After the madness that was Fantastica Mania New Japan gets back onto the serious stuff with The New Beginning in Sapporo, a show that kicked off Suzuki-gun’s invasion of New Japan proper. Even with a second event next weekend this was a stacked card and gave me plenty to think about as I continue my New Japan education.
As a new viewer of New Japan, it is easy to hold them up to a ridiculously high standard. This is Japanese wrestling, not the silly stuff we are used to over here. That is unfair, and at The New Beginning, there was a friendly reminder that New Japan can do garbage matches too. Yoshi-Hashi vs. Takashi Iizuka was designed to hide Iizuka’s weaknesses, and quite frankly it was awful. In fact, I already feel confident in saying that Iizuka is pretty awful full stop. This was the kind of brawl that you could have seen in a million wrestling companies around the world, and I was bored of it the first time I saw it.
Okada Is King
It’s only February 7th, and yet Okada has already been in two match of the year contenders. There have been some complaints about the way he held out against Suzuki’s relentless torturing of his knee during New Beginning’s main event, but as a new viewer to the product, I had no issue with it. This made Okada look like the ultimate warrior and also set up a potential injury for a future challenger to target. Meanwhile, Suzuki looked like a fucking badass and took three Rainmakers (although the first two weren’t at full power) before succumbing to the pin. Okada has quickly shot into my list of the best wrestlers in the world, and I can’t see anyone budging him anytime soon.
Suzuki-gun Have A Tough Day
Coming into this show, it seemed a fairly safe bet to assume that Suzuki-gun would reign supreme. Well, thankfully I didn’t place that bet. By the end of the night, they had gone 1-3, and the 1 was in the opening match against Kushida and Young Lion Hirai Kawato. It was a surprising way to reintroduce Suzuki-gun to the promotion, and you have to wonder where they go from here.
Juice Stakes A Claim
Juice Robinson stood out in all the ways that Cody Rhodes failed to in their Wrestle Kingdom match, so it seems only fair that since then he has been getting the rub of the green. It was that rub which led to him getting a title match against Goto at this show. While no one expected Juice to win, this was still a big moment for him. This was the most notable singles encounter of his career, and he stepped up to the plate. Hanging with a hard hitting bastard like Goto isn’t an easy task but Juice stood with him every step of the way, and I think it’s safe to say this won’t be the last time we see Robinson in a big match.
Young Lions Impress
As usual, the Young Lions got a run out at the start of this card with Hirai Kawato teaming with Kushida, while Henare and Tomoyuki Oka drew the short straw and were joined up with Yoshitatsu. Of course, none of them picked up a win, but they did impress. Kawato is only 19, and yet he showed a fair bit of promise in the opening match and Henare and Oka both played their parts well with Oka, in particular, having a nice exchange with his mentor Yuji Nagata. As a new viewer, it can sometimes be hard to tell the Young Lions apart, but these three did enough to stand out on a packed card.
Ospreay and Shibata Excitement
At the second New Beginning show Will Ospreay and Shibata will go head to head for Rev Pro’s British Championship. It’s a match that has the potential to steal said show, and in an otherwise unremarkable six-man, the two of them give us a hint as to what is to come. This is a feud built around the arrogant Ospreay trying to show up the more experienced Shibata, and if their brief exchanges so far are anything to go by, it could be one hell of a match.
Multi-Men Tags Can Work
The latest LIJ ten-man tag match against Tanahashi and friends was an unqualified success. Despite feeling like I’ve seen these matches fifty times already (and I’ve only been watching New Japan for a month), it did everything it had to and more in setting up fights for the second New Beginning show. Primarily, this was between Michael Elgin and Naito who are set to do battle for the IC title, but it certainly wasn’t restricted to them with Takahashi and Dragon Lee doing, even more, to get people pumped for their match. Throw in a tease between Tanahashi and Evil and this was the perfect example of how to do multi-man tag team matches.
Not everyone can be in the main event but having Kushida twitch the curtain at this show was a worrying sign. If you are unaware of Kushida’s work, then, for now, you will have to take my word for it that this guy is special and he is worthy of a higher spot on the card. This might only be a temporary thing but the Suzuki-gun invasion plus a returning Bullet Club leaves a lack of space for Kushida and I worry he might be stuck at this end of the show for a while yet.
There is not much to say about this except that Yoshitatsu is bad. He is the charisma black hole of New Japan’s roster, and every time he walks onto the screen, there is a temptation to turn it off. I don’t want to be horrible to the former WWE guy but his Triple H mimicking shtick isn’t working and even having him team up with the Young Lions in one of the opening matches felt like too high a spot for Tastu at this point in time.
Too Much Interference
The Junior Tag Team title match descended into chaos on this show and not the good kind. This was the kind of match where my brain ends up zoning out because after the third or fourth round of shenanigans I just don’t care. Whether it was other members of Suzuki-gun or Taichi’s girlfriend, it was all too much, and it took away from what was another good performance by Roppongi Vice. I’d heard mutterings that shenanigans are a Suzuki-gun special and I hope this isn’t about to become the norm.