up the pin. Tama almost does it with a fireman’s carry flapjack to Henare, who barely got his shoulder up, before Tama snapped into a submission, locking in the Twister (or the Bromission for fans of Matt Riddle) for the flash tap-out. This was fine, but the Bullet Club trio were never in any danger in what was ultimately a flat title match. ***¼
Bullet Club (Cody, Marty Scurll & Hangman Page) vs. Kota Ibushi, Juice Robinson & David Finlay
We finally got going with Scurll and Finlay, trading wristlocks as the Villain struggled to get out of the blocks. Once he charges Finlay into the corner, Scurll’s able to get ahead… but Finlay quickly tags out to Ibushi as soon as Cody’d tagged in.
Of course, Cody wants no part of Kota, and in comes Hangman Page… but he’s quickly swept for a standing moonsault as the Bullet Club trio remained on the defensive. Dusty punches from Juice stagger Page, but a blind tag to Scurll didn’t catch Juice out, as Marty gets more of the punches. Juice tried to follow up off the top, but he’s crotched by Scurll and brought down with a superplex, and that’s where the tide turned for the Bullet Club, as they were able to isolate Robinson effectively. Eventually Juice is able to dump Marty with a fireman’s carry gutbuster, and we get tags back to Cody and Kota as those two finally faced-off.
Cody threw the first strike as they went back-and-forth, but Kota’s attempt to counter a basement uppercut with a standing moonsault was stopped. Kota’s able to hit a standing corkscrew moonsault for a two-count, before tags took us to a brief exchange between Finlay and Page as the revolving door was in full effect.
Scurll stomps on Juice’s elbow as tags remained a novelty, eventually settling back to Cody and Kota, with the former watching a shooting star headbutt from Page before Scurrl got in to lift up Kota for a doomsday dropkick! Kota lands on his feet from that though, and avoids a Disaster kick as the Bullet Club got back in it courtesy of a missed leg lariat, with Kota getting wiped out by Robinson as the Parade of Missed Moves continued.
Like an idiot, David Finlay speared Robinson, but escaped a Rite of Passage and nearly wins with a sunset flip, only for Page to hit the move anyway for the win. Pretty fun stuff, but that Parade of Missed Stuff at the end sure was wacky. ***¼
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. Will Ospreay & YOSHI-HASHI
We’re building up to the singles matches you’d expect in these teams, focusing more on Takahashi/Ospreay in Osaka next month.
There’s a jump start here as Hiromu went straight for Ospreay, hurling him chest-first into the guard railings while Naito battered YOSHI-HASHI with his curtain rod. Standard. Naito tossed the rod to Milano Collection AT on commentary, but he refused to play ball, so Naito just leapt onto him to retrieve it, so he could use it.
Eventually YOSHI-HASHI fired back, whipping Naito into the guard railings, before the match finally entered the ring, with YOSHI-HASHI stomping away on the former IWGP champion. Ospreay tried his luck, but some spitting stalled him momentarily, as he takes Naito outside with a ‘rana before faking out a dive… which left him vulnerable for a sneak attack from Takahashi as the LIJ pair took over.
Ospreay fights back and hits a springboard overhead kick after taking a beating from Naito and Hiromu, and a tag to YOSHI-HASHI led to some more fire as Naito took a running blockbuster, while Hiromu’s hung up in the ropes then dropkicked in the arse to the outside. The Bunker Buster follows to Naito, as the momentum continued to shift, with Hiromu enjoying a brief resurgence… until Ospreay’s back in to work through his next challenger.
A trip led to an aborted dropkick in the corner for Ospreay, but he’s able to return with an over-the-top-rope 619, but another low dropkick sees Ospreay crumple to the floor. The Hiromu comeback features a pop-up powerbomb as both men are left needing a tag out, but only Hiromu’s able to get that as Naito’s back in to drop Ospreay with a neckbreaker… but a top rope ‘rana from Naito sees Will land on his feet, and we’re back to square one!
The Revolution kick from Ospreay left Naito loopy, but Takahashi’s back in to distract the ref as Will takes a pop-up into a low blow, before Naito’s rolling jack-knife pin gets the win. Hey, this was all sorts of fun, and the fact that Naito needed to cheat just made it better… and of course, all four men restarted their vicious brawl afterwards. ***½
Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto & Gedo
After his trip to England last week, SANADA came back with something new… a bleach job!
We’re building to an EVIL & SANADA vs. Okada & Goto match, plus some singles matches between those pairs, but we start with EVIL and Okada, with the IWGP champion going for a rope break… only for it to be reversed as SANADA used his own mind games against him.
The pair exchange armdrags as we eventually force a stalemate, before BUSHI came in to try and outsmart Gedo. It didn’t work, as BUSHI ends up getting battered three-on-one before the CHAOS trio posed out. BUSHI’s still got his shirt on though, but first he’s got a beard to pull.
Gedo escapes and tries to unmask BUSHI, but that beard comes into play again as the match spilled outside BUSHI and Gedo staying in to try and keep some order. The t-shirt finally comes into play as Gedo’s choked, before there’s more beard-based offence, almost leading to a pin from SANADA. Somehow, an axehandle to a beard isn’t going to get it done… nor was the Paradise Lock… Gedo’s able to duck a clothesline as he breaks free to a tag to Goto, who took down EVIL and suplexed BUSHI on top of him, before landing a Saito suplex to EVIL for a two-count. SANADA has similar luck, with a Goto lariat knocking him down ahead of Okada’s return, and it’s the IWGP champion who eases ahead from here.
A DDT gets a near-fall, before the neckbreaker slam is avoided, with SANADA doing the double-leapfrog dropkick. Okada slipped out of Skull End, but SANADA’s relentless with that hold, and ends up escaping a series of Rainmaker attempts before dumping Okada with a back suplex. SANADA keeps up the pressure with a neckbreaker, as Okada’s triple-teamed… but of course he’s not falling to an MX.
BUSHI’s flying finisher misses as Gedo sparks a parade of moves, including a blocked Magic Killer as Goto and Okada dump the tag champions at the same time. With EVIL and SANADA out, BUSHI’s left on his own, and with the cobra clutch applied, he’s forced to give up. Decent enough, but there’s clear signs of Okada becoming slightly more of a heel, a la Zack Sabre Jr. in Rev Pro a year or two ago. ***½
After the match, Okada went for SANADA, throwing him into the ring post, before dumping SANADA with a tombstone as a bag full of Okada bucks is emptied in the ring. Okada stuffs some in SANADA’s mouth as he went full Million Dollar Man, to a few boos from the Sapporo crowd.
Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) & Jay White vs. Bullet Club (Kenny Omega & Young Bucks (Nick Jackson & Matt Jackson)
We’ve got title matches between these guys tomorrow, as Roppongi 3K get their rematch, while Jay White has another title shot, this time gunning for Omega’s IWGP US title.
It’s White and Omega that get us going, with “Switchblade” being the early aggressor, at least until Omega lands a big boot. Roppongi 3K rush the ring afterwards as we already hit the revolving door phase, ending with the Bucks’ double-team dropkick putting themselves ahead.
White falls for the trapped dropkick on the apron as the Bucks thought they’d isolated YOH, eventually clocking him with a trio of kicks in the corner as the Elite looked comfortable. They really telegraph their Terminator dive, as White trips out Omega, before R3K hit their stereo topes con giro to the Bucks. Back inside, Switchblade goes for Omega, but makes a point of not tagging out to SHO when he was offered it… eventually Roppongi 3K come in as Omega’s double-teamed, thanks to Red Shoes not exactly officiating well, but Kenny’s able to make a comeback on his own, landing a duelling Kotaro Krusher/bulldog pair to leave all three men down.
The Bucks return to plough through their challengers, with Nick Jackson making light work of SHO and YOH, as Matt came back with a springboard dropkick/crossbody combo as the Bucks really made this look effortless. They teased an early Indytaker, before SHO shoved the pair into each other… a tag to Omega keeps things running for SHO, but Omega’s snap Dragon suplexes quickly stems that tide.
A triple superkick wipes out SHO for a two-count, and we’re back to the too-easy Bucks as SHO eats a buckle bomb mixed with a pair of gamengiri in the corner. The hanging senton bomb nearly puts SHO away, before Nick traps him in a Sharpshooter in the middle of the ring. White’s able to break it up as he’s got to avoid a V-trigger, and we’ve got another Parade of quick-fire moves, leading to Roppongi 3K’s finish being countered into a DDT.
Omega returns to go for SHO once more, leathering him with a V-trigger before the One Winged Angel almost was caught into a Blade Runner as another Parade broke out. Superkicks all round follow, before YOH took a pop-up Indytaker for the win. Typical shenanigans from the Elite, but this was pretty much a blow-out of Roppongi 3K, which makes me wonder… is this going to lead to the Bucks getting too confident ahead of tomorrow’s title match? ***¾
After the match, White attacks Omega from behind with a Blade Runner as the Bucks were unawares…
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Minoru Suzuki vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (c)
As the folks in London saw last week, Suzuki’s already got some of his hair back… he’s out with most of Suzuki-gun (at least, those that were there minus Iizuka), but Suzuki sent them to the back before the opening bell.
There’s no jumpstart here as Suzuki took a more measured approach, letting Tanahashi get the first bits of offence in, almost to sucker the champion into a rope break. Suzuki thought he was able to grab Tanahashi’s leg, but the champion counters a leg lock into one of his own, eventually working into a standing figure four, before Suzuki got out.
This is methodical, but sublime stuff between these two, with Suzuki making a point of going for Tanahashi’s old injuries, dragging him in the ropes for a cross armbreaker. Suzuki wanders into the commentary area for a chair, which he freely uses on Tanahashi as the referee was giving a LOT of leeway here.
Back in the ring, Suzuki continues to fire away on Tanahashi, and when the fight back is attempted, Suzuki just drags him into an armbar, forcing Tanahashi to scramble to the ropes for an eventual break, with Suzuki using every bit of that five count. Eventually Tanahashi’s able to give himself some hope with a forearm off the ropes, before clinging on to avoid a PK attempt. He can’t stop the Suzuki strikes though, and the maniacal laugh that greeted his attempted comeback just made things all the more sinister.
Tanahashi’s able to land a Dragon screw though to cut off the offence, connecting with a hattrick before rolling Suzuki into a cloverleaf. After the rope break, Suzuki’s caught climbing back into the ring as Tanahashi lands another Dragon screw, sending the Suzuki-gun leader crashing… before Minoru just blasted right through him with a sublime, picture-perfect dropkick.
Yep, MiSu is rolling back the years here!
A rear naked choke follows, but Tanahashi throws himself free, only for Suzuki to go to a front facelock instead. Tanahashi rolls together some swinging neckbreakers to counter and free himself, before a Slingblade and a High Fly Flow left Suzuki down… but not in a position to get covered as Tanahashi’s knee gave out.
Somehow, Tanahashi’s back up first, and he decides to try for a High Fly Flow again, but Suzuki gets his knees up and goes straight into the knee bar as the maniacal laugh returns. Suzuki wrenched on that hold forever, with Tanahashi agonising in the move, before getting a rope break… but as soon as he lets go, Suzuki’s straight back in with a Figure Four, and that hold’s held for a long time as Tanahashi’s again fading in the submission attempt.
It’s not “something from nothing”, but this is a masterclass in maximising every single move and every single emotion.
Eventually Tanahashi rolled into the ropes, but Suzuki conveniently can’t unhook the move, and so the referee’s needed to free the pair. Suzuki’s going for the rear naked choke as commentary keeps harping on about how his weakness is going for the Gotch piledriver, but they’re still making the most out of relatively simple holds, as the rear naked choke is sold beautifully, before Tanahashi guts out of the Gotch.
Somehow Tanahashi’s able to put the Cloverleaf back on, holding Suzuki in a headstand… but that nearly leads to the finish via a small package. Tanahashi’s back in straight away with a Slingblade for a near-fall, before Suzuki starts to go back to basics with a kick to the knee. That left Tanahashi rather limited, and vulnerable to a low dropkick as he faceplanted ahead of another knee bar as Suzuki continued to wrench away on the knee. Kicks see Suzuki knock Tanahashi’s leg out of his leg, before he went for the Gotch piledriver… this time connecting… but Suzuki doesn’t want a pin, as he’s right back to the knee-bar!
Tanahashi tries to cling on as Suzuki sunk the hold even deeper, and after a solid two minutes of the hold being applied, Suzuki rolled him back into the middle of the ring, before Suzuki let go, and re-applied the hold, forcing referee Red Shoes to call for the bell. We have a new champion folks! For months now, the story’s been about Tanahashi’s knee, but here it was a case of finally paying off all of that. Everyone else was just toying with the knee, but Suzuki, true to his savage, sadistic character, was merciless – and in the end, it was his constant barrage of offence to the knee that tipped Tanahashi over the edge. THAT. WAS. WRESTLING. ****¾
As with most of these split New Japan shows, the first half of the New Beginnings was a one-match card… but what a match. Even if all you do is watch the 32 minute-long main event, go out of your way for this and allow yourself to be absorbed in a wrestling classic. You owe it to yourself.
Kaze Ni Nare!